Archive for general motors

The demise of the European car market

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16/10/2012 by Alexander

Europe’s worsening economic situation is reflected by many things: unemployment, social unrest, tight national budgets and so on. Because this is a car blog, what matters here are new car sales, and this year they’ve been appallingly low. All the big European car manufacturers are posting record dips in sales, except for one: BMW, who have seen a 10% increase in cars coming out of their showrooms.

Renault have sold a staggering 29% less, Fiat are 19% down, Volvo slumped 17%, General Motors and Ford lost around 15%, and curiously, PSA Peugeot-Citroen, a group in the news lately for their poor financial performance and their dubious alliance with GM, lost just over 8%, practically the same as that of the VAG group of brands owned by Volkswagen. Daimler-Benz, of which Mercedes is a part of, saw nearly a 7% loss, most of which can be attributed to the slump of Smart.

In the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association report, the reader can note an odd tendency: there’s a tendency for European-based manufacturers of more affordable cars such as superminis and family hatchbacks to have registered a heavy loss (GM and Ford may be American, but their European models are conceived and built here). On the other hand, Audi was up 1.4%, Jaguar Land Rover rose a staggering 13.2%, and as mentioned, BMW got an extra 10.5%. Really shows who’s suffering and who’s benefiting from the current recession!

In the long term, I’m worried this could mean Europe’s non-German car-makers disappearing altogether. It doesn’t seem to matter how well traditionally widespread brands like Fiat and Renault make their cars, they just can’t compete with the badge-conscious, overpriced German offerings. If these sorts of brands go under, anyone who wants a frugal small car will either have to buy a bland Japanese vehicle or a Volkswagen in one of its guises (Seat, Skoda, etc.). Or we could see a BMW-owned Citroen for example, since the only real small car the Bavarians make is the Mini and all of its bastard sprogs.

Either way, dark days are ahead for everyone on the Old Continent.

Quickies

Posted in News, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , on 09/02/2012 by Alexander


The BMW i8, which started life as the tongue-twisting Vision EfficientDynamics Concept Car (which I like a lot), has been promised as a production car, and has been spotted in the wild during the usual winter tests for cars under development. Looks pretty cool.

Opel/Vauxhall is in the s**t again. After having gone through some hard times thanks to the incompetence of its parent company, General Motors, more trouble looms on the horizon in the shape of more cost-cutting measures. This just goes to show how much I understand the car industry. Let me illustrate.
SEAT are an awful brand, who make ugly Golf-based hatchbacks and cheap Audi A4 rip-offs. A couple of years ago VW, who owns them, mulled over the hypothesis of ditching the brand due to dismal sales. Unfortunately, they’re going strength to strength, even though there’s nothing tangible to justify this. Opel, on the other hand, have been making better and better cars. The Corsa and Astra make top 10 sales lists all the time, the Insignia has been a top-selling sedan in Europe (400,000 units sold up to 2011), won European Car Of The Year and another German award for “Car with the least flaws“. I’ve already raved about the Insignia and Astra’s brilliant interiors, and there’s still great Opels to look forward too: the four-door Astra and the amazing-looking Mokka (and I hate SUVs). I’d have thought Opel would be a lifeline for GM but I’m spectacularly wrong by the looks of it.

Gordon Murray has his T25 and T27 city cars nearly ready to go into production, all he needs is some ink on paper to render the whole thing official. His cars had better be bloody good because there’s been a lot of hype surrounding them. The iStream manufacturing looks pretty solid, though. But if I were Mr. Murray, I’d expect a lawsuit from Apple in the near future for calling his brainchild “i-(something)”.

Studebaker is planning a comeback. The legendary American brand that stopped manufacturing cars in 1966 has a new concept in the works and is betting on advanced, clean technology, with diesel-hybrid propulsion inside a compact five-door. Everyone, a warm welcome back to the Studebaker Lark.

An intellectually dishonest take on the cost of running an EV versus a petrol car. Doesn’t include the hefty cost of having to replace a battery every few years and/or its hefty rental cost. Doesn’t take into account the taxes petrol pays, and that EV’s will have to pay road tax eventually too (do you think governments will pass up this opportunity to go for what’s in our pockets?) Uses a 20mpg figure for the car (11.8 litres/100km)!

Renault Twizy – another wasted chance?

Posted in Car conception, Green Tech, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 26/04/2011 by Alexander


Electric cars aren’t a novelty. In the late to nineteenth and early twentieth century, they battled it out with internal combustion engines as the solution to powering the horseless carriage, and even though they were smoother and more efficient than early petrol-drinkers, they eventually lost to ICEs due to the longer range and easiness of refuelling with petrol, as well as the eventual drop in price of a new gasoline-powered car because of mass production. Until the 21st century, it was downhill from then on, with no convincing solution for electric propulsion amid many tries, some more infamous than others. Everyone knows what a stupid blunder General Motors committed with their EV1, and it’s been an example of how not to go about things. Had GM stuck with the electric vehicle concept, they might have developed better related technology and become the role model for the surge in interest in EVs that’s been witnessed during the past few years, thanks to the realisation that oil is expensive, polluting and is running out. Instead GM decided to moronically destroy all their EV1s, and become known as the “Company that Killed the Electric Car”. With that kind of vision, small wonder they nearly went bankrupt! But I digress.

The problem is that it would seem car manufacturers aren’t exactly hell-bent on repeating and/or avoiding previous mistakes. And where should I start? Perhaps at the beginning, years ago, when auto-makers started making a big hullabaloo about upcoming electric vehicles: the Chevy Volt/Opel Ampera and the Nissan Leaf, to name a couple. The hype gave way to an expectation-killing wait, and the announcement of prices that would make even the most die-hard electric vehicle fan baulk.

Renault has proverbially jumped on the bandwagon with their Zero-Emissions concepts, utilising their partnership with Nissan for the underlying technology. And the first model to roll off the production line is the Twizy, a two-seater quadricycle that Renault says will revolutionise the market. And forgive me for sounding pedantic, but if that’s not completely over-hyped bollocks, then I don’t know what is. If there was a revolution to be had, then the G-Wiz would’ve got there first. And that’s really all this Twizy is, really. A more stylish G-Wiz with no doors and a lower price tag. But of course that may be they key to the thing, what with other electric vehicles costing staggering amounts of money. The Twizy will cost (here in Portugal) €7000, which is nice, but then Renault slap an extra €45-per-month charge to rent the battery, for a 3-year period and for no more than 7500km a year. And that’s not counting the cost of the electricity needed to recharge it (probably every day, given its crappy range). So if you do exactly 7500km in a year (goodness knows what Renault will charge you if you go over this), that works out at €0.072 per kilometre, which sounds great. But a diesel car that does 5 litres per 100km on average will cost (at current fuel prices) €0.075 per km. Yes, it’s slightly more expensive, but only slightly more, and with considerable advantages. You aren’t limited to only 20.5km per day (7500km max limit divided by 365 days), you can go on a motorway, you can refill quickly and easily and you have doors on the sides of your car, meaning you won’t have to smell and hear everything around you, and can use your car in the rain and cold.

So let’s be honest, what sort of person will this Twizy appeal to? First off said person has to have their own garage, since they can’t park it outside (it has no doors and needs to be plugged in safely). They can live no further than 10km from their workplace and must have an enclosed parking spot there (because it HAS NO F**KING DOORS, and stray dogs can get in and have a snooze, not counting all sorts of unsavoury humans who won’t think twice to vandalise/burglarise/mistreat the innards of your car). Doesn’t sound like much of a market.

Anyway, like most electric cars, it’s been announced with a lot of fanfare, and tested by moto-journos, even though it’s only available next year. Nothing like a good, long, stupid wait to wane desires for a car that, conceptually speaking, won’t work.

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