The Justice Department has opened an antitrust probe into four automakers that formed a pact with California to compromise on tailpipe emissions, effectively circumventing federal regulators, last July.
Over the summer, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., BMW AG and Volkswagen Group announced a joint agreement with the California Air Resources Board to adhere to fueling standards slightly lower than Obama-era rules but still significantly higher than the Trump administration’s proposal from 2018. The Justice Department is seeking to determine whether or not that qualifies as a violation of federal competition laws.
BMW Group has signed with Great Wall Motors to produce Mini-branded vehicles in China. This is the German automotive group’s second joint venture in the region and will not affect its current alliance with Brilliance Auto — which builds BMW models specifically equipped to appeal to the Chinese market.
The same will be true for the Mini deal with Great Wall, as the entirety of the production line will be electric vehicles. While the main reason for this is to ensure BMW hits its government-imposed quota for EVs, Great Wall said the venture would help it meet the needs of Chinese consumers and tap into the new energy vehicle market both home and abroad.
Mini has said a production version of the Mini Electric Concept won’t happen until November of 2019, but there’s been buzz that the automaker may seek widespread electrification after that. Interestingly, Chinese Minis will use a new platform developed by the joint venture, rather than rely on whatever architecture the Western-built EV adheres to. That’s two separate plug-in product lines. Will EV exclusivity be the future of the brand?
In a flagrant exercise of self-congratulation, BMW announced it met its sales goal of 100,000 electrified vehicles in 2017 “as promised.” Saying that this “underlines the company’s leadership role when it comes to electro-mobility,” BMW installed a battery-themed light installation on the side of its world headquarters in Munich, Germany, that announces “the future is electric.”
While this may be true, mainstream news outlets have muddled the brand’s message by framing the EV aspect all wrong — which is probably exactly what the automaker hoped for. We’re not going to slander the company’s achievement outright; the volume does represent a nearly 60-percent increase over last year. But these aren’t just battery-electric cars, they’re hybrids, mild-hybrids, and BEVs.
In 2009, BMW avoided jumping the gun when it introduced an electric conversion of its Mini Cooper as a test platform instead of a production vehicle. Dubbed the “Mini E,” and limited to two seats due to its massive battery pack, the prototype served as a short-term consumer testbed for field trials and was deployed in several countries, including the United States.
However, as other automakers brought production EVs into the world, Mini held off — perhaps waiting for an more advantageous moment to enter the segment.
That moment appears to have arrived. The brand decided Wednesday to tease us with photos of its new “Mini Electric Concept,” which it says will enter into production in 2019. Its shares its powertrain with the BMW i3, so expect a driving range of at least 110 e-miles (or 180 with an optional gasoline range extender) and an electric motor producing a minimum of 160 horsepower.
Over five years ago, Daimler AG acquired a 9.1 percent interest in Tesla, gaining 1,000 battery packs for its Smart EV in exchange for helping to put the Model S on the road to production.
Wednesday, Daimler sold its remaining 4 percent in the company, netting $780 million for the trouble.