US sales 2015 first half Compact segment

US compacts

The compact segment in the US gets the dubious distinction as being the only mainstream segment to grow in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. In fact, the growth rate at 3% was very close to the 4% growth rate of the whole. market. Not a bad showing in these SUV-obsessed times.

Toyota CorollaThe traditional segment leader, Toyota Corolla, strengthened its grip on the top spot. It seems that no matter what the opposition tries to do, the dependable, inoffensive Corolla still comes up on top. It probably helps that it is a younger design than the cars that took the three places behind it, all of which are about to be replaced in the coming year. Of the three the Hyundai Elantra did the best, and its year-on-year growth sees it snatch 3rd place ahead of Chevy Cruze by under 1,000 cars.

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US vs Europe – an introduction

To kick-start our coverage of the US car market we figured it would be good to give our European readers a bit of background on what the car market is like across the Atlantic. Here are 6 trends that differentiate the two markets:

1.   The stereotypes are true: SUVs and pickup trucks are much more important in the US

While mainstream cars make up 60% of car sales in Europe, they only make up less than 40% of the US market. This becomes even more stark once you add the premium derivatives – the proportions become 75% vs 45%. Instead, the SUVs chunk of the market is almost twice as large in the US (30%) as it is in Europe (17%). Add to that another 14% of the US market that’s captured by pickups, and the high-level difference between the two markets becomes clear.

US vs Europe - overall split
Data reflects sales in the first half of 2015
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Coming soon: US car sales!

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New Merc GLC (née GLK) to finally take the fight to Q5, X3, XC60

It seems Mercedes is finally serious about gunning for class leadership with the new GLC, as the new car is a much better put-together proposition than its GLK predecessor. For starters, it eschews the awkward faux-Geländewagen boxy looks in favor of much more organic looks of the new C-class. In fact, I believe it automatically becomes the most handsome car in the class alongside the Porsche Macan, easily beating the somewhat awkward X3 and handsome but dated Q5.

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More than that, however, the new model seems to have all the advantages of the donor C-class, such as an advanced and lighter platform, gorgeous interior and sophisticated drivetrain options. And Mercedes will also finally offer the new car in the UK in right-hand-drive, in recognition of the importance of that market to compact premium SUV sales.

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Why Skoda should become Volkswagen (for the US market) w/ POLL

Volkswagen’s struggles to sell cars in the US market at anything close to the rate its mainstream competitors are managing are well documented. Try as it may, the German manufacturer has been unable to punch beyond the niche of cars for people who want to be different and are willing to pay a little extra for the privilege. Its list of faux-pas is long: from bungling the local production of the Golf/Jetta in the 1980s that lead to myriad quality issues, through trying to sell cars that were too small and too expensive for the US market, all the way to missing out on the crossover wave. While the “right-sized” US/Chinese Passat and Jetta helped matters a little bit in the early 2010s, these cars have since slid back behind their competitors in terms of sales and appeal.

So, this might be the right time to try something drastic – rather than develop more US-specific cars or struggle with their Euro-centric line-up, VW should take Skoda’s mainstream offerings, rebrand them as VWs in the US and watch as they fly off the shelves.

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Sure, this is by no means a new idea, but arguably now it’s more true than ever, for five reasons:

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Renault Kwid is one good-looking Dacia!

One is used to cars designed for the Indian market often looking rather ridiculous: think tall and narrow Nano, the booted Renault Thalia (Clio), or, even worse, the Suzuki Swift sedan. That is why the newest Renault for the Indian market, the Kwid, is a very pleasant surprise – it not only looks good, it looks European-good! Not only that, it is based on an all-new CMF-A platform from the Renault-Nissan alliance, though a 0.8-liter petrol unit will likely ensure its more “show” than “go”. Still, starting at below $5,000 in India, the car looks to be a great hit, and will surely be sold in markets around the world.

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What is weird about it, though, is that it looks a whole lot like another car from Renault’s sister company: the Dacia Sandero Stepway. A smaller, better-executed version, sure – but the family resemblance is undeniable.

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Chevy aims to out-pony the Mustang with its new Camaro (w/ historical sales)

Following months of teasers Chevrolet finally revealed the all-new Camaro, and a handsome beast it is too! It also represents the best trend in recent years among car-makers: to make the new-gen cars smaller and lighter. Here it scores some major points over the Ford Mustang, which grew both larger and heavier in the new generation, making it less of a pony and more of a slightly overweight steed. The Camaro, on the other hand, looks lean, mean, and ready for action!
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Unpopular opinion: Mercedes R-class

Sometimes there are cars that, in theory, make a lot of sense, but when they arrive on the market it suddenly turns out that customers are just not interested. Not necessarily because they’re “bad cars” per se, but just because they don’t resonate with the audience. The Mercedes R-class is one such car that I think was unfairly shunned by the market. More than that, it is probably my favorite non-AMG car Mercedes made in the late 2000s.

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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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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…

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