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Risk of cyber-threats may increase as cars load up on computers, active controls

Posted Sep 14th 2014 8:00PM

Binary Code Technology

"You can have everything super-secure, but one part can compromise everything in the car, including safety." – Walter Buga

Features in many new cars that are widely seen as the first steps toward a self-driving future may also making cars more susceptible to cyber crime, according to a recent study.

New technologies like park assist, adaptive cruise control and collision prevention are some of the first to hold an active role in driving. But because these features are specifically designed to, at times, exert control over a vehicle, it may be easier for hackers to write codes that carry nefarious intent, a first-of-its-kind study recently found.

"Attacks are likely easier in their presence than in their absence," wrote Chris Valasek and Dr. Charlie Miller, the authors of the report, A Survey Of Remote Automotive Attack Surfaces.

There's been no documented cyber attack on an automobile in the United States. But as automakers have rushed in recent years to add software that essentially turns cars into mobile computers, the industry and federal regulators have paid more attention to the potential consequences of a vehicular security breach. On Tuesday, David Friedman, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, asked automakers to collaborate on ways to thwart cyber threats.

Valasek and Miller, who presented their study last month at a convention of hackers, security analysts and researchers in Las Vegas, NV, offer the first public look at the underpinnings of the network architectures that govern how all these new components are connected.

Their conclusions on 21 individual vehicles are interesting on their own merits; indeed, lists of "most hackable" and "least hackable" cars spawned the initial wave of headlines sparked by the study. What's more notable, in retrospect, is its overall undercurrent. In response to consumer demand for infotainment and advanced safety features alike, automakers are adding software and computer components to cars at a rapid pace. At least for now, much of this technology leaves more questions than answers.

Image Credit: Xtock Images / Getty, Jeep

Volvo working on ultra-lux four-seat XC90 for China?

Posted Sep 14th 2014 7:00PM

Volvo XC90

In China, it's all about being driven. That's why we've seen so many automakers stretch their most popular models to appeal to buyers in the Chinese market. Volvo is certainly no stranger to this, and according to Autocar, the company is already working on a super-lux, four-seat version of its recently launched XC90 crossover.

Volvo won't stretch the XC90 and just increase second-row legroom, however. Instead, the company will reportedly remove both the standard XC90's second and third row benches, and install a duplicate set of front seats in the rear compartment, featuring the same electric adjustment features, including massage. These more luxurious thrones will be placed further back in the vehicle, allowing for "exceptional" legroom, Autocar reports, without needing to stretch the wheelbase.

Mum's the word on when we can expect to see the high-zoot Volvo arrive, though the magazine estimates that it surface later this year.

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News Source: Autocar

Hyundai dealerships getting global makeover

Posted Sep 14th 2014 6:01PM

Hyundai Global Dealership Space identity

In the near future, almost no matter where you're at in the world – whether in Mexico or France – you may not be able to tell an immediate difference between Hyundai dealers. The Korean brand plans to remove some of the diversity from its showrooms in favour of a unified design everywhere outside of the US by about 2020.

The plan is called the Global Dealership Space Identity, and the end result features a modern, open showroom with floor-to-ceiling glass to look in and a bronze-colored roof section (pictured above). The goal of the unified design "is to strengthen our Modern Premium brand consistency across all dealerships, proving premium emotional experiences related to our brand and increase interaction with customers," said Hyundai spokesperson Sookjin Hwang to Autoblog via email.

The ball is already rolling on the plan with the cues being implemented at new dealers in Mexico and about 42 other showrooms worldwide. In the future even Canada may use it, according to Automotive News. "Hyundai Motor plans to fully implement the new identity worldwide within five years (2014~2018). The exact timing for each country will be different."

The one place that GDSI won't be blanketing every showroom anytime soon will be the US. According to Automotive News, Hyundai only instituted its blue and silver colour scheme for dealerships here about four years ago. Forcing another change would likely result in a revolt complete with torches and pitchforks. Although, the company may open a few new stores with the GDSI look in the US just as a pilot program.

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News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Hyundai

Toyota U-squared urban utility concept inspired by Maker Faire [w/video]

Posted Sep 14th 2014 4:00PM

Toyota Urban Utility Concept

Toyota Urban Utility ConceptThere's a quiet revolution happening in North American cities. People want to mix an urban lifestyle with a connection to nature and appreciation for craftsmanship. The result of all of this is folks pursuing things as varied as urban farming, home brewing and the whole maker movement. Toyota thinks it has the perfect concept for these intrepid customers with its new Urban Utility – or, U-squared, not U2 like the band – concept that it is debuting during a panel discussion hosted by Make: magazine in San Francisco and debuting publicly on September 20 at the World Maker Faire in New York City.

The Urban Utility concept can best be described as a modern take on the old panel van. Designers from Toyota's Calty Design Research centre in California interviewed Maker Faire participants to find out what its users want from a novel vehicle like this. "Toyota saw an opportunity for a new approach to an urban vehicle based on increasing re-urbanization of our cities and urban drivers' desire for flexibility, fun and maneuverability," said Kevin Hunter, president of Calty.

On the outside, the Urban Utility doesn't really scream for attention. It's meant to meet users "desire for greater utility but a smaller vehicle footprint," according to the release, but the shape is still very much a van. The designers do try to lend it some panache with the LED headlights up front and checker board side panels. It's really more about utility than looks, though, because the roof can roll back for taller loads, the rear glass retracts into the tailgate, and the whole rear can fold down as a ramp to load stuff more easily into the cabin. Toyota isn't talking about a powertrain yet but claims that the underbody is also especially durable for a long life in the big city.

Inside, things are a lot more adventurous. The cockpit has a mix of weird, organic shapes with an undulating steering wheel, oval speedometer and iPad. The oddest part of all is the centre console that looks like the top of a bike emerging from the van, with the armrest as the seat and the gearshift displayed on the top of the head tube. A utility rail system in the back acts as a mounting point; plus all of the seats fold down when not needed. It should make loading very easy. Scroll down to read Toyota's full release about its urban-centred console, and to see a brief video walk-around of the concept.

News Source: Toyota

Audi rules out R8 PHEV, will build E-Tron to order

Posted Sep 14th 2014 3:00PM

Audi R8 Spy Shots

The question of whether Audi will morph the next-gen R8 (pictured above, in testing) into a plug-in-hybrid challenger for the BMW i8 may have been answered. CarAdvice, in Australia, is claiming that any plans for a PHV 2016 R8 have been shelved, and that Audi will go ahead with gas-powered or all-electric models, only.

Even then, the electric R8 E-tron (if it ends up being called that) would be built-to-order, and in much smaller quantities than the gas-powered model.

"In the next generation we will have an electric car on behalf of customers' needs, which is only available [upon special order]," Audi product manager Marie Suzanne Ernst told CA. "So it's not a make of series production, but if a customer wants to have it, he can order it."

That's not to say that the importance of Audi's E-tron program, which includes both PHV and pure-electric applications, is lessening. Speaking to the local Audi outfit, CA was told that E-tron will be a "brand pillar," just like petrol and diesel power. It's just that the plug-in portion of the E-tron moniker won't be making it to the brand's primary halo vehicle.

Is this a good move in your eyes? All things being equal, would you rather spend money on an electric R8 or a plug-in model? Why? Have your say below, in Comments.

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News Source: CarAdvice

Image Credit: CarPix

Fiat gives outgoing Ferrari chairman $39M severance package

Posted Sep 14th 2014 2:00PM

Luca di Montezemolo

Luca di Montezemolo may not have wanted to leave Ferrari this way, but don't feel too bad for the departing chairman, because he'll be hitting the ground with a golden parachute so big that he'll never have to work again.

According to the latest reports, Fiat will pay Montezemolo 26.95 million euros (nearly $39 million) in severance pay. A little more than half of that will be paid in a lump sum of 13.71 million euros ($19.4M, equivalent to five times his annual salary) on January 31, 2015, with the rest to be paid within the next 20 years.

The payment is contingent on Montezemolo not going to work for a competitor, so don't expect to see him replacing Stephan Winkelmann at Lamborghini or Wolfgang Dürheimer at Bugatti any time soon. At least not until March 2017. Of course with that much cash on hand, the 67-year-old marquis need never work again, but considering how busy he's used to keeping himself, we'd be surprised if he didn't pop up again somewhere.

Aside from his leadership of Ferrari, Montezemolo has also chaired the Fiat Group, the Formula One Teams Association, industry associations Confindustria and FIEG, a local university, a political think tank, an America's Cup sailboat racing team, the 1990 World Cup of soccer and a high-speed train network. Recent reports have linked him to ailing Italian airline Alitalia, whose leadership he could very well assume, while earlier reports suggested he could run for prime minister.

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Ferrari

Mercedes to follow Maybach S-Class with super-luxe GL?

Posted Sep 14th 2014 1:00PM

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

The failed experiment that was Maybach has sent the strategists at Daimler back to the drawing board, and we'll soon see what they come back with: an ultra-luxe version of the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class to slot in between the "standard" model and the upcoming Pullman limousine. But that won't be the end of the story, if a new report from Australia's Motoring is any indication.

Rumour has it that Mercedes-Benz is developing Maybach into a kind of luxury sub-brand in the same way it has with AMG. So while Maybach won't have any exclusive models anymore (or showrooms), it will be applied to existing models to differentiate them from the common Benz.

Following the debut of the S-Class Maybach, word on the street is that Maybach will work up its own version of the GL-Class sport utility to a more luxurious specification, giving Mercedes a quick response to the upcoming Bentley SUV as well as the Land Rover Range Rover Autobiography. After that, a Maybach-ified S-Class Coupe could be in the works, and maybe even a version of the upcoming MLC, Benz's forthcoming BMW X6 rival.

Looking at how AMG has transformed virtually every model in the Mercedes range, it seems that the proverbial sky is the limit when it comes to potential future Maybach models, but we still wouldn't expect the Double-M badge to be applied to lower-end models in the Mercedes lineup.

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News Source:

Atalanta to unveil new Sports Tourer at upcoming London concours

Posted Sep 14th 2014 11:00AM


Automakers come and automakers go. Sometimes they come and go and come back again, as in the case of revived marques like Bugatti, Mini, Maybach and ATS. And now we're about to have another one on our hands. That marque is Atalanta, which traces its routes back to 1937. It only ever offered two models and made about 20 of them before closing down in 1939. A couple years ago, we caught wind of an effort to bring the brand back with a new Atalanta Sports Tourer, but didn't hear anything of the effort again until now.

The revived company has announced that it will unveil the new Atalanta Sports Tourer at the third annual Concours of Elegance, which was held first at Windsor Castle, then at the Royal Palace of St James and will take place later this week at Hampton Court Palace in London. Precious few details have been revealed, except to say that the vast majority of the components were designed in-house and that the whole thing is built around an ash wood frame with hand-crafted aluminum bodywork.

Each of these Morgan rivals will be made to order, and as you can see from the images in the expanded gallery above, the styling is beyond retro - it's downright old-school, and had us wondering (before we received confirmation) if we were looking at the new model or one of the originals, like the 1937 model that won Best in Show at the 2007 Carter Style et Luxe concours and which will also be on display at Hampton Court alongside the first new chassis – it's the new one, for the record. Feel free to read more in the press release below.

News Source: Atalanta

Montezemolo steps down, Marchionne steps up as chairman of Ferrari

Posted Sep 14th 2014 10:00AM


If the history of an automaker is divided up by the mandate of its leadership, then this is surely the end of an era for Ferrari. After repeatedly locking horns with Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne over a variety of issues, longtime Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo has announced his resignation.

Montezemolo has a long history with both Fiat and Ferrari. He started his career at the former before moving over to the latter in 1973 (only a few years Fiat took over half of Ferrari), starting out as Enzo Ferrari's assistant. He was appointed head of the Scuderia the following year, driving the team to success and subsequently taking over all of the Fiat group's racing activities. After the Prancing Horse marque struggled in the wake of its founder's death in 1988, Montezemolo was appointed to take it over in '91 and has been at the helm ever since.

Following Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli's passing in 2003, both Montezemolo and Marchionne were named to the Fiat board. A year later, after the passing of Gianni's younger brother Umberto, Montezemolo was named chairman of the Fiat Group (to be succeeded six years later by Agnelli heir John Elkann) and Marchionne its chief executive.

The two senior leaders ran their own shows more or less independently over the years since, but recently began clashing over a number of issues. For one, Ferrari has fallen way off its pace in Formula One, not having won a title since 2008 or a single race this entire season despite having two former champions – a failure which Marchionne has characterized as unacceptable. For another, Marchionne and Montezemolo have reportedly been at odds over Ferrari's place under the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles umbrella. Fiat owns 90 per cent of Ferrari, but has traditionally allowed it to operate with a large degree of independence that may be coming to an end as the group grows.

As a result, Montezemolo has announced he's stepping down from the chairmanship of Ferrari, effective on October 13 – tellingly, the same day on which FCA intends to launch its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. This despite Montezemolo's insistence just this past weekend that he had no intention of leaving the company and its presidency.

Marchionne, who already divides his time between Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, MI, and Fiat HQ in Turin, Italy, will – for the time being at least – take over Montezemolo's seat at the head of the scarlet table, but will likely delegate more to other senior Ferrari executives like CEO Amadeo Felisa and vice-chairman Piero Ferrari for day-to-day operations in Maranello until a more permanent solution can be found.

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News Source: Fiat, Ferrari

Image Credit: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty