Why don’t car firms have good slogans anymore? Car News

You will see a little less ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ (‘progress through technology’) from Audi than you once did and a little more ‘future is an attitude’, alongside its electric cars.

But while its use of ‘Vorsprung’, like the brewer Carlsberg’s use of ‘probably…’ is more varied and nuanced today, this is still a company that values its association with the phrase to the extent it has Vorsprung trim levels.

‘Vorsprung’ is more than 50 years old, but Audi’s technical head, Oliver Hoffmann, claims it’s “much more than a slogan for us” and that “it encapsulates the Audi mindset”.

That was true, he says, when Audi made the 80 lightweight, when it made the A8 premium and when it won at Le Mans, and still it’s true now. I wonder if that’s accurate and whether bearing the slogan not just externally but internally drives employees just as much as it does customers.

After all, Lexus’s fuzzy ‘experience amazing’ feels less focused today than the totally apt ‘the relentless pursuit of perfection’ did at the launch of the LS 400 in 1989.

There’s sometimes a ‘new broom’ syndrome at car companies, as in so many other businesses. It’s easy to find oneself so close to a subject that one gets blinkered by it. But executives should try to remember that, bluntly, people mostly don’t give a monkey’s about their brands.

We have work and play and family and friends to care about, and if a company announces a new look or a new slogan, it might mean a lot to a very few people at the business but basically nothing to the rest of us.

Honestly, please believe that we just don’t care. That’s why it takes decades of subtle, repetitive, consistent embedding to get associations like ‘Vorsprung’, ‘probably…’, ‘just do it’ or ‘should’ve gone to…’ to stick in our minds.

Once they have, companies shouldn’t give up these treasured associations lightly. It’s a darn sight easier to lose them than to get them back.

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This notice was published: 2023-12-09 08:00:00


Editor's letter: EV sales must increase by 50% in 2024 – how? Car News

From 2024, 22% of a car maker’s sales must be BEVs – or it faces a £15,000 fine for every car that does not conform

Electric vehicle sales are dropping less than a month before the ZEV mandate begins

Battery-electric vehicle registrations in the UK continue to go backwards and the timing couldn’t be worse.

The 24,359 BEVs registered in the UK in November was a 17.1% drop on those registered a year earlier and the market share fell back from 20.6% to 15.6% in the same period, according to the latest SMMT figures. 

The average market share for the year is 16.3%, and while that is up marginally on the 15.1% in 2022, the prevailing trend last year was always upwards whereas in 2023 the opposite has occurred as sales have continued to slip backwards.

Now we are less than a month away from 2024 and the introduction of the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which dictates that car manufacturers must have 22% of car sales as BEVs or face fines of £15,000 for every car that does not conform.

At the current rate, the market share of electric vehicles must increase by almost 50% if the 22% target is to be reached against the current run rate. While sales of BEVs continue to perform to fleets and to company car buyers, where the benefit-in-kind advantage is massive, there are no tangible signs to suggest the much-needed growth from private buyers to allow the 22% target to be reached is going to be achieved.

Even so, the SMMT is still optimistically forecasting a 22.3% market share for BEVs in 2024 in a market that it expects to grow by 4.4% from 2023. If that’s to be realised, then all sorts of chaotic tactics are going to take place.

For car manufacturers to comply with the 22% target, they can hit that figure organically, buy credits from other car manufacturers that over-achieve (unpalatable given you’ll be helping a competitor), or defer to 2025. Or, of course, they can pay the fines. We’ll see a combination of all options.

To achieve the target organically, the only way to stimulate that private growth will be through discounting. What Car? Target Price data from our sibling brand has shown that EV discounts are up from an average of £1395 per car in January to £4226 in November and that makes EV discounts comfortably higher than those for every other fuel type. 

Greater discounts will inevitably follow. They have to, because there are no whispers of the return of incentives from the government to help private buyers. The current discounts seemingly aren’t enough to finally kick-start private demand for BEVs. 

Assuming those discounts still don’t give the near-50% growth needed in BEV sales, we’ll see plenty of other tricks being undertaken. 

Some car manufacturers will pre-register lots of ICE vehicles before the end of 2023 to ensure they don’t impact the 2024 sales, where every BEV sale will be so crucial. We’ll see lead times for ICE models increase and BEV models reduce to try and tempt buyers into a manufacturer’s favoured choice sooner. And we’ll see BEVs pre-registered en masse towards the end of the year to further boost a manufacturer’s ‘registrations’ for BEVs. 

A trend has recently emerged of car makers now highlighting monthly payments of EVs being the same of those for equivalent ICE cars in their range, but buyer beware: this is often the result of ICE prices having crept up in recent months to artificially bridge the gap to BEVs and make the BEVs suddenly seem not so expensive. 

All this is not how the government would have imagined it when targets were set, but then this is the same government that trashed consumer confidence in BEVs by pushing back the ban on the sale of non-BEVs by five years to 2035. What did they expect?

It was always going to be a challenge without this intervention as BEVs moved out of the early adopter phase. It’s one thing convincing someone from a Tesla forum to buy a BEV, quite another for an average car buyer who simply can’t overlook the higher purchase price, inadequate charging network, rising insurance costs and continued uncertainty around residual values. 

Let the fun and games begin

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This notice was published: 2023-12-08 08:39:24


BMW i5 Review (2023) | Autocar Car News

There’s a strong whiff of 7 Series about the interior of this car, flowing not only from its expansive cabin width but also the scope and style of the digital technology employed in it, and from various cabin features used more widely.

BMW is creeping towards greater domination of its car interiors by their respective screens and digital interfaces, and wider integration of controls and functions within those digital systems – for better in a few cases but too often, in others, with insufficient apparent regard for accessibility of those controls while you are driving.

The i5 is not the worst example of this we have tested this year (the X1 was a much greater offender) but it’s certainly not the image of considered driver usability that BMW so often used to present.

In some ways, the i5’s cockpit is familiar. If it positions its driver at a marginally higher hip point than in previous generations (we are unable to measure these things but you are sitting atop the battery), it can’t be by much and it offers a fine, recumbent driving position in front of well-located pedals and a widely adjustable electric steering column. 

Space up front is good, particularly so for elbows and shoulders. In the second row, it’s not quite as generous as some may expect, but it’s more than sufficient for taller adults. Boot space is class competitive, the regular 5 Series narrowly pipping 500 litres of luggage capacity and the i5 only narrowly missing it.

The Live Cockpit Professional digital instrumentation looked a little over-styled and contrived for some testers’ liking. It’s readable but not as configurable for layout of information as we would like (but the optional head-up display helps to make up for the shortcoming).

But the 14.9in central infotainment, with its Operating System 8.5 software, can’t match that useful hierarchy of navigability. Too many permanent physical controls and menu shortcut buttons have now been taken away and the driver is too often left with too much to do to find the menu where they have been hidden away. 

The car comes with Veganza man-made leather as standard (merino leather is a cost option) but it is only moderately convincing on tactile appeal. Elsewhere, tactile material quality is respectable, but it is not in the league of the iX or i7.

By comparison with those cars, the i5’s electric window controls feel plain and a little cheap; its door cubbies are unlined; and many of its lower fascia mouldings are hard and a bit uninviting to the touch.

BMW will hope design features such as the car’s digital ‘interaction bar’ (the multi-coloured, actively illuminated light bar that spans the fascia, flooding the cabin in whichever colour takes your fancy, and flashing to warn of an incoming phone call or a safety alert) or its hidden ‘seam vent’ air vents will make up for some of the sensory appeal missing from the cabin.

Sadly, some testers felt the former looked a little garish and plasticky, and the latter were simply harder to adjust than conventional air vents.

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This notice was published: 2023-12-08 13:07:36


Next-generation Nissan Qashqai EV to match current pricing Car News

Nissan has yet to reveal many technical details of the new Qashqai, although it will sit on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance CMF-EF platform, a bespoke electric architecture designed for C- and D-segment cars. It is already used for the Renault Megane and Renault Scenic, and will also underpin the next-generation Nissan Juke and Nissan Leaf.

Battery packs for the next-gen Qashqai will be built in Sunderland, with Nissan partner AESC planning to build a third battery gigafactory at the site. Nissan and AESC are currently focused on lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery chemistry.

One key focus for the next Qashqai will be on maximising efficiency. Despite the sharp, angular styling of the Hyper Urban David Moss, Nissan’s European research and development chief, told Autocar that the firm has “paid a lot more attention to aerodynamics” than with previous models in a bid to maximise efficiency.”

Nissan has yet to confirm when the next Qashqai will arrive. Based on the current model’s lifecycle it would be expected in around 2029, although that could be adapted depending on the speed of electric car adoption. Nissan is aiming to only sell electric cars in Europe from 2030 onwards, while the UK will ban the sale of all new non-zero emission cars in 2035 – although a new Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate will require firms to make an increasing percentage of their sales EVs before then.

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This notice was published: 2023-12-08 08:39:53


Stellantis to introduce battery swap stations from 2024 Car News

Stellantis will launch a network of battery swap stations that can fit a fully charged battery to an EV “in less than five minutes”.

The technology, developed by San Francisco-based Ample and backed by Vauxhall parent Stellantis, will be rolled out on a subscription basis and be introduced in Madrid, Spain, next year. Further sites will follow, although the brand is remaining tight-lipped on locations and timelines.

It will initially be available for only the electric Fiat 500 but the system will be expanded to accommodate every marque in the Stellantis stable, including Citroën, Peugeot, Jeep and Maserati.

It has been conceived to make gaining a fully charged battery “as fast and convenient as refuelling with gas”, according to Stellantis. Cars will be recognised on arrival, with drivers using an app to initiate the swapping process.

It follows a similar set-up by Chinese EV brand Nio, which has more than 1300 of its Power Swap Stations in service across its home nation, with a further 13 in several central European countries. Plans for the UK have previously been mooted.

For Stellantis’s tech, the swappable modular batteries have been designed as “drop-in replacements” for existing packs used by any electric car. It allows Stellantis to integrate its batteries without re-engineering platforms, saving cash. 

“Ample’s Modular Battery Swapping solution has the opportunity to offer our customers greater energy efficiency, outstanding performance and lower range anxiety. We are looking forward to executing the initial programme with our stellar Fiat 500e,” Stellantis senior vice president Ricardo Stamatti said.

According to Stellantis, the swap stations can be constructed and fully operational in “as little as three days”.

Ample CEO Khaled Hassounah said: “The combination of offering compelling electric vehicles that can also receive a full charge in less than five minutes will help remove the remaining impediments to electric vehicle adoption.”

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This notice was published: 2023-12-07 17:42:28


F1 to investigate hydrogen power for future motorsport use Car News

Formula 1 technical bosses will investigate the potential of hydrogen for future use in motorsport as part of a new working group.

The new Hydrogen Working Group will be tasked with evaluating the development and use of hydrogen within both motorsport and “wider mobility”.

The body will include figures from motorsport governing body the FIA, F1 and Extreme H, the hydrogen-powered off-road racing series that’s due to launch in 2025.

The group will look at both hydrogen fuel cell and battery systems such as those that will be used to power the first Extreme H cars, as well as how hydrogen can be used more widely as part of motorsport infrastructure, such as transportation, charging, storage and management. A key focus will also be looking at the safety of the technology.

While F1 chief technical officer Pat Symonds and other figures will be on the panel, there’s no indications that the category is looking at adopting hydrogen powertrains.

F1 is focused on reaching net-zero but, at present, chiefs have put a focus on the development of environmentally friendly synthetic e-fuels to power its next generation of hybrid power units.

Symonds said: “Our sport has a tradition of bringing new technologies to the forefront of public perception in incredibly short timescales. We do this by being open-minded to all solutions and embracing cross-functional engineering.”

He added that F1 was “committed to promoting sustainability” and as a result needed “to explore all areas of decarbonisation of the mobility sector, [which] must include sustainable liquid hydrocarbon fuels, electrification and hydrogen”.

Extreme H will be a sister series to battery-electric Extreme E. The plan is for the two categories to share events and use the same chassis (produced by Spark) but with different powertrains.

Bosses aim to reveal a prototype racer before the end of this year, have an extensive testing programme take place in 2024 and then launch the series the following year. They aim for it to become an official FIA World Championship in 2026.


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This notice was published: 2023-12-07 12:01:46


Next MG Marvel R SUV to launch in UK after snub rethink Car News

MG will launch the replacement version of the Marvel R upmarket electric compact SUV in the UK after restricting the current model to left-hand-drive European markets only, the brand has confirmed. 

No details about the new model have been released, but it’s expected to be built on the same modular electric underpinnings as the new MG 4. The architecture, called the Modular Scalable Platform (MSP), can accommodate a range of battery sizes up to 150kWh and also facilitate battery swapping. 

The current Marvel R is the brand’s halo model. In European markets, it costs up to €48,015 (£42,000) for the dual-motor Performance version producing 285bhp. 

The decision not to build a right-hand-drive version of the current Marvel R was made before MG sales rose significantly in both the UK and Australia. MG clocked 43,061 UK sales to the end of October this year, up 70% on last year, to make it the country’s 12th best-selling brand, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. 

“Go back four years ago and we were selling 9000 a year from tiny little dealerships,” said UK commercial director Guy Pigounakis. “You couldn’t sell a £45,000 premium SUV from places like that.” 

The decision to sell the new Marvel R here came after MG sales for both EVs and combustion-engine cars skyrocketed. “Tragically, if we did have Marvel R now, we could probably have sold 6000-7000 this year,” added Pigounakis. 

The replacement for the Marvel R is “a completely different car”, according to Pigounakis, although he didn’t go into more detail. 

MG parent company SAIC is reportedly planning 14 vehicles based on the MSP electric platform. All MG UK’s current models will be replaced by the end of 2024 bar the MG 4, said Pigounakis, with the MSP platform likely to replace electric models such as the ZS EV small SUV and MG 5 electric estate. No timing was given for the replacement for the Marvel R, but the new model is expected before 2025.

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This notice was published: 2023-12-07 06:00:00


Radical Honda concept hints at total EV rethink Car News

Honda will unveil a new global series of electric cars at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas on 9 January 2024.

Scant detail is currently known about the forms these new EVs will take, but a teaser image published by the firm shows the low-set, streamlined front end of one.

It represents a dramatic shift from the Japanese brand’s existing cars, with flat, uncomplicated surfaces, a chin spoiler and flush light bars. 

The wheel picture features flat, geometric styling, similar to the drag-reducing designs used on the new Peugeot e-3008 and Renault Scenic E-Tech.

Alongside the announcement, Honda reiterated its goal to become an electric-only brand by 2040 and to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Much of the brand’s recent work has concerned the latter target, exploring new materials and construction methods.

The Honda Sustaina-C concept shown at the Tokyo motor show in October represented the latest development on this front, with body panels made entirely from recycled acrylic resin.

The material – which can be recycled and reused after the theoretical lifespan of the Sustaina-C – can also be unpainted, further reducing CO2 emissions.

The same unpainted acrylic resin was used for the CI-MEV, a two-seat quadricycle-style pod for those in areas with limited public transport. 

The ambition is for such cars to establish a circular economy – to build new cars without producing new materials, instead recovering them from the existing car parc.

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This notice was published: 2023-12-06 14:01:45


My Week In Cars: New Steve Cropley/Matt Prior podcast (ep. 65) Car News

Episode 65 of the Autocar podcast My Week In Cars finds our resident car hacks Steve Cropley and Matt Prior talking the New Year’s Day meet at Brooklands and Goodwood’s move to sustainable fuels, wondering what happened to Mercedes’ famous advertising slogans, taking Toyota at Le Mans and much more besides including your correspondence.

Make sure you never miss an Autocar podcast. Subscribe to our podcasts via Apple PodcastsSpotifyAmazon Podcasts or via your preferred podcast platform. And if you subscribe and rate and review the pod, we’d really appreciate that too.

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This notice was published: 2023-12-06 05:01:45


Stellantis working on hydrogen combustion engines Car News

Stellantis is working on hydrogen combustion engines as one of four different solutions to zero-emissions driving, CEO Carlos Tavares has said.

Tavares was speaking at the opening of the Symbio hydrogen fuel cell factory in Lyon, France. Symbio is an equally owned joint venture between Stellantis, automotive supplier Forvia and tyre maker Michelin.

Stellantis – which owns 14 car makers, including Alfa Romeo, Citroën, Jeep, Peugeot and Vauxhall – is trying to diversify the number of drivetrains available under European Union decarbonisation rules.

“Hydrogen injection is one of the four technologies we’re working on,” Tavares said after the plant opening. 

He criticised legislators for their “brutal” methods to move car makers away from fossil fuels and steering them towards EVs.

“Now the dogmatic thinking is being hurt by reality, because if you aren’t affordable, then people can’t pay for it,” he said.

Stellantis is diversifying its drivetrain options to cater to those customers for whom EV charging is a drawback.

“The real competition is starting between fuel cell, EVs, hydrogen internal combustion engines and even synthetic fuels,” Tavares said. “We will see in the next few years what is going to be the best solution for the citizens.” 

Burning hydrogen in combustion engines has been seen as the easiest solution for zero-emissions driving, especially among commercial vehicle makers, given the lack of disruption to supply chains it would cause compared with BEVs or FCEVs.

Petrol engines need to be modified to accept hydrogen, but much of the same mechanism remains. The hurdles then are establishing a refuelling network and making green hydrogen at scale.

Tavares didn’t say which vehicles would be offered with hydrogen combustion engines, but Stellantis has already begun selling its K0 range of mid-size vans (think the Vauxhall Vivaro) with a hydrogen fuel cell option.

Stellantis will also offer a hydrogen fuel cell version of the Ram Heavy Duty pick-up truck in the US in late 2026 or early 2027, Tavares said.

Hydrogen tanks are easier to package in a van, while the lesser weight of a fuel-cell or hydrogen-combustion van compared with a battery-electric one would allow for a greater payload. 

Toyota has demonstrated hydrogen combustion engines in both Toyota Yaris and Toyota Corolla race cars running in Japan, while the Renault Group has showcased one in the Alpine Alpenglow supercar concept.


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This notice was published: 2023-12-05 17:46:31