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BMW, Audi, Mercedes Make Move to Dominate Autonomous Vehicle Tech

Rivals form unusual alliance to acquire Nokia Maps.

by on Aug.03, 2015

Audi, BMW and Mercedes have formed a partnership and purchase Nokia's mapmaking division, HERE.

Automakers have traditionally fought it out over design, performance, features and fuel economy. But, increasingly, they’re battling for technological dominance. And that’s led three erstwhile German rivals to form an unusual alliance that could give them a leg up when autonomous vehicles start to roll into showrooms in the coming decade.

BMW, Audi and Mercedes have teamed up to deliver the winning $2.8 billion bid to buy Nokia’s next-generation mapping business. They beat out rivals in both Silicon Valley and in China who had hoped to purchase the Nokia subsidiary, known as HERE, which is capable of producing much more details maps than those currently used by automotive navigation systems.

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“With the joint acquisition of HERE, we want to secure the independence of this central service for all vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and customers in other industries,” said Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche of Daimler AG. (more…)

Is BMW Set to Abandon Manual Transmission for M Models?

Bavarian maker may also cap performance models at 600-hp.

by on Jul.08, 2015

BMW M's manual may be an endangered species.

Like Mark Twain, reports of the demise of the manual transmission may be premature. But it’s increasingly looking like the stick shift is headed for life support, and BMW’s performance M sub-brand is reportedly ready to pull the plug.

The head of BMW M told Britain’s Autocar that future models may offer buyers a choice of only dual-clutch or automatic transmissions. That wouldn’t be out of line with broader trends, several other makers already reducing or eliminating manuals entirely. Meanwhile, M chief Frank van Meel also suggested that BMW may be ready to wave a white flag and opt out of the ever-escalating horsepower wars.

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“From a technical standpoint, the future doesn’t look bright for manual gearboxes. The DCT and auto ’boxes are faster and they have better fuel consumption,” van Meel told AutoCar. But he added that while “difficult to say we’ll stick to the manual…we still have a big fan community for manuals and we are not going to take away something the customer wants to have.”


Turning Shoppers into Customers: Mercedes Tops the Chart in New Study

Tesla turns its showrooms into museums.

by on Jul.06, 2015

Offering a test drive can be a real deal-maker, according to Pied Piper research.

When Linda Brightman started out to buy a new car she had her heart set on a new BMW 3-Series. The suburban Los Angeles mother of two made one concession to her husband, agreeing to at least visit a few other showrooms to see what the competitors had to offer. He was nonetheless surprised when she drove home in a new Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

She liked a lot of the safety features, Brightman explained. But what had clinched the deal was the way the dealers treated her. The salesman at the BMW showroom seemed more bothered than interested in working with her. The Mercedes rep, on the other hand, had all the time in the world to work with her, not just answering questions but anticipating what Brightman might ask next.

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That’s no surprise to Fran O’Hagan, a California researcher who has been monitoring dealer behavior for his annual Pied Piper Satisfaction Index. In recent years, Mercedes showrooms have set the benchmark, he explains, having “changed from a museum curator approach to being as helpful as they can, turning car shoppers into Mercedes owners.”


BMW Speeds Up the Roll-out of its New Plug-In Line-up

Getting a first drive of the new 2-Series Active Tourer eDrive.

by on Jul.01, 2015

This PHEV version of the new 2-Series Active Tourer will be one of four BMW plug-ins coming to market in the months ahead.

For BMW, 2016 is going to be the year of the PHEV. Forget low fuel prices the Bavarians are convinced plug-ins are here to stay, and they’re rolling out and assortment of new models that pick up on the technology first introduced with the exotic BMW i8.

In a matter of months, we’ll see four plug-based models, including versions of the X5, 2 Series Active Tourer, 3 Series and 7 Series.

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Why now? There are all sorts of reasons. For one thing, few expect today’s low fuel prices to last, even in the United States. And tough new emissions and mileage standards will be phasing in over the next decade, making it difficult for luxury manufacturers to remain on the market without adopting cleaner and more efficient powertrain technologies.


Consumer Report Calls Out Oil Burners

Magazine notes Audi, BMW and Subaru biggest offenders.

by on Jun.30, 2015

The BMW 5 Series is 27 times more likely to need oil between service intervals than other vehicles.

If you’re adding oil to your car’s engine between oil changes, something may be askew, according to Consumer Reports.

The advocacy magazine found that some cars built between 2010 and 2014 are not just needing a little top off between service intervals, but burning through as much as a quart a month.

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Taking Audi, BMW and Subaru to task for the issue, it notes that Audi’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder and 3.0-liter V6; BMW’s 4.8-liter V8 and 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8; and Subaru’s 3.6-liter six-cylinder and 2.0- and 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines all burned oil at a higher than normal rate, although the Subarus burned less oil than the others. (more…)

VW, BMW Enjoy Strong Sales Results

Despite sluggish China sales, companies see increases globally.

by on Jun.15, 2015

Through May, Volkswagen is on track to exceed its goal of selling 10 million vehicles worldwide this year.

Despite a slowdown in sales in China, the Volkswagen Group eked out a small gain in sales during the first five months of 2015 and remains on course towards its goal of selling more than 10 million vehicles worldwide.

Globally, the Volkswagen Group delivered 4.2 million vehicles from January to May: up 0.3% from a year ago. Worldwide VW Group sales increased 2.6% in May. Sales by the Volkswagen brand have softened this year but Audi continues to charge ahead as it creeps closer to rival BMW in total sales.

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“Deliveries so far this year have been characterized by mixed market trends. Even with their broad range of young and eco-friendly models, the Volkswagen Group brands are not entirely immune to this situation,” said Christian Klingler, Group Board member for Sales. (more…)

BMW Points Fingers with All-New 7-Series

New features on ultra-lux sedan include gesture controls.

by on Jun.10, 2015

BMW unveiled the all-new BMW 7 Series today. The brand’s flagship sedan is in its sixth generation.

This article has been updated with additional information.

There’s likely to be a lot of finger-pointing when the all-new, 2016 BMW 7-Series reaches showrooms in the coming months. And that’s precisely what the Bavarian automaker wants.

Aiming to catch up to the segment-leading Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW not only gave the new 7-Series a visual makeover but also is loading it up with a wide array of high-tech comfort, infotainment and safety features. And a number of key commands, such as adjusting the sedan’s volume control, can be handled with a simple gesture.

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“Pre-selected hand movements in the vicinity of the center console allow 3D sensors to register and fulfill requested actions. Gestures to adjust the audio volume control, accept or reject incoming phone calls,” BMW explained during a preview of the new model in Germany on Wednesday. (more…)

First Look: 2016 BMW X1

Big things in a small package.

by on Jun.02, 2015

BMW claims the 2016 remake of the X1 will offer the roomiest interior in its segment.

Small outside, big inside. That’s been a major selling point for a new generation of compact Sport-Utility Vehicles, such as the BMW X1. And the German maker is promising to deliver even greater room, versatility — and performance — as it prepares to roll out the second-generation X1.

In keeping with broader trends in the luxury market, the new Sport Activity Vehicle, as BMW prefers to call it, will also yield more power even while cutting emissions and fuel consumption thanks to the latest EfficientDynamics technologies.

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The debut of the 2016 BMW X1 comes just six years after the launch of the original model and underscores the increasingly competitive nature of a segment that barely existed when the first one hit the street. Sales of the original have already been approaching the 700,000 mark.


DriveNow Gets Tagged with Lawsuit

BMW-owned company violated wage laws, according to suit.

by on May.15, 2015

Employees from BMW's DriveNow subsidiary sued the company alleging it violated wage laws in California.

Employees of DriveNow, the electric car-sharing unit wholly owned by BMW, are suing the company for failing to meet the minimum wage and overtime laws in California.

The lawsuit claims the BMW subsidiary, which operates in the San Francisco Bay area, avoids paying minimum wage and overtime by designating workers as independent contractors, according to a Private Attorneys General Act lawsuit filed by employees in San Francisco Superior Court.

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Citing company policy, BMW spokesman David Butchko, declined to comment on the lawsuit. (more…)

New BMW 7-Series Spotted Before Autumn Unveiling

New sedan to feature remote-park, gesture control, and make extensive use of carbon fiber.

by on May.11, 2015

A leaked image of the 2017 BMW 7-Series.

Remember the BMW 7-Series? It seems like a lot of premium luxury products have slipped into the shadows since the launch of the latest-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class two years ago. And that’s something the Bavarian maker is determined to fix with the upcoming launch of an all-new 2016 BMW 7-Series later this year.

BMW is planning to give journalists a first look at the new model, codenamed G11, in August, the public having to wait until the Frankfurt Motor Show a month later. But It’s offering a teaser silhouette ahead of those previews – and the website BimmerToday has captured a side image offering even more detail.

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What’s in store for potential buyers? Among other things, expect significant improvements in handling and performance, sources suggest, while the new model will drop nearly 300 pounds, offer improved fuel economy and, quite likely, a new hypermiling plug-in hybrid. Expect also to see some significant new digital technologies, from a new gesture-controlled version of the familiar BMW iDrive to a remote-control parking system.