Archive for bmw

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.


Production i8 revealed

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Upcoming cars with tags , , , on 18/04/2012 by Alexander

I’ve always been a fan of the BMW i8 ever since it was a concept car with a very complicated name. Looking at the latest renderings of the production form of the car, it’s going to be a head-turner.

BMW are a strange lot. They make a new 7- and 5-series that look great, then make a new 1- and 3-series that both look bloody awful, and then they do a 180 and give us another proper-looking car. That said, I would like to see the interior. BMW make awful, Spartan-bare innards for their cars, so I don’t have my hopes high.

What recession?

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , on 27/03/2012 by Alexander

For those that don’t know it, I live in Portugal. It’s one of the three countries of the Eurozone that had to be bailed out because it was verging on bankruptcy, which would lead the average person to think that the Portuguese wouldn’t have much money to spend on things, especially cars. Now, I like to think of a country’s habits when it comes to the acquisition of cars as a sort of barometer of said country’s economic health, since buying a car is usually the second biggest personal investment people make in their lives, after a house.

This should be especially true in Portugal, where buying and running a car is extremely expensive, both compared to what people earn and what it costs abroad. Fuel prices are astronomically high, and according to official figures, only Denmark, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands have dearer petrol. Toll-free motorways are a thing of the past, and though that might not seem so bad to foreigners, but to us it means every journey or commute out of town is precious dosh lining someone else’s pockets instead of our own. Plus, lots of areas of the country depend on tourists coming in from Spain, and these tourists now don’t come here because it’s awkward and expensive to use our motorways, but I digress.

To top it off, cars here are amazingly overpriced, both used and new, but I’ll stick to new cars since that’s complicated enough as it is. To illustrate, let’s use Europe’s best-selling car, the VW Golf, as an example. In its native Germany, prices start at €16,975, in France, at €16,790, in Spain, a more expensive €18,820 and in the UK, £15,865, which for the purpose of this comparison, is €18,968. Portugal? A whopping €21,800, nearly €3000 more than the most expensive of the other aforementioned markets!

So one would think that cars wouldn’t sell much, in Portugal, what with gargantuan prices and deep recession. And on the face of it, you’d think that was the case, with January 2012 sales plummeting nearly 50% when compared to the same month in 2011, and February 2012 sporting the same sort of numbers. However, look again. In both January and February, Audi, Mercedes and BMW made the top ten. In February, Merc, BMW and Audi sold a combined total of 1,332 cars. So of the 6,932 cars sold in Portugal, 1 in 5 was a German luxury car. And that’s not counting the thriving used-car import market, which consists mainly of E-Class Mercs and Audi A3’s.

I could go on and lace some more layers of fact on this already iron-clad evidence that Portugal is living beyond its means, that it’s chock-full of idiots who only look at badges and how unevenly and third-worldly money is distributed here, but I think the point’s been made. It’s a miracle Europe bailed us out.

Audi A7 – Why?

Posted in Crap cars, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 27/07/2010 by Alexander

I’m not a fan of Audi. As I’ve said before, they’re no more than VW’s with four rings nailed onto the front. That said, however, I quite like the Audi A5 coupé, because it has a nice shape and doesn’t have a corresponding VW version. The same can be said, though it’s debatable, of the A6 and the A8, though I don’t like either of them.

So now Audi announces the A7 Sportback, and I just don’t understand what the hell it’s for. Audi say it’s a competitor for the Merc CLS, which makes sense only up to a certain point. For saloon cars, Audi has the A4, the A5 Sportback, the A6, the new A7 Sportback and the A8. That’s five fricking cars that cover everything from family saloon to four-door ostentatious fascist-mobile. Merc have the C-Class, E-Class, CLS and S-Class. That’s only four. BMW have the 3-series, 5-series, the pathetic 5GT and and the 7-series, that’s four too (though they’re coming up with the new 6-series Gran Coupé, which will probably be the first good-looking BMW since 1988).

The problem with Audi, apart from being driven solely by absolute bastards, is that from the front, they all look exactly the same. Yes, perhaps Audi fanboys can tell the difference, but the designers took the “same design-language coherence across the range” thing far too literally. This makes Audis far too bland and boring, with no singular, fantastic-looking model. Mercedes have the CLS for this, and it also justifies the existence of the model, even though it’s really only an E-Class in a frock.

So why would I buy an A7 Sportback? Want a four-door coupé? There’s the A5 Sportback.”Ah, but I want it to be luxuriuos”. Get an A8. I don’t get it.

I wish it would flop like the absolutely stupid 5-series GT seems to be doing, but alas, car-buyers are far too thick not to be fooled by the overpriced crap the Big German Three flog on the market.

BMW: what’s next?

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Crap cars, Desirable machines, General opinions, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , on 16/04/2010 by Alexander

I am not a BMW fan. They make some excellent cars, though nowadays the entire range is all ugly, probably a consequence of ex-chief designer Chris Bangle’s atrocious taste. BMW, like Mercedes and Audi, thrives as a badge-brand, with cars no better than rivals yet insultingly more expensive, thus more attractive to morons.

But before the said morons start leaving stupid comments, let me say more. Before the 90’s, BMW made beautiful cars. The old 1602’s were a regular sight here in Portugal, and I miss them and yelp for joy when I see one running. The E34 5-series was and is a properly good-looking car, that’s easily prettier than most of what came after, and not just in comparison to the following 5-series or other BMW ranges for that matter.

If there’s anything that BMW do undeniably well, it’s creating engines. Their early 90’s 2.5 litre turbodiesel engine was revolutionary (525tds, remember?), and today they still churn out a host of amazing powerplants. And some pretty amazingly-engined vehicles are coming soon too.

And this is an interesting dilemma for me. On one hand, the Bavarian brand is making really head-turning stuff, like the Dynamics-Efficiency-complicated-name thing, while on the other, it offends good taste everywhere by farting out the X-range. The most recent example is their killing the next 6-series M-version for a V8, pollution-farter, while on the other their making a range below the 1-series (probably an Isetta-inspired affair) and a triturbo diesel engine.

Let me delve into each matter shortly. Firstly, the 6-series is something I’ve always wanted to hate, but shouldn’t and can’t. It’s a coupé, and it’s not exactly gut-churningly ugly, as other BMW’s. It also has a diesel in its midst, which gives it a rare status, i.e., a grand tourer that does more than just chew fuel. It’s a well-balanced, interesting coupé, although it’s Achilles heel (apart from the badge) is it’s obscene price tag. And at the risk of sounding incoherent, I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave the M6 out of the next generation. Yes, M-BMW’s are “fuel-chewingly” mad, but all car models have a big-engined, multi-hundred horsepower version in their range. Not having one seriously cheapens the whole line-up of 6-series models. I think this is silliness on BMW’s part.

On the other hand, the prospect of a triple-turbo engine sounds insanely cool. The thought of accelerating and feeling turbo after turbo kick in is exhilarating. Let’s wait and see what the Bavarian brand has in store.

CC: doesn’t mean just “cubic centimetre”

Posted in Desirable machines, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/10/2009 by Alexander

The 4-door coupé isn’t a recent fad that the Mercedes CLS and its fans and ignorant motor journalists would have us believe. Sweeping coupé designs for saloons have been around for longer (take Robert Opron’s fastback saloons of the 70’s, or the Volvo S60), though the CLS somewhat popularised it. The band wagon is roomy, as many cars since have jumped on. The Citroen C6, the VW Passat CC, the Opel Insignia, the hardly-convincing Audi A5 Sportback (after all, it did start life out as a coupé to begin with) and the hideous and stupid BMW 5 series GT.

I’d say from this it’s a clearly a predominantly German fashion, with the funky little VW Passat by far the most attractive of the Kraut-auto flock (The Citroen C6 is by far the most attractive in the Global Auto range, but I digress). The BMW 5-series GT looks like a dwarfish, handicapped, stunted SUV, and the A5 Sportback comes across as a coupé with those extra doors jammed in to meet a marketing niche for stupid people. The VW looks balanced and smooth, with nice lines and a striking presence, which the Opel has, but in less measure. If I were ever to buy German (and I hope one day I’ll have the money to even consider these things), the Passat CC would be a probable choice.

However, VW has been like my old Citroën BX’s hydropneumatic system and has been leaking, though in this case, interesting information.

First, was a glimpse of the future Golf VII, which I found rather strange since the Golf VI was released this year. It’s like VW are saying “Yes, we know this current Golf is disappointing, so we’re making another one.” The Golf IV was so brilliant both the V and VI are but pale images that simply don’t have the same appeal (though the rise in quality from competitors also helps this notion). The Golf VII is trying to get VW’s family hatchback into the arena of ball-bashing success.

Second, was none other than a Golf CC (original link). Which on the surface seems a good idea, building on the Passat CC’s appeal and widening the choice amidst the Golf range. But then I think: this will kill the Jetta (unless it’s the next-gen Jetta) and probably overlap the Passat range. Doesn’t sound so smart any more, though I must admit I personally find the idea of a Golf CC very clever and appealing, especially if it has a panoramic roof like the Passat version.

A new level

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Desirable machines, Green Tech with tags , , , on 05/09/2009 by Alexander

BMW are usually full of shit, calling their cars “the ultimate driving machine”, a catchy publicity slogan but removed from reality. But now have unveiled what could be a fantastic look into the future, and something that can live up to the hype of their P.R. catchphrase, though not in the sense of a thug-streetracer driving machine.

Their latest brainfart has been dubbed the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Concept Car. Hardly catchy, but it’s characteristics are quite the opposite.

It’s powered by a 1.5-lite, three-cylinder powerplant with around 3.7l/100km, which makes it sound like a sluggish, tree-hugging bore-inspiring crapmobile petrolheads like to bash on. But then it sports a 0-100kph time of 4.8 seconds and 365 horsepower, a level of efficiency never before seen. It does this by joining the ICE with electric motors, giving it autonomy in all-electric mode and the extra oopmh for the performance.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the future. These are the kind of figures all carmakers should be aiming for. I’d never thought I’d say this, but congratulations, BMW. Now all you have to do is make your cars look nice like they used to.