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…]
Car production in the UK has had its fair share of changing fortunes over the years. The demise of British Leyland in the 1980s and ’90s was offset by investments in car plants by Japanese automakers Nissan (Sunderland, 1984), Honda (Swindon, 1985) and Toyota (Burnaston, 1989). Even with all surviving British brands currently in foreign ownership UK manufacturing has thrived, as for the past three years more cars were produced in the UK than in France. UK car production is expected to reach a record 1,95 million cars next year, beating the previous high from 1972.
Jaguar-Land Rover has overtaken Nissan to become the biggest producer of vehicles in the UK, after the new Indian owner Tata invested over £ 11 billion in UK manufacturing since 2009. In six years time, production the two luxury brands has more than tripled from 158.000 units when it was on the brink of bankruptcy to almost 490.000 units in 2015, 81,5% of which is exported. During that period, J-LR’s UK payroll has increased more than five-fold to 35.000 employees.
Earlier this week Aston Martin gave UK car manufacturing another boost, when it decided to invest £ 200 million in its second UK factory in Wales instead of opting for Eastern Europe, Alabama, USA or any of the 18 other places it had considered. This will create another 4.000 jobs in the UK and comes right at the time when the UK manufacturing industry may be threatened by the upcoming referendum in June on a British exit from the European Union. [Read more…]
Audi e-tron quattro Concept
The Audi e-tron quattro Concept previews the Tesla Model X-rivalling Audi Q6, which will be presented in early 2018. It uses the power of three electric motors; one drives the front axle, the other acts on the rear axle. Total output is 435 hp and in boost mode it can mobilize up to 500 hp and 800 Nm torque. It accelerates from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds, while its electronically governed top speed is 210 km/h. The battery’s capacity of 95 kWh should enable a range of more than 500 kilometers. With its length of 4.88 metres, width of 1.93 metres and height of 1.54 metres, it fits between the Audi Q5 and Audi Q7, and its luggage capacity is 615 litres.
Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo Concept
The Vision GranTurismo showcases Bugatti’s new design language and previews the Chiron, which should debut at the Geneva Motor Show next spring, although the Volkswagen emissions scandal could delay the new ‘Chiron’ hypercar.
Let’s talk about automotive mergers again, because Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, keeps going on about them being necessary to achieve the economies of scale needed for automakers in the current, highly competitive marketplace, and in order to spread the cost of investments in fuel efficiency, connectivity, autonomous driving and electrification. Okay, in all honesty, Sergio isn’t the only one saying it’s becoming “too expensive to make cars”, but he is the most outspoken one on the subject and he keeps flirting with other automakers to merge, most notably General Motors, so he’s an easy target for my rants.
And to a certain degree I can relate with him. Like he says, it doesn’t make any sense at all for every single automaker to develop -for example- hydrogen fuel cell technology in-house, so each of them has to “invent the wheel” by all themselves. Of course it would save tons of money for the automakers, and therefore for new car buyers, if development costs of a new technology could be spread among a cooperation of automakers, but guess what? This already happens a lot without any of them having to actually merge. Besides that, a lot of technologies in vehicle safety or fuel efficiency already get developed by suppliers, like Bosch, Magna or Denso, who then sell a license to the technology to a number of automakers, and thus spreading the development costs. [Read more…]
Executive salaries are a hot topic these days, mostly due to the huge bonuses paid out to executives in the financial industry, at companies that needed government aid during the global financial crisis. And the French have always been exceptionally sensitive about this topic, as a country with strong unions and an a socialist government.
So when the Renault board voted to almost triple the 2014 salary of its CEO and Chairman Carlos Ghosn to € 7,2 million in cash and share options (up from € 2,67 million in 2013), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 5 of the 19 board members voted against the proposal, including those of the French state, which still controls a 15% share in Renault. What these board members must have failed to realize, is that Renault’s net income has also tripled, to € 1,89 billion thanks to sales successes of the Renault and Dacia brands in Europe and continued benefits from the alliance with Nissan.
Ghosn has been in charge of Renault for 10 years and helped to make the alliance with Nissan perhaps the most successful in the automotive world ever, he’s led Nissan for 15 years, and he’s known for setting audacious goals and then achieving them. [Read more…]
As the Renault-Nissan alliance celebrates a combined tally of 200.000 Zero Emission vehicles worldwide, the Renault brand has something to celebrate all by itself in Europe before the end of the year. Total sales of its four-vehicle lineup of full-electric vehicles have added up to 48.471 units by the end of October 2014. The French brand sold 1.971 Zero Emission vehicles in October, so there’s a good chance the 50.000-unit threshold will be broken in November.
The Zoe subcompact, Kangoo Cargo Van and Twizy quadricycle have sold in virtually equal numbers, each taking almost one third of the cumulative volume, while the Fluence compact sedan has been much less successful, taking less than five percent of the brand’s cumulative Zero Emission sales. That’s not very surprising, considering the Fluence didn’t have a quick-charge option and therefore takes up to eight hours to recharge. Besides that, a compact sedan isn’t a very popular body style in Europe, and its bland design hasn’t helped either. The Zoe has been the latest to reach the market and has been the strongest selling model of the lineup, contributing to over half of this year’s Zero Emission sales for Renault.
In contrast to its Alliance partner Nissan, which sells its Leaf compact hatchback in other continents as well, mainly North America and Japan, Renault’s EV sales are almost entirely limited to Europe. [Read more…]
Sales of large SUVs in Europe are up an encouraging 18% after declining since 2006 when total segment sales topped 200.000 units. This year, the segment that’s traditionally the domain of Asian manufacturers with the occasional American model trying its luck isn’t even going to reach a fifth of that total. The top-3 of the segment hasn’t changed since, and the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Toyota Land Cruiser have even increased their share to a combined three quarters of segment sales.
The Santa Fe has more than recovered from its slow start of the year by lodging a very impressive third quarter, in which the model improved 83% on Q3 of 2013. I guess Hyundai has dealt with supply shortages of the Santa Fe, as its new generation has proven very popular in the USA, China and Russia, markets where SUVs and crossovers are much more popular. The new generation Sorento has just been revealed at the Paris Auto Show, and it may threaten its sibling if supply of the latter remains constrained. [Read more…]
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…]
The small crossover segment has already topped half a million sales after three quarters of the year and has already broken the full year 2013 tally by a large margin. By the end of the year, a total of 670.000 small crossovers may have hit European streets, of which the top-5 players take a combined share of 92%.
Thanks to the popularity of the segment in their home market France, the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and Dacia Duster take the podium positions of the segment. Or is it the other way around? Are small crossover sales in France ahead of the rest of the continent because their incumbent brands have introduced the hottest new models last year? Either way, the Captur remains the leader of the pack and the only model above 20% segment share, but behind it is a tight three-way race. Year-to-date, the 2008 is well ahead of the Duster and the Opel/Vauxhall Mokka, but when looking at the third quarter, less than 125 sales separate the three models.
The Duster almost outsold the Captur in July and actually did so in the slow month of August, but it fell back in September. Sales of the Mokka have headed in the opposite direction, losing ground in July and August, but making it all up in September at it came within 400 units of the Captur. [Read more…]
The small MPV segment in Europe is still up 6% after the first nine months of 2014, but continued competition from small crossovers has caused the growth to stall, while the top-3 are the only models to increase sales year-over-year. The Fiat 500L continues to control the segment which it has lead for five straight quarters, but the Nissan Note is storming up the charts, coming from 7th place last year with the previous generation to second place this year, thanks to the new model. The Note even outsold the 500L in September thanks to strong volume in the UK, its home market.
The Ford B-Max loses another spot in the segment it has lead until the first half of 2013, and it has been surpassed since by respectively the 500L, the Note and now the Opel/Vauxhall Meriva to be kicked off the podium. The little Ford has lost 20% of its volume, or almost 11.000 units on last year and could feel the Citroën C3 Picasso breathing down its neck in September. [Read more…]