Newsflash: Fiat start modellenoffensief

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+++ AUDI announced that it will recall more than 26.000 of its S and RS performance models to address an issue with their turbocharger oiling system that can result in drivability issues, damage to the turbos and even more significant issues if left unaddressed. The campaign covers the 2013-2017 A8, RS7, S6, S7 and S8. The issue is being blamed on a straining mesh located inside the oil supply for the turbos. The mesh is fine enough that it can become blocked by accumulated deposits or carbon buildup within the oil, reducing oil flow to the turbine bearings, increasing wear. As the bearings wear, increased play in the turbo shaft can result, which could allow the turbine to contact the housing or the shaft itself to break. “A defect on the turbochargers and boost pressure system can lead to different warning messages such as the EPC, MIL or oil warning light being displayed”, Audi’s defect report says. “In addition, the customer may notice indications like extended cranking, rough idling or lack of power”. Fortunately, the remedy is a simple one: a new screen with larger perforations. Audi says that vehicles built after March 30, 2017, already came with the updated screen. If you’re not sure whether your car was built before or after that date, you can plug your VIN into a recall database to find out. If you’re not in a hurry, Audi says it will notify customers on or before May 20. +++

+++ FIAT will begin its biggest resurgence in more than a decade with a new supermini in 2023, followed by 3 new crossovers in 3 years. Ultimately, the Italian brand will have a line-up of 10 core models, including 4 light commercial vehicles, the South America-only Strada supermini and 5 global cars. These will include the iconic and strong-selling 500, plus next year’s B-segment car and the 3 crossovers. The new-product assault comes after a decade of little investment from former owner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). Under new parent company Stellantis, Fiat now has the money needed to build a more comprehensive brand line-up. The designs of the 4 new models have already been signed off, brand boss Olivier François has confirmed, and at least 2 of the cars will be heavily influenced by the Centoventi concept of 2019. Fiat’s current car line-up comprises the 500, Tipo family car, 500X crossover and Panda city car; the last 2 of which are expected to be replaced, indirectly or directly, as part of the crossover blitz. François said: “Now we enter a new world. Finally, we’re able to deliver on our dreams. In the next 5 years, we’re going to launch one new car per year per region, and globally we’re able to create cars that are common everywhere in the world, which is something we’ve struggled with in the past. “There will be a big return in the B-segment and crossovers. We’re going back to the most relevant segments. We only have the 500X now. My objective is to have 3 cars”. There are no plans for Fiat to expand beyond compact cars, all of which will measure between 3.6 meter (500 size) and 4.5 meter (Volkswagen Tiguan size) in length, said François: “Our cousin in Stellantis is Citroën. The stories are different, but we’re 2 people brands and share a lot. I think what’s interesting is that we can divide the market in terms of size. We can be the specialist in smaller cars and then Citroën has more legitimacy to cover the D-segment and, of course, there will be some overlap in the middle”. The first new Fiat, a rival to the Peugeot 208 and Opel Corsa, is “Punto size but not called Punto”, said François, referencing the popular Fiat supermini that was withdrawn from sale in 2018 after 25 years and three generations. There are likely to be hybrid and fully electric variants of the new supermini as Fiat tentatively steps towards going fully electric by 2027 at the latest, said François. “We’re decisively betting on electric for Europe”, he said. “We’ll ramp up with electric versions on every new car and at some point make a switch. “Fiat should be the people’s Tesla: electric for all. Clearly, we need the cost of electrification to go down. By 2027, we will be ready, but possibly before. It will depend on cost. I want us to be the first mass-market brand to be electric-only”. Fiat’s current line-up uses FCA legacy platforms, which will be phased out in favour of Stellantis-wide architectures that promise economies of scale across the group. The first new Fiat models are likely to use the current CMP platform, as found on the 208 and Corsa, because Stellantis won’t start using its new STLA platform for smaller cars until at least 2026. However, the electric 500’s bespoke platform may prove fruitful in the group. Since it already exists, it could pave the way to make city cars viable once again across many of the Stellantis brands, which have struggled to justify the costs of both existing ICE city cars in recent years and developing even more expensive electric versions for the future. The new supermini could use the electric 500’s powertrain, which has a 118 hp motor and a 42 kWh battery to deliver a 320 km range. However, it is more likely to echo the set-up of Stellantis’s existing electric superminis, the e-208 and Corsa-e, which use a 136 hp motor and a 50 kWh battery for around 335 km of range. The 2 best-known Fiat model names, 500 and Panda, will continue in the new line-up, François confirmed. He said: “We have 2 icons. The 500 is one and it’s doing amazingly. In January, it was the most sold electric car in Germany. In the 500 world, models come in different sizes: 500 and 500X. There’s room for something more. It’s chic and urban. “The other is Panda. The original of the 1980s is quite iconic. There’s something in the air for modern interpretations of cars like that. Not just the shape but also the essential, minimalist approach. Less is more. This is what inspired the Centoventi concept and at least a couple of cars you will see. “You will see smaller cars and bigger crossovers and you will recognise the Panda DNA in some. One will be called Panda. The Panda wasn’t iconic because of its shape but because of the philosophy and spirit, and that’s what we’re trying to capture with a little reminiscent design, too. The Panda has to be a little rugged, simple, robust.” He confirmed that all the new designs are complete and each “has a very strong personality and distinctive design”. +++

+++ The FISKER Ocean will soon stand at the head of a 4-model line-up, all due to be revealed by 2025. Designer and CEO Henrik Fisker plans to put 1 million Fisker-badged EVs on the road between now and 2027 and will expand the company further to become a million-a-year car business beyond 2030. Next to arrive in 2023 will be Fisker’s eventual biggest seller, the Pear (for Personal Electric Automotive Revolution). He said it’s a rule-breaking car, already designed, that will be built in a formerly dormant General Motors factory in Ohio once capable of making 500.000 cars a year. Fisker’s partner on the Pear is mammoth Taiwanese technology group Foxconn, which will own the Pear factory and take charge of manufacturing while Fisker retains control of design and engineering, as it does with the Magna-built Ocean. Described by Henrik Fisker as “the kind of car Apple would make for a life in a megacity like London or Los Angeles”, the Pear will have a base price of €40.000 in the Netherlands and be about 4.500 mm long. But “it doesn’t look like an Ocean or anything else”, he said. The partners aim to manufacture and sell the car in the US, Europe, India and China and believe worldwide volume could eventually reach a million units a year. The third EV Fisker model, described as “a redefinition of a luxury sports car of the future”, is under development at Fisker Magic Works, the recently announced UK engineering centre led by former Aston Martin special projects chief Dave King. Henrik Fisker said the spirit of the model is that of “a proper British sports car”, although because it has neither a big front engine nor a large rear-mounted fuel tank, it lacks both the high bonnet line and comparatively long tail of conventional GTs. The form of Fisker’s fourth car is still being discussed, although the designer seems unlikely to challenge the many luxurious EV saloons he believes already crowd the market. “We have many options,” he said, “because there are so many EV segments that still have no entries. If you’re looking for a Porsche Boxster-type car, or a minivan, you have very few options. Anyway, we don’t have to decide for a while.”

+++ The GENEVA MOTOR SHOW will return in 2023 after 3 years of cancellations, its organisers have announced. The international car show in Switzerland will return from 14-19 February for its 91st iteration, after the 2020, 2021 and 2022 shows were all cancelled because of the Covid pandemic. The global semiconductor shortage also contributed to this year’s cancellation, as it led to a shortage of interested exhibitors. Geneva is one of the world’s most significant motor shows and is a centrepiece of the automotive calendar. Major manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Toyota and Volkswagen all routinely present new cars and concepts at the show. Cancellations meant 2020 was the last time the exhibition produced a shortlist of models on display. Cars that were due to be on the show floor included the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm, Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport, Ferrari Roma, McLaren 765LT, Pininfarina Battista and Rimac C_Two. Before it was cancelled, the 2022 show was set to take a “substantially different” format in what the organisers called an “exciting evolution”. The 2023 show will also represent the first since organisers agreed to add a biennial event in Qatar, known as the Qatar Geneva International Motor Show, which would be held in either autumn 2022 or 2023. The Geneva event would continue on an annual basis, although it’s highly likely that Qatari investment was seen as an important means of securing its future. +++

+++ MASERATI spent a great deal of time and resources developing a twin-turbocharged, 3.0 liter V6 called Nettuno. It made its debut in 2020 in the MC20, and it will be available in the Grecale Trofeo in 2022, but the six won’t travel outside of the trident family. “We want to keep the Nettuno engine as a signature for the brand. It was developed with the aim of being uniquely associated with the Maserati brand, so it was designed and engineered specifically for Maserati. It’s technically feasible to apply it to other cars in the Stellantis group, but we want to keep it proprietary. We have it in the MC20 and now in the Grecale; there will be other uses for it in the future, but always in Maserati cars”, Federico De Medio, Maserati’s head of vehicle validation, told on the sidelines of the Grecale launch. While he stopped short of providing details about the other uses, De Medio hinted that Nettuno will gradually replace the Ferrari-derived V8 that Maserati has used for many years. He explained that the project’s goal was to design a 6-cylinder engine with V8 like power. Does that mean that a V8 with V10-like power is on its way? Nope, it sounds like the 8-cylinder’s days are numbered in the Maserati line-up. Asked how long the V8 had left to live, De Medio replied that “it depends on the life of the product itself, so the response will be provided by the market and by regulations”. And, how about a new V8 designed in-house? “Never say never, but for now we just launched Nettuno so let’s enjoy the V6”, he answered. What’s certain is that the Levante and the Quattroporte won’t need a V8 for much longer: they’re going electric in the coming years. We know the Ghibli is on its way out, so that leaves the next-generation Gran Turismo as the only candidate for a V8. Nothing is official, but my crystal ball tells us it’s more realistic to expect that the coupe will make its debut with a V6 than with a V8. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ is recalling a large cross-section of 2021 and 2022 models equipped with certain options in combination with the Active Distance Assist version of its Distronic driver assistance suite. Vehicles equipped with the system and a heated leather steering wheel may have a sensor that fails to detect when the driver’s hands are removed from the wheel, allowing it to continue to drive itself regardless of the driver’s attention state without any indication of a problem. The campaign covers the C-Class, E-Class, S-Class , SL-Class, E-Class Coupe/Convertible, CLS-Class, AMG GT 4-door Coupe and EQS, and includes AMG sub-models. For the most part, only 2022 models are subject to the recall, but some 2021 E- and S-Class cars were included as well. Due to what Mercedes describes as a production deviation at a supplier, the hands-off detection on the wheel might not function as intended, leading to a situation where a driver may not receive a warning message prompting them to keep their hands on the wheel, Mercedes-Benz said in its defect report: “Additionally, in the event of a medical emergency involving the driver (e.g. driver loses consciousness), the vehicle could continue to drive and would not trigger the Active Emergency Stop Assist, as intended. In this case, First Responders would not be called to the vehicle, which could further increasing the risk of injury of the medical emergency”. Admittedly, the scenario described above is a fairly remote possibility, but Mercedes-Benz says the remedy for this defect is a simple software update, so it won’t be much of a hassle for owners. Owners should be notified of the campaign by late May. +++

+++ Rental car firm Hertz Global Holdings said it will buy up to 65.000 electric vehicles over 5 years from POLESTAR , the latest move by the rental car firm to add zero-emission models. Hertz said Polestar cars would be available beginning this spring in Europe and later in 2022 in North America and Australia. The Florida-based rental car company said that it would initially order the Polestar 2 sedan. Hertz in October announced its order to purchase 100.000 electric cars from Tesla, primarily the EV maker’s Model 3. In March, Hertz added Tesla’s Model Y to its electric vehicle fleet, according to the car rental firm’s website. Polestar, which was founded by China’s Geely and Volvo, is set to merge with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Gores Guggenheim Inc this year. The Hertz partnership “will bring the amazing experience of driving an electric car to a wider audience, satisfying a broad variety of our mutual customers’ short- and longer-term mobility requirements”, Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath said in a statement. +++

+++ TOYOTA has reasserted its commitment to car production in the United Kingdom after reports suggested it had threatened to withdraw due to the government’s plans to speed up the transition to EVs. The Japanese car maker has reaffirmed that it has a “clear roadmap” for achieving zero-emissions vehicles as the British Department for Transport (DtF) prepares to introduce targets that require a higher percentage of new-car sales to be zero-emissions each year from 2024. Toyota said it’s on course for 100% of its models sold to be zero-emissions by 2035.  “We’re focused on achieving a long-term and sustainable future, including for our UK plants, as we move towards our ultimate goal of securing carbon-neutral operations”, Toyota said in a statement. “Having invested £240 million in our UK operations to produce the current Corolla models, we aren’t due to make imminent investment decisions regarding local manufacturing”. The Corolla is currently produced at the firm’s Burnaston factory in Derbyshire, which employs around 3.000 people. It also produces engines at Deeside in north Wales. Toyota said it hadn’t seen the government’s plans for a new zero emissions mandate. “We can’t comment on the government’s consultation relating to the technical details for a new zero-emissions mandate and CO2 regulatory regime, because we haven’t seen it”, the firm said. “We will continue to approach any discussion with the UK government based on constructive and respectful dialogue. Wherever we operate, our philosophy is to always abide by the emission regulatory standards set by governments. We’ve never missed a European CO2 target, making Toyota a leader among major automotive companies”. Toyota is currently targeting a zero-emissions sales mix of at least 50% by 2030 in western Europe, with further increases planned “based on customer demand”. Its premium brand, Lexus, will also transition to EV-only from 2030. Both brands are aiming to offer a total of 15 EVs after 2030, including saloons, SUVs and sports cars. “We continue to see a role for many different technologies in the transition to zero-emissions based on the principle of mobility for all, including the current hybrid vehicles built in the UK, of which the vast majority are exported to Europe”, Toyota said. “Wider zero-emissions vehicle adoption will also be reliant on the pace of development for the key enabling conditions, such as availability of clean energy and complimentary charging infrastructure. So we welcomed the government’s electric vehicle charging strategy just announced”. +++

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