Newsflash: veel details Mercedes=Benz EQG zijn bekend

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+++ AUDI looks to be readying a mid-life update for the Mercedes A-Class rivalling A3. The A3, revealed in 2020, is the firm’s C-segment hatch and compact saloon. This early glimpse at the new version, which will in all likelihood be revealed next year, looks set to embrace only a small number of cosmetic revisions for its mid-life spruce up. The new 2-dimensional Audi badge will be applied on the grille, while some minor exterior details will be revised. The side air intakes look to have been enlarged and to the rear we can see a new design of bumper, plus a different reflector position. The headlights and rear lights may also take on a new signature. The exterior changes on this test car aren’t the only amendments Audi could make to the A3 as the model may introduce all-electric models and SUVs in the near future. I’ve already spotted the jacked-up A3 Citycarver testing, which could incorporate the same exterior and interior tweaks as the facelifted A3. The higher-riding Citycarver variant would also sit between the Q2 and Q3. An option of a lifted A3 shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given Audi Q3 deliveries went up 19.2 per cent in 2021 while A3 deliveries declined 17.7%. As for the regular A3, it’s likely this facelift is the final internal-combustion powered development of the model, as the firm will launch its final fossil-fuelled cars in Europe in 2025. We’ve seen the A3 name use Audi’s e-Tron badging before with the previous generation plug-in hybrid model, the next-generation may adopt that nomenclature permanently, becoming a pure-electric hatchback alternative to the Volkswagen ID.3 and Cupra Born. +++

+++ ELECTRIC VEHICLE START-UPS including Rivian and Lucid are banking their futures on direct-to-consumer sales, eschewing the dealership model used by their more established rivals for what they call a more streamlined approach to automotive retail. “The consumer experience and the consumer journey is too precious to delegate to a third party”, Peter Rawlinson, Lucid’s CEO, told investors during an earnings call in November 2021. The auto consultancy Berylls said the benefits would include the potential to provide a better buying experience, cut the haggling shoppers hate, and reduce overhead costs. This approach does come with inconveniences. Because most states require that cars be sold through dealers, these automakers must appeal to franchise laws and dealer lobbyists to run stores, physical or digital, wherever they want to operate. That can be an expensive and aggravating process, even when it works out. More critically, selling cars to individuals rather than a network of dealers has been making it harder for them to make money. With direct-to-consumer sales, Rivian and Lucid are responsible for getting vehicles into customers’ hands after they’re produced. The revenue they bring in, logged once a customer has their vehicle, depends on the startups’ ability to deliver efficiently. In a second-quarter earnings call in July, Claire McDonough, Rivian’s CFO, said the company started moving from truck to rail for vehicle deliveries as a cost-saving measure. A downside of the move was a larger gap between the number of cars produced and the number delivered to customers. Rivian was hitting production goals and saving money. But the thing that matters most, clocking revenue, takes a hit as a result. In the dealer system, automakers book revenue as soon as their vehicles leave the factory. The messy business of putting a car in a customer’s driveway (and finding customer financing) are outsourced to franchised dealerships. And as competition increases, consumers may lose patience with a laggy delivery system and opt for more immediate options on dealer lots. “Meeting the complex challenge of getting each car to each customer is an especially tall order when Ford, for example, is starting to churn out F-150 Lightnings”, said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst for Edmunds. While startups scramble to build their own retail networks, older automakers are chasing some of Tesla’s direct-to-consumer style without needing to risk delayed revenue. Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen are setting up preorders for new electric-vehicle launches and preparing dealerships to transition to more of a delivery-center-style role. Consumers are helping move the shift along as well. With a prolonged inventory shortage and a move away from haggling, car buyers and dealers alike are leaning into a hybrid approach of sorts. Many more car shoppers are ordering from the factory and picking up from the dealership instead of the traditional tire-kicking and test-driving process. “For now, the legacy car companies have this competitive advantage”, Caldwell said. “They are slightly changing the way things are done, but it’s not something that they have to figure out immediately like the startups”. +++

+++ French president Emmanuel Macron on Monday hosted a dinner with a number of EUROPEAN chief executives to convince them not to move production to the United States, where lower energy prices and the Inflation Reduction Act is proving a lure. European leaders have been alarmed by massive anti-inflation measures passed by Joe Biden’s administration, which make tax breaks conditional on U.S-manufactured content and which EU industries say make investment in Europe less competitive. “We’re having difficulties with companies which are starting to consider offshoring their production or making future investment outside Europe”, a French official said, listing high energy costs and the U.S. legislation as reasons. At the Elysee palace, Macron will seek to convince executives from companies including chemical groups Solvay and Air Liquide, carmakers Volvo and BMW, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and telecom groups Ericsson and Orange to stay in Europe and choose France for their future investments. Macron, who has called on the European Union to launch its own ‘European Buy Act’ to subsidise European production, has encountered resistance from the more anti-protectionist members of the bloc. It was unclear what Macron would tell the executives to convince them not to move to the U.S. But France has unveiled a number of measures over the weekend to cushion the impact of high energy bills for French companies. European companies have been increasingly strident about the impact of soaring energy prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has pushed up gas and electricity prices. Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, who heads the French federation of metals industries, warned in the Les Echos newspaper over the weekend that Europe should protect its own industry more aggressively or see it move to other shores. +++

+++ HONDA has confirmed the all-new ZR-V crossover will go on sale in Japan in April 2023, with its arrival in Europe expected late next year. Originally previewed as part of an electrification strategy presentation in March, the ZR-V has been designed with a focus on attracting younger buyers, and as such majors on “sporty and expressive” design cues, enhanced dynamics, practicality and agility. In its home market, the ZR-V is offered with a petrol and hybrid powertrain; the former a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit and the latter a 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four-pot paired with two electric motors, as used in the Honda Civic e:HEV. The hybrid is expected to be the only option in Europe, given Honda only sells its cars (bar the upcoming Civic Type R) with electrified powertrains in the region. This option matches the hybrid Civic for specification; outputting 184 hp and 320 Nm of torque. Both the petrol and hybrid powertrains are mated to CVT gearboxes that deliver power through either the front or all four wheels, depending on specification. The hybrid’s ‘e-CVT’ only clutches the engine onto the wheels at high speeds, at one fixed ratio. The rest of the time, the engine spins a generator making power for the electric motors. The ZR-V will effectively take the place of the outgoing Honda CR-V in the brand’s European line-up as that model upsizes in its next iteration, to better compete with the Skoda Kodiaq and Toyota Highlander. Honda said the crossover is “sporty and personal” and “the right size with the space and utility for an adventurous weekend escape”. Michael Kistemaker, vice-president of sales for American Honda, said: “By gaining aspirational qualities beyond its segment, the all-new ZR-V will welcome a new generation of customers to Honda and grow in importance as a gateway to the Honda brand. This new ZR-V will advance its position as the segment leader with young buyers, first-time buyers and multicultural customers”. Honda has yet to confirm the pricing, but the new ZR-V will presumably sit between the Civic and CR-V. +++

HondaZRV

+++ KIA launched its new logo with a record-breaking pyrotechnic display in 2021, but it appears a number of consumers are confused by the new design. Google searches for “KN car” have increased significantly since the summer of 2021 when models with the new logo were becoming more common. Google Trends data shows this phenomenon isn’t just limited to the United States as people in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom are conducting searches such as “KN SUV”, “KN car brand price”, and “KN car brand electric”. Searches in America are similar and include “What is KN car brand”, “KN Sportage car”, “What is KN” and “KN Sorento car”. While there are around 30,000 searches per month for “KN car”, “Kia” gets 1.83 million searches in the same time period so 30,000 is a relative drop in the bucket. However, it appears to happen often enough that typing “KN c” into Google Chrome automatically suggests “KN Car” and “KN Car Brand”. This looks like bad news on the surface, but it is interesting to note people are apparently so taken with Kia vehicles that they actively search for them, even when they don’t know what they are. That’s not ideal, but it’s clear people want to learn more about them. +++

KiaRood

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ and auto supplier Robert Bosch have agreed to pay a total of about $6 million to resolve a lawsuit over diesel advertising claims, the U.S. state of Arizona said on Friday. Under the proposed settlement, Mercedes-Benz will pay $2.8 million in consumer restitution, and each qualifying Arizona consumer will receive up to $625 per vehicle, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said. “Arizona demands truth in advertising to assist consumers in making the most informed decisions for themselves”, he said. Mercedes-Benz, which denied the allegations and made no admissions, will also pay $2.7 million in penalties, and Robert Bosch LLC, which also said it had not admitted liability or wrongdoing, will pay $525.000 in penalties, Arizona said. “With the settlement, the company takes another step toward resolution of various diesel proceedings and avoids further costs of litigation and lengthy court actions”, Mercedes Benz said in a statement. Bosch confirmed the settlement related to the engine control units for certain Mercedes diesel vehicles. In 2020, Mercedes-Benz agreed to pay $2.2 billion to resolve a U.S. government diesel emissions cheating investigation and claims from 250,000 U.S. vehicle owners. The settlement included an $875 million civil penalty levied under the Clean Air Act and $546 million to fix the polluting vehicles and offset excess emissions. A Justice Department investigation into the Mercedes emissions issue remains open and a number of U.S. states have ongoing environmental and consumer protection investigations, the company said in its annual report in March. Mercedes-Benz, then known as Daimler AG, agreed in 2020 to pay 250,000 owners up to $3,290 each to get polluting vehicles repaired. Diesel vehicles have come under harsh scrutiny in the United States since Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to installing secret cheating software on 580.000 U.S. vehicles. VW paid more than $30 billion to resolve investigations and buy back vehicles. Earlier this month, Bosch agreed to pay $25 million to resolve California’s probe into its role in the diesel emissions scandals at Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. In August, the U.S. business of Fiat Chrysler, now part of Stellantis, was sentenced after pleading guilty to criminal conspiracy and paid nearly $300 million to resolve a multi-year U.S. Justice Department diesel-emissions fraud probe. +++

+++ Durability testing of the upcoming MERCEDES EQG has begun in earnest, with a series of prototypes being pressed into duty at the halfway point of a 4-year engineering program. Originally previewed in concept car form at the 2021 Munich motor show, the new electric version of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is set to become Mercedes-Benz’s 9th dedicated electric model when it goes on sale in Europe in 2024, kicking off a whole new chapter of electrification for the traditional hardcore off-roader, a mainstay of the German car maker’s line-up since 1979. The EQG is also earmarked to act as a technological spearhead for Mercedes-Benz’s newly created G (for Geländewagen) sub-brand, promising what its CEO, Emmerich Schiller, describes as an “unparalleled combination of luxury and off-road ability for electric vehicles”. “From the start, it was decided the electric G-Class should be at least as good as the internal combustion engine model both on road and off road. We didn’t want to compromise on capabilities”, he says. Based on the latest iteration of the G-Class (codenamed and known within Mercedes-Benz engineering circles as W463) the EQG builds off a modified version of the steel ladder-frame chassis used by internal-combustion-engine models, alongside which it is planned to be produced at long-time partner Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. Early road-going prototypes confirm the EQG will retain the same characteristic square-rigged exterior styling as other existing G-Class models. Although disguised, they feature standard body panels together with a number of small but unique details, as hinted at on the earlier concept, including a new-look front bumper and a blanked-off grille. “We have 2 skateboards with the same hat on top”, says Schiller, in reference to the ladder-frame chassis and familiar G-Class styling. “As with the internal-combustion-engine models, the body is connected to the ladder frame at 8 points”. Like Mercedes-Benz’s other EQ models, there is no front luggage compartment or frunk. The charging cable will be able to be stowed in a lockable box similar to that previewed by the concept, mounted in the place traditionally taken by the spare tire on the sideways-opening tailgate. At the centre of the EQG’s technical development is a new electric drivetrain consisting of 4 electric motors: 1 powering each individual wheel. Unique among Mercedes-Benz’s current line-up of EQ models, it mirrors that of the SLS E-Cell produced by Mercedes-Benz’s AMG performance car division in limited volumes in 2013. The 4-motor layout, also used by US electric vehicle start-up Rivian for its R1 SUV and pick-up, is aimed at providing the EQG with what Schiller describes as an unrivalled combination of off-road performance and refined on-road qualities. “There were intensive discussions surrounding the 4-motor layout. It is incredibly complex. It is also very expensive. But with 2 electric motors you have differential locks, which means a combination of electronic and mechanical systems. With 3 motors (1 up front and 2 on the rear axle), you don’t get the full performance in off-road conditions”, he says. Mercedes-Benz is holding back on disclosing power and torque figures for its latest electric model. However, Schiller hints there will be varying models with differing outputs, including an AMG flagship claimed to provide a level of on-road performance, including straight-line acceleration, to match the existing 585 hp twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine powered Mercedes-AMG G63 4Matic. The front electric motors are mounted low at each side within the axle. The rear electric motors are integrated more inboard within a newly developed de Dion-style rear axle conceived specifically for the EQG and chosen to provide “good traction and flexibility of the suspension”. Each electric motor is able to provide individual drive to each wheel through a mechanical two-speed gearbox, offering both high and low-range gearing. Together with traditional on-road driving modes (Eco, Comfort and Sport), the new G-Class will offer 3 off-road modes: Trail, Rock and Sand. An additional creeper mode allows the driver to set a pre-determined speed in off-road driving. To facilitate off-road performance, the 4 electric motors are also able to simulate the three locking differentials (one in each axle, and one in the transfer case) of internal-combustion-engine G-Class models. In extreme conditions, the collective drive can be channelled to a single wheel to retain traction and ensure progress. Schiller cites throttle dosing among the primary advantages of the four-motor layout. “It is incredibly precise. The individual control of drive to each wheel provides a whole new level of ability. We have even more possibilities off road. It is really fun every four weeks to drive the latest prototypes. I think we have the best electric off-roader”, he says. Additionally, a so-called G-Turn function, activated by a dashboard-mounted button, makes the electric motors on one side turn the wheels forward and those on the opposite side turn the wheels in reverse, allowing the EQG to perform spectacular, on-the-spot 360 degrees tank turns. The driver can select whether to turn left or right via shift paddles on the steering wheel. Compact packaging of the front electric motors within the front axle permits a greater turning angle for the front wheels, leading to a turning circle that is described as being “considerably better” than that of other internal-combustion-engine G-Class models. The new driveline is allied to a battery mounted within the floor and beneath the rear seat. The lithium ion unit, with a usable energy capacity that Mercedes-Benz puts at “around 100 kWh”, shares its cell technology with that previewed by the EQXX concept. A new silicon anode is claimed to boost energy density and efficiency beyond that of the battery used by the newly unveiled EQE and EQS SUVs, while also providing a reduction in weight and overall size. As in other Mercedes-Benz EQ models, a regeneration system allows the harvesting of kinetic energy in three different steps – D+, D and D-. Schiller says it is too early in the development process to make claims about range, but he says the four electric motor layout provides the scope for significant energy regeneration, both in on-road and off-road driving. “In off road, it is less about the overall range and more about driving hours. We’ve seen some incredible figures during testing”, he says. To protect the battery in extreme off-road driving conditions, it is housed within a sturdy sealed case that enables the EQG to wade through deep water. The steel casing also receives an additional layer of carbonfibre-reinforced polymer compound to protect against rock strikes and other impacts. “The outer layer is made of an extremely resilient material that is designed to protect the battery at all times”, says Schiller. One advantage of mounting the battery within the floor is the EQG’s centre of gravity, which is described as being considerably lower than that of the G-Class. It comes at the cost of weight, though. “Weight is a challenge, as it is in any electric vehicle”, says the head of Mercedes-Benz’s G-Class sub-brand, adding: “We haven’t got a final figure yet but it is below 3500kg”. Underneath, a double-wishbone front and trailing arm rear suspension uses similar linkage points to internal-combustion-engine G-Class models. Mercedes-Benz is not prepared to talk too much about factors such as ground clearance or approach, departure and break over angles just yet, though Schiller suggests the EQG will not only match diesel- and petrol-powered G-Class models in off-road conditions but, in certain situations, outperform them. Despite the EQG’s ability to provide selective drive to each wheel, though, it appears prospective owners will have to forgo towing. “It is an absolute killer for the range, says Schiller. “We’re not sure at this stage if it will be offered on initial generation. +++

MercedesEQGprototype

+++ The rout in TESLA shares is accelerating as a recall and signs of China’s return to Covid Zero curbs adds to a litany of investor concerns, with Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk focused on turning around Twitter. The electric-vehicle maker’s stock dropped as much as 6.5% to $168.52 in New York on Monday, on pace to close at the lowest since November 2020. Trader anxiety was higher after a city near Beijing returned to lockdowns, putting both production and sales at risk. Tesla also initiated a recall of more than 300.000 cars due to faulty taillights. Tesla’s shares have lost nearly half of their value in less than 2 months as supply-chain snarls mount, raw-material costs soar and potential buyers feel the squeeze of stubborn inflation and rising interest rates. On top of that, Musk has been preoccupied by his newly acquired social-media platform, leaving some investors to worry that Tesla’s strategy may fall to the wayside. “Weakening macro data in China is leading to concerns on Tesla, who has already lowered price once to stimulate demand and has a heavy export output in the first half of the 4th quarter”, Cowen analyst Jeffrey Osborne wrote in a Friday note. The analyst added that hedge funds seem to be shifting to a negative bias on the stock due to risk there’s been “a loss of focus” on Tesla since Musk acquired Twitter. The company’s recent stock decline marks a major retracement of several milestones reached during its meteoric rise in 2020 and 2021. Tesla was supplanted as the fifth-most valuable company on the S&P 500 Index by old-economy stalwart Berkshire Hathaway Inc. earlier this month. The car company, which lost its trillion-dollar-valuation status in late April, only needs its shares to tumble another 6.5% from current levels for the valuation to drop below $500 billion. +++

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