BMW will make work force cuts in the U.S. to adjust for a business slowdown in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesman declined to disclose the number of jobs being axed but noted the cuts do not affect the automaker’s large assembly plant in Spartanburg, S.C.
“The effects of COVID-19 are far-reaching,” BMW of North America CEO Bernhard Kuhnt said in a letter to dealers that was obtained by Automotive News. “Given the reduced size of the business, we now need to … re-scale our business across the company accordingly.”
BMW sales in the first half of the year tumbled 28 percent, with second-quarter sales down nearly 40 percent from a year earlier, as many dealerships were forced into a COVID-19 lockdown in the spring.
In addition to work force cuts, Kuhnt said BMW will take “additional steps to adapt to the current situation.”
“This is an incredibly tough decision — that many of you have also had to make — and this will require change to continue to deliver on our commitments in our partnership,” Kuhnt told BMW retailers, noting the business scale-back will result in changes to the dealer-facing organization.
Earlier this year, Kuhnt was guarded about a U.S. business recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
It “is not going to be like in China, which had a clear V shape going into the crisis and going out of the crisis,” Bernhardt told Automotive News in June.
“In China, my colleagues were at home for two weeks, and after the third week they were already ramping up their business. When China came out, all the other countries were thinking, ‘OK, will we also go through a V-shaped recovery?’ I think that’s not the case.”
Ending exactly five months of delays, SpaceX has completed the first polar launch from Florida in more than half a century, potentially changing the game for the US launch industry.
Coincidentally SpaceX’s 100th launch ever, the SAOCOM 1B mission’s success could significantly redefine what current and future US launch providers are able to achieve with a single launch pad. To pull it off, SpaceX managed to thread the needle between Florida storm cells, avoiding the same fate as the Starlink-11 mission that was scrubbed by inclement weather earlier today. Prior to that delay, SpaceX was targeting – and, based on past performance, would have likely achieved – two orbital Falcon 9 launches and landings in less than ten hours, what would have easily been the quickest back-to-back commercial missions in history.
At 7:18 pm EDT (UTC-4), Falcon 9 booster B1059 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) for the fourth time in nine months. The rocket performed perfectly, sending an expendable Falcon 9 second stage (S2), a payload fairing, SAOCOM 1B, and two rideshare payloads on their way to orbit. Eight minutes after launch and roughly six minutes after stage separate, B1059 successfully returned to SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral Landing Zone (LZ-1) for a soft landing, becoming the first booster to do so in almost six months.
A brisk four minutes after Falcon 9’s first second stage engine cut-off (SECO) and orbital insertion, the rocket gently deployed the ~3000 kg (~6600 lb) SAOCOM 1B satellite. The Argentinian spacecraft extended its own solar arrays and began generating power just a few minutes later.
More than an hour after launch, rideshare payloads GNOMES-1 and Tyvak-0172 deployed as planned, officially completing the Falcon family’s 93rd fully-successful launch. Falcon 9 B1059’s fourth landing was also SpaceX’s 58th since the first successful booster recovery in December 2015.
While an otherwise routine and unexceptional mission, SpaceX has now proven that it’s possible for commercial launch providers to fly to polar orbits – orbits centered around Earth’s poles – from the East Coast. Since 1969, Cape Canaveral (and, far less often, Virginia’s Wallops) launch facilities have offered access to low Earth orbits, geostationary orbits, medium Earth orbits, lunar orbits, and interplanetary trajectories – just shy of anything but polar or sun synchronous orbit (SSO). To reach those orbits, launch providers have traditionally built entirely separate launch facilities on the US West Coast, mostly limited to California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) or, much less often, Kodiak, Alaska.
Building launch pads from scratch – or even reusing portions of old pads – is an extremely expensive and time-consuming endeavor, often taking at least 12-24 months and tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. Blue Origin, for reference, is likely spending $500 million to $1 billion or more to build a Falcon Heavy-class launch pad from scratch for its first orbital rocket, New Glenn. While much smaller rockets from startups like Firefly and Relativity need proportionally smaller and cheaper launch pads, pad construction still end ups being a major expense and hurdle for new entrants. Both Firefly and Relativity have already publicized plans to build two separate launch facilities at Vandenberg and Cape Canaveral.
Now, given enough excess performance for any given payload, it may well be possible for companies like them – particularly Relativity – to move directly to Florida without having to sacrifice polar and SSO launch capabilities that are most commonly used by small satellites. For Blue Origin, it could potentially save the company years of work and hundreds of millions of dollars if it can avoid having to build a second New Glenn launch pad in California. ULA has already expressed interest in exploring East Coast polar launches for its next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket, potentially preventing the need for expensive changes to one of its California launch pads.
It remains to be seen if the US military will ultimately certify the new Eastern polar launch corridor for its high-value payloads and it’s unclear if the new corridor has any major inclination or cadence restrictions, but it’s safe to say that existing providers are going to eagerly take advantage of this new capability.
The story of the revived Maybach brand and its failure to compete with established super luxury brands like Rolls-Royce and Bentley is too well know so there’s no need to repeat it once more.
Nevertheless, the Maybach 57 and 62’s defeat by the likes of Rolls-Royce Phantom and Bentley Arnage had nothing to do with the quality of the German super luxury sedans. As the following video from Throttle House reveals, the Maybach 57 and 62 were rock solid luxury saloons that offered a level of quality modern-day Mercedes-Maybach models struggle to replicate.
Speaking of today’s Mercedes-Maybach, the comparison pits a 2020 Mercedes-Maybach S560 against a 2007 Maybach 57S. You’d think 13 years is a big difference and the S560 will have no trouble whatsoever defeating the old car.
Well, things are more complicated than that. Obviously, money is the main criteria here and the fact of the matter is the 2020 S560 costs more than twice as much as the 2007 Maybach. For the equivalent of $83,650, you can pick up this exact 57S from Canada, while a high-spec Mercedes-Maybach S560 like this one will set you back around $190,300.
There’s no point arguing here, the Maybach 57S is better value proposition despite being extremely expensive to maintain; after all, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is not much more economical to keep on the road either.
When talking about super luxury sedans, owners rate very highly the sense of occasion these cars offer. All things considered, it’s safe to say the old Maybach feel more special than the new S-Class-based Maybach. Everything looks and feels (and pretty much is) bespoke in the 57S, whereas the S560 is, at the end of the day, a well-equipped top-of-the-range S-Class.
Gordon Murray Automotive (GMA) recently unveiled the T50 supercar and, perhaps not surprisingly for the product of the man who designed the McLaren F1 and numerous winning race cars, it’s full of interesting technical details. Jason Fenske at Engineering Explained put together this deep dive, highlighting five elements that distinguish the T50 from other supercars.
The T50 is not a numbers car. Murray calls it the “ultimate analog supercar,” and has said the focus was on creating the best driving experience, not breaking top speed or lap records. For example, the 3.9-liter naturally aspirated V-12 “only” develops 653 horsepower and 344 pound-feet of torque, which aren’t very impressive numbers for a supercar these days. But the Cosworth-developed engine can rev to 12,100 rpm and is coupled to a 6-speed manual transmission.
That manual transmission is a rarity in modern exotics, most of which have gone to quicker-shifting (but less fun) dual-clutch gearboxes. The T50 transmission also has fairly high gearing for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, which should make burnouts easy, Fenske noted.
Gordon Murray Automotive T50
A 15.7-inch fan is mounted at the rear of the car as part of an active aero system. The fan is inspired by Murray’s Brabham BT46B Formula One car, but it serves a different purpose here. In the Brabham, the fan worked with side skirts to create an area of low air pressure under the car, creating downforce by sucking the car onto the track. In the T50, the fan works with active rear spoilers to reduce drag at high speeds by bleeding off downforce, or increasing downforce under braking. However, the effect is relatively small for such a complex feature, Fenske noted.
The fan may be somewhat of a gimmick, but the T50 embarrasses other supercars when it comes to weight. The T50 weighs just 2,714 pounds—over 1,000 pounds less than a Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 Spyder, Fenske noted. All three cars have more power than the T50, thanks to complex hybrid powertrains, but none can match its weight-to-power ratio of 3.3 pounds per horsepower.
Only 100 buyers will get to experience the brisk acceleration afforded by that weight-to-power ratio, and they won’t get their cars for awhile. Production is scheduled to start in January 2022. The car is priced at $3.08 million (at current exchange rates), and each owner will have a fitting session for positioning of the central driver’s seat, steering wheel, and pedals. GMA might also develop a track-only version, and a racing version that could potentially compete at Le Mans.