The Truth About Cars » China The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:57:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » China New PSA Boss Tavares Prepares To Rebuild Company Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:15:58 +0000 Carlos Tavares

Though PSA Peugeot Citroen secured funding in a three-way deal between itself, the French government and Dongfeng, new boss and former Renault COO Carlos Tavares has a hard road ahead of him as he rebuilds the ailing automaker.

Reuters reports Tavares will focus using the joint venture it shares with Dongfeng to go after 1.5 million sales by 2020, bring exports to Southeast Asia and establish a research center. He will also tighten up both working capital and the number of models sold in each market, as well as squeeze savings from PSA’s suppliers.

However, development woes, pricing issues on some models, and the use of heavy discounts and incentives are all roadblocks on Tavares’ “Back in the Race” plan expected to be issued in full Monday, as well as currency challenges in Latin America and Russia and lower-cost products from around Asia.

As part of the plan, Tavares is expected to halve the number of models it currently offers. On the bright side, the 308 and 2008 both delivered a combined 5.2 percent sales increase in the first two months of 2014, as well as an 8.5 percent Q1 2014 gain over PSA’s home market.

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BMW May Build Second NA Plant To Fend Off German Rivals Wed, 09 Apr 2014 14:04:23 +0000 BMW Spartanburg

In its battle against Mercedes-Benz and Audi for record sales, BMW is mulling over the possibility of a second plant in North America.

Bloomberg reports the automaker would place its second factory in Mexico, with two sites under consideration. The decision to expand will take a few months according to BMW production chief Harald Krueger, Should the move be given a green light, the Mexican plant is likely to build the 3 Series.

The second factory would add to the long-term growth strategy BMW is using to fend off its German premium market competitors in a heated battle for records global sales, fueled by growing demand in the United States and China. Mercedes will add the C-Class to its Alabama facility in June with a new plant in North America due near the end of this decade, while Audi is in the middle of setting up shop in Mexico with a $1.3 billion plant set to produce crossovers beginning in 2016.

Previously, BMW announced it would invest $1 billion to expand its South Carolina plant by 50 percent in 2016, as well as add the X7 large SUV to the X Series lineup currently produced in the plant.

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2016 Chevrolet Cruze Spied Mon, 31 Mar 2014 16:30:14 +0000 2016-Chevrolet-Cruze-01


In advance of its debut, these pictures from a Chinese website purport to show the Chevrolet Cruze, sans camouflage.

The updated Cruze, which may see a debut as early as the New York Auto Show, gets an updated nose that aligns closer with Chevrolet’s new corporate styling, along with a revamped interior. Power should come from GM’s new modular engine family.

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Tesla Stays In NY, Loses Key China Exec Mon, 31 Mar 2014 12:59:13 +0000 Tesla Model S

Automotive News reports Tesla and Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association reached a compromise agreement over the weekend that would allow the EV automaker to keep their five stores while prevent Tesla or any other auto manufacturer from establishing more direct-sale stores in the state. In the words of Governor Andrew Cuomo:

Today’s agreement reaffirms New York’s long-standing commitment to the dealer franchise system, while making sure New York remains a leader in spurring innovative businesses and encouraging zero emissions vehicle sales.

Meanwhile, Tesla spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean tells Bloomberg the Gigafactory will source supplies of graphite, cobalt et al from within North America, citing cost and environmental issues behind the decision. Currently, the majority of graphite found in the automaker’s battery packs come from synthetic sources in Europe and Japan, with future natural sources expected to come from Canada.

Over in China, where graphite mines and processing plants are being closed over air-quality issues, Tesla’s general manager Kingston Chang resigned his position for personal reasons. His departure, which the automaker declined to expand upon to Bloomberg, comes just as CEO Elon Musk prepares to expand further into the country’s auto market, who predicts sales to be on par with those in the United States as early as next year.

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Why We May Not See The Next Ford Taurus, But China Will Wed, 19 Mar 2014 19:22:53 +0000 2010_Ford_Taurus_Limited_2_--_10-31-2009

According to some outlets, the 2016 Ford Taurus will be both quicker and lighter than the outgoing car. That’s news to us here at TTAC – last we heard, the Taurus wasn’t even slated for North America.

Reeports by Edmunds and other outlets are claiming that the next Taurus will ditch the heavy, antiquated Volvo-based platform in favor of Ford’s more modern CD architecture that underpins the Fusion, the upcoming Ford Edge and other models. This is technically true.

Back in the spring of 2013, our sources told us that a CD-based Taurus was under development, but promptly sent to the garbage dump after its design bombed its consumer clinics. Marketing brass at Ford decided to kill the Taurus, due to dissatisfaction with the way it looked, and the sales volumes the Taurus generated. Given the accuracy of our sources regarding the F-150 and its aluminum construction, as well as the 2015 Mustang, we are inclined to believe them.

Ironically, Taurus sales have grown by nearly 20 percent over the past two years, despite a shrinking full-size car market. But the long-term trend suggests that larger sedans (what’s considered mid-size, as well as full-size) will undergo a contraction in sales, as CUVs take a bigger bite out of the segment.

The full-size sedan market is heavily weighted towards fleet sales, and with the Fusion outselling the Taurus by a roughly 4:1 ratio, it’s understandable that Ford would not want to renew the Taurus for another model cycle. Other considerations, like the Taurus being a drag on Ford’s CAFE ratings (remember, large cars get punished under CAFE, whereas trucks don’t) and the stronger sales of the Explorer Police Interceptor may give the Taurus-killers some more ammo.

One place where the Taurus could survive is in China. Ford is already planning a large Lincoln flagship, codenamed GOBI. Based on the CD architecture and targeted at Chinese business consumers by emphasizing rear seat comfort and amenities, GOBI will replace what we know as the Lincoln MKS in both China and the United States. Our source thinks that a new Taurus, twinned with GOBI, could be a possibility for China – but its future in America is in doubt.

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Opel Adam Entering Chinese Market As A Buick Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:55:15 +0000 2013-Opel-ADAM-Models

When the Opel Adam enters the Chinese auto market in 2015, it will do so with a Buick badge as General Motors’ first high-end city car.

CarNewsChina reports the Adam will sell for somewhere between 169,800 yuan and 268,800 yuan, the same price range as that of the city car’s main competitor, the Fiat 500. Buick will import the Adam at first, though local production could come to fruition further down the road.

Under the hood, two engines will be available to future Adam owners, including a 1.2-liter engine driving 69 horses through the front wheels, and a larger 1.4-liter with 100 horsepower. Both engines are gasoline-powered.

The customer base for the Adam are those seeking a trendsetting lifestyle machine that has little to do with their parents’ Regal or other sedans.

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China To Relax Restrictions On Foreign Joint Venture Ownerships Fri, 21 Feb 2014 18:00:41 +0000

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, in line with President Xi Jinping’s desire for opening the domestic economy to private and foreign investors, plans to relax restrictions on foreign ownership of joint ventures with local automakers in the face of those warning such a move would be the beginning of the end of the Chinese local auto industry.

Automotive News China reports the organization will join their fellow ministries in developing a plan to implement the proposed deregulation sometime in the future. Currently, foreign companies are mandated to form joint ventures with local companies in order to do business in China, while foreign shareholders are barred from owning more than half of said ventures.

Meanwhile, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, representing local interests, voiced their opposition in a statement following the announcement by ministry spokesman Xiao Chunquan:

Relaxing the current foreign ownership restrictions will wipe out Chinese brands. Foreign companies can totally use the competitive advantage of their global supply chains to support a price strategy to kill Chinese brands in the cradle.

The death spiral may have already begun, however, as Chinese consumers opt for foreign makes such as Buick, Volkswagen and Peugeot. Local brands lost 4.9 percent market share in 2013 from the year before, hovering around 38.4 percent as Volkswagen AG became the No. 1 foreign automaker over General Motors during a prosperous run by all foreign manufacturers bolstered by higher industry sales.

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Beijing EV Licenses Ignored In Spite Of New Car Registration Difficulties Wed, 19 Feb 2014 12:00:57 +0000 SCMP   28JAN13  CH SMOG

Though the municipal government in Beijing has set aside 20,000 license plates for electric vehicles in an attempt to offset their ongoing air quality woes, very few residents are interested, even if it means waiting a long time to own a gasoline-powered car.

South China Morning Post reports only 1,701 potential EV owners have filed applications for new vehicle licensing thus far. The figure is less than 0.1 percent of the nearly 1.9 million new vehicle licensing applications received by Beijing’s city government for gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles.

Though all 20,000 applications would be issued if more applicants entered their name in the lottery system used to issue licenses, most would rather wait until they received approval for a conventional vehicle. As a result, the city government recently tweaked their lottery to improve the chances of those 640,000 applicants who tried their hand over 25 times to buy and license a non-EV vehicle, resulting in a 2.4 percent chance of success for those who applied more than 37 times.

The reason for the lack of enthusiasm in Beijing for EVs? A lack of supporting infrastructure for charging the vehicles, and a perception of poor performance and unreliability overall, with taxi drivers complaining of limited range and long-wait times to charge in regards of the 1,000 taxis and the 500 charging stations in the city to keep the taxis moving.

Beijing aims to alleviate the issue by installing 1,000 stations within city limits by the end of 2014, extending into the suburbs by 2017. City officials also aim to bring 1.7 million EVs to the road by 2017, as well, with subsidies of up to 108,000 yuan to help encourage more residents to buy electric.

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Hyundai Ready To Add Capacity After Two-Year Break Tue, 11 Feb 2014 17:00:59 +0000 Hyundai production line Alabama plant

After a two-year break in expansion mandated by Hyundai Motor Company Chairman Chung Mong-koo in order to avoid quality issues experienced by Toyota during their aggressive growing spurt in the 2000s, Hyundai and Kia are both looking through feasibilities studies to determine where to invest in expanding their manufacturing footprint.

Though the mandate is still in place, the expansion freeze is putting the pressure on both brands’ existing factories to produce more vehicles as it is. In 2013, Hyundai and Kia utilized 105 percent capacity of their factories around the globe, with those in the Southeastern United States running flat-out between 125 percent and 135 percent on two shifts per day.

Sources closes to the expansion plans noted the current ban, though highly beneficial to the parent automaker’s bottom line, is ultimately unsustainable for future success; Hyundai aims to sell nearly 8 million units globally in 2014, and expansion into Mexico and China — and possibly the U.S., though through a cautious approach due to tougher competition in a tight market — would help move the goal post past 8 million

The renewed interest in expansion comes as costs in labor and languid growth prospects in the automaker’s home market are prompting competitors — such as General Motors — to cut back on manufacturing and export, something Hyundai refuses to contemplate. Thus, the search for “investment opportunities” outside of a local market set to peak at 1.6 million sales annually through 2020 beginning in 2016, including three sites in China, whose local market could see 33 million to 38 million sales annually by 2020.

If approved, the fourth Chinese factory would be Hyundai’s first major manufacturing capacity investment since opening their third plant in 2012 alongside one in Brazil, both announced prior to the expansion ban in 2010 and 2008, respectively.

That said, Chung could veto any new expansion investment should such plans be presented.

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China’s Overall Vehicle Fleet Increased 14% in 2013, Used Sales Up Mon, 03 Feb 2014 13:00:45 +0000

China’s Ministry of Public Security is reporting that China’s vehicle fleet expanded 14 percent last year from 2012, to 137 million vehicles. In ten years, China’s vehicle population has grown by 570%. The total includes 2.5 million buses, 20.2 million trucks and 14.4 microvans. The remaining 100 million vehicles are sedans, multipurpose vehicles and SUVs. Thirty one Chinese cities have vehicle fleets exceeding 1 million vehicles and eight municipalities have more than 2 million cars and trucks registered: Beijing, Tianjin, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Suzhou and Hangzhou.

At the same time, the  China Automobile Dealers Association reports that sales of used cars, trucks and buses in China went up 9% last year from 2012, to 5.2 million units. Sales of used sedans were up 12% while sales of used SUVs were up a whopping 50%. Sales of used commercial trucks and buses were up only slightly.

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Editorial: Acura Needs Another Crossover Fri, 31 Jan 2014 12:00:28 +0000 450x278xsuvx-450x278.jpg.pagespeed.ic.qs_Rnv3QLW

Everyone is eager to read Acura its Last Rites, but in the United States, it managed to outsell Audi last year. Despite having little to offer enthusiasts and traditional fans of the brand, the RDX and MDX are unqualified successes: the RDX outsells all of the small crossovers from Germany’s luxury bands (Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK etc.) with the larger MDX outsold only by the Lexus RX and Cadillac SRX respectively. As much as Acura touts the NSX as the future of the brand, what they could really stand to use is another crossover, one that slots below the RDX.

Acura’s sales have been a roller coaster over the past decade. 2006 saw the beginning of a steep decline in sales, with Acura losing nearly half of its volume by 2009, going from 201,000 units annually to just over 105,000 in three years. In the throes of the financial crisis, Acura canned expensive projects like a front-engined, V10 NSX, a planned V8 and rear-drive platforms. There was even talk of shuttering the brand altogether.

Evidently, that didn’t happen, and the brand managed to claw its way back. Last year, it sold 165,000 units, with the RDX and MDX accounting for 59 percent of the brand’s total volume. People are coming to Acura for the crossovers, not for the cars, though that picture should improve now that the RLX has replaced the RL and the moribund TL is on its way out.

That doesn’t change the situation, as much as the Integra GS-R worshiping faithful may not like it. Crossovers are a growing segment, and perhaps the only bright spot in a globally depressed auto market. Even in Europe, the spiritual home of the station wagon, crossovers are practically the only segment that is not shrinking. Acura itself is not a global brand, but the key markets in competes in – North America, China and Russia – are crossover crazy, especially the latter two, where poor roads dictate a higher ride height, and a high driving position and faux-SUV proportions are all desirable traits.

In America, CUVs are already eating into segments like mid-size and large sedans, while small crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape are among the most popular light trucks. At the same time, premium small cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLA are gaining conquest sales from mainstream nameplates like the Honda Accord. It would be foolish to assume that the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLA won’t do the same with the CR-V, Escape and other larger, but comparably priced mainstream vehicles.

Acura is said to be working on a GLA-sized vehicle for the Chinese market, based on the Honda Vezel. From a business standpoint, they’d be foolish not to bring it here. It’s hard to imagine it would fare worse than the awkwardly proportioned ILX, which hasn’t been accepted by the market place, and will likely get its lunch eaten by the CLA.

When it comes to passenger cars, the European nameplates have Acura beaten lock, stock and barrel. But the crossover space is a different story, and it’s only going to grow further and further. A competitor to the GLA, the BMW X1 and an Audi Q3 could be a way for Acura to turn the ship around, adding volume for the brand while maximizing profit for the Fit/Vezel platform and preventing the European brands from owning that corner of the market.

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Toyota Supplier Expects Chinese Sales To Double By 2018 Thu, 30 Jan 2014 17:00:15 +0000 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-011

Tsubakimoto Chain Co., a Toyota supplier, expects sales of their auto parts to factories in China to double within the next four years as automakers seek to diversify their supply chains.

In an interview with Bloomberg earlier this week, Tsubakimoto managing executive officer Toru Fujiwara expects sales of his company’s line of chains and gears to surpass $116 million by March of 2018, more than double the $58 million Tsubakimoto aims to sell in 2014. This is due to General Motors and Volkswagen battling it out over China for the title of No. 1 in the largest global auto market, leading both automakers to diversify their supply chain to reduce the risk of having only one supplier per part.

VW and GM have plans to build new plants in China to help increase production capacity, with the Germans building seven plants to produce 4 million units by 2018 as the General opts to build four plants to produce 5 million annually; GM also plans to invest $11 billion in China by 2016 to further their cause.

Japanese manufacturers, including Toyota, are also expected to increase orders as the conflict over the Diaoyu Islands cools down, allowing demand for Japanese cars to recover.

As for Tsubakimoto, Fujiwara recently approved plans to build a factory in China as early as 2014, and may either choose to increase capacity of his company’s plant in Tennessee or build a new plant within the next three years based on increased sales in the United States, which are expected to reach $172.3 million by March, then expand 15 percent by the same time in 2017. Overall sales in North America account for 17 percent of the Japanese chain company’s total revenue in the previous fiscal year.

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The ATS Goes Long In Its Target Market Sun, 26 Jan 2014 17:34:07 +0000 atscaddy

It’s not secret that General Motors is depending on China to ensure a rosy future for its Cadillac brand. However, the imported ATS, complete with pinched-off rear seating and thirsty turbocharged engine, isn’t cutting the mustard. No surprise, then, that GM will be building the ATS locally in the future, with one very important change.

Carnewschina reports that the Cadillac ATS will be built in China with a choice of the 200-horsepower 2.5L four-banger or the 3.6 DI V6. More importantly, to suit the, ahem, unique tastes of the Chinese market, the wheelbase will be stretched four inches, making it an ATS-L.

At this point, it’s tempting to write something along the lines of “Oh, those wacky Chinese and their obsession with rear-seat comfort and K-turn-nightmare wheelbases.” But think about it for a moment. The traditional brand image of Cadillac includes spaciousness, doesn’t it? Yet every single Cadillac built since the demise of the RWD Fleetwood has been cramped in the back to some extent. The original CTS and edged-up STS were disasters in that regard; your humble author used to daily-drive an ’06 STS AWD and when I adjusted the front seat to my preference it would touch the rear lower cushion. Even the famed DTS wasn’t exactly S-Class-competitive in back, thanks to its shared platform. The ATS is pretty much a four-door 2+2, like a Mazda RX-8. Where’s the appeal in that? Why aren’t all Cadillacs spacious and comfortable in back?

For now, it looks like, as with the previous STS-L and the Buick “Park Avenue” G8, the General is saving its best ideas for its favorite market.

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The Chinese Car Era Comes To An End In North America Thu, 23 Jan 2014 16:31:12 +0000 2015-Honda-Fit

With the introduction of the 2015 Honda Fit, the era of the Chinese car is coming to an end in North America. According to Honda Canada, all 2015 Honda Fits for both the United States and Canada will be sourced from Honda’s new plant in Mexico. That means an end to the importation of the Fit from Honda’s plant in China. Who knows what the next one will be for Canada (and the first one for the United States). Any guesses?

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Porsche’s Bernhard Maier: China Could Become No. 1 in 2014 Fri, 10 Jan 2014 12:00:50 +0000 Porsche 911 GT3-R Hybrid in China

In a sign that the 21st Century could belong to China after all, Porsche’s head of sales and marketing Bernhard Maier predicts that the United States will finish second on the podium to China as far as 911s and Macans are concerned by the end of 2014 at the earliest.

Though Maier’s ultimate goal is for Porsche to have “qualitative, sustainable and profitable growth” — defined as an ROI over 15 percent with a return on equity of over 21 percent, thus allowing Porsche to remain the most profitable automaker in the world while financing their investments through net cash flow — in opposition to volume, he believes that China could become the automaker’s No. 1 single market as soon as 2014, if not sometime in 2015, knocking the United States from the top.

In China, the Cayenne and Panamera are Porsche’s two best-sellers, with more growth potential in 2014 due to a product changeover with the second-generation Panamera creating a shortage in the market. Overall, their current balance of global sales is divided evenly between the Americas, Europe and Asia, with the Macan leading the way toward growth in mature and emerging markets.

Speaking of the Macan, Maier has high hopes for the compact SUV, which will debut in European showrooms in April, with the United States following soon after before China gets theirs in August. Serving as one of two entry points into Porsche’s paradise — the other being the Boxster — Maier expects 50,000 units to head out on the highway by the close of 2014, with overall sales fast approaching Porsche’s 2018 goal of 200,000 units/annually by next year.

Why so soon? Maier says that when Porsche outlined their strategy back in 2011, the automaker sought to go all in with both guns blazing the global marketplace. With market forces expecting an increase in the luxury segment by over 4.5 percent, and annual global sales demand climbing to 100 million, 200,000 yearly sales by 2015 appears to be possible.

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BYD Coming to America in 2015 Tue, 07 Jan 2014 05:41:47 +0000 BYD Qin

Backed by Warren Buffet and his investment company Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.,Automotive News is reporting that Chinese automaker BYD plans to deliver four models to the United States in late 2015.

This move comes after BYD founder and chair Wang Chauanfu spent the past three years reorganizing his company, cutting the number of dealerships under the automaker’s banner while narrowing losses with their solar business with help from state incentives.

In turn, investors rewarded the changes with a 63 percent surge in the share price — currently holding around $5 USD — though nowhere near the peak of $11 BYD saw in October 2008; Berkshire Hathaway paid around $1 per share for 9.9 percent ownership of the company back in that year.

Though BYD has yet to bring over any of their cars to the U.S., they will begin manufacturing of their K9 electric bus in March at its factory in Lancaster, Calif.; a plan to sell the e6 electric hatchback by the end of 2010 was postponed.

Leading the charge will be the Qin (pronounced Chin) plug-in hybrid, which already arrived in local market showrooms last month. The $31,400 (before state subsidies) sedan books it from nil to 60 in under 6 seconds, and possesses a 43-mile range in electric-only travel.

That said, the Qin, along with its electric brethren, may be a better sell in Los Angeles than in Beijing, as high prices, safety concerns, and a lack of supporting infrastructure have held back China’s goal of 5 million alternative-energy vehicles by 2020.

However, the state government unveiled a new program last September which is supposed to alleviate the issue through heavy promotion of new-energy vehicles in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou using subsidies through 2015, which should help BYD in local adoption of their plug-in and EV offerings.

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Hyundai, Kia See Weakest Annual Sales Growth in a Decade Thu, 02 Jan 2014 16:59:53 +0000 kia-k900-la-auto-show-14

2014 may only be a day old, but it’s already shaping up to be a rough year for Hyundai and Kia as they prepare to increase global sales by just 4 percent this year, the lowest and bleakest forecast for the Korean duo since 2003.

Though the foreseen growth will be fueled by revamped models and increased production in China, and is in line with overall projected global sales in 2014, a stronger won and weaker yen — the latter brought about by Japan’s desire to support its export industry and to find a way out of the 20-year trek through the economic wilderness — have eroded the price advantage Hyundai and Kia held over their Japanese competitors.

While the duo experienced market growth in Brazil and China last year, they lost market share in both their home market and in the United States, the former through a free trade pact between the European Union and South Korea. Sales in 2013 totaled 7.56 million units worldwide, with a total projection of 7.86 million going forward in 2014.

Shares of the parent automaker haven’t fared well in the outgoing year, advancing only 8 percent against GM’s 41 percent and Toyota’s 60 percent surges on the trading floor.

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Citroën Bestows First Premium DS Model Upon China Wed, 25 Dec 2013 00:53:35 +0000 2014 Citroën DS 5LS 04
Unveiled at a special event in Paris last week, Citroën’s DS 5LS is the French automaker’s first premium variant of the DS sub-brand. Don’t expect to park this one at the Louvre, however; the DS 5LS is destined solely for the Chinese market.

The 5LS will be the second DS model built at Citroën’s new factory in Shenzhen after the DS5, and will be followed by a China-exclusive SUV and the new DS3 later on in 2014, as well as a larger executive sedan based on the DS9 concept in 2015.

Unlike its hot-hatch brethren, the traditional sedan was made with the Chinese market (and German competitors, such as the Audi A3 Saloon and Mercedes-Benz CLA) in mind. Thus, it measures 185 inches with a 106-inch wheelbase — perfect for party members being chauffeured from Bejing to Macau for a bit of gambling — has a 16-cubic foot trunk, and the interior is filled with opulent materials and high-tech goodies including reversing camera, massaging seats, and air purification.

Under the hood, the front wheels will be driven by either a 1.6-liter turbo providing around 160 to 200 horsepower or a 132-horsepower VTi, with power directed by a six-speed automatic transmission in the 1.6-liter options.

The DS sub-brand aims to move 200,000 units by 2015, along with bringing its home factory up to full capacity. Fifty DS Stores are also planned to open in the largest cities in China in an effort to drive more interest in the 5LS and subsequent models.

The 5LS will make its home market debut during the 2014 Beijing Auto Show this coming April.

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Next Holden Commodore To Be Made In China, Sport 4-Cylinder Engine Mon, 16 Dec 2013 14:43:13 +0000 Buick_LaCrosse_China_2012-04-28

Just as TTAC predicted in earlier editorials, Holden will be receiving vehicles imported from China as part of its future product plan – the vehicle slated to be imported from China is no less than the next generation Commodore.

Previous reports suggested that the next-gen Commodore would be a Camry-sized front-drive model that would also be sold as a Buick. Now the details have become clearer. The car was slated to be twinned with a Buick model made exclusively for the Chinese market and built in both China and Australia. But now that Holden has lost its Australian factories, China will be the sole location for the car’s production, and the Commodore will go ahead as a “Made in China” vehicle.

Holden will also offer a 4-cylinder engine for the first time since the 1980s, and Holden personnel are fighting to have a V6 available as an option. Holden last offered a 4-cylinder Commodore in the 1980s, and sales were dismal. Ford recently offered a Falcon with a 2.0L Ecoboost, but it accounted for less than 10 percent of sales.

According to NewsCorp, Holden feels that it’s easier to stick with the Commodore nameplate despite the drastic changes, rather than launch a whole new nameplate. The new car is said to be 196 inches long (one inch longer than the current car), and just as wide as today’s VF Commodore, but will look more like a European pseudo-coupe rather than the brawny, slab-sided look of the traditional Commodore.

There’s little doubt that a Commodore of this nature will be poorly received, with what’s left of the full-size Aussie sedan cohort rejecting this car as being an unworthy successor to the Commodore legacy. Holden’s marketing team is going to have a seriously difficult task on their hands come 2017.

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Automotive Lobbyists in China Opposing Rule Change in Foreign Ownership Fri, 06 Dec 2013 12:00:18 +0000 2014 Buick Regal GS

The automotive industry lobby group China Association of Automobile Manufacturers is at loggerheads with Beijing over a rule change proposal that would ease restrictions on foreign ownership of auto manufacturing ventures. The fear, according to CAAM Secretary General Dong Yang, is that should the restraining bolt be removed, the local industry would lose control of the joint ventures they currently hold, if not the Chinese auto industry itself.

China’s Ministry of Commerce announced that they are considering relaxing foreign investment rules in the country’s automotive sector. Currently, foreign manufacturers must form a joint partnership with local automakers in order to build their cars for the Chinese market, all in the hope that the locals learn a thing or two about technology and management expertise so that they may, in turn, be competitive on a global scale. On top of this, foreign automakers are only allowed to own up to half of said joint partnerships, a framework that is not mandated for doing business in other countries.

While the ministry sees the current setup as imbalanced, Dong views relaxing the rules would be the difference between life and death, urging Beijing to carefully and deliberately reconsider. Alas, the point may be moot: only 30 percent of Chinese consumers choose the home team when it comes to car ownership.

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Lincoln to Consider “Legacy” Names Due to Chinese Influence Fri, 29 Nov 2013 16:04:37 +0000 2014 Lincoln MKS

Remember when Lincoln had cars with names such as Mark, Continental, Zephyr, Town Car and Versailles? Alas, unless you want to own a body-on-frame SUV from the newly renamed Lincoln Motor Company, your choices begin with MK, and end with a letter that somehow corresponds to the model in question.

Should Ford’s VP of Global Marketing Jim Farley have his way, however — and you happen to also be a resident of China — the next Lincoln to be sold may have a real name upon its backside once more.

Why? The Blue Oval plans to reintroduce Lincoln to the Chinese market, who still remembers when many a government official and president turned up in a Continental; this may also explain in part why the lead car in the funeral for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il was a Lincoln, if not how it got there in the first place.

Farley believes the concept of non-alphanumeric nomenclatures is worth revisiting, though no current model will receive a proper name for the foreseeable future. Until then, Lincoln’s customer base will continue to need to remember which MK is the right MK for them, unless they want a Navigator, of course.

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Ford Expects SUVs, Crossovers to Drive Global Success Wed, 27 Nov 2013 15:12:40 +0000 Explorer Sport front quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh

Is the future of motoring in the global marketplace in the good hands of the Golf, Forte and Fiesta? Not if you’re Ford’s vice president of Global Marketing, Jim Farley. In his mind, it’ll be a page from the 1991 Explorer’s successful playbook that will help his employer gain market and mind share the world over.

According to Farley, the Blue Oval will experience an overall 23 percent growth in sales between last year and 2017, while utility vehicle sales will boom to 41 percent in the same period (and straight up explode in China with help from smaller crossover utility models such as the oft-beleaguered Escape/Kuga, EcoSport and, of course, Explorer).

As for sales in established markets, though Ford and their competitors have had difficulties overall in the European market, utility sales are expanding like the universe at the start of the Big Bang. The automaker expect their utility sales to grow 65 percent between last year and 2017, while the overall utility market is projected to grow 30 percent.

To capitalize on this potential gold mine, Ford will use their One Ford plan to globalize their lineup of utility vehicles.

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McLaren Faces Hurdle From China’s Lavish Spending Crackdown Mon, 25 Nov 2013 14:56:44 +0000 McLaren-P1-production-model-side. Photo courtesy

McLaren, like many makers of luxury goods, is having a difficult time moving their fine wares in China as of late, all thanks to a crackdown against lavish spending begun last year by the country’s Communist government.

While the elite of China presumably have no difficulty hiding expensive watches or fine liquor in their homes, driving around in a P1, a Mulsanne or an Aventador practically screams the word ‘corruption’ to government officials. That said, McLaren still plans to expand in the coming year from three to 12 dealerships throughout China, based on visibility of their Formula One program and the citizen’s love for new brands.

Speaking of visibility, McLaren joined Bentley at the 2013 China International Automobile Exhibition in Guangzhou this weekend to show off their latest and greatest to help drive sales in the emerging market. The British automaker expects to sell 1,400 vehicles throughout the world in 2014.

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2013 Guangzhou Auto Show: Fiat Ottimo, A Five Door Dodge Dart, Debuts Fri, 22 Nov 2013 14:55:27 +0000 New-Fiat-Ottimo-Hatch-3[6]

Fiat debuted the Ottimo at the 2013 Guangzhou Auto show. The five-door hatchback is based on the same platform as the Dodge Dart and Fiat Viaggio sedan and it will be assembled alongside the Viaggio by the joint venture between Fiat and Guangzhou Automobile Group, doubling production at that plant in southern China.


The Ottimo will be priced near 100,000 yuan (~$16,400). In addition to the hatch in the back, the Ottimo gets a more aggressive front end than the Viaggio, though the interiors will be more or less identical.

Don’t expect a Dodge version, though Fiat is said to be working on a Viaggio based crossover/tall wagon that will be introduced next year in both Fiat and Dodge variants.

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Supply Chain Bottleneck Due In Five Years According to Study Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:22:09 +0000

Bottlenecks are bad things to experience. Around 70,000 years ago, the Toba supervolcano eruption reduced humanity to anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs — thus creating a genetic bottleneck — alongside a global cooling event concurrent with the Last Glacial Period.

For automakers in the United States and their North American supply chain, their Toba event is coming.

A study from Detroit consulting firm Harbour Results, Inc. warns that in five years’ time, the North American auto industry will experience a 40 percent bottleneck in their ability to screw together the cars and trucks we so love, due to falling short $6 billion in tooling capacity. As it stands, the industry will need $15.2 billion in tooling each year to avoid this fate; current industry capacity is $9.3 billion.

The issue isn’t helped by the fact that there are only 750 tool shops in North America, down a third from their peak in the late 1990s in part due to the global recession. On top of this, the average age of a toolmaker in each of the shops hovers around 52, with few new toolmakers coming up in the ranks to replace them; Harbour Results’ CEO Laurie Harbour states the training needed to bring aboard a toolmaker takes six years to complete.

On the other side, the automakers are planning to introduce 154 new models between now and 2018, a third alone coming down the ramps in 2014. With each new model requiring around 3,000 new tools to screw them all together, if not more due to increasing complexity, capacity can only continue to be strained.

Along with the other issues at hand, there’s also the fact that the automakers producing their goods in North America prefer to keep their business inside the NAFTA zone, ignoring Chinese toolmakers who could make the tooling needed quickly and cheaply. That said, Chinese and German toolmakers are planning to set up shop in the economic zone soon in an effort to encourage automakers to reach out for their tools once the latter opts to remove their blinders.

Another potential cause of the coming automotive production bottleneck? Disasters such as the Marl Chemical Park explosion in 2012, the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami in 2011, or a similar incident like the Lac-Mégantic derailment this year.

The only solution to all of these scenarios, in the words of Charlie Sheen, is for automakers to plan better by finding where the bottlenecks could occur, and promptly finding ways to avoid them, whether it’s through shifting key component manufacturing elsewhere or simplification of their latest and greatest.

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