I’ve just tried to argue once again why launching Skoda in the US would be a smart move, but I’m sure at least one of our esteemed readers will raise the following counterarguments and I’d have to fully agree with him/her, so here’s why I think why VW shouldn’t bring Skoda to North America: the market is already saturated and the upcoming changes that will affect the automotive industry will give Volkswagen an opportunity to redeem itself. None of these points were stipulated by the unnamed VW board member who was quoted to say it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring Skoda to the US anyway. [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…]
Bart and Kriss couldn’t agree on whether the US is ready for a true low-cost car brand, and now they’re locking horns again on whether Volkswagen would benefit from following the highly successful Dacia strategy that has been raking in the profits at Renault.
I just don’t understand why they haven’t done this already. Like with crossovers, Volkswagen has waited too long to follow this trend and has squandered the opportunity to gain a huge volume boost. Not only from the newly-created, low-cost brand itself, but also from sharing the platforms and cost-saving technologies to some of the existing VW Group brands, most notably Skoda and VW itself in regions like South America and China, where it still sold decades-old models under the VW brand until recently. As our reader M. Hoffman commented earlier, last year 46% of worldwide sales of the Renault and Dacia brands combined were Dacia-based models, so they gained huge economies of scale without the need to launch an additional brand in every single market. In markets where Renault was an established brand, like Europe and Mediterranean Africa, Dacia filled the open slot below it, and in markets where Renault was still trying to gain a foothold, like Russia, Asia and South America, the models helped establish Renault as a top player, not necessarily with a budget-brand image.
My big worry is brand-overload over at VW Group. They already have some 12 brands in their portfolio (counting trucks and motorcycles), plus their mainstream offerings (VW, Seat, Škoda) are already rather close and the company seems unable to give them truly different characters. In a sense, the success of Dacia stems from Renault being OK with the cars being no more than acceptable by European standards, at least at first. Somehow, with German perfectionism I don’t see how they could do that – I’m afraid is that they would be unable to position the new brand low enough for it to truly remain a different offering. After all, Škoda started off as a budget offering, but quickly caught up with Seat in terms of quality and is now a mainstream brand that offers good value for money, rather than being a true value brand. [Read more…]
If you hadn’t already shorted your VW stocks after the diesel scandal last year, now would be the best time to do so: VW just lost the only person who was doing everything right in the aftermath of the scandal. In his position as VW of America president, Michael Horn was popular among the plagued dealers for his straight talk, apologetic to the public and influential enough at the German headquarters to push for the right products. But last week VW issued a statement that Horn, is departing “by mutual agreement” to pursue other interests, effective immediately. Such a sudden departure by someone who has worked for the company for more than 25 years, this statements sounds like a euphemism for “he didn’t do what the company wanted him to do, so we fired him”. Update: according to Reuters, VW offered Horn “other positions within the company”, which he declined. In other words, VW of Siberia is still looking for a new Product Manager Eos and Golf cabriolet. Horn’s departure is very bad news for a company that desperately needs a person who was doing exactly those the things he was known for during the current slowdown in US sales at the Volkswagen brand and inability to reach a deal with US regulators or a technical solution to fix the illegal emissions software in about 600.000 VW Group cars.
Last Wednesday, the European car industry has proven to be firmly in control in the Brussels government. The European Parliament voted for the decision of October 28th, which allows diesel cars until 2020 to emit more than twice as much nitrogen oxides than has been stipulated in a law from 2007, and fifty percent more after 2020. A veto against this decision has not made it through the parliament as a result of strong lobbying by the automobile manufacturers. In return for not having to meet the emissions requirements, a new fuel efficiency test will be implemented from September 1st 2016, in which cars will no longer be tested in a lab (on a dyno) but on the road instead, which should lead to more realistic fuel economy test results. This test is logically called the Real Driving Emissions test (RDE). However, the lobby of the manufacturers has also succeeded in getting some elements of this test toned down or even deleted.
Read this interesting article about how the car manufacturers were able to dictate the European Commission which amendments to make to its proposal for the RDE and how most of their input got accepted. The very imperative tone of the e-mail Volkswagen has sent on behalf of the ACEA, the alliance of European Car Manufacturers to the EC in 2014 perfectly illustrates who’s in control in this relationship. [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.
A lot has been written about the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal that’s been uncovered in the US. But not yet here on Left-Lane.com. That’s not because we’re secretly supporting VW and refuse to write anything bad about them. It’s because we refuse to just republish news stories that you can find elsewhere on the internet. Left-Lane aspires to offer its readers unique content that you will not find elsewhere. And since I (Bart) have been very busy with other obligations the past few weeks (as you may have noticed, while Krzysztof and Rutger have been very busy, I haven’t published any articles in 3,5 weeks), I haven’t had the time to sit down and contemplate our angle on this perhaps industry-changing matter. Quality goes before quantity, so I hope this article meets your expectations. If so, or if not, please post your comments below. Thanks!
Volkswagen is facing serious trouble in the US and worldwide after admitting it had misled US regulators by installing “cheating software” designed to make sure the cars emit much less nitrous oxide (NOx) during the standard testing procedure than they actually do in real life. Besides facing a hefty fine of up to $18 billion (but probably much less than that maximum figure) VW can expect just in the US, the fallout from a marketing and image perspective is potentially many times worse if the company doesn’t act swiftly and firmly to restore confidence in the brand.
Let’s hope confidence in the automotive industry also remains intact, after Toyota’s unintended acceleration safety failure, GM’s faulty ignition switch scandal (see a trend here with companies trying to become the biggest in the world?) and the recent scandal with Takata airbags.
But is VW the only one to cheat in emission tests?
No matter how incredibly and unforgivably wrong Volkswagen has been in this matter, I refuse to believe they are the only manufacturer to manipulate its software or other parts of their vehicles in order to perform better in fuel efficiency or emission test procedures. They were simply the first ones to get caught and have therefore been made into the piñata of the automotive industry. What this whole scandal may have actually done is lay bare the issues with testing procedures that are too far off reality and which can be too easily manipulated. The big drop in share prices across all major automotive OEMs, though not as badly as the drop in VW shares, signals that investors also believe Volkswagen is not alone in this and the industry as a whole may face tough times ahead. [Read more…]
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.
The latest Ford Mondeo / Fusion has received a lot of praise ever since it was launched, mainly because of its looks. Customers and punters alike seem to be falling over themselves in praising the Aston-esque grille and aggressive headlight treatment at the front, many claiming it’s one of the best looking in its class. I am not one of those people…