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WEekly News - 23 July 2007

revolution or evolution? Porsche and bmw choose

saic releases a roewe convertible 

 

 

Revolution or evolution?

Porsche and bmw choose

  

Porsche is learning to inhabit the same planet as the rest of the human race with the announcement that it plans to install a hybrid powerpack in the Cayenne SUV. When this emerges in late 2009 it will have trimmed its greed by a third, jogging nimbly along at 26.8mpg where its heavyweight brethren stomped around at 18.5mpg. The new car is partly a response to tighter CO2 regulations from the EU which will reduce passenger car emissions to an average of 130g/km from the middle of 2008. If it can reach this level it will be quite a feat – the current vehicle is said to spew out 320-378g/km.

 

The new fitness regime for the Cayenne involves what Porsche call a parallel full hybrid which captures energy from braking that would otherwise be lost as heat. Paradoxically, this means that braking hard for corners will actually create energy, thereby suggesting that fast driving is good for the planet. The energy is stored electrically in batteries for when it is needed. In fact, the car can cruise at 74mph just using the electric motor. The system is being worked on with VW and Audi, though to what extent they are willing partners is not known; VW pretty much has to do what Porsche tells it these days. Presumably the mainstream brands will receive their own versions of the system but Porsche extend it to the forthcoming Panamera super-saloon when it appears in 2009.

 

Technically, though, there is nothing specifically hybrid about regenerative braking. BMW will use the same system to take the load off the conventional engine in a Mini. From August this year, Minis will be fitted with the Intelligent Alternator Control (IAC) system that disconnects the alternator when it is not needed, thus reducing the drag on the engine. Regenerative braking compounds this advantage by charging an absorbent glass mat battery, as already fitted to the latest 5 Series. In addition, the Mini features a stop-start device developed by Robert Bosch that cuts the engine when the car is standing. The effect of these developments on the Mini is startling: CO2 emissions on the diesel version drop by 12% from 118g/km to 104g/km, the same as the more pious Toyota Prius. The Mini is also said to be capable of around 70mpg, though this might depend on driving style

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Saic releases a roewe convertible

  

SAIC, the Chinese company that bought the intellectual assets of MG Rover after declining to continue their joint venture, is lining up investors to develop the products. It has the rights to the old Rovers 75 and 25, along with the engine range, which it is returning to the market under the Roewe banner. Now the company is issuing convertible bonds worth around $1bn so that it can move its Roewe brand along with new products. The bonds may ultimately bring in $2bn of investment funding.

 

SAIC requires $250m for new commercial vehicle platforms and another $500m for its finance unit and the repayment of debts. SAIC needs over $1.5bn for the coming years to establish Roewe as its in-house brand alongside the vehicle assembly it operates for its joint venture partners, GM and VW. Developing the Rover 75 into the Roewe 750 has proven a challenge since the production capability had to be rebuilt from scratch. The KV6 engine presented difficulties due to the innovative production system Rover had concocted for it and the need to bring it up to Euro IV compliancy.

 

In its continuing joint ventures with GM and VW production has been rising at a healthy rate. Last year it was the biggest vehicle producer in China with 1.2m units, of which 915,000 were passenger cars and ‘light duty’ vehicles. Profits are up 300% for the first six months of 2007 and on target for around $1bn for the full year with total sales rising to over 1.5m units. The 750 was released to the Chinese market in March and has sold 7,632 units in the four subsequent months. This is respectable given that the Roewe brand entered the market from a standing start. The company is now discussing raising production capacity to 270,000 cars a year and 300,000 engines a year, or around 50% more than MG Rover ever achieved. There is no indication yet whether the other Rover model, the 25, will also return but SAIC Motor UK is leading the R&D on the new medium size car, a continuation of the work MG Rover was doing and based on the 75/750, which will be launched sometime this year. The facility is also conducting preliminary work on a new small car as well as a new family of engines.

 

The enormity of the work that is being conducted does not seem to have put off NAC, the purchaser of MG Rover's physical assets. On August 28th it is releasing its version of the 75, which they have called the MG7 and MG7L for the short and long-wheelbases. There will be two engine sizes, the KV6 again and a K Series four cylinder 1.8-litre, although the updated Euro IV engine family is now known as the N Series. Prices range from around $30,000 to $40,000, which in China is just below Audi A4 prices.  There is good information that production will also take place at the UK Longbridge site, and the station wagon version is being assessed for production but not yet confirmed. The old Rover 25/MG ZR is due to go back into production as the MG3 and there is the possibility that the old 45/MG ZS will return as the MG5, although when one was shown as a ‘concept’ it exhibited precious little advance over the original. The TF sports car is being resurrected under its old name and although production is promised for Longbridge the start date appears to have slipped back to January. Furthermore, NAC is planning to supply its first European market, Spain, from its base in Nanjing rather than Longbridge

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