Lack of demand puts off Mercedes's production move to Russia

Kia to produce a hot hatch, Pininfarina to design Paris's EV cars and the dangerous driving acquittal for a sneezing fit. Plus other motoring news from across the world.

Merc's Russia move on hold

Mercedes-Benz has decided to hold off on starting production in Russia, despite rivals BMW and Volkswagen already producing vehicles there, until its local sales increase

"We have concluded that such an investment would not pay off given the sales volumes," the Mercedes sales and marketing boss Joachim Schmidt told Automotive News Europe.

Mercedes sold 19,724 cars in Russia last year and Schmidt believes local production would only be worth it if the marque sold 100,000 every year in the country.

Russia has put a rule into effect this month that requires foreign automakers to build at least 300,000 cars a year per production site by 2015, up from just 25,000. In return, car manufacturers will not pay import duties on car components for eight years while the local supply chain improves.

BMW, Russia's top-selling premium car maker, sold 20,584 vehicles last year. BMW has a contract assembly agreement with Kaliningrad-based ZAO Avtotor, which the automaker says assembled 5,544 BMWs, mainly 3 Series, 5 Series, X5 and X6 models, in 2010.

Kia may produce a hot hatch version of the all-new Rio

Kia unveiled the fourth-generation Rio at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month, but Autocar is reporting that the South Korean marque is already contemplating a hot hatch version of the vehicle.

"The quality and design is much greater than the brand image represents," the marketing and product planning chief Benny Oeyen told the magazine. "You can improved this with cars. A helpful car for us would be a hot hatch, cabrio or a coupe."

Autocar speculates that the company is most likely to chose the hot hatch, because of the segments popularity in the European market, as the ideal way to boost the credibility of the company.

Oeyen added: "I can imagine a sporty Kia in Europe; we have to develop the brand."

The hot hatch segment is home to most major brands offering speedier versions of its cars, such as Volkswagen offering the Polo GTI, Citroen has the DS3 R, Renault and the Clio RS, and Opel with the Corsa OPC.

Pininfarina in EV for Paris cars

The Italian car design company Pininfarina has signed a deal with France's Bollore group for the electric car production in Paris's car-sharing Autolib project.

The cars, according to The Independent newspaper, will be derived from the Pininfarina Bluecar. The Italian company said that it would produce 4,000 of the vehicles (though 3,000 was the number previously quoted for the scheme), which have a top speed of around 130kph and a range of 250km.

The Autolib system is scheduled to start later this year and will cost €12 to join the scheme, with a further hourly charge for the vehicles expected to be €5 for the first 30 mins, €4 for the next 30 and €6 for the third. The project is modelled on the Velib bike-share scheme introduced in the French capital in 2007.

Bloomberg news agency reports that Pininfarina is getting €14 million (Dh72 million) under the three-year rental contract.

The news agency also speculates that the deal strengthens the existing business ties between Pininfarina and the French businessman Vincent Bollore; Bloomberg believes the Pininfarina chief executive, Silvio Angori, would like Bollore as an investor in Pininfarina itself.

Aston Martin to put high-end SUVs under Lagonda name

The Aston Martin chief executive, Ulrich Bez, told Auto Car magazine that the relaunch of the Lagonda brand was a "go" and that it "will not stand on one leg", indicating that it will be a range of models rather than a stand-alone vehicle.

The company is seeking funding for the project and a partner to provide platform and drivetrain technologies. "Daimler spent around a billion relaunching the Maybach brand," Bez said. "But we can do Lagonda for a small fraction of that cost."

Although the company is registered as Aston Martin Lagonda Limited, the two brands will be distinct. The SUVs will be badged "Lagonda", not "Aston Martin Lagonda". Nor will there be an Aston Martin version of a Lagonda model. The chief designer Marek Reichman explained the differences: "A Lagonda has four doors and four seats and is about the journey. That is why it must have four-wheel drive and cope with tough terrain. An Aston Martin is about the drive."

Dangerous driving acquittal after sneezing fit led to crash

A woman driver in Wales has been cleared of dangerous driving as she had suffered a sneezing fit, causing her to swerve across the road and hit another car.

Mari Emlyn, 25, crossed onto the other side of the road and hit a BMW being driven by Dr Shekar Nagaraj, who suffered chest, leg, back and neck injuries.

Emlyn, the Metro newspaper reports, told the court: "I had a bout of sneezing - time after time as I was driving. There was nothing I could do to avoid the collision."

Emlyn's solicitor, Carys Parry, said: "There are other cases where motorists have been cleared of driving offences when the driver had a bout of sneezing."

Parry called it a "clear defence of automatism" - which means the defendant is not in control of their actions.

Emlyn "stressed from the start that she had a bout of sneezing", said the paramedic Karl Anthony Williams, who treated her at the crash site in Talwaenydd in June 2010.

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