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+++ While rivals Mercedes-AMG and Audi Sport have done just that, with the SLS AMG, AMG GT and R8 respectively, BMW ’s M Division has no intention of creating a sports car of its own in what would be a first since the 1981 M1 supercar. According to BMW Group director of sales and marketing, Ian Roberston, BMW M is simply too busy to develop and produce its own model. “We have no plan for a standalone M car, like Audi or AMG. M is simply too busy. If you look at M and the work it has done, a lot of the development has been with M Performance, and it’s the same with i and the plug-in hybrids over pure electric vehicles”, Robertson confirmed. According to the BMW executive, M did ponder creating its own sports car but the automaker ultimately decided to create a halo model for its i range in the form of the i8. “I was clear with my mind that if we were bringing in an i8, we should not have another one based on it or competing with it from M. The i8 is a completely new interpretation of sports cars. We should never confuse that”, he noted. +++

+++ For the first time since 2010, FIAT CHRYSLER Automobiles (FCA) will not hold a press reveal for a new or facelifted vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show, choosing instead to hold their press conference at CES. FCA could also use this opportunity to update their self-driving Pacifica minivans, which makes more sense as a CES reveal since the consumer-oriented show in Las Vegas is the place to be for automotive innovation. Ford will also use CES this year to reveal their updates to their infotainment systems and autonomous driving developments, though without confirmation from an FCA spokesperson, we can only speculate whether or not they will use a similar strategy. Coinciding with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ confirmation that it would skip the Detroit auto show in favor of a product unveiling at CES, rumors suggest the mystery model could be a new EV. Unnamed sources tell the company will debut an all-electric version of its Pacifica minivan. An electric Maserati car is also said to be in the works, however it is unclear if the luxury EV will also debut at CES. The company is currently preparing to launch its Pacifica plug-in hybrid, which integrates a 16-kWh battery under the second seating row with an electric range of 50 miles. The minivan also aims to demonstrate advanced autonomous technology via a partnership with Google. Early spy shots of the Pacifica hybrid were initially interpreted as an all-electric minivan. If the latest reports are true, it is unclear if an EV is targeting volume production or simply heading to California as an emissions compliance vehicle with limited distribution. More details could surface in the coming weeks. The Consumer Electronics Show begins media events on Tuesday, January 3. +++

+++ The previous generation FORD Galaxy clocked in its third consecutive month as the UK’s fastest-selling car in November. This diesel-powered automatic 2012 people hauler needed just 19 days to find a customer in what is generally considered to be a poor month for used car sales. The Galaxy was also the UK’s number one seller in October (average of 11 days) and September (12 days), making it the first car to rack up 3 consecutive months. Generally speaking, models carrying the Blue Oval have proved to be in high demand with buyers across the UK. The Fiesta in particular ranked first in the South West and took the top three spots in Wales. This popular supermini has stood as the UK’s best-selling new car since 2008 and it’s currently still going strong as a pre-owned vehicle. While the 2014 Ford Fiesta proved to be a fastest-seller in the South West (36 days), regionally-speaking, the 2012 Galaxy did even better in London needing just 8 days to sell. The 2013 Focus was the fastest-seller in the North East (25 days), while the 2015 Focus topped the charts in Northern Ireland (22 days). Finally, the 2013 Kuga SUV diesel automatic threw its name in the ring by conquering the South East, needing just 22 days to sell on average. +++

+++ Together with local partners from Dongfeng, HONDA will open a new production facility in China to meet the increasing demand for its vehicles. The facility will be built on a 1.2 million square-meter plot acquired, which is located approximately 8 km southeast of their first factory within the Wuhan Economic & Technological Development District. Following a 3 billion yuan ($435 million) injection, it will have an annual production capacity of 120,000 units, by the time it will become operational in 2019. Honda has yet to announce what cars will be put together in the new plant, but states that it will be designed with a concept to accommodate production of electrified vehicles, as these are expected to face an increased demand in the People’s Republic, over the next few years. With the addition of the latest factory, the joint venture’s overall annual production capacity will increase to 600,000 units. “Honda sales in China is going strong and annual unit sales for 2016 is expected to reach 1.2 million units. The Chinese market has potential for further development and growth. In order to continue meeting such strong demand, Honda will introduce its highly attractive products equipped with leading-edge technologies to the Chinese market ahead of other markets around the world and deliver joys to our customers here in China”, said President, Chief Executive Officer and Representative Director of Honda Motor Co, Takahiro Hachigo. +++

+++ MAZDA has doused cold water on hopes for a rotary-powered successor to the RX-7 and RX-8. Speaking to Automotive News in an interview, CEO Masamichi Kogai said Mazda will not launch another rotary engine if it will be ‘short lived’ due to fuel efficiency constraints. “We need it to meet future emissions regulations”, he said. “We are still conducting our R&D activity to overcome any issues we have with emissions and fuel efficiency”. As the industry faces even tighter emissions regulations in the coming years, Kogai has no doubt that Mazda would debut a rotary-powered range extended hybrid before considering a traditional rotary powertrain in the spirit of the RX coupes. But when asked if Mazda has any plans for a range-extended sports car larger than the MX-5, Kogai flatly said ‘no’. The Japanese automaker has kept an engineering team focused on developing rotary engine technology. Further fueling hopes for an RX-9, the company last year unveiled the RX-Vision concept and an executive hinted that a production edition could share the Miata’s platform. The comments are unlikely to completely hush rumors of an RX-9 launch in 2020, aligning with the company’s 100th anniversary. +++

+++ MCLAREN is about to replace the 650S with the new 720S, also known internally as the P14. Information about the upcoming British supercar is slim but I do know that it will use an updated version of the twin-turbo V8 and will continue to be based on a MonoCell carbon tub. McLaren will call their new supercar the 720S which traditionally represents the amount of metric horsepower the engine makes. Speaking of the engine, the 3.8-litre V8 will be replaced by an updated 4.0-litre unit which produces 720 hp. The new powertrain has been also engineered to collaborate with an electric motor but don’t expect a hybrid version of the 720S at the launch, as McLaren plans to launch it on a later date. The same report goes on saying that the new 720S will feature a track mode, similar to that in the P1 and when it’s on, sections of the dashboard will physically lower in order to help the driver focus on the track and reduce any distractions. The only information the driver will still be able to see is the tachometer, current gear, oil and cooling temperature and tire pressure. I’ve also been hearing rumors that the new McLaren 720S will be as fast on the track as the P1. McLaren will reveal their new baby at the Geneva Motor Show this March, with the first cars to be produced in 2017 already spoken for. +++

+++ Federal Trade Commission officials appear to suspect VOLKSWAGEN Group employees of destroying evidence related to the TDI emissions cheat. Investigators reportedly encountered trouble attempting to find evidence on cellphones used by many employees. No less than 23 phones were either lost or ‘wiped,’ according to a FTC court filing. “In the context of the massive scandal at the center of this case, 23 lost or bricked phones is a bright red flag, especially when they include phones that belonged to important individuals”, government attorneys wrote. Further fueling suspicions, the FTC claims Volkswagen’s designated corporate witness provided “nonsensical or evasive responses” when facing questions about intentional evidence destruction. The FTC already participated in the $16.5 billion civil settlement related to 2.0-liter diesel engines, which account for the majority of affected vehicles in the US and abroad. Federal agencies are still involved in talks with the company to settle potential charges related to 3.0-liter diesel engines. Criminal settlements are also being pursued separately. +++

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