Shanghai Auto Show 2017: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly, Domestic Cars

The Shanghai Auto Show is the largest auto show in the world with 350.000 square meters (3.7 million square feet) of floor space, over 1.300 cars on display and close to 1 million visitors. And while you may think the cars from international brands are the most relevant for the worldwide automotive industry, the domestic Chinese automakers are eager to show off the impressive progress they’re making in terms of quality and design. Some of their launches and concept cars are destined to be exported to the European and US markets as well.

There’s simply too much news in Shanghai to discuss all the news, but we’ll take a closer look at the most relevant, most notworthy and most impressive production cars and concept cars.

Production cars:

Baojun 310 Wagon

2017-Shanghai-Autoshow-Baojun_310_WagonWagons are not a popular bodystyle in China, where sedans have traditionally ruled, MPVs were the alternative if more seats were required and SUVs are now the hottest thing around. Hatchbacks never really caught on in the People’s Republic either, which makes it that much more surprising that Baojun has a sudden hit this year with its ultra-cheap 310 hatchback, selling over 50.000 units in the first three months of 2017. Will the 310 Wagon be able to crack the cheap station wagon market in China too?… Continue Reading …

US sales 2017-Q1 Sports Large and Exotics segment

US large sportsSales of Large Sports Cars and Exotics fell by 5.5% in the first quarter of 2017, following a 10.4% decline in 2016. Total volume in this segment stood at 11,370 in Q1. And there’s not a lot of product news expected this year, so the decline is expected to last throughout the year. Then again, keep in mind the segment peaked at over 60,000 sales in 2015, when it almost doubled up in just 3 years time, so small declines after such an impressive growth curve are nothing to be ashamed of, especially on the lack of product news, as mentioned. We do welcome two newcomers to the segment compared to Q1 of last year, but both are still at the bottom of the ranking: the second generation Acura NSX and the all-new Ford GT.

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Shanghai Auto Show 2017: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly, Foreign Cars

Just when the New York Auto Show in the US is in its final weekend, the Chinese equivalent is starting up in Shanghai. And while the former is an important event for the US market and no small show by any means, the latter is by far the largest auto show in the world with 350.000 square meters (3.7 million square feet) of floor space, over 1.300 cars on display and close to 1 million visitors. Besides being one of the major shows for the domestic auto industry (together with Beijing), Shanghai is also important to foreign automakers for some of whom the Chinese market is their largest single market, especially for luxury brands. This means they’re showing off some important products in China first, before bringing them to the European or US markets. We’ll take a quick look at a selection of those launches here.

Production cars:

BMW M4 CS

2017-Shanghai-Autoshow-BMW_M4CSKriss: hot

What is there to say: the M4 CS is the halfway point between the standard M4 and the hardcore M4 GTS, and as such promises to strike the perfect balance between the two. That it still looks more attractive than the younger Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe and the new Audi RS5 is just the icing on top of the cake!

Bart: hotContinue Reading …

New York Auto Show 2017: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The annual New York Auto Show is one of the most popular auto shows in the world, it’s traditionally held at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan and this year it runs  from Friday April 14 through Sunday April 23. That means it’s the last of the major auto shows in North America, after LA in November, Detroit in January and Chicago in February. As a result, the number of real new product launches and concept cars is relatively limited, especially compared to the most important of them all: Geneva. Still, we’ve had our pick of winners and losers of the show, and as usual we just can’t seem to agree on most of them. Let us know your view in the poll or in the comments below.

Production cars:

Acura TLX (facelift)

2017-New_York-Auto_Show-Acura_TLXKriss: Not

See the new TLX in isolation and you may think to yourself “wow, this is a pretty good-looking car”, but wish the grille wasn’t quite as big and brash as it is. Well, then, you’re in luck – there is a version of this car without this ugly new grille, and it’s called the pre-facelift TLX. Now, don’t get me wrong, the TLX is still pretty good looking, it’s just that with this facelift Acura managed to either botch the changes the TLX needed (the new grille is not an improvement, and does not go far enough to give this car “personality”) and not change things at all (the interior still looks no better than on the mass-market Accord). Acura is desperately looking for a car that will change the fortunes of its mainstream offerings, and this is not it, sadly.

Bart: Hot

What a difference a grille makes! Acura pulls trick from the Lexus playbook, using the motto: it doesn’t have to be stylish, as long as it’s brash. As opposed to Kriss, I think it’s an improvement compared to the pre-facelift version. The TLX goes from utter wallflower with its beak-nose to one of the most aggressive designs in the segment with its enormously wide grille. I don’t find it particularly sophisticated, or even attractive for that matter (I’d still prefer a C-Class, Q50 or even the aging 3-Series over it), but I just have to admire Acura for finally getting the point that just another vanilla sedan just isn’t going to cut it in this competitive segment anymore. Besides the sheer size of the grille, and the graphics inside it, there’s one more issue I have with the front end of the updated TLX: the lower part seems visually wider than the rest, which gives it a bit of a “heavy” presence, as if it has a double chin. The rear end has been cleaned up nicely, though.

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If the Americans shun Mexico, the Chinese will gladly step in

Mexican-car-marketPresident Donald Trump has offended the Mexicans in more than one way, and building even a virtual wall between the US and Mexico will affect trade between the two powers in a negative way, which would greatly affect the automotive industry, perhaps more than any other. Thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement, a great number of carmakers have set up manufacturing facilities south of the Rio Grande to benefit from more than just lower wages to produce their lowest-margin vehicles. Any disturbance in the free trade agreement, most likely import duties, would increase costs for these manufacturers and have a negative impact on consumer prices in the US. Ford has already withdrawn plans to build a new US$1.6 billion plant in central Mexico’s San Luis Potosi in January in favor of a US$700 million upgrade to its Flat Rock, Michigan plant and others may think twice before becoming the target of one of Trump’s Twitter rages. However, as the US is shunning Mexico, the Chinese are more than happy to step in and invest in the growing market.

The success of Mexico

But first we need to look at what made Mexico such a phenomenal automotive production hub, and why automakers from outside North America have invested more than US$13.3 billion in Mexico since 2010, which is more than half of the US$24 billion invested in total. Ironically, Mexico’s low wages make up only a small portion of the explanation, as the biggest reason to build in Mexico is that the country has freer trade with the rest of the world than the US does: Mexican-made cars can be exported duty-free to 44 countries compared to just 20 for US-made cars, which make up only 9% of global car sales.… Continue Reading …

How has the European car market evolved in the last 15 years?

European-segment-development-2001-2016-small-crossoversA few weeks ago, when we were looking at which cars were leading their segments in Europe in 2016, one of our readers wondered how the market as a whole has evolved over the past decades: which segments have grown and which have decreased and what trends are visible in the market? As it turns out, the total market volume in 2016 is actually very comparable to that of 2001, as the European car market had a size of just over 15 million sales both last year and 15 years ago. Of course, in the meantime there have been great fluctuations, as the market peaked at over 16 million in 2004 and then crashed to just 12,3 million in 2013, and also between the segments there have been shifts in the period between then and now. But overall there’s a clear trend visible: mainstream brands have stagnated while luxury brands have floundered, MPVs made a brief successful run in the first half of the 2000’s, but since then it’s been all about crossovers and SUVs, while regular cars have been down across the board. So let’s take a more in-depth look at the trends we can see happening for the past 15 years.

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European car sales analysis February 2017 – models

Citroen_C3-2017-auto-sales-statistics-EuropeAfter discussing European car sales for February 2017 by brand, let’s check out what the model ranking looks like in the second month of 2017. Traditional leader Volkswagen Golf continues its double digit decline after a stable January. Besides its facelift, which still has to pick up steam, the Golf is hurt by increased competition from the Opel/Vauxhall Astra and Renault Megane, but also by increased internal competition from the new Tiguan and Seat Ateca. The Renault Clio continues to improve and reclaims the 2nd spot it held in 2016, ahead of the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta, two models that are due to be replaced this year. For the first time since last September the Nissan Qashqai is the best selling crossover in Europe again, and for the first time since last August there’s only one crossover in the top-10. The Fiat Panda hits its highest ranking in 7 years with a 6th place, ahead of the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 208. The Astra is down into 9th place despite still growing almost 10%, and it remains the #2 compact car ahead of the Skoda Octavia. The Volkswagen Tiguan is out of the top-10 for the first time since last July despite being the fastest growing model in the top-25. … Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis February 2017 – brands

European-car-sales-graph-February_2017After a promising start of the year with an almost 10% gain in January, European car sales disappoint in February with a gain of just 2,2% to just over 1,1 million units, still the highest February volume since pre-crisis 2008. The big difference in January vs. February growth can be attributed to the number of business days, which were higher in January 2017 and lower in February, compared to the previous year. A better indication of the strength of the European car market would therefore be the year-to-date gain, which stands at +5,9% to 2,3 million units. Among the major markets, France (-2,9%), Germany (-2,6%) and the UK (-0,3%) lost volume compared to 2016, while Italy (+6,2%) and Spain (+0,2%) improved. Altogether, 8 out of the 30 markets lost volume in February. Among the smaller markets, Romania (+62,9%) and Greece (+56,9%) stood out with excellent performances.… Continue Reading …

New model introductions in China, January & February 2017

The Chinese car market is one of the most diverse in the world, with almost 500 locally produced passenger car models from more than 70 domestic and foreign brands, as you can see in our 2016 Chinese car sales analysis. If we include imported vehicles, minivans, pickups and commercial vehicles, there are more than 1.000 different models available. In the January 2017 Chinese car sales ranking, we welcome 6 new models: 5 SUVs and a sedan and in the February 2017 ranking, we welcome 4 new models: 2 crossovers, an MPV and a sedan. A few of these models haven’t officially been launched yet, but show up in the rankings due to demo sales.

Baojun 510

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Baojun_510-SUVBaojun has launched a second new model in six months time and this 510 crossover is one of its best looking designs, especially from the front, with its squinting headlights that are visually connected to the grille by a chrome line. The sharp crease running from headlight to taillight and through the door handles makes for an attractive side design, together with the floating roof and the squared off wheel arches, although it should ride a bit lower to reduce the huge gap between the wheels and the arches.. Surprisingly, while a lot of these characteristics are familiar from other brands (Citroën, DS, Suzuki, Range Rover), the combination still looks like an original design. In the interior Baojun also shows it’s one of the more mature brands among domestics, with attractive design: an 8-inch screen on top of the center console in Mercedes-Benz style, Mini-style toggle switches underneath it and lots of “metal” frames.… Continue Reading …

China car sales analysis February 2017

China-car-sales-graph-february-2017After a stable January, Chinese car sales rise a promising 20,2% again in February 2017. This is a result of the Chinese New Year festivities, which alternate between January and February each year, so it’s better to look at combined figures of these two months before drawing conclusions about the strength of the Chinese car market. Thanks to 1,59 million sales in February, combined volume for the first two months of the year is up 7,6% to 3,76 million. This is still stronger than most analysts had predicted, as expectations for the first quarter of 2017 were in the low single digits due to the rise on sales tax on vehicles with small engines. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate of 22,68 million is the lowest it’s been since last July, but still significantly up 12% from the 20,25 million of February 2016. SUVs and crossovers are unsurprisingly the main winners with sales up 36,9% to 644.750 units in February (first 2 months: +18,9% to 1.496.712), while sedans gain 15,3% to 772.555 sales (first 2 months: +4,2% to 1.857.478) and MPVs lose volume for the second month in a row at -3,9% to 167.076 (first 2 months: -10,2% to 393.533). Sales of New Energy vehicles (EVs and PHEVs) jumped 30% in February, following a 74% decline in January when electric car subsidies were reduced 20%. This month, domestic brands also reach a new record share of 46,5% in February, breaking the previous high of 45,4% last December. For the first two months combined, domestics have a 44,4% share of their home market, the highest it’s ever been at this stage of the year.… Continue Reading …