BMW’s new Z4 convertible is being developed alongside new Toyota Supra.

BMW’s new Z4 convertible is being developed alongside new Toyota Supra.

The new BMW Z4 has been officially teased for the first time, with a single, shadowy image of the new sports car, plus a promised unveiling next month.

The new Audi TT and Mercedes SLC rival will make its debut on 17 August. While that rules out a Frankfurt Motor Show reveal, it matches up nicely with the 2017 edition of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Monterey Car Week.

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With BMW choosing Pebble Beach to debut the Z4, it’s likely that we’ll see the car in concept form rather than the finished product – full debuts are few and far between at the Monterey Car Week, though concept vehicles, one-offs and special edition cars often break cover.

Therefore, we could see BMW unfurl the new Z4 in a similar manner to the all-new 8 Series, with a revealing concept vehicle to whet the appetite for the production model.Our exclusive images show how the new two-seat roadster could look when it arrives. It has already been spotted testing on multiple occasions, with the most recent spyshots showing it winter testing with a slightly more revealing disguise compared to earlier mules lapping the Nurburgring.

The new Z4 Roadster will replace the ageing second-generation model, in production since 2009, and be a fresh rival for the likes of the Porsche 718 Boxster, as well as a reborn Toyota Supra currently being developed in parallel and set to use the same platform.

It’s likely the new car will ditch the current Z4’s heavy metal folding roof for a lighter, more traditional fabric hood. This could mean it’s being aimed more towards the Porsche 718 Boxster and away from softer, more refined cars like the Mercedes SLC. The soft-top will gain a rear window for production.

An insider told us that “this car will use the same lightweight body construction as the i3 and i8. And even with that type of construction, you can expect a price around the same as that of the current Z4.”

The familiar set-back cabin, pert rear-end and long bonnet remain on the new model and the kidney grille looks to be larger than ever.

Mounted behind the front axle will be a range of BMW’s ‘TwinPower’ turbo petrol engines which will be offered in both four and six-cylinder forms. Expect at least 200bhp from base models, with top-end turbocharged straight-six variants nudging 300bhp. As before, all cars will be rear-wheel drive.

The Z4 will also use the same rear axle design as the M3 and M4, and it’s likely that a full M version will follow within a year, possibly using the M2’s 365bhp 3.0-litre straight-six.The Z4 also provides a base for Toyota’s new super-coupe. Rumours suggest it will bring back the iconic ‘Supra’ name, though unlike the Z4 Roadster it’ll be a hard-top coupe, influenced by the FT-1 concept from 2014.

The Toyota version has potential to receive a plug-in hybrid model, with electric motors boosting output instead of a turbocharger.

Renovated Detroit News building boasts snappy design

Since Bedrock Real Estate purchased The Detroit News building in 2014, the company has gutted the structure and created a modern workspace with custom-designed furniture by local craftsmen

Who isn’t interested in seeing what the new owners do to your house after the sale?

A visit last week to the old Detroit News building on West Lafayette led to one simple conclusion: Wow — they’ve done a lot, from custom-made furniture to a historically restored lobby and fun newspaper allusions throughout the building design.

“We’ve had a blast designing the space,” said furniture designer Chrissy Fehan of dPop, the outfit that does interiors on all buildings renovated by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock real-estate empire.It’s great to have a client who lets us do these things.”

Specially designed banquettes? A conference table with seats on swings? Floors completely cleared of all walls and barriers?

Old George G. Booth’s head must be spinning.

News Publisher Booth hired his friend Albert Kahn in 1916 to design the blocklong building, which the newspaper occupied until several years ago when the landmark was sold to Bedrock.

In 2014, The News and the Detroit Free Press, which moved into the bottom floors in 1998, relocated to Minoru Yamasaki’s elegant, modernist annex attached to the 1927 Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago building a block off Campus Martius.

The first shock to anyone who worked in The News building is the impressive, historically accurate restoration of the lobby. Drop-ceilings that obscured its beauty for decades have been ripped out to reveal arched ceilings that give the space unexpected airiness and height.

“For the lobby lamps,” said dPop Lead Designer Kristin Kostrzewski, “we used reproductions and creatively adapted fixtures. So the original glass globe lamp,” the chandelier that once hung at the entrance with its colored map of the world, “is now a hand-hammered metal globe.”

(The original chandelier disappeared in some ill-advised renovation years ago. The lobby, by the way, is accessible to the public. By all means, step inside and take a gander if you’re walking past 615 W. Lafayette. It’s worth the detour.)

Snappy furniture greets you as you walk in the main entrance, while Detroit artist Leon Dickey’s “Love Letters,” a large wall sculpture that looks a bit like randomly rolled sheets of blank newsprint, dominates the lobby’s east wall.

Upstairs on the third floor, old News editors and reporters will find the former newsroom utterly transformed, though the wood paneling that covered part of it has been mostly preserved.

Utterly unlike anything ever seen in the old newsroom is the Swing Table designed by Duffy London, a British firm that creates amusing, esoteric furniture.

Much like a swing set, the five seats on either side of the large conference table hang from an overhead bar and, well, swing like mad. (The table, happily, is stationary.)

This table has been a big hit


said Fehan. And really — who could be surprised?

On a floor where dozens of entry-level mortgage bankers do their training, the table adds a little zip to that most-tedious of office obligations, the staff meeting.

Housing about 1,000 Quicken Loans employees and some 375 at Molina Healthcare of Michigan, “The building,” said Kostrzewski, “is active seven days a week. And people are here from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.”

Many of the design touches throughout were created by local artisans.

For example, the large, snazzy-looking black banquettes on several floors — including one huge one that incorporates red metal into the design — were created by Virtuoso Design + Build on Detroit’s east side.

The banquettes, like the Swing Table, are reportedly popular. Trainee bankers study on them, according to Robert McDonald, Quicken Loans facilities site leader, and on occasion, when necessary, catch a nap.

A large conference table with a historic picture of old newspaper carriers printed right on the wood was created by Detroit furniture designer Brian DuBois.

All signage, like on conference rooms named for other U.S. newspapers around in 1916, was crafted by Livonia’s Jiffy Signs.

The aim in the entire redesign,said Kostrzewski, “was to create a comfortable living room atmosphere” for today’s unstructured, adaptable workplaces.

“We wanted to transform work spaces to create more collaborative and open environments that encourage productivity and encourage people to want to come to work,” said Jennifer Janus, dPop chief operating officer.

U.S. electric bike market up

Electric bike market advisers eCycleElectric have concluded that the U.S. market for pedal assisted bikes could have grown year-on-year by as much as 70% in 2016.

The consultancy run by Patrick and Ed Benjamin has crunched the numbers and believes that the U.S. imported a minimum of 196,000 and likely as many as 251,000 units in 2016. A further 15,000 are believed to have been built domestically by assemblers, putting the firm’s low estimate at 211,000 units.

Ed Benjamin told CyclingIndustry.News: “Due to complexities in tracking these numbers, we suspect that the actual number may 20% higher, thus giving us our upper-limit figure of 251,000 units. That would represent a 70% increase.”

Speaking on the difficulties of tracking the market’s exact figures, Benjamin said that without a specific HS code, something which pedal assist bikes lack at present, records are harder to define.
“This leads to a tedious process of evaluating thousands of individual records, one at a time, by hand. Such a process is subject to both human errors and definition confusion; many products that would not be conventionally regarded as an “electric bike” may be listed as such, or in similar terms,” offers Benjamin. “Our figure of 40,000 additional imported bikes is intended to realistically encompass both our likely margin of error and bikes that are either poorly defined within the record, not described with any of the 60 terms we search under, or simply mislabeled entirely. The remaining 15,000 USA assembled bikes is based on data gathered through our relationships with USA assemblers, retailers, brand managers, OEMs, component suppliers, and sales reps.”

Ebikes were imported by approximately 135 entities during this period, found eCycleElectric. Most came from China, but also from Taiwan, Korea, and elsewhere.

The largest importers were ebike specialists, followed by major bicycle brands. A large number of bikes were imported by specialist ebike retailers. Other importers included sporting goods stores, online sales, and mass merchants.

Many small importers brought in shipments of 6 to 50 bikes. These are thought to be start ups, retailers, and companies considering the ebike business.

Does it all translate to sales?

“If stock languishing in warehouses were a widespread problem grumbling in the supply side would be heard loudly and clearly. As it is, grumbling has been absent, so we feel that most of the ebikes entering the market are being sold, and easily,” starts Benjamin.

Sources within the industry have indeed told eCycleElectric that unit sales have risen by as much as three fold year-on-year, with many more pointing to increases between 40 and 70% during 2016.

“This aligns with our observations, and thus we feel confident that the path from importer to customer is, at the moment, fairly well-lubricated,” says Benjamin.

“An often overlooked detail of the USA ebike market is that it cannot be as easily compared to the bicycle market as we might like. A figure of a quarter-million bicycles sounds unimpressive for an industry that moves in tens of millions in the USA. However, with the average ebike somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000, with many examples reaching towards (or even past) $6,000, this small volume represents a larger slice than is immediately obvious.

“Thus we feel that the overall picture of the market is this: Sales are up, some (but not all) companies are growing fast, and this small, yet profitable, industry segment is continuing to grow due to a variety of global and USA trends.”

To contact Benjamin directly head on over to

Within Europe, manufacturers like Cube are drastically expanding the scope of their electric bike production. Head here for our interview with CEO Marcus Purner.

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