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  • The unthinkables: manufacturers' most oddball models
    on 6th July 2020

    Sometimes a manufacturer breaks the mould, with fantastic results. Sometimes, however, it doesn't all go to plan... No one saw the Alfa Romeo SZ or Volkswagen Phaeton coming: cars unlike anything their maker – sometimes any maker – had created before. We review the good, the bad and the ugly A Ferrari soft-roader? It’ll be a very fast soft-roader, and one that may even introduce the Maranello wail to Dubai’s Big Red, a huge, shifting sand dune that needs traction and torque in spades to be successfully crested.  But a maker of cars designed to go as fast as possible to point B from point A, a maker that has forever harnessed the benefits of Tarmac-skimming centres of gravity and sylphic frontal areas does not sound like a maker of vehicles featuring neither of these desirables. Still, a Ferrari SUV really is coming and it’s likely to be as far removed from a WW2 Jeep as a smartphone is from a red telephone box.  It’s also what the market wants and accurately judging that fickle arena of desire has produced a lengthy lineup of cars that, at one time, would have been unthinkable progeny for their creators. Some have been jarring additions to their makers’ ranges. Some have fallen from grace with equally jarring effect. And others, unexpectedly, have become lynchpins for their makers. Here’s a selection of the most notable. 2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan  What we said then: “Rolls has, like Porsche did with the first  Cayenne, tried to put clear Rolls-Royce cues into the design. Maybe they just don’t translate to an SUV, or maybe we’re just not used to it yet.”  The market demanded an SUV of Rolls-Royce and the market got it. An off-roading Rolls-Royce is not such an alien idea. The robustness of the early cars meant they were frequently used off road in Arabia, courtesy of Lawrence, and as armoured cars during WW1. But as with the first Cayenne, the Cullinan’s look is troubling. 2010 Aston Martin Cygnet  What we said then: “To the majority of buyers of today’s conventional city cars, the launch of the new Aston Martin Cygnet must rank as one of the daftest this century.”  Apart from hijacking the innards of a Morgan three-wheeler, Toyota’s cubist iQ has to be one of the unlikeliest building blocks for an Aston Martin. Apparently the result of a (surely fevered) conversation between the bosses of these companies, the Cygnet struggled to find takers but, perversely, has become sought after now since deletion.  2011 Mini Coupé What we said then: “Inspired by classic independently produced Mini-based coupés from companies such as Broadspeed, Marcos and Midas, the new Coupé is not exactly elegant – not in the traditional sense, anyway.” There’s nothing wrong with the idea of a Mini Coupé, but the real thing, though, wasn’t what most might imagine as rakish Minimalism. The bubble-topped two-seater appeared to be wearing a kind of helmet forward of its frumpily vestigial boot, producing a rear end that reminded us all what a brilliantly sculpted car the original Audi TT coupé was. 2006 Audi R8  What we said then: “The most radical road-goer to wear four rings since records began.”  Audi channelled its inner Lamborghini with the superb R8, a model introduction all the more surprising because Ingolstadt actually owned the Italian supercar maker. Even more surprising were the R8’s entertaining dynamics and a ride better than any other Audi, A8 included. 2009 Renault Twizy  What we said then: “It’s another electric vehicle that, we can’t help but conclude, would be better with its own power source on board. But the Twizy has a loveable character.” It is loveable, too, and quite unlike any Renault, ever. But the appeal palls in rain and cold, both penetrating the tandem occupant zone copiously without the optional semi-enclosing doors. It doesn’t go all that far on a charge, either, although that may be a good thing. Great on the right day, in the right weather. Which is why it has no rivals. 2000 BMW X5 What we said then: “An extreme take on the whole crossover concept.”  BMW bet first and bet bravely on this sports utility vehicle that really was sporty. It looked faintly ungainly but it carried, handled and played dirt-road explorer with aplomb. Car buyers loved it and still do, this SUV now a BMW mainstay. 2003 Volkswagen Phaeton What we said then: “If there’s one word that seems to define the VW Phaeton it’s ‘why?’.” Ferdinand Piech’s folly, the VW Phaeton made sense only to VW’s boss and, eventually, Chinese buyers, whose liking for big saloons prolonged the life of this supposed VW flagship for longer than it deserved. Piech’s ambition for VW was admirable – the same upmarket thrust yielded the successful Touareg – but it made as much sense as selling billionaire jewellery in John Lewis. 1999 Toyota Yaris Verso What we said then: “Brilliant package with a neatly designed seating arrangement, all for a good price.” This under-wheeled cargo carrier was among the first supermini-scale MPVs. Despite a body as ugly as it was voluminous, the Yaris Verso sold moderately well but it was still an image-compromising product. 2011 Chrysler Delta What we said then: “A bit different from the norm, but too patchy to recommend it.” The last Lancia to be sold officially in the UK was the Delta in the 1990s but the model did return, in third-generation form, after being engineered for righthand drive. Fiat crassly sold it here not as a Lancia but as a Chrysler and it never really caught on. (See also Ypsilon.) 1998 Fiat Multipla What we said then: “There should be more cars on the road like the Multipla. As a means of transporting families, it is a work of genius.” This deviant Fiat was also an ingenious chunk of convenience, its barrel body housing six and packing bins, shelves and bottle holders. “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it,” ran an ad quoting Confucius. Quite. 2002 Mercedes Vaneo  What we said then: “Its versatility should see it appealing to those with more than just kids to move around.” This super-practical car was the unexpected work of Mercedes-Benz’s commercial vehicle division, which left its indelible signature on this deeply unsexy machine by calling it Vaneo. It sold almost as slowly as the Maybach 57. 2005 Peugeot 1007 What we said then: “The 1007 delivers both a compact exterior and a truly upmarket interior ambience.” Its four seats were reached via sliding doors, it was packaged short and tall for easy parking and it was sold in cheerful hues. It made rational sense – more than the new Mini and Fiat 500. But these two annihilated it, the 1007’s appeal not helped by its under-wheeled stance, sluggish doors and pension book aura.  2004 Ssangyong Rodius What we said then: “Is it possible to get past the Rodius’s look? Yes, but what’s underneath isn’t much better.” This mutant cemented Ssangyong’s place at the weird end of the automotive spectrum. A giant high-riding hatch with an estate car extension for which no planning permission can ever have been received, it remains the 21st century’s ugliest car. 1999 Honda Insight What we said then: “Bristles with fuel-saving technology yet should be as easy to own as a Civic.” It didn’t look dissimilar to a fish. A technical adventure from Honda was no surprise, but the world’s first hybrid car was. The Insight’s complexity was even bolder than the NSX’s. But it was too much of a science experiment to succeed. 2001 Renault Avantime What we said then: “Renault’s GT has radically different design ideas.” No one needed an MPV coupé apart from the Matra factory in Romorantin, which had lost production of the Espace and needed a replacement. Massive doors and two-tone paint added to the drama of this new concept, its lux cabin winning a few admirers. 2002 Porsche Cayenne What we said then: “Massively talented Cayenne keeps faith with Porsche heritage. It’s fast, sure-footed and surprisingly nimble for an SUV.” This was a car to get the mind grappling. Grappling to understand, grappling to find beauty. Eventually, we all did with the grappling, exposure buffing away this Porsche’s sculptural disconnects, its mighty abilities winning it respect. But at its launch, what a shocker. 2005 Jeep Commander What we said then: “Although the Commander is about as rectilinear as it’s possible for a car to be, the space increase over the Grand Cherokee is not that impressive.” Kind words, compared with late Fiat Chrysler Automobiles boss Sergio Marchionne’s view of the Commander: “That vehicle was unfit for human consumption. We sold some. But I don’t know why people bought them.” The only advantage the Commander could muster over the Grand Cherokee was a pair of seats for a pair of small, agile and uncomplaining kids. Big discounts were the only thing this Jeep commanded.  1989 Alfa Romeo SZ What we said then: “Nice legs, shame about the face.” The press were rendered mute when the covers were pulled from this. Why was this slab-sided, flat-backed, narrow-tracked Alfa so ugly? Was it actually finished, with its black hole of a grille and frameless headlights? It was. The SZ’s shape troubled less with time, and it was way, way better to drive than it looked. 2018 Jaguar I-Pace What we said then: “Could this week’s road test subject be the most significant to leave the halls of a British manufacturer since the McLaren F1?” Who would have thought it? A maker far too reliant on a glorious back catalogue, often with disappointing results, fires itself into the future with the first premium European all-electric car in the world. It looks nothing like an E-Type, an XK or a Mk2. But it does look, and go, like a Jaguar.  1990 Vauxhall Lotus Carlton  What we said then: “What makes the Lotus Carlton a truly great supercar is the sober thoroughness of its execution.” The Carlton was a middle manager’s motor, well able to pound motorways and cart families. There was a hot one, too: the 3000 GSi, which pounded harder and carted faster. And then GM instructed Lotus to extract ferocious pounding and carting from the Carlton. Once transformed, this 377bhp Vauxhall outsprinted Ferrari’s Testarossa and annihilated the BMW M5 to become the fastest saloon in the world. Nobody expected that. 2015 Bentley Bentayga What we said then: Ettore Bugatti was not being entirely kind when he described a Bentley racing car as ‘le camion plus vite du monde’ - the world’s fastest truck.  Bentley’s SUV-previewing EXP 9 F concept produced plenty of acidic froth at its 2012 Geneva debut, but that didn’t stop Crewe from building a tall, bulky vehicle of the kind that it once produced regularly, if without four-wheel drive. It sells, though. 2001 Renault Vel Satis What we said then: “This quirky exec is interesting and luxurious if not entirely convincing.” Renault’s aim for something different from your regulation German executive saloon was achieved with total success: the Vel Satis was nothing like a BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class or Audi A6. Scoring that conceptual bulls-eye was about the Vel Satis’s only success, though. This awkward, bustle-backed hatch managed neither to handle like a BMW nor to ride like a Renault. 1991 Nissan Figaro  What we said then: “The Figaro’s perky turbocharged 1.0-litre engine, convertible roof, generous spec and looks could get the car a cult following.” From the stagnant pool containing what was then one of the dullest car ranges on earth, Nissan launched the almost absurdly cute Figaro. It was the personification of everything Nissans of the day were not – characterful, colourful, shiny, desirable and fun. This article was originally published on 15 June 2019. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide engaging content in these challenging times.  Read more The 50 greatest cars on sale now Endangered species: the UK's motoring misfits​ Strange eastern European cars: can you remember any?​

  • 2021 Hyundai 45: new electric crossover caught on video
    on 6th July 2020

    Hyundai's 1970s-inspired C-segment EV gears up for production with styling inspired by bold concept The 45, Hyundai's first bespoke electric car, has been filmed testing at the Nürburgring in preparation for an expected launch in 2021. The crossover SUV, set to rival the Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E, was previewed with a bold, retro-styled concept at the Frankfurt motor show last September. Despite the disguise worn by the recently spotted test mule, we can see that some of the conceptual design details of the show car have been watered down due to the realities of mass production.  However, the angular, wedge-like shape, low bonnet line, slim overhangs and heavily sloping rear window remain largely faithful to the concept. While it's still considered to be a crossover, we can also see that it remains low-slung, with far less ground clearance than a traditional SUV.  The 45 concept's name references the number of years since the Korean maker’s first production car, the Pony, was previewed by a sleek coupé concept designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. The 45 concept takes design inspiration from that car, too, with clean lines said to be inspired by 1920s aircraft.  The name also reflects the 45deg angles of the front and rear window lines. Hyundai design chief Sangyup Lee said that “the typology is taken from the 1974 concept: it’s simple and pure.” It remains unclear whether the production car will retain the moniker. The decision to draw from the work of 45 years ago is that Hyundai considers the production version of this concept to be the first of a new era of dedicated electric vehicles from the company. “The 45 signifies a new beginning, so we looked at the beginning of our company,” said interior design chief Hak Soo Ha. Hyundai feels that it will now be competing “on a level playing field”, he added, because the major manufacturers have very little EV heritage: “We’ve been followers. Now we want to be leaders.” The 45’s crisp modernising of Giugiaro's design has produced a look – “tight corners and short overhangs” – that will form part of a suite of Hyundai design styles, with the brand planning to develop more distinctive designs for each of its models. It will also visually differentiate its electric cars from its ICE models. “Looking forwards and backwards helps us diversify our portfolio,” said Lee. “This will be the language for just one electric car. The next EV will be completely different.” Lee likened Hyundai’s next-generation range to chess pieces rather than Russian dolls, each piece more individual, “but part of an underlying Hyundai philosophy. We want to add emotional value through sensuous sportiness, and bring the emotional side of our cars up to the same standard as our value for money.” The 1974 concept’s original front-end shape has been reinterpreted in what Hyundai calls a “kinetic cube lamp” design – essentially, a panel of LEDs, acting as the headlight, that produce a theatrical light display on start-up. The same effect is created at the rear. Hyundai also employs LEDs for the 45’s badging. Meanwhile, a charge indicator at the bottom of the doors allows the driver to quickly see how far they can drive before getting in. Technology developments showcased on the 45 concept include a camera monitoring system, which is said to leave room for “self-driving system applications”. As is common on concepts, cameras replace the side mirrors and are kept clean by a lens that rotates past a brush. The interior is even more minimalist than the exterior and dispenses with a centre console. The designers have employed a mix of fabric, wood and leather inside. The dashboard is dominated by a substantial screen that combines the instruments and infotainment, which, Hyundai claims, can be controlled via a “projection beam interface”. The 45’s interior is a pointer towards the world of autonomous cars, according to the firm. The 45’s generous width and flat floor provide living room-like space, the battery pack that lives beneath offering potential for underfloor heating and cooling, said Lee. The production version will not be fully autonomous and nor will it have clamshell doors, but expect furniture-like interior architecture and warm, inviting materials. “You won’t be disappointed,” added Lee of the production version. Interior space is maximised by the batteries being set in a skateboard-style floor, allowing Hyundai to “create a space that feels like a living room with new pieces of furniture”. There’s lounge-style seating front and rear and the driver and front passenger get one unbroken footwell. Read more Hyundai i30 gets redesign, new tech and mild hybrids for 2020 New Hyundai Prophecy concept previews high-performance EV​ 2021 Hyundai i20 N hot supermini officially previewed

  • UK new car registrations down 34.9% in June
    on 6th July 2020

    Figures mark a stark increase over May, but some 240,000 sales have been lost during the pandemic Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that new car registrations were down 34.9% year-on-year in June as one in five dealerships remained shut due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The industry body notes that although the 145,377 registrations recorded in June were substantially less than in the same period last year, they were a marked improvement on May, when the year-on-year decline was 89.0%.  Car dealerships in England were allowed to reopen on 1 June, enabling the retail sector to gradually restart operations, but roughly one fifth have remained closed, according to the National Franchised Dealers Association.  Dealerships in Wales and Scotland weren't allowed to open until the end of the month. The latest decline means the market is 616,000 cars - 48.5% - down compared with the first six months of 2019. The SMMT said that roughly 240,000 private sales have been lost since the government’s stay-at-home directive was implemented in late March, “resulting in an estimated £1.1 billion loss to the Treasury in VAT receipts alone”.  Private sales were down 19.2%, with orders made before lockdown accounting for 72,827 registrations, roughly half of the total for June. Fleet sales were worse affected, falling by 45.2% to 69,398 units. Demand for combustion-engined cars was hit hardest, with petrol car registrations dropping 39.9% and diesel 59.8% year-on-year. The opposite is true, however, of alternatively fuelled vehicles; compared to June 2019, demand for plug-in hybrids grew 117.0%, while some 261.8% more pure-electric vehicles found homes. Of the 145,377 cars registered last month, 8903 were fully electric. The Tesla Model 3 features in the top-ten best-sellers list for the third month running, having been the best-selling car overall in April when 658 UK customers took delivery of cars ordered before lockdown started. In June, 2517 Model 3s were registered, making it the ninth best-selling car, above the Volkswagen Tiguan, Europe's most popular SUV, at number 10.  The SMMT said there remains a degree of uncertainty as to the level of demand for new cars in the UK, as not all dealerships are open. However, it predicts that “automotive is likely to lag behind other retail sectors”, because consumers are less likely to make large expenditures as the UK emerges from lockdown. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “While it’s welcome to see demand rise above the rock-bottom levels we saw during lockdown, this is not a recovery and barely a restart. Many of June’s registrations could be attributed to customers finally being able to collect their pre-pandemic orders, and appetite for significant spending remains questionable. “The government must boost the economy, help customers feel safer in their jobs and in their spending and give businesses the confidence to invest in their fleets. Otherwise it runs the risk of losing billions more in revenue from this critical sector at a time when the public purse needs it more than ever.” Last month, the SMMT warned that one in six UK automotive jobs were under threat following a wave of job losses at various large firms including Aston Martin, Bentley and McLaren. The body is calling on the government to provide an industry support package to drive demand and ease cashflow, with suggested measures including emergency funding, business rate holidays, VAT cuts and policies that boost consumer confidence.  Earlier reports that the government was planning to introduce a nationwide scrappage scheme - boosting demand for new electric and hybrid cars by offering consumers up to £6000 for older models - have been described as ‘unlikely’ by a government source.  Read more One in six UK automotive jobs under threat, says SMMT​ UK car dealerships predict strong demand in wake of lockdown​ Analysis: Are car sales bouncing back?

  • Used car buying guide: Citroen Saxo
    on 6th July 2020

    Did you know that rally ace Sébastien Loeb's first championship win came in a Saxo? Hot Citroën Saxos – the VTR and VTS – are fun but getting rarer. As their number decreases, so their price rises, so get in now Well, nobody saw this coming. Hot versions of Citroën’s Saxo supermini, once the preserve of the Max Power brigade and more commonly found lurking in police impound lots, have become genuinely desirable modern classics, and ones that are exceedingly tricky to get hold of, to boot. Souped-up Saxos could be had in two flavours when new: VTR and VTS. Both are a blast on a B-road, but the VTS’s 16-valve 1.6-litre engine packs a noticeable 29bhp advantage over its sibling’s same-sized eight-valve unit, making it tangibly faster and, now, substantially harder to find. There were just a handful for sale at the time of writing, with rust, early-noughties tuner trends and exuberant young drivers all playing a big part in their endangerment over the years. That’s not to say untouched examples are completely extinct: look hard and ye shall be rewarded, but expect to fork out upwards of £3500 these days. Happily, the VTR is much easier to nab and, like the eight-valve version of the Mk2 Volkswagen Golf GTI, is finally being recognised for the enjoyable steer it provides, rather than being overlooked as a result of its power deficit. Early cars had only 89bhp but, tipping the scales at just a shade over 900kg, the VTR could still crack the 0-62mph sprint in 10.0sec – compared with the more potent car’s 7.8sec – and top out at 116mph, which is more than quick enough in a car this small. Be warned, though: despite the Saxo’s relative youth, bodywork woes and mechanical gremlins can tarnish the ownership experience, such was the cheap, cheerful and charming nature of its original billing. Look past any dubious decals and garish bodykits at the foundation underneath to determine the true value of a particular ‘VT’. If there isn’t any rust now, there will have been before, so don’t hesitate to get underneath with a torch and make sure the bodyshell still has life in it. Repro panels aren’t readily available any more and the Saxo’s increasing rarity means you can no longer saunter into your local scrapyard and locate that elusive inner-wing section. However, the forums are your friend, and if you get chummy with the right people, you can keep your VTS or VTR on the road for years to come. D Whitworth Vehicle Fabrication in Lincolnshire, for example, offers high-quality replacements for some of the Saxo’s most notorious weak spots. With increasing rarity comes rising prices, and the Saxo VTS and VTR are unlikely to be so affordable for much longer. Like fine wines, more commonly celebrated French hot hatches such as the Peugeot 205 GTi and Renault Clio Williams have matured to reach bona fide collector status, and their late-1990s descendants are tipped to soar to similar heights. The time to act, then, is now. Just take the time to make sure your Saxo won’t leave a sour taste in your mouth. How to get one in your garage An owner's view Zac Jiggins: “The VTRs came with free insurance originally, so that led to a lot of those being written off, and the VTS – like any Saxo – suffers quite badly with corrosion. Also, they were from an era of Max Power styling, so they were modified heavily – given bodykits and lowered – and that kills the car as well. With so much money put into a car, rather than sell it, owners strip the parts and scrap the shell to get their money back.” Buyer beware... ■ Body: Where do they rust? Where don’t they? Your first port of call should be under the ECU and fuse box in the front wings and under the rear arches, but a ‘fine-toothed comb’ approach to the whole body is a good strategy. Virtually every car will have had some sort of welding, so check the standard of work carried out. If corrosion’s been simply covered with a plate, it will need sorting. Check for signs of past crashes, too. ■ Engine: Cam covers leak on the VTS engine and, unlike the VTR’s smaller unit, there are no gaskets. Good sealant applied properly to an ultra-clean surface should sort it. Make sure the cambelt has been replaced as a matter of course, but both engines are relatively bulletproof. They are, however, known for head gasket failure, so check for leaks. ■ Suspension: Low-riding lives on in the Saxo community and you’ll be lucky to find a solid VTR or VTS that’s not scraping the ground. Bearings on the rear beam fail and a recon axle is £300-£400 plus £200 or so to fit it. Replacement VTS springs, which have a different damper rate, may be harder to find than VTR units. ■ Gearbox: Most crunch a bit going into reverse but excessive play at the gearstick usually means the roll pin, selector bushings or spherical nylon selector ball have perished. Check the condition of the clutch, as it’s a good sign of how the car has been maintained. ■ Electrics: Apart from temperamental ABS sensors in the VTS, the Saxo’s wiring is relatively resilient. If the airbag light stays on – an MOT failure – the under-seat wiring connections may be gunked up with silicon and need a good clean. Also worthing knowing The UK-spec VTS and VTR really were ‘hot’ Saxos: air conditioning was never an option from the factory for right-hand-drive cars. Although aftermarket kits are available, it’s a lot of work – even for a specialist – to set it up properly, and you’ll have to sacrifice the glovebox. Of course, you can open the windows, but owners report that the airy cabin quickly becomes a greenhouse on warmer days. How much to spend £500 -£999: Mechanically sound VTR project cars and neglected track-day toys. £1000-£1999: Safer bets with recent work carried out and some history supplied. £2000-£2999: Very clean VTRs and the odd VTS in need of TLC. £3000-£6000: Full-bore track-prepped cars and showroom-spec low-milers. One we found Citroen Saxo VTS, 2003, 94K miles, £1800: At £1800, this could be the UK’s most appealing Saxo VTS currently on sale. It looks clean in the pictures, but the seller warns of a noisy clutch bearing and CV joint and recommends mild paintwork corrections. Well worth the risk if you’re handy with a spanner… READ MORE New Citroen C4: electric e-C4 to offer 217-mile range  Citroen boss: major electric car demand likely post-pandemic  Updated 2020 Citroen C3 priced from £16,280 in UK

  • Inside the industry: Why racing doesn't sell cars
    on 6th July 2020

    F1's influence may be huge, but its costs are increasingly hard to justify by the people that controls the coffers ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ has underpinned many a motorsport programme over the years, be it a mega-bucks manufacturer-backed Formula 1, Le Mans or world rally team or a more realistic dealer-supported national race or rally squad. If it seems naive today to think that those six words could convince a mega-bucks industry to write cheques in support of sporting excellence, flick through pictures from the 1960s and you’ll soon get a sense that it was both persuasive and pervasive. Of course, as the world has evolved so too has the significance of the phrase. Today, motorsport budgets are typically controlled by marketers – an extension of their advertising budgets, if you like, and talked about in terms of the benefits of relationship building, positive sentiment analysis and brand awareness. They will produce reams of analysis in support of all those things. I know, because I once read a document justifying why Infiniti was spending $30 million a year putting a sticker on cars it didn’t power. Cynical I may have been, but there was an evident logic to it compared with spending $200m as an actual manufacturer. While Ferrari without F1 is unthinkable, you don’t have to go far down the chain to realise that motorsport soon becomes expendable. Right now, even the dominant F1 force of the decade, Mercedes, is having to justify its involvement as being cost neutral, thanks to TV, sponsor and engine supply income, not because it sells cars. I’ve no doubt that F1 provides significant exposure for the brand, and sways many a potential Audi or BMW buyer its way, but it would take a huge amount of swagger to claim that alone justifies its involvement. There is also a deeper issue here. Burning fossil fuels is an anachronism, developing high-performance hybrids costly and launching all-electric championships too costly, complex and compromising to many of the elements of the sport that make it appeal in the first place. Formula E’s fans may disagree, but they total tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands rather than millions – certainly not enough to justify the cost long term. Maybe there is one way out. What if the big brains and big budgets of the top-level championships stopped pandering to the latest powertrain trends and instead focused on prolonging the current ones? Today, synthetic fuel – essentially a damage-free version of petrol or diesel – is an expensive reality, but with the right focus, it could be a cost-effective secret to not only keeping today’s engines running but also tomorrow’s, all cleanly, economically and without the need for a wholesale infrastructure change. Then motorsport really would have a platform from which to shout again. READ MORE Inside the industry: Firms can still thrive in these tough times EXCLUSIVE: The inside story of the Dyson EV  Hyundai luxury brand Genesis gears up for UK launch

  • How the EU Green Deal fits in the COVID-19 New Normal
    by Staff report on 6th July 2020

    Three top-level executives will take part in a panel discussion with Automotive News Europe on how the pandemic is impacting the EU's push to achieve climate neutrality.

  • Audi A9 E-tron: electric luxury saloon due in 2024
    on 5th July 2020

    Audi’s new Artemis group is developing a luxury EV and new A2 Mercedes EQS rival will take inspiration from 2017 Aicon concept and be a 'technical showcase' for VW Group EVs Audi is aiming to put itself at the head of the electric luxury car ranks with a new flagship model being developed by an in-house working group called Artemis. Described as “a highly efficient electric car that is scheduled to be on the road as early as 2024”, the advanced Audi is an extension of the Aicon project showcased at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show. The new electric flagship is set to be a direct rival to the upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQS and Jaguar XJ and have the latest in electric drivetrain, battery cell and autonomous driving technology. It will also have 5G connectivity functions, including extensive use of ‘car-to-X’ features, augmented reality and over-the-air upgrades. The new model has the internal codename E6 and is in the early stages of development. Insiders suggest it will take the form of a sporting saloon or liftback. It is claimed to mirror the current A7 in external dimensions but offer the internal space of the larger A8. Sources at Audi’s Ingolstadt HQ in Germany suggest it could take the A9 E-tron name into production. Once launched, it will act as a technical showcase for up to 75 electric cars and 60 plug-in hybrids already planned by Volkswagen Group brands such as Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen as part of its €60 billion (£53.8bn) electrification strategy through to 2029. Audi has already revealed plans to launch up to 20 pure-electric and 10 plug-in hybrid models in a programme for which it has set aside up to €12bn (£10.8bn) of its planned €37bn (£33.1bn) R&D spend through to the end of 2024. The Artemis working group is central to the plans of new Audi chairman Markus Duesmann to see the maker reclaim its reputation for technical leadership. Artemis will operate hand in hand with Audi’s regular development department as well as engineers and software experts from the wider group to “quickly and unbureaucratically create technologies for electric and highly automated driving”. The aim with Artemis is to emulate the inherent agility and speed of execution of rival electric start-up brands and leading motor racing teams. Duesmann said the new working group will be given a “large degree of freedom and will work globally”. Key contributors to Artemis will be Audi’s own InCampus technical hub and the Volkswagen Group’s new ‘software.org’ operation. Audi is also planning to work more closely with Porsche through Artemis, most notably on platform development. They have already co-operated on the J1 platform, which underpins the Taycan and the upcoming E-tron GT. They are also developing the yet-to-be-revealed PPE structure, which is set to be used first by an electric version of the second-generation Macan due in 2022. As well as providing technical solutions for the new Audi flagship, Artemis is charged with introducing new technologies across the brand. Duesmann sees this as vital for Audi to stay competitive in a changing automotive landscape that includes rivals such as Tesla, Rivian and Lucid as well as a raft of Chinese electric car start-ups. Duesmann, who succeeded Bram Schot as Audi chairman in April and previously worked closely with Volkswagen Group chairman Herbert Diess at BMW, said Artemis will develop an extensive eco system around its flagship model, suggesting it will flow on to other EVs. Autocar has learned that Artemis has also been charged with advancing Audi’s plans for other existing projects, including a high-tech successor to the original A2, as showcased by the 2019 AI:ME concept car. There are also proposals for production versions of the AI:Race electric sports car and AI:Trail 4x4. A further central role for Artemis, according to Ingolstadt sources, is to develop new business models for rapid prototyping methods to speed development of existing models as well as data collection. “The current electric car initiative ties up all our capacities,” said Duesmann, who also sits on the Volkswagen Group board as head of R&D. “The question is how can we implement additional high-tech benchmarks without jeopardising the manageability of existing projects and at the same time utilise new opportunities in the market.” Artemis’s race-bred culture Artemis is led by Alex Hitzinger. Currently head of the Volkswagen Group’s autonomous driving development, the 49-year-old German previously worked in Formula 1 with Red Bull Racing before heading up development of Porsche’s Le Mans-winning 919 LMP1 car. He also worked for Apple on its cancelled Project Titan electric car project and with Volkswagen’s commercial vehicles division on the production version of the Buzz – a modern-day reincarnation of the classic Microbus. Duesmann said of the appointment of Hitzinger: “I am relying on his expertise to integrate future achievements into new products together with the development departments of our major group brands. In the medium term, I expect Artemis to provide a blueprint for a fast and agile development process at the group, as agile as in a racing team.” READ MORE Audi Sport to go electric with RS-branded E-tron GT  New Audi A3 saloon gets mild hybrid and coupe looks  New Audi A3 revealed with styling overhaul and new interior  Audi Aicon concept to enter limited production under pilot project

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