Developing developments: BMW 1-series cute 'ute still planned

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We've been trying to avoid reporting on the rampant rumor mongering that seems to take place every month in some of the European buff books. One month you'll have tales of a new rear-engined V-Dub, while on the other end of the newsstand you can read all about the supposed new flagship from Skoda. Don't get us wrong, there are a few mags from across the pond that we devour, but some are the automotive equivalent of the Weekly World News. Autocar isn't one of them.

According to Winding Road, the UK pub reports that BMW is hard at work on a 1-series-based cute 'ute to take on the LR2s of the world, complete with four- or six-cylinder engines - petrol or diesel -- and likely sporting an X1 badge on the boot.

Proof that development is underway comes via a BMW employee that claims to have seen a Honda Element hanging around the R&D facility in Munich. As our friend Paukert points out, that isn't anything to get too excited about, until you understand that Honda doesn't sell that particular vehicle anywhere near Germany. It could be for research purposes or it could be because that particular engineer has a thing for toasters on wheels, regardless, we're sure to hear more as BMW expands into other niches.

[Source: Autocar via Winding Road]

 

[via] Autoblog

AutoblogGreen for 04.27.07

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There are two factors that affect the amount of pollution the vehicle you're in is putting into the environment: what you're driving and how you're driving it. For uniqueness points, why not tool around on a Segway Centaur or a minicar with a propeller on front. To emit less, take a course in the UK that will teach you (well, mostly delivery truck operators) how to drive in such a way as to reduce emissions and accidents while reducing delivery times. And they only ask £160 to do it.

Oh, and Phoenix announced they're working on a plug-in version of their SUT. That could turn out to be big news.

 

[via] Autoblog

Engineer swap: Toyota and Subaru get their swing on

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When Toyota purchased 8.7 percent of Fuji Heavy Industries about 18 months ago, Toyota gained vital capacity for its best-selling Camry due to excess capacity at Subaru's Indiana plant. Now the two companies are swapping 100-150 engineers in order to find further synergies between the two automakers.

Toyota, with its magnificent manufacturing system and hybrid technology, has plenty to offer, but Subaru has its world-renown AWD system in its war chest. The fruits of the union of Toyota and Subaru are just now coming to light, as the Camry is now being produced in Subaru's Indiana plant, which adds another 100,000 units to Toyota's vanilla-mobile, and Subaru gets the economy of scale that comes with a fully-utilized plant.

We can tell Toyota and Subaru have been collaborating, mostly because the new Impreza looks like a slightly better-looking Corolla. Lets hope that somehow the guys and girls from Aichi Japan can figure out how to put some of the driving spirit in the Legacy and WRX into future Toyotas.

[Source: Wards Auto]

 

[via] Autoblog

Mitsubishi turns a profit for the first time in four years

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In recent years, Mitsubishi's cross-town counterparts, Honda and Toyota, have been racking up record sales and profits, with the former showing steady growth, while the latter is taking over the world. Unfortunately, the tri-diamond folks haven't been fairing nearly as well. Mitsubishi has been in the red for four years now, mainly due to lackluster products (EVO aside) and a number of scandals that involved cover-ups and quality issues.

As of yesterday, that's all changed - well, at least the automaker's bottom line. For the first time since the fiscal year 2002 (ends in March), Mitsubishi has turned a profit of 8.7 billion yen or $73 million US. The reason for the turnaround stems from a weak yen and an annual sales increase of around four-percent.

Hopefully, that incremental growth on Mitsu's part can be sustained and from what we've been told by the automaker's execs, sales of the new Lancer are a big part of it. If Mitsubishi can extend some of that mojo across its lineup, DSM fans will have a reason to rejoice, again.

[Source: AP via Boston Herald]

 

[via] Autoblog

MINI Clubman set to debut in Frankfurt

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As we told you back in January, the new MINI Clubman wagon will be debuting in September in Frankfurt. We also reported that the U.S. version should be shown in Detroit next year. What we didn't know was that the car will be going on sale in Europe in early 2008. That's the latest bit of info we just received via Inside Line. MINI will be offering the Clubman in exclusive colors, including Java Grey, Sand Glow and Hot Chocolate, the latter being the Clubman's launch color. Expect more details about interior flavors over the next few months. And thanks to MINI's dedicated website, we also have that recent teaser rendering of what the Clubman will look like, in profile at least. This despite the fact that there are dozens of spy pics of a nearly naked Clubman all over the net. In case you haven't figured it out yet, we're looking forward to this new MINI and suspect we're not alone.

[MotoringFile has a firsthand account of the private unveiling of the Clubman at the Oxford plant. Most of the information has been known or speculated, but some specifics include the wheelbase, lengthened by 80mm, while the rear overhang grows an additional 120mm. A few more details can be
[via] Autoblog

NASCAR fines Montoya for 'gesture'

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Poor JPM. He can't seem to catch a break. After several frustrating seasons to conclude his standout F1 career, the driver decided to give NASCAR a try. It has been a bit annoying, but the former CART Champion has shown some promise, and even registered his first win recently, albeit after spinning out his teammate in the process. But during a practice session at Phoenix International Raceway, Montoya apparently let his emotions get the best of him and displayed an inappropriate gesture. It caught the attention of the NASCAR stewards and has resulted in a $10,000 fine. It has also landed JPM on probation until the end of the year. He'll still be able to race the No. 42 Dodge in the Busch Series, but he'll really have to mind his p's and q's until Dec. 31.

But here's the kicker, Todd Brewer, the crew chief for the No. 25 Ford driven by David Gilliland was busted on the same day. His infraction was using unapproved, hollow jacking bolts. Brewer was cited for being in violation of several regulations, including the same one that Montoya's rude gesture falls under , Section 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing). And what was Brewer's fine? Just $2,000. Subjective rule enforcement will always be a subject of controversy, but here it seems particularly egregious.

Top tip Drew!

[Source: NASCAR]

 

[via] Autoblog

Toyota satisfied with number of U.S. dealers

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Toyota's US sales have been booming for years, with annual volume growth of 10-percent or more the norm, and profits that beat all other automakers, hands-down. One area where Toyota has fought growth, however, is in the quantity of dealers it has in the US, and if you believe North American President Jim Press, that isn't going to change, either.

In an interview with Automotive News, Press underscored how important it is to have profitable dealers, and how adding more dealerships would dilute the investments of Toyota's 1,445 existing stores. In return, Toyota looks for dealers to focus on improving customer satisfaction, and adding investment dollars into their existing infrastructure. Press likened Toyota dealerships as large corporations, with many long time employees and great service departments.

The average Toyota dealership sells over 1,800 vehicles per year, which is about three times as many sales as the typical Ford dealership. We're not surprised that Toyota isn't growing its dealer-base, especially considering the amount of costs domestic automakers are incurring to right-size their sales outlets. It never ceases to amaze us how much discipline Toyota has when it comes to running their uber-successful business.

[Source: Automotive News (subscription req'd)]

 

[via] Autoblog

Goodwood Festival of Salt

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This year's Goodwood Festival of Speed will take place June 22-24. We're excited to report that we will have people on hand for this amazing weekend of historic racing demonstrations and we're looking forward to getting lots of pics to share with all of you. With this year's theme being, 'Spark of Genius - Breaking Records, Pushing Boundaries', it should be an extra special year. And the Festival organizers have just released info about another special gathering being held on the adjacent cricket grounds this year. Instead of the usual manicured green lawn, visitors will find a field of white. White like the salt at the Bonneville Salt Flats. historic vehicles from the Bonneville Speed Week will be displayed on the lawn during the Festival weekend, some of them making it out of the States for the first time ever.

Cars will include the 1960 Challenger 1, The Blue Flame, early Ford Coupes, speed record MGs, and the JCB DieselMax that is still breaking records. A dozen or so of these famous Bonneville racers should be on hand for the gathering. Al Teague will be making his first visit to the Festival with his famous Spirit of 76 as well. The 1949 SoCal belly-tank, that was able to crank out a 198mph pass will also be there. Not bad for a car made from a modified P38 fighter plane fuel tank. We can hardly wait until June.

[Source: Goodwood]

Continue reading Goodwood Festival of Salt

 

[via] Autoblog

SEMA cometh: Toyota bringing two new models, Lexus gets pimped

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CHiL

Toyota is taking its position as the official vehicle manufacturer of SEMA 2007 seriously. So seriously that the automaker is using the aftermarket showcase as the backdrop for two new Toyota vehicle world premieres. The massive factory displays at the show already indicate how seriously the automakers take it, but a double world premiere still strikes us as a pretty big deal . One of the two could well be the new Matrix, which is due in the Spring of 2008, and should look right at home on the show floor modded to the gills. As for the other debut, your guess is as good as ours, and as our friends at Winding Road point out, the debuts could also be special package versions of existing vehicles. There's plenty of time for information leaks to spring from the Toyota mothership between now and October, so the speculation is sure to continue.

Lexus is also headed onto the SEMA floor for the first time in an official capacity this year, so expect to see some extensively pimped-out sleds wearing the "L" on the grille. We'll be there to bring it all to you as it happens.

[Source: SEMA via Winding Road]

 

[via] Autoblog

Chileans top Jeep altitude record...with modded Suzuki Samurai

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Click image for gallery

Earlier this month, we posted a story about how German adventurer Matthias Jeschke set the Guinness World Record for highest altitude attained by a four-wheeled vehicle. To recap, the Wrangler Unlimited reached a height of 6,646 meters on the Ojos del Salado volcano in Chile.

That record has already been broken, pending official verification from Guinness.

On April 21, the Chilean duo of Gonzalo Bravo and Eduardo Canales drove their modified Suzuki Samurai ( SJ413) past the Jeep's high point and stopped at 6,688 meters. In addition to the obvious wheel, tire, and suspension changes evident in the photos, the Samurai also packed a supercharged G16A 4-cylinder underhood. It was the third attempt for the pair, who encountered weather difficulties the first time and an engine fire the second time. Repairs were made, and the third try, as the saying goes, was the charm. One of the things Jeschke's team did when they arrived at their high point was to leave a sign that read, "Jeep Parking Only: All others don't make it up here anyway." In a cheeky move, Bravo and Gonzalo came down the volcano with a little extra souvineur.

Assuming the feat gets certified, it's impressive. Jeschke's Extrem Events team had big-time backing and financing, with two Jeeps and several support vehicles provided by DCX, plus a full team of people assisting the effort on-site. Bravo and Canales had no such support, and it looks for all the world like they did it anyway. We'll hoist pisco sours in their honor.

[Source: TwistedAndes (Trans.) via Autoblog Spanish (Trans.)]

 

[via] Autoblog

BMW studio designs jet for fictional Russian billionaires

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Imagine you're a Russian magnate with a globetrotting lifestyle. What could be more perfect than your very own Boeing 787? BMW Designworks USA was apparently picturing a cross between a James Bond Villain and a successful Gen-Xer when they dreamt up a custom interior, converting the sky-dwelling bus into a monster executive jet. The interior is ultra-chic with lots of clean white expanses. A window in the floor lets you check on the status of your four-wheeled executive transport -- A BMW, natch.

The jet probably has more square footage than most commoner's homes, and though the entire thing is a flight of fancy, studying the images for details reveals a mobile command post we'd never want to leave. There's hardwood floors, a multi-level foyer, a bar that looks like it came out of some trendy euro nightclub, a conference room, and a several chic living suites. The interior was created for the Hamburg Aircraft Interior Expo, to showcase BMW Designworks's abilities. A seperate entity from the car side of BMW, Designworks has had their hands in the design of tons of cool stuff, from cellphones to John Deere tractors. Maybe they should let Designworks try their hand at the next 7-series?

[Source: Gadling]

 

[via] Autoblog

VIDEO: Carrera GT, MC12, SLR in Italy - what's not to like?

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We'll keep this simple: three of the world's finest supercars in one of the world's best supercar playgrounds. The hardcore action doesn't go much beyond each car getting a solo peelout. However, each machine does get plenty of individual, loving, lifestyle-themed attention. And the sights and sounds -- ah, sehr gut and che bella. Enjoy the video after the jump.

[Source: You Tube]

Continue reading VIDEO: Carrera GT, MC12, SLR in Italy - what's not to like?

 

[via] Autoblog

Could this be the most trick shift knob ever?

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We've always been of the opinion that if it doesn't make you go faster, stick better or be safer, it's generally a waste of money. There have been exceptions, but this has to be one of the coolest.

The idea is pretty self-explanatory: on top of the shift knob is an LCD that after telling it the number of gears and, we're assuming, the movement of the stalk, displays what cog your transmission is residing.

Unfortunately, our German is a bit rusty, so when we downloaded the Indy-Cator's directions, we weren't able to decipher how it's programmed. If you've got the means, we'd ask you to check out the company's website and let us know exactly how this little piece of automotive geeketry works.

According to TMTuning, installation is straightforward, the LCD has an auto-dimming feature and it can be yours in blue or red for $169.00. Worthwhile? That's in the hand of the beholder.

[Source: Gaslock.de via TMTuning]

 

[via] Autoblog

Today's time waster: BMW lets you set the PACE

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We like video games as much as anybody, and gaming combined with some international competition is even better. We also like BMWs, so when we found that the folks from Bavaria had a flash-based racing game with BMWs racing against Mustangs and Challengers through the streets of Europe, we had to give it a shot. The coolest aspect of the game is that you can gauge your score against the best the Internet has to offer.

For a free game that acts as a fun marketing tool, BMW did a pretty good job here. Sure, there is way too much talking going on in between rounds, and full-color backdrops and roads would be vastly preferred vs the monochrome dust bowl that we get in the game. One aspect of the game that we particularly like is the better you do in the races, the more money you accumulate, and you can use that money at the BMW store to obtain upgrades for your Bimmer. You start off with a 1-Series hatch (we wish we could do that in the US), and once you've accumulated $9,000, you can upgrade to the 3.0L inline six.

From there you can upgrade to a Z4 and finally an X3. We haven't finished the race yet, and we're definitely not among the top qualifiers, but we're not giving up. Overall, the game can be frustrating, but somehow we got hooked anyway. It's hard to write posts when you have a race to win.

 

[via] Autoblog

Autoblog First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz

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Click on the Veracruz for a high-res gallery from our first drive

Back in January at the Detroit Auto Show, Hyundai finally peeled the camo off its newest product, the Veracruz. The Veracruz is aimed right at the heart of the increasingly popular mid-sized crossover segment that includes such perennial best sellers as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander and new entries like the Saturn Outlook and Ford Edge. Hyundai identifies the Honda and Toyota entries as their main competitors, but interestingly neither was their primary benchmark. That honor falls to the Lexus RX350. More on that in a bit.

Hyundai invited a group of automotive media to a park in northern Oakland County north of Chrysler's headquarters for a first drive of the new Veracruz. We set out on a cool rainy morning in a fleet of new vehicles in various trim levels and front- and all-wheel drive configurations. We only had about an hour and a half to drive, so this was strictly a first impression.

A full review will be coming in the next few weeks but you can find Autoblog's preliminary look at the Veracruz after the jump.

Continue reading Autoblog First Drive: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz

 

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[via] Autoblog

Brits get Alfa GT Blackline

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Alfa GT Blackline
Click image for gallery

Our UK readers will be happy to learn that Alfa Romeo UK has just announced the availability of the Alfa GT Blackline. As the name suggests, the Blackline looks as if it's been dipped in an inkwell, with it's black metallic paint and black interior. Alfa tempers the darkness with a set of model-specific 18" wheels, satin-finish mirrors, metal pedals, and red contrast stitching inside. Power comes from either a 2.0-liter, 165-horsepower JTS gasoline engine, or a 1.9L JTDM turbodiesel shelling out 150 horsepower. Pricing for the car with the options it receives as part of the Blackline package is lower than a comparably-equipped standard-issue Alfa GT. Details can be found in the press release after the jump.

[Source Alfa Romeo UK]

Continue reading Brits get Alfa GT Blackline

 

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[via] Autoblog

UAW contract dispute may delay introduction of new Chevy Malibu

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The turnaround at General Motors is in full swing thanks to a bevy of new models on the horizon. One of those promising products is the new Chevy Malibu, which we're looking forward to reviewing as soon as possible. It turns out we may have to wait longer than expected to get behind the wheel of the new Epsilon 2-based Malibu. Apparently contract negotiations with the local UAW at GM's Lordstown, Ohio and Fairfax, Kansas plants have hit a snag. The Lordstown plant builds many of GM's Delta-based models, including the Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5, and is earmarked to build the next generation of Delta-based models, as well. The Fairfax plant, meanwhile, builds the current Malibu and Pontiac G6, but is being renovated to handle the new Malibu and Saturn Aura.

GM had asked for some big concessions from the local unions at both plants that included 10-hour shifts with no overtime and the ability to hire some non-union workers to do janitorial work, unload trucks and even do assembly in some cases. The local unions were very close to closing the deal with GM until the national UAW stepped in and stopped the talks.

The unions are reportedly seeking a guarantee that the next generation Delta and Epsilon 2 models will be built at these plants, which has come under question since GM has halted development of new assembly-line tooling for these vehicles. GM, on the other hand, claims to have halted the development of new tooling in response to these talks breaking down. Clearly there's some tit-for-tat going on here, and both sides hope things can be ironed out after UAW international reps meet with GM next week in Detroit.

[Source: Automotive News]

 

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[via] Autoblog

Next-gen Ford Fiesta will arrive in U.S. by late 2009

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click above image to view pics of the current-gen Ford Fiesta from Europe

We've begged for Ford to begin selling some of its perceived-to-be excellent international wares in the U.S. and today we've learned our wait is over. Motor Trend is reporting that the next generation Ford Fiesta will be sold in the U.S. by late 2008, about a year after it's introduced in Europe. The new Ford Fiesta is based on the same platform as the Mazda2 that was officially introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in March. We lamented at the time neither the Mazda or its Ford counterpart would ever be sold on U.S. shores, but apparently Ford had decided before the Geneva show that the Fiesta would be bound for the U.S.

The Ford Fiesta is a B-segment vehicle that will slot neatly below the current Ford Focus. Though we don't know exactly what the next-gen model will look like, MT is reporting that Ford of Europe's "kinetic" design language will not be tinkered with much during its transfer. That means we're not likely to see the Fiesta wearing a three-bar chrome grille, which is hardly tragic considering Ford of Europe's "kinetic" cars are equally if not much better looking than their U.S. counterparts.

Though the profit potential of selling the Fiesta in the U.S. is likely very weak, the arrival of a small car fills a gaping hole in Ford's lineup. The Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Chevy Aveo and more are competing fiercely right now in our domestic small car market. To say the arrival of a European-bred Ford Fiesta will be interesting is an understatement, to say the least.

[Source: Motor Trend]

Gallery: 2007 Mazda2

 

[via] Autoblog