Citroën set to conquer India and strengthen in South America with a totally new C3…designed and built in and for these markets…

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares has bold plans for Citroën and its role within the group. The iconic brand is set to sharpen up its international strategy, and therefore unveiled on September 16 a totally new C3, according to Citroën “a versatile hatchback measuring less than 4m in length”. It will enable the brand to expand in India and consolidate its presence in South America.

This new C3 is very important: not in the least because it is the first model in a family of three vehicles aimed at the international market. It is developed and produced in India and South America and which will exclusively sold in those two regions over the next three years.

New C3 is conceived as a modern hatchback designed to meet the needs and road conditions of the two regions, offering comfort and connectivity to progressive customers in search of peace of mind and prestige.

Does this mean that Citroën, which since many decades has developed a tradition of providing affordable and reliable mobility (one has only to think of the iconic 2CV…) through ingenuity and excellent engineering focusing on effective solutions, will use its design and engineering experience in India and SA to strengthen and refine its acumen and expertise as manufacturer of affordable transport in our markets?

What Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée has to say about the brand and its international strategy…

The dynamic Stellantis PR department in Belgium offered us to participate in a media roundtable conference with Vincent Cobée, and of course the abovementioned question was burning in our minds.

Here follows what Mr. Cobée answered:

“Citroën is about innovation, well-being and you can call that humanism, you can call that audacity, you can call that a bit of a militant brand. We will remain like this, translated into the Indian ecosystem. We are not a petrolhead brand (although, we should note here, that Citroën played a favorite role in international rallies…) but we will be true to our global DNA. We will be competitive in India, which means developed, manufactured and distributed in India.

Having said this, we have entered in Europe in the car industry in Europe a rather complex period, where the technological requirements imposed by the European legislation are going to make the cars more expensive, and this at a time where there is an economic crisis looming, and at the same time the availability of freedom of movement is going to become more and more important with the pandemic which we have been living for the last year or so.

If you put those three things together, there will be an aggravated tension into affordable mobility.

So Citroën, as a social progressive, innovative brand, has a role to play here. The environment is obviously different from what we see in India or Brazil and those represent different challenges, but the spirit of maintaining and enhancing the freedom of mobility in an environment where there is a mismatch between the (consumer) appetite and the regulatory cost, this is something that we will address with ambition.

So every lesson that we can learn from our development in fast going markets outside of Europe will be helpful and indeed used…

Inspired by SUV architecture…

Now let’s turn to the new C3. It is built for international markets, where roads are not always in top condition. So this Citroën adapts to the terrain by drawing inspiration from SUVs for its ground clearance, high bonnet and elevated driver position.

In addition to Citroën’s trademark comfort and market-leading spaciousness, its clever design meets the wishes of a young, tech-savvy public, grown up with smartphones, which are totally integrated and connected to an XXL 10” touchscreen.

But that is not all. Set to be launched in the first half of 2022, New C3 will also offer an unprecedented customer experience, including innovative services and the opening of a dedicated sales website in certain markets.

India is both promising and (very) important…

India is a rather new market for Citroën and one with significant potential that will soon be the third largest in the world.

The brand announced its arrival in 2019 and launched its first import model at the start of 2021: C5 Aircross. As a new market player, Citroën is initially focusing on large metropolitan areas. As said here earlier, it offers a top level customer experience.

Citroën products are positioned at the forefront of the Indian market, thanks to a strategy of high-level local integration (more than 90%) based on the two joint venture agreements between the Stellantis Group and the companies in the CK Birla Group (car assembly and distribution and power-train manufacturing).

The automotive market in India is growing rapidly and is expected to reach over four million cars sold annually by 2025. B-segment hatchbacks represent nearly 23% of this market.

The new C3 is meant to appeal to customers for whom their car is a reflection of their personality. A car that they can customize however they wish, which is a strong expectation on the Indian market.

In addition, the compactness (less than 4m to fall into a lower tax band), agility, versatility, on-board space, comfort and connectivity will improve the experience of traffic conditions which can sometimes be difficult, while adapting to each individual’s lifestyle.

This new C3, which will be produced in Chennai, will be aimed at new married consumers in their thirties, from the emerging middle class, with a comfortable income, who will be attentive to the value offered by a product that represents a significant outgoing and which needs to be robust and practical to maintain. It must be attractive, modern with innovative options for connecting to the family’s smartphones, while reflecting their tastes and their personality.

A stronger position in South America…

Citroën’s presence in South America is much older, dating back to the 1960s. Citroën’s objective today is to gain a firmer foothold in this market with modern products, in step with customer aspirations. The C4 Cactus is produced in the Porto Real plant and embodies Citroën’s positioning in Argentina and Brazil with its original and bold styling as well as comfort.

Produced in Porto Real in Brazil, the New C3 symbolizes a real renewal in the region, with its modern styling, its connectivity and the experience of its on-board comfort. The B-Hatch segment accounts for almost 30% of the total market in Brazil and almost 26% in Argentina (data FY 2020).

The versatility and positioning of New C3 will ensure greater coverage of the segment (in Brazil, New C3 will cover 90% of the segment’s needs, compared to 40% for the former model, while that coverage rate in Argentina is set to increase from 50% to 75%).

It will be aimed at active couples in their forties, married and with two children, looking for a prestigious, versatile and spacious car for their short everyday journeys and also weekend getaways.

It will also appeal to independent and active single people in their thirties, living in cities and with a slightly higher-than-average monthly income, looking for a vehicle that is elegant (for modernity and status), robust and safe.

We show you here some photos of this new C3, and tell you here also that soon we will test the Citroën C3 Crossback and the C4… stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We had a first drive with the elegant DS 4: the (electrified) future has arrived at DS Automobiles…

At DS Automobiles, the art of designing and building the avant-garde automobile has been celebrated again since 2015, the birth of this unique premium brand.

In stylish Chantilly, we stood eye to eye with their latest creation, the DS 4. Stunning in style, gracious elegance and technology, this premium C segment car did not fail to impress your servant.

The DS 4 has eye-catching proportions. With a benchmark width of 1.83 metres and large diameter 720-millimetre wheels (alloys up to 20 inches, 19 inches as standard from TROCADERO and PERFORMANCE LINE up), for a compact length of 4.40 metres and a roof height of 1.47 metres, the dimensions are striking indeed.

Also the entire press presentation of this noble automobile was in line with its qualities: we were not only able to meet Mme Béatrice Foucher, the CEO of DS Automobiles personally at dinner, together with the communications people of the brand at lunch, we had also interesting workshops with the designers, engineers and last but not least the craftsmen and artists who make the DS 4 into the hand made four wheeled gem it is.

Mme Béatrice Foucher also presented the bold electrification strategy of the brand: in 2022-2023 it will increase the electrified mix with more E-TENSE sales, and from 2024 onwards it will only launch models which are battery only EV’s, with only electrified models presented for sale in Europe.

The designers also presented their drawings and a fully fledged clay model too, and the craftsmen presented their tools and unique hand made items of the car, of which much more later.

We were able to drive the entire range of the DS 4 on a 245 km circuit around scenic Chantilly, and we can tell you already that we were very taken by the plug-in hybrid version, the E-TENSE. Not surprisingly, as one knows that DS Automobiles puts great value on electrification, as does their avant-garde clientele, by the way.

For the DS4, a new version of the EMP2 platform was conceived to accommodate a new generation plug-in hybrid drive train without compromising cockpit space. It is important to note here that, being an important premium brand for Stellantis, the choices DS Automobiles are making in terms of proportions and styling of their cars and last but not least their technology are important signals for the engineers in the group wo develop the respective platforms. Noblesse oblige… Here you see the naked bodywork displayed on its platform.

The E-TENSE sports a turbocharged 180 horsepower PureTech 4-cylinder engine, which is paired with a 110 horsepower electric motor and an EAT8 gearbox, for a combined 225 horsepower.

The combination is fed by a more efficient 12,4 kW battery with new more compact and larger capacity cells situated behind the deformable beam and giving a range of 55 kilometres in zero emissions mode (WLTP combined cycle). The E-TENSE impressed your servant not only with its uncanny smoothness, it delivered also all the performance you could wish for: The 360Nm of torque enables 100km/h to be reached in 7.7 seconds with fuel consumption of just 1.3 litre/100km and emissions from 29g/km of CO2 on the WLTP combined cycle.

A wide range with a broad choice of interior equipment levels…  

We will tell you soon more about the driving impressions of this DS 4 in their different engine configurations, we just present here the model and equipment line-up. Besides the E-TECH, three petrol engine models, PureTech 130 Automatic, PureTech 180 Automatic and PureTech 225 Automatic plus a BlueHDi 130 Automatic Diesel will be offered.

In terms of body styles, the range is made up of three versions: DS 4, DS 4 CROSS et DS 4 PERFORMANCE LINE, with each version enjoying multiple trim levels:

– Four trim levels for the DS4: BASTILLE, BASTILLE +, TROCADERO and RIVOLI, as well as a Limited Edition “LA PREMIÈRE” for the launch, offering exclusive touches above and beyond the existing trims.

– For the DS 4 CROSS body version, we have the CROSS TROCADERO and CROSS RIVOLI trim levels,

– PERFORMANCE LINE and PERFORMANCE LINE + trims for the DS 4 PERFORMANCE LINE.

More soon, stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A royal visit to the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN F1 team…

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium in the F1 paddock with GIOVINAZZI Antonio on the left and RAIKKONEN Kimi on her right. receiving a racing suit and gloves for the benefit of the recent flood victims…

Her Royal Highness Princess Lea of Belgium came to the iconic circuit of Spa Francorchamps on Thursday August 26 to meet the drivers of Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN, Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi.

Responding to the wish of Princess Lea of Belgium to help the victims of the recent floodings in our country, both drivers agreed to donate a racing suit and gloves, bearing their personal signature of course. Timi donated his racing suit, Antionio his pair of gloves.

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium showing Kimi’s racing suit with Antonio Giovinazzi proudly showing his pair of gloves...

These items have been sold on Sunday August 29, and the proceeds will help the victims of the recent flooding disasters in Belgium.

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium in the F1 paddock gets the tehcnical highlights of the F1 Alfa’s explained…on the left, Dominique Fontignies, PR and Communications Director Stellantis Belux.

Like many members of the Belgian Royal family, Princess Lea is very keen on motorsport and she was delighted to meet the two racing drivers on the iconic Francorchamps circuit.

“Having discovered all the secrets of the racing cars of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi, we will never look the same way again to the Belgian Grand Prix” she commented.

“I was very surprised to discover the very high level of technological sophistication which is built in these monoposto’s”, she said after visit.

Here posing in front of the Alfa GTAm, Antionio Giovanazzi on the left, Kimi Räikkönen on the right.

Technology which Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi also helped to transfer on the fastest road going car Alfa on the market, the brand-new Giulia GTAm. They worked Together with Sauber, who participated in the development of this model, to give the GTAm that special touch which makes this car – of which only 499 units are built – truly unique.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Alfa ensures top quality for their new all electric Tonale SUV…

Alfa Romeo wants to build a top quality gem: the beautiful and striking Tonale, which will be Alfa’s first all electric vehicle. Beautiful it is, we sat personally behind the wheel of the clay model at the Centro Stile under the watchful eye of head of design Klaus Busse, and now Alfa also wants its finish and quality also to be legendary.

So the Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato and Alfa Romeo senior management met up recently with not less than 150 Italian and international suppliers at the G.B. Vico plant in Pomigliano d’Arco.

Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato seen here above

Quality was on the agenda, and virtually only that.

Having specifically focused on this goal ever since his appointment, new CEO Imparato has taken part in monthly meetings at the Pomigliano and Cassino plants.

And Again at the meeting – with about 60 suppliers in attendance and others linked up by a livestream – he strongly reiterated that quality is a major priority. The goal is excellence.

“To achieve it, Imparato told, the starting point is the selection of materials. Our suppliers, the companions on a journey the destination of which is the brand’s first electrified car, embodying Alfa Romeo’s DNA with the highest quality standards.

Plant manager Alessio Leonardi adressing the audience of suppliers at the plant...

Joining the CEO at the meeting were the Stellantis Chief Customer Experience Officer, Richard Schwartzwald, and the plant manager, Alessio Leonardi.

During the meeting, the project targets were shared with the suppliers, considered fundamental stakeholders in the achievement of the qualitative objectives set.

If you are eager to see, drive and make this car your own, we tell you here that the Tonale will be marketed in Europe from June 2022 onwards… we will keep you posted on the further developments concerning this masterful Alfa, stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic P 300e

On the Jaguar Media Drive Day we sampled driving impressions of the exhilarating E-PACE…

We told you earlier on our pages that we put the entire Jaguar Range (literally) through its paces, and it proved to be a unique experience indeed. (To read it, just click the link https://autoprova.be/2021/06/15/we-put-the-whole-range-of-jaguars-and-land-range-rovers-through-their-paces/)

We start our overview of the more detailed driving impressions with – in our opinion at least – one of the most interesting cars of the range: the E-Pace, here in the most dynamic version. We find this Jag good looking, of ideal dimensions, and of course wonderfully dynamic. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our (UK registered) test car came with the so-called “Black Pack”, with unique black mirror caps, panoramic roof, privacy glass and red brake calipers, which complement Satin Grey 19-inch alloy wheels. There is Gloss Black detailing to the front bumper and lower grille surround, main grille surround and grille tips. The side window surround and side vent – complete with the Jaguar leaper – also feature a Gloss Black finish, along with the Jaguar script and rear badging. The R-Dynamic Black is available with all E-PACE exterior colours, including new Ostuni White. Our test car came with the latter colour.

Also the interior is up to date with the curved 11.4-inch HD touchscreen integrated into the central instrument panel.

The large touchscreen operates the intuitive Pivi Pro infotainment system, which provides greater clarity and allows the driver to carry out 90 per cent of common tasks within two taps from the home screen thanks to its simplified menu structure.

But besides the good looks, there is of course state-of-art technology awaiting you.

Jaguar Land Rover’s Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA) ensures the E-PACE has the latest electrified powertrain technologies, as well as delivering improved ride comfort with the performance and handling agility Jaguar customers expect. Indeed, the handling and agility of the E-PACE is nothing short of superb, as we found out on the winding roads near Namur.

We drove the whole Jaguar Range on the scenic winding roads near Namur….on June 15, 2021 Press Day JLR Belgium

New engine mounts contribute to enhanced throttle response, while the suspension layout ensuring indeed a comfortable ride.

The Jaguar E-PACE is available with an efficient three-cylinder P300e PHEV powertrain, plus the most advanced four-cylinder petrol and diesel Ingenium engines, utilising MHEV technology to deliver enhanced performance, refinement and efficiency.

The current engine line-up includes:

Diesel

·163PS 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, six-speed manual, FWD

·163PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·204PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

Petrol

·160PS MHEV 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, eight-speed automatic, FWD

·200PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·249PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·300PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·309PS PHEV 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, eight-speed automatic, AWD

The P300e PHEV powertrain of our test car combines a 200PS 1.5-litre three-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine and a 109PS (80kW) Electric Rear Axle Drive (ERAD) motor to deliver 0-60mph in 6.1 seconds (0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds) with CO2 emissions from 44g/km and fuel efficiency of up to 143.1mpg (2.0l/100km) (WLTP TEH combined).

We were indeed utterly impressed by the liveliness of this E-Pace.

The  P300e powertrain operates in one of three modes: Hybrid, EV or Save:

·HYBRID mode uses both the petrol engine and the electric motor in the most responsive and efficient way, intelligently switching between pure EV driving and using the petrol engine

·EV mode provides zero-emissions driving for up to 34 miles (55km)

·SAVE mode enables the driver to recover up to 85 per cent of battery charge, which can be deployed later in a journey, for example in urban areas.  

Enhanced connectivity

The latest E-PACE comes with even greater technology and connectivity options, with wireless Apple CarPlay® becoming available soon as standard*. Wireless Android Auto™ will also become available as standard at the same time,* with both available via a SOTA update for all Pivi and Pivi Pro equipped E-PACE models – seamlessly replicating the customer’s smartphone display on the central touchscreen and giving drivers multiple methods of controlling infotainment and phone functions. The E-PACE is also available with wireless device charging.

The Jaguar Range was neatly lined up on the Media Drive JLR Belgium

Jaguar’s advanced Pivi Pro infotainment system has a range of embedded apps, fast start-up from its own dedicated power source and dual-SIM technology so you can stream media and download updates simultaneously.

Pivi Pro technology is complemented by the 12.3-inch HD Interactive Driver Display that features enhanced graphics, a fully configurable layout with digital dials, media information, phone functions or full-screen mapping for the navigation system. With the optional Head-Up Display, the E-PACE’s interior technology ensures the driver is provided with numerous ways of configuring the set-up in the most convenient way possible.

Pure cabin ambiance…

The Cabin Air Purification system improves interior air quality through Nanoe technology.  The advanced system features PM2.5 filtration, which captures ultra-fine particles – including PM2.5 particulates – to improve occupant health and well being and is activated by pressing the ‘Purify’ button within the central touchscreen.

The latest enhancements ensure Auto High Beam Assist is fitted as standard on E-PACE S models, previously standard on SE and HSE derivatives, while the seating options have been simplified, ensuring customers can specify the perfect E-PACE with ease. High-quality Meridian Audio Sound is now standard from SE specification and memory functions for the door mirrors and seats are now standard on S models.

The E-PACE we drove on the sunny roads near Namur on the Media Drive JLR Belgium…

All R-Dynamic models feature Configurable Dynamics as standard, allowing drivers to hone detailed aspects of the E-PACE’s driving dynamics, including throttle and gearbox responses, as well as steering settings and suspension (where Adaptive Dynamics is specified) to tailor the driving characteristics to suit individual driver preferences. We just loved it!

More driving impressions of the Jaguar range to follow soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Experiencing E-mobility for all: we drove the new Citroën AMI in the streets of the Capital of Europe…

Citroën has always been THE brand for breakthrough mobility solutions. It responded this time to today’s challenges by offering 100 % electric mobility literally for all: a cute, roomy two seater with an 8 HP (6 kW) electric motor which can be charged in 3 hours on your home socket and which offers up to 75 km electric range in town or country/village roads. What’s more, since it is only 45 km fast, you don’t even need a drivers’ license for it. In France, 14 year old’s can drive it, in most European countries this is possible from 16 years onwards. But it is also excellent news for the (very) elderly, they have the ideal, roomy two seater which protects them from the elements, it is easy to step in and out of, has two wide opening doors and is the proverbial breeze to drive.

Citroën has done it, and we were delighted thanks to the dynamic PR team to experience the first kilometers behind its cute steering wheel in the streets, squares and boulevards of Brussels. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Light and roomy

Like the iconic 2 CV, this AMI is designed with nothing but practicality in mind. Its symmetrical body shape is unique, with a long roof and cabin, offering a sea of space for its two happy occupants. Only the driver’s seat can be moved fore and aft, the passenger’s seat is fixed, and therefore one sits normally a bit further back than the driver.

Room for a cabin space suitcase, and an elegant hook to hang your bag…

But she/he enjoys formidable legroom, and can actually stretch its legs fully. This means that seating with your legs in a normal position, there is even room for a cabin size suitcase in front of your feet! So there is always enough room for your errands, as besides in the cabin, the AMI has still an extra luggage space in the back.

Citroën has decided to make this long cabin as light and airy as possible. Therefore, a glass panoramic roof is fitted standard. So it is la Vie en Rose in your AMI. One gets in through the wide opening doors, which are identical and because of that opening in different directions. The driver’s door sways out in the front, making getting in and out super easy.

You can throw your pocket camera, bottle and sundry in one of the three customizable bins just behind the window, hang your city/handbag on the elegant hook provided on the passenger’s side, and get behind the wheel. The dashboard just reveals speed and battery charge level, indicating also the remaining range in km. Further, there is a switch for heating and fan. Next to it is a smartphone holder, so your phone can provide for navigation and music.

The row of knobs for “Drive”, “Reverse”, “Neutral” and “Park” sits on the left side of the driver’s seat. Just push “D” and off you go. Acceleration is lively, but don’t expect miracles from 8 HP moving a cute car with a total weight with battery of 485 kg, where one still has to add the weight of one or two passengers. But it is certainly enough to move along with the flow of urban traffic, and with some restraint one soon notices that a cruising speed of around 40 km/h needs just a push of 1 or 2 centimeters on the throttle. You don’t get any deceleration from the E-motor when you lift the throttle at speed, so adapt your driving style and drive with more anticipation as the distances to make good use the kinetic energy are longer. But it can be done, and soon you get the hang of it…

Driving in Brussels one soon notices that the indicated range is absolutely realistic, and that’s a big plus. Also remember, three hours is enough to fully (re)charge the AMI.

Brussels paves are ridden with potholes and ridges, but the AMI took it very well in its stride with a surprisingly comfortable suspension.

Make it your very personal AMI…

As said, life is good in this AMI. Typical and reminiscent of the 2CV are the side windows, which open by manually tilting upwards.

Citroën offers, in a “Do It Yourself” fashion, the possibility of creating the object that suits each customer’ tastes through a kit of accessories that can easily be installed yourself. This kit incorporates functional decorative items: a central separation net, a door storage net, mat, storage tray on the top of the dashboard, small hook for a handbag, smartphone clip, DAT@MI box (dongle device) connected to the My Citroën app to retrieve essential information from your Ami on the smartphone.

4 main shades are available for these accessory kits, costing 400 Euros: MY AMI GREY, MY AMI BLUE, MY AMI ORANGE, and MY AMI KHAKI.

2 characterful packs are available on AMI for even more customization. These 2 packs contain all the above decorative elements and large format stickers that cover the outside and thus give AMI its very own style.

– My Ami POP with Orange personalization and a fun, young and sporty look, with a rear spoiler, is available for €8,190 incl. VAT.

– My Ami VIBE in gray with a more upscale, chic and graphic design that integrates roof coverings in addition to the stickers, is available for € 8,690 incl. VAT.

The installation of these 2 personalization packs is entrusted to professionals before delivery.

The specific exterior body colour is neither too feminine nor too masculine and works with the different colour packs Citroën has developed (blue, white, khaki and orange).

So the Ami is a base that can become a completely customised object with exterior and interior accessories that are either pure style or offer real extra functionality, as well as stickers that give it a completely different characters, tells us Pierre Leclercq, Head of Citroën Style.

Prices…

AMI AMI: 7.290€ incl. VAT

MY AMI ORANGE, KHAKI, GREY, BLUE: 7.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI POP: 8.190€ incl. VAT

MY AMI VIBE: 8.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI CARGO : 7.690€ incl. VAT.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We put the whole range of Jaguars and Land/Range Rovers through their paces…

Today we were invited by the people of Jaguar Land Rover Belux for a Jaguar Land Rover Media Drive at the magnificent establishment La Noiseraie , and it proved a wonderful experience. The whole range of Jaguars were driven on the scenic winding roads and motorways around Namur…with the exquisitely sporting SV R being the icing on the cake, although the hybrid and full electric Jaguars proved very impressive indeed.

The Land/Range Rovers were put to the ultimate off-road test at the Land Rover Experience Center at Suarlée.

We were also able of course to have a thorough go in our former test car we drove earlier, the New Defender, see also our test on these pages…

More on all this soon, we just show you here a few images, which say more than thousand words… just stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A woman tailoring the Fiat E-Ducato to your needs: Angelica Carapezza

Her vast experience, very good knowledge of the company and a well established large and well honed network were the keys for Angelica Carapezza to bring the complex E-Ducato pilot project towards customers to a succesful end.

At the first presentation of the E-Ducato in mid- 2019 we met up with some very remarkable people of Fiat Professional, notably with Angelica Carapezza, now responsible for managing and coordinating the implementation of the Ducato’s electrification programs at full scale.

Now with the E-Ducato “coming of age” as it were with its commercial launch, after having went through a very thorough process of profiling the customer and their needs, we were very intrigued how this process exactly went about. All the more reasons for a second interview. The first interview, where we told you more about Angelica Carapezza’s multi-faceted career, can of course also be read in our columns, by following the link https://autoprova.be/2019/09/15/women-behind-cars-angelica-carapezza/.

Just read our second interview with Mme Carapezza here below…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

HK: The Ducato has built up an enviable reputation of commercial success, so launching a fully electric version is quite a challenge, as the expectations of the market are high. What was your business philosophy here in positioning the E-Ducato into the market?

AC: We have a long 120-year history in the LCV market, and Fiat Professional has always been a Brand that “lets the facts speak for themselves”. It is down to earth, so to say, producing vehicles that are first and foremost an ideal tool for the small or big entrepreneur who wants to grow his business. With this approach throughout the years, we achieved an undisputed leadership position in the world of light commercial vehicles, as shown by the figures for the Ducato: over 5 million units produced since 1981 in the biggest plant in the world, having also conquered over 75% of volumes in the Caravan bases sector and, finally, having achieved the European Best Seller status in 2020.

HK: Being close to the customer, responding to its needs, how did this translate in the actual approach?

AC: We wanted the E-Ducato to be absolutely “tailor made”. I can refer here to the Press Statement recently released by Stellantis about our “Pilot Project” to tune the E-Ducato to the needs of our customers, but let me explain it also a bit more for you here how we went about.

We first started with gathering data. With a solid database, you know where you’re going. So we collected data for a whole year from 4,000 thermal Ducato vehicles, whose control units, connected in real time, allowed the different individual mission profiles of our customers to be identified in their real application on the road.

E-Ducato’s were delivered to corporate customers like Arcese to further fine tune them to their needs…and collect their experiences.

Then we started analyzing the collected data, and aggregated them. Now, and this is of course crucial, we had established ourselves a very good idea about the profile of daily missions which could be accomplished by an electric instead of a thermal vehicle without causing any business interruption for the customer: in this way we identified the market segment which is “ready to divert” from thermal to electric, based on their specific mission(s) or activity and the size of their fleet.

This analysis which well founded, as it was carried out after not less than 50 million km being traveled by connected vehicles. This confirms again how deep knowledge about customers and their needs is fundamental and conditio sine qua non for the successful sale of commercial vehicles.

HK: Based on your findings, you could now further develop and fine-tune the engineering of the E-Ducato…

AC: Indeed, but we wanted our customers also to test out right from the beginning our pre-production vehicles, and communicate to us their findings during further development of the E-Ducato. We wanted them to have “their” driving experience in the field, based on real life conditions. To achieve this, we launched a “Pilot Project” so complete and complex that it was unprecedented in the history of Fiat Professional. During this engineering development phase of the electric version of the Ducato, we produced a mini fleet of pre-series vehicles and then assigned them to strategic customers. This time it allowed us to sample further data in purely electric mode.

Briefly, each user is assigned a vehicle on free loan for a period of 4-6 weeks, depending on mission/s tested, geography, type of paths chosen, allowing each customer effectively and empirically to start “his” Ducato experience.

The final target is to identify “his” vehicle, which is the result of the combination of two key and indivisible elements: offer and demand. Fiat Ducato’s commercial offer covers more than 18.000 different versions of the same vehicle, available with either thermic or electric propulsion, so you may imagine how important is for us to provide always the right and the best solution to our customers. In other words, we find the right match between on one hand the customer’s specific needs (type of route, daily km, delivery times/shifts, working days, type of goods transported and charging profile) and on the other hand the “right” Ducato with its wide range of product combinations (battery size, body configuration, options).  

This allowed a “real life” customer profile to be established, and so we could tailor the E-Ducato not only ideally to its specific delivery tasks and missions, but also to the individual market-specific requirements and local conditions, with indeed the geography being another important key factor in the choice of the vehicles.  

HK: Very remarkable, this close cooperation with customers. Does it have a following?

AC: Right indeed, the collaboration with selected customers for the “Pilot Project” continues today and covers various communication channels: press, web, social, co-marketing, joint participation in events and promotion of new experimental business lines.

Furthermore, in terms of identification and visibility, it is worth emphasizing that the E-Ducato fleet bears the distinctive livery of the model, combined with that of the international partners who took part in the project, including Arcese, GLS, Lyreco, Mercitalia, EDF, Fraikin, CSB, Nippon Express and BT Fleet, and last but not least DHL: all leading companies in the market and devoted to innovation, which have shown that they want to combine the commercial side of their business with respect for the environment.

HK: Indeed, I understand, customers and manufacturers are working together towards eco-sustainable mobility…

AC: Absolutely. Respective expectations have the same target: to give a consistent contribution in achieving truly eco-sustainable mobility from the beginning, throughout the value chain, and this new mobility is now the result of two companies sharing a single major strategic goal. OEMs cannot any longer sell just vehicles; they have to sell a full mobility solution in a world that is constantly evolving and where customers need easy solutions to continue their daily mission. LCV customers make a purchase choice based on tangible elements: payload, volume, range; here there is no room for emotion like for passenger cars; our customers have a clear idea about what they want and need, they are very demanding, the vehicle is the business for them. With E-Ducato we are proud to state that we “emotionally sell product contents”.  

HK: The car industry is now on the threshold of major eco-conscious changes… with its customers changing too…

AC: The entry of Electric Mobility happens not only in the Automotive market per se, but especially also in the culture and education of the people, which is leading to an epochal change that will impact heavily on the customer’s commercial approach, making her/his choice a «choice of full Mobility»: the customer is a pro-active stakeholder of this process of a new behavior and approach to Mobility.

For the car industry this means not only making the switch from thermal to electric, but also and above all fostering the evolution from the simple sale of a vehicle to the sale of a complete sustainable mobility service, in which the customer’s knowledge and needs become essential elements of the sale itself. Once again, Fiat Professional becomes the protagonist of a cultural change through a concrete approach to the issue of sustainability, with our “tailor-made” E-Ducato.

HK: What were your personal experiences, findings and satisfactions in setting up and bringing to a good end this complex project, amid Corona times? Do you have a message here – as a woman with a career– to our readers?

Well, good question Hans! If you ask me to summarize all my experiences with only one adjective, I would tell you “complicated”, but let me add a second one: “satisfying”. However, as satisfying as all complicated and challenging tasks are, it was not a “promenade”, notwithstanding my 35 years of experience in the Automotive Sector and having clear idea how the “machine” runs.

The Corona virus played its part too in complicating easy things like meeting the customers, feed commercial relations, being on the field, have internal meetings with the team and speed up developments. In one stroke, all these tools were taken away by the Corona pandemic, and we had to cope with delays and only virtual experiences at all levels. But I would mention Einstein here, “in the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity”, and the Corona virus gave us the opportunity to deal with in a new – and unpredictable – scenario, in finding new ways to establish the collaboration in each part of the long chain of automotive processes, where everybody gave her/his strong contribution to deliver the project.

To those people, my colleagues, go my special thanks for having supported me for each time I asked for something that was “never done before”. Whether you are a man or a woman, if you commit yourself first and you strongly believe in what you are asking for, the results come in.

HK: In more general terms, do you think that the Corona Pandemic has affected the position of women in the working place? What challenges in your opinion lie ahead for them?

AC: Well… a question which is not so easy to answer. Once more, statistical data show us that most of the women have lost their job. We can state generally that women belong indeed still to a weak professional category: they are always the first to pay any change.

I can consider my self – as all women in multinational companies- as a privileged person, since I had immediately the chance to continue my daily job. To avoid any disruption, the Company had made work from home immediately available to all its staff, but of course, everything became virtual. I did not lose my job, but I had to change the way of doing it.

Angelica Carapezza, second from left, seamlessly adapting her dress code to the occasion, delivering the E-Ducato to customer Lyreco…

HK: Did your function in the Company pose specific personal challenges for you?

AC: I’m a Senior Marketing Manager, I’m responsible of the E-Ducato Pilot Project: this job is based on relationships, both within the company as well as externally.  

This meant that, at the outbreak of the pandemic, we all had to rely on and capitalize as much as we could on the network we had build up so far. I can say that without a deep knowledge of the organization at all levels, If I would not have already known the thousands of people that work here and what they do, if I would not have built personal relations in the past, I would never have been able to deliver the Pilot Project as it is today.

Along with the network I built up, my professional experience also played an important role in this pandemic situation.

I think it must have been very difficult for young people who had just entered the organization prior to the pandemic. I keep asking myself, how have they worked from their homes without knowing the processes, the people, the organization flows, the fundamentals when you have to deal with an enormous organization? How could they develop that special feeling of “belonging to” the company if they could not experience it hands on and feel it on their skins?

HK: And to return to our first question, what were the extra challenges for women in general with this pandemic?  

If you ask me about the challenge… well the challenge was just even bigger now with the pandemic, if you consider a full working day for a woman.

From a personal point of view, I think we have to see both sides of the so-called “remote working opportunity”: what it appears to be and the everyday reality. At first sight it seems that from home you can better manage and organize your daily workload, which  – apparently –, leaves you more room to organize your life. But the truth is quite another matter.  

The reality is that from home, as women, we tripled our daily tasks and got more and more efficient being at  same time managers, mothers, housekeepers with no time limits!  

We, like our children who paid the most expensive cost of this pandemic, lost the human contact, everything is done behind the screen, everything is happening inside your house, and most of times you don’t perceive that it’s time to switch off the PC.

HK: The pandemic has affected us all…

The pandemic has affected us as human beings. We are not born to become home robots. As a woman, I want to go back to work, I need to put on a nice dress, have make-up, wear shoes and go out, before we all forget what is so fundamental for a human being: the interaction among us, the fact that we need to see each other into the eyes, to talk face to face, directly, to shake hands, to re-establish relationships. Human relationships: this makes us live.

HK: I thank you for this interview.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

RENAULT TALK #1: a new ERA – THE RENAULT BRAND RESTATES ITS AMBITIONS

A new Logo, and a bold future…

Today Luca de Meo, Renault Brand CEO, and the Renault brand team have participated in the first ever “Renault Talk”, a brand-new all-digital event where they discussed their vision of the wider group.

The new direction, unveiled by the team, presents Renault Group as an energy transition leader, at the forefront of the latest technology and services, operating in a more sustainable and responsible manner as part of its ‘Nouvelle Vague’ (New Wave). 

A people-centric brand, Renault is entering a new era as it delivers enhanced modernity to the European automotive industry.

Technology and state of the art electronics will hallmark the future Renaults…

Nouvelle Vague…

The ‘Nouvelle Vague’ will turn Renault into a brand focused on technology, services and clean energy, by engineering smarter everyday vehicles and mobility solutions that are more sustainable.

This is in line with the DNA as a company that changed with the times throughout the 20th century with innovative, modern vehicles.

Now, more than ever, Renault strives to meet market expectations of responsible, carbon-free, safe and scalable mobility solutions that are in line with customer needs.

The Arkana, the first SUV Coupé of a volume manufacturer… presented here by Laure Grégoire – Model launch Manager.

During Renault Talk #1, Luca de Meo restated the direction set for the brand, at the heart of the Group’s Renaulution plan:

  • As industry leader of the energy transition, the Renault brand will be the greenest brand in Europe as of 2030, with nine out of 10 cars on sale being electrified.
  • At the forefront of technology and services, the Renault brand is shaping the future of urban mobility, primarily via the ‘Software Republique’. More than 2,000 engineers from five industry-leading companies will bring their shared expertise in cyber security, artificial intelligence, data processing, software, and microelectronics, in order to deliver turnkey mobility solutions for cities and communities.
  • The Renault Re-Factory – Europe’s first circular-economy hub – marks a move towards a more sustainable and responsible model, with up to 120,000 vehicles (EV included) recycled or upcycled every year. Nearly 80 per cent of strategic recycled materials will be reused in new batteries.  By 2030, Renault will become the world’s best automotive manufacturer when it comes to the percentage of recycled materials in new vehicles.
  • Renault is taking its ‘voitures à vivre’ to upper segments: Seven models will be released in the C and D segments by 2025, all of them electrified, with the All-New Arkana marking the beginning of this offensive. The next generation Megane E-TECH Electric, a vehicle that embodies the future of connected and full-electric cars, is also set be launched in the near future. Lastly, ongoing improvements to E-TECH hybrid technology will continue to provide upcoming C- and D-segment vehicles with the very best in efficiency and dynamic driving experiences.

A NEW ERA, and a NEW LOGO

Throughout its history, the Renault brand has undergone several changes to its visual identity. But one thing has remained unchanged since 1925: the instantly recognizable Renault diamond, a true brand icon.

The latest version of the Renault logo was created in 1992 before being slightly refreshed and reworked in 2015. As a brand deeply rooted in a modern, international market, this all-new logo brings a more modern and vibrant feel and serves a key purpose of portraying the Renault brand as more relatable and built on people-centric values. A streamlined design without typography or brand signature, the logo is an open-ended shape, reflecting the brand’s openness and transparency.

The new logo was co-designed with Landor & Fitch consultants and will be phased in as of next year on all Renault brand vehicles and throughout the Renault network. By 2024, the whole Renault range will bear the new logo.  

During the Renault Talk, Gilles Vidal, Renault Brand Design Director, unveiled an image of the logo as it will appear on the back of the new Megane E-TECH Electric, which will come to market in 2022.

ALL-NEW BRAND EXPRESSION

According to Arnaud Belloni, VP of Global Marketing for the Renault brand, the ‘Nouvelle Vague’ is also reflected in the brand’s advertising.

Imbued with a creative and modern edge, they incorporate some of the brand’s most iconic pieces of memorabilia: the Renault Fuego, covers of cult classics like ‘Johnny & Mary’, or the Renault-Gitane cycling jersey featured in a recent advert for the Captur E-TECH Hybrid.

Renault makes their “Cars fit for true living” increasingly electrified… presented here by Gilles Le Borgne – Engineering Director Renault Group

THE RENAULT E-TECH HYBRID OFFENSIVE

With more than 10 years of experience and almost 400,000 vehicles sold to date, Renault is a leader in the European EV market. Building from its expertise in pure-electric vehicles, Renault has extended its EV range with hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its core market vehicles.

With more than 150 patents to its name and having leveraged the brand’s experience in Formula One, E-TECH hybrid technology is as unique as it is modular. In both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, it provides the best in energy efficiency and driving pleasure while also reducing CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.

This revolutionary piece of technology debuted on three of the brand’s core vehicles in 2020 as a way of making the EV experience something for everyone:

  • Clio E-TECH Hybrid
  • Captur E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid
  • Megane Sport Tourer E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid

In 2021, the E-TECH range is set to expand with the release of the All-New Arkana and Captur E-TECH Hybrid, plus the Megane E-TECH Plug-In Hybrid, totalling an electrified range of six E-TECH hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Gilles Le Borgne, EVP, Engineering, Renault Group, has confirmed that the brand is preparing for the future by extending the scope of its E-TECH hybrid technology to future generations.  

Upper segments – especially the C-SUV segment – will see the arrival of a brand-new 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine combined with an electric motor, for a 200hp hybrid vehicle in 2022 and a 280hp in plug-in hybrid four-wheel drive vehicle in 2024.

ALL-NEW ARKANA: SPORTY, HYBRID, AND SPACIOUS

The All-New Arkana’s unique, full-hybrid design is the first SUV with coupe design from a mass-market manufacturer.

Its TCe engines feature 12-volt micro-hybrid technology delivering enhanced fuel efficiency, while the E-TECH hybrid powertrain is capable of running in electric mode for up to 80 per cent of the time on urban roads, contributing to around 40 per cent in fuel savings compared with a standard petrol engine.

Across Europe in May so far, more than 6,000 orders have already been placed for the All-New Arkana.  

THE ALL-NEW KANGOO: ELEGANT AND SPACIOUS

The All-New Kangoo combines sophisticated design, space and technology, offering superior practicality with three full-sized seats in the rear and more than 49 litres of accessible storage areas. The car is here presented by Thierry Plantegenest – VP Sales Marketing LCV and Pick-ups, (on the left).

The  bootspace ranges from 775 litres up to 3,500 litres of flat-bed cargo area, while it can be specified in five- or seven-seat models. The All-New Kangoo also boasts 14 standard-fit driver assistance systems.

In 2022, the All-New Kangoo range will expand further as it becomes available as a full-electric E-TECH model.

VALUE FIRST

Fabrice Cambolive, SVP, Renault Brand Sales and Operations, restated Renault brand’s commercial priorities:

  • The ‘green’ offensive: Ramping up the EV range and furthering the E-TECH offensive, as already in Europe, 25 per cent of Renault sales are electrified and 30 per cent of Clio sales in France are for the E-TECH Hybrid
  • Products: Speeding up product line renewal, both in Europe and abroad, by winning back market shares in the
    C-segment

A global player…

Proud of its French roots, the Renault brand is also an international brand. The Renaulution plan is Renault’s way of bolstering its international presence, while boosting efficiency. Model by model, market by market, the Renault brand has overhauled its business model. The final objective is to increase the profitability of its vehicles while preparing a generation of new products to conquer new markets.  

Internationally, the Renault brand has been investing in its historical high-potential markets with a strong local presence – Brazil, Russia, Turkey, and India – while keeping risk levels in check.

In Europe, Renault continues to rely on its key markets – France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom – with a more visible range and a clear roadmap: leverage E-TECH to foster E-mobility leadership and ramp up efforts to increase market shares for both C-segment and commercial vehicles.

A bold future lies ahead! We will soon test for you the Megane Grandtour and Captur Plug in Hybrid, as well as the bestselling ZOE – stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Maserati unveils its Levante Hybrid




The Levante Hybrid was presented at ist launch in Azzuro Astro color. This metallic paint consists of three layers and is available through the Maserati Fuoriserie personalization program.

The Maserati Levante Hybrid has today experienced both a physical and a digital world premiere. At the time of the car’s unveiling at the Shanghai Auto Show, a virtual presentation has taken place simultaneously on the houseof.maserati.com website.

With its first electrified SUV, Maserati is taking another important step in the future plan launched last year with the Ghibli Hybrid, which will lead to the electrification of all new Maserati models.

“Faster. Cleaner. Unique ” is the motto at the launch: the Levante Hybrid is faster than a diesel, more durable than a car with an internal combustion engine and unique thanks to specific features and details.

The Levante Hybrid combines a two-liter four-cylinder engine with a 48-volt hybrid system that recovers energy during engine deceleration and application of the brakes. The hybrid SUV is lighter than the six-cylinder version (petrol and diesel) and also has a more balanced weight distribution because the battery – without sacrificing luggage space – is placed in the rear of the car. One of the goals during the development of the Levante Hybrid was to take the dynamics and driving pleasure to an even higher level.

 With a maximum power of 330 hp and a torque of 450 Nm, which is available from just 2,250 rpm, the four-wheel drive Levante Hybrid delivers impressive performance: the car has a top speed of 240 km/h and accelerates from 0 to 100 km in 6 seconds.

The Levante Hybrid was presented at ist launch in Azzuro Astro color. This metallic paint consists of three layers and is available through the Maserati Fuoriserie personalization program.

The Levante Hybrid is immediately recognizable by the unique details in the exterior and interior. Several elements are finished in blue, a color specifically chosen for Maserati hybrid models. Like the brake calipers and trident on the C-pillars, the iconic side vents are finished in this shade of blue. The same color returns in the interior, including the stitching of the seat upholstery.

With Maserati Connect, the Levante Hybrid is always connected to the outside world. The driver remains fully informed about the technical condition of the car: Maserati Connect alerts the owner when maintenance is required, thus improving the quality of the service. The owner is in contact with the car via the Maserati app on the smartphone or smartwatch. You can also contact the car from home with a virtual assistant such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assist.

The digital world premiere of the Levante Hybrid on houseof.maserati.com has been attended by Maserati’s global brand ambassador David Beckham and Italian songwriter and producer Dardust, who has composed an exclusive soundtrack for the unveiling of the Levante Hybrid.

More soon about this Levante in technical detail. Stay posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel