Newsflash II

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+++ ACTIVE EXHAUST SYSTEMS apparently face regulatory uncertainty in Germany as authorities attempt to determine if the technology is being used to circumvent noise laws. The increasingly popular technology typically employs electronically actuated flaps to switch between a modest exhaust sound level and a ‘sport’ mode that increases decibel levels in certain conditions. A police department in the town of Mannheim reportedly raised the issue to the relevant federal enforcement agency, apparently seeking clarification over the compliance of such technology. “We can’t have something certified that makes a large amount of noise in real life”, the police chief said. Regulators are said to have agreed to “look into the matter”, though it is unclear if the inquiry has moved beyond an informal review. If regulators to find the technology to run afoul of noise regulations, it could have repercussions for performance cars in Europe and other markets. +++

+++ BMW ’s SUV sales have grown rapidly over the past decade and the firm hopes to build on that success when the 4th generation of the model that kick-started the premium SUV revolution, the X5, arrives late next year. It will feature a new look and be packed with the latest tech, while a new 600 hp X5 M will top the range. Autointernationaal.nl understands the car will make its debut at the Paris Motor Show next September. Before that, BMW will launch the all-new X2, while a full-size Range Rover rival, called the X7, is also on the cards for 2018. Of course, the firm planted the seeds for its considerable SUV patch with the mid-size X5 at the turn of the millennium. It’s already been through 3 generations. The current X5, introduced in 2013, still makes use of the same architecture as the second-generation car from 2006. As such, a fresh platform will be one of the biggest changes for the new X5. We expect to find the modified version of the platform underpinning the new 5 Series under the skin of the next X5. More commonly referred to as ‘CLAR’ (Cluster Architecture) it’s already made the leap from saloon to SUV in the new X3, shaving 55 kg off the kerbweight of the X5’s little brother in the process. It’s set to appear in the X7, too. Expect even more weight savings to be made on the larger X5; it’ll be part of a bid to improve fuel economy on the car, and will be joined by more efficient four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines from the 5 Series. Plug-in hybrid technology is on the table, too, thanks to the CLAR platform. Sitting at the top end of the range will be a new X5 M. It will use the refreshed 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine heading the way of the next M5, delivering more than 600 hp and paired with all-wheel-drive with variable torque distribution. Engines and a platform aren’t all the X5 will borrow from the latest 5 Series. The interior is set to benefit from a refresh inspired by the firm’s latest saloon, with a redesign and all-new tech such as digital dials, the latest iDrive system and wireless Apple CarPlay. The new X5 also stands to gain semi-autonomous driving features. But buyers will have to wait before getting their hands on the hi-tech newcomer, because it’s likely to be towards the end of next year before it goes on sale. While the X1 is the bestseller in the X range, the X5 is still a key player. BMW shifted 166,219 of them in 2016, a few thousand more than the X3; it accounted for 8.3 per cent of its business last year. +++

+++ Another Aston Martin executive has left to join DYSON as speculation surrounding the appliance company’s first car grows. David Wyer has left his role as director of purchasing at Aston Martin after 22 years at the the company to become Dyson’s head of procurement, reports Bloomberg. Wyer is the second Aston Martin executive in as many years to head to Dyson after product development director Ian Minards moved into the same role at the Wiltshire-based company. The move caused a stir, as did Dyson’s hiring of Tesla communications executive Ricardo Reyes earlier this year, fuelling the intense speculation around the British company’s development of an electric car. Wyer confirmed his exit from Aston Martin on professional social media site Linkedin, saying: “So, after 22 years at Aston Martin, today is my last day as I leave one great company to take up an exciting opportunity with another, as Head of Procurement at Dyson. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Aston Martin and have many great memories that will stay with me for a long time. I firmly believe that you work for people, not a company, so I wanted to take this opportunity to thank a couple of people that I have worked for over the years”. More speculation was stirred up around the Dyson car last year, when a government document read: “The Government is funding Dyson to develop a new battery electric vehicle at their headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. This will secure 190 million euro of investment in the area, creating over 500 jobs, mostly in engineering”. The document was quickly altered to say “The Government is providing a grant of up to 16 million euro to Dyson to support research and development for battery technology at their site in Malmesbury”. +++

+++ Ever since Mark Fields was ousted as CEO of FORD , Jim Hackett has held the reins to a company looking to offer autonomous cars in high volumes by 2021. At Ford’s City of Tomorrow symposium, Hackett outlined his vision for how transportation will look in the future, and it doesn’t involve a robot takeover by autonomous cars. Hackett says automated tech will be phased in to ease parking and other challengers surrounding vehicle access around cities. But self-driving cars won’t control everything. “When you paint the robots as perfect and humans as imperfect, we’ve made a big mistake”, Hackett said. “We don’t need the robot to get around”. Many carmakers have painted a picture that automated taxis and other alternative modes of transportation will soon dominate, eliminating the need for private vehicles. But apparently Hackett doesn’t see it the same way. “I don’t believe there’s going to be a big degradation of sales as the cities become less congested”, Hackett said. “It’s probably going to give people more options to keep their cars, because they can choose to use them in ways that they couldn’t before”. While Fields was in charge of Ford, the automaker announced that its self-driving cars bound for 2021 would be specifically designed for ride sharing services. However, as The Detroit News reports, Hackett wants to leave options on the table, letting the market decide what is best. “The tension is the evolution of the technology is progressing really well”, he said. “The markets will develop independently. I want choices”. Meanwhile, Ford self-driving cars are still on track to arrive by 2021. As we reported earlier, Ford wants its autonomous vehicles to achieve a Level 4 rating. This is one step below Level 5, which offers complete autonomy in every driving scenario. Ford has been working hard to expand its Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto, California, and double the size of the team there. An interesting study by Navigant Research put Ford at the top of the list of leaders in autonomous driving technologies. But it’s far from the only company working on such features. As just one example, Fiat Chrysler, BMW, and Intel have partnered up on a common autonomous platform the industry can use to create self-driving vehicles. +++

+++ HYUNDAI has just revealed plans for a major low emissions vehicle product push with three new all-electric vehicles before 2022, which will join the EV version of the Ioniq in the firm’s electric stable. The first of those three vehicles to arrive will be an all-electric version of the new Kona cross-over, which will go on sale next year. Hyundai has already confirmed the car is under development. Hyundai is planning some unique styling elements for the Kona EV. For instance, comparing the fully electric version of the Ioniq compared to its 2 hybrid siblings throws up one or two design differences, the most notable of which is the smooth, deleted grille defining the car’s face. Hyundai could be readying a similar theme underneath the disguise, to differentiate the all-electric Kona from its petrol and diesel powered stable mates. Hyundai has revealed it is targeting an official range of 390 kilometers on a single charge for the Kona EV. That stretches comfortably beyond the 280 kilometers range currently claimed for the Ioniq EV with its 28kWh battery pack. Hyundai has confirmed it will launch the electric Kona in the first half of 2018. A plug-in hybrid Kona could appear further down the line too. +++

+++ Last year, MERCEDES wowed us all with an electric coupe concept it called the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6. While the name was a bit of a clunker, everything else about it was pure elegance. It was nearly 19 feet long, almost all hood, and rode in silence thanks to its electric powertrain. The Vision 6 is back at Pebble Beach this year, this time without its roof. In cabriolet form, the Vision 6 is still impossibly long, wide, and low. Only now, the peasants can get a better look at who’s driving. Instead of last year’s red, it’s been painted blue and rides on new 24-inch alloy wheels. Rims that size would look massive on most other cars, but the Vision 6 Cabriolet is so impossibly long, it actually makes 2 feet of wheel look appropriate. Of course, since this is a Maybach concept we’re talking about, the center lock is painted in rose gold. That’s not the only gold decorating the exterior, either. The fabric top also has rose gold threads woven in to match. Inside, the driver is treated to what Mercedes calls a “360° open-air luxury lounge”. The cabin is designed to flow around the occupants, wrapping them in luxury. There aren’t even really separate seats. Instead, the driver’s door panel almost seamlessly transitions into the seat bottom, then into the armrest, the passenger seat, and finally the passenger door panel. And there’s no infotainment screen integrated into the dash, either. Instead, the display is part of a strip that encircles the cabin. The dials and air conditioning vents contrast with the rest of the futuristic interior, using analog needles and classic design cues. There’s also a sea of white Nappa leather covering almost every surface you might touch. The buttons used to secure the leather to the seats, for example, each have a Mercedes star on them backlit in blue. Oh, and of course the trim pieces are made from rose gold. The floor is covered in open-p ore wood and inlaid aluminum to continue the boat theme that the car’s massive length and shape started. The transparent center tunnel, meanwhile, uses blue fiber optics to remind occupants that they’re in an electric land yacht from the future. Speaking of the Vision 6 Cabriolet’s electric powertrain, it’s even more powerful than the coupe. Instead of 738 hp, it now makes a full 750 hp. Despite the car’s incredible size, Mercedes says that’s enough to hit 100 km/h in less than 4 seconds. It also has a claimed range of more than 500 kilometers and supposedly gains 100 kilometers of range on only a 5-minute charge. If you were worried the cabriolet had lost the coupe’s custom-fit luggage and picnic supplies under the hood, don’t worry. It’s all still there. What do you think this is, a car for farmers? +++

+++ If you live in Hawaii, like the idea of Zipcar, and find it annoying that many of the available cars aren’t Toyotas, we have great news. TOYOTA has decided to launch a car sharing  service of its own, exclusively in Hawaii. Toyota announced today that it has partnered with Servco, Toyota’s distributor in Hawaii, to develop the necessary technology. And while it’s currently still testing that technology on employees, Servco will officially launch the Honolulu-based service by the end of the year. When the app is released, Toyota says it will identify and authenticate users, use their phones to lock and unlock the cars, manage payments, and support fleet management for the new car sharing business. “This new application demonstrates the power of combining Toyota’s unrivaled global manufacturing and technology capacity with dealers’ extensive local operations to provide consumers with more convenient options to move”, said Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota’s president of Connected Company, definitely not sounding anything like Emperor Palpatine. And if Zack Hicks, CEO of Toyota Connected North America, is to be believed, this app is an important part of Toyota’s future. “This successful launch of Toyota’s Mobility Services Platform represents the next generation in car sharing platforms and is Toyota’s global foundation for fleet management, car sharing, and the future of mobility”, said Hicks. Earlier this year, Toyota also began working with a company called Getaround to test a car sharing program that’s accessible to people who live in the continental United States. Assuming the San Francisco-based pilot goes well, Toyota says it plans to work with other dealers and distributors to expand to other markets. +++

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