Newsflash: supersportwagen Alfa Romeo nu al uitverkocht


+++ ALFA ROMEO ’s upcoming supercar, known as the ‘6C’, has nearly sold out ahead of an expected reveal later this summer. Jean-Philippe Imparato confirmed deposits have already been taken, despite the car not officially being signed off by parent brand Stellantis; a decision due to be made in April. “It will be sold out before I unveil the car”, he added. It is not yet known what form the car will take, but it will “contribute to the DNA” of the brand, Imparato said, hinting at a heritage design. “We are working on something that I could put aside the 8C in the museum of Arese, being proud of our contribution to the history of Alfa Romeo. That is what we want. To take this type of decision in 2023 in a group like Stellantis, everyone considers that you are completely mad”, said Imparato, hinting that the car will likely be fitted with a combustion engine, rather than an electric powertrain. He also said the model would not just be a track car, but one that could still be driven everyday despite its likely price and positioning. “It could be iconic, super-sexy and recognisable as an Alfa Romeo at first sight. It’s not done yet, but it’s ongoing. The positioning is ongoing. We have so many fans asking for something special”, he said, before adding that he hoped to be able to give an answer to them in March. His description suggests it could even stray into hypercar territory, with a suggestion that the price could run into the hundreds of thousands. Imparato said this limited-run car is parallel to Alfa’s core range of models. This new range of cars has been signed off until 2027 after the return of Alfa to the black in 2021 and the first half of 2022. One model per year will be launched. Beyond 2027, it has presented a product plan to its parent Stellantis until 2030, and each year of success between now and then will allow a subsequent model to be signed off. “Each year, we will lock the next 5 years of the product plan with Stellantis”, he said. When asked if Alfa planned SUVs in the future bigger and smaller than the Tonale, Imparato said “yes and yes”. It’s understood the smaller SUV will come in 2024, as an all-electric Alfa sister car to the Jeep Avenger, although the Alfa would be greatly overhauled with a very different set of capabilities. The larger SUV is understood to be a replacement for the Stelvio, also electric and due around 2026. These two will be sandwiched by a replacement for the Giulia in 2025, understands, which will be the first model in Stellantis to be based on the group’s next-generation electric architecture. “It has 5G and new era technology that will bring to market something special”, said Imparato on this new platform, which will also bring a highly advanced new software suite and capability to Stellantis. Beyond those models up until the Stelvio replacement in 2026, Imparato hinted multiple options and bodystyles were on the table for the brand, including roadsters, saloons, and hatchbacks. “With the EV switch, it opens so many opportunities for me for top hats from a design point of view”, said Imparato, in reference to how wildly different bodystyles can be built on top of common skateboard chassis electric car architectures. “The best way for EV is for a Duetto, the sound of silence”, he said in a further hint at plans for a reborn Spider, something he also spoke of his desire of doing in 2022. “It opens sedans, it opens a C-segment hatchback (a Giulietta-sized car), so many interesting things we know”. After 2025, all core Alfas will be electric and all models it sells by 2027 will be electric, an indication that the Tonale will be the last Alfa launched with conventional internal combustion engines. “Alfa will switch from zero electrified cars to zero emissions the fastest”, said Imparato. He welcomed the switch in general to electric cars, and said that there was “no plan b” for Alfa other than what he has developed. “On questions of legislation, on global warming and the global ecosystem, there is no alternative”, said Imparato. “That’s why we want to be part of the game”. +++


+++ More versions of the LAND ROVER DEFENDER keep hitting the block, but at the Arctic Circle the coolest of the bunch was spied testing . I don’t have an official name from Land Rover yet (rumors have suggested SVX), but the idea is similar to a Ford Bronco Raptor. The formula should lead to big grins off-road. The new Defender wil be rocking a V8 engine and get massive fender flares, lifted ride height and chunky tires. Unlike the more staid-looking Defender 110, th ‘SVX’ looks designed for gnarlier off-road duty. A wider track and upgraded off-road suspension will push those wheels out and fill the big fender flares: it’s not quite Bronco Raptor levels of obnoxiousness, but this Defender is way wider than typical. The tires filling those slots will be impressively beefy BF Goodrich all-terrain tires. Land Rover didn’t go so far as to fit uniquely small wheels to this more extreme model (they’re still 20-inch wheels) but the rubber protecting those off-road style wheels looks much more suited to the trail than any stock option today. When Land Rover launches this mega-Defender, expect it to be the most expensive of the bunch due to it being powered by a V8. Maybe think of the new Defender as more of a Mercedes-Benz G 500 alternative than Bronco Raptor rival. I’m be eagerly awaiting its reveal. +++

+++ LORDSTOWN MOTORS will temporarily stop production and deliveries of its pickup Endurance, of which it has only made 31 units for sale, the electric-vehicle maker said, citing performance and quality issues with some components. Shares tumbled 11.8% to $1.08 in early trading on Thursday after the company also said it would voluntarily recall 19 vehicles delivered to customers or being used internally. Lordstown had set a target to deliver 50 vehicles in 2022 and more in 2023 out of the planned first batch of 500 units when commercial production started in September. The company did not make it clear when it would resume production and deliveries. Vehicles waiting for shipment and in process at the manufacturing plant will also be fixed, the company added. The company said in January it expected production to be slow through its first quarter due to supply chain constraints, particularly with respect to the availablity of hub motor components. +++

+++ The same day MERCEDES-BENZ dished on the optional interior in the new E-Class, it dished on what the new Superscreen will make available to E-Class owners. Part of that will be the next-generation navigation experience being created in collaboration with Google, but there’s more and Mercedes expects the changes to mean a lot more money for the company. Beyond being an infotainment system, not only will the software spread throughout the lineup, Mercedes says MB.OS will connect everything from vehicle development and the production value chain to vehicle functions and services long after the sale. Think of MB.OS as the program the automaker itself runs on, the breadth of capability “effectively making it an operating system for the entire Mercedes-Benz business”. In that case, vehicle infotainment would be just a node in the system. MB.OS will debut on a new electric vehicle in the “Entry Luxury” segment on the new MMA platform (Mercedes Modular Architecture) next year. We’re not sure how much of the platform possibilities we’ll see in the new car, but we’re told part of what’s coming are new partnerships for video, gaming and productivity. That includes being able to watch YouTube when parked or during autonomous driving; “a new dimension of in-car gaming through Antstream for arcade games” and being able to join Zoom and Webex videoconferences from the comfort of an 12-way seat. Customers in China will get dedicated solutions from local providers like Tencent. Proprietary development is expected to mean a better electric ownership experience and finer execution of automated driving as well. Because Mercedes can give MB.OS access to all vehicle data, EVs will provide more precise and reliable range data. Refilling at Mercedes’ coming charging network should also be more convenient via the MB.Charge ecosystem. The money comes via MB.Connect and MB.Drive. The former is the umbrella for infotainment functions from navigation to entertainment and communication, the latter oversees the bundle of upgradeable driver assistance functions. The automaker says it made more than 1 billion euro in 2022 from “software-enabled revenues” like map updates and Live Traffic, both in the purview of MB.Connect. All MMA vehicles will be fitted with a new sensor suite enabling Level 2 assisted driving tailored to the more complex task of urban driving; ultimately, the company wants to offer Level 3 assisted driving at speeds up to 80 miles per hour. MB.Drive is where an owner could upgrade ADAS feature capability or go from Level 2 to Level 3 “with a fixed-term contract”. The carmaker plans that from 2025, certain functions will be upgradeable over the life of the vehicle, bringing in more billions every year. The first hint of the world MB.OS will open can be had now on any Mercedes running the latest version of the current MBUX infotainment software. Google’s Place Details, with information on more than 200 million businesses around the world, can be accessed in the car. The new E-Class will take the next step with the third generation of MBUX that will allow the installation of certain third-party apps instead of apps being mirrored from the phone. +++

+++ The MINI CLUBMAN , the company’s wagon-ish entry into a range that also includes 3-door versions, 5-doors, convertibles and SUVs, is reportedly about to get its club membership revoked. Some published reports say that the cult favorite, which has seen its sales drop hard last year, will be discontinued in just about a year, likely with a special last edition. Clubman sales have been on the decline since the model’s peak in 2016, when the second generation was introduced. The first-generation Clubman stood out from the pack with its suicide rear doors and barn doors instead of a traditional hatch; it later matured into a more conventional shape. The larger Countryman bit into sales of the Clubman, and now a larger version of that SUV is in the works. Mini has also shown its Aceman concept, an electric crossover that could eventually join the brand’s lineup slotted between the Hatch and the Countryman. +++

+++ PININFARINA ’s electric Battista has become the fastest-accelerating production car in the world. The electric 1.873 hp hypercar set a quarter-mile and a half-mile record on a test track in India, and it also earned the honor of being the fastest car driven on Indian soil. The coachbuilder turned carmaker set both records on the Natrax circuit. An 8.55-second quarter-mile time was clocked and a 13.38-second half-mile time, figures that cement the Battista’s spot in the record book. A top speed of 358 kph was reached on the track. At another ty, 357 kph was reached. All of these records were verified with a VBOX data logger system, according to Pininfarina. The company adds that the top speed test was performed with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires while Cup 2R tires were fitted for the acceleration tests. “It’s like being shot from a cannon”, the testcrew summed up. This isn’t the first time that speed has propelled the Battista to stardom. Fitted with 4 electric motors and related to the Rimac Nevera, the coupe reached 100 kph from a stop in 1.79 seconds on the Nardò test track in Italy in 2022. It’s interesting to note that the Nevera’s quarter-mile time is slightly slower: it clocked an 8.58-second time on a German track in 2021. “We are proud to see Rimac Technology powering the Battista to achieving these record-breaking numbers! There are several factors that can contribute to achieving such impressive results, including tire choice, aerodynamics, surface conditions, and weather conditions. We believe that records are meant to be broken and we are dedicated to continuing to advance and improve our technology to support future record-breaking achievements”, Rimac told. Built in Italy, the Battista is limited to 150 units globally and takes between 10 and 18  weeks to assemble depending on the specification. +++


+++ POLESTAR has opened a new design studio a stone’s throw from its global headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden. Located in a recently-renovated building, the design center is responsible for creating the cars that the company will add to its range in the coming years. Up to 120 design team members will work in the new studio under the direction of Maximilian Missoni, Polestar’s head of design. Their task is fairly straight-forward: They need to develop, fine-tune, and implement the company’s next design language. While I don’t know exactly what the next Polestar models will look like, I’m told that they’ll draw inspiration from the Precept concept (shown below) unveiled in 2021 and headed to production in 2024 as the 5. Its influence has already permeated the Polestar range: the 3 borrows some styling cues from the design study. “In today’s age of advanced product design, it’s quite easy to display emotions like aggression and sportiness in a car. But try conveying intelligence in design: it’s not so easy. This is something we have spent a lot of time considering”, Missoni explained. The building that the new design studio is located in was built in 1984 and designed by architects Romaldo Giurgola and Owe Svärd. It was renovated before Polestar moved in, but the firm notes that it went to great lengths to preserve its unique architectural character. We’ll see the first 3 cars designed there in the next 3 years and Polestar has big plans for its future: in addition to the aforementioned 5, the company is planning to release a second, smaller crossover called 4 and the production version of the O2 concept, which will be named 6. +++

+++ TESLA is still the benchmark for the electric vehicle market and smaller players are at risk of failing or being swallowed up by larger peers, according to former Ford chief executive Mark Fields. He told that some of the smaller companies like Lucid Motors run the risk of being taken over by bigger companies among the growing pack of EV makers. “I think every automaker still benchmarks Tesla as the leader at this point”, Fields said. He noted revenue misses for both Lucid Motors and Nikola as worrying signs. Those companies have also been plagued by persistent supply chain bottlenecks that have slowed production. And “it’s only going to get tougher” for companies like Lucid Motors and others that are pricing vehicles in a high-end price range, where competition from big incumbent rivals like Mercedes and BMW is stiff. “One thing is for sure: these companies are going to continue to need capital to grow their businesses”, Fields said. “Some will succeed and some will have to be bought by some of the larger players”. Meanwhile, Fields highlighted Tesla’s ability to control vertical integration when producing its vehicles, which has allowed the company to be “the master of their own destiny of the costs”. “When you combine that with their brand, which is held in high regard because they were a first mover, they continue to get a premium”, Fields said. +++

+++ The TOYOTA GR COROLLA is near-unobtainium as demand far outstrips supply in the United States and customers are left to negotiate markups with dealers and scalpers. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Toyota plans to expand the previously-limited Circuit Edition beyond the first model year. It will also increase production volume to help meet the extreme demand. Toyota started selling the GR Corolla Core in the United States in late 2022, but the Circuit Edition isn’t scheduled until spring 2023, and the ultra-exclusive Morizo Edition won’t land until the winter. The Circuit Edition was initially intended to be a first-year-only model, but Toyota said that demand for it is strong and noted that it would remain a part of the lineup in 2024. Given the Morizo Edition’s unique configuration and exclusivity, it’s unlikely to see a similar expansion. The Circuit Edition builds on the base Core Edition with a unique hood, a forged carbon roof, a rear spoiler, and front/rear Torsen limited-slip differentials. Suede and synthetic leather seats, heated front seats and steering wheel, a JBL stereo, and a leather-wrapped shift knob are also standard. All cars come with a turbocharged 3-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission and rally-bred all-wheel drive. Though tiny, the 1.6-liter three is mighty, producing 300 hp and 360 Nm of torque. This is all good news for hopeful buyers, but we’re still not talking about massive supply numbers for any of the GR Corolla variants. Toyota said just 1.500 Circuit Edition models would be available for 2023 in the United States, so an increase in such a tiny number will be a positive step but not the savior many people want. The automaker unleashed only a few thousand cars in the U.S. and even fewer than that for other countries, though, so any movement is good. +++


+++ The current TOYOTA RAV4 and Camry have been on the market since 2018 and 2017, respectively. Both stalwarts for the brand, the RAV4 shows no sign of slowing down in sales as crossovers carve out market turf that used to be dominated by sedans. The Camry, on the other hand, is one of a few remaining family sedans on the market as competitors (notably Ford) have discontinued traditional 4-door models. That gives Toyota little incentive to update either vehicle, but both are reportedly scheduled for an update in late 2024 for the 2025 model year. Both models will be built on revised versions of their current TNGA-K modular platforms. The RAV4 is the bestselling non-pickup vehicle in the United States. Some versions, like the RAV4 Prime PHEV, have waiting lists of over a year in parts of the country. Additionally, The Fast Lane Car says the RAV4 is likely to remove the 2.5-liter gasoline-only drivetrain altogether and become a hybrid-only model. If these rumors are true, it might be worth waiting just a few months more for the next-generation version to debut. April 2024 is pegged as the production start date for the new Camry. By then Camry will have been on the market for 7 years, an eon for what was once America’s best selling car. In its pre-crossover-pocalypse heyday, new generations came about in as little as 4 years. Drive also believes that the gasoline-only Camry is unlikely to be discontinued in favor of an all-hybrid lineup, as they are still a popular option in the U.S. In any case, it seems that Toyota is determined to continue offering a proper midsize sedan, and that’s good news for those who don’t like the compromised handling characteristics of am SUV. It appears that it will take at least another generation before Toyota offers fully electric versions of these bread-and-butter segment leaders. Hybrids are still good business, and PHEVs especially are the best of both worlds in terms of spotty charging infrastructure. +++

+++ With a brand name like Scout, one would expect that a bulky, off-roader pickup would be built in the United States, even if the company that owns it is German. Indeed, VOLKSWAGEN has just confirmed that the all-electric vehicle will be constructed at a new, from-the-ground-up VW-owned plant in the U.S. and will launch in 2026 with a truck and likely be followed with an SUV. In VW-speak, a company statement says: “The decision to pull up the plant ourselves is available as a draft resolution and has thus been made”. In other words, it’s an official go. Volkswagen is no longer considering Foxconn or Magna for making its Scout in America. The Scout name was acquired in 2021 by VW, but its history dates back to the 1960s, when International Harvester Corporation (IHC) built the Scout as a competitor to the popular Jeep brand. Last year the Germans named Scott Keogh, who then was head of Volkswagen of America, to run the new marque. Keogh formerly was in charge of Audi of America. In November, it was reported that the carmaker was in talks with Foxconn, which has expanded into building electric vehicles for auto brands, and Magna International subsidiary Magna Steyr, about partnering on a joint plant. But those proposals were apparently scuttled. In addition to the Scout brand, Volkswagen has indicated that it wants to make Audi electric vehicles in the U.S., also at the new plant. +++

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