Archives for October 2015

Look-a-like: VW Jetta and…

VW Jetta rear

Some people may forget but VW was in trouble in the US well before Dieselgate hit the fan. Causes included a narrow model range and SUVs too expensive for the marketplace, but arguably the biggest reason VW was less than halfway towards its stated 800,000 units per year target was that consumers were losing interest in the boring designs of the mainstream Jetta and Passat sedans. VW had to do something, and the MY 2014 Jetta is what it came up with…… Continue Reading …

FCA contemplates Tahoe, Expedition rival for RAM. Smart move, wrong move or too late?

RAM_pickup-Jeep-SUV-Reid_BiglandWhen Fiat Chrysler Automobiles revealed this week that they were contemplating building a full-sized SUV on the platform of the next RAM pickup truck to compete with the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and Ford Expedition, I noticed a lot of “finally, what took them so long?” reactions, but also online replies that went along the lines of “they keep promising new vehicles and then delaying them”. Those commenters are probably right on both counts, but that’s not what this article is about.

My opinion on this vehicle is two-sided: on one hand I believe it fills a huge (no pun intended) hole in FCA’s North American line-up, one that has high profit margins for a limited budget, but on the other hand I don’t think this is the way of the future and they might have better ways to spend their limited R&D resources. And thirdly I’m not sure launching it under the RAM truck brand would be the best option.

Let’s start with the pros

A full-sized SUV based on the body-on-frame platform of their full-sized pick-up truck is not that expensive to develop than an all-new model on an all-new platform and it would spread the development costs of the pick-up truck platform over a greater number of potential sales. Besides that, these kinds of SUV’s typically sell for more than $ 50,000 and have profit margins north of $ 10,000 per vehicle.… Continue Reading …

Generation wars: Nissan Altima [w/ poll]

Post-facelift Nissan Altima

Post-facelift Nissan Altima

When Nissan released photos of the facelifted, MY2016 Altima in September I almost missed them, as skimming the images suggested it was just a new batch of Maxima pictures. It seems the carmaker decided that it will push the new front look pioneered by the Murano and Maxima onto all its models – the facelifts of the Pathfinder and Sentra are just around the corner. Personally, I much prefer the pre-facelift model, which I feel not only simply looks better but also shows a more distinctive personality. Why would Nissan mess with success? Is a unified front end on all its cars that important? Would I like it more if the front end was more successful?… Continue Reading …

Top Tokyo Motor Show concepts

1.    Mazda RX-Vision

Mazda’s, ahem, vision for a future sports model made RX fanboys giddy at a prospect of the return of the beloved Wankel-powered coupe, made others salivate at the RX-Vision’s sexy, Aston-esque looks, and made me wonder whether Mazda can afford to muck about with Wankel technology in an era when emissions and fuel consumption, always the engine’s weak spots, are more important then ever.

Mazda-RX-Vision-14Continue Reading …

US is missing out: small and subcompact pickups

Small pickups

Pickup trucks were originally developed in the US as an easy way to carry cargo and two people in a cabin, and for a long time were available in all different sizes, ranging from the really small (Subaru BRAT, Dodge Ram 50, VW Caddy) to full-size. By the mid-80s, however, truly small pickups has fallen out of favor with customer and new models neatly fell into two main segments: so-called small pickups that were not really small (Chevy S-10/Colorado, Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma) and full-size pickups (Chevy Silverado, Dodge/Ram pickup, Ford F-series), with only the Dodge/Ram Dakota trying to squeeze in between as a medium pickup. This continued for over two decades until the end of the early 2010s, when the main three US carmakers discontinued their small/medium offerings. And while Chevy has since re-entered the market with a new midsize Colorado there are no more truly small pickups on the US market.… Continue Reading …

China car sales analysis September 2015

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Zotye_Damai_X5-SUVAfter three months of declines, Chinese car sales have rebounded into positive territory in September, up 6,8% to almost 1,7 million locally produced models, with a Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate (SAAR) at 19 million units, the highest it’s been since last May. As we’ve seen for almost the entire year, the only segment to boost sales is the SUV segment, up 59% to 566.500 units, while the other segments continue to slide, at -11% to 951.500 sales for sedans and -4,1% to 161.300 for MPVs. Year-to-date, just over 13,8 million domestically produced cars have been sold in China, an increase of 5,4%. As the Chinese government has cut the purchase tax on small cars (with engines of 1,6 liters or less) in half, effective from October until the end of next year, car sales in China are set to remain robust for the rest of the year.

EVs and Plug-In Hybrids had an excellent month in September, with EV sales quadrupling to more than 19.000 units and PHEV sales up 230% to 8.800 units, both thanks to tax incentives of (local) governments. In the first three quarters of 2015, combined EV and PHEV sales are up 330% to 87.500 full electric cars and 49.200 plug-ins.

Please note these figures exclude import models, unless specifically noted.… Continue Reading …

Electric Phaeton – the upside of Dieselgate?

VW Phaeton

Scrambling to recover from the self-inflicted Dieselgate, VW is announcing changes left, right and center. We’ve already heard of Winterkorn leaving, reduced spending and possible cuts to model ranges, leading to speculation as to the future of white elephants such as the VW Phaeton and Bugatti Chiron. Well, now the news is that not only VW will bring both models to market, but that it will actually crown the Phaeton range with an all-electric model (cue stories of yet another “Tesla fighter”).

Do you think an all-electric drivetrain will give the Phaeton a new meaning?

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IAA Frankfurt report: Concept cars

Audi e-tron quattro Concept

Audi e-tron quattro

The Audi e-tron quattro Concept previews the Tesla Model X-rivalling Audi Q6, which will be presented in early 2018. It uses the power of three electric motors; one drives the front axle, the other acts on the rear axle. Total output is 435 hp and in boost mode it can mobilize up to 500 hp and 800 Nm torque. It accelerates from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds, while its electronically governed top speed is 210 km/h. The battery’s capacity of 95 kWh should enable a range of more than 500 kilometers. With its length of 4.88 metres, width of 1.93 metres and height of 1.54 metres, it fits between the Audi Q5 and Audi Q7, and its luggage capacity is 615 litres.

Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo Concept

The Vision GranTurismo showcases Bugatti’s new design language and previews the Chiron, which should debut at the Geneva Motor Show next spring, although the Volkswagen emissions scandal could delay the new ‘Chiron’ hypercar.

Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo

Continue Reading …

Ferrari shows off the new F12… tdf??

Ferrari F12tdf

Ferrari finally showed off the F12 GTO… well, at least that’s what everyone is thinking. The car is in fact called the F12tdf, which Ferrari would like you to know stands for Tour de France, a car road race which the brand apparently dominated in the 1950s and 1960s. Instead, most of us will simply roll our eyes at yet another unnecessary name change for the brand’s special cars (GTO, Speciale, Challenge Stradale, Scuderia…) and the baffling decision to base the new name on a race which is now much more associated with bikes than cars…… Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis August 2015 – models

Skoda-Octavia-auto-sales-statistics-EuropeAfter exploring the auto brands sales for August 2015, let’s look at individual car model sales in Europe. After VW managed to place three models in the July top-5, it does even better in August, with the Skoda Octavia making it 4 Volkswagen Group vehicles in the top-5 ranking. This time, the Renault Clio impressively adds 23,7% to last year’s volume to take the second place in the models ranking behind the Volkswagen Golf, and ahead of the Polo and Passat. The latter showing the highest gain of the top-10 at +45,6%, while the Octavia reaches its highest ranking in almost 2 years.

The Ford Fiesta is expectedly weak in 6th place in August as UK consumers, who buy more than 40% of all European Fiestas, await the new 65 license plate series to be introduced in September. Therefore, expect the Fiesta to be back firmly in 2nd place next month, reaffirming that same position in the YTD rankings. Meanwhile, the facelifted Peugeot 208 reaches its highest ranking in 11 months in 7th place, ahead of the Opel/Vauxhall Astra in 8th place, its highest ranking in almost 2 years, and ahead of its sibling Opel/Vauxhall Corsa for the first time since July 2013. The Astra benefits from sell-out pricing of the outgoing model, which puts it at a transaction price close to that of the Corsa, which may explain the sharp drop in that model’s sales. The Corsa is equaled in sales by its Czech rival Skoda Fabia for a shared 10th place, an absolute record for that nameplate and also the first time ever that Skoda places two models in the European top-10.… Continue Reading …