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

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

Laurin & Klement S series: The first high-volume model from Mladá Boleslav made its debut 110 years ago…

This is already the second series of the Laurin & Klement, enjoying also success in the middle east, besides the many buyers in the vast Austro-Hungarian empire…

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.

The Austrian sales center of Laurin & Klement was eagerly looking for dealerships in the UK and Commonwealth, for its Type S.

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 fifth series of the celebrated Model S was quite powerful and fast for its time.

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.

The “series” production of the sixth and last series of the Model “S”: cars and bodies were already on stands to make work easier…

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.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Bentley celebrates the production of its 200.000th car…


The Bentayga Hybrid, destined for a Chinese customer, met the oldest surviving Bentley, EXP 2, and a number of long serving colleagues, as it rolled off the production line at the home of Bentley in Crewe this week.

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.

The Bentley Continentals – then and now…

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.

Every Bentley is actually a four wheeled chapter in automotive history…

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.

Six cylinder Bentley engine production in the ’50s in Crewe…

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.

The Crewe factory in 1940…

…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.

And now in 2021…

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…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The BMW Group Annual Conference 2021 will bring a new chapter in reporting….

The BMW Group is embarking on a new chapter in its reporting: For the first time, it will be combining its Annual Report and its Sustainable Value Report for the reporting year 2020 in a single Integrated BMW Group Report.

After the Board of Management redefined the company’s central sustainability goals in 2020, integrated reporting marks the next logical step – thanks to integrated management of the company. Henceforth, the Integrated Report will be published to coincide with the BMW Group Annual Conference, outlining the company’s economic performance, as well as its contribution to the environment and to society.

The livestream is on Wednesday, March 17…

So, stay tuned again on Wednesday!

The BMW Group Annual Conference 2021 will be broadcast live via livestream and satellite.

Agenda  17.03.2021

08:00 –09:00 GMT                       BMW Group Conference – LIVE

09:00 – 10:30 GMT                      BMW Group Conference – Q&A Session LIVE

13:45 – 14:45 GMT                      BMW Group Conference – Replay 

You can follow the BMW Group Annual Conference 2021 at http://www.live.bmwgroup.com and @BMWGroup social media channels:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/BMWGroup

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BMWGroup

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Renault will build its best-sellers also for Mitsubishi in European markets…

The Mitsubishi Eclipse PHEV will get the company soon of Renault designed models in selected European markets….

Mitsubishi Motors has decided to procure OEM-model vehicles from Renault, best-sellers on the European market which already meet regulatory requirements, for selected major markets in Europe. Starting 2023, Mitsubishi Motors will thus sell two “sister models” produced in Groupe Renault plants, which are based on the same platforms but with differentiations, reflecting the Mitsubishi brand’s DNA.

A model mix of the newly launched Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV and the Renault-developed sister models will enable Mitsubishi Motors to be more competitive in the market.

The comments of the CEO’s both at Renault and Mitsubishi are quite positive:

“Mitsubishi Motors welcomes Renault’s OEM models for the European market, and ultimately new customers. Mitsubishi Motors has been implementing structural reforms in Europe and our decision to freeze new car development for the European Market, announced in July 2020 in our mid-term business plans, remains.

However, the OEM supply agreement will provide us with a solution to offer new products developed and manufactured in Europe– alongside our ongoing after sales business,” said Takao Kato, CEO Mitsubishi Motors.

“Our new approach within the Alliance, focusing on impactful and meaningful projects, is turning into reality. This pragmatic, value-driven initiative will make a difference in our plants, in our partner’s footprint and on the European streets. This beautiful project meets all partners’ expectations from a design, regulatory and business perspective.

This is what the Alliance is meant for and we are very happy, at Groupe Renault, to contribute to this new step in its history of cooperation.” said Luca de Meo, CEO Groupe Renault.

So we can look forward to interesting “European” Mitsubishi models in the forthcoming future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes moves its E-power competence centre to its home core factory in Untertürkheim…

Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems Campus, Stuttgart-Untertürkheim

German automakers are very serious about it. Getting as competent about E-power technology and drive systems as they are in petrol engined technology. So they are making the essential and necessary structural changes.

Mercedes for instance is transforming its Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems unit and its Stuttgart-Untertürkheim site for an “Electric First” future in the context of its “Ambition 2039” strategy.

Untertürkheim is to become a technology competence centre with a campus focusing clearly on electric drive and battery technology, including the production of lithium-ion cells. The Untertürkheim site has always been an integral part of the Mercedes-Benz powertrain production network – as an innovation centre and as a hub of Mercedes-Benz powertrain expertise.

Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems

A three-digit million euro amount is invested to transform Untertürkheim, the largest site in the company’s global powertrain production network, which will in future be known as the “Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems Campus”.

The site will focus on research, development and production ramp-ups of drive systems.

A new factory for the small-series production of future battery cells, and a dedicated battery safety lab, will complement Mercedes-Benz’s existing research and development activities in the field of battery technology.

eATS test benches at the Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems Campus Untertürkheim

The company strives for a holistic approach which ranges from basic research and development to manufacturing of battery systems. In terms of series production, the site will focus increasingly on electric drive components – battery and electric drive systems, while conventional engine, transmission and component production will gradually be phased out, which will affect employment profiles and scopes.

Vertical integration is essential…

The Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems Campus is a crucial development step regarding the sustainable transformation of the Untertürkheim site. At the same time, this requires substantial adjustments in its production program and processes. In this context, the existing competence centres will be restructured or systematically expanded. The close link of research, development and production at the same location will create important preconditions for synergies and unique know-how,  strengthening the vertical integration in house as a key pillar.

The Mercedes-Benz battery factory in Untertürkheim – plant annex Hedelfingen – will produce battery systems for the Mercedes-EQ model EQS from 2021

Focus on battery technology and electric drive systems.

The bundling and extension of its battery activities is of paramount mportance. Widespread research and development activities are already anchored at the Untertürkheim location, such as the e-technology centre and cell technology centre, where, among other things, prototypes for the electric drive system are built and cell technologies are researched and tested. Additionally, the battery research and development activities currently located at the Nabern part of the plant, including various test benches, are to be relocated on the campus in the future.

Further investments are planned in the significant expansion of the current cell technology centre in order to be able to cover the entire value chain of battery technology. In addition to basic research, pre-development and design of battery cells, a new factory for the small-series production of lithium-ion battery cells is being planned, starting operations in 2023. The sustainability factor, transparent cell development through to recyclability, plays a major role in this. Moreover, a dedicated battery safety lab will complement Mercedes-Benz’s activities.

Mercedes-Benz Untertürkheim plant to produce electric powertrain in the future

In the future, the company will cover almost the entire field of battery technology at its Untertürkheim location – right down to battery systems which are manufactured at the site. The battery factory in Brühl nearby will produce batteries for plug-in hybrid vehicles from 2022. Starting this year, battery systems for the Mercedes-EQ model EQS – the all-electric member of the S-Class family – will roll off the assembly line at the Hedelfingen part of the plant. The EQS will be manufactured at Factory 56 in Sindelfingen some 20 km away starting in the first half of 2021. The battery system for the EQE will also be produced in Hedelfingen.

In just a few months, battery systems for the Mercedes-Benz EQS – the all-electric member of the next S-Class family – will roll off the assembly line at the Hedelfingen battery factory, which will be manufactured at Factory 56 in Sindelfingen some 20 km away. The battery factory relies on state-of-the-art systems and uses a wide range of Industry 4.0 technologies. The extensive production tests are already in full swing.

The company moreover is setting a clear focus on the development of the highly efficient electric drive system, the intelligent combination of electric motor, battery system, power electronics and software through to series maturity including testing.

The next generation of electric motors are being developed in house and will feature inverter and high voltage technology. The manufacturing and assembly of electric drive systems parts for future vehicle models of the Mercedes-EQ brand will start at the end of 2024 and round off the product portfolio with the battery factories in Hedelfingen and Brühl. The previously planned production volumes of electric drive systems will double.

Flexible powertrain production network…with protected employment.  

With regard to the series production volumes of conventional powertrains at the Untertürkheim location, Mercedes-Benz will even more benefit from the flexibility of its global powertrain production network in the future.

The eATS is the engine unit of electric vehicles. The eATS consists essentially of the three subsystems: an electric motor, its power electronics and the transmission part for power-transmission.

New production volumes are being examined in detail in order to maximize efficiency and profitability. On the employment side, this leads in the medium term to changes in employment profiles, for which the company prepares its employees with targeted qualification measures. The reduction of series production volumes of conventional powertrains will also lead to adjustments of personnel at the Untertürkheim location. The company is preparing for this with various measures and the top priority is to implement structural and personnel measures in a socially acceptable manner with regard to the jobs affected.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes-Benz has opened an online reservation system for its EQS flagship…

Mercedes is in this new electrical age going from strength to strength, and is also doing quite well globally. Recently, the company posted a 2020 profit for its shareholders of 3,6 billion Euro. This was 1,2 billion Euro or 50 % more than the previous year. Asian markets are friendly for the brand with the famous, iconic star.

Your servant has now left hospital after two major operations mid-February and within a few weeks will again be legally allowed to sit behind the wheel. Soon enough, at the end of April, I will be testing the new and highly interesting EQA, followed by the impressive G 400 d J. Good times ahead!

Mercedes-Benz has opened an online reservation system for the EQS. Interested customers can reserve the fully electric luxury limousine via the link http://www.mercedes-benz.be/eqsreservatie. When making the reservation, a reservation amount of € 1,500 is requested. The reservation entitles the holder to a production location of the EQS, but the customer always has the option to cancel – if necessary. As soon as the sale of the EQS starts, the customer will compile his own EQS and convert the reservation into an order.

The online reservation system offers customers the opportunity to be the first to drive in the EQS. With its progressive design, the new MBUX Hyperscreen and interesting specifications – such as a range of up to 700 km (WLTP) and a 250 km range recharging in just 15 minutes – the EQS offers all the advantages of a full electrical architecture. The camouflaged prototypes reveal key design features that are revolutionary for the luxury segment, such as the “cab forward” design and the coupé-like “one bow” styling.

Ambition 2039…

The introduction of the EQS and the consistent electrification of the entire model range are important parts of the strategic plan “Ambition 2039”. As part of Ambition 2039, Mercedes-Benz is working to offer a CO2 neutral model range in less than twenty years. In 2022, the portfolio will include eight fully electric Mercedes-EQ models.

Needless to say, the global production network of Mercedes-Benz is ready for the company’s electro-offensive and is consistently integrating the EQ models into the series production of existing plants. From the start of production, the EQS in Factory 56 in Sindelfingen is producing on a CO2-neutral basis. The batteries of the EQS are also produced in a CO2 neutral fashion by CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited)…. Brave and very Green New World!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Final testing of the BMW 4 series Coupe: driving pleasure redefined!

Following a series of exhaustive test drives held as part of the development process to prepare it for series production, the latest incarnation of the two-door model is now embarking on the final phase of dynamic testing.

After having their driving qualities honed at the winter testing centre in Arjeplog, Sweden, at the BMW Group’s test centre in Miramas in France, on the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife circuit and at various other race tracks, the prototypes are now returning to their roots: engineers will put the final touches to the chassis technology of the new BMW 4 Series Coupe on the motorways and country roads around the BMW Group’s Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) in Munich.

Like its overall vehicle concept and design, the 4 Series Coupe’s chassis technology is a more individual composition than ever before.

The proportions, aerodynamic properties and weight distribution of the two-door car provide the ideal basis for a chassis set-up focused unerringly on exhilarating dynamic performance.

A direct comparison with the new BMW 3 Series Sedan highlights the new model’s unique profile particularly clearly. The new BMW 4 Series Coupe is 57 millimetres lower than its four-door counterpart and its centre of gravity is 21 millimetres closer to the road as a result.

This all combines with the increased negative camber at the front wheels and the 23-millimetre wider rear track to sharpen the car’s handling characteristics by a significant degree. 

The range will now be spearheaded by a BMW M model in the shape of the new BMW M440i xDrive Coupe.

Powered by a straight-six engine delivering 275 kW/374 hp, it will also feature 48V mild-hybrid technology, with a 48V starter-generator and a second battery employed to both ease the load on the engine and act in unison with it. Besides improved efficiency, the principal benefit here is punchier power.

The power is channelled to the road via an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission and the car’s intelligent all-wheel-drive system. The M Sport differential is also on hand to make sure that drive power is deployed to optimum effect in demanding driving situations. The locking effect is generated by an electric motor.

The final round of testing on the car’s home ground will allow the engineers to fast-track their latest findings into the fine-tuning process at the Research and Innovation Centre.

Needless to say it will be a unique experience to drive one… we can’t wait, and indeed, there is sun on the horizon after Corona times!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

FCA opens its plants again…in safety!

On April 28, FCA reopened the Sevel plant, together with R&D activities and pre-series production of electric and hybrid models in Turin and Melfi.

The plant is actually dubbed the Atessa factory, and is operated by Sevel, a 50-50 joint venture between Fiat Chrysler and PSA. About 6,000 people are building daily some 1200 LCV’s, as we told already earlier in our columns, and it is Europe’s largest LCV assembly plant.

Of course, this reopening has been carefully prepared, and is the result of rigorous analysis and preparation carried out in collaboration with leading virologists and other experts and agreed with all trade unions.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Delivery of safety kit at the entrance of the factory…

Playing it safe…

Before employees returned to work, the Company repeated cleaning and sanitization activities carried out at the plant when production was suspended on March 17.

Those activities covered 18 rest areas, 52 toilets, 29 changing rooms with more than 7,400 lockers, 2 medical rooms and 4 cafeterias.

Prior to the start of production, all Sevel employees were sent a link via WhatsApp and email to a web page explaining measures to be taken in each production area, together with video tutorials.  

The measures include maintaining a minimum distance of one meter between individuals, instructions for washing hands with soap and water or sanitizing gel, instructions for refilling a cup or water bottle from public dispensers, new rules for the company cafeteria and correct management of meetings. Employees were also provided with instructions on how to recognize and respond to Covid-19 symptoms and preventive measures to be taken in an emergency.

Workers at work with gloves masks and safety equipment…

Areas reconfigured…

Production and office areas have also been reconfigured based on specific health and safety requirements to enable the redistribution of workers and to increase distancing between those working in close proximity on the assembly line. In production areas, movement of personnel between areas has been limited to the minimum level possible and based on specific needs. Similar measures have been implemented in common areas, while the plant’s 85 offices have been fitted with protective barriers between employees or workstations have been relocated. Work breaks have been organized by area and phased throughout the course of each shift.

In the coming days, training on safety standards will be made available via e-learning, standard internal communications channels and by sector managers with the support of specialized medical personnel.

Everyone a personal safety kit…

Today, every employee at the Sevel plant was given a personal kit containing surgical masks and gloves (to be replenished daily), as well as a pair of safety glasses to be worn when cleaning their individual workstation. The number of masks supplied also means that those employees who commute via public transport will have an additional mask for their travel to and from work.

Finally, rigorous checks were also put into place at all entrances to the Sevel plant, as provided under the agreement signed by FCA and the trade unions. Everyone entering the premises on foot or by car, had their temperature checked by thermal camera or remote thermometer operated by first aid and medical staff wearing adequate protective equipment.

Further FCA plants opened…

The Atessa plant is not the only FCA factory opening its doors again. FCA resumed also activity at its Melfi plant in southern Italy for the final stages of the development of Jeep’s new hybrid car, with some 750 workers a day expected to take up work, and also at Turin’s Mirafiori plant some 250 workers will continue work on the new electric 500.

Hans Knol ten Bensel