While everybody has their eyes on China and possibly India, the car market in smaller South East Asian countries is exploding right below the RADAR screen. By themselves, car sales in a country like Vietnam don’t seem to amount to much. Now, go to the trouble and add a few South East Asian countries together. The Nikkei [sub] did and notes to its amazement that the car market in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore jumped 21 percent in the first half year to 1.6 million units.
Now why would The Nikkei be so excited about this? Read More >
If you are the executive of a car company, then you better be with both feet in the emerging markets, or seek other employment. Markets in the U.S., Europe and Japan are saturated and off their peaks. At the same time, people in the world’s most populous countries are trading in their mopeds for cars, and this is where you want to be. Sadly, Detroit appears to be underrepresented in these markets. Read More >
Today, members of CHAdeMO congregated in the 7th floor auditorium of Tokyo’s Big Sight for CHAdeMO’s General Assembly 2012. CHAdeMO is a consortium of mostly Japanese companies with the target of establishing a standard for the charging of EVs. Also in the room was an invisible, but giant Godzilla. They called him “The Combo.” The combo is the product of (in Japanese views) an unholy alliance between U.S. and German OEMs which agreed on their own plug. The CHAdeMO and The Combo are utterly incompatible. Sparks are already flying. Read More >
Once upon a time, GM’s North American operations spewed red ink across the firm’s balance sheet, with the whole mess kept afloat by relatively strong overseas operations. Now GM makes most of its money at home while its international divisions limp along. No, really: in its just-released Q1 financial report, GM reveals that some $1.7b of its $2.2b global EBIT came from its once-troubled home markets. What a difference a bailout makes!
Two years after the Volkswagen Golf was launched, it received a fuel sipping diesel in 1976. I presented the launch campaign in Wolfsburg, and the ground shook. It wasn’t because of my campaign. It was because of the body stamping presses. The offices of the Zentrale Absatzförderung, VW’s advertising department, were two floors above. Read More >
Horns are a fixture of Indian driving. Rather than being used to signal anger like in the United States, horns are used for almost everything on Indian roads – one study found that major intersections in Calcutta have one horn honk every three seconds.
We have been keeping one eye on the Nissan/Renault plans for low cost cars for a while. All indications have been that the alliance is working on a car that could sell in the neighborhood of $5,000 and still make a profit. The secret of doing this is spreading the development effort over as many units as possible.
Today, The Nikkei [sub] writes that Nissan will resurrect its Datsun brand in order to sell low-priced cars in emerging markets. According what the Nikkei “learned” without naming sources, the cars will initially be built and sold in India, Indonesia and Russia. Allegedly, Nissan hopes to “achieve annual sales of 300,000 Datsuns a year soon.” Read More >
While Honda and Mazda are just getting their respective footholds in Mexico (the two automakers are opening up respective assembly plants in Mexico), Nissan has had a long presence south of the border, building cars at its Augascalientes, Mexico plant for decades.
There was ample hand-wringing when Volvo announced the death of their iconic station wagon in North America. While enthusiasts mourned the death of a cult classic, Volvo also announced a plug-in hybrid version of their V60 wagon, powered by a diesel engine and a hybrid drivetrain. Naturally, this vehicle was not destined for sale in North America.
The non-available V60 plug-in constituted the ultimate slap in the face for the Volvo faithful. Here was the newest generation of Volvo wagon (as opposed to the warmed over XC70 offered recently) with an environmental bent and the Euro-cachet of a diesel engine – but where was it? As Jamie Kitman of Automobile magazine rightfully pointed out, their core buyer is “green” but refusing to import such a vehicle may not be “lunacy”, because the Swedes have something more suited for American tastes – the same hybrid goodness, packaged as a gasoline-powered crossover.
“Under current foreign exchange rates, there can be no shipments from Japan of totally new projects,” Nissan’s COO Toshiyuki Shiga said. According to the report, anything with a new chassis that is intended for foreign markets will begin its life in those foreign markets. Says The Nikkei: Read More >
Since the Tokyo Auto Show and some Scion scuttlebutt have us on something of a Daihatsu theme here, I thought I’d show a bit of what the small car specialists are up to these days. The truth: despite the brand’s futuristic showcar image projections, Daihatsu mostly plays in the rough-and-tumble entry-level segments of emerging markets, where the cars are small and the margins can be even smaller.
And it’s had better luck there than in the so-called “mature markets.” Though the third generation Charade flopped on the American market amid much popular ridicule of its name (and, according to gearhead lore, oversight of other favorable qualities), the previous generation became the FAW-Tianjin “Xiali,” one of China’s most ubiquitous cars. Now Daihatsu is ditching Europe and hustling strangely cool little mini-MPVs built in Indonesia with the taglines “it’s very cheap” and “we build them compact.” Who needs developed markets? Read More >
With a 35% import tax on new cars, Argentina is already a touch market for foreign brands seeking to bring cars into the country. But the Argentinean government has just made it little bit harder by demanding that importers export an equal amount of Argentina-made goods for every car imported. As a result, Bloomberg reports that Porsche’s importer is exporting Malbec wines and olives, Mitsubishi’s importer is getting into the peanut export game, and Subaru’s representative is shipping chicken feed to Chile. BMW, which has had recent difficulties importing into Argentina, is focusing on its core business, exporting auto parts and upholstery… and a little processed rice to make up the difference. But why are these major manufacturers getting into all kinds of strange side businesses just because Argentina wants to improve its trade balance and foreign currency reserves? Simple: Argentina is South America’s second-largest economy, and it’s been growing at over 5% per year since 2007 (i.e. when other markets were shrinking). So if the government wants imports balanced with exports, well, Porsche’s importer is just going to have to get into the wine business, isn’t he?
One of the earliest iterations of the “Low Speed Vehicle Today, World EV Domination Tomorrow” business model to emerge at the dawn of the electric car era was ZAP. But after being exposed on numerous occasions for its poor product quality, vaporware hype and stock manipulation (most infamously in this Wired story), ZAP disappeared from the EV scene in the US (the company’s official (read: sanitized) history can be found here). Last we heard, ZAP was hyping a venture with the Korean optics firm Samyang, but it seems the firm has spending the last year or so putting down roots in the Chinese market. Having merged with Jonway, the Chinese maker of scooters, ATVs and a CUV that looks suspiciously like the Toyota RAV4, ZAP came back to the US for the Automotive X-Prize, which it contested in a ZAP Alias, the three-wheeled, $38k vehicle that has not been produced in volume although the company is still accepting deposits for it. The Alias failed to finish in the X-Prize, but ZAP says that revenue from Jonway is funding the vehicle’s continued development (including a four-wheeled version)… which was supposed to debut way back in 2009.
Now Consumer Reports says the firm is focusing on selling electric RAV4 knockoffs produced by Jonway as it continues to work on the Alias. But the firm seems to have burnt too many bridges in the US, as it says it will focus on selling the EVs in China and other world markets… despite the fact that developing market EV sales are going nowhere. But ZAP has left something of a legacy in the US: Senator Mitch McConnell, a critic of government loans for Solyndra, apparently pushed for a quarter-billion dollar federal loan to ZAP, opening him to charges of hypocrisy. Now, as ever, ZAP remains a fascinating fixture at the margins of the EV scene. And though it’s an interesting company to watch, it’s best when viewed from a safe distance…
Designed to be the world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano is supposed to compete with scooters and three-wheelers rather than full-priced, global-brand vehicles. But the Nano has already seen several price increases since the target MSRP of $2,500 was announced, and the price in India for a base-level Nano is now about $2,870. And when you talk about such low prices, even small increases can wreak havoc on expected volumes, and as a result the Nano is turning into something of a flop (helped along by its pyromaniaproblem). Read More >
Carmakers don’t want to be caught napping when the “next China” is at stake. They are setting their sights on Southeast Asia. Currently en vogue: Indonesia. The country with a population of 237 million has a bullet on the PowerPoints of most major carmakers. Toyota is already there and wants to double down. Read More >