Archives for April 2015

Piëch ousted as VW-chairman, but keeps pulling the strings

When Kriss documented the “Game of Thrones”/House of Cards-like power battle between Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch and CEO Martin Winterkorn last week, I posted the reaction that Piëch is a tough businessman and a shrewd Machiavellian whom I suspected of backing off because he couldn’t win the fight, but already had some play in mind to win the battle.

Ferdinand_Piech-Volkswagen-board-photo_credit-ReutersThis week it became obvious he did indeed have such a play in mind, but he must have confided in at least one wrong person. After he lost support from the rest of VW’s top decision makers, including his cousin Wolfgang Porsche and the state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), one of the largest non-family shareholders, Piëch publicly claimed that he would back Winterkorn as well. But in the background, he was secretly rallying other family members to support him in an all-out coup to kick Winterkorn out and replace him with Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller.

When this word of this coup spread, VW’s work council and Lower Saxony forced an emergency board meeting, in which they gave Piëch the choice to either resign on his own, or to be forced out after a vote. A casual observer would now think this was the end of it, but Ferdinand Piëch wouldn’t be Ferdinand Piëch if he wouldn’t still be pulling the strings behind the scenes. … Continue Reading …

Marchionne wants another merger, he should look to China

Sergio-Marchionne-black-sweaterFiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has again claimed that the automotive industry needs more consolidation, and that within a few years time, automakers that sell less than 6 million cars a year worldwide won’t be able to stay competitive. Toyota, Volkswagen and General Motors currently sell at around 10 million units a year, Renault-Nissan 8,5 million and Hyundai-Kia 8 million, which means at 4,75 million sales in 2014, FCA is trailing both its main competitors and its own “bar for succes”. Before 2020, Marchionne envisions himself making another “huge deal” with another automaker in order to reach sufficient economies of scale. He has also hinted that he would like to get either General Motors or PSA Peugeot-Citroën at his table to negotiate the possibilities of a merger. But I think he’s looking in the wrong direction.

Managers at the new GM still flinch when they recall the last deal the old GM struck with Marchionne, the one that forced them to either buy the remaining 80% of the money-losing Fiat brand they didn’t already own, or to pay them $ 2 billion to get out of the contract. They opted for the latter and Marchionne used exactly that money to turn Fiat around before buying Chrysler out of bankruptcy. PSA has been saying for a while they’re only interested in partnerships and collaborations, not in mergers.… Continue Reading …

Shanghai Auto Show – The Bad and Ugly

After marveling at some nice metal revealed at the Shanghai Auto Show, now is the time to look at some of the blatant Chinese copies and other cars you wish no one wasted good metal on.

Honda Concept D

In a big upset, the Japanese company stole the Ugliest in Show title right from the Chinese automakers’ noses with the Concept D. I don’t think there are words that can do justice to just how awfully styled this car is, with some of the worst choices of color, intersecting lines, mismatched proportions seen in the past couple of years. The gold-brown alloys are the final insult…

Honda-Concept-D-1

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Chinese car sales data now available!

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Yema_T70-SUVGreat news! In the past 18 months, Left-Lane.com has quickly established itself as the leading source of European car sales data, sorted by brand and by model. And lately we’ve been working hard at expanding our database to the biggest car market in the world with almost 20 million annual sales: China. And today we launch the result of all that hard work, as you can use the second drop-down menu on the top right-hand corner of the page to search Chinese auto sales figures of every car sold in China from 2003. That means 72 brands and more than 550 models!

As you’re used from us, you can find annual sales figures by brand and by model from 2003 until 2014 and monthly sales data from 2013 until 2015, which will be updated monthly. And similar to the European monthly brand rankings and model rankings, I also plan to give monthly brand and model rankings for China, pointing out the latest trends and new model launches in the world’s largest car market.… Continue Reading …

Shanghai Auto Show – The Good

The first in a series of articles looking at the multitude of cars that made their debut at the Shanghai Auto Show, first we look at the Good, starting with…

Mercedes GLC Coupe Concept

Although it would seem more appropriate to start the list with a Chinese car, it is really hard to ignore arguably the star of the show. While its bigger brother GLE Coupe is a bloated-looking X6 copy, the GLC Coupe is all muscle and elegant lines. It makes you wonder how could BMW get the X4 so wrong…

Mercedes-Concept-GLC-Coupe-10

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Game of Thrones, VW-style (w/ poll)

Winterkorn and Piech

“I’m at a distance from Winterkorn.”

Those six words spoken by Ferdinand Piëch, the chairman of the supervisory board at VW, began a fascinating saga that has gripped all that follow the automotive industry over the past two weeks. He was speaking of course of Martin Winterkorn, the CEO of VW, and until that point his presumed successor as chairman of the supervisory board.

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Comparison: car sales in France 1985 vs. 2014

With a little help and some inspiration from Daniel Carrer, I can make an interesting comparison between the car sales in France in 1985 and 2014. Although the French car market as a whole has barely grown in 29 years, a lot has happened in the brands ranking.

France-car_sales-1985-2014-Renault_Supercinq-Peugeot_205The top-3 is still the same, with the Big-3 French manufacturers holding on to their positions, even though Renault and Peugeot have lost quite a bit of market share: 9,08 and 3,67 percentage points respectively, not even counting Talbot in the 1985 figure. Citroën on the other hand is stable, when we include DS sales from 2015.

As a result, the market share of the local French brands has eroded from almost two thirds (63,53%) to under half of the total market (49,59%). Even when counting Renault’s Romanian sub-brand Dacia as local, the French have lost over 127.000 annual sales.… Continue Reading …

Review: Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle

After publishing a few critical articles about hydrogen mobility on this site last year, both by myself and a guest author, most notably about the technology when compared to “traditional” Battery Electric Vehicles, I was given the chance to be among the first to drive a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle in Europe: the Hyundai ix35 FCEV. You would’ve seen the pictures yesterday if you followed me on Twitter. In the meantime, the technology has made progress and looks ever more promising, although there’s still a long way to go before hydrogen becomes a viable alternative to gasoline or diesel for a private car buyer.

Hyundai_ix35-Hydrogen-Fuel_Cell_Vehicles-Rotterdam

While Honda has had a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle available for lease in California since 2008, the FCX Clarity has never been able to reach mass production, with less than 100 cars delivered to customers. Other hydrogen test cars from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors never made it past the prototype phase. This makes Hyundai the first automaker to start mass production of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle, when it started production of 10.000 Hyundai ix35 FCEV early this year. The South-Koreans beat Toyota to the honor, as the Japanese brand only recently started taking orders for its Mirai FCEV.

Hyundai_ix35-Hydrogen-Fuel_Cell_Vehicle-badgeThis means the ix35 FCEV is a huge image booster for Hyundai, in the same way the Prius hybrid was for Toyota, helping the brand establish itself as a technology leader and a “green” automaker. Driving the car on public roads in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, the ix35 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle has convinced me that the technology for this type of vehicle is indeed ready, which solves the chicken-or-egg problem with this new technology. … Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis February 2015 – models

After exploring the European car brand-ranking for February 2015, let’s look at sales of individual car models in Europe.

European-car-sales-statistics-subcompact-segment-2014-Ford_Fiesta-Renault_Clio-Volkswagen_PoloThe top-4 is stable on January, with Volkswagen stealing both first and second place, followed by the Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta. However, the Fiesta is likely to more than make up for its disadvantage next month, as March is traditionally the busiest month in the year for UK dealers, benefiting Ford and Vauxhall. From past experience, I expect the Fiesta to sell more than 40.000 units in March, which would help it leapfrog both the Clio and the Polo in the first quarter ranking.

In fifth place we find the Peugeot 208, which is the model’s highest ranking in exactly one year and allows the 208 to outsell the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa also for the first time since the same month last year. After showing a huge gain of almost 50% in January, the Corsa is actually down a little in February, despite being facelifted recently.

The Volkswagen Passat makes it three VWs in the top-10 (and 5 VW Group models), as it hits its highest ranking in 36 months with sales up by almost 66% on last year thanks to the new generation. We’ll have to be patient for the long-awaited battle between the Passat and the Ford Mondeo, as the new generation Mondeo hasn’t hit full steam yet. In fact, the Ford is selling at less than a third of the volume of the Passat in the first two months and is stuck in 73rd place. … Continue Reading …

Citroën beats up an SUV with a Cactus stick

Following the critical and commercial success of the C4 Cactus, Citroën figured it might as well try applying the same theme to a larger crossover and created the Aircross Concept.

Citroen-Aircross-4

(Slightly) less polarizing then its smaller sibling, the Aircross features plenty of the design cues that make the Cactus stand out: Air Bump inserts, funky lights and wrap-around glasshouse on the outside, minimalist dashboard design with a separate screen instead of an instrument binnacle on the inside.

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