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+++ Stellantis boss Carlos Tavares says ALFA ROMEO is in a very strong position and is on track to post record financial figures this year. While speaking with members of the media at the Paris Motor Show, Tavares said that the future of the famed Italian car manufacturer has been secured for at least the next 10 years. “Alfa is going very well”, Tavares said. “The business has been turned around and it is profitable. It is now in a position to fund its own future. It’s safe. The turnaround was done even before the launch of Tonale. This will be a record year for the brand. Alfa is set for the next 10 years. Since we created Stellantis, its turnaround has been spectacular”. The Tonale is the most important new model launched by Alfa Romeo in recent years and could quickly prove to be its bestseller. A number of other new models are being readied by the car manufacturer, including an electric SUV that should launch in 2024, as well as a sedan larger than the Giulia. Alfa Romeo is also working on a new sports car. That will be unveiled next year and take design cues from the iconic Alfa Romeo T33 Stradale. Tavares noted that Alfa Romeo, DS and Lancia represent the 3 premium brands of Stellantis and that their contribution to the company’s bottom line is “very limited compared to peers”. With this in mind, Tavares believes Stellantis has an excellent “opportunity” to grow the scope of these 3 brands. +++

+++ The BMW XM is certainly not for everyone, but the automaker thinks that existing owners of luxury SUVs are the ones going for the successor of the legendary M1. That’s according to 2 BMW M bosses (CEO Frank van Meel and vice president of Customer, Brand and Sales Timo Resch) speaking during the BMW M Fest at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in South Africa. At the festival, BMW unveiled the new M2 and the XM to the public, along with some important bits about the newest standalone M model and its target market. “A lot of people who drive a Lamborghini Urus or Mercedes G-Class say: ‘I want to have something like that from BMW’, and so for us, it was the logical choice”, said van Meel. Resch supported that statement by admitting that the BMW XM will not attract existing M car owners to upgrade to the M SUV. What they envision to be BMW XM buyers are existing luxury SUV owners; those who already have Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga and Land Rover Range Rover in their garages. Will this be a switch or just an addition to the collection? We’ll wager it’s the latter. Of course, we already know that. The decision to go with the SUV trend for the M1 successor has always been a business case. Otherwise, we should be seeing an M supercar, which isn’t off the table just yet, by the way. In any case, it looks like the US is what BMW sees as its biggest market for the XM. Resch said that China and the Middle East will follow, completing the top three markets for the new XM. BMW has already brought in the M2 and XM in the US, specifically at the BMW Performance Center in South Carolina. +++

+++ DACIA is considering expanding its core line-up with a new model line based on parent company Renault’s modular architecture. The Romanian firm’s line-up currently comprises the huge-selling Sandero hatchback, the electric Spring, the SUV model Duster and the MPV type Jogger MPV in the Netherlands, plus the Logan saloon in other markets. The flexibility of Renault’s CMF-B platform (upon which Dacia plans to base all future products for streamlining purposes) paves the way for the brand to target new customers in new segments and accelerate its rapid growth trajectory in key global markets. At the Paris motor show, the brand’s chief designer, David Durand, was asked if Dacia could follow up the segment-straddling Jogger with more new models. He answered: “We keep exploring different fields. We’re thinking about other models that could complete the current range. It’s still a project; it’s not decided yet. Many things can happen, but we won’t stay with what we have today without exploring other areas that could make a lot of sense with Dacia”. Durand stopped short of confirming which segments Dacia could seek to enter. The Spring is an EV comparable to the Volkswagen e-Up, the Sandero, Jogger and Duster cover off the B-segment in various body styles and the Bigster (a 7-seat SUV and due in 2024) will contend with big-selling C-segment crossovers like the Seat Tarraco and Toyota RAV4. There’s no obvious gap in Dacia’s line-up, but expansion either side of the diminutive Spring and large Bigster seems unlikely, so adaptations of existing and future models seem more feasible. Notably, Renault launched the Arkana in 2021 as a coupé-style crossover heavily based on the Captur. Whether Dacia would look to give a similar treatment to the Duster or Bigster is uncertain; it may clash with the brand’s function-over-form product ethos. One other potential is an Estate bodied version of the Sandero in the vein of the previous generation Logan MCV, which bowed out in 2020. This would give Dacia a rival to similarly conceived hatchback-based wagons like the Ford Focus Wagon and the Peugeot 308 SW. Durand said considering an expansion of the line-up is possible because of the reduced costs afforded by Renault’s already-developed platforms. “Helpfully we have our big brother Renault, which helps a lot”, he said. “In fact, without Renault, we couldn’t exist. We need the expertise of the group, all the technology off the shelves that we can pick to adapt to regulations and emission legislation. It makes a lot of sense to be in this group”. +++

+++ BMW might be ramping up its battery car offerings, adding the “i” badge to more and more models, and committing to make half of the Group’s new cars EVs by 2030, but the company’s chairman thinks HYDROGEN , and not batteries, will soon be the most desirable source of motive power. Chairman Oliver Zipse told reporters that the hydrogen market was some years behind electric, but would soon be a major player. “After the electric car, which has been going on for about 10 years and scaling up rapidly, the next trend will be hydrogen”, Zipse said in an interview. “When it’s more scalable, hydrogen will be the hippest thing to drive”. BMW is one of several carmakers that have been involved in the development of hydrogen-powered cars in the last 2 decades, and recently announced the iX5, a hydrogen-fuelled X5 that will enter production late this year. Others hydrogen-savvy OEMs include Mercedes, Honda and Toyota, the Japanese pair having already put fuel cell vehicles on sale several years ago. But BMW’s ambitions for hydrogen aren’t limited to the BMW brand, and could extend to other marques within the BMW portfolio. Speaking alongside Zipse at Rolls Royce’s Goodwood HQ the night before the launch of the new Rolls Spectre EV, the Brit luxury brand’s boss, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, said the idea of a hydrogen Rolls Royce was entirely believable. “To house, let’s say, fuel cell batteries: Why not? I would not rule that out”, Müller-Ötvös said. “There is a belief in the group that this is maybe the long-term future”. But one thing Zipse was clear about is there is no one power source that is so perfect it should sideline all others. Electric power makes sense in urban areas in developed countries where there’s ready access to charging infrastructure, but in other situations hydrogen could be preferable. “To say ‘in Europe in 2035, there’s only one drivetrain’, that is a dangerous thing”, Zipse told reporters. “For the customers, for the industry, for employment, for the climate, from every angle you look at, that is a dangerous path to go to”. +++

+++ Early customers of the new INEOSGRENADIER off-roader are one step closer to receiving their cars, with the first examples having been completed at the company’s Hambach factory this month. The Land Rover Defender-inspired 4×4 will cost about €100.000 in the Netherlands and first deliveries are expected in December this year. Ineos has secured a network of over 200 sales and service sites across the globe to facilitate deliveries and after sales for the SUV, which will hit the road before the end of 2022 despite supply chain constraints limiting production. Buyers are able to order the Grenadier online or through one of the retailers, with the choice of an entry-level ‘Utility Wagon’ 2-seat model as well as a ‘Station Wagon’ 5-seater. Ineos also offers 2 pre-configured Grenadiers called the ‘Trialmaster’ and the ‘Fieldmaster’, both priced about €120.000. The firm says the Trialmaster has been ‘specified with extreme off-roading in mind’ and the Fieldmaster ‘is designed for those with an adventure lifestyle’. The Fieldmaster Edition is equipped with the Smooth Pack as standard and the Trialmaster gets both the Smooth Pack plus a Rough Pack. On lesser models, the Smooth Pack costs €1.500 and the Rough Pack adds €1.750 to the base price. The Rough Pack adds front and rear diff locks, BFGoodrich All-terrain T/A KO2 tires, a raised air intake, exterior utility belts and an auxiliary battery. The Smooth Pack includes a rear view camera, puddle lamps, power heated door mirrors and auxiliary USB power outlets. There’s also 17 inch alloy wheels as standard (with the option to upgrade to 18 inch wheels), Safari windows and heated front seats. There are further options for customization, such as a raised off-road air intake, rock sliders and a heavy duty winch. Buyers can also opt for a roof rack and a front LED light bar for extra cost. Ineos promises that customers will never be beyond a 45 minute or 70 km radius from a service center, and test drives can be arranged to suit customer needs. Servicing will be catered for by selected Bosch Service Centres, and technical support for those working on their own Grenadier will be available via direct access to Ineos HQ with interactive online manuals and videos. The brand operates using an agency model with its retailers, rather than a traditional franchise system. That means the contract is between the buyer and Ineos rather than the dealer, who takes care of demonstration, delivery and after-sales. Even the part-exchange process is set to be carried out through the manufacturer rather than the dealer. The Grenadier was designed by Toby Ecuyer, who started his career as an architect and recently moved into designing super yachts. It shares the same boxy proportions as the old Defender, with similarly angular doors and window glass. It also shares the Land Rover’s slatted radiator grille, flat bonnet, round headlamps, upright windscreen and, under the front bumper, there’s a thick sump guard. Ineos claims the Grenadier has a ground clearance of 264 mm and a wading depth of 800 mm. There are some elements of the Mercedes G-Class mixed into the Grenadier’s design, too, which is no surprise considering Ineos’s partnership with the Austrian engineering company, Magna Steyr. The firm has handled the production of the G-Wagen since 2018 and will also help Ineos piece together the Grenadier. Ineos has sourced 2 BMW engines to power the Grenadier. Both are 3.0-litre 6-cylinder turbo units. There’s a diesel with 252 hp and 550 Nm of torque, and a petrol engine with 292 hp and 450 Nm. Pricing remains the same for each powertrain. The permanent 4-wheeldrive with shiftable low range and a central locking diff is Ineos’s own design, but power is transferred via an 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox. There’s also potential for a hydrogen-powered Grenadier, with Ineos hoping to test the technology in its 4×4 this year after a €1,8 billion investment. Inside, the vehicle takes on a rugged approach that mixes practicality and durability with the latest technology and plenty of comfort, the company claims. Almost every element of the Grenadier has been designed from a clean sheet of paper, including the cabin. With the car’s focus on being easy to operate in the most extreme conditions (e.g. when wearing gloves; as both a commercial vehicle and a lifestyle off-roader) the Grenadier’s cabin features big buttons and controls that have been inspired by maritime set-ups and heavy machinery, according to Ineos Automotive’s Head of Design, Toby Ecuyer. The idea behind this approach is to boost ease of use and how logical the layout is; with that in mind every switch is labelled with writing rather than an icon, so it’s obvious what function it operates. All models will feature the same centre stack of toggle switches and an overhead row of toggle switches on the headlining. This will be home to functions such as the front and rear electronic differential locks, while the centre diff lock is operated manually via a lever on the centre console next to the BMW-sourced gear selector. Extra panels in the roof are available to control electronic extras such as roof lights or a winch; pre-wiring for these panels and accessories comes fitted as standard, while the Grenadier will also offer an optional 2,000-watt AC power converter to run various different accessories, such as power tools. Alongside the BMW-sourced powertrains, Ineos Automotive has sourced the infotainment system from the German brand, with the 12.3 inch touchscreen (also controlled through a rotary dial on the transmission tunnel) uses BMW’s operating system. However, the Grenadier’s graphics are bespoke. Navigation will be through either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity; a move Ineos claims will help boost usability, integrating with owners’ devices, and stop the tech dating. There’s also an off-road pathfinder function given the Grenadier’s intended use and capability. The cabin materials are hard-wearing with an element of luxury; touches such as a saddle leather option for the steering wheel add a tactile feel but will also age with the car, “giving it a patina” according to Ecuyer. Splashproof fabric upholstery is standard for the Recaro-sourced seats, which is treated to repel spillages and stains, while leather will be an option focused more at lifestyle buyers. Isofix points will also be fitted, while storage inside has been maximised, with a clever use of space to stow anything from phones, wallets and keys. Items needed for lifestyle pursuits can also be stowed in areas such as the cubby within the tailgate-mounted spare wheel’s hub, a lockable centre console and a sliding dry storage area underneath the rear seats. A rubberised flooring with drain plugs will also be standard, while buyers will be able to spec carpet as an extra. The former boosts the Grenadier’s utility, allowing the car’s footwells to be hosed out. All switchgear inside the cabin is splashproof, too. It’s all part of the relatively young car company’s promise that the Grenadier (and everything inside it) will stand the test of time, helped by Ineos removing complexity from the car. There are around half the number of ECUs inside the Grenadier next to a comparable vehicle, which means there’s less to go wrong and less to fix if there is a problem. +++

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+++ The long-awaited successor to the iconic LEXUS LFA supercar could be dubbed the LFR, if a recent trademark application is anything to go by. The car manufacturer recently made an application with the European Union Intellectual Property Office to have the name trademarked and while the request is still being processed, the similarity to the LFA’s name has immediately prompted speculation the moniker could be used by a new Lexus supercar. Lexus has acknowledged that the Electrified Sport Concept unveiled earlier this year previews a new supercar from the brand, Motor1 notes. Unlike the LFA that had a screaming, 4.8-liter naturally aspirated V10, the new Lexus will have an all-electric powertrain. It is understood that a 0-100 km/h time of around 2 seconds and more than 700 km of range are key targets for the project which, if achieved, would push the car into hyper car territory. In August, Lexus chief executive Koji Sato spoke about the car. He said that the carmaker’s goal is to create a halo model that will be “a showcase for the future of Lexus driving dynamics, expressing the overall Lexus driving signature”. Sato went on to add that Lexus is thinking about equipping the car with some kind of simulated manual transmission. He says this would result in better engagement between the driver and the machine. According to a recent Toyota patent for a manual transmission for an EV, the system could include “a shift lever and a clutch pedal for pseudo-realizing the manual gear change of the MT vehicle”. Lexus is also thought to be interested in equipping the vehicle with steer-by-wire and a sophisticated torque vectoring system. It remains uncertain when the Electrified Sport Concept will spawn a production model that consumers will actually be able to buy. +++

+++ The United Kingdom is the latest country to use NOISE CAMERAS to clamp down on loud exhausts and antisocial drivers. Bradford in the north of England starts using the technology today and 3 other areas (Birmingham, Bristol and Great Yarmouth) will be added over the next 2 months. The 4 regions will trial the systems for 2 months and if the test proves successful, other cities around the UK can expect to get their own noise cameras. The systems are already in use in several cities in France, while New York operates similar devices and California is considering a 5-year pilot program. The tech works by using multiple microphones in problem areas of cities that can detect overly loud aftermarket exhausts and drivers or motorbike riders revving their engines unnecessarily. Offending motorists are recorded by a camera that captures the vehicle, including its registration plate, and issued with a fine. The UK government has committed to spending £300,000 on the devices, which it has already tested extensively on private testing grounds, and launched a competition in April to identify the worst-affected areas in the country. “Rowdy road drivers beware”, warned Britain’s transport secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan. “These new cameras will help the police clamp down on those who break the legal noise limits or use illegally modified exhausts to make excessive noise in our communities. We will be working closely with the local authorities and police to share any findings, and I hope this technology paves the way for quieter, peaceful streets across the country”. Although noise pollution is linked to many health conditions including stress, strokes, and dementia, and is estimated by the UK government to cost £10 billion in lost productivity, you can bet that a few law-abiding drivers of high-performance cars might be stressing out over the chance of being fined. But a technical consultant for the trial told that considerate drivers had nothing to fear because the cameras were “highly targeted”. +++

+++ The final design of the new RENAULT 4EVER is weeks aways from being signed off, following the reveal of the outlandish 4ever Trophy concept on which it will be based. Renault design boss Gilles Vidal said the final touches are now being completed, but the overall shape is already agreed. The upper half of the concept, excusing the more out-there elements such as the spare wheel roof rack and bonnet grab handles, will be closely reflected in the production model when it arrives in 2025. Meanwhile the lower half will see bigger changes, given that this concept was created in reference to the modified Renault 4s that take part in the yearly 4L Trophy rally across the Moroccan desert. “The trick now is how to make a recognisable form and project it into the future. The front light signature and the taillights are recognisable elements by those who know the historic cars but the way we translate them is not retro in any way”. The interior of the production 4 (or the lower-slung Renault 5 supermini) has not yet been revealed, but Vidal said: “The interior is very different to the rest of the range for sure. It’s the same approach as the outside: what do we activate that actually resonates with the historical detail, but of course without it being plastic-ky like it was then? And how do you project it into the future in terms of quality of execution, screens and so on?” The 4 will be the second car to use Renault’s compact CMF-B EV architecture and will be built alongside the 5 at Renault’s new ElectriCity production hub in northern France. ​The original 4 (variously referred to as the world’s first mass-production hatchback, MPV and crossover) was a hugely important car for Renault and sold more than 8 million units across a 3-decade production run. In reviving its name and some of its defining design cues, Renault is hinting at similar volume aspirations for the electric second coming. “It was a car you could drive in the countryside, you could drive off road, you could drive in the city”, designer Sandeep Bhambra told. “So that versatility was part of the brief: we wanted to make the 4 the most versatile car in the segment, whereas the 5 is more of an urban city car”. So while the production-spec 4 will lose the ‘4Ever Trophy’ concept’s more rugged cues and sit slightly closer to the ground (Bhambra said: “Whatever you see in the body colour is very, very close to production”), the focus on practicality and utility will remain. Measuring 4.060 mm long and with a wheelbase of 2.570 mm, the concept is slightly smaller than the Captur but a tad larger than the Clio. With the lack of a combustion motor up front, and with no transmission tunnel running through the cabin, it should offer an overall boost in space and functionality. Product boss Laure Gregoire gave an idea of the differences in priority between the 4 and 5: “In the B-SUV segment, half the customers uses it as their main car and the other half as a second car, so you have a bigger scope of usage than on the B-segment hatchback like the Renault 5, which is more specialised. On this one, we need more roominess, more practicality. This is where the Renault 4 will separate itself from the 5. This is what we are working on”. The 4 will draw its power from a 42 kWh nickel-cobalt-manganese battery mounted under the floor and expected to give a range of around 400 km. It will be propelled by a 136 hp synchronous motor on the front axle, which should enable a 0-100 kph time of less than 9.0 seconds mark. These figures will position the crossover as a rival to the new Jeep Avenger. Renault bosses would not be drawn on the potential for more powerful or four-wheel-drive variants at this early stage, but sibling performance brand Alpine will launch a 220 hp hot version of the 5 in 2024, so a technically identical 4 would not be an impossibility. There is also no suggestion the 4 is in line for a hydrogen-assisted powertrain, as previewed by the recent Scenic Vision concept. “Hydrogen is another topic for another project”, said Gregoire, citing the company’s ambition for pure-EVs to account for 65% of its sales by 2025, and 90% by 2030. But just as important as the car itself is the way Renault will sell it. Gregoire told: “It’s a new product, but it’s also a new business that we have to invent, of course, to keep it as accessible and affordable as possible for the customers”. She referenced the roughly 90% of cars in France that are leased and suggested that the 4 has been conceived partly with a focus on subscription services. Notably, the Renault Group’s newly hived-off mobility sub-brand, Mobilize, which operates on a subscription model, is expected to account for 30% of the company’s total revenues by 2030; a push in which the 4 could play a core role. But a headline on-the-road price of around €33.000 for private customers looks likely, based on earlier suggestions that the 4 will command a premium over the 5, which bosses are keen to launch at around €26.000. The 4 will launch in 2025, following the 5 supermini in 2024, and they will sit alongside the existing hybrid line-up of the Clio and Captur which are in the same respective segments. +++

+++ Much like BMW, TOYOTA has been quite vocal about how the combustion engine’s demise shouldn’t be rushed on the road to carbon neutrality. It believes there must be a mix of powertrains to allow people to decide what’s best for their needs, especially since the EV charging infrastructure is still underdeveloped in many parts of the world. More electric cars are coming, but the Japanese automaker is not giving up on the ICE just yet. In an interview with an Australian magazine, the local man in charge of sales and marketing spoke about the road to electrification during a roundtable with journalists at the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s launch event. Sean Hanley said Toyota is “not opposed to battery-electric vehicles”, but a diversity of products is the right way to go in the foreseeable future. He was referring to hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell hydrogen models. All vehicles will be electrified to some extent by the end of the decade but with one exception: Gazoo Racing models. Indeed, Hanley said that “by 2030 every Toyota in our range, apart from GR performance cars, will have some form of electrification”. The statement comes only a couple of weeks after GR86 chief engineer said there aren’t going to be additional GR models beyond the Yaris, Corolla, (GR)86 and Supra. Will all of them continue for the next 7 years? Hopefully. Toyota knows its audience and sticking to ICE-only powertrains will appeal to enthusiasts looking to buy a performance vehicle. Speaking of which, the 6-cylinder GR Corolla finally got the manual gearbox it deserved while the GR Yaris pocket rocket will inherit the potent engine from the GR Corolla Morizo Edition. There is one piece of the GR puzzle I’m missing: whatever happened to the GR Super Sport? The last time I heard, which was in September 2021, the hyper car was a concept and Toyota was studying the “potential commercialisation”. Considering what the GR86’s chief engineer just said about limiting the GR range to 4 models, I wouldn’t get hopes up too high… +++

+++ VOLVO dropped a new teaser on the upcoming EX90 electric SUV flagship, this time focused on the interior. The cabin of the EX90 is set to combine Scandinavian design with sustainably sourced materials and a luxurious ambiance. The official video shows parts of the cabin, revealing some of the dashboard’s design, including the sculpted trim around the horizontally-mounted airvents. We also get to see a large-diameter portrait-style infotainment touchscreen with thinner bezels, and some of the fancy new upholstery options. The company describes the cabin of the new flagship as “one of the most pleasant and elegant car interiors on the market”. The designers offer 7 different color and material combinations in accordance with the exterior shade. Those configurations are called “rooms”, designed to meet each customer’s taste. According to Cecilla Stark, senior design manager at Volvo, the material choices for the EX90 “leave behind old-fashioned automotive luxury” like the smell of animal leather which is totally absent from Volvo’s EVs. Instead, the SUV will offer alternative options including a wool blend seat finish that is sustainably sourced with respect to animal welfare. A total of 50 kg of recycled plastics and bio-based materials will be used in each EX90, the highest amount of “non-primary fossil-based materials” in Volvo’s lineup. Another circular material is the regenerated polyamide used in the vehicle’s carpets. Those elements help Volvo move closer to its goal of going climate-neutral by 2040. The Volvo EX90 will premiere on November 9, with the Swedish carmaker having already confirmed that it’ll be their safest model yet. +++

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