Archives for December 2013

85 exceptional Volvo’s in a wooden shed

Swedish-Collection-Volvo-760-GLE-HoneckerSo you think Volvo’s past is filled with nothing but boring station wagons, tailored to the safety conscious family man? Then a museum full of Volvo’s must be the epitome of sleeping aid! Think again. Volvo has been a supplier of government- and diplomatic vehicles for decades, and they have built some very beautiful 2-door coupe models over the years as well, some drawn by Italian designer Bertone. In fact, Volvo’s past is much more exciting than just the current line-up of cars. Some of the most interesting cars of this past have been put together in The Swedish Collection.

Hans Blokzijl is a Dutch entrepreneur and mass-collector. His most famous collection is born out of his passion for Sweden and for Volvo automobiles, he has created a private museum of exceptional Volvo cars and paraphernalia in a shed on the property of his tree nursery. It is a collection of exclusive or otherwise special models of the Swedish brand, some of which even the official Volvo museum in Sweden is jealous of. His private museum opened to the public for one day only today, giving visitors a look into the past and present of Volvo.… Continue Reading …

Favorability of hybrids still higher than for full electric vehicles

In a recent survey among 1.084 American consumers, conducted by Navigant Research, favorability ratings for different kinds of clean transportation concepts were measured, among which electric cars, hybrid cars, natural gas vehicles and biofuels.

Electric-Hybrid-Natural-Gas-Biofuel-vehicle-favorabilityConsumers held increasingly favorable opinions of these clean transportation concepts. Hybrid vehicles were considered favorable by two thirds of all respondents, electric cars, and natural gas vehicles were considered favorable by more than half of all respondents, while biofuels were favored by more than two-fifths of respondents (43%).

Interestingly, alternative fuels, natural gas vehicles, and biofuels have significant contrasting opinion ratings between the genders with significantly higher favorability reported by males. In general, favorability for these alternative fuel vehicles also tended to be higher among older and more educated respondents.… Continue Reading …

Electric Vehicles vs. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles

In response to my article on hydrogen fuel cells, one of my readers, John V. Ryan, has written a follow-up article about the comparison between Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV’s) and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (HFCV’s). Hopefully, this inspires others to do the same, so we can build this site into a platform where everybody can write or blog about their view on the automotive industry. Thanks John! Bart.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles compared to EV’s


Cartoon by: Peter Welleman

Regarding automobiles, it appears Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV’s) are superior at this time to Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (HFCV’s), and will remain so for the foreseeable future, for three reasons:

  1. HFCV’s offer less than 1/3 the efficiency of BEV’s.
  2. Mobile hydrogen fuel cells (HFC’s) are not yet even being manufactured, let alone near reaching economies of scale. In contrast, mobile Li-ion batteries are well-developed and dropping in cost: they have become 40 to 50% cheaper in the past two years alone – and many private and public groups are working intensely to create even better mobile batteries.
  3. Creation of the hydrogen refueling infrastructure will be epic, and cost many billions of dollars. Meanwhile, electricity is available everywhere, and, happily, BEV’s mostly recharge during off-peak hours, utilizing power that would otherwise be wasted. Where required, electrical grid capacity upgrades are relatively inexpensive, and easily accommodated. Even better, within a smart grid, BEV’s add the benefit of becoming dynamic storage devices, allowing the electrical utility to “borrow” power from them at peak times, and then pay it back at off-peak times.

Continue Reading …

Car of the Year 2014 shortlist and history

The shortlist for European Car of the Year 2014 has been made public. These seven cars still have a shot at the ultimate prize: Car-of-the-year-2014

  • BMW i3
  • Citroen C4 Picasso
  • Mazda3
  • Mercedes-Benz S – Class
  • Peugeot 308
  • Skoda Octavia
  • Tesla Model S

Among those who didn’t make the cut, the most surprising is the Renault Zoe EV, especially considering  a couple of average-Joe midsized vehicles that don’t really offer anything new did make it through. Yes, Octavia and 308, I am talking about you.

Is the Zoe not revolutionary enough? It is basically an evolution of the 2011 winner Nissan Leaf, without offering any groundbreaking new technologies. But then what is the Skoda Octavia doing on this shortlist? This is exactly the same vehicle as last year’s winner Volkswagen Golf, but with a different skin. It offers absolutely nothing new compared to the Golf, and to call its design groundbreaking would be the exaggeration of the century. … Continue Reading …

GM challenging Ford F-150’s sales crown?

ford-f150For decades, the Ford F-150 Full-sized pickup truck has been the bestselling vehicle in the United States, and thus also the vehicle that sold the most units in a single market, regularly selling over 60.000 units per month and even occasionally topping 70.000 units. The only way General Motors has been able to come close to those numbers was by marketing its competing pickup truck under two nameplates: Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. But now, General Motors looks set to take that crown from Ford, but it’s not because new generations of the GM pickups have just been introduced. The threat comes from far left-field: minivans!

The segment created by Chrysler some 30 years ago, has struggled for years in the United States. In 2000, 1.37 million minivans (called MPVs in Europe) were sold, but that has dropped to around 500.000 units a year since. Wait, 500.000 a year? That means the Ford F-150 outsells all minivans on the market combined. How can a single minivan even come close to the pickup truck? The answer is: China.… Continue Reading …

Why is Sergio Marchionne still in charge of Fiat-Chrysler?

Sergio-Marchionne-Chrysler-FiatWith GM CEO Dan Akerson stepping down next January to make room for Mary Barra, the first female CEO of a global automaker ever, General Motors no longer has a “change agent” at the helm, but a “car-girl” instead. Akerson has long said that he was not a long-term man for the job, and that he was in the position to turn GM around after the bankruptcy and would step down as soon as he felt the company would be prepared enough for the future, to leave General Motors in the hands of a leader who would take the company to the next level.

Meanwhile, at Fiat-Chrysler, a change-agent is still in charge with CEO Sergio Marchionne in the triple role of CEO of Fiat, Chairman and CEO of Chrysler Group, and Chairman of Fiat Industrial. Marchionne is credited for saving Fiat and then taking over the bankrupt Chrysler and saving this too. Both times, he managed to take the company from (near) bankruptcy to profitability within 2 years time. He is a true “company doctor”, so why didn’t he step down when Fiat was profitable again and leave the management to a leader who is specialized in running an already healthy company? And why is he still in charge of Chrysler now that it’s back on track?… Continue Reading …

Looking back at the GM bailout. Success or not?

Bailout-GM-ChryslerThe U.S. Treasury Department announced on Monday that it had sold its final shares of General Motors stock, officially ending the government bailout of GM at a loss of about $ 10 billion to the taxpayers.

The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, published a study that is supposed to prove that the government bailout actually benefited the taxpayers, because the damage to the U.S. economy would have been far greater if no action had been taken by the government. This publication makes perfect sense when you consider it were the same authors from the same research center that issued another memorandum back in November 2008, warning that as many as three million jobs were at stake in the automotive sector unless the U.S. government acted to guarantee the continued operation of all Big Three Detroit automakers.

Two scenario’s: dreamed up and imaginary

In CAR’s 2008 memorandum “The Impact on the U.S. Economy of a Major Contraction of the Detroit Three Automakers”, economic impacts were estimated for two scenarios involving a short-term, severe (50- or 100-percent) implosion of Detroit Three production in the United States. A great way to manipulate statistics and report results to validate one’s point of view is to base the study on fantasized data from a hypothetical worst-case scenario; in this case the scenario that if one of the Big Three were to go bankrupt, they would take down many suppliers with them, as a result also shutting down  the remaining two Detroit automakers and foreign automakers with U.S. factories and the entire rest of the supply chain. The projections of job losses were based on the assumption that all automobile manufacturers and suppliers nationwide would be lost. Wow! Does that seem at all likely to anyone? … Continue Reading …

Should Renault change the Samsung brand name?

Renault-Samsung-Motors-Market-share-South-KoreaRenault Samsung Motors, the South Korean subsidiary of the French carmaker, is the least successful of the South Korean domestic automakers, the brand has struggled in recent years because of bland and uninspiring products, but is going through a transition period, with the restructuring of its sales network and product offering.

Renault Samsung was once the number two brand in its home market, behind Hyundai-Kia, but has been passed in recent years by GM Korea (the former Daewoo now turned Chevrolet) and SUV maker SsangYong, owned by Mahindra & Mahindra of India, as sales of Samsung branded vehicles have fallen almost 60% in two years time, from 161.917 in 2010 to just 65.691 in 2012.

Its main competitor Hyundai-Kia, with a local market share of over 75%, exports to countries all over the world, and has economies of scale to undercut Samsung’s prices in its home market. And with a production of around 130.000 units in 2012 in a factory with a capacity of 300,000 units annually,  it’s hard to make a profit.

Bright future for Renault-Samsung?

But a change of fortune may be in the making.

renault-samsung-qm3The recent successful introduction of a Samsung branded version of the Renault Captur, named Samsung QM3, looks hope giving. The first 1.000 units of the small SUV were sold out in 7 minutes, with another 4.000 orders signed in the following two weeks. It is the first Samsung vehicle not built in South Korea, but that may change if sales remain strong, as shipping costs from Europe and import duties in South Korea make it hard to turn a profit on these sales.… Continue Reading …

GM to drop Chevrolet in Europe to focus on Opel

Chevrolet-EuropeGeneral Motors must be reading, as they have announced that Chevrolet will be pulled from the European car market, in order to focus on Opel (and Vauxhall in the UK), just two weeks after I wrote my article on What should General Motors do with Opel and Vauxhall in Europe?

Automotive News reported that “due to a challenging business model and the difficult economic situation in Europe” Chevrolet will no longer have a presence in Europe from 2016. “We have growing confidence in the Opel and Vauxhall brands in Europe. We are focusing our resources in mainstream Europe,” according to Stephen J. Girsky, Vice Chairman at General Motors.

Although that is exactly what I wrote in my article on Opel, that GM should focus on its local brands, in my article on How does GMs Global Brand Strategy fit in Europe? I said that they could keep Chevrolet in Europe, but make a bigger distinction between the brands. Chevrolet should be the budget brand, like Dacia, which is very successful and profitable for Renault. Daewoo was selling quite a bit of cars before it was renamed Chevrolet and raised its prices to mainstream levels for budget cars. For Dacia prices, Chevrolet would have been able to compete in Europe.… Continue Reading …

Man arrested for charging EV at son’s school. Disproportionate? Sure. But theft?

Nissan-Leaf-EV-ChargingWith new technology, there is always a period when regulations and good practices haven’t kept up with the new situations that this technology can put people into.

When automobiles were introduced over 100 years ago, it didn’t take long for speed limits to be introduced, as pedestrians at that time were only familiar with horses walking through the streets. So when they wanted to cross the road, they didn’t expect those motorized carriages to approach as quickly as they were.

Fast forward to 2013, when a Georgia owner of a Nissan Leaf Electric vehicle was arrested and charged with stealing about 5 cents worth of electricity when he plugged his car into a EV charging station at his son’s school while he was attending a tennis practice. He spent more than 15 hours in jail for charging his car for 20 minutes at the school’s expense.… Continue Reading …