After our much anticipated August World Roundup and a trip through the entire European continent over the past couple of weeks, let me take you to Japan this week, where the best-selling cars rankings are changing relatively rapidly, making for a fascinating market…
Couldn’t care less about Europe and you just want to know which cars sell best in your own backyard? Easy. You can visit 167 additional countries and territories in my blog, one by one, in the comfort of your own lounge. Or this week I can also offer you the Top 265 best-selling models in the USA in September…
Back to Cool Japan.
It is something that will become increasingly common: Japanese carmakers launch cars at home in Japan, long after they have been introduced to emerging and emerged market elsewhere. This seems to hurt Japanese feelings. Today, Nissan presented the Latio at its headquarters in Yokohama, and the usually polite assemblage of media representatives turned into a growling pack.
Volkswagen workers who make the Passat at the Emden factory in Germany are enjoying a mini-vacation. After the national holiday last Wednesday, which celebrated the fall of the wall and the re-unification, Volkswagen workers can celebrate falling sales of the Passat, and stay at home, says Germany’s Handelsblatt. Meanwhile, managers at Volkswagen are busy down–revising their production plans.
Toyota’s sales in China took a big hit in September, reports by the Yomiuri Shimbun and Reuters say. Executives of Japanese carmakers are putting on a brave face when it comes to China, but are worried that their significant China business could become a casualty of the East China Sea troubles.
No official data are available yet, but the Yomiuri says that Toyota’s September sales in China “halved,” after many Chinese customers canceled their orders in September. Reuters talks about a 40 percent reduction. A senior Toyota executive told the usually very reliable Reuters that Toyota sold about 50,000 cars in China in September, down from about 86,000 in September 2011.
Detroit carmakers continue telling their fairy tale of the closed Japanese market, and their UAW members eagerly hang on their lips. Both don’t want to admit that their products are largely unsalable in Japan, and they blame the mythical bad Nipponese wolf instead. At the same time, sales of imported cars are up for the third straight month in Japan. Sales of imports were 35,841 in September, the highest since September 1996, data released by the Japan Automobile Importers Association shows.
Japanese carmakers are worried about their sales in China after Japanese cars were smashed and dealerships torched during large scale anti-Japanese riots in China last month. As a first indicator that Japanese cars may be falling out of favor in China, Mazda reports via Reuters that September sales in China dropped 35 percent.
Renault is playing hardball in France. Message to government and unions: We can make our cars elsewhere. After Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said last Friday that Renault could disappear from France “in its current form,” his Chief Operating Officer Carlos Tavares said that production in other countries could be cheaper.
While the European car market is slowly but surely falling into another recession that could well last much longer than the previous one, let’s take the opportunity to have a look at what cars sell best there – if they sell.
Couldn’t care less about Europe and you just want to know which cars sell best in your own backyard? Easy. You can visit 168 countries and territories in my blog, one by one, in the comfort of your own lounge. That’s right!
Back to Europe.
And there’s one French newcomer pointing its bonnet up at the top of the ranking…
TTAC readers who followed our past reporting on the developing relationship between Daimler and the Renault/Nissan Alliance will not be surprised in hearing what Carlos Ghosn and Dieter Zetsche told the press today. If you think you’ve heard it all before, you are right. You did here.
Sales Forecast, August 2012Sales VolumeSept’12Sept’11Aug’12YoYMoMGM211,064207,145240,5201.90%-12.20%Ford176,049174,862196,7490.70%-10.50%Toyota160,560121,451188,52032.20%-14.80%Chrysler138,030127,334148,4728.40%-7.00%Honda114,60689,532131,32128.00%-12.70%Nissan88,97792,96498,515-4.30%-9.70%Industry1,145,3441,053,1531,284,6358.80%-10.80%
A day after TrueCar and Kelley handed in their sales forecasts for September, Edmunds followed. Edmunds is more on the cautious side and projects that 1,145,344 new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. this month for an estimated Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of 14.4 million light vehicles, and up 8.8 percent from a year before.
European auto sales likely will fall 8 percent this year, Renault/Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told Reuters today in Paris. Should some industry leaders be hoping for government help, then Ghosn has bad news for them. There is “zero chance” for a government-led restructuring of Europe’s auto industry. ” Every company is going to have to deal with its own problems,” Ghosn said.
Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho was sitting in his company jet, ready to go to Beijing for talks with the Chinese leadership, but the jet never got off the ground. After Chinese aviation authorities refused landing permission in Beijing, Cho left his plane and went home, NHK reports.
In Part 1 of our talk with Infiniti CEO Johan de Nysschen at his new office at the Infiniti world headquarters in Hong Kong, we talked about his new job, about new directions for Infiniti, and for the brand. In the second part, we talk about the new cars Infiniti will bring, where they will be made, what engines will be in them, and what deNysschen thinks about the plan to sell half a million by 2016.
In April at the Beijing auto show, Nissan’s Andy Palmer said he wants to see 500,000 Infiniti sold by 2016, while conceding that this is “an aggressive target.” In the last fiscal year, Infiniti sold 141,000 units worldwide, 105,000 of those in the Americas. In carefully crafted words, de Nysschen explains what he thinks of the 500,000 unit target:
Sales Projection For September 2012TrueCarKelleyManufacturerSept’12YoYSept’12YoYChrysler137,6128.1%134,5205.6%Ford177,0661.3%177,8401.6%GM212,2842.5%215,4604.0%Honda113,43926.7%109,44022.2%Hyundai/Kia102,28316.7%93,4806.6%Nissan92,349-0.7%92,340-0.7%Toyota161,20132.7%163,02034.2%Volkswagen48,30431.4%47,88029.7%Industry1,163,00010.5%1,140,0008.2%
The month is coming to an end. A sure indicator: The forecasters are submitting their guesses. Again, September seems to be up solidly. More. Or less.
The row between China and Japan over a few rocks in the East China Sea, alternately called Senkaku and Diaoyu islands, is threatening to derail production and sales plans of Japanese automakers. Many in the industry say that “Chinese consumers are unlikely to return to Japanese cars anytime soon,” as The Nikkei [sub] says. Already, Japanese automakers have curtailed production in and exports to China. The problem may not be a temporary one.
A few months ago, Nissan’s Infiniti premium division moved out of the office building in Yokohama and out from the shadow of its parent company. Infiniti set up its new world headquarters in Hong Kong. Nissan also snagged Audi’s America-chief Johan de Nysschen as Infiniti’s new boss. Last Friday, after work, we sat down with de Nysschen in his new office on the 35th floor of the Citibank Tower in Hong Kong’s downtown, to talk about his and Infiniti’s plans for the future. This is a two-part interview. The second part will appear tomorrow.
De Nysschen’s office is spacious, but subdued in comparison to the workplaces of other leaders of industry. No armed guards, no sometimes more dangerous personal assistants bar the entry. He sits at a working man’s desk: Three computers of various sizes, a printer. A glass door provides limited privacy from otherwise open floor offices with space for maybe 100 people when Infiniti’s World Headquarters are fully staffed. So how does the new CEO like the new office in the new city?
Damn near everyone in the Industrial Design department at CCS said my engineering/gearhead/history buff background was killing my potential Car Design career. In hindsight they had a point, but most were complete jerks about it. With three art history courses at three different colleges in mind, automotive brands/models/trim levels do indeed nod to something more than PR-hyped styling takeaways: perhaps a vintage automobile, a vague reference to a sub-culture not normally associated with a large corporation, or an entire genre of fine art. But the Scion FR-S isn’t retro…
Yes it is that time of the month, the time for our acclaimed monthly rendezvous: the World Roundup, now in its 6th instalment.
Last month all eyes were on Ukraine where the Geely CK notched the top spot in a world first for a Chinese manufacturer in a large export market. In August, Switzerland, Brazil and Denmark are the epicenters of world car sales.
You can check out previous world Roundups here for March 2012 (“Has the Hybrid era started for good?”), here for April 2012 (“Big change coming from India”), here for May 2012 (“GM and Toyota Etios make headlines”) and here for June 2012 (“Geely CK writes history in Ukraine“).
Enough of the world and you just want to know which cars sell best in your own backyard? Easy. You can visit 168 countries and territories in my blog, one by one, in the comfort of your own lounge. Yes sir.
Back to our Roundup.
A consortium of major Japanese companies, along with a government-backed turnaround fund snapped chipmaker Renesas away from what they deemed as certain doom on the hands of the American private equity fund Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR). The Nikkei [sub] reports in a flash message that the consortium that includes all three major Japanese automakers has put together a $13 billion package to block a purchase by KKR.
I hate to review mass market midsize sedans. Especially with the latest round—every key player save the Sonata has been redesigned in the past 18 months—all are good cars. But they’re also all boring. Given the large number of conflicting criteria that must be met for a shot at segment leadership and the rarity of solutions that dramatically push the envelope, all serious players have devolved into highly competent appliances. Then we have the 2013 Ford Fusion.
Earlier this year, Nissan Leaf owners in Arizona started to observe bars missing from the charge state display of their cars. Instead of the 12 bars that signal a full battery, some saw only 10 or less. This spread like the Arizona wildfires through the EV community. As of today, the discussion at the Mynissanleaf forum has swelled to 373 pages. Nissan looked at the affected cars, and so far has not rendered a verdict. Or maybe it did. 12 Leaf owners did assemble one night to prove Nissan wrong.
BMW visits CH-Auto
History tends to repeat itself – in different ways. One of the secrets of Japanese quality was a shortage of money. Bad quality was seen as waste – known as the detested “muda” to scholars of Kaizen. Lines had to be made more flexible; re-tooling had to be made easier, all because there was no money to waste. Likewise, China is getting better at making cars. One reason: It’s getting better at cutting corners, says a report by Reuters.
Most Japanese carmakers temporarily closed their Chinese factories on the anniversary date of Japan’s pre-war invasion of China.
This follows violent riots across China.
The European car market accelerates its race to the bottom. Back from a long vacation, the European car manufacturers association ACEA reports that the EU car market was down 8.9 percent in August, after having dropped 7.8 percent in July. Eight months into the year, European car sales are down 7.1 percent as Europeans registered 8,268,642 new cars so far.
Daimler, or rather one of its Chinese customers, is paying late penance for the ill-fated merger with Chrysler. A Chinese patriot proudly presented this trophy on Weibo, the Chinese version of the (blocked in China) Twitter. He said he took it off a “Japanese Mitsubishi” which he savaged in rage against Japan’s occupation of the Diaoyu islands.
Mitsubishi Motors fell into the hands of Daimler through the merger with Chrysler. After that fell apart. Mitsubishi soon was back on its own.
Anti-Japanese demonstrations grew ugly in China over the weekend, and it were cars that took the brunt. Chinese took to the streets after Tokyo said it would nationalize the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. The uninhabited rocks are administered by Japan but claimed by China. Tens of thousands protested this weekend – and vented their rage on cars.
One of the first victims was a Honda CR-V, oddly owned by the police in the southern city of Shenzhen. Shenzhen’s finest were unable to protect their property.
As it becomes increasingly dangerous to own a Japanese car in China, people devise unorthodox ways to protect their cherished car.
Five years ago, Chris Matthews said on MSNBC: “Well, The Washington Post is not the liberal newspaper it was.” Today, the Post finally will be condemned as part of the massive right wing conspiracy. In a brutal op-ed, signed by the full WaPo Editorial Board, the paper kills and buries the Volt. Basically, says the WaPo, we have been fooled:
Some TTAC readers complained that they never had the chance to cash in on the great $199 Volt lease deals. We apologize.
Toyota trucks have long been the staple of practical truck shoppers, young shoppers looking for a cooler first ride, off-roaders and just about every rebel militia. What’s a company like Toyota do to keep sales of the 8-year-old truck going? Special editions of course. Despite the higher profits, Toyota decided to skip the “freedom fighter” edition with bench seating for 8 in the bed and a .50 caliber machine gun on the roof in favor of an off-the-rack off-roader. Thus the Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Edition was born. In case you are wondering, T|X stands for Tacoma Xtreme. You know, because it is way cooler to spell extreme without an “e.”
I find more Porsche 928s, Alfa Romeo Alfettas, Buick Reattas, and Datsun 810s than I do first-gen Hyundai Excel s during my travels in high-turnover self-service wrecking yards, in spite of the 1985-89 Excel selling in tremendous quantities in the United States. You saw these things everywhere on the street until about 1992, at which point the import sections of American junkyards became choked with low-mile Excels that crapped out in not-worth-fixing fashion. I believe the first-gen Excel was the worst motor vehicle you could buy new in the United States in the 1980s, and maybe for the entire fourth quarter of the 20th Century. Yes, even worse than the Yugo.
For one week every September, the residents of Toronto are paralyzed with awe, any notion of rational thought gone with the proverbial wind, as The Centre of the Universe braces for an influx of Hollywood A-Listers, B-Listers and A-List hanger-on types during the Toronto International Film Festival. TIFF, as it’s known, is a great attraction for the city, bringing in free-spending tourists and some mild cultural cachet to a city that still battles a wicked inferiority complex.
Producing the most fuel-sipping cars will have no impact on environment or oil reserves unless people buy those cars and carmakers sell them. This should be a truism, but too often it is ignored. Some cars are built with green halos, but with little regard for marketability. Who’s cars really are the greenest?
This flag raising on uninhabitable rocks …
A long simmering dispute of islands which both Japan and China claim as theirs has risen in temperature in China. There have been anti-Japanese demonstrations in Chinese cities, and on-line calls for boycotts of Japanese goods. Now the row is officially affecting sales of Japanese cars in China, Dong Yang, secretary general of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), told Reuters today in Beijing.
We’ve already looked at the FR-S, but I came of car-driving age just minutes before the heyday of the Toyota AE86 and, by God, I’m going to write about any car that claims to be an homage to the car that stands as the ’55 Chevy of Japan. So, I got on the horn with Toyota PR: “Hey, Moe, it’s Murilee Martin. Yeah, that Murilee Martin. Listen, I’m heading out to the East Bay next weekend and I need something that won’t embarrass me when I need to out-donut the Glasshouse Caprices at the sideshows in Oakland, know what I’m saying? Sure, the FR-S sounds good!”
We all wish some things could last forever: a sports team’s winning streak, the love of a soul mate, or perhaps the still-kinda-futuristic look of the Lincoln Mark VIII. Aside from showing how every post-Mark VIII Lincoln’s style has been a step in the wrong direction, this car helped “mainstream” design elements (tiny HID headlights, super curvy side contours, etc) while keeping the basic, timeless goodness of American car proportioning. If I didn’t already drink my own design Kool-Aid, the regular stream of compliments from by-standers certainly didn’t help.
The good? A Mark VIII’s bi-plane dashboard made of a blizzard of decadently padded vinyl and rubber coated (like an Audi) hard plastics. The bad? That dated, cheap looking driver’s side airbag.
What’s so unreasonable about using smartphones to arrange a taxi ride? Uber, an application which allows prospective riders to arrange rides with “black car” sedans or conventional taxis using their iPhones, arrived in New York this week — but the city bureaucrats have already fired a warning shot across Uber’s bow.
Five days ago we released the first part of the 2013 Accord review. It’s not how we normally do things, but in order to get our hands on the second best-selling mid-size sedan in America we had to agree to keep you all in suspense. If you want to know about the new Accord’s drivetrain, interior and infotainment systems, click on over to part one and then head back here when you’re done. I promise we’ll wait for you.
The first generation Insight was a commercial failure. Eight years yielded fewer than 20,000 unit sold and a lingering doubt about the genuine interest in two seat commuter cars.
Honda tried again with the CR-Z, and apparently George Orwell’s early Animal Farm analogy about ‘four being better than two’ may be all too true for the American automotive marketplace.
Nobody wants an uber-frugal commuter car with two seats. It’s either four or no sale.
Renault has outmaneuvered partner Daimler, which didn’t have a prayer. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn handed Pope Benedict XVI (nee Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger) a new, fully sustainable electric popemobile.
It is unclear whether the public will see an emission-free pope. According to a Renault press release, the holy EV is for use when the Pope is travelling at his summer residence Castel Gandolfo.
The hordes of Chinese and Japanese reporters roaming the halls of the Chengdu Global Automotive Forum in Chengdu were not really interested in exports. They were sniffing blood. There are tensions between China, Japan, and a few other countries over some rocks in the sea. The rocks are called Diaoyu by the Chinese, Senkaku by the Japanese, and choice words by many others. Nissan’s COO Toshiyuki Shiga sat on the podium, next to the always photogenic Atsushi Niimi. The Japanese were flanked by a BAIC president and a Dongfeng CEO. The reporters wanted to know: How bad is it?
So you want your next car to be a cheap drop top that seats four? If you live in America, your options are strangely limited. By my count, only five convertibles are available on our shores that seat four and cost under $30,000. If you cross the “convertible hatchbacks” (Cooper and 500c) off the list you’re left with three options. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Ford Mustang and the former king of the convertible sales chart: the Chrysler [s]Sebring[/s] 200. Does this re-skinned front driver have what it takes to win back the “best-selling convertible in America” crown?
Edit: Now with updated graph
So, what the heck does a manufacturer mean when they offer a ‘Sport Suspension’ and is it something you actually want? While I haven’t examined every version available, themes have carried through various makes/models, so what follows are safe generalizations. I even throw in a dyno chart!
If you want to make cars in China, you need a joint venture partner. The Chinese joint venture partners have done well. 98 percent of last year’s sales of central government-owned Dongfeng came from joint ventures with Nissan, Honda, and Peugeot. Largest Chinese automaker SAIC derives 60 percent of its sales from made-in-China GM and Volkswagen cars.
That policy “is like opium. Once you’ve had it you will get addicted forever,” said former machinery and industry minister, He Guangyuan.