A new kind of retro: naming a model after the company’s founder

As manufacturers are running out of inspiration for another retro styled car, a trend for which Volkswagen is credited since it introduced the New Beetle back in 1997, I have started to notice a new trend: retro naming. And with that, at this moment, I don’t mean re-using model names from the past, like Alfa Giulia or Chrysler 300, which could be the subject of an entirely different article, but I mean using the first name of the company’s founder as a model name.

Ferrari-EnzoFerrari started this trend in 2002 when the Italians decided to name their supercar Ferrari Enzo. While the model’s two predecessors, F40 and F50, were named to celebrate the company’s 40th and 48th anniversary in 1987 and 1995 respectively, the Italians may have been a bit too quick with the development of their next supercar. It was already completed and ready to be sold in 2002, so the Italians must have called for an emergency board meeting during lunch time:

  • “Oh mama mia! Grande catastrofe! Gianni, what do we do now? The F60 is already finished!
  • — Eating spaghetti —
  • “When is the 60th anniversary, Alberto?”
  • — Drinking Chianti —
  • “That’s another five years, Vincenzo! We cannot wait that long! The Germans are working on a Carrera GT, which is much better than ours. We need it to be sold out before they finish their car!”… Continue Reading …

Luxury battle part three: Audi vs. BMW vs. Mercedes-Benz in roadsters

Audi-TT-Geneva-Autoshow-2014The German Big three BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have faced each other for the European luxury car buyer for decades now, and the fight isn’t limited to high-volume segments. The compact roadster / coupe segment has been a battleground as well, although the three brands have followed entirely different strategies for this segment. Each of the three manufacturers has been in the lead of the compact roadster / coupe category at some point in the past 16 years, since the introduction of the first Audi TT.

Audi was the last to the game, as the BMW Z3 and Mercedes-Benz SLK were introduced in late 1995 and 1996 respectively, while the TT didn’t arrive until 1999. But it entered the segment with a bang, saleswise, immediately rising to the top in its first year of sales.… Continue Reading …

50th Anniversary of the Škoda 1000 MB

Skoda-1000-MB-50-year-anniversary-frontAfter 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911, this month, it is the Škoda 1000 MB which turns 50 years old. The first Czech mass-produced car made its debut on March 21st 1964 as the successor to the Škoda Octavia. It also was the first Škoda with rear wheel drive, a rear engine and unibody construction, making it a milestone in the nearly 119-year history of Škoda, as it marked the beginning of what would eventually evolve into a long line of rear-engined Škodas, although this was still a fairly popular layout for a compact car in that time. Other rear-engined, rear wheel drive models during that period are among others the Volkswagen Beetle, Simca 1000, Renaults Dauphine and R8, NSU Prinz, Hillman Imp and the Fiats 500 and 600.

Revolutionary technology

The 1000 MB was a revolution for Škoda, as it was built in an all-new production plant in Mladá Boleslav (hence the MB in its name), its design was radically different than the brands previous models,… Continue Reading …

Toyota cleared in fuel-economy lawsuit

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the “Fuel-loss Foundation” in The Netherlands who had sued the Dutch Toyota importer for overstating the fuel economy claims of its vehicles, most notably the gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. I had predicted their lawsuit would not be successful for two reasons: first and foremost because Toyota is simply following the European Fuel-loss-foundation-class-action-lawsuitguidelines for fuel economy statements, and secondly because the only reason the lawsuit was aimed at Toyota specifically is to set them as an example, as the brand is the largest producer and seller of hybrid vehicles, the type of cars that showed the highest deviation between theoretical fuel economy and actual fuel economy.

Nearly every car reviewed by the foundation was less fuel efficient than its manufacturer claims, which should be an indication that there is more likely to be a discrepancy between the European test cycle and the real-world driving conditions than this being a result of deceptive behavior by Toyota.… Continue Reading …

Geneva Autoshow Report: no news is bad news

The Geneva Auto Show may be one of the most important shows of the year, it is also one of the smallest when comparing floor space. As a result of the limited space, brands focus on their brand new models, the ones that are being introduced at the show.

Renault-stand-Geneva-Auto-Show-2014For example, more than three quarters of the Toyota stand was dedicated to the new Aygo, with more than 10 of these brand new city cars on the stand, and for the rest only one Yaris, an Auris hatchback and an Auris station wagon. A similar strategy was used by Renault, showing around 10 newly introduced Twingo minicars, three hot selling Captur small SUV’s, three Clio’s and a handful of Renault EV’s. No Scenic, no freshly facelifted Megane, no Laguna, Espace or Koleos.

But the displays that struck me the most, where those of two struggling automakers, one of which has already been announced to get pulled from the European market, and the other is rumored to retreat to its home market as well: Chevrolet and Lancia. … Continue Reading …

Different views on the European minicar market

The Fiat 500 has been and still is a great success story. It has been on the market for almost 7 years already, its exterior design hasn’t been changed much since, but sales have remained firm and have actually increased again in 2013, and also in 2014 so far, outselling the once very popular Fiat Panda. Besides the obviously appealing design, its success may also many ways buyers can customize the exterior and interior of the car, a trend that has caught the attention of other automakers.

Renault Twingo

Renault-Twingo-Geneva-Autoshow-2014Renault claim the new, third generation Twingo was inspired by the 40-year old Renault 5, but after talking to some visitors on the show floor at the Geneva International Autoshow, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most people find the Twingo very similar to the Fiat 500. And it’s not only because of the design, but also because the cars on the Renault stand all have been personalized with striping, colored dashboard and steering wheel accents and different sporty wheels.… Continue Reading …

Geneva Autoshow Report: more tuners and supercars per m2 than Dubai

The Geneva Auto Show may offer one of the smallest floor areas of the international auto show circuit, it’s all about density. And when it comes to supercars and tuners, there’s no place in the world where you will find more of the most outrageous creations per square meter than here at the Palexpo Convention Center.

Brands like Koenigssegg, Pagani and RUF would stand out of the crowd in any other auto show, but here in Switzerland, their exotic car offerings are almost too ordinary to be worth a second look. No wonder in order to be noticed, the Ferrari stand is larger than Lancia’s, RUF has a floor space almost as large as Porsche, and tuners are going through extremes to be noticed.

Mansory-Bentley-Rolls-Royce-Bugatti-Aventador-Geneva-Auto-Show-2014In that light, Mansory, famous for its ostentatious creations, usually considered “over-the-top” for western likes, keeps things relatively civilized this year. … Continue Reading …

Geneva Autoshow Report: Minicars

The Geneva International Autoshow featured many premieres, and some of the most important product launches  are in the minicar segment. In the coming months, a handful of new A-segment models will hit the European market, and the competition will be fiercer than ever. These cars have made great strides in “growing up”: departing from their budget roots and promising improved handling and comfort.

Renault Twingo

Renault-Twingo-Geneva-Autoshow-frontRenault has just launched the new, third generation Twingo, a car that shares its platform with the upcoming Smart Fortwo and Forfour. That means its engine is placed in the rear, under the luggage compartment, and it is also rear-wheel drive.

According to Renault head of design Laurens Van den Acker, the concept of a rear-engined, rear wheel drive citycar makes sense for a number of reasons: first, it helps create a spacious interior, as they have been able to make the car 10cm (4 inches) shorter than the outgoing model, while adding 22cm (8 inches) of space inside. This does come at the cost of luggage space, as the floor of the boot has been raised. Secondly, because there is no engine between the front wheels, the wheels can be turned in further, thus creating a smaller turning circle, which is ideal for city driving. And finally, the all-rear layout should be a recipe for “fun to drive”.  That is true indeed, if done right (evidence no. 1: Porsche 911, or basically every good sports car), but it could just as well mean absolutely disastrous driving dynamics if done wrong (evidence no. 2: Smart Fortwo). Let’s hope the chassis technicians from Renault Sport have been asked to take care of the handling, so it will drive as good as it looks.… Continue Reading …

European car sales analysis January 2014

Renault-Captur-all-new-models-2013Auto sales in Europe are up 5% in January 2014, when compared to previous January. Similar to the 2013 full year data, small SUV’s and crossovers are the hottest segment, up 81% thanks to new model introductions. In fact, when we look at the all-new models, the Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008 take the top two spots, with the Chevrolet Trax in fourth position.

The midsized crossover Suzuki S-Cross makes a splashing entrance as well, already outselling its smaller sibling the SX4 for the third time in its five months on the market.

While non-premium cars are up 6%, sales of premium and luxury cars are up just 3%. But that doesn’t stop some premium models from making waves in the ranking. The Mercedes-Benz CLA is the third best selling all-new model, underscoring the success this model is enjoying. Mercedes-Benz is struggling to meet demand, as the CLA’s success is not limited to Europe, they are selling like hot cakes in the United States, China and other markets as well. And what about the new generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class? It sold 3,5 times as many cars in Europe than in January 2013.… Continue Reading …

Luxury battle part two: Audi vs. BMW vs. Mercedes-Benz in SUV’s

The German Big Three have grown faster than the overall market in the past 17 years, as their combined market share has increased from just over 10 percent of the market in 1997 to 16 percent in 2013. One of the reasons for this impressive growth is the increase in models and versions, most notably SUV’s.

Mercedes moves first, Audi catches up quickly

Mercedes-Benz-M-Class-luxury-SUVMercedes-Benz was had the edge in SUV sales, as it has produced the G-Class (or G-Wagen) since 1979, although at that time, the G-Class had little in common with the luxury SUV’s that would become so successful in the new millennium. Even without the G-Class, Mercedes-Benz was the first of the Big Three to offer a modern luxury SUV, when the M-Class large premium SUV was introduced in 1998. BMW followed just two years later and has been the luxury SUV leader since overtaking the Stuttgart brand in 2003. Audi was a laggard, not offering an SUV until 2005, but the brand has showed the steepest growth curve and, after passing Mercedes-Benz in 2009, is challenging BMW for the lead, only 8.500 units behind the München brand and selling more than twice as many SUV’s as Mercedes-Benz in 2013.… Continue Reading …