Newsflash: Volkswagen R modellen worden elektrisch

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+++ AUDIwill partner with Sauber for its Formula 1 entry in 2026, it has confirmed. The German car maker plans to purchase a stake in the Swiss motorsport-engineering company and operate its grand prix team as a factory entry. Sauber will oversee chassis development and production in Hinwil, while Audi will build the powertrain at its motorsport headquarters in Neuberg. “We are delighted to have gained such an experienced and competent partner for our ambitious Formula 1 project”, said Audi technical boss Oliver Hoffmann. “We already know the Sauber Group with its state-of-the-art facility and experienced team from previous collaborations and are convinced that together we will form a strong team”. Audi previously used Sauber’s facilities to develop race cars for the World Endurance Championship and Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters. Sauber will continue with current title sponsor Alfa Romeo through the 2023 season but is expected to revert to its own identity for 2024 and 2025. Audi’s F1 entry came in the wake of the FIA’s approval of new F1 engine regulations for the 2026 season, which were broadly seen as a green light for Audi and sibling brand Porsche to enter the sport. Audi CEO Markus Duesmann previously said: “Motorsport is an integral part of Audi’s DNA. Formula 1 is both a global stage for our brand and a highly challenging development laboratory. The combination of high performance and competition is always a driver of innovation and technology transfer in our industry. With the new rules, now is the right time for us to get involved. After all, Formula 1 and Audi both pursue clear sustainability goals”. “Formula 1 is the next major milestone in Audi’s motorsport history”, said Julius Seebach, who will soon leave his role as boss of Audi Sport to “take on a new strategic business area in technical development, reporting directly to the executive board”. Both Audi and Porsche were awaiting confirmation that the ‘motor generator unit – heat’ (MGU-H), which captures energy from exhaust gases, would be scrapped from 2026 as part of the rule revamp, given the significant cost of developing such a complex system that has no relevance in a road car development context. From 2026, electrical energy for the hybrid drivetrain element will be generated exclusively by the more conventional kinetic recovery system, which works via energy recuperation under braking; much like on a road-going EV. That makes entry into the sport a vastly more attractive prospect for the Volkswagen Group brands. The move towards the use of sustainable fuels in Formula 1 and the introduction of a cost cap for each team in 2023 were also cited as key motivations for Audi to join the sport. Audi said that there are already F1 powertrain test benches in place at its Neuburg development centre and that it has started to make preparations “in terms of personnel, buildings and technical infrastructure”. It has also formed a new company specifically dedicated to Formula 1 powertrain development, wholly owned by its motorsport arm, Audi Sport. Adam Baker, an Audi recruit from F1 governing body the FIA, will lead that new company as CEO of Audi’s Formula 1 project. Porsche, however, has yet to solidify its own plans for a Formula 1 entry, abandoning plans for a 50/50 partnership with Red Bull Racing in September. The announcement of Audi’s entry was welcomed by F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali. He said: “I’m delighted to welcome Audi to Formula 1, an iconic automotive brand, pioneer and technological innovator. “This is a major moment for our sport that highlights the huge strength we have as a global platform that continues to grow. It’s also a big recognition that our move to sustainably fuelled hybrid engines in 2026 is a future solution for the automotive sector. “We are all looking forward to seeing the Audi logo on the grid and will be hearing further details from them on their plans in due course”. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of the FIA and a former rally driver, described Audi’s entry into F1 as a “milestone”. “First of all, I drove Audis in my career. That was an amazing experience to drive four-wheel drive on the gravel”, he said. “This journey hasn’t been an idea that just came now. To be here, this is where the fruits come. It’s definitely going to change a lot. If we didn’t change the PU [power unit regulations] we wouldn’t have given the opportunity for new teams to come. There is no way a big manufacturer would come as a PU supplier if they didn’t stand a chance. They would be humiliated”. +++

+++ BENTLEY customers will be delighted to hear that production of the Bentayga Extended Wheelbase has just kicked off at the company’s facility in Crewe and that deliveries are now underway. With production of the Bentayga EWB now underway, the British car manufacturer has announced full performance specifications for the luxury SUV. Slotted beneath the hood of the Bentayga EWB is a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine that is good for 550 hp and 770 Nm of torque. This engine propels the SUV to 100 kph in 4.7 seconds and through to a 290 km/h top speed. Of course, the Bentayga EWB is focused on much more than performance. Indeed, by extending the wheelbase by 180 mm through changes to the underfloor, side panels, and roof, Bentley has been able to dramatically increase interior space in the second row. Those ordering the SUV can do so in 4- and 5-seat versions, alongside a 4 + 1 layout that has two sculpted rear seats with a small jump seat between them for taking a third passenger in the rear for short journeys. Those seeking the ultimate in luxury can order the Bentayga EWB will the optional Airline Seat Specification that reclines the rear seats to 40 degrees and adds Seat Auto Climate, Postural Adjustment, additional cushion and backrest bolster adjustment, heated rear doors, and center armrests. Like all Bentley models, customers are offered a dizzying array of options and ways to personalize their Bentayga EWB. In fact, there are some 24 billion trim combinations available. Bentley says that since the unveiling of the EWB, 40 percent of Bentayga customers have been opting for it. “The new Bentayga Extended Wheelbase is the next chapter in the Bentagya story which, since the original luxury SUV came to market in 2015, has transformed the sector and resulted in record sales”, member of the board for manufacturing at Bentley, Peter Bosch, said. “At Bentley, we collaborated with our customers to stretch the class-leading SUV’s breadth of ability even further, leading to a rear-cabin experience comparable to the legendary Mulsanne”. +++

+++ The European Union’s upcoming EURO 7 regulations will be far less stringent than expected, if leaked legislation seen by media outlets is to be believed. A number of news publications claim to have seen leaked European Commission legislation that indicates there will be no change to emissions requirements for petrol-powered cars and vans when Euro 7 rules are introduced in 2025. The documents indicate the EU is trying to minimise the cost of developing cleaner internal combustion engines. They suggest that improvements will primarily be targeted at diesel engines and making these as clean as Euro 6 petrol motors. The car industry has been actively lobbying against Euro 7 measures, with executives concerned that they will divert money and resources away from electrification. A spokesperson for the European Automobile Manufacturers Association said: “The industry is calling for an approach that is not only effective in terms of results, but that is cost-beneficial, while also addressing the huge challenges of meeting future CO2 targets. Vehicle manufacturers are going full-course ahead with the goal of carbon neutrality – it would be counter-productive to take away investments from this”. The suggestion that Euro 7 will not be as harsh as expected, however, has sparked fury from environmental campaigners. Anna Krajinska, vehicle emissions and air quality manager at campaign group Transport & Environment, told that this was the EU’s “very own dieselgate moment”, accusing the European Commission of “tearing up” expert advice. +++

+++ FERRARI may build a total of 828 units of its, as-yet unnamed, upcoming supercar if a recent table is to be believed. The car, apparently codenamed the F250, is set to be unveiled in October 2024, according to the document. It shows that the standard car will be unveiled on that date, and that Ferrari will build just 599 of them. The Italian supercar maker has long based its production figures on how many units it believes it can sell minus one, in order to maintain its exclusivity and cache. Per the document, a track-only XX version of the car will be unveiled in July 2026. Production of that model will be substantially more limited, and the automaker will build just 30. Launched in 2005, the XX program gives Ferrari’s best clients access to track days where they can drive the purist version of its latest supercars at special events all over the world. Finally, the spider (or convertible) version of the car will be unveiled a year later, in October 2027. Ferrari will make 199 of those, to bring the total across all models up to 828 examples of the supercar. The purported document further lays out the testing schedule for the F250 and claims that the test program for the test mule (mulotipi) started in July of this year. The paper adds that the prototype will start testing in February, while pre-production models are set to start arriving in January and March 2024. Although it’s hard to be sure if this is a real internal document or not, we do know that Ferrari is working on a future supercar. According to a presentation about its future business plan, the automaker is planning a range-topping supercar that will have technology transferred from Formula 1 and its Le Mans Hypercar program. Indeed, the head of Ferrari’s LMH program recently told that its new racecar is “a good laboratory” and that his “staff has ideas that we can put on the car that will be good for the future road cars”. That and the business plan would suggest that the upcoming supercar will be powered by a hybrid powertrain. Unfortunately, we may have to wait until October 2024 to find out for sure. +++

+++ FORD has confirmed that it will axe the Fiesta from its line-up next year. Production of the Fiesta at its factory in Cologne will stop by the end of June, bringing to an end 47 years and eight generations of the iconic supermini. The American giant also confirmed that production of S-Max and Galaxy will come to an end in April. Both MPVs are currently produced at Ford’s plant in Valencia. Ford’s statement, released this morning, read: “At Ford in Europe, we are accelerating our efforts to go all-in on electrification with our passenger vehicles being fully electric by 2030, and all vehicles across our Ford portfolio by 2035. “As we get ready to transition to an electric future, we will discontinue production of S-Max and Galaxy in Valencia, Spain, in April 2023 and discontinue Fiesta production in Cologne, Germany, by end of June 2023. We will introduce 3 new exciting electric passenger vehicles and 4 new electric commercial vehicles in Europe by 2024. We plan to sell more than 600.000 electric vehicles in the region by 2026, and the electric passenger vehicle production at the Cologne Electrification Centre will reach 1.2 million vehicles over a 6-year timeframe”. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS disclosed the details of its massive investment in South Korea and presented its future growth strategies while marking the 20th anniversary of GM Korea’s foundation. The company invited a pool of local reporters to see the upgraded Changwon plant in South Gyeongsang Province with state-of-the-art facilities to manufacture next-generation vehicles. GM invested 900 billion won ($632 million) in the Changwon plant to expand its production capacity to up to 60 vehicles per hour, from compact to full-size models, according to the company. The Changwon plant is scheduled to start operating at full capacity in the first quarter of 2023, manufacturing a total of 280.000 vehicles annually. “I am grateful for the dedication and hard work that all of our GM employees have made to manufacture and supply competitive GM global models to the world”, said Shilpan Amin, senior vice president of GM International. “The success of the next-generation global new car is of paramount importance for the sustainable growth of GM’s operations in Korea. GM has made a significant investment in the Changwon plant, considering the global demand for the vehicle to be manufactured and exported, starting next year”. Along with the next-generation global vehicles to be produced at GM’s Changwon plant, another major investment of 200 billion won was made in the automaker’s plant in Incheon’s Bupyeong District that manufactures the Chevrolet Trailblazer. Since the SUV’s launch in 2020, over 380.000 Trailblazers have been exported as of September this year. Last year, the Trailblazer was the second-most-exported automobile from Korea, and the vehicle (including its sister model, the Buick Encore GX) ranked first in compact SUV sales in the U.S. market in 2021, establishing itself as one of GM’s flagship SUVs. Since entering Korea, GM has invested more than 9 trillion won ($6.3 billion) here, producing about 26 million vehicles and hiring hundreds of thousands of employees including the 12.000 currently employed. “As the largest foreign investor, GM has been part of the Korean economy’s advancement for the last 20 years, creating jobs, producing, selling and exporting vehicles and designing and engineering global vehicles, while benefiting local communities with our volunteer work”, Roberto Rempel, CEO of GM Korea, said during his opening speech at the automaker’s 20th anniversary event held at the Changwon plant. GM Korea aims to maximize the export volume of the Trailblazer and other next-generation vehicles here, raising its total annual production capacity to 500.000 vehicles in 2023. “We expect the next-generation global vehicle to follow the Chevrolet Trailblazer in enjoying great success around the world”, Rempel said. “We will serve Korean customers while bringing the best vehicles from GM’s global brands, including the Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC, to meet their needs of the various American lifestyles from practicality to the luxury vehicle experiences”. The company presented a blueprint aiming to boost profits from its operations in Korea next year through increased exports of next-generation global vehicles and a stronger brand strategy for GM’s diverse portfolio in the domestic market. +++

+++ The 4th generation of the MAZDA MX-5 (codenamed ND) has been around since 2014, but despite the mild updates over the years, it hasn’t lost any of its charm. Mazda has announced a few updates for 2023, including the addition of the Zircon sand shade in the color palette. The 2023 range includes 10 different variants spread among 3 trims, 2 engine options and 2 bodystyle flavors: the soft-top Roadster which dropped the Convertible name, and the hard-top Retractable Fastback (RF). +++

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+++ MERCEDES will withdraw from the Russian market and sell shares in its industrial and financial services subsidiaries to a local investor, becoming the latest automaker to exit the country. Mercedes-Benz Russia said shares in the local subsidiaries would be sold to car dealer chain Avtodom. Mercedes chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm, while presenting third-quarter results, said the transaction was not expected to give rise to any further significant effects when it comes to the group’s profitability and financial position beyond those reported in previous quarters. “Final completion of the transaction is subject to the authority’s approval and the implementation of contractually agreed conditions”, he added. The automaker will join a long list of companies also winding down their exposure in Russia after its invasion of Ukraine in late February. Volkswagen Group is looking for an investor to take over its factory in Kaluga, where production was halted soon after the Ukraine war began. Toyota has said it will cease vehicle manufacturing in the country. Mazda Motor is considering a permanent exit, the Japanese company said. Nissan said it will hand over its business in Russia to a state-owned entity for 1 euro, taking a loss of about 100 billion yen ($687 million). Renault decided to sell its majority stake in AvtoVAZ to a Russian science institute. The deal, however, includes a 6-year option to buy back the stake. Kia said this week that it is mulling closing its Kia plant in St. Petersburg, Russia, run by affiliate Hyundai. Both Nissan and Renault included 6-year buyback clauses. Russia’s Vedomosti daily cited a source as saying that the Mercedes deal may include a similar clause. A Mercedes spokesperson said the company’s 15 percent stake in Russian truckmaker Kamaz would not be affected by the intended transaction and should be transferred to Daimler Truck this year as planned. Avtodom said it would select a technology partner to continue operating the production facilities at the Esipovo industrial estate northwest of Moscow, where Mercedes has a production plant. “The main priorities in agreeing the terms of the transaction were to maximize the fulfilment of obligations to clients from Russia both in terms of after-sales services and financial services, as well as preserving jobs of employees at the Russian divisions of the company”, Natalia Koroleva, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Rus, said in a statement. Mercedes suspended manufacturing in Russia in early March. The Association of European Businesses (AEB) said 9.558 Mercedes vehicles were sold in Russia from January to September, down 73 percent from a year earlier. +++

+++ Elon Musk was in Monterrey, Mexico over the weekend and his appearance might indicate interest in a new TESLA factory location. The CEO was accompanied by other high-level Tesla execs as well as the US ambassador to Mexico. Unnamed sources suggest that even if a factory isn’t in the works, Tesla has bigger plans for the country. The Mexican newspaper Milenio published photos of Musk along with several other officials in the state of Nuevo Leon. On Tesla’s side, director of Business Development, Rohan Patel, along with market manager of Tesla Mexico, Eduardo Grandio, were both present. Ken Salazar, the US ambassador in Mexico, was also present. Mexican state officials including Governor Samuel Garcia and his wife Mariana Rodriguez were both on hand. Ivan Rivas, Secretary of Economy, along with Francisco Roja who is the Secretary of Labor were in attendance as well. Milenio didn’t name sources but said that those in attendance indicated that Tesla is considering a plant near La Huasteca, in Santa Catarina. It’s also possible that Tesla is working to solidify connections with parts suppliers in the region. It already utilizes parts from Mexican plants run by Forvia and ZF. Growing that pipeline and solidifying relationships would make it all the easier to get parts for the Texas-based EV company. Either eventuality seems possible as Musk has publicly stated that he wants to grow Tesla to “extreme size”. Part of that plan includes building some 20 million EVs per year worldwide by 2030. To put that goal into perspective, GM has previously stated that it wanted to build 5 million EVs by 2030 in total. Put simply, to achieve anywhere near 20 million electric vehicles per year by 2030, Tesla is going to need a lot more factories than it has right now. Tesla has not responded to our request for comment but we’ll update this story should we hear back from it. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN ’s R performance sub-brand will go fully electric by 2030, it has confirmed, with several EVs already in the pipeline as it looks to “gradually” convert its current range to an EV-only one. The sub-brand has aligned itself with Volkswagen’s wider Way to Zero pledge, with the wider brand targeting a full-electric line-up 5 years after R in 2035, when sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be outlawed across Europe. Volkswagen said it’s “gradually converting its portfolio, with several electric R models in the planning stages”, adding: “We’re currently assessing various concepts and possibilities but will only offer R models that meet our requirements. One thing is certain: the future of R is electric”. This means current electric-only ID models could be the first in line to get hot variants, with an ID.4 R previously hinted at by R&D chief Thomas Ulbrich last year. Any future all-electric models would likely also be in line for R treatment, such as a production version of the ID Aero and Project Trinity. Electric variants of the current R range such as the Golf R, Tiguan R and T-Roc R would likely only come if the models get electric replacements in the future. Volkswagen added that any electric R models will, like their ICE-powered predecessors, get technology trickled down from prototype concepts, such as from the super-fast 680 hp ID.R, which has held the Pikes Peak record since 2018. The electric R models will also continue to be developed on track. “In order to become a fully electric brand by the end of the decade, we’re already taking the necessary steps today for the forthcoming transformation”, confirmed R head ​​Reinhold Ivenz. “The globally successful products from Volkswagen R are part of this exciting change process and will stand in the future for sustainable electric mobility”. Future R models would therefore adopt the Volkswagen Group’s upcoming electric-only Scalable Systems Platform (SSP), which will be the only EV chassis used across the group from 2026, albeit with performance-oriented tweaks. However, this effectively shuts the door on any models getting an electric R variant while they’re still sold primarily as ICE cars, given the huge costs it would mean for cars on different platforms to be built. Elsewhere, Volkswagen confirmed that the new-look R sub-brand will also focus on “quick and convenient” charging for its EVs, which given the future models’ range-topping position would mean peak charging rates of more than the ID 5 GTX’s 150kW, which charges it from 10-80% in around 25 minutes, will likely be seen. R EV owners will also get access to “exclusive charging options”. These are expected to come in the form of either exclusive charger access or subsidised prices. No timeframe has been put on the launch of any electric R cars, but with many still in the planning stages, releases in the second half of the decade currently seem the most likely. +++

+++ The new VOLVO EX90 will be unveiled on 9 November, but before then the Swedish firm has given us a glimpse at the all-electric SUV’s interior. The EX90 signals a huge change for Volvo, with the EV lining up alongside the XC90 and then eventually replacing the flagship. Sustainability is the key inside the EX90. Volvo says 50 kg of recycled plastics and “bio-based materials” are used to create the interior. The cabin design itself should be on the simplistic side, although buyers will be able to choose from seven different “rooms” which combine different materials and colours, We already have a pretty good idea as to how the new EX90 will look from the outside. Images derived from patent drawings filed with the European Union Intellectual Property Office indicate an evolutionary design over the XC90, but the EX90’s tech suite will far surpass its predecessor. The Swedish firm has confirmed that bi-directional charging will be available, allowing the EX90 to power external electrical devices and feed energy back into a home. The system will also be capable of charging other electric Volvos, and the firm’s charge management software could reduce energy costs for the user by charging during periods of low demand. When energy demand is high, the car can also sell energy back to the grid, although these features will depend on particular market rules. As per Volvo’s focus on safety, the new EX90 will also feature plenty of advanced equipment to protect pedestrians, cyclists and other road users, as well as occupants, and according to Joachim de Verdier, head of Safe Vehicle Automation at Volvo Cars, “We believe the EX90 to be the safest Volvo car to ever hit the road. We are fusing our understanding of the outside environment with our more detailed understanding of driver attention. When all our safety systems, sensors, software and computing power come together, they create a preventative shield of safety around you; and you won’t even know it’s there until you need it”.  Systems to be offered on the EX90 as a result include a new Lidar set-up (light detection and ranging) which uses a scanning laser light to detect objects ahead. Volvo claims the tech can pick up a tyre lying in the road up to 120 metres ahead of the car’s path, for example, while it can pick up pedestrians up to 250 metres down the road. This detection method works at highway speeds as well as in daylight and at nighttime; unlike a camera-based system light is not required for the Lidar to work, so the level of protection offered is the same regardless of driving conditions. With Lidar, Volvo claims accidents with severe outcomes can be reduced by up to 20 percent, with overall crash avoidance improved by 9 percent. In the EX90, the Lidar system is accompanied by 5 radars, 8 cameras and 16 ultrasonic sensors. The latter includes parking sensors, for example, while much of the other tech will still be used for pedestrian detection and lane keep assist, plus convenience features, such as surround-view when parking and semi-autonomous adaptive cruise control. The EX90 will also be fitted with plenty of interior safety technology, including a driver understanding system that features two cameras trained on the driver to understand their concentration and attention levels. The tech observes a driver’s eye-gaze patterns, measuring how much time is spent focusing on the road. Volvo believes a driver can actually focus too much on the road ahead and suffer from cognitive distraction, focusing on their thoughts and not the task of driving. Obviously too little attention paid to the road shows that they are visually distracted, potentially by a mobile phone or another device. Combined with a capacitive steering wheel sensor that knows when the driver is gripping the wheel, the gaze monitoring tech will look to build a bank of driver behaviour data and intervene in a manner of different ways when needed. This could be by a simple warning that grows in volume depending on the severity of the danger ahead sensed by the system, or the car can even bring itself to a stop by the side of the road and activate the hazard warning lights if no driver action is received. +++

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