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Koenigsegg Agera R BLT

Last month, Koenigsegg unveiled the very cool Agera R BLT - a one-off supercar specially customized for a very rich Chinese customer using the company’s latest customer customization program. Unfortunately, the owner never had a chance to enjoy his one-off supercar because the Chinese officials have already seized the car.

Chinese officials stated that the car had been smuggled, since the driver never paid the import tax upon receipt of the vehicle. One look at the import tax and just about everyone will be able to see why the owner wanted to skip out on it. The Agera R BLT sold for $2.35 million, but after applying the import taxes, the price skyrocketed to $4.7 million - twice the value of the car. Yeah, anyone’s checkbook would raise an eyebrow on that one.

What makes the situation worse is that, according to the Chinese police, this seize is just part of a bigger anti-smuggling campaign that has netted vehicles from Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Porsche, Audi, and Range Rover. We all have to pay our taxes, people!

Source: CarNewsChina
Fisker Atlantic

A123 has been put through the ringer in recent history, most notably with its massive battery recall, and now it is just about belly up. Things were starting to look up for the battery make when it announced that a $450 million deal had been reached with Wanxiang Group Corp, but that deal recently fell through.

Now the inevitable is upon A123, as news came across the board that A123 had filed for bankruptcy protection, despite having received a $249 million government grant. With this bankruptcy filing also comes the likely liquidation of its assets. It appears as if A123 has already gotten a head start on this liquidation by negotiating to sell off its automotive business to Johnson Controls – well-known for building nearly every lead-acid and gel battery sold.

The deal is not yet done, but it is reportedly for the sum of $125 million and will include the Fisker , GM , and BMW contracts that A123 has already inked. Part of the proposed deal includes Johnson Controls fronting A123 $72.5 million in “debtor possession” funds to keep the bankrupt company running while the sale is being completed. There is no timetable for the completion of the deal, but per the press release, things will continue as usual for A123 during the entire sale process.

All we can hope for is a full turnaround once this technology gets in the hands of Johnson Controls, as the fate of the EV realm rests heavily on the technologies developed by A123. This could possibly be part of the reason that Fisker wasn’t shy about announcing that the upcoming Atlantic was delayed. We’ll also keep an eye on the Chevy Spark EV project to see if that is put on hold until this situation is resolved.

We’ll keep you updated.

Click past the jump to read A123’s press release.

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More Woes for Suspended Lotus Boss, Dany Bahar

We all know that Lotus has a lot of issues, but there has never been any confirmation of exactly how much trouble Lotus is really in. After DRB-Hicom requested a delay in tax payments to the Inland Revenue, people started looking a little closer.

According to reports, Lotus has about £30 million (roughly $48 million at the current exchange rates) in overdue debts to various suppliers. £23 million (roughly $36.8 million) of this debt is 90 days overdue and £7 million (roughly $11.2 million) of it is between 30 and 90 days overdue. Here comes the oddest of claims by DRB-Hicom; a source close to the company says that the blame for the overdue payments is related to prior management ::cough::Dany Bahar::cough::.

Okay, Bahar has been gone since late May and that means that DRB-Hicom has had full control of Lotus, and its bills, for over five months now. We will gladly give Bahar a lion’s share of the credit for taking one of the greatest sports car companies and flushing it down the toilet, however, we cannot put the blame on him for bills that are now three months overdue.

This issue falls directly on the plate of DRB-Hicom and the CEO it appointed to run Lotus, not Bahar and not any other previous management. Sure, previous management may have spent money that it didn’t have carelessly, but you have had five months to figure out how to pay the bills, so deal with it.

DRB-Hicom may start rethinking the £1 offer it received several months ago. That’s a small sum of money to hand someone a debt-burdened and troubled company… We’ll keep an eye out for more on this situation.

Source: PaulTan.org
Tesla Model S

So, for anyone that watched the Debate last night – I did and I am suffering today thanks to the late evening – you saw presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, hit our sector a few times. One time, he took a direct swipe at two alternative-energy car companies in one statement. If you missed the statement, here it is:

"Now, I like green energy as well, but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receives," Romney said during the first of three Presidential debates. "You put $90 billion — like 50 years’ worth of breaks — into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said, you don’t just pick the winners and losers; you pick the losers."

Now, we’re not here to debate politics, but to call Tesla and Fisker “losers” is not quite fair. As a matter of fact, Tesla announced on Wednesday – the same day that Romney labeled it a “Loser” – that despite its struggles meeting delivery goals, which are due to supplier issues, it will become “cash-flow positive” by next month and will hit the 500-unit mark in just a few weeks.

Hitting that black in the ledger is a huge step for an upstart company and to see Tesla hitting it this soon is impressive. Musk also announced that despite criticisms of the DOE loan to Tesla Tesla , the company has always paid the loan installments on time and has never even given a thought to postponing the payments.

We are not too sure exactly what will come of Tesla in the long run, but it is already prepping the release of its second vehicle, the Model X SUV, and there is a light at the end of the very long upstart tunnel for Musk and Tesla. We’ll keep an eye on the ledger sheet and let you know if Tesla meets this anticipated milestone on time or not.

Click past the jump to read Mr. Musk’s blogged press release.

Source: Reuters
Rumors: Dany Bahar Suing Lotus

In the dust stirred up by Dany Bahar, we managed to miss the fact that DRB-Hicom also dismissed two senior executives from Lotus for “gross misconduct.” One was the 6-year head of legal resources and the other had 17 years in as the head of human resources. These employees are now taking Lotus to an employment tribunal saying that they were dismissed unfairly, were harassed, and had to endure sexual and racial discrimination by the new Lotus parent.

From the report, the two fired executives underwent “intense interrogation sessions” after DRB-Hicom took over and started investigating the actions of Bahar. They are also claiming that the management company is more interested in “Malaysianizing” the company rather than fixing it.

One lawsuit is a random happening, but to get three lawsuits for very similar cases seems like a trend to us. Maybe Bahar isn’t all wrong in this entire thing. The man is certainly at fault for using corporate money like it was his own personal Monopoly bank , but maybe his termination was a little bit less on the “up and up” as we anticipated.

All of this is coming straight on the heels of DRB-Hicom announcing that it is in talks to bring in a foreign partner to help clean up Proton Proton Holdings Bhd, which includes Lotus. We’ll keep an eye on this to see if it may negatively impact the talks that are going on between the Malaysian company and its potential foreign partner.

Source: PaulTan.org

It has been a little while since we last checked in on Lotus and its ongoing woes, but we have a small bit of news to pass on. There has been much speculation that DRB-Hicom has been considering offloading some or all of the Proton and Lotus money vacuum to the highest bidder. We all assumed it would be Volkswagen AG, but V-Dub has recently said that it is done with acquisitions, for now.

Reports out of Malaysia say that DRB-Hicom is now working on bringing in a “Foreign partner” to Proton Holdings Bhd, Lotus’s direct parent company. The reports are stating that the talks about this introduction are still in preliminary phases, but the announcement of talks alone is enough to tell us that DRB-Hicom is seriously looking into a way to stop the bleeding via an outside source.

With Volkswagen saying that it has stopped only acquisitions leads us to suspect that it has a small hand in these talks. Volkswagen and DRB-Hicom could easily enter into a nudge-wink type of relationship, much like the VW-Porsche takeover, and reap the benefits without much risk by simply becoming partners then later deciding to “restructure” the partnership.

This would ultimately give VW a clear port of entry into Southeast Asia – something it sorely needs – and give DRB-Hicom some much-needed financial relief and maybe a little boost in sales. Also, with Volkswagen’s reputation of turning around faltering car companies, a Volkswagen-DRB-Hicom-Proton Bdh partnership could ultimately save Lotus from potential extinction.

As we said, the discussions are preliminary and there is no confirmation that the talks even involve VW. It just seems like a perfect fit for every party involved. We’ll keep you updated on this as more information comes out.

Source: PaulTan.org

On August 31st, the sun spewed a massive coronal mass ejection (CME) that dwarfed the Earth and on September 3rd, it came close enough to Earth to connect with our magnetosphere and cause an Aurora to appear. So what in the world does this have to do with cars? Well, let’s have a look.

In 1859, a huge CME – the last one since, by the way – caused a geomagnetic storm that then caused telegraph systems to fail, shock their operators, and even work while unplugged. Fortunately in those days, they didn’t rely on all of the high-tech things that we do.

Autonomous cars are all the rage lately, as we continue to cover the advances that Google and Cadillac are making in this area. Autonomous cars actually use one of the technologies that Mike Hapgood, a pace weather scientist near Oxford England, says will be hugely affected by a geomagnetic storm of large proportion – GPS.

Imagine if a moderate portion of the cars on the road are using autonomous technology using GPS in some way, like the Google car. People by nature become complacent and comfortable, therefore leading to many of these drivers not paying attention to the road, but instead playing video games, reading the paper, or eating lunch.

If a CME-caused geomagnetic storm should take place and knock out GPS satellites, imagine the massive traffic it would cause, at best. Even worse, it could result in major accidents, should these cars veer off of the road and out of control. That’s a scary possibility that this recent solar flare close call should bring to the forefront. The engineers must devise a backup plan that overrides the GPS part of autonomous driving, should the signal be lost.

This additional engineering process may ultimately delay the public release of these automated cars. If this simply goes by the wayside without any safety measure, besides human intervention, it could cause a serious issue.

Just a little food for thought...

Click past the jump to see two videos of the CME.

An heir to the Red Bull fortune, left behind when its co-creator died in march, was arrested on charges stemming from a hit-and-run death of a police officer in Bangkok. According to the reports, Vorayuth Yoovidhya, the grandson of Red Bull’s co-creator, was arrested for striking a police officer on a motorcycle, while driving his Ferrari FF . He dragged the officer for several meters, before fleeing the scene.

The officer died from his injuries and, initially, a fake suspect was arrested in an attempt by other officers to cover up the crime. After an investigation by higher-ranking officials and a trail of oil leading straight to Yoovidhya’s home and his wrecked Ferrari, the 27-year-old heir was arrested.

He was later released on $15,000 bail and is now roaming the streets again. Yoovidhya claims innocence and that the officer pulled in front of him, causing the accident, but he still faces up to 10 years in prison for “causing a death by driving” and leaving the scene of a crime. Yes, in some Asian countries, causing a death while driving is a crime, regardless of fault, unless there is undeniable evidence of innocence.

An interesting note is that the same family is the sole importer of Ferrari cars in Thailand, so there is no wonder he was whipping a $295,000 Ferrari FF, which likely costs much more in Thailand.

Source: Reuters
Could Volkswagen AG's Next Victim be Lotus?

There has been much speculation in the automotive world about VW looking into buying Proton from DRB-Hicom , and later came the announcement that VW’s labor group would not support additional acquisitions. It looks like - at least the smoke and mirrors make it look like - VW is done buying any more projects for the foreseeable future.

This all comes thanks to a report from Bloomberg, through Handelsblatt, that VW’s CEO, Marin Winterkorn, has said “We have enough to do at the moment in taking our twelve brands to where we want to be” in response to the company possibly buying Proton. He also said “We need to grow in Southeast Asia,” then followed that up with “but that does not mean that we will buy Malaysia’s Proton, like some are speculating.”

In the world of automobile acquisitions, you can always take a CEO’s words with a grain of salt, as they are saying what is true at any given second. At the drop of a hat, that truth can suddenly change, especially if DRB-Hicom decides to offer up Proton at a bargain price. Add in the fact that VW has been very shady with its business tactics lately – avoiding the tax man and sneaking Ducati under Lamborghini’s umbrella to help it meet mpg standards – and you can see why we don’t believe a word of what Winterkorn says.

VW will say what it needs to say in order to keep its labor group happy, but ultimately it is in the automobile manufacturing game to make money. If Proton and/or Lotus are seen as potential profit, VW will tell the labor group to suck it up, as they ink a deal for the Malaysian automotive group.

We’ll keep a close eye on this whole situation and see if VW stays true to it word or reverses ship if Proton falls in its lap.

Source: Bloomberg
Infiniti M

Just recently, we reported that Johan de Nysschen left Audi USA to head up Infiniti , and it appears he is already making some necessary changes. According to Car Sales, Nysschen confirmed that it, like many other automakers, is heading away from V-8 engine configurations to help reduced CO2 emissions and help it meet the anticipated CAFE standard of 54.5 mpg by 2025. He was quoted saying: “I don’t think any car that is on Infiniti drawing boards from here onwards we should expect a V8 to be included in that plan”

This means that models like the FX50 , M56 , and other V-8-powered Infinitis will opt for a turbocharged or supercharged V-6 or 4-cylinder engine. Ironically enough, the sister company of Nysschen’s former employer is going the exact opposite route, cutting out its turbocharged V-8 in favor of a V-12 configuration .

It is admirable seeing luxury automakers willing to take a step forward to help meet the needs of the world, as fuel prices continue to rise. This is a sharp contrast to his former employer stance, as Volkswagen has spoken out pretty harshly against these upcoming regulations and is one of only a handful of car manufacturers that has not signed the CAFE agreement. We wonder if this was a ideological difference that helped push Nysschen away from Audi and VW .

Keep an eye out for the next generation of Infiniti cars to be lacking the all mighty Nissan 5.6-liter V-8 engine and we are now awaiting Nissan to announce a similar changeover. This would entail changes to the Nissan Titan and NV van lineups. Ford has already shown that a turbocharged V-6 engine works great in a pickup truck and we’re sure it translates well to a van too.

Source: Car Sales

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