News: November 2012

26 November

ASTON MARTIN owner Investment Dar Co (which holds a 90% stake) has reportedly received two bids for 50% of the maker – from Investindustrial and Manindra & Mahindra. Auto News said last week that a winner could even be chosen this week. M&M currently has the highest bid: Investindustrial bid £250m – but also proposes a platform share with Mercedes AMG.

25 November

China is ASTON MARTIN’S fifth-largest market.

I’m off to CANADA this week. So, some stats on the Canadian new car market: it’s set for its best year in a decade this year, with sales rising 7.1% and a target of 1.72m units set. Trucks (SUVs to we Brits) outsell cars. Car production has also risen 20% there.

Looks like the BENTLEY EXP 9F is on – and it’s going to be called Falcon. Don’t worry, says Georg Kacher in Automobile magazine: Luc Donckerwolke has been tasked with giving it a full exterior makeover. Price? Not set: £150k is mooted but Bentley dealers want £250k…

ZF reckons nine-speed autos are the limit of efficiency: 10 speeds and beyond are possible but the cost benefit probably won’t be there.

RENAULT is delaying the launch of the Zoe EV to maximise its marketing benefits and ensure the Clio 4 has a clear run to market.

24 November

RENAULT considers hybrid a ‘temporary stopgap’ and currently doesn’t offer one. It will in the future though, in an effort to push range CO2 emissions down to 100g/km in 2016 and 80g/km in 2020. It’ll be a low-cost hybrid, maybe a PSA-style bolt-on system (unless Renault uses Infiniti’s ingenious system?) – and will, conveniently, thus benefit from French government inventives for hybrids…

FORD is already cutting B-Max production at its Romanian plant in half. There will be no job losses though: employee will move onto a new working shift to make the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine instead. Good job: Ford’s apparently working on a 150hp version of the Ecoboost.

PSA is teaming up with Toyota again to build the 107 replacement, the 108. It will launch in 2014 but may be launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show 2013.

NEW SAAB owner NEVS is trying to relaunch the 9-3 next year with a petrol engine instead of the all-electric model planned for 2014. The car will still be called ‘Saab’ but won’t use the famous badge due to licencing issues.

HYUNDAI is as profitable as BMW and far MORE profitable than VW and GM. It makes 10.91% on each car sold; BMW makes 10.94%. VW and GM make less than 7%.

FIAT’S delay in development of the new Punto is understandable given its precarious position in Europe and the pitiful performance of the Italian car market, but it’s hardly helping the current car do the business: production is to be stopped for 20 days to rebalance stocks.

18 November

GM-PSA: The GM-PSA alliance has stalled as the French brand’s fortunes worsen. PSA’s acceptance of state aid risks ‘sabotaging the plan’, one insider told Automotive News: deeper tie-ups may be delayed until 2014. PSA is losing $200m a month; GM predicts full-year losses of $1.5-1.8bn.

BENTLEY: Bentley will split the Flying Spur from the Continental GT range, dropping the ‘Conti’ tag and gaining bespoke styling features.

FRANCE: Staggering: some French plants are running at 15% capacity and one in three European plants is running at 20% utilisation. Others are running at 90% though: a Just-Auto seminar heard 80% utilisation is needed to ‘have their heads above water’.

BL: Designing and developing the Austin Allegro cost £21m; the Morris Marina cost £45m.

GLOBAL: Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann doesn’t expect the ultra luxury car market to grow in 2013. Sales will slow in China and Europe; Singapore and Hong Kong will make up the difference. The form also has an 18 month waiting list in the US.

LAND ROVER: Land Rover will phase out the separate chassis in 2014 with the launch of the Discovery 5. There’s also set to be a Range Rover Sport ‘RS’.

MITSUBISHI: The global rollout of the Mitsubishi Mirage continues: it’s now confirmed for sale in the US.

INDUSTRY: In Q1 2010, 3.8% of new cars had DAB as standard (25% had it as an option). IN Q3 2012, 25.5% have it as standard (another 26% have it as an option). CAP reckons BMW’s move to standardise it will see the majority of rivals follow in 12-18 months.

15 November

QOROS: Chinese brand Qoros will launch at the Geneva Motor Show 2013. Designed by former MINI designer Gert Hildebrand, it will us a modular platform strategy and launch a new car every six months. Initial sales target is 150k a year, with a 450k long-term target.

VAUXHALL: Would you Adam and… um, Vauxhall/Opel has dropped plans to produce an Adam EV electric car due to costs. It looks like the Adam VXR is still getting the green light though.

VW: 3.5 million small and medium-sized Volkswagens will be 20% cheaper to make thanks to its modular parts strategy.

VAUXHALL: Autocar has revealed Vauxhall’s determined the Mokka ‘not good enough’ for UK roads. It will get a stiffer steering gear mount bush, new EPAS calibration and re-rated dampers. Vauxhall dynamics manager Gerry Baker has led the revisions programme.

NISSAN: Nissan’s version of MQB, called ‘Common Module Family’ (CMF) is to be ramped up. currently, 12% of its cars are built using CMF – it wants to up this to 60% by 2016. Next-generation cars will boast 80% parts commonality. The strategy avoids concentrating parts production at a single location and with a single supplier.

AUDI: Audi wants to sell 2m cars by 2020. Last year, it sold 1.3m and is targeting 1.4m this year. BMW wants to sell 2m cars in 2016; Audi wants to beat BMW to the world luxury maker top spot by 2020 too.

AUDI: Audi is reportedly to simplify its UK model range. It currently sells 800 versions: plans are afoot to halve this. Models such as the 3.0 TFSI A6, accounting for 1% of sales, will be deleted.

TOYOTA: Toyota will now produce all Auris in the UK, instead of splitting with its Turkish plant (which will instead make the Corolla saloon). The firm has 70 Tier 1 suppliers here, which supply 25% of components for its EU plants.

SKODA: Four years ago, it became clear the current Superb would be a high point for ‘indulgent’ Skodas: it was too lavish, too VW-like. It was then that Skoda changed its design and technology philosophy, headline auto tells us: two years later, the Vision D concept ‘design bible’ rolled out. It’s all about ‘simply clever’ – hooks in the boot to hang shopping, ice scrapers built into the fuel filler flap: ‘free’ design that is very useful. Gone is the ‘bling bling stuff’.

LEXUS: Diesel is a ‘band aid’ solution to green drivetrains due to the amount of post-combustion cleaning technology required. Lexus Australia’s marketing boss said it will get so expensive with Euro 7, the cheaper solution may actually be fuel cells and hybrid. Lexus is also a decade ahead of rivals such as BMW in terms of hybrid tech.

10 November

US: October new car sales in the US rose 7% in October, to 1.09m units. The annualised market is 14.3m cars, up from 13.3m in 2011. Domestic brands were up 4%, European brands were up 15% and Asian brands rose 8%.

DACIA: Right-hand drive Dacia Sandero will be sourced from Romania rather than the firm’s sister plant in Mocrocco. The deal will, interestingly, see production upped by 30,000 units a year, which will bring an additional €300m income from the UK. Signalling how bold Dacia’s sales plans already are? UK Dusters, incidentally, are built in India.The Duster has also secured 1000 preorders in 100 days (and £100,000 in deposits!). 1 in 6 have gone for the £8995 entry-level car; 50% have gone for ht etop-sped Laureate. 5 in 10 of the top-selling dealers are Scottish.

RENAULT: Dacias are sold as Renaults where the Dacia brand is not present. The Dacia Logan is the Renault Symbol in Turkey. The Dacia Duster is the Renault Duster in India.

VAUXHALL: Vauxhall says the Astra GTC is currently outselling the VW Scirocco 2 to 1. 75% are retail.

INDUSTRY: The C-segment is the UK’s second-largest new car class, with 400k sales accounting for a 21% market share: 60% of those are fleet sales. Superminis take 25%.

INDUSTRY: 25% of new cars are fitted with DAB

INDUSTRY: There are 22k black cabs on the road in London and 18k across the rest of the UK.

INDIA: 50% of Indian car buyers research online before purchase. 50% of those change their mind on which car to buy due to their research.

8 November

FIAT: Fiat’s product offensive has been delayed until 2015. There will be four Fiats, the Alfa Romeo Giulia and a Fiat-Mazda-developed roadster. For 2013, the only new car launch will be the 500L seven-seater: Marchionne is instead prioritising the higher-profit Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli BMW 5 Series rival. The Alfa 4C will also launch. In 2014, the Fiat 500X, Alfa 4C Spider and Jeep Grand Cherokee-based Maserati SUV will launch.

INDUSTRY: Motability accounts for 10% of all new car sales in the UK. There are 2000 cars available under the scheme, with 460 costing no more than the £54.05 a week Disability Living Allowance. It has been running since 1977.

RENAULT: Renault EV sales are ‘disappointing’. In the last five months, Renault has sold 252 Twizy, in line with expectations, but just 64 Fluence. Sales and marketing boss Stephen Norman reckons Zoe will be the turning point, thanks to an effective 100-mile range and ‘demonic’ acceleration.

3 November

JAGUAR LAND ROVER: JLR will rationalise seven platforms (Defender, Freeelander/Evoque, Discovery/RR Sport, RR, XF, XJ, XK) to three. A scaleable VW MQB-style strategy will take seven years to implement.

ASTON MARTIN: Aston sold 600-800 DBS a year since launch: its profit margins (+£60k over the DB9 it’s based on) have helped Aston since the 2008 crash. The firm is targeting 1000 annual sales for its replacement, the Vanquish. Other Aston Martin models are struggling. The Vantage is down 62% from its peak (3600 in 2007, 1300 today – down from 10% of Porsche 911 sales to 6%); DB9, 71% (1000 a year today). Aston sold 6500 cars in 2007, 4000 today. This makes a Vantage/DB9 platform replacement tricky: it may have volumes of just 2500 a year.

HYUNDAI: Hyundai prefers DSG to CVT: the latter is, it says, less efficient due to slippage losses of the variable belt and hydraulic losses from clamping the pulleys together. I like Hyundai’s preference.

AUSTRALIA: New car production in Australia has halved in four years.

LANCIA: The end may be coming for the Lancia brand: the only ‘real’ Lancia is the Ypsilon with current and future new models being rebadged Chryslers.

TOYOTA: Toyota’s (relative) failure in China is because of the Yaris. Buyers there prefer bigger budget saloons such as Nissan’s Tiida. It is also too expensive: Toyota has thus averaged 1250 sales a month this year: Nissan sells 12k Tiida a month. Toyota set itself a short-term goal of 1m sales a year in China. Last year, it sold 883k and the territorial row will hurt 2012 figures. Toyota China dealers say a stronger entry car could have boosted sales by 100k a year.