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.
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!
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.
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.
AMI AMI: 7.290€ incl. VAT
MY AMI ORANGE, KHAKI, GREY, BLUE: 7.690€ incl. VAT
In our interview series of remarkable women and men in the automotive world, we had an interview with the first woman to lead Stellantis’ historic American brand in the old continent: Antonella Bruno, now Head of Jeep Brand for the Enlarged Europe region.
She has not less than 20 years experience in the automotive industry, and started her career at the company in 2007. Since then, she has held increasingly prestigious roles in the sales and marketing divisions, becoming Market Director Italy for the Lancia Brand in 2012, followed by a position as Head of Lancia Brand in 2013.
From 2017, in addition to her role at Lancia, she served as Head of Network Development and Customer Experience, an interesting position which together with her new challenge at Jeep, were reasons enough for having this interview…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Q1 My first question is, you had a long career in the automotive world, I think it has to do with what your father did, but could you tell me why you find the automotive sector so fascinating?
AB: As you rightly said, I grew up close to the automotive world, my father was leading one of the SKF plants, one of the subsidiaries, so after my degree it was natural to step into this sector. I got an opportunity to start working in MSF, and then on further, so it was a kind of natural path for me.
Q2: Why do you think the industry is so unique? What do you think about its future, about the energy transition… and the many mobility and environmental revolutions it is going through, like electrification among others. Do you have any comments on that?
AB: Let’s say that the automotive industry is very magnetic because it is especially now evolving very rapidly, and electrification is one of the main topics in the future, so at Jeep we started last year with the launch of the Renegade and Compass 4Xe, our first two electrified models, and we are carrying on with that strategy, this will represent our future. We are also working to let the customer understand that buying or considering an electrified car is rather easy, and that the technology is user friendly.
We also make clear that being electrified does not mean that they lose the core of Jeep. So for us electrification means catching new customers, with a less aggressive and more sustainable stance, but at the same time – and this is really crucial – it means also to stay true to our values and not really dilute our DNA.
Q3: It is indeed a balancing act for you, you have the customers who appreciate the authenticity of Jeep and go for the Wrangler Unlimited so to speak and at the other end of the spectrum you have new urban Jeep buyers who chose the Renegade and possibly opted for hybrid electrification. Indeed, you have to keep your DNA…
AB: You are right in saying that we have a more urban clientele opting for the Renegade back in 2018 when it was launched, but also the whole current range of 4Xe models are a perfect example of what we mean in terms of balancing the sustainability and capability because the Wrangler (4Xe and plug-in hybrid) is now a car which you can use daily. If you drive the car, you will notice it performs even better off road thanks to the electrification and this balance I mentioned between sustainability and capability is crucial for a brand like Jeep.
Q4: With the venue of the Renegade in the mass compact SUV segment, the market presence of the brand has widened considerably…
AB: Yes, as I was saying, before the Renegade the brand was rather more a kind of niche brand in Europe, but when the car was launched, we really grew in terms of volumes and we opened a new segment of (potential) customers.
Q5: My next question brings us a bit more to the personal side, focusing on the woman in the corporate world. I would like to ask you which skills, which talents did you hone and perfect during your long career and at the same time what would you advise young people and/or young women specifically when they enter the corporate world. What should they watch for, what should they study in terms of human relations, management?
AB As a woman I had the possibility of starting at Ford when I started the first part of my career, and let’s say I had to opportunity to grow a lot, and in terms of skills, I think that it is related to the way I am behaving outside work.
I am an ex-volleyball player so I am used to be very determined, passionate. But I have to be honest, I studied a lot, because when I was young, my first passion was reading, automotive magazines among others. I was very curious, and I used to listen to people who were more experienced than me. Because I think you need also at the beginning to be humble, indeed to be very curious but at the same time humble enough to listen to people who have more experience than you.
I did not experience any kind of difference between men and women, so I was very lucky, and for me it is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of being a professional, being skilled, and you need to keep studying along your career. You grow during your career, but you cannot ever consider that you have arrived, because each new role (re)defines your profile, and therefore at the same time requires you to keep studying. It is important to be a strong, skilled manager, and this goes for both men and women.
Q6: Do you think Corona has affected the position of women in the workplace?
AB: Corona has changed the way we are working in this sense that that now we are spending a lot of time working from home, and this requires a different kind of organization. It requires a kind of cooperation between men and women, let’s say within the family, because it is a new way of working. It depends therefore on the single situation whether this is to the disadvantage of women. It requires an important ability to organize your time.
Q7: If we come back to your new and first rather to your previous function, I was very intrigued that you were Head of Network Development and Customer Experience. Can you tell me more about it?
AB: AB: As head of customer experience, I can tell you that it was a cross-brand function, and with Corona the digital experience became very relevant and even more so after the sanitary crisis.
So by making the digital experience more efficient, we provide our customer with the ability to order the car online, this is very relevant and it is the future. You have to provide additional content and the digital experience has to be very easy, because you know that 90% of the first research when you are interested in a car starts on the web. So this was the main activity before Corona.
Coming back to the network, I had the privilege of leading the network development, which is also very related to the customer experience. To reach the customer is the first mission, but in the final stage we need to explain and pass all the information on the product to the end customer, especially now that we are going through the electrification (of our range). Having said that, we need to offer the best professionalism from our sales staff and we also need to offer a real customer experience in line with our brands. We also need to help the customer to overcome anxiety when it comes to electrification. “
Q8 Can you tell a bit more about the markets in the Enlarged Europe region?
AB: In Europe, the most important market is Italy, representing almost 50 pct of volumes, and we need to keep growing in markets like Germany, which is the most important market in Europe when we talk about electrification. Also France is of key importance for our future.
The high penetration in Italy is explained by the strong legacy with our network, and since June last year we are producing both Renegade and Compass at our factory in Melfi, so Italy is performing very well. I am sure that we will keep growing thanks to the electrification in the markets outside Italy.
From left to right: Stefano Boeri, Silvia Boccardi and Olivier François
On World Environment Day, Olivier François, CEO of the Fiat brand and CMO at Stellantis, and the architect Stefano Boeri, whose firm is engaged in urban forestation projects all over the world, featured in a conversation for World Environment Day 2021 on the cities of the future.
They addressed the themes of urban mobility and sustainable architecture to make cities healthier and more livable, by improving air quality and therefore quality of life.
This focus on the future city, and more specifically this sharing of values of sustainability both for urban life and mobility started began over a year ago: in its vision of a utopian city, demonstrated and hinted at by Leonardo DiCaprio in the launch advert for the New 500, Fiat drew inspiration from the green architecture created by Boeri in several locations around the world.
Read all about it further…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
A new renaissance for (mega)cities…
At their meeting, François and Boeri analyzed the opportunities for a “New Renaissance”: they looked at photographs of the current situation in cities and even more so to the images of the ongoing changes. They also took a long hard look at the societal trends and the increasing interest of urban dwellers all over the world for environmental issues. Then they discussed the urgency of taking action, and the major opportunity of inspiring change.
That inspiration for change must be rooted in attention to aesthetics, in architectural beauty, but also inspired by the certainty of the need to improve the quality of the air we breathe and to reduce pollution levels in the cities we live in.
Boeri’s vertical forest in Milano.
Both men came to the conclusion that the combination of architecture like Boeri’s Vertical Forest – its 27,000 plants and millions of leaves contributing to clean the air by absorbing CO2 – and cars like the New 500 offering zero-emissions mobility can no doubt contribute to improving air quality in our cities.
The all electric 500 steps already in the new era…
In the words of Olivier François, Fiat CEO and Stellantis CMO: “The decision to launch the New 500 – electric and electric alone – was actually taken before Covid-19. Even then, we were already aware that the world could not take any more “compromises”.
In fact, lockdown was only the latest of the warnings we have received. At that time, we witnessed situations that would have been unimaginable until then, for example wild animals roaming the cities, proving nature was taking back what was rightfully hers. Plus, as if it had still been necessary, we were reminded of the urgency of taking action, of doing something for the planet Earth.
We have an icon, the 500. An icon always has its cause and the 500 is no exception: in the 1950s, it opened access to mobility for all. Nowadays, in this new scenario, it has a new mission – our mission – to create sustainable mobility for all.
It is our duty to bring to market electric cars that cost no more than vehicles with an internal combustion engine, as soon as we can in line with the falling costs of their batteries. We are exploring the territory of sustainable mobility for all: this is our greatest project.
Between 2025 and 2030, our product line-up will gradually become electric-only. This will be a radical change for Fiat. Meanwhile, in the near future, only a few months from now, I am proud that we will see the conversion of the legendary track on the roof of the former Lingotto factory in Turin into the largest hanging gardens in Europe, hosting over 28,000 plants. A major, meaningful – and once again sustainable – project, due to revitalize the city of Turin, our home.”
Urban planning for the future…with more plants and trees.
Then Stefano Boeri, architect, urban planner and founder of the Stefano Boeri Architetti practice, gave also his views: If we consider that cities are responsible not only for the emission of over 70% of CO2, a phenomenon at the origin of global warming, but also for the emission of pollutants which are the main cause of diseases and mortality from respiratory problems, it is clear that cities are the first places to intervene with a profound change.
The Covid pandemic has shown us how fragile our lives and our bodies can be and highlighted the importance of improving the environment and above all the air of the cities in which we live.
“La Pista” 500, soon a reality on the rooftop of Lignotto, in place of the iconic oval track.
In addition to absorbing CO2, reducing energy consumption and urban heat, increasing the biodiversity of living species and making cities more attractive, trees drastically reduce fine dust pollution.
Let’s not forget: plants and trees are the only way we have to absorb the pollutants already emitted. I believe that the time has come to promote, with all our strength and resources, a great campaign to clean the polluted air of our cities, that microparticulate of substances harmful to the health of our lungs that has certainly accentuated in some particularly polluted urban areas the intensity of spread of the COVID 19 infection.
We already have several solutions available that can help us: protect and increase the permeable and green surfaces by creating new parks and gardens, in and around our cities; transform city roofs into lawns and vegetable gardens; promote community gardens and urban agriculture; use tree roots to decontaminate polluted soils; create a network of green corridors to connect parks, forests and green buildings. “
More electric mobility in the urban environment is imminent…
In Fiat’s vision, the penetration of electric mobility will rise, as more and more barriers are overcome. The topics under discussion in the talk included the need to improve access to electric cars, by means of innovation and new financial products that can lower the bar of entry; the need to increase the number of private charge points at apartment buildings, requiring a rethink of the infrastructure of the apartment buildings of the future, but most of all by adapting existing buildings; the need to raise visibility of charge points in cities and increase the penetration of fast charging stations.
That will entail a rethink of urban planning, a challenge that requires the involvement of a wider range of stakeholders. This is the stimulus and message Olivier François and Stefano Boeri wish to put out as their contribution to World Environment Day – held by the United Nations every June 5th, the message of which this year is “TOGETHER WE CAN BE #GENERATIONRESTORATION”.
At the question time after the presentation, your servant asked CEO Olivier François to elaborate a bit more about the dialogue which existed between Fiat and these stakeholders in shaping the city of the future and its mobility.
Besides public bodies and municipalities, I was also keenly interested in how the dialogue unfolded with Fiat’s supplier firms like Bosch, Siemens, etc, who also perform extensive research in these fields. CEO Olivier François then trusted the answer to his colleague who maintains this dialogue with these external firms.
In his answer, he focused here mainly on the oil firms, which propose also future-oriented solutions, ranging from alternative “clean” fuel to renewables, and he saw the big oil companies also gradually transform themselves into suppliers of energy in all its forms, i.e. becoming “energy” supplying firms in the widest sense of the word. He pointed out that the boundaries between electricity suppliers and the oil firms will become increasingly blurred. The dialogue is indeed active and is indeed widened to all forms of energy. Energy supply and CO2 reduction remain the crux of the matter for all, he concluded his answer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 brandis 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.
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.
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!
We presented to you already the fully electric E-Ducato on two occasions, and it is good to note that the E-ducato can already be ordered since March 1st.
But on Earth Day, last April 22nd, The E-Ducato was unveiled “on-the-road” at a web conference taking place at several venues, hosted by Massimo Temporelli, a university lecturer and passionate popularizer of science.
Signor Temporelli linked up to several Stellantis and DHL managers, including Eric Laforge, Head of LCV Enlarged Europe at Stellantis, and Alberto Nobis, CEO of DHL EXPRESS Europe, who went in greater depth into the collaboration between the two companies to produce the new model.
Eric Laforge started off telling more about the history of the Ducato, celebrating its 40th year on the market in 2021. Its constant progress has continued, culminating in the position of the best-selling commercial vehicle – all segments included – in Europe in 2020.
The Ducato is also the best motorhome base vehicle and the best-selling vehicle in its class for the 6th year running.
E-Ducato – Ready for any Mission
Eric Laforge, sitting behind the wheel of the E-Ducato in the launch film, states: “For the E-Ducato, we started from the idea of creating not only a “green” vehicle, but also a complete mobility solution, characterized by versatility, reliability, efficiency and sustainability (at both an environmental and an economic level): in short, a working tool to build up your business while respecting the precepts of ecology, a model ready for every mission, uncompromisingly aiming to be the benchmark in the market and to be equipped with the same capabilities as vehicles with internal combustion engines. Its 400 configurations mean it can meet the needs of all professional operators, from freight fleets and construction companies to artisans and municipal service providers.”
100% product efficiency, a project aiming at TCO parity…
Starting off from the configuration of the electrics, the E-Ducato has been modeled around customers’ requirements. Courtesy of its original, uncompromising “all-forward” architecture, with no bulk at the bottom of the chassis and ample distance between the side rails, the new model’s batteries are placed under the floor, leaving intact a load capacity that ranges from 10 to 17 cubic meters in volume and almost 2 tons of weight. Other obvious advantages are the optimal distribution of weight and the lowering of the center of gravity, to improve the vehicle’s handling under all load conditions.
The E-Ducato can achieve equivalent performance to diesel versions, courtesy of an electric motor with maximum torque of 280 NM delivering up to 90 kW of power (approximately 122 hp) and 0-50 km/h acceleration in 5 seconds.
The E-Ducato is also fitted out with a series of modular solutions, starting from 2 different battery blocks – 47 kWh and 79 kWh, and 4 types of charging modes, 3 of which are available at launch. With a 47-kWh battery, the E-Ducato can travel up to 170 km in the WLTP cycle and up to 235 km in the urban cycle. With a 79-kWh battery, the distances increase to 280 km in the WLTP cycle, equivalent to 370 km in the urban cycle. It takes no longer than half an hour to charge up enough to drive 100 km.
It is also worth mentioning that the batteries have a warranty for 10 years or 220,000 km on the 79-kWh version, or 8 years/160,000 km on the 47-kWh model.
To suit every use, the E-Ducato also offers the Drive Mode Selector: in “Normal” position, it ensures the ideal balance between performance and costs, or it can be set to “Eco” mode to save energy. When a really heavy load needs to be carried or the vehicle is facing a demanding ascent, there is last but not least the “Power” mode.
E-Ducato has another two features to provide drivers with safeguard drivers’ peace of mind:
“Turtle Mode”, similar to the battery saver function on a mobile phone, which is activated automatically when the battery is low and limits vehicle performance, to make the battery last 8-10% longer.
“Recovery Mode”, making the E-Ducato the only electric vehicle that never stops. In fact, if one battery module does not work, the others take its place to make sure it can keep going.
Low on maintenance cost…
On top of that, the maintenance costs for the E-Ducato will be about 40% lower than a vehicle with a conventional engine. Its total cost of ownership (TCO) in its main missions can therefore be expected to be in line with the diesel versions: a great result, making the vehicle sustainable not only from an environmental perspective, but also an economic one, providing a business-oriented solution.
In Italy, the E-Ducato is priced from €42,700 + VAT with a trade-in. Included in the price is the Top Care by Mopar program, including routine maintenance and a warranty extension to 5 years or 120,000 km.
With the E-Ducato, it is possible to achieve parity of Total Cost of Ownership (taking into account current incentive conditions and current market rates) compared to a comparable diesel vehicle in just 48 months, based on usage of 20,000 km per year.
The partnership with DHL
Underlying the performance of the E-Ducato are 5 years of real-world data collection. This has taken the form of 4,000 connected vehicles that uploaded data for 1 year, when the vehicles traveled over 50 million kilometers, in all driving, loading and weather conditions. Data gathering was carried out quite fast, and in very close collaboration with customers performing the most diverse delivery and professional missions. This enabled Fiat Professional to identify bespoke solutions from the prototype phase onwards, based on the needs of individual customers in the real world.
In the quest for a partner offering the best value, Stellantis began a tight-knit collaboration in 2016 with DHL, a world leader in international freight transport, participating also substantially into the e-commerce boom. This partnership has given rise to a virtuous circle with the possibility of a focus on the E-Ducato, starting from DHL’s real-world missions, and to project them into a context of sustainable electric mobility.
In the words of Alberto Nobis, CEO of DHL EXPRESS Europe: “We firmly believe that the future of last-mile logistics is electric. To achieve our objective of connecting people and improving their lives, we are committed to becoming greener and cleaner in what we do every single day. By adding E-Ducatos to our fleet, we will take the next big step in reaching our goal of electrifying most of our last-mile delivery by 2030. We’ve found what we were looking for in Fiat Professional: state-of-the-art technology and powerful batteries that will enable us to travel until 200 km on a single charge, to get to our customers quickly while respecting the environment.”
For Eric Laforge, Head of LCV Enlarged Europe at Stellantis, the E-Ducato project is a journey towards innovation and the future: “We’re proud that a player as important as DHL Express has chosen the E-Ducato as part of such an ambitious goal. With the E-Ducato, our task was not only to develop a sustainable product from both an economic and environmental perspective, but most of all to provide a complete mobility solution for our partners.”
E-Ducato connectivity – Apps and services
There was no way Mopar Connect could miss out on its contribution to the development of the E-Ducato.
Great importance was given over to the wide range of functions that can be activated “remotely”, including My:Fleet Manager, the new fleet management service, 6 months of which are included in the price of the vehicle as a special promotion for the E-Ducato. Using a web-based platform, fleet managers will be able to keep the main variables for each unit in the fleet under control in real time, including mileage, location and updates on maintenance, charging schedule and much more. All this with the aim of improving fleet efficiency and productivity, reducing costs, preventing risks, and ensuring the safety of both the vehicle and the driver.
On top of that, the inclusion of Mopar® Connect as standard on all E-Ducatos provides a wide range of other services, such as assistance in the event of an accident or breakdown (the telematics box, which detects the vehicle’s location, ensures prompt, targeted service 24/7). If the vehicle is stolen, the system can locate it and prevent it from being restarted, to make it easier to find. The Uconnect LIVE mobile app means you can check whether you have closed the doors, find where you’ve parked it and receive an alert if the vehicle is moved from its previous location or exceeds a preset speed limit.
The Uconnect LIVE mobile app also includes a wide range of other features, such as my:Car, providing remote control of battery level or tire pressure, as well as monthly vehicle health reports. There is also the my:Journey service, to view and manage all vehicle movements, and the my:eCharge pack, developed specifically for the E-Ducato, to plan charging, find, use and pay for public charge points and manage charging from your connected Wallbox.
Readiness for the new era of e-Mobility
These days, the transition to a sustainable electric and electrified mobility first and foremost requires the development of a network of public and private charging stations for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. At the same time, it requires a rethink of electricity production and distribution. Stellantis is developing solutions to fulfill every requirement: the agreement with Engie EPS, a leading player in the energy sector, is a move in this direction, the partnership having resulted in the current creation of Free2Move eSolutions. The tasks of this new joint venture will range from charging infrastructure (installation, servicing and operations) to public and home charging subscriptions with a monthly fee, all the way to battery life cycle management and advanced energy services such as the integration of Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) systems and energy management solutions to reduce total cost of ownership.
In close collaboration with the e-Mobility team, Fiat Professional has developed Pro Fit by E-Ducato (available on the web and as an app, free from the App Store and Google Play), as part of its work to boost knowledge of electrified vehicles and their use.
Taking as a starting point the perspective of fleet managers and small/medium-sized businesses that use the current internal combustion Ducato for their missions, Pro Fit was designed and created as a veritable simulator. To start off, all you need to do is sign up on the dedicated website and inform about your current fleet of commercial vehicles with internal combustion engines, indicating the type of vehicle you use (body, wheelbase, height, etc.) and selecting the usage (route, mileage, operating temperature, etc.) for each one.
Once you have activated the simulation, Pro Fit recommends the ideal composition of your new electric fleet by indicating the most suitable E-Ducato configurations for the user’s business. Pro Fit then recommends the most suitable E-Ducato configurations available, and indicates each one’s expected performance against client requirements. This makes it possible to find out, for example, whether you have enough range left or what the annual savings amount to.
Leasys rental solutions for the new E-Ducato
With Leasys, it will be possible to get into the new E-Ducato and drive in total freedom without the burdens and worries related to operating costs. Your choices are unlimited: you can decide how far to go, what services to include, and if your mobility needs change, you can add new ones at any time. You can manage all the services conveniently, including from your smartphone, using the dedicated UMOVE app.
The new E-Ducato will be available on the long-term “Noleggio Chiaro Light” (Rental Lite) and “Be Free Pro” rental schemes.
“Noleggio Chiaro Light” is the scheme that offers rental for a competitive fee with a limited set of services: TPL coverage, roadside assistance, and the I-Care infomobility service. It also entitles customers to a right of pre-emption on vehicle purchase at the end of the rental period. “Noleggio Chiaro” is also available for the conventional scheme, for those looking for an all-inclusive package, which adds on routine and non-routine maintenance as well as theft, fire and damage repair coverage.
“Be Free Pro” is the Leasys mobility solution designed to meet the needs of all freelancers. No deposit to pay, a fixed monthly fee, plus the main insurance, assistance and infomobility services are all included. And if your business needs, change you can return the vehicle after 30 months with no penalty for early return. The fee insurance, road tax, TPL, stamp duty, the infomobility system, and roadside assistance. Customers can also sign up to the “Be Free Pro Plus” scheme, which includes damage repair cover, theft and fire cover, and routine and non-routine maintenance.
“Free to E” by FCA Bank, the freedom to choose electric.
Getting on board with innovation with the E-Ducato’s electric mobility has never been easier, thanks to FCA Bank. Customers can choose two financing options: installments or leasing. They can also choose to include the “Free to E” scheme in their loan, meaning they can return their E-Ducato within 2 months of purchase and a maximum mileage of 1,500 km, the only commitment being to purchase a Ducato with an internal combustion engine, a Talento or a Doblò. To supplement its financial solutions, FCA Bank also offers a full range of insurance services, each of which can be combined with the financing agreement entered into.
I will also put some further questions about the development of this e-Ducato in an interview with one or more people behind the project, so there is more to come…
The car manufacturer Laurin & Klement enjoyed first economic and sporting success with bicycles immediately after it was founded in 1895. Bicycles were the product to begin with. But already 4 years later, the product range was expanded to include motorbikes before the company presented its first automobile in the autumn of 1905 – the Laurin & Klement Voiturette A.
Lets not forget, Laurin & Klement was embedded in the vast Austro-Hungarian empire, and this meant a domestic market good 50 million people. In 1908, 90 per cent of all automobiles in the voiturette segment manufactured during the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary were made by Laurin & Klement. And voiturettes were quite popular too.
In addition to its high utility value, the vehicle also had a particularly attractive price-performance ratio and low fuel consumption.
Laurin & Klement presented its best-selling model, the S series, on 16 April 1911. It sold in high numbers: more than 2000 units had been built by 1924 in numerous versions, including the Lady coupé and the Kavalier ‘double saloon’.
Laurin & Klement’s vehicles also appealed to international customers, finding buyers as far afield as the British and Russian Empires. The S series performed well in the most demanding races and competitions, finishing 6th overall in the 1914 Targa Florio, for example.
The additional designation 12/14 HP resulted from 12 ‘tax horsepower’, a value calculated for tax purposes according to an officially defined formula, as well as from the actual output of 14 hp (10.3 kW). This was produced by a water-cooled four-cylinder petrol engine with a displacement of 1,771 cm3 and side valves.
The engine, with a flywheel positioned at the front, closely behind the radiator, formed a single unit with the clutch and the three-speed gearbox. This meant that only one oil level had to be checked and changed. In addition, the car manufacturer installed a special lubricator made by Friedmann, which served as an oil pump and oil reservoir. It ensured the supply of oil, thus increasing the service life of the mechanical assemblies. The Eisenmann magneto-electric system was used for the ignition.
There were several versions of the robust chassis, and the four-cylinder petrol engines with a displacement of up to 2,413 cm3 generated 30 hp (22.1 kW) at this stage of development.
The range quickly grew with the addition of models in higher vehicle classes, and the number of units produced in the individual model series soon numbered in the dozens or even hundreds.
A robust ladder frame made of U-shaped steel profiles riveted together formed the basis of the L&K S. The rigid axles at the front and rear were each suspended with two longitudinally mounted leaf springs. The pedal-operated main service brake acted on the cardan shaft behind the gearbox, while the drum brakes on the rear wheels were connected to the handbrake lever. The standard equipment included special spoked wheels, the steel rim of which was firmly bolted to a wooden hub cap. This made it easier to repair the 710 x 90 mm tyres when they were damaged, which was a common occurrence at the time. For an additional charge, the manufacturer also offered wire-spoke wheels, followed by full steel rims from Michelin after the First World War. The complete road-ready chassis of the Model S with a wheelbase of 2,688 mm weighed 650 to 700 kg.
Wide range of variants to meet all requirements
The early Laurin & Klement S reached a top speed of 50 to 60 km/h, depending on whether it was completed with a light commercial vehicle body or passenger car body. The basic versions could be adapted to the specific needs of each customer. At first, the open-top models with two or four seats were most in demand, but later the range was expanded to include other versions, such as the ‘Vienna’ landaulet, the ‘Karlovy Vary’ saloon, the ‘Kavalier’ double saloon and the ‘Lady’ or ‘Doctor’ coupés, each with a specific ladies’ or gents’ interior. The light commercial vehicle derivatives included the ‘Fortschritt’ platform truck and the ‘Express’ luggage carrier.
Customer demand continued to rise, not least because of the regular modernisation of the Laurin & Klement S vehicles. Each stage of development was denoted by a type designation with a subsequent letter from Sa to So. The designations complemented each other, and there were overlaps in the production periods. Over time, the wheelbase grew in numerous steps from the original 2,688 millimetres to 3,220 millimetres. The basic configuration of the in-line four-cylinder engines was retained; however, the displacement increased from 1,771 cm3 to 2,413 cm3 over several stages. In turn, the power output increased from 14 hp (10.3 kW) to 30 hp (22.1 kW). In addition, the three-speed gearbox was replaced by a four-speed transmission to enhance the dynamic characteristics of the S-series vehicles. A modern electric starter became available from 1918 – initially only at the customer’s request – although it was still possible to crank the engine as before. Due to the larger displacement and the higher compression ratio, however, cranking was very strenuous. The original acetylene lights with carbide gas generators were replaced at the beginning of the 1920s by electric light bulbs, which were much easier to operate.
During the 14 years that the Laurin & Klement S models were built, the car manufacturer achieved numerous motor racing successes with the series. Among the most noteworthy are the victories in the Trieste – Opicina and Troppau – Moravian Ostrava races (1911) as well as the Grand Gold Medal at the race in Parma, Italy (1913), 6th place in the overall standings at the challenging Sicilian mountain race Targa Florio (1914) and the special prize awarded by the Chairman of the Czechoslovak Automobile Club Prof. Otakar Kukula for the ‘L&K Se’ model in the 2,000-kilometre reliability race of 1921. In the same competition, the larger ‘L&K So’ model was awarded the silver plaque. In addition, the cars drove to victories in the Zbraslav – Jíloviště and Ecce Homo hill climbs as well as in the Schöber race (1922).
By the First World War, the Laurin & Klement company had become the largest car manufacturer in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A significant proportion of the vehicles produced in Mladá Boleslav went to foreign customers on all continents.
Tradition of volume models from Mladá Boleslav
After more than 2,000 vehicles of the S series had been produced, the Laurin & Klement / ŠKODA 110 model became the best-selling model of the Mladá Boleslav-based manufacturer; a total of 2,985 units were produced between 1925 and 1929. These were the last cars to be developed in the Laurin & Klement era, though they already bore the ŠKODA logo.
The tradition of affordable volume models, which began 110 years ago with this Laurin & Klement S series, continued after ŠKODA entered as a strong strategic partner.
The ŠKODA 422 was the brand’s first vehicle to be produced on an assembly line using efficient production methods and was available from the spring of 1930 at a starting price of 33,000 crowns. The average annual salary of a civil servant at that time was 18,000 crowns. Between 1930 and 1932, 3,466 customers opted for the Š 422.
In March 1934, the Baťa company took delivery of the first model of a completely new generation of cars from Mladá Boleslav – the ŠKODA POPULAR. The model was the answer to the economic crisis at the time. The POPULAR’s technical innovations included its central tubular frame and independent suspension. The price of the vehicle, which was also in high demand abroad, started at just 17,800 crowns. This was one of the reasons the car won over more than 22,500 customers between 1934 and 1947.
Other milestones in the Czech automaker’s history include the introduction of rear-engined vehicles (1964: ŠKODA 1000 MB), and transversely mounted front engine and drivetrain (1987: ŠKODA FAVORIT). In 2020, ŠKODA presented the ENYAQ iV, the first series-production model based on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform for battery-electric vehicles.
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!
Things have taken off for the inconic brand over the last 18 years. Thanks to the success of the Continental GT and more recently the Bentayga SUV, daily production has soared. Indeed, over that period, over 75 per cent of 101 years of production has been hand-built at the Crewe factory, more than ever the home of Bentley. Current daily production, 85 cars per day, equals monthly production numbers of two decades ago.
I vividly recall the interview I made at the Frankfurt Motor Show more than a decade ago with Franz-Josef Paefgen, then CEO of Bentley Motors and Bugatti Automobiles, posts he left in 2011.
During his time as the Chief Executive Officer of Bentley Motors Ltd., he was responsible for the Bentley Mulsanne and the Bentley Continental series of cars. From 2003 to 2005, Dr. Paefgen was responsible for the development of the Bugatti Veyron.
I asked him then whether a hybrid Bentley was not on the cards, as Bentley’s could be considered the pinnacle of engineering and an electrified Bentley would be proper. It clearly was not in the strategy of the VW Group then, as the idea was immediately brushed aside by Mr. Paefgen as unrealistic, customers not wanting this at all…
Well times have changed quite a bit since then, as we now read that Company aims to be end-to-end carbon neutral by 2030 with entire model range switched to battery electric vehicles(!). Bentley will move to full electrification – PHEV or BEV only – by 2026, then switch the entire model range to battery electric vehicles by 2030. The industry-leading Beyond100 Strategy will transform every aspect of the business as Bentley accelerates into its second century of luxury car production.
What this means for the retail value and depreciation of the existing and historic Bentley’s remains to be seen…
But back to the production history.
The Continental GT was the first landmark…
In 2003 the introduction of the Continental GT represented a transformative moment for the brand, and this Bentley alone, has represented 80,000 sales of the total of 200,000, and created both a new segment, and a contemporary image foundation for the Bentley business.
…followed by the Bentayga
The success of the Continental GT has been mirrored by the Bentayga, offering a true Bentley driving experience and unparalleled luxury. Launched in 2015, when it established the luxury SUV sector, the fastest SUV in the world has reached its 25,000 production landmark. It is expected that the Bentayga could surpass total sales of the Continental GT within a decade and become the biggest selling Bentley model in history.
Since 2005, the company has also built 40,000 examples of the Flying Spur, the most successful luxury sports saloon in the world.
We show you here some photos, lifting a veil of the very interesting and multifaceted production history of the brand, and then we have told nothing of their sporting achievements…