Newsflash: waarom McLaren nu ook met een SUV komt


+++ A former APPLE engineer has pleaded guilty to trade secret theft. He is 1 of 2 people accused of stealing trade secrets from the iPhone maker’s nascent self-driving car program. U.S. federal prosecutors have alleged that Xiaolang Zhang downloaded the plan for a circuit board for Apple’s self-driving after disclosing his intentions to work for a Chinese self-driving car startup and booking a last-minute flight to China. He was arrested at the San Jose airport after he passed through a security checkpoint. Xpeng, the Chinese electric car maker Zhang joined after leaving Apple in 2018, said on its Twitter-like Sina Weibo account that the company had no dispute with Apple over the issue and that it was not involved in Zhang’s case in any form. Zhang initially pleaded not guilty to the charges but according to court documents on Monday, he had reached a plea deal with prosecutors and changed his plea to guilty. The plea deal is sealed and sentencing is set for November. Zhang’s attorney confirmed the plea agreement but declined to comment further. Jizhong Chen, the other former Apple engineer charged with trade secret theft, has pleaded not guilty. He has a court hearing set for August 29. +++

+++ BENTLEY ’s new Bentayga Extended Wheelbase has been upgraded by the firm’s in-house coachbuilding division Mulliner to create what the firm calls a ‘driveable installation of exquisite hand-crafted art’. The Bentayga EWB Mulliner Gallery features 6 wood veneer panels individually airbrushed to celebrate the recent work of Mulliner. The artwork was created by airbrush artist Piers Dowell and his protégé Lewis Warby and depicts a restored 1939 MkV Corniche, a Blower Continuation, a Bentley Mulliner Bacalar and a Flying Spur Mulliner. The Bentayga Mulliner Gallery was unveiled at The Quail event during Monterey Car Week in California. Paul Williams, Chief Technical Officer for Mulliner and Motorsport, said “The Bentayga EWB Mulliner Gallery is a testament to the skills of our Mulliner Design team in creating the original artworks, and the immense talent of Piers Dowell in airbrushing them into reality”. The one-off car isn’t likely to ever be seen on the public road because it’s based on one of the pre-production Bentayga EWBs. Inside the Mulliner Gallery we can see a 4-seat layout (5 is available in the regular EWB) with Portland and Cumbrian Green leather, featuring contrasting stitching and Bentley emblems. The rear seats are what Bentley calls ‘Airline Seat Specification’ with 22-ways of adjustment combined with a new auto climate sensing system and ‘postural adjustment’ technology. The exterior is finished in Cumbrian Green paintwork paired with 22 inch polished wheels and chrome, rather than the gloss black seen on the new Continental GT Blackline Specification. The Mulliner Gallery specification is based on that of the EWB First Edition which adds Diamond Illumination, a premium Naim audio system and metal overlays in the veneer. +++


+++ Lawmakers in South Australia have big plans in store for owners of HIGH POWERED SPORTS CARS , but they likely won’t be received with open arms. The premier wants to require drivers to complete additional training and will push for a ban on disabling safety tech like traction control. The proposed shift in policy comes after a Lamborghini Huracán driver killed a teenager in 2019. The driver was acquitted of the pedestrian’s death but pled guilty to a lesser charge. Peter Malinauskas, the South Australian Premier, visited with the girl’s family after the crash and promised the state would take action. The South Australian premier’s proposal also aims to ban drivers responsible for a deadly crash from holding a license until their case has worked its way through the courts. Other reforms relate to the penalties and rules around deaths that occur from irresponsible driving. The government aims to have the issues before Parliament by the end of 2022. While it’s easy to bemoan yet another restriction on car enthusiasts, this might be one area where more, rather than less, regulation is a good thing. Think about it: Most young drivers take their licensing test in a more modest sedan, SUV or MPV and have had no formal training on how to handle a car with several times the horsepower. Couple that with a healthy dose of attention-seeking behaviour, and it’s easy to see how things can go sideways — literally. The premier is calling for a special licensing requirement, not for a ban on supercars. Sure, more laws feel bad to most people, but making sure that money isn’t the only thing required to drive a Lamborghini isn’t such an awful thing. +++

+++ The U.S. Department of Labour on Monday accused a Korean-owned auto parts maker and supplier of HYUNDAI of violating federal child labor laws at an Alabama factory, federal court filings show. The Department of Labour (DOL) said that SL Alabama LLC, a subsidiary of South Korea’s SL Corp, employed underage workers at its Alexander City, Alabama factory, according to filings on Monday with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Since last November, SL Alabama “repeatedly violated” labour regulations by “employing oppressive child labour” and “minors under the age of 16”, the DOL said in a 6-page complaint. In a statement to Reuters, SL Alabama admitted children had worked at the plant, which makes headlights, rear lights and other components for companies including Hyundai and its Kia affiliate. SL said the minors had been hired by an outside labour recruitment firm, which it didn’t identify. The revelations come 1 month after reported the use of child labour at another Alabama auto parts plant operated by Hyundai subsidiary SMART Alabama LLC. The Alabama Department of Labour at the time said it would coordinate with federal authorities to probe labour practices at that plant. The discovery of child workers at a second Hyundai supplier signals widening scrutiny of labour practices in the automaker’s U.S. supply chain. In an emailed statement late Monday, Hyundai said “it does not tolerate illegal employment practices in any Hyundai entity”. “We have policies and procedures in place that require compliance with all local, state, and federal laws”, it added. Along with the complaint against SL Alabama, a proposed settlement agreement between the government and the parts manufacturer was filed with the court. Under the terms of that agreement, SL Alabama agreed to stop hiring minors, punish any managers aware of the use of underage employees, and suspend any relationship with any recruiters who supply child workers. The proposed agreement was signed Aug 18 by an SL Alabama attorney and a Department of Labour lawyer. It hasn’t yet been signed by a judge. The filings didn’t detail how many minors worked at SL Alabama or what type of jobs they performed. It isn’t clear whether the company or the labour contractors it works with face any fines or other penalties. In its statement to Reuters, SL Alabama said “we fully cooperated with the investigation by the Department of Labour, and we are in the process of complementing our verification system so that minors will not work going forward”. Both federal and Alabama law prohibit teens and children under the age of sixteen from working in most industrial factory settings because they can be dangerous for minors. SL Alabama employs about 650 people at the Alabama facility, according to its website. Parent company SL Corp also operates a factory in Tennessee and research facility in Michigan. Previous Reuters reporting has shown how some minors, often immigrants, get hired for Alabama factory jobs through recruitment agencies. Although staffing firms help fill industrial jobs nationwide, they have been criticized by labour advocates because they enable employers to outsource responsibility for vetting employees and their eligibility to work. +++

+++ New MCLAREN boss Michael Leiters is open to launching an SUV, and the firm is actively investigating what form such a model may take. Leiters said he’s keen to evolve the British brand’s offering beyond purely mid-engined supercars. first revealed plans were under way for a McLaren SUV back in June, before Leiters officially joined the company, detailing that a new model could be on course to hit the market in the second half of this decade, with a price point expected to be close to €420.000. It was also tipped to be a fully battery-electric proposition, not a hybrid, and be sold in a number of power guises, with dual or tri-motor, four-wheel-drive designs offering exalted performance levels likely to match the recently launched Aston Martin DBX 707, which is currently billed as the world’s fastest SUV. And with Leiters’ overseeing the launch of 2 high-end SUVs during his career (the Porsche Cayene and most recently in his role as technical chief at Ferrari, where he led the development of the upcoming Purosangue), it’s expected that McLaren may soon follow suit. “I developed an SUV at Ferrari”, Leiters said. “I developed an SUV at Porsche, so I love SUVs. But we won’t do it for me. Yet I think it’s a really important market. It still is, and it continues to grow. It’s very attractive as a market segment”. McLaren’s radical change of heart about crossovers is undoubtedly a result of the sales success of its rival performance brands, whose existing crossover and SUV models already heavily outsell their lower-slung models and generate most of their profits. For example, Porsche delivered more cars than at any point in its 91-year history in 2021, with the Macan and larger Cayenne together accounting for well over half of its 300.000 sales, while the 911 sports car accounted for just 38.464. It’s a similar story for the Lamborghini Urus, which outsold the Huracán supercar in 2021 at a rate of around 2 to 1. The DBX made up half of all Aston Martin global sales in the same period, its first full year on sale. “What we have to understand as McLaren is ‘how can we find a product that is in line with our DNA?’. We shouldn’t do a classic SUV”, Leiters added. However, while Leiters is keen to create such a model, he insisted that it very much remains at the discussion stage and that McLaren is also open to other ideas and models instead of, or in addition to, an SUV. An SUV would also have a knock-on effect to McLaren’s current range of models, said Leiters, as it would lead to greater brand awareness and acceptance. He said that at Porsche it wasn’t just 911 buyers going into the Cayenne; it was people buying a Cayenne and then going on to buying a 911 too. Leiters conceded that there was overlap within McLaren’s existing range and that any new model it created couldn’t cause further cannibalisation. That’s why the likes of an SUV are under consideration, rather than any front-engined sports cars or supercars, and why electric technology was so appealing as a new architecture allowed for McLarens of different sizes and proportions. Rumours persist around McLaren entering into a partnership with a major car maker, with talks with both BMW and Audi known to have taken place. Leiters confirmed that McLaren was interested in working with a partner but said that no deal was imminent. “You have 2 sides of a partnership, one is technology and one is financial”, he said. “And if you find both in one, definitely that will be the best. But the first thing is to have a technology partner to create synergies. But it has to be the right partner. “We have to maintain our DNA; I’m not interested in any partner which gives me only ‘me too’ technology. So the question is to find the right partner; the question is not to find a partner”. +++

+++ As the mainstream motor industry transitions to fully-electric power, the campervan market is following suit. Meet the RENAULT Hippie Caviar Motel, a new Kangoo-based show car designed to preview what an environmentally friendly EV camper could look like, which will make its public debut at the IAA Transportation exhibition in Hannover next month. Renault has already revealed a Trafic-derived campervan concept under the Hippie Caviar Hotel (HCH) moniker, and this new version has been built from a Kangoo E-Tech Electric. Its platform is shared with the Mercedes Citan, and the Renault is fitted with a 45 kWh battery pack to provide 290 km of range. This figure is lower than the 300 km claimed range of the standard Kangoo E-Tech Electric, likely due to the added weight of the HCH’s interior furniture and roof rack. Still, an additional 170 km can be added in 30 minutes, with the HCH sending 123 hp to the front wheels. Inside, Renault claims that the camper offers “the comfort and amenities of a 5-star hotel”, and utilises a host of sustainable materials in its cabin construction – the floor is made from cork and recycled tyres, for example. Elsewhere, Renault has installed numerous storage areas designed to accommodate camping equipment and sports kit, and there’s a purpose-built ski rack integrated into the panoramic glass roof. Sleeping arrangements are catered for by a folding bench, which can be reconfigured into a single bed. No production plans have been detailed for Renault’s HCH models, but given that this is the second show car to wear the badge, the firm could be gauging public interest with this in mind. If it does reach showrooms, the HCH would join the Volkswagen ID. Buzz in the pure-electric campervan sector. +++


+++ Earlier this year, we saw ROLLS-ROYCE unveil its ‘Series II’ update of the latest eighth-generation Phantom limousine, and now the luxury car maker has shown what bespoke features customers can select thanks to the new ‘Maverick’ commission. Revealed at the prestigious ‘The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering’ event during Monterey Car Week in California, the Phantom showcases the broadest range of Bespoke opportunities ever offered by the House of Rolls-Royce.’ Jonathan Simms, Head of Bespoke at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, says “The ‘Maverick’ Bespoke persona demonstrates how Phantom adapts to the modern age, asserting a creative, independent character”. The Maverick commission marks the debut of the new Phantom Series II in the US. To celebrate, it gets plenty of new features such as an illuminated ‘Pantheon Grille’ at the front combined with headlights incorporating 580 laser-cut starlights. There’s a 2-tone paint finish with black over Monteverde green and a hand-drawn Peony Pink separation line. Inside we see Scivaro Grey leather and further usage of the Peony Pink in the Phantom’s ‘Gallery’ on the dash. The wood panels are made from open pore wood which Rolls-Royce calls ‘Obsydian Ayous’. To mark its reveal at the event, the Maverick commission has personalised treadplates which read ‘Pebble Beach 2022’ Special Commission. The Series II version of the Phantom is largely unchanged from the Phantom that arrived in 2017. The level of customisation has grown, but the Phantom’s technical side remains the same with the traditional 6.75-litre, twin-turbocharged, 563bhp V12 sending drive to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. +++


+++ To mark 20 years since the VR6-engined Mk4 Golf R32, VOLKSWAGEN has released its fastest R model yet: the Golf R 20 Years. The special edition gets more power and a sportier drivetrain calibration than standard, which has allowed it to lap the Nurburgring in 7:47.31 – faster than any other R-badged model. The 333 hp Golf R 20 Years hit 264 kph on the main straight during the lap, which was four seconds quicker than the regular Golf R. With touring car driver Benjamin Leuchter at the wheel, the car was in its “Special” driving mode, which optimises the adaptive dampers specifically for the Nurburgring. The mechanicals of the 20 Years edition are fundamentally the same as the R-Performance pack-equipped Golf R, with a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine under the bonnet driving all 4 wheels through a 7-speed dual clutch gearbox. However, Volkswagen has squeezed an extra 13 hp out of the motor, which features a new Emotion Start system that flares the revs to 2.500 rpm on startup. The engine and gearbox have also been recalibrated, with the later offering more aggressive manual shifts in the sportier driving modes. The turbocharger is preloaded under part throttle, too, in order to provide more instantaneous thrust when it’s time to get back on the power. Volkswagen hasn’t released performance figures for the new model, but a marginal improvement over the standard car’s 4.7-second 0-100 kph time could be expected. The Golf R 20 Years is also equipped with the R-Performance pack as standard, which includes a torque vectoring rear differential and additional ‘Special’ and ‘Drift’ driving modes. A roof spoiler and a set of 19 inch alloy wheels also feature, along with a unique ‘20’ badge on the B-pillar and a ‘20 R’ puddle light when unlocking the car. Inside, the Golf R 20 Years gets carbon fibre dashboard and door panel inserts, along with blue R branding on the steering wheel, sports seats and key fob. Volkswagen hasn’t released pricing details for the new special edition, but the car will be available until the middle of 2023 after it goes on sale this year. +++



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