+++ BMW has expanded its “Ultimate Driving Machine” mantra to include front-wheel-drive vehicles around the globe, but a sedan? Blasphemy. Such a car exists in China (the 2017 BMW 1-Series) and it seems the German brand may have plans to introduce the car in the U.S. as well. A new report has one source claiming BMW is mulling over a 1-Series introduction for the U.S. market. Pressure from Audi and Mercedes-Benz may ultimately sway BMW into offering the front-wheel drive sedan. Audi sells the A3 and Mercedes-Benz will soon sell the A-Class sedan in the U.S. beginning in 2018. The Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class has also been successful in tapping the entry-level luxury market since its introduction. As the market for entry-level, front-wheel drive luxury sedans expands, the 1-Series would be BMW’s logical answer. Additionally, BMW will move the European-market 1-Series hatchback from its current rear-wheel drive platform to the same front-wheel drive architecture that underpins the 1-Series sedan. The 1-Series hatchback has often been an appreciated oddity for its sporty rear-wheel drive layout and longitudinally-mounted inline-6. While enthusiasts love it, it’s not the most practical solution for a small car. The 1-Series sedan has been a China-exclusive model, while the 1-Series hatch has been sold in markets around the world, save for the U.S. Additionally, BMW offers a front-drive X1 and 2-Series Active/Gran Tourer; they are based on the same, Mini-derived architecture. BMW has long denied a U.S. launch for the 1-Series, but should this source prove credible, it will mark the first time a BMW sedan would be offered with front-wheel drive in the United States. +++

+++ ELECTRIC car owners in Europe are earning as much as 1,300 euros a year just by parking their vehicle and feeding excess power back into the grid. Trials in Denmark carried out by Nissan and Italy’s biggest utility Enel SpA showed how batteries inside electric cars could help balance supply and demand at times and provide a new revenue stream for those who own the vehicles. Technology linking vehicles to the grid marks another challenge for utilities already struggling to integrate wind and solar power into their distribution system. As the use of plug-in cars spreads, grid managers will have to pay closer attention to when motorists draw from the system and when they can smooth variable flows. “If you blindingly deploy in the market a massive number of electric cars without any visibility or control over the way they impact the electricity grid, you might create new problems”, said Francisco Carranza, director of energy services at Nissan Europe, in an interview. While the Tokyo-based automaker has trials with more than 100 cars across Europe, only those in Denmark are able to earn money by feeding power back into the grid. There, fleet operators collected about 1,300 euros a year using the 2-way charge points, said Carranza. Restrictions on accessing the market in the U.K. means the company needs to reach about 150 cars before they can get paid for power sent back to the grid. That could be achieved by the end of this year, he said. “It’s feasible”, he said. “It’s just a matter of finding the appropriate business model to deploy the business wide-scale”. Electric car demand globally is expected to soar, putting further pressure on grid operators to find new ways of balancing demand. Power consumption from vehicles will grow to 1,800 terawatt-hours in 2040 from just 6 terawatt-hours now, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. +++

+++ MERCEDES-AMG is looking at how to develop performance versions of Mercedes-Benz electric vehicles, and the brand’s director of vehicle development, Drummond Jacoy, has said it will have to reinvent itself as a result. Mercedes-AMG is already working on a number of hybrid projects, including the Formula-1-powertrain-derived Project One hypercar and the GT Concept that was unveiled at this year’s Geneva motor show. The firm has also previously developed a pure-electric SLS. “It’s obvious we’re not going to make the world happy with V8s for the next 200 years, and AMG has shown in the past, with the electric SLS years ago, that it has capabilities in all-electric drive”, said Jacoy. “That was a very impressive vehicle for its time and we’ve nurtured that technology and the learning we have from hybrid vehicles”. Jacoy believes a unique aspect of Mercedes-AMG is that it is involved with the development of new Mercedes road cars from the start, ensuring they have the capability to be adapted into performance cars. He said this approach is being applied to Mercedes’ all-electric range. “As soon as Mercedes starts a car, we’ll look at what we can do”, Jacoy said. “We’ll have to reinvent ourselves there with electric cars, obviously, because the sound of a V8 is not going to be there if it’s a pure-electric vehicle. It’s not starting from scratch, but we’re going to have to look at what the AMG story is with an electric vehicle. But we’re working on that”. +++

+++ One in four NISSAN Micra buyers customise their cars. The Vibrant Chrome exterior pack is the most popular in the UK. Nissan says it’s experiencing “higher-than-expected” demand for personalisation options on its new Micra, with one in four customers choosing bespoke finishes in a bid to stand out. The latest Nissan Micra has received a much better reception than the 4th-generation model, which I said was “as impressive as its predecessor was disappointing” when I drove it earlier in the year. Offering customisation options is an increasingly popular way of standing out in a congested segment, particularly when manufacturers are attempting to attract younger buyers. It’s no surprise, then, that Nissan customers are able to customise their Micra, just like they can with a Ford Fiesta, Mini Hatch or Citroen C3, not to mention a wide range of city cars. Customisation options on the new Micra include custom door mirror caps, decals, body side mouldings and 17-inch alloys. Nissan dealers are reporting that the Vibrant Chrome exterior pack, which adds splashes of silver to the Micra’s door mirrors, sills and front bumper, is the most popular exterior personalisation choice for customers in the UK. In France and Spain, Energy Orange is more popular, while Enigma Black is a hit elsewhere. On average, customers spend 600 euro on personalising their Micra. ‘The personalisation program for the all-new Nissan Micra was created to allow customers to express their individual character and design flair when their buy their car”, said Nissan Europe’s general manager, small cars, Helen Parry. “Feedback from retailers has highlighted that the mix of fantastic choice and affordability for personalisation means it’s more popular than we expected”. More than 100 personalisation combinations are available on the new Micra, with Nissan saying it plans to add more options in the future. +++

+++ Manufacturers could stop offering individual OPTIONS on new cars in the future to meet the new, tougher emissions tests. From next month, a new Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) will replace the existing New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) for type approval and, eventually, tax purposes. For the first time, the way options affect CO2 emissions and fuel economy will be considered. Each vehicle configuration will be given a CO2 figure determined by the added weight of options, such as sunroofs. HM Treasury told that WLTP will be used to calculate Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) in the future, although it failed to give a date, suggesting that adding options could push buyers into different tax bands. WLTP will place manufacturers in a dilemma as providing too many options would complicate the type approval and buying process, according to Peter Mock, managing director at The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). “Makers will have to generate a CO2 emissions value and weight figure for each vehicle that they offer to the customer, for each variant”, he said. “In order to reduce complexity they will bundle packages and offer consumers only limited choice”. Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at campaign group Transport & Environment, added that once WLTP is used for taxation purposes “you could end up in a situation where you can have a particular sunroof or heated seat, but that pushes it up in terms of CO2 and you finish up in a higher tax band”. Seat told that because of WLTP, the way it will offer options on its new Arona will be done “slightly differently” and hinted the car could be offered with only packs of equipment, rather than individual choices. +++

+++ The introduction of the new TESLA Model 3 fires the starting gun on a new era of more affordable cars from the cult Californian electric car company, and next on the hit list is a small crossover called the Model Y, which will arrive in 2019. It will be a crucial step in Tesla’s second ‘master plan’, which will see the brand expand beyond its current line-up with an all-electric pick-up truck, a new Roadster and a move towards heavy-duty transport with Tesla trucks and buses. By doubling its SUV portfolio with the smaller, cheaper offering, Tesla is lining itself up to enter a booming marketplace. Alongside the recently launched Model 3, the Model Y will be an important step on the road towards the firm becoming a true volume vehicle manufacturer. Details are still being ironed out, but Tesla is more open than most regarding its future product plans. Chief executive Elon Musk is already talking candidly about the new car, and the firm has also hinted at the Model Y’s design through an official teaser image released earlier this year. If Tesla adopts a ‘Russian doll’ approach to the Model Y’s design, I expect it to mimic the Model X SUV’s form and function in a smaller package. Fresh design cues from the Model 3 such as the flat, grille-free front end could also define the new car. Although the Model Y will sit underneath the Model X in Tesla’s range as its second and smallest SUV, it would make sense for the manufacturer to market the Model Y as a Model 3 crossover rather than a smaller Model X, especially when the latest news from Musk is taken into account. Tesla has abandoned plans to develop the Model Y around a new dedicated electric platform, and it will now use the same underpinnings as the Model 3, Musk confirmed. This will allow the firm to bring the Model Y to market much sooner than was originally anticipated, and will also slash R&D costs. Musk has hinted at making tweaks to the platform to help further automate the production process. Given a platform share with the Model 3 has now been confirmed, it’s extremely likely that drivetrains will be the same, too. Tesla has not officially confirmed battery pack sizes for the 355 kilometer Standard and 500 kilometer Long Range launch editions of the Model 3, but has already promised all-wheel-drive and performance variants. However, the firm likes to shuffle its powertrain offerings around often and without warning, so however the Model 3 line-up looks in 2019, it is likely to be replicated by the first Model Ys. Musk also revealed further details on the Tesla electric minibus, first alluded to by Musk at the Master Plan conference. Further Tweets stated that the new “high passenger density urban transport” vehicle is on the drawing board, and will be “built on a Model X chassis. He also claimed “people density potential is surprisingly high”, so its likely we’d see something aiming to offer at least 8 seats. Given that the chassis already exists, its reasonable to assume that would appear by the end of next year at the latest. Expect the same electric drivetrains, including both two and four-wheel drive, a tablet-style portrait touchscreen on the dash and the autopilot autonomous driving system. +++

+++ TVR celebrates 70 Years ahead of its new car launch. The sports car manufacturer was founded in 1947 by Trevor Wilkinson. Ferrari isn’t the only iconic sports car manufacturer celebrating a 70th birthday this year, it seems: UK-based car maker TVR is also readying a gigantic cake with lots of candles to commemorate its founding. In 1947, Blackpool’s answer to Enzo Ferrari, Trevor Wilkinson, set up shop in a small garage, producing his first TVR-badged car in 1949. The company became known for low-volume, hand-built sports car, with success and renown first coming with the Grantura model in the late 1950s. The Griffith was the car that sealed the reputation of TVR in the British car manufacturing firmament, but it wasn’t until Peter Wheeler, who made his fortune selling equipment to North Sea oil companies, bought the company that it became what it’s remembered as today. Names such as the Chimaera, Cerbera, Tuscan and Sagaris are enough to send shivers running down the backs of car enthusiasts of a certain age. Wheeler sold the company in 2004 to baby-faced Russian oligarch Nikolai Smolensky, a dark period in the company’s history that ended in dormancy by 2008 with sales plummeting from already-low numbers and no investment in new models forthcoming. Hope was stirred once again in 2013 as a new venture led by Les Edgar and John Chasey bought up the TVR rights from Smolensky. Edgar was co-founder of computer game production company Bullfrog, behind such early-90s greats as Theme Park and Dungeon Keeper. In 2015 came the announcement that a new sports car, codenamed T37, was under development in conjunction with renowned British car designer Gordon Murray. The new car will be powered by a 5,0-litre Ford V8 engine modified by Cosworth, designed and engineered by Murray and his team. “We developed the new TVR as a product that builds on all the magic and excitement of our hand-crafted British motor cars of yesteryear”, explained Murray. “We combined this with a most rigorous engineering and assembly process design to ensure outstanding consistency, build quality and reliability”. There are still a few cars left to buy in the initial run of 500, according to company chairman Les Edgar, and the T37 is set to be revealed at the Goodwood Revival on September 8. Has TVR enjoyed the success of Ferrari in its 70 years of existence? Certainly not, but it represents a peculiarly British take on the sports car industry that it has been sad not to see for the last 10 years. I wish the new company all the best in resurrecting the badge. +++

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