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Mercedes-Benz GLA Concept

A Mercedes crossover smaller than the GLK will come to Canada by next September, Mercedes-Benz Canada confirmed this week, after the Concept GLA was previewed at the Shanghai auto show.

The Concept GLA reportedly wowed the assembled crowd with trick technology that included laser-emitting headlights that could project digital images, movies or navi directions, as well as two HD still and video cameras mounted in the roof rails that can be detached to help record the owner's adventures.

The Concept GLA looks close to what will be offered for sale next fall as a 2015 model to rival the BMW X1, with toned-down versions of outlandish concept bits such as the blue-tinted headlight covers, 45-series low-profile 20-inch tires, and the DVD projector laser headlights that can project a movie or images on to a screen or blank wall.

However, the company says there are some potential real-world uses for the projection technology, such as the possibility of arrows being projected on to the ground with the navi system in use, to help the driver as well as other road users see where the driver is headed.

The Concept GLA uses the same drivetrain as the current B-Class in Canada, a 208-horsepower, 2.0-litre turbocharged four mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, but instead of routing that power to the front wheels as in Benz's entry-level hatchback, the GLA on the show floor featured the firm's 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.

Inside, the Concept GLA features four seats, likely to justify Mercedes-Benz calling it a "coupe-like" compact SUV, though it seems it will offer five seatbelts when it arrives next year.

The high-tech trickery continues inside, with transparent surfaces made of plexiglass that are backlit for easy viewing. As in earlier Benz concepts that became vehicles, the air vents are also backlit to indicate the temperature of air coming out of them: white at 71 degrees Farenheit (22 degrees Celsius), blue when cooler, red when warmer, though that feature also hasn't made it off the show floor stage yet.

Maserati's new mid-size sedan

Fiat's Maserati brand will expand to offer a mid-size luxury sport sedan and resurrect the Ghibli name, after unveiling a model to rival the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class in Shanghai.

When the 2014 Ghibli starts arriving in Maserati dealers by the fourth quarter of this year, it will be the first time the brand has offered two four-doors at the same time, with the recently redesigned Quattroporte also all-new in Maserati showrooms this year. The '14 Ghibli promises lighter weight and sportier performance than its larger brother, and will also be the first production Ghibli to feature four doors.

Two V-6 engines are confirmed for North America, both twin turbocharged V-6s built by Ferrari to produce 330 hp and 410 hp in the Ghibli S, with a diesel announced in Shanghai currently looking unlikely for this part of the world.

Maserati insists this design was inspired by the flowing Ghibli coupe that debuted in 1967, and not the rather blocky Ghibli II two-door that came and went in the 1990s like the wind it's named after.

Pricing hasn't been confirmed yet, but company officials expect the Maserati to come in close to higher-end versions of the two German mid-size luxury sales leaders, so at about 75 large in Canada. And like those two, all-wheel-drive will be available on the natively rear-drive sport sedans.

VW CrossBlue Coupe Concept

First SUVs became more politically palatable crossovers, and now Volkswagen would like to call their latest SUV a coupe: specifically, the CrossBlue Coupe Concept unveiled in Shanghai.

Unlike most four-door "coupes," the roofline does not appear even slightly curved, though the top of the rear side window arcs down ever so slightly. The CrossBlue Coupe concept is smaller than the three-row CrossBlue concept seen in Detroit earlier this year, now offering a five-seat crossover based on VW's modular MQB platform.

While this may suggest to some that this would be a precursor to the next-generation Tiguan, reports have also surfaced that speculated it could be the basis for the next Touareg. VW insists that these are styling exercises only, and that they only show what general styling directions its next few production SUVs/crossovers/wagons-on-stilts will take.

No matter what it is, the CrossBlue Coupe concept offers some intriguing drivetrain equipment, namely a plug-in 415-hp gasoline V-6, which offers up to 34 kilometres on grid electricity, as well as a 5.9-second 0-100 km/h time.

Regulator decries petition against stricter emission rules

The head of California's Air Resources Board criticized auto makers at an engineering conference recently for quietly petitioning the national EPA against stricter zero emissions/EV state rules for 2025 last month.

Auto makers are "shooting themselves in the foot," Bloomberg reported CARB chair Mary Nichols telling the SAE International's World Congress, by on the one hand researching and marketing – to various degrees – zero emissions EVs and fuel cell vehicles, while on the other hand filing a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month to block California's requirement that 15 per cent of all sales be electric, plug-in hybrid, or fuel cell vehicles by 2025, which would represent about 1.4 million vehicles.

California has traditionally been a leader in toughening auto emissions regulations, to deal with the state's chronically poor air quality, with a special exemption from federal U.S. EPA rules to help the state combat its environmental issues. Other states have taken up such tougher California emissions rules, though some are hesitating to also implement the rules requiring an increasing percentage of auto sales to be partial or fully free of tailpipe emissions.

Two auto maker lobby groups, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Global Automakers association, are reportedly arguing that the acceptance of these vehicles by consumers has been too slow to accommodate California's regulations, which Bloomberg reported will require GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan and Honda to sell 60,000 plug-in or fuel cell vehicles by the end of 2014. The rules will apply to smaller sellers Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, BMW and Mazda by 2018.

The Global Automakers group represents the interests of most non-Detroit-based auto makers in the United States, including Toyota, Nissan and Honda, while the AAM represents 12 major auto makers, including GM, Ford, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz USA, BMW and Mitsubishi Motors.

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