In 2017, worldwide sales of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles increased 2,4%, according to JATO Dynamics figures, based on their data of 52 markets. Slightly more than 2 million additional vehicle sales compared to 2016 make for a new total of 86,05 million global car sales. Passenger car sales were up 2,3% to 82 million and LCV sales were up 4,4% to 4,05 million vehicles. 13 out of the 52 markets showed double digit growth including Russia, Argentina and Thailand, balancing small declines in major markets like the UK, United States, South Korea and Mexico. Growth in China slowed to just 2,3% from 17% in 2016. India and Brazil were other engines of growth, the former setting a third consecutive annual sales record and the latter recovering from a decline the year before. [Read more…]
Months ago I wrote about China’s domestic OEMs fast evolving automotive design capabilities (see Chinese Cars: Just Copycats?).
This time I want to highlight another developing aspect of the Chinese market: foreign brands are now frequently designing cars exclusively for the China. This is an expensive practice, but one that is justified by the market size, particular tastes of (some) Chinese customers, and the business dynamics between these brands and their local joint-venture partners. As an example, the domestic Compact Car segment is so large, that by itself it would rank among the 5 largest car markets in the world. This means automakers have to cater to large and diverse customer groups; hence the opportunity for several models from individual brands to effectively compete in it.
One may start thinking of how some of the China-exclusive models might fare if exported or produced abroad, which is exactly the point I would like to open for debate today. Certainly it would be no hardship to export into Emerging Markets; China’s regulations, environmental and usage requirements are as strict ― or stricter ― than most, so changes would be few and small in scope (with the exception of right-hand drive conversions). For Developed Markets, some extra engineering might be required to comply with safety regulations and requirements, but since many of the China-unique models are based on global platforms, it should be quite feasible. I suspect the greatest challenge is that these models are Made-in-China, which is a pity as the design, development philosophy and practices, as well as the quality and sophistication of tools and equipment are far more important than the country of manufacture. Chinese plants, for example, are among the newest in the world, and well-equipped given the massive recent investment. It’s a pity potential international customers are still locked in the old paradigm, but perceptions do matter. I have no qualms about buying a Chinese-made BMW, Honda, etc. I would even seriously consider some of the latest domestic brand products from Geely, BYD, Haval, Roewe and others.
Moving on, here are some interesting foreign brand ― in alphabetical order, not importance ― models made exclusively (at least so far) in China and for China. Let us know, by commenting, if you believe any of them would have appeal outside of China. [Read more…]
It’s been almost three years since Land Rover showed the Range Rover Evoque Convertible Concept at the 2012 Geneva Autoshow, and despite the fact that the concept looked very production-ready and roadworthy, Land Rover claimed they weren’t planning to take it into production. But rumors kept surfacing about production plans for the droptop Evoque, and earlier this week, spy shots were published of a camouflaged Evoque soft top being tested on public roads. From the pictures you can see the production version looks very similar to the concept, with the rear quarter reminding somewhat of the Audi A3 convertible, despite being higher on its wheels.
This won’t be the worlds first-ever luxury SUV-convertible crossover, as the world (or at least North America) has already seen the hugely unsuccessful Nissan Murano Crosscabriolet brought to the market, which looked even more strange than the Evoque. And there have been numerous “utility” SUV convertibles, [Read more…]
As announced almost a year ago, 2015 will mark the end of production of one of the longest running vehicle designs currently on sale. The Land Rover Defender was introduced as the Land Rover Series I in 1948, was renamed Ninety and One Ten in 1983 and renamed again as Defender in the 1990’s, but the basic structure and design haven’t changed much over the past decades.
Jaguar-Land Rover claims that it’s impossible to make the iconic Defender meet the stricter European Union emission standards that go into effect by 2020. The Defender had already been pulled out of the North American market in 1998 when it couldn’t meet the stricter safety regulations of the US and Canada. However, if we look at the sales figures, we can conclude that Europe is one of the Defender’s smallest markets, and not being allowed to sell the model in the European market wouldn’t result in a loss of sales large enough to blame the demise of the model on the regulations. [Read more…]
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 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. [Read more…]