By on May 4, 2020

A lot of people gripe about BMW losing its edge. Formerly reserved for the greatest performance vehicles in its lineup, the M designation has migrated to encompass a rather large subset of the BMW fleet. While this has undoubtedly helped the brand boost its sales for years, it also muddied the waters of what constitutes an M.

In the past, BMW’s M vehicles denoted a marked increase in horsepower and real-world performance. Now they’re intermixed with M Sport trims that split the difference between standard fare and bonkers M in terms of output. And they haven’t been turning up the dial lately. In fact, the performance division of all German automakers seem to have slowed down on maximizing performance while the core business prioritizes fuel efficiency and electrification — largely because it’s expected of them by regulators.

It may not be so cut and dried. BMW CEO Markus Flasch has taken a keen interest in the M division, saying “we have to be very careful to preserve what M stands for” while evolving the brand. More recently, he said the automaker had no intent to cap output to appease anyone, claiming that the company’s performance arm has to think carefully about the future.  (Read More…)

By on December 16, 2019

While Europe appears infinitely suspicious of German automakers, it hasn’t been nearly as eager to cuff suspects and cart them off to the slammer. Considering how unappealing Japan’s treatment of a former Nissan employee happened to be with the general public (regardless of his guilt/innocence), that’s probably wise. Slow and sure is the ideal strategy for tackling corporate corruption — it just has the unfortunate consequence of dragging everything out.

In 2018, BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen Group became the focus of an investigation aimed at uncovering illegal cooperation. Allegations going back to 2017 stipulated the three had coordinated on the rollout of clean emissions technology (specifically AdBlue); at the same time, Germany was under heavy scrutiny for the leeway it was giving automakers after VW’s diesel emission scandal. Before long, claims arose that Germany’s manufacturers had been effectively running an automotive cartel for decades, with supporting evidence slowly mounting.  (Read More…)

By on September 19, 2018

german flag and reichstag

Roughly one year ago, German automakers were confronted with a crisis. Following Volkswagen’s diesel emissions fiasco, European antitrust regulators became suspicious that BMW, Daimler, and VW Group were involved in a longstanding automotive cartel that cooperated on decisions regarding technical issues, development, supplier management, and illegal price fixing. Investigators were also concerned manufacturers worked together to standardize diesel treatment fluid (AdBlue) reservoirs to reduce exhaust emissions, then encouraged each other to cheat on emissions tests when they were deemed insufficient.

This resulted in a series of raids and then almost a full year of silence on the matter. However, if Volkswagen’s dieselgate has taught us anything, it’s that German authorities prefer a snail’s pace when pursuing a criminal probe.

Apparently unsatisfied with the initial findings, the European Commission opened an in-depth and official investigation on Tuesday against the “circle of five,” a group that includes Audi, VW, Porsche, Daimler, and BMW. The quintet is accused of holding meetings where they colluded to limit the development and application of certain emissions control systems for cars sold in Europe. There’s also an accusation of price fixing. (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2018

The ground beneath the factory Volvo Cars opened Wednesday in South Carolina grew shakier after company executives warned that the U.S.-China trade dispute could undo plans to create up to 4,000 auto jobs in the state.

As you probably know, Volvo is currently owned by Chinese automaker Geely — which has a lot to lose if trade relations break down. Geely intends to export Volvo’s American-built cars to markets outside the United States. The situation’s a problematic one, as Volvo also imports the bulk of its U.S. market vehicles and any economic hurdles would surely gum up the works. (Read More…)

By on October 20, 2017

BMW logo emblem badge

Back in July, German authorities became concerned that the country’s manufacturers had been operating one of the largest automotive cartels in history. With many auto executives still under the microscope for diesel emission manipulation, combined with inter-familial strife between the Piech and Porsche clans, Germany’s auto industry was starting to resemble a PG version of the film Goodfellas — with a dash of Dallas, for flavor.

Despite some rather serious accusations, nothing really came of the cartel investigation. We were beginning to wonder if it was much ado about nothing. But Germany’s antitrust officials hadn’t forgotten — they were simply biding their time during preliminary investigations into corporate collusion and price-fixing. Earlier this week, they made their big move and raided BMW’s headquarters.  (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

vintage diesel fuel pump

With Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City all pledging to ban diesel vehicles from entry within the next few years, the fuel’s future doesn’t look particularly bright. While citywide bans like these are becoming increasingly popular in Europe, diesel vehicles still account for almost half of the continent’s registered vehicles.

Germany, which has been speedily moving away from the fuel since Volkswagen’s emissions fiasco, provided more than its fair share of those diesel-powered models. It’s been mulling over how to handle it’s own regulatory matters pertaining to the fuel and the rest of the European Union’s intense pressure doesn’t seem to have fazed it.

Instead of enacting the same transportation ban on diesel vehicles as seen in Paris, Germany has decided to furnish its automakers with the opportunity to clean up their act. Industry officials and politicians have agreed to implement software updates on existing vehicles specifically to keep them eligible for operation within major metropolitan areas. Considering Mercedes-Benz just offered to “voluntarily” recall 3 million Euro-spec cars fitted with diesel engines, that’s incredibly good timing. Likewise, Volkswagen Group claims it will update 850,000 Porsche and Audi vehicles equipped with larger diesel motors.  (Read More…)

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