Archive for renault

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.

Renault Fluence Z.E. (probably stands for “Zero Economizing”)

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Green Tech, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , on 10/11/2011 by Alexander

Renault’s latest addition to its all-electric family, the Fluence Z.E., reintroduces problems that came with the Twizy I’ve already written about.

For €21,000 (that already carries a €5,000 tax discount), one of these EVs can be yours. But then you have to pay €82 a month for battery pack rental, for a maximum of 10,000km a year. That’s not counting electricity. Which makes this car a jolly expensive vehicle to run, even in the long term. Doing the corresponding maths, each year you’ll pay €984 alone for the battery rental, plus electricity (which Renault say will cost around €2 per 200km), for a measly 6,000 miles. I do more than double that a year and my fuel bill is around €800. Even counting maintenance costs, my ten-year old Volvo is still a better deal.

OK, then there’s the usual drawbacks of it being a fuss to recharge, the range, etc. I once read (I don’t remember where) about an entrepreneur who wanted to create a network of battery-recharging stations where you’d take your EV and simply switch a depleted battery for a fully charged one. This implies a certain standardization of batteries I don’t think car manufacturers are ready for, but it would be a clever way to go. Either way, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the current model of EV usage is way, way too inefficient to appeal to a wide-ranging market. The cleverest bet thus far is an EV with a range-extender, best exemplified by the stunning Fisker Karma. This isn’t to say the Electric Car itself will fail, just that the current concept of it will.

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.

A blight on God’s clean Earth #6 – Old mid-range Renaults

Posted in A blight on God's clean Earth, Crap cars, General opinions with tags , , on 17/01/2011 by Alexander

Some twenty-odd years ago, I used to have a strange personal theory related to cars that went something like this: in general, you could tell how reliable cars were just by looking at them. Fiat Unos and Citroen BXs looked all rickety and fragile, while VW Passats and Mercedes in general had the aspect of having been chiselled from a single lump of metal. Funnily enough, many of these appreciations turned out to hold true (except for the Citroen BX), and I still stand by it. Perhaps the human eye can detect the irregularities of spacing between body panels and between other outer components. and another piece of evidence supporting this are 90’s Renault sedans. Just gazing upon a Renault 19 or a 1st-generation Renault Megane gives one an inkling on just how craptacular these cars were. And they were the BMWs, Audis and Mercedes of their day, i.e., it didn’t matter how pathetic they looked, they still sold by the countless cartloads. There were so many, it was inevitable that I’d know someone whose parents owned them, and I’d eventually get a lift from one of them and be able just how cheap and nasty they felt, both inside and out. And even other French and Italian car makers who would churn out low-cost vehicles for the masses managed to make their products look like they had the tiniest bit more quality than they actually did. And what’s more, the horror show was endless, with too many different models in the range. There was the R19 coupé, the Chamade, the four and five-door Megane, the Scenic… argh, just so many different disgusting models to appease the average tasteless driver.

But, as destiny happily would have it, the dismal quality of these cars saw their quick end. It’s not that rare to see an early 90’s Passat or Merc, neither is it that difficult do see a BX, rather surprisingly. But it is rare to see an R19, and when you do, it’s in a sorry state, usually with mismatched body panels, all with dents in them, and the general aspect of being held together by glue, string, sticky tape and lots of prayers. The later Meganes still haunt the roads on somewhat larger numbers, but only because they’re more recent. For once, they were many… and now, they are few… thankfully.

2010 is gone. Welcome 2011

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Crap cars, Desirable machines, General opinions, Green Tech, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , on 03/01/2011 by Alexander

2010 was another automotive year with all the usual ups and downs, and there was nothing Earth-shaking about it. But there were some moments worth remembering:

Top 5 good things from 2010:

  • The spread of green technology
    Until recently, either having a hybrid or running your diesel on vegetable oil were the only ways to be green (driving a GPL car has been for yonks, but let’s not delve into that right now). This year saw the significant spread of cleaner engine technology, with more brands churning out more efficient engines, like PSA’s e-HDi or Fiat’s Twin-Air. It saw the introduction of all-electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and Renault’s ZE cars. Even Porsche and other traditionally anti-eco brands dreamed up their own hybrid concepts. We’re on the right track.
  • Formula 1 goes barebones
    I’ve never been one to talk about Formula 1, because it’s been a sport for the likes of Ferrari and big engine-producing to show off their crap. But no more. Next year sees the goodbye of the 2.4-litre V8 engine, and the exclusive use of 1.6l turbo flat fours. This will attract more car manufacturers and bring Formula 1 closer to what it should be: a laboratory for car-makers to test solutions in extreme conditions. With this, the solutions they’ll have to dream up for F1 cars will be more easily transposed to the cars you and me buy. That’ll mean more power and efficiency from piddly little four-cylinder power-plants. Ferrari are really pissed off by this, because they don’t use straight-fours in their road-going ostentation-mobiles, and are refusing to use them. Good riddance, shit-heads.
  • Cars keep getting nicer
    Unfortunately, the world’s recession stems from people living beyond their means, and that includes buying too many new cars. Here in Portugal, it’s heinous. Everyone complains how deep in the shit they are, but 2010 was unprecedented in terms of car sales. The upshot is that the automotive market is battling it out to make the best cars they can to attract the expanding market. Cars keep getting safer, better equipped, technologically more advanced, and even cheaper cars look nicer and nicer, as opposed to looking like coloured washing machines that they used to up until the mid-2000’s. Just sitting in recent cars makes me gawp, due to the simple fact that interiors just keep improving. A modern day supermini is just as nice to sit in as top-of-the-range four-doors of 20-odd years ago.
  • Volvo S60
    The coolest release of the year, topping the Peugeot RC Z, the Honda CR-Z and the Citroen DS3. The shape, the look, the gorgeous interior and instrument panel… wow.
  • Hummer went belly up
    Need I say more?

Top 5 let-downs of 2010:

  • The Peugeot 508
    Early in the year Peugeot treated us to two exciting new concept cars: the SR-1 and the RC Hybrid4. The former was a mouth-watering coupé and the latter seemed to show what the 407’s successor would look like. Instead of that, we got a knock-off of the Renault Fluence.
  • Citroen
    The 2000’s saw a spectacular return to form for Citroen. The C3 Pluriel, the C4, the C5 II and the glorious C6. This year, they decided to be run by the corporate morons and killed off the lovely C3 Pluriel, and introduced stuff like the Metropolis and the new C4, which both look like they were plagiarised from Audi. Awful.
  • Toyota
    I think the recalls speak for themselves. Never did I think to see this Japanese behemoth of reliability and sense be so mired by crass mistakes such as these. Amazing.
  • Fisker
    I was hoping to see the absolutely luscious Karma showing off its lines live in the metal and setting new automotive standards at the same time. Alas, ’twas not to be, with Fisker pushing its delivery dates further and further…
  • Ferrari 458
    “You-a-drive it, it-a-catches de fire!” The menstruation-coloured prancing hossie from Italy finally made a car that didn’t look crap for a “supercar”. Downside is, it goes up in flames of its own accord.