The Truth About Cars » Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 18 Apr 2015 14:19:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com IHS: PHEVs To Overtake EVs In Europe Within Two Years http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ihs-phevs-overtake-evs-europe-within-two-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ihs-phevs-overtake-evs-europe-within-two-years/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1043242 Electric vehicles are doing well in Europe, but their dominance over PHEVs may soon draw to a close. Automotive News Europe reports sales of EVs in Europe jumped 73 percent to 58,244 units in 2014, while sales of PHEVs climbed 29 percent in the same period to 39,547, according to industry group ACEA. The best-selling […]

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Electric vehicles are doing well in Europe, but their dominance over PHEVs may soon draw to a close.

Automotive News Europe reports sales of EVs in Europe jumped 73 percent to 58,244 units in 2014, while sales of PHEVs climbed 29 percent in the same period to 39,547, according to industry group ACEA. The best-selling EV and PHEV in 2014 were the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (15,134 units vs. 19,855), while the largest markets were Norway for EVs (18,090 units), Netherlands for PHEVs (9,938).

According to IHS Automotive senior analyst Ben Scott, PHEVs will overtake EVs this year or in 2016 as far as production goes, forecasting 1.35 million units by 2020, and 2.7 million by 2025. Meanwhile, EV sales will be under 1 million by 2020, as consumers are likely to choose PHEVs for their flexibility in range and use over electric-only vehicles.

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QOTD: What Foreign Cars Should Be Sold In North America? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-foreign-cars-sold-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-foreign-cars-sold-north-america/#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 17:31:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038473 I recently returned from a week-long visit to Europe, the world leader in diesel hatchbacks and cigarettes. There, as I always do when I arrive in Europe, I came face to face with a stark reality: there are still human beings driving around in Peugeots. And in fact, I was one of them. I visited […]

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I recently returned from a week-long visit to Europe, the world leader in diesel hatchbacks and cigarettes. There, as I always do when I arrive in Europe, I came face to face with a stark reality: there are still human beings driving around in Peugeots.

And in fact, I was one of them. I visited the tiny island nation of Malta, a former British colony located somewhere between Sicily and Africa, and I rented a Peugeot 308CC. Although I cannot be sure, I believe this stands for either “Coupe Convertible” or “Chimpanzee Cerebellum.”

Anyway, this ended up being a gigantic mistake on Malta, because it turns out that the entire place is no larger than a bathroom trash can, whereas the 308CC is a bit Colossally Corpulent. Not by American standards, of course; the 308CC isn’t even large enough to be seen by the naked eye of people who are driving Escalades and G-Wagens. They would have to use a telescope; the same one that prevents them from running over the poors.

But by Maltese standards this thing was huge, and I quickly regretted my decision. I especially regretted my decision when I began driving the vehicle on Malta’s UK-style, right-hand drive streets. Imagine it: there I am, shifting with my left hand for the first time ever, and at the same time trying to pilot a boat of a bad-visibility convertible down streets that were barely large enough for one single subcompact Ford Ka. It was such a bad situation that the woman at the Avis counter said – I am not kidding here – that the vehicle’s rental insurance policy covers everything “except the mirrors.”

And then, after a while, I realized something: although this car sucks for Malta, it would be great in North America.

Think about it: the 308CC gets excellent fuel economy – or at least the diesel-powered one I drove did. I know this because they gave it to me with half a tank and told me to return it with half a tank, but instead I drove it around Malta for three days and returned it with a quarter tank because I believe, after exhaustive study, that the entire country does not possess a single gas station.

It’s also got a lot of cool features, like an infotainment system, and automatic windshield wipers, and an iPod hookup, and a power-operated top, and a scary-looking lion logo on the steering wheel, and some very cool Peugeot Center Caps, one of which I stole.

And sure, it isn’t fast, but let’s be honest here: the kind of people interested in a convertible that has a lot of features and gets good gas mileage don’t really care about performance. You could give these people a 308 CC and strap in the same engine that powers a paper airplane (air) and they would still be happy.

But here I was driving it around Malta, a dusty island nation where the largest vehicle is a 1980s Toyota pickup that appears to have run over an entire flock of sheep, in this vehicle that simply didn’t belong there. It belonged in North America.

And that’s when I started thinking: what other vehicles belong in North America?

One obvious answer is the Volkswagen Amarok, which is this midsize pickup truck that appears to be roughly the same level of “large” and “competent” as the Chevrolet Colorado. I saw a well-equipped Amarok in Istanbul, a land of no pickup trucks, and couldn’t help but wonder why this vehicle isn’t also sold in America, a land where one brand sells more of one truck in four months than Volkswagen sells overall vehicles in the entire year.

Of course, the Amarok would have to be tuned up a bit if they wanted to sell it in America, since the base-level one has only 120 horsepower. This makes it roughly as fast as volcanic lava.

Another good contender: the Audi A5 Sportback. Have you heard of this thing? Imagine, if you will, a four-door version of the Audi A5, with a hatchback like the A7. Now, I fully admit that the segmentation of the luxury car world has grown to a point where things have gotten ridiculous, but Audi has largely stayed away from that stuff. And why? BMW would sell a Gran Coupe version of a tennis shoe, so why shouldn’t Audi?

And here’s the crazy part: although BMW’s proliferation of Gran Turismos and Gran Coupes has been only within the last year or two, Audi started selling the A5 Sportback in 2009! In other words: they created a cool new segment five years ago, and then they let BMW take all the glory.

But these are just a few examples, so now I’m posing the question to you: what cars should be sold in North America? And some guidance: avoid obvious answers of cars you want to see in North America, like some high-performance sports car or a crazy hot hatch. Focus instead on vehicles that would actually do well; vehicles that actually have a purpose; vehicles that would actually find success on our great continent. Like the Curious Coyote.

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Schockmel: CLEPA Members Ready For Autonomous Opportunities http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/schockmel-clepa-members-ready-autonomous-opportunities/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/schockmel-clepa-members-ready-autonomous-opportunities/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016706 Amid the glitz and glamour of the 2015 Geneva Auto Show, European auto supplier group CLEPA proclaimed its members would have a part to play in the autonomous game. According to Just-Auto, group CEO Paul Schockmel said that the move toward autonomous driving was gaining steam, and that suppliers would be a huge part of […]

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Amid the glitz and glamour of the 2015 Geneva Auto Show, European auto supplier group CLEPA proclaimed its members would have a part to play in the autonomous game.

According to Just-Auto, group CEO Paul Schockmel said that the move toward autonomous driving was gaining steam, and that suppliers would be a huge part of the movement:

This is the story which is not only changing cars, but the entire automotive industry and [is] a societal change. I am very much focussing on this because I feel for our members, we have to follow this very strongly and we see huge business opportunities. There will also be challenges with new players coming in – I see this in a positive way because there are opportunities.

Already, Volvo is experimenting with autonomous technology through a plan to introduce 100 vehicles so-equipped to its home city of Gothenburg, Sweden in 2017. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom government approved measures to allow driverless testing on public roads, providing funding for tests in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry. The government also is developing certification standards for autonomous vehicles.

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De Nysschen: Small Cadillac CUV Due In Four Years’ Time http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/de-nysschen-small-cadillac-cuv-due-four-years-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/de-nysschen-small-cadillac-cuv-due-four-years-time/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988490 Ballers looking for a much smaller Cadillac Escalade may need to wait four years before such a beast arrives, per president Johan de Nysschen. Reuters reports the small crossover will be priced under the Escalade’s current $72,970 base price, and will be part of the brand’s overall $12 billion lineup expansion plan that will see […]

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Ballers looking for a much smaller Cadillac Escalade may need to wait four years before such a beast arrives, per president Johan de Nysschen.

Reuters reports the small crossover will be priced under the Escalade’s current $72,970 base price, and will be part of the brand’s overall $12 billion lineup expansion plan that will see eight vehicles introduced between now and the end of the decade.

Also coming in 2019: diesel-power for both cars and crossovers/SUVs. De Nysschen said he wants to start pushing for market share in Europe during the 2020s, explaining that “if you want to play in Europe, you better have some diesels.” Said diesels would also be sold in the U.S. market.

Meanwhile, he expects sales to remain flat for 2015, linked to the lack of new product beyond the upcoming CT6 flagship until late into 2017. De Nysschen adds that the strengthening U.S. dollar would leave a dent in his brand and those of his U.S.-based competitors, while Asian and European automakers use the currency challenge to cut prices on their respective offerings.

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Capsule Review: 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia 2.0 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-1983-ford-sierra-ghia-2-0/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-1983-ford-sierra-ghia-2-0/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 13:44:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=981897     “Wait! Is that a…” “Are you British?”  “I haven’t seen one of these since I left Venezuela as a teenager, only rich people had Sierras!” Behold random responses from gawkers of TTAC’s Project Car. The surprises continue after several hundred miles under the Ford Sierra’s belt, as life with this fish out of water is […]

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“Wait! Is that a…”

“Are you British?”

 “I haven’t seen one of these since I left Venezuela as a teenager, only rich people had Sierras!”

Behold random responses from gawkers of TTAC’s Project Car. The surprises continue after several hundred miles under the Ford Sierra’s belt, as life with this fish out of water is far from a compromise.

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To see it is to not know it: like most hyper-futuristic designs past their prime, a head turner in conservative 1982 England is a familiar profile in conservative 2015 Texas.  Aside from the steering wheel on the wrong side!

But critical eyes notice the Ghia’s grille-free nose and alien headlights. The conversation’s tenor changes: there’s no better compliment to Mr. Uwe Bahnsen and his gifted team than the subtle and thoughtful reactions a Sierra earns a full thirty-three years after liftoff.

Get behind the wheel and the modern theme continues, because it drives like a newer vehicle.

Reasonable drag coefficient (.34) and almost nothing frontal area aside, the finest late-70s technology helps the Sierra match (or trump) the manners of new vehicles at most (legal) speeds.  Strut front suspension with rack-and-pinion steering is right, even without modern aluminum componentry. The semi-trailing arm rear looks modern-ish with exposed webbing on the differential: credit the beginnings of finite element analysis.

(photo courtesy: Ford Press Release)

At 2500-ish lbs, the ho-hum Ford Sierra is a balanced rear-wheel drive, fully-Germanic chassis on a family car body. Which means that roads normally tortured by flaccid CUVs now tango with something Miata-sized.

Captain Mike, the mastermind of this plan, behind the wheel at the Nürburgring.

Thrills start at the tiller: no power assist means road feel harkens to a dance with a soul mate. Manual steering effort is no chore with 165mm wide tires that rarely lack grip on city streets. Emergency maneuvers are effortless, understeer is progressive with the possibility of gentle, controlled oversteer.

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Go round-abouting and the Sierra hangs tight as speeds near 25mph. Above 25 and the front wheels howl as your grin grows. Add a dab of oppo, scandinavian flicks, badass drifter talk blah-blah-blah: with more go-juice, steering modulation and you could duplicate this:

Fiesta THIS.

Like all Sierras thrashed-then-trashed in Europe, its a joy to drift at low speeds even if hamstringed by saggy, original springs and plush dampers. But it’s a pleasant ride/handling tradeoff.  Potholes disappear with 80-series sidewalls smoothing imperfections to the point the big-rimmed Rolls Royce Phantom hangs its NVH-soaked head in shame. How Britishy!

Too bad about the buzzy powertrain: 105 bigger-than-you-think horses from a 2.0L OHC four-banger (sporting a large 2bbl Weber) means the Sierra rarely struggles, but makes a helluva ruckus.

It’s a wonderful powerband: diesel-like torque from a standstill with a smooth-ish (but L-O-U-D) demeanor all the way to 6000 emissions control free revs. The 3-speed auto schools modern units with an effortless 1-2 upshift and a reassuring push to 3rd at full throttle: all autoboxes should shift this sweet.

Brakes?  Credit the light weight for the Sierra’s discs/drums bringing the machine down from 60mph with the hustle of a modern machine. ABS would help, ditto weight adding life-saving technology like airbags, larger door bars, etc.  I reckon with today’s weight shedding tech (aluminum engines, plastic hoods/intakes, etc) offsetting the safety goodies, the Sierra’s fighting form wouldn’t gain a pound.

In the right place. (photo courtesy: Ford Motor Company)

And Ghia spec Ford Sierras are a nice place for average Americans and most Europeans, aside from the previous owner’s decision to order it sans air conditioning: antique English vehicle shopping FTW, SON MATE!

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Fleet-spec Sierras don’t stand a chance, but the real wood trim and buffet-worthy options list protect Ghias from modern motoring irrelevance. Power windows (front 2 or 4), crank moonroof, adjustable reading lamps and a four-speaker cassette stereo are far from impressive. But heated seats, roll up rear sunshades, headlight washers and a gen-u-wine electronic trip computer are touches you’d pay extra for even today.

Mediocre overall, as integration is the killer app.

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Because 1980s. (photo courtesy: Ford Motor Company)

The dash, less radical than the wraparound polycarbonate bumpers, organizes controls in zones for easy use: one to the right of the gauges, another to the left, a third atop the center stack (dark chocolate) and a 4th in the lighter brown region. It’s charming in a proto-modern, Atari 2600 human factors kind of way.

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The interior bits are from a dumber era in polymer construction, yet texture/fit/finish from the doors, vent registers, levers and switches is pure Germanic craftsmanship. Aside from the (period excellent) brown velour, the interior’s aged well.

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But goodness, those seats are magical.  Don’t let the benign seams fool you: the Ghia sucks you in, cradling you. All passengers get thick, luxurious cushions with brilliant thigh support and Volvo-worthy head restraints. Even the Velcro-like velour provides impressive lateral support for everyone but latex-wearing fetishists.

While the stereo is barely adequate, while the vintage Hitachi deck’s discman input smartphone jack provides turn-by-turn Google navigation and streaming audio, don’t forget the tunes held in a handy hatchback with 42.4 cu-ft of space!

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And the beat goes brown.

Considering fuel economy numbers near 30mpg for highway-skewed driving (no overdrive) the Ford Sierra is an antique you could daily drive. (Just find one with A/C.)

But the original MKI design asks for more. It deserves more. 

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Back on the trailer for big upgrades: more gears, power and period-correct emissions processing for a powertrain worthy of that efficient body.

Yes, this Sierra has the power of contemporary V8s in a superior chassis. And it’s quite the time capsule, even difficult to find in Europe…but at what cost to cutting-edge design?

Next time you see TTAC’s Ford Sierra, prepare for an even larger threat to the notion of a modern car!

 

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US Data Privacy Guidelines Not Compatible With Euro Privacy Laws http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/us-data-privacy-guidelines-compatible-euro-privacy-laws/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/us-data-privacy-guidelines-compatible-euro-privacy-laws/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949937 Just as with emissions and headlamps, standards recently adopted in the United States regarding consumer data and privacy won’t be compatible elsewhere, specifically in Europe. Per Automotive News Europe, Stephan Appt, legal director of Munich, Germany-based international law firm Pinsent Masons, says the standards developed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of […]

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Just as with emissions and headlamps, standards recently adopted in the United States regarding consumer data and privacy won’t be compatible elsewhere, specifically in Europe.

Per Automotive News Europe, Stephan Appt, legal director of Munich, Germany-based international law firm Pinsent Masons, says the standards developed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers to both handle said data and ensure privacy “are a step in the right direction,” but aren’t enough for European authorities.

Issues concerning the standards — which were agreed upon earlier this month by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen — include vague and broad statements within the framework, as well as consumers giving “implicit consent to allow data processing based (upon) their mere usage of vehicle technologies and services,” an act that would run afoul of European privacy standards.

Appt added that support for the guidelines shows that automakers “are taking the issue of protecting driver data seriously enough to put aside their differences and collaborate,” and hopes those in Europe would do the same to mitigate risk in violating local privacy laws.

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Editorial: Accord A Canary In the Coal Mine For Europe’s Large Car Segment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/editorial-accord-canary-coal-mine-europes-large-car-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/editorial-accord-canary-coal-mine-europes-large-car-segment/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 16:17:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936642 Acura’s decision to consolidate both the TL and TSX into a single replacement, did more than just deprive North American consumers of a Made In Japan, manual-equipped Acura sedan. It also helped spell the end of the European Honda Accord. The “narrow body” Accord, sold in Europe, Australia and other world markets formed the basis […]

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Acura’s decision to consolidate both the TL and TSX into a single replacement, did more than just deprive North American consumers of a Made In Japan, manual-equipped Acura sedan. It also helped spell the end of the European Honda Accord.

The “narrow body” Accord, sold in Europe, Australia and other world markets formed the basis for our TSX. But Honda has decided to cease production of their “large” (by world standards) sedan starting early next year.

In Canada and the United States, the Accord is a strong player in the mid-size sedan market. But in the rest of the world, it’s a bit player at best. In a region where cars like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Fiesta regularly top the sales charts, the Accord was fighting for relative scraps. And its competition, like the Ford Mondeo, Opel/Vauxhall Insignia and Volkswagen Passat practically have the segment locked down in the all important corporate fleet arena, where most of these large cars are purchased, due to the tax savings generated by a company car, rather than buying one for personal use.

Honda won’t be replacing the Accord with another version, but given the way things are going for Europe’s car market, that may not be a bad thing. Crossovers are eating into everything from sedans to compact hatchbacks to station wagons. Better to devote resources to marketing the CR-V and the upcoming HR-V than a minor player in a shrinking segment.

 

 

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Ford Cutting European Fiesta Output On Weak Demand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ford-cutting-european-fiesta-output-weak-demand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ford-cutting-european-fiesta-output-weak-demand/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:36:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915210 As one of Europe’s most popular vehicles, the Ford Fiesta’s sales is an interesting datapoint when it comes to looking at the strength of the overall European car market. So it’s interesting that despite a supposed rebound of Europe’s new car market, Ford is cutting Fiesta output at its plant in Cologne, Germany. Just-Auto is […]

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As one of Europe’s most popular vehicles, the Ford Fiesta’s sales is an interesting datapoint when it comes to looking at the strength of the overall European car market. So it’s interesting that despite a supposed rebound of Europe’s new car market, Ford is cutting Fiesta output at its plant in Cologne, Germany.

Just-Auto is reporting that Ford will cut output for 11 days, despite an overall EU market up 6 percent this year, though key markets like France, Italy and Germany were down slightly. Last year, the Fiesta was Europe’s best-selling small car, and according to Polk registration data, the top-selling subcompact in the world. The aforementioned countries are also key markets for the Fiesta (though the UK, its top market, is still going strong), so Ford won’t be taking this development lightly.

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Piston Slap: A Grey Market Global Ranger? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-global-ranger-management/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-global-ranger-management/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:57:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912394 H.Y. writes: Hi Sajeev, the global Ford Ranger is still sold overseas now.  What are the challenges for a person to import a modern used Ranger these days? how much addedcostsontopofthepurchase/transport price? 25% truck import duty?  even with a 4-door model ? how much paper work?  US customs, EPA, State safety inspection, DMV plate? what if the truck […]

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H.Y. writes:
Hi Sajeev, the global Ford Ranger is still sold overseas now.  What are the challenges for a person to import a modern used Ranger these days?
  • how much addedcostsontopofthepurchase/transport price?
    • 25% truck import duty?  even with a 4-door model ?
  • how much paper work?  US customs, EPA, State safety inspection, DMV plate?
  • what if the truck has a broken or no engine/transmission, would that make the import any easier/cheaper?
    • if it has no engine, install a local used engine in the US?
  • does it matter if the truck is from Mexico,Thailand, South America…?  any easier rules?
    • RHD personal vehicle is allowed in the US?
Thanks.

Sajeev answers:

Importing a Global Ranger?  Oh hell no!  As per NHTSA:

“As a general rule, a motor vehicle less than 25 years old must comply with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) to be imported on a permanent basis.”

There’s a reason why I imported my Sierra.  Well, aside from the sheer stupidity of wanting a brown jellybean-shaped hatchback from London: it was also over 25 years old.  It just comes in like any other car, and depending on your state, obtaining a title involves extra paperwork, classic car insurance and a (sometimes) basic vehicle inspection. No need to get federal approval over emissions tests, crash standards, noise regulations and who the hell knows what else?

So it’s time to give up. Instead buy one of the Last Great Compact Trucks in the USA:  especially since I got 30.1 MPG in my 2.3L Duratec 5-speed Ranger on a recent trip to San Antonio/Austin/Round Rock in mostly highway driving.

The time, money and stress you’ll avoid makes you forget about that cool Global Ranger.  Console yourself with one of these 25 year old beauties:  it sure worked for me.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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A Look At Western Europe’s Most Popular Brands From 25 Years Ago http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/look-western-europes-popular-brands-25-years-ago/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/look-western-europes-popular-brands-25-years-ago/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 21:22:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904681   From The Machine That Changed The World and the Financial Times: a companion to our article showing a breakdown of the most popular brands in Europe today. While Volkswagen is still dominante, Both of PSAs nameplates have fallen from their former glory to be also-ran brands on the continent. Fiat, while strong regionally, has weakened significantly. […]

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From The Machine That Changed The World and the Financial Times: a companion to our article showing a breakdown of the most popular brands in Europe today.

While Volkswagen is still dominante, Both of PSAs nameplates have fallen from their former glory to be also-ran brands on the continent. Fiat, while strong regionally, has weakened significantly. Rover no longer exists. Volvo is practically a non-entity.

On the other hand, the Japanese can no longer be lumped into a singular entity (Nissan is particularly strong in Europe, with the Qashqai and Juke), and the Koreans are wholly absent from this chart. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Kia are challenging some established European brands in their home markets?

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A Look At Europe’s Top Selling Brands By Country http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/look-europes-top-selling-brands-country/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/look-europes-top-selling-brands-country/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:30:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904657   From the Twitter account of Bob Flavin comes this map of Europe, overlayed with each country’s best-selling auto brand. Volkswagen, along with Skoda (and to a lesser extent, SEAT and Audi) are far and away the dominant force in Europe, with Fiat, Renault (and Dacia) trailing behind. Regionally, Audi is popular in wealthy enclaves […]

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From the Twitter account of Bob Flavin comes this map of Europe, overlayed with each country’s best-selling auto brand.

Volkswagen, along with Skoda (and to a lesser extent, SEAT and Audi) are far and away the dominant force in Europe, with Fiat, Renault (and Dacia) trailing behind.

Regionally, Audi is popular in wealthy enclaves like Monaco, while Skoda dominates in Central Europe. Dacia is abundant in developing countries as diverse as Romania, Moldova, Morocco and Algeria while Fiat is tops not just in Italy, but Turkey and Serbia as well – countries where Fiat builds vehicles locally.

Popular brands in North America, like Ford, Toyota and Honda are much smaller players in the continent. While the Fiesta, Focus and other nameplates enjoy widespread success throughout Europe, Toyota and Honda are much smaller players. And most tellingly, none of the PSA nameplates (Peugeot and Citroen) are present. Or Hyundai/Kia, for that matter.

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Generation Why: A Sub-$30k Car “Wouldn’t Be A Lexus” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/generation-sub-30k-car-wouldnt-lexus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/generation-sub-30k-car-wouldnt-lexus/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:45:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877265 Mercedes and Audi all have a sub-$30,000 entry in their American model ranges. BMW’s cheapest model is just a few hundred dollars above that price point. Infiniti will likely have their own model in that space. So why not Lexus? Speaking to Automotive News, Lexus boss Mark Templin said “We could go down and build a […]

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Mercedes and Audi all have a sub-$30,000 entry in their American model ranges. BMW’s cheapest model is just a few hundred dollars above that price point. Infiniti will likely have their own model in that space. So why not Lexus?

Speaking to Automotive News, Lexus boss Mark Templin said

“We could go down and build a car under $30,000, but it would be decontented, and you’d be cutting corners. It wouldn’t be a Lexus…To be honest with you, you can’t build a Lexus with the quality, the durability, the reliability, the craftsmanship, the content that we put in a Lexus and sell it profitably under $30,000. You just can’t do it.”

Templin’s comments are about as clear a swipe at the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA as one can get. While CLA sales have been big for Benz (as much as 11 percent of the brand’s total, by AN‘s count), reviews have been mixed.

Mercedes-Benz, like other European luxury brands, face an additional dilemma beyond the usual matters of scale, volume and profitability requirements associated with those issues. In many mature markets, their buyers are getting older, while a new generation of buyers is both moving away from cars, and arguably less able to afford a new luxury car. Products like the CLA and A3 offer an affordable entry-point into the brand, while also appealing to the aesthetic, environmental and economic tastes of the Millennial generation. Lexus doesn’t necessarily have this problem in the same way that the Germans do, but they also don’t have much of a presence in Europe either.

What Lexus is doing, as AN pointed out, is attempting to stake out the “high ground” by keeping the price floor above $30,000 (the entry-level CT hybrid starts at about $32,000), which will ostensibly further entrench their “luxury” position. But Lexus, for all its success, has never achieved true global success as a luxury brand, which is something that only the Germans have managed to earn. And as we all know, it’s easier to reach downmarket than try and move up. The A-Class was a hit for Mercedes, but Volkswagen didn’t fare well with the Phaeton. And Audi is just finally turning the corner after a decades long climb to Tier 1.

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Been Dacia’d And Confused For So Long It’s Not True… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/been-daciad-and-confused-for-so-long-its-not-true/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/been-daciad-and-confused-for-so-long-its-not-true/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 14:50:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872090 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-opel-corsa-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-opel-corsa-revealed/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 11:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863625   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 […]

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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? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/vauxhall-readies-its-fiesta-st-fighter-are-you-listening-chevrolet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/vauxhall-readies-its-fiesta-st-fighter-are-you-listening-chevrolet/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 18:57:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858241 The internet is littered with half-hearted, nonsensical clickbait encomiums to products that have a “notgonnahappen.com” 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 […]

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The internet is littered with half-hearted, nonsensical clickbait encomiums to products that have a “notgonnahappen.com” 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” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/next-nissan-pulsar-wont-be-sporty/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/next-nissan-pulsar-wont-be-sporty/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 16:13:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858161 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/cadillac-wont-give-up-on-the-dream-of-european-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/cadillac-wont-give-up-on-the-dream-of-european-success/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 11:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=853321 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jeep-re-builds-uk-dealer-network-in-advance-of-cherokee-launch/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jeep-re-builds-uk-dealer-network-in-advance-of-cherokee-launch/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=851425 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 […]

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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? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/editorial-the-car-that-answers-todays-questions/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/editorial-the-car-that-answers-todays-questions/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 13:58:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850914 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) […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nissan-aiming-for-european-diesel-van-fleets-with-e-nv200-ev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nissan-aiming-for-european-diesel-van-fleets-with-e-nv200-ev/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850162 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/european-taxi-drivers-take-to-the-streets-against-uber/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/european-taxi-drivers-take-to-the-streets-against-uber/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 11:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=844905 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/lancia-languishing-on-life-support-one-model/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/lancia-languishing-on-life-support-one-model/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 16:15:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=829538 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 […]

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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? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/rising-inventories-a-race-to-the-bottom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/rising-inventories-a-race-to-the-bottom/#comments Tue, 20 May 2014 16:43:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=826938 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/nissan-resurrects-another-storied-nameplate/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/nissan-resurrects-another-storied-nameplate/#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 14:48:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=821425 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/chart-of-the-day-the-hollowing-out-of-europes-middle-class-car-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/chart-of-the-day-the-hollowing-out-of-europes-middle-class-car-market/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 14:21:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817410   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” […]

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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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