Archives for October 2015

Look-a-like: Audi A4 and…

Audi A4

The new Audi A4 is not exactly the most original-looking of cars – it looks almost like the previous generation, with a hint of the big-brother A6 and sporty-brother TT mixed in. But that is to be expected, as Audi is the mayor in all-models-should-look-similar-to-establish-a-family-look-town. Alas, the new A4 also borrows a design element from a quite different source…… Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis August 2015 – brands

European-car-sales-august-2015-Tesla-dealershipAugust is traditionally the slowest month of the year for car sales due to the summer holidays, and with just under 778.500 units it is down by a third on July. When compared to August 2014, car sales are actually up 11,3%, which is the third highest increase so far this year. As a result, year-to-date volume is up to 9.328.003 units, an increase of 8,4%, the highest improvement it has been so far in 2015.

If you’re wondering if Volkswagen has been hurt by the emission scandal in the US and the subsequent stop-sale of its diesel-powered vehicles in a few European markets, it will be hard to tell from its August sales figures, as these events didn’t take place until the last week of the month. We’ll have to wait for the September figures to give a substantiated verdict, but so far we can only claim that VW has the smallest increase of the top-15 brands in August at +3,4%, while Renault is the fastest growing brand of the top-15 at +20,3% thanks to showing the biggest volume increase of all brands, followed by Opel/Vauxhall and BMW.

However, not all is well at Renault, because its budget brand Dacia, which was a regular member of the fastest growing brands group in the first half of this year, is the biggest volume loser for the second month in a row, losing 2.300 units on August of last year as the new generations of the Sandero and Logan and the facelifted Duster are starting to lose their freshness. DS and Honda are also among the biggest losers, albeit with much smaller losses of less than 600 units each.… Continue Reading …

Dieselgate, take 2 [w/ Poll]

VW TDI

Bart has been encouraging me to write my own take on VW’s diesel scandal, but that’s been proving hard since his take on the issue pretty much was all that I could have been hoping to say. So instead of writing a long article, I figured I’d ask you all what you think, and then share a few thoughts I have on the subject matter.

Courtesy of Bill Maher

1.  VW is guilty…

It is important to admit as much before we go digging further. Yes, other carmakers could be doing the same and yes, the fuel consumption/emissions testing regime is not without fault. But at the end of the day the fact remains that VW did, knowingly, install software to cheat on an emissions test meant to prevent pollution which causes serious health issues.

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US sales: September 2015, Brands

Sales of cars in September 2015 were up by a whopping 16% compared to September 2014, an incredible rise given that they only grew by 4% between the first half of 2014 and 2015. Since sales in the US are cyclical by calendar year it’s hard to imagine this growth is driven by any particular effort on behalf of the manufacturers to move more metal off the forecourts. Rather, it’s probably a result of continually improving economic conditions, low gas price and, possibly more than most, people wanting to take advantage of low lease rates before the Federal Reserve Board raises interest rates later this year.

VW Passat Clean Diesel

VW Passat “Clean” Diesel

The question on everyone’s mind must be “how much was VW hurt by Dieselgate”? The answer is that it does not seem to have been hurt badly at all, with sales actually growing by 1%. Sure, that’s much worse than the market on average, but it’s not like VW was gaining sales before the scandal hit anyway. The fact is it may take time for the sales figures to fully reflect the extent of the damage – October will give us a better look.

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VW diesel emissions scandal, are they the only ones to blame?

A lot has been written about the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal that’s been uncovered in the US. But not yet here on Left-Lane.com. That’s not because we’re secretly supporting VW and refuse to write anything bad about them. It’s because we refuse to just republish news stories that you can find elsewhere on the internet. Left-Lane aspires to offer its readers unique content that you will not find elsewhere. And since I (Bart) have been very busy with other obligations the past few weeks (as you may have noticed, while Krzysztof and Rutger have been very busy, I haven’t published any articles in 3,5 weeks), I haven’t had the time to sit down and contemplate our angle on this perhaps industry-changing matter. Quality goes before quantity, so I hope this article meets your expectations. If so, or if not, please post your comments below. Thanks!

Volkswagen-diesel-emission-scandalVolkswagen is facing serious trouble in the US and worldwide after admitting it had misled US regulators by installing “cheating software” designed to make sure the cars emit much less nitrous oxide (NOx) during the standard testing procedure than they actually do in real life. Besides facing a hefty fine of up to $18 billion (but probably much less than that maximum figure) VW can expect just in the US, the fallout from a marketing and image perspective is potentially many times worse if the company doesn’t act swiftly and firmly to restore confidence in the brand.

Let’s hope confidence in the automotive industry also remains intact, after Toyota’s unintended acceleration safety failure, GM’s faulty ignition switch scandal (see a trend here with companies trying to become the biggest in the world?) and the recent scandal with Takata airbags.

But is VW the only one to cheat in emission tests?

No matter how incredibly and unforgivably wrong Volkswagen has been in this matter, I refuse to believe they are the only manufacturer to manipulate its software or other parts of their vehicles in order to perform better in fuel efficiency or emission test procedures. They were simply the first ones to get caught and have therefore been made into the piñata of the automotive industry. What this whole scandal may have actually done is lay bare the issues with testing procedures that are too far off reality and which can be too easily manipulated. The big drop in share prices across all major automotive OEMs, though not as badly as the drop in VW shares, signals that investors also believe Volkswagen is not alone in this and the industry as a whole may face tough times ahead.… Continue Reading …

IAA Frankfurt report: Cars from Mercedes-Benz to VW

Mercedes-Benz A-Class facelift

Mercedes-Benz A-Class facelift

Mercedes-Benz revamped the A-Class, which features redesigned front and rear bumpers and is optionally available with LED High Performance headlamps. From the beginning of 2016 Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink will become available. The refreshed Mercedes-Benz A-Class comes with a range of no less than eight petrol engines, oddly with only two displacements: a 1.6-litre four-cylinder (A 160, A 180 , A 180 BlueEFFICIENCY Edition & A 200) and a 2.0-litre four-cylinder (A 220, A 250, A 250 Sport and A 45 AMG) engine. The A 160 with 102 hp is the new entry-level model. It consumes 5.1 l/100 km (CO2-emissions 119 g/km) when opting for the 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission, the manual version is slightly less efficient. The diesel range consists of five engines with two displacements: the 1.5-litre Renault engine is offered in the A 160 d, A 180 d and A 180 d BlueEFFICIENCY Edition, while the 2.2-litre Mercedes engine powers the A 200 d and A 220 d. Fuel consumption of the A 180 d BlueEFFIENCY Edition has been reduced slightly to 3.5 l/100 km (CO2-emissions 89 g/km). The A 220 d now offers 177 hp (+ 7 hp). The A 250 Sport now has an additional 7 hp (218 hp) over the regular A 250. Mercedes-Benz was slightly jealous seeing the Audi RS3 dethroning the A 45 AMG (“The best or nothing”, right?), so it has improved the performance of high-performance even further. The four-cylinder engine develops 381 hp (+ 21 hp) and a maximum torque of 475 Nm. Thanks to faster gear ratios, aerodynamic fine-tuning and the Dynamic Select driving mode it launches the A 45 AMG from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, 0.4 seconds than its predecessor.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé

Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupé

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IAA Frankfurt report: Cars from Alfa Romeo to Lexus

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo has finally launched the long-awaited successor to the 159. The brand that has languished and seen plummeting sales over the last fifteen years aims to revive the glory of its heydays with the all-new Giulia. As of now, Alfa Romeo launched the Giulia Quadrifoglio only, the top-of-the-range version capable of some mind-blowing numbers: it features the 510 hp six-cylinder 2.9 turbo petrol engine developed by Ferrari engineers with a top speed of 307 km/h and capable of an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.9 seconds, a peak torque of 600 Nm, while it should brake from 100 km/h back to 0 in less than 32 metres. Alfa Romeo claims best in class emission levels, with 198 g/km of CO2, while its dry weight is just 1,524 kg. Sales of the Giulia Quadrifoglio will start during the last quarter of 2015, with prices starting at about 79,000 Euro in Italy.

Alfa Romeo Giulia rear

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US sales 2015 first half Alternative Power segment

US Alternative PowerSales in the Alternative Power segment fell by 12% compared to the first half of 2014, one of the larger drops from among all segments. In fact, only three cars sold more in the first half of 2015 than in the same period last year – Tesla Model S and BMW’s i3 and i8. This fall in sales most likely is driven by the continuing low gasoline price, as well as the expectation that this situation may continue for a long time.

Toyota Prius 2016

Toyota Prius Mk IV

You don’t get points for guessing the market leader – the Toyota Prius has dominated this segment ever since the second generation came to the American shores in 2004. However, while the introduction of the V (quasi-MPV, albeit not available in the US with 7 seats for some reason, unlike in Europe) and C (smaller model) helped the Prius to its best showing in 2012, when almost a quarter million Prius cars were sold in the US, 2015 seems like it will be the first time since then that the Prius will sell fewer than 200,000 units. I guess customers are waiting for the new model, but you have to wonder if the awkwardly-styled Mk IV is everything they were hoping for…… Continue Reading …

US sales 2015 first half Exotics segment

US ExoticsThe Exotics segment grew by 5% compared to the first half of 2014, roughly in line with the whole industry. The problem with the headline figure is that it encompasses the whole of the Maserati brand, none of which are arguably exotic, but end up here because Maserati is the largest brand that does not break out their sales in the US.

So, excluding Maserati, the largest Exotic brand remains Bentley with over 1,200 sales in H1 2015 – even the 8% fall year-on-year was not bad for what is arguably a rather aged line-up by now. Still, it is reasonable to expect the sales figure to shoot up like crazy in a year or so when the Beluga… sorry, Bentayga goes on sale. For now, though, the brand was almost caught in sales terms by Ferrari, which is on course to go even better than its 2014 record of over 2,000 units sold in one year. The prancing horse is certainly doing better in the US than its main rival Lamborghini, who recorded less than half as many sales and lies in 5th despite a healthy 11% growth following the introduction of the Huracan.… Continue Reading …