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+++ BMW is to start up a new division that will advise companies on their branding, according to the company’s head of future retail and premium retail experience, Michele Fuhs. Brands such as Lufthansa and other third parties would benefit from the consultations, and Fuhs said even competitor brands could use the consultation service, although he added that dealings with rivals would be restricted to only those that would be beneficial or neutral to BMW’s strategy. Fuhs highlighted the weaknesses in current strategies to boost digital operations. “Digital is not the answer to solve missing customer satisfaction”, he said. The sub-brand, the name of which hasn’t yet been revealed, would work with companies to create stronger brand identities. The idea came about after Fuhs toyed with the idea of a BMW hotel. Fuhs did not say whether the division would be an in-house operation akin to the M and i sub-brands, or a more independent set-up. Fuhs also distanced the project from the term ‘consultancy’, although did not give an alternative term as to what the company’s role would be. A BMW spokesman said it was too early to know exactly what the division’s operations would entail. +++

+++ JAGUAR has confirmed that it will bring a selection of plug-in hybrid models to the market before the all-electric I-Pace hits the streets in 2018. Jaguar global product and strategy executive, Finbar McFall, said that half of Jaguar Land Rover models will offer some form of electrification by 2020. “We will have plug-in hybrids very soon, even ahead of the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace. What we will soon have across the Jaguar Land Rover range, is a selection of plug-in hybrids, as well as more efficient petrol and diesel engines”, he said. Although it isn’t clear what model will receive an electrified option first, Jaguar is wasting no time adopting alternative powertrains, convinced that electric vehicles will soon account for a significant proportion of its sales. In fact, technical design director at Jaguar Land Rover, Wolfgang Ziebart, believes that by 2025, about 20 per cent of new car registrations will be for electric vehicles in markets like the U.S., China, Europe and Japan. +++

+++ LAMBORGHINI is apparently planning to launch a revised version of the Aventador, this according to a trademark application. Filed with the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office is an application is for the name Aventador S. The name would suggest not another version of the twelve-cylinder supercar to sit alongside the existing ones, but rather a facelifted model to replace it. Expect revised bodywork, an upgraded cockpit, revised electronics, and perhaps most enticing of all, a bump in output (an extra 20-40 horsepower). We’d likely, then, be looking at about 720-740 metric horses, bringing the “base” model up to the output of the LP720-4 50th anniversary edition or even approaching that of the LP750-4 SuperVeloce or the 770-ps Centenario special. With the Paris show already behind us, we could be looking at a debut for the Aventador S at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show next spring. After that, we can expect an updated roadster to follow, and maybe an even more potent SV flagship. The update to the Aventador introduced in 2011 would give the model a new lease on life for another few years. The preceding Murcielago remained in production for over 9 years, the Diablo before it for 11, and the Countach for nearly 16 years. +++

+++ MINI is set to launch a new high-performance JCW GP version of its 3-door hatchback. The model has appeared in the first 2 generations of new Mini under BMW ownership, and company boss Peter Schwarzenbauer confirmed the model was likely to appear again. “I think so”, he said, when asked whether a JCW GP would be launched. “It’s an important part of the Mini brand. It has worked well for us in the past and I don’t see why not in the future”. The previous 2013 JCW GP was a serious performance machine, with a stripped out interior that replaced the rear seats with a thick strut brace, adjustable coil over suspension, and a significant boost in power, braking performance, and a more hardcore chassis tune. Expect a similar recipe for the new model, but don’t expect to see it until towards the end of the decade, because the model has always acted as a run-out model for a Mini range and the current generation of the hatchback will be in production until at least 2020. +++

+++ The next-generation OPEL Corsa will offer more interior space when it arrives in 2018, as well as gaining technology from the new Astra. Spy photographers have spotted a five-door hatchback running for the first time. The development car’s heavy camouflaging hides smaller details, but it looks as though the front grille has been raised and made slimmer, likely giving it a look similar to that of the new Astra. There’s a bar across the middle of the grille, which will presumably be a chrome strip with the Opel badge in the middle. The car’s headlights are also well covered, but the outline of a more aggressive design can be seen, suggesting the Corsa will get an angrier face. The front wheels of this development car sit significantly closer to the front than the current production model, suggesting both axles of the 2018 Corsa will be pushed out into the corners in a bid to increase cabin space. However, the car’s bonnet looks shorter than that of the current Corsa, meaning overall dimensions might not change that much. At the back, the outline of slimmer tail-lights can be seen, but covers prevent any other design details from being seen at this stage. Inside, the Corsa will follow the lead of Opel’s other models and feel more premium with more flashy and decorative foils on the dash and door covers. The touchscreen infotainment system will likely use software first featured in the Astra and it’ll come with optional Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. All variants of the new Corsa will be built upon a smaller version of the new Astra’s underpinnings, meaning both the hatchback and saloon will benefit from significant weight savings over the predecessors. Engines will likely be a familiar lineup of turbocharged three and four-cylinder units, with the fastest GSI model making use of a 1.5-litre turbo producing 165 hp. +++

+++ PORSCHE is swearing off a potential self-driving sports car but is open to the prospect of adopting some levels of autonomy in its next-generation range of vehicles. Porsche chief executive Oliver Blume said that future Porsche models will be manually driven, sticking to the German company’s core DNA. “When you buy a Porsche, you will drive it yourself, full stop. At the moment we do not think about a full version of robotic driving, we are thinking about features to combine with the real Porsche genes, so at the end you still have a real Porsche. For example, when you are going to work in the morning and you are in a traffic jam, there is a possibility to read the newspaper. When you go to a restaurant and you cannot find somewhere to park, the car will find somewhere to park itself and then fetch you after you leave the restaurant”, Blume said. While Porsche is shunning fully autonomous vehicles, Blume reiterated that the brand will embrace electrification. This will start with the all-electric Mission E and then an expanded range of hybrid models. “The headline is that the customer will have the opportunity to drive sports cars with a combustion engine, as well as new modern cars with electric engines and a lot of digitization but also all of the Porsche features”, he said. +++

+++ The SUBARU Tribeca, the Japanese brand’s seven-seat SUV, appears set for a return in 2017 to take on the likes of the Mazda CX-9. However, it could bypass Australia altogether. The reason? Its likely low production volume and the fact it won’t be built in Japan mean a right-hand-drive version of the full-sized three-row crossover due in 2018 is unlikely to ever pay its way. According to Subaru, the next-generation Tribeca’s likely sole source of production – Lafayette, Indiana – and the low volumes and high costs associated with making the engineering changes to suit markets such as Australia both count against it. “We have no idea if it is going to be built in right-hand drive for the Australian market”, Takeshi Tachimori, Fuji Heavy Industries’ corporate executive vice-president, said. “You must understand we do 600,000 units in the USA plus another 50,000 units in Canada, while in Australia it’s just 50,000 annually. So developing right-hand drive … we are not sure if it is viable. There are no immediate plans for right-hand drive”. That’s a shame, because the Subaru Viziv 7 concept vehicle shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show seems to right all the wrongs of the B9 Tribeca sold in Australia for about 7 years from 2006. (Before you get too confused about the concept’s name, ‘Viziv 7′ stands for “Vision Innovative 7-seater’ – that’s just what the show-car is called; the 2018 production version’s name remains a tightly held secret). Key differences are dimensional; the Viziv 7 is significantly larger and wider than the Tribeca, coming in at 5.200 mm long (against 4.864 mm), 2.030 mm wide (1.877 mm) and 1.860 mm tall (versus 1.687 mm). The wheelbase is a whopping 2.990 mm, compared to 2.748 mm. Cabin space, naturally, is the welcome upshot, addressing the Tribeca’s tight third row seats and lack of luggage capacity. Interestingly, the production Viziv 7 will be built on the all-new (and much improved) 2017 Subaru Impreza’s platform, so expect to see a variety of horizontally opposed four-cylinder turbo petrol engines. Whether there will also be a ‘boxer’ six remains to be seen. This new architecture was engineered for electrification, so we’ll be betting our bottom dollar that a petrol-electric hybrid is also in the works. The extra interior space and drivelines all adhere to Subaru’s “enjoyment and peace of mind” philosophy behind its next-gen seven-seater family hauler. “The concept expresses our core brand values; safety, dependability, capability for outdoor activities and a forward looking attitude”, Tachimori said. “We know customers in this segment want a full-sized vehicle, and the next 3-row from Subaru will be the biggest Subaru vehicle ever”. +++

+++ On Sept. 2 the conservative web magazine the Federalist published an article titled “Elon Musk Continues to Blow Up Taxpayer Money With Falcon 9”. The author was identified as Shepard Stewart. 2 days earlier, the Stewart byline appeared on a piece on the Libertarian Republic website called “Here’s How Elon Musk Stole $5 Billion in Taxpayer Dollars”. 2 days before that, the Liberty Conservative site carried a Stewart article headlined “Elon Musk: Faux Free Marketeer and National Disgrace”. Funny thing, though: Shepard Stewart isn’t a real person. “Definitely a fake,” says Gavin Wax, editor-in-chief of the Liberty Conservative. A chagrined Wax says the “Stewart” character “went totally dark on us after we published him”. Wax discovered that a photograph “Stewart” uses online appears to be an altered version of a former Twitter executive’s LinkedIn headshot. Musk attracts an unusually large and varied number of shrouded online attacks, including phony op-ed pieces, websites with shadowy backers, and individuals who hide behind aliases. “These are tools used by those who don’t have facts on their side”, says Sarah O’Brien, a spokeswoman for TESLA, the electric car maker Musk co-founded and runs. The Liberty Conservative has taken down its Stewart article, as has the Libertarian Republic. The Federalist site still has its piece up. Editors with the latter two didn’t respond to e-mails and phone calls seeking comment. Musk inspires strong admiration and criticism for his industry-disrupting companies: Tesla; SolarCity, a solar panel installer he co-founded; and Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, a rocket company he founded and heads. On Nov. 17 shareholders approved Tesla’s $2 billion acquisition of SolarCity. These diverse business interests mean Musk has numerous rivals. “It seems like he’s got a lot of people who don’t like him”, says Brian Walsh, a partner with Rokk Solutions, a Washington, D.C., communications firm. Walsh ticks off coal companies and utilities uneasy about SolarCity and automakers and dealers concerned about Tesla. This spring, Walsh’s firm worked for United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and helped persuade Congress to let ULA buy Russian-made rocket engines, over SpaceX’s objections. During the lobbying fight, a website called Who Is Elon Musk? maintained a steady drumbeat of criticism of SpaceX, as well as Musk’s other companies. A video on the site, titled American Swindler: The Elon Musk Story, accuses him of “lining the pockets of Democratic and Republican politicians with millions of dollars in donations”. (Musk has given about $515,000 to politicians and political groups since 2003, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group). “That’s not us”, Walsh says of the website. “I don’t know who it is”. A United Launch spokeswoman says, “It would be inappropriate for ULA to comment on a site not related to our company or industry”. The site identifies its sponsor as the Center for Business and Responsible Government, “a nonpartisan organization dedicated to highlighting cronyism and its effects on American taxpayers and policy”. But there’s no trace of the center anywhere online or in the brick-and-mortar world. A similar website called Stop Elon From Failing Again lists its sponsor as a conservative advocacy group called Citizens for the Republic. Diana Banister, a PR executive who serves as CFTR’s executive director, says the site singles out Musk because “he is the epitome of a businessman who gets subsidy after subsidy he doesn’t need”. It’s impossible to tell who’s ultimately paying for CFTR’s campaign against Musk, as the organization is a so-called 501(c)(4) social welfare group, which under federal law doesn’t have to disclose its supporters. Banister says contributors to CFTR are “small donors, mostly” and “nothing competitive with” Musk. Asked whether oil companies antagonistic toward Tesla might be behind the website, Banister says: “We reached out to them for donations, but they haven’t responded”. One online antagonist allegedly tried the bizarre approach of impersonating Musk in pursuit of inside information about Tesla. On Aug. 3, Tesla’s chief financial officer, Jason Wheeler, received an e-mail from ElonTesla@yahoo.com requesting more detailed nonpublic data than had been released earlier that day when the company disclosed its second-quarter results. After some digital sleuthing, Tesla filed suit in September in California state court against Todd Katz, a longtime online critic of Tesla’s financial management who admits to using the aliases Elon Madoff and Enron Musk. Katz worked as CFO for Quest Integrity, an oil industry service company. He was part of an effort by the fossil fuel business to undermine the electric car company’s push for cleaner transportation, Tesla alleged. Without admitting or denying he’d sent the e-mail, Katz, who’s left his job at Quest, said in court papers that Tesla’s suit should be dismissed because the message in question was too “goofy” to be believed. In counterclaims, Katz accused Tesla of unlawfully hacking his Twitter account to “publicly embarrass and silence him, and discourage other critics”. Another online critic of Tesla’s, who posts under the name Keef Leech and Keef Wivaneff (“with-an-f”), is actually Australian Keith Leech, a retired computer engineer who says he’s “a bit of an obsessive”. He’s spent more than a year collecting photos of crashed Teslas from junkyards that he says show evidence of a defective suspension system. He says he’s filed about 100 complaints based on the photos with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. On the Tesla Bears Club, a site for short sellers, Leech has posted a “Tesla Hall of Shame” compiling his NHTSA complaints. He says he recently bought Tesla puts, another way to bet on a company’s stock dropping. Leech says he’s never driven a Tesla. On June 8, an auto site called the Daily Kanban reported on the suspension complaints, igniting broader coverage. On June 10, NHTSA said it was conducting a routine “review” and to date hadn’t identified any safety issue with Tesla suspensions”. Musk said on Twitter that most of the NHTSA complaints were “fraudulent” and that “one or more people sought to create the false impression of a safety issue”. Tesla’s stock dropped 7 percent on June 9 and June 10. Spokesman Bryan Thomas says NHTSA doesn’t have anything new to say about the Model S suspensions. Leech, who continues to file Tesla complaints, also insists that SpaceX’s success in landing rockets back on earth is a hoax, videos of the landings notwithstanding. “People tell me I shouldn’t talk about the fake rockets,” he says, “because it makes me sound crazy”. +++

+++ By focusing on re-positioning the brand across various regions and segments, as well as on making huge investments in e-mobility and connectivity, VOLKSWAGEN hopes to get people back on their side. In fact, the brand’s new vision is – “Volkswagen: Moving People Forward”, which the German automaker is looking to do with the help of their Transform 2025+ program, thus seeing themselves return to a sustainable, profitable growth. “Our goals are high and our strategy is very ambitious”, said Volkswagen CEO Dr Herbert Diess. “We want to benefit from change and to take Volkswagen into the lead in the new automobile industry with determination. Over the next few years, Volkswagen will change radically. Very few things will stay as they are. In the final resort, the new strategy is a major transformation program”. The brand’s reorientation will take place in 3 phases. Phase 1, leading up to 2020, will see Volkswagen restructure their core business while also developing new competences. In Phase 2, up to 2025, has the automaker taking the lead in e-mobility as long as it can regain strength as a leading and profitable volume manufacturer. The final phase will include the brand playing a key role in shaping this major transformation in the industry, which is expected to take place after the year 2025 and leading into 2030. “From 2020, we will be launching our major e-mobility offensive. As a volume manufacturer, we intend to play a key role in the breakthrough of the electric car. We are not aiming for niche products but for the heart of the automobile market. By 2025, we want to sell a million electric cars per year and to be the world market leader in e-mobility. Our future electric cars will be the new trademark of Volkswagen”, added the brand CEO. In terms of connectivity, Volkswagen expects to have about 80 million active users throughout the world by the year 2025 – with sales revenue from services related to networked vehicles estimated to reach about 1 billion euro per year within the same period. In North America, Volkswagen plans on focusing on large SUVs and sedans, two segments that will be greatly expanded according to Diess. In a second stage, the automaker will take their new electric vehicles to the US, with local production of MEB cars to start from 2021. As for China, Volkswagen will start an SUV offensive followed by quickly launching multiple electric vehicles. In other major markets such as India, South America and Russia, they will push to further develop the economy segment. +++

+++ VOLVO has confirmed that following its 2015 buyout of Polestar, the performance brand will work its magic on the Swedish automaker’s future range of electrified vehicles. According to Volvo Cars North America president and chief executive Lex Kerssemakers, Polestar’s racing expertise will allow it to create some very exciting electrified models. “We’re still in the stage of realising how we can leverage Polestar as a marketing tool and what type of cycle plan will launch with it. We know it will be about performance cars but they should reflect what we stand for from a drivetrain perspective. So, electrification will play an extremely important role in future when we talk about Polestar cars”, Kerssemakers told. The executive went on to say that while its Polestar division could be viewed in a similar vein to BMW M and Mercedes-AMG, he said it focus won’t be on creating the craziest performance and racing cars and rather ones while are “useable day in and day out”. Recently, Polestar revealed its Performance Package for both the Volvo S90 and V90, similar to the M Performance parts offered by its German rival. ‘True’ Polestar models currently include the potent S60 and V60. +++

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