Newsflash: ingrijpende facelift voor BMW 1-serie

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+++ It appears that someone in Stellantis’ Pomigliano d’Arco Assembly Plant in Italy couldn’t keep their cellphone to themselves. He showed Dodge’s brand-engineered version of the ALFA ROMEO Tonale in the factory where both crossovers will be built. The Dodge is expected to be called the Hornet, and there are a few differences between it and and Alfa Romeo, which is understandable. But if the screenshots on Twitter are accurate, then the Dodge looks a lot closer to the Alfa Romeo than perhaps anyone expected. The front fascia and hood fall in line with Dodge’s design language. The Alfa Romeo grille is replaced by a narrow, stepped upper grille, and the hood is one of the vented units similar to those available for Dodge’s R/T performance trims. The silhouette of this car’s front end matches a vehicle silhouette Dodge showed during Stellantis’ 2021 EV Day. Inside, the Italian brand’s crest in the steering wheel center cap is replaced by Dodge’s twin slashes, and the steering wheel has been stripped of the large, curved paddle shifters the Tonale showed on its debut. There’s still a start/stop button on the steering wheel, but where the Tonale has a driving mode dial on its dash, this supposed Hornet has another start/stop button. Dodge’s push-to-start buttons are usually on the instrument panel, so my guess is that the wheel is a holdover for testing. On the center tunnel, the parking alert buttons and Italian Tricolore flag on the Alfa Romeo are replaced by 3 different buttons. I know Dodge has two electrified vehicles on the way, and the Hornet name has been low-key buzzing for 2 years. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles applied to trademark the name in the U.S. in March 2020; at the time, it was thought a vehicle with that name could replace the Journey. In 2021, a July rumor out of Italy was the first whisper of the Hornet name being attached to the Alfa Romeo Tonale. In August, when Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said Dodge would get a PHEV in 2024, watchers pegged that model as the Hornet. That hybrid powertrain would show a year after the vehicle’s launch, the Hornet anticipated as a 2023 model with the Tonale’s turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. That engine could get the same 256 hp and 400 Nm as the American version of the Tonale, or be boosted to satisfy Dodge’s performance credentials. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio with the same engine makes 280 hp and 410 Nm. The PHEV version could work the same 272 hp powertrain coming in the Tonale with eAWD and a 50 km all-electric range. +++

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+++ The BMW 1 Series is an important global vehicle to the luxury brand with the exception of a few key markets such as the US. That’s why BMW is giving it a thorough facelift as part of its mid-cycle refresh. I got the first spy shots of the redesigned hatchback, which indicate the car will receive new fascias and other visual upgrades. The photos show the 5-door completely covered in camouflage, which does a stellar job distorting the car’s design. However, there are a few bits that poke through. The headlights look to have a new shape, which appears to be rounder and slimmer than those on the current model. The camo also hides the grille, though we don’t expect it to grow in size by too much. Those changes will sit above a reshaped front bumper. I expect similar changes at the rear; however, the thick camouflage hides any noticeable updates. BMW could change the taillight design, though it could opt just to tweak the internal graphics instead. The new lights will sit above a reworked rear bumper. The spy shots don’t show off the interior, but it could get the company’s latest iDrive 8 infotainment system and big screens on the dash. BMW has made this change with other models’ mid-cycle refreshes. Powertrain details are a mystery. However, there are rumours that BMW will add a PHEV variant to the lineup. The rest of the engine lineup could get some tweaks, though anyone wanting a fully electric version will have to wait until the next generation. There have been rumours of an all-electric 1 Series for a few years, but nothing has ever materialised. The car’s thorough camouflage likely means the model is still in the early stages of development. It’s unclear when BMW will reveal the redesigned 1 Series, but I expect it to debut in 2023. +++

+++ CUPRA will launch a pair of bespoke new models in non-traditional segments as it continues to carve out a distinct identity in the run-up to all-out electrification. Previewed as part of a presentation on the brand’s 4th anniversary, the Seat owned performance brand’s 2 new cars will follow the Tavascan and Urban Rebel EVs onto market, but are described as ‘electrified’, which suggests combustion could still play a role in their propulsion. The brand has not given a date for their arrival, but says it will continue to offer hybrid powertrains until 2030, when it will go all-electric across its portfolio. They are likely to appear in 2026 and 2027, respectively. CEO Wayne Griffiths told reporters the cars will be “in segments that are growing, because we need the growth, and they will obviously (in a lot of cases) be crossovers. Don’t put them in a classical segment, there will always be a mixture (something different and unique) instead of just a classical SUV or a classical coupé or limousine”. He added: “There’s a lot between those. You have all sorts of concepts: shooting brakes, sportbacks and all sorts of things that are possible. “Those two cars, from a Cupra perspective, have to add on, not substitute, so we have to stay away from the other cars. We’ve got quite a lot by then if you add it up: we’ve got Formentor, Ateca will probably still be around, we have the Tavascan, the Born and we have the small BEV, so there is still room for more cars, and we are looking at models for the future”. The cars must also make sense as part of the wider VW Group portfolio, he added, while being “a bit special” to fit with Cupra’s enthusiast-focused image. Previews of the 2 new models suggest they will sit between the Born and Tavascan, in terms of their footprint. Griffiths would not be drawn on their positioning, but their silhouettes look broadly like those of an estate and a saloon. It is possible the duo are linked to sibling brand Volkswagen’s upcoming electric saloon and estate duo, which were previewed with ‘Vizzion’ concepts in 2018 and 2019, but Griffiths is adamant that Cupra’s cars must be distinct propositions. “Our strength is being part of the Volkswagen Group with all the technological platforms this group has”, he told. “We’re a very sporty brand so sporty solutions are good for us. “I think, however, at the end of the day, to be successful we need to do cars in the electric world like the Formentor today in the combustion world, with a real, specific DNA in terms of design and what the car stands for”. He said Cupra must go a “step further” than rebadging other VW Group products, suggesting future models from the brand will be completely clean-sheet designs, unlike the Born, which is closely related to the Volkswagen ID.3 with which it shares a platform. +++

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+++ FARADAY FUTURE has had its ups and downs ever since it showed the FF 91 model back in 2018, but now it says it is finally going to reveal the production intent model. This will take place later this month, on 23rd February and we will see how much the vehicle has evolved since it was last shown. As a reminder, the FF 91 is a large crossover type vehicle measuring 5.25 metres in length, riding on a 3.29 metre wheelbase. It has a very roomy interior where the manufacturer wants to put as many as 11 displays, the biggest of which being a 27 inch screen for rear passengers; front occupants are treated to a smaller 17 inch screen. In terms of specs, the FF 91 has up to 1.050 hp and 1.800 Nm thanks to a 3-motor configuration. The manufacturer says that it sprints to 100 kph in 2.39 seconds, while its top speed is 250 km/h. Faraday Future is targeting an EPA range of 608 km for the FF 91, with quite a large 130 kWh battery pack. Its on-board charger is said to provide 15 kW, while if you hook it up to a DC fast charger, it will draw up to 200 kW and charge at a rate of over 320 km per hour. These specs may be subject to change, though, and we will find out when the production intent model is shown (and hopefully detailed). +++

+++ Stellantis-owned FIAT is selling part of its historic Lingotto factory in Turin, Italy, in a bid to downsize its real estate assets. Inaugurated in 1923, the facility built numerous Fiat models until it closed in 1982, and a test track built on its roof made it famous all around the world. Digital services specialist Reply purchased a big chunk of the complex with plans to turn it into an office building. There’s no word yet on how much Fiat sold the space for, but most sources agree that the firm will retain ownership of the test track. And, the building itself isn’t going anywhere: Reply will move in, but it won’t knock it down and rebuild it. The test track that made Lingotto famous wasn’t merely a gimmick: it was an important part of the production process for several decades. Raw materials entered the building on the ground floor and cars made their way through several stations scattered across the five floors before ending up (in one piece) on the roof. They were then driven for about half a mile before being sent out of the complex. This sped up the production process because road testers could put new cars through their paces without having to leave Turin, and it allowed Fiat to test prototypes without worrying about getting spotted by spy photographers. The track was also featured in the 1969 movie The Italian Job. Fiat isn’t the first Stellantis brand to leave its historic home. Peugeot left its headquarters in downtown Paris for the same reasons in 2017. +++

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+++ FORD has denied a report that it is looking at ways to separate its electric vehicle operation from its legacy business to benefit from the same type of investor enthusiasm received by pure-play competitors like Tesla and Rivian. Ford issued a statement saying that the company has no plans to spin off its EV or ICE side of the business. “We are focused on our Ford+ plan to transform the company and thrive in this new era of electric and connected vehicles. We have no plans to spin off our battery electric-vehicle business or our traditional ICE business”. The statement followed a report that suggested Ford CEO Jim Farley is looking at ways to separate the new technology operations from the traditional side of the business in the hope that it would allow Ford’s EV business to boost value by shedding legacy costs and to gain greater access to capital markets. However, splitting the company may prove too difficult to accept by the Ford family, the report said citing unnamed sources familiar with the internal deliberations. Instead of a spinoff, Farley reportedly plans to simply separate the EV business internally as its own unit as part of a brand reorganisation. That’s a different stance than the one he took earlier this month during Ford’s earnings call, when he didn’t reject the possibility of spinning off either operation. “Running a successful ICE business and a successful BEV business are not the same. I’m really excited about the company’s commitment to operate the businesses as they should be”. He also said that the EV business is “fundamentally different” when it comes to the customers it attracts, the way its products are built and the engineering and design talent that must be hired. “We’re not seeking half measures. We’re done with incremental change. We have a clear plan, a bias for action and a whatever-it-takes mindset”. Ford is said to have had talks with financial advisers late last year to explore some options for the EV operation, including a potential reorganisation and raising private capital for it, 2 people familiar with the matter told. The same sources claim Jim Farley is working closely on the effort with Doug Field, who used to lead Apple’s car project and was Tesla’s chief engineer before that. Field, who joined Ford in September as its advanced technology chief, would have a senior role in any new entity, according to the report. +++

+++ KIA has partnered with German green energy firm Digital Charging Solutions to counteract the energy used by its electric vehicle charging service. The Korean car maker, which has its own charging network in collaboration with Ionity, will determine the electricity used at 300.000 charging points on the continent and ‘flood the grid’ with the equivalent amount of green energy. Kia says the energy will be purchased in megawatt-hours (MWhs) through guarantee of origin (GO) certificates. The energy will be supplied from wind power, which will be used to power the charge points and “other electrical items”. “By working with GO certificates, we guarantee that 100 % of the energy consumed during each charging process is fed back into the power grid as electricity from European wind turbines”, said Digital Charging Solutions CEO Jörg Reimann. “That makes the demand for green electricity visible on the market and helps to pave the way for a more sustainable future”. Kia hopes its green energy purchase will allow customers to charge an electric car with 100% renewable energy, in line with its Plan S strategy, through which it will make its model range entirely electric by 2035. “By pushing more green energy into the grid, we can increase the energy mix in favour of more sustainable sources”, said Kia Europe president Jason Jeong. “In time, we hope to be part of a wider network that can work directly with renewable energy suppliers that offer customers 100% green charging facilities. However, until there’s absolutely no grey energy on the grid, this latest action is a firm step in the right direction”. +++

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