Daimler and BYD Partner to Build Chinese-Market EV

BYD and Daimler logosDaimler and Chinese automaker BYD have announced a partnership to develop and sell an electric car for the Chinese market. The car will be marketed under a new brand jointly owned by the two companies.

It’ll doubtless be a few years before said car is on the road, but both companies have a significant amount of EV know-how. Daimler is ramping up production on an electrified version of the Smart Fortwo for European consumption, while BYD, which got its start as a battery manufacturer, has already developed hybrid and electric cars for China. How the two companies—an established European giant and a Chinese newcomer—will work together remains to be seen.

2012 Ford Focus Wagon to be shown in Geneva

2012 Ford Focus wagon - Click above for high res-image gallery

With the debut of the 2012 Focus Wagon at the Geneva Motor Show, Ford has reached the halfway point in the roll-out of its new C-segment platform. When Ford first announced the new C-Max and Grand C-Max at the Frankfurt Motor Show last fall, it said the C platform would eventually spawn at least 10 different variants. The two MPVs were joined by the four- and five-door Focus at the Detroit Auto Show in January. The new station wagon is number five and we expect it to be joined by a three-door hatch and coupe-convertible in the coming months. Ford also revealed that a small SUV will join the C-segment lineup soon.
While the new wagon will likely be a popular configuration on the continent, there are currently no plans to make the estate available in North America. Frank Davis, executive director of North American product programs at Ford, told Autoblog that when a wagon was last offered as part of the U.S. Focus lineup, the market share never got over 14 percent and only hit four percent in the final year of availability.
Davis wouldn't rule out offering a wagon in the U.S. at some point if it were justified by market demand. Since Ford will be using common manufacturing processes for the new Focus globally and the lines are flexible, it would not be difficult to add production at the Michigan Assembly Plant where the North American Focus will be built. Davis emphasized that over 80 percent of the parts on the new Focus are common globally, considerably more than the 60 percent commonality on the new Fiesta.
Design-wise the new Focus wagon differs little from the sedan and five-door hatch. It is identical back to the B-pillars with only the extended roof-line and cargo area setting it apart. Ford has integrated the cargo rails into the roof in order to maintain the sleek looks of the latest iteration of its Kinetic design.
Inside the wagon gets the same up-scale interior shown in the sedan and hatch including the first European availability of the new MyFord Touch system as part of the latest generation of Sync technology. Unlike here in the U.S. where we will initially get only one 2.0-liter engine, Europeans will get a range of updated gas and diesel engines to choose from. Production of the Focus starts simultaneously late this year in Europe and the U.S.

Euro-Fords first to get four-cylinder EcoBoost this summer

Ford is expanding its EcoBoost engine strategy to Europe this summer with the introduction of 2.0-liter and 1.6-liter inline-four cylinder engines. The EcoBoost range of turbocharged and direct injected gasoline engines debuted last summer here in North America with the launch of the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 in the Ford Taurus SHO, Flex and Lincoln MKS and MKT.
Ford will debut refreshed versions of its S-Max and Galaxy minivans this summer, both of which will use the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that will also be available in the updated Edge later this year. In the European van applications, the 2.0-liter will be rated at 200 horsepower, which is on the low end for an engine of this type and displacement. Power numbers for the four-cylinder turbo in U.S. applications haven't yet been announced but will likely be in the 230-240 hp range to match the current 3.0-liter V6 used in the Fusion and Escape.
The smaller C-Max and Grand C-Max will be the first vehicles to use a 1.6-liter EcoBoost when they go on sale in the fall. The 1.6-liter will be offered in two power levels, 148 hp and 177 hp. For now Ford is only committing to installing the 1.6-liter in the two MPV variants. However, when we got our first preview of the Focus models that debuted in Detroit, Ford officials acknowledged that an EcoBoost-powered Focus would eventually join the 2.0-liter normally aspirated engine in North America.
American enthusiasts hoping for a chance to buy Ford's raucous 300-hp Focus RS that launched in Europe last year won't be getting that particular car. However, Ford is confirming this week at the Geneva Motor Show that a global performance car based on the new Focus is definitely coming with EcoBoost power. When the Explorer America Concept was unveiled in Detroit two years ago, Ford also talked about a 275-hp 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, which would certainly be plenty in the Focus, especially if it stays front-wheel drive.
[Source: Ford]

2011 Infiniti M37S and M56S answer many questions

2011 Infiniti M56S - Click above for high-res image gallery

What is an Infiniti? That's a pretty harsh question to be asking 20 years after the brand's debut, but sadly, it's pertinent. To be fair, the possible answers to this question got much narrower in 2003 when Infiniti introduced a legitimate BMW 3 Series competitor, the G35 (now G37). The situation further clarified that same year when the "Bionic Cheetah," known to the rest of us as the FX showed its (then) quite handsome face. But it was the 2005 introduction of the second generation M sedan that announced most loudly Infiniti's luxury-performance aspirations: to kick BMW in the back of the pants.
When it debuted, the M (specifically M45S) was a better sporting sedan than the BMW 545i. It had more power, it arguably handled better, and the heavily larded-on high-tech gizmos were worlds more user-friendly than BMW's first-generation iDrive (two minutes to tune in a radio station sucks). Only problem was father time, who simply wasn't kind to the ultimately frumpy looking M. While the rest of the world's sporting, mid-size sedans evolved into better, sharper, faster machines (see the astonishingly good Mercedes-Benz E-Class), the Infiniti M languished on the vine. A good car? Yes, for sure, but by its less-than-notable refresh in 2008, the M had became an also-ran. All it really had going for it was a lower price than the competition, which isn't exactly a strong selling point in such a cachet-conscious segment.
Recently, Infiniti invited the U.S. motoring press down to mostly-sunny San Diego to meet and drive its new 2011 M cars. Lo and behold, we think we may now know what an Infiniti is.

2012 Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS roadster spotted in Affalterbach

2012 Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS Roadster - Click above for high-res image gallery

Our man Chris Paukert had a layover in Germany this weekend on his way to the Geneva Motor Show that included a visit to the headquarters of AMG in Affalterbach. While there, a prototype SLS AMG Roadster made a suspiciously timed pass and pause while he and other journalists were walking around the compound. No matter the motivation, our man Paukert snagged a brace of shots and says that the droptop is expected to arrive as a 2012 model.
Aside from the folding top in place of the upward swinging gullwing doors, not much else is expected to change. Paukert got off-the-record confirmation from a company official, however, that the roadster will not immediately receive the new twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 that is going into the 2011 S63 sedan. Instead, it will carry over the 563-horsepower, normally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 already on sale in the coupe.

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG F1 Safety Car

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Safety Car live shots - Click above for high-res image gallery

During our tour of the Mercedes-Benz AMG facility in Affalterbach, Germany this morning, we spotted this track-ready SLS AMG Safety Car hanging out, and we couldn't resist snapping a few photos.
As we reported earlier, the SLS AMG F1 Safety Car is, for the most part, mechanically unchanged from the street-ready version, save its slightly augmented tailpipe. From there, Mercedes-Benz has outfitted a new carbon fiber hood with front-mounted camera, an all-LED roof light bar, and a rear number plate with an integrated camera.
Checking out this SLS Safety Car in person only has only made us more excited to see it put to good use during the Formula One season, and it brings back fond memories of our time spent flogging the 2011 SLS on both the track and street. Hot stuff. Click through our attached gallery to see high-res shots of the car in the flesh.

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