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Aston Martin finds a wealthy savior: EVs delayed and huge racing changes



Aston Martin has been thrown a $239 million lifeline, with the struggling British automaker getting a cash injection to right its business – though with some serious roadmap changes along the way. Facing serious cashflow issues after a woeful 2019, Aston Martin has pushed back its ambitious Lagonda EV plans though management insist that its halo hypercars are still on track.

Signs that something was seriously amiss surfaced earlier in January, with Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer warning investors that 2019 had been “a very disappointing year.” Retail sales were up, but skewed toward cheaper models, while wholesale sales in Europe dropped 7-percent year-on-year.

It left the company looking for a financial suitor, with Chinese behemoth Geely tipped as a potential candidate. Instead, though, it’s F1 billionaire Lawrence Stroll who is stepping in as Aston’s savior. He’s led a consortium to invest £182 million into the automaker, a 16.7-percent stake overall, while Aston Martin Lagonda is raising another £318 million through a new rights issue.

Stroll – who owns the Racing Point F1 team – will now become chairman of Aston Martin. Palmer will remain as CEO, and the two will work on a new business plan – as well as some cuts to both costs and jobs. Operating cost base needs to be cut by £10m ($13m) on an annualized basis, Aston Martin says, though 2020 is likely to be more in the region of £7m ($9.2m).

On the roadmap for 2020 is the release of the new Aston Martin DBX, the company’s first SUV. That’ll hit dealerships in Q2. A Vantage Roadster will arrive in the spring of 2020.

One of the biggest questions had been around the Valkyrie, however, the automaker’s hypercar project. According to Aston Martin, that’s still on track to deliver later in the year. The Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro should still be revealed in 2021, but the Valhalla won’t be unveiled until 2022. The Vanquish mid-engined “core car” will be revealed after Valhalla in the same year.

For Aston Martin’s electric plans, a delay

For the rebirth of the Lagonda brand, however, the news isn’t so great. Aston Martin had intended to launch it as a luxury electric option in 2022, but now that’s being pushed back to 2025 at the earliest.

The Rapide E – the electric version of the Rapide four-door – is, as previously rumored, on ice. Deliveries had been expected to begin this year, but “while development of Rapide E is substantially complete, the program has been paused pending a review,” the company now says.

Still in progress is development of a modular V6 engine which will tap hybrid technology for better fuel-efficiency. Aston Martin says that it expects that to be ready for hybrid versions of its core cars from the mid-2020s.

Racing sees a big change

As of the 2021 season, the Racing Point F1 team will become the Aston Martin F1 works team. That’ll last for 10 years according to the initial term, with Aston Martin Lagonda getting an economic interest in the team. It’ll also get sponsorship for the first five years, renewable at that point for a further five years.

For Red Bull Advanced Technologies, the work with Aston Martin won’t stop straight away. The two companies plan to continue collaborating until the Valkyrie is delivered. “The development of the two-seater mid-engine Valkyrie remains a key project for Red Bull Advanced Technologies,” Red Bull confirmed today, “with the first batch of the 150 road-going cars due to be delivered to customers at the end of the year.”

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A longer Land Rover Defender called the 130 is coming



The Land Rover Defender returned to the US in recent months and has proven to be a popular SUV for many buyers. Currently, the vehicle can be had in two-door and a longer four-door version known as the Defender 110. Many buyers have been clamoring for something with more space in the third row, and Land Rover is set to deliver.

A new Defender 130 is on the way, according to a recent report. The 130 will have 14 extra inches of body, giving it a much more usable third-row seat. The optional third row in the 110 is only fit for smaller children. The longer Defender could mean a third row suitable for actual adults.

The 130 will be targeted at buyers in the US, China, and the Middle East. The chassis for the 130 will be the same with the same wheelbase as the Defender 110. However, the vehicle will have an overall length of 201 inches. While more space inside the Defender 130 is exciting, even more exciting was the recent announcement of a new V-8 engine option for the Defender in 2022.

Land Rover is offering a supercharged V-8 engine under the hood. The downside to putting the V-8 engine in the vehicle is that the price jumps up significantly. For 2022 the Defender 90 V-8 (pictured) starts at $97,200, with the Defender 110 V-8 starting at $100,400.

No matter which version you purchase, they get the same 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 that makes 518 horsepower and 461 pound-foot of torque. Land Rover says the Defender 90 V8 will reach 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and 149 mph given enough road. Both six-cylinder and four-cylinder engines remain options.

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Ford issues a recall on a small number of delivered Mustang Mach-E EVs



Ford has announced that it is issuing a safety recall on some of its Mustang Mach-E EVs delivered to customers. Ford says the recall impacts fewer than 75 customers who have already taken delivery of their electric vehicles. Ford says that during checks it performs to deliver high levels of quality and customer satisfaction, it discovered some of the vehicles could have subframe bolts that a supplier did not tighten to specification.

Ford says that the issue means impacted vehicles don’t meet its standards, but it is unaware of any accidents or injuries related to the condition. Ford says that 94 percent of the 1258 total impacted vehicles in the US and 90 in Canada will be serviced before they are delivered to customers. Dealers are inspecting subframe bolts and will tighten them as necessary.

For the 75 owners who have taken delivery of their vehicles, notifications will begin going out to them the week of March 22. Ford has given the recall reference number 21S09. The Mustang Mach-E is a very important vehicle for Ford. As its first real entry into the fully electric vehicle market, it’s critical that the vehicle is successful and delivers high-quality for buyers.

This recall isn’t the first issue that Ford has had with the Mach-E. In January, the automaker confirmed that it was delaying the delivery of hundreds of vehicles while it performed additional quality checks. Exactly what those quality checks were looking at is unknown. The automaker delivered a small number of Mach-Es late in 2020, and speculation was that owners had discovered some issues that needed to be addressed.

Ford seems to have learned a valuable lesson in launching high-profile vehicles with significant issues from the get-go. The automaker launched the all-new Explorer and took a beating over substantial problems with many of the cars.

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This Bugatti Divo Lady Bug’s geometric paint job is truly one-of-a-kind



The Bugatti Divo is a Chiron for the racetrack, but this Lady Bug version with its diamond-shaped fading patterns is best appreciated while the car is stationary. As if the Divo is not outrageous enough, one lucky customer in America wants to push the boundaries further. And as expected, Bugatti pulled it off, although it took quite a while to iron the challenges of creating an exclusive, one-off Lady Bug paint job.

“Every Bugatti Divo is one of a kind. With the custom-made ‘Lady Bug,’ Bugatti has demonstrated the full range of its customization expertise,” said Stephan Winkelmann, President of Bugatti. The car really demonstrates what the marque is capable of in terms of creativity and craftsmanship.”

Creating Lady Bug’s geometric-dynamic algorithmic fading pattern seems easy on paper. Given the Divo’s three-dimensional sculpted body, the 2D digital patterns became distorted upon application to the car’s body, which is not good enough if you’re paying upwards of $5-million for a track-ready version of the Bugatti Chiron.

“The Lady Bug was an exceptional challenge and, at the same time, an unforgettable experience. Due to the nature of the project, where a 2D graphic was applied to a 3D sculpture, we were close to giving up,” said Jörg Grumer, Head of Color & Trim at Bugatti Design. “However, it is our profound conviction that we should never give up and that our foremost motivation should always be to make the impossible possible for the customer.”

The entire project took two years to complete as Bugatti CAD modelers simulated and created a diamond pattern design with around 1,600 individual diamonds in six-meter long transfer films. Each diamond (yes, all 1,600 of them) is checked and realigned in the body to rule out any distortions.

The designers spent countless hours rehearsing the application procedure on two test vehicles before the moment of truth.

“Every maneuver had to be exactly right in this painstaking task; therefore, we decided to do another rehearsal before the final stage of work. Because there could only be one attempt on the customer’s car, and that had to be perfect,” said Dirk Hinze, an expert in customization and surfaces at Bugatti.

The final step is applying the paint finish before painstakingly peeling away each diamond. The base color, Customer Special Red, is contrasted with graphite and clear coat to invert the pattern. According to Bugatti, it took the paintwork artist two weeks to sand, smooth, check, retouch, and re-sand every millimeter of the body surface.

The result is a one-of-a-kind Bugatti Divo Lady Bug, the only one in existence. It has a standard 8.0-liter W16 engine pumping out 1,479 horsepower. Since the Divo weighs less and has more downforce than a regular Chiron, it goes around the Nardo handling circuit a full eight seconds faster than the former.

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