Mitsubishi Motors has presented an ambitious growth plan for the next three years, called “Drive for Growth”. According to this plan, the brand will invest more than 600 billion Yen (€ 4,5 billion / US$ 5.3 billion), of which R&D spending will increase by 50% to € 1 billion (US$ 1.2 billion) to develop six all-new models (including the recently launched Eclipse Cross crossover for the US and Europe, and the Xpander MPV for Indonesia) and significantly update five existing models. As a result of this product offensive, worldwide sales should increase by 40% to 1,3 million units in 2020 and the company expects to return to profitability with a profit margin of 6% by the 2019 fiscal year. This is the first business plan by Mitsubishi since Nissan took a controlling 34% share in its struggling rival in 2016. According to Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko “this is an ambitious program to maximize our strengths in growing product segments, especially four-wheel drive, and to pursue growth in markets where our brand has strong potential, particularly the ASEAN region.” [Read more…]
Next weeks the doors of the oldest auto show in the world will open its doors to the public again: the biennial Paris Auto Show. Despite breaking through the 1 million visitors barrier the last time around in 2014, a number of brands have cancelled their stands this year, most notably Ford, Mazda and Volvo, but also many exotic brands: Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce. Still, there’s plenty of news with 4 major premieres and a bunch of interesting concept cars. Bart and Kriss will give their vote of Hot or Not to the most relevant of them. Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
After 8 years it’s time to replace the very successful Audi Q5, and why change a winning formula? As we’ve come to expect from Audi, the design of the new Q5 is very evolutionary, with the overall shape staying the same, but a stronger and more swooping crease in the sides and a more pronounced grille. The Q5 sheds some weight compared to the outgoing version and the interior is even more refined.
It’s not ugly like the Q2 and Q7, what was good in the old Q5 has been left alone and they’ve improved the things I didn’t like too much. Impressive how an 8-year old design needs just such subtle changes to remain fresh. But it’s just not very sexy or mindblowing, so I struggle to call it Hot.
It’s no secret that I am a fan of evolutionary design, something that’s normal for most high-end consumer products (think appliances, fountain pens, Apple products, eyewear) but somehow gets lambasted for cars. The new Q5 is a perfect example of that – it takes what was good about the previous model (stance, proportions, gently bulging fenders) and gives it a more modern touch with sharper creases, a clamshell bonnet, and Audi’s new “3D” grille it now gives its crossovers. That it’s lighter and roomier is just the icing on top of the cake.
It shouldn’t really surprise anybody that Mitsubishi finally got taken over by a larger auto maker, the brand was simply too small and too irrelevant in the world’s most important markets to survive on its own. But the way Nissan played its cards was a stroke of genius, whether intentional from the get-go or just improvising on the opportunity at hand. Mitsubishi has supplied its bigger rival with Japanese market minicars (“Kei” cars, as described in my article on the Japanese auto culture) since 2011 and when Nissan was testing the pre-production next generation cars they found some irregularities with the reported fuel economy figures. This led to a public scandal in which Mitsubishi had to admit some of its engineers had been using a trick with tire pressures for the past 25 years to overstate fuel economy of its Japanese market cars (and perhaps some cars sold outside of Japan), causing Mitsubishi’s share prices on the stock market to almost halve. Nissan then scooped up 34% of these shares at the heavily discounted price for a controlling stake to become Mitsubishi’s largest single shareholder. It’ll take a few months to complete the takeover, and there are still quite a few issues to be handled before the deal will be finalized, but looking ahead: what will Nissan do with Mitsubishi? [Read more…]
The Bentayga is the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious and most exclusive SUV in the world according to Bentley, a statement which could very well be true. The production version of the EXP 9 F Concept is based on the platform of the new Audi Q7, but designed, engineered and handcrafted in Crewe. It sits on the 2,992 mm wheelbase of the Q7, while the overall car length is 5,141 mm, its width is 1,998 mm and height 1,742 mm. It can be selected with four- or five-seat configurations. The four-seat version features two individual rear seats that adjust in 18 different ways and include massage and ventilation functions as well as footrests. The storage space features a leather-trimmed folding seat that matches the style of the cabin seats, according to Bentley “Ideal for those wishing to stop for a moment and enjoy a spectacular outdoor environment or pursuit”. A 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine with a power output of 608 hp and 900 Nm torque powers the SUV, with which it could achieve a top speed of 301 km/h and accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.1 seconds. The engine is mated to an eight-speed transmission, while the CO2-emissions are 292 g/km. In the future Bentley will launch diesel and hybrid variants.
The midsized crossover segment is still enjoying a healthy growth pace, increasing sales 11% in the first three quarters of 2014, as 14 models in the top-20 have sold more units than they did in the same period last year.
The first model to lose sales is the Nissan Qashqai which has suffered from a model change-over to its second generation. I had expected the new model to have picked up the pace by now and to have returned into positive territory by now, but it has fallen below 20% segment share instead. Considering the last quarter of the year is traditionally the slowest, the Qashqai may fall below the 200.000 annual sales mark for the first time since 2009. But even if it does so, it won’t be by more than 5.000 units. Perhaps the successful introduction of the 7-seater Nissan X-Trail as a replacement to both the outgoing X-Trail and the extended wheelbase Qashqai+2 is hurting sales of its smaller sibling. The X-Trail has already more than doubled its volume of last year and was up into 13th place in September, ready to move past the C4 Aircross and Forester by the end of the year. [Read more…]
After nine months, the European compact car segment is still up 10%, outperforming the market and, with over 1,7 million units sold, still the second largest segment of the continent.
As expected, the VW Golf continues to lead over its rivals by a large margin, and even increasing its share of the segment to 23%, which means almost one in every four compact cars sold in Europe is a Golf. The Ford Focus had an excellent month of September thanks to the strong UK market, but it was outsold by the Skoda Octavia in both July and August. With Octavia sales up one third and Focus sales stable year-to-date, the Focus desperately needs the upcoming facelift to fend off its Czech rival next year.
The Opel/Vauxhall Astra is still waiting for its replacement and is in danger of losing its fourth place to the Peugeot 308 next year, as the latter is coming closer and closer. However, the 308 can’t afford not to look in its mirrors, as the Seat Leon is charging ahead as well, now having passed the ageing Renault Megane for sixth place. The Megane was also outsold by the Toyota Auris in August and September and may lose another spot by the end of the year. That should give some consolation to the best selling Asian compact, which has been kicked down from 6th to 8th this year.
The Hyundai i30 and Kia Cee’d lose more than 10.000 units of their volume each, although their replacements won’t be due until at least 2016. [Read more…]
The success of small crossovers is not hurting sales of midsized models, as these types of vehicles enjoyed an increase of 10% in the first half of 2014, exactly the same growth rate of compact cars, the segment most buyers of these vehicles are expected to switch away from.
The new generation Nissan Qashqai, the traditional leader of the segment, has helped the model reduce its sales decline to just 3%, which will undoubtedly be turned into a sales increase by the next quarter, let alone by the end of the year. The Qashqai is on its way to a record year, breaking the 208.649 units it sold in 2011, the second of four consecutive years (and counting) above the 200.000 mark.
The Volkswagen Tiguan continues to impress and is enjoying its best first half ever, which means 2014 could be a record year for the already 7-year-old model. [Read more…]
The compact segment is up 10% in the first half of 2014, despite rumors that consumers would leave the segment in droves to buy crossovers and SUV’s.
Among the biggest gainers of the segment are the VW-Group siblings Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia (up two spots to an amazing third position) and Seat Leon, together accounting for over 94.000 of the segment’s 104.000 units growth. On top of that, the slightly smaller Skoda Rapid has gained another two spots thanks to the introduction of the Spaceback hatchback version to make it 4 VW-Group cars in the top-10.
The Golf is still the biggest gainer of the segment in absolute numbers, and it’s on track to sell over half a million units in Europe for the first time in 10 years. Other notable gainers are the European Car of the Year Peugeot 308, with the recently introduced station wagon version boosting sales even further, although I don’t expect it to threaten the Opel/Vauxhall Astra for fourth place. [Read more…]
Unlike many other brands, which are adding models to fill up every possible niche, Peugeot has changed its strategy to focus on fewer models, and focusing on segments in which the brand can compete successfully across the globe, increasing economies of scale. Carlos Tavares, the new CEO of PSA Peugeot-Citroën who is responsible for bringing the company back into profitable territory, has outlined a number of strategies to turn the company around, and one of them is to increase transaction prices.
This strategy is designed to evolve Peugeot from a regular mainstream brand into an upper-class mainstream brand, to avoid the buzz-word “premium”, as every mainstream manufacturer appears to be aiming for a premium image. Tavares wants to be able to raise transaction prices of Peugeot cars in Europe to match those of its competitor Volkswagen, whereas they are trailing the German brand by almost 7%. His aim is to decrease this deficit to 4,7% in 2016 and to less than 3% in 2020. These increased prices should contribute directly to the company’s bottom line, as production costs remain at a similar level. According to Tavares, the technology and quality of the 208 subcompact, 2008 small crossover and 308 compact are already on par with Volkswagen’s and therefore help improve the Peugeot brand image. [Read more…]
Sales of midsized crossovers and SUVs in Europe keep on growing, up another 8% in the first three months of 2014. And underscoring the stability of the segment, the top 5 ranking is stable, with the Nissan Qashqai still firm in the lead, despite sales down 13% due to run-out mode for the outgoing model while deliveries of the new generation have just started. This new generation will undoubtedly keep the British-built crossover in first position for the full year, and get it back into positive territory as well, selling over 200.000 units for the fifth straight year.
Surprisingly, the already over 6 years old Volkswagen Tiguan manages to outperform the market at +15% to stay in second position, well above its South-Korean competitors Kia Sportage and Hyundai ix35, both being updated this year with minor exterior changes and more fuel efficient engines. The Ford Kuga is the biggest gainer in the top 5, fighting off the still charging Mazda CX-5 which manages to increase it sales by over a third after already almost doubling last year. The CX-5 has therefore moved up the charts from 11th position in 2012 to 6th in the first quarter of 2014. [Read more…]