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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

Audi Sport sets up new shop in Neuburg

Posted Sep 14th 2014 9:00AM

Audi Sport Neuburg

Racing fans may know Audi best for its Le Mans team that's positively dominated the endurance racing scene. But as formidable as its Le Mans program is, that's only one of the racing disciplines in which Audi competes. It also competes in the full FIA World Endurance Championship, as well as Germany's popular DTM touring car series and supports customer teams in GT racing series around the world. And now the competition division is getting a new headquarters.

Audi Sport has until now been based in an old supermarket near to the company's head offices in Ingolstadt, but is now moving into a brand new, state-of-the-art facility 12 miles (19 kilometres) to the west in nearby Neuburg. The result of some 20 years of planning and two years of construction, the complex covers 116 acres of land in Neuburg-Heinrichsheim and will house engineers, technicians and other staff who deal with the R18 E-Tron Quattro, the RS5 DTM and R8 LMS Ultra that compete the world over.

The facility was officially opened this past Saturday with participation from top Audi brass and local government officials and included demonstrations from all three of those racecars around the on-site test track. The works team has begun moving in and the customer racing department will move into its new Motorsport Competence Center in the first half of 2015.

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News Source: Audi

Translogic 158: Works Electric Rover and Custom Chopper

Posted Sep 13th 2014 8:00PM

Works Electric Rover

Translogic host Jonathon Buckley heads to Portland, OR on a mission to prove that scooters aren't just a toy fad. A motorized scooter can be a viable solution to the "last mile" problem many city commuters face.

Meet the Works Electric Rover, a serious scooter made from aircraft-grade aluminum, capable of speeds up to 35 miles per hour. Jonathon chats with Works Electric CEO Brad Baker, and takes the Rover for a ride around downtown Portland. Afterward, our host gets a turn on Brad's Customer Chopper, an all-electric motorcycle born in the same garage as the Rover.

Police officers using controversial network to keep tabs on motorists [w/video]

Posted Sep 13th 2014 7:00PM

Critics Question Constitutionality Of Nationwide Program

full length of traffic officer...

Information includes details like motorists' social security numbers, addresses, identifying tattoos and hunches about which drivers to stop.

Law enforcement officers across the United States have been using a private intelligence network to compile and share detailed information about motorists in the United States.

Despite warnings from state and federal officials that the system may be unconstitutional, the Black Asphalt Electronic Networking & Notification System has gathered information about both criminals and innocent drivers alike, the Washington Post reported Monday. Information shared by approximately 25,000 police officers includes details like motorists' social security numbers, addresses, identifying tattoos and hunches about which drivers to stop.

Certain states prohibit law enforcement from using the system and a federal prosecutor in Nebraska has warned the program could violate civil liberties, as well as policies that govern how sensitive law enforcement information is passed.

The Post revealed the program's existence amid a detailed investigative report on how law enforcement has used civil forfeiture laws to seize millions of dollars from motorists, many of whom were never convicted of any crimes.

Police agencies linked to the Black Asphalt network saw their proceeds from forfeiture seizures increase by 32 per cent from 2005 through today – three times the increase seen by other departments.

"A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network's chat rooms and sharing 'trophy shots' of money and drugs," The Post reported. "Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities."

News Source: The Washington Post