Newsflash: Maserati laat Quattroporte krimpen tot Ghibli formaat


+++ Some would argue the future doesn’t look too bright for tuners as the inevitable switch to electric cars will make aftermarket specialists vulnerable by not being able to tweak combustion engines anymore. While it’s true a good chunk of their business will be wiped out by the ICE’s (Internal Combustion Engine) demise, BRABUS is demonstrating how a tuning company can survive in the EV era by tweaking Mercedes’ flagship electric car. The EQS 450 has received an aerodynamic body kit perfected in the wind tunnel to make the zero-emissions liftback even sleeker. With a Cd of 0.20, it already had the lowest drag coefficient among production cars and Brabus has designed an even more streamlined shape to lower the Cd value by 7.2 percent compared to the standard car. All the bespoke body parts are made from carbon and have either a glossy or matte finish. One of the add-ons is represented by the air deflector elements in front of the rear wheel arches to optimise airflow. The front gets a new front spoiler lip while the rear hosts a diffuser to reduce aerodynamic lift. The aero optimisations contribute to a boost in range of 7 percent when the car is travelling at speeds between 100 to 140 km/h. By far the most obvious change is the adoption of Monoblock wheels, which have been specifically modified for the EQS and come in 20 to 22 inch sizes. Adjacent images showing the range-topping Mercedes EV with the Monoblocks in the wind tunnel illustrate the 22 inch set combined with 255/35 ZR22 front and 295/30 ZR22 rear tyres. Tweaks to the air suspension have brought the EQS closer to the road by 15 millimetres at the front and 20 mm at the rear. As you would expect from a Brabus project, there are numerous ways to personalise the interior, from all sorts of leathers to a velour boot mat. The Bottrop-based specialist also has scuff plates with the company’s illuminated logo along with a choice between aluminium or carbon pedals. +++


+++ With the FISKER Ocean SUV on track to enter production in Austria early next year, the US electric vehicle start-up is shifting attention to the development of the smaller, US-built Pear city car which, it says, is crucial to its ambitious growth plans. The Fisker Ocean is a Tesla Model 3 rival due to land on European markets in around a year’s time, having made its public debut at this year’s Festival of Speed. Meanwhile, the Pear (Personal Electric Automotive Revolution) is a much more compact and affordable proposition. (A starting price of less than 33.000 euro has been mooted). Company boss Henrik Fisker told the Pear “is the vehicle that ultimately will take us to a million vehicles per year in 2027”. It will be built by technology manufacturing giant Foxconn at a facility in Ohio (previously owned by General Motors) at an initial rate of 250.000 units per year from 2024. Design preview images issued so far have not given away many details, beyond hinting at various cues shared with the Ocean. But already it is clear that in its pricing, size and volume, the Pear could be a viable rival for the affordable EV trio on the way from Volkswagen Group brands Cupra, Skoda and VW, set to launch in 2025. The Pear will be based on a dedicated steel platform (cheaper than the aluminium skateboard architecture of the Ocean) which will be used to spin off a further 2 EVs. The prevailing focus of its development programme is streamlining the manufacturing costs to ensure it can be sold as “a premium car for under €33.000”. Fisker has appointed Alpay Uguz, previously general manager of BMW’s SUV production line in South Carolina, as a “manufacturing guru” to work with Foxconn on integrating cost efficiencies into the line, which, Henrik Fisker says, forms part of his firm’s ultimate ambition “to revolutionise automotive manufacturing and, to a certain extent, supply chain”. Details of how the company can achieve this remain to be seen, but he said there is a “huge possibility for Fisker to have input in the factory” and the company is committed to keeping the number of components in the car to an absolute minimum. Fisker describes the Pear as “kind of a funky vehicle” and says it is difficult to slot it into a segment: “I guess you’d call it a crossover but it doesn’t really look like an SUV. It looks like a futuristic little space shuttle, to describe it best”. For that reason, he said, “it’s probably a little risky” because of the difficulties in benchmarking cars outside of core market segments and the fact that it has “a lot of unique features that have never been done before”. He stopped short of detailing these but said the boot is accessed in a “very unique” way, rather than via a conventional hatch, and there will be a number of innovative storage solutions in the cabin. Hot on the heels of both the Ocean and Pear will be the Ronin, a 4-seat drop-top supercar being developed at the firm’s UK-based ‘Magic Works’ facility which is scheduled for 2024. Its tri-motor powertrain is intended to send it from 0-100 kph in less than 2.0 seconds and Fisker is targeting a range of more than 1.000 km. More importantly, it will serve as a test bed and a showcase for features of future high-volume cars. Henrik Fisker said: “The benefit of a supercar is being able to explore new technologies that we normally wouldn’t be able to do on a high-volume car. For example, we are working on a very large integrated battery pack solution. “We are also looking at expanding the use of luxurious recycled materials in the interior, which is probably too expensive right now for a high-volume car”. But there is also the enthusiast aspect to consider, he said: “There’s also just emotion in it. I love cars: we need to have a supercar”. +++

+++ HYUNDAI is developing 2 small electric cars for the European market, with a sub-€20.000 price tag being proposed. The as-yet-unnamed cars, expected to be successors to the i10 that was released in 2020, will join 10 other EVs that Hyundai plans to release in Europe by 2030. It’s expected that one will be a city car and another a chunkier variant in the vein of the upcoming Volkswagen ID.1. Production is earmarked to begin in mid 2023 and late 2024 respectively. The cars will be powered by BorgWarner electric motors, the company has confirmed, with peak power hitting 184 hp, although power and torque can be scaled by the manufacturer. Hyundai will be rivalling similar projects being undertaken by the Volkswagen Group, which will release small EVs at around the same price under its Cupra, Skoda and Volkswagen brands. However, production-ready versions of the Korean brand’s cars are still a little while off, Hyundai Motor Europe marketing chief Andreas-Christoph Hofmann told. The move towards affordable small cars, especially electric ones, comes as manufacturers look at ways of releasing new models but staying within new, tighter emissions regulations. Hofmann said that city cars “are tough to sell profitably”, due to their low pricing and the technology needed to electrify smaller vehicles. Despite a worry over profits, Hyundai is currently toasting the success of its second-quarter results, as it increased its European sales by 8.2%, with EVs accounting for 16% of this. The company will hope that the Hyundai Ioniq 6 will push this further when it’s released later this year. Expected to be priced from €54.000, the electric saloon has a 600 km range and a 335 hp output. “We’re confident about the second half of the year”, Hofmann said. +++

+++ When MASERATI announced its Folgore electrification plan earlier this year, it didn’t mention the Ghibli at all. It led to speculations about Modena’s smaller saloon getting the axe sooner or later, and now we know its cut-off date. The company’s Australia general manager Grant Barling told the luxury sports saloon “will move into run-out phase into 2024”. Interestingly, he also detailed what the future has in tow for the Quattroporte. Already confirmed to get a purely electric version, the new four-door Maserati is actually going to be smaller than today’s model. That rarely happens in the automotive industry as cars tend to get bigger and bigger with the next generation. Grant Barling explained the Quattroporte will be about the same size as the outgoing Ghibli. “The long term plan is that the Ghibli will be replaced with the Quattroporte,. The plan is for the Ghibli and Quattroporte to become one. So the Quattroporte will become a short-wheelbase model, Ghibli-sized, but called a Quattroporte. To be honest, that large car segment in which the Ghibli competes has come down quite a bit”. One of the oldest cars in the premium segment, the third-generation Ghibli has been around since 2013 and it’s safe to say no one is surprised the car is living on borrowed time. With the proliferation of crossovers and SUVs, Maserati’s ageing entry-level saloon will be another victim of customers shifting to high-riding offerings. Speaking of which, the next-generation Levante has been confirmed and is going to get an EV version much like the smaller Grecale. Grant Barling also announced the twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8 engine of Ferrari origins used in the Trofeo-spec Ghibli, Quattroporte, and Levante is going to be discontinued. That doesn’t come as a big shock seeing as how the company with the Trident logo now has its very own twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 dubbed Nettuno. The smaller-displacement engine won’t be available for more than 7 years or so since Maserati has already signalled the ICE’s demise by going purely electric in 2030. Before that happens, the MC20 supercar will get an EV version, much like all of the company’s future products. +++

+++ The A-Class was the fourth bestselling vehicle in Britain last year and MERCEDES ’ bestselling car overall. But despite this success the German firm’s premium hatchback might not survive after this generation. Rumours about the car’s future and whether or not Mercedes will invest into a replacement have been doubtful and a recent investor meeting suggested the brand’s repositioning of its line-up might kill off the A-Class altogether. But there is still hope Mercedes will build a small family car. In an interview, Holger Enzmann, project manager for the all-electric EVA2 platform that underpins the EQE and EQS models, said: “we have talked about the A-Class and we’re looking at a replacement. It won’t feature on EVA2 as that is for larger vehicles but you can be sure we’ll see a vehicle in this segment”. Mercedes already has the EQA small SUV within its all-electric stable, but that car is built on the MFA2 platform which also underpins the current A-Class. The upcoming MB.EA platform (expected in 2025), meanwhile, will be designed specifically for medium and large electric cars. A more likely base for the new EV would be the upcoming MMA underpinnings which Mercedes says will focus on “entry luxury” models. This platform has also been designed to accommodate combustion engines so don’t rule out a petrol or diesel just yet. If Mercedes presses on with an electric A-Class, then I expect it’ll use the operating system, MB.OS, which is set to roll out across its future vehicle portfolio by 2024. +++

+++ News from PORSCHE just won’t stop coming. After seeing the refreshed Cayenne Coupe GTS lapping the Nurburgring, there is an even hotter vehicle being evaluated at the famous track: a test prototype of what I believe is the 718 Boxster Spyder RS. This is not the first time I see a test car for the hardcore Boxster and actually, this is the very same prototype that we photographed earlier in August. However, this time around, the roof of the car was open and I could see the headrests have embroidered Weissach logos, suggesting this car might be equipped with the Weissach Package. First offered for the 918 Spyder supercar several years ago, the Weissach Package adds lightweight components to the vehicle in order to reduce its overall weight. It was then available for some 911 models and the sports car automaker has hinted it might introduce it to other nameplates, including the Boxster/Cayman duo and the Cayenne. Aside from the Weissach logo on the seats, the prototype looked unchanged compared to the previous 718 Boxster Spyder RS shots I’ve seen. This is surely a long name but the RS badge will reportedly bring a healthy power increase. I am confident there’s a naturally aspirated 4.0-litre flat-6 engine sourced from the Porsche 911 GT3 behind the driver. It is expected to produce somewhere around 500 hp or the same power it has in the most hardcore Cayman version. Power will be routed towards the rear wheels through a dual-clutch transmission. Numerous aerodynamic upgrades are also in the cards. From what I was able to see, Porsche has installed small vents that sit on top of the quarter panels, modified vent housings angling towards the mid-mount engine at the back, and larger side vents. There might be other tweaks too and it’s important to note the vehicle rides on centre-lock wheels worthy of the RS badge. As a final note, the 718 Cayman GT4 RS accelerates to 100 kph in 3.3 seconds and has a top speed of 315 kph. I expect the 718 Boxster Spyder RS to be a tad slower given the expected higher weight compared to the coupe. +++

+++ Even a breakthrough US climate bill designed to encourage sales of electric cars has failed to revive investor interest in RIVIAN , as the risk-hungry traders who catapulted its shares to dizzying heights last year shun companies for whom profitability is still years away. In a year that has been tough for growth stocks of all colours and stripes (especially EV companies trying to make room for themselves in a still-nascent industry while competing with century-old automakers) Rivian’s misfortune still stands out. Among the sizable EV startups in the US, shares of the electric-truck maker have fared the worst this year by a mile, down 64%. Rivian, which counts Inc. among its largest shareholders, is paying the price for its landmark, $13.7 billion initial public offering in November. The listing valued the money-losing company so highly ($153.3 billion at its peak, or more than 35 times estimated sales versus 5.1 times for the Russell 1000 Growth Index) that it was bound to suffer more than rivals once the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates and investors fled riskier stocks. “More speculative investments like EVs may struggle as the Fed continues to withdraw liquidity from the market”, said Wiley Angell, chief investment officer at Ziegler Capital Management. “Though the current administration’s push for EVs may support sales on the margin, Rivian’s earnings are still expected to be negative for the next 5 years”. Rivian is due to report quarterly results after the market closes Thursday for the 4th time since its IPO. Shares of the Irvine, California-based company have fallen in the aftermath of 2 of the 3 previous reports, according to Bloomberg data. The stock finished Wednesday at $37.40, well below the $78 IPO price even after a brisk 82% rally from its low in May. Risks to the group are many: EVs are still far from mainstream and also more expensive than gas-fueled cars, and a surge in the battery raw materials means their prices will continue to rise before technology improves further and brings the costs down. To make matters worse, the stubborn supply-chain crisis that has plagued the automotive industry is even harder to navigate for startups. Last week, Lucid’s stock plunged 12% over 2 days after the company halved its 2022 production target, citing “extraordinary supply chain and logistics challenges”. Meanwhile, Rivian in early July reaffirmed its production forecast for the full year, sparking a surge in the stock. That means the company’s ability to maneuver the supply woes better than its peers is already built into the stock price, and may not be enough to provide a further meaningful lift to the shares, Redburn analyst Charles Coldicott said. Rivian probably will hit its full-year target, he said, adding that the most important thing for the company right now is the production ramp-up. And then there is the change of sentiment in the stock market, where the spectre of a recession has turned investors risk-averse. “The market is clearly less forgiving of problems that delay the point at which these businesses become self-funding, because there is no longer a backdrop where equity markets are willing to write loss-making companies a blank check”, Coldicott added. It brings the focus on Rivian’s one key advantage over its peer Lucid: its big cash pile. The company had $16.4 billion in cash and equivalents at the end of the first quarter, compared to Lucid’s $5.4 billion around the same time. “For Rivian’s quarter, key will be cash burn”, said Ivana Delevska, chief investment officer at Spear Invest. “They have a good product, but it was a lot easier to underwrite an investment when the stock was in the low $20s, trading close to the cash on the balance sheet than here in the mid $30s”. +++

+++ After Elon Musk suggested during a recent shareholders’ meeting that TESLA was looking at building its next Gigafactory in Canada, I now have confirmation that the manufacturer is indeed going forward with this plan. According to a source from Canada, the automaker had already filed documents with the Government of Ontario stating that it was looking to build an “advanced manufacturing facility” in the state. Aside from its original home factory in Fremont, California, Tesla now has manufacturing locations in Austin, Texas (its headquarters since 2021), Shanghai, China and Berlin, Germany. Out of all these factories, Giga Berlin was the hardest to complete and make operational: it stopped production again for 2 weeks in July after only having started making cars in late March. At the same time, the manufacturer’s new home plant in Austin, went up very smoothly and quickly with virtually no delays. It can now build thousands of Model Ys per week (and build them well) and it has already asked for permission to expand its facility with an additional 500.000 square-foot building, adding to the already huge 4-million square-foot factory. The reason Tesla chose another site in North America for its next factory may be because it wants to repeat the experience it had at Giga Texas. Ontario also wants to set up a supply chain for the manufacturing of electric vehicles in the state, making it more attractive to Tesla and other automakers. The building of the Shanghai Gigafactory in China was the speediest of them all, taking just 168 days from obtaining permits to connecting the plant to the electrical grid. Tesla isn’t considering another factory in China just yet, but it is doubling the production capacity in Shanghai where it hopes to be able to produce 14.000 Model Ys and 7.700 Model 3s per week, and ultimately 1-million vehicles every year (initial capacity was 450.000 units per year). Elon Musk recently said that Tesla could officially announce the new factory by the end of the year and that the company has no intention to stop building manufacturing locations. Apparently, Tesla is targeting building as many as 12 Gigafactories around the world, although the time frame for this was not mentioned. +++

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