Archives for January 2014

EU presses Germany on Mercedes-Benz airconditioning refrigerant issue

Auto-fire-under-hood-R1234yfIn a press conference in Brussels yesterday, the European Commission announced they would start legal proceedings against the German government over non-compliance with the 2006/40/EC directive, concerning the refrigerant in automobile air conditioners, and allowing the continued use of the banned refrigerant R134a in A/C systems of certain new types of vehicles, notably those of Mercedes-Benz.

What’s going on?

Air conditioners rely on refrigerant fluids that are compressed and then expand rapidly when a cooling effect is desired. Unfortunately, these coolants have had a horrible effect on the earth’s environment. The original refrigerants, from decades ago, were based on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which was later proven to damage the ozone layer. When they were banned, the current refrigerant R134a was introduced, but this still has a 1400 times larger effect on global warming than carbon dioxide (CO2), when released into the air due to system leakages, in case of a crash or due to improper disposal at the end of a car’s life.… Continue Reading …

German automobile club ADAC admits fraud at car awards

ADAC-gelber-engel-award-fraudADAC is in an unfamiliar situation: normally, the German Automobile Club is the one who accuses others of cheating. Either of tachometer manipulation, overcharging or underdelivering for repairs or maintenance, or dubious car buying sites. But the club, which is no longer just a roadside assistance provider, but one of Germany’s largest lobby clubs with almost 19 million members, is now in the spotlight for manipulation the votes at one of their most prestigious awards. The “Gelber Engel”, or Yellow Angel, is an annual award which lets ADAC members choose their favorite vehicle out of all newly introduced or redesigned cars. The automobile club promotes the award by saying “Germany picks its most beloved car”, and calling it “the most important and biggest German automotive award” based on the club’s nearly 19 million members.

Not enough votes

Michael Ramstetter, PR manager of the ADAC and Editor-in-chief of the automobile club’s auto magazine Motorwelt, one of Europe’s most widely circulated magazines, founded the “Yellow Angel” more than 10 years ago, banking on the millions of readers and millions of ADAC members to give the award the desired credibility. But as the percentage of members who actually voted was shamefully low for the past couple of years, Ramstetter feared the award would no longer be taken seriously. Apparently, out of those millions of members, only about 76.000 made the effort of voting for their favorite car this year. So he decided to fabricate over 200.000 additional votes, leading to a total of 290.000 votes, and choosing the new generation VW Golf as the “most popular” model. According to the press report the ADAC was about to issue, the Golf had received 34.299 votes. But the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung was able to lay hands on the actual results: a mere 3.409 for the Golf.… Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis 2013 full year

Dacia-auto-sales-statistics-EuropeCar sales in Europe are down 1,8% in 2013, the fourth consecutive annual loss and down almost 16% on 2009 and down more than 21% on 2007. The bright spot is that December marked the largest monthly year-on-year increase of 2013 and that growth was shared among all major markets. Over the full year 2013, the UK recorded a double-digit growth of +10.8%, while Spain posted a more moderate upturn at +3.3%, while Germany at -4.2%, France at -5.7% and Italy at -7.1% saw their demand for new cars decline, each losing 100.000 sales or more.

Unfortunately, the sales increases in the UK and Spain are not due to sustainable factors, as the British banks paid billions of pounds in compensation to consumers for past insurance mis-selling, and because of the artificially low interest rates in the UK, most people used that compensation of 3.000 pounds on average as a deposit for a loan on a new car. In Spain, the government provided incentives to boost new-car sales.

If we look at manufacturers and brands, we see Dacia is the success story of 2013, with sales up almost 55.000 units, or +22,8%, helping the Renault Group offset small declines at the Renault and Nissan brands and helping Dacia leapfrog Seat to become Europe’s 15th best selling brand. Mazda also showed impressive growth, with sales up over 22.000 units, or +17,9%. Other notable increases are shown by Jaguar at +15,7%, Seat at +11%, Land Rover at +8% and Mercedes Benz at +5,2%.… Continue Reading …

Brussels Autoshow Coverage

Autoshow-Brussels-AtomiumThe Brussels Autoshow, or Salon de l’automobile Bruxelles, is not one of the major European autoshows, it lacks the glamour of Geneva, the supercar presence of Paris and the sheer magnitude of Frankfurt, but it offers a totally different atmosphere than those other shows. At most autoshows, the brands are mainly focused on introducing and displaying their newest models and revealing jawdropping concept cars which should pave the way for future design, whereas the Salon is a buyer’s show, approximately 30% of all new cars sold annually in Belgium, are either bought or ordered on the show floor. During the entire month of January, Belgium is covered in advertising posters and billboards promising the best “Salon deals” and the highest discounts, up to 35% off.

Nissan-Qashqai-Autoshow-BrusselsAs a result, the show floor is packed with the most popular models, in different colors, trim levels and interior finishes, to give the potential buyer the possibility to compare and configure his or her vehicle of choice. The only true world premiere was the new generation Nissan Qashqai crossover, a vehicle that has large shoes to fill, replacing one of Europe’s top-10 best selling cars and the most popular Japanese car in this continent ever in terms of sales ranking and market share. The outgoing Qashqai was sometimes referred to as Nissan Cashcow, and that is not far from the truth.… Continue Reading …