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Ashok Leyland has earlier invested USD 130 million in UK-based firm Switch Mobility whose core business is next-generation electric bus and light commercial vehicles.
Owing to several factors impacting the automobile industry since last year, vehicle exports from India recorded a sharp jump in Q1 FY22. With a slower sequential recovery of the domestic sales and the fear of the third wave looming large, ETAuto analyses the constraints lying ahead for the Indian automobile exports, and will the export growth trend in April-June 2021 quarter sustain the momentum in the remaining quarters.
Total revenue from operations was at INR 17,776 crore as compared to 4,111 crore in April-June 2020.
With a Rs 2,000-crore investment plan in tow, Hyundai landed in Gurugram with great fanfare, setting foot into the millennium city, which is known as much for its corporate buzz and urban culture as also for the Korean company’s archrival Maruti Suzuki, the company that set foot in the
While the EV adoption is largely driven by 2W and 3W segments, cars and buses too have begun to witness a rising trend in annual sales volumes. Although each segment will reach an inflexion point of adoption at its own pace depending on multiple supply and demand factors, what remains a common denominator across all vehicle segments to determine future rate of adoption, is a country wide and efficient network of charging stations.
- Corey Lewis

We’re back with more 1997 midsize sedan action in today’s edition of Buy/Drive/Burn. They’re all on the smaller end of the midsize sedan scale, all American, and crucially, all wearing semi-upmarket branding. Chrysler Cirrus For 1997, the Chrysler Cirrus is in its third model year, a part of the Cloud Cars that finally put an end […]

The post Buy/Drive/Burn: Upmarket Brand American Midsize Sedans in 1997 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

- Tim Healey

Last month, we wrote up the news that Honda will be working on a battery-electric vehicle called the Prologue — not to be mixed up with the Prelude — and the company would work with General Motors, using GM’s Ultium battery packs. Why would Honda, known especially for engine development, pair with GM? To refresh […]

The post Why Did Honda Pair With GM on EVs? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

- Matt Posky

This year has already seen price increases across the board, thanks largely to the supply crisis created in the wake of our response to the pandemic. As it turns out, shutting down the global economy wasn’t ideal for maintaining business as usual and nobody in charge seems all that interested in returning things to normal. […]

The post Tesla Keeps Raising Prices for U.S. But Not China appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

- Tim Healey

Press-car abuse is a part of the automotive journalism industry. So, too, is damage caused by normally diligent journalists who made a mistake/had some bad luck. I don’t intentionally abuse vehicles, but I’ve dented and dinged and broken a few things because sometimes shit happens. What I have not done is use a press car […]

The post Audi Press Car Used to Help Flood Victims appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

- Corey Lewis

We continue our 2007 and 1997 sedan series with its fourth installment. We’ve covered V6 Japanese sedans from two different decades, as well as American-branded entries from 2007. Today we step back to the midsize V6 sedan class of 1997. The Big Three beckon you with medium build quality, equipment, and value for money in […]

The post Buy/Drive/Burn: V6 Midsize American Sedans of 1997 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

2022 Mercedes S-Class Guard Debuts As V12 Armored Luxury Cocoon
With hydraulic windows and a built-in oxygen tank, this is no regular S-Class.
2022 VW Taigo Revealed As Small Crossover Aspiring To Be A Coupe
Yes, you've seen this car before, but with a different name.
VW ID Buzz Spy Video Shows Modern Microbus Testing In The Alps
You've seen it in photos, now see it on video.
Honda has announced that the all-new HR-V, which is set to go on sale across Europe from late 2021, will solely be equipped with the company’s advanced e:HEV hybrid powertrain. By introducing the proven powertrain to the compact SUV, a new blend of efficiency and performance has been introduced to this highly competitive class.
Honda has released the first images of the all-new Civic five-door, the 11th generation of the brand’s class-leading hatchback.
To reflect the values, meet the needs of modern consumers and create a desirable yet practical car, Honda engineers and designers conceived a new proposition for the interior of the next-generation hybrid HR-V. By cleverly incorporating Honda's latest structural technologies and an interior design ethos centred on the concepts of light and wind, the all-new model achieves superior levels of interior comfort and space in the competitive compact B-SUV segment.
Honda has underlined its long-term commitment to World Touring Car competition by again agreeing to provide the Civic Type R Limited Edition as the Official Safety Car of the WTCR - FIA World Touring Car Cup for 2021.
TOKYO, Japan, April 23, 2021 -- Honda Motor Co., Ltd. President and Representative Director Toshihiro Mibe held an inaugural press conference at 3:00 pm today (Japan time).
- Guardian community team
Tell us your experiences of driving electric vehicles

Electric vehicles are here to stay as new petrol and diesel cars will be banned in the UK from 2030. What are your experiences of driving them?

Sales of electric vehicles are rising as new petrol and diesel cars will be banned in the UK from 2030. Guardian writer Sam Wollaston tried driving his Enyaq SUV from Land’s End to John o’Groats, with mixed results. Now, we’d like to hear from readers about their own experiences. Do you drive an electric vehicle now? How practical do you find this greener option? Tell us about any long journeys you have taken.

Continue reading...
- Sam Wollaston
Leading the charge! Can I make it from Land’s End to John o’Groats in an electric car?

New petrol and diesel cars will be banned in the UK from 2030, and sales of electric vehicles are rising fast. But with drivers reliant on charging points how practical is the greener option? One writer finds out

Range anxiety hits hard on the A9 in the Highlands of Scotland. For the uninitiated, this is the fear that an electric vehicle (EV) won’t reach its destination before running out of power. I’m driving through some of Britain’s loveliest landscape – mountains, rivers, lochs and firths – but I hardly notice. I’m focused hard – on the road in front, but mainly on two numbers on the dashboard. One is how far it is in miles to where I’m going; the other is the range in miles remaining in the battery. Sometimes, especially on downhill stretches when what is known as “regenerative braking” means the battery is getting charged, I tell myself it’s going to be OK, I’ll make it. But going uphill the range plummets. Squeaky bum time.

Plus, I’ve read Michel Faber’s Under the Skin. I know what happens to men stranded on the A9. To range anxiety add the fear of being processed and eaten by aliens.

Continue reading...
- Jasper Jolly
UK government backs scheme for motorway cables to power lorries

E-highway study given £2m to draw up plans for overhead electric cables on motorway near Scunthorpe

The government will fund the design of a scheme to install overhead electric cables to power electric lorries on a motorway near Scunthorpe, as part of a series of studies on how to decarbonise road freight.

The electric road system – or e-highway – study, backed with £2m of funding, will draw up plans to install overhead cables on a 20km (12.4 miles) stretch of the M180 near Scunthorpe, in Lincolnshire. If the designs are accepted and building work is funded the trucks could be on the road by 2024.

Continue reading...
- Jasper Jolly
Electric cars: UK government urged to prevent ‘charging deserts’

Competition watchdog investigates dominance of one provider across motorway service stations

The UK’s competition authority has called for the government to intervene in the electric car charger market to prevent “charging deserts” and increase availability in locations outside London, which remain underserved.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also said it had opened an investigation into the dominance of one provider, Electric Highway, in the fast-charging network at motorway service stations.

Continue reading...
- Miles Brignall
LV= increased my car insurance premium but I’m driving less

The insurer’s renewal quote increased by 17.5% without any explanation at all

I’ve been an LV= car insurance customer for the past few years. It wasn’t perfect but seemed good value and relatively easy to deal with. Your article of 25 January prepared me for bad news, but I was still a bit shocked when my renewal came – an increase of 17.5% for the same car without any explanation at all.

Like many people, I have driven very little in the past 18 months. Thankfully, there are other insurers, so I switched to one of them and saved myself £65. I, too, wonder how much of this is down to the new ownership by Allianz.FB, by email

Continue reading...
Hoy back on two wheels! Olympian Sir Chris Hoy learns to drive a Nissan Juke on two wheels in just two days
Though now retired from professional cycling, the six-times gold medal winner has learned to drive a Nissan Juke on two wheels in just two days, rather than the two months experts say is normal.
Yodel delivery driver caught in video skidding his van around a roundabout
The video shows the driver leaving skid marks on the road while drifting around the roundabout between the busy Westwood Cross shopping centre and The Haine Road in Broadstairs, Kent.
Bugatti reveals new Chiron could take the title for the world’s fastest car
While technical details are sparse, the French car manufacturer claims it will be the 'world's most powerful, fastest, most luxurious and most exclusive production super sports car.'
Bugatti Veyron showroom offers £20k reward for catching hooded vandal
Bosses at Kahn Automobiles are offering a £20,000 reward for help catching a hooded vandal who smashed a Bugatti Veyron's windscreen with an iron bar at the dealership in Leeds.
Volvo unveils concept interior for its self-driving car with reclining seats
The Swedish company has named its design for self-driving cars 'Concept 26' which it says aims to put the joy back into driving by letting people make the most of commuting.
Volkswagen says it will cut investment by €1bn a year as a result of the diesel emissions scandal.
VIDEO: BMW shows gesture-controlled car
BMW is showing off a concept car at CES that lets its occupants use hand gestures to control its futuristic entertainment system.
The China-backed electric car company Faraday Future shows off a concept electric car that provides augmented reality views.
Toyota targets end of carbon emitters
Japanese car manufacturing giant Toyota is committing to all but eliminate carbon emissions from its production processes by 2050.
Nissan signs world cricket sponsor deal
The International Cricket Council and Japanese carmaker Nissan agree an eight-year deal which will see the firm sponsor the sport until 2023.
Fresh spy shot images give a little more away about the new Mercedes SL’s design
The new Renault Megane PHEV claims fuel economy of up to 235.4mpg and a maximum electric range of 30 miles
New X200 SUV concept signifies radical new design direction for SsangYong
The new Jeep SUV will sit below the Renegade and is part of the brand’s plans to have a fully electric model in every sector by 2025. Our exclusive image previews how it could look
The new Mercedes S-Class PHEV has a claimed fuel economy figure of 353.1mpg and a maximum electric range of 63 miles
Ahead of first customer deliveries later this year, Aston Martin has shown the Valkyrie hypercar in motion at Goodwood Festival of Speed
New final edition to combine Aventador SVJ powertrain and S chassis, 600 units to be built
Flagship 480bhp Ford Mustang Mach-E GT priced from nearly £70k to rival Kia EV6 GT
Following a pandemic-induced hiatus, Goodwood Festival of Speed is back for another year. Here are the highlights
This week, we show off some of the brilliant shots that didn't make the issue in our test of three hot hatchbacks
New 2021 Honda HR-V: performance and efficiency revealed
DSC 3047 Honda's Nissan Juke rival follows Jazz and CR-V in gaining e:HEV petrol-electric powertrain

Honda has confirmed key Europe-specific details of the all-new HR-V crossover ahead of its market launch later this year.

The Nissan Juke rival will use a variation of the petrol-electric powertrain from the smaller Jazz supermini, with which it also shares its 'Global Small Car' platform. A 1.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol engine is mated to a pair of electric motors for a combined 129bhp and 187lb ft - slightly more than the Jazz, likely because of the HR-V's increased size.

The electric motors, housed alongside the petrol engine under the bonnet to maximise interior space, are responsible for the bulk of the propulsion, with the engine serving as a generator. At "higher, more constant speeds", the petrol engine takes over automatically, but the powertrain can be operated in three different drive modes - Eco, Normal and Sport - for varying levels of electric-combustion input. 

Honda has now confirmed that the set-up elicits a combined 52.3mpg on the WLTP combined cycle, while emitting 122g/km of CO2. The HR-V will get from 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds. 

The third-gen HR-V's design is a dramatic departure from that of its predecessor. Despite closely matching the dimensions of its predecessor, overhauled proportions and an emphasis on space efficiency (the HVAC system is as compact as possible, and the EV battery pack is mounted under the boot floor, for example) have raised rear legroom by 35mm and boosted boot space. Ride height is also up by 10mm, while the roofline has been lowered by 20mm.

Four adults can be accommodated in "maximum comfort", according to Honda. 

Honda says it "embodies the brand's seamless, clean, modern design philosophy seen in other recent new Honda models." Slim, distinctive LED headlight designs and a revamped grille dominate the new-look front end, with a long bonnet, rakish roof line and straight-edged shoulder line heavily distancing the new model from its predecessor. 

The cabin has been redesigned to maximise the feeling of spaciousness, with a minimalist dashboard layout, simple horizontally aligned instrument panel and Honda's 'Magic' folding, flipping rear seats in the back. The dashboard is a revised design, incorporating a 9.0in infotainment touchscreen and 7.0in TFT display within the gauge cluster, and new L-shaped vents in the top corners of the dashboard to free up space.

The firm also says the new vents offer improved comfort by directing airflow along the side windows, rather than directly onto the occupants. Also new for the third-gen HR-V is an air diffusion system that sends a "curtain" of fresh air through new L-shaped vents. 

Further details of the new, European-spec HR-V, including pricing, are expected in the coming months. 

READ MORE

Honda to electrify European line-up by 2022, not 2025​

New 2021 Honda Civic seen in hatchback form for first time​

Honda ends production of second-generation HR-V​

Nearly new buying guide: Volkswagen Touareg
99 Volkswagen Touareg NNBG 2021 hero front This Mk3 luxury SUV is creeping towards half its original price

Slipping discreetly under the brash-o-meter on the luxury SUV radar, this is actually the third-generation Volkswagen Touareg, a technofest on wheels that combines sharp but subtle looks and a lush interior with real on-road ability.

Underneath, it shares much with everything from the imperious Audi Q7 to the manic Lamborghini Urus. There’s aluminium here and more of the stuff over there, and if it’s not exactly lightweight, it at least tosses a caber in that general direction.

You can choose from a variety of turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder engines. The 228bhp and 282bhp diesels are a touch gruff at idle but smooth on the move and have plenty of power. The 335bhp 3.0-litre petrol arrived late in 2019 and is quieter and even faster, but that comes at the price of higher fuel bills, which is where the 456bhp plug-in hybrid system of the Touareg R comes in, with a claimed 28 miles of electric-only driving.

Click here to buy your next used Touareg from Autocar

Entry-level SE trim will suit most buyers, with 19in alloy wheels, leather trim, heated front seats, dual- zone climate control, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, sat nav, lane-keeping assistance and a 9.2in infotainment touchscreen. SEL has adjustable lumbar support for the front seats, while R-Line models have 20in wheels and sports suspension. Tech editions of SEL and R-Line get you the upgraded 15.0in infotainment system and 12.0in digital information display. Black Edition adds 21in wheels, a panoramic glass roof, adaptive headlights and a 360deg camera. The R operates as the highest-rung model with 22in wheels and model- specific exterior and interior styling.

All Touaregs have four-wheel drive. Grip levels are high and agility is impressive, particularly when the car is equipped with the more advanced air suspension and four-wheel steering set-up. R-Line and R-Line Tech models are fitted a with sports suspension that’s too firm, thumping over potholes in an undignified manner and jostling you from side to side on country roads. Wind noise is well suppressed, but road roar is a touch louder than in rivals when the Touareg is fitted with bigger wheels. All the engines come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that shifts without fuss but can be a little hesitant at low speeds. Things look quite flash inside, but the fit and finish isn’t as good as some premium rivals. There’s plenty of padding for your elbows, mind, and there’s lots of space for the driver and both front and rear passengers. You can also slide and recline the rear bench for greater comfort or fold it down in a 40/20/40 split. The boot is big and the loading lip shallow.

Need to know

Prices start at around £28,000 for an early 3.0 TDI. Pay between £30,000 and £40,000 for 2019 and 2020 models. A petrol Touareg will set you back around £40,000.

To keep a lid on running costs, consider the 3.0-litre diesel, which achieves 34.4mpg compared with the 3.0 petrol’s 26.6mpg. None matches the claimed 95.2mpg of the plug-in hybrid R, of course. An issue has been found with the front shock absorbers fitted to some early Touaregs. A problem with the right rear seatbelt buckle could compromise the safety of cars made between August and October 2018. And a connection within the steering system could work loose on cars built between April 2018 and January 2019.

Our pick

3.0 TDI V6 230: The lower-powered (228bhp) 3.0-litre diesel engine makes the most sense, thanks to its combination of decent performance and far greater fuel economy. The petrol is best for urban dwellers and those who make mainly short journeys.

Wild card

3.0 TSI V6 PHEV R: Big thrills are in order as the expensive R pumps 456bhp through its petrol-electric veins (0-62mph in 5.1sec) and yet has the ability to be the most economical version in the range. So long as you plug it in...

ONES WE FOUND

2018 VW Touareg 3.0 TDI V6 230 SE, 30,000 miles, £28,500

2019 VW Touareg 3.0 TDI V6 285 R-Line, 10,000 miles, £38,150

2021 VW Touareg 3.0 TSI V6 PHEV R, 2000 miles, £67,000

READ MORE

Volkswagen reveals 'New Auto' business strategy

Volkswagen Arteon R Shooting Brake 2021 UK review

Haas F1 driver Nikita Mazepin, in his own words
99 Mazepin 285 Controversial Russian racer on that social media post, how he's improving his driving and why F1 isn't the end goal

In a world of Hamilton versus Verstappen, Formula 1 fans may not be paying much attention to the back end of the F1 grid but one of the most interesting battles this year has been the fight between Haas drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. The car is well off the pace and the team is using this season as a learning year for its two novice drivers, but they hope to be back in the fight in 2022.

Mazepin, of course, has been much in the spotlight on social media since late last year when he posted a controversial video. He concluded long ago that the best way to end the attacks was to get on with his job. He is willing to admit that “what I have done was not right” but then adds “we have already discussed it enough, I think.”

Being under such scrutiny and then having a troubled start to his F1 career, which fed the critics who claim he is only there because his father is rich, meant that there was more pressure on the 22-year-old than would normally be the case for an F1 debutant.

“Coming into the first race, you don’t want to bring things from the off-season back,” he says. “I would say, pretty honestly, that once the Thursday of the first grand prix was out of the way - which was a little bit stressful for my team - it has been okay. The Bahrain weekend created some very weird emotions. Everything was so new and it wasn’t a normal venue for a first race in F1. It was my first night race - which I absolutely loved. I get goose bumps when I talk about it.

“But unfortunately that weekend wasn’t a very smooth ride for me and I obviously didn’t help with my driving style.”

Mazepin has been able to rationalise what happened now that he has had a little time to digest the events, after his race lasted 25 seconds following a spin between turns two and three.

“I had had a three-day test there that went very well,” he explains, “and I tried to start that first FP1 in the place that I finished on the third day of the test. That was a sensible thing to do, but given that we swapped cars and the conditions had changed, I didn’t do a very good job of adapting to it. I just kept trying to do the things that had worked the previous week. I needed to do well - and I did exactly the opposite.”

With a few more races under his belt, he has learned that what worked on Friday might not work on Saturday and modern F1 drivers need to be flexible.

“It is very important to trust your own feelings, as much as it is to listen to the hundreds of people around you in Formula 1,” he says. “It’s a very interesting balance, which hopefully I will learn even more about in the next few years. We don’t arrive in F1 direct from karting. We have learned in Formula 2 and in Formula 3 and sometimes you need to go against the normal rules of the people in Formula 1 to achieve truly great results. The normal rule in F1 is that you develop the car all year long – 365 days a year – to be as competitive as you can be. But we are saving some efforts to achieve better results in the longer term.

“Ultimately, no matter how good or bad the car is, you are the one who is driving it, and of course you cannot perform on your own. You are the face of the car and the car’s face is your face so, in this respect, I think it is slightly difficult for a driver to be thrown into a championship where the team decides not to develop the cars and says: ‘It’s a learning year’.

“The most difficult point for me was after Barcelona, because I had a very difficult first four races. Bahrain was my first race and Imola was a track I didn’t know, but then Portimao and especially Barcelona was such a tricky time compared to all of my other F1 outings, including the Force India and Mercedes tests, when I believe I was able to do a decent job. I felt that something wasn’t right.”

It turned out that Mazepin was correct and in Austria Haas team boss Guenther Steiner explained the problem that had been found. “One of the chassis is a little bit heavier. Not in all circumstances – just when we need a certain weight balance. It’s marginal – but it is heavier. And it has an impact. Heavier cannot have no impact.”

The team plans to have a new chassis for him at the Belgian Grand Prix, after the summer break.

Since this discovery was made, Mazepin has seemed less confused. His form and his confidence have improved and at Silverstone he beat Schumacher in a straight fight for the first time.

“I had to push very hard in the beginning to try and get in front because you know that this track is difficult to overtake on,” he said. “I used a lot of my tyres but then I put in probably my best overtake in the last three years.

“I definitely think I am learning a lot of about how F1 works; about how to do things that are not related to racing; and also doing some very valuable laps, starts and so on. But I am just a little bit concerned sometimes not to adapt too much to this car and change my driving style, because next year’s car could be a completely different thing to drive.”

Given that everyone knows that the Haas is not competitive this year, is it fair to say that there is no real pressure on Mazepin, except to beat his team-mate?

“I would say yes and no,” he says. “There is a certain mentality that you as a driver find to drive yourself in your many many years of racing, regardless of the conditions. You push to the maximum. In my case, it is so much a part of me that I can consciously say: ‘Okay, no pressure’ and think logically, but then when you get in the groove and want to improve every corner and try to go faster and do better lap times, you eventually start to look around and look at who has done what. I am quite a competitive person. If you gave me a ping-pong table and said, ‘Let’s play!’, I’d really try to beat you. If you have that, you have it. You cannot go out and buy it. We can only play with what we’ve been given by the character that we are born with.

“I really think every human is capable of achieving certain things that are in their control. I would have exactly the same ambitions if my dad had sent me ballet dancing when I was young. If I had got to the age of 10 and I had spent four years doing it, and I knew that I wanted to be dancing in the best theatres in the world, I would put in exactly the same effort.”

When Nikita was six, his father enrolled him for three sporting activities that he believed would be good for his son to develop: karting, mixed martial arts and gymnastics.

“When I had my nose broken for the first time, my dad wasn’t as keen on cage-fighting,” Mazepin says. “So I stopped that. I have never been super flexible or good at gymnastics. It just wasn’t my thing. But in karting, I had more natural pace than the average kids and so I was drawn into it. It was the thing from the beginning that I happened to be reasonably good at. Now I am 22 and sitting here in the F1 paddock…”

Mazepin is different from many of the Russian racing drivers we have seen in the past, with a more international outlook. When you talk to him, you get the impression that his English is so good that he must have been at school in England.

“I was,” he says. “We have 11 years of schooling in Russia, but for my ninth to 11th years – basically the sixth form - I lived in Oxford and studied at Oxford College. I was driving for Hitech and Force India, and when I wasn’t racing, I had a bike and would cycle off to school in the mornings.”

He adopted English ways because his manager – Hitech boss and former kart world champion Oliver Oakes – told him that this was what was required.

“The people who were around me in racing were always English, and you know the English like to do things their own way. They don’t like to compromise. With my manager it was always: ‘You have to learn to get English jokes and English banter’. Some of the jokes in England would probably mean you would end up with a swollen face in Russia, but I knew it was necessary and I am happy that it happened. It helps to bridge gaps with my engineers, on the human side, and helps me understand the people.

“Nowadays, you can also grow up the Russian way in racing because there are a lot of people who are competitive in the sport: driver coaches, engineers, sponsors and teams that have Russian backgrounds, but back when I started racing, there was nothing.”

Mazepin is also unusual in that he sees F1 as a stepping stone and not the ultimate goal in his life. “I really wanted to get to F1. I have certain goals for my life - as probably every human being does - and F1 was a very important one for me to make a future step into business, which is what I want to do.”

And he says he is keen to be himself and not be someone different in F1.

“I am definitely an extrovert,” he says. “I really need to socialise with people. I like people and I always enjoy talking to people. I am confident to say that I am quite an open person, which at times probably hasn’t put me in the best of places, but it is what it is. I cannot change it because it wouldn't be real.”

Beating Schumacher more often is his current goal but 2022 will bring a new car, with a new design team being supplied to Haas by Ferrari, led by former Ferrari chief designer Simone Resta.

How does he think he will do next year?

“I’ve got a contract for next year and I will be here at Haas, but with regards to results, it is a funny thing. People look forward to change when they are having difficult times, but in F1, everyone in the paddock thinks that things are going to get better for them in 2022. But all 10 teams cannot get better, because if everyone gets better, you stay where you are.

“So I think with where we are right and the fact that we took a different approach to others in 2021, we will gain something for 2022. I hope we become strong midfielders - to say the least.

“But then F1 is a sport that is very unpredictable.”

Joe Saward

READ MORE

Formula 1 circuit guide 2021

Formula 1 driver guide 2021

British GP: why Hamilton and Verstappen clash was a racing incident

Staff and semiconductor shortages stifle UK new car output
ellesmere2 0 2 SMMT figures show 69,079 new cars left UK lines in June, down 37% on pre-Covid 2019

New figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal that last month was the second worst June for UK car production since 1953, behind only 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak.

Some 69,079 new cars rolled off UK production lines, which was a 22.1% increase over the 56,594 produced in June 2020 but nearly 37% down on the tally from June 2019 - before the pandemic hit.

The SMMT blames the global semiconductor shortage, itself largely a product of the pandemic, for the shortfall. New trading rules with the European Union are also listed as a factor, as well as staff shortages resulting from the 'pingdemic', whereby people are required to self-isolate if they receive a notification that they have come into contact with someone with Covid-19. 

June's results bring to an end a "turbulent" six months for UK manufacturing, the SMMT notes, with the 498,293 units produced so far this year representing a 38.4% drop on the five-year, first-half average. A shortfall of 311,160 cars is equivalent to a loss of more than £8.5 billion, the SMMT says.

By the end of 2021, the UK could lose up to 100,000 new cars as a result of the semiconductor shortage and other factors hampering the sector's recovery from the pandemic. 

Some 83.4% of UK-built cars were destined for overseas markets in June, of which 51.7% went to the EU, 18.8% to the US and 7.8% to China. 

Meanwhile, 22.6% of all cars built were "alternatively fuelled" (ie battery-electric, hybrid or fuel cell), which is a "steady" percentage compared with previous years, but the SMMT highlights the approach of the 2030 ban on the sale of new combustion-engined cars and repeats its call for "significant investment into vehicle manufacturing, battery production and supply chain transformation" in line with that transition. 

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "While the UK automotive industry continues to suffer the effects of the global pandemic, with first half year production down significantly and a tough few months looming, the sector has the capability to recover. 

'The latest investments into new models and battery production show a bright future is within reach, yet the industry still faces headwinds, most notably from global semiconductor shortages and staff absenteeism as a result of staff being ‘pinged'."

Hawes called for the government to bring forward the introduction of new measures that will allow fully vaccinated adults to avoid isolating after a contact notification, currently scheduled for introduction on 16 August. He also advocated a 'test to release' scheme, which would allow non-vaccinated workers to skip isolation in favour of regular testing after a contact.  

READ MORE

Inside the industry: why the semiconductor shortage hits hard​

Analysis: how Jaguar Land Rover will beat the chip shortage​

E-scooters: 10 reasons why you SHOULDN'T buy one
E-scooters: 10 reasons why you SHOULDN'T buy one E-scooters: 10 reasons why you SHOULDN'T buy one A run-in with the law, a lorry or the fashion police are among the potential downsides to consider before buying an e-scooter

There comes a time in every person’s life when, faced with an intractable quandary, the only recourse is the Ask The Internet option. How do you get red wine stains out of a white carpet? Why’s my washing machine flagging Error F06? Hang on, why isn’t the wi-fi working? 

And here, trundling down the highway of technological progress, comes another toughie: should I buy an e-scooter? Most people will have an opinion – they seem to, these days – but in the interests of balance, which is quite important on a scooter, Move Electric’s Gary Parkinson has assembled the arguments both for and against in a pair of linked articles. 

Thinking positive and want to read more? Here's 10 reasons you SHOULD buy an e-scooter

10 reasons you SHOULDN’T buy an e-scooter

Far be it from us to decry the advances of technology, but various reasons are put forward to avoid e-scootz, and it’s neither cynical nor Luddite to address each in turn. So let’s see.

1. They’re illegal (ish)

This is, it must be said, A Bit Of A Blow. Actually, they’re not illegal to own, and on private land (with permission), you can whiz about to your heart’s content – but public use is a very different matter. Her Majesty’s Government has classified them as 'powered transporters', thus banning them from pavements and pedestrian areas (Highway Act 1835), footpaths (Road Traffic Act 1988) and cycle lanes (RTA 1988 again).

You could technically ride them on the road, but gov.uk warns that you would then require “insurance; conformity with technical standards and standards of use; payment of vehicle tax, licensing, and registration; driver testing and licensing; and the use of relevant safety equipment,” which Whitehall gently suggests you might find “very difficult”. 

For the record, mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs are exempt from these bans, which shows that governments can bend; but as of now (summer 2021), your options are not so much limited as vanishingly rare.

2. They could hurt you 

While government-trial hire e-scooters are limited to 15.5mph (12.5mph in London), several models on the market can easily top 40mph or 50mph and one is said to be capable of 75mph. Clearly, this is risky, and not just because crash helmets are optional. A 2019 US study found that 45% of resultant injuries were to the head, 27% “upper extremity fractures” (ie broken arms). Coming off at any decent lick could easily make you an unwanted burden on the NHS.

There’s also the possibility the lithium ion battery could burst into flames. This has happened, hundreds of times, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, with many of these incidents available for compulsive viewing on YouTube and TikTok.

3. They (ie you) could hurt someone else

Although not the only quiet mode of transport – cyclists can reach a fair speed without much aural warning – e-scooters have a rarity value that often surprises pedestrians, including road-crossers, many of whom have consequently found themselves mown down.

At worst, this has led to tragedy. At best, this is still suboptimal if they happen to have fists like hams, or are a lawyer who can transmit that anger into action. Hire scooters have in-built public liability insurance; your private model doesn’t. 

Some e-scooters are also somewhat lacking in the boring but important areas of visibility, headlights, indicators and horns – useful for alerting and avoiding others. 

4. You look a bit of a wally

Not in your current sartorial choices (a little bold, perhaps, but don’t ever let anybody stop you being you). No, there’s no escaping the fact that, just as with early adopters of the bicycle, mobile phone and Sinclair C5, those who clamber aboard an e-scooter must risk hoots of derision from bystanders cloaking their fear and envy in vocal antipathy.

On this, your correspondent writes from personal experience, having wazzocked around the streets of London on an e-scooter for a Move Electric feature. True, perhaps it was the hi-viz jacket or the sk8ter-boi helmet, but members of the public seemed overly interested and amused. It’s not for the shy or easily disheartened. 

5. They’re for kids, right? 

Motorised scooters have been around for a century – the Smithsonian Museum cites the 1915 Autoped as “the true ancestor of the modern motor scooter” – and have always been aimed at grown-ups. However, it cannot be denied that their powerless push-along peers have found a much wider user-base among the under-aged. 

It should also be noted that children tend to come in two flavours: those of primary age, generally regarded as cherubic; and those of secondary school age, commonly seen as demonic. Because of this dichotomy, adults spotted on scooters will be presumed to be either simpletons or members of a county lines gang. 

6. They’re not very secure

Fear not, they won’t leak your financial details onto the dark web. The problem with scooters is that their basic shape doesn’t offer an easy route to locking them up. Unlike with bikes, there’s no frame presenting a thief-proof way to attach chassis to road furniture, and you can’t get a decently girthed chain through the wheel. 

Sadly, what is not very lockable is therefore nickable, and your chariot is thus all the more attractive for the Fagins de nos jours. Furthermore, most e-scooters don’t have lockable ignition, the more typical starter-button mechanism allowing the chancers to cackle off into the moonlight. And even if they can’t start it, they might be tempted to chuck it in the river.   

7. They’re not the best workhorses

Like the horses that came before them, bicycles can help you carry large loads: panniers on either side, mimicking cowboys’ saddle bags, will distribute the weight evenly enough for the bike to deal reasonably well with the wobbles, even after a supermarket sweep. 

Scooters offer no such logistical assistance. You could fill a backpack or, more precariously, a rucksack, but the resulting balancing act may not be endorsed by your physician or insurance provider. Just as e-scooters aren’t built for the long commute, they’re also unsuited to the heavy lifting. 

8. They might not be all that green

There’s no doubt we have to clean up our act, and moving over our motive power from fossil fuels to electricity is a big part of that. But is your e-scooter actually that green? 

True, you won’t be pouring petrol into it. (Please don’t.) But the electricity that recharges its batteries doesn’t fall out of the sky: how much do you know about how renewable your energy supply is? And what is that battery made of? Usually, it’s a lithium ion battery stuffed with rare metals dug out of the ground in South America and transported – not by fairies or goodwill, but by dirty fuel – to China, the US or Europe.

And what happens when the battery ends its lifecycle?

9. They might make you fat 

We all know the sell, and it’s daft to disagree: e-scooters are a better method of short-to-medium-range transport than planet-throttling cars, thus making our cities and our atmosphere much more hospitable. 

But let’s face it: humans are inherently lazy. Rather than replacing your dirty old car on those journeys, e-scooters are perhaps more likely to replace your rapidly fattening legs on short hops across the city, the sort you used to walk (or perhaps cycle). Few of us get enough aerobic exercise as it is; offering a labour-saving device may still further harden our arteries. 

10. It’s you versus the lorries 

Given the sector’s increasing popularity and green credentials, not to mention the toe-dipping exercise that is the hire trials in various burghs of our green and pleasant land, it’s reasonable to expect that the government will at some point loosen the law on using e-scooters.

But e-scooters are largely the province of the young, and no government is likely to enrage the increasingly dominant silver-haired slice of the electorate by allowing e-scooters carte blanche to power along pavements.

In short: you ain’t going on the pavement, but you might be on the road. And really, do you fancy your chances against a lorry?

Don't forget, it's not all bad news: here's 10 reasons you SHOULD buy an e-scooter

Words by Gary Parkinson.

This is one of a series articles being published by Autocar over the coming weeks exploring e-mobility under the Move Electric name, a new editorial channel created by Haymarket, our owner. We intend to cover electric cars, motorbikes, scooters, bicycles and more, as well as exploring themes around electricity generation and electric lifestyles. Content will include features, reviews and opinion. If you have any thoughts about what kind of content you'd like to read – or wouldn't like to read – please use the comments section below to provide feedback.​

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DESIGN MATTERS.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Last week’s column about “blandtastic” design stirred the pot yet again among the AE faithful as well as with industry insiders. Some readers were stunned at the profile similarities on display from the different manufacturers, which is understandable when you’re really able to see them juxtaposed against one another. 

But then again, it shouldn’t really have come as a surprise. The members of the design community have mimicked and frankly ripped off each other for decades now. The design schools have contributed to this phenomenon by churning out graduates taught with similar perspectives who then go to work at the manufacturers’ design houses. Yes, of course, safety standards and interior packaging requirements come into play, but the systematic blandness that has overrun what should be the most exciting part of the business has resulted in a homogenization of design that is debilitating. 

As I’ve often said, design is the Ultimate Initial Product Differentiator, and in the transition to the EV Age, compelling design will become even more critical. With similar battery platform designs – aka “the skateboard” – and other technical commonalities such as range and charging capability, the look and street presence of vehicles will directly affect consumer desire. That’s not to say that interior design isn’t important, because it certainly it is – after all, that’s where we spend all of our time when driving. But exciting, breakthrough interiors will never be enough on their own; you first have to lure the consumer in for a closer look, and it’s the exterior design that does that, no matter how impressive the interior is.

Since Day One of the automotive design business, which started with the “Art and Colour” department at General Motors in the 1930s under Harley Earl’s direction, the concept of design “reach” has been an ongoing battle. The easiest thing to do in the design business – before Earl arrived on the scene – was to stay the course, do a few tweaks and call it good. This attitude sustained itself more often than not over the previous decades. But in Detroit’s heyday, roughly from the mid-50s to the early 70s – when GM Styling (now Design) often set the tone for the entire mainstream automobile industry – every year was a momentous year, because "design reach" were the operative words of the day. Staying in place was not an option back then, and each year a series of breakthrough designs was unleashed on the long-since-lost “Announcement Day,” with the manufacturers vying for consumer attention with designs that made the previous year’s lineup instantly obsolete. (Planned obsolescence wasn’t always a bad thing.) And, Bill Mitchell, Earl’s gifted successor, was the absolute Maestro at it. 

Understanding this and despite what I presented last week, all is not lost, however, as evocative designs – though few and far between – still have a way of surfacing, which is a very good thing. Given what I know, I have a few comments on what’s out and what’s coming…

(BMW)

I was super critical of BMW’s move to the overexaggerated front-end in the past, but I will give BMW designers this: 1. At least they have a distinct point of view that is directly influenced by memorable designs from the earliest beginnings of the company. And 2. The front end and the non-functioning grille actually work best on their crossovers/SUVs. That doesn’t mean I am exactly warming up to the look, but I get it. If there were ever a graphic demonstration of "design reach," this is it.

(BMW)

The front end on their electric SUVs will have other functions – to house myriad sensors, etc. – and from a road presence perspective there will be no mistaking when a BMW is coming at you.

(BMW)

I don’t like the front end on the coupe and sedans – it looks added on and unattractive, but I will admit that the racing version is not bad. Not bad at all.

(Mercedes-Benz)

Mercedes-Benz has the direct opposite problem from BMW. This is the company’s new all-electric flagship, the EQS 580 4Matic. This top-of-the-line, $150,000+ luxury sedan lays claim to be the most aerodynamic production car in the world, with a Cd of just .020. It is loaded with a plethora of gee-whiz stuff, which I won’t go into right now, but there is nothing gee-whiz about its design. In fact, it is instantly forgettable. Given the all-new, clean computer screen opportunity of designing for the EV future, this is what Mercedes-Benz designers come up with? Ugh.

(Mercedes-Benz)

One thing about the new EQS that does resonate is the interior. The 56” MBUX Hyperscreen display is really good, but in this case, they’re not first. GM’s wide, almost full-dash display in the ’21 Cadillac Escalade arrived first, and the upcoming super-luxury flagship from Cadillac - the Celestiq - will have an even wider full screen display. But for now, I will give M-B credit – this I.P. is super-slick.

(Hyundai)

This is what Hyundai says about the new IONIQ 5 EV: “The futuristic-looking Hyundai IONIQ 5 is based upon Hyundai’s breakthrough Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), which delivers faster charging, increased driving range, superior handling and more interior space. In addition to revolutionizing sustainable mobility, the IONIQ 5 offers an interior that provides a whole new in-car experience – redefining living space and moving space. Environmentally friendly materials, such as eco-processed leather and recycled yarn, are used extensively in the IONIQ 5.” This crossover/hatchback thingy is getting a lot of attention of late. For good reason? Maybe. The shape is certainly not breakthrough, but the overall execution is concept-car-like. And it definitely has a distinct point of view. Will it deliver? That remains a giant “we’ll see.”

(Hyundai)

The IONIQ 5 interior is of the contemporary “minimalist” school of interior design, with everything packaged on screens. Not exactly an unexpected approach, but it seems clean, simple and no doubt ultra-functional. Full disclosure? I like gauges, either in place or virtually presented. And I like the new, now-obligatory screens when they look like old-school instrumentation, or can at least be programmed to look like it. That said, I’ve grown to appreciate - and really like – head-up displays, especially if they’re executed well.

(Hyundai)

The exterior surface detailing on the IONIQ 5 is its compelling drawing card. This car will resonate with buyers once they see it in real time. No, not exactly a breakthrough shape overall, but the exterior design will draw people in to learn more.

(Hyundai)

The rear view of the IONIQ 5 is decidedly ho-hum, which is directly the result of the modified crossover box shape. Not a deal breaker, but not its best view by any stretch.

(Porsche)

Now, for something completely different from, of all car companies, Porsche. This is what they have to say: “Insight: Interior of the Renndienst Study. The designers at Style Porsche in Weissach journey far into the future of mobility. They think and design visions for the day after tomorrow in order to derive steps for tomorrow. They ask themselves how far they can expand Porsche’s design language and to which products it could be applied. This is how the Renndienst came into being. A minivan; a family-friendly interior design concept for up to six people. Challenges such as these keep the designers’ world of ideas fresh.” How about, no? After discussing "design reach" earlier, this is a classic example of a territory that has no business being explored by Porsche, unless the car company completely walks away from anything remotely resembling its founding principles. This is one of those conceptual ideas that should have never seen the light of day. As in, WTF? And why?

(Porsche)

Oh look, yet another execution of a future van interior. No thanks.

(Porsche)

Cringeworthy doesn’t even begin to cover it. “We thought about how we could still give a distinctly Porsche flair to a passenger compartment that is so far removed from the classic sports-car interior,” said chief designer Michael Mauer. “And how autonomous driving could be designed,” Mauer explains. The second aspect is certainly worth discussing. After all, sports cars are a symbol of self-determination. “We don’t assume that our customers want to give up using a steering wheel,” says Mauer. Oh, why not? When you’re this far gone, does it really matter? This will go down in our “Answer To The Question That Absolutely No One Was Asking” Hall of Fame.

Talking about giants like Earl and Mitchell earlier might seemly oddly out of touch when it comes to talking about the design challenges of today, but I think that is a narrow-minded perspective. As I’ve reminded my readers previously, there are car people from many disciplines slogging away at every car company on the planet. And an elite few of them may have even managed to rise to the top in their respective car companies with their spirit and passion intact, which is no mean feat in this day and age.

But in the face of a business that grows more rigid, regulated and non-risk-taking by the day, there are still lessons to be learned from the legacy of Bill Mitchell in particular. If anything, we must remember what really matters in this business above all else – something he instinctively knew in his gut – and that is to never forget the essence of the machine, and what makes it a living, breathing mechanical conduit of our hopes and dreams. 

And that in the course of designing, engineering and building these machines, everyone needs to aim higher and push harder – with a relentless, unwavering passion and love for the automobile that is so powerful and unyielding that it can't be beaten down by committee-think or buried in bureaucratic mediocrity.

I just hope there are enough visionary leaders in the design community to push the discipline to new heights, while keeping the excruciating missteps to a bare minimum.

Because Design Matters, probably more so now than at any other time in automotive history.

And that’s the High-Kilowatt Truth for this week.

- Editor
BLANDTASTIC DESIGN? LOOK AROUND YOU.

Editor's Note: As we await the all-EV future, the designs of today continue to be less-than inspiring. For an industry that prides itself on design (and that certainly has the talent), the current vehicle offerings leave a lot to be desired. This week, The Autoextremist reprises his discussion of this sorry state of design affairs in the auto industry. -WG

 

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. As longtime AE readers know, design is my favorite part of this business. There is nothing like being in one of the design studios and smelling the clay, seeing future vehicle explorations on wall after wall, and, of course, seeing advanced products up close and in the flesh.

The design function is one of the most creative parts of this business and, I would argue, probably its toughest. Designers inhabit a strange Twilight Zone where they’re touting upcoming product introductions with the media that they’ve been living with for four years or more, while at the same time they’re working on products that won’t be revealed for at least four (or five) years down the road. 

It has been put forth many times that automotive design is a fashion business, and in many respects that is very true. In the 1950s, the great Italian design houses had tremendous influence on the automobile business. In fact, GM Styling legend Bill Mitchell would often park the latest Ferrari in the design courtyard at the GM Technical Center so his designers would be inspired. It often worked, too, because during Mitchell’s reign GM Styling burnished its reputation as creating some of the most influential mainstream – and successful – vehicle designs in the world, including the Corvette Sting Ray, Buick Riviera, Cadillac Eldorado, Oldsmobile Toronado, several Pontiac models and many, many more.

Design is still very much a fashion business, but like everything else, today is markedly different. There are design schools all over the world churning out gifted future designers who have been given the kind of depth and breadth of experience that in past eras was very hard to come by. To say that today’s young designers hit the ground running is an understatement. In fact, many are able to make meaningful contributions right from the start of their careers.   

As in past eras, trends come and go, but it is amazing to see certain design “signatures” – whether they originated in Korea, China, Japan, Europe or the U.S. – sweep the business all over the world seemingly at the same time. Much of this can be attributed to the similar teaching methods and influences that young designers are exposed to coming up. The other reasons have to do with the fundamental parameters of the design package itself, meaning the specific drivetrain requirements, the passenger accommodations, the vehicle segment, etc., etc.

That all seems rational, right? I would agree that packaging dictates much of the look and feel of today’s vehicles, at least up to a point. But then again, how do you explain the look and feel – and the design sameness – of the vehicles below? What, do designers plug the parameters into a computer and out pops the basic shape and they go from there? Because that’s what it looks like to me.

I mean, really, how can designers stand behind this work and call it… good? I can just hear them now… “Ahem, given our Belchfire EV’s advanced powertrain and the passenger and cargo packaging requirements, we feel this ‘four-door coupe’ design presents the finest expression of our brand, blah-blah-blah…” Or something like that. 

Ah yes, the “four-door coupe.” This is the design trend originating in Germany that emerged from a battle of one-upmanship between BMW and Mercedes-Benz. And in design terms: it sucks. There is no such thing as a “four-door coupe” of course, but thanks to those two German luxury manufacturers we’re all stuck with this design abomination until further notice.

So, take a look at the cars below – forgetting the price points – and revel in the relentless sameness and the blandtastic design executions.

(Audi)The Audi E-Tron Sportback: Searching for even a shred of visual interest? You won't find it here. (BMW)BMW was one of the co-conspirators – along with Mercedes-Benz – of the “four-door coupe.” This is the X4 M. Even if you squint it doesn't inspire... much of anything. (Mercedes-Benz)The Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe: Just because it has a giant three-pointed star plastered on the front doesn’t make it good. (Porsche) The Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe: No, the shot doesn't point in the same direction as the others, but you get the idea. Even Porsche couldn’t resist the "art" of visual blandness, apparently. (Ford)The Ford Mustang Mach-E: No, it hasn't grown on me one bit. Not a shred of originality in sight, and it looks even more uninspiring on the road. “A Mustang for the Next Generation!” according to Ford. To that we say, UGH. (Photo courtesy of greencarreports.com) Putting an exclamation point on this discussion: The Tesla Model Y.

Where is this all going? Nowhere good, apparently. The various design houses around the world have to shake off this relentless tedium and get back to the inspirational creativity of designing compelling automobiles. Because if they persist on this current path they might as well just turn in their pens and acquiesce to being replaced by computers. At least then we can rage at the machines instead of lamenting the fact that the design craft just ain’t what it used to be.

And that’s the High-Kilowatt Truth for this week.

- Editor

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Automotive marketing, like the business itself, is one of the toughest endeavors in the world. While from the outside it may look easy, it is anything but that. Yes, the product is paramount, but if the launch is bumbled and the communication about that product is garbled or less than it should be, a golden opportunity is wasted, and marketing operatives are left “looking for new challenges.”

One of the major problems about marketing – and advertising – is that a lot of people know what’s good after the fact. It’s easy to pick out brand strategies that are successful and why, and it’s easy to identify a commercial that airs and pronounce it “good.” But committing to a focused brand strategy, and then identifying advertising creative that supports and enhances that strategy is extremely difficult. Sometimes it’s even a go-with-your-gut crapshoot, because all of the research that can be mustered beforehand only reveals so much.

I’ve written about – and rated – many marketing strategies and advertising campaigns on this site for 22+ years now. There have been a few thoroughly outstanding campaigns, along with some truly excellent efforts, many decidedly average ones unfortunately and, of course, a cornucopia of craptastic campaigns that should have never seen the light of day. 

One thing these marketing campaigns all shared from the start was that the initial work began from a brand positioning statement. Sounds simple enough, right? Put together a group of words that best projects what the brand represents to the real world and voila! That’s easy, isn’t it? Except it is definitely not. Why? These carefully crafted statements are intensely fought over by an array of fiefdoms entrenched on the client marketing side, and, of course, by their counterparts at the advertising agencies. Everybody wants a piece of these statements on both sides of the aisle, so when an agreement is finally reached, it’s a minor miracle. 

That’s just step one. But amazingly enough, all of that hard work to come up with those brand positioning statements can instantly go off the rails when those brand statements end up creeping into the actual advertising. This usually happens when clients become attached to the brand positioning language because it makes them feel good about their respective brands – and themselves. But when that happens, it usually never ends well. Brand positioning statements are just that, and they're not meant to end up in the advertising. But it happens all too frequently, and it results in “less than” advertising that doesn’t do justice to the brand. And I'm being kind.

So, given this background then, I have to applaud Stellantis operatives for having the cojones to present brand positioning statements for all of the brands under their watch last Thursday, with emphasis on their lineup of future EVs. This was no coincidence, either, as the perception that Stellantis is exactly nowhere with their EV plans is an actual thing, and the company wanted to put to rest that train of thought out in the media sphere.

Mission accomplished? Not exactly. Though it was refreshing to see Stellantis “put it out there,” so to speak, that doesn’t mean they got the results they wanted. Let’s take a look…

Jeep: "Zero emission freedom." Not exactly accurate; in fact, it’s not even close. Plug-in hybrids will dominate Jeep’s “zero emission” premise for the foreseeable future, with the product rollout taking years at least, and that’s if everything goes well. Sorry, but that doesn’t translate to “zero emission” in my book. Stellantis teased fully-electric Jeeps by 2025, but will that come to fruition with noteworthy volume? A giant “we’ll see.”

Ram: "Built to serve a sustainable planet." Hmm, really? Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares suggested that the brand will be prepared if there actually is a mass market for electric pickup trucks in a couple of years. In the meantime, that statement is unmitigated bullshit.

Chrysler: "Clean technology for a new generation of families." To this I say, huh? That Stellantis is clinging to the notion that there’s a place in the world for the Chrysler brand based on whether or not they can keep building minivans that people want is quaintly misguided. That there wasn’t much promised beyond the words in the brand positioning statement suggests to me that this is one brand – despite its myriad accomplishments – that could easily be relegated to the dustbin of history. And Tavares know it.

Dodge: "Tear up the streets… not the planet." Stellantis operatives openly admitted that it has pretty much reached peak HEMI V8-power in its current Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger muscle cars. And with Stellantis committing to be part of the coming EV era for real, they will be transitioning to something called "eMuscle" cars by 2024. But unless they stop showing burnouts in their advertising – the biggest one-trick pony image of the last decade – which isn’t even remotely good for the planet, this is going to be one very painful transition. 

Alfa Romeo: "From 2024, Alfa becomes Alfa e-Romeo." To this I say, WTF? The fact that the Alfa “serpent” is becoming a power plug doesn’t pique my interest in the least. Stellantis inherited this premium brand, but I don’t think the transition to EV is going to go well. In fact, this very well could be the one brand that doesn’t survive the “Grand Transition” to EV.

DS Automobiles: "The art of travel, magnified." Sounds interesting enough. Launched in 2014, this obscure premium brand (until further notice at least) is said to revolve around the ideas of craftsmanship and "French savoir-faire." It will participate in the premium group at Stellantis with Alfa Romeo and Lancia. Why do I feel a train wreck coming on?

Lancia: "The most elegant way to protect the planet." Even though Lancia has had its day(s) in Italy, the idea that it survives as an “elegant” EV is another stretch for Stellantis. 

Maserati: "The best in performance luxury, electrified." Wow, talk about a brand positioning statement that could be applied to any number of luxury manufacturers. It’s now clear to me that Stellantis doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping the Alfa Romeo, DS, Lancia and Maserati brands in existence as luxury EVs. This is classic automotive arrogance in all its glory. Maybe Tavares should have introduced the following brand positioning statement for the company’s EV future: “We’re Stellantis and you’re not.”

Opel/Vauxhall: "Green is the new cool." In the immortal words of John McEnroe: “You can’t be serious!” I don’t care if this German brand plans on becoming fully electric by 2028; that brand positioning statement sounds easily a decade old. To this I’ll add, why bother?

Fiat: "It's only green when it's green for all." Cute, and wildly optimistic. EVs simply aren’t all that affordable yet. And this Italian mass-market brand has been on life support for decades now. But in an EV world? Goodnight and good luck.

Abarth: "Heating up people, but not the planet." This is just flat-out embarrassing. No further comment necessary.

Peugeot: "Turning sustainable mobility into quality time." Unless you plan on building autonomous vehicles for the masses, like next week, what a way to ruin this former flagship brand. At this point, Tavares should have called “timeout” on the meeting and left.

Citroen: "Citroen electric: Well-being for all!" I don’t know, maybe “Shiny Happy EVs” would work better.

Again, this stuff isn’t easy, but there was really no urgent or compelling reason for Stellantis to hang its collective corporate asses in the breeze and go on record with this nonsense. Couldn't they have just presented a technical white paper delineating the scope of its planned EV technologies without identifying the brands that this future technology would be applied to? I would suggest a couple of things to Stellantis: 1. Work on the brand positioning statements closer to when you actually have real products to talk about. Maybe it will broaden your horizons and make better sense, because it's clear that there is a lot of vaporware here. 2. Stop thinking you have the firepower to sustain and differentiate multiple luxury EV brands. You don’t, and you won’t be able to either.

The carefully crafted image of Tavares is that he’s a smart guy. But I’ve known plenty of allegedly smart people in this business who thought they could juggle multiple luxury brands better than anyone else. And most of them failed miserably. He should really take note and stop listening to the dulcet tones of his own thought balloons for once.

It’s not called Brand Positioning Hell for nothin’.

And that’s the High-Kilowatt Truth for this week.

- Editor
FOREVER FU-KING MOTORS.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. A call at 3:00 a.m. doesn’t often bode well. It’s either some unexpected – and unwanted – bad news, or it’s a wrong number. Either way, it’s usually Not Good. But my early Monday morning call was something else altogether – it was none other than Mr. James “Jimmy” Fu and Mr. S. L. “Sonny” King on speaker. I figured out it was those two right away because of the Asian pop music on “11” in the background, which was almost drowning them out. (But as you know, they actually prefer that, because yelling is their prime mode of communicating.) 

We quickly switched to a Zoom call where I could see an array of dancing models awash in LED lights throbbing in the background, which admittedly was oddly comforting at this point, because if they ever felt the need to tone it down the world would become an even darker place. More on this later.

I updated AE readers about Fu-King Motors last fall, and before that in the memorable AE interview with “Al Cantara.” And though our longtime AE readers are probably very familiar with Jimmy and Sonny by now, we have a lot of new readers due to my elevated Twitter presence (@PeterMDeLorenzo), so I thought it might be a good time to provide some background about the dynamic duo. 

Mr. James “Jimmy” Fu and Mr. S. L. “Sonny” King have operated in the shadows of the gigantic Chinese industrial machine for years. But that hasn’t stopped these two flamboyant and remarkable characters from becoming legends in and out of China. Mr. Fu started manufacturing model cars and trucks in the late 70s. In fact, many of the model cars our readers played with in their youth probably came from Mr. Fu. And 50 years later, I have pieced together and confirmed that he controls every toymaking concern in China through a labyrinthian network of mom-and-pop factories and several other large conglomerates that he lords over. Mr. King became partners with Mr. Fu after initially supplying the elaborately detailed wheels and uncannily accurate tires on Mr. Fu's model cars. Though the two have had knock-down, drag-out disagreements almost from the very beginning – always with the yelling – the two have been partners in Fu-King Motors – and best friends – for going on more than five decades now.

I first got to know Mr. Fu and Mr. King after they approached me at the Los Angeles Auto Show years ago. Apparently, they had stumbled upon Autoextremist.com after they first became familiar with the Internet, and they regaled me with the fact that they both learned English by having my ‘Rants’ columns translated for them. When I first met them, it turned into an uproarious encounter as they blurted out some of my patented phrases that they had learned phonetically, like ‘notgonnahappen.com’ ‘halle-frickin'-luja,' and 'the Answer to the Question that Absolutely No One is Asking.' (How they learned that last one remains a mystery to me.)

Mr. Fu and Mr. King have remained in close contact with me ever since. As I’ve gotten to know Jimmy and Sonny, their frenetic pace and boundless energy never cease to amaze me. The Zoom calls I receive at 3:00 p.m. my time are usually booze-filled stream-of-consciousness rants by Jimmy with Sonny yelling things over his shoulder, accompanied by stylish model types dancing to disco music in the background at their secretive Shanghai lair. And their appetites appear to be even more boundless. In fact, Jimmy is still fond of aspiring female pop stars, while Sonny is a very generous sponsor of a female gymnastic academy. 

Fast American muscle cars are overflowing in their underground garage, which is an enthusiast's cornucopia of greatest hits. Jimmy was happy to provide me with an update of their Fu-King Motors fleet. They sold-off one of the three Purple Dodge Demons (each modified to deliver 1000HP) to one of their best, long-term suppliers (whose son promptly wrapped it around a light pole). The two original “narrow-hipped” 427 street Cobras remain, along with the matching ‘68 L88 Corvettes. The two new Corvette C8s (one black, one white) are already gone. Jimmy gave his black one to his administrative assistant, and Sonny gave his white one to his latest girlfriend. No worries, Jimmy pointed out, because they each have an upcoming Z06 on order. Their favorite hot rods (and our readers’ favorites, judging by the mail we’ve received) are a couple of custom-built Willys Gasser replicas from the ‘60s powered by race-prepared Chevy 502 big-blocks. These ultimate bad-ass machines – with open headers – are reserved for terrorizing the neighbors in the middle of the night. 

Their fondness for Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon gave way to Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon a couple of years ago, but they let me know that they are now drinking cases of champagne by the week because, as Sonny said, “the girls like it.” And, of course, they still absolutely love their twin Gulfstream G650s (Jimmy’s is Jet Black with dayglo orange stripes; Sonny’s is Chaparral White with Midnight Blue stripes).

But the main reason for the call, which they got to about 20 minutes in, was that Jimmy and Sonny wanted to give me an update on the Fu-King Motors future product cadence. The fact that they used the word "cadence" was a bit shocking, but Sonny said that was because they liked the way I use the word in my columns, so they use it all the time. “It’s all about Cadence! Cadence! Cadence!” Jimmy shouted, while they each banged the table in unison. So, after sorting through the yelling and trying to piece together the details in between the disco-pop blaring in the background, we finally wrapped up the call at 4:30 a.m. I was exhausted, but I never get tired of hearing from Jimmy and Sonny. In fact, they want me to come for an extended visit, but I told them I would have to have my affairs in order before I would even consider it. I mean, really.

So, as best as I can tell, the timeline for what Fu-King Motors has coming has been pushed back considerably. “Was it the chip crisis?” I asked. And they both chimed in, “No, it was the champagne… and the girls!”

2022: To quote Sonny: “Forget 2021, it is over.” “What is coming in 2022?” I asked. “Press conferences!” they said in unison. “Dog and Monkey shows!” Seems logical, at this juncture. “We dangle the bait and flip the switch!” I could have pointed out a few linguistic disconnects at this point, but I didn’t bother. 

2023 (2nd Quarter): The long-awaited debut of the six-wheeled, all-electric Fu-King Gargantuan SUV is for real, they both insisted. The Gargantuan is designed to humiliate the upcoming all-electric GMC Hummer EV and “anything Ford has up its sleeve to counteract the Dodge Durango Hellcat,” according to Jimmy. Flaunting some incredible numbers: 2000HP; 10,000 lbs. and with retractable electric step ladders (“not steps, ladders,” Jimmy insists) and “a look that will humiliate all that other crap out there,” added Sonny. When I asked about the price, Jimmy and Sonny answered in unison what they had told me before: “Enough to make grown men cry!” 

2023 (4th Quarter): Another unexpected debut: The Fu-King Motors KickBoxer. The boys’ answer to the Jeep Wrangler 392 and new Ford Bronco with “unequaled” off-road performance. Boasting a carbon-fiber unibody and a kaleidoscope of different versions, including a pickup and one cryptically referred to as the “RumRunner Edition” (“It can conceal forty gallons of Bourbon!” Sonny chimed in), the KickBoxer will be powered by an all-aluminum, now 3.0-liter, fuel-injected, Twin-Turbo, flat eight-cylinder motor that delivers 800HP. When asked if this could possibly be construed as overkill, Sonny quickly replied: “We would like to introduce our competitors to custom cans of Whup-Ass!” 

2024 (1st Quarter): The all-electric semi-truck that looks eerily like the Bison advanced long-haul trucking concept that GM Styling created for the 1964 World’s Fair is a definite “go” for late in the 1st Quarter of ‘24. When I was shown photos of the concept, I thought they had resurrected the designers who did the original Bison – it looks so close to the original (see below). But this truck will be a hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric heavy truck with a range of “700+ miles,” according to Sonny. The name? “Convoy.” (Jimmy and Sonny are huge fans of the original “Smokey and The Bandit” movie and the whole C.B. radio era in the U.S. (“We just watched it again Saturday night,” Sonny added.)

(GM)

The Bison heavy truck concept from GM Styling was designed for the 1964 World's Fair in New York.

2026 (1st Quarter): The development of the Fu-King Motors supercar has been fraught with problems from the beginning. With Jimmy and Sonny constantly at each other’s throats over the direction of the concept, it’s no surprise that it exists only in their minds at this point. Oh hell, let’s just call it for what it is: a giant Black Hole of Vaporware. The toll it has taken on Jimmy and Sonny is obvious, as whenever I mention it their usual exuberant dispositions turn decidedly dark. 

First envisioned as a high-performance, hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric hypercar, the machine – code named “Bandini” (which I came up with) – had been reimagined as a BEV aimed squarely at Gordon Murray’s T.50 with 1+1 seating and a curb weight of 1900 lbs. But now that Porsche and Rimac Automobili have formed a new joint venture called Bugatti Rimac to build a future hypercar, Jimmy and Sonny are apoplectic.  “Porsche and Remulac!” Jimmy pounded on the table. (I pointed out that it was Rimac, not Remulac, to no avail.) “This is nothing but a German-Italian nightmare! As you like to say, it’s notgonnahappen dot fricking com!” The subject brought Jimmy and Sunny to a rare moment of silence, although the stereo was still cranking LOUD (this time with “Jump Around” by House of Pain). 

Then Sonny pitched in: “We need you to give us direction! No Zoom either! We need you here! We’ll have a third Willys built just for you! Any color you want!” Now that was tempting.  

When I asked about products beyond 2026, the boys just shrugged and happily chimed in again in unison, “It’s a giant we’ll see as you like to say!” And, when asked if they had any plans to import their products to the U.S., the answer was once again a resounding, “Never!” Asked why, they answered again in unison, “Too much bullshit, too much aggravation.” 

At that point all I could say was, “I concur.” And I hope they never change.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

- Editor

By Peter M. DeLorenzo 

Detroit. It’s no secret that Toyota has been on a 50+ year quest to pass itself off as an American car company. I wrote an entire book about it in fact: The United States of Toyota. Toyota operatives have slowly but surely weaseled the company’s way into American life over the decades, with the goal becoming part of the American fabric. And for the most part, it has worked out tremendously well for the Japanese automaker.

Toyota is so embedded into the American fabric that many consumers have forgotten that it is a foreign-owned entity. Toyota has built factories here, it sponsors major sporting and other high-visibility events, and there’s no question that its “Toyota-thons” sales events changed the shape of automotive marketing in this country forever. 

It’s also no secret that Toyota operatives targeted Chevrolet as their goal. In fact, they wanted to usurp Chevrolet’s role in the American consumer consciousness. Toyota wanted to become “America’s car company,” and much to GM’s chagrin, the company has been largely successful at doing that. 

Now, make no mistake, Toyota didn’t do this by marketing and PR magic alone. The company forged its reputation by building exceedingly reliable – although not the least bit exciting – high-quality products that put the domestic automakers to shame, at least early on. And America’s car-buying consumers flocked to them. While the domestic automakers wrestled with the fundamental shift in the competitive landscape and desperately tried to transform the quality and desirability of their products, the import manufacturers, especially Toyota, became an undeniable force to be reckoned with.

Toyota is ultra-competitive in every segment except full-size pickup trucks. It led the industry shift to more fuel economy with the Prius and has never looked back. Toyota also led the shift by American consumers to the offerings from the import automakers, and this market has been forever altered because of it. Ford, GM and Stellantis build far more competitive products now to be sure, but the domestic industry has never really recovered from the inroads that Toyota and other import manufacturers have made.

Today, Toyota is not only a mainstay in the U.S. market. It is one of the auto industry pillars here and around the globe, and one of the largest automotive conglomerates in the world. But in its quest to become all things to all people in this market – while consistently pawning itself off as a U.S. automaker – Toyota has developed a homegrown arrogance and cynicism about what it views as its place in the world, which rears its ugly head every so often. And over this past weekend, we got a full-blown dose of that arrogance and cynicism that no amount of PR “spin” can negate.

According to a detailed report by Axios, 34 companies have donated at least $5,000 to the campaigns and leadership PACs of one or more election objectors this year. (If you need to be reminded, “election objectors” are representatives who openly challenge the legitimacy of this country’s most recent Presidential election, aka “election conspiracy” theorists.) Notable companies on that list included Koch Industries (big surprise), AT&T, health insurer Cigna and tobacco company Reynolds American.

But the biggest donor by far to the election objectors? You guessed it: Toyota. The Japanese automaker gave $55,000 to 37 election objectors (all members of the GOP, of course). According to Axios, that equates to a quarter of the bloc that voted to nullify President Biden's win after the Capitol siege. In fact, Toyota gave more than twice as much — and to nearly five times as many members of Congress — as the No. 2 company on the list, Cubic Corp., a San Diego-based defense contractor. The Japanese automaker's donations this year included a February contribution to Rep. Andy Biggs, an Arizona Republican who has been one of Congress' most vocal election conspiracy theorists. Biggs also helped organize the "Stop the Steal" rally prior to the Capitol attack.

Now, make no mistake, corporations have played both sides of the fence when it comes to political contributions since, well, they started keeping records of such orchestrated giving. They all do it, and no corporation – auto or otherwise – is not guilty of it. But Toyota’s actions in this particular situation is egregiously dubious and comes down hard on the wrong side of this fundamental issue. Toyota is basically fueling and funding election conspiracy theorists, and the company is doing it right out in the open (although it is doubtful that they wanted any of this to come out).

And what does Toyota have to say about this? In what will go down as one of the dumbest PR quotes in the history of PR quotes, a Toyota spokesperson told Axios (in an email) the following:

"We do not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification." 

Read the statement again. Really? You mean to tell me that Toyota doesn’t believe there’s a reason to disqualify out of hand the whack-job conspiracy theorists who cling to a lamebrained notion that has been proven time and again to be flat-out false? (I expect a huge mea culpa from Toyota today in a desperate attempt at “walking back” this statement. The trouble is, there’s no walking back this ridiculous statement. Toyota is deeply buried in its own stupidity on this one.)

I get the fact that Toyota, after years of laying the groundwork to become part of the American fabric, could become woefully jaded to the point that it somehow loses its way and starts believing the fantasy it has created for itself as to its place around here. But this?  This kind of behavior is simply inexcusable. 

Far from the pious, “aw shucks” believers who promote themselves as being part of the “American fabric” – a canard that it is so desperate to project and convey at every opportunity – Toyota has been exposed as a company made up of carpetbagging mercenaries who will stop at nothing to throw around some money on the chance that they will gain a favor down the road.

It is officially the most cynical car company in the world.

And that is the High-Kilowatt Truth for this week.

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