Lotus sales are up — which will please its new owner, Geely. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
Lotus sales are up — which will please its new owner, Geely. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

Remember the Lotus Esprit that Roger Moore took under water in The Spy Who Loved Me? And then we got excited in 2016 when Elon Musk announced that he wanted to build a submarine car, a plan that took us back to that moment of seeing the Esprit cruising beneath the waves.

Musk hasn’t achieved it yet (he did buy the Lotus from the movie though), but now the race is on because Aston Martin has plans of its own.

An Aston submarine sounds more suitable for Mr Bond and Her Majesty is one of the few that will be able to afford the $4m price tag for her favourite spy. Project Neptune is a joint project with Triton Submarines in the US, which already has a three-person platform on which the limited edition Aston will be built. That is the big difference between what Aston is planning and what Musk wants to do — Project Neptune is just a submarine and has no road ability.

When we first saw the pictures of the Aston Project Neptune, we thought it was a new piece of kit from Dyson, the manufacturer of vacuum cleaners and other household appliances. It wasn’t, of course, but the images came out at almost the same time as Sir James Dyson made it official that he is going to build electric cars. Immediately the puns began: "Let’s hope it doesn’t suck" and "Dyson will clean up in the market" were popular.

Dyson announced that he would invest $2.7bn in the project as he aimed to take on established electric vehicle (EV) players. We know he has been working on some sort of EV technology so the question now is when will we see the first prototype?

Aston Martin has unveiled plans to create Project Neptune with Triton Submarine. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
Aston Martin has unveiled plans to create Project Neptune with Triton Submarine. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

Evo-cative concept

Mitsubishi is about to reanimate one of the most evocative names in rallying history with a car that will never see a special stage.

The Renault-Nissan alliance’s Japanese acquisition will attach the name to a sleek new concept coupe at the Tokyo motor show. Instead of being a traditional motor show coupe concept, the new
e-Evolution will nod to recent trends and has been turned into a crossover coupe with a slightly high-rise stance.

The electrified e-Evolution will be built to give hints about Mitsubishi’s future design and powertrain strategies and is said to deliver its latest artificial intelligence platform.

Mitsubishi was one of the earliest developers of "fuzzy logic" for automatic transmission shifting, but the new AI platform hints at a major step forward in autonomy. The all-wheel drive concept is set to be a flagship if it enters production, marking out very different territory to the last Lancer Evolution Final Edition in 2015.

Mitsubishi plans to bring back the famous Evo name but don’t expect a performance car. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
Mitsubishi plans to bring back the famous Evo name but don’t expect a performance car. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

Sports e-V

Remember the Urban EV that was the star of the Frankfurt Motor Show? Honda is following that up with its Sports EV that will be unveiled in October in Tokyo. It will have a "striking silhouette, friendly face and supple body surfaces". We are looking forward to seeing if it can match the Urban EV for coolness.

Honda has released a sketch of its Sports EV concept. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
Honda has released a sketch of its Sports EV concept. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

Centre of attention

Pictures are appearing of what looks like a McLaren 720S with the company’s chief tester Chris Goodwin, behind the wheel — in the middle of the car. The company announced a while ago it plans to make a car with a central driving position in the same style as the original McLaren F1 and it is likely to make its debut fairly soon.

Testing, testing ...

BMW is testing more models. Actually it seems to be testing new versions of every model, but the latest we are aware of are the new 2 Series Gran Coupe and the facelift of the 7 Series. The latter seems surprisingly early in the vehicles’ life cycle, but these life-cycle improvements, or LCIs in BMW speak, are becoming more common as manufacturers have to compete faster and faster.

BMW SA typically refuses to comment on the updated 7 but we suspect it is planned for early in 2018. The 2 Series Gran Coupe will be an interesting one, with four doors and a fastback rear that will probably arrive around the same time as the X2 crossover.

Cost of a scandal

Trickier fixes and extra buybacks have forced the Volkswagen Group to add another €2.5bn to the red-ink tally in the Dieselgate cheating scandal’s column.

The car maker warned that it would set aside the extra billions to cover buybacks and unanticipated complications in repairing some of the cars.

The admission comes after prosecutors took the group’s former head of powertrain development, Wolfgang Hatz, in for questioning in Munich over the Dieselgate scandal.

The scandal, which broke in September 2015, has so far cost the company €27bn in fines, compensation and repair costs.

Geely takeover

Geely Automobile Holdings has added a 51% stake in Lotus to a portfolio that includes Volvo, Proton, Lynk and Co and the London Taxi Company, as well as its self-branded cars.

The remaining 49% of the UK-based Lotus remains held by the Malaysian car-making group Etika. It finalises a deal, announced in May, which also saw Geely take over 49% of the ailing Malaysian car-making brand Proton, giving it a right-hand-drive base and a budget brand for south-east Asian markets. As part of the takeover, Lotus will keep its CEO Jean-Marc Gales, while Geely chief financial officer Daniel Donghui Li becomes Lotus chairman.

All over down under

In what is probably the last nail in the coffin of the Australian automotive industry, Toyota closed its manufacturing operations in the country this week after making more than 3-million cars there over 54 years. Sections of the production site will be turned into a training centre. It is just three years since Toyota announced that it would cease production in Australia.

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