30 October 2007

South Of The Border, Down Mexico Way

No I’m not breaking out into song, just looking at the Mexican market. In 2001, there were 16 car brands plying their trade. By 2006, there were 27. The big 5 of 2001 have naturally lost market share as the new arrivals took some for themselves. The head honcho in the market, GM, only lost .4 % share while # 4 VW lost 6% to just under 12%.



1 GM 200,000 21.9%
1 GM 250,000 21.5%
2 Nissan 190,000 21.1%
2 Nissan 230,000 20.0%
3 VW 160,000 17.7%
3 Ford 180,000 15.6%
4 Ford 158,000 17.3%
4 VW 135,000 11.8%
5 Chrysler 130,000 14.5%
5 Chrysler 130,000 11.3%
6 Honda 30,000 3.1%
6 Toyota 60,000 5.3%
7 Seat 13,000 1.4%
7 Honda 47,500 4.2%
8 Peugeot 6,500 0.7%
8 Seat 20,000 1.8%
9 BMW 6,400 0.7%
9 Renault 20,000 1.7%
10 Mercedes 3,800 0.4%
10 Mitsubishi 17,000 1.5%
11 Renault 3,600 0.4%
11 Peugeot 16,000 1.4%
12 Audi 3,000 0.3%
12 Mazda 7,500 0.7%
13 Volvo 2,300 0.3%
13 BMW 7,000 0.6%
14 Jaguar 1,200 0.1%
14 Mercedes 6,500 0.6%
15 Land Rover 850 0.1%
15 Lincoln 5,000 0.5%
16 Porsche 200 0.0%
16 Suzuki 4,500 0.4%

17 Audi 4,200 0.4%

18 Volvo 2,700 0.2%

19 MINI 1,800 0.2%

20 Acura 1,600 0.1%

21 Fiat 1,000 0.1%

22 Land Rover 750 0.1%

23 Porsche 650 0.1%

24 smart 600 0.1%

25 Jaguar 350 0.0%

26 Subaru 300 0.0%

27 Bentley 20 0.0%
Total 900,000

Total 1,150,000

So the market is expanding rapidly and rankings change faster than a model changing outfits in a fashion show. The new brands are a boon to the buyer but there will be winners & losers as the scrap unfolds. I say watch to see if VW rebounds & that Toyota will only go up from where it is. New boys Mazda, Suzuki, FIAT & Subaru will increase share until they reach their ceiling. GM has done well to hold it’s dominance, but I doubt they will keep it up.

...That's where I fell in love where stars above, came out to play...
And now as I wonder, my thoughts ever stray...South of the border, down Mexico way.

29 October 2007

Please, No Škoda Jokes

The history of the Škoda goes back to 1895 when they produced motorcycles & they were making cars by 1905. In 1925, it became part of the the biggest industrial enterprise in the land, Škoda Works. Thereafter it's cars bore that name. After world war 2, Škoda came under state control. They were sold in NZ & had a poor reputation but were cheap to buy. VW starting investing in Škoda and increasing their stake until eventually taking full ownership in 2000. Volkswagen has invested heavily in the company and it shows. In 2006, 550000 Škodas were made and while efforts have been made to sell to many markets, they remain heavily dependant on Europe. Individual models are listed below with 2006 manufacturing figures:

Octavia: 270000 manufactured. Made since 2004, it has good engineering and quality in a value package. It is roomy with a huge boot, economical to run, keen handling and an excellent ride. A drawback is that styling is conservative. This is in effect a lower price VW Golf with more room. The Octavia is a good car.

Fabia: 240000 produced The new 2007 model is a roomy, quality product, with a stylish appearance. It is a good fun to drive and a practical car with character. the Škoda Fabia is a great all round package with few niggles. If it didn't have a Škoda badge, you would think it was a VW.

Roomster: 25000 made and set to grow markedly. It hit the market in 2006 with a roomy, quirky yet likeable look. With versatile seating, good build quality, quiet, comfortable and even fun to drive. As with Škodas, good value too. You get the impression this sort of vehicle is a car of the future, very useful, highly individual-looking and great to live with.

Superb: 20000 made. Produced since 2002, it has more space than a Passat. It combines fit & finish, some clever design features and for the Scottish market, very good value. Those wanting a real quality car may find comfort and refinement a little disappointing. Buying a VW Passat or an Audi A4 never looked more pointless.

Škoda is going from strength to strength with it’s VW alliance and while efforts have been made to sell to more overseas markets, they remain heavily dependant on Europe. (In NZ for example, about 130 are sold each year from 2003 to 2006, but in 2007, Jan-Sep 140 were sold so an improvement). For Škoda to become truly successful as an international brand it will take much time & effort, as the Kiwi market is proving.

27 October 2007

SEAT, The Car Brand From Spain

SEAT stands for Spanish Society of Touring Cars. It was founded in 1950 I think as an initiative of Franco for a Spanish car. It ended up basically manufacturing rebadged FIAT cars. In 1900, VW took the reins but it remains a Spanish car company, situated near Barcellona. In 2006, 430000 came off the production lines. Sales have been around this figure for all the 21st Century. Production by model for 2006 are as follows:

Ibiza: 185000 made. It has been around since 2001 as a 3 or 5 Door hatch. It is well made, has a sporty interior, but doesn't deliver as much driving excitement as it promises. Nevertheless, it is still a good car.

Leon: 130000 produced. Introduced in 2005 as a 5 door hatch back, it is good looking, very spacious for occupants and very good value. Plenty of roar from this 'lion' it seems.

Altea: 60000 manufactured. Around since only 2004, it started as a hatchback, followed in '06 with an Estate model & '07 an MPV. It seems to mark a new era for Seat. Emphasis on a styled MPV, excellent to drive but not outstandingly versatile.

Cordoba: 30000 produced. Introduced in 2002, it is apparently a dull drive & not particularly well-equipped. A real weakness in the range, not doing the SEAT image much good.

Alhambra: 15000 made. Has been on the market since the year 2000 and is made in Portugal. A stylish vehicle, based on the same platform as the VW Sharan & Ford Galaxy, the Alhambra has proved to be highly popular as a result of its packaging, equipment levels, value for money & good build quality. Pity about the sales, it seems to deserve more.

Toledo: 9000 manufactured. This 5 door hatch has been around since 2004. It is reputed to be excellent to drive & good choice of engines, but similar to the Altea. Production numbers have steadily dwindled, which doesn't make sense.

Overall, an interesting brand that somehow doesn’t fit. It has a less expensive Alfa image which only works for some models. Then they throws in an MPV! It sales are flat and probably the most challenging marque of the VW stable. I can't see SEAT becoming big outside of Europe any time soon and it will have a fight keeping it's European share.

Jaguar, What Is Selling In 2007?

Top dog for Jag in 2007 is the X-Type, 16500 being made for the first 9 months. Sales down a third isn’t good on paper, but monetary loses on the model will have all but ended. The sales pain has been worth it. A freshen up of the car coming on line next year will help, but the fact that it is being pulled from the US market is disappointing.

The aging but better than ever S-Type comes in second with 11500 off the production line. Sales off 15% but with the replacement XF coming soon, that isn’t surprising.

Third comes the XK on 9000 units made. Mind you, I’m a bit surprised that production is down 10% on last year. The car is better than that. It has been rated as the best cruising car in the world. If you have to eat up miles with minimum tiredness. nothing does it better. So those in the know say anyway.

Lastly and expectly so, is the XJ. This is a seriously fine car, in fact best in it’s class by my reckoning. 8000 produced with only a 5% drop in sales despite Jag's walking away from volume sales in order to pursue more profitable ones. It looks conservative but that beats some of the trendy but ugly offerings from BMW/Merc.

What does 2008 portend for the brand? The X-Type will gain with the freshen up, but lose with no US market. So my pick is that it will probably do similar or slightly better sales. The new XF will easily swamp the S-Type numbers. XK will probably hold or slip slightly and the facelifted XJ may improve slightly. So production should be up but not enormously. This is where the marque wants to position itself. It no longer aspires to chase volume at any cost, but rather, to focus on modest sales and profitability. Good idea.

22 October 2007

Cars That Did Something Special (And One That Didn't)

Cars sometimes come along and do something special for one reason or another. I have selected a few of my picks of what some of those cars were.

Model T Ford.

Why I selected this car is that it was the first mass production car that brought personal transport to the masses. I don't see the car as anything special in itself but for bringing motoring to the people it has to be here. It's like what Charlie Chaplin did for movies.

The VW Beetle succeeded in a way that I still don't understand, but succeed it did. Rear engined, rear wheel drive, water cooled, nothing that we see today in smaller cars but all incorporated in the Bug. It had character, was reliable and the Germans are aggressive in marketing so maybe that all added up to the success it garnered.

The car that did change the way smaller cars were made is my next selection; the BMC Mini. It didn't sell in the numbers the Beetle did although it would have if the Germans had developed it. However, to mess up a winner like the Mini would be like not being able to sell a sunny holiday to a northern European in the middle of winter. You couldn't miss and neither did the Mini.

My personal favourite is the Range Rover. People drove 4wd vehicles to traverse rough terrain on farmland, not cruise down High St. It was the vehicle no one asked for, to do what no one had thought they wanted it to do. It had a level of refinement and therefore price that would surely send it into ignominy. That's what Land Rover's execs thought, but for whatever possessed them, they gave production the green light. It spawned a success that has seen the streets of every country in the world swarming with 4wd's and their popularity increases unabated. An amazing gamble that paid off handsomely. Land Rover itself hasn't capitalised as it should on started this genre, but that's the British for you.

I just had to add to this segment one car that was never going to cut it but was put on the market anyway. The Suzuki X-90, the most pointless vehicle I can think of. In a popularity contest with only itself entered, it would come last. It just goes to show sometimes the thing that looks like a ridiculous idea really is.