Newsflash: Lexus werkt aan LFA opvolger

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+++ In August, spy photographers at the Nurburgring took pics of an ASTON MARTIN Vantage mule doing hard laps. The primer black test car sported an extra wide body, a big ol’ V-shaped mesh net on its hood likely hiding heat extractors, an enormous grille with extra intakes along the sides, and dual pipes jutting out the center of the rear diffuser. It looked like Aston Martin had put its 5.2-liter V12 into a Vantage engine bay, and reports from ears on the ground said it sounded that way, too. Remember, last year’s Aston Martin Speedster was based on the Vantage chassis and was powered by that 5.2-liter V12, an engine not available in the series production Vantage. In the Speedster, that engine produced 700 hp. A reborn V12 Vantage might have its engine restricted to 680 hp. That seems a logical number, possibly putting the V12 Vantage a notable step down from the 725 hp DBS and the 700 hp special edition Speedster. If it does get 680 hp, that figure would put it 41 ponies ahead of the DB11 with the same V12, but the V12 Vantage will be a limited edition. Expected to arrive for the 2023 model year as part of the standard Vantage’s model update, sources say there will only be 299 made. The last time Aston Martin put its biggest engine in its smallest car, the result was arguably the best and most enjoyable car in the automaker’s range. We have the same expectation this time around. Unlike the last time, though, there won’t be a manual transmission on the menu; it’s said the updated Vantage will go with the 8-speed automatic only. Now that the Vantage F1 Edition starts at over $160,000, a V12 Vantage could start beyond $190,000 and even creep over $200,000. Company CEO Tobias Moers has said he plans 10 derivatives of existing models by 2023, so it seems likely that this won’t be the only special edition Vantage on the way. +++

+++ ASTON MARTIN ’s upcoming 6-cylinder mild hybrid version of the DBX will be sold in China only, the company has said. The car will be unveiled at the Guangzhou motor show, which starts on 19 November, CEO Tobias Moers said in a conference call with analysts. The straight-6 engine will be supplied by Mercedes-AMG and is expected to be a version of the 3.0-litre 435 hp configuration with 48 Volt mild hybrid assistance used by the E 53. The DBX is currently sold with a 550 hp twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 supplied by Mercedes-AMG but Chinese buyers are hit hard on taxation for buying larger-displacement engines. The DBX currently attracts an import tax of 25 %, which will fall to 12 % with the mild hybrid. “A mild-hybrid in-line-6 perfectly fits the expectation of our customers in China”, Moers said. Aston Martin has “no plans” to sell the model outside of China, a spokesman confirmed. China is now Aston Martin’s second largest market, behind North America, after the DBX widened the brand’s appeal beyond sports cars, which are less popular there. For all markets, Aston Martin will add another version of the DBX in spring next year, Moers said. He hinted that this will be a higher-performance variant. An S version could use the V8 producing 640 hp as used by AMG’s GT 63 S super-saloon. Less likely is that Aston will shoehorn in its own V12. The company has also confirmed a plug-in hybrid version of the DBX is planned as part of a wider range of improvements for the model. “That’s more or less linked now to the facelift of the DBX”, Moers said. He added that the facelift is planned for 2024. Moers said Aston Martin wouldn’t suffer in the medium term from not having a plug-in hybrid version, despite rival Bentley’s move to offer a PHEV drivetrain for the Bentley Bentayga. “Do we lose momentum on DBX by not having a plug-in hybrid? No. This is where we’re really confident”, he told investors on the call. “We know who the market leader is: Lamborghini Urus is the market leader in some areas without any hybrid”. Aston Martin expects half of its 6.000 predicted sales in 2021 to come from the DBX, which is built in its St Athan, South Wales plant. +++

+++ Global automakers are planning to spend more than half a trillion dollars on ELECTRIC VEHICLES AND BATTERIES through 2030, according to an analysis, amping up investments aimed at weaning car buyers away from fossil fuels and meeting increasingly tough decarbonization targets. Less than 3 years ago, a similar analysis found car companies planned to spend $300 billion on EVs and related technologies. But looming zero-carbon mandates in cities such as London and Paris and countries from Norway to China have lent additional urgency to the industry’s EV-related investment commitments. The most recent analysis shows carmakers planning to spend an estimated $515 billion over the next 5 to 10 years to develop and build new battery-powered vehicles and shift away from combustion engines. But industry executives and forecasters remain concerned that consumer demand for EVs could fall well short of aggressive targets without substantial additional incentives and even greater spending on charging infrastructure and grid capacity. Brian Maxim, head of global powertrain forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions, likens the growing investment commitments in vehicle electrification to the Cold War: “Once a few manufacturers announced EV programs, everyone else had to announce their own or be viewed as being left behind”. However, he added, “this leaves a lot of vehicle manufacturers planning significant volumes for a vehicle category that has unknown consumer acceptance, and will have minimal to no profit” for years. Other surveys have come up with different spending projections. In June, consulting firm AlixPartners said auto industry investments in electric vehicles would reach $330 billion by 2025. In 2020, all global automakers combined spent nearly $225 billion on capital expenditures and research and development, according to AlixPartners. Tesla, the world’s largest EV manufacturer, appears to be the one company that is selling virtually every vehicle it can build and is readying new multibillion-dollar “gigafactories” near Berlin and Austin that will significantly boost its annual production capacity. In early November, the company was valued at $1.2 trillion, more than twice the combined value of Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford and General Motors. Meanwhile, political and regulatory pressure is building on the world’s carmakers to begin phasing out production of fossil-fueled vehicles, including gasoline-electric hybrids, over the next 10-15 years, while ramping up output of full electric models. A number of countries, from Singapore to Sweden, have said they will ban sales of new combustion engine vehicles by 2030. U.S. President Joseph Biden has said he wants 40% to 50% of sales to be electric vehicles by 2030. Germany’s VW Group, which is still recovering financially from the 2016 Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal, continues to lead the rest of the industry, with more than $110 billion in EV and battery investment commitments through 2030. Those commitments, which represent more than 20% of the industry total, underpin VW’s aggressive rollout plans for millions of EVs in Europe, China and North America over the next decade. VW’s investments, like those of many of its rivals, are aimed at improving the range and performance of batteries and lowering the cost of EVs, as well as expanding battery and EV production across the globe, according to public data released by the companies. VW and fellow German automakers Daimler and BMW are planning to spend a combined $185 billion through 2030, while U.S. automakers GM and Ford expect to spend nearly $60 billion through 2025. Chinese automakers, led by VW and GM local partner SAIC Motor, have announced well over $100 billion in investment targets over the next decade. Japanese automakers lag far behind, with Honda, Toyota and Nissan so far publicly committing less than $40 billion combined. These investments do not include the tens of billions of dollars being invested in additional production capacity by the world’s largest battery companies, many in cooperation with their automaker partners. +++

+++ The new FERRARI BR20 is a V12-powered 2-seat coupé based on the GTC4 Lusso that is the latest addition to the firm’s ultra-exclusive One-Off series. The styling takes inspiration from 1950s and 1960s Ferrari coupés, with cues that nod to the 410 Superamerica and 500 Superfast. It was designed as the newest coachbuilt one-off project for one of the Italian firm’s “longstanding clients”. The BR20 has been built on the platform of the GTC4 Lusso grand tourer that recently went out of production but has been extensively reworked. Most notably, it’s longer than the original to allow for the addition of a bold rear overhang, including an aerodynamic air channel, rear spoiler and exhausts built into the lower diffuser. At the front, it features a reworked, widened front grille including unique horizontal slats and an upper carbonfibre element that links to other recent One-Off models. The headlights have also been modified with slimmer daytime running lights and the 20in diamond-finish wheels are unique. The two rear seats from the GTC4 Lusso have been removed to turn the car into a 2-seater, which also allows it to sport a sleeker, fastback-style roof. The removal of the seats also allows for a major redesign of the interior, which features extensive use of leather trim and carbonfibre. The seats feature an exclusive stitching pattern, while oak trim covers the rear bench and luggage deck. No performance details have been disclosed, but the car retains the 6.2-litre V12 and four-wheel-drive system of the GTC4 Lusso. In that model, the engine was tuned for 690 hp. As with other luxury manufacturers, one-off and limited-run coachbuild projects are an increasingly lucrative revenue stream for Ferrari. Maranello once reported that it had a 5-year waiting list for such projects. Ferrari said the BR20 client was “deeply involved” in the creation of the car, although it has revealed no details of their identity. It also hasn’t given a value for the car. +++

+++ Reports out of Japan say that a successor to the LEXUS LFA is in the works. While this news should come with a planet-sized grain of salt, there is a non-zero chance. And since the LFA is one of the best sports cars we’ve driven, it bears at least considering, so let’s look at the mere possibility of a successor. The successor is a plug-in hybrid with a front-midship layout (the heavy motor behind the front axle) under a carbon fiber body. The gas side of the equation is said to be a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 generating approximately 950 hp. It’s supposedly scheduled for a 2025 debut. In 2019,  Lexus’ then vice-president, now president Koji Sato told: “We need strong requests for a new LFA from the media. This can help us proceed”. Well, if that’s what it takes then consider this another vote in the yes column, even though we’ve described its 4.8-liter V10’s 560 hp output as not very impressive on paper by the time it came out and covered how it wasn’t a hot seller, with new examples still being offered for sale as new in 2018. In the years since, though, it seems the collector market seems to have taken a liking to the LFA. At Monterey Car Week this year, a regular LFA sold for $819.000, more than doubling its original $375.000 sticker, while a 1 of 50 Nürburgring Edition sold for $1.6 million. If the GR Super Sport really is canceled as some rumors suggest, perhaps there is room in the Toyota family for another LFA. I still wouldn’t hold my breath, though. +++

+++ LORDSTOWN MOTORS delayed next year’s launch of its Endurance electric pickup by 3 months, citing parts and materials shortages and other supply-chain issues, sending shares down 11 % in after-hours trading. The Ohio-based electric vehicle startup, while reporting its third-quarter results, said it would now begin production and deliveries in the third quarter of 2022, rather than in the second quarter that it forecast in August. “We’re focused on the Endurance. We know we have to get that truck out. It’s been a challenging quarter with raw material shortages, parts shortages, supply-chain disruptions, particularly from international sourcing, but we’re doing everything we can to mitigate it”, chief executive Daniel Ninivaggi said on a conference call. He also cited delayed semiconductor shipments that have dogged the entire auto industry. “We’re going to do everything possible to get the truck out on our revised schedule”, Ninivaggi added. Lordstown has struggled with the launch of the Endurance and unwanted attention since a short seller in March accused the company of misleading investors. Its previous CEO, Steve Burns, subsequently resigned. The company still faces investigations by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission related to vehicle pre-orders and Lordstown’s deal to go public through a reverse merger with a blank-check firm. A day after announcing it had finalized a deal for Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology to buy Lordstown’s plant in northeast Ohio for $230 million and take over production of the Endurance, Lordstown said on Thursday it also signed a memorandum of understanding with Cox Automotive. Cox will provide fleet customer service and support for Lordstown’s EVs, including maintenance, vehicle pickup and delivery, battery servicing, repairs and roadside assistance, Ninivaggi said. Under the Foxconn deal, the companies will pursue a joint-venture agreement to develop vehicles for the global commercial fleet using Foxconn’s MIH vehicle platform. Ninivaggi said on Thursday that Lordstown is working on design ideas off that platform that include a commercial van. Ninivaggi also said wheel-mounted “hub” motors, which are used in the Endurance, will not be used in every vehicle the company develops. Lordstown reported a third-quarter net loss of $95.8 million, or 54 cents a share. Analysts had expected a loss of 59 cents a share. Company executives said they are not providing a financial forecast for 2022 at this time, and Lordstown is expected to end the year with cash balances between $150 million and $180 million, including the expected initial payment of $100 million from Foxconn. +++

+++ The story of the MERCEDES-AMG One has been long and drawn-out, and the latest chapter contains the first specific horsepower and torque figures I’ve seen. The information comes from a surprising source, the new “Forza Horizon 5” video game, which includes the hybrid performance car in its huge selection of virtual cars. Unfortunately, the figures seems oddly low. The AMG One doesn’t just play a minor role in the game; it’s the most prominently featured car on the X-Box title’s cover. As noticed by Motor 1, however, when players delve into the specs of the car the figures are plainly there for all to see: 877 hp and 720 Nm. If that’s true, it would be a shocking letdown, considering that Mercedes-AMG has, since its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show, repeatedly said the One would have in excess of 1.000 hp. In 2018, AMG chief Tobias Moers even said that the final figure might come in closer to 1.100 hp. The game also reveals that the One has a 1.600 kg curb weight and a 49/51 front/rear weight balance. The car has been billed as a road-going Formula One racer. It’s powered by a quad-motor hybrid system mated to a mid-mounted, turbocharged 1.6-liter V6 that reportedly soars to 11.000 rpm. Game makers often work closely with manufacturers when they have cars from the real world in their titles. At the very least, the automaker needs to sign off on licensing their names, logos, and vehicle likenesses to the publisher. However, each company has various levels of scrutiny as to what they will or won’t allow (such as colors, modifications, and so on). It seems highly unlikely that Mercedes-AMG would give its flagship car ‘just’ 877 hp after promising over 1.000 hp for years. Perhaps the game designers simply inserted specs that allowed the car to rank highly and keep it competitive. But if the specs are true, it wouldn’t be the first time a toy company worked closely with an OEM and then mistakenly revealed something ahead of the real car’s debut. +++

+++ Rumors of a manual TOYOTA Supra are swirling yet again thanks to a report from Japan indicating that production of a 3.0-liter inline-6 model with a 6-speed could happen a soon as early 2022. Australian journalists spotted the note on a Japanese website indicating that a manual transmission is on the way for a special GRMN Supra model powered by a high-output version of the car’s BMW-engineered 3.0-liter S58. This isn’t the first time such rumors have come up, and it probably won’t be the last; unless it’s true, of course. As Autointernationaal previously reported, the coming BMW M3 and M4 will offer a manual transmission with lower-powered trims of the S58 engine, so it’s possible the unicorn limited-edition Supra does the same. On the other hand, last May BMW announced a manual transmission for the new Z4 in Europe, that roadster powered by the low-output version of the same 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder sold in the Z4 and the Supra here. Hence the Supra could get a stick shift, but one mated to a 4-cylinder and not the 6-unit. A left-field option mentioned elsewhere has Toyota securing the 420 hp S55 inline-6 from the current M2 Competition, along with that car’s 6-speed manual, considering the BMW coupe is due for replacement shortly. I urge you to take this one with a huge grain of salt, as usual, but we can’t entirely rule it out either, especially with the looming threat of Nissan’s cheaper, manual-transmission Z-car on the horizon. +++

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