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Forget Leather and Wood; Automakers Struggling to Redefine Luxury

Focus shifts to the “total customer experience.”

by on Jul.21, 2016

Lincoln will increase its suite of customers services with the launch of the new Continental.

Leather, wood, a big engine and lots of chrome. Those have been the traditional signatures of a luxury car. But what happens when you can add those same features to an entry-level sedan? That’s a question high-line brands have been struggling to deal with as they face increasing competition from more mainstream manufacturers.

That new reality is forcing luxury marques to shift focus a bit. You’ll still find massaging leather seats on a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, open-pore wood on a BMW 7-Series, and a choice of high-performance engines for your next Audi. But you’re likely also to find a variety of new features and services designed, among other things, to simplify and speed up the car buying and service processes.

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What a Luxury!

“Because so many things that used to be considered luxury are now available across the line, the only way to differentiate yourself as a luxury manufacturer is to make the total ownership experience painless and seamless,” said Joe Phillippi, senior analyst with AutoTrends Consulting.

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BMW Delaying Launch of 2017 U.S. Diesels

Latest maker hit by fallout from VW diesel emissions cheating scandal.

by on Jul.19, 2016

BMW will delay the launch of its variously diesel models in the U.S. due to added testing.

Even as Volkswagen continues to face new problems related to its cheating on diesel emissions testing, other automakers are facing collateral damage.

The latest to be hit is BMW, the automaker confirming that it will delay the launch of its 2017 diesel models because U.S. regulators want to be sure they comply with federal emissions standards.

Breaking News!

While the maker said there has been “no indication” that its oil burners don’t meet federal rules, the testing process has been delayed, according to various media sources, which will mean that models such as the 2017 BMW 328d sedan and xDrive35d won’t reach showrooms at the same time as the rest of the ’17 line-up.

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BMW Confirms Plan to Launch Autonomous Car by 2021

Automaker teams up with tech firms Intel, Mobileye.

by on Jul.01, 2016

The BMW i Vision Future concept offers a hint of what the maker's autonomous car might look like.

BMW is the latest automaker to confirm plans to go to market with an autonomous vehicle, the Bavarian maker teaming up with tech partners Intel and Mobileye to “bring fully automated driving technology to the street” by 2021, the maker’s CEO announced Friday.

The announcement follows the debut of several futuristic concept vehicles meant to mark BMW’s 100th anniversary. But it also comes a day after U.S. safety regulators launched an investigation into a fatal crash of a Tesla Model S sedan that was operating in its semi-autonomous Autopilot mode. That has raised new concerns about the technology despite hopes that self-driving vehicles will help improve safety and reduce worsening traffic congestion.

A Look at the Future!

“The combined expertise of Intel, Mobileye and the BMW Group will deliver the next core building block to bring fully automated driving technology to the street,” BMW chairman Harald Krüger said in a statement.

The move might come as a surprise to those who think of BMW in terms of its long-running tag-line, “The ultimate driving machine,” but the maker has been exploring self-driving technology for nearly two decades, and, according to Kruger, it will give BMW customers new options – the ability to ride hands-free or switch to manual driving mode.

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BMW Launches “Home Energy Storage Solution”

German maker joins growing list repurposing used EV batteries.

by on Jun.21, 2016

One of the new stationary generators with a BMW i3.

BMW is launching a new stationary storage system that will use the same batteries found in its i3 electric city car.

What BMW is calling an “intelligent storage solution” can be integrated into a broader home or office clean energy system, not only providing power during a blackout but also storing wind or solar energy for use when power demands peak.

Tech Talk!

“The remarkable advantage for BMW customers in using BMW i3 batteries as a plug and play storage application is the ability to tap into an alternative resource for residential and commercial backup power, thus using renewable energy much more efficiently, and enabling additional revenues from the energy market,” Cliff Fietzek, Manager Connected eMobility at BMW of North America, said ahead of the system’s debut at the EVS29, the annual electric vehicle conference held this year in Montreal. (more…)

BMW Breaks Ground on New Mexico Plant

New facility will be most advanced plant in its system.

by on Jun.17, 2016

BMW and Mexican officials kick off construction on the automaker's $1 billion plant in San Luis Potosi.

The BMW Group has broken ground on a new billion-dollar plant in Mexico, the latest in a growing string of automakers to move operations into the Latin American nation.

Significantly, BMW’s $1 billion investment is part of a transition for Mexico from a manufacturing base for price-sensitive, entry-level models to higher-end products, BMW’s rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz set to open their own Mexican plants.

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With the addition of the BMW, Mercedes Audi plants, as well as those planned by Kia, Ford and other makers, there will soon be more than 20 assembly operations in Mexico, making it one of the world’s top five sources for automobiles. (more…)

LA City Workers Getting 100 BMWs

Staffers to drive i3s hoping to cut costs, smog.

by on Jun.09, 2016

Soon Los Angeles will see 100 more i3s buzzing the streets with city employees at the wheel.

It might seem like a lavish perk for a city worker to be driving a BMW, but the 100 German cars the City of Los Angeles will soon take delivery of aren’t ordinary BMWs.

They’re the little i3 battery-electric vehicles the Bavarian maker is producing in a bid to become a leader in the emerging market for sustainable automobiles. Los Angeles, in turn, has been pushing to become a more environmentally friendly city, even considering ways to add battery-powered police cars and motorcycles to its fleet.

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“In the next three to four years, we will learn from the technology and use the opportunity to work with car manufacturers and design a robust high-performance patrol electric vehicle,” Vartan Yegiyan, director of the city’s police transportation office, said at a news conference. “That’s our aim.” (more…)

2017 BMW 2-Series Gets Twin-Power Engines

More power, better mileage.

by on May.17, 2016

The 2017 BMW M240i Convertible.

BMW is pumping things up for 2017, offering a pair of new and more powerful TwinPower Turbo engines for the 2-Series coupe and convertible lines.

The old M235i model will be replaced for the coming model-year by the 2017 BMW M240i, the new 3.0-liter six-cylinder package churning out 335 horsepower, a 15 hp increase over its predecessor. That puts it within striking distance of the top-line BMW M2. The other option for 2017 is the new 2.0-liter BMW 230i, which will be making 248 hp.

New Car News!

BMW claims that both of the new engine packages develop smoother and more instantaneous power than classic turbo options, eliminating the classic turbo lag at low RPMs. The 240i, for example, hits peak torque of 369 pound-feet at just 1,520 revs.

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BMW Updates i3, Adds More Range

But is 114 miles per charge enough?

by on May.02, 2016

BMW has bumped the range of the 2017 i3 up to as much as 114 miles thanks to a larger battery pack.

BMW is the latest automaker hoping to charge up the sluggish battery-car market by boosting the range of its little electric city car, the i3.

While the 2017 model won’t match the range of the new Chevrolet Bolt or upcoming Tesla Model 3, BMW claims it will still deliver up to 114 miles per charge, or 58% more driving distance thanks to a larger lithium-ion battery. That jumps to more than 200 miles if you order a 2017 BMW i3 equipped with the optional, range-extending two-cylinder gas engine – the update model also getting a larger fuel tank.

Stay Plugged In!

Though performance numbers won’t change for the upcoming model-year, the BMW i3 will remain one of the market’s quicker battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, launching from 0 to 60 in just 7.2 seconds.

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Tesla, BMW Lose Key Battery-Car Talent

Apple and Chinese start-up Future Mobility go poaching.

by on Apr.20, 2016

Several key members of the BMW i team, including the head of i8 development, have bolted.

It still refuses to acknowledge any plans to develop a car of its own, but consumer electronics giant Apple has reportedly been poaching a number of auto industry veterans for what is believed to be known internally as Project Titan – and that now includes a senior Tesla executive.

Chris Porritt, a one-time Aston Martin designer, had been more recently working at Tesla, helping in the development of its two current products, the Models S and X, as well as the upcoming Model 3 battery-electric sedan. According reports in several Silicon Valley publications, Porritt will now serve at Apple as Special Projects Group PD Administrator.

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Porritt, however, isn’t the only battery-car executive jumping ship. German automaker BMW has reportedly lost a number of key members from the team that developed it i3 and i8 electric vehicles. The group, which includes Carsten Breitfeld, leader of the team behind the i8 plug-in sports car, will now work on EV development for the Chinese-funded start-up Future Mobility Corp.

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New Study Finds Big Gaps in Headlights

“Most need improvement,” warns IIHS.

by on Mar.30, 2016

A BMW 3-Series is put through the IIHS headlight test process. The car ranked "poor."

They’re among the most basic safety devices found on every vehicle on the market, yet nearly 120 years after the invention of the electric headlight, most still fall short of effectively lighting the way, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

In its first-ever test of headlights, the insurance trade group found only one of the 31 midsize vehicles it tested – the Toyota Prius V, earned a “good” rating, with another 11 rated “acceptable.” The rest of the group were in need of serious improvement, according to the IIHS.

Illuminating!

“If you’re having trouble seeing behind the wheel at night, it could very well be your headlights and not your eyes that are to blame,” said IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer David Zuby.

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