Newsflash: nieuwe Audi A4 wordt een betere versie van zichzelf


+++ Renault-owned sportscar brand ALPINE wants to expand its global footprint but has to be well established in Europe before looking further afield, chief executive Laurent Rossi said. Speaking ahead of the announcement of Alpine’s plans for endurance racing, Rossi did not rule out an eventual presence in Asia and the Americas but said that was not under current consideration. Renault is absent from the U.S. market, after 2 previous failed attempts, but has a strong presence in Latin America. Alpine also has a team in Formula One, with the United States a key market for the sport. The brand currently focuses on the A110 model but 3 new sporty electric cars are due to come on stream from 2024. Rossi said increasing sales in Europe was an immediate priority. Alpine sold 1.200 cars in the first half of this year, mostly in France, Germany and Britain. “The U.S. is 50 % of the sports car market. The Renault Group is not in the U.S. for good reasons. It exited the U.S. twice. We need to make sure that if we make a return, it’s a successful one”, he said when asked about that possibility. “We would probably err on the side of caution because you can’t really mess up a third time. And the Alpine brand is in a rebirth so we have a lot of things to accomplish first, to establish it as a solid, graduated brand in Europe”. Rossi said Alpine would use the Renault Group’s network of dealers in Europe to drive growth and hoped the next generation of cars would sell in much greater numbers. +++

+++ AUDI has stated that it will become an all-electric manufacturer by the end of this decade, but in the meantime the company is planning a last hurrah for combustion engines on a new, potentially final version of its A4. Expected to arrive in 2023, the next A4 will stay on the same MLB platform as the current generation. But while it will feature increased electrification, including mild and plug-in hybrids, it will still be based on a new generation of petrol and diesel engines, described by Audi’s head of technical development, Oliver Hoffman, as “the best we have ever launched”. Hoffman said the A4, which makes up around a fifth of Audi’s global sales, is a “super important” model for the firm. “The development of the next generation of A4 is under way”, he told. “We’ll offer that car, and the A6, for a lot of years. Production of the last new combustion-engined model will begin in 2025 and end with a normal lifecycle in 2033. But we will launch some models a lot earlier”. The A4 is expected to fit that timeline by arriving in 2023, and while a diesel version will be available, the bulk of the line-up will use a further development of the VW Group’s ubiquitous EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. VW is said to have been working on variable-section turbines within the turbocharger, designed to improve throttle response at low speeds while delivering higher overall power outputs. We should expect a higher pressure of fuel injection, too, not least because right now the 2.0-litre motor is beaten on that score by the more modest 1.5-litre TSI unit that features in many Seats, Skodas and VWs. Hoffman said that the new petrol engines will feature “more electrification, for sure, to meet the regulations”, and this is likely to include beefed-up 48 volt tech for the mild hybrid versions and a larger battery, mounted on the rear axle, for plug-in hybrid versions. We can expect the A4 TFSI e models to match other MLB cars, notably the Q5, with a usable capacity of 14.4 kWh; this should allow Audi’s engineers to take aim at the 100 km of electric range offered by the latest Mercedes C 300e. The A4’s chassis set-up will remain largely unchanged, although the 48 volt electrics will offer greater scope for technology such as active anti-roll bars to be offered as options, or standard on higher-performance variants. The new A4 is expected to be only a few millimetres longer, while the wheelbase will be largely the same. Inside, the step up to 48 volt will bring greater connectivity, as part of a pared-back dashboard that will feature even fewer physical controls. Audi’s engineers will be able to shrink the centre console around toggle gear selectors, because the car is likely to be offered with only dual-clutch and torque-converter automatic gearboxes. Despite the decision to retain petrol and diesel engines, Audi could also offer a pure-electric version, to give it a rival for the likes of BMW’s much-vaunted all-electric i4, as well as the Tesla Model 3. It would look similar to the conventional models but not identical. When asked directly if an all-electric A4 (likely to be badged A4 e-tron) could be sold alongside the regular versions, Hoffman said: “We are really happy to have a strong partnership within the Group with Porsche for the PPE platform, with VW for the MEB platform and our own platform, MLB. We have the power to develop and produce dedicated platforms for most technologies. “We’ve looked at a platform where we can have both powertrains, but it’s a compromise. So I’m really happy that we are able and we have the power to do both”. It seems likely that such a car would arrive later in the A4’s life, using either a modified version of the PPE platform that will sit under the forthcoming Q6 e-tron, or the Volkswagen Group’s unified SSP architecture, which is expected by 2025. +++

+++ FISKER boss Henrik Fisker has revealed that the next 2 models to be launched after the Fisker Ocean and Fisker Pear will be developed in the United Kingdom by the new Fisker Magic Works team, led by former Aston Martin man David King. When the announcement was made about Magic Works, Fisker said: “We are on full speed to deliver 4 distinct vehicle lines by 2025, driving innovation forward and pushing radical new ideas into the global car market”. While the Ocean and Pear are both set to compete with mainstream EVs, with US starting prices rumoured to start at under $30,000 for the Pear, the next 2 British-developed Fisker models will be more expensive offerings. Fisker said: “They’re very different. They’re going to go in in a segment which I would say maybe one exists a little bit but it’ll be a twist on it and the other one doesn’t exist at all. We’re looking at a very extreme vehicle so one will be over $100,000 and the other will be below, and they will be two very different vehicles. They will both be serious production vehicles and not low volume handmade: they will still be serious production but not as high volume, of course, as the Ocean and the Pear”. Although the development work will be done in the UK, Fisker doesn’t expect them to be built over here. “That has not been decided yet, but honestly I think there’s a very little chance of that”, he told. Fisker has manufacturing deals with Magna, which will produce the Ocean from its vast facility in Graz, Austria, while Taiwanese tech manufacturing giant Foxconn is set to build the smaller Pear model in a plant in the US. The Fisker Ocean will debut at next month’s Los Angeles Motor Show with the first cars set to arrive with customers at the end of 2022 or early 2023. The Pear is set to arrive 12 months later, with the 2 British-developed cars arriving a year or so after that. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS plans to cash in as the world switches from combustion engines to battery power, promising to double its annual revenue by 2030 with an array of new electric vehicles, profitable gas-powered cars and trucks, and services such as a new electronic driving system that can handle most tasks on the road. In announcements ahead of a 2-day investor event in suburban Detroit, the company also pledged to unseat Tesla and become the electric vehicle market share leader in U.S., although no time frame was given for that goal. Here’s quick outline of GM’s plans. Electric vehicles: the company teased upcoming new electric vehicles including a Chevrolet small SUV that will cost around $30,000, as well as electric trucks from Chevrolet and GMC, crossover SUVs from Buick, and luxury vehicles from Cadillac. An electric Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck that can go 640 km per charge will be unveiled at the CES gadget show in January. A GMC electric pickup will follow. The $30,000 Chevy SUV should bring serious sales to GM because it’s the size of the Equinox, GM’s second bestselling vehicle, president Mark Reuss said. He said the company is working on a smaller Chevy Blazer electric, as well as a smaller vehicle at a lower price point. He gave no details. Electric vehicles will draw new buyers to GM vehicles, according to Reuss. He also said the company is going to create a dedicated factory to build electric trucks, from an existing facility. The Detroit automaker plans to have more than half of its North American and China factories be capable of making electric vehicles by 2030. It also pledged to increase its investment in EV charging networks by nearly $750 million through 2025. Financials and subscriptions: GM’s average annual revenue over the past five years is $140 billion, so doubling that would be about $280 billion. The company also pledged to increase pretax profit margins from the current 8 % to around 12 %. To get there, CEO Mary Barra said the company’s revenue would rise from selling internal combustion vehicles, while at the same time revenue would be added from new electric vehicles. At the same time it’s rolling out new EVs, GM will improve its combustion engine products, including making them more efficient with less pollution, Reuss said. GM also plans to raise cash from software and subscription services including insurance and its OnStar safety system, as well as its Cruise majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary. And executives said it should gain revenue from its defense and BrightDrop commercial vehicle businesses. Barra said the company could see a $20 billion to $25 billion annual revenue increase from software and services — an amount on par with the annual revenue of Netflix. Ultra Cruise: another revenue source will be Ultra Cruise, GM’s next generation of electronic hands-free driver-assist system that will be able to take on 95 % of driving tasks. The company said the system, due in selected Cadillac luxury vehicles in 2023, will be a “virtually door-to-door hands-free driving experience”. It will use cameras, radar and lidar sensors to follow navigation routes and speed limits, automatically change lanes, obey traffic signals and make turns on 2 million miles of roads in the U.S. and Canada. Eventually it will learn all paved roads in both countries. GM will still offer its less sophisticated Super Cruise driver assist system and it’s coming in 22 vehicles by 2023, Barra said. Beating Tesla: to capture U.S. electric vehicle market share leadership, GM plans to spend $35 billion to roll out more than 30 new battery vehicles globally by 2025. The company has set a goal of selling only electric passenger vehicles by 2035. GM will have to overtake Tesla, which over the weekend reported record third-quarter sales of 241.300 electric vehicles; a 72 % increase over the prior year. GM wouldn’t say when it would take the lead, but Barra said GM would have a strong portfolio of affordable electric vehicles as well as an upcoming reliable charging infrastructure. The company also has existing factories that can efficiently be converted to built EVs, and a dealership network for service, she said. “That’s why we believe that we’re going to attract those customers”, Barra said. ”There’s a lot of things that we have that when we put our foot on the accelerator pedal, we can really move quite profitably”. EV leader Tesla has had to spend billions to build huge new assembly plants from the ground up near Austin, Texas, and in Germany and China. While GM may have lofty visions for the future, it’s struggling in the present with the global shortage of computer chips. Third-quarter sales were down nearly 33 % and GM has lost nearly 2 percentage points of U.S. market share since 2019. The company’s share is 15.2 % of the market so far this year. GM and other automakers have been forced to temporarily close factories due to a lack of chips. That has caused shortages of new vehicles across the globe, but also has driven up prices. GM’s average sales price hit a record of more than $48,000 so far this year. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS said it will open a battery cell development center in southeast Michigan to help it drive down the cost and boost the driving range of electric vehicles with lithium ion and solid-state battery cells. The Wallace Battery Cell Innovation Center, to be located on the No. 1 U.S. automaker’s technical campus in Warren, Michigan, is expected to open in mid-2022 and begin building prototype cells in the 4th quarter, GM said. “The key to making these vehicles affordable is going to be the cell cost in the battery packs”, Ken Morris, GM’s vice president of electric and self-driving vehicles, said on a conference call with reporters. GM will spend “hundreds of millions” of dollars on the new center, he added. GM has said it will spend $35 billion through 2025 on EVs and autonomous vehicles, and is expected to outline targets beyond that period at its investor day. Part of that push is GM’s partnership with LG Energy Solutions, a unit of South Korea’s LG Chem, to develop its Ultium batteries. The companies have announced 2 joint-ventures battery plants and GM has said it intends to open 2 more. GM has targeted eliminating emissions from all light vehicles it sells by 2035. A key elements to making EVs more attractive to consumers is driving down their cost, and a big part of that is the batteries. GM has said it wants to have at least 60 % lower battery costs in the next generation of Ultium, and officials said future products will allow electric driving ranges of 965 km on a single charge. The new facility, at almost 27,900 square meters, will work with the company’s existing materials research and development and battery systems labs in Warren. It will also work with SES, a Massachusetts company with which GM formed a partnership with in March. The center, named for Bill Wallace, a former executive who played a key role in the development of GM’s advanced battery technology before he died from cancer in 2018, will be capable of building large-format, prototype lithium-metal battery cells, as well as developing silicon and solid-state technologies. It will also develop new production methods to use in battery plants. GM rival Ford in April said it would invest $185 million to open in late 2022 an EV battery development center. +++

+++ The organisers of the GENEVA INTERNATIONAL MOTOR SHOW (GIMS) have made the shock decision to cancel the event for a third consecutive year. Europe’s biggest motor show was set to return in February 2022, having not been held since 2019 as a result of the pandemic, but “industry-wide issues relating to the Covid-19 pandemic” have prompted its cancellation yet again. The Comité permanent du Salon international de l’automobile, which runs the event, said: “We would like to reassure you that the momentum for the evolution of our platform will continue in order to bring it to its full potential in 2023. We appreciate and apologise for any inconveniences caused, but wished to avoid having to cancel the show at short notice due to the ongoing issues relating to the pandemic”. Chiefly, the show’s cancellation has been blamed on the ongoing difficulties surrounding international travel in the wake of the pandemic, which would make it infeasible to host an event on the same scale as in previous years. Another factor cited was the ongoing semiconductor shortage, which the show’s organisers say has “resulted in several recent cancellations and therefore it was decided that postponing would be in the best interests of both car manufacturers and automotive fans”. The announcement comes shortly after showrunners announced a new partnership with Qatar Tourism, which will spawn a biennial spin-off motor show in Doha from either autumn 2022 or 2023. The latter date is more likely now, given the main Swiss event’s cancellation, but no official announcement has been made regarding the Doha edition. Though Geneva’s future looks increasingly uncertain as it struggles to recover from the pandemic, the international motor show is returning to some semblance of normality. The Frankfurt motor show moved to Munich this year, and was held at full-scale last month, and the Los Angeles motor show is scheduled to go ahead as normal in November, as is the large Guangzhou motor show in China. +++

+++ J.D. Power released the results of its Tech Experience Index study that measures “how much owners like in-car technologies and how many problems they experience with them”. The results are the product of responses from 110.827 owners of current model-year vehicles that J.D. Power surveyed after 90 days of ownership from February through July 2021. The study breaks out owner viewpoints on 36 technologies in the categories of convenience, emerging automation, energy and sustainability, and infotainment and connectivity. I’m not clear on some of the results and I’ve asked the company for clarification, but the parts I’m clear on give the people at the HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP plenty of reason to pat themselves on the back. Genesis earned the highest ranking for tech innovation among all vehicle segments, followed by Cadillac, Volvo and BMW. Hyundai won the tech innovation award for mass-market brands, with Kia taking the mass-market tech second place, followed by Nissan and Subaru. Among the study’s findings, automakers are loading vehicles with more software and digital experiences that owners claim they never learn how to use or decide they don’t need. In one example, the study found that 61 % of owners claim never having used “in-vehicle digital market technology”, while 51 % of respondents said they didn’t need it. We’re not sure what J.D. Power means by “in-vehicle digital market technology” though; whether that’s exclusively an automaker’s in-house suite of apps and buyable content, or if it includes the ability to buy products through third-party app providers like parking apps and Pizza Hut. For American owners, rear-view cameras and so-called “ground view” cameras were among the top three desired technologies. We assume that “ground view” is a surround-view or 360-degree camera system. The one-pedal driving possible in a number of EV’s with adjustable regen braking also scored very high marks and few claimed issues. At the other end, gesture controls got dinged for the second year in a row, owners giving that tech the lowest satisfaction score and citing it for 5 times more issues per 100 vehicles than 1-pedal driving. Individual awards in the premium category went to models like the Cadillac Escalade for its rear-view mirror tech, and the Lexus IS for its reverse automatic braking and its virtual assistant. On the mass-market side, the Ram 1500 nabbed a win for its rear-view camera tech, while the Hyundai Elantra won for its front cross traffic warning technology. The Kia K5 received laurels for its infotainment and connectivity. +++

+++ The HYUNDAI TUCSON has been awarded the Carbuyer Car Of The Year for 2022. Hyundai’s bold new design language clearly made a good first impression, but the Tucson was also praised for its interior and driving experience. The latest Hyundai Tucson has a much more high-tech interior than its predecessor, plus a better selection of quality materials. The Tucson is also one of the few family SUVs to be good to drive, as well. +++

+++ I won’t really know about the LUCID AIR until customers get their hands on the first production models, with first deliveries scheduled for later this month. Early reviews are promising, and the company says its second act is on track for release in 2023. That’s the Gravity crossover, which will be built on the same platform as the Air, the Lucid Electric Advanced Platform (LEAP). Vice-president of Design Derek Jenkins told that the Gravity will be a thematic complement to the sedan as a city-living SUV, with a “strength and robustness” to its design and “respectable ground clearance”, but it won’t be “a rock-crawler”. We’ve seen the Gravity in European patent filings, in surreptitious shots from a video shoot for the Air, and in teaser images from Lucid. The crossover’s relation to the sedan is clear, and it wears Lucid’s design language just as well. Rumor has it the Gravity will be wider than the Air (!), but less than 1 inch longer. The Air separated itself from the pack by being a sedan in a crossover world, and on top of that, an electric sedan in a year of electric pickups and SUVs. Lucid did that because it doesn’t need enormous volume relative to the entire industry to be successful, and a sedan with amazing specs would be more impressive than a crossover with merely good specs. The Gravity, however, will be rolling onto the market with a number of other electric people haulers: the Hyundai Ioniq 7 and Volkswagen ID.Buzz on the mass-market end, for instance, the design-led Volvo XC90 Recharge, Mercedes EQS SUV, BMW iX and Range Rover EV on the luxury end. Jenkins suggested the Gravity could be more upscale than the Air, which sounds like a Range Rover fighter to me. So far, though, only the Gravity among them will be offered with a mid-range dual-motor 1.080 hp powertrain. A tri-motor package lifts horsepower to about 1,300 ponies. CEO Peter Rawlinson having said the Gravity will deliver similar efficiency and performance as the Air, Jenkins saying the vehicle has to have exceptional range, which “means 400 miles plus” since it will “be a family workhorse in a lot of cases”. Lucid’s already working on what comes after the Gravity as well, including another platform for vehicles at a lower price point, and a range of electric goods over the next decade that start with LEAP technology but span “a whole range of product possibilities”, even those beyond automobiles. +++

+++ Back in May, sources said MAZDA planned to introduce a new CX-50 crossover at next month’s L.A. Auto Show. That vehicle, I am told, would be the spearhead for a range of models sitting on Mazda’s new longitudinal, rear-wheel-drive platform and powered by straight-6 engines we’ve hankered after for XXX years. The source was correct, Mazda announcing today that it will release 5 new crossovers for various markets in 2022 and 2023. The first will be the CX-50, which we’ll see in L.A. in November and sit on the on the small platform that supports the Mazda3 and CX-30. It enters production next January at the Huntsville, Alabama plant that’s part of Mazda’s joint venture with Toyota. After that come 4 crossovers built on the Mazda’s new Large platform. The 2-row CX-60 and 3-row CX-80 are for international markets with narrower roads and vehicle infrastructure, like Europe, Japan and Australia. The 2-row CX-70 and 3-row CX-90 (the last one will come first) are for the U.S., built with wider bodies, “big presence”, more interior room, and all the gas-powered ponies Americans demand. As is the standard now, powertrains will be dispensed based on market location. The U.S. can expect the new Skyactiv-X 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 with 48 volt mild hybrid assistance and a plug-in hybrid using a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder heart that we’ll suppose is sourced from Toyota. International markets will also get access to the new Skyactiv-D 3.3-liter diesel-powered inline-6 with mild hybrid help, and they’ll get a plug-in, too. All the new CX products will come standard with all-wheeldrive. The CX-5 remains in the lineup here as a less expensive alternative, offering a front-wheeldrive trim on an older platform with an older engine. The automaker mentioned that alongside this product push, the MX-30 will get additional marketing love as it becomes the champion for “modes which incorporate multiple electrification technologies that use a rotary engine as a generator from the first half of 2022”. There’s your Wankel, and a potential place to put the new e-Skyactiv R logo and branding. Come 2025, Mazda plans to have a dedicated EV platform supporting a new battery-electric product line. Company bosses want every model sold to be electrified by 2030, and for EVs to make up a quarter of sales by then. +++

+++ RIVIAN AUTOMOTIVE recently filed Form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission on the way to the automaker’s initial public offering. The initial, widespread takeaway from the paperwork focused on Rivian’s $994 million loss so far this year and its 48.390 reservations for the R1T pickup and R2S SUV in the U.S. and Canada. Rivian Forums, as one would expect, went deeper into some of the S-1 details. In one section, it found Rivian’s estimates of lifetime revenue (LTR) for its commercial and consumer vehicles, being $64,600 per vehicle for the former and $67,900 for the latter. Part of the consumer revenue could come via what Rivian calls the “opportunity from software”. Under that umbrella, Rivian would sell autonomous driving capability to private buyers for $10.000 and could earn another $5.500 over 10 years of subscription revenue for “infotainment, connectivity, diagnostics, and other services”. That works out to nearly $46 per month. Rivian’s already put the hardware into the R1T and R1S to enable what it says would max out at a Level 3 self-driving system; that equipment consisting of 12 ultrasonic sensors, 11 cameras, 5 radar units and a high-precision GPS antenna. At the moment, the hardware is used for the Driver+ suite of adaptive assistance and safety systems. Based on industry practice, we assume a series of software upgrades would ramp up autonomous driving capability. As Teslarati points out, Rivian’s estimated pricing puts it in the same league as Tesla if not the same ballpark, Tesla charging $10,000 for the “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) suite, or anywhere from $99 to $199 per month for an FSD subscription. Tesla, however, hasn’t capped its autonomy software at Level 3 capability. On the infotainment side, Tesla offers a Premium Connectivity package including things like in-car video streaming and satellite-view maps for $10 per month, and service and diagnostic software subscriptions for anywhere from $32 per hour to $3.200 per year. It’s important to remember that Rivian’s statements are part of paperwork meant to appeal to investors; they don’t state what Rivian is going to do, only what Rivian believes is possible. Other tidbits the Rivian forum noted were that the destination charge will be “$1,7XX”, the R1S is slated to commence deliveries in December of this year, DC fast charging will be hardware-limited to 200-kW for initial vehicles with 300-kW DC fast charging planned, and Cox Automotive will be the dedicated reseller for used Rivians “and likely trade-ins”, getting preferential pricing and other perks in exchange for marketing services. +++

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