Archive for the ‘BMW’ Category

A silicon chip shortage is causing automakers to idle their factories

February 4th, 2021
A silicon chip shortage is causing automakers to idle their factories

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

You may have noticed that it's difficult to get a hold of new high-end graphics cards and game consoles these days. In large part, that's due to an ongoing global shortage affecting semiconductor foundries. As it turns out, the problem is even more pronounced in the auto industry. In fact, it's getting so bad that a number of OEMs, including Ford and General Motors, have had to go as far as idling shifts and even entire factories.

Ford had to stop production in Kentucky in December of 2020, and in January, it ordered a month-long pause at a German factory. Stellantis (the new company formed by a merger between Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot) reduced output at factories in the US, Mexico, and Canada around the same time. As did Audi, which had to idle 10,000 employees in Germany, CEO Markus Duesmann telling the Financial Times that the problem involved "a very long chain with different supply levels on the components that we are short." Subaru's Gunma factory in Japan has been affected. Production of Toyota's Texas-produced Tundra has, too.

This week, more hits keep coming. Mazda just announced it might have to cut output by 34,000 units this year due to a lack of chips. Nissan's truck factory in Mississippi has reduced its hours. And on Wednesday, GM said it will halt production at factories in Kansas, Canada, Mexico, and South Korea. In many cases, the automakers are trying to prioritize their more in-demand products, but as some of those closures show, that isn't always possible.

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Posted in Audi, auto industry, BMW, cars, chip shortage, Ford, foundries, General Motors, mazda, semiconductors, Stellantis, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen | Comments (0)

BMW made this really weird short film to celebrate 20 years of iDrive

January 12th, 2021

With the coronavirus pandemic causing CES to be held virtually this year, some exhibitors have been looking for different ways to capture our attention. Take BMW for example. In CESes of yore, the German automaker often had a large presence, showing off concepts and even providing a fleet of cars for five-minute test drives. Obviously that won't work in 2021, which is a shame for BMW because this year marks the 20th anniversary of its very first iDrive infotainment system, which debuted in the 2001 7 Series.

So instead, the automaker made this short film to mark the occasion. Warning: it's pretty weird, but at the same time I think it's kind of charming, featuring an old graybeard 7 Series meeting a young whippersnapper iX SUV one night at the BMW museum.

Teaser "The new BMW iDrive" @CES Digital 2021

Back in 2001 the 7 Series was BMW's flagship sedan, loaded to the gunnels with the latest and greatest technology the Bavarians could muster. In previous generations that meant powered reclining rear seats and maybe a car phone. But that year the new 7 Series arrived with something called iDrive, combining the car's entertainment equipment with navigation and a way to interact with the car's settings. A pair of screens—one in the main instrument display, one in the center stack—displayed information, and to interact with it all, a rotary controller sat on the center console. In short, it was one of the first true infotainment systems.

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Posted in BMW, BMW 7 Series, BMW iX, cars, CES 2021, iDrive | Comments (0)

Audi and BMW to both leave Formula E—here’s why that’s OK

December 3rd, 2020

Formula E probably hoped that its preseason test would be the cause of many headlines this week. Ahead of the electric racing series' seventh season start in Chile in January, 12 teams gathered at a race track in Valencia, Spain, to run their new cars in earnest for the first time. Instead, it was the sudden announcement that both Audi and then BMW will make season seven their last that got most of the attention.

Predictably, the sport's detractors have been quick to seize on this as evidence that electricity and racing cars just don't go together. Here's why I think they're wrong.

Racing to make better road cars

When Audi unveiled its FE07 last week, the team held a virtual tech talk showing off its new Formula E powertrain. Called the MGU05, it's a compact package of carbon fiber and metal that makes the series-mandated 250kW (335hp) with 97 percent efficiency and an overall mass of just 77lbs (35kg). For the first time since Audi entered the sport officially in season four, it developed the powertrain completely in-house, an experience that Stefan Aicher, head of development e-Drive at Audi Sport, said was "one of the most intensive and challenging projects ever."

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Posted in Audi, battery electric vehicles, BMW, cars, Electric vehicles, Formula 1, Formula E, honda, hyundai, Racing, tech transfer, technology transfer | Comments (0)

The iX is BMW’s new flagship electric vehicle

November 11th, 2020

A little over two years ago, we got our first look at BMW's next-generation battery-electric vehicle architecture. Concept has now moved into the realm of reality with the official unveiling of the BMW iX. Set for a US launch in early 2022, the iX uses BMW's fifth-generation electric powertrain, with two electric motors capable of producing a combined 500hp (368kW) to propel the SUV from 0 to 100km/h (62mph) in under five seconds.

Despite the lack of an internal combustion engine, the iX looks unmistakably like a BMW, massive black grille and all. It's roughly the same size as the X5, but there are a couple of interesting design choices that make it stand apart from its SUV brethren. First off is the hood—or lack thereof. Unlike just about every other BEV on the market, there's no frunk. As a matter of fact, there's not even a hood to open. This curious design choice means that you add windshield wiper fluid by pressing down on the roundel badge above the grille, which pops open to reveal the fluid container. The grille itself is completely closed off, with lidar, camera, and radar tucked behind a translucent surface underneath the grille.

The other odd choice is a hexagonal steering wheel. BMW claims it makes getting in and out of the iX easier while providing a better view of the dashboard display, but I'm not sold on the concept. The steering wheel isn't the only difference between the iX and X1-7 cockpits. Instead of having separate displays for the instrument panel and infotainment panel, BMW has combined the two into what appears to be a single massive display that is angled toward the driver. The 14.9-inch infotainment display can be controlled by touch in addition to the usual center console dial.

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Posted in BMW, cars, iX, SUV, Vision iNext | Comments (0)

Turn up the sport, turn down the utility: The 2020 BMW X5 M and X6 M

September 20th, 2020

Yes. Another SUV review. Sorry, but couples, families, singles, alt-lifestylers, outdoor-seekers, bankers, lawyers, doctors, musicians, actors, and even website developers are continuing to drive the SUV segment into utter dominance. And it doesn't matter where you live: the sales figures in Europe are accelerating more swiftly to the SUV camp than in North America, where it's dominated for many years already. This is not a value judgment on the goodness or evil of SUVs. It just is. And consider this: of BMW's 15 different lines of automobiles, seven of them are SUVs. Mercedes has a staggering eight lines of SUVs.

But BMW is nothing if not a company aware of and amenable to splitting niches, be they product lines (like all those hatchback variations on sedans) or ultra-high-performance flavors of big SUVs. That's where we pick up this particular train coming into the station: the 2020 X5 M and the related X6 M. These two add the engine and legs of a thoroughbred sports sedan to the sport-utility, resulting in SUVs with not just room and girth but also abilities in the twisties and the vast open road on the order of a top sports sedan.

The new Ms snarl with 600hp (447kW) from their twin-turbo, 4.4L V8 engines, though that figure can be boosted even more to 617hp (460kW) with the lily-gilding optional Competition Package. (We can't help thinking that any 5,200-plus-pound SUV wearing a badge that reads "Competition" is just a trifle incongruous, unless it's an eating competition.) And yes, that's damn near twice the output of the base X5 and X6 powertrain (in the US market), which puffs out a comparatively paltry 335hp (250kW), though no one would could legitimately call that engine deficient.

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Posted in BMW, cars, crossovers, SUV, X5, X5M, X6, X6M | Comments (0)

In face of federal inaction, California gets five automakers to cut CO2

August 19th, 2020
Cars congest I-10 in Los Angeles late October 2006. That year, the state sued several US and Japanese automakers for their alleged contribution to global warming.

Enlarge / Cars congest I-10 in Los Angeles late October 2006. That year, the state sued several US and Japanese automakers for their alleged contribution to global warming. (credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, five automakers signed agreements with California's Air Resources Board to implement cleaner emissions standards over the next few years. BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen Group, and Volvo will reduce vehicle emissions between model years 2021 and 2026.

Unlike Europe's rules, which fine automakers if they exceed a blanket fleet average for the amount of CO2 emitted per km, CARB has different targets for cars and light trucks based on their relative footprint. But each of the five OEMs has agreed to cut the amount of CO2 its vehicles produce per mile by about 17 percent by MY2026. The new agreement is broadly similar to one announced last year, although with a revised timeline that now runs through 2026.

Specifically, CO2 emissions from small cars would drop from 157g/mile in 2021 to 130g/mile in 2026, large cars from 215g/mile to 178g/mile, small light trucks from 195g/mile to 162g/mile, and large light trucks from 335g/mile to 278g/mile, with a formula to adjust vehicles that fall in between the small and large footprint areas. For context, the EU's new fleet-wide average, which came into effect in 2020, heavily fines any automaker whose fleet average exceeds 152g/mile (95g/km).

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Posted in air pollution, BMW, California air resources board, CARb, carbon dioxide, cars, climate change, CO2 emissions, Ford, honda, Volkswagen Group, volvo | Comments (0)

Heated seats as a service? BMW wants to sell car features on demand

July 2nd, 2020
A BMW-branded engine has been photoshopped to include an arcade game-style coin slot.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

I'm all too aware that connected cars aren't a popular topic around these parts, and that's unlikely to change with today's news. BMW is planning to move some features of its new cars to a subscription model, something it announced on Wednesday during a briefing for the press on the company's digital plans.

It's not an entirely new idea to the auto industry—Tesla has pioneered the idea of shipping vehicles with hardware that can be enabled at the time of purchase or later on for a fee. And BMW has done something similar in the past with infotainment features; for a while, if you wanted access to Apple CarPlay, you had to pay an $80 yearly subscription until the automaker abandoned that idea.

But those were for digital services—now the Bavarian carmaker has plans to apply that model to features like heated seats. BMW says that owners can "benefit in advance from the opportunity to try out the products for a trial period of one month, after which they can book the respective service for one or three years." The company also says that it could allow the second owner of a BMW to activate features that the original purchaser declined.

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Posted in BMW, cars, connected car, subscription service | Comments (0)

Apple adds CarKey function to iOS14, BMW will support it first

June 22nd, 2020
The answer to Beenie Man's eternal question is "my iPhone."

Enlarge / The answer to Beenie Man's eternal question is "my iPhone." (credit: Apple)

On Monday, Apple revealed a new feature in iOS 14 that will allow (some) users to ditch the keys to their car. It's called CarKey, and it's Apple's implementation of the Car Connectivity Consortium's Digital Key Release 2.0 standard, which was finalized in early May. The idea is pretty simple. You pair your phone with your car—assuming your vehicle supports this new standard—and from then on you can use the device to unlock and start your car.

The digital key communicates with your car via near-field communication (NFC) and is stored in the same secure enclave that your iPhone uses to store credit cards. That means it's protected by Face ID or Touch ID, although there is an Express Mode option that allows you to skip authentication. And since it's a digital key, it can also be shared with other iOS users the way you can share other items in your iOS wallet. However, you don't need Internet access for it to work, so there shouldn't be any worries about being locked out of your car if you take a trip to the boonies.

Although this is the first time Apple has implemented this connected car tech, it's not a new idea. BMW will be the first carmaker to support Apple CarKey when the face-lifted 5 Series goes on sale in July, but the German OEM has already offered an Android version for some time now via its BMW Connected app.

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Posted in Apple CarKey, BMW, cars, NFC | Comments (0)

These streamliners are the world’s most aerodynamic cars

May 8th, 2020

With no car launches to work on thanks to COVID-19, some automakers' press offices are filling the gap by digging into the archives to share interesting stuff with the rest of us. On Thursday, Volkswagen North America reached out to tell us about the company's most aerodynamic car ever. It was called the Aerodynamic Research Volkswagen, and it was built in 1980 as a demonstration of how to make a vehicle as slippery as possible, with a drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.15. Powered by a 177hp (132kW) 2.4L inline-six cylinder engine, the ARVW reached a speed of 225mph (362km/h) at the Nardo test track in southern Italy. But the ARVW isn't the lowest-drag vehicle ever built, just the lowest-drag VW. So what is the most aerodynamic car of all time?

Production cars

When Tesla revealed its Model 3 sedan a few years ago, it was justifiably proud of the car's Cd of 0.23, which bettered the Models S and X by 0.01. Tesla didn't optimize the Model 3's aerodynamics just for bragging rights. The lower a car's drag, the further it can go per unit of energy because it doesn't have to work as hard to push its way through the air. However, a Model 3 is only this slippery through the air when the car's 18-inch wheels are fitted with the aero wheel covers, something Car and Driver put to the test late last year. (If you're a Model 3 owner and into hypermiling, you can cut your car's drag—and thereby boost its range—even further by fitting aftermarket front- and rear spoilers.)

But the Model 3 isn't the lowest-drag car to have gone into production. Porsche's Taycan battery EV bested Tesla's best when it went on sale last year. Both the Taycan Turbo and Taycan 4S manage a Cd of 0.22, although again, only with the most aerodynamic wheels fitted. The Taycan Turbo S uses a different design and in the wind tunnel, that adds 0.03 to the Cd.

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Posted in aerodynamics, BMW, cars, Delft, drag coefficient, Eco-car, Ford, General Motors, JCB Dieselmax, Lightyear, Mercedes-Benz, Panhard, porsche, Porsche Taycan, Streamlined cars, Tesla, tesla model 3, Volkswagen | Comments (0)

Here’s why Tony Stark drove an Audi in the Avengers movie

April 29th, 2020

One of the more jarring things about movies for the last couple of decades, to me at least, has been the heavy product placement that comes with the price of admission. You know the sort of thing—a shot that needlessly lingers on a beer bottle's label or a car's badge before moving to the actual drama of a scene. Sure, it gets the product in front of the audiences' eyeballs, but it often ruins any suspension of disbelief that was going on at the time. But on Wednesday, Audi gave us a look at the other side of that equation by posting a Q&A with Kai Mensing, its head of international product placement.

Mensing has been in his role for a decade now, during which time we've seen Audis show up in, among other things, Transformers: Age of Extinction as well as several Marvel movies and (to my surprise, because I haven't seen them) the various Fifty Shades films.

But the car company has been helping movie makers with cars for a lot longer—Mensing points to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as the first, which saw an Audi 5000 sedan share a little screen time with the brown wrinkly alien and his young costars. The company also provided a first-generation S8 sedan for what might have been the last truly good car chase movie—John Frankenheimer's Ronin. (Frankenheimer was a true petrolhead and director of 1966's Grand Prix, so the man knew how to film things on four wheels.)

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Posted in Audi Lexus, BMW, cars, Gaming & Culture, I Robot, Jurassic Park, Mercedes-Benz, Minority Report, product placement, the avengers | Comments (0)