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  • SPYSHOTS: Aurus Komendant – Russian luxury SUV

    It looks like Russian luxury car brand Aurus is preparing for a new model, an SUV based on its Senat limousine – spy photographers caught a camouflaged example of the new vehicle on public roads in Northern Sweden undergoing winter trials.

    The Komendant, as the model will be known as, continues on the Senat’s Rolls-Royce-like design cues and presentation, looking very much to be Russia’s answer to the Cullinan and the likes of the Bentley Bentayga.

    Power in the Komendant is expected to come from the same V8-based hybrid powertrain as found on the four-seater Senat. On the Senat, the 4.4 litre turbocharged V8 offers 598 hp and 880 Nm of torque, with an electric motor supplying an additional 40 hp. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system.

    Aurus is a brand developed by a group of Russian carmakers led by the Russian Central Scientific Research Automobile and Automobile Engines Institute (NAMI), under a project called Kortezh. Its name is derived from two parts: aurum (Latin for gold) and ‘rus’ for Russia.

    The Komendant is expected to debut at this year’s Moscow Auto Show in August, and will then join the Senat and the Arsenal minivan in the Russian market sometime in late 2020 or early 2021.

  • China’s Great Wall buys GM India plant for USD300 mill

    Ending General Motors’ (GM) involvement in car manufacturing in India is the sale of its plant in Talegaon in Maharashtra state to China’s Great Wall Motor. The deal, said to be worth between USD 250 million to USD 300 million (RM1.02 billion to RM1.22 billion), will allow Great Wall to enter the expanding Indian market for medium cost vehicles.

    With negotiations expected to be completed in the second half of 2020, Great Wall intends to market the Haval SUV brand and electric vehicles in India reports Reuters. Plans for Great Wall’s entry into India will be announced in February at the Delhi Auto Show.

    “The Indian market has great potential, rapid economic growth and a good investment environment. Entering the Indian market is an important step for Great Wall Motors’ global strategy,” said Great Wall’s vice president for global strategy, Liu Xiangshang.

    Slowing sales growth in the China domestic market has prompted not only Great Wall, but also rival SAIC which builds cars under the British brand MG Motor, to explore overseas options for vehicle manufacturing and sales. GM had earlier ceased retail operations in India, with operations ending in 2017 after the sale of its other India plant to SAIC.

    The Talegaon plant was utilised for small quantity manufacturing by GM for export with GM “exploring strategic options” for the site as part of its global strategy, said Julian Blissett, senior vice president, GM International Operations. With a capacity of 150,000 to 160,000 vehicles a year, Great Wall is expected to upgrade and modify the plant as well as set up a base for suppliers with production beginning within a year.

  • SPYSHOTS: Ford Bronco spotted running road tests

    Aside from the gradual trickling of teasers regarding the forthcoming Ford Bronco, the ladder-framed 4×4 has now been spotted running road trials in the United States. The ladder-framed model is based on the T6 Ranger but will be distinct from the Everest SUV, and an earlier teaser silhouette suggested that it will have a shorter wheelbase than either model.

    The development vehicle pictured here is the five-door model, one of two bodystyles that will be part of the production Bronco line-up, the other being the three-door version. Behind the camouflage is the recognisably blocky silhouette, and parts of the circular headlamp design can be seen through the foil. Its tail lamp assemblies are still concealed, though the tailgate-mounted spare wheel setup from the concept is present.

    Likely to be pitched against the likes of the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, the Bronco appears is likely to feature fortified components for strong off-road capability, and will possibly include front and rear locking differentials. The Wrangler gets anti-roll bars that can be disconnected via a switch in the cabin for greater axle articulation, though it remains to be seen if the upcoming Bronco will get a similar equipment set.

    A Ford presentation slide from July noted that the Bronco and its smaller, ‘baby Bronco’ sibling will enter production not as global models but for the Americas, and so the Bronco is likely to get the 2.3 litre EcoBoost petrol engine mated to a 10-speed automatic – similar to the combination in the Mustang – along with 4WD and a low-range ratios.

    In the Mustang, the turbo petrol four-pot produces 300 hp and 441 Nm of torque. By comparison, the equivalent four-cylinder Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has 270 hp and 400 Nm from a 2.0 litre displacement. Though still largely concealed in test mule guise here, the Bronco is likely to already be in an advanced stage of development, given that Ford’s product plan places the Bronco for a debut in the Northern Hemisphere spring of this year, which will be before the end of the second quarter.

    The aforementioned product plan ends at the year 2020, so while the petrol Bronco is set for the Americas, the Middle East and Africa, there’s no ruling out future versions of the Bronco for 2021 and beyond, and electrification for the Bronco beyond this timeline hasn’t been ruled out.

  • SPIED: W206 Mercedes-Benz C-Class shows more skin

    The next-generation W206 Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been spotted undergoing winter tests once again, although this time the prototype unit seems to have shed some camouflage wrap, revealing sections of the radiator grille, roof, and beautiful production LED tail lights.

    The projector LED headlights also appear to be production versions, with the DRLs mounted on top. A second test mule remains clad with a generic mesh grille, though the centre features a large cutout, presumably for sensors relating to the driver assistance systems.

    Sources say while exterior dimensions will look largely the same as the outgoing W205 model, some changes will be made to the MRA2 rear-wheel drive platform to improve passenger space. Those modifications is also said to accommodate the automaker’s latest plug-in hybrid system which comprises a larger, more energy-dense battery pack.

    In terms of engine offerings, the new C-Class will be offered with a range of inline four- and six-cylinder engines, which includes petrol, diesel, mild-hybrid, and plug-in hybrids options. Range-topping AMG models are a given, but it remains to be seen if those will continue getting the M178 4.0 litre V8 mills.

    As with the current model, the W206 range will get coupe, convertible and estate body styles, but interestingly sources point to a new All-Terrain version of the C-Class wagon. Besides the roomier cabin, the compact executive sedan will get the latest MBUX system, a full digital dashboard, and a range of connectivity systems with smartphone integration.

  • Naza-Berjaya reportedly picked as new government vehicle fleet supplier, award to be announced in June

    According to The Star, the Naza-Berjaya consortium has apparently been chosen by the government as the new service provider that will supply, maintain and manage its fleet of official cars and police patrol vehicles. It is believed that the consortium has received the letter of intent from the finance ministry, with the actual award set to be announced by June.

    The consortium is set to replace the current fleet management provider, Spanco, which has had the contract since 1994. Spanco is an independent fleet management company with two flagship service centres in Batu Caves and Bangi, and over 200 services centres across the country.

    The need to appoint a new company comes after the 25-year government concession with Spanco came to an end in December 2018 – the company was then given an two extensions of six months each in 2019 to continue managing the fleet until the end of last year. The news report adds that it is believed that Spanco has been given another six-month extension to June, pending the award to the new concessionaire.

    In February last year, the government called for proposals for the contract to supply, maintain and manage its fleet of official cars for the next 15 years. Proposals were reportedly received from at least seven companies for the new concession – aside from the Naza Group, other bidders include Berjaya Group, Sime Darby, DRB-Hicom, Samling Group, Comos and Go Auto as well as incumbent Spanco, which was aiming to retain its concession.

    While the size of the concession has yet to be revealed, it is estimated that based on the current fleet of 12,500 vehicles, the contract could be worth RM300 million a year from the fifth year onwards. The existing fleet, all leased from Spanco through a five-year replacement cycle arrangement, includes vehicles used by ministers and top civil servants, as well as police patrol vehicles.

    Under the contract with Spanco, the end-to-end fleet management concession came with a five-year replacement cycle designed to ensure the government’s fleet stayed current, with the maintenance cost of each of these vehicles capped at pre-determined limits.

    A source told the publication that the new concession holder will only start supplying new cars to the government to replace out-of-lease Spanco vehicles once they have finalised the award. However, even if a new concessionaire is appointed, Spanco will still be contracted to maintain and manage the cars leased by it and which are still in service until those are eventually replaced.

    Apparently, Spanco supplied around 2,000 cars to the government over the past 12 months as replacements for vehicles that have reached their maximum five-year limit, and this includes around 500 Proton X70s delivered between December and January this year – the SUVs are now in use as official cars for the public sector’s super scale (Jusa) officers. Ministers, meanwhile, are apparently sticking with Protons.

    Government cars have traditionally been CKD cars (apart from the CBU X70s), so it’s likely this will involve new vehicles and not Naza’s grey import fleet. Usually, Jusa vehicles have been D-segment sedans, but have recently included C-segment SUVs – with the new contract, future CKD models could include the Kia Optima, the only CKD D-segment sedan in Naza-Berjaya range, as well as the Mazda CX-5.

    The Kia Cerato could also be an eventual replacement for the current Preve. Elsewhere, while Naza holds the distributorship of a few brands, it also has dealers selling a lot of other brands too, including Mercedes-Benz, through NZ Wheels.

    The Naza-Berjaya consortium has 20 brands of vehicles under its stable, including Kia, Peugeot and Mazda. In August last year, Naza Corp chief strategy officer Azrul Reza Aziz told the publication’s StarBiz that the Naza-Berjaya consortium would be able to extend competitive vehicle rental rates and help the government achieve cost efficiency through end-to-end offerings, thereby benefiting the government in terms of lower and manageable costs.

  • 2020 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Pro and 1100 Sport Pro revealed – expected in Malaysia by third quarter

    Scheduled to hit the European market in March is the 2020 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Pro and Scrambler 1100 Sport Pro, its pair of retro-styled do-anything motorcycles. Presenting more of a mid-model update than a revised machine, the Scrambler 1100 Pro and 1100 Sport Pro now come with a new two-tone paint scheme called “Ocean Drive” with Malaysia market release expected in the third quarter of 2020.

    The frame on the Scrambler 1100 Pro now comes in black, as does the sub-frame and aluminium side covers. The twin exhaust pipes exit on the right side and the rear mudguard is tucked in closer to the seat to give the 2020 Scrambler 1100 a tidier back end, along with a black metal ‘X’ inside the headlight for that 70’s retro dirt racer look.

    For the Scrambler 1100 Sport Pro, it is differentiated from the base Scrambler 1100 Pro by the use of Ohlins suspension front and rear while the Pro uses a Marzocchi fork and Kayaba monoshock. The Sport Pro also uses low-rise handlebars and cafe racer type bar end mirrors while both the Scrambler 1100 Pro and Sport Pro come with a seat clad in a new seat cover material for increased comfort.

    Motive power for the Scrambler 1100 comes in the form of an air-cooled V-twin displacing 1,079 cc, producing 86 hp at 7,500 rpm and 88 Nm of torque at 4,750 rpm. Riding aids include Ducati Traction Control developed specifically for the Scrambler 1100 Pro and Sport Pro as well as cornering ABS and three ride modes – Active, City and Journey.

    Fuel is carried inside a 15-litre tank and seat height is 810 mm for the Scrambler 1100 Pro with wet weight claimed to be 206 kg. Braking is done by Brembo with radial-mount Monobloc M4.32 four-piston callipers grabbing 320 mm diameter discs in front.

    In Malaysia, the current model 2019 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Special is priced at RM85,900 while the Scrambler 1100 Sport goes for RM89,900. Also available is the base model Ducati Scrambler 1100 at RM79,900 and all prices do not include road tax, insurance and registration with Ducati Malaysia offering a RM10,888 rebate on all Scrambler 1100 models till February 15.

  • Geely establishes RM117 million Coronavirus fund, free ride-hailing and 50 MPVs contributed to Wuhan

    Geely has announced that it will be cooperating with the Li Shufu Public Welfare Foundation for the establishment of a RMB200 million (RM117 million) fund for the prevention and control of the Coronavirus epidemic in the Hubei, Guangdong, Zhejiang and Henan provinces, along with other areas in China which are experiencing Coronavirus outbreaks, the company said in a statement.

    The foundation is established by Geely Holding founder and chairman Li Shufu, and will purchase and distribute urgently needed medical supplies such as masks, disinfectants, medical goggles and ventilators according to the needs of the affected areas, it said, adding that the fund will also support the construction of temporary hospitals and provide assistance to medical staff, construction personnel, media and volunteers.

    Vehicles will be contributed as well, with 50 MPVs from Geely Auto to be donated to the Wuhan New Coronavirus Prevention and Control Command Center. the firm’s ride-hailing service, CaoCao has also set up an emergency epidemic prevention and control fleet for the Wuhan area, where mobility services will be provided to the residents of Wuhan, free of charge.

    Geely commenced construction of a new production facility in Wuhan for high-end vehicles from the group, including from Lotus, Automotive News China reported last April. The Wuhan manufacturing facility will have the capacity to produce 150,000 vehicles annually, comprising both conventionally powered and electrified vehicles.

    More than 250,000 medical masks from Sweden have been secured by Geely, and these will be distributed to affected areas in China in due course. Further along, brands under the Geely group including Geely Auto, Lynk & Co, Volvo, Polestar, Geometry, Lotus, Farizon Auto and more will work with the foundation in the fight against the epidemic, the company said in the statement.

  • SPYSHOTS: 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 Coupe seen!

    The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 Coupe is finally showing some skin, with this prototype mule spotted almost completely bare. We know the range-topping SUV coupe is due for a debut this year, and it will likely share the exact same powertrain as the mild-hybrid GLE 63.

    The engine in question is Affalterbach’s tried and tested M178 4.0 litre twin-turbocharged V8, which makes 571 PS and 750 Nm of torque as standard. Expect the hotter GLE 63 S Coupe to get the full fat 612 PS and 850 Nm tune, an output enough to send the regular GLE 63 S from 0-100 km/h in a ridiculous 3.8 seconds.

    A 48-volt integrated starter-generator, which offers an additional 22 PS and 250 Nm of temporary boost under acceleration, should be present as well. It functions as an energy recuperation unit, allowing the car to coast with the engine off and smoothen the automatic engine start/stop function.

    A nine-speed AMG Speedshift TCT 9G automatic transmission is standard, and is the rear-biased 4Matic+ all-wheel drive with an electronic locking rear differential and Electronic Traction System (4ETS) torque vectoring by braking. The AMG speed-sensitive sports steering, on the other hand, should get the same drive modes – Basic, Advanced, Pro, and Master.

    Elsewhere, expect the X6 M and RS Q8 rival to get AMG Ride Control+ air suspension with Adaptive Damping System (ADS+), the 48-volt AMG Active Ride Control roll stabilisation, and all the AMG design treatment such as the Panamericana grille and jet-wing design for the front intakes. Wheel sizes could go up to 22 inches in diameter, behind which are huge brakes (the optional carbon ceramic discs should be offered, too). What do you think of this?

  • 2022 sees Triumph enter sub-750 cc market with Bajaj

    A non-equity partnership has been signed between Triumph Motorcycles and Bajaj Auto to produce middleweight motorcycles, entering the market in 2022. Manufacturing will take place in Bajaj’s plant in Chakan, India and will cover motorcycles from 200 cc up to 750 cc with pricing starting from 200,000 Indian rupees (RM11,300).

    While no details have been made public on quantity, the Bajaj plant in Chakan, which visited in 2017, has a daily production capacity of 100,000 units a month. Distribution and sales in India will leverage on Bajaj’s dealer network throughout the sub-continent.

    However, motorcycles produced under the manufacturing partnership will also be sold worldwide via Triumph’s international dealer network. Under the agreement, the sub-750 cc two-wheelers will be developed jointly by Triumph and Bajaj with Triumph overseeing the design, ride and handling, reports website

    Addressing the issue facing the global motorcycle market about attracting a younger rider demographic, Triumph chief executive officer said, “This is an important partnership for Triumph, and I am delighted that it has now formally commenced. As well as taking our brand into crucial new territories, the products that will come out of the partnership will also help attract a younger, but still discerning, customer audience and is another step in our ambitions to expand globally, particularly in the fast-growing markets of South East Asia, but also driving growth in more mature territories like Europe.”

    “The Triumph brand is an iconic one the world over. So, we are confident that there will be a huge appetite in India and other emerging markets for these new products. We look forward to working alongside such a famous motorcycle company and to leveraging each other’s strengths and expertise to make the relationship a success for everyone,” said Bajaj managing director Rajiv Bajaj.

    Reached for comment, Datuk Razak Al-Malique Hussain, chief executive officer of Fast Bikes, official Triumph distributors for Malaysia, welcomed the news. “The Triumph Bajaj tie up is very positive. We can expect entry level bikes in true Triumph tradition of great bikes to ride but now at superb value for money prices. This is indeed fantastic news for us and in summary this collaboration will allow Triumph Malaysia to enter new market segments, thereby reaching a whole new group of motorcyclists across the board,” he said.

  • 2020 Volkswagen Caddy teased, to debut in February

    Volkswagen has teased the next-generation Caddy, an A-segment commercial van that can also double as a family MPV. According to the automaker, the fifth-generation car is completely new, and no screw has been “left untouched.” It will be available with two wheelbases, the larger being the Cargo variant.

    To start, the new Caddy showcases a new face for the company’s commercial vehicle range, with a slightly sloping roofline and larger wheels, as per customers’ requests. The LED headlights are connected to the grille and lead directly to its strong shoulder lines, while the lower bumper features a new honeycomb mesh design. At the back is a pair of long, slim LED tail lights.

    The non-cargo model, Volkswagen says, will be considered by many customers as a privately-owned family MPV, especially those who are more outdoorsy and will find many practical uses for the loading bay. In fact, the Caddy comes with a huge panoramic glass roof that’s said to be the largest in the segment.

    Also upgraded are the driver assistance systems, with Volkswagen claiming that the Caddy is “always connected.” That is to say, the Caddy will benefit from the automaker’s latest range of in-car tech, offering conveniences such as WiFi hotspot and real-time information all the time.

    Meanwhile, the Caddy will reportedly ride on the VW Group’s MQB platform, which means powertrain options are vast. This includes petrol, 48-volt mild-hybrid versions, as well as plug-in hybrid and the rumoured all-electric version. Both the Caddy Urban delivery van and family MPV versions will be making their world debut at the end of February


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Last Updated 25 Jan 2020


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