Update: BAW BC301Z official pictures . . .

Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation has now released official pictures of its Mercedes-Benz copy, the BC301Z.

Below is a previous post.

Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation (BAIC) has revealed its new BC301Z - the controversial copy of the Mercedes-Benz B-class to be sold in China from early 2011.

We’re not exactly sure what Mercedes-Benz makes of the BAIC BC301Z. Requests for an official comment on the new five seat MPV, which mirrors the appearance of the B-class down to the finest of details – both in terms of its exterior and interior styling, have gone unanswered.

BAIC and Mercedes-Benz operate a successful joint venture out of a plant in Beijing, producing the C-class and a long-wheel base version of the E-class. But Mercedes-Benz says the BC301Z is not part of any deal with BAIC.

Despite the obvious visual similarities, the BC301Z is a good deal smaller than the B-class. Measuring 4038mm in length, 1720mm in width and 1500mm in height, the new BAIC model is 232mm shorter, 55mm narrower and stands 105mm closer to the ground than the six-year-old Mercedes-Benz. It also rides on a 280mm shorter wheelbase at 2500mm.

The BC301Z comes with the choice of two four-cylinder gasoline engines produced under licence from Mitsubishi. Included is a 1.3-litre unit with 99bhp and a 1.5-litre with 113bhp.

Along with the MPV version seen here, BAIC is also planning a sedan called the BC302Z and wagon set to get the name BC303Z.

Saudi Arabia gets its first ever car maker

Gazal 1
The King Saud University (KSU) has announced a $US500 Million deal with South Korean based Digm Automotive Technologies (DAT) to establish Saudi Arabia’s first fully fledged car company.

The new joint venture, financed by KSU’s investment off-shoot Wadi al-Riyadh, DAT and a group of private investors, will produce a range of new models, the first of which will be an economical five-passenger sedan set go on sale in 2013 at prices between $US9300 and $US12,000.

“The move comes as part of the university’s efforts to transfer technology and establish a knowledge-based economy, said KSU President Abdullah Al-Othman, at a signing ceremony with Y.K Jeon, president of DAT.

At this stage it is unclear whether KSU’s earlier Mercedes-Benz G-class based Gazal 1 will be part of the new line-up of models, although an announcement by King Abdullah back in June indicated the big off-roader, designed by KSU students and Italy’s StudioTorino had already been granted a production greenlight.

Update: BAIC reveals the BC301Z. Mercedes' IP lawyers set to pounce . . .

No, not the Mercedes-Benz B-class.
It's the BAIC BC301Z . . .
Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation (BAIC) has revealed its new BC301Z - the controversial copy of the Mercedes-Benz B-class to be sold in China from early 2011.

We’re not exactly sure what Mercedes-Benz makes of the BAIC BC301Z.

Earlier requests for an official comment on the new five seat MPV, which mirrors the appearance of the B-class down to the finest of details – both in terms of its exterior and interior styling, have gone unanswered.

BAIC and Mercedes-Benz operate a successful joint venture out of a plant in Beijing, producing the C-class and a long-wheel base version of the E-class. But Mercedes-Benz says the BC301Z is not part of any deal with BAIC.

Despite the obvious visual similarities, the BC301Z is a good deal smaller than the B-class. Measuring 4038mm in length, 1720mm in width and 1500mm in height, the new BAIC model is 232mm shorter, 55mm narrower and stands 105mm closer to the ground than the six-year-old Mercedes-Benz. It also rides on a 280mm shorter wheelbase at 2500mm.

The BC301Z comes with the choice of two four-cylinder gasoline engines produced under licence from Mitsubishi. Included is a 1.3-litre unit with 99bhp and a 1.5-litre with 113bhp. Along with the MPV version seen here, BAIC is also planning a sedan called the BC302Z and an as yet uncorfirmed third body style that is set to get the name BC303Z.

Further pictures after the jump . . .

Forster: Jaguar SUV, hybrid and new "small" model plans

Jaguar plans new SUV, hybrid and small model
Jaguar’s global brand director, Adrian Hallmark, recently told British media his company “needs a crossover and needs to stop being a saloon (sedan) based company” – a comment that signaled the British car maker’s intent to use a four wheel drive platform from sister company Land Rover as the basis for a luxury class SUV to rival the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-class.

Now Carl Peter Forster, the boss of Jaguar parent company Tata, has revealed a further piece of Jaguar’s future new model plans, saying, “We are developing an architecture that will be used by both Jaguar and Land Rover.” The new architecture, or platform as it is more commonly known, is set to provide the basis for the new Jaguar SUV and second-generation Range Rover Sport.

Forster’s comments are part of an interview published in the latest issue of the German publication Auto Motor und Sport. In it, the former General Motors’ Europe boss also lets slip on Jaguar’s hybrid plans. “Hybrid technology is best developed in partnership with big component suppliers,” says Forster. “Lots of Europe’s car maker’s go to the same south German partner.”

All of which clearly hints that Jaguar is planning to equip its new SUV with gasoline, diesel and hybrid drive, with the latter likely to be supplied by ZF, which is based in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Jaguar already relies on ZF for the supply of automatic gearboxes and other key components for the XF, XJ and XK.

Meanwhile, Forster also elaborated in Jaguar’s plans for a new entry level to slot into the position in its line-up vacated by the X-type. When pressed on plans for a new small Jaguar, Forster said: “We are thinking very seriously about it. Technically we can do it. If we can get it to stand up financially we’ll do it. The small (model) will also get a four-cylinder. But it has to be special in character, not mainstream.”

On what effect the introduction of a smaller model might do to Jaguar’s image, Forster had these words: “There’s a C-class from Mercedes-Benz. No one is forcing us into the volume market. We’re in a comfortable situation. We can choose the market, segment, model and engines.”

• Jaguar planning new SUV to rival the BMW X5
• New four wheel drive to share platform with a Land Rover model
• Possible hybrid variant of new SUV alongside traditional gasoline and diesel variants. Hybrid technology to be developed in partnership with ZF
• Jaguar “thinking seriously” on new “small” model. Parent company boss, Carl Peter Forster, compares it to Mercedes-Benz C-class. Four-cylinder engines in the pipeline.

See related story here:


Kia KV7 concept sketch

Kia KV7
Kia is planning to preview a replacement for the aging Sedona at the upcoming Detroit auto show with this bold new concept, the KV7. The multi-seat MPV picks up design cues from the Kia Soul, hinting at a family look for the Korean car maker’s crossover models.

The first official rendering reveals the KV7 concept, which was designed at Kia’s Irvine studio in California, will boast at least one gullwing door and an interior with individual swiveling seats and a wooden floor – features
that are not expected to make it into
production. More information when it
becomes available . . .

Alfa workers support Volkswagen's move to buy into the Italian car maker

Unionized workers at Alfa Romeo are openly supporting moves by the Volkswagen Group to buy into the ailing Italian car maker.

The workers, concerned at  parent company Fiat Auto’s decision to more closely link future Alfa Romeo models with those from Fiat, Lancia, Chrysler and Jeep, have delivered a letter of support for Volkswagen to the German consulate in Milan.

"Alfa Romeo doesn't have future under Fiat," union workers are quoted as saying during a demonstration in Milan, adding. "We want Volkswagen."

At a media dinner at the Paris auto show in late September the head of the Volkswagen Group’s supervisory board,  Ferdinand Piech, openly spoke about his desire to purchase Alfa Romeo, suggesting the Italian car maker would compliment the company’s existing portfolio of brands which include Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen.

Despite the Volkswagen Group's keen interest, Fiat Auto boss, Sergio Marchionne, has denied any interest in selling Alfa Romeo, saying it "forms a central part of the company's future expansion plans".

Official images: Mercedes-Benz C-class facelift

2011 model year C-class
Mercedes-Benz has revealed a facelifted version of the third generation C-class.

The new-for-2011 sedan and wagon, which will be shown to media representatives at a presentation in Detroit in early January but isn’t planned to make it into the Cobo Hall for a public appearance at the Detroit auto show, gains a series of subtle styling changes together with higher quality interior fittings, a longer list of hi-end options together with revised engine and gearbox combinations – all aimed at raising its appeal against more contemporary luxury car competition.

Among the styling changes Mercedes-Benz designers have brought to the three year old C-class are edgier looking bumpers, reshaped headlamps, a more contoured aluminium hood, revised tail lamps graphics and a new choice of optional alloy wheels.

It’s a mild but effective re-style that not only serves to freshen the appearance of the mid-range Mercedes-Benz model but also helps improve its aerodynamic properties, with new front end sealing credited with lowering the co-efficient of drag to a class leading 0.26.

Inside, the new C-class sports a new dashboard with a more angular instrument binnacle, a redesigned steering wheel in selected models, new controls and the latest version of the German car maker’s Command system, which groups the navigation, communication and entertainment functions together.

Mercedes-Benz has also provided the C-class with many of its latest safety features as optional equipment. Included is its fatigue detecting AttentionAssist, Pre-Safe brakes that automatically provide braking force to pull the car up when an imminent collision is detected and radar controlled Distronic Plus cruise control.

In Europe, the new C-class retains the same line-up of four-cylinder engines. On the gasoline side there’s three turbocharged 1.8-litre direct injection units. It develops 156bhp (115kW) in the C180, 184bhp (135kW) in the C200 and 204bhp (150kW) in the C250.

Among the diesels are five turbocharged 2.0-litre common rail diesels. It produces 120bhp (88kW) in the C180 CDI, 136bhp (100kW) in the C200 CDI, 170bhp (125kW) in the C220 CDI and 204bhp (150kW in the C250 CDI – the latter of which is claimed to return an excellent 49mpg (4.8L/100km) on the combined European consumption cycle, a figure which translates to a CO2 emission rating of just 78g/mile (125g/km).

New to the new C-class line-up is Mercedes-Benz’s recently unveiled M276 engine in the C350. The 3.5-litre V6 direct injection unit delivers 306bhp (225kW) - an increase of 14bhp (10kW) on the older M272 engine it replaces. At the same time it is claimed to a combined average of 34.6 mpg (6.8L/100km), better its predecessor by 11.4mpg (3.3L/100km).

Also available is a 3.0-litre V6 common rail diesel in the four-wheel drive C300 CDI. It develops the same 231bhp as the discontinued C3550 CDI with 231bhp (170kW).

An across the board improvement in fuel consumption can be traced to the Mercedes-Benz’s decision to equip European versions of the C-class with an automatic stop/start system. Four-cylinder models also receive an optional seven-speed automatic gearbox in place of the older five-speed unit offered up to now.

In the US, the new C-class will come with just three engines: a 201bhp turbocharged 1.8-litre in the C250, a 3.5-litre V6 with 228bhp in the four-wheel drive C300 4Matic and new 302bhp 3.5-litre V6 with direct injection in the C350.

The facelifted C-class is planned to go on sale in Europe in March. North American sales aren’t likely to get underway until July.

Official (hi res) images: New 2011 Toyota Echo/Yaris/Vitz

New Toyota Echo/Yaris/Vitz
Toyota has revealed its third generation Echo – the Yaris as it is called in Europe or Vitz as is known in the domestic Japanese market where the compact hatchback is planned to go on sale in early 2011.

Flaunting edgier exterior styling than its  predecessor, with distinctive exposed headlamps, larger bumpers and tauter surfacing treatment – all reminiscent of the larger Prius, Toyota says it has placed less emphasis on woman buyers with the design of the new car. Instead, the new Echo has been styled to appeal to a broader market, in particular younger car buyers who have traditionally shunned the small Toyota.

In a bid to improve packaging the new five door supermini has grown by 3.9 inches (100mm) with a length of 152 inches (3885mm) in hatchback form – some 2.0 inche (50mm) of that coming from a longer 98.8 inch (2510mm) wheelbase. Width remains the same at 66.7 inches (1695mm) but height has dropped by 1.2 inches (30mm) on versions running standard suspension settings to 59.1 inches (1500mm). Inside, there’s a completely new interior boasting higher grade materials and an added 1.4 inches (35mm) of rear seat legroom.

When it goes on sale in Japan buyers will get the choice of three four-cylinder gasoline engines: a 68bhp 1.0-litre, 93bhp 1.3-litre and 107bhp 1.5-litre – the latter of which is also set to underpin sales of a new sedan version of the Echo planned to reach North America in late 2011.

 Also expected to appear in Europe is a 100bhp version of the 1.3-litre engine together with a 147bhp 1.8 in a sporty TS model and a 90bhp 1.4-litre diesel – all likely to come with automatic stop start for improved fuel economy.

Also under development is a hybrid version of the Echo, although at this early stage it remains unclear whether Toyota intends offering the gasoline-electric version of its new small hatchback/sedan outside of Japan.

Ford Australia eyes exports of the Falcon . . . again

Ford Falcon GT
Word at Ford’s Australian outpost suggests the Ford Falcon GT is once again being groomed for export, possibly to the US, as part of the Blue Oval’s renewed plans to build global cars.

The rapid four-door sedan, rival to the Holden Commodore GTS, was developed entirely Downunder by a team at Ford Performance Vehicles. Centerpiece for the fastest Falcon model ever is supercharged version of Ford's 5.0-litre V8 Coyote engine that puts out 449bhp (335kW) and 420lb ft (570Nm) of torque.

A report on possible export plans for the Falcon GT posted on the Sydney Morning Herald’s website quotes Ford Australia spokesperson, Sinead McAlary, who says: “The team at Ford Performance Vehicles is on the record about their desire to potentially use the supercharged V8 elsewhere in the Ford world,” adding, “It’s no surprise to us that others would love to experience what we have on offer down here.”

McAlary’s comments come after Ford’s US-based vice president of global marketing, Jim Farley, publically acknowledged that Ford has reworked its worldwide production strategy to build what he calls “global cars”.

Farley recently confirmed Ford’s plans call for a more performance based focus to its global line-up, including possible new rear wheel drive models for the US market.

Ford Australia looked at exporting the current model Falcon, which has already been engineered for left-hand drive, to the US and other key world markets back in 2007. The move, which apparently had the blessing of Ford’s global product development boss Derrick Kuzak, was aimed mirroring Holden’s export of the Commodore SS to the US as the Pontiac G8. However, the downturn in the world’s economy and rising oil prices forced the plans to be shelved until now.

Along with go-fast versions of the Falcon, Ford Australia is also rumored to be eyeing exports of its new second-generation Territory, official sketches of which were issued recently, to selected markets, including the Middle East.

Click here to read more on the Ford Territory:

Ford's possible export of the Falcon and Territory follows news that Holden is once again looking at bringing the Commodore SS to the US market badged as Chevrolet. See full story here: http://theautoinsider.blogspot.com/2010/11/holden-eyes-renewed-exports-to-us.html

Some perspective on Volkswagen’s new sedans

In the past year Volkswagen has launched two new sedans; the sixth-generation Jetta and seventh-generation Passat. A third new sedan in the form of the German car maker’s New Mid-size Sedan (NMS) is also planned to greet the public at next month’s Detroit auto show. Below is a guide to the length of each of Volkswagen’s new four-door models.

NMS: 194.1 inch (4930mm) length

Passat: 187.8 inch (4769mm) length

Jetta: 182.8 inches (4644mm) length

For further images of the NMS click here:

Update: MG3 hi-res picture gallery

MG3 (click to enlarge)
Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) stole the limelight on the opening day of the Guangzhou auto show with the unveiling of its highly anticipated MG3, featured here in a series of high resolution pictures.

The new five door hatchback, set to go on sale in China in March 2011, is the second all-new MG model to appear since SAIC purchased the rights to the MG name along with the intellectual property rights to existing MG models from Nanjing Automobile in December 2007, following on from the MG6 unveiled this time last year.

Measuring 175.4 inches (3999mm) in length, 68.0 inches (1728mm) in width and 59.7 inches (1517mm) in height, the front-wheel drive MG3 will provide Chinese car buyers with the choice of two four-cylinder gasoline engines: a 1.3-litre with 92bhp and a peppier 1.5-litre with 109bhp – either of which can be mated to a five-speed manual or automatic gearbox.

Further hi res pictures after the jump . . .

Alfa plans two pot Mito with double clutch gearbox

Alfa Romeo is preparing a new entry level version of the Mito powered by the top-of-the-line version of parent company Fiat’s 875cm3 two-cylinder Multi Air gasoline engine.

The new unit, which is claimed to kick out 105bhp, is one of three versions of the compact two-cylinder engine, which measures just 13.8 inches (350mm) in length, eventually planned for production.

According to sources at Fiat’s headquarters in Turin, Italy, there is also a naturally aspirated 65bhp version of the Multi Air engine under the final stages of development and earmarked to head into the new Fiat Panda, which is planned to get its first public airing at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show.

The new naturally aspirated 65bhp and turbocharged 105bhp engines will join the existing turbocharged 85bhp version of the two-cylinder Fiat engine already used in the 500.

Along with the compact new engines, Fiat is also close to signing off development on a new double clutch gearbox conceived specifically to work in combination with the two-cylinder engine at torque loads up to 140lb ft (190Nm).

The new gearbox is said to allow the Mito fitted with the 105bhp two-cylinder Multi Air engine to achieve combined cycle consumption of “around 4.0L/100km” – some 58.8mpg for those in North America. By comparison, the current entry level version of the Mito, which runs a 78bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine, achieves a claimed 39.9mpg (5.9L/100km).

Kitted MG6 makes Guangzhou debut

MG has revealed a kitted version of the 6 fastback at the Guangzhou auto show. No details have been released on the new car's mechanical package but the exterior styling may provide a clue to the look of a possible Z version of the Chinese-built 6 to be launched prior to MG's planned entry into the 2012 BTCC (British Touring Car Championship.

Further images after the jump . . .

BMW to produce Mega City Vehicle (MCV) in China

BMW Mega City Vehicle to be produced
in China
BMW has confirmed plans to produce its upcoming Mega City Vehicle in China.

Speaking to the Beijing News, the boss of BMW China, Christopher Stark, revealed: "The Mega City Vehicle will be launched in 2013 and is to be locally produced thereafter".

No further details on the production site, proposed timetable or possible joint venture partner were disclosed.

BMW had already gone public on plans to produce the Mega City Vehicle at its existing plant in Leipzig, Germany, which is to receive a 400 million Euro investment to create a new production line. However, Stark's comments are the first to reveal the German car maker's plans for a second producton site for the new city car.

Update: MG3. Sporting version of new entry level MG set to star in Guangzhou

MG3 set for Guangzhou debut 
Images from the floor of the Guangzhou auto show, to get underway Monday, reveal a sporting version of the new MG3 that is set to underpin the MG stand. We're planning to provide further images and all the details on the new Chinese built supermini when they become available . .

This from an earlier post . . .

MG is gearing up to reveal the production version of the new MG3 at the Guangzhou auto show. With the first media day planned for Monday (20 December), the builders are already in the China Import and Export Fair complex madly erecting stands, including that of MG which is set to feature an array of MG3 hanging from the walls, as seen by this example flaunting a Mini-style Union Jack motive upon its roof. Planned to go on sale in China early next year, the 175.4 inch (3999mm) long MG3 will initially be offered with just one engine: a 1.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline unit developing 109bhp (80kW) and 99lb ft (135Nm) of torque.

Mini Paceman concept

Mini Paceman
Meet the Paceman, the latest in a long line of Mini concept cars to appear since the famed British car maker fell under the control of BMW back in 1994 – all of which have, in one form or another, eventually made it into production.

The compact two door SUV – or SAC (sport activity coupe) as Mini describes it, is planned to get its first public outing at the Detroit auto show in early January.

But you can forget the concept car tag, Mini officials already hint the Paceman previews a coupe version of the recently introduced Countryman that will go on sale in 2013.

Sharing its front-end look with the Countryman, the new Mini ditches the four-door body of its production sibling for a more overtly sporting two door layout, with the B-pillar shifted further back within the wheelbase and the front door extended in length by 14.6 inches (370mm).

Adding to the sporting flavor is a modified windscreen that has been shortened by 0.8 inches (20mm), a plunging roof similar to that on parent company BMW’s X6, shortened C-pillar and a more angled rear window.

In a move that suggests Mini is also planning to dispense with the traditional vertical stacked tail lamps that have been a signature design cue on each Mini model since its inception in 1959, the Paceman also receives horizontal tail lamps very similar in style to those seen on the Bentley Continental GT and wrapping around into the rear fender.

“In contrast to the more vertical design of the Mini Countryman, we’ve given the Paceman concept a horizontal emphasis and accentuated the width of the car rather more,” says Marcus Syring, head of exterior design at Mini’s Munich-based studio in Germany.

Size wise, the new car is close to the Countryman, measuring 161.8 inches (4110mm) in length, 70.4 inches (1789mm) in width and 60.7 inches (1541mm) in height. It also rides on the same 102.2 inch (2595mm) wheelbase as Mini’s compact SUV, whose unitary steel platform structure is set to provide the basis for a new front-wheel drive BMW model also due out in 2013.

 Powering Mini’s latest concept is the hottest of it turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder gasoline engines, as seen in the Cooper S Works. It kicks out 211bhp (155kW) and 192lb ft (260Nm) of torque – or 207lb ft (280Nm) in brief burst of overboost. It's all channeled through a six-speed manual gearbox and the same Haldex style multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system offered in the Countryman ALL4.

Emphasizing its on-road biased nature, the new concept also receives the same sports suspension and lightly redesigned 19-inch wheels similar to those offered as optional equipment on the Countryman.

MG3 launch nears

MG is gearing up to reveal the production version of the new MG3 at the Guangzhou auto show. With the first media day planned for Monday (20 December), the builders are already in the China Import and Export Fair complex madly erecting stands, including that of MG which is set to feature an array of MG3 hanging from the walls, as seen by this example flaunting a Mini-style Union Jack motive upon its roof. Planned to go on sale in China early next year, the 175.4 inch (3999mm) long MG3 will initially be offered with just one engine: a 1.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline unit developing 109bhp (80kW) and 99lb ft (135Nm) of torque.   


Mercedes-Benz creates monster B-class

Most extreme Mercedes-Benz B-class
yet - the 388bhp B55
Up until now Mercedes-Benz has decided to keep the B-class from the North American market. But here’s an extreme V8-powered version of its compact MPV that’s certainly worthy of consideration for the good 'ol US of A – if only the German car maker would build it!

Called the B55, the rapid new MPV has been created by a group of trainees at Mercedes-Benz’s Rastatt factory in Germany as part of a long term in-house engineering program.
The new car, which began as an ordinary B200 CDI, has been thoroughly re-engineered, with Mercedes-Benz’s trainees replacing its original transversely-mounted 2.0-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel engine producing 140bhp (103kW) and 221lb ft of torque (300Nm) with a longitudinally sited 5.5-litre V8 kicking out a rather more expansive 388bhp (285kW) and 391lb ft (530Nm).

But that’s not all! The B55 also dispenses with the standard B-class’s front-wheel drive layout, receiving Mercedes-Benz’s seven speed 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox, specially modified propeller shaft and rear axle assembly from the decade old E430 to turn it into a bitumen shredding rear wheel drive excess.

The new driveline and associated changes, including the adoption of  brakes from the old C32 AMG, adds 573lb (260kg) to the B55’s weight, taking it up to 3571lb (1620kg). Mercedes-Benz isn’t quoting any performance numbers right now but Andreas Wurz, the man credited with the idea to squeeze the new engine into the compact confines of the B-class’s engine bay, says it’s good for 0-62mph (100km/h) “in around 5.0sec” or half of that quoted for the B200 CDI.

Remarkably, all of the B55’s various mechanical modifications have been achieved without any alterations to the standard B-class body, although accommodating the V8 up front has brought some changes to the steering, with the rack adopted from the first-generation A-class, and the new rear axle has forced a reduction in size of the fuel tank.

The B55 rides on a heavily reworked suspension; MacPherson struts are retained up front but the B-class’s torsion beam rear end has been replaced by a multi-link arrangement from the old E-class. It all sits much lower than the standard B-class, giving the B55 a sportying, hunkered down appearance that's further ascentuated by a set of 18-inch wheels wearing 235/40 (front) and 255/35 (rear) Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires and a pair of centrally mounted tail-pipes.

Sadly, Mercedes-Benz says there are no plans to place the B55 to production. “It’s just a bit of fun,” says Wurz.

Volkswagen and FAW to create new brand, reveal joint concept

Volkswagen and its Chinese joint venture partner FAW (First Automobile Works) are set to announce the creation of a new Chinese market only brand at the Guangzhou auto show later this month. The two companies aren't saying too much right now. However, a grainy image has appeared on the internet reporting to show a contemporary new four door sedan concept that Volkswagen and FAW plan to wheel out at Guangzhou to kick off their new brand.

Facelifted BMW 1-series coupe and convertible

BMW has revealed a subtly altered 1-series coupe and convertible carrying a similar set of styling changes to those seen on the 1-series M coupe revealed earlier this week. To be included among BMW’s spread at the upcoming Detroit auto show, the new models are planned to go on sale in March, just six months before the second-generation 1-series hatchback is due out.
Stylistically, there’s little to report. Included among the changes is a new front bumper with integrated fog lights and what BMW describes as air curtains – the name given to the German car maker’s new vertically stacked air ducts, which it says further enhances efficiency by improving front end air flow.

The head- and tail lights have also been subtly reworked with new graphics, giving the facelifted 1-series coupe and convertible a more distinctive night time appearance. Buyers will also be able to choose among a further range of colors, with Vermilion Red and Marrakesh Brown added to the existing pallet.

Mechanically, it’s the same as before. Europe gets two versions of BMW's 2.0-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine developing 141bhp (105kW) in the 118i coupe/convertible and 168bhp (125kW) in the 120i coupe/convertible together with a naturally aspirated version of BMW’s 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder with 215bhp (160kW) in the 125i.

Heading the line-up is a turbocharged version of the same engine with 302bhp (225kW) in the range topping 135i, which BMW claims can hit 62mph (100km/h) in just 5.2sec when running the optional seven-speed DCT (double clutch transmission).

There are also three versions of BMW’s excellent 2.0-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel. It packs 141bhp (105kW) in the 118d, 175bhp (130kW) in the 120d and 201bhp (150kW) in the 123d – the latter capable of running a 7.0sec 0-62mph (100km/h) while returning a combined 42.8mpg (5.5L/100km).

 North America will continue with just two models: the 128i running a specially tuned version of the naturally aspirated 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder rated slightly above the European version at 230bhp (172kW) and the twin scroll turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder, the N55 as it is designated by BMW, with an official 300bhp (224kW) in the US-market 135i.

Lotus plans own engines

Lotus Esprit concept
Lotus has kicked off a feasibility study to determine whether to push ahead with its own uniquely designed V6 and V8 engines to power the new Elan, Elise, Esprit, Elite and Eterne – all previewed at the Paris auto show last September.
According to Lotus boss Danny Bahar, poor customer reaction to news it was planning to use Toyota sourced engines in its new models is behind the decision to determine the cost of developing, engineering and producing its own engines.
“We have done three engines for other manufacturers; why not do it ourselves?” Bahar revealed to Autocar magazine.
Lotus Elan concept
The driving force behind the Lotus plans for a unique range of engines is the company’s engineering boss, Wolf Zimmermann. The former engine boss at Mercedes-Benz AMG has extensive experience in high performance powerplants.
Zimmerman, who joined Lotus shortly after developing the plug-in electric Mercedes-Benz SLS E-cell through to road going maturity, is widely credited with the development of German car maker’s supercharged 5.4-litre V8 as used by th SLR-McLaren, the naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 found in the SLS and the 7.3-litre V12 used by Pagani in the Zonda.

Mini boss: new "mini" Mini on the way

Mini Cooper hardtop not "mini" enough?
 New, smaller model on the way,
 according to company boss
Rumours of a new entry level Mini positioned and priced beneath the existing hardtop have been doing the rounds of the motoring media for some time.
Now officials from the British car maker have confirmed the existence of plans for a Smart Fortwo rivaling city car. “The idea of building a small car offering lots of space still interests us,” Mini boss, Wolfgang Armbrecht, told the German ediition of the Financial Times in response to questions on the rumoured new model, adding, “Mini hasn’t forgotten where it came from.”  
Hinting at a possible concept car previewing the new price leading Mini model, Armbrecht recommended to “follow Mini’s movements in the next few months”.

Volkswagen considering Passat CC wagon

Passat CC: sporting wagon variant on the way?

Volkswagen is poised to decide on a proposal to broaden the Passat CC line-up through the addition of a sporting wagon, according to sources close to the German car maker’s upper level management.
A series of styling proposals for the second generation CC were recently presented to Volkswagen board members. They are said to favour a repositioning of the car, taking it further up-market to compete with the likes of the BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-class with both a sedan and wagon.
Among a series of designs for a replacement of today’s CC sedan, Volkswagen board members also saw proposals for a new wagon variant, which is described as being “very low and sleek”. With its upcoming NMS (New Mid-sized Sedan) not planned to be built in wagon form, Volkswagen may use a wagon variant of the CC to bolster its North American line-up following a decision not to import the new seventh-generation Passat which recently went on sale in Europe.
Also under discussion for the CC is a new name. “The CC has its own individual identity. There is no reason why it should share the Passat name. This is a mistake of past management,” an insider at the company’s Wolfsburg based headquarters in Germany, who asked not to be named, told TheAutoInsider.
The move by Volkswagen bosses to expand the CC line-up to include a wagon model would mirror the decision by Mercedes-Benz to provide the CLS range with a new wagon inspired by the Shooting Break concept wheeled out at this year’s Beijing auto show.

The Alfa Romeo 166 lives . . . as the GAC Trumpchi

GAC Trumpchi sits on 12-year-old
Alfa Romeo 166 underpinnings
Next week’s Guangzhou auto show will see the public unveiling of GAC’s (Guangzhou Automobile Corporation) new Trumpchi.
The contemporary styled mid-sized sedan, first previewed in concept car form at the 2009 Shanghai auto show, is GAC’s first independent entry into the Chinese car market, although with existing joint ventures with Toyota, Honda and Fiat, it is certainly no stranger to car manufacturing.
It is this latter joint venture that was pivotal to the development of the Trumpchi: back in 2009 GAC purchased the intellectual property rights to the Alfa Romeo 166’s platform and chassis from Fiat to provide a low cost base for its first ever model, which will sell for RMB140,000 ($20,600) in China.
Few details have been released prior to the Trumpchi's planned unveiling in Guangzhou, although GAC says it has modified the 166’s front-wheel drive platform to accommodate the new car's four door body, which measures 192.9 Inches (4900mm) in length, 71.7 inches (1820mm) in width and 58.3 inches (1480mm) in height – 7.1 inches (180mm) longer, 0.2 inches (5mm) wider and 2.7 inches (60mm) higher than the discontinued 166. The new GAC model also features a wheelbase that is 0.4 inches (10mm) longer than that of the Alfa Romeo at 110.2 inches (2800mm).
Among the engines GAC has readied for the Trumpchi is an initial 2.0-litre four cylinder direct injection gasoline unit with a 1.8-litre version of the same engine set to follow shortly after it hits Chinese showrooms following its Guangzhou unveiling. The only gearbox choice, according to our sources, is a five speed automatic.

Volkswagen London black cab concept . . . with its single, rear door on the wrong side!

Can someone please tell Volkswagen they drive on the left-hand side of the road in England - not the right, as they do in Germany!

Keen to show off various styling elements of the upcoming Up once again prior to a planned unveiling in production form at next year's Frankfurt auto show, the German car maker has created an homage to the traditional London black cab with this new concept.

Style wise, it’s bang on the money. All dapper, with an authentic black paint scheme, silver Union Jack on the roof and the City of London’s coat of arms resplendent on either side of the vehicle as well as on the dashboard. Problem is the new three seater, like the Berlin, Milan and Shanghai taxi concepts it wheeled out earlier this year, has only one rear door – and it is on the right!

That’s all and good in countries where they drive on the right – as in Germany. But in England, it means the rear seat occupants would be forced the alight directly into the traffic rather than the pavement side. Not exactly a safe solution . . .

To make things even more complicated, Volkswagen sites the driver of its new London Taxi concept on the left in a country where the infrastructure is all set up for a driver on the right, which by way of experience makes it notoriously difficult at toll booths, in parking stations and during overtaking. 

Message to Volkswagen . . .
Ignoring the obvious downside of its left-hand drive conceived layout, the new London Taxi is highly compact – more compact, in fact, than Volkswagen current entry level Fox at 146.9 inches (3730mm) in length, 65.4 inches (1660mm) in width and 63.0 inches (1600mm) in height.

Inside, there is accommodation in the rear for two adults, with the space next to the driver liberated of the passenger seat to create added luggage and stowage space.

The new Volkswagen is propelled by a 112bhp electric motor fed energy by a 45kWh lithium ion battery.

Official claims put the top speed at 75mph (120km/h) and the range at 186 miles (300km). A compartment behind the Volkswagen badge at the front is used to stow a cable for plug in capability; an 80 per cent charge is said to be possible in little over an hour using a high voltage system.

Full gallery of images after the jump . . .

Volvo to get three - yes, three - Chinese production sites

Volvo’s board of management has agreed to terms proposed by parent company Geely for the establishment of three new production sites in China, according to a posting on the Geely’s official web site. In a move that looks set to make China, Volvo’s second largest market, the Swedish car maker says it has rubber stamped plans drawn up by Geely chairman, Lee Shufu, for plants in Chengdu, Shanghai and Daqing.
 Volvo had earlier indicated it was not prepared to make any firm decisions on future expansion plans until it had returned to profitability. However, the need to raise volumes and economies of scale across all model lines appears to have forced the decision to ramp up operations in China – now the world’s largest car market. As yet there is no indication what models Volvo plans to produce in China, although rumors are the S60 could be produced in a former Geely factory in Chengdu in the first stage of the plan. Does anyone know how to say Volvo in Chinese . . . ?

Taiwan's Luxgen enters into joint venture with China's Dongfeng Auto

Yulong Motors' Luxgen 7
Taiwan’s Yulong Motors, the company behind the Lexgen range of MPVs and SUVs, has entered into a joint venture with mainland China based Dongfeng Auto in a deal that calls for RMB3.4 billion in investment – a good part of which will be sunk into a new manufacturing facility to be created in Hangzhou, China. With an envisaged long term capacity of 240,000 cars and 200,000 engines per year, the new site will also support a new R&D centre.
The new company, Dongfeng-Luxgen, have already established a common supply chain in China and plan to source materials and components from both mainland China and Taiwan. Dongfeng Auto, one of China’s largest car makers, already operates joint ventures with Honda, Kia, Nissan and PSA (Peugeot-Citroen).  

Jeep Compass gets (much needed) styling makover and new Trail Rated off-road option

New Jeep Compass (click to enlarge)
Chrysler’s Jeep division has reworked its slow selling Compass, providing the compact SUV with a series of Grand Cherokee inspired exterior styling cues and a higher quality interior with added levels of standard equipment - all in the hope of reviving its showroom appeal in the face of stiff compact SUV competiton.
Available in either front- or four wheel drive, the Compass will be sold with the choice of two four-cylinder gasoline engines - the so-called World Engines, both hailing from Chrysler's Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance with Hyundai and Mitsubishi: a 2.0-litre unit with 158bhp (118kW) and 141lb (191Nm) of torque, and a 2.4-litre with 172bhp (128kW) and 165lb (224Nm).
The existing Volkswagen sourced 2.0-litre four-cylinder pump injection diesel also offered in Europe and other key markets is expected to be phased out in favour of a Fiat-engineered 1.9-litre four-cylinder common rail unit with 150bhp and 236lb (320Nm) of torque. Gearbox choices include a standard five-speed manual and optional CVT (continuously variable transmission).
Set to get an airing at the Detroit auto show, the Compass line-up has also been extended to include a four-wheel drive Trail Rated model complete with low range gearing, raised ride height, skid plates, tow hooks and 17-inch all terrain tires for the first time. No excuse for leaving the Compass behind next time you hit the Rubicon Trail, then . . .
Further images after the jump