Newsflash: Renault Arkana met name succesvol als Hybrid


+++ Derrick Monet and his wife, Jenna, were driving on an Indiana interstate in 2019 when their Tesla Model 3 operating on AUTOPILOT crashed into a parked fire truck. Derrick, then 25, sustained spine, neck, shoulder, rib and leg fractures. Jenna, 23, died at the hospital. The incident was one of a dozen in the last 4 years in which Teslas using this driver-assistance system collided with first-responder vehicles, raising questions about the safety of technology the world’s most valuable car company considers one of its crown jewels. Now, U.S. regulators are applying greater scrutiny to Autopilot than ever before. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has the authority to force recalls, has opened 2 formal defect investigations that could ultimately lead Tesla to have to retrofit cars and restrict use of Autopilot in situations it still can’t safely handle. A clampdown on Autopilot could tarnish Tesla’s reputation with consumers and spook investors whose belief in the company’s self-driving bona fides have helped make Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk the world’s wealthiest person. It could damage confidence in technology other auto and software companies are spending billions to develop in hope of reversing a troubling trend of soaring U.S. traffic fatalities. It could also bring long-simmering tensions between Washington and Tesla to a boil. The iconoclastic Musk has already derided NHTSA as the “fun police” and chafed at U.S. president Joe Biden’s unwillingness to lavish the pioneering company with praise. He’s not shy about lambasting lawmakers and regulators on Twitter, the social media platform he has offered to purchase for $43 billion. Tesla, which reports earnings later this week, has lately had an aura of invincibility. As larger rivals were hobbled by the global chip shortage and other pandemic disruptions, the electric-car maker managed to substantially increase production. A modestly funded, slow-moving government agency is one of few obstacles threatening to throw it off course. Musk and Tesla did not respond to requests for comment. “Making our vehicles safer is foundational to our company culture and how we innovate new technologies”, Rohan Patel, Tesla’s senior director of public policy and business development, wrote in a March letter to lawmakers. A crackdown from NHTSA would follow repeated pleas from the National Transportation Safety Board, the independent accident-investigation agency, to tighten oversight of automated vehicles. The NTSB, which doesn’t have the power to compel carmakers to follow its recommendations, has suggested Tesla embrace automated-driving system safeguards that General Motors and Ford have adopted for their systems. Tesla hasn’t responded to the NTSB’s guidance and instead continued its riskier approach. “We essentially have the Wild West on our roads right now”, Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the NTSB, said in an interview. She describes Tesla’s deployment of features marketed as Autopilot and Full Self-Driving as artificial-intelligence experiments using untrained operators of 2.300 kilo vehicles. “It is a disaster waiting to happen”. Musk has taken advantage of a light-touch approach in the U.S. to regulating self-driving technology. Within days of Tesla releasing a software update that enabled Autopilot in October 2015, YouTubers posted videos of themselves ignoring the company’s warnings against taking their hands off the wheel. One nearly auto-steered off the road; the other almost veered into an oncoming car. Two months before a Tesla driver in Florida died when his Model S on Autopilot plowed into an 18-wheel trailer in May 2016, NHTSA said existing laws in the country posed few barriers to driver-assistance systems. Then-Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said weeks after the crash that NHTSA would release guidelines, rather than rules, for the technology. Congress hasn’t enacted any laws specifically addressing oversight of vehicle automation. Musk alluded to this regulatory permissiveness in March when he was asked when Europeans will get to test Full Self-Driving, or FSD, a set of beta features available in the U.S. Contrary to the name, FSD doesn’t render Tesla cars capable of driving themselves. “In the U.S., things are legal by default”, Musk said. “In Europe, they’re illegal by default. So we have to get approval beforehand, whereas in the U.S., you can kind of do it on your own cognizance, more or less”. Tesla’s approach to automated-driving features contrasts with that of legacy automakers GM and Ford, whose systems use cameras behind the steering wheel to monitor whether drivers are paying attention. The companies also restrict use of the systems to highways their engineers have mapped and tested out before deploying the technology to drivers. “Tesla sticks out like a sore thumb”, said David Friedman, who was deputy and acting administrator of NHTSA from 2013 to 2015. “And it has for years.” NHTSA has repeatedly reminded the public, including in comments provided for this story, that no commercially available vehicle can drive itself. The agency has opened 31 special investigations into crashes involving driver-assistance systems, 24 of which involved Teslas. But the company keeps hawking FSD, and charges $12,000 for it. There’s growing discomfort with this state of play in Washington. “I really dislike a lot of what Tesla has done, and at the top of the list in bright, bold letters, is Elon Musk’s habit of making false public claims, and using his podium in a way that creates safety risks”, Heidi King, a deputy and acting administrator of NHTSA during the administration of former U.S. president Donald Trump, said in an interview. “We all admire his visionary attributes”, King said of Musk. “But visionary exaggerations about a consumer product can be very, very dangerous”. Growing scrutiny King was one of several acting heads of NHTSA during what has been a 5-year leadership vacuum. The last Senate-confirmed administrator left the post in January 2017. A vote to permanently place Biden’s pick to run the agency, Steve Cliff, in the position is being held up indefinitely. “NHTSA is empowered with robust tools and authorities to protect the public, to investigate potential safety issues, and to compel recalls when we find evidence of noncompliance or an unreasonable risk to safety”, a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement. “NHTSA has collected data and conducted research, developed test procedures and measured their effectiveness, which are all necessary requirements before a safety standard can be developed”, 2 Democratic senators (Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal) have called for the Federal Trade Commission to probe whether Tesla has deceptively marketed Autopilot and FSD. FTC chair Lina Khan told the lawmakers in September she couldn’t reveal information regarding any nonpublic investigations. Recall options In the event NHTSA determines from either of its investigations there are defects pertaining to Autopilot, it can order Tesla to conduct recalls. Those could take a variety of different forms, because Tesla is permitted by law to choose how exactly it responds to such an order. Addressing a defect could be as simple as beaming an over-the-air update to Tesla cars using their internet connection, much in the way smartphones receive software updates. Tesla has already carried out several recalls this way, and could update Autopilot’s software to keep the system from operating in certain domains it’s not yet able to safely navigate. But pricier fixes may end up being needed. One example: Tesla could determine it needs to install cameras behind its steering wheel to monitor whether drivers are paying attention while using its systems, as other automakers do. While the company has put cabin-facing cameras in its cars for years, they’re positioned over the rear-view mirror, rather than directly in front of the driver. Musk has said the cameras are meant for a robotaxi service that doesn’t yet exist. It’s unlikely Tesla would opt for the most expensive outcome of all: replacing vehicles entirely. But a third option for manufacturers to remedy vehicles they’re forced to recall is to issue refunds, which also would be costly. Tesla has steadily increased the price of FSD, and used to charge thousands of dollars for Autopilot before making it a standard feature in 2019. Tesla will have had it coming if NHTSA does take action on Autopilot, according to Friedman. “The NTSB has been pointing out since that 2016 crash (where the Tesla literally couldn’t see the broadside of an 18-wheeler) that there are serious concerns”, Friedman, who is now vice president of advocacy for Consumer Reports, said in an interview. “How is it that an automated vehicle can’t safely maneuver around an emergency vehicle? That’s literally one of the first things you learn in driver’s ed: if there’s an emergency vehicle, you don’t run into it”. When NHTSA first investigated more than 5 years ago whether Autopilot was defective, it found that the driver of the Tesla Model S that crashed into a trailer in Florida had ignored his Tesla’s warnings to maintain control. In a report stating it found no defect and was closing its probe, NHTSA said Tesla supplied data that showed Tesla vehicles’ crash rate dropped almost 40% after installation of Autosteer, an Autopilot feature. 2 years later, a data-analysis company issued a report calling that finding into question. Quality Control Systems, a firm that sued the Transportation Department to obtain the mileage and crash figures NHTSA studied, found the data was incomplete and criticized the company and regulator for making “tenuous” safety claims. “NHTSA never, ever, ever, should have just taken Tesla at their word”, Friedman said. “It’s NHTSA’s responsibility to do high-quality analysis, and dot their i’s and cross their t’s. In this case, it doesn’t look like they did either”. An agency spokesperson said NHTSA made no claim in its report regarding the effectiveness of Autosteer, and that it lacked critical information to do so. NHTSA will have a fresh advantage in its latest probes of Autopilot: Now that other companies have followed Tesla to market with automated-driving features, the agency has other systems to compare against. Friedman likens the situation to decades ago, when it wasn’t unusual for carmakers to put gas tanks behind or hovering over the rear axle. When manufacturers started moving tanks inboard, and Ford didn’t with its Pinto model, rendering the car prone to catching fire, the agency deemed the design an unreasonable safety risk. “Only NHTSA knows their intentions relative to this”, Friedman said of the agency’s Autopilot investigations. “But it is certainly great to see NHTSA spending more time doing its core job when it comes to putting safety first”. +++

+++ A Japanese electric vehicle battery technology company will build a factory in Kentucky, creating 2.000 jobs in a $2 billion investment that reinforces the state’s leadership in BATTERY PRODUCTION , governor Andy Beshear said. The Envision AESC plant at Bowling Green in south-central Kentucky will produce battery cells and modules to power the next generation of electric vehicles, the Democratic governor said. The gigafactory’s products will be made for multiple auto manufacturers globally. The announcement represents Kentucky’s second-largest economic development investment, the governor said, following an even larger battery production plant announcement last year. “With today’s announcement, we solidify that the commonwealth of Kentucky is the undisputed electric battery production capital of the United States of America”, Beshear said as he gathered with other state leaders to celebrate the new project. The Envision AESC announcement comes months after Bowling Green was among several Kentucky cities hard hit by tornadoes last December. Parts of Bowling Green were devastated by the storm. Envision AESC Group CEO Shoichi Matsumoto said the Kentucky investment is part of the company’s next phase of battery strategy to power electric vehicles in the U.S. “This major investment builds on our commitment to the U.S. market, supports growth of the electrification supply chain and secures high value jobs for future generations in the region”, he said. “This commitment takes us one step further toward our ambition to make high-performance, longer-range batteries for a diverse range of automotive manufacturers worldwide to support the EV transition”, he added. Plans for the Kentucky plant follow the company’s announcements last year to build gigafactories in France and the United Kingdom. Envision AESC has 4.000 employees and 10 production plants in Japan, the U.S., the United Kingdom, China and France. Automakers are trying to outdo each other with electric vehicle announcements and proclamations that they plan to sell nothing but zero emissions vehicles in the next decade or so. At present, there are 38 fully electric models now on sale in the U.S., with more than 120 expected by 2025. Automakers sold nearly 4.6 million electric vehicles worldwide last year. LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm, expects that to rise to nearly 7 million this year and to more than 15 million by 2025. Still, that will be only about 15% of global vehicle sales. In the U.S., LMC says just over 400.000 EVs were sold last year. The company expects that to rise to more than 2.2 million by 2025. Still, that’s only about 13% of new vehicle sales. In Kentucky, the Envision AESC project follows last year’s announcement that Ford and its battery partner will build twin battery plants outside Glendale in central Kentucky. That mega-project will create 5.000 jobs to produce batteries for the automaker’s next generation of electric vehicles. “So once again a company that is redefining the automobile industry is betting their future on Kentucky and our workforce”, Beshear said of the Envision AESC project. The Democratic governor thanked the state’s Republican-dominated legislature for its role in luring the new company. Republican Kentucky house speaker David Osborne said the new plant announcement shows “great things can happen when we all pull in the same direction”, Soon after the plant celebration, Republican lawmakers started overriding the governor’s many vetoes. The state’s new partnership provides the company up to $116.8 million from state incentive programs and up to $5 million in grant-in-aid for skills training, the governor’s office said. Envision AESC picked a fast-growing college town with its plans to build the approximately 3 million-square-foot factory at the Kentucky Transpark in Bowling Green. “The scale of this project is like nothing our community has ever seen before”, Bowling Green mayor Todd Alcott said. Bowling Green is also home to General Motors’ Corvette assembly plant. +++

+++ Nissan has confirmed it will stop producing cars under the DATSUN name, just nine years after resurrecting the brand to sell value-friendly models for emerging markets. Nissan says it wants to focus on “core models and segments that bring the most benefit to customers, dealer partners and the business” as part of a global transformation strategy. However, the Japanese firm’s parent company confirmed that despite ending production of the Datsun Go, Datsun Go+ and Datsun Redigo, it will continue to sell the stock it has left, and provide aftersales services to owners. “We can reassure all existing and future Datsun owners that customer satisfaction remains our priority”, a Nissan spokesperson told the BBC. Nissan pulled the plug on production of Datsun cars at its factory in Chennai, India, earlier this month, bringing the brand to an end. Back in 2020, the car maker also stopped production of Datsun cars from its plants in Russia and Indonesia. Datsun, which was taken over by Nissan in 1933, was revived in July 2013 after being wound down 33 years earlier, with Nissan badging all cars with its own name globally. During the relaunch, the firm said it wanted Datsun to be a low-cost car brand, selling affordable vehicles in Indonesia, Nepal, South Africa, India and Russia. This was a radical shift in positioning for the Datsun brand, which rose to prominence in the latter half of the previous century, especially in Europe and the US, with high-profile cars such as the 240Z, Cherry and Sunny. Nissan began exporting cars to American shores in 1958, and to Europe in the next decade, with the Datsun name being phased out here in 1984 with the launch of the original Micra. +++

+++ Me at Autointernationaal adores the LEXUS LC . It’s a truly spectacular grand tourer with concept car looks and your choice of either one of the best modern V8s or a sophisticated hybrid. But it seems Lexus thinks it can do even more with the LC, as indicated by this Instagram teaser of what seems to be an LC in front of the F logo of the Lexus performance brand. I’m pretty confident it’s the LC. It’s definitely a coupe and the only other Lexus coupe, the RC, already has a full-blown F variant. And while there’s not much that we can make out, there do appear to be some styling tweaks, such as a big center bulge in the hood like on the RC F and IS 500. The question of course is whether this will be another maximum-performance F model, or if it will be something more focused on some style and mild upgrades such as an F-Sport trim. If it’s a full LC F, expect significant suspension and brake upgrades, as well as some kind of power improvement. The thing is, the LC 500 already features effectively the most powerful V8 Lexus has on offer, the 477 hp 5.0-liter V8. Rumors have said Lexus may have a high-output version of the twin-turbo V6 from the LS in development, with potentially more than 600 horsepower, which would also be used for an LS F. Certainly the caption, “Highest expression of performance”, suggests it could be something pretty serious. If it’s an LC F-Sport, it will likely be a suspension and styling package, leaving the 5.0-liter V8 unchanged. Expect front and rear spoilers, stiffer springs and such. It might even be offered with the hybrid. Whether any of this is ideal for the LC is of course up for debate. Many of us on staff feel that the LC 500 is about perfect as a grand tourer, and something unique in a market full of ever-more extreme luxury sports cars. But luxury buyers like to be able to say they got the version of a car with the most or the best, whether or not that necessarily suits the car. But hey, I’ve loved other F models in the past, like the RC F and GS F, so an LC F could be pretty awesome, too. +++


+++ LUCID MOTORS has confirmed that it plans to begin its expansion into Europe this summer, and insiders have hinted that right-hand drive markets will follow. A spokesman confirmed that the American EV maker will begin exporting cars to European and Middle Eastern buyers this “June or July” and then expand to China in 2023. Lucid didn’t explicitly confirm which markets it will export to first, but in a previous interview, an employee reportedly confirmed that Germany would be its first port of call. Once established, sales will be rolled out in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Monaco, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and all-important Norway, where EVs dominate. As well as the big expansion, Lucid has also confirmed that it’s developing an even more powerful version of the Air that neatly packages not 1 but 2 power units with the Air’s rear subframe. Autointernationaal has seen what’s been described as the Megawatt rear axle, which is thought to produce as much as 1360 hp. There has been no official confirmation about how much power the tri-motor Super Air will produce, but a safe bet is that it will be upwards of 1600 hp. That should easily have it match or beat the Tesla Model S Plaid’s claimed 0-60mph sprint trim of 1.9 seconds. The new rear axle is also set to be used in the upcoming Gravity SUV to which Lucid engineers are putting the finishing touches ahead of its debut in early 2024. Other new developments in the work for the existing Air include a pair of airline-style reclining rear seats to boost comfort. Any complaints concerning ride comfort on the car that Autocar has driven will also be addressed by a new air suspension option that will close the gap between the Air and its existing rivals. Last month, Lucid announced that it was lowering its 2021 production target of 20.000 cars to around 12.000 to 14.000 over. Back in March, it announced to investors that it had so far produced 400 Airs and delivered more than 300 to customers and still had an existing order bank in excess of 25.000. +++

+++ With the first examples of the all-new 2022 Range Rover on their way to customers, Land Rover is about to take the wraps off its radically reinvented RANGE ROVER SPORT sibling, the current version of which has become one of the company’s best-selling cars. Making its long-awaited debut on 10 May, the third generation Range Rover Sport will play a fundamental role in supporting Jaguar Land Rover as the firm embarks on a wide-reaching and rapid-fire electrification programme. Every year for the past 5 years, the current model has outsold the standard Range Rover by more than 40% and more recently has jostled with the smaller Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport for the position of JLR’s bestselling overall model. The roll-out of Land Rover’s new MLA Flex architecture to its largest models means the Mk3 Range Rover Sport will be a radically different proposition from the outgoing car, which will be 10 years old by the time it is replaced. Claimed to bring 50% more torsional stiffness and to reduce structure-borne noise by 24%, the new shell promises to substantially improve rolling refinement for the Range Rover family. The Sport, in particular, could have an enhanced focus placed on its dynamic credentials as a Porsche Cayenne rival. This is especially notable in light of a powertrain-sharing agreement between JLR and BMW. The tie-up means the most potent Range Rover Sport SVR will swap its supercharged V8 for a BMW-developed, twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8, which paves the way for a hefty power increase and (more radically) a highly potent plug-in hybrid drivetrain option. The current Range Rover Sport SVR uses the 575 hp 5.0-litre V8 reserved for models in the company’s Special Vehicles portfolio;  currently comprising identically powered versions of the Land Rover Defender, Range Rover, Jaguar F-Pace and Jaguar F-Type. This engine was historically produced by Ford in Bridgend but was taken in-house when that facility closed in 2019. As the implementation of stricter Euro 7 emissions legislation looms, production of this engine will be gradually wound down and JLR’s most potent models will make the switch to BMW power. The 4.4-litre V8, referred to internally as the S63, currently propels BMW’s hottest M cars, with maximum outputs of 635 hp and 750 Nm in the hardcore M5 CS. Land Rover will deploy its own version of the engine in its top-rung SUVs, with a bespoke tune and various modifications carried out by its engineers to best suit their characteristics. As featured in the Range Rover, it produces 530 hp for a 0-100 kph time of 4.6 seconds; slightly less power but a comfortable performance improvement over the previous V8. Those outputs are expected to be increased for the Sport in line with its more overt driver-focused billing. It is most likely that the new Sport SVR (which will be marked out by an aggressive styling package comprising quad-exit exhausts and a prominent rear spoiler) will be tuned to match the 625 hp of the BMW X6 M Competition. That will bring the 0-100 kph time closer to the 4.0 seconds mark and bump the top speed to around 290 kph. Such a boost would strengthen the hottest Range Rover’s credentials in the fiercely competitive and increasingly important super-SUV segment, which has swelled considerably since the current car’s 2013 introduction. New arrivals include the Aston Martin DBX, Porsche Cayenne Coupé, Lamborghini Urus and Maserati Levante Trofeo. +++

+++ RENAULT Korea’s exports of the XM3 (Arkana) to Europe are soaring, giving a much-needed fillip to the struggling automaker. Some 18.583 XM3s were sold to the European market in the first quarter of this year, up 3.6 times from a year earlier and more than its entire sales in Korea of 12.659 during the same period. The hybrid model was especially popular, accounting for 11.179 of the 18.583 XM3s exported to become the bestselling of the Renault’s hybrids. It also ranks 4th among all midsize electric and hybrid SUVs sold in Europe in the first quarter, and first among hybrids sold in France in March. +++

+++ The ROLLS-ROYCE Spectre will be positioned as the spiritual successor to the Phantom coupé in the luxury marque’s range when the new electric model goes on sale at the end of 2023. The engineering parameters for the Spectre are now being set as the Goodwood firm begins the almost 2-year testing programme. The positioning of the Spectre within the firm’s range has now become clear, too, beyond simply being ‘the electric Rolls-Royce’. The company has decided against replacements for the Wraith coupé and Dawn convertible. No more orders are being taken for the pair, and the last cars will be built in early 2023. As a result, Rolls-Royce has made space for the Spectre to fulfil the role of a 2-door model in the range, albeit at a larger size than either the Wraith or Dawn and more in line with the 5.6 meter long Phantom coupé that was withdrawn from sale in 2016. Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös said it was important that the Spectre had a role simply beyond being an electric car. He added that, while technically possible, simply making one of its existing models electric was never seriously considered as this would not add as much to the brand as a bespoke bodystyle would. “It is first a Rolls-Royce, and then it is electric”, he said. The positioning of the firm’s Architecture of Luxury modular aluminium spaceframe but beyond that it is a very different proposition from the Phantom, Ghost and Cullinan models that also use the platform. Sited between the axles is a 700kg battery pack, a joint development between Rolls-Royce and parent firm BMW that uses cobalt and lithium mined from certified sources in Australia and Morocco. Beyond the weight of the battery, no other technical details of the model have yet been confirmed. However, Rolls-Royce director of engineering Mihiar Ayoubi offered lots of insight into the wider technical development of the Spectre and its early progress. The battery, for example, plays a key role in the overall package. It is completely flat underneath to allow for a smooth floor to improve aerodynamic efficiency. The battery’s mounting also enables better weight distribution front to rear for improved ride comfort and handling, and a low centre of gravity. In addition, it has acoustic benefits, allowing Rolls-Royce to use less than the 120kg of soundproofing found in the Phantom. Rolls-Royce has confirmed that the car will ride on 23 inch wheels in production, the largest fitted to a coupé since the 1926 Bugatti Royale, and that it will adopt a twin-motor set-up with one sited on each axle for 4-wheeldrive. Familiar chassis technology from other Rolls-Royce models, including the rear-wheel steering and active anti-roll systems, are carried over, too. In terms of styling, the split headlight design of the Phantom Coupé will return on the Spectre. Ayoubi said the initial development at the firm’s test site in Arjeplog, Sweden, was to first ensure the prototypes function as expected and then set the parameters for the tests to come. “The car has only just learned to walk”, he said. In this early development (the Spectre mule we saw was just 25% representative of a finished production example), the new Spectre will have a 700kg battery mounted in a flat floor much of the work is ensuring the basic components (such as the windows, doors, heating and cooling, and rubber seals) work as they should in an extreme environment. But “as silence is luxury”, said Ayoubi, “they need to not only perform in these conditions but perform silently”. Also ongoing was the start of the development of the car’s new “electric backbone”, said Ayoubi, which contributes to the Spectre being “the most connected Rolls-Royce ever”. Although there are fewer mechanical parts than in one of the firm’s V12 models, there is a huge increase in intelligent electrical systems that are interconnected and controlled by this electric backbone. In total, there are 7.000 metres of cabling in the car, whereas a regular premium car will have around 2.000 metres. “We have highly integrated hardware with software intelligence”, said Ayoubi. “The systems are intelligent now. We have multi-channel, multi-control systems and we have developed algorithms to harmonise the work of these competing systems “We have 25 times more algorithms in this car. There are 1000 high-level functions with up to 25.000 sub-functions. There are 141.200 send and receive functions in this car, each with a tolerance of 25 milliseconds and they should not fail”. This is known as ‘RollsRoyce 3.0’ and refers to the firm’s new way of developing cars in its upcoming electric era. Development will soon end in Arjeplog and move on to high-speed testing at the Miramas test facility in France and hot weather testing in Dubai and southern Europe, as well as at the firm’s engineering base in Munich and its Goodwood headquarters. Testing will return to Arjeplog at the end of the year “to see how much the prototypes have learned”, said Ayoubi. In total, some 2.5 million kilometres of testing will be done and more than 30 prototypes will be built. As for early sales success, Müller-Ötvös said Rolls-Royce is already taking orders and deposits for the Spectre, including from people who are new to the brand. The firm forges close relationships with its customers and has consulted with them on its plans to make an electric car since as far back as the 102EX concept of 2010, an all-electric Phantom that customers were able to test. +++

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