I’ve been on the road for the last few weeks and one of the places I was able to visit was the Smithsonian Institution’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport located just outside of Washington DC. Unlike the National Air and Space Museum located on the national mall close to the capitol building, the Udvar-Hazy Center is an enormous facility and although I have visited other aircraft museums that have had larger collections on display, I think it is safe to say that the Smithsonian’s collection is second to none. The aircraft on display span the history of flight and include both military and civilian examples. More importantly, at least for the sake of this discussion, they come from every corner of the globe and as they sit there, lined up beside one another, it’s easy to compare the craftsmanship of one nation’s products against the next.
The British Newspaper The Telegraph is reporting that, if senior European law enforcement officials have their way, all cars entering the European market may soon be fitted with a remote shutdown device that would allow police officers to electronically deactivate any vehicle at the touch of a button. Read More >
After talk of increasing the seperation between Chevrolet and Opel, GM has announced that it will axe the Chevrolet brand in Europe, despite previously aiming to make Chevrolet its low-cost brand, while signing a nine-year, $584 million deal to have the brand sponsor Manchester United football club.
While Americans are still asking whether it’s even wise to buy small turbocharged engines instead of larger naturally aspirated ones, we in Europe are slowly losing our ability to even choose a car without a turbocharged engine. Volkswagen has recently announced that it is going turbo only – but in our market, the transition is nearly complete. Except for base engines in Polo supermini and Up! city car, basically everything else has a turbo slapped on it – and it looks much the same with other VAG brands. Others are following closely – Ford eliminated most of its naturally aspirated engines, except for the base 1.6 in Focus and small engines in Fiesta. Renault is coming with new tiny turbo plants to replace small four cylinder NA motors – and is even introducing them to its low-cost brand Dacia. PSA, Fiat, Opel and others are heading this direction as well.
But, why is that? Is it that Europeans are more forward thinking, more interested in economy an environment than polar bear killing ‘murricans with their massive V6s and V8s? Is it the European driving style and road network, requiring smaller and lighter cars?
With just 143 examples registered in the UK, Aston Martin has quietly dropped the Cygnet city car – based on the Toyota iQ. According to UK mag Autocar, Aston Martin will also not be re-entering this space, and will focus on what it does best: making high end performance cars. Originally conceived as a way to meet strict European emissions rules, the Cygnet failed to meet Aston’s initial sales projections of 4000 units annually.
Remember all that hype about how a Detroit-area Jeep plant would be building the Maserati Levante SUV, for export back to Italy? Yeah, me either.
Europe’s auto market implosion has led BMW to shift units earmarked for the continent over to the United States and China, where demand remains strong.
Europe’s new car market continues on its downward spiral with sales down 2.8 percent in June. Half year sales are down 6.8 percent across the EU, data released today by the European Automobiles Manufacturers’ Association ACEA show today. Some countries and automakers do much better, some much worse. Read More >
The establishment of a new manufacturing base in North Africa has fascinated me for the past couple months – though few others seem to really care. The leader in this movement has been Renault, which is setting up plants in Morocco and Algeria to build their popular, low-cost Dacia vehicles in factories where employees earn a fraction of what a French assembly line worker would make.
PSA doesn’t have a low-cost brand of it’s own, so jobs haven’t gone across the Strait of Gibraltar – yet. But the closing of the Aulnay plant, where a massive contingent of North African immigrants (now French citizens) work, is a compelling snapshot of the socioeconomic and racial dynamics of France that happens to intersect with the auto industry.
TTAC has long seen stop-start systems (which turn off the engine at idle) as one of the many common-sense technologies that will continue to improve internal combustion engine efficiency at a relatively low cost. Outside of these digital pages, though, the systems have taken longer to gain awareness in the United States, resulting in the lagging adoption rate pictured in the chart above. Up to this point, we’ve assumed that this can largely be blamed on the EPA test’s unwillingness to acknowledge the urban-driving advantages of stop-start systems, pointing to Mazda’s protests on the matter as evidence that government intransigence was keeping the technology out of the market. But recently Mazda has announced that all of its vehicles will get stop-start as standard by 2015, and Ford has said that it will begin offering the technology on “some” four-cylinder models for the North American 2012 model-year… and the rest of Detroit isn’t far behind. So what’s the deal? The EPA hasn’t changed its test… why are stop-start systems finally starting to trickle over?
Thanks to new research obtained by TTAC from the cleantech investment fund Pacific Crest, we now have a better understanding of stop-start technology, and why we’re actually glad it’s taking so long for the systems to get here.