Newsflash: Alfa Romeo Giulia mag door naar de volgende ronde

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+++ ALFA ROMEO ’s premium focused reinvention under the ownership of Stellantis is continuing apace, with the focus now shifting to a replacement for the Giulia and, according to senior sources, the creation of a new large SUV flagship. Alfa Romeo boss Jean-Philippe Imparato said that he had tasked the design team with looking at an unusual replacement for the Giulia. In addition, industry reports have been circulating about the development of a new range-topping SUV in the vein of the Porsche Cayenne, likely to be battery-electric. Imparato told that the current Giulia and Stelvio have “some years left to run” but he has already given a brief to Alfa Romeo’s designers (led since June last year by ex-Seat and Dacia design boss Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos) to consider, including a proposal for an estate-style car that might take on the new Genesis G70 Shooting Brake. “I don’t want to give up on the sedan market”, he told. “It’s in Alfa’s DNA to have a sporty sedan. But I also acknowledge that there were many suggestions that there should be a station wagon version of the Giulia. Maybe there’s a tipping point between the sedan and the station wagon. With a new Giulia, maybe we can have the best of both worlds”. Imparato said that the Italian brand’s future product plans would be underpinned by “stability”; something that it has certainly lacked over the past 20 years and more. He explained: “Stability and not changing course every morning is essential to Alfa Romeo. The next 5 years of our product plan has been signed off and is funded by Stellantis. Next year, we will be fixing our product plan to 2028. And into the 2030s, we will be planning for quality, electric platforms and software”. Imparato gave an outline of the future Alfa Romeo plan, revealing that a B-segment SUV (tipped to be called the Brennero) will be launched in 2024, followed by a fully electric car in 2025, another EV in 2026 (which could be the E-segment super-luxury SUV reported in the Italian press) and a third EV in 2027. As yet, it’s not decided where each of these models will be built, although Imparato said that the Pomigliano and Cassino factories, both near Naples, will remain the core production bases in future. Although Imparato wouldn’t go into specifics, it’s thought that the 2025 EV could be sold as a Tesla Model 3 rival, using the hallowed GTV name (as previously reported by Autointernationaal) and benefiting from the kind of dramatic and distinctive styling Alfa Romeo is known for, with an Audi A5 Sportback-style 5-door coupé format believed to be favoured. Sources say that leveraging classic Italian design on a modular Stellantis EV architecture will help Alfa Romeo stand out against more self-effacing Tesla products. Reports suggest the GTV could also be sold as a plug-in hybrid with a petrol engine while still based on the same basic flexible architecture. Imparato did give some extra clues to the 2025 car, saying it would be the first to benefit from a brand-new, cuttingedge Stellantis family platform. Referred to by Stellantis as STLA and offered in 4 sizes, this will feature the group’s new electrical architecture, which includes 5G data connectivity, artificial intelligence and advanced driving assistance systems, as showcased by US brand Chrysler’s recent Airflow concept. While the future Alfa Romeos will be built on Stellantis family platforms, Alfa seems likely to be offered some flexibility when it comes to suspension and chassis systems, particularly for its more upmarket models. Product boss Daniel Guzzafame said: “We want to keep the good things from the Giorgio platform (that underpins the Giulia and Stelvio). There are opportunities that we’re studying now”. It’s thought the Giorgio’s steering and suspension hardware could be adapted for the new Stellantis platforms. Notably, Maserati is the first brand outside Alfa Romeo to use the Giorgio hardware, which cost some 1 billion euro to develop, with its new Grecale riding on a re-engineered version of the platform. The Grecale will become available as an EV in 2023, but neither firm has given any indication of how readily the platform will accommodate an electric powertrain. The large electric SUV reportedly coming from Alfa Romeo (and likely to be positioned as a dynamically focused, upmarket rival to the new Lotus Eletre) could therefore blend elements of legacy ICE and bespoke EV platforms, with a view to differentiating it from other Stellantis electric SUVs, like the upcoming Jeep EV and Opel Manta. Imparato assures that all Alfa Romeos are still being developed and honed by company engineers at the historic Balocco test track in northern Italy. He added that “getting access to technology, the platforms, the electric architectures, batteries and infotainment would be impossible for me if Alfa Romeo were a stand-alone operation”. Retaining a distinctive image and driving experience as part of the 14 brand Stellantis empire will prove a challenge for Alfa Romeo, because it will share components and architectures with more overtly mainstream brands, including Citroën, Fiat, Peugeot and Opel. BAside from intelligently adapting group architectures, it will need to work even harder on distinctive aesthetics. Imparato emphasised this by revealing his fundamental design requirements for future cars. “The typology and elements that need to be defined are clear”, he said. “We must make bold choices. Alfa Romeo must be different; it must be very distinct in the lighting design, the wheels, the steering wheel and the instrument cluster”. Imparato said that he wants to “depollute” the interior of future cars, strongly hinting that Alfa Romeo will buck the trend of huge touchscreens. Future interior design will allow the driver to see just as much information as they want. “Drivers should feel happy and have no stress”, he said, hinting at a philosophy of avoiding information overload. Sources have hinted that future models could have more controls mounted on the steering wheel; a theme also being pursued by Ferrari. Alfa Romeo EVs also run the risk of ‘depolluting’ the classic ICE driving experience, but Imparato said he has ideas about how to resolve that. “I will never allow fake noise in future cars, but we might put vibrations back into an electric car”, he told, suggesting ICE-like vibrations could be fed through the floor, steering and seats in a ploy to retain enthusiast appeal. These plans form a fundamental part of Imparato’s vision to revitalise Alfa Romeo. 13 months after he took the top job in Turin, his strategy is becoming clear: electrification and chasing the premium market but ensuring that the brand remains as distinctive as possible in a market that’s showing signs of convergence in design and dynamics. +++

+++ ASTON MARTIN named former Ferrari boss Amedeo Felisa as its new chief executive officer as the British luxury carmaker works on emulating the Italian carmaker’s success and electrifying its brand. Felisa will take over with immediate effect from Tobias Moers, who joined the company in 2020 from shareholder Mercedes-Benz’s high-performance AMG brand and served as CEO and chief technical officer. Felisa currently serves on Aston Martin’s board and led Ferrari between 2008 and 2016 when it was still part of the Fiat group. Most recently, Felisa served as a special adviser to Silk-FAW, a joint venture between U.S.-based automotive engineering and design firm Silk EV and Chinese automaker FAW. Billionaire Lawrence Stroll drove to the rescue of James Bond’s car brand of choice less than 2 years ago while it struggled after a disastrous IPO. Stroll has overseen a manufacturing makeover at Aston Martin to lift margins and help it become more like rival Ferrari with more customized car orders. Now the carmaker’s largest shareholder and executive chairman, Stroll told that Moers had stabilized the company when it “needed immediate manufacturing, operation attention” but now Aston Martin needed a CEO to “focus on the bigger picture”. “Nobody knows how to make ultra-luxury performance cars better than Amedeo”, Stroll said. “He saw the movie, he wrote the script”. Aston Martin plans to launch its first fully-electric car in 2025. Aston also named former Ferrari and BMW executive Roberto Fedeli as its chief technical officer. The latest appointments come just months after the company’s former chief financial office also left Aston Martin. Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois wrote in a client note that Aston Martin’s new CFO and the appointment of Felisa “will hopefully help stabilize management across the company”. Aston Martin reported a wider pretax loss of 111.6 million pounds ($139.15 million) for the first quarter, compared with a loss of 42.2 million pounds a year earlier, which was largely in line with expectations. +++

+++ It’s nearly time for the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, the weekend of automotive pageantry on the shores of Italy’s Lake Como. First held in 1929, BMW has partnered with the event for more than 20 years and has much to celebrate this year. This being the 50th anniversary of the M division, Bavarian Motor Works has chosen the bash by the lake for the global debut of the M4 CSL. The reveal will introduce the world to M branch’s third-ever Coupe Sport Leichtbau after the 1973 3.0 CSL and the 2004 E46 M3 CSL. From what we’ve seen of spy shots, expect intakes on top of intakes filled with unique grille mesh, unique headlights, a splitter and ducktail spoiler, some weight loss, and perhaps 540 hp from the S58 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged inline-6. There will be a judged showcase (1 of 7) called “50 Years of Mean Machinery”, a 50th anniversary M showcase with vehicles from the Classic Collection, 3 ‘Ring Taxis and plenty of private entries. I have a feeling the “Born for the racetrack: ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ ” will star a few M cars as well. The battery-electric i7 xDrive60 makes its public debut Villa d’Este accompanied by “historic eye-catchers” of from the model lineup. Can anyone say “E38?” BMW will host a Wheels & Weisswürscht Lake Como event, combining the casual celebration of cars with the white sausage that’s a Bavarian breakfast specialty. Expanding the brand family reunion, Rolls-Royce is flying over the latest gem in its four-year Boat Tail series. Beyond Germany, BMW makes special space for Ferrari’s 75th anniversary with the showcase, “The Cavallino at 75: 8 decades of Ferrari represented in 8 icons”. 4 more judged classes will be in session over the weekend, including “The golden age of elegance: the art deco era of motor car design”, “Kompressor! The supercharged Mercedes-Benz”, “Celebrating 150 seasons at Villa d’Este: how grand entrances were once made”, and “Breaking the speed barrier: pioneers that pursued the magic 300 kph”. Since Villa d’Este is celebrating its 150th anniversary as a luxury hotel, it gets a class, too, with “Celebrating 150 seasons at Villa d’Este: how grand entrances were once made”. That one fetes vehicles that have won the Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este,, the event’s Best of Show trophy, since 1929. The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este takes place May 20-22. Circle that weekend on your calendar. +++

+++ FISKER ’s lineup of to-be-launched cars has grown again. Shortly after it announced an urban EV codenamed PEAR, the company released a sketch that shows an electric sedan called Project Ronin which will be positioned at the top of its range when it (hopefully) enters production in 2024. “The aim is to achieve the world’s longest range for a production EV, combined with extremely high levels of performance. Project Ronin will be a showcase for our internal engineering, powertrain, and software capabilities”, explained company boss Henrik Fisker in a statement. He stopped short of providing specific figures, but the company explained that Project Ronin (which borrows its name from a 1998 movie famous for its car chases) will be capable of carrying four adults and their luggage. Under development since 2021, the model seemingly takes the form of a low-slung car with 4 doors, though I’m told it will feature “unique doors”. The sedan will be built with lightweight materials, it will use active aerodynamic technologies, and it will be powered by a battery that will be integrated into the vehicle structure. Fisker expects to unveil Project Ronin in August 2023, and production is tentatively scheduled to begin in the second half of 2024. If everything goes according to plan, the sedan will become the third member of the Fisker range when it starts rolling off the production line. Fisker’s first car should be the Ocean, an electric crossover that should enter production in Austria before the end of 2022. It will be followed by the aforementioned PEAR, which will be built in Ohio with help from Taiwan-based software giant Foxconn starting in 2024. +++

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+++ MERCEDES-AMG is set to reveal a new sports car created in collaboration with will.i.am, a founding member of the Black Eyed Peas. The firm says that the project will facilitate “inner city school engineering programs”, and the car will be revealed in full on 5 May. Mercedes has released an image to tease the bespoke creation, which will be far more extravagant than any current AMG model. The car’s long-bonnet profile is reminiscent of the AMG GT, with a smooth, tapering roofline. The details are less conventional, however; the sports car-like concept looks to adopt the bluff front end design from the brand’s G-Class. Like that car, this one-off AMG has a flat front surface and a pair of round led headlights. The clamshell bonnet has a central crease that splits in two over the roof, And there are more hard creases along the car’s flanks. The doors are particularly striking, with a rear-hinged design similar to that of the Rolls-Royce Wraith. The wheels appear to be diamond-cut 5-spoke items, not dissimilar to AMG’s famous ‘monoblock’ rims, and there’s a pair of slim led tail-lights at the rear. Given its two door sports car silhouette, the new model could share its platform with the Mercedes-AMG SL, which will also underpin the next generation of the AMG GT. Either way, the use of AMG’s ubiquitous 4.0-litre V8 is likely. In the SL 63, the twin-turbocharged motor produces 585 hp, although AMG has just released a hybrid version of this powertrain in the GT 4-Door 63 S E-Performance, which produces a maximum of 840 hp and can run on electricity only for 12 km. I already know there’s a plug-in hybrid SL on the way, so the size and likely underpinnings of this new AMG concept means it has potential to package AMG’s petrol-electric powertrain. We’ll find out in a few days time when the German brand and the music mogul reveal the car in full. +++

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+++ PORSCHE announced today that it has invested $100 million in Group14 Technologies, a producer of advanced silicon-carbon technology for lithium batteries. The automaker plans to use this technology in its high-performance vehicles. “The battery cell is the combustion chamber of the future. Our goal is to be a leading company within the global competition for the most powerful battery cell”, says Lutz Meschke, who is in charge of finance at Porsche. “It is not without pride that we are leading this broad-based funding round. It reflects that, through our venture capital unit Porsche Ventures, we have now gained a deep understanding of the world of venture capital”. The investment was part of a Series C funding round for the Woodinville, Washington-based company. Group14 received a total of $400 million in order to facilitate the construction of another factory to produce battery active materials in the U.S. Group14 has developed a battery cell chemistry that relies on silicon as the anode material that significantly increases the power density of the cell, compared to current batteries, allowing for greater range. The technology also reduces the battery’s internal resistance, meaning that it can also charge faster than today’s cells. “The anode material from Group14 has the potential to be a game-changer on the road to shorter charging times”, said Markus Gräf, COO of the Cellforce Group. Porsche said in a statement that Group14 will supply its products to the Cellforce Group, a joint venture company that the automaker founded with Customcells Holding in 2021. The company intends to develop and produce high-performance battery cells with these silicon anodes for small series production, motorsport, and high-performance vehicles in the future. “The characteristic properties of the new cell chemistry (fast charging, high performance, and low weight) pay dividends directly into the Porsche brand core”, said Michael Steiner, Porsche’s head of R&D. “They are virtually in line with the development goals that we are writing in the specifications for our prospective electric sports cars”. In addition to investing in electric vehicles, Porsche is also investing in e-Fuels in order to keep up with a greener future. +++

+++ STELLANTIS has re-upped its commitment to 2 pivotal Canadian factories. The Brampton Assembly Plant, where the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger are built, and the Windsor Assembly Plant, where the Chrysler Pacifica is made, will receive a $2.8 million investment in the coming years. The announcement came as welcome news for Brampton, as the plant’s future was very much in doubt. The company had only promised to build the first 3 models, sharing an aged platform, through 2023. Now the future is more clear. Stellantis will begin retooling the facility in 2024 once production of the muscle car trio winds down. When it comes back online in 2025, it will produce “at least one all-new electric model”. It will also serve as the production facility for an all-new flexible architecture, but which models it will support were not disclosed. As for Windsor, retooling will begin in 2023. Stellantis didn’t say when it would finish, but that it would be home to a “new multi-energy vehicle (MEV) architecture that will provide battery-electric (BEV) capability for multiple models”. Both plants are expected to return to a 3-shift schedule after layoffs at the plants dropped them down to 2 shifts. The reaffirmation of investment in Canada follows last month’s announcement that Stellantis and LG Energy Solution would establish a $4.1 billion joint venture to make battery packs for electric vehicles. The project is being billed as Canada’s first large-scale lithium-ion battery plant. In addition, Windsor’s Automotive Research and Development Centre (ARDC) will now become North America’s first battery lab. Stellantis is expanding the site by 100.000 square feet, where engineers will conduct R&D into BEV, PHEV and HEV cells, modules and battery packs. Stellantis North America Chief Operating Officer Mark Stewart said, “These investments reaffirm our long-term commitment to Canada and represent an important step as we move toward zero-emission vehicles that deliver on our customers’ desire for innovative, clean, safe and affordable mobility”. +++

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