24 June 2009

Car Production Belgium: 2008

Belgium is a net exporter of vehicles, that is it makes more than is sold in the country. In 2001 Belgium made 1,060,000 cars and 130,000 commercial vehicles. In 2008, it had dropped to 680,000 cars and 44,000 commercials. That is a drop of 39% in unit volume. With a high paid workforce and no indigenous carmakers, Belgium is at the mercy of decisions made far away.

So which brands are made there? In 2001 33% of cars made were Fords, 30% by GM, VW 20%, Volvo 14% and Seat 4%. Ford and Volvo made up virtually all the commercial vehicles made. In 2008, Ford now had 41%, Volvo 27%, GM 19%, VW 8% and Audi 5%. Volvo are now the only volume commercial vehicle maker.

GM’s uncertainty could be detrimental for future manufacture and even Volvo will be disposed of by Ford, one can safely assume. How these moves will affect future vehicle manufacturing is hard to say but it will be increasingly difficult for Belgium to keep its plants open. It could become a net importer soon.

PS. Genk – Ford Mondeo, Galaxy, S-Max. Ghent - Volvo C30, S40, V50, XC60. Antwerp – Opel/Vauxhall Astra, Astra TwinTop. Brussels – Audi A1, A3; VW Polo.

20 June 2009

X3 vs Q5 vs XC60 vs Freelander

For the May 2009 issue, NZ Autocar put these Euro SUVs head to head to find the best. This is how they ranked them:

Fourth: The biggest selling of them, the BMW X3 came dead last, easily. It was considered, too expensive, too small and ugly. Why would the X3 be so popular then? People buy a badge. They get ripped off but hey, a fool and his money is soon parted.

Third: The rest were closer but the Audi Q5 earned this spot. It was deemed as a good looker but what let it down was its steering and ride.

Second: Then came the Volvo XC60. The testers liked its interior very much but a poor engine was the main gripe.

First: The Land Rover Freelander (LR2) was first and unequivocally so. It was considered a great all round vehicle, with its powertrain, steering and ride all good and thus winning the contest. It was also the only one that could really go off road.

A fair result as German vehicles are totally overrated by just about everyone, it seems bar me, and those who know better. Volvo is working hard to succeed but suffers from not having a logo of Germanic origin. Likewise the Freelander. The Land Rover is very good value in NZ, easily undercutting the Euro competition on price, while also outperforming them to boot.

17 June 2009

Nissan Qashqai Scores Highly in J.D. Power Satisfaction Survey

Nissan's compact Crossover the Nissan Qashqai (Dualis) has been rated 11th overall in the JD Power/What Car? 2009 UK Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study of 101 models, its first appearance in the survey.
With a rating of over 81% the Sunderland-built Nissan Qashqai rated 3rd in the SUV category and also higher than all of its traditional C-segment competitors including the Honda Civic, Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3, Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Vauxhall Astra and Renault Megane.

In terms of SUVs, the Nissan Qashqai eclipsed the Mercedes Benz M-Class, Land Rover's Discovery, Freelander and Range Rover Sport, and Volvo XC90. It was only bettered by Honda's CR-V and Lexus' premium RX.

The Nissan Qashqai scored well among respondents in particular for its low ownership costs, visibility and design. Nissan Qashqai is particularly satisfying as the Nissan Qashqai was designed at Nissan Design Europe, in Paddington, London, and like the Nissan Note, was engineered at the company's European technical centre in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, while production for Europe of both models takes place in Sunderland.

Since its introduction in March 2007, the Nissan Qashqai has sold over 330,000 units in Europe, making it one of Nissan's most successful models globally. The range was reinforced at the end of last year with the introduction of the Nissan Qashqai+2 family crossover, which boasts a longer wheelbase, larger trunk and a collapsible pair of seats in the third row.

I wonder if the US/Canada will take the vehicle soon as I think it would do well there too.

08 June 2009

LDV's Demise

Recently a company in Malaysia were talking of buying LDV vans but they have pulled out. It now seems they will wait until it goes belly up and buy it cheaply through a receiver. Then they probably will move the operation to Asia.

LDV seem to make a good product but it is a pity they couldn't have better distribution network, perhaps in tandem with a car maker. The volumes they make are not sustainable. If local people in the UK did readily buy them in quantity without screwing them down on price too much, then maybe they could survive. The British in many ways seem to know the cost of things but not their value. LDV adds value to the UK. Shortsighted gain over long range benefits is how it's done in the UK.

Some people then cry it's all about free trade so why support local products? As for free trade, I'm all for it but the whole concept of world free trade is smoke and mirrors. Most countries pay lip service to it but surreptitiously support home made, or grown. The British, saddled with the notion of things being done fairly of it's just not cricket, are losing vital manufacturing industries.