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Success stories of 2016: US

For the second year, in what we hope will become an annual tradition here at CarSalesBase, we are using the incoming new year as motivation to reflect back at 2016 and look at its success stories (see here for the 2015 surprises, and here for the 2015 disappointments). Let us know in the comments below if you agree or disagree!

1. Jaguar

For the past two decades, ever since Ford decided to make Jaguar into a global competitor to luxury car brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the British brand has suffered from false dawns and unfulfiffled promises. After doing surprisingly well in the US selling the much-derided X-Type and the uber-conservative S-type, with sales peaking at over 61,000 units in 2002, things took a turn for the worse, with sales dropping to around 15,000 a year, where they have been up until 2015.

This year, however, Jaguar is looking to sell over 30,000 cars for the first time in over a decade, more than doubling last year’s sales. The reason for this upswing is a barrage of new models, with particular success coming from the F-Pace SUV and the mid-sized XE (averaging about 1,500 and 1,000 units per month, respectively). The only bligth on the brand’s copybook is the relative failure of the new large XF to connect with the buyers, with sales in recent months substantially below the levels reached by its predecessor this time last year, no doubt hurt by cannibalization from its new stablemates.

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Is Tesla getting out of the car business?

This is a guest post from one of our enthusiast readers, Colman Murphy. If you’re interested in reaching an audience of almost 200,000 monthly viewers with your automotive related article, get in touch with us! We’re looking for guest writers and additional staff.

Elon_Musk-Tesla-Solar_CityThe acquisition of Solar City by Tesla on November 21st leaves no doubt the latter is increasingly an energy company. Question is, does that make it less of a car company? I doubt Elon Musk feels compelled to focus on just one business  — he’s had his hands simultaneously in Space-X, Tesla and Solar City for a decade now —  but the combined debt and portfolios of Tesla and Solar City must be a source of many a discussion if not discontent among the company’s board and its investors. Earlier this year, this website already discussed a vision of long-term strategy of Tesla, which also brought up the idea that Elon Musk is looking beyond its current form as a car manufacturer.

There are no indications that Tesla must exit the car market, at least not in the near term. There are very few other brands  — automotive or otherwise —  that have executed their vision as effectively as Tesla, and that brand strength alone could carry the company for many years. But the Electric Vehicle/Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) landscape is getting ever so crowded; Tesla’s next vehicle, the Model 3, will impose significant pressure on its profit margins; and a Republican-controlled US government is more likely to favor low oil prices and big trucks from the major corporations over green-technology vehicles made by niche manufacturers on the West Coast. With that as backdrop, a move away from cars might well be the right move for Tesla.… Continue Reading …

Skoda entering the US market? Not so fast, says VW, part 2

Volkswagen-US-strategyI’ve just tried to argue once again why launching Skoda in the US would be a smart move, but I’m sure at least one of our esteemed readers will raise the following counterarguments and I’d have to fully agree with him/her, so here’s why I think why VW shouldn’t bring Skoda to North America: the market is already saturated and the upcoming changes that will affect the automotive industry will give Volkswagen an opportunity to redeem itself. None of these points were stipulated by the unnamed VW board member who was quoted to say it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring Skoda to the US anyway.… Continue Reading …

Skoda entering the US market? Not so fast, says VW, part 1

Skoda_Kodiaq-auto-sales-statistics-EuropeEver since the Diesel scandal broke in the US, there have been rumors that Skoda could step up to enter the North American market to pick up the lost share or even to replace the tarnished VW brand altogether in this market. Kriss even wrote an article explaining in 5 points why it would make sense for Skoda to enter the US market 18 months ago, before the emission cheating software had been revealed. In the poll at the end of that article, 63% of our respondents thought VW should base its US offerings on Skoda models. This week, the influential auto journalist and well-informed industry watcher Georg Kacher quotes a senior VW board member: “We may be crazy, but we’re not mad. Entering this huge market with an unknown brand, a model range focused on Europe, and a non-existent dealer network is pure suicide. Furthermore, the last thing Volkswagen of America needs now is in-house cannibalization.”

The irony in this quote lies in the part “a model range focused on Europe”, because that’s exactly what Volkswagen itself has been unsuccessfully attempting to to for decades.… Continue Reading …

The only way I think Chrysler can survive and why it won’t happen

Chrysler 200With production of the Chrysler 200 midsized sedan set to end next December, the illustrious brand will be down to just two models: the now almost elderly 300 large sedan, which shares its platform with the Dodge Charger and Challenger, and the brand new minivan Pacifica. That means the two namesake brands of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are also its weakest volume brands in the North American market. And considering Chrysler cars are sold almost exclusively in the US and Canada, the brand doesn’t seem all that relevant anymore. That’s unfortunate for a brand which used to be one of America’s most innovative brands with a number of important technological breakthroughs to its name and which of course is credited with the creation of the minivan. However, for the past decades Chrysler has let its image crumble by selling mediocre cars and ongoing financial uncertainty under multiple owners as it has gone through a number of (near-)bankruptcies.
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US is missing out: European 4WD hybrids

bmw-225xe-active-tourer-hibrido-2-e1441267376624

The hybrid trend may have started in Japan, but it is really US customers that were first to wholeheartedly embrace the technology, making the Toyota Prius the giant success that it is today. Ever since it became clear that the technology had the power to lure customers into the showrooms, and, more importantly, open their wallets wider than they would for conventionally-powered cards, carmakers have been trying to offer hybrid cars of their own. Some, though surprisingly few, have taken on the Prius directly (the poor Honda Insight, now Hyundai Ioniq and Kia Nero). Others, primarily Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus, have made good money of offering hybrid options on their luxury cars – a bandwagon that the German luxury brands have belatedly caught onto. Others still have tried to offer hybrid versions of mainstream cars, mostly meeting with moderate to no success (Honda, Ford, Nissan, VW). But the one niche that has not yet truly been tapped in the US, unlike in Europe, is that for smaller cars where a hybrid drivetrain can be used to give normally FWD cars a second set of driven wheels.… Continue Reading …

US is missing out: Citroën brand

Logo CITROEN 05.05 MODIF + REPPROCHESContinuing a series I began last year, I’ll look at different cars sold in worldwide marketplaces that I think US customers would like. This week the focus is on Citroën, one of the oldest and most venerable european car brands, founded in 1919 by André-Gustave Citroën. Over the subsequent almost-century, Citroën acquired a reputation for producing cars that are beautiful and innovative: it built the first unibody car, the first mass-produced front wheel-drive car, the first hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension, the first swiveling headlamps… the list goes on. And while today’s marketplace has eroded some of Citroën’s idiosyncratic spirit, it continues to make cars that are very distinct from it competitors.

Previous US is missing out columns:

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Curiosity: Tesla’s “upgradable” base Model X [w/ poll]

Tesla Model X

Ever since I checked out the Model S at a Tesla dealer, and put my e-mail down to get a test-drive, I’ve been getting the occasional e-mail from the carmaker. The other day I got an interesting e-mail ad for the new base Model X, the 60D, which suggested that, to quote: “The Model X 60D can later be upgraded through a software update to 75 kWh to increase range by about 20%. ”

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Family haulers, part I: history and the US middle ground

Family cars

Recently I’ve been looking to buy a car capable of carrying more than the usual five passengers, which got me thinking about the way this market has developed over the past few decades, and how it will change in the future. However, rather than spend time retreading the topic that’s been covered thousands of times, namely the history of the minivan and SUVs, I want to focus on the the interesting efforts by carmakers to offer those looking for space something genuinely new and potentially market-changing. In the first of a series of articles, I look at the brief history of the family-haulers, and then dive into the American experience of looking for the middle ground between the unsexy minivan and the gas-guzzling and compromised SUVs.

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Should Volkswagen create a low-cost brand? [w/poll]

Bart and Kriss couldn’t agree on whether the US is ready for a true low-cost car brand, and now they’re locking horns again on whether Volkswagen would benefit from following the highly successful Dacia strategy that has been raking in the profits at Renault.

Bart:

Volkswagen_Citi_Golf-South_Afica-value-modelI just don’t understand why they haven’t done this already. Like with crossovers, Volkswagen has waited too long to follow this trend and has squandered the opportunity to gain a huge volume boost. Not only from the newly-created, low-cost brand itself, but also from sharing the platforms and cost-saving technologies to some of the existing VW Group brands, most notably Skoda and VW itself in regions like South America and China, where it still sold decades-old models under the VW brand until recently. As our reader M. Hoffman commented earlier, last year 46% of worldwide sales of the Renault and Dacia brands combined were Dacia-based models, so they gained huge economies of scale without the need to launch an additional brand in every single market. In markets where Renault was an established brand, like Europe and Mediterranean Africa, Dacia filled the open slot below it, and in markets where Renault was still trying to gain a foothold, like Russia, Asia and South America, the models helped establish Renault as a top player, not necessarily with a budget-brand image.

Kriss:

My big worry is brand-overload over at VW Group. They already have some 12 brands in their portfolio (counting trucks and motorcycles), plus their mainstream offerings (VW, Seat, Škoda) are already rather close and the company seems unable to give them truly different characters. In a sense, the success of Dacia stems from Renault being OK with the cars being no more than acceptable by European standards, at least at first. Somehow, with German perfectionism I don’t see how they could do that – I’m afraid is that they would be unable to position the new brand low enough for it to truly remain a different offering. After all, Škoda started off as a budget offering, but quickly caught up with Seat in terms of quality and is now a mainstream brand that offers good value for money, rather than being a true value brand.… Continue Reading …