• McLaren confident in expansion without merger

    April 28, 2015
    McLaren has rejected the possibility of merging with one of the large automotive groups as it continues to expand.
    Other sports and luxury brands have long since joined Volkswagen Group or Fiat Chrysler. The two large companies control the lion’s share of high-end brands including Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche and Rolls-Royce, each taking advantage of shared development costs and other benefits of being a subsidiary.

    The British automaker does not appear to be facing the same troubles as some of its independent peers, namely Aston Martin, and McLaren’s executive director of sales and marketing, Jolyon Nash, believes the company can continue achieving its ambitious goals without joining one of German or American giants.

    “We’re very quick to move. Our product development life cycles are very efficient,” Nash told Bloomberg in a recent interview. “In an industry like this, those are great advantages.”

    McLaren’s latest introductions, the 570S and 540C, are the first offerings in the newly formed Sport Series line — entry-level models that represent a clear move toward much higher sales volumes. The latter model is tailored for buyers in China, the world’s largest automotive market.

    The company appears to be confident that it can meet its mid-term goal of 4,000 units sold in 2017, more than doubling sales from the 1,600 units pushed last year.

    Image by Brian Williams.

  • NHTSA action expected in response to Takata, Jeep recalls

    April 28, 2015
    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to take further action in the ongoing Takata and Jeep recall campaigns shortly.
    NHTSA is concerned because the repair rate for both campaigns is far lower than the agency deems acceptable.

    Honda, one of several manufacturers recalling vehicles for faulty Takata airbag inflators, recently investigated a fatal incident that occurred in January that the company believed to be linked to a faulty airbag. The company launched a voluntary ad campaign in March to reach Honda and Acura owners who may be driving vehicles that have been recalled and not yet fixed.

    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles lost a lawsuit over the death of a four-year-old passenger in a Jeep Grand Cherokee that ignited after its fuel-tank ruptured in a collision. Chief executive Segio Marchionne made a bold deposition in the case, arguing that the Jeeps with fuel tanks mounted in the rear crush zone are safe even without a recall. The jury apparently did not agree, resulting in a $150 million judgement against the company.

    The company agreed to install trailer hitches on more than 1.5 million vehicles, including the 2002-2007 Liberty and 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee, all of which were built with the fuel tank unprotected behind the rear axle. The campaign was initiated due to government pressure, but FCA has consistently argued that the vehicles were not defective.

    Measures to speed up both campaigns are expected to be announced within two weeks, citing concerns over owners whom the agency deems to be at risk due to continued operation of vehicles that are subject to ongoing safety recalls.

    NHTSA previously threatened to reopen the investigation that lead to the Jeep recall, citing concerns from safety advocates that the recall does not cover all models potentially susceptible to what is seen as a design flaw. FCA responded by citing data submitted to the safety regulator when it concluded its report and issued the recall. “Real-world data show the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee has a lower incident rate than 57 other vehicles from its era. NHTSA concluded from its investigation that the vehicles do not pose an unreasonable risk to safety,” FCA said in a statement. “No events that have occurred since NHTSA closed its investigation should affect this conclusion.”

    NHTSA appears to be more concerned with the low response rate to the campaign for existing vehicles than expanding the scope of the Jeep recall. Administrator Mark Rosekind told Reuters at a conference today, “[T]he numbers came out, they’re horribly low. Those translate into lives at risk, and more lives have been lost and people hurt. That’s unacceptable.”

    “We’re going to look at every option, and we’ll be as aggressive as possible,” Rosekind said.

  • Lotus confirms crossover production plan

    April 28, 2015
    Lotus has confirmed plans to build a sports crossover, which it hopes will quickly become the hottest seller in the lineup.
    Speaking to Autocar, Lotus chief executive Jean-Marc Gales suggests the as-yet-unnamed model will be the “world’s first lightweight SUV,” and will consequently maintain the essence of a “real Lotus” despite its higher ride height. The executive previously promised that a Lotus-badged utility vehicle would be very fast on the track, with “outstanding handling” that will help it reinvent the segment.

    A four-door sports car was also under consideration, but the company appears to have dropped immediate plans for another car in favor of a foray into the fast-growing crossover market.

    Previous reports suggested the soft-roader would be a two-door model based on the mid-engined Evora coupe, though the latest details point to a five-door configuration. All-wheel-drive is expected to be offered as an upgrade option, and the build will likely be a bit lower and wider than the Macan and the Audi Q5.

    The model is expected to be presented as a rival to the Porsche Macan, designed with Chinese tastes in mind. It will be designed at the company’s UK design headquarters, but built in China via a joint venture involving China’s Goldstar Heavy Industrial.

    The company is said to be sticking with the a name that starts with ‘E’ for the production model, which could arrive on the market in 2019. Gales has been hesitant to confirm a US launch, citing the expense of necessary safety modifications, but the proposal has not been completely ruled out.

    Image by Ronan Glon.

  • Audi highlights Matrix Laser headlight tech

    April 28, 2015
    Audi has highlighted several advancements in adaptive headlight technology, referred to as Matrix Laser.
    The automaker has partnered with suppliers Bosch and Osram, along with the lighting-technology department of the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology and the German government, to develop an “intelligent laser light for compact and high-resolution adaptive headlights” (iLaS).

    The tech relies on a rapidly moving micro-mirror that redirects the beam from an Osram laser, which starts as a 450-nanometer blue beam that is converted to white light via a fluorescent filter.

    The company already offers Matrix LED headlights on several models, along with LaserSpot high-beams. Combining the two technologies has been a work in progress, with a prototype previewed early last year at the Consumer Electronics Show.

    The current collaboration is said to have improved the technology by implementing faster activation and deactivation of the laser diode in relation to the mirror position, quickly broadening or narrowing the beam pattern to avoid dazzling other drivers. The three-millimeter-wide mirrors also enable much finer dynamic resolution, further improving the beam projection and maximizing safety.

    “The mirror used for this, which comes from the Bosch company, is a micro-optical system that features electro-mechanical control and is based on silicon technology,” the company notes. “It is very sturdy and exhibits very long life. Such components are also used for accelerometers and control units for electronic stability control.”

    The wording suggests the technology is being developed with production in mind, though Audi has not yet announced which model might get the Matrix Laser headlights. The system has been shown on a Quattro coupe concept, which is rumored to be moving toward an auto-show debut later this year.

  • VW Golf, GTI, Audi A3 face recall over failed fuel pumps

    April 28, 2015
    Volkswagen Group is the latest company to issue a recall related to faulty fuel pumps supplied by Bosch.
    Like the problematic parts cited in recent campaigns announced by BMW and Nissan, the 2015 Audi A3 and VW Golf and GTI use a fuel pump that was produced with improperly-plated components. The nickel plating is prone to flaking, potentially causing pump failure.

    “If the fuel pump fails, the vehicle will not start, or if the engine is running, it will stop and the vehicle will stall, increasing the risk of a crash,” the company said in a statement.

    Approximately 6,200 units are affected by the latest campaign. Each will receive a new fuel-pump module to prevent any future problems.

    The related recalls from other automakers have listed over 100,000 vehicles. It is unclear if the same parts were used in additional models that have not yet been named in the existing campaigns.

  • Neues Super-Rennspiel Project Cars: Strecken und Release-Datum bestätigt

    April 28, 2015

    Project Cars will die neue Referenz bei den Rennspiel-Simulationen werden. Grafisch gibt es schonmal wenig auszusetzen

    Project Cars wird am 7. Mai 2015 für PC, XBox One und Playstation 4 erscheinen

    Insgesamt wird es bei Project Cars 30 Locations mit insgesamt 110 Streckenvarianten geben, darunter auch die Küste von Südfrankreich

    München, 28. April 2015
    Project Cars will die bisher schönste und realistischste Rennsimulation werden und mit diesem unbescheidenen Vorhaben die Racing-Größen Gran Turismo 6 und Forza Motorsport 5 vom Rennspiel-Thron stoßen. Das Projekt von Slightly Mad Studios und Bandai Namco setzt dabei unter anderem auf Crowdfunding und eine sehr engagiert an der Entwicklung beteiligte Community. Der irre Umfang des Spiels sorgte bereits mehrmals für eine Verschiebung des geplanten Erscheinungstermins. Nun ist der Release für PC, Xbox One und Playstation 4 endgültig für den 7. Mai 2015 angesetzt.

    30 Schauplätze mit 110 Streckenvarianten
    Nicht nur grafisch will Project Cars die Konkurrenz in den Schatten stellen, auch bei der Fülle an Strecken setzt die Newcomer-Simulation Maßstäbe. Insgesamt wird man bei Project Cars 110 Streckenvarianten an 30 verschiedenen Schauplätzen befahren können. Absolute Klassiker wie die Nürburgring-Nordschleife, Spa-Francorchamps, Hockenheim, Laguna Seca oder Imola sind genauso vertreten wie eine Fülle an englischen Rennstrecken. Aber auch Straßenrouten wie Küstenabschnitte in Kalifornien oder Südfrankreich stehen auf dem Fahrplan.

    Jeden Monat ein kostenloses Auto
    Ein weiteres Unterscheidungsmerkmal zu anderen Rennsimulationen bei Project Cars: Alle Strecken, Rennklassen und Autos sind von Anfang an verfügbar und müssen nicht erst freigespielt werden. Zu Beginn wird es wohl um die 70 Autos geben, wobei vom Kart über diverse Oldie-Renner, Cup- und Formel-Autos bis zu hochpreisigen Supersportwagen für jeden etwas dabei sein dürfte. Ebenfalls ungewöhnlich: Jeden Monat soll es ein kostenloses Fahrzeug zum Download geben. Den Anfang macht das arabische Supercar W Motors Lykan Hypersport.

    Mit prominenter Unterstützung
    Der größte Pluspunkt von Project Cars dürfte aber die wahre Flut an Einstellungsmöglichkeiten sein. Sich ändernde Wetterverhältnisse (mit Auswirkungen auf die Fahrphysik) und die Einstellbarkeit von Reifenabnutzung, Spritverbrauch oder dem Schadensmodell sind nur der Anfang. Dazu kann der Spieler sein Fahrzeug bis ins kleinste Detail verändern und anpassen. Wer kein Ingenieursstudium abgeschlossen hat, darf sich aber auch auf die Voreinstellungen verlassen. Obendrein holte sich das Project-Cars-Team prominente Hilfe für die Umsetzung eines authentischen Fahrgefühls. Le-Mans-Fahrer und Ex-BBC-TopGear-”Stig” Ben Collins, Tourenwagenfahrer und Sim-Racing-Größe Nicholas Hamilton (Bruder von Lews Hamilton) sowie Oli Webb, Gewinner der European Le Mans Series, brachten ihre Expertise ein.

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