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29 Jul 2012

BMW to sell luxury cars for less online

The BMW i3 concept car at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show in January.

The BMW i3 concept car at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show in January. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)

BMW will sell cars over the Web for the first time as the world's largest maker of luxury vehicles seeks an inexpensive way to reach more buyers to recoup spending on its electric models.

A direct online sales platform for BMW's new I sub-brand will be unique in an industry where, outside of small-scale experiments, competitors leave Internet orders for cars to dealers. BMW's range of strategies for the models, including a roaming sales force backing a limited showroom network, reflects the challenge carmakers face as low-emission vehicles trickle into dealerships to sluggish demand after years of development.

"There is considerable risk in BMW's approach of promoting the I brand so prominently," said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Science in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. "There is the image risk, if they don't succeed as quickly as expected, and then there's the main risk of costs, which can only be countered with high deliveries."

BMW opened the I models' first showroom Tuesday in London, although only prototype cars and informational materials will be displayed at first because the vehicles themselves won't go on sale before next year. BMW is spending about $3 billion developing the i3 battery-powered city car and i8 plug-in hybrid supercar, according to an estimate by Frost & Sullivan. Industry sales of electric cars last year, at 43,000 vehicles, were only 57 percent of the 75,000 deliveries predicted by Sarwant Singh, a London-based automotive partner at the consulting company.

Starting prices posted

The four-seat i3, scheduled to reach the market in late 2013, will be priced at about 40,000 euros ($48,500), Bratzel estimated. That compares with a 23,850-euro starting price ($29,388) in Germany for the 1-Series, the cheapest BMW-brand car. The i8, targeted for sale in 2014, will cost more than 100,000 euros ($123,221), according to Ian Robertson, BMW's sales chief.

Details of how I-model buyers, the website and dealerships will interact are "still in the planning process" and will be communicated later, Linda Croissant, a spokeswoman at Munich- based BMW, said last week. Sales will be focused on the world's major urban areas, she said.

The online sales option is aimed at a generation of drivers used to making daily purchases over the Internet, and will be an extension of the car configuration that most automakers offer customers to view models with desired options such as interior colors, seat materials and roof styles.

Test drives not an option

The Internet platform may take a while to catch on because "many customers will still want to go somewhere to look at and drive the vehicle before buying," said Ian Fletcher, an auto analyst in London at research company IHS Global Insight.

"With new technologies, there may be even greater skepticism about buying a car over the Internet, as in many cases you'll have to win the confidence of customers that it works and there is support for them," Fletcher said in an email.

The setup may help BMW reduce expenses: Internet sales require less than half the cost of distributing through a dealership, according to Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the Center Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. That allows online car prices to be 5 percent to 7 percent less than showroom tags.

Still, BMW sees standard dealerships as "the backbone of what we are doing in the interface with the customer" for the I models, Robertson said in June at a press presentation at the sub-brand's Park Lane showroom in London.

Dealer selection criteria

Outlets will be restricted to dealers with high BMW-brand sales volume who have floor space as well as capacity to work with I models' powering technology and carbon-fiber body material, Robertson said. The carmaker has chosen 45 of its approximately 200 dealers in Germany to sell the i3 and i8, a ratio that will probably be similar elsewhere, he said.

Dealers will be designated as agents for the I models, which provides an "advantage" by keeping the vehicles on the carmaker's books, the association of BMW distributors in Germany said in an email.

Electric vehicles' disadvantages versus conventional cars include costly battery packs, limited ranges and the time needed to recharge. Consumer reception to models like the Nissan Motor Co.'s Leaf and General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Volt has been tepid.

"Currently available electric cars have a limited market success because they are a big compromise," said Arndt Ellinghorst, a London-based analyst at Credit Suisse AG. "Customers are not willing to compromise and spend a lot of money."

Carbon fiber bodies lighter

BMW Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer started Project I at the end of 2007 as tighter emissions regulations threatened the viability of sporty sedans. BMW chose to create all-new vehicles that use expensive carbon fiber for a lighter body to make up for the weight of the battery system.

The approach contrasts with a decision by Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz Cars division to convert existing models, such as the van-like B-Class or two-seat Smart, to electric power.

To make its electric vehicles more attractive, Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler's Smart brand offers to lease the battery separately from the car. The automaker has a target of selling more than 10,000 of the models next year, with a starting price of 18,910 euros plus monthly battery rental at 65 euros.

The I models' new technology poses risks for BMW, "but they have no choice if they want to keep their premium and image as an innovation leader," Ellinghorst said.

The i3 and i8 will probably be among BMW's lowest-selling models through 2024, alongside the existing Z4 roadster, according to IHS estimates. In 2014, the first full year of production, BMW will probably deliver 31,380 i3s, compared with 564,760 of the best-selling 3-Series model and 18,101 Z4s, a study by the research company shows.

BMW's stance is that the models should produce earnings from the start, sales chief Robertson said.

"We clearly, as a company, go into any product launch with the view of making profit, which is no different with the I brand," Robertson said. "This is a car line just as every other car line, and we intend to make profit from Day 1."




26 Jul 2012

Paper Passion, a scent from Geza Schoen for Wallpaper magazine, makes its wearers smell like freshly printed books

Paper Passion, a scent from Geza Schoen for Wallpaper* magazine, makes its wearers smell like freshly printed books. I suppose it can be alternated with "In the Library," a perfume that smells like old books.

Paper Passion fragrance by Geza Schoen, Gerhard Steidl, and Wallpaper* magazine, with packaging by Karl Lagerfeld and Steidl.

“The smell of a freshly printed book is the best smell in the world.” Karl Lagerfeld. 

It comes packaged with inside a hollow carved out of a book with "texts" by "Karl Lagerfeld, Günter Grass, Geza Schoen and Tony Chambers."

23 Jul 2012

It will cost two million € to connect the electricity, and nobody wants to pay.The empty Guadalhorce Hosptial in Cártama

The Guadalhorce Hospital has been completed in Cártama on the Costa del Sol, but it has been empty for several months with no opening date planned.

To continue installing the equipment in the hospital it has to be accepted as meeting requirement, and to show that hospital is as planned, but for that to take place it must be connected to the electricity supply.

The problem is that will cost two million €, although the originally quoted price was 300,000 €, to install the electrical connection required. Endesa say the problem is that to supply the hospital an electrical substation at Villafranca del Guadalhorce will have to be expanded.

Cártama Town Hall has said they cannot meet the extra cost, which has put the budget up five fold. Mayor Jorge Gallardo says he thinks the electricity company is ‘making the most of the circumstances’. 

However the Junta say they think the 2 million bill should be met by the Town Hall. They say the electricity contract was undertaken by Cártama Town Hall.

The Guadalhorce Hospital has been built thanks to an agreement between the Málaga Diputación, the Junta de Andalucía and the Cártama Town Hall, to give the district its long-wanted hospital. Many foreigners live in the inland area and have complained about the time to get to a hospital in Málaga.

Spain wildfires: Three killed

 

Forest fires in the county of Alt Emporda, in north-east Catalonia, on 22 July 2012Officials say the flames have been fanned by strong winds

Forest fires raging in Spain's north-eastern Catalonia region have left three people dead, officials say.

Two French nationals drowned in the sea close to the border with France while trying to escape the flames, Catalonia's interior minister said.

Strong winds gusting up to 90km/h (55mph) have rendered one fire "out of control", he said.

All residents of the county of Alt Emporda - about 135,000 people - have been ordered to stay indoors.

The area is a main link for holidaymakers travelling to and from southern France. Traffic on the cross-border AP-7 motorway was reported to have been severely disrupted on Sunday.

Cardiac arrest

The two French victims were among several people who were trapped by fire as they travelled along the N-260 main coastal road near the town of Portbou and tried to reach the sea by climbing down cliffs, according to Catalan Interior Minister Felip Puig.

Map

The victims were a 60-year-old man and his 15-year-old daughter, Spanish media reported.

A 75-year-old man died after suffering a cardiac arrest in Llers, north-west of the area's main town, Figueres.

At least another 19 people have been wounded, including a French national who suffered burns on 80% of his body when he was caught in his car by the flames.

The fire near Portbou has been brought under control, according to media reports, while a much larger blaze further inland, around the border town of La Jonquera, was still spreading late on Sunday, Felip Puig said.

The fire, travelling at about 5-6km/h, came within 10km of Figueres, Mr Puig said.

A total of about 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of forest are estimated to have been devastated in the area, according to the authorities.

Spain Scraps Siesta as Stores Stay Open to Spur Spending

The Spanish shopping siesta may be about to become the latest victim of the sovereign debt crisis. To stimulate spending after a 23 percent drop in retail sales since 2007, the euro region’s fourth-largest economy this month approved measures that allow shops of more than 300 square meters (3,229 square feet) to open for 25 percent longer a week. The new rules may encourage the outlets to sell during the traditional afternoon snooze from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and on an additional two Sundays or holidays a year for a total of 10. “When everything was fine, nobody complained, but now that things have gone awry, then it’s another story,” said Carmen Cardeno, director general for domestic commerce at the nation’s economy ministry, which created the rules. “We need to evolve and be more flexible.” Spain is following its European neighbors in trying to liberalize shopping hours that have traditionally been checked by governments in the region to protect religious observances, for rest and on behalf of smaller retailers that have fewer resources to staff shops around the clock. England has allowed retailers to open for longer on Sundays during the Olympics than the six hours usually allowed. In France, food shops can be open 13 hours a day and stores located in tourist areas have the right to open on Sundays. Spanish shops are allowed to open for less time than anywhere else in Europe, according to its government, which was asked by retail associations to allow large stores to open 16 Sundays or holidays a year. Some smaller merchants opposed the extension, arguing that the bigger stores would have the necessary manpower and they wouldn’t. The new measures allow stores 18 additional business hours a week and will permit merchants to decide when to cut prices in sales instead of only twice a year. Siesta Time The country’s regions will get to decide how to implement the rules, though they usually follow the lead of the central government. In Madrid, which is an exception, stores have been able to open for as long as they want since July 15. Outlets of less than 300 square meters also have no restrictions on opening hours, though the Spanish tradition of eating at home and having a siesta means most shopkeepers keep their businesses closed for about two hours in the middle of the day. The new measures may not be enough to offset shrinking demand in Spain’s 217 billion-euro ($264 billion) retail industry, which is worsening each year the crisis goes on in a nation where one in four people is out of work. The number of companies seeking bankruptcy protection rose 22 percent from a year earlier to 2,224 in the first quarter, according to the nation’s statistics institute, with commerce being the third- largest contributor behind construction and housing firms and industrial and energy companies. ‘Almost Insignificant’ Javier Millan-Astray, director general of retail association ANGED, said the approved loosening of restrictions on opening hours doesn’t go far enough. “The government’s reform is almost insignificant,” Millan-Astray told reporters in Madrid, when retail groups pushed for 16 Sunday openings. The associations’ “new proposal would help boost consumption and create more jobs because when we open on a holiday, people come and shop. It’s unbelievable that amid this crisis, we have to keep our stores closed.” Spain has been wrestling with the dilemma of preserving its culture and modernizing the industry for decades. The socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in 2004 rolled back liberalization of opening hours instituted by his predecessor, bringing them back to rules from the 1990s and leaving the country with the tightest regulations of any European country. Job Creation Even with the latest proposals, “retail regulation is hurting both business and customers in Spain,” said Fernando Fernandez, a professor at the IE Business School in Madrid. “Both big and small retailers would benefit from fewer restrictions. When big retailers such as Ikea or Zara open a store, all small shops in that area benefit from that.” Ending the restrictions completely would create 337,581 jobs across all industries and add 17.2 billion euros to economic growth this year, according to a study commissioned by the government, which examined the implications of several scenarios. The nearest of those to the current proposals, under which stores open on 16 Sundays or holidays, could have added 47,945 full-time retail jobs, the study found. About 1.8 million people worked in retail in the first quarter, 0.3 percent less than in the year-earlier period. Stores are also bracing for change as the government looks to the retail industry to help boost tax revenue. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will increase the most common rate of sales tax to 21 percent from 18 percent on Sept. 1, putting an additional brake on consumers’ ability to spend. previous

21 Jul 2012

Spain king ousted as honorary president of World Wildlife Fund branch after elephant hunt

The World Wildlife Fund’s branch in Spain has ousted King Juan Carlos as its honorary president — a title he’d held since 1968 — after deciding his recent elephant hunting safari was incompatible with its goal of conserving endangered species. The announcement Saturday was the latest in a string of bad news for Spain’s royal family, which has been embarrassed by legal and other scandals. The fund said in a statement that “although such hunting is legal and regulated” it had “received many expressions of distress from its members and society in general.” It said members voted at a meeting Saturday in Madrid to “to get rid of the honorary President” by a substantial majority of 226 votes to 13. The Royal Palace declined immediate comment on the announcement. Many Spaniards were dumbfounded when news broke in April that the king had made a secret journey to hunt elephants in Botswana even though it was widely known he was president of the Spanish branch of the fund. Such an opulent indulgence also angered Spaniards at a time when national unemployment hovers around 25 percent, the economy is contracting and there are fears the country may need an international financial bailout. The Spanish public learned of the safari only after the king had to fly back in a private jet to receive emergency medical attention for a broken hip suffered during the trip. In an unprecedented act of royal contrition, a sheepish Juan Carlos apologized, saying as he left the hospital: “I am very sorry. I made a mistake. It won’t happen again.” It was a poignant moment because the royal family had been under intense media scrutiny for all the wrong reasons. The king’s son-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, is a suspect in a corruption case, accused of having used his position to embezzle several million euros in public contracts through a supposedly not-for-profit foundation he’d set up. Over Easter, the king’s 13-year-old grandson, Felipe Juan Froilan, shot himself in the foot with a shotgun, even though Spanish law dictates you must be 14 to handle a gun. The king on Tuesday decided to take a pay cut in solidarity with civil servants who are to lose their traditional Christmas bonuses as part of the government’s most recent austerity drive. The salaries of Juan Carlos and Crown Prince Felipe will be reduced about 7 percent — to about 272,000 euros ($334,000) and 131,000 euros ($160,000) respectively — in line with government policy, the Royal Palace said. The king and prince acted voluntarily in cutting their salaries, the palace said.

5 Jul 2012

fishermen clash off Gibraltar

Just as there are reports of progress in the talks between the Gibraltar authorities and the Spanish fisherman from Algeciras and La Linea, comes the news that Gibraltar Police have harassed two Spanish boats near the Rock. The fishermen alerted the Guardia Civil when they saw the Gibraltar launch, and say the situation is ‘unbearable’ and they demand a solution. The fishermen say if it continues in this way, they will call their boats to fish off the rock. The members of the technical commission which is trying to negotiate a settlement, have been in contact with the Spanish authorities to explain what has happened and to ask for a solution to the conflict. The Spanish fishermen’s representative, Pedro Maza, has claimed the Gibraltar Government is using delaying techniques.

Killer of four members of a British family is thought to be in Spain

press conference is being held in the British Embassy in Madrid today to try and track down Anxiang Du.Anxiang Du spotted on closed circuit TV in Brimingham New St Station Representatives from the British and Spanish police are to hold a joint press conference today to detain 53 year old Anxiang Du, the alleged killer in a brutal assassination of people of the same family in Wootton, Northampton. It happened on April 29 2011. Police say he felt that he was owed thousands of pounds by Helen Ding who was killed with her family; including two children aged 18 and 12. Police think the alleged killer could be in the south of Spain or in the north of Morocco, and have made a special call to the ferry operators to keep watch. There are reports that the British Police has offered a reward of 25,000 pounds. If you have any information you can call anonymously 900 555 111 if you call from Spain, or 0800 555 111 if you are in the U.K. It’s hoped that today’s press conference at the British Embassy in Madrid will draw more attention to the case. The Chief Inspector of the Northamptonshire Police, Tom Davis, and the Secretary of State for Security from the Interior Minister, José Antonio Togores, will host the press conference.

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