Toyota goes forward with full global battery electric line-up…with Lexus following suit!

Toyota now takes the BEV market very seriously: Akio Toyoda, President of the Toyota Motor Corporation, seen on the photo above, today presented news concerning the company’s carbon neutrality strategy, by outlining its plans to offer 30 battery electric models by 2030 (Toyota & Lexus combined).

The company expects total global battery electric vehicle sales to reach 3.5M by 2030, and this announcement underpins the plan of for a 100% CO2 reduction in all new vehicles sales by 2035 in Western Europe.

Toyota’s bZ (beyond Zero) battery electric family in Europe is also soon to expand with introduction of a compact SUV as follow up to bZ4X launch. Not less than three battery electric ‘Toyota bZ’ vehicles are planned for Europe by 2025.

Toyota will further increase its investment in batteries from the 1.5 trillion yen – which was announced in September – to 2 trillion yen (15 billion euros).

The Lexus electrified sport will have formidable performance and range…

Now let’s turn the spotlight on Lexus:

Lexus aims for 100% battery electric mix in Europe, North America and China by 2030

The full name of the new Lexus BEV (that will be launched towards the end of 2022) was revealed: the Lexus RZ450e. See the photo here below…

The Lexus Electrified Sport (Sports BEV) concept was also shown: it offers impressive Lexus driving performance, with an acceleration time that will be in the low 2 second range and a cruising range over 700km.

There were also two other future concepts were shown: the Lexus Electrified Sedan (BEV Sedan), and Lexus Electrified SUV (SUV BEV). We show you the photos here.

The Lexus electrified sedan…

More interesting Toyota/Lexus news to come. Faithful readers know that we are the a satisfied owner of a midnight blue Lexus CT 200h, which proves to be not only frugal with an average consumption this year of 4,7 liter/100 km, but also utterly reliable and recently passed the yearly technical inspection with flying colours. A report will follow soon. Stay tuned!

The Lexus electrified SUV…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes-Benz receives world’s first approval for conditionally automated driving

We are driving now the magnificent CLS 220 d. This sleek limousine embodies all the good qualities of the cars with the star. By the way, its diesel engine is also superb. But Mercedes gears up for the future. And takes now a major step towards automated driving…

Indeed, Mercedes-Benz is the first automotive company in the world to meet the demanding legal requirements of UN-R157 for a Level 3 system. SAE Level 3 means that the automated driving function takes over certain driving tasks. However, a driver is still required. The driver must be ready to take control of the vehicle at all times when prompted to intervene by the vehicle. But nevertheless, the driving elements which it takes over become more important…

13,191 kilometers of highly automated driving on Germany’s iconic Autobahnen…

The German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) has granted system approval for this on the basis of the technical approval regulation UN-R157, thus paving the way for offering such a system internationally, provided that national legislation allows it. The ECE contracting states (57) incl. states of the EU, GB, Japan, Korea, Australia…

Germany has taken a pioneering role in this with the opening of the Road Traffic Act (StVG) for Level 3 systems already in 2017. This is why the first customers will be able to buy an S-Class with DRIVE PILOT in the first half of 2022, enabling them to drive in conditionally automated mode at speeds of up to 60 km/h in heavy traffic or congested situations on suitable stretches of motorway in Germany! The special DRIVE PILOT equipment takes the strain off the driver and allows him or her to perform ancillary tasks on the central display such as online shopping or processing e-mails in the in-car office. Which secondary activities of the driver are legally permissible depends on the respective national road traffic regulations. Important to note that the system approval also applies to the EQS.

A milestone reached, says the management…

“For many years, we have been working to realize our vision of automated driving. With this LiDAR based system, we have developed an innovative technology for our vehicles that offers customers a unique, luxurious driving experience and gives them what matters most: time. With the approval of the authorities, we have now achieved a breakthrough: We are the first manufacturer to put conditionally automated driving into series production in Germany,” says Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, Chief Technology Officer responsible for Development and Purchasing. “With this milestone, we are once again proving our pioneering work in automated driving and also initiating a radical paradigm shift. For the first time in 136 years of automotive history, the vehicle takes over the dynamic driving task under certain conditions. At the same time, we are pleased that Germany is continuing its pioneering role in automated driving with this approval.”

The technical approval regulation with which such a system can be certified did not come into force until the beginning of 2021. Since then, it can be implemented in Europe – an opportunity that Mercedes-Benz was quick and the first manufacturer to seize. With the opening of the Road Traffic Act (StVG) for Level 3 systems in 2017, Germany was the first country to create a legal basis for the intended use of these systems.

Mercedes-Benz is initially offering DRIVE Mercedes-Benz is initially offering DRIVE PILOT on 13,191 kilometres of motorway in Germany. Extensive test drives for this systems are already underway, for example in the USA and China. As soon as there is a national legal framework for conditionally automated operation in additional markets, the technology will be rolled out step by step! Again, we repeat ourselves, brave new world!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Stellantis presents its software strategy of the future…

Times are changing in our electronic age, and fast. Manufacturers will have to build cars with an open software-defined platform, and three new platforms will arrive as early as 2024… says Stellantis.

Indeed, Stellantis N.V. today mapped out its software strategy to deploy next-generation tech platforms, building on existing connected vehicle capabilities to transform how customers interact with their vehicles, and to generate approximately €20 billion in incremental annual revenues by 2030.

This transformation will move Stellantis’ vehicles from today’s dedicated electronic architectures to an open software-defined platform that seamlessly integrates with customers’ digital lives. It greatly expands the options customers have to add innovative features and services via regular over-the-air (OTA) updates keeping vehicles fresh, exciting and updated years after they have been built.

“Our electrification and software strategies will support the shift to become a sustainable mobility tech company to lead the pack, leveraging the associated business growth with over-the-air features and services, and delivering the best experience to our customers,” said Carlos Tavares, Stellantis CEO. “With the three all-new AI-powered technology platforms to arrive in 2024, deployed across the four STLA vehicle platforms, we will leverage the speed and agility associated with the de-coupling of hardware and software cycles.”

Stellantis plans to invest more than €30 billion through 2025 to execute its software and electrification transformation.

The Stellantis software strategy works hand-in-hand with the Company’s vehicle electrification plans, detailed at EV Day in July 2021, which targets that more than 70 percent of its vehicle sales in Europe and more than 40 percent of vehicle sales in the United States will be low emission vehicles (LEV) by 2030. Each of the Company’s 14 iconic brands is committed to offering best-in-class fully electrified solutions.

More about this, and the strategic partnership with suppliers and software companies it implies, will follow soon!

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Europe pioneers the electrification within Nissan Ambition 2030 vision…

We will drive for you at the end of this year the latest Qashqai, and look forward to have a go next year at their new (EV powered) products; In the meantime, there is some interesting Nissan news.

Did you know that by 2026, this is merely within some four years, more than 75% of all Nissan passenger cars sold in Europe will be electrified?

Nissans “CHILL OUT” concept foreshadows the future 100% electric crossover to be built in Sunderland, and there is a new battery recycling facility planned in Europe…

Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. Unveiled the Nissan Ambition 2030, the brand’s new long-term strategy that goes beyond mobility.

Earlier this year, Nissan launched the EV36Zero concept, the world’s first fully integrated EV production ecosystem, which connects mobility and energy management to help achieve carbon neutrality for Nissan. The future hub is centered around the production facility in Sunderland, UK, and will include the production of an EV, a new giga production facility and use of 100% renewable electricity. Initially, £1 billion will be invested.

The AMIEO Region, centered on the EV36Zero, will play a leading role in realizing the “Ambition 2030” vision, which will help Nissan achieve carbon neutrality across the entire lifecycle of its products by fiscal year 2050. Here are some key points:

By the end of fiscal 2023, Nissan will offer electrified versions of all models offered in Europe, and by fiscal 2026, more than 75% of all Nissans sold are expected to be electrified.

The now-unveiled CHILL OUT crossover concept, as announced in Sunderland in July as part of the EV36Zero project, uses the Renault-Nissan Alliance CMF-EV platform to deliver the European handling and performance customers expect. The model has a sleek and modern design, is both attractive and aerodynamically optimized, fun-to-drive, has advanced safety technologies and has a practical and comfortable interior, according to Nissan.

Nissan plans to expand battery recycling and reuse facilities outside of Japan with a new location in Europe during fiscal year 2022. This infrastructure will support a circular economy for energy management. Nissan plans to fully market its ‘vehicle-to-everything’ and ‘home battery’ systems in the coming years.

Building on the success of the Nissan LEAF, Nissan will soon introduce innovative e-POWER technology in the all-new Qashqai and X-Trail. With the 100% electric crossover Ariya and the future all-electric Townstar Van on the way, an electrified European model program is in the works.

‘In the past period, Europe has been leading in the transition to electrification. Our goal for the next decade is to accelerate this development, with new products and technologies that will enhance the driving experience for Nissan’s customers,” said Guillaume Cartier, President of Nissan AMIEO Region.

Not only will we be offering an electrified version of every Nissan model in Europe, our 360-degree vision of sustainable mobility also means using 100% renewable electricity in our EV Hub in the UK. New battery recycling and reuse facilities will also be built in Europe.

To spearhead the transition to full electrification and carbon neutrality, our teams and products in Europe will serve as a source of information and support for our plans for electrified cars in the rest of the AMIEO Region and other markets.”

Bold new plans… we will report on them regularly as they unfold!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Ford conducts autonomous vehicle research with UK-based Deep Sea Container Port

Autonomous vehicles will certainly be important to improve the efficiency of large ports, all over the world.

So Ford collaborates with DP World London Gateway to demonstrate how autonomous delivery could benefit large worksites, such as ports. DP World London Gateway – one of the UK’s fastest growing ports – is located 40 km east of central London and already embraces automated technology as an intrinsic part of its operations as a deep-sea container port.

The trial is part of Ford’s Self-Driving Research Programme, which works directly with customers to better understand how autonomous vehicles could integrate into their businesses

Researchers monitored DP World employees as they both loaded and accessed parcels directly to and from a simulated autonomous vehicle – without any assistance from a driver…brave new world!

The initiative is part of Ford’s Self-Driving Research Programme, designed to help businesses understand how autonomous vehicles could benefit their operations.

First launched in June to explore the potential impact upon courier services and doorstep deliveries, the DP World trial tested how recipients managed when accessing self-driving delivery vehicles themselves.

The underlying intention behind the pilot programme is to identify new opportunities and models for autonomous vehicle operations – in particular understanding how existing processes and human interactions can work alongside automated vehicles.

“It was incredible to see how enthusiastically the team at DP World embraced working with the support of a self-driving vehicle. We are continuing to work very closely with our customers to learn how these vehicles can benefit their businesses and it is exciting to see first-hand the impact this can have across a diverse range of locations,” said Richard Balch, director, Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility, Ford of Europe. “What worked so well at DP World premises could equally be of benefit at universities, airports and manufacturing facilities.”

Ford has been testing self-driving technology in major cities across the U.S. in partnership with Argo AI. The company plans to invest around $7 billion (€6.02 billion) in autonomous vehicles during 10 years through to 2025 – $5 billion (€4.3 billion) of that from 2021 forward – as part of its mobility initiatives.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW presents the Concept M: a bold new vehicle concept…

We will be driving the coming month the stylish M4 Coupé, and we are looking forward to it. But in the meantime, we show you here some (very) interesting news from BMW, which is a harbinger of stylish things for the brand to come…

At Art Basel’s 2021 Miami Beach show, BMW M GmbH is presenting an expressive new vehicle concept on the global stage. The BMW Concept XM looks ahead to the most powerful BMW M car ever to go into series production, which is set to begin at the end of next year.

The BMW Concept XM provides a first glimpse of the new front-end design for BMW’s forthcoming luxury-class models. It will also introduce its audience to a highly progressive and distinctive take on BMW X model design and an all-new form of luxury and sense of space for the interior.

The series-production model – the BMW XM – will be built from the end of 2022 at BMW Group Plant Spartanburg in the USA, the most important sales market for the new high-performance car. BMW M will therefore be introducing its first standalone vehicle since the legendary BMW M1 in the year it celebrates its 50th anniversary.  The BMW XM will be available in plug-in hybrid form only and exclusively as an M model.

The bold exterior styling of the Concept XM reflects the car’s exceptional performance attributes: dynamism, agility and precision, plus an all-electric range of up to 80 km. The newly developed M Hybrid drive system in the BMW Concept XM brings together a V8 engine and a high-performance electric motor to develop maximum output of 550 kW/750 hp and peak torque of 1,000 Nm (737 lb-ft). The first electrified vehicle from BMW M GmbH in the high-performance segment is therefore pointing the way for the future of the brand.

BMW M goes its own way in the luxury segment…

The BMW Concept XM sees BMW M GmbH forging a distinctive path in the luxury segment. The car’s exterior majors on presence and extrovert appeal. Inside the car, a special take on the driver-focused cockpit typical for the M models meets an all-new rear compartment design: high-comfort seats and an illuminated, sculptural headliner add panache.

“The design of the BMW Concept XM is an extravagant statement by BMW M in the heart of the luxury segment,” says Domagoj Dukec, Head of BMW Design. “It has a unique identity and embodies an expressive lifestyle like no other model in the BMW line-up.”

The front end: progressive design for maximum presence.

The BMW Concept XM debuts the new, progressive front-end design for BMW’s luxury-class models, a version of which will be seen for the first time in 2022 as part of the BMW model offensive in the luxury segment. The headlights have been split into two separate modules. The horizontal kidney grille sits between the headlights and tapers towards the outer edges, producing a near-octagonal outline that emphasises the front end’s character. The black kidney grille elements are enclosed within an intricate surround and appear almost to be floating freely within a High-gloss Black surface. The new XM logo in the kidney grille and the large air intakes hint at the power of the V8 engine, which teams up with the electric motor to form the M Hybrid system.

M-specific details point to compromise-free performance.

The glasshouse of the BMW Concept XM rises up vertically, accentuating the front end’s imposing feel. The colour of the roof contrasts with the black finish of the A-pillars. The windscreen seems to have an even heavier rake as a result, injecting modern dynamism into the front end. Slim LED searchlights have been incorporated into the roof above the A-pillars.

The powerful and heavily contoured proportions of the BMW Concept XM highlight the car’s identity and draw the eye to the coupé-like character of the body. The visually striking front end, long bonnet and stretched, sloping roofline present a characterful two-box design with a distinctive outline.

The two-tone paint finish of the BMW Concept XM further accentuates its lines: the upper section is in matt gold-bronze, while the lower section sports the Space Grey metallic shade. Below the window graphic, a broad, High-gloss Black line – the “black belt” – separates the two exterior colours. The charging flap rearwards of the front-left wheel is a reminder of the M Hybrid drive system at work.

The rear : bold stature

The design of the rear end likewise accentuates the car’s powerful stance, and the BMW Concept XM cuts a low and sporty figure from this angle. The BMW logo is laser-etched into the window below each of the two cant rails. This is a stylistic reference to the BMW M1, to date the only example of a standalone model developed exclusively by BMW M GmbH.

The interior design – high performance and extrovert luxury.

Inside the BMW Concept XM, the driver will find a distinctive M interpretation of driver-focused cockpit design. The lines and surface design of the instrument panel, centre console, door trim and seats give the ambience in the front compartment a progressive feel with their powerful geometry and high-quality materials. Brown, vintage-look leather, copper and carbon fibre create a bridge between luxury and motor sport. A bold trim element provides clear visual separation between the driver’s area and the other sections of the car.

The new BMW Curved Display screen grouping creates a neat balance between traditional driver focus and modern digitality. Red accents on the steering wheel and centre console are M-specific references to the car’s sporting DNA. A trio of vertical elements presented in the three colours of the BMW M brand logo form the heart of the centre console.

Spacious and luxurious: the M Lounge.

The unwavering driver focus of the front compartment contrasts with the extravagant and luxurious lounge-like ambience in the rear of the BMW Concept XM. Special materials, visually powerful surfaces and expressive details turn the rear seats into the unique M Lounge, black-tinted rear side windows underscoring the abiding sense of privacy here. While warm brown leather dominates the cockpit, the rear is decked out in the rich colour shade Petrol. The large rear seat bench with its deep seat recesses forms an inviting space to relax. Only the diamond-shaped area of the head restraints – which provides the supporting function familiar from BMW M Sport seats in other models – is leather-trimmed.

Illuminated and sculptural: the  headliner .

The visual highlight of the cabin is its headliner with a three-dimensional prism structure. A combination of indirect and direct lighting produces a relief-like structure. The ambient lighting can be activated in the three BMW M colours.

BMW Curved Display with M-specific user interface.

Based on the latest generation of BMW iDrive, the M-specific version of the control/operation system translates the high-performance character of the BMW Concept XM into the digital world. Showcased in the familiar three M colours, it visualises the modes of the hybrid drive system as well as the pure-electric driving mode with captivating aesthetic appeal.

Stay tuned on these pages!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A visit to the Ford Lommel Proving Ground… a unique experience!  

As a member of the AJBA, or Association of Belgian Automotive Journalists we were kindly invited by the dynamic Ford PR department to spend a day at its Proving Ground in Lommel. Since 1965, FORD LPG is the only vehicle proving ground of Ford of Europe.

Impressive it is: its total track length is not less than 105 km, it operates 24 hours per day and this 7 days per week. The annual test mileage lies between 5 and 10 million km. Constant maintenance and further investments over the last 10 years cost some 50 million Euros.

The team is also considerable of course: not less than more than 90 engineers, more than 70 mechanics, close to 80 test drivers, more than 30 testers of electronic systems, 25 maintenance people and more than 20 supporting staff are active here.

It is good to know that the test track and its facilities can be hired by other manufacturers and suppliers for testing purposes and driver trainings can also be booked.

New models are subjected to a series of intense six-month durability tests at this Proving Ground in Belgium. As said, prototypes cover up to 10 million kilometres (6 million miles) – 250 round-the-world trips – in total, testing on the track, in Ford laboratories at temperatures ranging from -40 C to 50 C and at locations around the world.

The scope of what has to be tested on a car has of course also grown and widened over the years, as cars have now a wide array of driver assistance and aid systems, taking also further steps towards autonomous driving. Hence the ever growing team of testers of these electronic driving aid and of course also infotainment systems.

Testing the torsional rigidity, anti corrosion and mechanical solidity of the cars is of course still a very important part of the testing procedure. So the proving ground has every imaginable road surface in store to test all this, as well as corrosive salt spray tunnels and mud baths. A high speed oval is of course also present. Maximum speed in the banked curves is 220 km/h, on the straights a good 240 km/h. Of course one can go (much) faster, but then the tyres start to warm up too much, impairing test results and comparable measurements. We sum you here the main activities of the proving ground:

o             Durability & Corrosion Testing  

o             Functional Testing like vehicle performance, brake performance , etc.

o             Software & multimedia Testing  

o             Driver Assistance Technology Testing  

o             Vehicle Dynamics Testing & Development  

o             Noise, Vibrations & Harshness Testing & Development

o             Manufacturing Quality Fleet testing

o             Drive Training : internal only until 2021, external as from 2022  

But that is not all. Before a single new vehicle reaches a customer, prototype models cover more than 500,000 kilometres (300,000 miles) of tough simulated customer driving. Called Voice-of-the-Customer (VOC) tests, these extensive evaluations are conducted by 100 members of the public who follow routes and operational procedures designed by engineers at Lommel that closely resemble those of target customers.

Fine handling is the hallmark of every Ford…

The DNA of every Ford car is embodied in its agility and fine, pleasurable handling, and therefore the proving ground has a wonderful handling course. An enormous circular skid path is also present and skid cars with hydraulic lifters which control and vary the grip on all four wheels are provided for test driver training.

Indeed, test driver training is understandably a very serious affair, tests have to be accurate, reliable, comparable with each other and identical in their procedure. The test drivers are helped in this by signals along the respective test tracks, indicating the speed to be driven and the gears to be chosen.

Driving is believing!

We were first taken along the various test tracks in Transit vans, being seriously shaken and stirred, but appreciating here already the enormous solidity and impressive road qualities of these vans. Then we had a stint on the training skid path with the skid cars, only to be treated after a light lunch to have a go behind the wheel of the Ford products. Your servant had the opportunity to put the hybrid Puma through its paces. We were invited to perform a high speed slalom test and braking test, in the wet of course. I must admit that the Puma was totally impressive for me, with excellent handling, enormous grip and power to match. A good reason to present you soon in these columns further test reports and driving impressions of Ford products!

Icing on the cake was a very fast tour along the handling course and the high speed oval with a Ford test driver at the wheel. Your servant jumped as passenger into the sleek Mustang 5 litre V8, and needless to say this was a very exhilarating drive, where the formidable handling qualities and balance of this Mustang were amply shown…

A wonderful day, which will be long remembered, and the DNA of Ford cars, its excellent handling and agility proved an eye opener for me…

Soon more driving impressions of Ford cars in these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

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

Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato seen here above

Quality was on the agenda, and virtually only that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Light and roomy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make it your very personal AMI…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prices…

AMI AMI: 7.290€ incl. VAT

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

MY AMI POP: 8.190€ incl. VAT

MY AMI VIBE: 8.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI CARGO : 7.690€ incl. VAT.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We spoke with Antonella Bruno: “we are electrifying Jeep for Europe and the world, whilst keeping its unique DNA..”

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

Antonella Bruno posing in front of the impressive Rubicon at the recent Jeep Media Drive…

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.

At the recent Jeep 4Xe presentation, you see here the Jeep Wrangler 4Xe in the picture…

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…

The Renegade has urban qualities…

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.

But equally feels at home in the mountain snow…

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.

Go anywhere with a Jeep… now also electrified…

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.

Retaining Jeep’s unique DNA is our mission…

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.

HK: We thank you for this interview.