Detroit Auto Show: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly [w/ poll]

Here’s our take on the hits and misses of the Detroit Auto Show, make sure to let us know what you thought in the poll and the comments section!

BMW 5-series

BMW_5_Series-2017

Bart: Hit

Packed with new technology and undoubtedly again being one of the best driving sedans in its class, the new 5-Series will (depending on your personal preferences) either come close to or beat the standard set by the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. But where the E-Class was mostly criticised for looking too much like its larger and smaller siblings, the 5-Series looks too much like the previous model. Did I miss the news that BMW hired a former Volkswagen designer? However, this doesn’t mean I don’t like its looks. With the right (M-Sport?) bodykit and wheels and a color a bit more inspiring than the obbligato fifty shades of grey, blue or black, this can be a very desirable looking car that will remain the obvious choice for the decreasing number of luxury buyers who still prefer a sedan over an SUV.

Kriss: So-so

I agree with pretty much everything Bart said, and yet I still can’t rate the BMW a “Hit”. Why is that? Objectively, the car has everything going for it – technology, BMW’s legendary chassis tuning, straight-six engines, and a smart and light construction (recently read a comparison test with the E-class, and saw that the 4wd 530d xDrive is 100kg lighter than the 2wd E-class 350d). However, subjectively the car is lacking that certain “want it” factor – the one that made the E34 and E39 generations so achingly desirable, no matter what specification or color they were in. While the E-class boast a stunning interior, the BMW looks too much like its predecessor inside; to me this is especially disappointing given that BMW showed us with the i3 and i8 of creating genuinely stunning interiors. Call it a case of sky-high expectations, but the new 5-series is just not a “Hit” to me.

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Look-a-like: GAC GS7/GS8 and…

GAC GS8 and its smaller brother GS7 (which made its debut in Detroit this week), are two of the more eye-catching cars to come from a Chinese manufacturer recently. What makes them stand out is that they have something that many Chinese (and, for that matter, other) cars lack – a clean and confident design that’s instantly recognizable thanks to a memorable lights and grille treatment that, with familiarity, might evolve into the “GAC family look”. That said, despite the end-product being pretty unique-looking, from the front the cars remind me more than a bit of a well-established American SUV… 

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US sales: December 2016, models

 

After discussing the US auto brand sales ranking for December, let’s zoom in on the models.… Continue Reading …

Predictions for 2017: China

We’ve discussed the 2016 success stories and disappointments of the Chinese car market, now we’ll focus on our expectations for 2017, like we’ve done for Europe. Looking ahead, even one year, can be very tricky. Last year we predicted EVs and PHEVs in China to continue their boom. From January to November 2016 sales of New Energy vehicles increased 102% in a market up 18%, to 282.292 units, including 41.796 in November alone. Pure electric car sales were the bulk of that volume with 208.839 units, an increase of 145%, while plug-in hybrid sales increased 35% to 73.453 units. And the good news is that although electric minicars/citycars still make up the bulk of China’s pure EV sales (62,2%), the real growth comes from the compact EV segment with sales up almost 9-fold. We also predicted two disappointments for 2016: DS and Volkswagen. DS was a no-brainer and you can read in our disappointments article, and for Volkswagen we said it would have to get used to single digit growth but the brand has shown remarkable resilience and has managed to grow 12,7% through November. While that’s still slower than the overall market, keep in mind the brand has completely missed the crossover hype in the same way PSA has, but it sedan-heavy line-up has continued to sell well. VW has launched 3 new nameplates in 2016: the Sportsvan has outsold its rival BMW 2-Series by almost 3-to-1, the Phideon is more of an image booster than a volume model at 800 monthly sales, but the C-Trek is the most promising with 5.600 sales in its first month.

1. Jeep: success

Jeep_Compass-China-2017Like DS was last year, Jeep is a no-brainer here. The American SUV brand could easily have been mentioned among our success stories of 2016, as it has sold well over 100.000 units in its first year of local production in China, peaking at over 16.000 sales in November with its two models: Cherokee and Renegade. That puts the brand ahead of Cadillac, which did get a mention as one of the most successful brands in China last year.… Continue Reading …

Disappointments of 2016: China

A new year is always a nice opportunity to reflect on the past year and in our case, that means looking at which cars have sold disappointingly in 2016 in China. We’ve already covered the surprises and disappointments in Europe as well as the surprises and disappointments in the US and the Chinese success stories of 2016, now let’s take a look at the Chinese disappointments. We’ll make our predictions for 2017 in a separate article. In a market that has grown 18% in the first 11 months of the year, it should be hard to find true losers, but still there are a few. I won’t even mention the biggest loser of all: Fiat with sales down 58,6% because the Italian brand simply isn’t relevant in China, with just 0,06% market share.

1. PSA

Auto-sales-statistics-China-DS_4S-hatchbackLast year, we predicted Peugeot-Citroën’s luxury brand DS would be on this list. And even though it was already down in volume last year, DS managed to underwhelm even our lowest expectations for 2016. In its third full year of sales, it’s down for the second consecutive year, and not by a small margin: -22,5% through November. None of its models has improved on last year, and its latest launch DS 4S has failed miserably with just 1.435 sales in 9 months, peaking at 276 sales in September. Whoever thought launching a premium hatchback in China would be a great idea deserves to be fired on the spot. Then again, the DS6 crossover is also down 22,5% but still by far the brand’s best selling model.

Sadly for the French, DS is not their only brand to suffer from poor product planning, and a lack of new products: Peugeot‘s only new model has arrived too late to make a mark, the 4008 (also known as the new generation 3008 in Europe) started sales in the fourth quarter and couldn’t prevent the French brand from losing 17,1% through November in a market up 18,8%.… Continue Reading …

US sales: December 2016, brands

US car sales were  1,688,108  in December, a monthly record in 2016, though not one that was unexpected given that sales usually spike in the holiday season. Importantly, this marked a 3.0 percent increase on December 2015, which combined with a similar monthly increase in November managed to pull the overall sales for 2016 above those recorded in 2015 by around 56,000 cars. But before we look at how 2016 compared to 2015 (that article is coming soon), let’s look at how brands did in December 2016.
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Predictions for 2017: US

Looking ahead, even one year, can be very tricky. Last year we nominated two brands as potentially doing well in 2016, and ended up being only half right: we correctly predicted Volvo‘s growth, but thought that Buick would do better than barely out-performing the market. We did even less well when predicting the disappointments of 2016 – both Cadillac‘s and Mitsubishi‘s sales in 2016 were not great, but still better than for many of their competitors. Cadillac’s sales may have fallen by 1.9 percent compared to 2015, but the brand still did better than Lexus (down 3.9 percent), Acura (down 8.9 percent) or BMW (down 9.5 percent). Mitsubishi did even better, with sales actually rising by 1.0 percent compared to 2015, better than many more fancied brands such as Mazda (sales down 6.7 percent), Chevrolet (down 1.4 percent), Toyota (down 0.7 percent) or Ford (down 0.6 percent). Time will tell whether we do better this time around!

1. Honda: success

Honda had a very good 2016, with growth its growth of 4.8 percent handily out-pacing the decline in sales among the three brands ahead of it (FordChevrolet and Toyota). This performance came from the sales growth in two new mainstream models: the Civic (sales up 9.4 percent) and HR-V (sales up 95.5 percent). The reason we can expect the good times to continue at Honda is that for 2017 it has three new models: CR-V (revealed in the fall of 2016), Odyssey (revealed in Detroit this week) and Accord (to be revealed soon). Of the three, Civic and Accord regularly rank in the top 10 of model sales, with the Odyssey adding another 100k+ of sales each year – it should thus be reasonable for Honda’s sales to go up significantly once all of those models hit the market.

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Success stories of 2016: China

A new year is always a nice opportunity to reflect on the past year and in our case, that means looking at which cars have sold surprisingly well China in 2016 and which do we expect to surprise in 2017. We’ll also look at which cars or brands have disappointed from a sales volume point of view in a separate article. Click the following links to check back on last year’s surprises or disappointments. Also find our success stories for 2016 in the US and Europe and our predictions for China in 2017.

1. Domestic crossovers

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Borgward_BX7-SUVI’m short of superlatives to describe how sales of domestic brand crossovers in China have exploded in 2016. 4,4 million domestic Chinese crossovers were sold in the first 11 months of 2016, that’s more than the entire car markets of Germany and Spain combined! In a market up 18%, crossovers and SUVs from Chinese brands increased their sales by 51,7% through November. In comparison: sales of import brand crossovers increased 28,8%, faster than the overall market but just over half the growth rate of their domestic rivals. This also means that the share of Chinese brands in the crossover segment grew to 56,7%, much higher than their share of the overall market, which also grew to an all-time high of 40,7%. The share of domestic brand crossovers and SUVs in the overall market grew from 16,3% in 2015 to 20,9% in 2016. The cause of this impressive surge? A flood of hot new models, aimed directly at the needs and desires of the Chinese new car buyer, with prices so low import brands can’t match them and ever-improving design and quality, both exterior and interior, and most equipped with ever-larger infotainment touch screens on top of the center console. No less than 29 new nameplates were introduced in the first 11 months of 2016, of which 3 from all-new brands: Borgward, SWM and Hanteng.

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Look-a-like Retro: 1997 Subaru Forester and…

Let me be the first to admit – I love the original Subaru Forester. I love its boxy styling, complete with a very Mini-esque upright windscreen, I love its classless appeal, and the fact that it looks just as well when covered in mud as it does just after a good scrub. And while Subaru has taken the model in a very different direction since the first generation, turning it into a pretty standard Toyota RAV4 / Honda CR-V competitor, the original Forester was quite an influential car – along with its larger Outback brother, it was one of the original “raised wagons” that are proving so popular today. And just the other day I realized that the Forester bares a striking similarity to another Japanese car from that era…

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Predictions for 2017: Europe

Looking ahead, even one year, can be very tricky. Last year we correctly predicted that Mercedes-Benz had a shot at reclaiming its luxury crown, and it has overperformed. We also said the Jaguar F-Pace would be off to a great start, and that too has materialized nicely: having been launched in Q2 of 2016, Jaguar’s first crossover has outsold the Porsche Macan and BMW X4 in the second half of the year and has outsold the Lexus NX for full-year sales, grabbing a segment 7th place in H2, which is similar to the XE and not bad for a brand’s first entry into a segment that has very strong competition not only from new launches but also from surprisingly consistent old-timers.

Infiniti_Q30-QX30-sales-disappointment-Europe-2016In terms of expected disappointments, we predicted Ford would lose its #2 position in the brand ranking, and that happened in November when Renault stormed past in the YTD ranking. We also said Dacia would lose volume in 2016, but that didn’t materialize as expected. The French-Romanian brand has shown remarkable resilience as four out of its five models improved volume in 2016, despite no big new product launches, just minor updates. An impressive performance! Lastly, we doubted Infiniti’s ambitious targets for the Q30 and QX30, and although the latter is still in start-up mode, it’s safe to say the Q30 hasn’t really taken off as its parent had hoped it would. Sure, around 9.000 sales (8.391 through November) is by far the best any Infiniti model has ever sold in Europe (the next best being the Q50’s 2015 figure of just over 3.000 units), but it’s not even close to the European target of 30.000 annual sales for the two models combined.

Now, what do we expect from 2017?… Continue Reading …