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 …

Luxury battle part one: Audi vs. BMW vs. Mercedes-Benz from 1997 to 2013

This article is the start of a series of sales analysis of the “German Big Three” premium automakers Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in Europe. I will start a bit general, before zooming in on some notable trends and differences in strategy and sales. I’d like to hear what you think about these articles, so feel free to comment at the bottom of the page.

Mercedes-Benz-GLA-luxury-battle-European-salesThe German luxury automakers 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. In 1997, just 60.000 units separated first place from third place, a figure that had only slightly grown in 2013, to 70.000 units. However, the path in between wasn’t as straightforward as you would expect from these numbers.… Continue Reading …

All-new models 2013: small crossovers hottest segment

In 2013, only 7 all-new models were introduced in Europe, and another 22 models celebrated their first full year of sales. With all-new models, I mean models that have no direct predecessor, they expand their brand’s line-up.

Renault-Captur-all-new-models-2013The most successful model launch is the Renault Captur, selling 84.085 units in Europe, in only 10 months on the market. The second best all-new model is the Peugeot 2008, which sold 58.672 units in 11 months, and the Chevrolet Trax takes the final spot on the podium, thanks to 17.658 sales in 10 months on the market.

Do you notice a trend here? Yes, small crossovers are booming business in Europe at the moment. The segment as a whole grew an astonishing 81% in 2013, without really cannibalizing on the subcompact, compact, or small MPV segments.… Continue Reading …

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series true to its spiritual grandfather Pontiac GTO

This year, AMG will celebrate its 45th birthday. And 45 years is also what separates these two cars, which have more in common than just their color. The Pontiac GTO is considered the founder of the car segment that furiously wrote history under the name “Muscle Car”. The AMG has got all the credentials to be called a German Muscle Car, and the Black Series version even tops it off with a little more of all the good stuff!

mercedes-benz-c63-amg-black-series-vs-pontiac-gto-1967

No way red is the color of standstill!

This will make you see red! And it will make you see double as well! Driving a fast car can bump up your testosterone, especially with these two candidates. One may not look so mean, but the other makes no secret of its brutal power. And the color looks good on both of them. While he persistent nonsense that red is not the right color for a real man’s car still lingers in some social circles, these theorists better take note that both the GTO and the AMG were also available in Purple or Vanilla Cream. In both cases there would be no doubt about the “cool-factor”. And trust me, color is just one of the smallest commonalities in these two cannonballs that could tear off the blacktop if you would let them and if the tires would survive that challenge. No, the family ties are deeper and have nothing to do with their respective brands. Let’s just call them soul mates.… Continue Reading …

Review Ford Fiesta Ecoboost 1.0T Powershift

Ford-Fiesta-Ecoboost-1.0-Powershift-TitaniumThe sixth generation Ford Fiesta has been Europe’s best selling subcompact car from 2009 onwards, except for a second place in 2011. Over 3,5 million Fiesta’s have been sold in our continent in the past 10 years , more than any other B-segment car. The top-of-the-line Fiesta ST is universally considered the best hot hatch of the moment, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the line-up are just a bunch of boring city cars.

Well, city cars they are, but not at all boring. Even with an automatic transmission this is not your average “grandma’s car”. That’s because the new Powershift double-clutch automatic gearbox is coupled with the highly acclaimed 1-liter three-cylinder Ecoboost turbo engine. As the relatively new segment of small MPV’s has tempted elderly buyers to prefer the Ford B-Max because of its higher entry and seating position, this has created room for the Fiesta to appeal more to the younger generation. And it does, with its cool Aston Martin-like front-end, absolutely brilliant driving dynamics and the advanced technology and connectivity features.

The one I’ve driven was fully equipped with just about anything you can get on a Fiesta, which means the price was close to that of the aforementioned ST, or even a base Ford Mondeo. But that’s an unfair comparison, as this Fiesta is a great choice if you live in or near the city and want an economical yet fun car that’s easy to park, but you still want all the comfort and amenities that a large car offers.… Continue Reading …

Martini Racing Collection at the Louwman Museum

Martini-Racing-Collection-Louwman-Museum

If you have been a regular viewer or attendee at any kind of auto racing in the 1970s, ’80s and early ‘90s, there’s no way you’re not familiar with the Martini Racing Cars. A combination of dark blue, light blue and red stripes on a silver or white background are the iconic livery of one of the first major sponsors in auto racing, and these colors have made their mark on some of the most exciting and thrilling decades in racing history. Martini has been connected to auto sports for over 45 years, and during that period Martini Racing teams have dominated every important racing event. The success story includes victories at Le Mans, Formula 1, World Rally Championships and DTM. For the youngsters among my readers: as much as you can see Red Bull at every major extreme sports event these days, Martini was at every auto racing event back in the “old days”. At any auto racing event the Martini colors would be omnipresent and impossible to miss.

Until May 4th 2014, a small but significant piece of the Martini Racing history is brought together and is on display at the Louwman Museum in Den Haag (The Hague, Netherlands). Usually, you would have to travel to at least 4 different museums and even then you wouldn’t see all of these cars, as some are part of private collections. The cars in this temporary collection are combined into four main categories: Rally Cars, Touring Cars, Formula 1 Cars and Endurance Racing Cars.… 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 …

ADAC awards returned after fraud, president steps down.

Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes are returning their “Yellow Angel” prizes to the ADAC and the president of the German automobile club is stepping down because of last month’s award scandal.

ADAC-president-Peter-Meyer-steps-downLast month, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung discovered that the results of the “Gelber Engel” award were manipulated by artificially increasing the number of voters, in order to add credibility to the award. For example: the number of votes for the winning Volkswagen Golf was increased tenfold.

Research by consulting firm Deloitte shows that there has been “deliberate manipulation ” and that the data processing was flawed. It became apparent that not only the number of votes was manipulated, but also the order of the results. The Golf would still have been the winner, but while the BMW 3-Series would officially have taken second place, but it wasn’t even in the top 5 of the results published by the ADAC. The Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class were each moved up one spot into second and third position respectively. Deloitte is now investigating whether a similar fraud has been committed with the award surveys from 2005 through 2013.… Continue Reading …