Newsflash: Abarth krijgt eigen versie van Fiat 500e


+++ Last month, ABARTH has confirmed in an interview that an electric 500e is coming. Now, a test mule has been spotted, giving us a preview of the upcoming electric hot hatch. While the test mule appeared to be a typical Fiat 500e with its badging and other rather humble design details, a paper on the rear window showed a glaring piece of information. The paper read “332 BEV ABARTH M 001.” Apparently, “332” is the code for the project, while “M 001” tells us that it’s indeed the first prototype. There aren’t many details that come with Abarth’s confirmation back in March, except for the fact that Abarth’s boss Olivier François was the one who confirmed so in an interview. François said that the tuned 500e is already under development and that final tests are underway, with the car set to be launched next year. François added that the Abarth community played a crucial role in the development of the Abarth 500e: through the power of social media. However, the Frenchman added that the Abarth 500e is “more complicated to deliver than I thought”. He further confirmed that the electric hot hatch will have retuned suspension and brakes, which are things expected from an Abarth. Despite the lack of official performance details at this point, a previous report stated that the hot Fiat 500e will be able to sprint from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in around 7.0 seconds, while the top speed will be rated at 160 km/h. As mentioned, those numbers aren’t official but we’re expecting to know the real performance scores as early as the latter part of this year or early next year. +++

+++ BMW has revealed new details about its Neue Klasse (New Class) EV architecture that will debut by mid-decade. CEO Oliver Zipse said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call on May 5 that the platform would play “a crucial part” in the ramp-up of EV sales for the company, adding that “it represents a quantum leap in technology”. Neue Klasse will feature BMW’s next-generation electric drivetrain “with more output, new cell chemistry and new cell formats”, according to Zipse. He also said that BMW would initially focus its Neue Klasse architecture on midsize premium fully electric models. The platform will enter production in 2025 at BMW Group’s new factory in Debrecen, Hungary, and will only offer a battery-electric drivetrain, BMW’s head honcho said. “When it hits the market, it will be concentrated on the 3 Series segment and at that point in time the market will have developed into a size where it is reasonable to have only 1 drivetrain in that architecture”. He did not say whether the first electric vehicle based on Neue Klasse will be a saloon, SUV or other body style. This is an interesting development as BMW previously said the Neue Klasse architecture would be EV-centric while also offering support for internal combustion engines, including plug-in hybrids. Zipse’s latest comments clearly suggest the platform will be exclusively used for electric vehicles. This goes to show that BMW is constantly evaluating and adjusting its strategies for the EV era and, more importantly, that it ultimately sees EVs as the only way forward. Also, it is interesting that this comes from an executive who has repeatedly warned that going all-in on EVs is not a good idea. Oliver Zipse said the Neue Klasse platform would be “mainly focused on the middle car (midsize) segment”, adding that “it does not cover from the lower segments all the way to the luxury segments”. A BMW spokesman brought more clarity regarding the applicability of the next-generation EV architecture, telling that Neue Klasse will be gradually expanded for all-electric cars in other segments beyond midsize cars. “The Neue Klasse starts with models from the middle car segment, but of course there is more to come. The Neue Klasse is our model range for the future: from the high-volume segment to exclusive high-performance models”. BMW aims to hit cumulative sales of 2 million full-electric cars by 2025, CEO Oliver Zipse said on the earnings call, as part of the objective of having half its sales electric-only by 2030. The executive said the company is doing everything it can to meet this goal earlier. +++

+++ Luxury firms Porsche and Audi are putting the final touches to a pair of co-developed high-performance ELECTRIC SUV s , each of which will serve as a spearhead for a new family of premium-orientated and tech-rich electric cars built on an all-new architecture. The new Porsche Macan EV and Audi Q6 e-Tron (each technically unrelated to any existing models in their respective manufacturers’ portfolios) represent the next step in the rapid electrification plans laid out by the 2 German marques. Each will serve as an electric alternative to their respective most popular combustion-engined models and should rapidly accelerate both Audi’s and Porsche’s transition to all-out electrification. Porsche will look to build on the huge success of its debut EV, the Taycan, with a new electric take on the Macan, which has been its bestselling car globally since 2015. The Macan EV, due on sale next year, will arrive in dealerships around nine years after the current petrol-engined car, which was heavily updated in 2019, was revealed. But it won’t immediately replace its combustion-engined forebear; much like the Porsche Panamera remains on sale alongside the similarly sized and positioned Taycan, Porsche will continue to sell the existing Macan alongside the EV, although it has yet to give a fixed timeline for the model line going purely electric. The Macan will be one of the first production cars to use Porsche and Audi’s Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture, which combines lements of the J1 architecture (used by the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-Tron GT) and the MEB platform used more widely by the Volkswagen Group’s more mainstream EVs. The PPE structure will form the basis of the group’s more dynamically focused and upmarket EVs, but so far only Porsche and Audi have confirmed its use for production cars. Lamborghini’s first EV is now expected to arrive after the group’s SSP platform is introduced and Bentley has lined up the new Artemis platform, currently in development at Audi, for its own first EV. Porsche, unlike Volkswagen and Audi, decided not to adapt ICE car platforms for its first wave of EVs. Its R&D boss, Michael Steiner, said that “there’s always some compromise in weight, package and other dimensions” with a multi-powertrain platform. One advantage of a dedicated EV architecture is a more spacious interior, thanks largely to the lack of a transmission tunnel, and improved handling due to a lower centre of gravity and improved weight distribution. Following an extensive period of virtual testing, real-world Macan EV prototypes are now testing on the road, laying bare the differences that will set the electric SUV apart from its combustion-engined predecessor. Porsche fully intends for the Macan EV to be the sportiest model in the segment, and much of the testing programme has centred around its capacity to offer “repeatable best-in-class performance figures”, although no details have yet been given of the model’s ultimate capability. The Macan EV will play a key role in taking the firm to a recently announced target of 80% EV sales in 2030, along with several variants of the Taycan and a new electric successor to the Porsche 718 Boxster and Porsche 718 Cayman sports-car duo. Porsche has yet to confirm plans for an electric take on its largest car, the Cayenne, and has repeatedly stated that the 58-year-old 911 sports car will be its final model to ditch combustion, likely after 2030. Audi’s first car to use the new architecture is tipped to quickly become one of its bestselling EVs, given its similar size and positioning to the conventionally fuelled Q5, which dominated the German firm’s sales chart last year. The brand has so far been tight-lipped about the precise technical specifications and performance details of the Q6 e-Tron, but it has given strong clues of what to expect with a pair of PPE-based concepts that closely preview saloon and estate versions of its upcoming A6 e-Tron sibling, due in 2024. Each of those concepts is obviously distinguished from Audi’s first generation of EVs (the e-Tron, e-Tron GT and Q4 e-Tron) by a radical new styling treatment that puts even greater emphasis on aerodynamic efficiency and dynamism. Recent spy shots showing a Q6 e-Tron prototype with its front end unwrapped confirm that it will largely follow suit, albeit with a raised ride height and a more upright silhouette. Defining features visible at this stage include an expansive new interpretation of Audi’s trademark Singleframe grille (which on future EVs will take the form of a flat, one-piece decorative panel), slimline LED headlights (likely using the advanced digital matrix technology seen on the A6 e-Tron concepts) and an array of vents to channel cooling air. The rear end styling treatment will be a closer match to that of the existing Q4 e-Tron. Like that car, the Q6 e-Tron is likely to ultimately be offered in rakish-roofed (and slightly more aerodynamic) Sportback guise as well. Audi has already given clues to the outright performance potential of models built on the new PPE platform, with the A6 e-Tron concept offering a combined 476 hp and 800 Nm from its twin-motor, four-wheel-drive powertrain. That format is expected to be carried over into production, although the brand has confirmed that the PPE platform can also host single, rear-mounted motors in less powerful entry-level models. In line with plans to future-proof its sports car offerings, Audi is also working on a range of electric RS performance models, with the top-rung version of the e-Tron GT setting the tone for the electrification of the Audi Sport division. The hot version of the Q6 e-Tron will be marked out chiefly by more aggressive styling, beefier brakes and a more dynamically focused chassis set-up, but it will also benefit from a notable power boost over the standard car. With an output likely north of 500 hp, it will rival the likes of the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT. Audi hasn’t, however, suggested that any PPE- based cars will be equipped with an asymmetrical tri-motor powertrain, as used by its most powerful current electric SUV, the E-tron S. +++

+++ Confirming rumors about Porsche and Audi joining FORMULA 1 in some capacity, Volkswagen Group boss Herbert Diess revealed the 2 luxury brands will take part in the greatest racing series. The important disclosure was made during a livestream called “Dialog with Diess” held in German on the official VW Group page on YouTube. The head honcho has ruled out using the VW name in F1, saying it “doesn’t fit and the brand will not participate”. Instead, Porsche and Audi will enter the competition separately by using their own names. Diess said the rule changes planned for 2026 are the perfect opportunity to enter the competition. Diess said this was the “last chance” for a decade to make such an important decision. Both Porsche and Audi are prioritizing their commitment to top-tier racing from 2026 when the combustion engines will run on fully sustainable synthetic fuel. The VW Group’s top brass mentioned it takes 3 to 4 years to develop an F1 engine, so a decision had to be made sooner rather than later to be ready for 2026. Why F1 and not a different motorsport class? Diess motivated the Group’s decision by saying the competition is “developing extremely positively worldwide”. The 63-year-old executive believes exposure has greatly increased in the United States while more and more people from Asia are watching F1. “If you look at the major sporting events or events in the world, it’s the case that in motorsport, it’s really only Formula 1 that counts and is becoming increasingly differentiated. If you do motorsport, you should do Formula 1 as that’s where the impact is greatest. What’s more, you can’t enter Formula 1 unless a technology window opens up which means, in order to get in there, a rule change: so that everyone starts again from the same place”. Diess said it would’ve taken the VW Group 5 to 10 years to compete for the championship if Porsche and Audi had joined during a time without major regulation changes. Starting from 2026 when the cars will have all-new engines levels the playing field. Both brands have started engine development, but a decision about how the 2 will effectively enter F1 is not being detailed for the time being. The VW Group’s boss said the Zuffenhausen brand has made more progress in that regard. According to the most recent rumors, Porsche will collaborate with Red Bull. There had been speculation about Audi buying McLaren, but Laura Conrad, PR manager at McLaren, refuted the report in an e-mail on 15th November 2021. Diess admitted that not all members of the VW Group’s Board were keen on Porsche and Audi entering F1: “The discussion on the Board was not unanimous. We certainly have other priorities strategically. It’s not necessarily motorsport, but our cars have to be technically up to date, we have to be able to drive autonomously, we need the software capabilities, we need batteries for our cars. We have enough to do and we don’t really need to do Formula 1”. Ultimately, all members of the board voted favourably after being convinced that joining F1 is going to help bolster brand value for both German luxury automakers. +++

+++ No matter how much some are hating the fact, HUGE INFOTAINMENT SCREENS are becoming rampant these days. So much so that seeing cars with less than 10 inches of screen real estate starts to feel weird. Some automakers even take this to the extreme. Mercedes-Benz introduced its mind-blowing MBUX Hyperscreen in its EQS, which is composed of 3 screens under one glass that spans from the driver’s to the passenger’s door. BMW fired back with a panoramic 31-inch 8K theatre screen in the rear seats of the BMW 7 Series and i7. But it looks like this undeclared “screen war” will become a thing of the past, at least that’s what Matthias Junghanns, head of BMW i interior design, thinks when he spoke about the matter. In a livestream hosted by Car Design News, design honchos from Automobili Pininfarina, Italdesign, Polestar, ELeather and BMW talk about the interior of luxury cars in the future. One of the viewers asked whether premium luxury and UX will still be synonymous with big screens in the future. He added, “Have we reached Peak Screen?” Junghanns responded with a question: “Is it the big screen that counts?” He continued on by saying that he’s personally convinced that huge screens will become history, sooner or later. Junghanns clarified that cars will still be intelligent, but interfaces will just appear “when you need them, and when you want them”. Polestar interior design manager Conny Blommé concurred with Junghanns’ views. “Everything has its peak, and probably screens have”, Blommé said. “Most of the time, you’re travelling in a car, and you enjoy the view more than you enjoy the screens”. +++

+++ HYUNDAI and its affiliate KIA ’s car sales are plunging in the second quarter of this year due to a worsening global chip shortage. This makes it unlikely that the 2 automakers can achieve their combined sales target of 7.47 million cars this year. Hyundai sold 308.788 cars around the globe in April, down 11.6 percent on-year, a spokesman said. That was 60.000 in the domestic market and 250.000 cars overseas, down 15.4 percent and 10.6 percent. Last year, Hyundai sold 320.000 cars a month on average, but that has fallen to 300.000. Cumulative sales in the first 4 months of this year also plummeted 10.2 percent on-year. Kia, which performed well in the first quarter thanks to brisk sales of new models, also saw sales drop 5.8 percent on-year to 238.538 cars in April. Despite declining sales Hyundai and Kia posted record operating profits of W1.93 trillion and W1.61 trillion thanks to an increase in sales of high-end models and the weakening won (US$1=W1,267). But if the decline continues in the second quarter, the 2 carmakers could face difficulties. +++

+++ Picture the ubiquitous MG B, launched in 1962 and for many years the world’s bestselling sports car. Nothing could be more at odds with the famous roadster, you might think, than the current crop of Chinese-sourced MGs that major on electric power and family accommodation. But consider this. Back then, the sports 2-seater was the car people most coveted. Now, an SUV fills that role. Back then, BMC’s doughty B-series engine seemed a modern choice. Now, an electric powertrain does. In short, the venerable roadster and the ZS SUV may look markedly different, but today’s MG appeals in much the same way as its predecessor did all those years ago. That’s backed up by MG’s sales success in the UK. In March, it sold more cars (in excess of 9.000) than in the whole of 2018. Last year, it increased sales by 66% in a market that was almost flat, due to the global semiconductor shortage. Its topselling car is the petrol ZS, although the electric variant isn’t far behind, appealing to young, environmentally conscious families. “There are the 30- to 45-year-olds with a bit of money who want to be early adopters of electric cars”, explains MG commercial director Guy Pigounakis, “and then there are the customers thinking back to the halcyon days of MG. The people who know the MG brand are probably slightly older people who have warm memories of MG sports cars and nice saloons. And then the youngsters know very little about the brand, or what they do know is picked up from other people”. It has been a gradual rise back to the top since MG fell into the hands of Chinese firm Nanjing Automobile Corporation in 2006. The ensuing 6 saloon and 3 supermini made little impact, but in recent years MG’s upwards trajectory has accelerated significantly, helped by relevant, reliable and affordable cars. Pigounakis has overseen this kind of success at MG before: he was responsible for launching the popular F sports car in 1995, alongside engineer Brian Griffin and designer Gerry McGovern, now of Jaguar Land Rover fame. “The demand for our products just seems to be increasing exponentially”, says Pigounakis. “I’ve been in the industry 43 years, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it, except, funnily enough, when we launched the MGF. We were managing 12 month lead times then, so it does seem a little bit like déjà vu in many respects”. Happily, MG’s sports car days aren’t over, either. Next year, it will launch the Cyberster roadster, first seen in April 2021 as a concept at the Shanghai motor show. Details of the production car remain top secret, but Pigounakis said that having a sports car back in the line-up “will bring us massive PR and marketing benefits”. More imminent and far more mainstream is a Volkswagen ID 3- rivalling family hatchback, the 4. Due later this year, it will be on a par with the ZS for sales, reckons Pigounakis. This year, MG will increase its UK sales by half, from 30.600 to around 45.000, and it could be more if there were free supply, claims Pigounakis. Ultimately, he believes 70.000 sales is “very achievable” by 2025. He says: “That number seems the optimum level of sales that will make us and our dealers the best return on investment. If you go past that, ironically, you start eroding that”. MG has no plans to emulate so many other volume players by elevating the positioning of its brand. “You have to recognise your strengths and not try to be something that you’re not,” reasons Pigounakis. “We don’t want to take on BMW, Mercedes and Audi when frankly they dominate that market, have done for 25-30 years and probably will do for the next 20 years. “We focus on what we’re good at, which is building fantastic value-for-money cars that will be increasingly fun and exciting. Plus, we have cutting-edge technology at affordable prices. And what we do have, which differentiates us from many of our competitors, is a brand that’s globally recognised from day one”. That recognition is reflected in the ongoing popularity of the MG Owners’ Club and the MG Car Club, claimed to be 2 of the largest car clubs in the world. “It shows how much of a latent warmth there is out there towards the MG brand”, reflects Pigounakis. “We’re just starting to engage with them again. We have an event coming up in June. These people love the MG brand. They’re real brand advocates, and they have significant amounts of disposable income, because they collect cars as their hobby. I’m pretty sure we will see them driving some of our future cars on the road as well as collecting old MGs”. While many car makers are pushing online sales, MG is a firm believer in good old dealerships. It now has 150 sites in the UK and plans to grow to between 160 and 170. It will launch an end-to-end online buying service next year but won’t encourage that method of car buying. Guy Pigounakis says: “We’ve just launched a new website. A lot of sites try to steer you down a specific way of configuring and buying a car; we’re just trying to let the customer choose the way they want without leading them by the nose. Most dealers will tell you that they sold cars online during the pandemic. But once lockdown stopped, people came back to showrooms. We still believe that, for a considerable amount of time, the primary point of contact for car buying will be at a dealership. At the moment, we’re pursuing the strategy of sourcing high-profile partners in large urban conurbations where we weren’t particularly well represented because, frankly, if you’re selling only 4.500 cars a year, you can’t justify the investment”. +++

+++ If you’re among those clamouring for a stick-shift fifth-generation Supra, we’re pretty sure you’re aware that TOYOTA has already indulged the world with such for the 2023 model year. The exact details of the 6-speed manual transmission (such as its origin and who-developed-what) weren’t disclosed at the announcement, but a report sheds some light on the mystery. A Toyota spokesperson has confirmed that the “parts used in the gearbox come from a combination of ZF-manufactured manual transmissions, but the parts combination is exclusive to GR Supra”. The spokesperson also told that the Japanese automaker partnered with ZF and BMW for a number of things, including the “design/layout of shift lever/pedal, the decision of final gear ratio, tuning of the intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT) function and shift feel”. Of note, the Z4 that uses a manual transmission is the 2.0-litre 4-banger sDrive20i. That gearbox has a part code GS6L40LZ, while the 2023 Toyota Supra’s 6-speed MT has a BMW part code of GS6L50TZ. “GS6” refers to the 6-speed manual, while “Z” refers to the manufacturer which is ZF. The differences between “L40L” and “L50T” are in their transmission type and gearset. Toyota’s iMT comes with a rev-match function to ensure that “consistent performance” is delivered when downshifting. The new manual variant also comes with a shorter 3.46 final drive ratio than the AT versions for better take-off and in-gear acceleration. Unlike the Z4, the 6-speed MT is exclusive to the 3.0-litre inline-6 powered Toyota Supra. If you’re eyeing the 4-pot Supra, that is still an AT-only offering. The Toyota Supra Lightweight will reach European dealers later this year. Pricing will be announced in due time. +++

+++ In April, new passenger car registrations in the UNITED KINGDOM decreased by 15.8% year-over-year to 119.167, dragging down the year-to-date result by 5.4% to 536.727. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the are now many challenges affecting the automotive industry, including global supply chain shortages, of which semiconductors are the most notable. Because of that, the SMMT has revised down its outlook for 2022. Even the plug-in electric car sales are not growing as they did in the past. According to the official data, last month’s passenger plug-in electric car registrations amounted to 19.348, which is just 3% more than a year ago. The market share was 16.2%. Together with 13.951 non-rechargeable hybrids (up 18.3% and 11.7% share), the xEVs (BEVs, PHEVs, HEVs) stand for 27.9% of the market. If we check the details, it turns out that the main reason behind the weaker growth of plug-ins is plug-in hybrids, which noted a 32.8% decrease year-over-year. Sales of all-electric cars actually increase relatively quickly: by 41% year-over-year, enabling BEVs to take 10.8% of the market (compared to 6.5% a year ago). So far this year, more than 113.000 new passenger plug-in cars were registered in the UK, reaching an average market share of over 21%. According to the SMMT, some 289.000 BEVs and 144,000 PHEV are expected to be sold in the rest of 2022 (down from respectively 307.000 and 163.000, forecasted previously). That would be a total of nearly 600,000, compared to over 305,000 in 2021. This time, there is no data about plug-in models and it appears that none of the stand-alone plug-in cars were able to enter the top 10, like in March, when 2 EVs were on the top. A knock-on effect of the semiconductor shortage is that manufacturers have been prioritising the delivery of vehicles to retail customers, given the higher profit margins over fleet vehicles, so while private sales climbed a modest 4.8%, there was a substantial 33.3% drop in fleet registrations. Smaller business registration volumes, by contrast, climbed 15.4%. Other contributing factors in the downturn include rising inflation as a result of “spiralling” energy and fuel costs, which are placing pressure on households and thereby reducing demand for new cars, and the global political uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine. As a result, the SMMT has downgraded its forecast for new car registrations for 2022 from 1.89 million units to 1.72 million, which would, it notes, still be a 4.5% increase over 2021. As has become the norm, electrified vehicles continue to buck the trend towards overall decline, with 12.899 pure-electric cars registered last month; a 40.9% increase on last year and equivalent to 10.8% of the market. Meanwhile, there was an 18.3% rise in demand for full-hybrid cars while demand for plug-in hybrids dropped 32.8%. Overall, electrified vehicles accounted for 27.9% of all cars registered in April. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The worldwide semiconductor shortage continues to drag down the market, with global geopolitical issues threatening to undermine both supply and demand in the coming months. “Manufacturers are doing everything they can to deliver the latest low- and zero-emission vehicles, and those considering purchase should look to place their orders now to benefit from incentives, low interest rates and reduced running costs. “Accelerating the transformation of the new car market and the carbon savings demanded of road transport in such difficult times requires not just the resolution of supply issues, however, but a broader package of measures that encourages customer demand and addresses obstacles, the biggest of which remains charging anxiety”. +++


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