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.
In the eighties, the European auto makers were quaking in their boots at the prospect of a “Japanische Welle” (Japanese wave). Having seen the huge damage the Japanese brands inflicted on Detroit during the seventies and early eighties, they braced themselves for a similar onslaught. It never quite happened. Now they’re wondering if the Koreans are going to succeed where the Japanese fell short. There are plenty of indications to suggest they will. In Germany, probably the most auto-chauvinistic of all the European countries, the Golf-class Hyundai i30 (above) is currently the number one selling import car, not counting VW’s captive import brand Skoda. Toyota and Honda’s European market share is down, and Hyundai’s is up, and growing quickly. Is the Hyundai Welle unstoppable? Read More >
August. Whole Europe goes on vacation. TTAC’s insular correspondent Cammy Corrigan often mentioned that she would want to write the story of her first trip to The Continent. Last time we left her somewhere on the mountainous road between Nice, France and Ventimiglia, Italy. Let’s catch up with her …
As we were leaving France, my spirits started to lift. Even though I was waving goodbye to the beautiful beach, I saw the silver lining. I’d been to France many times before and was sick of it. I was sick of a country I didn’t like to begin with. But Italy was different. I’d never been to Italy. The closest I’d been to Italy was a Spaghetti Carbonara I had once. I didn’t know what to expect.
My father, if you remember, was driving. And he knew EXACTLY what to expect. You see, driving in the UK is quite a sedate affair. You may get the odd person who’ll stick 2 fingers up at you, but on the whole, it’s quite a stress-free experience. Italy, on the other hand, was its polar opposite.
Traffic lights were just seen as pretty street lamps, road signs were seen as “suggestions” and the most used part of the car was the horn. You see a friend in the street? Honk your horn. Someone cuts you up? Honk your horn. Police stop you? You scream at him and honk your horn. Football team won? You drive up and down the streets honking, you guessed it, your horn. Want to insult an Italian man? Give him the hand signal for two horns, indicating that his wife is sleeping around. If you want to completely disable an Italian car, simply disconnect the horn.
This should give you an idea of how noisy the streets of Italy were.
If the noise didn’t drive you (no pun intended) mad, then the driving would. And the only way to survive on these manic roads was to drive just as mad. And so, for the Italian leg of our trip, my father disappeared and the spirit of Ayrton Senna arrived. Read More >
August. Every year, one of the largest barbarian migrations is taking place: Whole Europe goes on vacation. Off to warmer climes. Off to other countries. Or off to The Continent, as they say in Great Britain. TTAC’s insular correspondent Cammy Corrigan often mentioned that she would want to write the story of her first trip to The Continent. What better time than this?
“What’s going on?”
“We’re going on holiday!”
“France! Go pack your things! Quickly! We’re leaving in half an hour!”
This didn’t bode well. I hated France. I hated the food, the people, countryside, just everything. It’s not so bad now. Now, I just hate the food. And I’m still not too keen on the people, but it’s a start. In case you were wondering, that was my father. He woke me up to tell me we were going to spend two weeks in France. Read More >
Opels head shop steward Klaus Franz is mightily mad at Opel’s CEO Nick Reilly. Reilly told the London Times that the Ampera, Opel’s counterpart to the Volt, may be built in the Ellesmere Port plant in the UK:“The chances are quite good that the Ampera will come to Ellesmere Port as it is close in production terms to the Astra and will share many components,” Reilly said. In the meantime, Berlin cues Roberta Flack’s “Killing me softly” as a prelude for Opel’s funeral. Read More >
When the automotive historians look back at GM they will point to many factors as to why they fell. Some might point to the Unions, some may point to their lack of reliable products, others may even point to their shoddy dealer service. But one factor which undeniably led to GM’s bankruptcy is lack of brand management. If anyone questions the harm poor brand management can do, then, may I point you in the direction of the Cadillac Cimarron? Muddled brands leave people confused and wondering why should I stay loyal to this brand? Your brand is your stamp of a promise to your customer. Safe cars? Volvo or Renault. Reliability? Toyota or Honda. Driving dynamics? BMW. Now I raise this point, because people said that this problem was endemic to GM only. It was a GM-centric problem. But is it, really? Was it really a GM-only problem? Or did GM suffer from “big company” syndrome? Well it seem there’s evidence that poor brand management isn’t just for American auto companies.
Der Spiegel reports that Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn, is utterly fuming at Skoda. What could the reason be? Profits? Well, they are down, but we’ll come to that later. No, the main reason why Herr Winterkorn is seething at Skoda is because Skoda is doing well. So, well, in fact, that their cars are now creating problems for VW cars, their main brand. Read More >
A couple of weeks ago, TTAC reported how Dieter Zetsche was re-elected as CEO of Daimler for another 3 years. In that article we mentioned the many challenges that face him. Mainly, how to make Daimler sustainably profitable. Size matters in the auto business. An unattached Daimler has a hard time achieving the economies of scale someone like say Audi or Lexus can. So unless Daimler fancies being taken over (and we all know Daimler likes to be on top in any tie-up) it’ll have to form partnerships and joint ventures to get those cost savings Daimler needs. The big arranged wedding between BMW and Daimler isn’t going anywhere. Instead, Daimler announced that it had formed a partnership with Renault to produce the new generation Smart car. Then, Daimler announced it had formed a partnership with BYD to develop an electric car for the Chinese market. Now Daimler is trying to form a new partnership to achieve massive cost savings: A partnership with the tax payer. Read More >
Opel’s Nick Reilly is casting worried glances towards Berlin and Brussels. What he hears from there makes him double his Maalox dosage. Or pop some local Rennies, if the heartburn meds are in short supply at the Apotheke in Rüsselsheim. Which they undoubtedly are. Nobody wants to help Reilly. Berlin doesn’t want to. Brussels doesn’t want to. Even Opel’s own auditors are no help. This tale would be better told by Kafka. He’s dead. I’ll try. Read More >