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►  Diesels on display in Frankfurt auto show despite scandal

Scandals. Recalls. Threats of bans. The diesel engine is a public enemy for many environmental activists and politicians.

And yet, when the world’s biggest automakers unveil new models at this year’s auto show in Frankfurt, among the new electric vehicles and digitally-enhanced prototypes there will also be diesel cars.

The carmakers at the show, mainly Germany’s big manufacturers, are hoping to modify diesel engines to make them cleaner rather than throw them out altogether. It’s a bid for stability in an industry roiled by change.

Here’s a quick look at the major themes and vehicles expected at the Frankfurt International Motor Show, which opens for journalists Tuesday and Wednesday and to the general public from Saturday through September 24.



German carmakers, which have relied heavily on diesel, have been bruised by controversy over the technology since Volkswagen’s scandal, in which the company admitted to illegally rigging cars to turn off diesel emission controls when not on test stands. Subsequent investigation found that many diesels by other manufacturers met official test standards but emitted far more pollution during every day driving, often by exploiting legal loopholes that permitted them to turn off controls at certain temperatures. German carmakers are recalling some 5 million older diesel vehicles to tweak their engine control software in hopes of warding off pressure for diesel bans in some cities.

So expect a lot of emphasis on emissions-free technology such as battery-powered cars. Daimler will show off a fully electric, compact car under its EQ brand, which represents the company’s push into areas it has bundled under the acronym CASE: connected, autonomous, shared and services, and electric.

It also will unveil the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell, a fuel-cell and battery plug-in hybrid that emits only water vapor. Fuel cell-powered cars are not yet a practical option for consumers, with only 33 hydrogen fuel stations in Germany, but it’s one possibility for the future in which government regulation will increasingly require low-emission vehicles.



But diesel remains in the mix —with what automakers say are better emissions controls to meet European Union standards in which cars will be tested under real-world driving conditions, as well as on test stands. Diesels get better mileage — a big consumer issue in Europe, where fuel taxes make gasoline painfully expensive. A liter of gasoline costs 1.31 euros in Frankfurt, or $5.97 a gallon. And diesels emit less carbon dioxide, meaning they help meet regulatory limits on the greenhouse gas believed to contribute to global warming. The new T-Roc small SUV from Volkswagen, for instance, will come with three possible gasoline engines to choose from — and three diesels. Automakers “won’t be shouting about it, but diesels will be part of their lineup,” says Ian Fletcher, principal analyst at IHS Market.

IHS estimates diesel’s market share will fall from 49.7 percent in Europe to 46.9 percent this year, and to 32.8 percent by 2025.

Mercedes-Benz spent 3 billion euros to develop new diesels, which are already being used in its E-Class sedans.



Increasingly, carmakers are finding other ways to unveil new models than auto shows and that has become even more evident ahead of this year’s show. Volkswagen’s Porsche brand showed off its new Cayenne SUV at an extravagant event August 29 with the Bohemian Symphony Orchestra Prague and dancers livestreamed from its home base in Stuttgart-ZuffenhauSenator Automakers skipping the show this year include Fiat Chrysler’s namesake Fiat and its Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands, Peugeot and its DS luxury division, plus Nissan, Infiniti and Volvo.

Yet the Frankfurt show remains a very big deal for the home team: Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz luxury brand, Munich-based BMW AG, and Volkswagen, all of which will have giant display stands. Some 1,000 exhibitors will show off 300 premieres on 200,000 square meters of space. Chinese brands WEY and Chery will exhibit for the first time.



Automakers will be eager to show off technologies that can help people get around without owning a car. That could include ordering rides through an app, sharing someone else’s car for a price, and autonomous vehicles.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, will speak at the opening ceremony, while Google is a sponsor for the media night. Computer security company Kaspersky Labs and AVL Software and Functions GmbH are showing off a product to protect cars from hackers. Daimler announced Wednesday it was investing in peer-to-peer car sharing company Turo and said it plans to fold its own car sharing pilot project, Munich-based Croove, ahead of Turo’s entrance into the German market in 2018.



The main reason to hold an auto show, of course, is to show off autos. Some of the models attracting the most industry attention will include: Audi’s A8 four-door sedan with an eight-speed transmission and all-wheel drive; the eighth generation of the Rolls-Royce Phantom; and a new version of Volkswagen’s Polo compact, which comes in gasoline and, yes, diesel versions.

Small SUVs remain a popular category for new vehicles. Car buyers like the higher seating position, while carmakers save development costs by putting a new body style on top of mechanical components they’ve already paid to develop for compact cars. They include: the SEAT Arona, Jaguar E-Pace, Kia Stonic, Citroen C3 Aircross, Skoda Karoq, and a so-far unnamed offering from Chery.



It wouldn’t be an auto show without freaky fast, completely unaffordable supercars to gawk at. Daimler has the Mercedes-Benz-AMG Project ONE, a two-seat hybrid with over 1,000 horsepower and a top speed of 350 kph (217 mph.) A teaser photo shows the silhouette of a car with a low silhouette and big wheel wells.

►  Apple may test the bounds of iPhone love with a $1,000 model

Apple is expected to sell its fanciest iPhone yet for $1,000, crossing into a new financial frontier that will test how much consumers are willing to pay for a device that’s become an indispensable part of modern life.

The unveiling of a dramatically redesigned iPhone will likely be the marquee moment Tuesday when Apple hosts its first product event at its new spaceship-like headquarters in Cupertino, California. True to its secretive ways, Apple won’t confirm that it will be introducing a new iPhone, though a financial forecast issued last month telegraphed something significant is in the pipeline.

In addition to several new features, a souped-up “anniversary” iPhone — coming a decade after Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs unveiled the first version — could also debut at an attention-getting $999 price tag, twice what the original iPhone cost. It would set a new price threshold for any smartphone intended to appeal to a mass market.


Various leaks have indicated the new phone will feature a sharper display, a so-called OLED screen that will extend from edge to edge of the device, thus eliminating the exterior gap, or “bezel,” that currently surrounds most phone screens.

It may also boast facial recognition technology for unlocking the phone and wireless charging. A better camera is a safe bet, too.

All those features have been available on other smartphones that sold for less than $1,000, but Apple’s sense of design and marketing flair has a way of making them seem irresistible — and worth the extra expense.

“Apple always seems to take what others have done and do it even better,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Creative Strategies.


Apple isn’t the only company driving up smartphone prices. Market leader Samsung Electronics just rolled out its Galaxy Note 8 with a starting price of $930.

The trend reflects the increasing sophistication of smartphones, which have been evolving into status symbols akin to automobiles. In both cases, many consumers appear willing to pay a premium price for luxury models that take them where they want to go in style.

“Calling it a smartphone doesn’t come close to how people use it, view it and embrace it in their lives,” said Debby Ruth, senior vice president of the consumer research firm Magid. “It’s an extension of themselves, it’s their entry into the world, it’s their connection to their friends.”

From that perspective, it’s easy to understand why some smartphones now cost more than many kinds of laptop computers, said technology analyst Patrick Moorhead.

“People now value their phones more than any other device and, in some cases, even more than food and sex,” Moorhead said.


Longtime Apple expert Gene Munster, now managing partner at research and venture capital firm Loup Ventures, predicts 20 percent of the iPhones sold during the next year will be the new $1,000 model.

Wireless carriers eager to connect with Apple’s generally affluent clientele are likely to either sell the iPhone at a discount or offer appealing subsidies that spread the cost of the device over two to three years to minimize the sticker shock, said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research.

Even Munster’s sales forecast holds true, it still shows most people either can’t afford or aren’t interested in paying that much for a smartphone.

That’s one reason Apple also is expected to announce minor upgrades to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7. That will make it easier for Apple to create several different pricing tiers, with the oldest model possibly becoming available for free with a wireless contract.

But the deluxe model virtually assures that the average price of the iPhone — now at $606 versus $561 three years ago — will keep climbing. That runs counter to the usual tech trajectory in which the price of electronics, whether televisions or computers, falls over time.

“The iPhone has always had a way of defying the law of physics,” Munster said, “and I think it will do it in spades with this higher priced one.”

►  Chinese bank accused of helping money laundering in Spain

A Spanish judge is accusing the European branch of China’s state-owned ICBC bank of aiding criminal organizations to launder more than 214 million euros ($256 million).

National Court judge Ismael Moreno said that the Luxembourg-based Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Europe should also be held responsible for the money allegedly laundered by its Spanish branch between 2011 and 2014.

Seven top executives tied to the bank’s Madrid premises have already been under investigation since February 2016.

In a ruling released Monday, the judge said ICBC Europe had a degree of knowledge of the alleged laundering.

Moreno said that the bank’s office in central Madrid proactively raised cash from illicit businesses and criminal gangs and then hid the deposits by making loans to overseas customers, mostly through transfers to China.

--> Tuesday, September 12, 2017
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