Newsflash: nieuwe Subaru XV op komst

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+++ Almost 300.000 AUDI Q5 and SQ5 (Sportback) models need to be recalled because of a water ingress issue that could potentially cause a short leading to a sudden loss of engine power and increase the likelihood of an accident. Audi says that if liquid is spilled on the rear seats of affected models, it is possible the liquid will enter the gateway control module. There’s also a chance that an insufficient underbody seam could cause water to enter the gateway control module, for example while driving through deep water or during heavy rain. If water is to enter the module, it could lead to short circuits and various internal errors. Audi has designed the gateway control model to switch off if it identifies moisture and while the steering and braking systems remain fully operable, the engine goes into emergency (limp) mode and remains in operation, but with reduced power. Audi states in its recall notice that “unexpected reduced engine power may create an increased risk of an accident in certain driving situations”. Owners of impacted vehicles will see several warning messages if the gateway control module shuts down). The recall affects 2018-2022 Audi Q5 models built between November 9, 2016 and December 3, 2021; 2018-2022 Audi SQ5 models made between January 12, 2017 and December 2, 2021; SQ5 Sportback models built between February 20, 2021 and December 2, 2021; and Q5 Sportback models produced from February 20, 2021 until December 1, 2021. The German automakers said it’s not aware of any crashes or injuries stemming from this issue. Audi will resolve the problem by installing a protective cover on the gateway control module to protect it from liquid ingress. Dealers will also seal the insufficient underbody seam on vehicles produced until the end of August 2021. +++

+++ At Auto China 2020 in Beijing, Buick revealed an ELECTRA concept with a design language called Potential Energy created by one of GM’s Shanghai-based design studios. A press release about the concept said the “all-electric crossover offers a sneak peek at Buick’s vision for a new intelligent electric future”. It’s possible that the “intelligent electric future” could include the Electra name, as Buick applied to trademark that model name on December 20. Buick isn’t new to the name, having put it on a luxury sedan it produced from 1959 to 1990. What better way to resurrect history with electricity using the name Electra and a design language called Potential Energy? Buick snuck a concept car into General Motors’ promotional video for the Ultifi software platform that will connect owners’ digital lives across vehicles and locations. For less than two seconds at the end of the vid, a seriously chic fastback sedan speeds through a digital landscape, a Buick tri-shield logo set into what looks like an active rear spoiler. I don’t see Buick building this car, but I’d love it if Buick did. What I imagine more likely is a more production-possible evolution of the Electra concept shown in Beijing last year that had Ultium batteries powering 2 electric motors that shared a combined 583 horsepower among both axles. The sprint to 100 km/h was said to take 4.5 seconds, range estimated at about 660 km. The dihedral doors enclosed a buttonless cockpit with a rectangular, retracting steering wheel, huge curved screen, eConnect software, and an AI-powered assistant for feature control. There was also a skateboard tucked into the rear bumper for last-mile travel to the destination or the half-pipe. I  expect Buick to launch at least one crossover in 2024, and another in 2025. One of them will likely compete with the Ford Mustang Mach-E and the production version of the Chrysler Airflow concept. +++

+++ Under pressure from U.S. auto safety regulators, Tesla has agreed to stop allowing video games to be played on center touch screens while its vehicles are moving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the company will send out a software update over the Internet so the function called PASSENGER PLAY will be locked and won’t work while vehicles are in motion. The move comes one day after the agency announced it would open a formal investigation into distracted driving concerns about Tesla’s video games, some of which could be played while cars are being driven. An agency spokeswoman says in a statement that the change came after regulators discussed concerns about the system with Tesla. The first update went out as part of Tesla’s holiday software release, and the rest of the vehicles should get it today. The statement says NHTSA regularly talks about infotainment screens with all automakers. The agency says its investigation of Tesla’s feature will continue even with the update. It was not clear whether NHTSA would require Tesla to do a formal recall with the update. In the past the agency has asked Tesla why it should not be required to do recalls with safety-related software updates. “The Vehicle Safety Act prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles with defects posing unreasonable risks to safety, including technologies that distract drivers from driving safely”, NHTSA’s statement said. The agency said it assesses how manufacturers identify and guard against distraction hazards due to misuse or intended use of screens and other convenience technology. The agency announced that it would formally investigate Tesla’s screens after an owner from the Portland, Oregon, area filed a complaint when he discovered that a driver could play games while the cars are moving. The agency said that the “Passenger Play” feature could distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash. The probe covers about 580.000 Tesla Models S, X, Y and 3 from the 2017 through 2022 model years. In documents detailing the investigation, NHTSA said “Passenger Play” has been available since December 2020. Before that, enabling gameplay was only possible when its vehicles were in park. The NHTSA documents do not list any crashes or injuries caused by the problem. Tesla owner Vince Patton, 59, filed the complaint last month after discovering the gaming feature could be played by drivers. Patton, who loves his car and says he has nothing against Tesla, worries that drivers will play games and become dangerously distracted. “Somebody’s going to get killed,” he said. “It’s absolutely insane”. NHTSA already is investigating why Tesla’s “Autopilot” partially automated driving system keeps crashing into stopped emergency vehicles. It’s also looking into the performance of Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software after getting a complaint that it nearly caused a crash. Tesla says neither system can drive vehicles and that drivers must pay attention and be ready to intervene at all times. +++

+++ SUBARU ’s XV has been an absolute hit for the Japanese automaker. Who knew that taking an ordinary Impreza hatch and giving it higher ground clearance with extra cladding would result in sales wonders for Subaru. Sadly, the current state of affairs isn’t as rosy, especially for Subaru of North America, whose November sales plummeted by 35 percent compared to last year’s same month. As with other automakers, the semi-conductor shortage is hitting them hard. Fortunately though, an all-new XV is on the horizon to rekindle interest, but will it be enough to jump-start sales again?Dating back to 2017, the current XV has had subsequent updates helping it stay fresh amongst the ever-increasing competition. Next year’s redesign retains a rugged, evolutionary look, similar to the latest WRX and Levorg. Frontal styling kicks off with sleek matrix LED headlights intersected by a chrome spear spanning the trapezoidal grille. Lower down, angular fog-light housings and contrasting black cladding add to the frontal dynamism. Like the new WRX, the flared front and rear fender cladding appear to sport faux vents, and the hindquarters have muscular haunches. The tail lamps have Subaru’s signature c-clamp aesthetic at the back, while the lower portion of the rear bumper has funky cutouts for the reflector lenses. Don’t expect any significant surprises when it comes to the interior. Why? Well, because essentially, it’ll be the same cabin as you will find in the all-new WRX, minus the sporty touches Subaru applied on the performance compact. This is good news, as it will feature an 11.6 inch portrait-style touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster and wireless phone charging. Safety will be a top priority, too. Here, Subaru’s Eyesight suite of driver assists will include autonomous emergency braking, lane-centering aid, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, 360 degree camera and a driver attention monitor. The new Crosstrek/XV rides upon the same, well-regarded Subaru Global Platform (SGP) as the outgoing car. Revisions to the frontal crash structure and additional torsional stiffness will further benefit the XV’s impressive ride and handling characteristics. I’ve heard rumors about the current sluggish 2.0-litre boxer four possibly making way for a smaller 1.5-litre turbocharged unit with similar power but more torque. Other likely candidates include the 1.8-litre boxer engine used in the Japanese market, a self-charging hybrid and a carryover 182 hp 2.5-litre non-turbo four for US and Canadian consumption. As with all Subaru’s bar the BRZ, the Crosstrek puts its power to all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission and X-mode for off-road driving conditions. A ‘Wilderness’ edition with bigger rubber and even higher ground clearance will also appear. The XV’s sits in a highly competitive and crowded compact crossover segment. Main rivals include Toyota’s Corolla Cross, Mazda CX-30, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Skoda Karoq and Hyundai Kona. The new XV will debut later next year. +++

+++ The close of 2021 finds TESLA wealthier than ever and, in CEO Elon Musk’s case, wealthier than everybody else. The electric vehicle manufacturer notched records for both deliveries and profits this year despite a global chip shortage that decimated supply chains worldwide, effectively kneecapping the rest of the automotive industry’s production capacity. However its financial successes were often overshadowed by Tesla’s continuing production quality issues, multiple NHTSA and SEC investigations, high profile failures of its vaunted “Full Self Driving” system, as well as numerous vehicle recalls and delays for upcoming models. And with existing industry stalwarts like Ford, General Motors, Toyota and the Volkswagen Group making concerted efforts to electrify their own offerings, could 2022 be the year that Tesla’s reign as top EV automaker finally ends? 2021 was, without a doubt, a banner year for Tesla’s bottom line. The company entered this year having met its 2020 goal of producing a half-million vehicles (of which it delivered 499.550 to customers), a nearly 133.000 unit increase over 2019. By April, Tesla had produced a record 180.338 vehicles and delivered 184.800 of them. Demand remained strong throughout the first half of the year thanks, in part, to price cuts on both the Model 3 and Model Y. The company then broke its same record in July, having built 200.000 vehicles over the past 3 months, earning Tesla $1.1 billion in net income during the same period. “Public sentiment towards EVs is at an inflexion point and, at this point, I think almost everyone agrees that electric vehicles are the only way forward”, Musk said during the Q2 earnings call. Unsurprisingly, Tesla’s record-breaking trend continued unabated through Q3 with the company rolling 237.823 vehicles off its production lines (nearly all of which were of the Model 3 and Model Y varieties) and delivering 241,300 of them. The company announced that the Model Ys destined for the Chinese market would be receiving upgraded AMD Ryzen chipsets. Tesla capped off its stellar financial year with announcements from Hertz that it plans to order 100.000 vehicles (though there remains uncertainty about how that deal will actually play out) and from Uber Eats that it intends to rent as many as 50.000 Tesla vehicles to its drivers. While Tesla enjoyed unabashed sales success with its core lineup, the company often struggled to meet release deadlines for a number of its yet-to-be-released models. Both the Cybertruck and Semi have both been pushed back to 2022 while the Tesla Roadster reportedly won’t be arriving until at least 2023. Tesla also took the strange tack of releasing an entry-level standard range Model Y for just a few weeks before discontinuing the trim level. Similarly, Tesla pushed back the release of its Model S Plaid edition to June 10th, debuting it mere days after Musk unilaterally announced that the Model S Plaid+ was canceled outright. The company was also beset by a wide array of production woes and vehicle recalls this year. In February, Tesla bowed to pressure from the NHTSA and recalled 135.000 Model X and S vehicles on account of faulty touchscreens. That same month, Tesla was forced to issue a recall for another 12.300 Model Xs on account of loose trim panels. In April, customers reported that the company had double-charged them for their vehicles, up to $71.000 in some cases, though Tesla was quick to reimburse the affected buyers and even threw in a $200 gift certificate for the company store. June saw yet another recall, this time for 6.000 Model 3 and Ys over faulty brake caliper bolts, and in October, Tesla had to recall another set of Ys and 3s because their suspensions kept separating. Just last month, the company had to pull nearly 12.000 vehicles from across its product line on account of software issues; that’s not to be confused with the recent Tesla App outage that locked drivers around the world out of their own vehicles. Tesla’s parade of crises also extended to the production lines themselves with the Fremont factory facing a sizeable Covid outbreak shortly after reopening in March. Musk complained often and loudly throughout 2020 over California’s quarantine lockdown laws and finally made good on threats to take his toys and go home, officially moving Tesla’s headquarters to Texas in October. The company was also ordered to pay $137 million to former employee Owen Diaz after a San Francisco federal court jury found Tesla liable for the unconscionable racial bigotry Diaz faced while working at the Fremont plant. That lawsuit has been followed up by another, filed in November by Jessica Barraza who alleged “rampant sexual harassment” as well as continued verbal and physical abuse while she worked at the Fremont location. Tesla’s Full Self Driving beta also turned out to be a mixed bag for the company in 2021. Following its debut in October of last year, beta 8.3 rolled out in May, doubling the size of the test program, before releasing beta 9 in July. Version 9’s rollout coincided with a new FSD subscription program charging customers $199 a month (or $99 a month if they’d previously purchased the now-discontinued Enhanced Autopilot feature), assuming they already had the $1.500 FSD computer hardware installed in their vehicle. However, Tesla’s decision to abandon radar-based autonomation sensors in favor of an optical-only setup in May led to a backlash from the NHTSA which subsequently forced the company to remove some of its driver-assist designations such as forward collision and lane departure warnings. In an effort to counter claims that the use of the Autopilot feature can cause drivers to become inattentive and less responsive once they resume control of the vehicle, Tesla activated its in-car driver monitoring cameras in late May. FSD beta 10 arrived to great fanfare in September with owners noting smoother turns on city streets, improved display visuals and an overall improvement in the vehicle’s off-highway navigation. Those feelings were short-lived when, in October, the company was forced to revert its beta 10.3 implementation after becoming aware of “some issues,” per Musk, including a “regression” with left turns. Users also reported phantom forward-collision warnings and auto-steering bugs. The company’s FSD faults (which have been implicated in multiple crashes where Teslas inexplicably rammed into first responder vehicles and other civilian drivers as well as a widely-reported wreck in Houston with nobody behind the wheel) has led to calls for increased scrutiny from and by the NHTSA, NTSB, the US Senate, and even the California DMV. The FSD feature also prompted a 300.000-unit recall at the behest of the Chinese government over the ease in which FSD can be activated, though that was far from the only issue Tesla faced with the nation. In April, China banned Tesla vehicles from its military bases and “key state-owned companies” over fears that the cars’ myriad cameras could be leveraged for espionage. After nearly a month of wrangling and appeals to social media, Tesla finally caved to China’s cybersecurity demands and established a local clearinghouse for that data. And what would a Year in Review of Tesla be without a look back at CEO Elon Musk’s unique brand of shenanigans? Last October, Musk unilaterally disbanded Tesla’s PR department, thereby making his personal Twitter account the first, last and only stop for confirmation of the company’s decisions. This January, Musk reversed course slightly and, instead of reforming the department, began hiring people to respond to customer complaints made toward him on the social media platform. Speaking of tweets, Tesla was also sued this year for allegedly breaking a previously struck deal with the SEC by allowing Musk to continue sending unapproved, “erratic” tweets as well as for the company failing to obtain a neutral general counsel to reign in its CEO. The National Labor Relations Board also went after Tesla in 2021, finding that the company had illegally fired a union activist. The NLRB consequently demanded that the worker be rehired and Musk delete a 2018 union-busting tweet related to the case. 2021 was also the year that Musk leaned hard into crypto. Tesla bought $1.5 billion worth of the stuff in February and briefly toyed with the idea of allowing customers to use the currency to purchase its vehicles, though those plans were quickly canned over concerns about Bitcoin mining’s environmental impacts. Musk also took time out of his Saturday Night Live hosting duties in May to crash the value of Bitcoin rival Dogecoin, though his later tweets helped the price of Dogecoin rebound, to a degree. And then there was the whole Tesla “Robot” debacle, which I can’t even, I mean, it was literally just an actor in a spandex jumpsuit dancing around while Musk made a bunch of wildly unsubstantiated claims. Looking ahead to 2022, Tesla appears to be on track for continued success. Its Berlin Gigafactory is nearly ready to start production and is expected to do so by the end of this month (barring any unforeseen setbacks). The company’s stockpile of chipsets and aggressive maneuvers to shore up supplies of battery precursor materials will insulate Tesla from many of the production bottlenecks that many other EV automakers are likely to struggle with throughout the new year. However, even with Tesla’s record-breaking production figures from the past couple of years, the number of vehicles it delivers annually is still a small fraction of what more established automakers sell. BMW, for example, sold 2.3 million vehicles worldwide in 2020. In the same year, GM sold 2.5 million in the US alone. And as those companies increasingly turn their attention to the EV market while leveraging economies of scale that Tesla cannot match, Musk’s company could soon find itself relegated back to being a niche EV brand rather than an industry titan. +++

+++ Information for the 2022 modelyear TOYOTA Supra is out. Still offered with 4 or 6 cylinders, the coupe is entering the 2022 model year with a handful of new features across the board, a new limited-edition model named A91-Carbon Fiber, and a cheaper range-topping model. The big news for 2022 is the A91-Carbon Fiber, which was unveiled in June 2021. Limited to 600 units, it stands out with a carbon fiber body kit that includes a front splitter, rocker panels, and a duckbill spoiler on the trunk lid. It also features 19-inch wheels painted flat black and an edition-specific red and black interior with leather and Alcantara upholstery. The rest of the range receives a handful of minor changes, which is unsurprising considering that 2021 brought a raft of new features including a more powerful 6-cylinder engine and a new entry-level 4. The base 3.0 now comes standard with heated seats, while the 3.0 Legend Premium trim can be configured with a red leather interior. Models equipped with the premium sound system now boast full-screen Apple CarPlay compatibility. The list of options includes the Safety & Technology Package, which bundles a 12-speaker JBL Audio sound system, wireless Apple CarPlay, adaptive cruise control, a navigation system, and a blind spot monitoring system, among other electronic driving aids. Also optional is the Driver’s Assist Package, which adds adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors. +++

+++ VINFAST is slated to unveil 3 electric vehicles at CES, but the company will be doing so without the help of Michael Lohscheller, who is leaving the automaker for “personal reasons”. The move is surprising as Lohscheller was appointed CEO in July and was tasked with turning VinFast into a “global smart electric car company”. Lohscheller has extensive experience in the automotive industry as he was an executive vice president at Volkswagen Group of America, before becoming CEO of Opel. His next move remains unclear, but he released a statement saying it was an “honor to serve VinFast and its people”. He went on to wish the company “all the best” in the future and add they’re on their way to becoming a “successful global electric vehicle brand”. Lohscheller will be replaced by VinFast Vice Chair Le Thi Thu Thuy, who will also be retaining her old title. The company said she will be “in charge of overseeing VinFast’s business activities in its current markets” as well as “lead market survey activities and expansions into other potential markets globally”. Thuy said she is “thrilled” to become CEO and will help steer “VinFast towards success in the international market and winning the heart of global consumers”. She went on to extend her gratitude to Lohscheller and wish him the best of luck in the future. It remains unclear if the executive shakeup will result in any changes to the company’s plans, but VinFast is slated to introduce A, B and C segment electric vehicles next month. Little is known about them, but they’ll slot beneath the e35 and e36. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has been hinting at a Microbus revival for decades as the Microbus concept debuted at the 2001 North American International Auto Show and was followed by the Bulli concept in 2011. The teases continued with the ID.Buzz concept at the 2017 North American International Auto Show and now it’s almost ready for production as Volkswagen has proclaimed 2022 as the year of the ID.Buzz. To build anticipation for the electric minivan, Volkswagen has released a new teaser that gives us a look at the model’s headlights and distinctive LED lighting signature. The teaser goes on to show what appears to be illuminated door handles and lights that project a distinctive pattern onto the ground. We’ll learn more in the coming months, but the ID.Buzz is slated to be offered in a variety of different configurations as there will be everything from a cargo van to an autonomous variant. Specifications remain a closely guarded secret, but the model is expected to be offered with rear- and all-wheeldrive. If the ID.4 is any indication, the entry-level model will likely have a rear-mounted electric motor that develops 204 hp and 310 Nm. The all-wheeldrive variant, on the other hand, could have a dual-motor powertrain producing a combined output of 299 hp and 459 Nm. Of course, we won’t have to wait much longer to find out full details as Volkswagen has previously said the ID.Buzz and ID.Buzz Cargo will be introduced in the spring of 2022. +++

+++ We haven’t heard much from WIESMANN lately, but the company has been promising a new model for what feels like an eternity. However, it’s been delayed as Wiesmann has quietly updated their website to say “Given the changes in the market over the last few years, a new exciting proposition will be announced soon”. That’s not much to go on, but Wiesmann specified they will be unveiling a new model in 2022. Their website goes on to specify that “Alongside the new model, Project Gecko continues to be developed”. That suggests the automaker has 2 different vehicles under development. The old version of the website was focused exclusively on Project Gecko and noted the car was slated for release in 2021. That obviously isn’t happening, but the old website noted Project Gecko would have a BMW M-sourced twin-turbo V8 engine that would be paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It was slated to enable the car to rocket from 0-100 km/h in less than 3.5 seconds and onto a top speed in excess of 320 km/h. All of that information has been scrubbed from the website, so it’s possible Project Gecko has undergone a rethink. Of course, only time will tell and Wiesmann says they’ll have more information early next year. +++

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