Newsflash: Toyota komt met meer GR modellen


+++ Anecdotally, we probably come across the same number of comments here and elsewhere about how ELECTRIC VEHICLES don’t achieve their rated range estimates versus how they do achieve or exceed their range estimates. A new technical paper from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) asserts that “most EVs tested to date fall short of both their electric consumption and range label values”. Not only that, the writers say that the disparity between claimed and actual EV driving ranges is wider than the same disparity for vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. Presenting the paper at this week’s SAE World Congress Experience that discusses the hurdles facing transportation and mobility, SAE’s Gregory Pannonethe assert the problem isn’t with EVs, but with the testing and calculation procedures. He told: “While efficiency and range are related, unlike petrol-powered vehicles, you can’t directly compute range from the MPGe figures like you can with petrol mpg and the tank size. That’s because there are an unknown amount of charging losses included in the MPGe figures that don’t factor into the range figure. Further complicating matters is that every automaker isn’t good about providing usable battery capacity”. There are 3 solutions the authors say could aid consumers: 1) standardized testing procedures, 2) a more realistic range multiplier and 3) to show the city and highway ranges for EVs, as the agency does with ICE vehicles. +++

+++ The LAMBORGHINI Revuelto is a very important car for the Italian brand. Not only is it the company’s first plug-in hybrid but it also serves as a successor to the iconic Aventador and will need to prove itself against the formidable Ferrari SF90 Stradale. Does it have what it takes? To provide the world with a detailed look at the new supercar, Lamborghini has released a very informative video highlighting many of the Revuelto’s most important technologies and features. A key differentiator between the Revuelto and all other V12 Lamborghini starting from the Countach is that the transmission is no longer located in the tunnel between the driver and passenger. In the Revuelto, it is the battery pack that sits in the tunnel while the engine has been rotated 180 degrees and the gearbox now sits at the back of the car. The monocoque of the Revuelto also represents a significant leap forward from the Aventador. It is made entirely from carbon fiber, including much of the front structure. Lamborghini says the new chassis is 25% more rigid than that of the Aventador. Lamborghini has also worked comprehensively of the soundtrack of the Revuelto. This clip gives us a taste of the car’s aerospace-inspired sound when driving in all-electric mode. The howl of the upgraded 6.5-liter naturally-aspirated V12 has also been tweaked. Lamborghini has not yet given journalists nor prospective owners the opportunity to drive the Revuelto but it is already proving popular. In fact, the company recently revealed that it already has enough orders to cover the first 2 years of production, proving that turmoil in the financial markets isn’t worrying the wealthy few that buy a Lamborghini fresh off the factory floor. The response to the Revuelto also shows that Lamborghini’s buyers don’t have any issue with buying a hybridized supercar. +++


+++ The rise of electrified vehicles has been taken as one more nail in the coffin of the MANUAL TRANSMISSION . But Toyota could be working to ensure that hybrid vehicles don’t mean the end of selecting your own gears. The automaker recently filed a patent application on a system that would facilitate the use of a manual transmission in hybrid vehicles. The system would manage the interplay between the internal combustion engine, the electric motor, and their requirements on the transmission. Although the patent was filed in August 2021, it was only published in February. The main focus of the patent is the management of the clutch. The rather complicated transmission would include a shuttle valve with multiple clutch cylinders. These would, in turn, be connected to the clutch pedal and the ECU. That would allow the driver to select gears more or less as they would expect from a manual transmission. Meanwhile, the clutch going to the ECU would help the car seamlessly shift between engine and electric power. The computer could cut in and effectively depress the clutch when the car is coasting to a stop, or while it’s taking off to allow the electric motor to step in when necessary. The arrangement of the valves means that the driver would always be able to depress the clutch, regardless of what the ECU wants. The patent also allows for a driving mode in which the computer butts out entirely, and the transmission is connected to the clutch pedal alone. The patent will almost certainly appeal to enthusiasts, especially now that hybrid powertrains are becoming more and more common among performance vehicles. It also follows from Toyota‘s patent for a simulated manual transmission for electric vehicles, and is further evidence that the Japanese automaker wants to continue courting car people as the industry electrifies. +++

+++ In last week’s MERCEDES-BENZ E-Class reveal, I mentioned that the new generation would still offer that increasingly rare and precious bodystyle: an Estate station wagon. Now, it has been confirmed that the E-Class wagon carries on, but the spokesman neglected to mention the AMG E 63 Estate however. The CLE-Class becomes official next year, the documents showing a coupe and a convertible version. The new lineup is like a reboot of the real estate agent’s once-favorite car, the CLK-Class. Absorbing both the C-Class and E-Class 2-door variants and a sport-focused competitor for the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series, will come with a range of powertrains in standard guise and as an eventual AMG trim. The government papers reveal a CLE 300 that should be a turbocharged 2.0 liter four-cylinder with 258 hp and 400 Nm; a CLE 450 that should be an inline-6 with 367 hp and 500 Nm;  and an AMG CLE 53 that should possess an even more potent inline-six with 435 hp. Rumors have said the junior toupee tosser might get a pass into Mercedes’ VIP room with a Maybach trim as well. +++

+++ What’s Swedish for “never give up”? SAAB , apparently. The fondly-remembered car company formerly called just that (and now named NEVS) is only a shell, employing just a limited crew in the land of trolls. But it’s got something to sell, and that something seems like it’s really something. It’s called Emily. The Emily GT exists as 6 prototype electric cars, according to NEVS, with a combined horsepower rating (per car) of 484 powered by an enormous 175 kWh lithium-ion battery that’s good for 1.000 km of range. In development almost since Saab’s demise, the company (once owned by General Motors) was closed down in 2010, the Emily is a very real product and needs a real sponsor, according to NEVS CEO Nina Selander. “It is for sale, it is also a joy to be able to show it. It should be allowed to live on, it’s too nice, too good and too modern a car for nothing to come of it. Interested parties are welcome”, she said. Photos of the car show a modern, forward-thrust profile with handsome lines, a look similar to the last Saab 9-5 and Volvo’s S60 (must be a Swedish thing) and a fashionable, sci-fi-ish interior. A hopeful engineer on the project estimates that the car is less than 2 years away from some kind of series production, but according to the modest NEVS website, the company is currently in “hibernation” even as it continues to solicit buyers for the Emilys. Said Peter Dahl, the Emily project manager, “Many have asked us what we have been doing for 10 years. We have developed 13 different car projects, this is one of them”. +++



+++ The death of the SEDAN body style is something that has been pitched by many as a market-influenced inevitability. With consumers lapping up SUVs and crossovers, long-standing 3-box models such as the Toyota Avensis and Volkswagen Jetta — to name but a few — have all been axed. But, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center, the sedan may be poised for a comeback. Since 2002 high riding models have been outselling ‘low’ cars. But in the first quarter of 2023, their sales have picked up, rising to a 21.4 percent share versus its lowest 19.6 percent quarter recorded in 2021. These are evidently small gains that could possibly be pinned on a market anomaly, but there may be other reasons as to why cars are seeing a resurgence in 2023. One is down to the generational “cool” factor. With 2 decades of crossover and SUV supremacy, young buyers looking for their first car don’t want to be seen driving the same thing their parents had. There’s also the fact that cars make more sense in light of the EV revolution. Sedans are more aerodynamic and will get better range than their crossover counterparts. Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics at J.D. Power, suggests that we may be at a stasis point for the next few years and that in the long term, sedans will continue to feature in manufacturer’s lineup, even if there won’t be as many models to choose from as there once was. “It may get worse for the car for the time being, but for the long term, every automaker is going to have one. I still think you’ll be able to find a ‘low’ car. It’s just not going to be like we saw before. Another reason why sedans may be getting a bit more traction is thanks to the soaring price of new cars. A number of factors have contributed to the inflated prices, including the global chip shortage. But with popular crossovers rising in price, many have taken another look at the sedan alternatives. When Volkswagen was forced to cut Jetta production numbers in favor of the more profitable crossovers, many who would have preferred a sedan were left looking elsewhere. The manufacturers who have chosen to stick by their sedan nameplates, such as Hyundai’s Elantra and Sonata, have seen sales rise in the first quarter by 47 percent and 87 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Toyota says they will remain committed to serving those who prefer sedans, while Honda has also seen some customers head back to the Civic and Accord thanks to lower inventories of other crossovers. +++

+++ As TESLA chief executive officer Elon Musk has announced that he’s willing to sacrifice margins for growth as the company continues to realign itself within the industry, the news will make mainstream automakers nervous as many of their own EV offerings are still in their infancy. The strategy was put into motion by 6 separate price cuts across Tesla’s model range in the first quarter of 2023. Although the company ultimately raised prices for its Model S and Model X models by some 2–3 percent, following its biggest stock slide since January 3rd, on an earnings call with investors, Musk reiterated the company’s prioritization of volume over profits. “We’ve taken the view that pushing for higher volumes and a larger fleet is the right choice here versus a lower volume and a higher margin”, he said. Tesla’s new strategy takes it out of the fight with car makers such as Mercedes-Benz, who have expressed an interest in moving further upmarket where margins are consistently higher. Instead, Musk’s new move will put the likes of Ford and Volkswagen on notice, with mainstream automakers already having cut prices to compete with Tesla; some of whom are believed to be already operating on thin EV profits as it is. Ford CEO Jim Farley confirmed as much, claiming that “price wars are breaking out everywhere”, reports Bloomberg. With the Model Y down by some 29 percent since the end of 2022, the Blue Oval has had to make similar downward revisions to its competitor, the Mustang Mach-E. The Mach-E already has had $4,500 knocked off it, and Ford has predicted that its EV unit will incur a loss of $3 billion in 2023. However, Tesla’s move to push cars out the door won’t be without its risks. The company is putting its brand equity on the line that it has spent years building up. Moving out of the premium price bracket risks sacrificing brand perception and social status; 2 crucial factors for those at the upper end of the market. +++

+++ TOYOTA will launch an electric-car offensive in the second half of the 2020s under new CEO Koji Sato, but it’s not forgetting about enthusiasts. The firm announced that investing more resources into EVs won’t spell the end of its performance-focused Gazoo Racing (GR) sub-brand. “The Gazoo brand will be acknowledged for the future and maybe we can even speed it up”, Sato told on the sidelines of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) race held on Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit. “Our Master Driver was also president of the company at the same time as he had a steering wheel in his hand for Gazoo. Now he is only chairman, maybe he will have a lot more time to develop cars for them?”, he added, referring to now-retired CEO Akio Toyoda, who spearheaded the sub-brand’s launch. One point worth noting is that his comments contradict statements made by Yasunori Suezawa, the GR86’s chief engineer, last October. “There is none left, actually, so the GR86 is the last”, he announced. Sato is in charge, so he presumably gets the last word. It’s too early to tell how Toyota will expand its GR-branded range of sports cars. As of writing, the global lineup includes some seriously exciting models including the GR Yaris (the only true rally homologation special available new in 2023), the GR Corolla (which shares its basic drivetrain with the Yaris), the GR86 and the GR Supra. Its covering more segments than most of its rivals. None of this is official, but it’s difficult to imagine a Toyota sports car positioned above the Supra. One of the voids in the GR range is a truck (high-performance, off-road-ready pickups are in hot demand) and GR could be well positioned to steer Toyota into this segment. Another option is a born-again MR2, though I’ve heard rumors outlining the car for over a decade and they’ve never materialized. And, buyers in the market for a high-performance crossover with a relatively affordable price tag won’t find one in a Toyota showroom: that’s another hole to fill. GR could also either develop a battery-powered model or create its own variant of an upcoming EV. An unverified rumor published in February 2023 claims that the next-generation Supra will switch to battery power. And, yet another possibility is a GR-branded model equipped with the hydrogen-burning 3-cylinder engine that Toyota has been testing on and off the track for the past couple of years. This is all speculation and I expect more details about Toyota’s plans for the future will emerge in the coming months. In the meantime, one thing is seemingly certain: The brand that unexpectedly became the enthusiast community’s darling isn’t going to give up this status. +++

+++ ZEEKR has revealed that it is using the ‘gigapress’ die-casting technique first implemented by Tesla to cut production costs of the all-electric 009 MPV. In the case of the 009, the Chinese car manufacturer is using big aluminum die casts to make a large rear underbody section of the vehicle, measuring 1.4 meters long and 1.6 meters wide. This alone has allowed it to reduce the number of welding points by almost 800. Furthermore, it makes the vehicle lighter, increases the structural stiffness, and should reduce defects, Zeekr manufacturing technology chief Jiang Kehong revealed. Tesla started using aluminum die-casting machines for the Model Y in late 2020. The machine it uses are manufactured by Italy’s Idra Group and use shots of molten aluminum that are injected into a cold-chamber casting mold. Once the piece has solidified, it is removed and robots clean the chamber for the next cast. Tesla’s Giga Press can produce up to 45 castings per hour. Speaking with Reuters, Jiang noted that Zeekr will use giga-casting technologies on more of its models “in the future”. Zeekr began investigating the possible use of die casting in 2020 and sources its presses from Chinese company LK. These machines have a pressing power of 7.200 tons and Zeekr’s use of the technology comes shortly after rival Nio introduced its new chassis designed to slash manufacturing costs. There is a drawback to manufacturing large pieces, however. As large body sections are made from a single piece, any damage that a part may suffer in a crash could necessitate the expensive replacement of an entire section of the vehicle. Zeekr says it has addressed this by developing a system that allows it to change select parts of the large die-cast section without having to replace the entire panel. “That should help reduce the repair cost after an accident”, Jiang noted. “We believe customers should not pay extra for our technology innovation”. +++

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