Billionaire Lawrence Stroll reportedly seeks major stake in Aston Martin

LONDON — Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, owner of Formula One team Racing Point, is preparing a bid for a major stake in Aston Martin, Autocar magazine reported, sending the carmaker’s battered share price up nearly 15% on Thursday.

The British sports car maker’s share price has slumped since its initial public offering in October last year. The shares launched at 19 pounds ($24.50) before dropping for months and languishing at around 5 pounds for weeks as sales have failed to meet expectations. Its major shareholder is Strategic European Investment Group from Italy, which holds about a third of the company.

Stroll is the father of Formula One driver Lance Stroll, and is also famed for his car collection, regarded as one of the best collections of Ferraris in the world.

Stroll is heading up a consortium looking to take a “major shareholding” in Aston Martin, Autocar said on Thursday.

Two weeks ago, Aston unveiled the DBX, its first SUV, and is pinning its hopes on the model’s success.

Aston Martin declined to comment. Racing Point did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The carmaker’s shares were up nearly 15% at 5.79 pounds Thursday.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Bond does a machine-gunning Aston Martin donut in first ‘No Time to Die’ trailer

James Bond doesn’t just drive an Aston Martin. He doesn’t just do donuts, and he doesn’t just shoot machine guns. Double-oh-seven does donuts in an Aston Martin DB5 while Gatling guns pop out of its headlights and snipe his enemies. The stunt is one of the most eye-popping visuals in the first official trailer for the newest film in the Bond franchise, “No Time to Die.”

For the last time, a Bond trailer debuts with Daniel Craig as the lead man, and it puts all of the information we’ve been collecting throughout the past few months into an action-packed 2½-minute clip. The trailer starts exactly how we’d hoped, with a car chase between the DB5, Jaguars, and some motorcycles.

Even before the new footage, Aston Martin detailed exactly which cars we’ll see in the new flick. To some degree, the Valhalla, the DBS Superlegerra, the V8 Vantage, and the DB5 will all make appearances. While the DB5 seems to be Bond’s vehicle of choice, the trailer shows newcomer Nomi (played by Lashana Lynch) driving the DBS. In addition to the Range Rover seen flipping in the clip, we also expect to see the new Land Rover Defender in the film. 

As is typical of any Bond story, 007 seems to get caught in a trap, as he navigates his relationship with Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann and chasing Rami Malek, the new villain Safin. Here’s the synopsis straight from YouTube: 

In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

We also see appearances from Ralph Fiennes as M, Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, and Jeffrey Wright as Leiter. “No Time to Die” releases April 8, 2020.

Source: AutoBlog.com

This aquatic robot can transform to sprout arms

Transcript: Transforming aquatic robot. Aquanaut is an all-electric underwater service robot. It does not need to be tethered to a home ship. Aquanaut is an AUV or autonomous underwater vehicle. As an AUV it can cover 124 miles. Performing tasks like seabed mapping and structure inspection. But it can also transform into a two-armed seabot. The hull separates to reveal additional thrusters and two arms. As a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Aquanaut can turn valves, use tools, and much more. The operator uses just a few mouse clicks to operate Aquanaut. Learn more at houstonmechatronics.com. 

Source: AutoBlog.com

W Series winner Chadwick to compete in Asian F3

LONDON — Jamie Chadwick, winner of this year’s inaugural all-female W Series, will race in the Asian F3 championship that starts in Malaysia on Dec. 14, the Absolute Racing team said on Monday.

The 15-race series, which also ends at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit, includes rounds in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Thailand between December and February with three races at each location.

The FIA-sanctioned regional championship, like next year’s W Series, also offers points towards the Super License that drivers need to graduate to Formula One.

“It is important for me to use this series as part of my testing and development program to ensure that I am race-fit for whatever 2020 throws at me,” said Chadwick, who will also be returning to the W Series next year.

“Due to other commitments, I will only get my first opportunity to drive the car at the opening race in Sepang next week, so it will be a steep learning curve.

“But that’s all part of the process, and I can’t wait to get back out on the track,” added the 21-year-old, who served as a Williams Formula One development driver this year.

The Briton, who banked $500,000 for winning the W Series, which uses F3 cars, will miss pre-season testing due to being one of four finalists in the Aston Martin BRDC Autosport Young Driver of the Year award that will be announced in London on Sunday.

The driver who wins the prestigious award gets a test in a Red Bull Formula One car plus 200,000 pounds ($256,000).

Source: AutoBlog.com

Positively purple Meyers Manx going to auction is perfect antidote to winter blues

There’s no denying it, winter is here, especially at Autoblog‘s Michigan HQ where it’s gray, damp and dark. But auction house Russo and Steele has a perfect mid-winter pick-me-up in the form of this Meyers Manx, one of the original production run in the late 1960s.

It’s officially labeled as a 1962, since that’s the model year for the VW chassis it’s built on, rather than the year the kit was put together, which would have been after dune-buggy originator Bruce Meyers built his first prototype Manx in 1964. The auction house notes it comes with plenty of documentation confirming it is an actual Meyers Manx and not one of the hundreds of thousands of contemporary copycats that sprang up in the 1960s. The fiberglass body is original as is the incredible purple metal-flake fiberglass coating. In the back it has a 1.6-liter air-cooled VW engine that likely doesn’t make more than 40 to 50 horsepower. It’s of course paired to a four-speed manual transmission.

The car appears to have a few custom touches in addition to the original body work. At each corner are some very fitting Cragar SS wheels with knock-off spinners. Instead of VW taillights, one of the owners, perhaps the original, opted for simple circular lights with blue-dot lenses in the centers. Russo and Steele hasn’t given an auction estimate for the car, so it could end up an affordable classic or something more valuable. But if you’re interested in bringing it home, it will cross the block at the company’s Scottsdale auction that runs from January 11 to January 14.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Did you see ‘Ford v. Ferrari?’ A real-life documentary is now on YouTube

“Ford v. Ferrari” is currently cleaning up at the box office, reportedly raking in $143 million and counting globally following its debut last month. Now Ford is adding to the buzz surrounding the dramatized automotive history by uploading to YouTube “The Return,” a documentary about its famous 1966 Le Mans victory and its decision to return to the famous race in 2016.

With a hat tip to Ford Authority, which spotted it, the 78-minute feature made by Ford and director Erich Joiner was previously offered for free starting in 2017 on Amazon Prime. It briefly caps the story surrounding Ford’s famous 1-2-3 finish in 1966, blocking Ferrari from an eighth consecutive victory, but it focuses mostly on Ford’s decision to re-enter Le Mans in 2016 with its newly developed GT to mark 50 years since the historic win. Among many others, the film features interviews with Edsel Ford, who accompanied his father, Henry Ford II, to Le Mans in the 1960s; Mose Nowland, a now-retired engineer who worked on the GT40 Le Mans program; and Raj Nair, a former Ford executive who began the Ford GT program in secret and turned a surprise 2015 Detroit auto show reveal to a legitimate Le Mans competitor in less than a year and a half.

Ford would end up winning the 2016 edition of Le Mans in the GTE Pro Class with the #68 Ford GT under the Chip Ganassi Racing team. It finished second in 2017, third in 2018 and finished 4-5-6 in the 2019 edition.

Raced in a series of classic liveries, the 2019 Le Mans was the last for the venerable sports car. Now you can relive it anew, without having to have a Prime account.

Source: AutoBlog.com

2021 Jaguar F-Type arrives, and it still looks spectacular

The 2021 Jaguar F-Type is officially here, and proportionally, it looks a whole lot like the current F-Type. There’s nothing wrong with that, as the F-Type is still one of the best looking cars on sale today. Jaguar didn’t want to mess with that winning formula, so it took a light brush to the British sports car.

Despite the silhouette remaining largely unchanged, the finer styling points are significantly different. Jaguar gave the F-Type a larger grille, slimmer horizontal headlights, a new clamshell hood and reshaped side air intakes. Its taillights are smoothed out, but they feature Jaguar’s “Chicane” light graphic from the I-Pace. Thankfully, the V8’s menacing quad exhaust design remains for the high-performance R trim.

“F-Type has always had great proportions and stance, and our latest design is all about enhancing those key Jaguar values. Our aim was to make the car more contemporary, more purposeful, and even more dramatic,” said Adam Hatton, Jaguar exterior design director.

When it comes to engines, Jaguar is staying the course for the most part. The base engine is still the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 296 horsepower. Jag took the manual transmission away for the 2020 model year, and the eight-speed automatic transmission remains the only option for 2021 as well. The upgrade engine is still the supercharged V6 that makes 380 horsepower, though the 340-horsepower version is no longer available. Jaguar promises it still sounds spectacular. If you want maximum performance, the F-Type R is the way to go for the time being. Power is up to 575 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque in the R — these figures happen to be exactly the same as the SVR, but 25 horsepower and 14 pound-feet of torque more than the previous R. 

Jaguar didn’t reveal plans for a SVR version of this new F-Type down the road, but we assume one must be in development. Expect even more horsepower from that car if/when it arrives. As of now, Jaguar claims the R will hit 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, the same time as the SVR. Top speed is electronically limited to 186 mph. Every engine configuration comes with an active exhaust system as standard or optional. The R features a new “Quiet Start” mode that’ll help you maintain a friendly relationship with your neighbors.

Jaguar made some handling improvements to the new F-Type, too. New springs and anti-roll bars complement recalibrated continuously variable dampers. The claim is better low-speed comfort and more high-speed control. Both the electric power steering and the stability control system have been re-tuned, as well. Hardware-wise, Jaguar says the rear suspension knuckles are now aluminum die castings. This, along with larger wheel bearings and revised upper ball joints reportedly “increase camber and toe stiffness by 37 percent and 41 percent, respectively.” The brake-based torque-vectoring system was re-tuned to quell understeer. Jaguar is also now using Pirelli P Zero tires that are 10 mm wider on the R.

Most of the interior design remains the same, but the tech advances. The physical gauges are displaced by a 12.3-inch configurable display. Then, JLR’s latest 10-inch center touchscreen is used, complete with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Two different seats are available, and Jaguar offers a wide array of customization options for materials and colors.

There’s no on-sale date or price for the time being, so look out for that information in the coming months. Most of the photos available initially are of the coupe, but we do get one glimpse of the convertible (above). The first new F-Types available will be of a First Edition model that’ll have exclusive styling touches to stand out from the rest of the pack.

Source: AutoBlog.com

AWS expands DeepRacer league, announces car updates

Last year at AWS re:invent, the company’s massive customer conference, Amazon launched a new miniature race car and a racing league, all designed to teach developers about machine learning in a fun way. Now, ahead of next week’s re:Invent conference, the company announced some enhancements including an improved car and expanded racing schedule.

“We are adding more chances to compete at AWS events and at your own events, more chances to win with new races, including head-to-head multi-car competitions, and an upgraded DeepRacer car with new sensing capabilities,” AWS’s Jeff Barr wrote in the company blog announcing the updates.

For starters, there is a new car called DeepRacer Evo that builds on the original model that came out last year. This one includes a new stereo camera and a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) sensor. Barr says these added sensors are more than window dressing.

“The added sensors will enable DeepRacer Evo to skillfully detect and respond to obstacles, including other DeepRacers. This will help you to learn even more about the exciting field of reinforcement learning, which is ideal for use in autonomous driving,” he wrote.

You can retro fit your existing car with a sensor upgrade kit, or buy a new DeepRacer Evo. Both will be available early next year, according to the company.

One added element in offering a car like this is building in competition, and that’s where the racing league comes in. The company plans to expand the opportunities to compete next year with more races — and they are expanding the race types. While last year the races were all about speed, they are adding two new categories next year including one to take advantage of the new sensors to detect and avoid obstacles, and head-to-head racing against other cars. Last year’s race involved a single car on the track competing to get the fastest time.

As Ryan Gavin, AWS general manager for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning marketing told TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois earlier this year, this is really about helping developers learn more about advanced technologies.

“We’ve always asked ourselves what are the ways we can take interesting and new and hot technologies in the world of machine learning and find ways to bring those to developers,” he told Lardinois. He added, “And we saw them instantly playing with these deep racers and then starting to race. And it was just kind of that little moment of ‘Oh, this is a really fun and peculiar way to extend what we think is an interesting way to bring reinforcement learning to developers,’ but then extend that to this idea of a competition — this first global autonomous racing league — where developer can pit their skills against one another from around the globe.”

Next week at re:Invent, there will plenty of DeepRacer action including the league qualifying races and the championship cup competition for folks already immersed in this. For those who want to learn more or get started, AWS will offer DeepRacer bootcamps and workshops.

Why AWS is building tiny AI race cars to teach machine learning

Reporting by Ron Miller for TechCrunch.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Lewis Hamilton cruises to 11th win of F1 championship season

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — World champion Lewis Hamilton’s 11th victory of another dominant season proved so easy that the driver who finished way back in second place at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix joked that he should have eased up a bit.

Hamilton’s 84th career win saw him finishing around 17 seconds clear of Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver had started from second place behind Hamilton.

“I wasn’t expecting to have the pace advantage to that extent,” Hamilton said.

After Hamilton pulled clear from pole, he was five seconds ahead within 10 laps and Verstappen never got remotely close to catching his Mercedes in a season-finale resembling more of a coronation procession for the six-time Formula One champion.

“I do wish we had some battles,” Hamilton said to Verstappen, sitting alongside him in the post-race news conference.

“You could have slowed down,” Verstappen joked, after his ninth podium of the season saw him consolidate third place in the standings behind the Mercedes pair of Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton.

Although Verstappen had reliability issues approaching the midway point of the 55-lap race, the 22-year-old Dutchman conceded it had little impact on who won.

“We drove around the problem,” he said. “But it wouldn’t have made any difference today (in terms) of winning the race.”

Hamilton is now just seven wins behind seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91, and could realistically overtake the F1 great next season.

After clinching a record-extending 88th career pole, Hamilton won on the Yas Marina circuit for the fifth time in his career— four with Mercedes and once when driving for McLaren in 2011.

This was the opposite of the season-ending thriller in 2016, when former Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg beat Hamilton to the title in dramatic fashion.

The fans watching as the sky darkened and the floodlights flickered on saw no overtaking, except for Verstappen’s clean move on Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari on Lap 33. It was typical Verstappen, already a young master at overtaking and arguably the best in F1.

Leclerc finished third for a 10th podium in a strong first season with Ferrari, which included an F1-leading seven poles — two more than Hamilton and Bottas — and two wins.

However, Ferrari was summoned for a post-race investigation because there was a difference between the amount of fuel in the car declared by the team and the amount inside the car.

Ferrari was found to have inaccurately declared the amount and fined 50,000 euros ($55,000), but no action was taken against Leclerc.

Leclerc only just held off Bottas, who climbed 16 places to fourth after starting last.

Sebastian Vettel started fourth and finished fifth in a disappointing end to a season where the four-time F1 champion won only once — in Singapore — out of 21 races.

Hamilton finished with 413 points with Bottas on 326, followed by Verstappen (278), Leclerc (264) and Vettel (240).

After Hamilton’s clean getaway, Verstappen was overtaken by Leclerc and just held off Vettel on the first lap, which saw Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso sandwiched between both Racing Point cars and forced to pit for a new front wing.

Ferrari pitted both drivers for new tires on the 13th lap, but while Leclerc’s tire switch was relatively good, Vettel’s took several seconds too long because the mechanics struggled to fit his front left tire on.

It was the latest basic mistake from Ferrari in yet another season marred by errors following similar blunders in the past two seasons.

Ferrari replaced Maurizio Arrivabene with Mattia Binotto as team principal, but Binotto has not managed to stem the flow of mistakes.

Leclerc finished fourth in the standings and Vettel was a lowly fifth.

“We didn’t have the year we were hoping for, full stop. The reasons are clear, the lessons are clear and it’s up to us to take them on board,” said Vettel. “As a team we must perform stronger, and as an individual I can do better.”

Although dull, Sunday’s race underlined the superiority shown by Hamilton for much of the year.

When he pitted about halfway through the race, such was his comfort zone that he still came out six seconds clear of Leclerc, while an anxious Verstappen complained about engine, braking and throttle issues.

Still, the audacious Dutchman found some extra speed to overtake Leclerc and assuredly held the Monegasque driver off as he tried to overtake him back down the right.

Ferrari pitted both drivers simultaneously again on Lap 39, and this time the tire changes were both fairly smooth.

Leclerc finished a massive 43 seconds behind Hamilton but had built up just enough of a lead to hold off Bottas by .9 seconds.

“Valtteri was very quick towards the end,” Leclerc said. “I was pretty worried at one point.”

Source: AutoBlog.com

Feuding Korean firms risk disrupting electric car battery supplies

SEOUL —  In 2018, South Korea’s SK Innovation beat its larger, local rival LG Chem to a multibillion dollar deal to supply German carmaker Volkswagen with electric vehicle batteries in the United States.

With great fanfare, SK Innovation (SKI) broke ground in March on a $1.7 billion factory in Commerce, Georgia, about 200 km from VW’s Chattanooga plant, which will be the automaker’s electric vehicle hub in the United States.

LG Chem (LGC) had other ideas.

Stung by missing out on the VW deal to the new kid on the block and the departure of 77 employees for its rival across the Han River in Seoul, LGC took SKI to court in the United States in April accusing it of misappropriating trade secrets.

Fast forward seven months and the two firms have hit each other with U.S. lawsuits for battery patent infringements in a bitter row that threatens to disrupt the launches of electric vehicles by some of the world’s biggest carmakers.

U.S court filings reviewed by Reuters show the feuding firms are trying to stop each other from importing and selling EV batteries destined for the SUVs VW will build in Tennessee as well as GM’s Bolt, Ford pickups, Jaguar’s I-Pace, Audi’s E-Tron, and Kia Motor’s Niro.

At stake is the Korean firms’ ability to supply automakers in the United States with batteries just as the car producers are scrambling to lock in supplies with lucrative contracts ahead of an expected surge in demand, according to court filings by the two companies and several industry experts.

“Whoever loses the fight would suffer a fatal blow, unless the two reach a settlement. This will also be a setback for automakers,” said Cho Jae-phil, a professor at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology who worked previously at another Korean rival, Samsung SDI.

Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Flake said it was encouraging LGC and SKI to resolve their conflict without litigation and that it believed there was sufficient demand for multiple suppliers.

“We are aware of the issue. As a normal course of action, we have business continuity plans in place to protect our interests,” Flake said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

GM spokesman Patrick Morrissey said the company was aware of the dispute and at this point it did not expect any impact on the production of its Chevy Bolt electric vehicle.

Kia, Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen, which also owns Audi, declined to comment.

TRADE SECRETS

Volkswagen has said it is worried there won’t be enough batteries for all the EVs it plans to launch in the next five years, partly because producers such as LGC and China’s CATL don’t have enough skilled workers for new plants in Europe to ramp up output quickly.

According to Korea’s battery industry tracker SNE Research, the market for EV batteries — the most expensive and important component in the vehicles — is set to grow 23% a year to reach $167 billion by 2025, making it bigger than the global memory chip market which is expected to be worth $150 billion by then.

In one court filing, LGC said its rival poached employees working on its own project to supply batteries for VW’s MEB electric vehicle architecture — and that SKI only won the VW contract because it had misappropriated trade secrets.

SKI has denied stealing trade secrets, saying its staff signed agreements not to use information from former workplaces. “We value intellectual property,” a spokesman for SKI said.

If the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) rules in favor of LGC on June 5, when it is due to make a preliminary ruling, that could jeopardize SKI’s plans to supply VW in the United States with batteries from Georgia or a new factory in Hungary, according to court filings.

In April, LGC asked the ITC to block SKI from bringing batteries and components into the United States, as well as manufacturing systems needed for U.S. production which is scheduled to start in 2022.

The SKI spokesman said there had been no change to its schedule for the factory, which will have the capacity to make batteries for more than 200,000 EVs a year. He said SKI had received inquiries about the lawsuits from customers, including if they would have an impact on supplies, without elaborating.

LGC said a final ruling on the case would be made on Oct. 5 next year but it asked the ITC earlier this month to make a so-called default judgement against SKI quickly.

According to a memo obtained by Reuters on Wednesday, the Commission’s investigative staff recommended a motion in favour of LGC as it is “the most appropriate sanction for Respondents’ (SKI’s) widespread spoliation of evidence.”

Evidence spoliation is destruction or alteration of evidence that may be used in a legal proceeding.

The staff also said a two-day hearing may be held “because of the severity of the allegations of misconduct and the extraordinary nature of the relief requested by (LGC).”

SKI denied the allegation of evidence spoliation in a statement on Wednesday, saying it is “sincerely responding to any investigation by the ITC” and its statement of position filed with the panel will clear the “groundless” accusation.

WAR OF WORDS

The patent infringement lawsuits lodged by the companies in the United States, meanwhile, mean that if one, or both, lose they probably won’t be able to market products using the patents in question in the country, the companies said in court filings. The two have taken their feud to South Korean courts as well.

LGC said in a statement it would impossible to design around its patents while SKI said losing the patents case could create “substantial setbacks” to its battery business.

SKI and LGC said there had been no supply disruptions yet.

LGC was an early industry force to be reckoned with, winning a deal in 2008 to supply batteries for GM’s Volt, the world’s first mass-market, plug-in hybrid car, and it has since worked with almost every EV maker including Tesla.

But LGC has been grappling with an exodus of workers: 1,258 staff jumped ship from 2016 to 2018, according to its sustainability reports. The company told Reuters the total number of staff who have joined SKI since 2016 has risen since it filed its complaint in April to about 100.

The bitterness of the fight is worrying Korean government officials on the grounds it could damage the firms’ reputations and let rivals win market share from South Korean companies.

Lawmakers have called on the government to intervene and Industry Minister Sung Yoon-mo said in October it was watching the dispute closely to see how and when it could play a role to bring about a “positive outcome for the country overall”.

Beejay Kim, a battery consultant, said Volkswagen may have to broker a truce as the dispute could disrupt not only battery suppliers but also reduce competition between its vendors.

“No one wants them to fight till the end,” he said.

Source: AutoBlog.com