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  • Lotus will debut a new sports car in mid-2021 – report

    According to a report by Automotive News Europe, Lotus will unveil a new sports car this summer (mid-2021), which it hopes will widen the brand’s appeal globally. In an interview with the publication, Lotus CEO Phil Popham said the upcoming model will provide the company with substantial growth. Last year, Lotus delivered 1,378 cars, a 4.4% increase from 2019.

    The unnamed model will be powered by an internal combustion engine, although it isn’t known if it will feature any form of electrification. Production is said to begin at Lotus’ upgraded Hethel facility next year with various versions offered, priced from 55,000 British pounds (RM305,038) to 105,000 pounds (RM582,346).

    Given the varied price points, the new sports car could effectively replace Lotus’ entire aging line-up, which includes the Elise and Exige, both of which are more than two decades old, as well as the nearly-12-year-old Evora. Previously, Popham described Lotus’ future offering as an entry-level model with enough interior space for daily use.

    As mentioned at the start, the new model will serve to widen the brand’s appeal in more markets, including in the United States, where the Evora is the only model currently offered. The US is Lotus’ second-largest market after Germany, with the United Kingdom in third and Japan fourth.

    “This car will have a wider price point, and that gives us an opportunity in the US. To be successful in the sports car market you have to be successful in the US, said Popham, who added that future models must be developed for global markets. “Any healthy business spreads its risk in terms of geographic coverage,” he noted.

    Lotus, which was acquired by Zhejiang Geely Holding (ZGH) Group in 2017, is also focused on fully electric models, with the Evija being a good example. There’s also an SUV on the way (reportedly called the Lambda), which will be made at a new plant in Wuhan, China. More recently, it confirmed the joint development of an all-electric sports car with Alpine.

     
  • VIDEO: Mercedes me connect and me Adapter now available in Malaysia – what are the key highlights?

    Beginning 2020, most Mercedes-Benz cars sold in Malaysia are equipped with Mercedes me connect. If you have an older Mercedes-Benz (all the way back to 2002) you can also enjoy some of the connected features with the Mercedes me Adapter. So, what’s the big deal?

    Well, it’s essentially a digital connectivity platform which Mercedes-Benz owners can use to stay connected and in sync with their vehicles. The Mercedes me connect app – available on both Apple App Store and Google Play Store – provides a raft of telediagnostics data, from wear and tear components, service updates, engine remote start, and unique functions such as Speedfencing (for parents to set speed limit, with which they will be notified if the car is driven over the specified limit).

    MMC-enabled vehicles will carry a SIM card running either a Celcom or Maxis LTE data connection, as well as two physical buttons above the rear-view mirror – SOS E-call for emergency situations and Mercedes me to contact Mercedes-Benz Customer Care Centre. Learn more about Mercedes me connect with Hafriz Shah and the #KemonCrew in the video above.

     

  • BMW to simplify vehicle portfolio as it focuses on EVs

    Variety may be the spice of life, but not when the bottom line has to be considered. The days of a multitude of body-style variations spawning from a model type as well as an assortment of engine options may be over as automakers concentrate their resources in the transition to electrification.

    Like other automakers (such as Volkswagen and Renault) making that journey, BMW says it will have to simplify its vehicle portfolio as it targets to increase its operating margin, Reuters reports. According to its finance officer Nicolas Peter, the move from internal combustion engine to electric vehicle line-ups will see heavy investment from Munich.

    However, because EVs are expensive to develop and only account for a small portion of sales at present, they are less profitable for the automaker, something that will need a rethink in how the best returns can be obtained, he explained. “That’s why investment is so important. We have to find ways to get to a different cost level, especially with cells and batteries,” he said.

    Another means to cut costs, he said, is by reducing complexity. The automaker is embarking on a push to reduce engine variants and options for different vehicles, scrapping little-used features and overhauling software to focus on a simpler, more efficient way of building vehicles.

    The company will also delve deeper into aspects of digitalisation. He said that in polls, two thirds of Chinese consumers have said they will switch to other brands and products if these provide a better digital experience, and so this was among the themes that are in focus at the automaker.

    He added that while further consolidation in the industry is expected as automakers struggle with the huge investments needed for electrification as well as self-driving technology, BMW will be able to handle the switch without any external assistance. “We are very confident we can make it alone,” he said.

     
  • VW Group 2020 operating profit halved to RM49.3 bil

    The Volkswagen Group revealed in a statement that its operating profit for 2020 before special items (related to the Dieselgate scandal) was about 10 billion euros (RM49.3 billion), which is nearly half of the 19.3 billion euros (RM95.1 billion) it recorded in 2019.

    Detailed figures will be announced on its annual press conference on March 16, but according to the statement, stronger sales in the second half of 2020 helped keep the automaker in the black. “The deliveries to customers of the Volkswagen Group continued to recover strongly in the fourth quarter and even exceeded the deliveries of the third quarter 2020,” VW said in a statement.

    This particular trend was evident for most car brand, but nevertheless, sales had to take a hit when most markets went into a pandemic induced lockdown. Due to this, Volkswagen’s year-on-year sales dipped – in 2020, it sold a total of 9,305,400 vehicles globally, which is -15.2% down from 10,975,300 vehicles delivered in 2019. Still, VW holds 12.9% of the global passenger car market share.

    Under its umbrella are brands such as Audi, Skoda, Seat, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, and several commercial vehicle makes. Nearly every single brand saw a sales decline in 2020, some as much as -27.5%. However, VW Group said its net cash flow last year was about 6 billion euros (RM29.56 billion).

    Besides Dieselgate costs, VW also said it missed EU targets on CO2 emissions from its passenger car fleet last year, and faces a fine of more than 100 million euros (RM492.7 million).

     
  • 2021 MotoGP provisional calendar released – Malaysia set for Oct 31, pending lifting of travel restrictions

    Race organiser Drone has released a revised provisional calendar for the 2021 MotoGP season. This comes after the postponement of the Argentina GP and Americas GP to the last quarter of this year.

    Racing begins in Qatar with two consecutive weekends of racing, the Qatar Grand Prix and the Doha Grand Prix, on March 28 and April 4. The MotoGP circus then moves to Europe withe racing confined to the continent from April 18 to September 19, with racing on the Continent kicking off in Portugal.

    Aside from the usual round of circuits MotoGP fans are familiar with, the Kymiring circuit makes its debut on the weekend of July 11, marking the return of premier class motorcycle racing to Finland since 1981. Racing was scheduled to take place in 2020 but shelved due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Concluding racing in Europe on September 19 in Misano, Italy, MotoGP race teams then move to Twin Ring Motegi, Japan, on October 3 for the first of the fly-away rounds in the Far East. This is followed by Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand on October 10 before the circus heads to Australia for the Phillip Island Grand Prix on October 24.

    Racing then returns to Sepang on October 31 with the Malaysian Grand Prix before the racing season ends with the traditional final MotoGP race in Valencia, Spain on November 14. Initially scheduled as a 22-fixture racing calendar, there are now 19 rounds for the 2021 MotoGP season, with Mandalika circuit in Indonesia serving as a reserve Grand Prix venue, pending circuit homologation.

    For Malaysia, Sepang International Circuit remains optimistic the Malaysian MotoGP round will take place as planned, with proposals submitted to the Malaysian Home Ministry (KDN) for pro-active pandemic containment measures to be taken. These include a “travel bubble” for racers and MotoGP personnel and movement restricted between airport, hotel and circuit.

     
  • Sony Vision-S won’t be built for consumers – report

    Electronics stalwart Sony has no plans to put its Vision-S electric vehicle concept on sale or even into mass-production, it has told Car and Driver, despite the car appearing to be very near production readiness and already put forth into testing on public roads in Europe.

    This is because the Japanese electronics maker sees a reality for the Vision-S that is to be a test bed for forthcoming Sony technology to ensure that the company is part of the “era of autonomous driving,” it told the magazine.

    “Through our strengths in imaging and sensing, we aim to contribute to both safety and reliability in autonomous driving, while also delivering a powerful experience leveraging entertainment in the mobility space,” a Sony spokesperson said, indicating that its contribution to developments in the autonomous driving realm are related to in-car entertainment.

    On this front, Sony describes the inclusion of 360 Reality Audio, says Car and Driver, a system which creates an audio sphere around the heads of the car’s occupants by way of speakers within the headrests for each seat. In the longer term, the goal is to add a PlayStation console with a 5G connection to enable online gaming within the Vision-S, said the report.

    Since its first unveiling at CES 2020, the Sony Vision-S has increased its sensor count from 33 to 40, the 2021 revision adding a new rear lidar sensor and an interior camera to monitor the driver’s lips, improving speech recognition. Software upgrades will allow for self-driving at Level 4 and above in the future, Sony said at the car’s original CES 2020 debut.

    Built by development partner Magna Steyr, the all-electric concept vehicle enables the testing of its technologies in an environment fully controlled by Sony, and because it isn’t using another automaker’s existing electronics hardware or software, it does not have to compromise based on what is currently available on the market, and therefore is subject to fewer limits around what it can achieve, the report said.

    The Vision-S made its debut with powertrain specifications comprising a dual-motor setup totalling 536 hp in total system output, enabling a 0-100 km/h time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 240 km/h. Suspension comes courtesy of air springs on a double wishbone setup at both ends, with 21-inch wheels shod in 245/40 and 275/35 tyres front and rear.

    Sony plans to continue to test and share its progress as it develops the Vision-S, Car and Driver quoted a spokesperson as saying. It’s a curious direction taken by a firm that has, on the surface, said that it doesn’t intend to mass-produce and sell this fully-electric, autonomous-capable vehicle, don’t you think?

    GALLERY: Sony Vision-S concept, 2021 update

    GALLERY: Sony Vision-S concept vehicle

     
  • Subaru’s UK sales fell 68% in 2020, sold below 1k cars – new boss describes performance as ’embarrassing’

    With just 951 cars sold, Subaru’s sales in the UK fell by 68% year-on-year in 2020, a performance its country boss described as ‘ridiculous’ and ’embarrassing’. The brand did just below 3,000 units in 2019. Putting his hands up, Subaru UK managing director John Hurtig said to Autocar: “2020 was a horrible year. What can you say? It’s just an embarrassing number. There’s no more context, to be honest.”

    Last year was a bad one for many car companies, no thanks to Covid-19, which is not getting the memo to slow down in 2021. But Subaru’s sales performance was the hardest hit of any, according to the report. In August 2020, the brand’s 69 UK dealers registered just 34 cars between them.

    The drop from a cliff is mainly because of few reasons, and one of is pre-registering in 2019. Pre-regs, which is commonly done by car brands in Malaysia as well, can be useful to boost up the current calendar year’s numbers and make you look good, but those cars will eventually have to be sold off, and at a discount too. This hurts next year’s numbers and margins.

    “As a brand, we had a very high registration number in December 2019. In fact, it was actually the best month Subaru UK has had ever. So we went into 2020 with a big backlog,” Hurtig admitted, explaining that the big pre-reg drive was to avoid being handed hefty fleet-average emissions fines when the EU’s new CO2-cutting regulations came into force in January 2020.

    Another big factor is Covid-related, and it’s why Subaru UK suffered more than most in a year of lockdowns. “Our target audience is, to be honest, older people, and those are the [biggest] risk group [for the disease]. So they have been very concerned about getting out there and doing business; that has been the feedback we get from customers. This might be one of the reasons it’s hit us more,” Hurtig said.

    Subaru, which is run in the UK and Europe by British independent importer International Motors, is looking to rebound from the “disaster” and is committed to the business. An overhaul is needed, and it starts with the dealer network.

    “There’s a need to rebuild the dealer network from the roots. We’ve changed a lot of things within Subaru UK. We also need to change the structure of our dealer network entirely. There’s a lot of things we lacked in the past – from both sides of the business. I’m not just blaming the dealers; 50% [of the blame] goes back to us as an organisation as well,” said Hurtig, who moved from Subaru’s Nordic market to become UK boss last summer.

    “We need the right dealers. It comes back to that. We can have the best marketing and brand awareness, but if the dealers aren’t on the same page, it’s useless. So this has to be developed hand-in-hand,” he added.

    Perhaps Subaru’s reputation as a rallying brand, which persists to this day, is not in sync with what the brand is today, an SUV brand. The Impreza WRX STi was discontinued in the UK in 2018 and the just-revealed next-gen BRZ is not an option for Europe. Marketing and branding could be a challenge.

    “Subaru UK has made a lot of mistakes in the past, to build Subaru’s brand to be something it isn’t any more. [The Impreza] was a performance car, a rally car. It was a good era in UK. But it’s history; it’s a long time ago now. It has nothing really to do with the Subaru brand as it is today,” Hurtig told the UK mag.

    Sounds like a wake-up call, and the reboot has started. “We’ve changed the management, we’ve changed the team, we’ve changed a lot of things during the second half of 2020. That’s why we’re now starting the recovery scheme,” Hurtig said, adding that online ordering is now available. An updated XV, facelifted Forester and the new sixth-gen Outback off-road wagon will be reaching UK this year.

    “2020 was a disaster for us. But from our perspective, there’s a good way forward and a good future for us, which we are very much committed to,” the brand’s UK chief concluded.

    Over here in Malaysia, Subaru’s presence in urban areas seems to be relatively strong, with the XV and Forester as its core SUV products. What’s your impression of the AWD-specialist brand and its current crop of cars? Let’s erase that mental image of a blue Impreza with yellow livery and gold rims kicking up rally stage dust, ok?

     
  • MINI Yours Customised service has been discontinued

    Back in December 2017, MINI introduced its Yours Customised service, which allowed customers to select, design and order selected parts to personalise their cars. By using 3D printing and laser lettering, bespoke pieces were created and shipped out to customers, who were then able to install them with ease.

    The idea was part of the company’s efforts to make customisation for its vehicles more accessible, but the experiment has now come to an end. According to a post on the company’s official website, the service has now been discontinued, although there’s no reason as to why.

    As a recap, the service offered a range of parts for MINI models, including indicator inlays (known as side scuttles), trims for the passenger side in the interior, LED door sills and LED door projectors. Through a dedicated site, customers would be able to choose from a range of base materials and colours, to which their own designs (signature or motif) can be applied.

    MINI worked with 3D polymer printing suppliers like HP, EOS and Carbon to create the pieces, which were interchangeable to allow customers to exercise their creativity. A show car that highlighted the depth of the service was the Royal Wedding Edition, which was made in honour of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.

    GALLERY: MINI Yours Customised

     
  • BMW i4 teaser takes jab at Tesla, saying “simply accelerating fast in a straight line is not enough”

    The BMW i4 is set to be revealed in just “a few months,” according to Munich. The company has released yet another teaser of its electric four-door coupé, this time announcing a few key chassis details as it completes the car’s driving dynamics testing.

    First, let’s recap the car’s headline specs. As previously revealed, the i4 will produce up to 390 kW (530 PS) – more even than the new M3 and M4 Competition – allowing it to get from zero to 100 km/h in four seconds. It will also be capable of delivering a range of up to 600 km on the WLTP cycle thanks to a high-voltage battery with the latest cell technology, which is certainly an impressive figure.

    Although four-second zero-to-100 km/h sprint time is fast, it’s not nearly as fast as a number of other electric vehicles out there. But BMW is also known for producing the “Ultimate Driving Machine,” and it seems to be taking a jab at Tesla by saying that explosive straight-line performance isn’t enough for a BMW.

    To harness the power, the i4 will come with specially-tuned dampers that suppress the car’s squat motion when accelerating, as well as the ARB traction control used in the i3s, 1 Series and 2 Series Gran Coupé. The long wheelbase, wide track, large wheels, high torsional rigidity, low centre of gravity and ideal weight balance provide increased handling agility and precision, as do unique camber settings.

    The integration of the powertrain and suspension, BMW says, results in optimised road contact and a smooth ride even at higher speeds, in concert with the silent electric motor. The company claims the i4 possesses neutral self-steering behaviour and powerful and precise brakes.

    Also touted is the direct and accurate steering, which provides precise feedback and increased stability thanks to the speed-sensitive rack. It’s said to be uncorrupted by drive forces, suggesting that the car is rear-wheel drive only, at least for now.

    Images released by BMW show the same camouflaged prototypes seen in earlier spyshots, which share the basic front and rear end designs with the 4 Series Coupé – yes, including that massive double kidney grille. The only discernible difference (apart from the four-door body style, of course) are the flush door handles, which will also be adopted by the closely-related 4 Series Gran Coupé.

    Of particular interest is the mule of the rumoured i4 M, likely the recipient of the most powerful motor. It is differentiated by the larger and wider 20-inch wheels and rear wheel arch extensions that rather crudely hide the car’s wider track. It also receives the larger M Sport brakes found on the M440i, but not the bespoke six-piston units fitted to the M4.

    Given that the car is set to debut soon, it’s very likely that the i4 M is the electrified M car that BMW is promising will arrive this year.

     
  • Tesla’s Autopilot won’t reach fully autonomy – Waymo

    In an interview with Germany’s Manager Magazin, Waymo CEO John Krafcik has said that Tesla’s approach with its Autopilot system is not the right approach to achieve a fully autonomous vehicle. “It is a misconception that you can simply develop a driver-assistance system further until one day you can magically jump to a fully autonomous driving system,” Krafcik said.

    Currently, all new Tesla cars come as standard with the necessary hardware for Autopilot and some basic driver-assistance functions, although additional features cost extra to be activated. The latter is part of the company’s Full Self-Driving Capability (FSD), which require an additional USD10,000 (RM40,470) at purchase. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted the availability of Full Self-Driving Capability (FSD) later this year as a paid subscription service.

    Even with Autopilot and FSD, Tesla states that the system is “intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment.” As such, many have criticised Tesla’s marketing of Autopilot, which leads customers to believe that its system is completely autonomous.

    Following the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) J3016 Levels of Driving Automation chart, Tesla’s Autopilot can be classified as a Level 2 system, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). By comparison, fully autonomous driving systems are classified much higher, with those that do not require any driver intervention being Level 4 and 5.

    Krafcik also said in the interview that he does not see Tesla as a competitor in autonomous vehicles, adding that the California-based EV carmaker is “developing a really good driver-assistance system”.

    Waymo’s approach to autonomous driving is focused on developing systems that do not require human intervention in the first place. It recently stated it plans to use more “deliberate language” when it comes to matters like this and will abandon the term “self-driving.”

    “We’re hopeful that consistency will help differentiate the fully autonomous technology Waymo is developing from driver-assist technologies (sometimes erroneously referred to as ‘self-driving’ technologies) that require oversight from licensed human drivers for safe operation,” read the post.

    “This is more than just a branding or linguistic exercise. Unfortunately, we see that some automakers use the term ‘self-driving’ in an inaccurate way, giving consumers and the general public a false impression of the capabilities of driver assist (not fully autonomous) technology. That false impression can lead someone to unknowingly take risks (like taking their hands off the steering wheel) that could jeopardise not only their own safety but the safety of people around them,” it added.

     
 

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Last Updated 23 Jan 2021



 
 
 
 

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