SNL’s version of a Mercedes EV

I’ve been hearing about this for about a week, I guess. Everyone in the EV and alt-power car segment of the enviro world has been chuckling and discussing the video.

For me, once again it proves that CGI is now affordable [for some folks] and incredibly powerful. And the sense of humor of the best part of the history of Saturday Night Live is still alive and well.

China’s environmental goals are reshaping global car design


BMW I3 electric testing by the LAPD

For global automakers, China is becoming the new California.

The U.S. state grabbed the lead a few years ago in establishing fuel-efficiency standards to clean up urban smog. Now, as China struggles with its air-pollution crisis, Beijing increasingly influences the models and technology Detroit, Europe and Japan sell around the world.

In response to government rules and incentives that have spurred electric-car sales in China, automakers are beefing up their global electric-vehicle and plug-in offerings. General Motors Co. plans to make a plug-in hybrid version of every Cadillac model. Ford Motor Co. has budgeted $4.5 billion to develop 13 new EVs and plug-in hybrids by 2020, and China is a big reason for both automakers. Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz is selling five plug-ins in China, two of which also sell in the U.S. Similarly, BMW AG is engineering plug-in hybrids it sells worldwide to meet China’s electric-drive mandates.

❝“Originally we started with California rules, so the starting point for us was clearly the U.S.,” said Klaus Froehlich, BMW’s global head of product development. “Now, China is a key market. It is very important and the regulations are quite difficult.”

Decisions made in Beijing already are affecting cars people drive in Dallas and Los Angeles. That’s because automakers tend to design new models to sell in multiple regions — and China is the world’s largest auto market…

Even gasoline engines are getting a global tweak to meet Chinese fuel-efficiency standards: Cadillac specifically designed the most powerful engine in its CT6 sedan, a twin-turbo 3 liter, to avoid stiff Chinese taxes on any engine over 3 liters…

While China wants to boost sales and become a key destination for global automakers to sell new models, it also wants cleaner air. So it now requires that agency- and government-owned companies’ fleets consist of at least 30 percent plug-in hybrids or electric cars. If they don’t comply, they risk losing important subsidies for utilities such as electricity and water. The subsidies can be the difference between profit and loss, said Michael Dunne, president of Dunne Automotive…

The country already sells far more electric-car models than the U.S., with 30 available now. That will rise to 80 by 2020, though many of them will come from China’s small domestic producers, according to IHS Automotive. The U.S. has just a handful of models now; 44 will be available in 2020…

“The Chinese government will do whatever is possible to make people feel comfortable with EVs,” Dunne said.

The American government will do whatever is possible to make people feel comfortable with lots of guns.

Aside from my cynicism, the article makes me pleased that an alternative to the short-range stupidity of the American market exists. Like anyone concerned with environmental issues I get to stand back in awe of the blank brains of my fellow citizens who look ahead at a couple years of lowered gasoline prices and rush right out to buy the biggest SUV on the block.

No thought about environmental impact. No consideration for what cars add to the sum of a deteriorating climate. Not even a trace of reflection about what it will cost to feed and maintain the beast when oil prices get back up to the “standards” fossil fuel barons from Saudi Arabia to Texas require to support their own addictions.

Previous fallbacks existed in a vacuum. Now the world’s economics are shifting and Uncle Sugar no longer is the only game in town. Manufacturers who want to be profitable on a global scale will have to design products for a global market.

Pic of the Day


Click to enlargeSHUJI KAJIYAMA/AP FOTO

The photo is from this weekend in Suzuka, Japan. The Japanese Gran Prix. It rained.

These two cars are driven by teammates who also happen to hold the top two positions in the world championship with four races left in the season. At that moment they were separated by a hair, a couple of points.

The driver on the left is Nico Rossberg. Catching him on the right in Lewis Hamilton. Competing with each other for the world championship truly is more important than team victories. Mercedes would not like it to be that way – but, it is and cannot be any different.

In the rain, slowing from perhaps 200mph to take this turn around 60 mph, braking in the rain, Lewis Hamilton is about to pass Nico Rossberg on the outside of the curve they are entering and go on to win the race.

Understand all of that in Shuji Kajiyama’s photograph.

David Coulthard breaks Guinness Record for fastest hole-in-one


 
Ex-Formula One driver David Coulthard and up-and-coming golfer Jake Shepherd have set a record for the world’s fastest hole-in-one…Coulthard was driving a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster as Shepherd teed off at the Top Gear test track, the ball passing a speed trap at 178mph.

In order to make the catch Coulthard needed to race 275 metres down the track, and was still travelling at 120mph when the ball landed in the cockpit of the £177,000 car.

Scottish motorsport ace Coulthard calmly kept his hands on the steering wheel but his eyes were glued to the sky, watching the ball travel fly through the air.

The feat was independently verified by a Guinness World Record adjudicator who confirmed the achievement was the furthest golf shot caught in a moving car.

Commenting on the record, Coulthard said: “The only way to track the ball was to keep your eyes on it all the time: it’s a real adrenaline rush but it’s not the most comfortable thing to do because for a moment, you’re not watching the road.

Yes, I admit it – I like crazy car stuff like this. And Coulthard always was a favorite of mine – especially when he was driving for McLaren-Mercedes.

8 Ferraris + 3 Mercedes + 1 Lamborghini + 1 Nissan GT-R + 1 Prius = a very expensive car crash in Japan

A fleet of high-performance cars, including eight Ferraris, has been involved in one of the most expensive accidents in history after an astonishing multi-car pile-up in Japan. Police said three Mercedes Benz cars and a Lamborghini Diablo were also involved in the massive crash at the weekend on the Chugoku Expressway, in the country’s south-west.

While the majority of the 14 vehicles – which also included a Japanese supercar Nissan GT-R Skyline and a Toyota Prius – were travelling along the Osaka Prefecture-bound bended lane at least one Mercedes CL600 was driving in the opposite direction.

Television footage showed the cars – either wrecked or destroyed – spread across the highway, in a trail of crumpled metal and broken glass. Several of the vehicles were wedged up against the metal barriers. Miraculously, none of drivers – the majority of whom are reported to be foreign car enthusiasts – were seriously hurt in the wreckage but the bill is still bound to be painful nonetheless.

Such was the severity of the damage, several of the luxury cars have been written off, leaving their owners with the nightmare scenario of seeing their prized possessions turned into expensive scrap metal.

The total damage bill is expected to hit several million pounds. A new Ferrari 355 retails for several hundred thousand pounds. The other Ferrari models understood to have been involved in the pile-up include a F512, F355, F430 and a F360…

It is thought the crash occurred when the lead driver hit a central barrier after losing control of their Ferrari while trying to overtake in wet conditions. They are then reported to have hit the central reservation before rebounding into the path of the oncoming traffic.

They then caused a chain reaction of accidents over several hundred yards as other drivers went around the bend and unable to avoid the accident.

The highway was closed for more than six hours while authorities removed the wrecked cars.

Insurance companies are going to love this one. Especially whoever is covering the poor bugger whose Prius was thumped by all the expensive alloy and horsepower.

Where else might you find a babe who crashes her Bentley into a Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin?

When in Monte Carlo, everything is done in style. And that includes crashing your car.

This was the moment when a woman driver caused a £700,000 five-car pile-up as her Bentley collided with a Mercedes, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin.

Disaster struck as the hapless blonde negotiated the traffic around the Place du Casino in her £250,000 Bentley Azure. The driver of a white Mercedes S Class worth £75,000 was the first victim as the 2.7-ton Bentley scraped down the side of it before ploughing into a £143,000 black Ferrari F430.

Hope you’re insured, madam: A policeman tries to sort out the chaos beside Monte Carlo’s Place du Casino
An Aston Martin Rapide worth £150,000 and an £80,000 Porsche 911 also came a cropper. The driver and her two passengers then suffered the embarrassment of being surrounded by tourists as they were unable to open the doors of the convertible.

It is estimated the crash will cost more than £40,000 with the Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin requiring new front wings and bumpers. The Bentley will need the same repairs, plus a new door.

Chaos: A staggering £685,000 worth of supercars were involved in the inpromptu game of demolition derby
Ruud Poot, editor of European motoring website Autogespot, said: ‘You probably couldn’t find a worse place in the world to crash your car than outside Monaco’s Place du Casino in the middle of the summer.’

Maybe she thought she was practicing for next year’s Formula One race – everyone was supposed to get out of her way.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Publicity stunt plays 2 ways – still illustrates change in India

For decades this central Indian city was vintage old India: crumbling Mughal-era ruins and ancient Buddhist caves surrounded by endless parched acres from which farmers coaxed cotton. But this month Aurangabad became an emblem of an altogether different India: the booming, increasingly urbanized economic powerhouse filled with ambition and a new desire to flaunt its wealth.

A group of more than 150 local businessmen decided to buy, en masse, a Mercedes-Benz car each, spending nearly $15 million in a single day and putting this small but thriving city on the map. Frustrated that the usual Chamber of Commerce brochures were slow to attract new investment, the businessmen decided to buy the cars as a stunt intended to stimulate investment in Aurangabad, one of several largely unknown but thriving urban centers across India’s more prosperous states.

“In and around Aurangabad there are companies worth a thousand crores,” an amount of Indian rupees equivalent to about $225 million, said Sachin Nagouri, 40, a hyperkinetic local real estate mogul who came up with the idea. “But Aurangabad is not known even in this state. There is plenty of money here. We just need to show it…”

These men could not be more different from their cautious fathers, who stashed every penny as a hedge against an uncertain future in India’s economy, which until 1991 was heavily controlled by the government. In the land of Gandhi and the birthplace of Buddhism, grand displays of material wealth are still frowned upon.

Older men like Ashish Garde, who runs Nirlep, a company that has made nonstick pots and pans here since 1968, declined to join the group. Mr. Garde said the nearly $15 million spent on luxury cars would have been better spent on investments in industries that would create jobs or donations to charity. He declared himself satisfied with his economy car.

“Those of us who went through the hardships of the past know the value of money in a different way,” Mr. Garde said. “Those who get quick money, their relationship is different. After globalization things happen very easily. The element of struggle is gone.”

RTFA. Interesting tales supporting and criticizing the stunt, the money, new attitudes.

Mercedes + Schumacher + Brawn together in F1


Click on photo for video
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher is to return to Formula One next season to drive for Mercedes.

The 40-year-old German, who retired in 2006, has agreed a three-year contract with the possibility for a further extension according to his agent Sabine Kehm and will be on the grid for the curtain-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14.

Schumacher, who was unveiled at the team’s factory in Brackley, will join compatriot Nico Rosberg at the former Brawn GP team, who were taken over by Mercedes at the end of last season having won the constructors’ and drivers world championships.

“After a three-year break, I have all the energy again that I was lacking,” Schumacher told reporters via a teleconference call.

Schumacher, who won five of his world titles with Ferrari, attempted to make a comeback for the Italian team last year in place of the injured Felipe Massa, but a neck injury sustained in a motorcycle race thwarted his return…

“Over the summer it was too soon after the accident. Now everything has healed,” said Schumacher, who will have his first practice session with his new team on February 1.

I have decided to return to Formula One. Mercedes GP and I agreed on teaming up for the coming seasons. And to be honest, I’m already super excited by the prospect to be back in a F1 cockpit,” he added on his official Web site.

“I don’t want to deny at all that the idea of a German F1 team extremely tempts me. I guess every German driver would feel this way. And of course it plays a major role that I again can work together with Ross at Mercedes GP. Above all, however, my old hunger for racing is back — I realized that my old passion was returning. Suddenly I was on fire again,” he added.

Though I always seemed to be supporting someone else – like Mika Hakkinen – a certain level of insanity is required to deny that Schumi is the greatest driver of recent generations.

To see him driving for the Silver Arrows of Mercedes – back together with Ross Brawn as team principal – is an amazing opportunity. He is one of those consummate skills who just may be capable of beating everyone else in the world, the oldest driver in every race.

German minister has limo brought to Spain for official appointments


So, I said – Bring the car. We’ll have a good time. Do a little sightseeing.
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Germany’s Social Democrat health minister came under pressure Sunday to explain why she took her official limousine, complete with chauffeur, to Spain where the vehicle was stolen.

Thieves stole the keys from the chauffeur’s accommodation near Alicante, a ministry spokeswoman said on Saturday, adding Ulla Schmidt had used the Mercedes for official meetings to discuss healthcare and pensions with Germans who had retired to Spain.

German media reported that Schmidt had paid for her own flight to Alicante, where she was also taking a holiday, but a driver had brought over her limousine to Spain from Berlin.

“I would like to know which of Mrs Schmidt’s appointments required an official car and chauffeur in Alicante and why it was not possible for the embassy to arrange transportation,” Otto Fricke, an opposition Free Democrat, told Bild am Sonntag.

Greens budget expert Alexander Bonde told the Saarbruecker Zeitung: “Why does the minister need an armored limousine in Spain? The budget committee will insist that just referring to official appointments is insufficient and implausible.”

Doesn’t anyone in the German press have as cynical an outlook as mine?

How close was the minister’s accommodation – to the chauffeur’s, eh? Connecting doors?

Brawn, Button, Barrichello all winners at Oz Gran Prix – UPDATED


Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Jenson Button says he and teammate Rubens Barrichello will not be underestimating their F1 rivals after a triumphant 1-2 in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The Brawn GP pair dominated Sunday’s race at Albert Park, leading many to predict they will take a stranglehold on this season’s title race.

Who’s predicting that? Some ninny who never follows Formula One?

But Melbourne winner Button is warning against complacency…

“Rubens and I are both going to be very competitive, pushing each other very hard. But I’ve a feeling other teams are going to be on us very quickly, and when we get to a different type of circuit, maybe in Malaysia, some other cars which weren’t so competitive here will be.”

Sunday’s sweep of the first two places completed a fairytale recovery for a team which was rescued from bankruptcy by Ross Brawn and team chief Nick Fry after Honda pulled out of F1 late last year.

Not since 1954, when legendary five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio led home Karl Kling for Mercedes in the French Grand Prix, has a team taken the top two places on their debut.

An exciting race. Including the disastrous crash 2 laps from the finish that took out Kubica and Vettel. Lewis Hamilton was moved to 3rd after a penalty on Trulli for passing while the safety car was out.

Could be a hell of a season.

UPDATE: FIA back to normal, reversing earlier ruling on Trulli – DQ for Lewis Hamilton and reinstating Trulli’s 3rd place.