When the VW Atlas was finally revealed after what felt like the longest gestation period the main responses that could be heard were those of disappointment. “This is it?”, most people said, “it’s way too conservative”, said others. And then there was a sizable group of people who thought the Atlas was straight-up ugly, mainly because of the character line that runs down the side of the car. In fact, not only is the concave/convex line controversial, it’s also very reminiscent of the side-treatment another less-than-beautiful SUV received a while back…
Archives for May 2017
The past year has seen an interesting development in the arena of exotic and ultra-luxurious cars – the emergence of smaller-engined versions of cars that were previously available only with super-high-output 12-cylinder options. First was the facelifted Ferrari FF, now called the GTC4 Lusso, which in addition to the all-wheel-drive V12 version became available as an “entry level” model with rear-wheel-drive, powered by a turbocharged V8 engine taken from the 488 GTB and California T. Then Bentley released the oft-rumored Bentayga powered by, the sacrilege, a V8 turbodiesel seemingly taken straight out of the Audi SQ7. Are they a sign of things to come, smart decisions by the brands from a marketing perspective, or foolish endeavors to chase short-term profits at the expense of the brands’ long-term allure?
In the first quarter of 2017, worldwide sales of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles increased almost 5%, according to JATO Dynamics figures, based on their data of 52 markets. Almost a million additional vehicle sales (+962.000) compared to the first quarter of 2016 make for a new total of 21,24 million global sales. Disclaimer: this total excludes some major markets like Iran, the Middle East, Magreb, Pakistan, Philippines and a few South American countries. Still, this should give a reasonably accurate picture of the global car market this year.
In terms of manufacturers, Renault-Nissan is the big winner at the top, entering the top-3 thanks to a 10,4% increase and reaching within a spitting distance (just 1.500 units) of Toyota (+7,8%). Keep in mind that Renault is relatively strong in Iran and the Magreb countries, while Toyota is dominant in the Middle East and Philippines, so even accounting for those markets the gap between the two companies will be small. Volkswagen still leads despite growing slower than the industry at just +1,7%. GM is down to fourth due to the sale of its European unit Opel/Vauxhall to PSA. [Read more…]
In a somewhat surprising move Ford has ousted CEO Mark Fields after only three years, a period in which he oversaw the company losing 40% of its market value and being overtaken by Tesla in market capitalization terms. His replacement, Jim Hackett, comes from within Ford and has recently headed Ford’s Smart Mobility division, in charge of developing the blue oval’s autonomous car technology and ride-sharing business models.
The Chinese car market is one of the most diverse in the world, with over 400 locally produced passenger car models from more than 70 domestic and foreign brands. If we include imported vehicles, minivans, pickups and commercial vehicles, there are more than 1.000 different models available. In the March 2017 sales ranking, we welcome 11 new models: 6 crossovers, a sedan, a hatchback and an EV version of an existing crossover. In the April 2017 sales ranking, we welcome 9 new models: 5 crossovers, 1 MPV and 3 sedans (of which 2 EVs).
After a successful launch of its first crossover, the Roewe RX5, SAIC launches its first sedan with its new corporate design, and it immediately is one of the most mature looking Chinese sedans on the market. Gone are all the frivolous shapes and shiny chrome accents, well except for the grille, that is. You could almost call it boring. The i6 launches in one of the most difficult segments in China, that of affordable compact sedans, but still a segment with a lot of potential. Power comes from either a 1,0T three-cylinder with 125hp/170Nm mated to a 6MT or 7DCT gearbox or a 1,5T with 170hp/250Nm also mated to a 6MT or 7DCT gearbox. A PHEV version named i6e will follow soon, powered by a 1-liter three-cylinder withh 125hp and a 82hp electric motor. Dimensions are 4.671/1.835/4.460mm with a wheelbase of 2.715mm. [Read more…]
The Chinese car market is fluctuating in the first four months of 2017: After a stable January, a promising 20% gain in February 2017 and a modest growth of 2,9% in March, April sales are down 2,2% again, for a total of 1,68 million units. Of course, this is still the second-best ever April figure, and the YTD total now stands at 7,54 million, an increase of 3,8% on the first four months of 2016. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate stands at 21,4 million in April, the lowest figure in the past 12 months. Sales of vehicles with engines of 1,6 liters or less fell 10% to 1.14 million, after the central government phased out a tax break on these models at the beginning of this year. SUVs and crossovers are once again the main (and only) winners in April with sales up 10% to 674.000 units, while sedans sales decline for the second consecutive month at -7,3% to 840.000 sales and MPVs lose volume for the fourth month in a row at -15% to 153.000. New Engergy vehicle sales improved 7,9% to 34.300 units, as EV sales gained 19% to 28.500 units but PHEVs plunged 27% to 5.800 sales. The share of domestic automakers dipped below 42% for the first time since last August as they benefitted the most from the tax cut on small vehicles.
Sales of exotic cars in Europe have exploded in the first quarter of 2017, with a growth of 45% to over 2.100 units. And after years of domination by the Bentley Continental GT and Ferrari 458 Italia, we have a new segment leader, straight out of the box. With almost a quarter of total segment sales, the all-new Aston Martin DB11 has stormed to the top of the ranking, ahead of the Ferrari 488 which maintains its second place thanks to a sales growth of 35%, while the former segment leader Continental GT is kicked down to third place with stable sales. Never before has an Aston Martin topped the exotic car segment in Europe, but the DB11 is an obvious hit with affluent buyers. It has turned the two-horse race at the top of the ranking into a three-way, as the top-3 dominates the segment with 68,3% of total sales as the #3 sells more than triple the volume of its closest rival.
Sales of large passenger vans in Europe continue their double digit growth thanks to ongoing success of existing models and a rejuvenation of a number of players. The three top sellers all grow slower than the segment and lose share but remain dominant with a combined 54,6% share (down from 68,6%). The Volkswagen Transporter T6 and its luxury derivative Multivan add just 3% to their sales of last year but still sell more than twice the volume of their closest rival. Even when combining the Mercedes-Benz Vito Tourer with its luxury derivative V-Class, Volkswagen maintains a comfortable lead. The Fiat Ducato in third place still depends on campervan conversions for most of its sales. However, the Ducato would be off the podium if we combined sales of the Renault quadruplets Trafic, Vivaro, Talento and all-new NV300.
After discussing the US auto brand sales ranking for April, let’s take a closer look at the models ranking. In a big upset among the market-leading large pickups, RAM Pickup outsold its rival Chevrolet Silverado for the second month in a row and only the third time in three years. If the large Chevy continues underperforming like this, its FCA rival may overtake it in the YTD sales before long – I don’t have the data to prove it, but I don’t think the Dodge Ram/RAM Pickup has ever outsold the Silverado in a full year. Behind the pickups there is a new car sales leader – the new Honda CR-V – which outsold both the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue, with the Nissan ranking particularly poorly in #9 – it’s lowest position in half a year, and in danger of losing its #4 YTD spot to the Honda in May. Still, it’s clear the CR-V’s and RAV4’s success is at least partly due to customers shunning the brands’ compact and mid-sized cars continues, all of which lost sales once again in April, and are down 2 or 3 spots in the rankings so far this year.