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Auto blogMon, 14 Jan 2013 17:57:00 EST
As part of its 2013 Detroit Auto Show debut package, Volkswagen has rolled out a sportier version of the Passat sedan, though it's strictly conceptual for now. A small dose of go-fast visuals have been added to the handsome Volkswagen, including 19-inch wheels, carbon-capped mirrors, an advanced front lighting system, LED taillamps and dual exhaust. Some carbon bits and upgraded leather are found inside the cabin, as well.
But the real performance chops come in the form of a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that sends 250 horsepower to the Passat's front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. That's a good boost in power over the 170 hp of the base 2.5-liter inline-five, but not quite as potent as the 3.6-liter VR6. A lowered sport suspension and revised electronic steering are also on hand, making things slightly more involving out on the road... we assume.
It's not quite the performance concept we were hoping for, but a more enthusiastic Passat isn't necessarily a bad thing. Scroll down for the press release.
Bloomberg Markets is reporting that BMW, Volkswagen and Ferrari have been using tungsten ore sourced from Columbia's FARC rebel terrorists. The extensive story focuses on Columbia's illegal mining trade and calls into question the provenance of the rare ore that is used not only in crankshaft parts production, but is also found in the world's computing and telecommunications industry for use in screens.
The ore is mined by the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army), and exported to Pennsylvania, where it is refined. The refined ore is then sent over to Austria, where a company called Plansee turns it into a finished product. Now, it's important to note that we aren't talking about the world's supply of tungsten here. In 2012, Plansee's American refinery purchased 93.2 metric tons of tungsten, valued at $1.8 million. That's peanuts, with the entire Colombian tungsten mining industry producing just one percent of the world's supplies.
That doesn't make indirectly supporting FARC any more acceptable, though. BMW, VW and Ferrari are all committed to not accepting mineral supplies from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is also in the grips of a guerrilla insurrection funded, in part, by illegal mining. The same commitment would figure to extend to Colombian mining, but as BMW points out, it's difficult for a multi-national manufacturer to know where every item in its supply chain comes from. A company spokesperson says as much, telling Bloomberg, "These few grams out of the billions of tons of raw materials passing through the BMW supply chain are of no practical relevance."
As of the end of November, Volkswagen had sold 70,000 more cars than General Motors in China in 2013, making it appear inevitable that VW will outsell GM there. The feat would return the German brand to the top of chart in China for the first time in nine years, but even the second-place getter won't be complaining too loudly: both automakers sold more than three million vehicles in a market pegged to hit 16 million sales this year.
Volkswagen said it could have sold more cars if it had had more production capacity in China. The arrival of a new-to-China Audi A4, a China-built A3 sedan, the VW Bora and Skoda Octavia, as well as an $18.2-billion-euro investment in the country to construct new factories, means VW should see its numbers grow in 2014. GM's lineup is expanding next year, too, adding four Chevrolet nameplates and two vehicles to its Baojun brand as it tries to get to five million in sales by 2015.
Among other automakers, Ford benefited from good product and woes for Japanese automakers over a territorial dispute with China, outselling Toyota by almost 32,000 units through the end of November. The Ford Focus is China's best-selling vehicle so far this year.