By on March 1, 2016

2015 BMW X4, Image: BMW

Amsterdam’s port facility is more crowded than a Walmart on Black Friday and it’s all China’s fault.

That, BMW wonders how it all went wrong, Millennials bare their souls to a salesman, Toyota walks down memory lane, and a safety regulator has some explaining to do … after the break!

Amphiro at port in Amsterdam harbor

Barges for Buicks leads to bedlam

China’s burgeoning middle class has a powerful thirst for cars — American cars, especially — but the growing demand for gasoline to power that private fleet is putting pressure in an unlikely location, reports Bloomberg Business.

The port of Amsterdam is jammed butt-to-gut with barges carrying an additive China needs in order to create the higher-quality gasoline and diesel fuel mandated by its government. Those barges ferry the product to tankers anchored offshore, and the long delay between shore and ship — up to two weeks in some cases — is causing serious gridlock.

Amsterdam remains the export port of choice for the European-produced additives, which include massive quantities of a gasoline blending component.

While China’s commercial vehicle fleet is seeing its numbers decline slightly, the number of private vehicles plying the avenues and byways of the Orient have more than doubled in the past six years.

1974 BMW 2002 front view in Junkyard, Image: © 2014 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

BMW wants its mojo back

BMW is looking to regain lost swagger and make a “big bang” in the auto business, according to Bloomberg Business.

Sales stagnation at the Bavarian automaker is being compounded by resurgent Mercedes-Benz, and while BMW isn’t bringing anything new to the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, its chief rival is more than happy to show off its new products.

Compounding the issue is the fact that BMW seems to have covered all the bases in terms of model categories, without a resulting uptick in interest from the buying public.

The responsibility to turn the tide falls at the feet of BMW’s relative newcomer CEO Harald Krüger, seen here fainting during a press conference. A strategy review due out later this month could hold clues to BMW’s plans for a turnaround.

Millennials In The Back Of A Subaru BRAT

Optimistic Millennials dream of better bike

Tax season is coming, and Autonation (by way of Fractl) — the county’s largest retailer of new cars — wanted to know if Millennials who receive a refund are planning to blow the whole wad on a car.

Idealistic and hopeful as they are, 26 percent of the 2,000 surveyed Millennials expected a return of $1,000 to $2,499, which would be just dandy for a car down payment, no?

Asked if they’d buy new or used if they had to put their refund towards a car, three-quarters opted for used, with Honda, Toyota and Ford rounding out the top picks of both categories. Clearly, their parents taught them the value of research and reliability surveys.

Either that, or it’s a case of brands, brands, brands!

Interestingly, when the choices were broken down based on planned expenditure, the lowest tier ($1,000 to $4,999) saw Cadillac and BMW in the top three. If either make is going to become a low-income Millennial’s only used vehicle, the driver can only be described as either foolish or passionate.

1980 Toyota LC

Toyota data breach will have geeks salivating

No, they weren’t hacked. Rather, Toyota Motor Corporation thought consumers would get a thrill by releasing the chronologies of every model in its current lineup via its online newsroom.

Who knew the Land Cruiser was judged “4×4 of the year” in 1980, or that the Previa received an engine upgrade for 1990? You do … thanks to Toyota!

If you’re wondering about Lexus, the answer is “yes.” Toyota’s luxury make gets its own historical data dump, too.

There’s obviously a subtle strategy at work here, but that won’t matter to someone who’s now re-living the good times they had when that Previa was still running.


It’s still a bad time to have an accident

From the New York Times comes news that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is dragging its feet on crucial overhauls that were called for five years ago.

A recent audit by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation found that the NHTSA still hasn’t corrected the shortcomings laid bare in an earlier 2011 audit, a move that was prompted by the safety regulator’s handling of the Toyota acceleration scandal.

It seems that many of the recommendations from the earlier audit were accepted, but didn’t become standard practice, with little new training for staff to analyze the safety data it collects from manufacturers.

As a result, the report concludes, the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation’s staff “may not be sufficiently trained to identify and investigate potential vehicle defects or ensure that vehicle manufacturers take prompt and effective action to remediate issues.”

[Image: BMW 2002 © 2014 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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29 Comments on “TTAC News Round-up: China Binds Up Holland, BMW Needs New Friends, Young People Dream On...”

  • avatar

    My neighbor, a principal’s secretary at the local high school, owns a new BMW CUV. The minute that happened (and when the 3 series got fat) is when they lost their mojo.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem isn’t so much that decided to expand their operations by also build cars for non-auto enthusiasts. The problem is that they are not very good at building luxury cars.

      I have owned 5 BMWs and have always forgiven their somewhat cheap interiors because of the mix of driving fun and practicality that they delivered. However, if you take the driving fun away then all you’re left with is an expensive somewhat practical car. Luxury is about making people feel special and not many of the current BMWs do that very well.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m on my second BMW (bought as a 3rd car/weekend driver) and it’s been fun. That said, the new ones feel like they’re just catering to the “look at me” crowd.

        As tempting as a new stripper 2 Series coupe might be, the badge on the hood is really the only thing that most of the current lineup has going for them considering their ridiculous window stickers. In other words, I see little reason to justify the price gap between a new X3 or X1 and say, a loaded Escape or CRV.

  • avatar

    “BMW wants its mojo back”????

    I’ve owned 4 BMWs in a row to include M cars. Get your mojo back? Build cars for enthusiasts again. Until then, I’m just not excited about BMW any more.

    M3/M4. Bloated, German muscle. Get back to the old M. M2 and M235i have potential, but we’ll see.

    Build a lightweight Z3 again, with an M variant. Build a one off 911/Mercedes GT competitor. Maybe something along the lines of the old Z8. The i8 is not a halo car (although I do like it).

    • 0 avatar

      “Build cars for enthusiasts again.” Winner.

      In the late 90s, I watched an instructor driven E32 750il on R compounds harass E36 M3s all day at a local BMWCCA school. Do the same thing today and the modern 7 will overheat something or go into limp mode after a few laps of pegleg burnouts.

      Offer real limited slip diffs (mechanical clutches!) as standalone options or part of an “is” sport package in everything, even the 7 series. Add a “sport” button to minimize the drive by wire throttle delay AND turn off all the electronic nannies. Make sure the cars can handle a full track day in Georgia/Texas heat on R-comps with an advanced student or instructor driving.

      Stop it with the stupid hunchback GT cars.

      Is this retrogrouchy enough?

    • 0 avatar
      This Is Dawg

      Bloated, but not even particularly well put together either. I was in a 2015 335i recently and the dash and upper door panels are hard plastic, and the design lines didn’t even converge like they should. Look at this pic:

      In the bimmer I rode in, the top of that silver hand pull wasn’t lined up with the horizontal piece. It felt like someone glued it on in a hurry. And the only part of the door that isn’t playskool hard is the arm rest. My freakin Mazda door feels nicer, and it cost a third as much. Hell, a 2003 bimmer feels and looks nicer inside.

  • avatar

    BMW salesmen at the car show and the dealer were dicks to me. That and the price means I ended up with a Acura. Fix that and maybe you could sell more cars, or at least one more.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, I have found BMW sales reps to be the most difficult. My sense is they are looking for a certain type of customer, and I just don’t fit the profile. Wrong clothes? Wrong profession? Wrong race? I don’t know.

      You walk into a dealership with $50K to blow on an overpriced, unreliable car, and they treat you like a pariah. No thanks.

    • 0 avatar

      This was our experience as well. Our Mercedes Benz dealer, on the other hand, provides exceptional service. I doubt BMW can do anything to bring us back onto their property.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to believe that experience will vary by dealer and location. The last three BMW dealerships I have been too (2 different states) have been spectacular. Low pressure and knowledgeable. Buying my wife’s BMW brought no complaints at all from us. I would include service departments. The only dealer I have found to be perhaps the easiest to deal with is Porsche. Just as an example, within 10 minutes of a conversation with a sales rep on my first at Porsche, he was handing me keys for a 911 GTS and even better he didn’t need to come with me. I drove three different 911’s that day. They were spectacular (Sales department…well, and the cars too)

      On another note, can’t say I’ve ever had great conversations with car reps at auto shows.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m curious, energetik9, what were you wearing?

        • 0 avatar

          I don’t honestly remember what I was wearing. Jeans or shorts most likely. I’m not in a job I have to dress up and I certainly rarely have to wear anything approaching a suit. I am positive I did NOT dress up to go to the dealer. The BMW dealerships were in Chicago, Maryland, and Virginia (so three states actually, not two).

          I know that on that same visit to Porsche here in Chicago, I drove up in my POS, ’08 Honda Pilot which I still own and never dies.

  • avatar

    BMW’s mojo is definitely gone.

    Just the other day I saw a man driving a shiny new one use his turn signal before changing lanes!

  • avatar

    BMW- take all the 4 cylinders, send them to your bike factory, develop a new inline 6.

    • 0 avatar

      Glue two together to make new I-8 engine?!

      • 0 avatar

        Well as long as the Elmers is lying around we could glue one of the 4 cyl to a new 6 cyl and have a new I-10

        • 0 avatar

          That’s gonna need a loooong hood.

          • 0 avatar

            We’ll just use a two-piece split radiator and push back the fire wall a foot. We could make a panel inside the cabin to quick and easily change the spark plugs. But that’s anti-German so we’ll require the engine to be removed to change the back 2 plugs, and we’ll use Bosch plugs that require replacement in 50k miles. Das auto!

            … No wait….

    • 0 avatar

      BMW cars going from 6- to 4-cylinder engines, while their motorcycle division is going the opposite way: big touring rig with inline 6 :-)

      I guess the lesson is that BMW still has mojo, it’s just at BMW Motorrad these days.

      • 0 avatar

        Ironic, isn’t it? For decades, the two-wheeled part of BMW was seen as stodgy compared to the four-wheeled part. the best part is that while the in-line bikes are techno-marvels and very competitive, the latest boxers are really, really appealing.

  • avatar

    “If either make is going to become a low-income Millennial’s only used vehicle, the driver can only be described as either foolish or passionate.”

    For BMW I agree, but there -are- reliable Cadillacs which won’t be unreliable if you know what you’re doing. You just have to avoid every passenger car really between 95-06.

  • avatar

    I wanted an illustrated chronology of the Toyota models :(. The one you went and looked at first says something about you, probably.


    • 0 avatar

      Never criticize the Previa in my presence. No one can resist all the egg shaped goodness with its engine in the middle.

      It’s only real flaw was that in a market category that prizes safety above everything, it killed the driver in any head-on collision. Otherwise, it was perfect.

  • avatar

    BMW’s problem is related to all the money they have spent on the i3 and i8, which are very low volume and very unprofitable. The money they spent developing those models could have been used to do bigger refreshes on the volume models, because the 3, 5, X3, and X5 are looking less competitive compared to a rejuvenated M-B and stronger competition from Audi, Cadillac, and Volvo.

  • avatar

    Nothing as expensive as a BMW has Mojo anymore. Mojo needs the young and hip. BMW rode the boomers ascendancy, from their protests against their parents overwrought Detroit Floats with spartan but quick 2002, tough their yuppie years’ “ultimate driving machines” that grew ever larger and more minivanish as boomers swelled out and (sometimes) had families. Then, finally, as boomers got too fat, old and stiff to sit in a real car, BMW made CUVs.

    No matter how much they may be willing to pay to see a 90 year old Jagger wobble around on stage, geriatrics will never bestow Mojo on anything. yet, these days, geriatrics have all the money. Hence, nothing expensive will have Mojo. The three to five exceptions who prove the rule, scattered around Palo Alto, care about their Iphone. And take Uber.

  • avatar

    This is a big improvement in terms of layout over previous news updates. I was a bit of a dick about the epa article so I feel that has to be said.

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