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Diesel fume experiments revealed

Reports of experiments that exposed humans and monkeys to diesel fumes have the Volkswagen Group, Daimler and BMW scrambling to distance themselves from the situation. 

The automakers are promising to investigate the tests whose disclosure now threatens to open a new phase in an emissions controversy that’s dogged the industry since 2015. 

Volkswagen has seen its reputation battered in recent years by deepening scandals.

The study, conducted by the European Research Association for Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), had 25 people expose themselves to diesel exhaust fumes at different concentrations and for several hours, the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper reported Monday.  

The actions further undermine diesel’s image, steepening an uphill battle to rescue the technology amid worsening political headwinds.

“This is another hit for diesel and shows how carmakers overstepped the mark morally and ethically in their fight to make diesel socially acceptable,” said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Centre of Automotive Management in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.

“This news means more pressure for politicians to act on diesel.”

At the weekend, the German automakers also confirmed that the EUGT researchers they commissioned used monkeys to test the health effects of inhaling diesel fumes. 

The monkeys were exposed to the exhaust fumes of an older and a modern diesel vehicle, so the progress of the technology could be demonstrated. 

The circumstances of the study, and details on how it was conducted, are contained in a sworn deposition of Jake McDonald, a scientist who oversaw the project.

McDonald said in the deposition, which was taken as part of diesel emissions suit filed against Volkswagen, that the monkeys were shown cartoons during hours of tests to help keep them calm.

“We believe that the scientific methods used to conduct the study were wrong and that it would have been better not to undertake it at all,” Volkswagen said in a statement on Monday.

“We are shocked by the extent and application of the studies … We condemn the experiments in the strongest terms,” carmaker Daimler wrote.

The German government also condemned the tests. ‘These tests … are in no ethical way justifiable and they raise many critical questions about those who are behind the tests,” said Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

 

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Rivals to test subscription services

Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW are preparing to launch vehicle subscription pilots in the U.S. this year.

Subscription plans offer customers a vehicle to drive for a monthly fee that includes insurance, maintenance and pickup and delivery. Customers typically can switch among available vehicles based on needs.

Luxury rivals are preparing to launch vehicle subscription pilots in the U.S. in 2018.

Mercedes will offer a pilot to figure out whether a subscription model has long-term merit.

“We need to learn,” Seeger said Monday at the Detroit auto show. “In different markets, we want to try this out.”

Mercedes is also cautious about what Seeger calls a “big threat” to the subscription model: whether the vehicle you want is available.

“On the weekend, if it’s sunshine outside and if everybody wants to have a cabriolet, and if I apply five times to have a cabriolet and I don’t get it, what does this cause?” Seeger said.

Mercedes-Benz hasn’t determined where in the U.S. it will pilot the program and when, Seeger said. The automaker has active subscription pilots operating in other countries, she said, citing a Smart-brand program in Italy and a Mercedes-brand program in Germany.

BMW is “most likely” going to go forward with a subscription model in the U.S. said BMW North America CEO, Bernhard Kuhnt.

“We are in the phase of looking at it and evaluating together with BMW Financial Services,” Kuhnt said. “And if we are going to do it, we are going to pilot it first to learn more about it.”

“At the end of the day, the consumer is going to decide if that’s something they want to do,” Kuhnt said.

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BMW outsold by Mercedes

The BMW 5-Series

BMW reported a fantastic 2017 sales record but was outsold by Mercedes-Benz. Sales of BMW brand models rose 4.2 per cent in 2017 to 2.09 million passenger cars and SUVs, the carmaker said on Friday.

In comparison, Mercedes finished the year with a 9.9 percent gain to 2.29 million, which claimed the top spot in global luxury-car sales rankings for a second year.

The BMW 5 Series , which underwent a model change during 2017, achieved growth of 55.2 per cent, or an increase of 30,359 units, in December, with sales up by 6.3 per cent or 291,856 units in the full year. BMW also sold 103,080 electrified vehicles around the world, an increase of 65.6 per cent.

As for Mercedes-Benz, the most popular model was the C-Class in both Sedan and Estate guises. Over 450,000 units were sold over the course of 2017 while the E-Class accounted for about 350,000 units of the grand total. 

BMW, which had kept the global luxury sales crown for about a decade before slipping behind Mercedes in 2016, said deliveries were fuelled by a 9.6 percent gain for its SUV line-up and a 15 per cent increase for the 1-Series.

BMW also posted a 9.5 percent gain in December registrations to 195,916 vehicles, narrowly beating Mercedes and Audi whose sales came in at 193,534 and 180,250 cars respectively.

“I’m confident BMW sales will continue to grow during 2018, while we also maintain our focus on profitability,” said new sales chief Pieter Nota.

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Tackling China’s traffic problems

As China’s personal transport options rapidly develop and evolve, BMW is researching how the latest mobility innovations can be adapted and moulded to keep the BMW brand relevant in China, the world’s largest market.

Chronic traffic congestion in China’s high-density megacities is restricting people from both buying cars and using them. This has forced automakers such as BMW to innovate.

“Growth in the future won’t come from building and selling cars but from other services,” said Thiemo Schalk, who manages BMW’s Centre of Urban Mobility Competence in Berlin.

BMW recently launched its ReachNow car-sharing scheme in the city of Chengdu, starting with a fleet of 100 i3 electric cars as the company investigates whether to expand the service to other Chinese cities.

BMW, however, knows that it needs additional mobility solutions in China so it has asked its advanced research department in Shanghai for help. The team, which works in an office tucked away in the leafy streets of the city’s old French Concession district, has been asked to take BMW into areas where no car company has ventured before.

BMW is aiming to make carpooling more attractive. “The perception right now is that carpooling is low cost. We’re trying to make it more premium,” said the head of BMW’s advanced research department in Shanghai, Markus Seidel. The project involves mining customers’ phones for GPS data to establish their daily travel patterns, encrypting that data and sending it out to try and match it with others. The second step is to treat the data the same way that a dating app would so that participants are matched with people who share similar interests.

Ride-hailing is another technology that is growing fast. China’s answer to Uber, Didi Chuxing, now achieves an astonishing 25 million rides a day in the country, according to Didi’s data.

Furthermore, Seidel and his team are working to figure out what premium customers of future BMW autonomous robo-taxis or personal cars might want. His vision incorporates elements of an airplane’s business-class cabin, complete with automated flight attendants. What that means is the car could be designed to serve passengers, such as making coffee using a robot arm that responds to voice commands.

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BMW celebrates 100,000 EVs

At the beginning of 2017 BMW said it would both sell and deliver 100,000 units of its electrified models by the end of the year.

BMW’s goal has been realised and the car manufacturer celebrated in a big way at the BMW Group HQ in Munich last night.

The famous four cylinders of the building were transformed into electric batteries demonstrating the commitment that BMW has towards the future.

“We deliver on our promises,” said Harald Krüger, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. 

“This 99-metre-high signal is lighting the way into the era of electro-mobility. Selling 100,000 electrified cars in one year is an important milestone, but this is just the beginning for us. Since the introduction of the BMW i3 2013, we’ve delivered over 200,000 electrified cars to our customers and by 2025, we will offer 25 electrified models to our customers. Our early focus on electro-mobility has made this success possible – and electro-mobility will continue to be my measure for our future success.”

By 2025, the company will offer 25 fully electric and plug-in hybrid models worldwide.

For its BMW i electric brand, BMW has already secured the naming rights from BMW i1 to i9, as well as from BMW iX1 to iX9.

Next year will see the launch of the i8 Roadster, followed in 2019 by a fully electric MINI.

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Car makers join forces

BMW and Porsche are wanting to improve the current electric vehicle, (EV) charge rate to 450 kW in order to enable quicker EV charging.

They are already working together with other major automakers, like Mercedes and Ford, on the major Ionity ultra-fast (350kW) EV charging network in Europe.

BMW’s ‘FastCharge’ consortium is leading the project.

“The collaborative project studies all aspects of fast charging in practical application, aiming to introduce and manufacture the required technologies on an industrial scale,” said BMW in their latest press release.

 The project also is hinting at an automated billing process or subscription for customers.

This is why, alongside analysing potential capacity increases in the charging process, the project also investigates the prerequisites and processes for the operation of ultrafast charging systems, including an automated registration and billing process for customers.”

The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure supports the project with a €7.8 million grant, which is supervised by the National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Organisation (NOW).

They have now confirmed that the bulk of their research will focus on improving charging rates using the existing Combined Charging System (CCS), but at a voltage of 900 volts and an amplitude of 500 amperes for a charge rate of 450 kW.

The group sees this charge rate as ideal to charge an average long-range electric car in about 15 mins.

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BMW invests in battery centre

BMW to invest in a battery cell expertise centre, the German luxury carmaker said on Friday. BMW plans to invest 200 million euros into the new competence centre over the next four years. 

The electric BMW i3

The new facility is described as a multi-discipline technical centre which will be tasked with developing the design, packaging, chemical formulations, charging and power delivery characteristics of BMW’s future electric vehicles.

As part of BMW’s strategic outline, electrification is set to play a pivotal part in the company’s future alongside digitalisation and autonomous technology.

Despite the investment in the new Competence Centre For Battery Cells, the facility will be a research and development centre only, with battery production to be contracted to outside suppliers who will produce powertrain systems to BMW specifications.

“We will be concentrating all our in-house expertise along the battery-cell value chain at our new high-tech competence centre,” Klaus Froehlich, head of development for BMW Group said.

“International experts working in the new development labs and facilities will conduct important research to refine cell chemistry and cell design. We will focus on further improvements in battery performance, lifespan, safety, charging and also costs. We will set the benchmark for the industry.”

“By producing battery-cell prototypes, we can analyse and fully understand the cell’s value-creation processes. With this build-to-print expertise, we can enable potential suppliers to produce cells to our specifications,” BMW board member Oliver Zipse said.

“The knowledge we gain is very important to us, regardless of whether we produce the battery cells ourselves, or not.”

The centre will open in early 2019, BMW said.

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Latest update in German cartel inquiry

BMW has hired a law firm to help with an internal investigation of an alleged cartel among German carmakers and needs more time before any conclusions can be reached, Chief Executive Harald Krueger said yesterday.

Asked whether BMW would be able to quantify possible risks from the allegations once it had concluded its fact-finding operation, Krueger said: “As of today we don’t know this at all.”

BMW, Daimler  and Volkswagen were raided by European Union and German antitrust officials last month over allegations that they had collaborated to set pricing and technology standards to the detriment of foreign rivals and customers over the past few decades.

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BMW reveal 453-hp M3 CS

Following the decades-long tradition of successful M special editions, BMW presents their new limited-run M3 CS. With its accentuated sporting presence, the four-door high-performance sedan serves up a perfect blend of dynamism and everyday practicality.

The new BMW M3 CS is fitted with the same six-cylinder inline engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology that has proved well in the existing BMW M3 models. It channels the engine’s power through the seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission (M DCT) as standard. 


The output of the new BMW M3 CS has been raised to 338 kW/460 hp, 10 hp more than the BMW M3 with Competition Package, and its peak torque to 600 Nm / 442 lb-ft.

State of the art M TwinPower Turbo technology propels the M3 CS from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.9 seconds and the top speed of the new special edition is electronically limited to 280 km/h. 

The bonnet, roof, front splitter, Gurney and rear diffuser on the new BMW M3 CS are made from carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP). The weight saving over the standard BMW M3 is 50 kilograms. 

The new BMW M3 CS comes as standard with M compound brakes featuring four-piston callipers at the front and two-piston callipers at the rear. The new special-edition model rides on DTM-design light-alloy wheels in Orbit Grey.

Orders for the new BMW M3 CS can be placed from January 2018. The special-edition model – which will be limited to a run of approximately 1,200 units due to production factors – will be built from March 2018. 

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New BMW X2 in 2018

The new BMW X2 will be on the market in March 2018.

The Sports Activity Coupe is a BMW with one of a kind character. Its design is a combination of the robustness of a BMW X model and the athletic suave of a coupe. 

Customers can choose from the BMW X2 M Sport and the M Sport X models. 

New design details also are apart of the new BMW, these include the BMW roundel on the C-pillars and the styling of the kidney grille, where the outline is wider at the base than at the top, a first for a modern BMW. 

New colour shades, Galvanic Gold metallic and Misano Blue metallic, are available for the first time. Perforated Dakota leather in Magma Red and Micro Hexagon fabric will also be apart of the new design.

Three engine variants are offered from the launch, plus the petrol model is fitted with the sporty seven-speed Steptronic dual-clutch transmission. 

Options for the latest generation of BMW ConnectedDrive and Connected App, Apple CarPlay and an array of driver assistance systems all serve for a more coherent driving experience. 

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