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 …

Toyota sued over misstated fuel economy of hybrids in Europe

Toyota-hybrid-fuel-economy-lawsuitThe Dutch Toyota importer is being sued by for allegedly overstating fuel economy claims on its hybrid models. A foundation called the Fuel Loss Foundation (Stichting Brandstofverlies) claims there are huge disparities between the fuel consumption claimed by the manufacturer and the actual mileage that customers experience from real-world driving, especially for its hybrid models like the Prius, Auris hybrid and Yaris hybrid.

The foundation has studied the fuel consumption of 158 cars of different brands, by using data from a fuel card company, online fuel economy websites and the Dutch Automobile club. From this study, they claim that the real world fuel economy of those cars was on average 31,7 percent higher than the manufacturer’s claims. Their press release cited the example of a Toyota Yaris Hybrid, which is supposed to run 28,3 kilometers on one liter of gasoline (66,5 USMPG, 80 Imp.MPG) according to Toyota, but owners only manage an average of 17,4 kilometers (40,9 USMPG, 49 Imp.MPG). They also called a few Toyota dealers, and some of the salespeople that were interviewed claimed the car would actually achieve fuel economy of 27 kilometers per liter (63,5 USMPG, 76 Imp.MPG), while others admitted that 18 kilometers (42,3 USMPG, 51 Imp.MPG) would be more realistic. The Fuel Loss Foundation concludes that automakers and dealers knowingly mislead consumers, and the lawsuit is supposed to get compensation from manufacturers for the loss of fuel costs. … Continue Reading …

EU presses Germany on Mercedes-Benz airconditioning refrigerant issue

Auto-fire-under-hood-R1234yfIn a press conference in Brussels yesterday, the European Commission announced they would start legal proceedings against the German government over non-compliance with the 2006/40/EC directive, concerning the refrigerant in automobile air conditioners, and allowing the continued use of the banned refrigerant R134a in A/C systems of certain new types of vehicles, notably those of Mercedes-Benz.

What’s going on?

Air conditioners rely on refrigerant fluids that are compressed and then expand rapidly when a cooling effect is desired. Unfortunately, these coolants have had a horrible effect on the earth’s environment. The original refrigerants, from decades ago, were based on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which was later proven to damage the ozone layer. When they were banned, the current refrigerant R134a was introduced, but this still has a 1400 times larger effect on global warming than carbon dioxide (CO2), when released into the air due to system leakages, in case of a crash or due to improper disposal at the end of a car’s life.… Continue Reading …

German automobile club ADAC admits fraud at car awards

ADAC-gelber-engel-award-fraudADAC is in an unfamiliar situation: normally, the German Automobile Club is the one who accuses others of cheating. Either of tachometer manipulation, overcharging or underdelivering for repairs or maintenance, or dubious car buying sites. But the club, which is no longer just a roadside assistance provider, but one of Germany’s largest lobby clubs with almost 19 million members, is now in the spotlight for manipulation the votes at one of their most prestigious awards. The “Gelber Engel”, or Yellow Angel, is an annual award which lets ADAC members choose their favorite vehicle out of all newly introduced or redesigned cars. The automobile club promotes the award by saying “Germany picks its most beloved car”, and calling it “the most important and biggest German automotive award” based on the club’s nearly 19 million members.

Not enough votes

Michael Ramstetter, PR manager of the ADAC and Editor-in-chief of the automobile club’s auto magazine Motorwelt, one of Europe’s most widely circulated magazines, founded the “Yellow Angel” more than 10 years ago, banking on the millions of readers and millions of ADAC members to give the award the desired credibility. But as the percentage of members who actually voted was shamefully low for the past couple of years, Ramstetter feared the award would no longer be taken seriously. Apparently, out of those millions of members, only about 76.000 made the effort of voting for their favorite car this year. So he decided to fabricate over 200.000 additional votes, leading to a total of 290.000 votes, and choosing the new generation VW Golf as the “most popular” model. According to the press report the ADAC was about to issue, the Golf had received 34.299 votes. But the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung was able to lay hands on the actual results: a mere 3.409 for the Golf.… Continue Reading …

Brussels Autoshow Coverage

Autoshow-Brussels-AtomiumThe Brussels Autoshow, or Salon de l’automobile Bruxelles, is not one of the major European autoshows, it lacks the glamour of Geneva, the supercar presence of Paris and the sheer magnitude of Frankfurt, but it offers a totally different atmosphere than those other shows. At most autoshows, the brands are mainly focused on introducing and displaying their newest models and revealing jawdropping concept cars which should pave the way for future design, whereas the Salon is a buyer’s show, approximately 30% of all new cars sold annually in Belgium, are either bought or ordered on the show floor. During the entire month of January, Belgium is covered in advertising posters and billboards promising the best “Salon deals” and the highest discounts, up to 35% off.

Nissan-Qashqai-Autoshow-BrusselsAs a result, the show floor is packed with the most popular models, in different colors, trim levels and interior finishes, to give the potential buyer the possibility to compare and configure his or her vehicle of choice. The only true world premiere was the new generation Nissan Qashqai crossover, a vehicle that has large shoes to fill, replacing one of Europe’s top-10 best selling cars and the most popular Japanese car in this continent ever in terms of sales ranking and market share. The outgoing Qashqai was sometimes referred to as Nissan Cashcow, and that is not far from the truth.… Continue Reading …

Car of the Year 2014 shortlist and history

The shortlist for European Car of the Year 2014 has been made public. These seven cars still have a shot at the ultimate prize: Car-of-the-year-2014

  • BMW i3
  • Citroen C4 Picasso
  • Mazda3
  • Mercedes-Benz S – Class
  • Peugeot 308
  • Skoda Octavia
  • Tesla Model S

Among those who didn’t make the cut, the most surprising is the Renault Zoe EV, especially considering  a couple of average-Joe midsized vehicles that don’t really offer anything new did make it through. Yes, Octavia and 308, I am talking about you.

Is the Zoe not revolutionary enough? It is basically an evolution of the 2011 winner Nissan Leaf, without offering any groundbreaking new technologies. But then what is the Skoda Octavia doing on this shortlist? This is exactly the same vehicle as last year’s winner Volkswagen Golf, but with a different skin. It offers absolutely nothing new compared to the Golf, and to call its design groundbreaking would be the exaggeration of the century. … Continue Reading …

Retiring Ford designer J Mays: designs and quotes

Last week, Ford Chief designer J Mays announced his retirement after 33 years in the industry with positions at Audi, BMW, Volkswagen and the last 16 years at Ford. I’ve made a compilation of some of his quotes from the must-read book Ever Since I Was A Young Boy I’ve Been Drawing Cars – Masters of Modern Car Design by Bart Lenaerts and Lies de Mol and combined it with some of the most notable the cars he designed, worked on or which were designed under his supervision. Most have been successful, but some have been unsuccessful, either commercially or esthetically (or both). Let me know in the comment box below if you think the quote and the car match, or not at all.



1989 BMW 8-series designed by Klaus Kapitza with J Mays



“Something premium doesn’t have to scream. And by not doing so, it generates more confidence and longevity.”



1991 Audi Avus Quattro designed by J Mays & Martin Smith



“Nothing wrong with German automobiles: they’re still among the best in the world. But they’re so sober. A German vehicle that’s tongue-in-cheek? It just doesn’t happen.”… Continue Reading …