BMW introduces 6 series GT

PHOTO GALLERY: BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo


BMW of North America will introduce the all-new 6 series Gran Turismo this fall as a 2018 model.

The five-door 6 series GT joins the lineup just months after BMW’s 5 series Gran Turismo went out of production in February of this year. Though the 6 series GT is also based on the 5 series architecture and some have painted it as a successor to the 5 series GT, BMW is avoiding that description.

“We are staying away from calling it a successor because the car has gotten substantially larger in size and the positioning has changed,” BMW of North America spokesman Alex Schmuck said. “It’s definitely a 6 series Gran Turismo.”

Schmuck wouldn’t say whether BMW would eventually bring back the 5 series GT. The previous model went out of production as part of BMW’s move to the redesigned 5 series, which went on sale in February in the U.S. with a sedan body style.

With five doors and a greenhouse styled like a coupe, the 6 series GT provides more legroom and rear headroom than a conventional sedan and combines luxury sedan comfort with the aesthetic appeal of a coupe, BMW says.

In the U.S., the 6 series GT will be offered exclusively as a 640i xDrive model starting at $70,695, including destination. It is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter, six-cylinder inline gasoline engine producing 335 hp and 332 pounds-feet of torque. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, BMW says.

In the 6 series lineup, the 640i xDrive Gran Turismo joins the 6 series Gran Coupe and the 6 series convertible. The 2018 6 series Gran Coupe and convertible went on sale this spring. The 6 series coupe was dropped earlier this year in the U.S. That happened because a technical upgrade in BMW’s iDrive system for the new model year wasn’t being included on the coupe body style, “and we wanted to have the same iDrive system across all models,” a BMW spokesman said.

One in 10 in serious debt ‘have no bed’

Mattress on bedroom floor

One in 10 clients of a debt charity have no bed to sleep in and eight in 10 say their financial situation leads to sleepless nights.

A review of visitors to Christians Against Poverty also found that three-quarters of them were afraid to open their post.

The charity said that the survey exposed the day-to-day realities of living with unmanageable debt.

The average debt of new clients seeking help last year was £14,298.

Among the practical effects of debt identified by the charity were:

  • A third of clients having gone without at least one essential item, such as a washing machine, causing inconvenience and extra cost by visiting laundrettes and other services
  • A fifth of those asked had rented or bought at least one item on hire purchase
  • A fifth had no internet access

Some 91% of clients had used some form of credit to pay an essential bill or other debt.

This money was borrowed primarily from friends and family (64%), and credit cards (64%) followed by overdrafts (55%).

“This is an unsustainable solution that pushes the financial crunch point further down the line, but escalates the level of debt when this happens,” the charity’s annual review found.

“Shame, fear and believing no one can help cause clients to delay seeking help for two years on average. This extended period of financial hardship and worry sees living standards and mental health deteriorate as debts spiral out of control.

“This means seven in 10 end up behind with a priority bill and average debt levels hit more than £14,000 before clients get the help they need.”

A separate survey of debt by financial services company True Potential suggested that debt tolerance was higher among men.

The average debt threshold was £1,797, with men reaching debts of £1,960 before recognising it as a problem, compared with £1,645 among women. Adults under 25 reached £748 of debt before worries set in, compared with a figure of £2,299 among 45 to 54-year-olds.

“Personal debt is the elephant in the room. Consumer confidence and spending have been creeping up but there is growing concern that it is built on quicksand in the shape of rising individual debts. Underpinning this is easy access to debt, the costs of which are poorly understood,” said managing partner David Harrison.

“But this is not just about people splashing cash they don’t have. A big worry is the proportion of people needing debt just to get by. That’s a bubble waiting to burst. The cost of living is 2.7% higher today compared to a year ago, adding an extra £468 to household bills.”

In its report, Christians Against Poverty highlights the story of one of the charity’s clients – Mark.

“My situation went downhill when my mental state deteriorated. I became anxious and depressed. I lost interest in life,” he says.

“My studio flat fell into disrepair. It was dusty, dirty, full of broken furniture. The boiler didn’t work. I slept on the floor. The bathroom pipes were broken and the floor was covered in rotting clothes. It was in an appalling state. I couldn’t deal with the wreckage.

“I approached a number of services for help, but I never quite seemed to fit the category. I wasn’t ill enough for one group, I wasn’t drinking enough for another. So they kept referring me on and I became socially isolated.

“I had difficulties paying my mortgage, and I was in no position to work to earn the money to pay what I owed. It’s fair to say I didn’t know what my options were. I wondered if I’d be evicted and made homeless, if I’d have to kill myself. I wondered if I’d have to commit a crime so I could go to jail instead.”

He says that the charity helped him start applying for jobs, to begin sorting out his debts and to put his flat on the market to avoid repossession.

The City regulator – the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – and the Bank of England have warned of an acceleration in consumer borrowing, such as loans, overdrafts, credit card debt and car finance.

The FCA is already conducting is own inquiry into overdrafts, door-to-door lending and other forms of loans. Consumer groups have consistently argued there should be an overdraft cap in place.

A Lords committee also recently called for stronger controls such as a cap on “rent to own” products.

On Tuesday, the Financial Ombudsman Service said it had seen a nine-fold rise in complaints about payday loans in the last two years.

U.S. Senate panel sets goals for autonomous vehicle deployment

WASHINGTON — Senate Commerce Committee leaders on Tuesday said safety, reducing roadblocks to innovation, and clarifying federal and state regulatory roles are among the chief goals they will follow when drafting legislation covering autonomous vehicles in coming weeks.

“Self-driving vehicles will not only dramatically change how we get from place to place, they have the potential to prevent accidents and save thousands of lives,” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who is spearheading the effort along with Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., and ranking member Bill Nelson of Florida, said in a statement. “I’m pleased we have compiled this bipartisan framework, which is an important step toward introducing and enacting meaningful legislation that will help the federal government promote the safe development and adoption of self-driving vehicles and ensure the United States remains the world leader in transportation innovation.”

The senators said legislation to regulate self-driving vehicles will need to recognize that new safety standards will eventually need to be set because old rules are incompatible with the new technology. The legislation must enable technology development to proceed while standards development is underway so companies aren’t stymied while rules are updated.

Other principles are:

• Legislation must be technology neutral and avoid favoring business models of some developers over others.

• Clarify separation of authorities, with the federal government regulating vehicles and states overseeing drivers, with targeted adjustments relative to self-driving vehicles.

• Address cybersecurity vulnerabilities when connected vehicles exchange wireless information necessary to safely perform driving functions.

• Address how companies can educate the public on what self-driving vehicles can and can’t do based on their level of automation and individual capabilities.

The Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on how to support testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles while ensuring public safety.

GM ending charitable foundation, redirects funds to corporate giving

General Motors is eliminating its philanthropic organization as it redirects $30 million in annual donations to focus on global development and education in science, technology, engineering and math.

GM is cutting the GM Foundation to centralize its charity contributions in hopes of stamping a greater global and social footprint, according to Tony Cervone, senior vice president of global communications. The actions, he said, will not reduce overall philanthropic spending.

“Rather than be limited by only those that are restricted under foundation-type rules, GM can work with partners that it chooses to drive specific social change,” Cervone told Automotive News.

The overhaul involves passing the foundation’s duties to the GM Global Corporate Giving department, which will handle the automaker’s worldwide charity efforts and distribute money directly from the corporation. Previously, the money was given to the foundation and then distributed.

The new process will focus dollars on areas with potential to make the most impact on communities, GM contends. The automaker says it’s a priority to hone its charity efforts to align with its core values, such as: bettering vehicle safety, reducing accidents and injuries, increasing high school graduation rates and supporting global economic development in cities, especially those where GM has operations and employee presence.

The readjustment began in 2015 when GM hired Jackie Parker to head the company’s global philanthropy and corporate giving, a position created to transform ‘charity into a more global organization.

With the moves, the automaker is “realigning our GM Foundation and Corporate Giving structure to provide sharper geographical focus and sustained corporate support for our charitable and community activities,” a GM spokeswoman told Crain’s Detroit Business in 2015.

In Detroit, the company sustains hundreds of small contributions — some as little as $200 — to local groups such as food banks, historical museums, high school music programs and fundraisers. GM also funds various worldwide organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, United Way and the Special Olympics.

The redirected charity dollars won’t come as a surprise to the organizations that depend on funding, Cervone said.

“All partners have been involved in either modifying the focus of their programs or have been on a reasonable wind-down of funds if there isn’t alignment,” he said. “Unless there were very limited funds going to a specific entity, we have worked very hard to limit the financial impact on institutions.”

Cervone said GM will “remain fully transparent” in the process by which partners can solicit funds.

Since its founding in 1976, the GM Foundation has donated nearly $1 billion to U.S. charities, educational organizations and disaster relief efforts worldwide.

The company would not disclose contributions for 2016 because tax filings have not been completed.

Notable donations that GM pre-approved for future payments include over $7 million to Buick Achievers Scholarship, a $2 million endowment to the Detroit Institute of Arts and $1.6 million to Kettering University in Flint, Mich.

Fiat Chrysler diesels spew excess pollution, VW sleuths report

WASHINGTON — Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicles spewed pollution as much as 20 times the legal limit, according to testing by the same researchers who first recorded the excess emissions in Volkswagen AG’s diesel cheating scandal.

The revelation from a West Virginia University laboratory sheds new light on the U.S. Justice Department’s allegations in a civil lawsuit last month that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has used illegal “defeat devices,” software that helps evade emissions tests. It comes amid growing concerns about the ability of diesel engines to satisfy U.S. emissions limits and the extent to which automakers may be working to navigate around them.

The West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions stopped short of accusing Fiat Chrysler of emissions cheating, but said on-road tests of Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs and Ram 1500 pickups revealed nitrogen oxide levels at three to 20 times what is permitted by U.S. clean-air rules. Nitrogen oxide, or NOx, can cause smog and acid rain.

“We saw emissions results in simulated on-road cycles on chassis dynamometers that were much lower than the actual on-road results were, suggesting that the vehicle was controlled in different fashions,” said Daniel Carder, director of the center.

The researchers tested five of the Jeep and Ram models from model years 2014-2015 in laboratories and on the road and using portable equipment to measure emissions. The vehicles emitted NOx levels during on-road tests in excess of U.S. limits. The on-road NOx emissions were also higher than observed in laboratory tests designed to replicate the driving maneuvers in the on-road tests.

Fiat Chrysler, in a statement, said it has asked for more information about how the study was conducted but “this testing appears to have been commissioned by a plaintiffs’ law firm for purposes of litigation.”

Carder declined to comment on who commissioned the research.

‘No regulatory protocol’

U.S. pollution standards for emissions are based on laboratory testing, so a comparison with on-the-road tests is “invalid,” the company said. The researchers’ appear to have obtained some of the results by driving faster and with more weight in the vehicle than the regulators call for, according to the statement.

“Despite the report, there is no regulatory protocol for conducting on-road emissions testing,” the company said.

Carder acknowledged that some of the on-road tests were more demanding than U.S. laboratory procedures, such as a test route on a steep ascending road. However, Carder said, “we were seeing elevated NOx levels even on the ascent, which is something we wouldn’t expect.”

In its civil lawsuit against Fiat, the U.S. argues that any undisclosed software is illegal and that features within the automaker’s emissions control systems were designed to evade emissions tests. The case focuses on diesel engines in Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs and Ram 1500 pickups for model years 2014 to 2016, alleging that they generate more emissions in normal driving than during laboratory tests.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has said the automaker never set out to cheat emissions tests. And in a statement last month, the carmaker said it intends to vigorously defend itself “particularly against any claims that the company engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests.”

Separately, General Motors was sued May 25 for allegedly putting defeat devices in two models of heavy-duty trucks from 2011 to 2016. The class-action suit by owners or lessees of more than 705,000 GM Duramax diesel trucks argues that the vehicles passed U.S. inspections despite spewing emissions two to five times the legal limit.

Central role

The West Virginia center that conducted the recent Fiat Chrysler tests has played a central role in emissions cheating scandals before, having documented outsize emissions as much as 35 times what was expected during testing of Volkswagen vehicles in 2013.

Those tests were commissioned by the not-for-profit International Council on Clean Transportation, a group that works closely with regulators worldwide, and helped drive later lawsuits against Volkswagen.

In the Volkswagen tests, the center monitored emissions by driving vehicles while portable measuring equipment was attached via hoses to their exhaust pipes. Carder declined to discuss other diesel vehicles tested by the West Virginia University lab.

Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that about 11 million diesel cars worldwide were outfitted with so-called defeat devices. A U.S. judge on May 11 approved a $1.225 billion settlement between the German automaker and regulators and will buy back or repair some 560,000 vehicles.

It’s a difficult burden of proof for government and plaintiffs in the FCA lawsuit to “really come up with a smoking gun piece of evidence — ‘smoking’ the key word here — that there was in fact intent to cheat the testing for emissions,” said Richard Hilgert of Morningstar, who has a buy rating on Fiat Chrysler.

“This is a negotiation,” Hilgert said. “We’re going to see some kind of settlement at some point.”

Carder said in a telephone interview that finding a “smoking gun” is not the objective of his lab’s diesel tests.

“Our intent is to look at how these emissions controls systems are performing in the real world,” Carder said. “We think that’s where it really matters.”

Guardian and Observer newspapers to become tabloids

Guardian newspaper

The Guardian and its sister Sunday title The Observer are to become tabloids, it has been announced.

The papers will switch from a mid-size Berliner format in early 2018, 12 years after changing from broadsheets.

It is part of a “transformation programme” aimed at seeing the loss-making papers break even by 2019, publisher Guardian Media Group said.

The move will also see the closure of printing sites in Trafford, Manchester, and Stratford, east London.

Printing will be outsourced to presses run by Trinity Mirror, the owner of the Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People tabloids.

GMG said its advertising business would be restructured and its cost base reduced.

A consultation with print workers affected by the change has been launched.

Katharine Viner, Guardian editor and editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media said: “The Berliner is a beautiful format which has served our readers brilliantly for 12 years but we know that it is our award-winning, quality, independent journalism that our readers value most, rather than the shape or size of the newspapers.

“We are going to create a new look tabloid Guardian and Observer that are bold, striking and beautiful.”

The Berliner format was introduced by Ms Viner’s predecessor, Alan Rusbridger, who stepped down in 2015 after 20 years in charge.

Although it is a popular size for titles in Europe, it had not been adopted by any national newspaper in the UK.

GMG spent £50m on new presses for the September 2005 launch, which also saw a complete redesign of the papers.

The Guardian’s masthead which had been used since 1988 was replaced by a three tone blue and white logo, and new typefaces and layout were introduced.

David Pemsel, chief executive of GMG, said: “More people are reading and supporting our journalism than ever before, but the print industry continues to evolve, and we must evolve with it.”

BMW i Ventures invests in mass transit EVs

BMW’s venture capital arm has invested in Proterra, a Silicon Valley manufacturer of heavy-duty electric mass transit vehicles, Proterra said Tuesday.

The amount of BMW i Ventures’ investment was undisclosed and was part of $55 million in funding from investors that also included Generation Investment Management, founded by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

BMW i Ventures was formed in 2011 to invest in high-potential startups and high-growth companies with interests in changing future mobility.

Proterra says it controls 60 percent of the electric mass transit market in North America and has sold more than 400 vehicles to 39 municipalities, universities and commercial transit agencies around the U.S.

The investment marks BMW i Ventures’ first in heavy-duty electric mass transit vehicles, according to Proterra.

“BMW i Ventures invests in companies that will transform mobility and transportation, and Proterra is pushing the transit industry forward with the most innovative heavy-duty electric bus,” BMW i Venture partner Zach Barasz said in a statement. “Due to Proterra’s efforts, electric mass transit is overtaking fossil-fuel buses as the new standard.”

No other terms of the investment were disclosed.

Proterra said it will use the funds to increase production at its two manufacturing plants, in South Carolina and near Los Angeles, and to strengthen r&d at its headquarters.

“This is an extremely exciting time at Proterra as our customers, supporters and investors — new and old alike — rally behind our vision for a clean, electric transportation ecosystem,” Proterra CEO Ryan Popple said in the statement. “We’re incredibly grateful to our new investors, and are proud to call them partners as we strive to eliminate fossil fuel dependence throughout the transit industry.”

Uber CEO Kalanick to take leave of absence

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber Technologies Inc’s embattled CEO Travis Kalanick told employees in an email on Tuesday that he will take time away from the company he helped to found, citing the need to grieve for his recently deceased mother, according to a copy of the memo seen by Reuters.

Kalanick, 40, did not say how long he would be away from Uber, the ride-hailing firm that he helped turn into the world’s most valuable venture-backed company, but has run into problems due to its rough-and-tumble approach to regulations and its own employees.

“During this interim period, the leadership team, my directs, will be running the company,” Kalanick wrote in his email. “I will be available as needed for the most strategic decisions, but I will be empowering them to be bold and decisive in order to move the company forward swiftly.”

His temporary move is the latest and most important departure from the executive ranks of the company, which is now worth $68 billion.

In his email, Kalanick cited the need to take time off to grieve the loss of his mother, who died in a recent boating accident in which his father was also injured, and also to address his own shortcomings.

“If we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve,” Kalanick wrote.

Months-long investigation

His move comes after a months-long investigation led by the law firm of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was hired by Uber to look into its culture and practices after a female former employee wrote a public account of her time at the company marred by sexual harassment.

Uber on Tuesday publicly released the recommendations from Holder’s report. They call for reducing Kalanick’s sweeping authority and instituting more controls over spending, human resources and the behavior of managers.

The company shared the 47 recommendations, which were unanimously adopted by the board on Sunday, with employees during an approximately hour-long all-staff meeting at its headquarters in San Francisco. Kalanick was not at the meeting, a source familiar with the matter said.

Pivotal moment

The changes mark a pivotal moment for a company under pressure to change its culture and leadership, which have been largely defined by Kalanick’s brash approach.

Holder and his law firm were retained after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler in February published a blog post detailing what she described as sexual harassment and the lack of a suitable response by senior managers.

Since then, Uber has suffered a series of setbacks, including a federal probe into the company’s use of technology to evade regulators in certain cities, a trade secrets lawsuit filed by Google affiliate Waymo, and an exodus of top executives.

At Tuesday’s employee meeting, human resources chief Liane Hornsey thanked Fowler for being a catalyst for the changes, receiving applause from employees, according to the source.

More independent board

Holder’s recommendations include adding independent members to the board of directors and considering an independent chair. They also suggest changes to company culture, including prohibiting romances between bosses and their reports and creating clearer guidelines on the use of drugs and alcohol.

Other recommendations include holding managers more accountable and mandating manager training. The board will also create an oversight committee to monitor issues such as diversity and an audit committee to oversee spending, and improve the company’s gender and racial diversity.

Holder recommended rectifying one particular complaint of employees: moving the evening dinner hour to a time that “signals an earlier end to the work day.” Several employees have said that Kalanick pushed back the catered dinner hour at Uber to encourage employees to work later.

Kalanick’s leave of absence follows a day-long board meeting on Sunday during which members of Uber’s board of directors discussed the matter. His departure, even temporary, is a thunderclap for the Silicon Valley startup world, where company founders in recent years have enjoyed more autonomy and have often become synonymous with their firms.

Trucker body to seek cartel compensation

MAN Group trucks

A UK industry body that represents thousands of truckers is to seek compensation from a cartel of five big truck firms over price-fixing.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) wants to bring a claim against MAN, Volvo Group, Daimler, Iveco and DAF that could total up to £3.9bn.

The attempted action stems from a in 2016 for 14 years of collusion over truck-pricing.

Four of the firms were fined a record 2.93bn euros in 2016.

MAN did not have to pay a fine after whistleblowing.

The RHA says it will seek compensation of £6,000 per truck from the five firms, and has calculated that between 1997 and 2011 about 650,000 new trucks were sold.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “UK truck owners affected by the truck cartel have potentially paid too much for their lorries over a 14 year period and we’re determined to get a fair deal for them…

“They [truck owners] have made it clear that they feel angry about the truck pricing cartel and want us to represent them.”

A spokesman for the RHA said the body was expecting thousands of its members to sign up due to the numbers who had been in touch.

The action will be backed by litigation funder Therium Capital Management, which will cover the costs and provide insurance.

“There’s no cost to joining the claim, or any other risks if the claim is unsuccessful,” Mr Burnett said, adding that truckers need not be members of the RHA to join the claim.

The next stage of the process is for the RHA’s legal team at Backhouse Jones, Exchange Chambers and Brick Court to apply to the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London to become representatives in the action.

The RHA hopes for the first hearing before the end of the year.

A Daimler spokesman said: “Daimler will conduct a thorough assessment of any asserted damage claims. The EU Commission has not made any findings at all in respect of damages.

“In any event, Daimler will vigorously defend itself against unjustified claims. Please understand, that Daimler will not comment any further on announced or ongoing legal proceedings.”

MAN declined to comment.

Iveco and Volvo were approached for comment.

DAF was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

Uber chief to take leave from company

Uber chief Travis Kalanick

Uber boss Travis Kalanick plans to take time away from the company.

He revealed the decision in an email to employees on Tuesday.

The leave comes after an internal review of the firm’s culture and practices, which was sparked by a former employee’s claims the company ignored her complaints about sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

At a meeting on Sunday, Uber’s board voted unanimously to adopt the recommendations from the review.

The email did not say how long Mr. Kalanick would be on leave.

Uber has been rocked by a series of controversies in recent months, including an investigation of its business practices and lawsuit from Google’s parent company, Alphabet, over alleged theft of trade secrets related to driverless cars.

Criticism of its aggressive corporate culture has also circulated, inflamed earlier this year when Mr Kalanick was caught on video berating an Uber driver.

He said in response to the video: “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”

In the email to staff, Mr Kalanick said his decision to take leave, which also comes after the sudden death of his mother in a boating accident, is part of an effort to create “Uber 2.0”.

“For Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team,” Mr Kalanick wrote. “But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve.”

The leave from Mr Kalanick comes after the departure of other high-ranked executives.

Uber last week also said it had fired more than 20 staff and taken actions against others following a separate review of more than 200 human resources complaints that included harassment and bullying.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder also conducted a broader review of the firm’s practices. Recommendations from that report were released to employees and the media on Tuesday.

“Implementing these recommendations will improve our culture, promote fairness and accountability, and establish processes and systems to ensure the mistakes of the past will not be repeated,” Liane Hornsey, the firm’s chief human resources officer, said in a statement. “While change does not happen overnight, we’re committed to rebuilding trust with our employees, riders and drivers.”