The Truth About Cars » Europe The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +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 » Europe Been Dacia’d And Confused For So Long It’s Not True… Wed, 23 Jul 2014 14:50:42 +0000 420x280xvauxhall-viva-fr.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Q1f1uLPQ4g

General Motors took the step of killing off Chevrolet in Europe earlier this year, and has long attempted to position Opel and Vauxhall as mainstream but slightly more premium offerings (analogous to how Volkswagen was once marketed in the United States). And that makes news of a new line of budget cars all the more confusing.

Just-Auto reports that Opel and Vauxhall will launch two new budget models to attract customers who may have previously opted for Chevrolet cars. First is the new Viva, based on the next-generation Chevrolet Spark. A small SUV, set to rival the Dacia Duster, is also being considered.

Rather than aiming for a brand that specifically targets no-frills motoring, it appears that GM is aiming to emulate Skoda, which at least has some measure of style and chic appeal, even as it positions itself as a value brand. The new Viva looks to be a pretty stylish car, but the brand positioning appears to be contradictory. How can Opel and Vauxhall aspire to sell pseudo-premium sedans like the Insignia while also pushing a new line of budget cars? Then again, nobody can ever accuse GM of having a consistent or coherent brand strategy in Europe.

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2015 Opel Corsa Revealed Tue, 15 Jul 2014 11:00:28 +0000 vx_14047


Opel’s Fiesta fighter has just bowed in Europe, and for once, we don’t have to feel like we’re missing out.

While the Sonic gets the modern Gamma architecture, the Corsa rides on a warmed over version of the Fiat-GM small car platform that also underpins some mediocre Fiat small cars like the Fiat 500L (and the Jeep Renegade).

The lack of an all-new platform for the Corsa seems puzzling given that B-segment cars are so critical in Europe and world markets. With Opel struggling, it may have been hard to justify anything but a rehash of the old Fiat platform. And then there’s also the soon to be introduced Viva, which will be a bit smaller but far more modern and priced at the bottom of the new car segment, to compete with the Volkswagen Up!. Perhaps the fix is in?

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Vauxhall Readies Its Fiesta ST Fighter – Are You Listening, Chevrolet? Thu, 03 Jul 2014 18:57:20 +0000 corsa

The internet is littered with half-hearted, nonsensical clickbait encomiums to products that have a “” chance of ever coming to our market. But this time, it’s different – sort of.

Vauxhall is readying the next Corsa, which will be unveiled next week, and a hot VXR version is all  but confirmed for future production. The Corsa VXR will reportedly have more power than the Ford Fiesta ST and the Renaultsport Clio 200, which both put out around 200 horsepower from their 1.6L Turbo 4-cylinder engines.

We will probably never see the Corsa VXR here, since the Corsa rides on a unique platform shared with Fiat and used only for A and B segment Opel/Vauxhall cars. World markets get the Gamma II platform that the Chevrolet Sonic rides on – but there’s no reason Chevrolet couldn’t copy the formula to create a sport Sonic. How about the all new, 200 horsepower 1.6L Ecotec that’s rumored to be in the VXR, and already in the Opel Cascada (in a slightly lower output)?

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Next Nissan Pulsar Won’t Be “Sporty” Thu, 03 Jul 2014 16:13:45 +0000

Brace yourselves for the inevitable slate of reviews criticizing mushy steering, an uninspired ride and myriad other complaints that most buyers won’t give a lick about. Nissan’s next C-segment hatch, the Pulsar, will apparently not be “sporty”, and Nissan is just fine with that.

According to AutoExpress, Nissan’s Andy Palmer said that

“I’m not looking for a car that is ultimately very very sporty…I’m looking for something that can transition a customer from a Qashqai to a hatchback. It needs the same DNA, but we want to keep ex-Qahsqai buyers in the Nissan family. It has to have a familiar design and handling.”

Palmer noted that the new hatch “doesn’t transmit impulses back into the car” and that “the steering is quite light”. Sounds like a recipe for enthusiast disaster, right? Well, given the smashing success of the Qashqai (which basically invented the small CUV segment in Europe), it’s easy to see why Nissan is going down this road.

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Cadillac Won’t Give Up On The Dream Of European Success Fri, 27 Jun 2014 11:00:08 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Despite a flimsy dealer network, a lack of diesel engines and a poisonous brand, GM still hasn’t given up on the idea of making Cadillac a global luxury brand that can sell cars in Europe.

Speaking to AutoExpress, GM President Dan Amman expressed his desire to sell Cadillacs in Europe, despite its past failures. Amman also tacitly admitted that Cadillac would never be able to become a high volume brand or take on the German luxury brands – despite the fact that Cadillac has nakedly chased them in their home market of America

“But in the long term there is a role for Cadillac in Europe. Is it going to be a high-volume contender in the medium to long term future? Probably not. But is there a role for something other than the three German luxury brands? I think there is…We’ve got to figure out what it is, what our portfolio is, a different value proposition. But trying to out-German the Germans will not be the path to success. We have to have a different proposition.”

With a skeletal dealer network, unsuitable product for European tastes and road conditions (no diesel options is a complete non-starter) and an undesirable brand, it’s worth asking, why even bother?  Cadillac sold just 430 cars in Europe in 2012, with sales peaking at 3,000 cars in 2007. The brand has 40 dealers on the entire continent, and with diesels accounting for a reported 80 percent of premium car sales, this looks like nothing more than a vanity project, with GM wanting to sell Cadillacs in Europe just to bring the fight to the Germans on home turf – similar to VW’s folly in going after premium cars with the Phaeton, because Daimler dared to launch the compact Mercedes A-Class. And we know how that turned out.

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Jeep Re-Builds UK Dealer Network In Advance Of Cherokee Launch Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:00:22 +0000 382x350xphoto-13-382x350.jpg.pagespeed.ic.rJdyDkrfPC

For a brief stretch of time, Jeep did business in the UK as a purveyor of authentic American SUVs. The Cherokee, Wrangler and Grand Cherokee had a respected niche, even if they didn’t sell in particularly large numbers. And then it all went down the tubes.

According to Just-Auto, Jeep lost over half their dealer network in 2012, creating a problem for Jeep’s UK division. Major ad campaigns were useless, since it was impossible to advertise when franchises could be situated far away from major population centers.

But with the introduction of the Grand Cherokee, Jeep has rebounded. Sales are up 70 percent, and by year end, there should be over 70 dealers in the UK. The next step is the launch of the Cherokee, which Jeep is ambitiously positioning as a rival to the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, as well as the smaller Renegade. Sound crazy? Perhaps. But don’t forget, these are premium vehicles in much of the world.

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Editorial: The Car That Answers Today’s Questions? Tue, 24 Jun 2014 13:58:32 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Most car advertisements tout the abundance of features that the car offers: big engines, advanced electronics and sexy styling. Not this one.

The Citroen C4 Cactus is, in my opinion, one of the coolest cars on sale today. Yes, it does not make much power, its looks are, well, polarizing (I happen to love it) and it is deliberately spartan.

Sounds a lot like Steve’s famous base model “strippers”, right? Well, this thing is, for lack of a better word, quite chic. A Cactus is cheap in the way that Zara clothing or Ikea furniture is cheap. A base Versa with crank windows is cheap in all the wrong ways.

As many people pointed out, the sheer value of new cars on sale today in the United States means that strippers will never see much success in the market. As commenter Paul wrote

I acknowledge stripper does not equal base, but look at the options list on a totally base Accord LX Sedan with a manual:

Interior Features
Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control with Air-Filtration System
i-MID with 8-Inch High-Resolution WVGA (800×480) Screen and Customizable Feature Settings
Rearview Camera with Guidelines
Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink®4
SMS Text Message Function5
Power Windows with Auto-Up/Down Driver’s Window
Cruise Control
Illuminated Steering Wheel-Mounted Cruise, Audio, Phone and i-MID Controls
Tilt and Telescopic Steering Column
Map Lights
Fold-Down Rear Seatback with Center Armrest
160-Watt AM/FM/CD Audio System with 4 Speakers
Pandora® Compatibility6
Bluetooth® Streaming Audio4
USB Audio Interface7
MP3/Auxiliary Input Jack
Exterior Temperature Indicator

Thats not a bad list at all.

All this for just $21,995. Phenomenal value by any measure. A base Cactus, on the other hand, starts at $22,000 USD (just under 13,000 GBP). Even a base Nissan Juke in Europe, which retails for similar money, comes with a 1.6L engine making just 94 horsepower.

The point I’m trying to make is that in America, where cars are so comparatively cheap, something like the Cactus would be a non-starter. But in the rest of the world, where cars, as well as parking, fuel, insurance and other associated costs are much higher, it’s easy to see why the answer to today’s questions might be “less is more”.

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Nissan Aiming For European Diesel Van Fleets With e-NV200 EV Mon, 23 Jun 2014 13:00:16 +0000 Nissan e-NV200

Though diesel rules the delivery fleet in Europe, Nissan would like fleet managers to leave oil-burning behind for the all-electric e-NV200.

Automotive News Europe reports brand general manager for product strategy and planning Thomas Ebeling believes the EV would be a better fit over diesel power, thanks to 40 percent lower costs of operation and better handling due to the van’s low center of gravity and wider stance than the competition. The brand says 200,000 commercial vans are in service over European roads at present, and though it hasn’t offered how many e-NV200s will be sold to replace them, Nissan believes all of those vans are potential customers.

There are a few challenges to meeting that goal. For starters, the van is currently made in one location: Barcelona, Spain. Output is expected to reach 1,200 units in 2015 for the global market, 2,742 by 2020. Another factor is price: German fleet operators pay €16,480 ($22,418 USD) with tax for petrol versions of the NV200, and €18,390 ($25,017) for diesel power. The e-NV200, by comparison, would cost €29,819 ($40,564) with tax and battery purchase, though operators could also pay a monthly rental fee of €87 ($118) for the pack, dropping the price to €23,919 ($32,538).

The e-NV200 is already in showrooms in Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, and will arrive in Teutonic and Nordic countries later this summer before entering Japan in October. As for the United States, Nissan is currently conducting trial runs to determine market viability before deciding whether to bring the commercial EV to market.

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European Taxi Drivers Take To The Streets Against Uber Mon, 16 Jun 2014 11:00:24 +0000 london-black-cab-protest-uber-regulation

Much like it has in the United States, Uber and other ride-sharing services have upended the traditional taxi in Europe. Just like the U.S., taxi operators have protested the disruption the new services have caused upon them, citing the lack of properly licensed drivers and thoroughly maintained vehicles as a reason to bring them in line with the same regulations they already are mandated to follow. However, unlike the U.S., European taxi drivers took their complaints to the streets, and then some.

Autoblog reports 30,000 drivers in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain blocked the streets to bring awareness to what Uber and its app are doing to allegedly harm the industry, both in regards to public safety and the industry’s bottom line. The Teamsters International Union threw their support behind the protestors, proclaiming “the drivers’ fight in Europe” was their fight, both sharing similar concerns on ride-sharing:

The drivers are calling for fairness and asking that if the private sedan services are allowed to operate that they do so on a level playing field. Uber is currently operating without having to comply with the same rules and regulations that taxi drivers do.

For its part, Uber defends the services it offers to its members, stating its drivers are fully licensed, undergo a screening process prior to taking on passengers, and are evaluated on their performance through customer-satisfaction metrics compiled in-app from every completed ride by its consumer base.

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Lancia Languishing On Life Support, Down To One Model Fri, 23 May 2014 16:15:47 +0000 110524-l-newypsilon-24-1

Notably absent from FCA’s 5-year plan was Lancia. The Italian brand known for iconic models like the Aurelia, Fulvia and Delta Integrale will be pared down to one model that will be sold in Italy only.

Lancia currently offers the Ypsilon subcompact, the Delta hatchback, the Thema (based on the Chrysler 300), and the Voyager (based on the Chrysler fans). A report by Bloomberg confirms that after this year, only the Ypsilon will remain. Lack of demand, a weak car market in Europe and intense competition from a record number of brands all conspired to bring about Lancia’s downfall – not to mention an odd, ill-defined lineup that failed to establish a rock solid identity or any semblance of a value proposition.

That identity has so far kept Alfa Romeo from the same fate as Lancia – even though they arguably suffer from the same external forces. But that’s allowed Alfa Romeo to establish a tenuous foothold in global markets, while Lancia’s appeal is confined only to its home country.


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Rising Inventories: A Race To The Bottom? Tue, 20 May 2014 16:43:51 +0000 450x298xholden-plant-450x298.jpg.pagespeed.ic.8Pz782lQeX

While our own Ronnie Schreiber may have taken Zero Hedge to task for its inaccurate story on unsold cars, Australia is facing a situation where rising inventories have created a buyers market, just as local production of automobiles is winding down.

Australia is a notoriously competitive auto market, with more than 60 brands competing for just 1 million units annually. Local outlet Carsguide is reporting that there are currently 150,000 unsold cars sitting in the country, with more arriving from global factories in each, leading to a massive oversupply of new vehicles.

Holden chairman Gerry Dorizas spoke to Carsguide, and provided an interesting quote in light of the fact that Holden will be ending local production by 2017

How can companies sell cars cheaper in Australia than in Europe…It’s not sustainable. I believe they (prices) will go up at some point in time. At some time this competition for prices will create a problem in the network…But that point has not arrived and car companies are rolling out new incentives with every passing week. 

When production of the Commodore and Ute end, Holden will be reliant on imports from South Korea, Thailand and possibly Europe, as it seeks to offer a full line of Holden vehicles sourced from GM’s international operations. The brutal competition in Australia, along with changing market tastes, led to the demise of the Commodore and Australian manufacturing – undoubtedly a loss for enthusiasts and Australian industry. But these same forces have also allowed Australian consumers to get better deals on cars, particularly in the compact segment that is now replacing the large sedan segment as the passenger car of choice.

To the outsider, the stories from Carsguide, Zero Hedge, and elsewhere may be perceived as evidence of poor discipline by the auto manufacturing sector, and in many cases, they’d be correct. Inventories are rising back to pre-recession levels and easier credit are undoubtedly helping spur auto sales in the United States. Industry sources tell us that 2014 has seen record transaction prices, meaning that consumer spending, and by extension, auto financing debt, should be at record levels.

On the other hand, the current economics of the auto industry dictate that under-utilized capacity is a bad thing, and factories must be kept humming above a certain level (typically 75 percent of capacity) to remain profitable. Labor laws in many jurisdictions make it cheaper to keep cranking out cars than to lay off workers, even temporarily. Once they leave the factory gate, they become the dealer’s problem.


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Nissan Resurrects Another Storied Nameplate Fri, 16 May 2014 14:48:55 +0000

When Nissan revived the Datsun brand for its lineup of small, low-cost cars, enthusiasts were left wondering whether they’d ever see a performance oriented Datsun. The answer appears to be an emphatic “not a snowball’s chance in hell” – but their latest new car may be a better candidate for the return of a historic badge.

Nissan’s long awaited rival to the VW Golf and Ford Focus will bear the Pulsar moniker, just like past compact Nissans have done all over the world. The Pulsar nameplate is still used in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, on a vehicle related to the Nissan Versa, but the newest Pulsar in Europe is an all-new design, intended to make Nissan a serious player in the C-segment hatchback market.

Past Pulsars have included the legendary GTI-R rally special and the little-known VZ-R (with an 8500 rpm-capable 1.6L 4-cylinder engine), and Nissan will be offering a Nismo version of the Pulsar as well. Based on how far Nissan went with the Nismo Juke RS, it should have some decent performance chops, even if it’s not an AWD homologation special.

While Nissan has always lagged in this segment, they’ve managed to build up a tidy business in Europe by bringing to market some of the first viable small crossovers, in both the Juke and the wildly popular Qashqai. Now that Nissan has finally established itself as a serious player in Europe, the hope is that the Pulsar will give them market share in the dominant passenger car segment as well.

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Chart Of The Day: The Hollowing Out Of Europe’s Middle Class Car Market Wed, 07 May 2014 14:21:59 +0000 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.

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Chart Of The Day: Europe’s C-Segment, Now With More Premium Options Wed, 30 Apr 2014 17:38:47 +0000 csegmentpremium


Yesterday’s chart didn’t include premium C-segment entrants, but commenter Vega beat me to the punch in mentioning them.

The Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class have been giving the mainstream marques major headaches in Europe for the same reason that mainstream makes with mid-size sedans are worried about the Mercedes-Benz CLA. Why would you have a Camry or an Accord when you could have the three-pointed star (at least that’s the rationale in some people’s minds)? Looking at the stats, the A3 and 1-Series would slot in at 4th and 5th place in yesterday’s JATO rankings, while the A-Class would bump the Auris down a notch.

This effect is more pronounced in Europe, where mainstream brands have taken a beating. The only car makers that have flourished have been high end luxury brands (for obvious reasons) or low-cost brands that are appealing to value-conscious middle class consumers, and consequently stealing sales from mainstream brands. This is also why Renault is doing well (thanks to Dacia) while PSA, with only Peugeot and Citroen, is taking such a beating.

With a 1-Series or A-Class starting at around the same price as a fancy Golf, Megane or Focus, the consumer feels the same pull away from the mainstream, and into something more impressive. Unless you’re Volkswagen- then you’re just leveraging the efficiencies of MQB and laughing all the way to the bank, as both the A3 and Golf enjoy strong sales.

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Chart Of The Day: Europe’s C-Segment In 2013, And Why Peugeot Isn’t Coming Back To America Tue, 29 Apr 2014 15:09:24 +0000 EuropeCSegment2013


Today’s chart of the day comes courtesy of JATO Dynamics and Automotive News Europe, showing last year’s C segment car sales in Europe (click to enlarge).

While ANE reported the data in the context of the Volkswagen Golf’s (undeniable) dominance of the C-segment, the remaining data provides a lot of insight into the global automotive landscape.

  • Per JATO, Ford sold about 223,000 units of the Focus in Europe last year – but in the United States alone, they sold 234,570. What does that say about the strength and size of the American market (where compacts are a big segment, but dwarfed by mid-size sedans, pickup trucks and CUVs), or the relative smallness of Europe’s market, which has substantially more brands and nameplates vying for a smaller piece of the pie
  • Vauxhall/Opel may be struggling to stay afloat, but the Astra is a perpetually strong seller for the brand, while the Chevrolet Cruze doesn’t even rank in the top 10. Then again, the different Golf variants (SEAT Leon, Skoda Octavia) are absent too.
  • Both Toyota and Honda have a lower profile in Europe than in America, but the Auris seems to have resonated strongly with European consumers. Not only is it beating the Peugeot 308 and Citroen C4, but also the Hyundai i30 (Elantra GT) and Kia Cee’d, which have been giving VAG a fright in key markets like the Czech Republic, as well as winning critical acclaim from the European motoring press. The Civic languishes in 10th place, selling about 50,000 units. You can bet that Nissan is looking to pick it off as it prepares to ramp up its own C-segment entrant.
  • Combined sales of the PSA twins (Peugeot 308 and Citroen C4) add up to about 178,000 units, while Hyundai and Kia’s combined sales equal about 185,000 units. Would you have expected this to happen a decade ago? If anything, it shows why the blogosphere talk of PSA returning to America is bunk (nevermind that it was merely wish fulfillment based on comments by CEO Carlos Tavares taken out of context). PSA doesn’t even have their house in order at home. They aren’t going to spend billions to return to a market that likes to buy the kind of products they don’t build.
  • Back to the Auris. It’s coming here as a Scion. And it’s supposed to be a great driving car. On the other hand, there won’t be a Toyota-badged car to replace the Matrix.



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Nissan Debuts Self-Cleaning Note For European Market Fri, 25 Apr 2014 13:00:59 +0000 nissan-note-self-cleaning-paint-001-1

For Europeans who enjoy self-cleaning ovens and cats, and would prefer not to wash and wax their Nissan Note, Nissan in Europe has unveiled a Note for them that is resistant to dirt and oil by way of its new coating.

Autoblog reports the Note wears an experimental super-hydrophobic/oleophobic coating which casts off water, dirt, oil and grime in the same manner as a duck’s back, leaving the paint underneath free and clear.

Dubbed Ultra-Ever Dry by its maker, Ultra-Tech International Inc., the coating will undergo a number of tests over the coming months at the Nissan Technical Centre Europe in Switzerland before making the the coating available for the Note as a potential aftermarket option.

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BAIC Seeks To Acquire US, European Brand Fri, 04 Apr 2014 11:05:24 +0000 Senova BAIC C10

Looking to expand its global presence beyond its native China, Beijing Automotive Group announced they would like to acquire a “mid to high-level brand” in either Europe or the United States, and already has a list of potential brands in mind.

Reuters reports BAIC originally looked towards Europe for their potential acquisition, but has now expanded their search to the U.S. President Dong Haiyang told reporters that his company’s brand is little-known outside of China, and sees a European or American brand as a shortcut into the global marketplace.

At home, BAIC purchased two smaller rivals in 2013, and signed a joint investment agreement with Daimler AG last month, delivering $5.51 billion into their joint venture in order to double production by 2015.

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Japanese Automakers Find New Export Base, Opportunity In Mexico Tue, 11 Mar 2014 14:45:26 +0000 Mazda3s Loading Onto Three-Tiered Train Car

Within four months of each other, Honda, Mazda and Nissan have opened new factories in Mexico, taking advantage of the opportunities within the nation’s automotive industry to grow a new export base into the United States, Latin America and Europe while also gaining ground in the rapidly expanding local market, all in direct challenge to the Detroit Three and other automakers on both sides of the border.

Automotive News reports Mexico will become the No. 1 exporting nation to the U.S. by 2015 at the earliest in large part due to the 605,000 units per year added by the three Japanese automakers. Meanwhile, Toyota will begin production in 2015 at Mazda’s newly opened Salamanca plant prior to deciding whether or not to build a new factory of their own. Nissan’s premium brand, Infiniti, may also set-up shop in Mexico.

In turn, the Japanese will see benefits from the move, from mitigating losses from a weaker yen in exports from home and greater profit due to cheap labor, to no tariffs on exports to the U.S. due to the North American Free Trade Agreement and improved product availability resulting from shorter distances between markets.

Speaking of free-trade agreements, Japanese automakers will also have access to some 44 countries and up to 40 million sales annually as a result of Mexico’s many agreements, allowing them to take on competitors in Latin America and Europe.

Finally, the Japanese have taken market share away from the Detroit Three in Mexico’s own automotive market, holding a collective 42 percent over Detroit’s 35 percent in 2013, when just four years earlier Detroit dominated with 57 percent of the market over Japan’s 23 percent.

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GM Korea May Increase Exports To Australia Fri, 07 Mar 2014 17:52:32 +0000 Holden Cruze

As Chevrolet slowly exits from the European market while Holden exits the production line altogether, General Motors is mulling over increasing exports to Australia out of South Korea.

Bloomberg reports the increase in exports is compensation for GM Korea losing as much as 15 percent to 20 percent of its production volume when Chevrolet closes the door on Europe at the end of 2015, and is roughly the same volume needed to fill the showroom floors in Australia while Holden winds down local production — and possibly itself — by 2017.

The Chevrolet experiment ultimately lost General Motors “millions” of dollars according to GM Korea CEO Sergio Rocha, though he expects the Australian market will more than make up for it:

With this money that we call ‘loss avoidance,’ I’m going to have a lot of money in the next couple of years that we can invest in new products to be competitive in the local market and for exports as well.

Meanwhile, GM will focus on Vauxhall and Opel vehicles in their native markets, with Opel also providing select vehicles to the Australian market, beginning with the Cascada convertible.

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EU Ratifies New CO2 Targets Fri, 28 Feb 2014 05:01:34 +0000 14-02-04-Parlement-européen-Strasbourg-RalfR-046

The European Union Parliament approved new CO2 targets for the year 2020, mandating an average of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer, or roughly as much as a Toyota Prius emits. Current standards sit at 130 grams per kilometer. Just-Auto reports that within a few months, discussions will kick off regarding a post-2020 target.

So what does this mean for enthusiasts? Well, expect more of the things that so many of us complain about. Automotive designs will have to work within narrow parameters to meet both design and safety regulations, so expect further homogeneity on that front. Under the skin, we’ll see more turbocharged engines (and fewer naturally aspirated ones), with smaller displacements and cylinder counts, as well as the increasing proliferation of hybrid systems in various forms.

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Hyundai To Challenge BMW, Mercedes With Genesis Sedan In Europe Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:55:32 +0000 2015 Hyundai Genesis

Set to be introduced to the European premium market at the Geneva Auto Show next week, the Hyundai Genesis will be aimed at establishing a foothold for the automaker in the market against BMW and Mercedes upon arrival in showrooms in June, particularly in Southern Europe, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Automotive News Europe reports Hyundai expects to sell 1,000 of the premium sedans to a targeted group of customers who are familiar with the brand, especially those ready to attach diplomat plates to their new purchase. No price has been announced thus far, though the automaker has pegged the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class as rivals to their Genesis.

Overall, Hyundai aims to increase their market share on the continent from 3.4 percent currently to 5 percent by 2020. Though sales fell 5.5 percent last month, there are already 6 million vehicles on the road, with 70 percent under seven years of age. Customer retention also increased, moving from 36 percent in 2010 to 50 percent in the present, which benefits Hyundai in Europe according to regional head Allan Rushforth:

Working on loyalty is really fundamental to the economics of our business, and the success of our business in Europe. We’ve been a conquest brand to get to this point, but we’ve got to evolve and mature to balance retention and conquest in the future.

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European Auto Market Begins Climb Out Of Six-Year Descent Wed, 29 Jan 2014 16:30:48 +0000 2014 Ford Transit Nugget

After six consecutive years of falling auto sales, the European automotive industry group ACEA predicts a 2 percent increase for 2014 as demand slowly works its way out of the wilderness, according to a report by Automotive News.

At a press conference in ACEA’s headquarters in Brussels, president Philippe Varin said that though sales won’t return to pre-Great Recession levels any time soon, he believes 2014 will “herald a transition toward a recovery” based upon December 2013 delivery gains signalling a U-turn toward the light.

Overall European sales in 2013 fell 1.8 percent to 12.3 million units, the lowest figure noted since 1995. Within the European Union, 11.8 million units were delivered in the same period; Varin, who is also CEO of PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, predicts the EU figure will climb “just above” 12 million in 2014.

Though automakers, such as Ford and Renault, are also predicting a gradual revival in sales — hinging on the economic activity of France, Spain and Italy in the coming year — the Blue Oval, PSA and General Motors are shuttering factories and scaling back their workforces in Europe in response to the market decline.

To remedy the issue, Varin believes authorities in the European market should do all they can to help bolster the coming recovery, including increased flexibility in labor and the use of EU social funds to help automakers reorganize.

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GM May Slash 1,100 Korean Jobs As Chevy Pulls Out Of Europe Mon, 27 Jan 2014 13:00:19 +0000 gm-chevy-cruze-assembly-plant-gunsan-south-korea-worker

Reuters is reporting from “a source with direct knowledge of the matter” that General Motors plans to reduce shifts at its South Korean factories by half as it aligns its global manufacturing. The move could eliminate 1,100 jobs. GM had announced last month that it was discontinuing the Chevrolet brand in Europe by the end of next year and GM Korea produces many of the Chevy branded cars sold on the continent.

According to the report, GM Korea has already approached the union representing its production workers about reducing the current two shifts at the Gunsan factory to a single shift. That plant employs 2,200 manufacturing employees. It’s not clear if the surplus employees will be laid off, offered voluntary retirement or relocated to other facilities.

A GM Korea spokesperson declined to comment in detail, but confirmed that talks are under way about the Gunsan facility. That factory, one of four GM Korea assembly plants, currently produces the Chevy Cruze compact sedan and Orlando SUV. It has an annual production capacity of 260,000 units.

“The Chevy pullout would have a direct blow to the Gunsan factory. GM expects its production in Gunsan to shrink to 100,000 this year and 120,000 next year… The union wants to maintain two shifts, and instead cut the number of cars produced per hour,” the source said.

Mounting costs and labor unrest has caused GM to reconsider its reliance on South Korea for 20% of its global production.

While GM Korea’s operations will be used to supply the Australian market following the planned 2017 closure of GM’s Holden subsidiary’s assembly plants, analysts say that volume would not be enough to offset the production losses caused by pulling the Chevy brand out of Europe.

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Britain Expected to Build More Cars Than France for the First Time Since 1966 Tue, 21 Jan 2014 10:00:25 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

For the first time since 1966, the United Kingdom’s automobile industry will likely build more cars than those built in France. Increasing domestic and export sales are expected to make 2013 a record year for car manufacturing, putting Great Britain in third place among car producing countries in Europe, behind Germany and Spain. UK car production is estimated to reach 1.55 million units, up from 1.47 million the previous year and 1.35 million in 2011. In contrast, French car production for 2013 is expected to fall to ~1.54 million units, down from 1.66 million in 2012 and 1.88 million the year before that. Some analysts and industry executives predict UK car production to hit 2 million by 2017 as investments to plants bear fruit.

The growth in manufacturing was attributed to the strength of traditional British brands (albeit foreign owned) such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Mini, Vauxhall, Rolls-Royce and Bentley, as well as strong production at Japanese automakers like Nissan, Toyota and Honda that have set up assembly operations in the UK.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Some have attributed both the survival of those British brands and the growth of transplant assembly facilities to late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose government both courted Japanese automakers and provided £2.9 billion of taxpayer money in subsidies to British Leyland from 1979 to 1988, allowing iconic British brands to survive long enough to be bought up by the Germans.

Click here to view the embedded video.

At the same time the drop in the production of French cars is attributed with overcapacity, a stagnant European car market in general and in particular the soft domestic French market on which French manufacturers are highly dependant, a lack of business confidence in the current government and currency issues regarding the Euro.

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Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback (With Video) Fri, 03 Jan 2014 14:00:50 +0000 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior

For many Americans, the words “Ford Fiesta” dredges up memories of a claustrophobic rattle-trap competing with “Geo Metro” for the title of Worst American Small Car. Personally, the only time I ever wanted a fiesta was during a drunken weekend in Cabo, and it had more to do with tequila than cars. But that was four years ago and 214,000 Fiestas ago. Since then the Fiesta has proved that an American car company is capable of creating a desirable compact car. Is the party over, or is the car’s first refresh a sign that the party has just begun? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.


After being on the market for just four years I hadn’t expected much for 2014 which makes me all the more impressed with the Fiesta’s transformation. Ford’s new “Astonesque” grille which debuted on the new Fusion turned the plain-Jane family hauler into one of the sexiest cars Ford has ever made, and Ford indicated the look was going to trickle down the lineup. I was worried. You see, when a new nose is penned for a new cars, and the existing line-up is modified to accept the new schnozz, you end up with something like the questionable looking Lexus GX 460. Fear not , Ford didn’t just paint on a their trapezoidal grille, they poked and prodded the hood and lamps as well until things looked right, and right they do. The launch photos looked impressive but the final product was even better in person.

It’s hard to avoid Aston Martin Cygnet references so I’ll just say it now: add some hood louvres and a leather dash and Ford’s compact would be more Aston than the iQ based Cygnet. Paired with the new nose, is a tweaked rear end featuring new tail lamps. The only downside in my mind is that the minor nip/tuck to the rear fails to bring the Fiesta’s rump up to the same level as the front. Park the Fiesta nose first in your driveway, and nobody will notice. But back it in, and passers-by are likely to be impressed. As before there is a considerable difference in dimensions between the sedan and the hatchback with the sedan being a whopping 13-inches longer. Thanks to that length, the sedan looks less like a caricature than it would otherwise.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-006


Four years ago I praised the Fiesta’s interior as class leading in terms of materials choices and fit/finish. That largely remains true despite the Fiesta undercutting the Kia Rio in price. That’s not to say the Fiesta is a revolution, but compared to the hard plastics in the competition, the Fiesta looks and feels more premium. The injection molded dashboard, refreshed steering wheel and seats would not be out of place in the slightly larger compact car category. I found our tester’s black-on-black interior somewhat cold while the lighter interiors available on my local Ford lot were warmer, more attractive and showed off the optional ambient lighting better. (The upper half of dashboard is black on all models.) Helping the Fiesta’s new “premium compact” theme is ability to add real leather seats as opposed to the “leatherette” you find in all but the Kia Rio. Dominating the dashboard in our tester was Ford’s downsized MyFord Touch infotainment system, lower trim levels get a revised SYNC display nestled in a similar binnacle. As you’d expect with any car starting at $14,100, base “S” trim cars suffer severe de-contenting with manual windows, no dome lights, no ambient lighting, only one 12V outlet and no cruise control. This is an important distinction as the majority of the competition feel like upper trim levels are base models with do-dads added.

The front seats don’t offer much thigh or back support unless you opt for the sporty Fiesta ST with its Recaro thrones. Even the Titanium model lacks the range of motion, or support, you’ll find in most mid-sized sedans and power seats are not an option at any price. Even so, the Fiesta’s seats are among the more comfortable in the class. Finding an ideal driving position is easy thanks to a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Rear seat passengers encounter the same firm padding in the sedan or hatchback, and essentially the same amount of headroom with the sedan form factor taking only a 1/10th of an inch toll and ranking near top of the class. Sadly however, the Euro origins are clear when it comes to rear legroom. The Fiesta trails here, and not by a small amount. The Sonic and Rio offer three 3-inches more while the Versa Note is a whopping 7.1-inches more spacious. Likewise, cargo hauling ability of 12.8 cubes in the sedan and 15.4 in the hatchback are on the smaller end of the spectrum.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-004


My major gripe about the 2011 Fiesta was a lack of infotainment love. The SYNC-only 2011-2013 models used a small red display in the center of the dashboard while Kia and Nissan were offering touchscreen navigation units. To address, Ford shrunk their 8-inch MyFord Touch system down to 6.5 inches and dropped the system in a new binnacle on the dash for SE and Titanium Fiestas. Because Ford reduced the system’s dimensions, not the resolution, the system’s graphics have a crisper and high-quality look to them when compared to the 8-inch system in the Focus. There are a few ergonomic downsides however. The screen’s high position on the dash means it’s quite far from the driver requiring a decent reach for most functions and it makes the screen look smaller than it actually is. Also, because the “buttons” have shrunk, it’s easier to stab the wrong one. Thankfully most system operations can be controlled via voice commands negating the need to touch the screen for the most part. Ford’s latest software update (3.6.2 in August 2013) seems to have finally fixed the crashing and random re-boots that plagued earlier versions of the software.

Some buyers won’t care about the 6.5-inch woes as the snazzy system is standard on the Titanium, a $995 option on the SE and not available on the base model. Those shoppers will be happy to know that the Fiesta delivers one of the better audio system values. S and SE models come with six standard speakers, two more than you usually find in a stripper sub-compact, while Titanium models swap in an 8-speaker Sony branded audio system. The base speaker package is notably more crisp and accurate than the four-speaker fare in the competition while the Sony audio system sounded almost too bright at times. Both the S and SE models share the same AM/FM/CD/USB/iDevice head unit with SYNC voice commands and smartphone streaming integration.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-002


The big news under the hood for 2014 is the arrival of a 3-cylinder turbo option. Sadly one was not available for testing, so keep your eyes peeled for that review later in 2014. All trims get a standard 1.6L four-cylinder engine producing the same 120 HP and 112 lb-ft as last year, meaning that three-banger is optional, yes optional, for 2014. Aside from the novelty of paying $995 to have one cylinder removed, the 1.0L Ecoboost engine promises 32 MPG in the city, 45 on the highway and 37 combined which is a 7 MPG bump on the highway and 5 in the combined cycle. If the fuel economy wasn’t enough to pique your interest, the 1.0L engine cranks out 123 HP and 125 lb-ft across a flat torque curve, with a 15 second overboost good for 145 lb-ft. Ford mates the boosted engine exclusively to a 5-speed manual while the 1.6 can be mated to an optional 6-speed dual-clutch box.

Ford’s 6-speed PowerShift gearbox has received plenty of criticism from owners and Consumer Report. After talking with a number of Fiesta owners I have come to the conclusion the problem is mainly a lack of understanding. You see, PowerShift is Ford-speak for DSG. While Volkswagen’s robotic dual-clutch manual is smoother under certain circumstances (thanks to their use of wet clutches) VW seems to do a better job marketing and explaining their fuel-sipping tranny. Inside the Fiesta’s gearbox lies essentially two robotically shifted manual transmissions, one handling the even gears and the other taking the odd ones. The lack of a torque converter increases efficiency, and the twin-clutch system allows shifts to happen faster than in an automatic. By their very nature, dual-clutch transmissions feel more like a hybrid between a manual and an automatic. When you start from a stop, you can feel the clutch slip and engage. If you’re on a hill, the car will roll backwards when the hill-hold system times out. Occasionally you can hear a bit more gear noise and shifting noise than in a traditional slushbox and reverse has that distinctive sound. Because the Ford system uses dry clutches, starts are more pronounced than in VW’s DSG units with wet clutches (not all DSGs are wet clutch anymore).  2014 brings a major software update that noticeably improves shift quality but there is still a difference in feel. My opinion is: I’ll take PowerShift over a standard automatic any day as I prefer fuel economy and rapid shifts to “smoothness.” What say you?

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-002


Little was done to the Euro suspension for American duty, making the Fiesta the firmest ride in the segment, tying with the Mazda 2. The Honda Fit is a close second, but the Japanese compact is starting to show its age, feeling less refined and composed over rough pavement. The Versa Note feels composed but delivers more body roll, while the Rio’s suspension feels softer than I prefer while at the same time transmitting more road imperfections to the driver’s spine. Regardless of trim, the Fiesta handles incredibly well. This is due as much to the suspension as the light curb weight. Ranging from 2537lbs to 2628lbs, the Fiesta is a featherweight in America and it shows when you toss the Ford into corners, being far more willing to change direction than a Focus.

When it comes to straight line performance, the 6-speed PowerShift scooted our tester to 60 MPH in 9.08 seconds, a full second faster than the last manual-equipped Fiesta hatchback we tested. The reason for the variation is down to the gear ratios in the 5-speed manual. Ford combined low first and second gears with a tall fifth gear (taller than the Euro Fiesta) for better hill starts and improved EPA numbers but the decisions take a toll on performance and driveability. By dropping first and second, the delta between second and third grows to an odd gap that hampers acceleration after 50 MPH while the tall top gear means frequent downshifts on moderate inclines. Although I normally prefer a manual to any automatic, the Fiesta is one of my exceptions. The PowerShift box seemed to always have the right gear for the situation and made hill climbing a much less frustrating experience.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-008

The Fiesta has always been small, but the Fiestas and Festivas of my youth were mainly known for being cheap. The new Fiesta however is all about value. Ford’s new pricing strategy is a mix of an aggressive $14,100 starting price for the sedan, a $500 premium for the hatchback and an options list that pushes most Fiestas on the lot to between $17,000 and $18,000. Fully loaded, (excluding the ST) the most expensive Fiesta you can get is $21,705. My realistic starting point for the Fiesta is the SE at $15,580 which includes all the essentials the S lacks.

When you compare that to the competition, the Fiesta starts only $110 more than a Versa Note and at the top end is just $855 more than a Rio. Nissan’s Note stacks up best at the bottom of the food chain, delivering more room, better fuel economy and a similar level of equipment for less. Putting things nicely, the Mazda 2 is outclassed by the Fiesta in every way at every level, while the Kia matches the Ford closely in terms of price for content. Although the Rio is the more spacious alternative and it offers a more powerful engine and 6-speed manual, the Fiesta is more attractive and more fun to drive. Chevy’s Sonic suffers from a bargain basement interior and a price tag that doesn’t offer much of a discount vs the Ford, even when you take into account some of the features Chevy offers that aren’t available on the Fiesta.

What the Fiesta does best of all however is wear that $21,705 price tag. No matter how you slice it, the Rio, Sonic and Fit feel like an economy car at the top end of their price range. The Fiesta Titanium however feels like a decent deal for the cash. Those shopping lower in the food chain benefit from a cabin that feels like a cheap version of a more expensive cabin, unlike the Versa Note SL which feels like an expensive version of a cheap car. Plenty of you will baulk at a Fiesta that lists over 21-grand when a base Fusion is just 2000 bucks more, but those looking for mid-size sedan comforts and luxuries in a compact carrying case will do well to drive a Fiesta.


Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.4 Seconds

0-60:9.08 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.9 Seconds @ 81.6 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 31.5 MPG over 561 Miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 72.5 db

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