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Mercedes S-Class 4-Cylinder Launched

Mercedes S250 CDI

Over 60 years have passed since the last 4-cylinder engine powered an S-Class model from Mercedes. This decision was made in order to keep in touch with Audi and BMW’s “green” tendencies. By doing so, Mercedes-Benz is the first of the world’s largest luxury automakers that installs such a small power unit into a top-of-the-line model. In order to fulfill the emission standards and get customers that care about the environment, luxury car producers are at the moment flaunting their environmental credentials. Mercedes doubled its investment on “green” development this year, reaching 1 billion euro. BMW also spent 1.2 billion euros in various fuel-saving technologies.

The German engineers are aiming to maintain the traditional S-Class performance even with this small power unit. The MB S250 CDI will be available for sale in the first months of next year and will have a 2.2-liter diesel power unit that will output 204 hp and a 500 Nm torque at 1,600 rpm. The Germans affirmed that the high torque at low engine speeds is a consequence of the two-stage turbocharging and that the engines’ torque numbers are equal to a six-cylinder diesel engine.

The S250 CDI will come as standard with the stop-start technology and will have a fuel consumption of only 5.7 liters / 100 km and 149 g/km CO2 emissions, allowing the car to be the first luxury model to consume under 6 liters / km and at the same time maintain the CO2 emissions below the 150 grams level.

The Mercedes S250 CDI Sedan has a 2-ton weight and even though it has a small engine it is capable of reaching a top speed of 149 miles (240 km) and it will only need 8.2 seconds to reach 100 km per hour. However, these figures pales when we look at the S65 AMG that needs 4.4 seconds to sprint to 100 km/h, but the AMG model not only it is costs more than three times, but it has double CO2 emissions.

Verena Mueller is a spokesman for Mercedes and recently stated that “green luxury is feasible. We expect to attract environmentally conscious customers who are seeking the lowest possible CO2 emissions. Besides private customers, that could of course also be fleet buyers.”

Mercedes S250 CDI

This decision of reducing the size of engines is also a direct consequence to the financial and economical crisis, which reduced the demand in the United States for high-end automobiles and at the same time, cut lots of jobs. On November 3rd, the CEO of BMW, Norbert Reithofer affirmed that the United States luxury car sales will maintain a level similar to the one before the crisis, most likely until 2013-2014.

By introducing smaller engines, cars of course become cheaper and keep buyers from purchasing less-expensive model lines. This new S250 CDI model from Mercedes-Benz will be directed primarily for the European market and will cost 3,700 euros less than its bigger brother, the V6-powered S-Class. However, the car will still be 27,400 euros more expensive in comparison with the E-class base model.

Unlike Mercedes, BMW will not be launching a 4-cylinder engine for their 7-Series flagship model. Reithofer said that “I like selling 7-series cars with six- and eight- cylinders.” However, BMW is looking towards the future with their production version of the Vision Efficient Dynamics concept car which will be available for sale starting with 2013. The 4-person sports car will combine a 3-cylinder engine with two electric motors which will allow it to sprint to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds. The car will have CO2 emissions similar to the most efficient VW Golf 6 – 99 grams CO2 / km.

Audi will do something similar like Mercedes Benz, developing a version for their flagship A8 model that will use a 4-cylinder gasoline power unit, but this time combined with an electric motor. The A8 hybrid will be launched sometime in 2012 according to Eric Felber, Audi’s spokesman. Before the arrival of this new model, Audi will roll out more fuel-efficient cars, like a front-wheel-drive A8 model that will have a 6-cylinder diesel engine and will be available at Audi’s dealerships early 2011.

Most likely, the most buyers of the Mercedes S250 CDI will come from countries like the Netherlands, United Kingdom and France; countries that will be rising the automobile taxes based on the carbon-dioxide emissions.

No Discounts For Citroen’s C4

2011 Citroen C4

It seems that Citroen will not be offering any type of discounts for their new C4 model. The reason for this, according to the French automaker, is that the model was launched at a low base price, thus leaving almost no room for price reductions at the dealerships (we are somewhat skeptical about this issue however). This is certainly something new from Citroen in comparison to the last few years when we got accustomed to their aggressive discounts for the European market for all of their cars.

By giving buyers various price cuts it will have a negative effect on residual values, which are a very important factor for fleet buyers, treasured greatly by the French automaker. Industry experts affirm that this technique of offering important discounts has lowered the overall image of the Citroen brand among buyers which will most likely lead to fewer sales in the next couple of years.

According to Jean-Michel Marmiesse, who is C4’s product manager – “Automakers usually price new models on the high side when they are launched, but with the C4, the price is aggressive from the beginning in order to rapidly find a niche. The strategy is simple: to offer a model at an inexpensive price from the beginning to boost volumes”.

The basic price for the Citroen C4 in France is approximately $23,310 (16,990 euros), in comparison to the Ford Focus, priced at 17,600 euro, the VW Golf 6 that has a base price of 16,390 euros and the Renault Megane has a 20,000 euros price tag. Although the price for the Volkswagen Golf 6 is a little bit lower in comparison with the Citroen C4, the French automaker says that their car’s price is more competitive as it has various design features and technologies, offered at a very good price. In Europe, the compact segment car is the second largest (after subcompacts), and is led by the VW Golf 6.

2011 Citroen C4

The people that are analyzing the automotive industry say that this new strategy from Citroen might be a little bit risky and could provide unwanted results. A market analyst by the name of Carlos da Silva, who works for IHS Global Insight, said that the customers of Citroen cars are used to bargaining down the prices at the dealerships. Da Silva said that although Citroen is moving into the right direction, the customer habits will not change overnight simultaneously with this new strategy from the French automaker.

Citroen launched the second generation of the C4 last month in France and will be making deliveries for the rest of the European countries starting with this December. Some of the most important technologies of the C4 include adaptive lightning, blind-spot monitoring, massaging seats and a lane-departure warning system. The model will be offered with one of the three gasoline power units that were co-developed with BMW as well as four diesel engines. From the diesel engines, the most fuel-efficient one is linked with a stop-start technology that reduces the CO2 emissions to 109 g/km, and will be further lowered to 99 g/km on upcoming models.

EV Sales Will Reach 20% by 2016 In UK

Nissan Leaf

According to Steve Holliday who is the CEO of the National Grid Plc, the electric cars will make up 20% of the United Kingdom’s automobile sales by 2016 thanks to the fact that drivers will be taking advantage of the lower fuel costs and the government subsidies. Holliday believes that by 2020, United Kingdom will have a million electric vehicles on the road. This number will be possible if one in five cars sold in the United Kingdom from 2016 will be electric.

UK, similar with other European countries, is using subsidies in order to promote EV so that the carbon dioxide emission levels will reduce in the future. From January 2011, an electric car buyer will save up to $7,795 (5,000 pounds). The same money will be saved by people that purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles. About 8.8 million pounds have been earmarked in order to sustain the development of a national recharging network which by 2013 will have about 11,000 plug-in points, in comparison to this moment when there approximately 300.

Within the next few weeks, United Kingdom will start selling the first two electric cars – the Nissan Leaf, and the Mitsubishi iMiEV. The cars will have a basic price of about 29,000 pounds and can be charged using the standard household plug.

Mitsubishi iMiEV

The SMMT – Society of Motor Manufacturers and Trades in United Kingdom said that in 2009 there were 31 million vehicles in the country and the average daily distance traveled by a driver is about 25 miles and the length of a single trip is 8.6 miles.

Holliday said that the National Grid high-voltage electricity transmission is able to face the demand of one million electric vehicles, but “penetration up and above that becomes a real issue.” He also mentioned that the local distribution networks in London for example might have problems of balancing their grids if electric car owners plug in their vehicles at the same time.

According to a SMMT report, the cost of fully charging an EV like the LEAF (which has a 100 miles range) could cost about 96 pence and take between 6 to 8 hours. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst by the name of Albert Cheung wrote in an e-mail that “depending on how fast it charges, an electric vehicle can draw as much power as a house. So if half a dozen neighbors plug in electric vehicles on the same street, it could push the local transformer over its rated capacity.”

The United Kingdom government is offering other incentives in order to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles, by eliminating the demand of paying the 8 pound / day congestion charge and in some neighborhoods, electric car owners have the possibility to park for free.

Another SMTT report says that the total fuel costs of a normal conventional car that is driven 10,000 miles per year over a period of three years are approximately 2,767 pounds in comparison to only 756 pounds needed for an electric vehicle that is used over the same amount of time.

By 2014, the European emissions standards will be taking effect which means that all new cars must cut their nitrogen-oxide emissions by 56% (for diesel engines). This will most likely lead to an increase in popularity of hybrid and electric cars. At the moment there are very few cars that comply with the requirements of the Euro 6 regulations. According to HIS, the introduction of the Euro 6 rules will most likely help the electric / hybrid cars share rise across the Europe to 13% by 2020. Today the hybrid / electric cars share is approximately 0.1%.

To keep up with these new changes in regulations and standards; BMW, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Dailmer are at the moment developing hybrid and electric cars to fulfill the future environmental regulations and at the same time, increase sales with new and attractive cars that are not only eco-friendly, but also cheaper to use.

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VW UK – BlueMotion To Passat CC And Scirocco Models

Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion

Volkswagen is finally implementing the BlueMotion technology for the Passat CC and the sexy Scirocco. BlueMotion is a set of fuel-saving technologies that include a regenerative braking system and a stop/start system. The BlueMotion technology will be implemented on all of the diesel configurations of the Scirocco, including the GT model for the United Kingdom. The Scirocco equipped with a 2.0 TDI 103 kW (140 PS) and linked to a 6-speed manual gearbox, will do 62.8 mpg (4.5 liters / 100 km), and corresponding CO2 quotient of 118 g/km. For the model equipped with the DSG dual-clutch transmission, the numbers go up in a significant matter.

For the GT Scirocco that has the 2.0 liter TDI power unit with 125 kW (170 PS), the fuel consumption is 5.1 liters / 100 km which is about 55.4 mpg for our American readers. CO2 emissions are 134 g/km, also with the 6-speed manual transmission.

Volkswagen Scirocco BlueMotion

Besides the Scirocco, the BlueMotion technology will be implemented in the Volkswagen Passat CC 2.0 TDI that offers 140 PS. The mpg level will be 60.1 which means that the CC it will consume 4.7 liters / 100 km. These numbers are way better in comparison with the 5.6 liters / 100 km from the older generation. The CO2 emissions level is also down to 125 g/km, from 146 g/km.

Besides the 2.0 TDI, the Passat CC will get the BlueMotion technology on the 170 PS 2.0 TDI engines that will do 57.6 mpg (4.9 liters / 100 km).

Rolls-Royce Sales In China Reach New Record

Rolls-Royce Phantom

According to Bloomberg, in 2011 China will become the biggest market for Rolls Royce, surpassing the United States. RR sold about one third of its cars only in the United States and plans to sell about 800 units in China next year as it targets to grow deliveries eightfold in 2 years in the world’s biggest automotive market. In the first ten months of this year, Rolls Royce shipped about 500 cars to China, in comparison to only 100 cars delivered in the same period of 2009. These figures were published by Paul Harris who is RR’s Asia Pacific regional director. The company includes the cars sold in Hong Kong as China deliveries.

The company is selling more and more Ghost and Phantom models in China thanks to the fact that the income in the country is growing and the demand of high-end luxury automobiles is stronger. According to a report made by Hurun Research Institute, based in Shanghai, states that China has 6.1% more millionaires in comparison to 2009, reaching 875,000 people. Harris noted that “the Chinese market in general is showing only one direction. That’s exceptional growth, and it’s going to be ongoing for quite a while.”

The standard price of a Rolls Royce Ghost costs in China 4.1 million yuan because consumers are obligated to pay higher taxes on imported luxury cars. In the United States, the RR Phantom costs (for the basic model) $380,000, in comparison to China were the price is almost triple ($990,000).

In 1998, BMW purchased the rights to the Rolls Royce cars by paying $70 million (45 million pounds) and started manufacturing cars at a new factory ever since 2003. Harris said that RR might add an additional number of four dealers in China by mid 2011, in 2nd-tier cities like Wuhan and Tianjin. At the moment, there are eight Rolls Royce dealerships in China.

Rolls-Royce Ghost

In 2009, the sales of RR cars plummeted by 17%, but once the new Ghost model was launched, the situation began to shape up for the Goodwood, England-based automotive maker. By October this year, RR sold 2,007 units, which are a lot more than the previous record of 1,212 in 2008 and 1,002 in 2009.

The Rolls Royce Phantom is equipped with a powerful 6.75 liter engine and comes as standard with elegant soft leather upholstery. According to the company, an extended wheelbase version of the Phantom costs 8.2 million yuan. These imported luxury cars are significantly more expensive in China because of the high import duties as well as the various consumption taxes, in comparison to the United States for example.

A buyer of a car that has a power unit of more than 4.0-liters must pay a 25% import duty, 17% value-added taxes plus a 40% consumption tax, according to the researchers at J.D. Power & Associates. Harris stated that people that are ordering the Rolls Royce Phantom have to wait until May 2011 until they can have their cars delivered. He added that “it’s a story of success for Chinese entrepreneurial businesses; the Chinese entrepreneur works hard and wants to reward himself for a job well done.”

U.S. Posts Record Monthly Sales

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

According to the estimates made by Bloomberg, the light vehicles sales in November in United States reached a monthly record for this year, thanks to the fact that the demand for American trucks and sport utility vehicles rose considerably. The official sales figures will be released on Wednesday, but we already know that they are probably about 12.2 million units sold in November, according to the average made by eight analysts at Bloomberg.

It is estimated that the Ford Motor Company and the Chrysler Group LLC, have increased their sales by 20% or even more, according to some estimates. General Motors’ sales also may increase with 13%, which raised more than $20 billion from preferred and common shares in an initial public offering this November.

According to Jessica Caldwell who is an analyst for research at Edmunds.com, “domestics sales will be up by a huge number this month, with a lot of it coming from strong truck and SUV sales”. These SUV and trucks have better sales figures because “as it gets colder, plus we’ve seen higher demand in the last few months as gas prices have been stable for some time.”

Ford sold 30% more F-Series pickups this October while the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV manufactured by Chevrolet, increased sales by 41%, according to the info published by Autodata Corp., a research company based in New Jersey. The Chevrolet Equinox SUV sales went up too, with 75%, according to General Motors.

According to Autodata, the monthly sales in United States have stayed above the 11 million mark since March, but in comparison to the annual average from 2000 to 2007, they went down by 30%. The Commerce Department stated on November 23rd that the United States economy has expanded at a 2.5% annual rate in the third quarter of 2010.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Vice-president of industry trends at TrueCar.com, Jesse Toprak, stated that the General Motor sales may benefit from its recent IPO. He estimates that the manufacturer sold 13% more cars in this period. On November 17th, the owners of GM (including the United States Treasury Department), sold shares at a $33 price tag each. Toprak said that “If you see the company performing, the stock price holding up, and perhaps GM posting another profit in the fourth quarter, that adds to brownie points with consumers.”

Analysts approximate that the Ford Motor Company has increased its sales by 21%. The company’s shares reached on November 15th the $17 level, which is the highest closing price since the beginning of 2004 (January 8th). With a net income of $6.37 billion until September, Ford is the world’s top-earning automaker, the most for the company since 1998.

As far as Chrysler is concerned, sales most likely rose by 26%, according to the estimates made by analysts. The company is controlled by Fiat S.pA. and reported an $84 million third-quarter loss on November 8th. Chrysler raised its full-year operating profit forecast to approximately $700 million.

A Chrysler dealer in Glen Mills by the name of David Kelleher said that the mood of customers is “exceptional”. He affirmed that with the introduction of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, allowed him to have a better November than the usual. “I have traffic in my showrooms. I have very, very positive customer attitude right now toward our products. It’s a strong month for November.”

The Japanese automaker Toyota might be the only one with less United States sales, with a decrease of approximately 3%. This is most likely due to the fact that the company, who is at the moment the world’s largest automaker, recalled approximately 16 million cars from the entire world due to various technical problems.

Other estimates made by analysts say that Honda sold 24% more cars and Nissan approximately made 16% more car deliveries this November. In comparison to 2009, this November had 24 selling days, which is one more than last year.

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Toyota Fixes Heat Risk Problems For Prius Hybrid

2006 Toyota Prius

The Toyota Motor Corporation will pay serious money to fix approximately 378,000 Prius cars in the United States because of a coolant pump glitch which might cause overheating issues or losses of power. The models affected by this problem are the ones manufactured between 2004 and 2007. Toyota said that it did not receive any sort of reports of injuries or accidents from this problem with the pump that circulates coolant for the hybrid system of the Prius. John Hanson, the Toyota spokesman, said that the company will be replacing the pumps on the Prius hybrids that were sold outside of the United States.

The most important car manufacturers (including Toyota), conduct such repair campaigns which are separate from the safety recalls filled with United States regulators in such situations in which they can find out that an defect does not present any type of safety risk. The Japanese manufacturer affirmed that the design of the electric water pump permits air bubbles to enter the system which slows the coolant circulation and permits the heating up of the components. This situation when the components heat up might trigger a warning light and if left unattended, the car could overheat and fall into a “fail-safe” mode, in which the power of the engine is reduced, according to Toyota. The automaker said that they will start notifying Prius owners next week.

2006 Toyota Prius

Hanson said that starting with 2008; Toyota used a different pump design for the car and uses a different type of pump for other hybrid models. Toyota told its dealers that the largest numbers of cars that have this type of problem are in California, where there are approximately 107,500 units. The Japanese manufacturer will cover all expenses (including the $100 in labor per car).

Since November 2009, Toyota recalled 15.4 million vehicles across the world, including the 11 million cars in the United States.

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Fiat Will Be Making Light Vans For Opel

Opel Combo

Fiat just signed a deal with General Motors in which they promise to supply 250,000 Opel/Vauxhall light vans. The new cars that will be developed will replace the Opel Combo, which will reach its lifecycle end in the last part of 2011, and it will be built on the current Fiat Doblo van platform. The new cars will be sold by Vauxhall and Opel dealers across Europe as well as other markets outside North America, starting with 2012.

Opel stated that these new Doblo-based vans will have the same “Combo” name and will be offered in a wide variety of configurations, like cargo vehicles, chassis cabs or passenger vehicles. The development of these new vans will be the direct result of the collaboration between the German designers in Russelsheim and the Italian engineers at Fiat in Turin, Italy. The vans will be manufactured together with the current Doblo model at a facility Fiat jointly operates with Koc Holding in Bursa, Turkey, under the Tofas venture.

Fiat Doblo

The current combo model is manufactured at the Opel factory in Zaragoza, Spain where they also make the Meriva and the Corsa cars. In 2009, the factory manufactured 29,904 Combos which is a lot lower in comparison to 2008 when they managed to build 56,934 units, according to the data published by Opel.

This arrangement between Fiat and Opel is a premiere, and was done in order to rationalize production in the current and possible future situation of diminishing demands in mature markets. Fiat said that it will start supplying 6,000 units to Opel in the last month of 2011 and hoping for a production of “at least 250,000” units in the future.

At the factory in Turkey, Fiat is making more than 100,000 vans per year.

Porsche Considering A Smaller And Affordable SUV

Porsche Panamera

Yesterday in Berlin, the supervisory board of Porsche Automobil Holding signed off on creating a smaller and more affordable sport utility vehicle which will most likely target young drivers that are not able to afford the more expensive Cayenne model, which is at the moment the best-selling car manufactured by Porsche, especially in China.

Bernhard Maier, the head of sales & marketing for Porsche, said at the beginning of this month that the options are to create the Cajun in-house, use a partner or share a platform with another VW Group brand. He did not mentioned if the new smaller SUV will begin production in 2013 nor that it will have the same platform and some components with the Audi Q5. He said that by developing this new car it will be a solid way for Porsche to increase annual revenues and “follow the growth plan of the company.”

The CEO of the VW Group, Martin Winterkom, hopes that the Porsche sales will double to about 150,000 units in the next three years and further increase the cooperation between Volkswagen and Porsche. He said on Monday that Porsche will start making future platforms for the VW Group luxury sedans and sports cars. Juergen Pieper, who is an analyst for Bankhaus Metzler stated that “Porsche has its ambitious agenda clearly cut out. Access to VW’s vast technology may help them pursue their growth goals.”

Last week, Porsche announced that it will be investing $197 million (150 million euros) in order to upgrade its research center located near Stuttgart so that the company will offer in the near future 38 models across four vehicle lines. Porsche sold last year 81,850 units, including the Panamera sedan (priced at 75,900 euros) and the Cayenne ($72,635), which is 8.8% more than 2008.

Porsche Panamera

On Monday, Porsche reported a net income of 155 million euros for the first-quarter, in comparison to the similar period of last year when they lost 431 million euros. Porsche is in the process of merging with Volkswagen, who is Europe’s largest automaker. VW acquired 49.9% of Porsche AG; after the sports car manufacturer failed in an attempt of a hostile overtake of VW.

Today, Porsche will inquire shareholders to accept a capital increase of approximately 5 billion euros in the first half of 2011, with the automaker’s controlling shareholders and the Porsche & Piech families, contributing about 2.5 billion euros.

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Tony Hawk to ride 630 hp skateboard

Usually, when talking about skateboard, the last thing you think about is that they have absolutely no connection to cars. But not when we’re talking about a 630 hp V8 engine strapped to a huge skateboard! This was built by a crew from V8 Supercars and will be a gift to Tony Hawk, the famous skateboarded, which will be attending the Telstra 500 V8 Supercar race next weekend in Sydney, Australia. With Tony only having a throttle and a panic button, you’d think that Aussies are trying to kill him, but our guess is that this is crazy, but sounds like a lot of fun. Enjoy!

One more video after the jump. Check out that sound! (more…)

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