miércoles, 30 de enero de 2013

BMW Z2 with FWD – Same Old Rumor

The interwebs are once again getting fired up over a rumor around the BMW Z2. The small, entry-level roadster has been rumored for quite some time now,at least 4 years if we recall correctly, and as always time has passed and the Z2 Roadster goes from almost greenlighted to killed on the spot.
So let’s see what’s the fuss about this time around. UK magazine Autocar which tends to have a decent track record in the rumors world, reports that the small roadster will indeed make use of the new front-wheel drive architecture and surprise surprise, will be called Z2 (a name already trademarked by BMW). As we mentioned several times before, IF the vehicle will hit the market it will compete against the popular and very successful Mazda MX-5 and also against a new Alfa Romeo roadster dubbed Spyder.
“We are considering a car in the spirit of the original Z3,” a BMW official said to Autocar. “It is of similar size to the E36/7 [the codename for the original Z3] but is planned to use the front-wheel-drive platform to keep costs down and achieve a margin level that ensures it is sustainable at comparatively low production volumes.”
The reports goes on mentioning possible powerplants under the hood, such as the turbocharged four-cylinder 2.0 liter engines with a power range from 170 to 300 horsepower.
And a new launch date is being mentioned now: 2015.
Our take? Who knows anymore, the product strategy in the automotive world has become very dynamic (not that it wasn’t before) and new products and ideas often get killed even after prototypes are being built.

lunes, 21 de enero de 2013

Prior Design offers a 1M aero kit for 1 Series Coupe owners

Prior Design reveals an update to their PDM1-WB aero kit which was introduced at the end of 2011. The aerodynamic kit designed specifically for the 1 Series Coupe and gives the compacts sports car even meaner and faster look, closer to the 1M.
The entire PDM1 aerodynamic body kit is made from high-quality PUR-RIM that’s easy to install and paint.
At the front, the German tuner gave the 1M a new front bumper that mirrors the design of its M-powered sibling. Front fenders have all been beefed up and create a wider stance for the car. Aerodynamically optimized side skirts are included as well.
The kit is finished off at the rear with a new bumper that again, takes its shape from the 1 MCoupe model. Optionally, customers can order a new trunk-mounted rear spoiler.
The new Prior Design PDM1 aerodynamic body kit is designed to fit all E82/E88 BMW 1 Series models (coupe/convertible) except 1 M Coupes. The PDM1 kit is available for 2,999 Euros while the optional rear spoiler is an additional 299 Euros.
No power upgrades are offered at the moment.
Prior Design PDM1 BMW Specifications
-Prior-Design PDM1-WB front bumper
-Prior-Design PDM1-WB side skirts (2X)
-Prior-Design PDM1-WB rear bumper
-Prior-Design PDM1-WB front fenders
-WB rear widenings
-Mounting material
-Optional Prior-Design PDM1 rear trunk spoiler

miércoles, 16 de enero de 2013

Exclusive: BMW 4 Series Coupe to be priced similar to the E92 3 Series Coupe

At the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, BMWBLOG interviewed Bernhard Ederer, BMW Spokesperson for the 3 and 4 Series in Germany. During the short but insightful interview (watch it here), Mr. Ederer answered a question that many of us have been thinking about since the unveil of the Concept 4 SeriesCoupe: what will be the pricing when it hits the market?
Without offering an exact price point, Mr. Ederer says that being in a competitive market the company plans to have the 4 Series priced at the same pricing levels as the outgoing E92 3 Series Coupe.
So let’s look at the U.S. market. The 328i Coupe starts at $38,800, while the xDrive version sells for $40,400. The next model in the lineup, 335i takes out of your pocket exactly $45,100, while the supped-up 335is has a premium price of $52,100. There is also an xDrive 335i Coupe which is priced just slightly above the RWD version: $46,800.
We are the first one to admit that we were wrong in our initial estimations. We believed that BMW willsignificantly increase the base price of the 4 Series, similar to Audi’s A4 and A5 models. With an attractive price tag and an even more amazing design, the 4 Series Coupe will be the new face of BMW and most likely the highest sold 3/4 Series car ever.
Stay tuned for more info and videos on the BMW 4 Series!

miércoles, 9 de enero de 2013

BMW M135i by Versus Performance tested at Hockenheim [video]

1:13.5 at Hockenheim small circuit

Sport Auto's Christian Gebhardt recently tested at Hockenheim a BMW M135i tuned by Versus Performance.
The six-cylinder, 3.0-liter engine received a power boost from 320 HP (235 kW) and 450 Nm (332 lb-ft) to 390 HP (287 kW) and 550 Nm (405 lb-ft). The high-performance coupe was also fitted with a KW Clubsport suspension and a Bastuck exhaust system. It was riding on 9x18 ATS Motorsport wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires measuring 265/35 R18.
While the stock BMW M135i can do a lap of the small circuit in Hockenheim in 1:15.7, the version modified by Versus Performance can do it in 1:13.5, making it just as fast as an M3 CSL. During testing, Christian was able to reach a top speed of 259 km/h (161 mph), whereas the standard model has an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). Furthermore, 0-100 km/h arrived in 4.6 seconds (stock 5.1) and 0-200 km/h in 16.1 (stock about 2 seconds slower).

lunes, 7 de enero de 2013

Last month BMW premiered the facelifted version of the BMW Z4 Roadster. The Z4 LCI goes on sale this Spring and it brings a mild update to the exterior and interior design, starting with slightly refreshed headlights and the addition of side gills.
The car also gets new paint finishes, Hyper Orange Design package, a new alloy wheel and the M Sport package.
While many expected an M Performance Automobile based on the Z4, the Bavarians decided to keep the sDrive35is as their highest-offering in the family and it comes with a model-specific version of the M Sport package.
The top-range Z4 sDrive35is features a higher-output version of BMW’s N54 Twin-Turbo engine producing 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque and the 7-speed DCT. The top model goes from 0 – 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds without a penalty to the EPA mileage estimates.
The BMW Z4 sDrive28i, BMW Z4 sDrive35i and BMW Z4 sDrive35is are also offered with Kansas leather trim.
In the lengthy video below you can have a closer look at all the features of the new Z4.

viernes, 4 de enero de 2013

BMW Plans a Wide PHEV Line

BMW’s i cars could make carbon-fiber mainstream

BMW is preparing plug-in electric vehicles and hybrids as dedicated models like the i3 and i8, and as alternative powertrain versions of its mainstream cars. Ian Robertson, BMW's sales and marketing board director, predicts the i3's range extender engine option will be popular. "It's a comparatively inexpensive option and I think the take will be high," he tells Motor Trend. "Plug-in hybrid will be 15 percent, or more, of the premium segment in 10 years." The range extender consists of a small two-cylinder engine. It doesn't drive the wheels and doesn't add to performance, a contrast to the combustion engine in the i8, which is geared to the wheels. The i8 can use all its power only when the engine is running.

"Mainstream" PHEV sedans would use the ActiveHybrid system now available in the 5 Series, and shortly the 3 and 7 Series, as a base. The system consists of a regular BMW gas engine and eight-speed automatic, with an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission. Software-actuated clutches on either side allow the two sources to energize the car in various combinations. By increasing motor power and battery capacity, BMW has all it needs for a PHEV. "It's no secret that we have the rights to all the i numbers," Robertson says. "No decisions have been made yet as to cars other than the i3 and i8, but this range isn't a one-off." Surely, a range extender would turn a larger car, a notional i5, into an attractive proposition.

The i8 plug-in hybrid 2+2 supercar, which Robertson indicates will cost "more than $100,000 because it's a super sports car," will use a mid-mounted 1.5-liter turbocharged gas engine driving the rear wheels, with an electric motor for the front wheels. Combined gas and electric engine power output is now confirmed at 349 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, with a manufacturer's estimated 0-62 mph in less than 5 seconds. Robertson has driven the i8 several times during development, and says the huge engineering task of integrating the two power sources seamlessly is complete. He grins, describing the instant torque:
 "It really thumps you."

 The company unveiled another concept of the i3 four-seater that's "90 percent of production," per Robertson. The main change will be the glazed lower portion of the doors. On both the i3 and i8, they'll change to something similar to those on the i8 Spyder concept. The unveiling took place at the world's first dedicated i showroom, in London. BMW will open another in New York within a year, as well as in three more European cities and Tokyo and Shanghai. Robertson estimates fewer than a quarter of regular BMW service shops will be able to handle i models because of the training needed to handle their carbon fiber and high-voltage electronics.

The i cars will offer a mobility package called 360o Electric, which includes access to a mobile charging truck if the battery runs flat. It also bundles installation of a specially designed home charger, premium city charging spots, and smartphone apps for access to such services as swapping for a gas vehicle for specific trips. The aim is to answer an apprehensive buyer's every last FAQ about electric cars.World production of carbon-fiber composite is about 30,000 tons, Robertson continues, much of it in fishing rods. BMW will add to that with these cars. It has acquired a great lead in making large sheets of the stuff, and "that journey hasn't been an easy one." It gives BMW a unique selling proposition.

jueves, 3 de enero de 2013

Luxury car buyers get kid-glove treatment from dealerships

The rest of us can still expect rubber-glove treatment
luxury car dealership treatment
Luxury vehicle buyers want service -- not just repairs done right, but the kind of pampering they get at high-end hotels, restaurants and boutiques. It's all about the extras.
In response, luxury vehicle brands are stepping up their games, rolling out unprecedented customer service, training staff and reconfiguring showrooms to cater to these buyers. The changes come as luxury sales gain steam with the auto industry's recovery in the United States.
"There's no such thing as a bad luxury car anymore," said Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. "Our customers have such high expectations, and 'I had a decent service or sales experience' does not cut it in the competitive luxury business."
"It is not just about putting out a big pile of money in incentives and showering them with gifts and flowers on their birthday. It is like the Ritz-Carlton or luxury experience where they feel special -- that is what we are trying to do," said Cannon, whose company launched the Customer One training program this year for all dealership employees.
Peter Miles, vice president of operations for BMW of North America, said his company is about to roll out a new dealership standard that will transform showrooms to mimic retailers such as Apple: "There is no question premium customers expect a premium experience," he said.
"With any premium product, the experience the consumer has -- whether they are learning about it or testing it -- has to match the product."
Lexus dealers near airports often provide free parking and shuttle service to the airport while an owner's vehicle gets serviced or cleaned, says Nancy Hubbell, Lexus prestige communications manager. Dealers also offer Saturday breakfasts with free car washes, free up-close parking for Lexus owners at crowded events and owner events where they review technology, maintenance or other issues.
What dealers choose to do "depends on the dealership and what resonates in their community," Hubbell said.
For the past few years, General Motors has stepped up its focus on customer service for Cadillac. Ritz-Carlton service specialists have schooled Cadillac executives and dealers on the finer points of the luxury experience.
Last month GM started what it calls Cadillac University, a 2 1/2-day training program for dealers that imparts insights on values and attitudes of luxury customers.
Cadillac requires dealers to staff at least one technology expert dedicated to helping customers navigate their infotainment systems and device connections. GM gives buyers of new XTS and ATS sedans iPads with an app that mimics Cadillac's new Cadillac User Experience, or CUE, infotainment system.
And Porsche Cars North America is building a test track, museum and other features at its new headquarters in Atlanta. The company also is adding a Los Angeles brand center that includes a restaurant and a display of Porsche race cars.
"The vision is brand experience, if you want to differentiate and make the brand unique," said Detlev von Platen, CEO of Porsche Cars North America.
Create fans, add sales
Training dealership employees -- from porters to dealer principals -- is an important element of the new approach to what many brands are calling the customer experience.
This fall, Audi of America launched the Kundenbegeisterung program, which means "creating customer delight" in German. Audi has shortened that to "Kb" and loosely translated it as "creating Audi fans."
In the first phase, launched this fall, Audi held daylong seminars in 14 U.S. cities. The company invited about 15,000 dealership employees and outlined how they can better engage customers, personalize sales and service and learn from other industries.
"We have to do a better job of treating customers, and we will give you the tools and training to do that, and we are empowering you to do that" was the message, according to Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America. "This is customer treatment, doing the right thing when the customer is in front of you."
The second phase was leadership seminars with dealer principals and general managers of Audi's 276 stores. In the fourth quarter, groups of 20 to 30 dealers spent six hours in role-playing and other exercises. They focused on goals such as selling to women, Keogh said.
In the first quarter, Audi will hold customer experience workshops across the country for every dealership employee who directly interacts with a customer, Keogh said. "We will work through it again and again."
The solutions aren't fixed procedures, Keogh said. For instance, some customers value getting in and out of the service department quickly: "We have seen when people come to Audi to have their car serviced, you come in, give us your key, the service loaner is there and you are out. We think, 'Brilliant.'"
But research has shown that not every customer is so eager to get out, he said. Some want to linger and talk about their cars. "We say book 15 minutes for each person every time -- we want to slow things down."
How does that translate in the dealership? Jim DiGuilio, general manager of Audi Henderson in Henderson, Nev., says his store picks up vehicles that need service at the valet parking area of Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport and returns them just before the customer returns from a trip, at no extra charge to the customer.
"Our culture has to be a willingness to go above and beyond," DiGuilio said.
And that willingness often wins over customers. DiGuilio told of an Audi owner who bought a competing SUV, took it in for service at the other brand's store and got a low-end loaner vehicle without a navigation system.
The customer was new to the area, got lost on the way to her appointment and nearly had an accident, DiGuilio said. Frantic, she called an Audi salesman at the Henderson store who previously sold her family a car.
The dealership didn't have any more loaner cars with navigation systems, so it pulled a new A8 with the feature out of inventory and took it to her, DiGuilio said. A week later the woman traded the nearly new SUV for an A8, he said.
Not about price
"If I can't differentiate and make you feel special about the experience, then it is all about price, and then we're no different than any other commodity product in the car business," Cannon said.
Mercedes-Benz customers "want to be thrilled and delighted," he said.
"We are trying to rally the dealer body around 'the best or nothing' customer experience and energize dealership employees to delight. That does not mean goodwill money on the table."
Mercedes-Benz has completed the first round of training with 11,000 customer-facing dealership employees. During that training, Mercedes discovered about 70 percent of the employees had never driven one of the brand's vehicles. So it is launching DASH -- Drive a Star Home -- and is putting 700 Mercedes-Benz vehicles on the road at a cost of $4 million so dealership employees can take one home for two nights. The program starts early next year.
Mercedes-Benz also polled 22,000 dealership workers about the store where they work, asking about leadership, culture and whether they are engaged in their jobs, Cannon said. About 15,000 employees responded. Mercedes-Benz consultants are discussing the results of the anonymous survey in person with dealer principals and store managers.
'Declutter the showroom'
BMW wants to change the environment of its dealerships simply because "we know over the last 10 years consumers come into dealerships less to learn about cars," Miles said.
Shoppers used to come in four times to check out a vehicle, he said. Now they come in twice. "They need an environment that isn't just a sales environment," Miles said.
During the first quarter, BMW will unveil its first new facility standard in a decade. The aim, Miles said, is to "declutter the showroom over the next four to five years."
That means getting rid of the cubicles, the glass rooms and the office environment to make the showroom more like an Apple computer store with "a lot of product. You buy things there, but you can also learn," Miles said.
BMW envisions using more high-definition screens to provide product information and displaying cars in detail with varied options, colors and upholstery, Miles said. No customer wants to be tackled by a salesman and put into a cubicle, he said. That's especially a turnoff at the finance and insurance end, where there's often a bottleneck, Miles said. BMW wants to speed that process and have contracts on tablets rather than paper.
Details are being worked out. Dealers will have until 2016 to comply, but BMW wants most of the elements in place in 2014, the first full year of sales for its i3 compact electric car, Miles said.
"This is not bricks and mortar. We have enough capacity in bricks," he said. "It is about improving the efficiency and meeting what we see are premium customer expectations."
Vroom, vroom around HQ
Porsche is building a new headquarters in Atlanta with a 1.6-mile test track and a customer experience center, as well as a similar facility in Los Angeles. Dealers will be able to book individual customers or reserve the center for a day for a group.
The Atlanta headquarters will have a Porsche car museum, and the Los Angeles center will display famous Porsche race cars. Each will have a restaurant. The cost for both projects is about $100 million, von Platen said.
Porsche executives expect as many as 20,000 visitors annually at the Atlanta center and test track, with as many as 15 percent of those visitors arranged through dealerships. The headquarters will open in 2014.
Von Platen said customers will be able to take delivery of vehicles at both locations.
A plus to the customer experience centers: "When you bring employees in direct contact with customers, it will give them new inspiration and customer focus on what we are doing with Porsche in the United States," von Platen said.
"And we are enabling customers to experience the values and the roots of our brand. This will be unique in the United States."
Intimate intros
Jaguar Land Rover North America is experimenting with the way it introduces new vehicles, seeking to bring the right customers into a more intimate setting than a showroom or auto show.
To generate interest in the redesigned Range Rover that goes on sale in March, Land Rover hosted lavish dinners and receptions this fall in homes of 12 "superloyalists" -- people who have owned five or more Range Rovers. The superloyalists invited friends and associates who would be interested in the nearly $100,000 SUV, said Andy Goss, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America.
The Range Rover was always on display, but there were no hard sells or dealers handing out cards. The events were held in New York, New Jersey, Dallas, Miami and Chicago -- Range Rover's biggest markets. Usually 30 to 40 people attended, except for the largest event in Alpine, N.J., near Jaguar Land Rover headquarters, where more than 100 people were invited.
"We are trying to do this with advocacy and having our customers speak positively about our cars to friends," Goss said. "If you sell 300,000 cars a year, you can't do that because you are a commodity brand. At 60,000 you aren't, and you have superloyalists.