Ferrari vows to keep growl in face of plug-in push

Ferrari won't do a sport utility vehicle or an electric model and plans to stick to making high-end sports cars, claiming the traditional engine growl is part of what customers pay for.

"It's not that we're not planning an SUV for now - we're not planning one at all," Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa told reporters on Tuesday at Europe's largest car show this year, the Frankfurt International Motor Show.

"We've been refining our concept of building two-door sports cars for 60 years, and one of Ferrari's strengths is to have always worked in a coherent way in a well defined segment."  

An all-electric car also isn't being developed because "one of the characteristics of Ferraris is the sound of the engine, and an electric car makes no sound".

True to form, Ferrari unveiled a Spider (convertible) version of its new 488 GTB model at the Frankfurt International Motor Show. Its V8 engine propels the car to 100km/h in as little as three seconds.

One of the characteristics of Ferraris is the sound of the engine, and an electric car makes no sound.

Amedeo Felisa

The Italian manufacturer is taking a different tack than its main competitors, which are entering new model segments to win customers who may not be interested in their more famous cars.

Volkswagen AG's Porsche unveiled a four-seat electric sports car in Frankfurt that accelerates faster than its main 911 model and charges in just 15 minutes, challenging US producer Tesla Motors. Volkswagen's Lamborghini supercar unit will introduce a high-performance SUV in 2018 in a bid to more than double deliveries.


Mercedes' concept stars

For sheer beauty, there's no beating Mercedes-Benz's Concept IAA at the Frankfurt Motor Show.


The goal was create the most stunning and aerodynamic car possible. The four-door coupe was thus given a super-low coefficient of drag -- and made even more slick by a trick up its fender.

The trick is at about 80km/h, it converts from its "design mode" - which is basically looking its best - to "aerodynamic mode", in which it becomes as windswept as possible.

To do it, the rear extends, adding to the car's length to improve air flow . Flaps extend around front bumper. There are active rims in the wheels to change their look and a louvre in the front bumper moves to the rear.

"Concept IAA applies intelligent innovations to resolve the conflicting aims of functionality and aesthetics and shows that we still have plenty of ideas on how to achieve further improvements in efficiency," say Thomas Weber, the head of research on the Daimler Board of Management.

Daimler chairman and Mercedes chief Dieter Zetsche said at the Frankfurt Motor Show that the "Concept IAA" only took 10 months to develop - down from 18 months, typically - because "digitisation" was "speeding up the entire value chain".


Porsche puts Tesla on notice

Porsche unveiled the four-seat Mission E concept sports car that reaches 100km/h in 3.5 seconds, beating the 4.2 seconds for the new generation of the 911. Matthias Mueller, head of the Volkswagen AG unit, told media at Frankfurt the 600-horsepower (447kW) electric car has a range of more than 500 kilometres and can recharge the battery to 80 per cent capacity in about 15 minutes, Tesla's Supercharger needs about 30 minutes to recharge the Model S to about 270 kilometres of range.

Porsche and sister unit Audi are among the elite car brands shifting into battery-powered models as Tesla develops into a viable competitor. Deliveries of the US electric-car maker's second vehicle, the Model X crossover, will start in the US later this month, and a more affordable car is also on its way. The company run by billionaire Elon Musk received glowing reviews for the acceleration and handling of the Model S, a blow to traditional high-end brands.

Porsche's electric car, which is due to reach the market within five years, will be "better than a Tesla," Mueller promised in an interview on Tuesday.

"We respect all competitors, also Tesla, and that is the reason why we have taken a close look at the Model S as well as at every BMW, Mercedes or something else," he said. Tesla "did a very good job, especially in terms of connectivity. Some things about the car itself could be better, but OK. That is our competition."


Rolling on a slight decline

British carmaker Rolls-Royce Motors will sell fewer cars in 2015 than last year, its chief executive told media on Tuesday, echoing comments made recently by other luxury automakers hit by cooling demand in China, the world's biggest car market.

Last year Rolls-Royce sold a record 4063 cars, but sales of the BMW-owned brand are down 10.3 per cent in the year to July at 2035 vehicles and CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes said growth in other markets will not fully make up for a decline in Chinese demand.

"Our other markets are doing very well ... (and) nicely compensated for some of that loss in volume we have seen in China but ... we are probably not able even until the end of the year to fully compensate for that," Mueller-Oetvoes said.

Consequently he said the firm was "probably not any longer likely" to beat its record sales last year but would end "probably on a number close to that".

Rolls-Royce launched its new Dawn convertible at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week, with the aim of widening its appeal to more women and younger drivers.


Audi e-tron gives 'concrete foretaste'

In the race to lure luxury customers into electric vehicles, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler is making his ambitions clear, confirming it will release a luxury electric crossover in early 2018.

Stadler said his goal for the e-tron quattro - shown at Frankfurt in concept form - is to "lead the industry in connectivity and energy efficiency"

Audi said the e-tron quattro concept reflects "a concrete foretaste" of the company's production-model electric crossover.

With a 95 kilowatt-hour battery pack, the vehicle can travel 500km on a battery charge and can go from 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds. A full charges takes about 50 minutes. It can also be wirelessly charged, though that would take longer. A solar roof adds electrical input on sunny days. 


Dial an Uber-convenient limo

The onset of smartphones has fundamentally changed customer expectations, say BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

BMW board member Ian Robertson said rather than buying and owning a car, customers can use phones to hail a limousine or find a car-sharing vehicle.

"The ability to use a car, and then walk away is a serious business," Robertson said, adding that there was still a long way to go in regulatory and legal terms to resolve liability questions before ride sharing models will use driverless cars.

Mercedes-Benz also sees business potential in offering on-demand limousine services using driverless cars, Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche has said, in what amounts to a direct challenge to Uber.

The market penetration of vehicles with autonomous features is expected to reach 13 per cent by 2025, representing a market of roughly $42 billion, Boston Consulting Group has said.

With that in mind, BMW is also looking at how the inside of the new, driverless car will look, board member Peter Schwarzenbauer said.

"At the moment, drivers spend most of their time looking outside a vehicle. With self-driving cars, interior design will play a very different role. The feelgood factor will be paramount," he said.