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BMW Adds New M Performance Versions of X5, X7

BMW expands its SAV range,

by on May.22, 2019

The all-new BMW X7 gets a high-performance boost with the debut of the M50i edition.

With more and more motorists switching from passenger cars to SUVs and CUVs, it’s no surprise that we’re beginning to see manufacturers not only expand their utility vehicle line-up but also add more performance variants.

BMW has been a leader in this trend and it’s muscling up its performance family with today’s debut of two new M Performance variants based on the latest X5 and all-new X7 “Sport Activity Vehicles.” Both new models will go into production in August at the BMW plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and reach showrooms soon after.

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Both the M Performance X5 and X7 will share the same powertrain, the latest version of BMW’s 4.4-liter Twinpower Turbo V-8. Paired with an 8-speed automatic gearbox, the engine pours out 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque.

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Tesla Takes Another Slap as Consumer Reports Faults Latest Autopilot Update

Latest update called “far less competent than a human driver.”

by on May.22, 2019

Consumer Reports criticized the performance of Tesla's latest version of Autopilot.

It has been a tough few weeks for Tesla, the California electric carmaker watching its stock plummet in the wake of a sales slowdown, mounting losses and a report from the National Transportation Safety Board blaming the company’s Autopilot system for a fatal crash last March. Now, Consumer Reports is adding to Tesla’s grief.

CEO Elon Musk has spotlighted Autopilot as one of Tesla’s crown jewels, boasting about its increasingly hands-free capabilities, the latest being the ability to change lanes automatically. But the non-profit publication isn’t convinced, warning in a news release that “the latest version … is far less competent than a human driver.”

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“The system’s role should be to help the driver, but the way this technology is deployed it’s the other way around,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ senior director of auto testing. “It’s incredibly nearsighted. It doesn’t appear to react to brake lights or turn signals, it can’t anticipate what other drivers will do, and as a result, you constantly have to be one step ahead of it.” (more…)

General Motors’ Maven Car-Sharing Service Exiting 8 of 17 N. American Markets

Automaker planning to focus on “markets in which we have strongest…potential.”

by on May.22, 2019

GM's mobility service, Maven, cut services in eight cities around the country.

General Motors plans to pull its Maven car-sharing service out of eight cities in North America, including Boston and Chicago, while continuing to focus on markets with stronger demand, including Toronto, Los Angeles and GM’s home in Detroit.

The move comes just months after Ford Motor Co., which has tried to reposition itself as a “mobility” company, rather than an automaker, pulled the plug on Chariot, a service struggling to find a niche between ride-sharing and van shuttles.

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GM declined to explain why it decided to trim back Maven but said in a statement that, “We’re shifting Maven’s offerings to concentrate on markets in which we have the strongest current demand and growth potential.” (more…)

Aston Martin Set to Launch Latest James Bond Special Edition

The special version of the Aston Superleggara DBS celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the stranger of the Bond flicks.

by on May.22, 2019

James Bond fans can get a special edition of the Aston Martin DBS OHMSS Superleggara to satisfy their super spy fancy.

There are legions of 007 fans. But only a select few will be able to afford to share the special bond, James Bond, between the superspy and his ever-changing collection of cars.

Real aficionados know that in the original Ian Fleming novels, 007 drove a 1930 Bentley. But from the beginning, and in all but a handful of the Bond films to date, his car of choice has been an Aston Martin. The British brand is marking the 50th anniversary of one of the oddest films in the series, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” by rolling out a unique version of the new Superleggara DBS.

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If you’re planning to play trivial pursuit, the question might go this way: “Who was the only actor to do a single, and almost universally panned take on 007?” The answer is George Lazenby, who had his brief opportunity to drink a martini stirred, not shaken, in this 1969 adventure. (more…)

Could Tesla’s High-Flying Ride on Wall Street be Ready to Come Crashing Down?

Shares head towards $200 for first time since 2016, as key analyst warns $10 is possible.

by on May.21, 2019

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has plenty to worry about as investors turn bearish on its stock.

After sliding to its lowest level since December 2016 on five days of losses, Tesla stock fell to its lowest level in nearly 30 months, at just above $200 — and one key analyst, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas, warns Tesla could see the stock plunge to just $10 a share.

Not much has gone right for the California automotive upstart in recent months, starting with word that first-quarter sales had fallen well short of expectations. Its unexpectedly deep, $702 million loss for the quarter didn’t help. And the situation only grew worse when CEO Elon Musk last week ordered a “hardcore” belt-tightening covering “literally every payment that leaves our bank account.” Then, the National Transportation Safety Board weighed in, blaming a fatal March 2018 crash on Tesla’s much-ballyhooed Autopilot system.

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Even where the automaker appeared to pull off a coup, topping substantially what it had expected to raise with last month’s combination of stock and debt offerings, Musk told employees in an e-mail, that the $2.7 billion Tesla brought in “actually only gives us about 10 months at the Q1 burn rate to achieve breakeven!”

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F1 Legend Niki Lauda Dead at 70

“It was the most courageous thing I ever witnessed in sport.”

by on May.21, 2019

Few expected Niki Lauda to survive his crash at the Nurburgring on Aug. 1, 1976.

He was born to be a banker, like the rest of his patrician, Austrian family. So, when Niki Lauda asked his grandfather for the financial help he needed to land a ride on the Formula One circuit, he was cut off. Lauda eventually found a way to raise the money on his own, lining up a loan against his life insurance policy.

It was a risky bet, but Niki Lauda’s life was an ongoing gamble, whether on the track or in business, something that became all too apparent during a crucial race at Germany’s Nurburgring on August 1, 1976. Ironically, he had called for a boycott just a week before because of the lack of safety features on the winding course. But when the green flag dropped, Andreas Nikolaus Lauda was positioned at the front of the pack, despite a blinding downpour, determined to grab the lead against his F1 arch-rival James Hunt.

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On the second lap, Lauda’s Ferrari spun out, hit an embankment and burst into flames. Trapped in the car, his borrowed helmet having slipped off, Lauda suffered massive burns that few thought he’d be able to survive. After slipping into a coma, a priest delivered last rites. Yet, somehow, Lauda pulled through, though the injuries were severe, the fire burning off most of his right ear and hair, as well as his eyelids, while searing his lungs.

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Mercedes’ Electric, Semi-Autonomous ESF 2019 Concept Debuts Over a Dozen Potential Safety Breakthroughs

Even autonomous vehicles will occasionally crash.

by on May.20, 2019

Mercedes-Benz is rolling out its ESF 2019 to show off the semi-autonomous concept car.

The new Mercedes-Benz ESF 2019 started life out as just another midsize crossover, but the familiar GLE has undergone an array of modifications that could significantly improve the safety of passengers and pedestrians, the German automaker says.

These include changes to airbags, seatbelts and a child safety seat meant to make them more effective in a crash, as well as a steering wheel and pedals that retract when the ESF is operating in autonomous mode, and even an outside communications system meant to signal pedestrians and bicyclists what the vehicle is going to do next. There’s even a built-in robot that pops out of the back of the vehicle to warn oncoming traffic in the event of a crash.

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Some of the more than a dozen different innovations “are very close to series production,” said Ola Kallenius, the Daimler AG Executive Board member overseeing Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, though others “look well into the future.” (more…)

Ford Cutting 500 Salaried Jobs in US, 7,000 Globally

Reduction in force expected to save $600 million annually.

by on May.20, 2019

Ford CEO Jim Hackett is implementing his plan to improve the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker's profitability.

Ford Motor Co. will today notify 500 white-collar workers in its North American operations that their jobs are being eliminated, the move part of a broader cutback that will see 7,000 salaried positions eliminated worldwide, including 1,500 former employees who voluntarily separated from the company in 2018.

While most of the focus is on Europe and other markets where Ford has been struggling, as many as 800 U.S. workers could lose their jobs before the end of this year. Coming to about 10% of the automaker’s white-collar workforce, the cutbacks are part of a broader, $11.5 billion global “Smart Redesign” that Ford CEO Jim Hackett announced last year.

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“Within that total, and consistent with our goal to reduce bureaucracy, we will have reduced management structure by close to 20%,” CEO Hackett said in a note sent to employees late Monday. “This will result in annual savings of about $600 million.” (more…)

Another Automaker Abandons the V-8

Genesis will drop Tau V-8 when new G80 debuts this autumn.

by on May.20, 2019

The next version of the Genesis G80 will come to market without its familiar Tau V-8.

Way back in the late 1970s, when twin oil shocks and the then-new Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandate forced automakers to start focusing on energy efficiency, conventional wisdom had it that the V-8 would soon vanish. It didn’t quite work out that way and the engine of choice for many performance and heavy-duty vehicles has remained surprisingly robust.

But as global emissions and mileage regulations continue to tighten, the V-8 appears, once again, to be an endangered species, and the Hyundai Motor Group is the latest getting ready to throw in the towel.

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The Korean carmaker’s luxury brand Genesis plans to abandon its 5.0-liter Tau V-8 when it rolls out new versions of its two biggest sedans, according to the marque’s CEO. That phase-out will begin later this year with the launch of a new version of the G80.

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VW Unleashes Seven Sport Concepts at Southern Worthersee

SOWO show cars highlight options for both performance and off-road fans.

by on May.17, 2019

VW shows off its SOWO "enthusiast fleet."

Volkswagen has long had a history of rolling out some of its most creative niche products and concept cars at the annual Worthersee gathering in Austria. It has expanded that tradition by adding what it calls the SOWO event on Hutchinson Island in Savannah, Georgia.

Short for “Southern Worthersee,” the big gathering aims to entice VW fans this time around with seven concept vehicles featuring what it calls “sport performance add-ons and visual enhancements.”

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Considering the shift in global markets, and especially the U.S., from sedans, coupes and hatchbacks to SUVs, CUVs and other light trucks, it should surprise no one that this year’s crop of concepts includes versions of the latest Tiguan and Atlas crossover-utility vehicles. But Volkswagen traditionalists shouldn’t be disappointed, either, the automaker rolling out customized versions of the Golf, Jetta and new Arteon, as well. (more…)

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