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…
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.
08:00 –09:00 GMT BMW Group Conference – LIVE
09:00 – 10:30 GMT BMW Group Conference – Q&A Session LIVE
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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.
It is there: the new Yaris is the second model to be based on Toyota’s GA-B platform, has Toyota’s 4th-generation hybrid technology and is designed and developed for Europe.
The car will be produced at Toyota Motor Manufacturing France (TMMF) in the Onnaing factory, near Valenciennes in France, and plans to achieve a B-SUV segment share of more than 8%.
Production is cheduled from 2021 onwards, with annual volume exceeding 150,000 units, alongside the new generation Yaris hatchback.
It now makes its world debut in April 2020, well ahead of European market introduction in 2021. Read on!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
True hybrid, true SUV
Toyota’s first used a hybrid system in a B-segment car with the original Yaris Hybrid in 2012. It now is in its fourth generation…
As a member of the Yaris family, Yaris Cross is built on Toyota’s new GA-B compact car platform. It also shares the “big-small” design and packaging concept that characterized the original Yaris.
Adding Yaris Cross to the line-up will give Toyota an SUV range that spans the B, C and D segments.
New hybrid powertrain
As said, the Yaris Cross benefits from Toyota’s fourth generation hybrid technology.
The Yaris and Yaris Cross are the first models to use Toyota’s latest 1.5 hybrid system, developed directly from the larger 2.0 and 2.5-litre powertrains used by recent new models such as the Corolla, C-HR, RAV4 and Camry.
This now features a new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol engine, precision-engineered to reduce friction and mechanical losses and optimise combustion speed. The result is high torque at low engine speeds and excellent fuel efficiency. The engine’s thermal efficiency is rated at 40%, which is greater than comparable diesel engines and ensures strong fuel economy and low CO2 emissions.
The new hybrid system has a maximum output of 116 DIN hp. Special attention has been given to power delivery, making the system very responsive to drive. In terms of emissions efficiency, the front-wheel drive model starts from below 90 g/km CO2 and the AWD-i version from below 100 g/km*
The Yaris Cross has the same 2,560 mm wheelbase as the new Yaris hatchback, but is 240 mm longer overall, with 60 mm added to the front overhang and 180 mm to the rear, securing more interior space. The ground clearance is 30 mm higher and the vehicle is taller and wider overall – by 90 and 20 mm respectively.
There’s a power back door, an adjustable deck height to give the flexibility of either a secure underfloor compartment or increased trunk space for larger loads.
The deck board itself can be split in two, giving customers both increased space and an underfloor storage area. The trunk is also equipped with a new flex belt system to secure items and stop them shifting during driving.
Intelligent all-wheel drive
The so-called AWD-i is an electric system, being more compact and weighting less than mechanical AWD units, helping the Yaris Cross Hybrid AWD-i achieve lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions than any of its all-wheel drive B-SUV competitors.
The system directs drive torque to the rear axle when pulling away and when accelerating. In normal driving, the Yaris Cross operates with front-wheel drive, but when low-grip conditions are detected, all-wheel drive is engaged automatically.
Advanced Driver Assistance System
With its GA-B platform, it benefits from Toyota Safety Sense active safety systems and advanced driver assistance functions.
Designed in Europe and Japan…
The design process of Yaris Cross brought together a wide team from studios in both Europe and Japan. To describe their ideas and inspiration in more detail, please find below the words of one member of the team – Lance Scott, Design General Manager at Toyota’s EDD studio in Nice, France.
“When we started this process, we understood that whilst style is the number one purchase reason in the B-SUV segment, customers were also keen to have a high level of practicality. Not easy things to reconcile, especially in a compact package.
From the very beginnings of the design concept, we had the European customer in mind, but needed to understand more about them. So we went out and interviewed real customers to understand their lifestyle, what they liked, what their daily activities were and how they enjoyed themselves.
As a team, we came up with the key words ‘Robust’ and ‘Minimalistic’, which we felt would express both compactness and agility, as well as the robustness and strength of an SUV.
When we started to sketch ideas for the exterior, the iconic image of a diamond consistently came to mind. Subsequently we coined the phrase ‘nimble diamond’ to express the hard, strong and premium image of the gemstone combined with the agile and fun to drive personality we felt the car needed to convey.
From the top view, or plan view as we call it, we ‘cut’, or ‘shaved’ the body to give us a diamond shape that allowed us the space to emphasise the fenders. This diamond body shape combined with the 4 bold fenders gave us an energetic shape which was both strong and sophisticated.
Clearly, we want the car to be immediately perceived as a SUV, so we emphasised a higher ground clearance, a strong horizontal axis giving a great balance and poise, big squared wheel arches and of course big wheels … up to 18”!
The face was also a very important aspect for us. We wanted to keep the strong DNA of Toyota’s SUV line-up but at the same time give Yaris Cross an identity of its own.
At the rear, we again focused on giving the car a good stance with the wide fenders illustrating how it looks planted on its wheels. Combining the horizontal rear tail lamps and rear screen clearly shows family identity with Yaris, yet the wider and more squared tailgate hints at the luggage space’s larger flexibility for daily usage.
For the exterior colour, we started to think about something that could express an active and high-quality image that our target customers would really appreciate. Looking at future colour trends we can see that there is a growing tendency for gold and other precious metals, but we wanted to offer something a bit more natural and urban. Adding a subtle hint of green to the gold direction, whilst also de-saturating the colour to emphasis the metal like appearance, gave us this fresh urban yet active appeal that highlighted the surface form of the exterior. The final result is a colour we call Brass Gold”
Interesting all this, we will be keen to see this new B-segment SUV in the flesh soon!
In these Corona lock-down times, online presence and using social media is vital for car manufacturers to reach out to their customers, and DS automobiles is no exception. What’s more, they show you some stunning behind the scenes footage on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn and of course, last but not least, Youtube.
Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Indeed, DS Automobiles invites you to take a look behind the scenes of the design team through two web series developed by DS DESIGN STUDIO PARIS.
After “CONFIDENCE The art of the senses” that revealed the secrets of the DS DESIGN STUDIO PARIS to the general public, the brand builds on this with two web series created during the lock-down.
In a first series of videos you will meet fifteen people who are involved in the design process, the development and the commercialization of a product.
These experts film themselves while talking about their profession and explaining the challenges this never-before-seen situation entails. From product determination to customer delivery, through design, engineering, production and sales, DS Experts reveal their work in short videos broadcast on DS Automobiles’ social media.
A second series of videos are dubbed the «Did You Know? » Series and for a good reason: it gives anyone interested an opportunity to learn about little-known facts about DS Automobiles products and services.
At the moment of writing, a number of videos are already online:
Audi will gradually initiate the restart of production at its plants in Europe during the coming weeks.
As everybody knows, in mid-March, the company announced the temporary suspension of production at its European sites.
The background to the decision was supply bottlenecks and a drop in demand due to the corona pandemic. Now the Volkswagen Group will coordinate the upcoming regulated restart in the worldwide Audi production network together with suppliers and service providers.
The main focus in this restart is of course a comprehensive package of measures that targets on the safety of employees.
In this respect, Audi is following the guidelines of the Robert Koch Institute and the regulations of the health authorities of the respective country.
Altogether an admirable undertaking, which will bring us all soon again on the right path…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
“A joint European Act”
Following the suspension of production at all AUDI AG plants in Europe, it is now a matter of taking the first step back towards normality: “We will manage the restart as a joint European act,” said Board of Management Member for Production Peter Kössler. This is because supply chains and production and logistics processes are closely interlinked within the Group and with partners at the international level. Kössler continued: “The focus is on the employees, because they need a safe working environment. Audi teams of experts have therefore adapted processes with a view to health protection in consultation with the specialist departments and works councils. I would like to thank all Audi employees and our partners around the world for their flexibility and joint efforts in times like these.”
The restart includes, for example, clear rules on distance and hygiene, a modified shift system to avoid contact, and the obligation to use mouth and nose protection in areas where distances of 1.5 meters are not possible.
The company has also created physical barriers at critical workplaces. In door pre-assembly, for example, two employees work simultaneously on the same transport rack and stand directly opposite each other. Here, the employees themselves have developed a transparent barrier made of plastic sheeting.
Managers of production sections and groups, together with experts from occupational safety, health care, industrial engineering and the works council, have looked at each individual workplace, analyzed it and developed suggestions for improvement. Only with the agreement of all those involved is a workplace considered “corona-ready.” The workgroup also took a close look at the working environment: group spaces, factory gates, parking spaces and internal factory traffic, as well as catering and factory restaurants. Audi has developed appropriate solutions for all areas.
Vehicle production at the Audi sites will be gradually ramped up from the end of April onwards according to a fixed plan. Engine production in Győr already started gradually ramping up again this week. For those employees at the factories in Germany who will only be able to resume their work fully in later phases of the restart, short-time working regulations will continue to apply until then…