Newsflash: Volkswagen komt met Tesla Model 3 alternatief

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+++ After just 2 years, CEO Tobias Moers is the latest senior executive to go through the well worn exit door at ASTON MARTIN . Insiders and former staff members say he was one of the main reasons so many talented and long-serving employees had already left the business: his management style is, apparently, rather blunt. Sure, the numbers weren’t quite as healthy as shareholders might have wanted and that, no doubt, hastened his departure. But Aston Martin chairman Lawrence Stroll has proved again he’s not afraid of a tough decision. But is he capable of a right decision? In comes 76 year old former Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa as the new boss. Is that an appointment for the long term? Speaking to investors at Aston Martin’s first-quarter earnings call, Stroll said: “Amedeo is with us for the foreseeable future. I don’t think I’ve met a more energetic gentleman in my life. He is up for this task. No-one else has seen the movie and written the script like Amedeo has done at Ferrari for what we’re trying to accomplish”. So clearly, Stroll has Ferrari in his sights. And joining Felisa is Roberto Fedeli, a former Ferrari chief technical officer, who’s taking the same role at Aston Martin. Further senior appointments are expected in the coming weeks. I wonder how many will have Ferrari on their CVs? Let’s hope that these changes bring some stability to one of Britain’s greatest brands, after 2 years of turbulence. What they won’t bring back is some of the talent that has left the business during that period, so are we looking at another reinvention of Aston Martin? And should it be chasing Ferrari? That’s a tough ask for any car maker with deeper pockets than Aston Martin, and in my view Aston Martin should be finding its own path. It currently has a line-up of good, if not great, GTs, an excellent SUV and a talented workforce. What it desperately needs now is a clear direction for its future from its new bosses. I wish them the best of luck. +++

+++ DACIA design boss Miles Nurnberger, who made headlines last year in a shock move from Aston Martin, has announced his departure from the Romanian firm. The move comes just under a year since it was announced he would succeed Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos (now head of Alfa Romeo design) as Dacia’s design director. Speaking September last year just a few days after taking up the role, Nurnberger explained a big motivation for the switch was that it “wasn’t going to be going somewhere to repeat. It was something that was evolving and moving and had momentum in its trajectory”. More recently, he suggested that his influence on the styling of future Dacia products would soon become clear, telling: “We have a proper brand mindset now. That will quite naturally lead us to progress, and to make new design statements”. He did acknowledge, however, that it would be “years” before a production car penned by him would arrive in showrooms. It is not yet clear why Nurnberger is now leaving Dacia, and nor has the brand given an idea of the extent of his impact at the firm over the past 9 months. He will be succeeded at the helm of Dacia’s design department by vice president David Durand. Laurens van den Acker, executive vice president design at the Renault Group, said: “I look forward to working with David to meet the mobility challenges of tomorrow. His creativity, experience and sense of innovation are widely recognised, both within our management and in the automotive industry. I would also like to thank Miles for his contribution and work with the teams”. There has been no suggestion of where Nurnberger might go next. In his 13 years at Aston Martin, he had a hand in the design for the Valkyrie hypercar, DB11 coupé and DBX. +++

+++ The FERRARI SF90 Stradale is already one of the fastest and most powerful cars the famous supercar maker has built to date, and new spy shots suggest Ferrari’s current range-topper could be set for an update. Camouflage covering the front of the car and the visible bodywork modifications suggest some important upgrades under the skin. Perhaps the most obvious difference with the current SF90 will be a larger and raised air duct on the front bonnet. One reason for this could be the inclusion of something along the lines of the so-called S-Duct as found on the 488 Pista supercar. This is a Formula One-derived technique of generating downforce, which works by channelling air through intakes in the front of the car and directing it out of vents in the bonnet. The 4 rectangular slats in the car’s nose also suggest there are further aero updates going on with this lightly disguised Ferrari SF90. However, since they’re on the part of the car where the Ferrari badge normally goes, it’s likely these slats would be integrated more neatly into the car’s design, should it enter production. Conversely, the bodywork changes could be a clue there’s something different mechanically about this particular Ferrari SF90. Since the raised air duct is located almost directly above where the current car’s pair of front electric motors are located, it may suggest the SF90 test car boasts a new motor setup that requires more cooling to keep the temperatures under control. That said, there’s also the chance this Ferrari SF90 isn’t a development mule for a faster variant at all. Instead, there’s a chance this could instead be a testbed for updated electronics tech to be used on the SF90 or other hybrid Ferraris. This could also be in tandem with other tech upgrades, such as an improved lithium-ion battery pack and a fleshing out of the Ferrari’s active safety assists. Should this disguised development Ferrari SF90 be destined for production, at least a snippet of additional details could be revealed later in the year. Ferrari is set to host a Capital Markets Day meeting with investors on 16t June 2022, where it will disclose its long-term strategy and future product plans, which may also include a raft of updates for the SF90. +++

+++ Explicit details on the FISKER Pear are few, but the company gave us a couple things to chew on. For one, Fisker is promising a base price below $29,900. It’s to be built on a “new proprietary architecture”, so don’t expect it to share much with the big Ocean, CEO Henrik Fisker said that the little hatchback will feature “new lighting and a wraparound front windscreen inspired by a glider plane glass canopy”. We can get a small sense of what the car will generally look like from the single teaser image released by Fisker. While the company claims this vehicle won’t fit into any existing segment, it sure looks like a compact hatchback to me. Though, I suppose, it’s also possible it literally looks like a pear. The beefy fenders give it a decidedly sporty flair, and the large wheels and mesh front grille only add to the effect. Its scatter-shot lighting running the length of the front end does indeed look different from anything else out there, and the same can be said for its strangely curved A-pillar. This concept (or whatever it is) is also sporting camera sideview mirrors. If U.S. regulations are changed to allow those, then they’d be a possibility. Otherwise, Fisker will need to swap those out for some traditional mirrors before production. Fisker has high hopes on the production front, too. It plans to produce the Pear at the now Foxconn-owned factory in Lordstown, Ohio. Once production ramps up, Fisker predicts it will be able to produce a minimum of 250.000 Pears per year, an extremely ambitious goal. Whether demand exists for 250.000 small EVs per year from Fisker is a question we may see answered this decade, as Fisker says the Pear will enter production in Lordstown in 2024. As for the future, Fisker (the man) says the Pear’s platform will underpin 2 additional Fisker (the car) models, but says details will come at a later date. +++

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+++ Shares of LORDSTOWN MOTORS surged over 23% in trading before the bell on Thursday after the electric vehicle startup said it had closed the deal to sell its Ohio facility with Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn. The Taiwanese firm confirmed it will also make Fisker’s Pear compact car model from 2024 alongside the Endurance at the Ohio facility. The deal closure buys Lordstown Motors some much needed breathing room and gives production of its electric pickup a chance at success, said Danni Hewson, analyst at AJ Bell. “Building electric vehicles is an expensive business at the best of times. Right now the supply crunch is making life incredibly difficult and Lordstown Motors and its shareholders will be feeling a rather heady sense of relief today”, added Hewson. Setting up manufacturing lines for electric vehicles is a capital intensive process and startups in the past have struggled to raise sufficient capital to mass produce vehicles. Foxconn will now manufacture Lordstown Motors’ Endurance electric pickup which will go into production in the third quarter of the year and be in the hands of customers in the fourth quarter. Lordstown Motors will retain some assets including its hub motor, battery assembly lines and intellectual property. The company said the deal closure results in $260 million of proceeds, including the reimbursement of certain operating and expansion costs. The stock fell over 95% from its high of over $30 per share in September 2020, weeks after going public through a merger with a blank check company. It is currently trading under $2. +++

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ says the owners of nearly 300.000 of its SUVs should park them until further notice due to a potential problem that can result in loss of braking power. NHTSA has issued a “do not drive” notice for the 2006-2012 ML-Class, GL-Class and R-Class vehicles until their brake boosters can be inspected. According to Mercedes, these SUVs shipped with brake boosters that may become corroded after prolonged exposure to moisture. If corrosion occurs, the structure of internal components of the brake booster can crack, allowing air into the baking system and reducing braking effectiveness. If enough physical stress is placed on the booster hardware, it can experience a catastrophic failure that will lead to a complete loss of braking power. “In rare cases of very severe corrosion, it might be possible that a strong or hard braking application may cause mechanical damage in the brake booster, whereby the connection between the brake pedal and brake system may fail”, Mercedes said in its notice. “In such a very rare case, it would not be possible to decelerate the vehicle via the brake pedal. Thus, the risk of a crash or injury would be increased. The function of the foot-activated parking brake is not affected by this issue”. Mercedes says early signs of failure include a soft brake pedal or audible signs of air in the braking system (sucking, hissing or wheezing noises from the pedal are potential indicators of contaminated brake fluid). Mercedes says drivers should park these vehicles until they can be inspected by an authorized dealership. “An authorized Mercedes-Benz dealer will remove the rubber sleeve and inspect the brake booster housing on the affected vehicles”, Mercedes said. “Vehicles that do not exhibit advanced corrosion may continue to be driven with no further action. Vehicles that show advanced corrosion will have an additional test performed to ensure the functionality of the brake booster. Vehicles that pass the additional test may be driven for up to two years but must return for an additional repair. Vehicles that do not pass the additional test will require a brake booster replacement. The stop-drive notice will remain in effect for these vehicles until the brake booster is replaced. In the event a repair is necessary and cannot be carried out immediately, an authorized Mercedes-Benz dealer will help coordinate an individual solution for the customer, including alternate mobility”. Mercedes has begun circulating notices to owners. +++

+++ RENAULT will bring the 2-seat electric Duo from its Mobilize mobility brand to the Europeam market, the company has confirmed. Mobilize will launch the Duo in the second half of next year as part of a wider expansion of its mobility businesses across Europe and other markets. The Duo (effectively a successor to the Twizy) will be targeted primarily at car-sharing businesses either owned by Renault itself, including Zity, or other operators looking for low-cost vehicles. Renault did not say which schemes would offer Duo first. Renault has previously said the Duo would be available on subscription, but it’s not clear that would be aimed at private customers. “Duo is a breakthrough for car-share operators”, Fedra Ribeiro, chief operating officer for Mobilize, said at a Mobilize presentation. She promised it will cut operating costs by 35% compared with a standard 4-seat car. Car-share business where the vehicles are free-floating are hard to make money on, and earlier this month, Mercedes and BMW sold their joint ShareNow business to Stellantis after years of losses. The Duo will become the Renault Group’s “first software-defined vehicle” when it launches next year, Ribeiro promised. Mobilize has engineered the Duo with a sophisticated computing platform that will help both operators and customers, the company said. “We have to make sure they have an exceptional experience”, Ribeiro said. She promised a seamless process “in finding the car, charging the car, even having fun”. Mobilize will bring “gamification” to the process, she said, without elaborating. Mobilize will unveil the interior of the Duo at the Paris motor show in September, promising a “different experience”. The design of the car will put a strong focus on its sharing function. “We are designing vehicles for sharing. It’s not just a word. It’s a totally different mindset”, said Patrick Lecharpy, Mobilize design director. The car uses the same bumpers front and back to both cut costs and to allow easy swaps. The bumpers also feature a special pattern to better hide scratches. Inside, meanwhile, the seats will have easy-to-remove covers to enable them to be washed. No battery or power details have been given but Renault has previously said battery modules will be swappable by hand for faster charging. The car is said to be small enough to fit three into one regular parking space, in the manner of the car’s predecessor, the Twizy. The Duo is a rival to the Citroën Ami electric quadricycle, which has gone into service in Stellantis’s Free2Move car share scheme on mainland Europe. Like the Ami, the Duo will be available with both passenger and van versions, with the latter called Bento. +++

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+++ Volkswagen has announced plans to launch 2 new rugged electric 4x4s in the US, with a pick-up and an SUV slated for production in 2026. Both cars will be designed and manufactured in the US, with the first prototypes due to be revealed next year. Volkswagen will also revive the SCOUT off-road brand that it acquired last year. The moniker has sat dormant since International Harvester, the original SUV’s manufacturer, retired the model in 1980. Volkswagen says the Scout brand will be formed later this year. It will stand alone from the main Volkswagen marque and will be “built upon a new technical platform concept” that will bring “new pick-up and rugged SUV credibility” beyond the current Volkswagen model range. This suggests the MEB architecture currently used for Volkswagen EVs will not be adopted. “The company we will establish this year will be a separate unit and brand within the Volkswagen Group to be managed independently”, said Volkswagen Group chief financial officer Arno Antlitz. “This aligns with the new group steering model: small units that act agilely and have access to our tech platforms to leverage synergies”. The firm is targeting a 10% market share of the rugged SUV (R-SUV) and pick-up segments in the US. “After Volkswagen’s successful turnaround in the US, we are now taking the opportunity to further strengthen our position in one of the most significant growth markets for electric vehicles”, said Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess. “Electrification provides a historic opportunity to enter the highly attractive pick-up and R-SUV segment as a group, underscoring our ambition to become a relevant player in the US market”. The Scout SUV was formerly built by International Harvester, which traditionally manufactured farm and commercial vehicles. It was produced from 1961 to 1980 as the firm’s first passenger car and was also available as a pick-up. It would challenge one of the Jeep Wrangler’s ancestors, the Jeep CJ, while Ford introduced the Bronco in 1965. Volkswagen revealed a set of concept design images as part of the announcement, showing the silhouettes of both the pick-up and large SUV, which are clearly envisioned as rivals for the Rivian R1T and R1S respectively. +++

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+++ The upcoming VOLKSWAGEN Aero B has been spied testing once again, giving us our best look yet at the new Tesla Model 3 rival. It appears the new all-electric saloon will retain a similar design language to VW’s current crop of ID range. At the front the nose is short and low for better aerodynamics and the lower grille and headlight design is reminiscent of the ID.4’s. The grille is still camouflaged and it’s likely to be much smaller than the one on this test vehicle for better a drag coefficient. There’s a strong crease running along the side of the Aero B, just like the one seen on the new ID.5. The rear is still disguised but we can expect a similar design to the rest of VW’s all-electric range. Internally codenamed ‘Aero B’, the model will rival cars such as the Tesla Model 3, Polestar 2 and forthcoming Hyundai Ioniq 6 when it is released to the market in 2023. The Aero B was first shown as a concept, dubbed the ID. Vizzion, at the 2018 Geneva motor show. We expect the finished car’s name will stick with the traditional ID naming convention. In 2018, Volkswagen bosses promised that the finished car would be capable of 600 km on a single charge, but with the updated MEB platform imminent the new Aero B could shatter that estimation. In a presentation at the UBS Paris Electric Car Day, VW revealed ‘enhancements’ for the MEB platform, which could debut on the Aero B. The battery and motor system will be capable of delivering 700 km on a single charge, while the maximum recharge rate of the system will be upped from 150 kW to 200 kW. Given the larger base of the Aero B, VW should be able to incorporate its biggest batteries without much trouble. Performance should be increased too with the potential for a hot four-wheel drive GTX-branded version to offer a 0-100 kph time of around 5.5 seconds. The current ID.4 GTX puts out 299 hp and 310 Nm, so the hot Aero B could better that still. Eventually, Volkswagen will launch an estate version of the Aero B, too, as previewed by the ID.Space Vizzion concept from the 2019 LA Motor Show. The concept was also fitted with a dual-motor electric powertrain, which produces a more potent 340 hp. It remains to be seen whether this powertrain will make it into production, though. Inside, we expect the Aero B will share the same compact digital dashboard and 10-inch infotainment system as the rest of Volkswagen’s MEB models with the potential for the larger 12 inch screen on top models. +++

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