• VW Scandal: Everything you need to know from Week Two

    September 28, 2015

    It is barely possible to keep up with the fallout from Volkswagen’s diesel engine scandal, in which the automaker admitted to subverting emissions tests with software in 11 million of its cars sold since 2009. For those who have just returned from under a rock, here is a primer.

    In the wake of VW CEO Martin Winterkorn’s resignation, Porsche head Matthias Muller has been tapped for the job, though Winterkorn is reportedly leaving with a $32 million (possibly more) retirement and severance package. Other executives departures have been announced as well. Meanwhile, the EPA and at least 27 states are promising to take swift action.

    Early Warnings

    This week, more revelations have been pouring in. First, Automotive News cites a report in Germany’s Bild am Sonntag that reveals VW supplier Bosch had provided the automaker with some of the software used in the deception. Bosch, however, says it warned VW as early as 2007 that the diesel engine management software and modules were for testing purposes only. Some of that code ended up in the fraudulent cars, despite Bosch’s claims that it cautioned VW it would be illegal to put that code in cars meant for the street.

    A second German paper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, published a story in which a VW engineer is said to have cautioned higher-ups against illegal emissions practices involving exhaust valves as well. No explanation was offered for why management did not follow up with the concerns.

    Costly Decisions

    Bild am Sonntag further reports that scandal began in 2005, when the TDI diesel engines in question were in their planning stages. Then-head of VW Wolfgang Bernhard and Audi engineer Rudolf Krebs determined that the only way to pass emissions tests was with a urea-injection system similar to what BMW, Mercedes-Benz and VW (on larger models) use.

    However, VW was under a massive cost-cutting program and it was decided that the urea solution would be too expensive to implement. It would have added 300 euros to each car. When Bernhard left in 2007, he was replaced by Martin Winterkorn, who moved to new engineers from Audi onto the TDI engine project, and development continued.

    From Above

    VW USA employees have been vocalizing their lack of say when it comes to the company’s corporate structure, claiming that power is too centralized in the VW headquarters in Wolfsburg. The scandal, however, has prompted the automaker to reshuffle its North American hierarchy, giving the Americans more clout.

    This week it was also revealed by Automotive News Europe that the subversion of emissions tests came from managers in Germany. US testing was conducted in-house by VW in Westlake Village, California, but with criteria sent from Germany. If a car failed the test, VW would fly engineers to California to work on the car for about a week. The reason cited for this was that VW did not employ any engineers in the US that had the necessary knowledge.

    Once the cars passed, the results were sent back to Germany before being submitted to the EPA for certification. The revelation of VW’s cheating has prompted the EPA to re-evaluate the self-testing policy in which automakers submit their own results.

    Ad Lock

    Meanwhile, VW has pulled nearly all of its advertising on national media in the US. A big push was on the boards for the launch of VW’s 2016 AppConnect technology package, but that has been shelved.

    “Ongoing press coverage and negative consumer social sentiment in the marketplace has effectively drowned out any positive messaging from our national App Connect campaign,” said VP of marketing Vinay Shahani in a memo obtained by Automotive News.

    Dealer compensation

    In tier-two marketing, which targets specific regions around the country, VW has replaced all its diesel ads with an “alternate message.” VW says that they did not want to confuse customers, as dealers have been ordered to stop selling any VW cars affected by the scandal, new or used.

    In another memo, sent to dealers on Friday, VW said that it will compensate them for product that is taking up inventory. For the months of September and October, VW will pay dealers $70 for each new diesel vehicle and $50 for each used diesel vehicle affected by the stop-sale.

    Further assistance to dealers come in the form of $300 per car sold in September, $600 if it’s a Passat. A one-percent-of-sticker-price kickback is also being offered for each car sold for the remainder of 2015.

    Meanwhile, Volkswagen of America has just launched a dedicated website, VWDieselInfo.com, informing customers about the ongoing scandal. In includes the video by VoA boss Michael Horn embedded below. LeftLane News will have more updates as information becomes available.

  • Toyota C-HR spied during testing

    September 28, 2015

    Toyota has been missing a player in the hotly contested compact crossover segment, but the latest spy footage shows they are working to fill that gap.

    A camouflaged test mule was recently spotted in wet weather and is believed to be a prototype for the production C-HR Concept that was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show earlier this week. Much of the car is hidden under black covers, but the curvature of the hood’s leading edge and the design of its alloy wheels appear to match those of the concept’s.

    Though the C-HR was well received for its sporty and futuristic shape, it will likely be toned down when it sees production. Also, not surprisingly, it grows a pair of rear doors.

    The C-HR is also notable for being one of the first cars developed on the TNGA, or Toyota New Global Architecture. The shared modular platform will eventually underpin nearly all of the cars in Toyota’s lineup. The C-HR is expected to be offered in both hybrid and traditional internal combustion setups.

    A production version will be introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2016. Watch video of the mule below.

  • BMW celebrates 3 Series’ 40th birthday with limited-edition model

    September 28, 2015

    BMW is celebrating the 3 Series’ 40th birthday by launching a limited-edition model appropriately called 40 Years Edition. Curiously, the 40 Years Edition is only available in Japan and in Italy.

    The 40 Years Edition was designed to show how far the 3 Series has come since its introduction at the 1975 edition of the Frankfurt Motor Show. Four decades ago, the 3 was exclusively offered as a two-door sedan with a gasoline-burning engine and rear-wheel drive. Today, buyers can order the 3 as a station wagon equipped with a diesel engine and all-wheel drive, which is the configuration that the limited-edition model is based on.

    Limited to just 100 units, the commemorative model is finished in Tanzanite Blue Metallic, it rides on 19-inch alloy wheels and it is fitted with the M Sport Package, which gives the 3 a more aggressive look. Each example comes with a numbered luggage set manufactured by Italy’s Piquadro.

    Inside, the Italian-spec model gets white leather upholstery on the seats, the door panels and the bottom part of the dashboard, contrasting black leather on the top part of the dash and the door panels as well as piano black trim. Other upgrades include a M three-spoke steering wheel and a small plaque on the center console that’s engraved with the car’s serial number.

    The upgrades stop in the engine bay, where the 40 Years Edition is identical to the 320d on which it is based. That means power comes from a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-banger that makes 190 horsepower at 4,000 rpm and 295 lb-ft. of torque from 1,750 to 2,500 rpm. An eight-speed automatic transmission controlled by steering-wheel mounted paddles sends power to all four wheels.

    The 320d reaches 62 mph from a stop in 7.3 seconds and goes on to a top speed of 141 mph. It returns approximately 50 mpg in a mixed European cycle.

    Pricing information hasn’t been published yet. Similarly, whether other commemorative models will be offered elsewhere around the world is anyone’s guess.

  • 2017 BMW X4 M40i leaked

    September 28, 2015

    Leaked images have prematurely revealed the BMW X4 M40i ahead of its official debut. Tuned by BMW’s M division, the M40i is positioned at the very top of the X4 lineup.

    Documents uncovered by Germany-based enthusiast website Bimmertoday reveal that the M40i is powered by a 3.0-liter straight-six engine that uses a pair of turbochargers to generate 355 horsepower from 5,800 to 6,000 rpm and 342 lb-ft. of torque from 1,350 all the way up to 5,250 rpm. Bolted to an eight-speed automatic transmission that spins all four wheels, the six sends the M40i from zero to 62 mph in 4.9 seconds — about half a second faster than the X4 35i, the next model down — and on to a top speed that’s electronically limited to 155 mph.

    Brake and suspension upgrades keep the power in check, but full details aren’t available yet.

    The extra power is complemented by a more aggressive-looking body kit that adds a deep front bumper with four air dams, side skirts, a new rear bumper with a pair of round exhaust outlets, model-specific 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped by low-profile tires and a sprinkling of M emblems all around. Inside, it gets a M-designed three-spoke steering wheel and new sill plates, among other upgrades.

    Stay tuned, official details about the BMW X4 M40i will be published in the coming days. BMW’s next hot-rodded crossover will likely be shown to the public for the first time at the Los Angeles Motor Show, and it will land in showrooms in time for the 2017 model year.

  • Honda Project 2&4 Concept to evolve

    September 28, 2015

    Typically, show cars as radical as Honda’s Project 2&4 Concept make a big splash at auto shows and then fade into the shadows, never to be seen again. However, a new report out of the UK suggests that Honda may not be done with its half-motorcycle, half-race car Frankenstein just yet.

    In an interview with Top Gear, Honda motorcycle designer Martin Petersson told the magazine, “There will be a next step. It’s been too positive for us to go and complete this project in a basement somewhere.”

    Petersson also revealed that, like a motorcycle, the Project 2&4 was designed from the inside out, rather than following the typical automobile design process in which an exterior is penned first. That is likely why the 2&4, a collaboration between Honda’s motorcycle and car design teams, looks so raw.

    The Project 2&4, which had its first public showing at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, is single-seater powered by a 1.0-liter V4 from a MotoGP race bike. Detuned for street use, it still produces over 215 horsepower. The body weighs less than 900 pounds and was inspired by Honda’s 1965 Formula One car that won the Grand Prix of Mexico.

    Some outlets have speculated that it could yield a production model based on Petersson’s comments. Petersson, for his part, admitted there wasn’t a clear direction on its future: “The question is what that next step is.” However, he offered this retort: “The company slogan is ‘The Power of Dreams’. If we don’t believe in it I might as well not go to work, right?”

    Live images by Ronan Glon.