American carmakers recently secured a multi-billion dollar loan guarantee from the federal government but their counterparts across the pond haven’t been so lucky. Late last year the European Commission approved plans to provide up to $6 billion to its automotive industry, far short of the $55 billion in loans Europe’s carmakers had been hoping for, and since then no aid package has been finalized. According to a new report, BMW is now considering applying to the German government for a state guarantee to back up its borrowings.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Perpetual front-runners Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes have already revealed their contenders for the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship, and as the weeks remaining until the kickoff of the new season in Melbourne tick away, more and more teams follow suit. This week the new debuts include the BMW, Renault and Williams teams. The cars, bearing the simple code names that mark them as true race cars, are dubbed the BMW F1.09, Renault R29, and Williams FW31. Together with Toyota, which revealed its TF109 car last week, these comprise the 'best of the rest', or the teams most likely to contend for whatever remaining points are left after Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes do their best to take the championship - or at least that's how things are expected to shake out at this point.
BMW’s next-generation 6-series Coupe and its Cabrio variant aren’t due to arrive until late 2010 at the earliest as the current model was only given its mid-cycle facelift a little over a year ago. However, prototypes of the new car are already testing in Germany and have now been captured by spy photographers. The current model has proven to be a sales success, with numbers averaging just on 20,000 units per year. BMW doesn't want to risk hurting sales of the next-generation model so for the new car designers will be dialing down the controversial styling.
Last year we saw the first test-mules for the next-generation BMW 1-series driving around the streets of Munich in Germany. At first appearance the test vehicles looked like ordinary 1-series hatchbacks but on closer inspection a number of key features revealed several vital clues about the next model. The images revealed that the next 1-series will be bigger than the current model, with a slightly longer wheelbase and wider track. This latter element ties in with BMW’s desire to make the new car sportier than the current one.
A class leader since its inception, the 5-series remains a crucial car in BMW's lineup, so there's a great deal of anticipation surrounding the next-generation model. That car is due to arrive late this year for the 2010 model year, and heavily disguised sedan prototypes have already been seen testing around the streets of Munich, as have Touring variants. Today new details have emerged from Germany outlining the car's appearance and features. Most of the planned changes are just skin-deep. Contrary to some reports that the 5-series would shrug off its controversial exterior for the next generation, the latest news, issuing from Auto Zeitung, reveals that BMW may in fact be embracing the 5-series' polarizing looks, including some influence from the inflammatory CS Concept.
A high-revving, sweet-sounding V8 is a marvelous thing, and BMW's 4.0L V8 in the M3 is a capital example. The tuners at G-Power weren't satisfied with the factory-supplied 414hp (309kW), and decided to strap on a supercharger and boost output to a tire-vaporizing 635hp (473kW). About what you'd expect from the holders of the 'World's fastest street-legal sedan' title. The argument for adding the forced induction was to give the high-strung V8 some more low-end grunt as well as boost overall performance.
Currently sitting atop BMW’s X5 range is the 4.8is but recent news from the boss of BMW’s M division, Ludwig Willisch, has confirmed that performance variants of both the X5 and X6 SUVs are in development. A performance SUV doesn’t really fit in with the M philosophy of increased performance through reduced weight but the allure of the two-ton sports market was most likely too strong even for BMW and its famed M division to resist. These latest spy photos reveal the car even more clearly than previous shots, showing an aggressive but restrained design and classic X5 styling.
In late 2007 BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer revealed plans for several all-new models including a design study called the Progressive Activity Sedan (PAS). Beyond an obscure design brief for the new concept, details have been relatively scarce. It appears the wait will soon be over as a concept version is expected to make its debut at March’s Geneva Motor Show. A new official teaser video released by BMW today also provides a few more vital clues. The short clip explains the design considerations that went into creating the car, revealing that it will essentially be an upmarket station wagon with an adjustable rear seat, innovative storage solutions, and a coupe-like profile. No name has been revealed, but everything from PAS, to V5, to 5-Series GT, has been suggested.
BMW V5 PAS rendering
Hybrid drive systems are finally making solid inroads into the upper strata of the luxury sedan segment, with BMW's 7-series hybrid set to join the Mercedes-Benz S400 and Lexus LS 600hL later this year. The new 7-series hybrid was previewed as a concept at last year's Paris Motor Show, but today we have new spy photos of the car completely free of disguise. Mercedes released the first details for its S400 BlueHYBRID late last year, and confirmed the car for a mid-2009 launch date, putting it a half-step ahead of the 7-series, as the production 7-series hybrid is expected to go on sale late this year or in early 2010 after a debut in Frankfurt in September. While Mercedes’ S400 BlueHYBRID features an electric drive system mated to a 3.5L V6 powerplant, BMW’s new Concept 7-Series ActiveHybrid is based around the 4.4L V8 750i model.
BMW will soon be offering a new eight-speed automatic transmission developed by ZF that is set to appear first in the 7-series flagship saloon. The new transmission is said to be both more fuel-efficient and cheaper to manufacture than the current six-speed unit, and its performance is also claimed to be comparable with the more advanced seven-speed dual-clutch unit launched last year in the M3. Speaking with Automotive News, BMW development chief Klaus Draeger said the luxury carmaker plans to focus on automatic transmissions instead of dual-clutch units for its high-volume models.
BMW’s M division has tallied a record year of sales, topping 24,000 units between January and December 2008. Strong sales of the M3 and its new Cabrio and Sedan variants are the driving force behind the record feat, accounting for over 18,000 of the M-cars sold. In August of last year, BMW reported its performance arm had sold more cars in the first eight months of the year than all of 2007 combined, with a total of 16,150 M cars rolling out of showrooms between January and August versus last year’s total of 16,128 vehicles.
One of the most recognized automobile designers in the world, Chris Bangle, has announced today that he plans to quit the auto industry to pursue his own design-related endeavours. Bangle is the controversial designer behind recent BMW design traits such as ‘flame surfacing’ and the notorious ‘Bangle Butt’ boot lid, and his creative works have divided numerous BMW enthusiasts over the years who either love or hate them. Bangle leaves the post of BMW Group's Head of Design and will be replaced by Adrian van Hooydonk, who is currently Head of BMW Automobile Design.
Tax incentives designed to help promote the adoption of technology that is slightly more expensive but in the end, more fuel efficient, are growing rapidly. The IRS' Lean Burn Technology Motor Vehicle Tax Credit, for example, is targeted at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. BMW announced today that its 335d sedan and X5 xDrive35d SUV both qualify for credits under the measure. The 335d sedan is eligible for a $900 tax credit under the Lean Burn bill, while the larger X5 xDrive35d can tap up to $1,800 in credit.
BMW specialist Alpina recently unveiled a teaser image for its upcoming B7 performance saloon, based on the recently launched 2009 BMW 7-Series, and now we have the first spy shots of the car, taken while it was testing in Germany. Trademark Alpina mods can be seen in the images, such as subtle aerodynamic modifications at the front thanks to a custom front lip, as well as a small spoiler at the back. As in the past, the new Alpina B7 should also see the standard BMW engines upgraded or replaced from their standard form. BMW first released details on the new 2009 7-Series back in September, revealing that the range topping 750i would be getting a 400hp (298kW) 4.4L twin-turbo V8 engine with 450lbs-ft (610Nm) of torque.
The next couple of years will be very busy for BMW as it launches a handful of new models including new versions of current top sellers and some models we’ve never seen before. The new X1, revealed in this latest spy video released by BMW, falls into the latter category and will take the carmaker into the compact SUV market currently dominated by the likes of the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. The new clip, plus previous renderings and spy shots, show that BMW designers will stick closely to the lines of the Concept X1 showcased at October's Paris Motor Show. The new X1’s running gear is based on the 1-series compact car but its ride height will be taller.
Currently sitting atop BMW’s X6 range is the xDrive50i but as these latest spy shots and previous rendering attest there will be a new top dog in the X6 lineup soon, likely wearing an M badge. After witnessing Porsche and AMG rack up thousands of sales with their respective Cayenne and ML models, BMW is now primed to launch its own high-performance version of the X6 SUV. The newest photos reveal that little on the exterior of the X6 will change for the M model, though the usual adjustments to the aerodynamic elements at front, sides and rear will reflect a more aggressive demeanor.
In the past months we’ve seen BMW testing prototypes for a new high-performance version of the X5 SUV that will be released later this year as the carmaker’s latest M-Division model, but that isn’t the new only X5 model in the works. Later this year BMW is expected to reveal a new hybrid version of the X5 and after that we should see the introduction of a facelifted model. Seen here for the first time, the facelifted X5 should arrive late this year or in early 2010 for the 2011 model year.