2019 Ford Focus – first spy pics show evolved design of five-door hatch

2019 Ford Focus - first spy pictures show evolved design

Overall dimensions looks unchanged but a longer wheelbase should provide passengers with more legroom; it’ll come with three and four-cylinder engines

The next Ford Focus is ramping up for a 2019 launch, with engineers currently testing late-build prototypes. 

Spotted by Autocar photographers, these images show the fourth-generation model’s real skin beneath a disguise being tested in arctic conditions. Such testing only takes place when the car’s look and specification are mature, to prove that the finished model works well under extreme conditions and to fine-tune its braking and stability electronics.

The new Focus, set to be revealed in early 2018 ahead of a launch the following year, will follow the same evolutionary path as the recently unveiled Fiesta, using Ford’s highly flexible global C-class platform. It will only come as a five-door saloon: Ford is keeping its development funds for making more SUVs, which European president Jim Farley believes are turning into “preferred family cars”. 

The Focus programme’s similarity to the Fiesta’s evolution is no surprise since the project is now under the management of Ford’s small-car guru, Darren Palmer, whose team recently delivered the Fiesta, the Ka+ and a dramatically improved Ecosport B-segment SUV.

The new Focus is unlikely to grow in length or width, but is tipped to have about 50mm more wheelbase to match its rivals for rear legroom. It will also deliver weight savings around 50kg, model for model, though precise figures are still being calculated. Efficiency will be high on the agenda: Ford will undoubtedly improve on the current car’s aerodynamics. It will also launch a new all-electric as one of one of a dozen electric cars promised last year by European chief Farley. The company has also been experimenting with hybrid models, already successful in its US line-up, though there are no sure signs yet of a four generation Focus hybrid.

The new mainstreamer’s engine range will depend heavily on the successful 1.0-litre Ecoboost three-cylinder petrol engine — available in 99, 123 and 138bhp versions — and is likely also to offer 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre petrol units in several power outputs to power its ST-line and “full fat” ST versions. The staple diesel will again be the 1.5 TDCi, though a 2.0-litre diesel may still be offered for ST performance models. Ford has been talking nine- and 10-speed automatics in America for several years but is likely for the time being to stick with its the six-speed Powershift twin-clutch gearbox as the European automatic option. 

One certainty is that Ford will launch a high-riding Focus Active, along lines established by the recently revealed Fiesta Active, to take advantage of burgeoning demand for “lifestyle” models. There will be several models: base cars will have a regular front-wheel-drive system, but there is likely to be an optional four-wheel drive utilising hardware from the existing Kuga SUV. 

Suggestions that there would be no replacement for the current Focus RS appear wide of the mark: Ford sources suggest there may be “at least one more” version of the highly rated 165mph sports hatch in the company’s armoury. Ford chief Farley is known to be keen on such models, which he says do much to boost the image and desirability of the whole Ford range.

Inside, the new Focus will be more carefully packaged than ever, to offer enhanced passenger space in key areas even though it is no bigger externally. The décor will be simpler and more stylish: the company’s designers privately admit they “overdelivered” on dashboard complexity in recent Fiesta and Focus cabins. The fascia, in particular, will be simpler and less claustrophobic, with more functions activated via a prominent central touch-screen.

Ford is still deciding launch details for its fourth-generation Focus. It showed the third-generation model, earmarked for a 2011 launch, at the 2010 Detroit motor show at the beginning of that year, evidently to stress the car’s global credentials and pay homage to the firm’s hometown. No-one inside the Blue Oval’s HQ will yet confirm the car’s arrival date, but the same could very well happen again, which would mean a reveal at the 2018 Detroit motor show. 

Future Ford models to be more region specific

Source: Autocar Online

Why is a chemical company building a Defender-inspired off-road vehicle?

Why is a chemical company building an off-road Defender-inspired vehicle?

Ineos will ensure the old Land Rover Defender’s legacy lives on with a new model inspired by it – this is why it’s happening

One of the biggest chemical companies in the world, with absolutely no history in vehicle manufacturing, is aiming to build a traditional off-road workhorse similar to the iconic Land Rover Defender.

On the face of it, you might be tempted to swat away the plans of Ineos as a publicity stunt, but the company is keen to stress its plans are sincere and credible.

Owner Jim Ratcliffe is a huge admirer of the Defender, and the orders came down from him to start work on a model that pays homage to the off-roader following the end of its production last year.

Ratcliffe spotted a gap in the market, and his love for the Defender made him want to replace it. He and his company saw creating such a car as a business venture worth pursuing.

“It’s definitely not a publicity stunt,” Ineos director Tom Crotty assured me. “It’s a serious project. We are approaching it from the point of view of enthusiasts.”

Ineos’s Defender-inspired off-roader could be electric

But the nature of an undertaking like this – particularly for a novice in the car industry that will have to invest millions of pounds to make it happen – is inherently risky. So, was there any opposition from within the company regarding Ratcliffe’s outlandish plans?

“None at all. We’ve not even really met opposition outside of the company,” Crotty explained. “People probably think we’re crazy because we’re not in the car industry.

“But we are manufacturers; a lot of the principles are the same.”

Ineos is ambitious with the timeframe for this. Crotty says because Ineos is a private company it can move fast, and it plans for the Defender-inspired model to be on the roads by 2020.

The chemical company’s successful importation of gas from America to Europe shows it can realise big ambitions quickly – that plan was conceived in 2012 and delivered in 2016. But the car industry represents a completely different challenge and there are still many hurdles to overcome, chiefly finalising a design and then building a factory to make it.

Ineos has already begun recruitment for its newly found automotive sector, and those appointments will be crucial. Enthusiasm created this project, but it needs expertise to make a success of it.

Video: Land Rover Defender vs the Atlantic ocean

Source: Autocar Online

Video: Formula Offroad – The most extreme motorsport in the world

Video: Formula Offroad - The most extreme motorsport in the world

These cars produce more bhp/tonne than a Bugatti Chiron and can drive up practically vertical inclines

Believe it or not, off-roading is actually illegal in Iceland – they’ll lock you up. There is an exception, though, in the form of the outrageous Icelandic Formula Offroad Championship. Strapped into home-built mongrel 4x4s making up to 1500bhp, the unhinged drivers battle for the championship at courses across Iceland, attacking vertiginous rock faces and volcanic gravel pits, tearing through quagmires and even hydroplaning across water. It’s a crusade against gravity that has spectacular results, with cars tumbling, sinking and sometimes all but disintegrating along the way. It’s all played out in front of a baying crowd to a soundtrack of hard rock – there’s nothing in motorsport quite like it.

We join 25-year-old defending champion Snorri Thor Árnason and his nitrous-boosted 7.0-litre V8-powered creation, Choirboy, for one of the most challenging weekends of the season at Hella in southern Iceland. He’s the man to beat and perfectly placed to give us an inside view of what it takes to conquer Hella’s treacherous terrain – not to mention its deep, icy river.

Additional footage provided courtesy of Jakob Hafsteinsson – visit his Icelandic motorsport channel at www.youtube.com/jakobcecil and his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jakobcoffroad.

Thanks to Snorri Thor Àrnason, Gummi Gustafsson, Guðbjörn Grímsson, Tryggvi Thordarson and Europcar Iceland (www.europcar.is).

For the Icelandic Formula Off-road schedule, look for ‘Torfæra’ at www.akis.is/motahald/keppnisdagatal. Find information about visiting Iceland at www.iceland.is and www.south.is.

Watch next: Land Rover Defender vs Atlantic Ocean – https://youtu.be/dxgb1wf7kZk

Source: Autocar Online

2017 Kia Picanto revealed ahead of Geneva motor show debut

2017 Kia Picanto

Kia’s city car gets a sporty new GT-Line variant, a new turbocharged engine and more kit to take on its rivals from Hyundai, VW and more

The 2017 Kia Picanto has been revealed ahead of its official debut at the Geneva motor show in March. It will go on sale in the UK in May, and should cost from around £9000.

For the first time in the Picanto’s lifespan, the city car will gain sportily styled GT-Line and GT-Line S trims, which get more equipment, a muscular body kit, bespoke paintwork and a new steering wheel.

The third-generation Picanto will only be offered as a five-door model, following in the footsteps of its Rio supermini sibling, as the slow selling three-door struggled to find customers in the current generation car. Despite a longer wheelbase and shorter front overhang, though, the new car is no larger than its predecessor – but does offer more head and legroom as well as a larger boot inside.

Engines

As you’d expect, the Picanto’s engine range is based around frugal petrol engines. Both the current options – a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol with 66bhp and 71lb/ft of torque and a four-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol with 83bhp – are carried over to this new car, but joining the range is a new turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol. With 99bhp, it’s the most powerful option in the range, and can propel the Picanto to 60mph in 10.1sec. It’s likely to also be the most economical option, although official MPG and CO2 figures have yet to be revealed.

The default gearbox choice is a five-speed manual, but a four-speed automatic is available as an option on the 1.25-litre petrol.

The Picanto’s brakes, steering and engine refinement have left us cold in the past, with the car far more ideally suited to tight urban streets than wider country roads or motorways. Kia claims to have addressed this with more soundproofing materials applied throughout to reduce engine vibrations and noise, and lowering the windscreen wipers by 6mm to eliminate wind noise at speed.

Kia says it has also improved the Picanto’s ride and handling through the use of modified suspension and a revised steering rack, both of which are said to give the new car ‘agile’ driving dynamics. Torque vectoring by braking also features for the first time, helping to reduce understeer during hard cornering.

Although the addition of sporty GT-Line models and the new turbocharged 1.0-litre engine would seem to leave the door open for a fully fledged performance version of the new Picanto, Kia officials say no such car is planned, as the company is instead putting its hot hatch ambitions into the new Rio GT, which is due in 2018.

Upmarket interior

The new Picanto’s cabin is dominated by a new 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system, which will be standard-fit in the UK. Drivers will be able to control their smartphones using the Apple Carplay and Android Auto services, while the options list includes a reversing camera, wireless smartphone charger and USB port.

When it comes to luggage space, the Picanto’s boot can now carry up to 255 litres – more than Hyundai’s i10 – and up to 1010 litres with the rear seats folded flat.

While exact specifications for the UK have yet to be confirmed, we do know the Picanto will be offered in 1,2, and 3 trim levels, plus the new GT-Line and GT-Line S specifications.

Personalisation also plays a big part in the new Picanto. Drivers will be able to specify one of five so-called ‘colour packs’ in the UK, allowing them to choose colours for the seats and stitching, as well as interior door panels.

Kia says the new Picanto is the safest A-segment car it has ever made, and the new car includes a greater proportion of advanced high-strength steel compared to the outgoing model, which has also reduced its body-in-white weight by 23kg.

Six airbags come as standard, while optional extras include a knee airbag and automatic emergency braking (AEB). AEB will be a crucial factor in the new Picanto achieving a maximum Euro NCAP safety score under the body’s dual ratings system – and increasingly UK buyers are paying attention to those safety scores.

Small car means big business

COO of Kia Motors Europe Michael Cole expects the UK to be the biggest market for the new Picanto, and says the new GT-Line versions have been developed to attract younger customers to the brand. “We want the cars to appeal to a young customer, but we also have to recognize that we’re very much targeting the ‘young at heart’ too. The demands are not that different between a 25-year-old and a 55-year-old.”

Exact prices for the UK won’t be announced until closer to the car’s launch, but a small rise on today’s starting price of £8695 is expected. The Picanto is already more expensive than its Hyundai i10 sister car, and only slightly cheaper than more upmarket rivals like the Volkswagen Up, so Kia won’t want to increase its price too much and risk being seen as uncompetitive – indeed, a starting figure of just less than £9000 seems likely.

As ever, though, it’s in monthly PCP finance deals where the new Picanto can make its biggest gains, and many buyers are likely to be swayed by Kia’s 100,000-mile, seven-year warranty.

Read more Geneva motor show news

Source: Autocar Online

Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell software glitch prompts full recall

Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell software glitch prompts full recall

Issue could lead to output exceeding maximum voltage; all 2843 cars are being recalled

All Toyota Mirai models are being recalled after it was found a software glitch could lead to voltage of the hydrogen fuel-cell drivetrain to exceed maximum limits.

The full run of 2843 customer cars are affected and being recalled to have a software update to address the problem.

A Toyota spokesman told Autocar that the issue only arises in the unique circumstance when a driver accelerates hard after the car has been travelling downhill for more than one minute using cruise control.

When this happens, there is a risk the output voltage of the fuel-cell boost converter can exceed maximum levels, forcing a system shut down.

The spokesman confirmed no known incidents have been caused by the issue, and that the recall would fully rectify the problem. Owners of vehicles are being contacted by Toyota individually.

The Mirai offers a range of  more than 300 miles. It is priced from £66,000 in Britain.

Does the Toyota Mirai prove the hydrogen car has a future?

Source: Autocar Online

McLaren P14: 650S successor to get new 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8

McLaren P14

The engine bay of the P14 will illuminate when the car is unlocked

The upcoming 650S successor will achieve 0-124mph in 7.8sec and be twice as aerodynamically efficient as the current car

The McLaren 650S replacement, to be revealed at Geneva motor show next month, will use a new 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8.

The model, codenamed P14, will achieve 0-124mph in 7.8sec and a standing quarter mile in 10.3secs, according to the Woking-based firm.

The new 4.0-litre engine, which is expected to exceed the 641bhp on the current 650S, will be showcased by engine bay illumination when the vehicle is unlocked. 

McLaren also claims the new exhaust system creates a clean, crisp exhaust note to “match the extreme performance of the engine, with the further option of a sports exhaust”.

McLaren Super Series boss Haydn Baker said: “Power, torque and throttle response are all significantly enhanced compared to the first-generation Super Series, yet with fuel efficiency and emissions also notably improved.”

The brand has previously confirmed the model will get a new generation of active chassis control system which will give it the “widest breadth of dynamic ability of any McLaren”.

Proactive Chassis Control II enables drivers to choose from Comfort, Sport or Track modes and, using sensors around the car including an accelerometer on each wheel hub, analyses inputs from the road to adjust the damping automatically.

It also includes ‘Variable Drift Control’ which McLaren says will allow the ESC intensity to be controlled via a finger swipe across a control on the infotainment screen.

McLaren P14 leaked online six weeks before debut – see image below 

The car is due to be unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March and will also be twice as aerodynamically efficient as the current 650S, according to the manufacturer.

Product development boss Mark Vinnels said several aerodynamic technologies have contributed to the improvement, ensuring “outstanding levels of grip and stability”.

An active wing extending across the full width of the second-generation Super Series model moves upwards and increases in angle to optimise aero efficiency. The wing also deploys to its most extreme angle as an air brake in less than half a second.

The car’s cooling efficiency has also been improved by 15%, with increased airflow to the radiators through a new design of dihedral door. Adopting technology first seen on the P1, ducts within the door structures force air from the top of the doors down into the radiators and draw air out of the front wheel arches to create increased downforce.

The P14’s monocoque, called Monocage II, uses a T-bar-shaped roof structure that allows for the extended dihedral doors, along with a wider entrance and lower sills for better access, similar to the iconic F1.

The P14 will weigh 1283kg – almost 200g less than rival, the Ferrari 488 GTB, and 18kg less than its predecessor.

That weight reduction is largely due to the monocoque too, which uses carbon fibre to offer “an ultra-lightweight” and “immensely rigid” architecture, according to the supercar brand.

McLaren also claims the structure enables a lower centre of gravity “further sharpening the dynamic performance” of the Super Series model.

McLaren boss Mike Flewitt said: “This is the first time we have replaced a product family. The new Super Series will be a revolutionary leap forward, both for our brand and the supercar segment.

“Super Series is the core of the McLaren business and personifies the blend of extreme performance, crafted luxury and unparalleled driver involvement that is the McLaren heartland,” he added.

McLaren design director Frank Stephenson has previously said the P14 will be “even crazier” than the P1 hypercar. As shown by previous spy shots of a development car, the company’s established hallmarks, such as the distinctive side-mounted air intakes and front bumper design, look to have been ditched for a new design, which makes use of LED headlight technology.

The cabin is also expected to be overhauled, with a new and more intuitive control system.

The production version of the P14 – the first of McLaren’s vehicles ever to be replaced – will be the first of the 15 new McLaren models due by 2022

Source: Autocar Online

Italdesign Automobili Speciali to launch hot model at Geneva

Italdesign Automobili Speciali to launch first model at Geneva

Design house becomes manufacturer for bespoke, low-volume models; first is due next month

Italdesign Automobili Speciali is a new car brand that will be launched at the Geneva motor show next month with its first model.

Spawning from Italdesign, the famous Italian design house responsible for models such as the BMW M1 and Audi Q2, Italdesign Automobili Speciali will produce bespoke, low-volume models for collectors.

Its first car has been previewed in a series of images. They show angular lines and aerodynamic features, suggesting it is a sports or supercar. Italdesign backs this up with the words “powerful engine” in its statement. It has suggested five models will be produced.

Italdesign bosses voiced intentions to create a new company last year. In a new statement, CEO Jörg Astalosch, said “Today, one year later, we are delivering the first running testimonial. The brand Italdesign Automobili Speciali witnesses our long-term commitment in this business.

“All these competencies applied in our ultra low series production, including styling, testing, validation and homologation, are available and offered to all interested parties worldwide.”

Italdesign’s car brand will offer its services of production alongside its existing service portfolio. “This is styling, engineering, prototyping for small and high volume production vehicles, especially also as a turnkey competence,” added Astalosch.

ItalDesign Guigiaro 4×4 Parcour review

Source: Autocar Online

Updated: GM plans sale of Vauxhall and Opel brands to PSA

Talks between General Motors and the parent company of Citroën, DS and Peugeot are said to be at an advanced stage

General Motors (GM) is in high-level negotiations for the sale of its European operations, including the Opel and Vauxhall brands, to the French-based PSA Group, which controls CitroënDS and Peugeot.

The negotiations, confirmed on Tuesday, centre around plans for PSA to take a majority stake of General Motors’ European subsidiary’s Opel and Vauxhall in a deal that could have significant implications to the European automotive industry.

PSA confirmed it was in direct dialogue with GM, but refrained from revealing how far the talks would go. It said in a statement: “PSA Group confirms that, together with General Motors, it is exploring numerous strategic initiatives aiming at improving its profitability and operational efficiency, including a potential acquisition of Opel. There can be no assurance that an agreement will be reached.”

GM responded with a near-identical comment: “Since 2012, General Motors and PSA Group have been implementing an alliance covering, to date, three projects in Europe and generating substantial synergies for the two groups.  Within this framework, General Motors and PSA Group regularly examine additional expansion and cooperation possibilities, as well. PSA Group and General Motors confirm they are exploring numerous strategic initiatives aiming at improving  profitability and operational efficiency, including a potential acquisition of Opel Vauxhall by PSA. There can be no assurance that an agreement will be reached.”

The negotiations revolve around the full merger of operations between Opel, Vauxhall, Citroën, Peugeot and DS, and come after previous attempts to closely align the operations of the German and French car makers. 

GM has been particularly active in recent years in seeking a broad-based co-operation with Peugeot in a bid to cut costs and improve profitability at Opel and Vauxhall.

Within the framework of their existing alliance, Opel has developed two new SUV models from existing Peugeot platforms. Included is the new Crossland X, which sits on the same structure as the 2008, and the Grandland X, whose underpinnings are shared with the 3008. An even larger SUV model, conceived to replace the Zafira, is also planned, although it is based on the same in-house General Motors platform as the new second-generation Insignia. 

However, a full-blown merger between the US car making giant and Peugeot was torpedoed in 2013, when GM suddenly sold a 7% stake in the French government-owned car maker.

Industry insiders contacted by Autocar suggest PSA’s Chinese partner Dongfeng could play a decisive role, including the provision of financial assistance in the possible purchase of Opel/Vauxhall.

However, Evercore ICI, a global consultancy, has told German newspaper, Handelsblatt, that GM may be forced to pay Peugeot to take Opel with all existing pension costs. It says Opel is worth 1.1 billion dollars (US) without the pension costs.

Confirmation of Peugeot’s interest in acquiring Opel hints at a greater focus on the highly turbulent European market and goes against the trimming of existing manufacturing capacity and the more global-based sales strategy laid out by its boss Carlos Tavares in recent years. Only last week, Tavares announced Peugeot was set to take a stake in traditional Indian car maker Hindustan.

The purchase of Opel and its UK subsidiary Vauxhall would make Peugeot the second biggest car maker in Europe, with potential annual European sales of over 2.4 million and a healthy 16 per cent market share. It would also see it overtake Renault, to place it second only to Volkswagen in terms of European sales reach. In 2016, the French car maker;s three brands, Peugeot, Citroen and DS, booked 1,446,052 sales, while Opel reported sales of 979,427. By comparison, Renault’s 2016 European sales totalled 1,496,394, helped by the continued success of it Dacia brand. Volkswagen, with its Bentley, Bugatti, Porsche, Skoda and Seat brands, pulled in 3,498,049 sales.

The Vauxhall brand, purchased by General Motors in 1925, presently accounts for around one-fifth of Opel sales, with the UK traditionally being the largest market for the Corsa and Insignia. However, its future under the possible control of Peugeot would be uncertain at best. One scenario already raised by General Motors sources in discussions with Autocar is the possibility of a sweeping consolidation of Vauxhall operations in the UK, with the brand name resigned to history and being replaced by Opel – a move that was seriously considered by General Motors following the financial crisis of 2009 but ultimately decided against.

Struggling profitability for General Motors in Europe

General Motors’ European operations have been unprofitable for the past 16 years, with combined losses put at over $9.1 billion since 2009. The US car making giant initially expected a return to profitability in 2016. However, a devaluation of the British pound and cooling sales in the UK following the Brexit vote is claimed to have resulted in an added $300 million of unexpected currency losses in 2016, leading to an operating loss at Opel of  $257 million last year.

Peugeot itself came close to bankruptcy in 2013 following years of mounting losses. In a life-saving measure, the Peugeot family was forced to sell 25.6 per cent of its stake in the French car maker, with 12.8 per cent going to the French government and a further 12.8 per cent to Peugeot’s Chinese joint venture partner Dongfeng. Each paid over $1.1 million for their share of the company. Shortly afterwards, Peugeot sort a strategic alliance with Opel with the view towards joint development of a number of key platform architectures – a move that led to the two establishing a close working relationship and the foundation for the buyout negotiations.

Despite its financial rehabilitation through the establishment of key shareholdings by the French government and its Chinese partner Dongfeng and sweeping cost-cutting initiatives instigated by its Portugese-born boss Carlos Tavares, Peugeot grip on the European market has loosened in recent years. 

In 2010, the French car maker’s captured a 13.1 per cent market share in Europe. However, this was reduced to 9.9 per cent in 2015, placing it behind rival Renault. But while Peugeot’s market share has been eroded though increase competition, its share price has more than tripled, placing it on a more solid financial footing that anytime in the past two decades.

Opinion: Why would PSA want to buy Opel and Vauxhall?

Source: Autocar Online

Updated: Senior Opel board members were not aware of potential sale to PSA

Only Opel boss Karl-Thomas Neumann is reported as knowing about the negotiations; he had plans to make Opel an all-electric car brand in order to safeguard its future

Senior Opel board members were not aware of the advanced state of GM negotiations with PSA regarding the potential sale of Opel to the French company, according to German magazine Der Speigel.

Opel and Vauxhall are the European arms of automotive US-based giant General Motors.

It reports that, aside from European boss Karl-Thomas Neumann, the board was only informed on Tuesday (yesterday) morning shortly before the news broke.

Neumann is reported as knowing that GM was serious about selling Opel and had undertaken an alternative plan for Opel in order it safeguard it. This apparently involved turning it into an all-electric car brand by 2030, with models based around the modular electric car platform used for the Chevrolet Bolt.

However, despite Neumann’s plan, Der Speigel claims that even he was surprised at how advanced the talks were because GM had promised they would put his electric car brand ideas to vote at board level by May. 

The negotiations with Peugeot are understood to have involved Detroit-based GM executives, without any input from GM Europe officials.

GM boss Mary Barra is reportedly travelling to Germany today together with board member Dan Ammann to talk to Opel board members.

Negotiations between PSA and Opel revealed yesterday

The story broke yesterday morning that General Motors (GM) was in high-level negotiations for the sale of its European operations, including the Opel and Vauxhall brands, to the French-based PSA Group, which controls CitroënDS and Peugeot.

The negotiations centre around plans for PSA to take a majority stake of General Motors’ European subsidiary’s Opel and Vauxhall in a deal that could have significant implications to the European automotive industry.

PSA confirmed it was in direct dialogue with GM, but refrained from revealing how far the talks would go. It said in a statement: “PSA Group confirms that, together with General Motors, it is exploring numerous strategic initiatives aiming at improving its profitability and operational efficiency, including a potential acquisition of Opel. There can be no assurance that an agreement will be reached.”

GM responded with a near-identical comment: “Since 2012, General Motors and PSA Group have been implementing an alliance covering, to date, three projects in Europe and generating substantial synergies for the two groups.  Within this framework, General Motors and PSA Group regularly examine additional expansion and cooperation possibilities, as well. PSA Group and General Motors confirm they are exploring numerous strategic initiatives aiming at improving  profitability and operational efficiency, including a potential acquisition of Opel Vauxhall by PSA. There can be no assurance that an agreement will be reached.”

The negotiations revolve around the full merger of operations between Opel, Vauxhall, Citroën, Peugeot and DS, and come after previous attempts to closely align the operations of the German and French car makers. 

GM has been particularly active in recent years in seeking a broad-based co-operation with Peugeot in a bid to cut costs and improve profitability at Opel and Vauxhall.

Within the framework of their existing alliance, Opel has developed two new SUV models from existing Peugeot platforms. Included is the new Crossland X, which sits on the same structure as the 2008, and the Grandland X, whose underpinnings are shared with the 3008. An even larger SUV model, conceived to replace the Zafira, is also planned, although it is based on the same in-house General Motors platform as the new second-generation Insignia. 

However, a full-blown merger between the US car making giant and Peugeot was torpedoed in 2013, when GM suddenly sold a 7% stake in the French government-owned car maker.

Industry insiders contacted by Autocar suggest PSA’s Chinese partner Dongfeng could play a decisive role, including the provision of financial assistance in the possible purchase of Opel/Vauxhall.

However, Evercore ICI, a global consultancy, has told German newspaper, Handelsblatt, today that GM may be forced to pay Peugeot to take Opel with all existing pension costs. It says Opel is worth 1.1 billion dollars (US) without the pension costs.

Confirmation of Peugeot’s interest in acquiring Opel hints at a greater focus on the highly turbulent European market and goes against the trimming of existing manufacturing capacity and the more global-based sales strategy laid out by its boss Carlos Tavares in recent years. Only last week, Tavares announced Peugeot was set to take a stake in traditional Indian car maker Hindustan.

The purchase of Opel and its UK subsidiary Vauxhall would make Peugeot the second biggest car maker in Europe, with potential annual European sales of over 2.4 million and a healthy 16 per cent market share. It would also see it overtake Renault, to place it second only to Volkswagen in terms of European sales reach. In 2016, the French car maker;s three brands, Peugeot, Citroen and DS, booked 1,446,052 sales, while Opel reported sales of 979,427. By comparison, Renault’s 2016 European sales totalled 1,496,394, helped by the continued success of it Dacia brand. Volkswagen, with its Bentley, Bugatti, Porsche, Skoda and Seat brands, pulled in 3,498,049 sales.

The Vauxhall brand, purchased by General Motors in 1925, presently accounts for around one-fifth of Opel sales, with the UK traditionally being the largest market for the Corsa and Insignia. However, its future under the possible control of Peugeot would be uncertain at best. One scenario already raised by General Motors sources in discussions with Autocar is the possibility of a sweeping consolidation of Vauxhall operations in the UK, with the brand name resigned to history and being replaced by Opel – a move that was seriously considered by General Motors following the financial crisis of 2009 but ultimately decided against.

Struggling profitability for General Motors in Europe

General Motors’ European operations have been unprofitable for the past 16 years, with combined losses put at over $9.1 billion since 2009. The US car making giant initially expected a return to profitability in 2016. However, a devaluation of the British pound and cooling sales in the UK following the Brexit vote is claimed to have resulted in an added $300 million of unexpected currency losses in 2016, leading to an operating loss at Opel of  $257 million last year.

Peugeot itself came close to bankruptcy in 2013 following years of mounting losses. In a life-saving measure, the Peugeot family was forced to sell 25.6 per cent of its stake in the French car maker, with 12.8 per cent going to the French government and a further 12.8 per cent to Peugeot’s Chinese joint venture partner Dongfeng. Each paid over $1.1 million for their share of the company. Shortly afterwards, Peugeot sort a strategic alliance with Opel with the view towards joint development of a number of key platform architectures – a move that led to the two establishing a close working relationship and the foundation for the buyout negotiations.

Despite its financial rehabilitation through the establishment of key shareholdings by the French government and its Chinese partner Dongfeng and sweeping cost-cutting initiatives instigated by its Portugese-born boss Carlos Tavares, Peugeot grip on the European market has loosened in recent years. 

In 2010, the French car maker’s captured a 13.1 per cent market share in Europe. However, this was reduced to 9.9 per cent in 2015, placing it behind rival Renault. But while Peugeot’s market share has been eroded though increase competition, its share price has more than tripled, placing it on a more solid financial footing that anytime in the past two decades.

Opinion: Why would PSA want to buy Opel and Vauxhall?

Source: Autocar Online

Extreme Pagani Huayra Roadster gets 745bhp

754bhp Pagani Huayra Roadster - extreme 1280kg drop-top hypercar

‘Completely new’ drop-top hypercar shares the coupé’s Mercedes-AMG twin-turbo V12 but weighs 80kg less

The Pagani Huayra Roadster, a completely redesigned version of the Huayra hypercar that is priced from £2.32 million, is to be built for 100 confirmed customers.

In place of a fixed roof the Roadster has a choice of carbonfibre or fabric lids, but it bucks the trend of most convertibles by being 80kg lighter than its coupé sibling. The car also features the same active aerodynamic flaps as the coupé.

The car uses a version of the Huayra’s Mercedes-AMG M158 twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12, reworked to produce a peak output of 754bhp at 6200rpm – 34bhp more than the coupé and 15bhp more than even the hardcore Huayra BC. Combined with a 1280kg dry weight, the Roadster has a power-to-weight ratio of 589bhp per tonne, or 47bhp per tonne more than the coupé.

The rear-mounted V12’s turbochargers have been revised to provide more immediate throttle response, with peak torque of 738lb ft now arriving at 2400rpm. 

The Huayra Roadster’s electronic stability control (ESC) system features five modes: Wet, Comfort, Sport, Race and ESC off.

Drive is sent to the rear wheels via the same seven-speed automated manual gearbox as used by the Huayra BC. The Xtrac transmission uses a hydraulic and electronic activated shift mechanism and and is said to be approximately 40% lighter than a most dual-clutch automatic gearbox set-ups.

Key to the Roadster’s light weight is its so-called Carbo-Titanium and Carbo-Triax HP52 monocoque. The structure, which uses a material that Pagani claims is more advanced than that used to build Formula 1 cars, is said to be 52% stiffer but identical in weight to the coupé’s.

The car sits on all-aluminium alloy suspension system that is said to be 25% lighter than that of the coupé. Pagani says the car has been set up to understeer slightly at the limit in order to make it more predictable. The car is said to be capable of reaching 1.8g of lateral force.

Braking is by Brembo carbon-ceramic discs of 380mm in diameter front and rear. Six-piston calipers are used at the front, while four-piston units work at the rear. Wheels are 20in front and 21in rear forged aluminium, wearing in Pirelli Pzero Corsa tyres in a specification bespoke to the Huayra Roadster.

Production of the Huayra Roadster is under way and all cars have been allocated to customers.

Video review of Pagani Huayra

Source: Autocar Online

1 832 833 834 835 836 869