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BMW launches new electric/hybrid brand

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FRANKFURT – The German luxury carmaker BMW unveiled on Monday its long-awaited new brand, BMW i, with two new models to be equipped with electric and hybrid drive systems from 2013.

The group is also creating a venture capital unit to offer mobility services such as car sharing and navigation systems.

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“This is BMW i – Born Electric,” a statement quoted sales director Ian Robertson as saying as the group presented the BMW i3 electric car for city use and the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid for those seeking a more powerful vehicle.

The group added that it had created a New York-based venture capital unit to “significantly expand its range of mobility services over the years ahead,” with an initial investment that is to total $100 million (73 million euros).

The vehicles are to be built at BMW’s plant in Leipzig, eastern Germany, which will benefit from an investment of 400 million euros and create 800 jobs, the statement said.

Auto analysts said the company announced little that was completely new, but were interested in BMW’s marketing strategy and the combination of an electric powertrain, aluminum chassis and carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) body.

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BMW said in November that it would invest more than 500 million euros with a new partner, SGL Carbon, to launch the lightweight i3 city car.

“The decisive point will be the price,” which was not revealed, said auto expert Stefan Bratzel from the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach, western Germany.

“If it is too expensive it won’t be a big success I would say,” he told AFP.

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BMW i Ventures will work with the mobile telephone application My City Way meanwhile to provide services such as car-sharing, route planning and local information like the location of parking places.

“Mobility requirements are changing in rapidly expanding megacities,” Robertson explained.

The initial roll-out is planned for 40 US cities and 40 others worldwide, including BMW’s home of Munich, southern Germany.

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Christophe Stuermer at IHS Global Insight called this “the big field of experimenting and guesswork that the auto industry is working on at the moment.”

He also noted that “there seems to be a strategy behind the fact that they (BMW) are making the sub-brand so weak, a single letter.”

“They want to set it apart just a little bit,” but “at the same time, will make sure that the BMW umbrella brand is always mentioned,” Stuermer noted.

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BMW already has a premium line of small cars in its Mini brand, and the IHS analyst said the new brand will “certainly be a challenge communications-wise for the Mini people,” who could well incorporate electric systems in the future.

BMW will face a lot of competition with experience in the electric and hybrid car market, as Nissan of Japan is set to introduce its Leaf model in December.

Nissan’s French partner Renault is to sell the Zoe version from mid-2012, while Peugeot-Citroen are betting clients will go for a long-term rental scheme offered with their Ion and C-Zero models.

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Daimler plans to launch an electric Smart ForTwo car in Europe early next year and is working with the Chinese company Build Your Dreams (BYD) on a concept for the Chinese market.

VW, the biggest European carmaker is gearing up for the launch of an electric Golf and is also working on several hybrid models.

Chevrolet’s Volt model is already on the road, as is the Toyota Prius, the first widely distributed hybrid vehicle.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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GOP facing nightmare scenario as rural America gets hit with a depopulation crisis

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The Republican Party is entrenched in rural America with the overwhelming majority of small towns being represented by the GOP. But the population in these areas are under a huge decline.

That's a nightmare scenario for Republicans in Congress, whose districts are determined by population. The Republican Party has worked diligently to ensure gerrymandering can protect their rural members as the population shifts toward the suburbs.

One key component of the Affordable Care Act went to subsidizing rural hospitals to prevent them from closing. Most of that has been defunded by Republicans if the states were even willing to allow Medicare/Medicaid expansion in the state, to begin with. A Navigant report out earlier this year showed that more than one in five rural hospitals have closed so far.

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What does Facebook’s plan to hire journalists mean for media industry?

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Facebook's plan to hire professional journalists instead of relying solely on algorithms to deliver news is a positive step but is unlikely to shake up an embattled media industry, analysts say.

The social media giant said Tuesday it would build a small team of journalists to select the top national news of the day "to ensure we're highlighting the right stories."

It comes as the US media landscape is plagued by job losses and newspaper closures, with organizations trying to figure out how to record profits in the age of free news.

Stories will appear in a section called the "news tab," which will be separate from the traditional news feed that displays updates and content from users' friends and relatives.

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Amazon, Microsoft, ‘putting world at risk of killer AI’: study

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Amazon, Microsoft and Intel are among leading tech companies putting the world at risk through killer robot development, according to a report that surveyed major players from the sector about their stance on lethal autonomous weapons.

Dutch NGO Pax ranked 50 companies by three criteria: whether they were developing technology that could be relevant to deadly AI, whether they were working on related military projects, and if they had committed to abstaining from contributing in the future.

"Why are companies like Microsoft and Amazon not denying that they're currently developing these highly controversial weapons, which could decide to kill people without direct human involvement?" said Frank Slijper, lead author of the report published this week.

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