Newsflash: plug-in hybride techniek voor nieuwe Mercedes-AMG GT

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+++ Is there a more appropriate venue to debut the next generation of the FORD Mustang than the Detroit Auto Show? I think not. And so it comes as little surprise that Ford CEO Jim Farley confirmed via Twitter that the Blue Oval automaker will “unveil the all-new, 7th generation Ford Mustang September 14 at the Detroit Auto Show”. There are some other details we already know about the upcoming new pony. Farley added ‘#savethemanuals ’to his message, once again confirming that the next Mustang will definitely offer a 6-speed manual transmission. I also expect it will be powered by a carryover range of 4-cylinder EcoBoost and V8 engines, but exactly what trim levels will be paired with which engines we’ve yet to decipher. Will there be a hybrid? Available all-wheel drive? What’s next for the revered Shelby nameplate? Fortunately, we expect those and most of our other questions will be answered on September 14. There’s not much left to say other than … stay tuned. +++

+++ The first of GORDON MURRAY ’s 2 forthcoming all-electric SUVs (a Corsa sized model due to surface as a prototype at the beginning of 2024) will have a designed-in kerb weight of just 1.100-1.200kg. As such, it will undercut the similarly sized Renault Zoe by 300-400 kg.  In future, Murray’s business will consist of Gordon Murray Automotive (GMA), which designs and builds high-value, low-volume cars such as the Gordon Murray T50 and Gordon Murray T33, and Gordon Murray Technology (GMT), which will be a repository for the group’s store of technical knowledge and a car creation hub capable of taking clients’ projects from sketches to fully driving cars. Both of the new SUVs are GMT projects, built to utilise 2 of the group’s 3 highly flexible ‘Superlight’ platforms: Sports Car, Mid-range and Large. They take their themes from Murray’s pioneering iStream manufacturing process, which minimises ‘stamped steel’ components in cars to promote flexibility and cut costs. The small SUV, which the Murray group will complete at its own cost to showcase its technical capabilities, will be carefully packaged as a generous 4-seater-plus-luggage vehicle. One key to the SUVs’ market-leading lightness is believed to be a new ‘immersive’ fluid cooling technique used for their batteries, which are mounted in a rigid i-Case that allows battery maintenance access but still forms part of the car’s structure. This allows them to be more power dense and better able to handle extremes of temperature. The SUV projects have been enabled by the Murray group’s recent expansion. For years, the core workforce, mostly based at Shalford near Guildford, numbered around 90. But extra recruiting made possible by £300 million of new investment has helped to raise the workforce to 300 people. The group is in the process of moving its HQ and its design and engineering organisations to a larger, recently purchased estate at Windlesham, Surrey. It also recently opened a base near Coventry, which it will soon expand, and has plans for 2 US outposts, mostly to handle GMA’s supercar activity. Controlling so much new activity is all part of the remit of CEO Philip Lee, who has vast global experience of automotive start-up operations and has nursed a number through their initial growth periods. He came to Murray’s notice as an important player in Geely’s acquisition of Lotus. “I have boundless respect for Gordon”, said Lee. “Working with him is a dream job. I’m no engineer and, in any case, you’d never better him on technical subjects. That just can’t be done. My job is to give the group the strongest possible foundation, from which it can focus completely on products, which is what Gordon wants”. +++

+++ MERCEDES ’ s AMG performance division will launch the second-generation GT in 2023, heavily redesigning and re-engineering the 2-door flagship to take on the Porsche 911. The new model, known under the internal codename C192, has been twinned with the recently introduced 7th generation Mercedes-AMG SL. However, it will be produced exclusively in coupé form, leaving the open-top duties to its SL sibling, which now also wears an AMG, rather than a Benz, badge because the performance division took over the engineering programmes for the sporting duo. Stylistically, the new GT takes on an evolutionary appearance, with familiar long-bonnet and short-tail proportions. As with the first generation model from 2015, it receives a large liftback-style tailgate. Active aerodynamics have played a central role in the development of the new GT, which receives the same front underbody spoiler as the SL. It extends downwards by around 40 mm at a speed of 100 kph to create a Venturi effect underneath the car, eventually reducing front axle lift by a claimed 50kg at 250 kph. At the rear, meanwhile, a wing deploys and tilts in five different stages to increase downforce at speeds above 80 kph. As with the latest SL, the new GT has been developed and engineered in a programme led by AMG but with key input from other Mercedes-Benz divisions. These include the High Performance Powertrain division headquartered in Brixworth, which was also responsible for engineering the Formula 1-derived powertrain in the highly strung Mercedes-AMG One road car, revealed belatedly this year. Affalterbach headquarters in Germany have revealed that the company’s 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine, codenamed M178, will feature from the start of second-generation GT sales in 2023 with dry-sump lubrication. Hand-assembled on site, the twin-turbocharged unit is expected to offer a similar output as in the SL, with 475 hp in a new GT 53 model and 585 hp in a successor to the GT 63. Further models will be added during the new coupé’s life cycle, including more powerful follow-ups to the GT R, GT GT3 and range-topping GT Black Series. Most intriguingly, AMG is also working on a new GT 63 S E-Performance model running the same petrol-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain as the recently introduced GT 63 S E-Performance 4-Door Coupé. It mates the GT 63’s V8 engine with an electric motor mounted on the rear axle to develop a combined 840 hp and up to 1.400 Nm on overboost. If replicated in the GT, that would make this one of the most powerful hybrid coupés on sale in outright terms, eclipsing even the 830 hp Ferrari 296 GTB and the limited-run, 820 hp Lamborghini Sián. At this stage, it is not known whether the 2-door plug-in hybrid GT will receive the same 6.1 kWh battery and corresponding 12 km electric range as its 4-door sibling, although an increase in the wheelbase is claimed to have improved packaging. As with the SL, the GT has been conceived to accommodate both inline 4- and 6-cylinder engines. Among them is the M254 4-cylinder 2.0-litre unit, which features in the new SL 43 with a 48 Volt mild-hybrid system and electric turbocharger, producing 381 hp and 480 Nm. The new GT will feature a 9-speed Speedshift gearbox with a wet clutch, developed and produced in-house, in place of the Magna seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle fitted to the original GT. Launch models will also have 4Matic+ four-wheel drive. The new coupé is based on the same Modular Sport Architecture structure used by the open-top SL but with changes to accommodate a fixed roof and the GT’s liftback tailgate. Longitudinal, torsional and transverse rigidity have all been increased, according to those involved in the new car’s development. AMG has also created new chassis mounts in a bid to improve NVH properties and the road surface sensitivity of the original model. The uniquely styled body, meanwhile, uses a mix of aluminium, steel, magnesium and carbonfibre. Key among the changes to the new performance coupé is an abandoning of the rear transaxle, a layout first employed with the SLS and continued through to the first-generation GT. Instead, the new GT’s engine and gearbox are mated up front in a move aimed at freeing up space for a fully variable 4Matic+ four-wheel drive system and rear-wheel steering, as seen on the SL. Despite the change, the new model’s front-to-rear weight distribution is claimed not to vary much from the outgoing GT’s 47:53 figure. Underneath, newly developed Active Roll Control suspension uses a combination of double wishbones up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear, with steel springs, variable damping and hydraulically operated roll bars. Once again, it is the same set-up used by the SL but with altered elastokinematic properties and tuning to give the GT “a distinctly different driving character”. Inside, the GT is expected to feature largely the same 2+2 interior as the SL, albeit with detailed changes in trim to reflect its more overtly sporting positioning. +++

+++ RENAULT took a 1.357 billion euro net loss in the first half of this year from the cost of closing its Russian business in the wake of the Ukraine war, but it upgraded its full-year outlook because of improving profitability elsewhere. Renault, which was the most exposed of the Western automakers to the Russian market, sold its majority stake in Russia’s biggest carmaker Avtovaz in May for a symbolic amount. Away from Russia, the company said on Friday its turnaround strategy of focusing on selling fewer but more profitable cars was paying off. It said operating margins in H1 were 4.7%, against 2.1% in the same period last year, and it upgraded its forecast for full year margins to more than 5%. “Despite all the headwinds related to the stop of the activity in Russia, the semiconductor crisis and cost inflation, the Group continues to improve its operating performance”, Renault CEO Luca de Meo said in a statement. The global shortage of semiconductors, used in everything from brake sensors to entertainment systems, has cut into car production at many major carmakers. Renault, which also produces cars under the Dacia brand and has an alliance with Nissan, is in the early stages of a restructuring its operations to be competitive as it shifts to electric vehicles. Discounts on its cars are at their lowest levels in a decade, and higher-priced new models such as the Arkana have improved profitability. +++

+++ RIVIAN Automotive is cutting about 6% of its workforce and simplifying product plans, saying the economy has made it harder for the electric-vehicle maker to raise money to build up production. The Irvine, California-based company confirmed the cuts in an internal memo from Chief Executive Officer RJ Scaringe. “Surging inflation, higher interest rates and higher commodity prices have hurt the company’s ability to raise funds”, he wrote. “We need to be able to continue to grow and scale without additional financing in this macro environment”, Scaringe said in the memo. “To achieve this, we have simplified our product roadmap and focused on where it is most impactful to deploy capital”. The decision, which comes about 2 weeks after Bloomberg reported Rivian would cut headcount, marks a pullback after the EV maker expanded over the past year to support a production ramp-up. Rivian, which makes electric pickups and SUVs in addition to delivery vans, notched one of the biggest-ever US initial public offerings in November as it emerged as a leading challenger to market leader Tesla. The once high-flying shares have lost 69% of their value this year as Rivian grappled with global supply-chain breakdowns and parts shortages. The reduction will eliminate hundreds of jobs, given Rivian’s workforce of about 14.000 split across the factory in Normal and its headquarters in California, as well as sites in Michigan, the UK and Canada. The cutbacks won’t include manufacturing-operations workers in Normal, according the memo. “To those leaving Rivian, I am genuinely sorry”, Scaringe wrote. +++

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+++ ROLLS-ROYCE ’s first series-produced electric model is well on its way to production. Called Spectre, the big coupe is undergoing shakedown testing on and off the track in the sunny south of France, and the British firm announced that development work is about 40% complete. Going electric isn’t an excuse for Rolls-Royce to stray from the reputation for excellence that it has earned over the past 116 years, so engineers are putting the Spectre through the most rigorous testing program they’ve ever subjected a new model to. I’m told that, when all is said and done, the prototypes will have covered over 1.5 million miles of testing, which represents on average more than 400 years of use for a Rolls-Royce. Some test mules were sent to freeze in Sweden near the Arctic Circle, while others were shipped to the French Riviera. Testing in France will be split into 2 parts. First, the Spectre will be put through its paces on the track that Rolls-Royce parent company BMW operates in Miramas, a town located about an hour west of Marseilles. Engineers will notably get the opportunity to drive the prototypes on handling courses, on a 5 km oval with steep banks, and in standing water. when they have passed every challenge with flying colors, the prototypes will be sent out to the picturesque roads that zig-zag through the countryside surrounding the test track. Rolls-Royce explained it’s putting a tremendous amount of effort into fine-tuning the Spectre because the coupe packs more technology than any model it has previously released. It features “141.200 sender-receiver relations and has more than 1.000 functions and more than 25.000 sub-functions”, according to the company, which is around 3 times more sender-receiver signals than in a typical Rolls-Royce. The Spectre will inaugurate a new suspension system that promises to take the firm’s Magic Carpet Ride to the next level. It relies on technology that scopes out the road ahead and on data sent by the navigation system to decouple the anti-roll bars when needed, such as on a straight road, and recouple them as the car approaches a corner. The suspension system also gets firmer ahead of a bend. Rolls-Royce hasn’t released powertrain specifications yet, and the Spectre’s final design remains hidden by camouflage, but the few official numbers available are impressive. Built on an aluminum-intensive platform and with aluminum body panels, the coupe features the longest doors that Rolls-Royce has ever fitted to a production car; they stretch 1,5 metre long, so they’re longer than the original Mini was wide. And, with a drag coefficient of 0.25 thanks in part to a redesigned Spirit of Ecstasy emblem, the Spectre is Rolls-Royce’s most aerodynamic car. Deliveries of the Rolls-Royce Spectre are scheduled to start in the 4th quarter of 2023. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet. +++

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+++ STELLANTIS reported higher earnings in the first half of 2022 compared with last year, pointing to a nearly 50% increase in global sales of battery electric vehicles. Stellantis, which was formed last year with the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Peugeot SA, said net revenue reached 88 billion euros; a 17% increase from the first half of last year. Net profit hit 8 billion euros, up 34%. The world’s 4th largest automaker said sales of low-emission and battery electric vehicles have been increasing, with the latter up by nearly 50% from last year to 136.000 units. Car shipments slipped 18% in Europe amid problems acquiring computer chips during a global shortage, with net revenue down 2% compared to the first half of 2021. But shipments rose 10% in North America, with net revenue up 31%. Stellantis has plans to sell 5 million electric vehicles by 2030, with 50% of its North American passenger car and light truck sales going fully electric by 2030. It plans to sell only electric passenger cars in Europe by 2030. “In a demanding global context”, CEO Carlos Tavares said, Stellantis is “delivering an outstanding performance and executing our bold electrification strategy”. The automaker has stepped up investment in electric vehicles, with projects announced earlier this year in North America. A joint venture between Stellantis and Samsung plans to spend more than $2.5 billion to build an EV battery factory in Indiana for a range of vehicles produced at Stellantis’ North American assembly plants. The carmaker also said it would invest billions in upgrading 2 Canadian assembly plants and a research center as well as building a large EV battery factory in Ontario in a joint venture with South Korea’s LG Energy Solution. U.S. regulators have opened 3 investigations into safety issues with about 1.65 million vehicles made by Stellantis, but none has been recalled so far or linked to crashes or injuries. +++

+++ TVR has announced the long-awaited Griffith will hit production in 2024. The British firm was joined by the now chairman, Les Edgar, in 2013 and since then has had a tumultuous time trying to kick start a new generation of TVR cars. The problems can be attributed to a couple of factors: the Coronavirus is one, but another is the premises in which the new TVR Griffith will be built. TVR had planned to produce it in Wales at a plant in the Ebbw Vale area, but has since repaid its loan to the Welsh government so it could look to begin Griffith production elsewhere. However, the firm also recently announced plans for electrified cars, which could bring it to a wider, more contemporary audience. TVR has previously pledged to deliver its first cars toward the end of 2023, once the factory is completed, but now 2024 is being pitched at the start of production. TVR is primed to recruit and train staff to produce the new sports car to reach this goal, and Edgar, alongside CEO Jim Berriman and operations director John Chasey, spoke to British media to explain the current state of the project. Speaking on the early Griffith prototype that hit show stands in 2017, Edgar asserted: “If we hadn’t done what we did, take a brave step and leapfrog a few stages you would normally go through before you produce a road-going thing that you can drive around a track and take up and down the road; had we not done that, we would be in a lot more of a state in terms of timing”. According to TVR, building a fully working prototype of the upcoming sports car was key to giving customers, investors and stakeholders faith in the project. “We can jump in it and say: ‘We’ll bring the car to you’. You can hear it and see it and feel it and drive it. And I think that’s made a huge difference in terms of promoting it”, said the chairman. “Especially if you speak to someone not in the industry. You can’t show them a mule car”, added Berriman, who helped bring the Land Rover Freelander and L322-generation Range Rover to production during a stint at Rover Group. With a 5.0-litre V8 engine from Ford and a Gordon Murray derived iStream chassis, the Griffith has taken significantly less R&D than a bespoke, ground up vehicle in order to come to fruition. However, the key sticking point is actually building the car; there’s still no confirmation it’ll be built at the Ebbw Vale factory in Wales. Edgar admits “It’s rarely a case of ‘they must be doing brilliantly because they’re not saying anything’. The key thing is everything takes longer, from deciding how to do the car with Gordon Murray to working with shareholders”. The factory is being provided by the Welsh Assembly, but red tape around state funding has delayed its completion. What was initially a refurbishment of the facility became a longer rebuild which began in 2020, and strangled TVRs investment prospects, according to Edgar. “We got into a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario. We explained that our investment case would be more attractive if work was already underway with the factory, and it took more time to get agreement that work could start ahead of our next round of investment and recruiting staff”, The firm told that progress of the rebuild would see TVR gain access to the plant in the first quarter of 2022, but whether this has happened is unknown. “We’re currently finalising how many prototypes we need”, says Berriman. “We need to drive one into a wall, but we’ll also need one for airbag and ABS testing, for example, that will need to be sent to a supplier, most likely Bosch, plus hot and cold weather test cars, powertrain, etc”. For a small manufacturer, building a prototype for each of these tests is unviable, so each car will take on multiple development roles. The one-off show car took many hundreds of hours to create, but TVR must cut this down to tens of hours for customer cars. Quality must be up to standard too, said classic TVR owner Edgar: “A car not starting or a door falling off is not acceptable. This was our starting point. It’s why we are using proven components rather than trying to reinvent the wheel by, say, designing and manufacturing our own switchgear. Yes, it will look and feel like a bespoke component, but the switch will be from an OEM supplier, which will have been tested beyond anything we can better”. Alternative powertrains are also on the cards, with Edgar’s partnership with a lithium mining company opening doors to electrification, although hydrogen and fuel-cell solutions are also possible, so long as the final car is a TVR in character. A supercharged variant of the Griffith could be in the pipeline, too, and a mid-engined model isn’t out of the question. The Griffith measures 4.314 mm long, 1.850 mm wide and 1.239 mm tall, which makes roughly the same size as the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, but more compact than the Porsche 911 and Jaguar F-Type. Unlike any of its rivals, however, the Griffith is based around a carbon composite structure and weighs less than 1.250 kg. When the new Griffith does arrive, it’ll feature a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 and a traditional 6-speed manual gearbox, sourced from Ford. The unit develops 500 hp; enough for a 0–100 kph time of less than 4 seconds and a top speed of 320 kph. TVR is also aiming for a power-to-weight ratio of 400 hp per tonne. As the engine will be located behind the front axle, TVR says it has been able to achieve a perfect 50:50 weight distribution with the Griffith. The sports car will also feature double wishbone suspension with adjustable coil-over dampers front and rear. TVR has also employed some clever engineering to the way the car carves up the air. Instead of fitting the Griffith with an enormous rear wing or a massive front splitter, the firm will rely on ground effect aerodynamics; it features a completely flat floor which helps generate downforce at speed. To further boost agility, larger and wider 20-inch wheels have been fitted at the rear than those at the front (19-inch). TVR also claims that the Griffith uses “intelligent engineering over electronic driver aids”, although the car does feature ABS and traction control. TVR boss, Les Edgar, describes the Griffith as a “British muscle car”, claiming it will offer “a level of sophistication, comfort and practicality never seen by the brand before”. The model also marks the return of a historic nameplate, which was first fixed to the rear of the brand’s first ever car back in 1964. Alongside the V8 Griffith, we’ve also heard of plans for a bespoke electric sports car and even a TVR electric SUV. +++

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