Newsflash: BMW M divisie krijgt een eigen model

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+++ The ALFA ROMEOGiulia will live on as an all-electric saloon car, according to the brand’s chief executive officer, Jean-Philippe Imparato. While the company will focus on electric SUVs too, with Alfa Romeo’s first full EV coming in 2024, Imparato told that “Alfa Romeo will have a future for Giulia and will do the job for SUVs too, because we are Chinese and we are American, but that shape of the Giulia is fantastic, I don’t want to lose this. “The car is absolutely gorgeous, so there is a future for this type of car, but it will be a future that will be electrified. It means probably 100 percent full BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) for Alfa Romeo”. According to Imparato a move to full electrification for its core saloon is a must as the brand looks to turn its portfolio of models to fully electric by 2027. “I have to make some big choices. If I want to have more than an average level of performance, I must be bold,” he said. “If I say I go electric, I go electric. I’m not half pregnant, if you see what I mean? It doesn’t work. It is a risk, but that’s normal. We are here to take some risks, but we have passed the tipping point for me”. Despite the move to all-electric powertrains, Alfa’s boss outlined that the brand would continue to prioritise the driver-centric and sporty approach its cars have become known for over its 111-year history. “I would love to have this ‘light is right’ tagline for Alfa Romeo”, Imparato said. “Even if I have 1 tonne of battery behind me, I want to convey an idea of lightness, even if I am electrified. It’s a fundamental of Alfa Romeo and we are building this new range based on that. But it’s not enough. We are working on the vibe you will feel when you drive an Alfa Romeo in 2025”. This won’t be an artificial sound either, according to Imparato. The Frenchman outlined that he doesn’t want to bring fake features to Alfa’s cars, which would not be in keeping with its values. As a result, his innovation team is working on sensations it wants its customers to feel, vibrations, feedback “probably some new sounds and movements, but nothing fake. That is the intention”. When it comes to the new Giulia’s technical underpinnings, the saloon will move from the existing combustion-engined Giorgio platform to parent company Stellantis’ STLA Large architecture, which will offer a minimum of 800 km of range, with battery sizes ranging from 101 kWh to 118 kWh, according to Stellantis investor information. It will also offer class-leading rapid-charge capability, with up to 20 miles of range added per minute. STLA Large is designed for all-wheel drive performance models, with Alfa’s parent company outlining a possible 0-100 kph time as low as 2.0 seconds for cars based on this tech. Combined with the elements its regular cars must deliver, according to Imparato, the brand will study a performance-focused Quadrifoglio version on all of its new-car launches, looking to offer this higher-powered, more aggressive option that’s “fully consistent with the Quadrifoglio message that we stand for since the beginning of the brand”. Imparato did add that if Alfa Romeo was not able to deliver the right level of performance a Quadrifoglio model needed to bring in any given sector, the brand would not compromise by building such a car. Stellantis will have three electric drive modules at its disposal, with the third offering 400 or 800 volt tech and up to 450 hp per motor. It means to reach the required performance level for a Giulia Quadrifoglio it would likely use a dual-motor four-wheel-drive set-up. To protect the characteristics Alfa needs its future cars to have the brand has a member of its product team embedded in the development of the STLA Large architecture. “The guy who is embedded by us to define the specification, the features, the performance, is Fabio Migliavacca, the guy who developed the GTA version for Alfa Romeo. He breathes Alfa Romeo, so he will give the features we need to define this totally clean-sheet design”. It’s unlikely there will be a GTV in the future, however, with Imparato citing the volume of 3-door coupe sales in this segment as a potential sticking point compared with 5-door saloon sales. The Giulia will be part of Alfa’s fully electric product offensive that kicks off in 2024 (likely to be an SUV) that will offer one trim and two powertrains. It will be followed by one launch or big product event per year over the next five years, with this plan already signed off and funding allocated. The Tonale will launch in 2022 after a 12-week delay to improve the car’s performance, followed by a product event in 2023, which will likely be a small SUV. “The first full EV will come in 2024 and we’ll see a big launch in 2025, 2026, and we’ll see Alfa Romeo as full BEV in 2027. This is validated and funded”. There are also a number of “dream cars” Imparato would love to create. While he admitted a GTV is on that list, he said: “If I have to make a choice, I go for the Duetto Spider. Obviously, we have designed that car, but I will not dare to put that on the table before Alfa Romeo is completely secure [in its finances] . But we can do it with the technological bridge we have in the product plan, no problem”. +++

+++ BMW isn’t shy talking specifics about its future portfolio. The company has already announced a number of upcoming performance models, like the M3 CS and the M4 CSL, as well as a few hybridised and full battery-electric vehicles to join the likes of the lovely iX. But in a recent interview, ex-BMW M boss Markus Flasch revealed that the company is hard at work on an upcoming M flagship. In an interview, Flasch said that a new high-performance, standalone M model (in the spirit of the iconic M1) will join the lineup in the near future. “Well, there will definitely be an independent M model again”, Flasch said flatly. But whether or not it will be a true sports car like the M1, or something different entirely, remains to be seen. “Our brand core is still racing and high performance on the road”, Flasch said. “However, we also want to retain customers who are into expressive luxury. With the M8 and its derivatives, we have already succeeded in some cases, but there is a segment in which there is a lot going on and in which we are not yet represented. I can not say more about that”. Spy photos and leaked details reveal that BMW is already hard at work on an M hybrid SUV, which will debut on November 29. Reports say that this SUV will be an “M flagship vehicle”, with upwards of 700 bhp on tap, with production slated to kick off at the company’s Spartanburg, South Carolina, facility sometime next year. But conflicting news says this new SUV will carry an X8 badge, rather than a full “XM” moniker as others initially suggested. And with production destined for Spartanburg (home of the BMW X7) it’s unlikely this SUV will be the true “standalone” M model that Flasch is referencing. We’re still holding out hope for a high-end sports car, but as of yet, there’s no information to suggest what this new M model could be. +++

+++ BRAND LOYALTY may be a thing of the past for the automotive sector, as the continuing shortage of new and used cars drives buyers to abandon their favourite manufacturers. The ongoing semiconductor shortage is making it extremely difficult for manufacturers to build new cars, which has also led to increased demand for used models. As such, both brand-new and second-hand cars are in short supply, but a record number of drivers (41.2 percent) are still hoping to buy a car in the next 12 months. Autovia interviewed 2.445 buyers, of whom 47,4 percent are looking at alternatives to their original choice, abandoning their favourite manufacturers in the process. Only 1 in 4 buyers has managed to make a purchase in the past 6 months. Just 57 percent said they were prepared to wait 3 months to get their hands on a new car, with 32.8 percent having already given up on purchasing a new model and opting for a used car instead. A staggering 86.8 percent of buyers said their purchasing plans had been delayed by supply and price issues: 21.2 percent have been put off by high prices and 17.9 percent say the model they want is currently unavailable. Less than seven per cent of buyers, however, have indefinitely delayed their intentions of buying a new car. John Webb, managing director of automotive data, demand generation and commercial operations at Autovia, said: “The disruptions of the past two years have reversed the usual pattern we see in data for car-buying intentions. Despite the frustrations that led to 72 percent failing to find the right car at the right price over the past 6 months, half of the people we questioned still hope to find a car imminently, and that rises to 69 percent when looking to purchase over the next 6 months. “We’re seeing a pressure cooker of demand in a market that still can’t hope to satisfy consumer appetite and many commentators saying that production problems are likely to continue into the second half of 2022”. Webb added: “Perhaps the most significant finding in our data is that almost half of the huge number of hopeful buyers are prepared to change their choice of car. This is a red flag for brand loyalty because motorists are likely to switch makes to find the comparable size and body style they originally set their hearts on”. +++

+++ It’s hard to imagine the CAR INDUSTRY has ever trodden a finer line between being financially astute and utterly tone deaf; a statement brought all the sharper into focus because the line will get substantially finer still in the months and years ahead. A Land Rover Defender V8? Phwoar: 525 hp and 0-100 kph in 4.9 seconds. Give me and, judging by the reaction to its appearance, you some of that. Even at just north of €200.000 in The Netherlands, it is fast filling up the international order banks. Any yet… that same Defender also emits 327 gram/km of CO2, assuming you drive it to the conventions of an ordinary everyday test cycle. In an era of zero emissions and carbon neutrality goals, isn’t that a little gross? Or, if you want to be a bit more conciliatory, contradictory? To be clear, this is not an anti-Land Rover statement. Pretty much every high-end brand is at it, meeting their emissions obligations while (quite reasonably) trying to maximise profits by launching hugely desirable, high-margin cars, much of which income will then be spent on R&D for the next generation of (hopefully) lower-emission vehicles. It bears repeating that the transition to electric will cost car makers many hundreds of billions. But how long the established brands can hope to get away with ‘meeting their emissions obligations’ is a moot point. While they may not be breaking any rules, even if they have to jump into emission pools with the likes of Tesla in order to do so (as Jaguar Land Rover and Honda recently did in Europe), the lens through which such actions is viewed may be tightening faster than the regulations. ‘Woke’ such a statement may be but, as we’ve seen in so many different ways across society in recent times, if public sentiment swings one way or the other, it matters not a jot if you have been following the letter of the rules and rather more that you are meeting the expectations of a large tranche of society – a growing number of whom are increasingly environmentally aware, not least as they are being asked to pay for more of the transition. From that perspective, pressure is mounting, inevitably with a focus on the upper price echelons of the industry first. As car enthusiasts, we may err towards overlooking such contradictions, or even see the bigger picture and seek to forgive them, but even that is a moot point: electrification has brought with it its own breed of evangelists and in turn disrupted the established expectations and conventions. Whether the tipping point has been reached is arguable on your point of view. Whether it will tip, however, is not. +++

+++ The FORD Focus Electric was never a sales hit for the automaker. Sold in the United States between 2011 and 2018, the model was delivered a little over 9,000 times to customers in the country, which was far from impressive. It was one of Ford’s first forays into the EV sector, though, and it seems that the manufacturer is open to the idea of giving the Focus Electric another chance. Murat Gueler, Ford’s design boss for the company’s European operations, hinted at a possible comeback for the Focus Electric, though he didn’t reveal any other details. In fact, it seems that there’s no actual plan for now, as Gueler told his team is exploring many ideas for future electric vehicles. “Everybody’s launching electric cars and we will launch a few in the future”, Gueler told. “Definitely, we’re looking at everything: proportions, architectures… we’re really busy designing all the next-generation cars. There’s a lot of work going on”. For what it’s worth, the original Focus Electric wasn’t designed as an electric vehicle from the ground up. Instead, it used the existing platform of the combustion-powered third-generation Focus, which was sold with different engines in North America and Europe. As a result, the battery took up space in the boot and the electric motor was squeezed into a car that was never designed for it. At launch, the Focus Electric had a 23 kWh capacity LG Chem lithium-ion battery pack, which was upgraded to a larger 33.5 kWh battery in 2017. With the new battery, the Focus EV was capable of travelling up to 225 kilometres at a single charge. The electric motor had an output of 145 hp, which was enough for a 0-100 kilometres acceleration in 11.4 seconds. Looking at these numbers, if a new Focus Electric is in the works, it could easily top all of them with the EV technology that’s available today. +++

+++ Logos are more than just an label for a company, they also serve as the brand’s identity. These logos even become icons in their own little (or significant) way. Case in point, just take a look at the three-pointed star of MERCEDES-BENZ . This month, Mercedes-Benz is celebrating that logo’s centenary. While there have been variations over the century, the key elements are still there. If it’s got a ring with a three-pointed star within, you know what you’re looking at. It was November 5, 1921 when this logo was first registered. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) applied for trademark protection for the emblem that’s still in use today. But prior to that, the star has been around for about a decade, but it wasn’t housed within the ring just yet. However, the brand we now know as Mercedes-Benz wouldn’t come to light until 1926, 5 years after the seal was filed for trademark protection. The merger of DMG with Benz & Cie in 1926 saw a bit of a tweak for the logo. The 3-pointed star was edged with Benz’s laurel wreath. Then you have the now-iconic bonnet star that has been on Mercedes-Benz vehicles since then. For those who remember, the three points have a significant meaning. It symbolises Daimler’s goal of motorising land, sea, and air vehicles. It’s also worth noting that there was a four-pointed star registered in 1921, but that would be used by the Deutsche Aerospace Aktiengesellschaft in 1989, now known as Daimler-Benz Aerospace. Given the strength of the logo’s star power, we’re unlikely to see it ever change. That said, the classic bonnet ornament arrangement might be on its way out for most Mercedes-Benz models. The W206 C-Class no longer has it even as an option in Europe, but the long-wheelbase version in China still has it. In the US, the E-Class is no longer available with it, either. However, European customers can still have that by optioning the Exclusive exterior line. The only Mercedes-Benz models to still have the bonnet star are the S-Class, Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, and Mercedes-Maybach GLE. +++

+++ NISSAN ‘s GT-R supercar is tipped to stick with combustion power as part of a wide-reaching overhaul in the coming years, though electrical assistance is highly likely. The V6-powered coupé has been on sale largely unchanged, save for subtle model year updates and a plethora of special editions since it arrived 14 years ago. The introduction of the next generation ‘R36’ model is unlikely to bring much in the way of significant technical overhaul, although the introduction of a new platform could see it adopt a degree of electrification. Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida recently said: “We are looking at how we can do it electrified. It’s something that’s a really professional sports vehicle with no compromise. The Z is for someone like me who enjoys sports cars. The GT-R is a professional machine and we need to work it out for the future”. He echoed earlier comments from Nissan design boss Alfonso Albaisa, who told in 2018, when development work had already begun, that the ultimate priority is for the R36 to be “the fastest super-sports car in the world”. He elaborated that this title could still theoretically be achieved without a hybrid system: “Whether we go to a lot of electrification or none at all, we can achieve a lot power-wise. But we’re definitely making a new platform, and our goal is clear: the GT-R has to be the quickest car of its kind. It has to own the track. And it has to play the advanced technology game. But that doesn’t mean it has to be electric”. Nissan recently launched its new Z sports coupé in the US, with upgrades over its 370Z predecessor extending to a wide-reaching design overhaul and chassis enhancements, rather than the adoption of any electrified drivetrain elements (it uses a 400 hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6). Whether that will be the case for the more highly strung GT-R remains to be seen, however. Nissan previously created a hybridised 3.0-litre V6 for use in a short-lived World Endurance Championship prototype in 2015, and if that powertrain were to be carried over to the GT-R, it would allow for a substantially increased total output. Notably, though, that racer was front-driven – an unlikely format for the GT-R. Crucially, the current GT-R remains a competitive performer against even much fresher rivals, including the Porsche 911, which has entered 2 new generations since its Japanese rival arrived. Its twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V6 produces up to 600 hp in its most potent form, sending the hardcore GT-R Nismo from 0-100 kph in around 2.6 seconds, meaning it remains comfortably one of the quickest-accelerating internal-combustion cars on sale. Aside from any powertrain tweaks, changes to the GT-R for its sixth generation will no doubt be focused on bringing it into line visually and technically with Nissan’s future line-up. The 240Z-inspired retro styling of the new Z hints at Nissan’s intention to recognise successful models from its past, and the GT-R’s storied history means a similar tactic could be employed for the R36. Certainly Albaisa hinted at an old-school angular approach to the design: “It doesn’t care what every other supercar in the world is doing. It simply says: ‘I’m a GT-R, I’m a brick, catch me’. It’s the world’s fastest brick, really. And when I review sketches for the new car, I say that a lot: ‘Less wing, more brick’ ”. Therefore the straight-edged silhouette of the R32 GT-R (1989-1994) is likely to have an influence on the R36. On a less positive note, increasingly stringent European emissions legislation, along with Nissan’s heightened focus on crossovers and EVs in the market, mean the prospect of a UK launch for any new pure-petrol GT-R is unlikely. The new Z coupé is a US-and Japan-only proposition, with Nissan identifying “a shrinking European sports car market and specific regulations on emissions” as reasons for not following up the 370Z here. Nissan has sold less than 100 GT-Rs in Europe so far in 2021, but importantly the model’s development costs have long since been paid off, so low volumes are more sustainable than they would be for something more mainstream. Even if the GT-R exits Europe, Nissan will remain committed to offering performance versions of its mainstream electric products. For instance, the all-new Ariya electric SUV, which is due on sale early next year, is optionally available with an e4orce four-wheel drive system that Nissan calls the “spiritual offspring” of the innovative drivetrain employed by the GT-R. In top-rung Performance guise, this dual-motor system endows the Ariya with 394 hp and 600 Nm of torque, propelling it from 0-100 kph in just 5.1 seconds. The benefits of the system also extend to the Ariya’s dynamic performance, with a regenerative braking function on the rear axle acting to reduce pitch in corners. +++

+++ TESLA ‘s CEO Elon Musk has announced via Twitter a multi-billion question, whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock (so he would not be accused of not paying income taxes). He attached a poll with 2 options (Yes or No) that will run for some 24 hours and already about 1.6 million votes were placed (out of 62.5 million followers). “Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock. Do you support this?” The eccentric billionaire adds that he will abide by the results of the poll: “I will abide by the results of this poll, whichever way it goes” He further explained that he has no other way to generate cash than to sell stocks: “Note, I do not take a cash salary or bonus from anywhere. I only have stock, thus the only way for me to pay taxes personally is to sell stock”. Well, we don’t know whether there really is a necessity to sell shares or if there are some new, undisclosed endeavors that may need capital. What we do know is that Tesla recently has reached new highs, exceeding £740 million. That would be an outstanding moment to sell! Elon Musk owns a big part of Tesla. It was 170.5 million shares as of June 30. “Analysts say he may have to offload a significant number of shares anyway to pay taxes since a large number of options will expire next year”. I saw some comments from Tesla’s shareholders that are not entirely happy with such announcements, as it would potentially undermine their long position (prices of shares would go down). The question is whether Elon Musk will still maintain control over the company with a decent enough voting power? Or maybe he intends to outsmart others, no surprise here, and buy the shares, once they will fall (which happens from time to time) at a lower price. A few years ago, he had a plan to take Tesla private (and funding was “almost secured”). Anyway, we are waiting to see what will happen with Tesla next. One thing is for sure, with Elon Musk at the helm, you can’t count on having a relaxing weekend. It’s time to roll the dice. +++

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