There's Way More Drama In Volkswagen Land Than You Think

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The Frankfurt Motor Show continues to roll along with a few things we expected and a few surprises we didn't. Check out our handy guide here, and you can also see the latest cars as they're unveiled on our sweet Kinja liveblog. What new cars will we see today?


1st Gear: Everything Isn't Sunshine And Lollipops At VAG

What, did you think the Volkswagen Group was a magical and peaceful place where everyone works together in harmony to develop stylish and insanely powerful cars for Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley and the rest? With that many brands, there's bound to be sibling rivalry. And it all goes back to who gets the blessing from CEO Martin Winterkorn.


Automotive News today has a fascinating report on VW's "system of orchestrating competition among its 12 brands to keep them focused and hungry." It starts with how the Lamborghini chief had to sleep on his shop floor for weeks before last year's Geneva Motor Show developing a convertible Aventador after VW pulled the plug on the debut of the Lamborghini Urus SUV in favor of the Bentley EXP 9 F. Ouch.

"The biggest risk to achieving our goals is losing focus on what got us here, and that's making the best cars on the market," Winterkorn, 66, said in an interview. "You can only manage a multi-brand strategy like ours when you have the right technology, processes and people behind it."

For VW's brand chieftans, the CEO — a pure-blood car guy and protege of 76-year-old Chairman Ferdinand Piech — is final judge, jury and executioner of the German company's product plans.

In the case of Bentley and Lamborghini, winning Winterkorn's approval would bring more than 100 million euros ($131 million) in development money and bragging rights.


2nd Gear: Now Every Poor Will Be Buying A Mercedes S-Class

Remember when the Mercedes S-Class was the sole province of European oligarchs and ruthless dictators? Sadly, that's not the case anymore, especially since Mercedes is cutting the price on the 2014 S-Class by $2,100 compared to the 2013 model, Autoweek reports.


Great. Now every strumpet and ragamuffin will have one. What is this world coming to?


3rd Gear: The Next Presidential Limo Might Be A Caddy, But It's A Secret

Remember when we were all wondering who will build the next presidential limo? This Detroit News story from David "DShepzzz" Shepardson seems to imply it will be a Cadillac again, but development is super, super, super secret, understandably. Here's an interview at Frankfurt with GM vice president for global design Ed Welburn:

"There's more security around the development of a presidential limo than any of our products," Welburn said in an interview on the sidelines of the Frankfurt auto show. "It takes a number of years to develop the car. It's a great project to work on. This particular one, more so than any of them in the past. In the past, they were retrofitting existing vehicles — with this, (the 2009 vehicle), this is really from the ground up a new vehicle, and we really do it right."

Asked when the next generation limo will replace the 2009 model, Welburn clammed up. "I can't even talk about that seriously," Welburn said.


I can only imagine working on the presidential limo is some kind of insanely cool dream project, even if it's one with filled with the utmost importance and secrecy. How exciting that must be for Welburn and his engineers.


4th Gear: BMW Is Trouncing Audi And Mercedes In China

China! It's all about China these days if you're a carmaker. And BMW seems to be doing great in that regard. Bloomberg News reports that BMW's sales there in August were up 35 percent, greatly outpacing the growth of rivals Audi and Mercedes.


Audi is still the best-selling premium brand in China, the story says, but BMW appears to be growing faster there. China is on target to become BMW's top market by the end of the year. Key to that is being able to build in China, where they will sell a ton more.

The maker of the 3- and 5-series sedans is seeking government approval to start the third phase of its assembly plant in Shenyang in northeast China and boost its annual production capacity to 400,000 vehicles.


Hey fellow Americans, you ever feel like old news compared to the Chinese these days?


5th Gear: Good Times And 'Swagger' In Frankfurt These Days

Thanks to the global recession, the atmosphere at auto shows in the last few years could be charitably described as less than optimistic. That's not the case at this year's Frankfurt show, where strong sales in China and the U.S. have everyone in a great mood again. Europe is still kind of screwed, but they'll take what they can get, right?


From a Detroit Free Press report:

Recovering auto sales in the United States and continuing strength in China have helped lighten the mood at this year’s Frankfurt Auto Show, where automakers have set out to wow potential customers with electric and hybrid-drive vehicles and the latest technology.

[...] “In the car industry, we have two worlds, on the one hand Europe which is a catastrophe, and the rest of the world where it looks much better,” said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, professor of automotive economics at the university.

Regardless of the dire picture for Europe, Germany’s Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW are all making money and showing off new products with swagger and glitz at their home show.


Reverse: Today In 1897, The First Drunk Driver Was Arrested

On September 10, 1897, a London cabdriver named George Smith slams his taxi into a building and is the first person to be arrested for drunk driving. He pled guilty and was fined 25 shillings.



Neutral: Is There Any Hope For Europe At All?

U.S. auto sales are bouncing back and there's no end in sight to growth in China. Is the European market permanently screwed, or can car companies make a comeback in the Old World?

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