June 21, 2021

Will Plug-In BMWs Turn Enthusiasts On?

BMW fans can soon decide for themselves whether the company has delivered on its promise. On Friday in Frankfurt, BMW unveiled working prototypes of the i8, a plug-in hybrid sport coupe that will carry a six-figure price tag, and the i3, a four-seat battery-powered compact car aimed at a wider market.

The two cars are the first from the company’s new “i” subbrand for electric cars, plug-in hybrids and other alternative-power vehicles. While BMW hasn’t disclosed what other models may be in the works, the i8 and i3 appear to be the high and low ends of what may someday be a broader line of low-emission, high-mileage offerings.

Though officially labeled concept cars, the prototypes presented in Frankfurt are essentially the vehicles that will begin rolling off an assembly line in Leipzig, Germany, in 2013. BMW plans to market the cars in all of its main markets, including the United States, by the end of 2013, with the emphasis on urban areas.

•

There was never much worry that the i8, versions of which BMW has shown before, would disappoint purists. With a battery-powered electric motor turning the front wheels and a 1.5-liter 3-cylinder gasoline engine driving the back, the i8 will race from a standstill to 100 kilometers per hour (or 62 miles per hour) in 4.6 seconds, BMW says. That is faster than the most powerful version of BMW’s Z4 sports roadster and competitive with most incarnations of the Porsche 911.

The i8 is also a riposte to the Audi R8 E-tron and Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell, electric sports cars that have already been publicly shown in concept form and will go into limited production within the next two years.

The four-seat i8 can go 20 miles solely on battery power and will theoretically travel more than 100 miles on a gallon of gas when the engine and batteries are working together, with the electric motor providing a power boost during acceleration. The company concedes that hard driving will cut that figure in half; this BMW may be green, but it can also be aggressive.

It is less clear if the i3, presented as a city car, will rate a place alongside highly regarded BMWs like the 3 Series. The fuzzy renderings the company had shown before Friday, as it carefully rationed information about the electric-car project, looked more like a streamlined Mini than a prototypical Bimmer.

There had remained doubts as to whether the company was really willing to risk its prestige on a market for electric cars that, for all the hoopla, remained unproven. But based on the model shown in Frankfurt, BMW has clearly concluded that the i3 will cast a positive halo on its brand.

The car is visually a BMW, including the trademark double-kidney grille, which, however, is purely decorative. The battery-powered i3 doesn’t need a front air intake for engine cooling.

The i3 also preserves the rear-wheel-drive format that is another BMW hallmark. At the same time, designers have updated the design language for the iPhone generation. Familiar elements, including a prominent roundel badge and L-shaped taillights, mix with features like transparent roofs and side panels, the better to show off the carbon-fiber passenger compartment and the seats of leather tanned with environmentally friendly olive oil.

The i cars also signal that they represent a new kind of BMW. In contrast to the monocolor of most conventional cars, the i8 and i3 prototypes have what BMW calls layered schemes, swoops of carbon black and light gray on the body panels, with blue accents.

The i3 aims for Euro-coolness rather than the techno-nerdiness of a Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf.

“It is a BMW,” said Richard Steinberg, who is in charge of the company’s electric car operations in the United States. “It remains an ultimate driving machine.”

The performance metrics of the i3 seem respectably BMW-like. It can go from 0 to 62 m.p.h. in less than 8 seconds, faster than some variants of BMW’s 1 Series and 3 Series cars. Moreover, the i3 will deliver a nice kick from stoplights, reaching 60 k.p.h. (37 m.p.h.) in just 4 seconds, according to BMW. That is because electric motors deliver peak torque from a standstill. In internal combustion engines, torque increases, up to a point, with the engine speed.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/31/automobiles/will-plug-in-bmws-turn-enthusiasts-on.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Turkey Spends Freely Again, and Some Analysts Worry

Stock brokers endure four-month waiting lists to pay as much as $150,000 for top-of-the-line Audis and BMWs — twice the manufacturers’ prices after taxes. A real estate developer recently laid out a record $33.3 million an acre for a 24-acre plot of land in Istanbul’s city center.

But the most striking sign that the economy here may be overheating comes from a usual suspect: the country’s aggressive banks. They have found a creative way to finance consumer splurges by providing quick loan approval via text message or automated teller machine.

Analysts and bankers say the explosive growth in consumer loans has fed a worrying expansion of the country’s current account deficit, estimated to be 8 percent of gross domestic product this year.

Turkey’s trouble in financing gaps of that size has been at the root of its past two busts, and some worry that history may be repeating itself.

“We are again producing and consuming beyond our capacity,” said Atilla Yesilada, an economist at Istanbul Analytics, who has lived through Turkey’s last two busts, in 1994 and 2001. “We are financing our growth entirely through foreign credit, which is becoming more expensive. At some point life catches up with you, and you crash.”

More than any other emerging economy, Turkey has been on a roller-coaster ride over recent decades, in which manic growth has almost inevitably been followed by a sickening crash.

But this time will be different, promises the popular government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is heading for a nationwide election in June in which the robust economy is widely expected to carry him to an unprecedented third term in office.

Many people have said as much just before the Turkish economy collapsed, of course. But here in Turkey, whose decade-long expansion was only briefly interrupted during the global financial crisis, the government and many business leaders argue that their nation has moved beyond its boom and bust syndrome, and that policy makers are now well-equipped to pull off a so-called soft landing.

“We are looking for 4.5 percent growth this year, and we think that is manageable for the economy,” said Faik Acikalin, the chief executive of Yapi Kredi Bank, one of the country’s largest providers of consumer loans.

Since the government’s crackdown on overly enthusiastic credit card lending by banks in the last decade, general purpose consumer loans have become the preferred vehicle for financing domestic demand here.

According to research from Standard Unlu, an Istanbul-based investment bank, general purpose personal loans grew at an average annual clip of 61 percent from 2005 to 2008 and have barely slowed since, registering a 42 percent gain last year.

It is not surprising that these loans have become so popular — for banks as well as customers.

After a consumer receives a text message from the bank informing him that he qualifies, or a note that he may pick up at an A.T.M., all he needs to do is pay a quick visit to his bank branch and collect the cash.

Mr. Acikalin insists that a close credit watch is being kept. And he says nonperforming loans are extremely low, at about 3 percent of loans outstanding. Broadly speaking, he adds, the Turkish banking system is in better shape than ever.

He points out that after the 2001 crisis — when scores of thinly capitalized banks failed — the government imposed stiff capital and lending rules that protected banks from the worst ravages of the brief 2009 recession, when the economy fell by 4.8 percent.

Under Mr. Erdogan, who heads a government with a Muslim character sharper than any in the 88-year history of the modern Republic of Turkey, the country has plenty to crow about. Turkey generated a gross domestic product of about $730 billion last year, making its economy the 17th largest in the world.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=e2cddcd7518c3f7e11a5d0fd0f05a794

Free-Spending Turkey Hopes to Avoid a Fall

Stock brokers endure four-month waiting lists to pay as much as $150,000 for top-of-the-line Audis and BMWs — twice the manufacturers’ prices after taxes. A real estate developer recently laid out a record $33.3 million an acre for a 24-acre plot of land in Istanbul’s city center.

But the most striking sign that the economy here may be overheating comes from a usual suspect: the country’s aggressive banks. They have found a creative way to finance consumer splurges by providing quick loan approval via text message or A.T.M. machine.

Analysts and bankers say the explosive growth in consumer loans has fed a worrying expansion of the country’s current account deficit, estimated to be 8 percent of gross domestic product this year.

Turkey’s trouble in financing gaps of that size has been at the root of  its past two busts, and some worry that history may be repeating itself.

“We are again producing and consuming beyond our capacity,” said Atilla Yesilada, an economist at Istanbul Analytics, who has lived through Turkey’s last two busts, in 1994 and 2001. “We are financing our growth entirely through foreign credit, which is becoming more expensive. At some point life catches up with you, and you crash.”

More than any other emerging economy, Turkey has been on a roller-coaster ride over recent decades, in which manic growth has almost inevitably been followed by a sickening crash.

But this time will be different, promises the popular government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is heading for a nationwide election in June in which the robust economy is widely expected to carry him to an unprecedented third term in office.

Many people have said as much just before the Turkish economy collapsed, of course. But here in Turkey, whose decade-long expansion was only briefly interrupted during the global financial crisis, the government and many business leaders argue that their nation has moved beyond its boom and bust syndrome, and that policy makers are now well-equipped to pull off a so-called soft landing.

“We are looking for 4.5 percent growth this year, and we think that is manageable for the economy,” said Faik Acikalin, the chief executive of Yapi Kredi Bank, one of the country’s largest providers of consumer loans.

Since the government’s crackdown on overly enthusiastic credit card lending by banks in the last decade, general purpose consumer loans have become the preferred vehicle for financing domestic demand here.

According to research from Standard Unlu, an Istanbul-based investment bank, general purpose personal loans grew at an average annual clip of 61 percent from 2005 to 2008 and have barely slowed since, registering a 42 percent gain last year.

It is not surprising that these loans have become so popular — for banks as well as customers.

After a consumer receives a text message from the bank informing him that he qualifies, or a note that he may pick up at an A.T.M, all he needs to do is pay a quick visit to his bank branch and collect the cash.

Mr. Acikalin insists that a close credit watch is being kept. And he says nonperforming loans are extremely low, at about 3 percent of loans outstanding. Broadly speaking, he adds, the Turkish banking system is in better shape than ever.

He points out that after the 2001 crisis — when scores of thinly capitalized banks failed — the government imposed stiff capital and lending rules that protected banks from the worst ravages of the brief 2009 recession, when the economy fell by 4.8 percent.

Under Mr. Erdogan, who heads a government with a Muslim character sharper than any in the 88-year history of the modern Republic of Turkey, the country has plenty to crow about. Turkey generated a gross domestic product of about $730 billion last year, making its economy the 17th largest in the world.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/26/business/global/26turkey.html?partner=rss&emc=rss