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Mercedes-Benz considering second North American plant to build compact vehicles

The Mercedes -Benz S-Class Coupe is introduced at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, January 13, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Geoff RobinsGEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images
Bloomberg News
Published: 14 January 2014 08:26 AM
Updated: 14 January 2014 08:29 AM
Mercedes-Benz, the top selling luxury-car maker in the U.S., will likely decide by the end of next year on adding a second North American factory to boost capacity to meet rising demand.
The Daimler AG brand is considering producing compact vehicles at a new plant in the region to complement an existing Alabama factory, which builds sport-utility vehicles, production chief Andreas Renschler said in an interview.
“Market demand is the key driver for the expansion of our production network,” Renschler said late yesterday at the North American International Auto Show.
Mercedes, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Volkswagen AG’s Audi are all adding production in North America to take advantage of sales-growth potential that contrasts with stagnating demand in their home market of Europe. Local manufacturing reduces the effects of the dollar’s moves on foreign-exchange markets on non-U.S. companies’ earnings.
Mercedes, which last year passed BMW in U.S. sales, already expanded in Tuscaloosa in 2013 and will add the next version of the mid-sized C-Class sedan at the factory this year. The plant will also assemble a new derivative of the M-Class SUV, Renschler said in the interview.
BMW, the biggest maker of luxury cars globally, is considering building engines in North America for the first time and expanding vehicle production in the region, people familiar with the matter said last month. BMW may establish a motor factory in Mexico or the U.S., and the Munich-based company could potentially decide on the project in 2014, the people said at the time.
The German company set up its only North American factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1994. The site, which produces all of BMW’s X3, X5 and X6 sport-utility vehicles, is one of the U.S.’s main auto exporters. BMW, which will start making the new X4 in Spartanburg this year, may expand vehicle- making in the region beyond that model, the people said.
Audi laid the cornerstone in May for a $1.3 billion, 150,000-car plant in San Jose Chiapa, Mexico, that will begin making the Q5 SUV in 2016.

2014 BMW M4 more than a name change

DETROIT — Sport driving enthusiasts long revered the M3 as a high-performance, somewhat affordable car for road and track. Those enthusiasts will have to get used to saying M4 instead, the new name for the previous M3 coupe.

Beyond a simple name change, however, the M4 and its M3 sedan sibling are wholly new cars, featuring down-sized yet more powerful engines along with new body and performance components. Although the M4 and M3 share performance components, serious drivers will be more interested in the coupe for its sleek styling.

The design of the new M4 is not radically different from the 3 Series coupe, and incorporates traditional BMW styling cues. The kidney grille sits above big air intakes to feed the now-turbocharged engine. Side styling features a simple contour line accentuating the belt line, and the classic Hofmeister kink sits at the rear of the side graphic. Despite the smaller engine, quad exhausts still underlie the rear of the car.

The most remarkable thing about the new car, and a testament to BMW’s latest performance technology, is its engine output. Under the hood sits a 3-liter straight six-cylinder engine fitted with twin turbos, smaller than the outgoing 4-liter V-8. Yet the new engine produces 425 horsepower, 11 more than the previous engine. Torque gets a huge bump, from 295 pound-feet all the way up to 406, a particular trait of turbocharged engines.

Smaller displacement should allow for better fuel economy in everyday driving, although BMW has not released mileage estimates yet.

The M4 will be available with a six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the latter an automated manual. BMW adds rev-matching to the manual transmission, a feature already present in the dual clutch. Rev-matching means the car automatically maintains engine speed between shifts, eliminating big torque bumps as the next gear engages.

BMW notes a zero-to-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds for the dual-clutch transmission, using launch control, and 4.1 seconds for the manual.

As with any BMW M car, there are numerous performance settings, with the M button serving to activate some or all, depending on how the owner sets it. And new for the 2015 model, electric power steering allows three modes for steering response: Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus. The performance settings mirror those found in the 2014 BMW M6.

BMW lightened the load with the M4, compared with the previous M3 coupe, shaving off about 175 pounds through the use of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics and aluminum components in the suspension. In fact, the M4 makes use of a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic drive shaft.

This being a high-tech performance powerhouse, BMW does not stint on the cabin electronics. The M4 comes with the latest version of iDrive, which adds a touch-pad controller to the top of the main dial. The car will include built-in connected features and integration with the BMW ConnectedDrive app.

Model name changes can often seem like cheap marketing tricks, and certainly reverence for past M3 models will need to evolve for the new M4, but the change seems worth it. The 2015 BMW M4 looks to be very high-tech and high-performance car suitable for everyday driving and track weekends.

First look behind the scenes at BMW stand in Detroit

Tomorrow morning the 2014 Detroit Auto Show will open its doors to journalists from around the world. Among many world premieres, one of the main attractions in Detroit will be the new BMW M3 and M4. BMW stand will also host the world debut of the first 2 Series Coupe, and its M235i M Performance Automobile.

Preparations are underway and below you can see some exclusive photos from behind the scenes, including some live shots of the F80 M3 and F82 M4.

Porsche Sets U.S. Sales Record, Reflecting Luxury-Car Boom

“German sports car maker Porsche AG said its U.S sales jumped 21% in 2013 and set a new record of 42,323 vehicles.

While Ford might sell roughly that many pickup trucks in a month, the number is huge for Porsche, which specializes in extremely expensive cars that no one really needs for basic transportation.

The results for individual models also tell a critical story for the company. The Cayenne sport-utility vehicle was the top seller with 18,507 vehicles sold, but the 911sports coupe, which has been the foundation of Porsche’s high-end image and racing provenance since its introduction more than 50 years, accounted for a quarter of overall sales.

The 911 starts at $84,300, but most versions have base prices over $100,000, and the Turbo S Cabriolet model costs $193,900. It is a small, cramped car that, while generally more practical than other exotic sports cars, is arguably more of a toy than transportation.

Still, the 911 outsold Porsche’s lower-priced Boxster and Cayman sports cars, which combined for 7,953 units. The popularity of Porsche’s most expensive models is reminiscent of what is happening in markets for a number of luxury products from clothing to private jets. The costliest planes with the most features and greatest range tend to fare better than smaller, lower-cost versions.

Porsche said it expects favorable market conditions to continue this year, given its range of new products that includes the Macan compact SUV.

“Since introducing 22 new models and variants into the U.S. market in 2013, we are entering the new year with our youngest product line ever,” said Detlev von Platen, president and CEO of Porsche’s North American unit. “Thus, we are confident that we can continue writing the success story of Porsche in the U.S. over the next 12 months.””

-JONATHAN WELSH

Mercedes-Benz to Reveal AMG-Tuned GLA45 and Concept S-Class Coupe in Detroit

“Mercedes-Benz will show several new models at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week, among them the 2015 GLA45 AMG, the 2015 Concept S-Class Coupe and the 2015 C-Class.

Mercedes says the GLA45 AMG is aimed at younger buyers, which explains why it appears to be going for a performance image. The vehicle is a compact crossover built around an engine: an AMG-tuned turbocharged 4-cylinder producing 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. The company says the vehicle will go from zero to 60 miles an hour in 4.8 seconds on its way to a top speed of 155 m.p.h. An AMG SpeedShift DCT 7-speed automatic transmission feeds that power through a 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.

From a design standpoint, the kinetic lines of the Concept S-Class Coupe – the 2-door version of Mercedes’ top-of-the-line sedan – accentuate the car’s wide, low-slug stance. The grand coupe features a power bulge on its long hood, powerful rear haunches and two speedy creases running along each side below a high beltline. Twenty-one-inch wheels peek from beneath lightly emphasized wheel arches. The interior, full of brushed and polished aluminum, has a 12.3-inch display screen in the dash below a slight hood.

No S-Class would be complete without a potent engine, and the Concept S-Class Coupe gets a 449-horsepower 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8. To keep occupants safe, the car has a stereo camera system that can keep track of objects up to 1,600 feet away. The cameras also scan the road for the Magic Body Control feature, which anticipates road conditions for a smooth ride and prescient handling characteristics.”

-nytimes.com/BENJAMIN PRESTON

Jaguar Land Rover Posts Record Sales for 2013

“DETROIT—JaguarLand Rover, the U.K.-based unit of India’s Tata Motors Ltd. 500570.BY -0.26% sold a record 425,006 vehicles in 2013 as demand for its luxury vehicles increased in all major markets including in China, North America and Europe.

Sales in the past year climbed 19%, with both the luxury marques recording large gains over the previous year, with models such as the Range Rover Evoque, Jaguar F-Type and Range Rover Sport.

Jaguar posted its strongest full-year sales performance since 2005 of 76,668 vehicles, a growth of 42%. Land Rover set a 15% rise with sales of 348,338 vehicles, according to the company.

Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover chief executive attributed the sales performance to “continuing strong demand for vehicles across the range.”

Jaguar Land Rover has been gaining its sales with many new products since its acquisition by Mumbai-based Tata Motors from Ford Motor Co. F +1.45% in 2008. Jaguar Land Rover is now a critical profit source for Tata Motors, which has found demand for its Tata brand of vehicles fall in its domestic market of India due to a market slowdown and intense competition from foreign companies.

In China, the single-biggest market for Jaguar Land Rover, as well as the Asia Pacific region, sales jumped 30%, North America grew 21%, and the U.K. recorded a 14% gain. Sales in Europe increased 6%, and other overseas markets, including India, grew 23%.

“The Range Rover Sport, F-TYPE, new engines and drivetrains, and a number of 14 Model Year enhancements to our existing lineup have seen Jaguar Land Rover continue to build strong sales momentum in every global region,” said Andy Goss, Jaguar Land Rover director in charge of global sales.

Jaguar set new annual sales records in 17 markets, including, Brazil, India, Russia and China. Sales of Land Rover vehicles increased in every major region, with annual sales records set in 42 markets, including the U.K., U.S., Brazil and India, according to the company.”
-Wall Street Journal/By SANTANU CHOUDHURY

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