Newsflash: Lexus gaat nieuw SUV model ‘TX’ noemen

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+++ A year ago, auto industry execs generally believed we’d be emerging from the tempest of astounding vehicle prices, the chip shortage and the supply chain crisis, and we might start feeling the welcome warmth of a return to normalcy. Lately, the prognosis for the future is getting worse, and Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe has the worst news yet. In an interview, the EV honcho said “Semiconductors are a small appetizer to what we are about to feel on BATTERY cells over the next 2 decades”. Scaringe believes the compacted timeline for switching millions of personal vehicle sales from ICE to battery-electric is going to expose the lack of preparedness along the entire battery supply chain, from mining to producing the final packs. Right now, “90% to 95% of the supply chain does not exist” to furnish the targets governments and OEMs have set for a decade from now. In the U.S. last year, 5% of overall vehicle sales were hybrids, 3% were EVs, both record numbers. To reach those percentages, lithium-ion battery demand has risen an average of 37% every year since 2015, with experts saying this year will see a 50% jump. No part of the battery industry can sustain that, and we’re not sure the Earth can, either. Lithium is earning its nickname as “white gold”, the quest for it pushing developments that could become for minerals what fracking is to oil, causing controversy among climate groups, and leading to statements like, “A lot of us understand blowing up a mountain for coal mining is wrong; I think blowing up a mountain for lithium mining is just as wrong”. Wouldn’t it be funny if the history books record that humanity accelerated its rush into space because it had to find the minerals it needed to save the Earth? (Don’t worry, that’s coming). +++

+++ After years of spy photos and speculation, the president of General Motors, Mark Reuss, has finally confirmed plans for both a hybrid CHEVROLET CORVETTE and a full-electric model. He even dropped a launch window for the hybrid. All this comes with a trailer that reveals the hybrid is all-wheeldrive. The most information we have is on the hybrid. The trailer shows the car skidding about in the snow, but the clip of it launching from a standstill is what makes the all-wheeldrive very obvious. It’s all in slow-motion, and it sure seems the front wheels get going more quickly than the rears, which makes us think the front wheels are powered by an electric motor rather than being mechanically connected to the engine. That’s consistent with previous reports, too. We won’t have long to wait for the hybrid either. Reuss said it should launch early next year. It doesn’t have a name yet, but GM has been holding on to the trademark for the ‘E-Ray’ name for a while. Power is also unclear, but the latest reports have it somewhere above 600 horsepower combined. It will likely come in below 670 horsepower, though, in order to maintain the Z06’s position at the top of the Corvette hierarchy. As for the full electric, Reuss didn’t offer much. He simply said that it’s coming, and will definitely be after the hybrid Corvette. Details around the car are scarce. It would certainly use the electric car technology used in most of GM’s new electric cars, named ‘Ultium’. Some reports have suggested an electric crossover could be possible. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out with the full-electric Corvette. And in the meantime, we’ll be looking forward to more about the hybrid. +++

+++ CITROEN has announced the end of its Grand C4 SpaceTourer model, drawing a line under 30 years of small people haulers that embodied the brand’s family image now overshadowed by SUVs. “Because customers’ aspirations have evolved, expression of modernity and enhancement is today carried by other shapes (and) the way of thinking mobility is changing, Grand C4 SpaceTourer is now bowing out”, the brand said in a statement. In France, MPV sales fell almost to zero in the first quarter as SUVs claimed the lion’s share at 46% of new car registrations, racing with traditional hatchbacks which bring in 47% of sales. In the U.S., SUVs have become a highly dominant body style, but MPVs still sell. Among Stellantis brands in the U.S., the Chrysler Pacifica is the 4th bestselling model, though that number likely contains both consumer and fleet sales. Production of the Grand C4 SpaceTourer at the plant located in Vigo, Spain, will stop at the beginning of July after current orders are delivered, Stellantis added in a press release. Citroën, which retains 2 models of electric MPVs in its catalog, plans to focus on its C5 Aircross and its C5X. In 30 years, the brand sold nearly 4.5 million minivans worldwide, fuelled by the Evasion from 1994, the C8 from 2002 and, most importantly, the Xsara and C4 Picasso after 1998, whose rounded silhouettes and family-friendly designs found favor with customers. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS likes to give us tidbits about its Ultium platform from time to time, and today it’s telling us about the platform’s ability to capture waste heat from the propulsion system. In addition to capturing from the propulsion system, it can also capture humidity from both inside and outside the vehicle and even from passengers’ body heat. Yes, you, your family and/or your friends are a usable heat source as far as General Motors’ electric vehicles are concerned. It then deploys the heat in an advantageous way. If at this point, you’re screaming, “Heat pump!” you’d be right. We’re talking about an elaborate heat pump system that GM is using for its Ultium-based vehicles. Every Ultium-based GM vehicle gets this system that is covered by 11 patents and 4 publications. The waste heat it collects is used in a number of ways, but its primary use is to heat the cabin quickly and efficiently. GM claims it can heat the cabin of its Ultium-based vehicles quicker than vehicles with traditional internal combustion engines. Plus, when put to use, GM claims that using the heat pump provides its EVs with up to 10% more range than they’d have without. Beyond heating the cabin, the heat pump is capable of putting waste heat to use by preheating the battery prior to charging so that you can charge quicker. The system can even cool the propulsion system in preparation for Watts to Freedom (WTF) launch control starts. GM says this was vital in helping the Hummer EV achieve its bonkers 0-100 kph time of about 3 seconds. “Having a ground-up EV architecture gives us the freedom to build in standard features like Ultium’s energy recovery capabilities”, said Doug Parks, GM executive vicepresident of global product development, purchasing and supply chain. “This helps us squeeze more efficiency, performance and overall customer benefit out of our EVs”. GM says it’s been developing heat pump technology since the EV1 and its heat pump. This is the modern evolution of that technology, and GM says it’s going to be implemented in every Ultium-based vehicle as a standard feature. +++

+++ Carlos GHOSN , the former car executive at the helm of Renault and Nissan, was “surprised” by earlier media reports which stated that French prosecutors had issued an international arrest for him, said a spokesperson for Ghosn. “This is surprising, Ghosn has always co-operated with French authorities”, a spokesperson for Ghosn told. The spokesperson was reacting after media reported that French prosecutors had issued an international arrest warrant for Ghosn. An investigating magistrate issued five international arrest warrants against Ghosn and the current owners or former directors of the Omani company Suhail Bahwan Automobiles, a vehicle distributor in Oman, the prosecutor’s office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre said. They allege Ghosn funneled millions of dollars of Renault funds through the Omani car distributor for his personal use, including for the purchase of a 40 meter yacht. The local prosecutor for Nanterre could not be immediately reached for comment. Ghosn told in an interview last year that he was prepared for a lengthy process to clear his name with French authorities, and vowed to challenge an Interpol warrant that is barring him from travel outside of Lebanon. +++

+++ HYUNDAI posted a better-than-expected 19% rise in quarterly profit as favorable exchange rates more than made up for a jump in raw material costs and a drop in sales caused by the prolonged global chip shortage. The company’s global car sales slid nearly 10% in the first quarter and Hyundai warned it expects further supply chain disruptions due to the lockdowns in several Chinese cities. Like other automakers, Hyundai has raised prices to cope with soaring raw material expenses and logistics costs such as sourcing chips, and analysts expect further vehicle price hikes. Net profit climbed to 1.6 trillion won ($1.3 billion) in January-March. Analysts expected a 1.4 trillion won profit. “Robust sales of SUV and Genesis luxury models, declining incentives, and a favorable foreign exchange environment helped lift revenue, despite the slowdown in sales volume”, Hyundai said in a statement. The South Korean won was nearly 7% weaker against the U.S. dollar in the period, boosting the value of earnings garnered abroad. Hyundai, which suspended operations at its St. Petersburg plant on March 1 and is only selling remaining inventory in the country, said it was looking to minimize costs there by cutting incentive and marketing expenses. “We will consider delaying executions of planned investments this year and new car launches in Russia to enhance our Russia operation’s profitability”, executive vice president Seo Gang Hyun told an earnings call. Hyundai and affiliate Kia combined have the second-largest share of the Russian market after French automaker Renault, and Hyundai’s Russian sales account for around 5% of its overall sales. Hyundai has not decided when to resume operations. At present, no major automaker has announced a complete withdrawal from the Russian market. +++

+++ When I drove the LEXUS RX 450hL for the first time, I called it a “seemingly quick-and-dirty solution” to address the chasm in the lineup: Lack of a large, 3-row SUV to counter competition like the Mercedes-Benz GLS and BMW X7. Lexus die-hards were asked to accept the compromises of the silken RX 450hL. But there’s a patch coming. Sources told a model called the TX will put 3-row seating for adults on a unibody architecture, debuting about 6 months after the 3-row Toyota Grand Highlander that’s expected in the middle of 2023. Bolstering that report, Toyota applied to trademark the TX name in 2009, then suspected to be a Mercedes-Benz GLK fighter below the Lexus RX. Toyota followed that up with applications for the TX 500h in 2020. The Grand Highlander is the key piece, the TX being Lexus’ version of the Toyota. I don’t know how much length either vehicle will bring to showroom floors. Both new 3-row models will be built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, in the process of an $803 million makeover “in preparation to introduce 2 all-new, 3-row SUVs”. When the automaker announced the investment in the Princeton facility, it said both models would offer seating for up to 8 people, hybrid powertrains, “a semi-automated driving system (which will allow for hands-free driving in certain conditions) a remote parking system allowing the driver to park and unpark from outside the vehicle using a smartphone, and a digital key that turns a user’s smartphone into their key and allows them to share it digitally”. Lexus dealers no doubt have their calendars circled. For them, the TX “can’t come fast enough”. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ is recalling more than 140.000 recent cars and SUVs for 2 separate issues. One campaign addresses a defect that can prevent the rearview camera from functioning properly; the other targets a potentially loose ground cable that can lead to more significant complications. The rearview camera recall covers 126.443 CLA-, GLE/GLS-, A-, C-, E-, E- Coupe/Convertible, GLA/GLB-, GLC-, CLS- and EQC-Class models built for the 2020-2021 model years. Under certain circumstances, the rearview camera image may fail to appear, leaving instead a black screen or the previous view and a message indicating that the rearview camera system is inoperable. Mercedes says this is a software issue, and one that only appears in vehicles built with computer modules from certain suppliers, so not all models from the above list will be impacted. Keep an eye out for a mailer from Mercedes-Benz if your car was built with the problematic components. The second issue is more serious, at least on paper. Mercedes-Benz says some 2020-2022 modelyear GLE 450, GLS 450, 2021-2022 AMG GLE 53, 2020-2021 GLE 580, GLS 580, 2021 AMG GLE 63, Maybach GLS 600 and AMG GLS 63 vehicles left the factory with a loose 48 Volt ground connection under the passenger seat. “In combination with the high electrical currents potentially flowing through this connection, the temperature in this area might increase”, Mercedes-Benz said in its defect report. “As a consequence, a risk of fire cannot be ruled out”. Again, not all models listed above will be subject to this recall. Some were shipped with properly torqued ground connections. Keep an eye out for a notice from Mercedes-Benz some time before June 7, 2022. +++

+++ NISSAN shares slumped 5%, their biggest fall in more than a month, following a report that top shareholder Renault may consider lowering its stake in the Japanese automaker. Renault may consider lowering its Nissan shareholding as part of plans to separate its electric vehicle business. The French car maker has been pushing ahead with plans to split its electric and combustion-engine businesses in an attempt to catch rivals such as Tesla and Volkswagen. Renault said all options were on the table for separating the electric vehicle business, including a possible public listing in the second half of 2023. Any plans would be subject to approval from alliance partner Nissan, Renault finance chief Thierry Pieton said, adding the Japanese automaker was “in the loop” as Renault weighed up its options. Renault and Nissan have declined to comment on the report. Shares of Nissan fell to 509.8 yen in Tokyo, marking their biggest one-day decline since early March and underperforming an almost 2% drop in the Nikkei index. The car makers’ 2 decade old alliance, which includes Mitsubishi, was rocked by the 2018 ouster of alliance founder Carlos Ghosn amid a financial scandal. They have since pledged to pool more resources. In January they said they would work more closely together to make electric cars. They detailed a $26 billion investment plan for the next five years. But their unequal relationship has long been a source of friction in Japan. Renault owns 43.4% of Nissan, which in turn has a 15% non-voting stake in its shareholder. Renault bailed out Nissan 2 decades ago, but is now the smaller automaker by sales. +++

+++ Another day, another tease. RAM is clearly enjoying the super-slow reveal of its upcoming electric pickup truck, but at least this time they’ve included a date. Sort of; it’s actually a season, not a specific date. I assume the exacting timing will be clarified in the coming months, but in a tweet today, Ram says we should expect the teasing to end and the actual electric pickup to debut in the fall of 2022. We also get a new and predictably dark view of the truck, this time a straight-on shot of the EV hauler’s face. As before, the highlights are all lit up, which I am currently assuming means they are the actual lighting elements. The R-A-M lettering in the middle of the grille is similarly radiant, which again makes us think it will be that way for the production version. I don’t yet know its official name. I’ve been told the truck will go into production in 2024, that it will use the STLA Frame EV platform with a battery capacity up to 101-118 kWh and a range of up to 800 km. That means prospective buyers will have quite a wait ahead of them even after it makes its official debut. By that time, the Ford Lightning should be a fairly common sight on America’s roadways, the Hummer EV will have been on sale for a couple of years and the Chevrolet Silverado EV will similarly be ready to make its appearance. Ram is also promising to have a range-extended electric truck to show off, but we don’t yet know if that will make its online debut this fall alongside the full EV. Lastly, we’re not entirely sure what “thunder” Ram is stealing with its teaser and date announcement today. It could be a little shade thrown in the direction of the electrified Corvette, which was also announced today, or it could just be a play on words since Ford’s truck is called the F-150 Lightning. We suppose it doesn’t much matter, though. Thunder, shade, rain or snow, we’re just happy to see the electrified truck game continue to intensify. +++

RamPickupElektrischTeaser

+++ First a manual for the TOYOTA Supra, now there’s word of a potential 8-speed automatic for the GR Yaris. In the GR Yaris’ home market of Japan, the base RS trim comes with a CVT, that transmission hooked up to a 1.5-liter engine instead of the 1.6-liter demon the rest of the world associates with the 3-door hatchback. A month ago, wind was caught of Japanese media visiting the first round of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Rally Challenge and get up close with a GR Yaris development car with an 8-speed automatic. This was a traditional lock-up slushbox with planetary gears, no fancy twin clutches. Changes to the tester car appeared limited to a larger grille feeding air to the transmission cooler. The automaker sounds committed to making a self-shifting gearbox worthy of the GR brand. Shift paddles are being trialed during development, but engineers want the ‘box to run fastest when left in Drive. For drivers who prefer to grab the handle, company president Akio Toyoda is said to have suggested reversing the typical shift technique in Japan. Over there, pushing the lever forward upshifts, pulling the lever downshifts. Performance automatics in the U.S. and other parts of the world typically work like sequential shifters, where pulling the lever upshifts. The rally runs on public roads mixed with special stages, a good range of environments for testing. Toyota put vice chairman Shigeru Hayakawa on development driving duty during the rally because he would interact differently with the transmission than one of the company’s pro drivers, providing feedback more relevant to GR Yaris buyers. Hayakawa’s not a novice, however, having run a GR 86 in the same series last year. Shift logic is also being programmed for smooth changes and fuel efficiency, because this is Toyota, after all. If it ever comes to production, we want to see how Toyota manages to satisfy all of these demands in “D.” Don’t expect to see this 8-speed auto in showrooms soon. When Japanse media visited the development car at round 2 of the rally series, engineers said the transmission they’re using now is new gears stuffed into a parts bin casing that’s cut to fit the 3-cylinder engine. And being so early in the practical program, Hayakawa revealed he’d suffered a glitch and broken one unit, and Toyota brought a reinforced grille to the second rally round because the first round claimed the previous grille. So it’s way early to be asking the question, but folks are already wondering what are the chances of seeing this 8-speed in the GR Corolla that shares a powertrain with the GR Yaris. The Toyota GR 86 would make an even more sensible beneficiary, and the appeals to put a manual in the Supra might not have been so riotous if the coupe had enjoyed a properly shifty automatic. +++

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