Newsflash: nieuwe Mercedes A-klasse houdt alle aandrijfopties open

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+++ FERRARI had its shareholders’ meeting this week during which chief executive officer Benedetto Vigna announced 2 models are planned for 2022. One of them is a convertible version of the 296 GTB we’ll see on 19 April and the other is the firm’s first SUV. The Purosangue doesn’t have an exact reveal date, but Maranello’s CEO said the official premiere will take place “in the coming months”. He refrained from going into any details about the Prancing Horse on stilts, only saying that it’ll “exceed our customers’ expectations”. These 2 new models will conclude Ferrari’s plan to launch 15 new cars by 2022 as announced back in mid-September 2018 at the Capital Markets Day. The next business plan is going to be presented in June when we should learn about what the fabled Italian brand has in tow regarding hybrids and EVs. The first Ferrari without a combustion engine is coming sooner than you might think. Initially, the company said it wouldn’t hit the market until later in the second half of the decade, but the EV has been moved forward and is now due in 2025. Interestingly, the 342-page Annual Report for 2021 mentions stricter emissions regulations could have negative impacts from an enthusiast’s point of view: “Depending on the future regulatory developments, the technological solutions required to ensure Euro 7 compliance may affect customers’ expectations on performance, sound and driving experience”. One can only hope the term “V12” will be mentioned during the upcoming Capital Markets Day as we’re keeping our fingers crossed Ferrari’s engineers have found ways to make their NA powerhouse cleaner. As a matter of fact, it was in May 2021 when technical boss Michael Leiters announced plans for an even more powerful twelve-cylinder engine, one that would eclipse the 819-bhp configuration installed in the 812 Competizione. We should point out Ferrari doesn’t use the acronym ‘SUV’ in any of its official documents where the Purosangue is mentioned. However, the Maserati Levante is labelled as an SUV in the Annual Report 2021. What is the Purosangue anyway? It was previously referred to as a Ferrari Utility Vehicle (FUV), but now it’s described as a new “luxury high-performance vehicle” for the GT range. In the Sustainability Report 2021, “Purosangue” is labelled as a body style, alongside the traditional coupe and spider. Call it what you’d like, it’ll be a true four-seater with rear doors and greater legroom than the FF and GTC4Lusso that followed. +++

+++ A brand new generation FORD MUSTANG is currently under development but the outgoing model is not ready to retire just yet. In fact, the model with internal designation S550 was the best-selling sports car in the entire world last year, according to an analysis by the automaker based on registration data from S&P Global Mobility. Ford managed to move just under 70.000 Mustangs globally in 2021, although that figure does not include the all-electric Mach-E crossover. Overall, the company says the United States accounted for 76 percent of all Mustang sales in 2021. The markets with the biggest increase in demand for the Mustang were New Zealand, up 54.3 percent, Brazil, up 37.3 percent, and South Korea, up 16.6 percent. “When enthusiasts around the world get into a Mustang, they unlock that feeling of freedom and experience the open road”, Kumar Galhotra, president at Ford Blue, commented. “That feeling, along with iconic design, awesome powertrains, and a passionate global community all contribute to making Mustang a sales leader for the 7th year in a row”. The Mustang has been the bestselling sports car in the world for 7 years in a row now, though 2022 could be more challenging for the pony car. During the first 3 months of the year, sales of the Mustang in the United States fell 19 percent, but Ford’s product took the crown for the bestselling muscle car in the country with 13.986 sales. The Dodge Challenger came second with 11.124 deliveries, followed by the Chevrolet Camaro with 6.710 sales. Meanwhile, work on the next-generation combustion-powered Mustang continues. This 2024 Mustang is still in the relatively early stages of development, though it has already been confirmed that it will get a V8 engine. However, it could be offered only with an automatic gearbox, according to a recent report. +++

+++ LAMBORGHINI releases its vehicle sales number for the first quarter of 2022. It’s the company’s best-ever quarter yet. According to the release, the Sant’Agata Bolognese-based marque recorded a total of 2.539 vehicles delivered globally during the first 3 months of the year. The figure was up by 5 percent in the same period in 2021 and 31 percent in 2020. Of note, Lamborghini had an all-time sales record in 2021, selling 8.405 units. It’s a record-breaking number, even surpassing the sales of the entire 16-year run of the original Lamborghini Countach. The Italian brand built nearly 2.000 units of the Countach from 1974 to 1990. “We’ve made a solid start to a year that will bring new challenges on a global scale. Despite the uncertainty caused by a geopolitical situation that is not only deeply distressing but also means it is hard to make forecasts of any kind, we can count on exceptional appeal worldwide right now. Every month the orders we take outstrip our output. We currently have enough to comfortably cover more than 12 months of production. In addition, we’re preparing for a new stage in the Lamborghini story in just under a year, as we move towards electrification with the arrival of the new V12 hybrid model in 2023”, said Stephan Winkelmann, chairman and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini. Unsurprisingly, around half of first quarter sales were of the Urus, while the other half was split between the Aventador and the Huracan. Sales distribution during the first quarter was evenly distributed among the 3 macro-regions of EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa, 40 percent), America (32 percent), and Asia Pacific (28 percent). Almost all markets witnessed growth, except Russia where the company has halted operations amid the ongoing conflict. Lamborghini said that there are 3 new products lined up for the second part of the year: 2 for the Urus and 1 for the Huracan. The company has recently launched the Huracan Tecnica at the 2022 New York Auto Show. +++

+++ Platform sharing often requires some compromises, and that’s doubly true of EVs built out of cars that were originally designed for internal combustion powertrains. Older vehicles like the Hyundai Ioniq Electric anf first generation Fiat 500e featured ranges of less than 160 km, which was barely enough for EV enthusiasts, much less typical shoppers and their attendant range anxiety. That’s why we were a bit surprised when Christoph Starzynski, MERCEDES-BENZ vice president of development for electric drive, told us in an interview that the next-generation A-Class and B-Class compact cars would offer both internal combustion and electric propulsion. But the concession apparently will be the onus of the traditional engines, rather than the EV powertrain. In an about-face from the likes of the BMW i4, Kia e-Niro and even Benz’s own EQB, the A-Class’ so-called MMA platform will be designed for electric vehicles, then adapted to accept petrol and diesel powertrains for markets that demand them. “The platform will be EV-first but not EV-exclusive, and the compromise will rest on the ICE side, not the EV side”, Starzynski said. The compact modular MMA platform will debut in 2024, likely residing under the next-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class before spreading to the CLA, GLA, GLB and B-Class. In EV form, the MMA cars will learn lots of lessons from the EQXX concept car, including its air-cooled battery’s unique anode chemistry that improves power density. Active aerodynamics might also make the jump from the slippery concept to compact-car reality. Specs of the petrol-powered A- and B-Class family remain a mystery (as they will for some time), but one reason they’ll even exist at all is to help Mercedes-Benz maintain a reasonable cost of entry for its least expensive vehicles. Its EVs will unavoidably be more expensive than their petrol-powered equivalents for some time. “We will not achieve cost parity in the near future”, said Mercedes-Benz chief technology officer Markus Schäfer in an interview. “We have to face higher costs on an EV drivetrain for the next few years, and we have to look for compensation in the vehicle. Of course, we try to be as close as possible with compact cars, to reduce the cost to compensate for the higher cost within the EV technology”. One area in which Mercedes is pursuing cost reduction is software development and battery production. The company’s next-generation infotainment system, called MB.OS, is an in-house affair, with Mercedes software experts testing the interface at the new Electric Software Hub in Sindelfingen. Employing 750 (and counting) UX designers, engineers, and programmers, the Electric Software Hub also handles the research and production of Mercedes’ batteries and EV propulsion systems. Although the automaker works with suppliers like NVIDIA and Bosch on the development of its infotainment and EV systems, keeping most of the design and production in-house will save money and give Mercedes-Benz control over the final result. “We want to be able to determine the future and products”, Schäfer said. “We want to be able to generate products quickly and with a high maturity level right away”. MB.OS will debut with the electrified MMA platform on those aforementioned compact cars within the next 2 years. Internal-combustion vehicles will likely follow soon thereafter, perhaps in time for the 2025 model year. +++

+++ Ending years of rumors, speculation, vague hints, pleas, and petitions, TOYOTA has announced that it will finally offer the Supra with a manual transmission. The company explained that demand from enthusiasts convinced it to add a second transmission option to the line-up. “Sports car customers and fans have spoken and we’ve listened”, Toyota declared in a statement. While technical details remain few and far between, the firm noted that the Supra will gain “an all-new, tailor-made manual transmission”, a comment that suggests (but doesn’t confirm) that the gearbox will not come from the BMW parts bin. We’re guessing it will have 6 gears (5-speed units are generally reserved for the shrinking number of econoboxes that still offer 3 pedals and 7-speeds are rare and normally found in relatively expensive cars, like the Porsche 911). Toyota also released a photo of the stick-shifted Supra’s pedals. Count ‘em; there are three! It’s finally happening. Visually, the manual coupe will stand out from its automatic sibling with a red Supra emblem on its rear end. The model fitted with an 8-speed automatic wears the same emblem but it features a black finish. The announcement comes shortly after the GR Corolla’s unveiling and it cements Toyota’s position as a company that listens to its fans. However, it also asks more questions than it answers. For example, we don’t know whether the stick will be paired with the 4- or the 6-cylinder engine. The good news was shared by the company’s British division, and Toyota has confirmed that the “Supra with manual transmission is coming to the U.S”. Toyota said it will release more details about the manual Supra in the coming weeks. Earlier in 2022, an unconfirmed report citing an anonymous dealer source claimed that the stick will be paired with the 3.0-liter straight-6. Toyota reportedly showed the coupe to dealers at an event in Las Vegas, and it allegedly confirmed plans to sell it here. If that’s accurate, it won’t be welcomed by everyone: a shop in Texas offers a manual transmission conversion for the Supra priced at about $12,000. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has recently announced its plan to increase the possible achievable range of its MEB platform to 700 km. This will likely impact upcoming models that have not yet been launched, but it could also increase the range of its existing models, either as a standalone upgrade, or as part of a future facelift for the likes of the ID.3, ID.4 and ID.5, as well as the new ID Buzz. In the chart released by VW showing its portfolio of MEB-based EVs, the ID.Life and the Aero B are listed as models that are expected to arrive by 2025. We don’t think the cheap ID.Life, which by the way is being redesigned for production, will come anywhere near achieving 700 km on one charge, but the larger Aero B probably will, as will the upcoming long-wheelbase version of the ID.Buzz for the US market. The manufacturer also announced that it would increase the charging speed of its MEB-underpinned EVs to over 200 kW. Currently, the quickest charging speed for the MEB platform is 125 kW, so in other words, VW intends to double it. Improved performance is also on the agenda, and VW wants to drop the sprint time to 100 km/h of its quickest all-wheel drive MEB EVs to under 5.5 seconds. Currently, the ID.5 GTX with 299 hp does the benchmark acceleration run in 6.2 seconds, so we presume that the power output may be upped to around 350 bhp in order to drop 0.7 seconds. The MEB platform is one of the first of its kind, dedicated for electric vehicles, and Volkswagen began development in 2015. The first production vehicle to be underpinned by it was the Volkswgen ID.3 and now there are now nine different models that use it, not only from VW, but also from Skoda, Seat and Audi. +++

+++ The VOLKSWAGEN GROUP announced today that, despite continuing supply chain disruptions, it managed to sell 65 percent more electric vehicles in the first 3 months of 2022 than it did in the same period in 2021. Sales were led by the ID.4, of which VW sold 30.300 units. Out of a total of 99.100 EVs sold globally, the crossover made up 30.5 percent of all-electric sales for all of the automaking giant’s brands. It was followed by the ID.3, of which it sold 13.000; the Audi Q4 e-Tron, of which 10.700 were sold; the Audi e-Tron, with 10.300 sales; and the Porsche Taycan, of which 9.500 were sold in all. As that data suggests, the Volkswagen brand was the group’s best-seller by volume, delivering 53.400 EVs around the world in the first 3 months of 2022. It was followed by Audi (24.200), Porsche (9.500), Skoda (8.800) and Seat/Cupra (2.200). The group was strongest in its home market, Europe, where it sold a total of 58.400 EVs between January and March 2022. Although that was an impressive increase of 33.5 percent over the same period in 2021, it was the fastest-growing market. Just 28.800 Volkswagen Group EVs were sold in China in the last 3 months, but that was a remarkable 360.5 percent more than the 6.200 it managed to deliver there last year. China is the world’s largest car market and a major purchaser of EVs, making it an important country for all automotive manufacturers. Sales of EVs in the U.S., meanwhile, were a little less impressive. The group managed to sell just 7.900 electric vehicles in the American market, where all of the top 5 bestselling group vehicles are offered. That did, however, mark an increase of 16.2 percent in sales. The automaker will soon start making electric vehicles in the U.S., which may accelerate sales. +++

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