Newsflash: eerste details opvolger Volvo XC90 zijn bekend

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+++ While Europes’s plug-in electric vehicle market grew by respectably in 2021, growth of the same segment in the world’s largest car market more than doubled that rate. Official figures from the automotive industry in CHINA reveal that last year sales of plug-in hybrids and EVs saw a staggering 158 % increase on 2020. But what’s behind the numbers and who were the main winners and losers? Let’s start with the data. In China, total sales of New Energy Vehicles (NEVs; battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids) topped 3.52 million units, just over half the global total. One car, the Wuling Mini EV, accounted for around 12 % of those sales alone. BYD, the market leader in electrified vehicles, sold over 600.000 NEVs. NEVs made up 13.4 % of all car sales in China. That last figure is a significant one for the Chinese authorities since their target for NEVs to make up 20 % of all new car sales by 2025 was within touching distance in both November and December and, if achieved over a full year in 2022, would mean the target was reached three years ahead of schedule. In fact, it’s important to recognise that 2021’s astonishing figures have their roots in more than a decade of investment and subsidies that have developed a home-grown industry of car makers, battery suppliers and infrastructure totalling €60 billion. But 2021 sales were less a result of subsidies than in any previous year because, although the Chinese government delayed their planned EV grant removal in 2020, it was still cut by a further 30 % last year and now makes up only a tiny percentage of the purchase price. Instead, Chinese consumers have been cashing in on a perfect storm of EV excitement, numberplate restrictions in the largest cities for ICE vehicles, an increasingly diverse and capable choice of products, and home-grown brands that for the first time are considered on a par with overseas competitors. “Chinese consumers are increasingly more open to new energy vehicles from several aspects, not only because EVs have reached a maturity in terms of technology and convenience that is on par with ICE vehicles, but also because new EV brands now offer service that exceeds that of existing premium and luxury brands”, said Ashley Sutcliffe, PR director at the Geely Group, which launched its own premium EV brand, Zeekr, late last year. Zeekr is just one of many EV offshoots from established Chinese car makers (also including AVATR, Aion, Voyah and Ora) that has or is about to launch. That Ora is entering the UK market this year is a sign of the Chinese car industry’s blossoming confidence. However, it’s not just China’s legacy car makers that are getting in on the act. Home-grown EV start-ups Nio and Xpeng, both now present in Norway and planning further European expansion in 2022, also saw significant sales increases in 2021. Nio, whose ES6 midsized SUV claimed 19th place in the overall best-sellers list for 2021, saw full year sales increase by 109.1 %, while rival Xpeng, whose P7 saloon was 13th, boosted sales by a market-beating 263 %. Speaking on the wider market success of NEVs in 2021, Brian Gu, vice-chairman and president of Xpeng, said: “What has really moved this penetration rate is the availability of very good, smart EV products coupled with broader customer awareness and acceptance, and also Chinese user behaviours that are always embracing new products”. When considering Xpeng, it’s worth noting that R&D staff make up more than 40 % of its workforce: “over 4.000 employees, more than 2-fold our staffing at the end of 2020”, added Gu. Xpeng also claims to be the only global car brand other than Tesla to develop its key software technology entirely in-house. A former Tesla employee once claimed that “Tesla is not an automotive company, it’s a tech company that builds cars”, and it’s this tech-driven focus among native EV brands that is capturing the attention of young Chinese consumers who no longer automatically turn to foreign brands. “15 years ago the logo sold the product, but many people are now proud and happy to get into a Nio or an Xpeng”, said Tu Le, founder of Sino Auto Insights. “Digital natives are much more receptive to local domestic brands than their parents”. For all the hype around local EV brands, it’s worth noting that Tesla itself claimed second and third spots in the EV sales charts behind only the Wuling Mini EV, with both the Tesla Model Y and Model 3 selling more than 120.000 units apiece. But while Tesla flew the flag for foreign brands in China, there was less love for Volkswagen’s new ID-series models, which had a slow start but have gained momentum. Volkswagen conservatively estimated 80.000-100.000 ID sales for 2021 but official figures for the full year have fallen short at just over 70.000. This couples with a sizeable fall in sales of domestically produced cars, down from an average of 264.495 units per month in the second half of 2020 to just 174.384 in the 5 months leading to December 2021. This will be a critical year for the brand’s EVs in China, especially with new competition from fellow foreigners Ford and Cadillac with their Mustang Mach-E and Lyriq. No analysis of the 2021 figures would be complete without recognising the incredible impact of the Wuling Mini EV. Launched in mid-2020, the car has allowed young Chinese consumers onto the road like nothing else since the VW Beetle or Ford Model T. Spurred on by a starting price of just over the equivalent of €5.000, almost 400.000 Mini EVs found a home in China in 2021 and they have proved especially popular with women under the age of 35, a difficult market to capture. A mind-boggling array of customisation options, and a soon-to-be-launched cabrio version, have sustained intense interest throughout the product’s life cycle. “The Wuling Mini EV is the little train that could. It started off really hot and hasn’t slowed down. It’s almost a transactional buy since it’s so cheap”, said Tu Le. “People forget that there are still hundreds of millions of Chinese people who live in cities lower than Tier 2”, Tu Le added, referring to the unofficial hierarchy of Chinese cities based on GDP, politics and population. Only 5 cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin and Chongqing) are considered Tier 1 cities, while a further 30 make up Tier 2. In total, more than 160 cities in China house over 1 million inhabitants and the Mini EV has found a clear route into the hearts of many. Industry experts predict that in 2022 demand for electrified vehicles in China will continue to intensify and sales could reach just under 6 million units, but the China Passenger Car Association has sounded a note of caution due to the ongoing shortage of key components needed in EVs. They foresee supply only being adequate for the production of four million NEVs in China, and said: “The shortage of automotive chips that had hindered the growth of the car market has yet to ease. The bestselling models still need chips to reinforce their production and get their backlog of orders executed”. If there is one thing we can count on, however, it’s that the choice of increasingly competitive electrified vehicles in China will only continue to expand in 2022. +++

+++ The all-new fifth-generation FORD MONDEO has been revealed as a sleek executive saloon, exclusively for the Chinese market. Following a series of leaked images last year which outed the car’s final styling, Ford has officially revealed its reinvented Volkswagen Passat rival at its China Design Centre in Shanghai, presenting it as a showcase of Ford’s new design language for the region. The Mondeo has been on sale in China since 2002, nearly a decade after it launched in Europe. Reinventing the model was “a privilege and a challenge for our team,” said head designer Maurizio Tocco. “We wanted to respect and acknowledge the history which had come before us while elevating the customers’ experience to the next level”, he continued. “The starting point of the design is always the customer and looking for innovative ways to incorporate what they need and want into the design”. The new Mondeo is the first model to be designed according to the new ‘Progressive Energy in Strength’ philosophy, which is said to blend elements of Ford’s ‘rich heritage’ and ‘icon designs’ with the preferences of its Chinese buyers. The 3 defining characteristics of the new ethos are “commanding, agile and responsive”. Set to begin deliveries in China during the second quarter of 2022, the new 4-door saloon will be produced in a joint venture between Ford and Chinese firm Changan in Chongqing. While European sales of the new Mondeo have been ruled out by Ford, suggestions are it could be sold in the US as a replacement for the Fusion, although details on where North American models would be sourced is yet to be confirmed by Ford. The new Mondeo draws heavily on its recently launched Chinese-market sibling model, the Evos crossover, for design inspiration. Key design elements include an octagonal-shaped grille, slim LED headlights connected by a light band within the leading edge of the bonnet, separate daytime running lights and an A-shaped graphic for the air duct within the lower part of the front bumper. Further back, the new Mondeo features a contoured bonnet, large wheelhouses housing wheels up to 19in in diameter, structured flanks with flush-fitting door handles, a coupé-style line roofline in a contrasting colour to the rest of the body and, as on the Evos, feature lines within the trailing part of the rear doors and rear quarter-panels. The rear is characterised by its short deck, Mustang-inspired tail-lights (also connected by a full-width light band) and a bumper featuring an integrated diffuser. At 4.935 mm long, 1.875 mm wide and 1.500 mm tall, the new Volkswagen Passat rival is 63 mm longer, 23 mm wider and 19 mm higher than the Mondeo that’s set to be phased out of production at Ford’s Valencia plant in Spain in March. It also rides on a wheelbase 104 mm longer than that of today’s Mondeo, at 2.954 mm. Although we’re yet to get a look at the interior of the new Mondeo, Chinese sources confirm that it will receive the same basic cabin architecture as the Evos. Included is a dashboard housing a 1,1 metre wide display. It consists of a 12.3 inch digital instrument display and a separate 27 inch infotainment touchscreen. It runs Ford’s new Sync+ 2.0 UX system bundled with a Baidu-developed software packaging, offering a virtual assistant together with over-the-air software-update capability, Level 2 driver assistance functions and car-to-X technology. The new Mondeo is based on Ford’s C2 platform, which also underpins the existing Focus. It has been conceived for cars ranging in size from the Fiesta to the Edge. Elements of the platform are also found in the Tourneo and Transit commercial vehicles. Chinese market models are planned to offer a choice between turbocharged 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engines, the latter offering up to 240 hp. Also planned is a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, details of which are yet to be made official. +++

+++ The year 2021 was pretty challenging for JAGUAR , which noted a 15.8 % decrease in global car sales to 86.270 units, including almost a 49 % decrease in Q4 to 14.407. The company blames mostly the semiconductor shortages, adding that demand remains strong. I am the most interested in the I-Pace sales results. Unfortunately, the all-electric Jaguar also is in the red. During the fourth quarter, the company sold 2.558 units (down 67 % year-over-year, although a year ago the results were probably inflated by the emission requirements and run to register as many cars as possible). That’s almost 18 % of Jaguar’s total volume. Overall, this year I-Pace was pretty flat, between 2.230 and 2.650 sales per quarter. In 2021, Jaguar sold 9.970 units of the I-Pace. That’s the worst result since its launch and 39 % lower than in 2020. The average BEV share out of Jaguar’s total volume was 11.6 % (compared to over 16 % in 2019 and 2020). Cumulatively, more than 50.000 units of the I-Pace were sold globally, which is a decent result. On the other hand, the Jaguar was expected (during the launch a few years ago) to sell at a much higher volume. Jaguar Land Rover reports a decline of sales in 2021 by 1.2 % year-over-year to 420.856 cars, which is associated with weak Jaguar results (Land Rover was 3.4 % up to 334.586 sales). Only time will tell whether Jaguar Land Rover will be able to rebound and how its electrification will progress. As far as 2021 is considered, the company was forced to join Tesla’s CO2 pooling in the European Union to avoid fines. It means that the pace of electrification was not high enough. +++

+++ LAMBORGHINI has announced plans to release “4 new products over the next 12 months”, which will include a facelifted Urus and a V12-powered special based on the Aventador. Like the reborn Countach, the new supercar will be built in limited numbers to “celebrate the combustion engine”, before a new hybrid V12 flagship is launched next year. I’ve already spotted the updated Urus testing at the Nurburgring, sporting a new look and potentially more power. A hybrid version is also in the works, although this will launch next year. Lamborghini will probably utilise the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 hybrid powertrain from the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid, which provides 680 hp and 900 Nm. It’s unclear whether the new V12 model will be another homage to a historic Lamborghini, as with the new Countach, or a clean sheet design like the Sian hypercar. Either way, it will probably use running gear from the Sian(itself based on the Aventador) with a hybrid-assisted V12 sending more than 800 hp to all 4 wheels through a 7-speed single-clutch automatic gearbox. The new car will also borrow its carbon fibre monocoque from the Aventador, as well as its cabin architecture. It’s unclear how many units Lamborghini will build, but for reference, the new Countach was limited to 112 cars. The new car is expected to cost around €3 million in the Netherlands. Details are thin on the ground for the other 2 Lamborghini models set for release this year, but they won’t be all-new cars. Instead, a special edition version of the Huracan could be released, before it’s replaced by a hybrid-powered model. With the Aventador Ultimae edition, Lamborghini released the final iteration of the supercar, meaning that this year’s fourth model is likely to be a derivative of the Urus. A more hardcore version of the super-SUV could potentially launch as part of the facelift, but there’s no indication of this as of now. Further down the line, the first all-electric Lamborghini has been confirmed and will be on sale in the second half of the decade, while the Italian supercar firm has also revealed that its entire line-up will be electrified by 2024. Lamborghini chairman Stefan Winkelmann presented the firm’s strategy last year, called ‘Direzione Cor Tauri’, claiming that the brand’s new approach is “necessary in the context of a radically changing world. “Our response is a plan with a 360 degree approach, encompassing our products and our Sant’Agata Bolognese location, taking us towards a more sustainable future while always remaining faithful to our DNA”. Lamborghini’s roadmap has 3 phases, the first of which is called ‘Celebrating the combustion engine’. The new Countach was launched as part of this, and this year’s V12 special will follow suit. Lamborghini says cars launched as part of this phase “pay tribute to the company’s recent period of continuous success”, using combustion engines developed to pay homage to the brand’s heritage. Lamborghini will start its move towards a fully hybrid line-up in 2023. The brand has already launched its first (mild) hybrid model in the form of the Sian hypercar, and next year will see the launch of the hybrid-powered Aventador replacement and Urus hybrid. By the end of 2024 the entire line-up will be electrified, once the Huracan’s hybrid successor has been revealed. The company is aiming to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2025. In order to achieve this, investment of €1.5 billion is being allocated for the electrification push, the culmination of which will be the arrival of the first fully-electric Lamborghini in the second half of the decade. The firm has not revealed any specifics, but has confirmed that it will be a new model entirely, becoming the fourth member of its line-up. The EV will be positioned as a car “at the top of its segment”, and will more than likely shape up as an electric hypercar to rival the likes of the NIO EP9 and the Lotus Evija. +++

+++ Håkan SAMUELSSON is soon to step down as Volvo boss after the better part of a decade, to be replaced by ex-Dyson chief Jim Rowan. This brings to an end one of the most transformative eras in the brand’s 95 years. Under Samuelsson’s stewardship, Volvo has refocused its product lineup, developed new architecture, set sales records and committed to a future based on electrification, while continuing to make safety a priority, having begun to limit the top speed of all its models to 180 kph in an effort to reduce road traffic deaths to zero. He remains among the most candid CEOs we’ve known in recent years, willing to talk about most subjects and always with straight answers. Samuelsson will also be missed for his ability to not just spot coming changes in the way cars are created and sold but act on them before rivals. Here are some landmark moments from his tenure: 2014) Off the back of a strong 2013, Volvo kick-started its revitalised line-up with the all-new XC90, its first car developed under Geely ownership. 2015) Volvo’s global sales soared past the 500.000 mark for the first time. 2016) In another bumper year for sales, Volvo started building a factory in the US for cars based on its new SPA platform and partnered Uber for autonomous car development. 2017) Volvo vowed to electrify its line-up in just 2 years and launched Polestar as a sibling brand. 2018) The Volvo XC40 won Car of the Year and took sales yet higher, while 360c concept hinted at self-driving aims. 2019) Volvo made good on its electrification promise and revealed its first EV. 2020) Samuelsson won the Issigonis Trophy for Volvo’s image reinvention, capacity doubling and rapid electrification. 2021) Sales came in at nearly 700.000, despite the chip crisis. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has released a teaser image of an upcoming, sporty version of the Mk8 Golf, which could be a halo model with more track focus than the existing GTI Clubsport and R variants. Details are scarce, but the car in the image is wearing a rear spoiler from the Performance Pack-equipped Golf GTI Clubsport and R, and the front bumper looks to be borrowed from the four-wheel drive R, suggesting that this could be a more focused version of the 320 hp hot hatch. Volkswagen released a track-honed GTI Clubsport S version of the old Mk7 generation Golf, but there has never been a sharper R model. This new car could either be a GTI Clubsport S or an R Clubsport, the latter of which would be a first, and in time for the 20th anniversary of the Golf R’s ancestor: the Mk4 Golf R32. Either way, the new car is likely to receive revised geometry and a retuned suspension set-up for improved cornering ability, as well as recalibrated chassis systems. If the car is a four-wheel drive R Clubsport, these will work in conjunction with a torque vectoring rear differential, which is able to send 100 per cent of available torque to each of the rear wheels, as well as offering a Drift Mode. A front-wheel-drive Clubsport S model will be fitted with an electromechanical locking differential. Power will come from Volkswagen’s ubiquitous EA888 motor in either case, with the 2.0-litre turbocharged unit producing more than 300 hp. The current GTI Clubsport and R models are exclusively available with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox in the UK, but if this new variant is a track-focused special for purists, then a manual gearbox could be on the cards. Volkswagen may even remove the rear seats for weight savings, as it did with the Mk7 GTI Clubsport S. The new high-performance Golf will be revealed in full in the coming weeks, and is likely to cost in excess of €80.000 in the Netherlands. +++

+++ VOLVO ’s third electric car will be the unconventionally shaped successor to the hugely popular XC90 and it will set the tone for a whole family of new EVs from the Swedish manufacturer. Following Volvo’s earlier confirmation that the new arrival will take a name, rather than an alphanumeric designation into production, a new trademark filing suggests it will be called the Embla. The manufacturer filed a trademark application for the name with the European Union Intellectual Property Office late last year. A Volvo spokesperson refused to confirm the brand’s intentions for the nameplate, but with the model’s reveal date approaching and given that outgoing Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson has already confirmed its name will start with a vowel, it seems a likely outcome. Embla was the name of the first woman in Norse mythology, which could signal a naming strategy for future models centred around Volvo’s Scandinavian heritage. Due in 2022 as a production-ready version of the bold Concept Recharge shown earlier this year, the new arrival will provide Volvo with a long-awaited entry into the increasingly important full-sized electric SUV segment, into which most premium-oriented manufacturers have launched their debut EVs in recent years. Volvo’s existing pure EVs, the XC40 Recharge and coupé-backed C40 Recharge, sit a segment lower and use the same CMA platform as the conventionally fuelled XC40. Meanwhile, the XC90 successor will use Volvo’s new SPA2 platform. This evolved version of the current car’s architecture will accommodate a choice of combustion and pure-electric powertrains. It will be the first production car to use the new underpinnings before they are rolled out to other Volvo models and sibling brands owned by parent company Geely Auto. As part of a new platform-sharing agreement, Geely will in turn offer Volvo access to its latest SEA architecture. The Concept Recharge heavily hinted at how Volvo will ensure its new flagship EV retains the XC90’s core characteristics while ushering in a totally new approach to exterior and cabin design, as well as a host of advanced new technologies. The Swedish brand’s biggest model remains a consistently strong seller, even as the current, second-generation car enters its 7th and final year on sale. In the first 10 months of 2021 alone, the XC90 accounted for around 6.5 % of Volvo’s global sales, putting it third only to its XC60 and XC40 SUV siblings. So although the XC90 successor will adopt a radically different design, it will continue to major on space and practicality. The ‘less is more’ approach exhibited by the concept points to an enhanced focus on minimalistic design in Volvo’s new electric era, as well as a drive to minimise the well-to-wheel environmental impact of each vehicle it produces. Unlike the vast majority of mixed-powertrain platforms currently on the market, the SPA2 will be offered in two distinct forms. This will allow the electric XC90 successor to benefit from a completely flat floor, shortened overhangs and a more overtly cabforward stance, whereas the combustion-engined versions will have slightly more familiar interior proportions, given the need to accommodate an engine, transmission and exhaust system. Some of the concept’s more outlandish and futuristic cues will be toned down for production: the 4 free-standing seats, for example. However, the skateboard-style architecture will offer new levels of interior space and flexibility, which concept designer Robin Page likened to a “Scandinavian living room feeling”. To that end, the production car will ditch physical controls for a cleaner and simpler driver environment. Most of the functions will be controlled through a large-format central touchscreen using operating software developed by Google, as first adopted by the XC40 Recharge and Polestar 2. However, Volvo’s next SUV will not be so easily categorised as an SUV because, although it sits high off the ground and emphasises all-round visibility like the current car, it has a straighter-edged 2-box silhouette reminiscent of estate cars such as the 240, 940 and V70, which once ranked among the Swedish marque’s most important and bestselling models. Company boss Håkan Samuelsson recently told that Volvo will gradually downsize its conventional estate offering (currently comprising various forms of the V60 and V90) in recognition of the simple fact that “people really are fond of high seating positions”. The XC90 successor will therefore straddle the boundary between 2 segments to capitalise on the popularity of SUVs while differentiating itself from rivals and avoiding alienating buyers of lower-slung models. Page called it “a new type of vehicle”, which “displays new and modern proportions that go hand in hand with increased versatility”, hinting at the potential for other Volvo models to follow suit in blending design cues from different segments. Volvo remains guarded about details of the new car’s powertrain offering, but the firm’s well-publicised push to reduce emissions across its line-up means all combustion variants will feature some form of electrification, be they mild hybrids or plug-in hybrids. Diesel will not be offered at all. It remains an option on certain Volvo models but will be phased out entirely as the brand’s line-up is refreshed. The electric variant, meanwhile, could usher in entirely new powertrain setups distinct from those offered on the CMA-based XC40, C40 and Polestar 2 EVs, while four-wheel drive is highly likely to be standard, given its large SUV billing. Volvo will offer a choice of battery sizes on its new EVs, giving buyers the option of standard and long-range versions, the latter capable of travelling up to 500 km between charges. +++

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