The battered European new car market continues its drive into the netherworld, but the speed of descent has lowered a little. According to data compiled and released by the European manufacturers association ACEA, 959,412 passenger vehicles were registered in October, 4.8% less than in October last year. It looks like the year will end with some 12 million cars sold, a level the EU 27 hasn’t seen since it existed.
Confession time: the motorized vehicle photograph that adorned my high school locker didn’t have four wheels. It had two. I have always had an interest in bikes, one which has slowly grown from drooling over the 2002 Yamaha R6 (which stayed in my locker through all four years of high school) to buying motorcycle magazines to spending more time reading about bikes than cars. But I’ve yet to buy one for the same reason that kept me from buying a car for so long; insurance.
Today, I had a chance to do what I was never able to achieve in my meandering career in the automotive business: I could drive a concept car. In the past, I was able to drive pre-production models, mules, even prototypes (the latter very carefully, they are obscenely expensive to replace.) But I never drove a concept car. Concept cars usually are built to go on display at car shows, and “go” can be taken literally: Many don’t even have an engine. The concept car I will be driving is Nissan’s “New Mobility Concept”, something Nissan calls an “ultracompact” car.
After I photographed today’s Junkyard Find in a Colorado self-service wrecking yard, I agonized over that digital instrument cluster. I have this crazy idea that I can hack old digital instrument clusters and operate them with an Arduino microcontroller, so that I can have a display on my office wall to go with my collection of weird diecast toy cars. It started out innocently enough, with this 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia cluster, and then I got the digital cluster out of a 50th Anniversary Nissan 300ZX. Once you have two 1980s Japanese digital dashes, you have a [s]problem[/s] collection, right? That was my logic when I bought the digital dash out of this 1984 Toyota Cressida. Even though I’m getting too ambitious with this Arduino-ized-digital-dash project, I felt I had no choice but to go back the next day and grab the XT Turbo’s cluster. So I did.
The junkyards of Colorado don’t have quite the selection of the ones I grew up crawling around in California, but they do have more Subarus than I ever imagined possible. I’ve been a fan of the Subaru XT since it was new— in fact, I’m half-assedly shopping for one now— and so it’s reassuring to find them during my junkyard visits and know that I’ll be able to get parts. Today’s find is a rare turbocharged four-wheel-drive version from the XT’s first model year.
Nissan appears to be preparing for another go at Germany’s Nürburgring. The time around the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the northern loop of the iconic Nürburgring racecourse is widely regarded as benchmark for speed and handling of a sports car. Nissan is emboldened by the performance of the new GT-R sports car, which its Chief Engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno showed TTAC last weekend on a track behind a Nissan factory in Oppama, Japan.
After Hyundai was caught by the EPA with the wrong fuel economy ratings on “select vehicles” (read: most of them) media outlets ( including this one) prognosticated that Hyundai would have to abdicate as king of the fuel sippers. Nothing doing, says TrueCar.
According to TrueCar’s sales-weighted rankings, Hyundai continues to put the most automobiles with the lowest fuel consumption on America’s roads – even after Hyundai and Kia had to restate their EPA window stickers, and had to give money back to customers.
Almost as soon as ASMC declared its intentions for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Suzuki Canada, Inc. sent out the following statement:
“Suzuki’s customers can confidently continue to purchase new vehicles, obtain service, parts and accessories and take full advantage of Suzuki Canada’s warranty program,” said Bill Porter, Senior Vice President, Automobile Sales & Marketing, Suzuki Canada. “Suzuki Canada, including its Automotive Division, remains fully open for business in Canada, and will be honouring all customer commitments.”
“While Suzuki Canada will continue to monitor market conditions in light of the U.S. filing, we have no current plans to change Suzuki Canada’s operations as a result of the events in the U.S.,” Mr. Porter said. “Suzuki Canada remains proud of the upcoming 2013 model year for new automobiles, which will continue uninterrupted as planned”.
When the news came out last night of American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, I was glad to be validated in my suspicions, but sad that a potentially great opportunity had been wasted due to mismanagement and short-sightedness on behalf of its Japanese management.
In other regions, Suzuki does an excellent job catering to the needs of each domestic market. In India, through their long time partnership with Maruti (which has since turned into full ownership of the once state-owned automaker), Suzuki enjoys double digit market share that is the envy of every other automaker in the country. Maruti Suzuki has control over product, they understand the needs of Indians looking for new cars, and they have enough financial input into SMC’s bottom line that the executives in Japan have no choice but to listen.
Nissan’s chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga said he was “disappointed and frustrated” by the lackluster sales of electric vehicles in general and the Leaf in particular. Speaking at the mid-term results press conference at the Nissan HQ in Yokohama, his emotional appeal to recognize Nissan’s pioneering efforts in the field of zero emissions had undertones of an eulogy on the electric vehicle:
Toyota’s CFO Satoshi Ozawa presented the financial results of the first half of fiscal 2013 to a packed conference room in the basement of Toyota’s Tokyo HQ. Analysts were astounded to hear that the company beat their expectations with a 6 month operating profit of 693.7 billion yen ($8.64 billion), an EBIT of 794.5 billion yen ($9.9 billion), and a net profit of 548.2 billion yen ($6.83 billion) after Japanese taxes are paid. What baffled them much more was Toyota’s business outlook: Toyota says it might make even more money than previously predicted.
GM shows new vigor in its largest market China. October sales across all of GM’s Chinese joint ventures were up 14.3 percent on an annual basis. The Chinese market is of increasing importance for GM. In the first 9 months of the year, 30 percent of GM’s global sales were in China, trailed by the U.S. with 28 percent of GM’s global business.
Auto journalists have a habit of being cornered at parties by interested outsiders – usually, the boyfriend of the cute girl you were just flirting with – and pounced upon with the standard question. After “what’s your favorite car?” and “what’s the fastest you’ve ever gone”, you are likely to get some kind of consumer advice question. “I have $X to spend on a car. What would you recommend?”
Nissan announced a refresh of its GT-R supercar today. Engine response in the mid- and upper-rpm ranges was improved using high-output injectors and changes in the turbocharger. The car’s center of gravity has been lowered, body rigidity has been enhanced, shock absorbers, springs and front stabilizer have been tweaked. Racers can now use Motul Competition Oil.
Looking back at three catastrophes, the high yen, the tsunami and the Thai flood, a Japanese auto executive said to me last spring: “We’ve gone through hell, and made it. What else would be there, war?” He was close. A war of words over rocks in the East China Sea destroys Japanese car sales in China, while Korea profits.
October sales data are coming in, and most are below forecast. Chrysler, Ford, and GM sold less than analysts predicted. Analysts had higher hopes for Toyota also. Volkswagen, up 23 percent, more or less met expectations. We have the final sales table, courtesy of Automotive News [sub].
Japanese subsidies for eco-cars expired in September, and analysts predicted a hard landing due to pulled-forward sales. In a way, this happened, but the fall was not as hard as expected. In September, sales on all automobiles in Japan were down 3.4 percent. This month, they are down 5.7 percent. The fall would have been harder, would it not have been cushioned by the resilience of a Japanese oddity, the Kei car.
Toyota’s China sales dropped 44.1 percent year-on-year to about 45,600 units in October, The Nikkei [sub] says. Toyota confirmed the number. A territorial dispute over uninhabited rocks in the East China Sea triggered a massive boycotts of Japanese goods, especially of high-profile cars. In September, Toyota’s China sales were down 40 percent in September.
A company owned by China’s central government is taking it on the chin as Chinese customers avoid Japan branded cars. Dongfeng reduced production at its joint ventures with Nissan and Honda, the Wall Street Journal reports today. Amount or duration of what the company calls “production adjustments” is unknown.
The boycott of Japanese goods in China , triggered by a dispute over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, hit Japanese automakers where it hurts most: In the pocket-book. Honda cut its profit forecast for the fiscal year to March to 375 billion yen ($4.7 billion) from its earlier estimate of 470 billion yen ($5.9 billion), Reuters says.
Why? Because Marcelo asked for it. And when Marcelo asks, you better do what he asks for…
Don’t really care about Poland even if you tried to? That’s fine. You can discover the best-selling models in 169 additional countries and territories in my blog. Unless you missed the World September 2012 Roundup I published last week – and to be fair I don’t know how you go about with your life without knowing what the headlines in the car sales world are. I couldn’t…
Back to Poland.
The FSO Polonez, Polski Fiat 126p (see above in charming company) and Warsawas have long been replaced by Skodas, Dacias, Toyotas and Nissans…
Twenty years ago, the first Porsche limousine rolled off the assembly line at Stuttgart; four doors, 8 cylinders, wide fenders, big brakes and a period correct Alpine stereo system. It was built in small quantities, by hand. To those who knew, it was distinguishable at a distance, but to the man on the street, it was invisible. Truly a car for the one percent – in terms of both means and taste.
You won’t find it in any of the Porsche catalogs of the era. It was called the Mercedes-Benz 500E. And it wasn’t an AMG anything. Back then, AMG was an independently-owned speed shop, a Roush Performance with a stern accent.
TrueCar, Kelley Blue Book, and Edmunds have submitted their sales projections for October. They agree (as far as they supply numbers) that the market should be up by more than ten percent in October, that Ford and GM will underperform, that Chrysler will continue to be strong, and that Volkswagen and Toyota will continue delivering stellar growth numbers.
Brazil is now the world’s fourth largest market. With sales of almost 4 million cars, the magical 5 million mark is not a mirage anymore. Accordingly, São Paulo, Latin America’s second largest city and the economic hub of the country, holds the grandest of the region’s trade shows. Known as the Salão do Automóvel de São Paulo, the fair expects to attract over 750 thousand visitors.
Marking its importance, everybody’s here. From VW’s Martin Winterkorn, to GM’s Dan Akerson and Ford’s Tim Foley, not to mention assorted honchos with names difficult to spell from a host of Asian makers, everybody wants a piece of the bootylicious Brazilian pie. I can’t remember another Saloon in which more stellar members of the rarefied pinnacles of the worldwide car industry were present and making themselves so accessible to the press.
Let’s take a walk through the Salão and see the highlights according to this auto scribe’s humble point of view.
After my tirade about big fat luxury cars in the 24 Hours of LeMons, I got to thinking about all the once-boring luxury machines I’ve seen with brutal slam jobs. In so many cases— yes, even with a vintage Audi 100— dropping the Chairman of the Board’s luxury ride about a foot works wonders for its appearance.
Yes it is that time of the month, the time for our acclaimed monthly rendezvous: the World Roundup, now in its 7th installment.
You can check out previous World Roundups here for March 2012 (“Has the Hybrid era started for good?”), April 2012 (“Big change coming from India”), May 2012 (“GM and Toyota Etios make headlines”), June 2012 (“Geely CK writes history in Ukraine“) and July 2012 (“The Subaru XV topples a legend in Switzerland”).
Had enough of the world and you just want to know which cars sell best in your own backyard? Easy. You can visit 170 countries and territories in my blog, one by one, in the comfort of your own lounge. Yes sir.
Back to our Roundup.
It’s not easy being Nissan’s middle child. Big brothers Maxima and Altima steal the limelight and even the Versa has upstaged the Sentra since 2011. With the seventh generation, Nissan has decided to completely redesign the Sentra giving it some much needed love. This refocus on the C-segment isn’t surprising with so much competition swirling from the stalwart Corolla and Civic to the upstart Dart and Sonic. In order to compete in this cut-throat market Nissan has whipped up a compact car so big on the inside it’s EPA classified as a mid-size sedan. Did Goldilocks get it right? Is the middle the best place to be?
According to Bloomberg, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn claimed that “Brazil is very much a cornerstone” in VW’s push to become the world’s largest car maker by 2018.
Herr Winterkorn is in São Paulo for the largest and most important Auto Show in Latin America. Striving to make the most of this unique opportunity, the Brazilian press was all over VW’s CEO. He didn’t disappoint. He announced investments of 4.4 billion dollars to expand VW’s model line and modernize their factories in Brazil until 2016.
Well, they better!
Yawn? That’s fine. You can discover the best-selling models in 169 additional countries and territories in my blog. But you won’t know which of the Ford Focus or Toyota Corolla holds the title of world’s most popular car. Unless you have a look at the Top 150 best-selling models worldwide for the month of August 2012…
Back to our 8 months, year-to-date Top 170 world best-sellers ranking.
If you’re like most Americans, you either drive an SUV or want one. Don’t believe me? One in three vehicles sold on our shores in the past 12 months was an SUV or crossover, despite skyrocketing fuel prices. Of course, those fuel prices mean the demographic of the SUV smorgasbord has shifted from gas-guzzling truck-based off-roaders to unibody “crossovers.” Although Nissan is a little late to the soft-road party, they are countering their tardiness by doubling down on standard towing and fuel economy. What’s the reality and what’s it like to drive? Click through the jump and find out as we go off-roading and tow an Airstream.
Nissan plans a budget Leaf to be sold along the current version, Nissan’s Andy Palmer told the Financial Times. With the stripper model, Nissan hopes to extend the car’s reach beyond early adopters to “pragmatists.” Another problems remains unsolved: The car’s reach.
After traveling to Iran, Japan, and Russia, after having a peak at what cars the wealthiest Americans buy and hopping across the Caribbean Sea to land in Puerto Rico last week, I am now taking you to California.
Don’t feel like ‘California dreaming’ today? No worries. You can discover the best-selling models in 169 additional countries and territories in my blog. Or look at a more general view of the US market with the Top 277 best-selling models in the USA over the first 9 months 2012…
Back to California.
In America’s biggest state, the 6 best-selling cars are Japanese and there are only two Americans in the Top 15…
Don’t feel like white sandy beaches and impossibly warm waters? No worries. You can discover the best-selling models in 168 additional countries and territories in my blog. Or look at a more general view of the US market with the Top 277 best-selling models in the USA over the first 9 months 2012…
Back to Puerto Rico.
The first striking thing about the Puerto Rican car market is how well the Japanese manufacturers are doing and how, well not so well the Americans are faring…
Infiniti’s often discussed future premium compact model will not be built at Magna-Steyr, but “in-house in a European production facility,” Infiniti says in an emailed statement. The car will still “share a platform developed with Mercedes.”
My first semester’s Automotive Design class (an elective, taught on a Saturday no less) at CCS was taught by a cool, laid back dude. But he’d get unhinged when his students drew static looking wheels: his beef was four spoke wheels. They are impossible to make “cool”, unless you own a Scion xBox or a Nissan Cube. But can you have a cool wheel that’s not your average spoke-y affair? Welcome to the Hexagon wheel.
I am sitting next to a man in a Nissan Leaf. The man tries to run over pedestrians. If you think that’s mean, then the three black clad guys who are hiding behind a row of parked cars will disgust you. Their job is to push a pedestrian in front of an oncoming car.
The Volkswagen Microbus, Mazda MPV and GMC Safari. These are the now-departed vans that were driven by their rear wheels, but ultimately fell victim to market forces, technological progress or the insurmountable drive to make cars greener and safer. With the Microbus just recently going out of production, Toyota is the sole torch bearer for the rear-drive van. But you’ll have to go to Indonesia to find it.
The European new passenger car market accelerated its downward trend in September. According to data release by the European manufacturer body ACEA, Registrations were down 10.8 percent YoY to 1,099,264 units in the EU. Nine months into the year, the market contracted 7.6 percent to 9,368,327 units registered January through September 2012.
After a trip to Russia last Wednesday and a thorough look at Japan on Monday, here I am again, annoying you with ever more worldwide car sale figures. This time let’s get back to basics and look at the best-selling hybrid/electric cars in the USA, a category up 75 percent year-on-year…
Can’t get your head around why you would buy cars that run on batteries? That’s ok, you can discover the best-selling models in 168 countries and territories in my blog and you’ll see most of them still are good old gas-guzzlers. Or today I can also offer you the Top 277 best-selling models in the USA over the first 9 months 2012…
Volkswagen wants to go back to its “People’s Car” roots, and plans to launch a new low-cost brand by about 2015, Reuters says. With a a price range of between 5,000 and 10,000 euros ($6,500-$12,900), Volkswagen wants to emulate the success of Renault’s Dacia. Nissan resurrected Datsun as a low-cost brand to help gain market share in lucrative emerging markets.
Pretty much most of the world’s large automakers plan a commercial launch of fuel cell vehicles in 2015, Hyundai even earlier. One of the hot spots could be Scandinavia. At the end of a month-long hydrogen-powered tour through Europe, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Hyundai signed an agreement to jointly promote fuel cell vehicles in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark.
After a thorough look at Japan on Monday, this week you get the privilege (?) of another sales update from Around the Globe, and we’re going to Russia with love.
Last time I took you to Russia was 18 months ago and since then there has been so much change that it’s not funny.
So not funny that it requires a new trip today.
Japanese carmakers and their Chinese joint venture partners lost big-time in the spat over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. The winners are German carmakers and their Chinese joint venture partners. Oddly enough, the central government ends up with a shot in the foot.
Some have quietly or openly been hoping the GM could cash-in on the misery of Japanese brands in China. It’s not happening. Sales across all of GM’s Chinese joint ventures were up a marginal 1.7 percent in September while sales of German marques received a boost.
Before there was the Geo Metro (a rebadged Suzuki Cultus, there was the Chevrolet Sprint (also a rebadged Suzuki Cultus). U.S. gas prices dropped below a buck per gallon during the middle 1980s, which had the effect of forcing the oil-income-dependent Soviet Union into bankruptcy even faster than predicted, with end-of-Cold-War results. On top of that, cheap gas prices meant that only the most tight-fisted of cheapskates felt that buying a tiny three-cylinder car built by a motorcycle company made any sense at all. Still, enough Sprints were sold that I see them in junkyards every now and then.