After almost 10 years of UK-only sales, SAIC MG is ready to start exports of its cars from China to other countries in Europe as well. Recently, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) has successfully launched a few crossovers in the domestic market (Roewe RX5, MG ZS), which puts its two passenger car brands among the fastest growing brands in China at the moment. This would be a great moment to expand its footprint to new markets as it can launch there with fresh product, and more importantly: the right product. MG is the designated export brand for passenger cars from SAIC, whereas Roewe is and will remain a China-only brand and Maxus is the LCV brand of the company. MG is already available in a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific, South America and Africa regions, and since 2009 in the UK where it reached a peak of just under 4.200 sales last year. With its expansion into continental Europe, the brand is looking to become the first Chinese brand to successfully enter a mature market, but a number of other players have set similar goals, among others Geely with its newly launched Lynk & Co brand and the resurrected Borgward brand, which both also have concrete plans to enter the European car market. [Read more…]
Ever 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. [Read more…]
After what seems like years of speculation, spyshots, teasers and leaks, Škoda finally released its take on the 7-seat family crossover: the Kodiaq. But for once all the buildup may actually be justified, as the Kodiaq is not just another Škoda model – it is the harbinger of a bevy of new crossovers from the Czech carmaker, and has the potential to become one of its best-sellers. That, and it’s probably the ultimate answer to the question “why should Škoda enter the US market?”. [Read more…]
#5 Abarth 124 Spider Rally
Why is it here? This was not a great show for concept cars, but the rally version of the already-lovable 124 Spider did just enough to make me smile, looking back to the day when rally cars were all rear-wheel-drive, light and insanely hard to snowy Monte Carlo.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class facelift
Mercedes-Benz revamped the A-Class, which features redesigned front and rear bumpers and is optionally available with LED High Performance headlamps. From the beginning of 2016 Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink will become available. The refreshed Mercedes-Benz A-Class comes with a range of no less than eight petrol engines, oddly with only two displacements: a 1.6-litre four-cylinder (A 160, A 180 , A 180 BlueEFFICIENCY Edition & A 200) and a 2.0-litre four-cylinder (A 220, A 250, A 250 Sport and A 45 AMG) engine. The A 160 with 102 hp is the new entry-level model. It consumes 5.1 l/100 km (CO2-emissions 119 g/km) when opting for the 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission, the manual version is slightly less efficient. The diesel range consists of five engines with two displacements: the 1.5-litre Renault engine is offered in the A 160 d, A 180 d and A 180 d BlueEFFICIENCY Edition, while the 2.2-litre Mercedes engine powers the A 200 d and A 220 d. Fuel consumption of the A 180 d BlueEFFIENCY Edition has been reduced slightly to 3.5 l/100 km (CO2-emissions 89 g/km). The A 220 d now offers 177 hp (+ 7 hp). The A 250 Sport now has an additional 7 hp (218 hp) over the regular A 250. Mercedes-Benz was slightly jealous seeing the Audi RS3 dethroning the A 45 AMG (“The best or nothing”, right?), so it has improved the performance of high-performance even further. The four-cylinder engine develops 381 hp (+ 21 hp) and a maximum torque of 475 Nm. Thanks to faster gear ratios, aerodynamic fine-tuning and the Dynamic Select driving mode it launches the A 45 AMG from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, 0.4 seconds than its predecessor.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé
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.
Volkswagen’s struggles to sell cars in the US market at anything close to the rate its mainstream competitors are managing are well documented. Try as it may, the German manufacturer has been unable to punch beyond the niche of cars for people who want to be different and are willing to pay a little extra for the privilege. Its list of faux-pas is long: from bungling the local production of the Golf/Jetta in the 1980s that lead to myriad quality issues, through trying to sell cars that were too small and too expensive for the US market, all the way to missing out on the crossover wave. While the “right-sized” US/Chinese Passat and Jetta helped matters a little bit in the early 2010s, these cars have since slid back behind their competitors in terms of sales and appeal.
So, this might be the right time to try something drastic – rather than develop more US-specific cars or struggle with their Euro-centric line-up, VW should take Skoda’s mainstream offerings, rebrand them as VWs in the US and watch as they fly off the shelves.
Sure, this is by no means a new idea, but arguably now it’s more true than ever, for five reasons:
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 midsized segment has been in crisis for a decade now, but the sales decline seems to bottom out, with sales down “only” 5% after the first three quarters of 2014, to just over 400.000 units. With the new generations VW Passat and Ford Mondeo ready to start their customer deliveries, and the Peugeot 508 recently facelifted, the segment should be able to return to positive territory for only the second time since 2001. The VW Passat remains stable and increases its share of the segment to 28,8%, and that’s even without the new generation, which has only just entered European showrooms and should start customer deliveries anytime now.
The top-4 are the only models in the segment to increase their sales and now control almost two thirds of the segment, indicating a further defragmentation of the market. The Honda Accord is the latest victim of this increased monotony in the midsized car segment, as it won’t be replaced at the end of its life cycle, joining the Suzuki Kizashi, Seat Exeo, Chevrolet Malibu on their way to the happy hunting grounds. [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…]