The Truth About Cars » Spain The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +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 » Spain Ford Unveils 2015 Focus, 1-Liter 3-Pot Manual-Only For U.S. Mon, 24 Feb 2014 12:00:22 +0000 focus-leak24-1

Ahead of its world debut at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain prior to making the rounds at the Geneva and New York auto shows next month, Ford has unveiled its redesigned 2015 Focus.

The Detroit Free Press reports the updated Focus, set to enter showrooms in Europe and the United States this fall with assembly in South America and Asia following soon after, takes its looks from its Fusion stablemate with a new grill, while a higher hood line, lower stance, new lighting elements and a restyled trunk lid for the sedan complete the package.

Underneath the hood, the 1.0L EcoBoost three-cylinder from the Fiesta will find a home in the Focus. Like the Fiesta, the engine will only be paired with a six-speed manual for the U.S. market; other markets will receive an automatic option, as well as the station wagon above. Though Ford hasn’t released mileage figures, the pairing is expected to deliver above the 40 mpg highway rating held by the current model.

Inside, the driver will have greater access to their car’s electronic communications with the Blue Oval’s SYNC AppLink system, allowing iOS and Android users to download and use more than 60 related apps to access everything from real-time vehicle data to hands-free notifications when a phone is connected. In addition, lane-keeping and blind-spot warning systems will be standard.

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Europe Finally Turning Around? German Registrations Up 7%, Sales Also Rise in France, Spain, Italy Wed, 05 Feb 2014 11:00:14 +0000 western-european-car-sales-million-units-_chartbuilder

The European automobile market may be pulling out of its six year sales slump, according to Automotive News, with  new car registrations in Germany up 7% in January from last year, joined by France, Italy and Spain reporting year to year increases for the month. German new car sales  for the month were 206,000, the third monthly gain out of the past four months and the best monthly percentage improvement since September 2011. Analysts caution, though, that the growth in the German market was in part due to discounting.

However, industry executives and analysts warned that underlying demand may not be robust as Germany’s growth was in part attributable to generous price discounts. Ernst-Robert Nouvertne, who operates two Volkswagen stores near Cologne, said “Incentives are the name of the game. Headline sales are looking good but profit per car is crumbling. The (German) market is still pretty strained.”

For their part, the VDA trade association said that sales could have been even better but January 2014 had one less sales day than the same month in 2013. “It’s pleasant to see that the stabilization of the German market is continuing at the start of 2014 but we should remain only cautiously optimistic,” Matthias Wissmann, VDA president said. Wissmann noted that January’s increase was boosted by relatively poor sales last year. The VDA said that it expects new car registrations in Germany to rise to about 3 million vehicles this year from 2.95 million in 2013.

French new car sales were up slightly, 0.5% to 125,477 in January. The CCFA industry association forecast stable or slightly higher car sales in France this year.

Sales of new cars and light trucks in Italy were up 3% to 117,802, according to the government’s transport ministry. Industry groups, however, urged caution, attributing part of the increase to pent up demand as car owners finally replace older vehicles after putting off new car purchases while the financial crisis was ongoing. Automotive research group Centro Studi Promotor said in a statement, “In absolute terms, sales of passenger cars [in Italy] remain at levels last seen in the late 1970s.”

Sales of new cars were also up in Spain, +7.6% last month to 53,436 vehicles. Auto manufacturers’ association Anfac said that sales were improved by government subsidies to encourage scrapping old cars.

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Nissan To Offer e-NV200 In Europe in 2014 Wed, 30 Oct 2013 14:31:23 +0000 Nissan e-NV200. Photo courtesy Nissan.The all-electric future creeps upon us all steadily, from Tesla’s luxury offerings more appropriate for New York Fashion Week, to Nissan’s electric blue and white jelly beans moving eco-conscious families to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Speaking of Nissan, the automaker has decided to unleash the e-Nv200 upon the streets of Europe in 2014, with both fleet and private sales in mind.

The reason is, of course, due to regulations. According to Automotive News Europe, vans made and sold in 2020 for fleets must release no more than 147 grams per kilometer of CO2. Current regs allow for 203 grams of the greenhouse gas per kilometer traveled. Some European cities, such as Barcelona, have or will have stricter limits on how much nitrogen oxides and particulates a vehicle can produce – no surprise then that Nissan and the municipal government are working hand in hand to promote EVs.

The e-NV200 will be screwed together in Barcelona alongside its gasoline-fueled sibling, and will share its powertrain with that of the Leaf; batteries sold separately in England.

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Spanish Scrappage Scheme Now In Its Fourth Iteration Mon, 28 Oct 2013 17:25:46 +0000 Seat_Leon_III_(front_quarter)

The Spanish government is extending its own version of “Cash for Clunkers” for the fourth time, as Spain tries to boost sagging car sales in the midst of a severe recession.

Buyers will get a 1,000 euro subsidy if they trade in a 7 to 10 year old car for a newer, more fuel efficient one that costs less than 25,000 euro. The $97 million program will last for six months or until the subsidies run out, with the previous three programs helping to move 30,000 cars.

So far, Spain is the only country to initiate such a program – sales were up 29 percent last month, with the program credited for spurring much of the demand.

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GM Lands A One-Two Punch As Mokka Moves To Spain Wed, 10 Jul 2013 17:00:35 +0000 Opel_Mokka_1.4_Turbo_ecoFLEX_Innovation_–_Frontansicht,_20._Oktober_2012,_Heiligenhaus (1)

Amid labor unrest in Korea, and a desire to utilize capacity in Europe, GM is moving production of the Opel Mokka (aka, the Buick Encore, and Canada’s Chevrolet Trax) out of Korea and into a facility in Zaragoza, Spain.

Zaragoza, which also builds the Corsa and Meriva, will assemble the Mokka using CKD kits (shipped from Korea) at first. An $80 million investment will be used to bring full production online, and will further secure the estimated 5,800 jobs at the plant.

The Mokka has been a hot seller for Opel, and a rare bright spot in a European car market that has otherwise been in the dumps. But the compact crossover segment that the Mokka competes in relies on low prices, and GM has increasingly come to view Korea as an expensive country to produce cars in.

Unfortunately, it’s bad news for GM’s Korean assembly arm. While the official party line is that the Mokka’s move will free up capacity at GM Daewoo’s assembly plant in Bupyeong for small SUVs like the Captiva, labor relations in Korea have been deteriorating for some time, and this is a way for GM to avoid having to deal with South Korean unions that are not afraid of striking and rioting to get their point across.

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A Solution To Europe’s Overcapacity: Take Monday Off. Or How About Friday? Tue, 09 Jul 2013 09:32:51 +0000 screen-shot-2013-04-04-at-7-46-02-pm


European SEAT sales showed new signs of life lately, but the vital stats of Volkswagen’s Mediterranean brand still are weak enough for doctors to recommend a lot of rest. SEAT recommends to have workers stay at home an extra day of each week, Reuters writes.

According to the wire, SEAT “wants to halt production for 16 days on one of its lines, between September and December, affecting 2,800 workers, and stop production for 35 days next year on another line, affecting 3,800 workers.”

Doing the math, that amounts to a four work day week beginning in September, after workers return from extensive and most likely extended holidays. The four work day system would then last through most of next year.

According to the wire, Seat proposed the plan to unions and the regional government in Catalonia and will hold a 15-day consultation period.

The system has a strong tradition in Europe. For 12 years, from 1994 through 2006, Volkswagen Germany worked only on four days of the week. The “Vier-Tage Woche” was invented to get VW through the lean times of the 90’s. The extra vacation went hand-in-hand with a 20 percent pay cut, and this is what Spanish unions probably will hear.

SEAT said that “the measures are aimed at guaranteeing the continuation of all staff at Seat as well as an adequate relationship between production and demand for our products in the market.” This statement also is right out of Volkswagen’s  “Vier-Tage Woche” playbook, which, all in all, worked quite well.

Of course, when business picked up later in the decade at Volkswagen, German unions did not want to give up their three-day vacations every week. Only the threat of jobs emigrating elsewhere finally brought workers back to the line on five days of the week.

What didn’t work out so well was that, in the name of justice, fairness, and equality, white-collar workers also had to observe the 4 day week. This had horrendous effects on efficiency. Workers could choose which day of the work they would not work, they inevitably picked Monday or Friday. This meant that meetings could only be scheduled from Tuesday through Thursday.  Which meant that nothing was done Monday and Friday, because half of the people weren’t at the office. And nothing was done Tuesday through Thursday, because everybody was in meetings.

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EU Red Flags Spain’s Help For Ford Wed, 15 May 2013 13:55:36 +0000 S

In America,  government bailouts of ailing car companies are (at least in some circles) viewed as an inalienable right. In the EU, government aid generally is forbidden by law. Ironically, Ford, the only un-bailed-out Detroit company, now is in collision with these quaint continental regulations.

According to Reuters, “ EU antitrust regulators will investigate whether a 25.2 million euros ($32.71 million) grant given by Spanish authorities to U.S. carmaker Ford Motor Co’s van facility in Valencia breached EU state aid rules.”

Ford wants to produce the new Ford Transit Connect in Valencia, and the  Spanish government contributed a little to the cause that costs around $540 million.

The rest is a bit technical. According to Reuters, “the European Commission said on Wednesday that a preliminary investigation showed that the project might exceed the authorized 5 percent increase in production capacity on a market in decline,” but the Commission doubts data by the Spanish government and whether “the market concerned is in decline.”

The EU forbids bailouts not because they are seen as inherently evil, but rather because this is not a zero-sum game, and helping some would mean state-sponsored damage to others.

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F1 Report: Hamilton can’t drive any slower, Alonso can’t go any faster. Mon, 13 May 2013 17:06:29 +0000 Forza Alonso. Picture courtesy BBC UK

Some of TTAC’s readers have made it absolutely clear that they cannot abide it when I pick on Red Bull’s Mark Webber. So let’s say something nice about the man: he made up for his usual an unexpectedly poor start to finish in fifth place, just behind his teammate, Sebastian Vettel. If you’re a Mark Webber fan, now would be a good time to feel good about the whole thing and look forward to the next race.

Everybody else should click the jump.

In a pre-race interview with NBC Sports’ Will Buxton, the Wobbler summed up the conventional thinking in quite woeful fashion, complaining that in 2013 it was all about the tires and that nobody could race hard any more, and so on, and what are you going to go, and isn’t it a shame. This line was duly parroted by the commentary crew: this race will be won by conserving tires. It was suggested that Kimi Raikkonen might be a good bet to win this one, since the Lotus is uniquely (some say suspiciously) easy on tires. The Mercedes Silver Arrows were expected to fade early in the race due to camber control issues in the rear.

Another expectation: that Fernando Alonso would make another one of his excellent starts to improve his position from fifth. When the lights went out, he met expectations and then some by driving around the outside of Hamilton in Turn Three and challenging Vettel before settling for third. It was then time to conserve tires. Vettel’s crew reminded him that “only the last five laps matter.” Hamilton tumbled down through the order, unable to keep rubber under the car at any pace. At one point, the Hundred Million Dollar man responded to corrections from the pit wall by moaning, “I can’t drive any slower.” He would finish the day out of the points in twelfth, while his dour teammate Nico Rosberg, who is perfectly used to driving slowly, managed to conserve a sixth out of it.

Alonso, meanwhile, had surged to an early lead and continued to increase it. The math was plain to see: it takes twenty-five seconds or so for a pit stop at Barcelona. Therefore, if you can get a second and a half extra out of the car per lap for sixteen or seventeen laps, it’s worth taking an extra stop. Kimi, meanwhile, was on the other side of that math, trying to run a three-stop strategy and keep the time loss from a more conservative pace below what he’d lose by pitting a fourth time.

In hindsight, it’s plain that Alonso was never really in danger of doing anything other than winning. His start was about perfect, his pace was blinding, and he was completely mistake-free. It was one of those rare occasions where the truth unfolds along the lines of fiction: the man actually ran along the fence before the race, touching hands with the thousands of fans who had come to see him and him alone. He delivered touching comments beforehand about wanting to make sure the fans got their money’s worth in what is currently a difficult economic time for Spaniards. It was almost too good to be true. Given the way the FIA operates, maybe it was too good to be true. Unless Nelson Piquet Jr. has some information he’d like to share after the fact, we’ll probably never know.

What else is there to cover? Oh yes, McLaren is in a very deep hole right now and it came as no surprise that they were beaten by Paul DiResta in his Force India. With the imminent retirement of the Wobbler to DTM, NASCAR, prototype-into-treeline gymastics, or whatevs, the battle between the teammates at Scuderia Toro Rosso all of a sudden starts to look fairly relevant to the future. There are rumors of financial problems at Lotus (are there ever not?) which means that Kimi’s astounding consistency, pace, and development work could be undone by lack of cash to improve the car. There are Kimi-to-Red-Bull rumors but it seems unlikely that Mr. Vettel would permit that to happen. He’s probably the only person in the world who is genuinely satisfied with Webber’s performance these past three and a half years.

All of that belongs to the future. The present, this day, belonged completely and rightfully to Fernando Alonso. Even if you hate Ferrari or don’t care for the wide-jawed Spanish driver himself, this was a wonderful and perfect day, from start to finish.

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Generation Why: Well, At Least We’re Not Europe Thu, 09 May 2013 18:54:29 +0000 youthunemployment


Yet another bit of bleak data from Europe relating to new car sales. A popular school of thought holds that young people’s aversion to cars is largely rooted in economic factors. When everyone under 30 is broke, living at home and wallowing in student debt, the last thing on their mind is a car. But the hope is that once things turn around, it will be time for Generation Y to get motoring again. At least in North America. Over in Europe (or certain parts of it, at least) things are much more bleak.

Youth unemployment in countries like Greece and Spain are at staggering levels. 54.2 percent of Greek youth are unemployed according to the above chart from The Atlantic. Spain is a little behind – or slightly exceeding Spain, depending on your sources. The situation is less severe in other Eurozone countries, but still bad, as evidence by the figures for France, Ireland and the Eurozone as a whole. Germany remains a standout, as its youth unemployment rate of 8.2 percent is half of the United States’ rate and a third of the Eurozone’s.

As the Atlantic article states, the unemployment crisis has been dragging on for years now, and there appears to be little end in sight. A “lost generation” of workers will of course mean a lost generation of car buyers for Europe’s auto makers. If anyone is buying anything, it’s low cost cars, as evidenced by the astonishing success of brands like Dacia, which have cannibalized sales of Renault in France.

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France Is Going Down On Us Fri, 01 Feb 2013 16:45:36 +0000

If anyone is hoping for a turn-around of the European car market, be it Opel, PSA, or Pch101, January definitely was not the month it happened. Some people, who get paid a lot of money for a very long-term vision, believe we have to wait years for the turn-around. The French car market dropped  15 percent in January, with “Volkswagen and U.S. carmakers leading the drop,” Reuters reports. Massive sales subsidies of 2,000 euros ($2,700) per car, reintroduced in October in Spain,  could not reverse the Spanish market. It dropped 9.6 percent.

In France, sales of PSA Peugeot Citroen, were down 16.7 percent.  PSA’s partner GM “fared worse,” says Reuters. Combined French registrations by General Motors dropped 21.2 percent. Ford sales plummeted 35.3 percent in France. Volkswagen group sales  were down 23.9 percent.

Renault did beat the market with only a 7.4 percent drop. Reuters says this was due to “a 9.9 percent gain for its low-cost Dacia brand, as scarce buyers gravitated to “crisis cars” such as the no-frills Sandero compact and Duster SUV.”

Sales in Italy fell 17.58 percent in January to 113,525 vehicles.

Germany will publish sales on Monday.

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Ford Closes Belgian Plant, Production Moves To Spain Wed, 24 Oct 2012 09:11:08 +0000

Europe’s car crisis found 4,300 new victims: As expected, union representatives at Ford’s Genk plant in Belgium were told this morning that the plant will be closed. 4,300 workers will be out of a job.

“The management has decided to close the car assembly and the press activities in Genk at the end of the current production cycle in 2014,” Luc Prenen, ACV union representative, told workers by megaphone while Reuters was taking notes.

“This will result in the closing of the Genk production site and will cause the loss of 4,300 jobs,” Prenen said.

Higher level Ford managers from Ford did not attend the meeting. Local managers simply read out a statement. It caused small riots. Said Prenen:

“After the announcement there were some rough scenes. There was some pushing and shoving but we managed to calm it down. It was aimed at the management but they left quickly. It was also among each other as people were very angry and frustrated.”

Meetings with senior level managers are reserved for Belgian VIPs. Ford Europe managers will meet Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo and Employment Minister Monica De Coninck later in the day.

Shutting the plant down will become costly for Ford. According to one employee, “most people here are over 40.” Severance payments for long-serving older employees can become quite high. An analyst did put the closing cost of the Belgian factory at $1.4 billion, or $ 325,000 per worker.

Belgium’s loss is Spain’s gain. Ford will shift production of its new Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy models to Valencia, Spain, from Belgium, union representative Luc Prenen told Reuters. The Genk plant originally was scheduled to start producing the new Mondeo in October 2013.

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BMW Shifts Units From Europe To U.S. Thu, 18 Oct 2012 16:40:29 +0000

Europe’s auto market implosion has led BMW to shift units earmarked for the continent over to the United States and China, where demand remains strong.

BMW Sales Chief Ian Robertson told Bloomberg that a recovery in Europe could take years, and that Europe’s crisis was having effects in other regions. “The slowdown in China is part of what’s happening in Europe,” Robertson said.

BMW’s global sales were up 14 percent in September, buoyed by the introduction of the new 3-Series. But the company must take measures to stop the bleeding in Europe, with Robertson remarking that a restructuring of its Spanish dealer network is under consideration.

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Car Sales In Spain, France In Ruins Wed, 01 Aug 2012 14:38:09 +0000

And now, back to the usual blood and tears from Europe: July new cars sales dropped 7 percent in France and thudded 17 percent in Spain “as consumers cut back on costly goods in the face of economic uncertainty,” says Reuters.

Registrations in troubled Spain have been in straight decline for more than two years, industry body ANFAC said told Reuters. “That trend will not change in the short term even though the discounts on offer are about the best in history,” ANFAC chief economist Aranzazu Mur said.

Commonly cocky Volkswagen received a taste of blood and tears when Spanish sales of Seats plunged 35 percent

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Spanish Consumers Cling To National Icon In Troubled Times. Sat, 19 Mar 2011 11:15:38 +0000

Alright, so we’ve gone to South America (Argentina,  Brazil), Africa (Libya) and Asia (North Korea). It’s now time to visit Europe, and why not start with Spain, a perilous but fascinating place at the moment.

If you can’t wait for the next update and want to know all about car sales in 154 countries around the planet, simply go here. Es mi blog y es impresionante, sí señor!

The Spanish car market was hit full frontal by the GFC: from 1,608,593 sales in 2007, it fell to 1,161,154 in 2008 (-28 percent) and 952,772 in 2009 (-18 percent). We thought the worst was over in 2010 when the market grew by 3 percent at 982,015 units…

Unfortunately, 2011 has been bringing really bad news so far, with car sales down 24 percent in January and 28 percent in February. Normally, Spain is the 5th biggest market in Europe behind biggies Germany, France, Italy and the UK. No more: In 2011 so far Spain was passed by the Netherlands and is threatened by Belgium, countries that have 3 and 4 times less inhabitants…

So this is for the context.

If you now look at the Spanish market by brand, this uncertain situation seems to have benefited the sole national manufacturer, Seat. Fourth best selling brand in 2009, it is #1 in 2010 at 89,392 sales and 9.1 percent of the market.

As you know manufacturers ranking is not mi taza de té, as I concentrate on models sales. However I trust you agree the context above is critical? Muchas gracias.

So in these troubled times, the Spanish consumer has been buying national more and more. And this shows in the models ranking, with the iconic Seat Ibiza the best-selling car in the country at close to 40,000 sales and 4.1 percent share in 2010.

The Ibiza nameplate is at its fourth generation and was originally launched in 1984. Over 4.5 million units of the Seat Ibiza have been produced in 26 years, making it by far the best selling Seat nameplate ever.

A smaller market often results in more volatility, and there have been a couple of interesting developments in the Spanish models ranking recently.

The Qashqai, a bold crossover launched by Nissan in 2007, had been progressively climbing the sales ranking in Spain as well as in many other European countries in the last few years. In 2010, Nissan had a great idea: while sales of the first generation were still growing, it replaced it with a facelifted model, giving it an impressive boost Europe-wide.

The Qashqai even broke into the overall European Top 10 last July. In Spain, it kept growing throughout 2010 to reach the first spot in December, taking advantage of a weak month for the Ibiza. It finished 2010 at an amazing 2nd place overall with over 30,000 sales and continued to improve its market share to 3.8 percent in January 2011.

So a very serious competitor for the Ibiza in 2011.

French manufacturers traditionally are extremely successful in Spain, and 2010 was no exception, with the 3 brands even sitting within 1,500 sales: Peugeot ranking 3rd(82,678), Renault 4th(81,558) and Citroen 5th(81,177).

Renault placed its new generation Megane on the third step of the podium in 2010 at 3 percent share, edging past the #2 of 2009, the Peugeot 207.

Another feature of the Spanish market is the prevalence of ‘compact’ cars. We saw the Qashqai and Megane leading the category in 2010, well six more compact models rank in the Top 12: the VW Golf is 5th, the Seat Leon 6th, the Opel Astra 8th and the Peugeot 308 9th, with the Citroen C4 and Ford Focus not far in 11th and 12th positions. That’s 8 compact cars in the 12 best selling models, in a region (Europe) traditionally fonder of smaller, cheaper ‘superminis’.

Spain’s Top 12 in 2010

Pos Model 2010 %
1 Seat Ibiza 39,905 4.1%
2 Nissan Qashqai 30,050 3.1%
3 Renault Megane 29,442 3.0%
4 Peugeot 207 29,046 3.0%
5 VW Golf 25,743 2.6%
6 Seat Leon 25,177 2.6%
7 Ford Fiesta 24,600 2.5%
8 Opel Astra 24,405 2.5%
9 Peugeot 308 24,329 2.5%
10 Opel Corsa 23,728 2.4%
11 Citroen C4 22,288 2.3%
12 Ford Focus 21,612 2.2%

So that’s pretty much all you need to know about the Spanish car market! Hope you enjoyed…

For my nerdy friends in the front row, you can check out the 2010 Top 80 best selling models in Spain here and the Top 60 for February 2011 here.

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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SEAT To China. Honestly Now Fri, 11 Mar 2011 17:41:44 +0000

How many times had I written that Volkswagen’s sicklish SEAT will come to China? I had to peruse Google to find out. For more than two years, SEAT’s impending arrival in the Middle Kingdom had been floated, and then, like clockwork, the denials followed. So with a good deal of “yeah sure, it has been tried before” do we read the story in Autocar that “the Spanish marque will exhibit for the first time at next month’s Shanghai Motor Show and expects to be selling cars in China from early in 2012.”

Supposedly, “the announcement was made unwittingly in response to a question from the audience at the annual Volkswagen media and investor conference.”

Unwittingly, SEAT chief James Muir told Autocar that the time is right to enter China. “We are appealing to a new generation of Chinese customers, young, design-orientated people buying the cars themselves [rather than with their parents’ support] who are looking for cars that express their personality.”

Interesting market segmentation. Let’s see how they’ll bring that message across.

Also supposedly, “Seat will start in China with the high-specification Cupra performance versions of the Ibiza and Leon made in the factory at Martorell, near Barcelona.” Yes, they will import them.  Muir says that “there is a continuing market in China for imported cars. Audi and other luxury brands have been very successful.” True, for high end ones. Even the A6 is Made in China.

If you ask me (but nobody will, I’m sure), the Chinese market hasn‘t been waiting for imported (=expensive) rebadged Polos (Ibiza) and Golfs (Leon) that have been hopped up as club racers (Cupra = expensive).

If a Chinese spends money for an import, he wants brand cachet. SEAT is unknown in China and might be mistaken for a chair.

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Adventures In Global TV Marketing: The Citroën AX Thu, 10 Feb 2011 20:30:10 +0000
Sure, Internet video is mostly about dental-fetish porn (particularly the very stimulating “spit sink” subgenre), but when the novocaine wears off and the last vinyl-clad hygienist has put aside her last stainless-steel scraper, you’re ready to explore the other great thing about Internet video… old television ads for the Citroën AX. The AX had quite a run, being built for model years 1986 through 2000 (counting the Proton-built version, the Tiara), and— who knows?— its tooling may yet be brought back into action in some out-of-the-way corner of the world.

Since assembling this collection of Citroën ads a couple years back, I’ve associated the AX with this early French-market ad showing a woman using the Great Wall of China as an exclusive highway for her AX. She catches some serious air, then stops short when a couple of ancient Long March veterans express their revolutionary approval. Down with the Four Olds!

Continuing the “revolutionary Asian locale” theme, Citroën then headed to Tibet, where an AX shows its off-road prowess on the way to a visit with a holy man. No doubt the Chinese government wasn’t so happy about this one, but Citroën sales in China didn’t amount to much in the late 1980s.

As the AX matured and a GT model came out, French-market advertisers decided they’d head over to New York City— like China, a place not known for street-driven AXs— and show off the car’s ability to get through madhouse traffic. In fact, the AX GT can squeeze through traffic even faster than a super-hip bike messenger with a willingness to ride down stairways and over the roofs of gridlocked cars.

In Spain, potential AX buyers must have focus-grouped as being fascinated by the American Southwest, because we’ve got a Harley-riding thug stalking a beautiful, AX-driving young woman from a desert greasy spoon to a railroad crossing. I won’t give away the surprise ending, which apparently is meant to show that the AX is practical as well as sexy, but it sure looks like the start of a made-for-TV serial-killer drama to me.

Citroën UK’s marketers decided to go with cuteness for this 1992 advert; a cartoon cupid’s arrows can’t catch the nimble AX and melt the cold, cold heart of the protagonist’s female companion. Thwarted! But wait! The AX itself gets the job done, and the camera fades to black as the couple prepares to make with the bouncy-bouncy on the road shoulder. Yes, the AX makes a man a real bull on the springs, if I may rip off a Bukowski-ism; it’s the Frenchness that does it. Hey, wait a minute, isn’t that car left-hand drive?

Mazda’s short-lived Eunos brand sold the AX in Japan for a few years in the early 90s, and the JDM-car-ad requirements of jaunty music, sexy foreign woman, and macho voiceover are all met in this ’91 AX ad.

But you really need to bring the AX to Malaysia to unlock the true advertising potential. This two-minute-long special-effects extravaganza for the Proton Tiara features a canoe-paddlin’ hero, a tiger that morphs into a tiger-striped muscleman, and an attractive— though modestly dressed, no doubt in deference to Malaysia’s Muslim population— woman who uses magical powers to summon a Tiara from the ether.

It’s for the CX and we’ve all seen it before, but it seems wrong to talk about classic Citroën ads without showing the what-the-hell-were-they-thinking “Robot Grace Jones” ’84 CX ad.

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Spain’s EV Plan Short Circuits. Royally Sun, 15 Aug 2010 10:38:03 +0000

See the picture above? It’s a lady in a white car. Nothing unusual there, right? Well, not quite. For starters, the lady is a queen. A real one.

Before I clarify the picture, let me set the scene. Spain is in the middle of economic turmoil. Its credit rating was cut to AA, it pushed through a €15b austerity plan with just one vote and is having trouble overhauling its labor market (which is considered to be one of the most inflexible in Europe). So, suffice to say, money’s too tight to mention, as someone once said. Unless …

Unless you have a plan for a green mode of transportation. Suddenly, money is in plentiful supply. In the middle of trying to cut costs, the Spanish government pledged to invest €590m (that’s about $775m) into the production of electric cars. It aims to have 250,000 electric and hybrid cars on Spanish roads by 2014. Why, is anybody’s guess.

Wait, there’s more money: In addition to that, they put aside €80m to fund subsidies for electric car sales to customers. It’s for 20 percent of the vehicle, capped at €6,000. So it kind of came as an embarrassment when it was reported that when the Spanish government pledged to have 2,000 electric cars on the road by the end of 2010, figures were released that so far in 2010 only 15 were sold. The previous year? Just one. By my calculations, that works out to be roughly €39,333,333 per car. Good value, eh?

The Spanish government tried to put a brave face on. “The figures are similar to what happened in the beginning with personal computers or mobile phones,” they said via the government backed REVE electric car and wind power project, “The first models are expensive and with few options and initial sales were low.” (Not true. The first personal computers cost a few hundred dollars for a bag full of chips and resistors, and everybody said those who bought them were nuts. Which they were.) So, what’s this got to do with the picture above?

The Telegraph reports that in order to boost sales they roped in a celebrity to help. Quite a big celebrity. The lady in the picture is Queen Sofia of Spain. She was photographed driving a Peugeot iON EV whilst on holiday in Palma, Majorca. How did she describe it? “Phenomenal”. Which is exactly the word I’d use for this boondoggle.

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PSA Going Downmarket Wed, 26 May 2010 12:56:44 +0000
Renault has made a big splash with their el-cheapo Dacia in the European market. In the first 4 months of this year, 17 percent of Renault’s sales came from Nicolae Ceausescu’s former auto works in Romania. France’s PSA doesn’t want to take it any longer, and now plans for their own low-cost line.

Their cheap car won’t come from low wage Eastern Europe, it will be made in PSA’s existing plant in Vigo, Spain, says Automobilwoche [sub]. Low cost cars don’t mean low investments: PSA will have to invest €1b into the plant to bring it up to speed. Making cheap cars that make money isn’t easy.

PSA seems to have big plans for the little cars: With a capacity of 384,000 units annually, Vigo is the largest of PSA’s  plants, bigger than PSA’s  lead plant in Sochaux, France (275.000 units.)

PSA is a little late to the game. The big sales successes for cheap cars in Europe were cause by scrapping bonuses. However, PSA plans on big sales in emerging markets.

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Ford Europe: Hybrid To The C-MAX Mon, 10 May 2010 11:49:36 +0000

Ford’s first hybrid models for European customers will be built in Valencia Spain. Valencia was the logical choice.

Valencia had been picked in 2009 as the European single source for all versions of the “compact multi-activity model” Ford C-MAX and Grand C-MAX . Powered by EcoBoost gasoline and Duratorq TDCi diesel engines, they will launch later this year. A gasoline-powered seven-seat version of the C-MAX model for North America will go into production in Valencia in late 2011.

Next in line will be two hybrid derivatives of the C-MAX to be launched in 2013: a full Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV), and a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).

Investment in the cars doesn’t come cheap, and the Spanish government will chip in. ”The Spanish government and Valencia regional administration are providing the highest grant support in line with European Union requirements,” says a Ford release. “The exact amount of this support will be determined at a later date.”

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GM’s Foreign Relations Suck Sat, 13 Mar 2010 10:47:50 +0000

Over the daily Toyota runaway stories, it’s easy to forget the plight of GM and its children abroad. If you think that’s the idea, then you are a miserable conspiracy theorist, and you should stand in the corner. With that in mind, let’s check in with GM and its worldwide siblings to see how they are doing.

From the U.K. comes the cheerful news that “Lord Mandelson put £270 million on the table yesterday to finalise a deal with General Motors that will keep Vauxhall operations going in Britain and save 3,200 jobs. The American car group said last month that it would cut more than 500 British jobs but would keep production going at Ellesmere Port and in Luton if there was state support,” writes the Times of London, a bit confused about how many jobs will be saved.

“Vauxhall” is British for Opel. For us ignorami, £270m is a bit over $400m. A pittance of a charitable contribution, in the grand scheme of the $2.5b which GM is intending to collect from Germany, Spain, Poland and Austria.

The U.K. is the first European country to open their purse for Opel. Not such a brilliant idea, as we shall soon see. No word yet on donations from Germany, Spain, Poland and Austria.

From Spain, Reuters brings the news that Spanish unions and GM have reached a preliminary agreement to keep the Figuruelas plant open.

From Germany comes the message that their government is mightily miffed with the duplicitous Brits.

“The German government and the European Commission most likely are not amused by the advances from London,” writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The EU countries  had agreed in Brussels not to take unilateral action. And the way the $400m bailout from London is written and announced, the UK will most likely keep its money.

Trading support for jobs is utterly forbidden in the EU. The donation smells like a pre-election ploy that makes Labour look good. The wording of the announcement just begs for the deal being shot down in Brussels. If it ever makes it past Berlin.

Most of the $2.5b is supposed to come from Germany, and here “negotiations remain particularly sluggish, with Berlin’s economics ministry saying on Friday GM has yet to update its application for government funding ever since Detroit tripled its commitment to fund Opel’s operations,” reports Reuters. If Germany doesn’t reach into its pockets, the other countries can keep their spare change.

GM, with its usual finely tuned sensitivity to political nuances, just made jet another step to alienate its prospective creditor: Russia, and the former countries in the Russian region used to be under the purview of Opel. That is about to change. The former General Motors Europe has ceased to exist, Opel is GM’s Europe. Most of Russia, and definitely Moscow is in Europe. GM thinks its in Asia. “GM transferred responsibility for Russia to GM International Operations (GM IO), based in Shanghai, sparking fears that Opel could lose access to a key growth market which almost overtook Germany by size in 2008, before collapsing last year,” reports Reuters.

The unions immediately protested. No word from Berlin yet. They’ll probably keep their choice words for Monday. Or they’ll say nothing and keep asking for an updated application, which they will ultimately reject.

With Opel going nowhere, with Daewoo in tatters, with SAIC flexing its muscles and assuming control in China, and soon India, (and now Russia..), GM’s fortunes abroad are declining. The world is watching how Toyota is being treated like a common criminal. The world is thinking: “We could be next.” This is not an atmosphere that is conducive to much help for a company owned by the American government.

Speaking of China and Korea: Shanghai GM is recalling 2,065 Chevrolet Captivas imported from South Korea. The Daewoo-made Capitvas risk steering malfunctions, says China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, according to Reuters.

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Opel Rescue Up To European Taxpayers? Mon, 23 Nov 2009 18:53:36 +0000 Better you than me (courtesy: The WSJ)

General Motors made one point very clear, 100 percent clear, the restructuring plan could only be achieved when European member states with Opel plants give some financial help. So the plan works only with state aid. The idea that General Motors can finance this on its own was not shared by General Motors, this possibility does unfortunately not exist

EU Industry Minister Guenter Verheugen reveals to Automotive News [sub] that GM does indeed seem to be trying to limit the amount of US taxpayer money spent on its $4.9b rescue of Opel. GM’s Opel fixer Nick Reilly explains “we have indicated that we will inject some GM funds into that requirement too. That is quite difficult because we are also going through a restructuring of our U.S. operations and other parts of the world.” We’ve already seen loans for jobs floated in the UK, where Reilly came up just short of offering to save Vauxhall jobs for government restructuring loans on a quid-pro-quo basis. And GM will have to continue walking that fine line, as EU competition rules forbid member states from offering financial support in exchange for jobs, especially if the saved jobs come at the expense of jobs in another EU member state. But Germany’s leadership was humiliated by GM’s decision to drop the sale of Opel to Magna, and has already ruled out funding an Opel restructuring that would keep the automaker under GM control. Will Belgium, Spain and the UK be able to come up with enough money to make the restructuring happen? Or will GM simply be forced to dip deeper into its taxpayer-funded escrow account? GM’s plan will be announced this week, and we’ll be watching.

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