By on May 7, 2014

FCAEuropeSlide

 

One of the frequent themes discussed on TTAC is the rising inequality of the mainstream car market in Europe. Since the Great Financial Crisis, Europe’s auto market has not only undergone a severe contraction in terms of volume, but also a radical shift in its composition.

Prior to the Great Financial Crisis, the “mainstream” brands (think Ford, Opel/Vauxhall, Renault, Peugeot, Citroen) had a firm grip on the majority of the market. Budget brands were not yet established – only Skoda had any real legitimacy, Dacia was still a punchline and GM’s Korean offerings were more like the Nexia than the Cruze. Premium brands like Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW were offering smaller, more affordable nameplates (like the A-Class, A3 and 1-Series), but they were still confined to the upper echelons of the segment.

What a difference a decade makes.  Budget offerings have grown increased their market share by 37 percent, while premium cars have grown another 28 percent. And it’s all coming out of the mainstream segments. And that situation is only going continue over the next 5 years.

From a product perspective, it’s easy to understand just why this happened. At the bottom end, brands like Dacia have been aggressively expanding in European markets, as well as rolling out new models. While nobody would try to pass them off as any sort of premium transportation, they are gaining a certain sort of “cheap chic” cachet as basic, unpretentious transportation. The fact that they’re winning critical acclaim doesn’t hurt either.

The premium end of the market is a bit more complex. On the one hand, the luxury auto makers have been chipping away at the traditional territory of the mainstream auto makers. Mercedes, Audi and BMW still offer the A-Class, A3 and 1-Series, but there are more lower-end nameplates too: the Audi A1 and Q3, the Mercedes B-Class, CLA and GLA and the BMW X1. Pricing for most of these models is within the upper-end of a well-equipped conventional car. Given the choice between a very well-equipped Ford Focus and a more modestly equipped German luxury car, a good number of consumers will opt for the latter – even if the premium car might be qualitatively inferior.

The other, more politically dicey argument to be made, relates to income inequality. Car ownership in Europe has always been a more expensive and difficult proposition than in North America. Middle class consumers who can afford a car in Europe’s current economic climate might be more inclined to go with a low-cost car like a Dacia, rather than spend the extra money on the Renault equivalent. Meanwhile, increasing inequality means that there is more demand for premium cars of all stripes. Luxury brands offer more performance car and SUV nameplates in 2014 than they did in 2004, and the demand has to be coming from somewhere. Not all of it can be in the lower tiers of the segment.

So what’s the solution if you’re a mainstream brand, and your customer base is as weary of ever buying a new car? Simple. Make a cool product that’s easy to afford.

Thanks to Fiat Chrysler for the chart, which was shown in their latest Five Year Plan.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

87 Comments on “Chart Of The Day: The Hollowing Out Of Europe’s Middle Class Car Market...”


  • avatar
    mike978

    Spot on analysis but this has been going on in certain categories for years. I remember 20 years ago the Ford Granada and Opel/Vauxhall Senator being reasonably popular large cars (comparable to the Charger or Avalon in category). But the German luxury brands had models which overlapped with the more expensive spec levels of their mainstream competitors. Just as now, many people went for the lesser equipped and smaller German offering rather than buying a full size and well equipped Ford or Vauxhall. The same dynamic plays out in the midsize market (Mondeo sales have fallen greatly in the last 10 years) and is now spreading to the compact market.

    It has started in the US with models like the CLA and I assume the new Audi A3 sedan taking sales away from mainstream models. We already see large car sales falling with probably the Taurus being dropped in the next few years.

    • 0 avatar
      Carolus Magnus

      I tend to mildly disagree, or at least think that the reasons behind this development are more complicated. Cost of car ownership in Europe has risen dramatically in the past decades, on a move of the governments to curb polution and trafic congestion. As a result, the total cost of ownership (road taxes, parking fees, auxiliary taxes related to size, displacement and environmental class) has become more important relative to the purchase price. Because of this, mid-sizers aka Mondeo / Laguna / Passat / Citroen C5 have lost their advantage over more exec class offerings from BMW/Mercs etc. At the other end, small-displacement ultra-compacts have grown more popular as a result of taxation based on displacement and exhaust class. A European trend towards ‘exec’ taste really has absolutely nothing to do with this.

  • avatar
    Toad

    This actually makes sense to me; a lot of consumer products and retailers are seeing the same thing. As the quality of many “cheap” products gets better it gets harder to justify the price of the mid-price product.

    My last vehicle was a loaded SUV; my next may be something more like a RAV4 that is nearly as good and has 95% of the functionality for about half the price.

    Even Jack B bought a Honda instead of a luxury brand. It it hard for middle class people to justify spending the extra money unless you want to stay on the status treadmill.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Good point. Why spend $38k on an Audi A4 when you can get a VW GTI with the same performance, features, and build quality for $25k?

      I also think the lack of style has hurt. Consumers still buy largely on looks and on this score, there’s few “must haves” in the middle of the market. So either buy a CUV if you need it or just get a cheap car.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Waingrow

        I’ve mentioned this here before. I went from a 2009 Audi A4 to a 2012 Golf TDI. Yes, the Audi was a bit more posh inside, but other than that, it’s mostly in the Golf’s favor. Obviously, fuel costs are lower, but the fun factor has increased markedly. And believe it or not, you can carry more stuff in the Golf with the seats flat than with the Audi. Plus, I found many of the Audi drivers I observed to be aggressive and generally rude, and I didn’t want to be associated with that. The additional bonus has been the saving of lots of money, though that wasn’t my original motivation.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The same dynamic during the 1930s helped kill off the beautiful, custom-bodied, multi-cylinder Packards, Cadillacs and Lincolns. With advances in automotive technology, it became harder to justify the price premium of the most expensive cars.

  • avatar

    Agreed, Derek, a difficult proposition right now for the mainstream brands.

    Ultimately the push to move “normal” brands up to some entry level lux category is self defeating. Especially in parts of Europe. The cheap chic ethos has always existed in Europe (old and new 500, original Mini, Twingo, Panda), in which people that could buy larger cars didn’t because of fashion or even political considerations. With the likes of Dacia taking on this market, the mainstream is crowded from below. Though if you do make a car people want, the smaller cars will always sell well. Examples: Panda, Up, Fiesta, 208, Captur.

    As to crowding from above, this is a real problem, but could be temporary. Instead of buying that Mondeo (Fusion) I decide to risk a BMW 3. Never had a luxury brand, might as well try it out. Buy, love it, am blinded by the brand. Then I ride in a neighbor’s Mondeo and realize it’s just as fast, bigger. Then I go in for maintenance. Am shocked by the prices compared to my previous Focus. If it’s my dime, the next time around I see myself going back to Ford.

    The example I give above illustrates a point. How much company cars affect this market. If my company is picking up the tab, I could well ignore the inherent larger costs of a luxury German. If it’s my money…

    Then there are the political and cultural considerations. While the 35 and older populations lived the egalitarian dream, the younger ones might not. I read plenty of stuff on the London and Paris riots of a couple of years back on how those young ones were rioting cause they wanted an iPad and not for something “social”. As I don’t live there, I can’t really say, but talking with some Europeans I get the sensation that this is at least partly true. Younger Europeans, especially, but not only, have succumbed to glitter and bling.

    As to the political side, the Europeans have a long tradition of social protest that can become violent at a moments notice. The social protections didn’t arise all by their lonesome in Europe. Took a lot of strife and some blood to achieve that. While some reforms may be needed, no one can take it all away. The massive demonstrations in Europe this Labor Day show that the people can still organize and fight for what they want.

    Finally, there’s the buying habits. Though loathe to admit it, Germans are very nationalistic when buying cars, the French have become less so and the Italians were, relatively, never as nationalistic. The British have been for a long time converging on Northern European buying habits as well as more open to Japanese brands.

    I think they way out is building cars people want. Reliable, well handling, with nice interiors. Keep maintenance costs down. This way mainstream manufacturers can weather the storm.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      Yes, the buying habits thing is pretty key. Europeans, if they want premium, will only shop for a European premium brand, although markets which are more price-focused (the EU periphery) are much more agnostic, which is why Dacia gots its foothold there in the first place. The consumer prejudices weren’t ingrained.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Thing is, there really is not a huge difference in servicing costs between the Germans and the mainstream brands, at least around here. BMW gives you four years of servicing for free anyway. My local Toyota dealer charges $20/hr MORE than my BMW dealer. Chevy/FIAT store charges the same as BMW. I don’t find there to be much in it for parts cost either when bought from the dealer.

      And lets face it, at this point most people in the market for $35K and up cars are NOT keepers. They are going to either lease it, or trade it in after 3-4 years anyway.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey krhodes1, I don’t know but that varies by market. I really don’t think BMW gives other markets 4 yrs of free maintenance. I think they did as a reaction to the crisis when they though the US would buy them a future. In most other markets they charge very richly for their services. Again I have no idea about the UK for example, but being that Ford is a ‘local”, I have a hard time maintenance on a Mondeo would approach that on a BMW. I could be wrong of course.

        Then again, like you say, it’s a different market. I can’t pretend to imagine how others think. I for one don’t understand and would gladly pick up a loaded Mondeo over any lesser BMW. But that’s just me!

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Why would a Ford with a turbo engine be any cheaper to service than a BMW? Takes the same amount of time, and as I mentioned all the dealerships for all makes around here are within ~$20/hr of each other, and the Germans are not necessarily the most expensive. This isn’t 1985 when the average American or Japanese car had a carb and a live axle and a German or French car might as well have been a space shuttle. All cars are broadly similar these days. You pay more you get more refinement and all the nice little touches.

          But, as I have said, if what makes a 3-series worth $15K more than a Camry is lost on you, spend the $15K on something that matters to you and buy a Camry. Or a Mondeo. I have rented a couple well-loaded new Fusions and while they are nice cars, and OK value for money, they are certainly not in the same universe as a 3-series in terms of refinement or how they ride/drive.

          • 0 avatar

            Like I said, I don’t know, I just suspect. Here, in Brazil, no direct comparison to the US of course, labor at BMW, Audi etc. is more expensive than at Ford, Toyota etc. By a margin. Then there’s the cost of parts. Again, no comparison in my country.

            As to cost/benefit one values what one values. That extra 15k is money well spent, especially by you, a true enthusiast. For me, that extra 15k would go a long way in other areas…

            No Camries for me though. Happy with a Fusion/Mondeo though.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            For a given problem, the Ford or Toyota will be cheaper to fix because there are ten times as many of them — and because unlike the BMW, the Ford or Toyota buyer isn’t nearly as likely to go to the dealer after the warranty runs out. After all, your neighborhood mechanic has probably already seen a half dozen of the Ford with the same problem.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            *My* neighborhood mechanic has likely seen 10X as many Saabs, Volvos, and BMWs than he has Fords or Toyotas. But I live in that sort of neighborhood. :-)

            Sorry, but with modern cars there is just not much in it, at the dealer or at the local indy shop. The days of any car being cheap to fix are long over. You can buy cheap Chinese parts for BMWs, just like you can Toyotas, and the dealer parts are about the same everywhere. Fancier cars just have more stuff to go wrong with them. A BMW costs more to fix than a Corolla, but it doesn’t cost more to fix than the equivalent Lexus.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    I’m going to go with a mixture of both on this one. Income equality is an issue though not as great as within the US and is hollowing out the younger end of the middle class that should be opting into vehicles. Then there is the whole Mondeo man effect as described in the late 1990s in Great Britain where middle-class workers, mostly white collar management and low-level executives chose the nicely equipped and higher-mid Ford Mondeo as their choice collectively dropped it in favor of the BMW 3-series. Aspirations and income have eaten into the market and the idea of a ‘luxury’ brand has moved downwards to try and capture more market share using the same basic components at a better profit margin.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I have family in Portugal, Germany and a nephew I helped raise who now lives in Brazil. My German family members all own cars, more than one in several cases. My Portuguese family members own NO cars, at all. My nephew in Brazil owns a car.

      Income is sufficient for all of them to buy cars but several have chosen not to. Of the German family members, many of them drive a Mercedes-branded vehicle, and if they have a second car for the wife, it is usually an Opel or VW.

      The focus of all my family members in these countries these days is to stash money away for that rainy day, and not blow it all on a new car. This is what austerity has brought them. Their money also is worth less and they want to have more in the bank or under their mattress for the next crisis.

      And the next crisis may not be that far away.

      • 0 avatar

        No cars on the Portuguese side? They must really be hurting.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          No cars on the Portuguese side, but they are not hurting. They live close enough to public transportation that takes them everywhere they need to go.

          They do all have drivers licenses and RENT a car to go on long trips or their annual vacations.

          • 0 avatar

            Whew! Glad to hear!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Later this year we will be hosting my cousin from Portugal and his wife at our place in the US. He wants to go horseback riding in the Sacramento Mountains. He is 69 and doesn’t want to drive while he is here but wants to be driven.

            I will accommodate him since he wears the family ring.

            (I can’t wear the family ring because I am only 1/2 Portuguese)

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      The other thing with the UK example is the company car effect. In the UK, 50% of the market is company cars bought off a list of preferred options. They are heavily biased towards diesel 3 series, Mondeos, Golfs and the like.

      I think it rather distorts the market in terms of what customers would buy if it was their own money, as it incentives particular options so heavily.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The company car market in Germany effectively serves as a hidden barrier that benefits VAG, Daimler and BMW luxury cars, providing those automakers with a relatively stable base of sales that can support their export and overseas businesses. Germany is Europe’s largest car market, and its market share compared to the rest of Europe has only increased since the financial crisis.

  • avatar

    That’s what austerity looks like.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    The aspirational consumption and focus on bling is a cultural trend which will come and go, but I think the core thesis is sound. I also think the solution Derek suggests is bang on, although it will really doom Toyota and Honda’s chances of European expansion. They are horrible at capturing the cool/chic vibe, witness the third-generation Fit.

    This will end though as the inevitable backlash at aspirational consumers kicks in. Once it becomes uncool to buy “cheap premium” the traditional brands will stage a comeback. But that’s probably a decade out at least.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The decline in the European market has been disproportionately high in the PIIGS, plus France. That has shifted even more of the regional market share to Germany, which consequently helps the German automakers at the expense of the rest.

  • avatar

    In the US, middle class wages have been stagnant for about 30 years, while incomes at the top have been skyrocketing.

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/may/08/thomas-piketty-new-gilded-age/

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      Hey Derek, someone didn’t see your tweet.

      But seriously, it’s a problem, all political parties have contributed to it, none have solutions for it, and it will be a defining political and social issue of our time. Developed countries which beat this trap, and maintain their economies and quality of life, will be extremely well-place for the future. I think countries that don’t are going to face a very difficult next few decades.

      • 0 avatar
        Brad2971

        I significantly disagree with this assertion. Too many people who have concerns about “income inequality” utilize a baseline of the 1950s-1960s as a time of less “income inequality.” Those also were times of defense budgets of greater than 10% GDP, of defacto captive markets like W. Germany, UK,and Japan, and of large countries like the USSR and China essentially shutting themselves out of the world markets.

        Right now, the US and its citizens live in a time of global competition for resources. It can be a challenge when it comes to low-inflation middle class growth, but can also benefit this nation. After all, China is notably lacking in substational acreage of arable land, which directly benefits our farmers.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      David, there’s nothing wrong with that. People with skills or knowledge are like a commodity; they can demand what they get paid for their skills or services. Those who are like a commodity, move up on the wage and social scales. Those without, stagnate. Happens all the time.

      It’s like with professional athletes. If they can command that kind of paycheck, I say more power to them.

      I don’t understand why employees, wage earners all, think that somehow they are entitled to more than what the market will bear. If they want a say in company operations, let them buy stock or shares. Then they can vote!

      Employees should be grateful for what they get. If they aren’t happy with that, they can always leave. Government restrictions are placed on the hiring employers, not the employees.

      The reason why so many people were let go this past recession and remain unemployed to this day is because they weren’t keepers. The employers held on to the keepers and let the rest go.

      Watch Toyota Sales’ move to Texas. The keepers will be invited along, just like in the past with other company moves. The rest become wards of the state, just like in the past.

      The US middle class is still alive and well,and kicking in the market place. They still buy cars, houses, boats and the like. All those who fell out of the middle class couldn’t keep up, lacked the skills or training that the market place demanded, or otherwise didn’t meet the bar to be a keeper.

      If wages have been stagnant for about 30 years that’s probably because there was no demand for employers to have to pay more. Why pay more than you have to?

      • 0 avatar
        MPAVictoria

        “Employees should be grateful for what they get.”

        Pathetic.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          No doubt they all think they are worth CEO pay.

          • 0 avatar
            MPAVictoria

            Ah yes the mythical CEO who is worth 20 million dollars a year. It must be nice to be able to hire your friends to decided what your wage should be.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Is this jealousy talking? What else are friends for?

            Those with power wield it. Those without power suffer it. Been that way since the beginning of time.

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            “Is this jealousy talking? What else are friends for?

            Those with power wield it. Those without power suffer it. Been that way since the beginning of time.”

            Who took your soul, and do you -at all- plan to look for it again?

            We’re all entrusted with immense power and we were all taught that when ours interferes with, trespasses-upon, or damages others– that we are not to exercise those powers.

            Those that do not are called sociopaths. You understand this, yes?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            iNeon, this has nothing to do with my soul. It is all about the way the real world is, was and will be.

            You moaners can whine all you want to but if you can’t make the big bucks on your own don’t expect an employer to ante up. Unless you’re a keeper, no employer will.

            If you’re not happy with what you’re getting paid, start your own business.

            That’s what I had to do after I retired from the military. I went into business on my own, for myself, first building my own house, then finding other ways to supplement my retirement income.

            At age 68 I’m still working today, supporting the real-estate business of my wife’s family. And I’m loving it! The money is great!

            If employees don’t like what their employer pays them, they are free to leave to start their own business or go to work for someone else.

            BTW, those habitual complainers who always think they are underpaid are not keepers and most often the first to be let go. We’ve got millions of the long-term unemployed standing in the welfare line.

            That’s the way of the world. Try telling YOUR employer that you think you are underpaid, and then watch what happens. You’ll be the one doing the soul-searching as you collect your unemployment check.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        The whole “skills differential” myth may have a tiny bit of truth to it, but at most explains the tiniest part of the rise in inequality. If “skills inequality” was really all that, it would be very obvious to those lower down the “skills” ladder, and they’d be quick to change their situation.

        Instead, the biggest change from the early 70s to today, is the financialization of the economy. Brought about by a combination of progressive hubris, and a lack of any anchoring of said hubris, the way a solid tie of the dollar to gold would achieve.

        If all purchases had to be made with a fixed commodity, say gold, the only way to gain command over more resources, would be to convince someone else to voluntarily hand gold over to you. And for every ounce you handed over, you yourself had one ounce less. This means there is no other way than the middle class way of getting wealthy.

        While with fractional reserving, bailouts, active unanchored monetary policy and the other “tools” of modern economic wealth distribution, command over more resources than a middle class worker can earn in a lifetime, can be printed and lent into thin air by nothing more than some vague promise of eventual repayment. No actual worker/wealth creator is needed to lend the bank the ounces the bank then lends to the borrower. Hence, noone has much at stake in bothering to verify that the loans make sense. Instead, if they don’t, the planers will just debase the currency a bit more, until the pain felt by financial participant is less acute.

        So the end of the story, is a world where how much you have t spend, depends much less on the actual wealth you create, and much more on how close you are to the nexus where all this newly created out of thin air purchasing power originates. Which is why banksters are making out like robber barons, as are real estate wheelers and dealers, and people whose compensation is in financial instruments, rather than fixed dollars. And secondarily, since the majority of purchasing power is just printed rather than organically created, influencing how this printed purchasing power gets distributed, is more important to ones income than actually creating wealth on ones own. Hence the relative rise of bureaucrats, politicians and lawyers. And, secondarily, of others who happen to be situated geographically, or along some other dimension, closer to the above primary beneficiaries.

        End of story is that a middle class guy who has put aside enough money every year to have a comfortable retirement in a world of market based interest rates, now has to bag groceries at Walmart until he dies, so that some bankster and those around him can get no stings attached access to free money. Which they can then lend out to a startup with an expected return of 0 but a variance of +-5%, since if they end up positive, the bankster and founders makes out big, but if they end up negative, the Fed will pick up the tab.

        The underlying resources is still being created by middle class work, just like they always have. It’s not like playing silly zero sum games on Wallstreet creates any actual wealth, after all. But now the aggregate purchasing power of the resources the middle class creates, is being handed over to a much smaller number of anointed ones. Which is by far the biggest reason fr the inequality rise. The “skills differential” babble is just another round of the new haves rationalizing their privilege. Like Royals pointing to blue blood and such.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          stuki, great comment! Really spells out how and why people feel that they’re not getting paid what they think they are worth.

          However, that said, it has always been the way it is and will always be the same way into the future. Some people will merit the higher pay, better status and social acceptance. Many will not.

          How about pro-sport players? Do they merit multimillion dollar contracts?

          Most employees have always harbored the belief that they were underpaid, no matter at what pay level they were.

          But those are the breaks. No one said that life would be fair. And employers who provide jobs are always going to give potential employees the option to accept whatever it is the employers pay, or walk.

          That’s why we have such a high turn-over rate in the employment sector because so many employees are constantly looking to improve themselves elsewhere, with another employer who is willing to pay them more.

          But those employees who are keepers….. they never have any problem in getting what they want because their employers want to keep them. Hence the difference in pay for the keepers.

          Besides, employees always have the option to start their own business and make all the money they want. And then watch to see how much they pay their employees. I bet it isn’t more than the going rate, or else they would be going out of business themselves.

          The whole pay-inequality debate is a croc! People are free to accept or decline what any employer offers to pay them.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            Things weren’t always that way. At least not to the extent they are in the West today.

            The whole point is that what has changed from the early 70s until now, is not skills differential, but rather the decoupling of production from remuneration.

            But I guess one could also argue that a medieval serf could also choose to accept or decline any offer. While those who were “keepers”, as in feudal lords, had no problem getting what they wanted.

            And as for “starting their own business”, I guess you’ve never seen a noncompete. Nor been the target of some patent or other IP troll.

            And for sure, medieval serfs could just start their own non feudal country, then they’d be fine. So why complain. They/we were/are so free. That’s, after all, what the man on TV says.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            stuki, you’re trying to change a system that has evolved to what it is today because it works.

            Some of the other commenters have already expressed the different aspects that led to this decoupling of remuneration from actual skills-demand and production.

            Forced introduction of minorities and women into the workforce by way of government mandates ensured that there would always be an excess of workers to out-pace the demand for labor. Hence, no need to pay higher wages.

            And labor could be obtained cheaper outside of the US, something that many employers made excellent use of to make more money for their shareholders, i.e. Ford and GM production in Mexico, for one.

            Technology also played an enormous part in making the current situation what it is, but those with skills and/or an education tend to be better off than those without.

            I’m quite familiar with ‘non-compete’ and ‘non-disclosure’ agreements. They are an integral part of the successful real-estate business we find ourselves in.

            If you’re not a keeper, and most employees are not keepers, employers will pay you the bare minimum they can get away with, by law.

            But there are plenty of examples of keepers, pro-athletes, company executives, entertainers, doctors, lawyers, technologists, et al, who make some pretty decent bucks. They get paid what their employers think they are worth.

            The rest? Not so much. Time to get better skills, more credentials, whatever it takes to move up in the world. If not, the rest will just fall further and further behind.

            Take it from someone who has had to work for all of his life to get where he is today, “it never gets easier”.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            A “system” requiring 10% annual debt increases (all plowed into 1-1 GDP counted spending) in order to grow a percent or two, does not “work.” At least not any better than any other scheme built upon staying full ad well nourished by gnawing on your legs.

            As long as producing wealth does not lead to any ability to consume wealth, noone cares to produce anymore. Which is what we are seeing today.

            Instead, the interest on accumulated savings of a few centuries, are being redistributed to a very select few. Virtually (not entirely) none of whom are selected on basis of productive output, but rather based on a comnination of simple nepotism and plain luck.

            Doctors are not being remunerated according to their productivity, but rather by simply being granted a whole slew of privileges others do not enjoy. And by having this privilege artificially restricted to only a few. Some do good work, some don’t, but their remuneration is, at best, entirely uncorrelated with where they fall on that scale.

            As for lawyers, the whole purpose of 90% of them, is to specifically prevent productive output; by forcing themselves into value chains to which their net contribution is nothing but a big negative.

            And further, because of this pervasive and successful effort to skew compensation towards the non productive, corporations have little incentive, nor even guidance, to pick executives who can/care to add value.

            There are obviously a few who defy the trend. Some technologists for sure; although the vast majority of wealth taken out of the tech industry stems not from earnings, but rather from ridiculous valuations built on the back of Bernanke/Yellen’s favored few having t park their loot “somewhere”; creating ponzis, pyramids and bubbles.

            Entertainers and Sports stars have always done well, but eve there as much of their earnings power is derived from destructively aggressive enforcement of various classes of IP, than from anything all that unique.

            And also, I’m not arguing people shouldn’t try to move up in the world. But rather that what it takes to move up in the world in this dystopian era of a free falling West, is to plunder, rather than produce. And that no society will serve it’s citizens well for long, when noone bothers engaging in anything but outright plunder. Real wealth has to be created by people doing something productive. And this will only happen, if there is some reward for doing so. If the enumeration from simply standing around and stealing that which others build is much higher than building it oneself, why bother building, instead of suing, taxing, regulating, debasing, or engaging in any other manner of simple grift?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The very wealthiest orchestrated the destruction of the family and creation of the EPA, and so they were well placed to use it to dismantle the middle class. Doubling the available workforce through feminism was never going to drive wages up, nor was putting the government in charge of deciding who could use their own resources. Ever wonder why you have to choke through so many bald-faced lies and denials of the obvious to listen to a progressive? This has been their end game for a century, whatever flag they’ve enslaved under.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow

      David, Piketty says that the real rewards go to capital, not to labor. So I was thinking I’d just do capital from now on and skip the labor entirely.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        Y’all are total brainiacs. For real.

        So, instead of worrying about those fat cats, whomever I owe for having dared to take my education– I’m going to warm the bowl, then go paint more worthless pottery.

        Do y’all know how many ceramic bowls and sad clown figurines one has to sell to buy a car? A lot.

        • 0 avatar
          MrGreenMan

          What would you do, form a mob, storm their homes, and take their things? Even the Occupy protests quickly devolved into the true believers sitting in the cold and the Neue Rulers planning from the Deutsche Bank building. It is the way of the world.

          If there was a desire to have protected the middle class, perhaps, once a nation gets to the top of the heap, and has a giant consumer economy, it shouldn’t import goods or people. If trade in goods and people is an equalizer, you want trade to lift you up, not take you down. Perhaps there should be a political party that represents those interests, but there isn’t.

          Luxury goods always take off in a depression. People tighten their belts for a little bit, then the rich get interested in conspicuous consumption, and the Duesenberg or the Cadillac or the Mercedes or the Lexus starts selling in even greater numbers than boom times — boom times, of course, being marked by the employment of all who could work and the raising wages of those people. We are not in boom times, and have hardly been for a while now.

  • avatar
    ItsMeMartin

    Good job on the analysis, Derek. I’m glad that someone has finally noticed that trend. I, personally, do not consider the increase in sales of the budget brands a cause for concern (as their offerings have never been as well-built and refined as they are now), however I find it hard to come to terms with the surge in popularity of the luxury brands. They seem to be the most hell-bent on forcing the mentality of buy->use->discard on the market. It is especially unfortunate for the buyers in economically weaker countries like mine where the used car market is dominant and the most popular cars are Western European imports on their 4th+ owners, well past their warranty periods. Well, is seems disposable luxury truly does conquer the world, after all.

    I assume your analysis focuses mostly on the big, Western European markets. However, where I live (Poland)-and I reckon it’s not an exception- that sentence is not true: “Middle class consumers who can afford a car in Europe’s current economic climate might be more inclined to go with a low-cost car like a Dacia, rather than spend the extra money on the Renault equivalent.”
    Here, buying a new car is an odd choice in itself-most go for used. That’s why when someone does initially decide to buy a mainstream, middle-of-the-road car, he moves rather upmarket than down. Something along the lines of “Since I’m blowing so much money on a car, I might as well get a BMW/Audi/MB. A loaded diesel, naturally.” That’s especially true for the midsize class and up. In smaller classes, the mainstream offerings are holding up strong, but this time there’s something else. You can hardly ever see a stripper model apart from company cars. Everyone wants all the bells and whistles, or at the very least the middle trim level. Well, it turns out that what really moves the metal are gadgets and image.
    Anyway, hope you didn’t mind me ranting on what it looks like in Poland-at least from my experience.

    • 0 avatar
      Brad2971

      Thank you for your thoughts on this issue. Consider this: You’re getting arguably better choices from fewer brands than we Americans got accustomed to back in the 1980s. Trust us when we say this: Pontiac, Mercury, and Oldsmobile weren’t real middle-class choices. Their trip to the auto graveyard was richly earned.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “Here, buying a new car is an odd choice in itself-most go for used.”

      This is also true in the US and, for that matter, in much of the developed world. The new car segment comprises only a fraction of the total car sales market.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Very true. Most new car sales also generate a used car sale. And then that used car gets sold on, and on and on. The number of people who buy a new car and keep it for its entire life are inconsequential.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I’m not going to get into an argument today, I don’t have time. I will state my opinion and let the usual suspects throw out the usual foolishness based on scarcity that has been tossed around forever under constantly changing names.

    The middle class is shrinking as a result of government policy. This isn’t about faux income inequality. If you look at actual income, that being the amount of money coming in per person in a family, the disparity dipped from the Bush tax cuts and has otherwise stayed fairly flat overall since 2000. As usual, the term income is being cleverly defined by academics and bureaucrats to exaggerate an issue their own policies are creating while blaming it on others.

    The “rich” don’t make enough to lift the poor out of poverty by transfer payments. The “upper middle class” then gets robbed to pay those benefits. The moral failure of this policy is bad enough, but the morale issue is overwhelming. The will to become a producer is being destroyed at every level of society because the connection between work, risk, and reward is being destroyed.

    The usual “reports” don’t pass the smell test. How many people do you know have made the same income from graduation to grave? How many people do you know have families the same size as your parents and grandparents? Yet, pre tax and government benefit family income is supposed to inform us about class and material consumption? It’s just propaganda.

    There is certainly a place for government to keep the game somewhat fair, but creating big bureaucracies to try to eliminate disparity in the outcome isn’t the answer.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    The middle class is shrinking argument that is being conducted it the comments is rather silly in that the article talks about Europe, whereas the commentors, as North Americans face completely different situations and experiences. But let’s not let that get in the way of a long spewing of bipartisan idiocy.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Exactly. Most of these comments are just the usual talking points from the usual suspects, who demonstrate no knowledge of the subject at hand.

    • 0 avatar

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      MrGreenMan

      The part that different tribes are joined together in a suicide pact where the Germans run the show was predictable and predicted. Non-EU European countries appear to have weathered worse downs and returned with bigger ups. Centralization should be the take-away lesson As more policy making has transferred from the nation-state to the EU super-state, one-size-fits-all inefficiencies cause mal-allocation and unneeded hardship and real suffering for those people in states that would normally have handled this situation by devaluing their currencies and opened up export-only workshops and factories to try to establish a balance of trade to lift themselves up (as the Poles did post-Soviet domination and doubled their GDP). With national government hands tied – I saw something recently that said 85% of British laws originate from the EU; even if it was UKIP propaganda, I didn’t see the number challenged – not even the elected representatives of the people in Portugal, in Spain, in Italy (now that their banker has at least been ratified in leadership by an election rather than just appointed), in France, in Greece – has shown that centralization and one-size-fits-all solutions don’t work, or, rather, simply serve the interests of the central banker’s friends (with Germany being banker, ruler, and warden for the EU). Now, if only America would consider letting somebody else pay the tuition, except the bi-factional ruling party is going to be elected, regardless, and will do the same things with a 20-40 year echo, only worse.

      And we’re getting the same crappy budget++ cars and powertrains already.

  • avatar
    NeinNeinNein

    I see a ton of typical conservative talking point rubbish in some of these comments. The fact is incomes at the top and quasi top have really taken off from the middle and lower class. The ofshoring of jobs (trade policies) as well as tax policy on companies (that reward short term decision making and cpmpany stock prices rather than investment and growth) has created a situation where companies rather than employ workers here can send work someplace else. In addition for the last 30 years productivity has gone through the roof literally. Yet, most of these gains have gone to capital rather than labor. Increasingly labor (workers) had to rely on debt to survive. This is one of the reasons why the Fed blows speculative bubbles–it enriches the wealthy and supplies an increasing asset by which people can be enslaved with more debt. Our bubble economy cannot continue, nor can people survive with their low wages–something has to give and please dont tell me the answer is to further cut taxes. If anything a financial speculation tax (on those who gamble and speculate and add little to the real wealth) and higher corp tax net ought to be instituted. Not an increase in rates mind you, but an increase in what overall is captured from corps. Reagan was famously furious for GE’s tax avoidance! Also, cut military spending in half–its just not needed anymore. We have an absolutely ABSURD advantage over Russia and China who basically have no real nuclear capability. Spend that $$ on rebuilding our infrastructure and education and that investment will more than pay off in dividens like higher skills and higher wages. Finally bring back union power and if necessary if there arent enough jobs in our economy–mandate a shorter work week so that the work can be sufficiently spread around for full employment. Citizens of a country should not simply exist to maximize shareholder value–weve had 30+ years of neoliberal policies and look where its gotten us. Time to move back to the center for the good of the citizenry who is ever more screwed by the day!

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Amen commrade! The Feds have resorted to useless road projects to keep enough proletariat working to stave off revolution. But all this does is anger and waste the time of the productive. We need solidarity of the common man in this nation.

      • 0 avatar
        NeinNeinNein

        Really useless road projects? Hmmmmmmmmm seems to me that when the American Society of Engineers gives the country a D- for its infrastructure–its high time we utilize our uber low interest rates to rebuild the country for the 21st century! Duh! Put some people back to work so that we can INVEST for the future–its a concept that conservatives and others want to forget. They know it for their own businesses, but they quickly seem to forget when it comea to tax dollars. Those PUBLIC INVESTMENTS say made by IKE in constructing our interstate highway system is what allowed Capital to do what it does. Why let “the bones” of country grow weak?

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          No, we don’t let the bones grow weak. Sure some roads need to be rebuilt but not to the extent we’re seeing it. The massive road construction we’re seeing is the result of socialist policies to keep superfluous people working. In effect, central planning; i.e. communism!

          Ah. Brawny American workers with the Stars ‘n Stripes festooned proudly to their trucks working under policies just as Red as anything ever planned by the Soviets. Gives me a tinge of giddy (but guilty) irony every time I pass by such an endeavor, tee hee :-)

          And even if arguably you are right, we need to be prioritizing transit dollars to our decidedly decaying public transit infrastructure, not roads.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Seriously, where are these useless road projects? I see no “road projects” in my neck of the woods, I’m barely seeing pothole sealing on major public roads.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          I don’t know where you live but you can’t even get around in Chicago anymore. There’s a major project on virtually every road, and not just the highways, including several which I know firsthand don’t need it. Perhaps this is “thanks” to our great President from Illinois. Regardless, I use this as one example of the Fed is propping up major portions of our economy through gov’t spending. This has a flavor of communism, and is certainly a sign of the declining middle class (which is why it’s on point as to this particular article).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Interesting, I haven’t see this in my backwater neck of the woods.

            Your point is valid although I think its simply to stave off insurrection. Give some of the proles some work to do and its less likely they organize to cause problems (outside of your big gov’t per view).

          • 0 avatar
            Superdessucke

            Great point. When you separate the wheat from the chaff, as my grampy would say, the money you earn is being taken by the gov’t and given to Joe Six Pack to rebuild roads that don’t really need it.

            Communism, right to its red bleeding core. Now, this is not the type of idealistic endeavor that made Stalin and his followers all goo goo eyed. I think you hit on it — it’s an attempt to mask over the fact that Joe should really be building something that you want to buy. But there’s nothing for him to build because our richest constituents have been given a pass to build in Mexico and China so they can keep what they would have to spend on Joe’s wages, health care and workers’ compensation benefits for themselves. So they must centrally plan something for him to do and take your money to fund it, lest he just sit there and become discontent and ultimately tip over the apple cart.

            The bottom line is that you, productive citizen, get to take care of Joe instead of a market economy. It’s nice he’s working but let’s not lose sight of how he’s working! Even worse, our politicians have been allowing cheap illegal labor into the country to keep Joe’s wages in line on the home front. They have sold many on the idea that this is a good thing, moving them to near tears with comparisons to their ancestors who came to Ellis Island. It’s a terrible system and I’m amazed there hasn’t been more backlash.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The article is about the EUROPEAN car market, and, the last time I checked, people upset about American economic and trade policies over the past 30 years repeatedly pointed to Europe as the model that we should be following.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @geeber,
        Not too long ago the US car market was just as dire. Who knows reversal in a few years? Some aspects of the European Automobile market are doing well.

    • 0 avatar
      Brad2971

      It is in no way “conservative talking point rubbish” to suggest that the alleged equalized returns of the 1950s-1960s were both US and global anomalies. It is CERTAINLY not a conservative talking point to suggest that mainstreaming women and minorities into all sectors of the labor force would push down wages for everyone involved, especially white men.

      And as far as the ABSURD military spending “advantage” the US supposedly has over Russia/China, and of the need to slash defense spending, be careful what you wish for, FOR YOU MAY GET WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

      • 0 avatar
        NeinNeinNein

        What about the bifurcation between wages and productivity? The latter has gone up, WAY UP and the former flatlined to declining. Those job creators and trickle down supply side econ. peddlers dont want you to look at that graph—-the one that shows you that clearly those gains are being hoarded at the very top and certainly not trickling down. The only time the middle class gets a bit ahead is in the midst of a bubble. Bubbles cant continue, the economy as a whole suffers when aggregate demand by the vast middle class contracts–the results QE to try and blow up another bubble.
        At some point, wages have to go up or the economy will tank further and interest on the debt will grow. You simply have to have a vibrant middle class to grow an economy. You cant have a continuation of what we are seeing—an no its not due to high taxes–with respect to US history they are at historically low levels and in addition the US has low taxes rates compared with other OECD countries.
        People calling infrastructure improvments in roads, education, energy transmission, communication—calling that communism? Oh man. Wake up bud–you realize that by your definition that IKE was a communist then? What were needed to build roads in the 1950′s but not maintain them?
        When the middle class aint spending–economies contract! Look what is happening before our eyes in Europe–they are under a defacto gold standard–no deficit spending in the face of the public’s downturn–the result = DEPRESSION! Greece, Spain , Italy, Portugal—soon France and others. How have we escaped it—we are spending still–although not enough. Look whats happening to GDP vs debt levels in Europe–in a depression—-everything gets worse.

        Put people back to work! Tax cuts only if you hire a worker or invest $$ in your business, rebuild the country until instead of a D- in infrastruture we have an A, invest in MUCH MUCh cheaper ed subsidies so your kids can graduate college without ebing 50K in debt, cut the military in HALF!

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I can’t conceive the point today in buying a modern “luxury” (not super lux) car, the features they offer don’t differ from cheaper competitors, econo boxes don’t exist, all of us that drive are in vehicles that 3rd world populations could only dream of.
    Lexus, BMW, caddy, – none of them make anything radically different than lesser brands – toyota, GM, VW. They all offer the same anti-lux 4 cyclinder power train as their lesser brands. Your buying a set of stickers, this is especially true of all luxury cars built on multi use platforms, its not in the least bit special. If you buy a 100k car built on the same platform as a 40k car, then its not worth anymore than the 40k to me.
    It’s all about image.
    The cheaper derivative may not be the best choice, but its certainly as good as its stablemates.

    • 0 avatar
      ItsMeMartin

      So true. What you’re describing is a sweeping victory for the marketing departments of the luxury brands. They’ve brainwashed the markets into thinking that everyone is entitled to their own slice of luxury bought on credit and are now reaping the rewards. BMWs on ridiculously long leases? Check. Newest Iphones bought by welfare recipients? Check. Credit cards maxed out and thinking it’s normal? Check.
      It’s just what Marcelo said early in the discussion. We – and I’m not talking about Europeans only – have succumbed to glitter and bling. We, as modern societies, value image more than true, inherent quality. For example, I have several old Volvo brochures right in front of me. What do the descriptions focus on? Reliability, manueverability, fuel economy, trunk size, interior volume. Now take a brochure of pretty any modern car. What’s there? Semi-poetic descriptions of its coupe-like roof line or the oh-so-gloroius feeling of owning one, all with a healthy dose of words like “prestige” and “luxury” thrown in for a good measure. Isn’t that telling?

      Just to clarify: don’t get me wrong, I’m not on some kind of a crusade against everyone who has a car generally perceived as “luxury”. If having a BMW floats your boat and gives you the pleasure you wouldn’t experience driving something else, I’m happy for you! Same goes if you can’t walk away from your 911 with those leather air vents without looking back. The ones I criticize are those who buy the luxury cars for the sole purpose of boosting their ego. I just see a lot of things that can go wrong if this culture of conspicuous consumption persists. And most of those who indulge in it couldn’t tell an E-class from a Taurus if you took away the badges anyway.

      • 0 avatar

        Martin,

        Amazing posts! Please stick around here.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeff Waingrow

          Oh, Derek, just because he said you did a good job of analyzing…

        • 0 avatar
          ItsMeMartin

          Thank you for the encouragement, Derek!

          I surely will. Actually, I’ve been reading the site for some time but as an observer rather than a participant, and I am really impressed with what you all are doing here! What I also like is that this feels like a community of enthusiasts rather than a gathering of one-posters who are on their way just as soon as they get the answer to that one question that made them register in the first place, that other automotive-themed sites often evolve into.

          Anyway, keep up the good work!

      • 0 avatar

        Great point ItsMeMartin. I think like you Hummer!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Excellent post. I agree there is very little “luxury” available at this point and its well known to marketeers. So they come up with some vague luxury sounding nonsense and put it in sales materials and train salespeople on it.

  • avatar
    Johannes Dutch

    The Teutonics took a very firm grip on the D and E segment in the past two decades, that process started WAY before the Great Financial Crisis. No more big Fords, Opels, Fiats, Alfa Romeos, Renaults, Peugeots, Citroëns and Lancias. The Opel Senator for example died more than 20 years ago, the Ford Scorpio in the late nineties. Both E-segment cars. Nissan Maxima and Toyota Camry: phased out years ago.
    Both excellent quality Japanese executive cars, but nobody wanted them.

    So all non-Teutonics, and that includes automakers from other continents, can now fully concentrate on everything smaller and cheaper. And hope for the best.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Nissan Maxima and Toyota Camry: phased out years ago.”

      Really?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Europeans got over “cars by the pound” a long, long time ago. Americans are finally starting to. What IS the point of a Taurus over a Fusion? The Fusion is more than big enough for most needs.

    • 0 avatar
      tinoslav

      There are two main reason why big cars from non luxury brands vanished:

      Taxation – we are coming close to a moment where the cost of owning a car (yearly tax + insurance + service and tyres) become a barrieer. Who has enough money to pay all the stuff for a big car has the money to jump to premium. A big realtively cheap car does not make sense from a financial point of view

      Size – the big cars (the Ford Mondeo/Fusion, VW Passat, Opel Insignia, Peugeot 507) became too big for the mainstream buyer. Why would you buy a new Mondeo/Fusion when you can for much less money have a Focus or a Golf that is as big as the Fusion 10 years ago and more practical? I barely fit in my parking space with my Auris/Corolla already and cannot imagine to drive something much bigger.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Don’t know about EU income inequality.
    EU17 average household debt to income ratio is 97 percent down from 98 percent 2012.
    The Netherlands ratio is 250 percent. Bicycles may be the biggest seller.
    Germany, the driver, 85 percent.
    Team USA 91 percent and now you know why the economy isn’t going anywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      RogerB34, my German relatives have often quipped that they are worth more dead than alive because the debt they carry is staggering.

      But their incomes support their lifestyles and as the owners of various businesses or employees of huge firms, their social standing also demands maxing out their incomes. It doesn’t make sense to them to stash away money for a rainy day since all future rainy days are already taken care of by the government.

      One way maximize their incomes is to borrow money to buy bigger houses, a car for both the husband and wife, higher life insurances, better furniture, entertain more often, achieve higher social status, etc.

  • avatar

    American consumers forced to live within their means?

    OH BOO HOO…

    I’ll remember to cry for them while I’m passing their 4-cylinders.

    It’s actually astonishing watching the look on peoples faces when they see me accelerate away from them and they’re like WTF WAS THAT?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do think Derek is on the correct path, but it’s a little more complex than he is stating.

    I do have many relatives in the Euro region.

    The first one is the ‘down marketing’ of the more prestigious European marques and why this has occurred.

    The overall quality of your everday ‘sh!tter’ or high volume vehicle from GM (all), Ford, Fiat, VW, Renault, Toyota, Nissan, etc have been improving in quality. Now the advantage or perception of quality between a MB or BMW, etc and a high volume vehicle has been reduced significantly.

    Why would you buy a BMW when you can get a vehicle with nearly as good quality for much less cost? So, the prestige marques had to enter into the mainstream market.

    Prestige vehicles had a better ratio of value adding than the high volume vehicles. They had to to cover costs of less production, higher design/development costs. Prestige manufacturers need volume as well to maintain the necessary cash.

    Like Derek pointed out the cost of vehicle ownership in the EU is higher than the US. This also places pressure on the volume manufacturers, along with the ‘prestige’ manufacturers vying for market share.

    Now, a void is required to be filled. So, those Eastern European vehicles that are cheap come into play. They are reliable enough offer enough quality and most importantly it gives you the freedom to travel.

    The US and even Australia have similar vehicles, they come from Korea. The US with its highly subsidised vehicle manufacturing does entice manufacturers into the US as well. Even the Korean manufacturers have become mainstream volume sellers of quality vehicles.

    As the Eastern Euro countries become more affluent the cost of the Dacia’s, etc will rise. So, what are the companies like the Nissan/Renault Alliance doing, starting the manufacture in Northern Africa.

    I bet within a decade or two, the EU will have vehicles manufactured in Africa in their market.

    We along with the US will have vehicles from Asia (read China and India).

  • avatar

    As someone living in Western Europe (Germany), I was particularly struck by this comment in the analysis: “Given the choice between a very well-equipped Ford Focus and a more modestly equipped German luxury car, a good number of consumers will opt for the latter – even if the premium car might be qualitatively inferior.”

    I think this is very true and I am struck by how extremely status-conscious the Germans are with their cars. At the top are clearly Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz (probably in that order)with VW behind. However, cars designed, engineered and built in Germany by Ford and Opel have nowhere near the cachet as they are somehow non-German. These cars tended to occupy the middle ranges and so when Mercedes brings its new A-Class to the market Ford/GM lose more market share. The new A-Class is a good example as every German car magazine I have read deems it inferior in almost every way to that most beloved of German cars, the VW Golf, but is selling very well because of the three-pointed star. This is almost certainly also the case for the 1-series BMW. Surprisingly, I seldom see the smallest Audi model on the road.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India