+++ The 2017 BMW 5 Series has been pictured for the first time in images leaked. The pictures show the front, rear and interior of the car, highlighting the design changes for the all-new model. Insiders have long insisted that the new 5 Series would be an evolutionary design given the ongoing global sales success of the previous generation model, but the pictures clearly reveal the car’s new look, most notably on the front end and interior. It appears BMW’s designers have also opted to give the car a subtley different look from the 3 Series and 7 Series in order to give it its own identity and ensure instant recognition of each individual model. A centrally-mounted touchscreen is the main new interiorfeature to be shown, and it reveals that the next-gen car will have a ‘pinch to zoom’ satallite navigation, just like the new 7 Series. The taillights have a similar design to those of the latest 3 Series, although they’re housed within a body that looks slightly more muscular than that of its smaller sibling. The 2017 5 Series is slightly larger than the outgoing car. The increases in length, width and height are small and aimed at increasing rear seat accommodation. The new car will share its body structure with the 7 Series. The structure is known internally as CLAR – ‘cluster architecture’ – and uses more aluminium for its floorpan and bulkheads than the skeleton of the outgoing F10 5 Series. There’s also more use of aluminium for castings, helping to trim weight by as much as 100 kg, despite the growth in size. Powering the new model will be a familiar choice of turbocharged four and six-cylinder engines, with a new plug-in petrol-electric powertrain joining the ranks. Lower-powered cars will use BMW’s latest B47 diesel and B48 petrol four-cylinder units – all in 2.0-litre form, like today’s F10 model. BMW’s new B57 diesel and B58 petrol six-cylinder engines will offer more power. These units use a standardised 500 cc individual cylinder capacity for an overall volume of 3.0 litres. One of the diesels will gain an additional electrically-driven turbo to improve low-down grunt, upping peak output towards 400 hp. The most potent non-M model will have a newly upgraded 450 hp 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine, first seen in the 750i. The new 5 Series will also inherit hybrid technology from the 330e, 740e and X5 xDrive40e. The hybrid system is made up of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor mounted in the gearbox and a lithium ion battery located in the boot floor. The system can run in full-electric model for more than 30 kilometers. The M5 model will use an updated version of the current car’s 4.4-litre V8 with a likely power output of more than 600 hp. The new 5 Series will go on sale next year. Its rivals will continue to be the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6 and Jaguar XF. +++

+++ GENERAL MOTORS said it would add a third shift and 650 jobs at its factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee to meet higher demand for its recently launched Cadillac XT5 and GMC Acadia crossovers. GM is finalizing details to fill positions in the current quarter, while the additional shift will be introduced in January 2017, the company said on Tuesday. There were about 3,265 hourly and salaried employees at the 6.9 million square-foot factory as of Sept. 1. Launched in April, the XT5 has become Cadillac’s best-selling model with more than 22,000 sales in the United States, and about 37,500 globally. A plant in China builds the model for that country and the Spring Hill plant makes for other markets. China is the second-biggest market for the model and Canada is third, GM said. The 2017 GMC Acadia models stay on dealer lots for an average of 19 days before they are sold, GM said, compared with an industry average of 73 days. The Acadia’s 2016 U.S. sales are down 22 percent at 58,540 through September, in large part because of the introduction of a fresh version of the crossover and the sell-down at lower volumes of the older model earlier this year, a GM spokesman said. GM said it had invested more than $2 billion at the Spring Hill factory since 2010. The plant makes the 2 vehicles and also makes engines and has a stamping operation that feeds several other GM vehicle assembly factories. The Spring Hill plant in its heyday had more than 8,000 workers and was the center of production for GM’s Saturn brand of cars and SUVs that was shuttered in 2009. Saturn was one of four brands GM shed as it went through its 2009 government-sponsored bankruptcy and restructuring. The plant made engines but not vehicles from November 2009 to September 2012. When it resumed vehicle production, it began with the Chevrolet Equinox crossover SUV. +++

+++ Consumers in JAPAN are raiding discount stores for everything from cheap shampoo to furniture. When it comes to automobiles, it’s the Rolls-Royces and BMWs that are moving off the dealer lots. Luxury imported cars costing ¥10 million ($96,500) or more surged 19 percent in the first 9 months to 13,605 units, reaching the highest proportion of imports in a decade. At the other end of the spectrum, deliveries of minicars such as the Nissan Dayz, which starts at about $11,000, have slumped 11 percent to 1.3 million units. Premium carmakers including BMW and Rolls-Royce are wagering the gains at the top end will continue by adding dealerships with flashy new showrooms. Luxury sales represent a tiny pocket of strength for Japan’s auto industry, which has grappled with a prolonged slide in interest among younger consumers in owning cars. With kei cars accounting for about 1 in 3 automobiles sold in the country, weak demand has meant industry sales are on track to shrink for a second straight year. “There’s wealth in the market”, Peter Kronschnabl, chief executive officer of BMW’s Japan unit, said in an interview. “The typical customers for cars over 10 million is a self-employed person and they are the backbone of the Japanese economy. There’s still a decent number of these businesses which are doing well”. BMW, which has nearly tripled sales of its 7-Series sedan in Japan this year, said dealers will spend about 400 million euro updating facilities through 2020. The German carmaker opened one of its largest flagship stores in Tokyo this year. Rolls-Royce has added 2 new dealerships this year and plans to open one next year, doubling its number of outlets in Japan, according to CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös. Deliveries have jumped 30 percent this year, driven by the new ¥37 million Dawn coupe. “We’ve put the additional dealer partners on stream because we’ve seen the potential”, Müller-Ötvös said in an interview in Tokyo. “There’s quite some wealth in this country and for that reason we see a lot of potential customers for Rolls-Royce”. For Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, the trend is baffling and difficult to explain. His best guesses at what might might be driving the gains: baby boomers reaching their 70s may be buying a set of wheels they long desired, or newly rich from backing tech startups. “That’s quite a unique bright spot in Japan’s consumption”, Kumano said. Shiraki Hirofumi, a 60-year-old owner of a machinery company in Mie Prefecture, may be representative of the sort of buyer that’s been driving premium car sales. While eyeing an i8 plug-in sports car at BMW’s new showroom in Tokyo’s Odaiba district, Hirofumi said he’s budgeting about ¥10 million for a new car to add to his Audi and Lexus. “Design matters most to me”, said Hirofumi, who added that his business was doing well. “I may just drive off the dealer today if I found the model I like”. By contrast, deliveries of kei cars, with engines no bigger than 0.66 liters, may drop by about 8 percent this year, according to a forecast by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. The optimism behind the group’s initial projection for an 8.7 percent gain soon evaporated after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe postponed an increase in the sales tax to 2019, which was expected to have encouraged consumers to buy new vehicles. “Consumption by the mass market remains weak, while rich people on top of the pyramid continue to be rich”, said Zhou Jincheng, a Nagoya-based analyst at automotive market researcher Fourin Inc. “When you buy a car at ¥1 million, price is a key factor and every yen counts. When you are rich enough to buy a ¥10 million car, price probably isn’t the first thing you consider”. +++

+++ Self-driving technology promises to pretty much transform the auto industry as we know it. It may also change the business of selling MOTORCYCLES – but in a very different way. It all comes down to safety, according to Karl Viktor Schaller, head of development at BMW Motorrad. When robots are at the wheel, far fewer bikers will die on the road, which won’t be lost on all those people who pine for a motorcycle but have always been too scared to buy one. “It would mean a dramatic enhancement in safety for the motorbike”, Schaller said. “And it would guarantee a wider user group”. The math is as straightforward as it is compelling. Consider a left turn on an American road: A vehicle turning across a lane of opposing traffic has little to do with the bike rider, but is one of the most dangerous things in motorcycling. When motorcyclists die on the road, this is how it happens one out of five times, according to crash statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This year, about 1,000 riders in the U.S. will lose their lives to the left turns of others. Cars traveling in the same direction as the motorcycle often don’t notice the bike overtaking on the left. Cars making a turn while coming from the opposite direction either fail to see the oncoming bike, or misjudge its speed. Robot cars, in theory, won’t make either of these mistakes. At first, they will be able to “see” the motorcycle with sensors or radar and either alert the driver or actively prevent the vehicle from cutting off the bike. But that’s just the beginning. Eventually, motorcycles will “talk” to all of the other vehicles on the road, constantly reminding them where they are, where they are heading, and at what speed. “We can use that to build an electronic safety cage around a motorbike”, BMW’s Schaller said. Once every aspiring biker realizes that the driver next to him isn’t an existential threat, sales will climb in some places. Xavier Mosquet, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group, said the bike boost will be most pronounced in markets such as the U.S., where people ride for fun, and in China and India, where many choose motorbikes because they are relatively inexpensive transportation. Conversely, in such places as Europe. where motorcycles are often the best way to avoid traffic, self-driving cars may actually dent sales, according to Mosquet. If all goes as planned, there will be fewer tie-ups or accidents, less rubbernecking, and thus less to be gained by jumping on a bike and splitting lanes of standstill traffic. “I think it’s going to depend on the motivation and the location”, Mosquet said. Nevertheless, for motorcycles and the companies that make them, self-driving cars can’t come soon enough. Fatalities for U.S. drivers have surged in the past 18 months: Last year, traffic deaths in the U.S. climbed by 7.2 percent, the largest uptick since 1966. Fatalities were up by a further 10.4 percent in the first half of this year. NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind called the increase in driving deaths “an immediate crisis”, A disproportionate number of these fatalities are motorcycle riders, as revealed by one shocking statistic: While bikers account for less than 1 percent of vehicle miles traveled in the U.S., motorcyclists suffered 14.2 percent of all traffic deaths in 2015. The biggest problem is that Americans are driving more, thanks to a bullish labor market and cheap gas. But even on a per-mile basis, the death rates are alarming. NHTSA said the culprit is an influx of younger drivers who are both inexperienced and more inclined to be reckless1. Distraction is a problem as well. An estimated one in 10 fatal crashes is caused by not watching the road, though the real number could be far higher than the data suggest. One NHTSA official who requested anonymity said distraction is difficult to measure after the fact, unlike blood-alcohol levels. But the proliferation of smartphone technology and texting has often been cited as a potential cause. It’s hoped that autonomous cars will reduce these terrible numbers. And if these self-driving cars embolden a new wave of easy riders, they’ll start showing up soon. Mark Reuss, product development chief at General Motors, said new cars will be “mostly in charge” of driving by 2020 and fully in control by 2025. Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has a similar forecast: he thinks half of all cars made in 2022 or 2023 will be fully autonomous. Self-driving motorcycles, meanwhile, may be farther off. Yamaha, which is developing a bike-riding cyborg dubbed Motobot, estimates they will lag self-driving cars by at least a decade. But autonomous features will help motorcycle riders far sooner: BMW envisions a suite of systems that map the road ahead and alert the rider to curves and conditions. If the bike calculates that it is going too fast for upcoming terrain, it can warn its pilot. The trade-off for cars getting safer is that it may make riding in them dull. But biking will be safer while remaining fun. Driving a motorcycle will be, well, driving. Riding in a car will largely be about checking e-mail and catching up on Game of Thrones. “We are not about going from A to B”, Schaller said. “Motorbikes are about going from A to A. Our business is pleasure”. +++

+++ NISSAN has retired the 24-kWh Leaf, retiring the long-serving battery just one year after introducing the 30-kWh edition. “We have made a running change to the 2016 Leaf model to equip it with 30-kwh battery packs as standard equipment, offering best-in-class range across all trim levels for Leaf”, the company said in a statement to Green Car Reports. The 30-kWh edition boasts an EPA-rated range of 170 kilometers on a single charge, providing an extra 35 kilometers compared to the 24-kWh edition. The Leaf has been struggling to maintain sales momentum this year. Deliveries in the first nine months of the year collapsed by more than 32 percent compared to the same period last year. Rumors suggest Nissan is working on a significant upgrade that will give the Leaf more than 320 kilometers of electric range, on par with incoming rivals such as the Opel Ampera-E and Tesla Model 3. +++

+++ TOYOTA and Suzuki said they have agreed to start talks on a business tie-up, eyeing cooperation in areas such as the development of new safety and environmentally friendly technologies. Toyota, Japan’s largest automaker, and Suzuki, the fourth-biggest, said the tie-up under consideration will be open to other companies and is expected to lead to technological standardization in the industry: the latest sign of the consolidation of Japan’s auto sector to survive intensifying global competition. The move comes after Nissan, the country’s second-largest carmaker, decided in May to take a 34 percent stake in Mitsubishi Motors, which was stung by a fuel economy data manipulation scandal. The deal effectively puts Mitsubishi, Japan’s sixth-biggest automaker, under the wing of Nissan. The announcement comes after Toyota, the world’s largest automaker by vehicle sales in 2015, recently completed a buy-out of its minivehicle subsidiary, Daihatsu. Suzuki is Japan’s fourth-largest automaker and specializes in minivehicles. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN may cut up to 2,500 jobs per year over 10 years by moving workers into early retirement, says Bernd Osterloh, chief of the carmaker’s influential works council. Top management and labor leaders are locked in “tough” talks on future strategy and cost savings at the troubled Volkswagen brand, Osterloh said in an interview. Labor leaders, who hold about half the seats on Volkswagen ’s supervisory board, are seeking to avert outright dismissals at Europe’s largest automaker and instead back voluntary steps to reduce headcount via early retirements. “The jobs of Volkswagen workers are safe”, Osterloh was quoted as saying. Volkswagen, grappling with the impact of its diesel emissions scandal, will also need to hire new staff in software development and mobility services, Osterloh said, without disclosing details. +++

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