29 June 2011

One Millionth Qashqai (Dualis) From Nissan Sunderland UK

Nissan Sunderland has produced its one millionth Nissan Qashqai, making it one of the most successful British built cars ever. It took four years, six months and 23 days after production began on December 5, 2006. No other UK-built car has reached the million mark in such a short space of time. On average, 1,200 Qashqais per day are produced at the plant, or one every minute that the production line is working. More than 80 per cent of Qashqai production is exported to 97 markets worldwide from the Port of Tyne.

Two other models have previously passed the million production mark at Nissan Sunderland Plant - the Nissan Micra (2.3 million units produced / 1992-2010) and the Nissan Primera (1.4 million units produced / 1990-2007).

The Qashqai is currently the UK's eight best-selling car in 2011, and was the fourth best-selling model in the C-segment across Europe in the 2010 Fiscal Year. Its top markets were in 2010:

UK 39,000
Italy 31,900
Spain 30,100
France 25,500
Germany 24,100
Russia 21,500

The car's many accolades include top ranking for four consecutive years from the ADAC breakdown organisation in Germany. That doesn't seem to stir the Germans to buy more though. They are the largest market in Europe but 5th on the list above. Spain is particularly strong for the Qashqai considering the size of the market.

In summary: The Qashqai is an amazingly successful car.

28 June 2011

Caterham Cars

Caterham Cars is a sports car manufacturer in the UK. The only road going model they currently manufacture is the Caterham 7 (pictured above), although they do now do a track car, the SP300R. It is much the same car as was released by Lotus Cars in 1957. That shows how good the original idea was, that it still has a popular following. In some countries, it does not qualify as a road car because of safety regulations. However, it is sold in over 20 countries, according to the website.

The car itself is sold with various specifications but all based on the classic original. Due to a high power-to-weight ratio and its exceptional handling, it has often been used in club racing. They were famously declared ‘too fast to race’ in any open series, therefore usually compete in their own one make series.

Production figures that I have go back to 1997 and are as follows:

94 - 519
95 - 504
96 - 553
97 - 638
98 - 552
99 - 490
00 - 468
01 - 444
02 - 442
03 - 435
04 - 432
05 - 423
06 - 338
07 - 436
08 - 437
09 - 348
10 - 487

Small numbers but surprisingly steady in a difficult segment to succeed in.

Caterham Cars were located in the town of Caterham, Surrey, UK up until 1987. In that year. it moved to a new factory in Dartford, Kent, UK. They have recently been bought by Team Lotus, a British based Malaysian Formula One team.

In summary: Aren't you glad that Caterham bought the rights for the car from Lotus in 1973, and kept this iconic vehicle in production?

22 June 2011

Car Production Austria / Sweden: 2010

Austria does not have its own car industry but Magna Steyr makes cars for other brands. In 2010, the following production was achieved:

BMW (X3/MINI) 54,500
Peugeot (RCZ) 19,000
Mercedes (G Class) 5,500
Chyrsler (300/Jeep) 5,500
Aston M (Rapide) 1,500
Total 86,000 +52%

Prospects for production growth are good for MINI and Peugeot, although Aston Martin will move the Rapide assembly back to the UK during 2012.

In Sweden the two expected brands appear when it comes to car production there. One looks solid, the other very uncertain. 2010 production:

Volvo 145,000 +30%
Saab 30,000 +50%
Total 175,000 +32%

Volvo's new Chinese owner Geely has big plans to expand the marque, so one would expect good things for Sweden here. Saab is really in a tight spot, with suppliers holding back product until paid for what has been supplied. Money has been raised from China, but it all seems extremely precarious. I personally think Saab's factory in Sweden is vulnerable.

20 June 2011

Car Production Belgium / Netherlands: 2010

Belgium is a small country but with a surprisingly large car industry. It relies on overseas firms as it has no industry of its own. This can make it vulnerable to sudden closures of factories. It's 2010 production was:

Volvo 225,000
Ford 185,000
Audi 70,000
GM Opel 50,000
Total 530,000 +1%

One of those sudden departures was GM Europe closing its factory in 2010. It has now gone for good but otherwise Belgian production looks settled.

The Netherlands has a smaller car making industry than neighbour Belgium. The NedCar factory which makes the Mitsubishi Colt and Outlander models, is the only facility. Production is listed below for 2010:

Mitsubishi 50,000 -5%

NedCar has a capacity of 200,000, but only used a quarter of it in 2010. Mitsubishi plan to pull out in the next few years and Chinese firm Landwing may be interested in car production at the same factory in due course. The Netherlands does have two large truck making brands in DAF and Scania, but as for car making Landwind may be its only hope.

17 June 2011

Cars I Would Buy

When it comes to cars, I have definite tastes. I like compact. Compact means efficient, economical, ecological, convenient and maneuverable. The modern small cars are quite roomy and they travel distances in reasonable comfort. I would never buy a two door car (unless it is a sports car) and hatchbacks I like. So what would I buy in New Zealand? GM Europe products for example are not sold in NZ but most of the world's cars do make it here. My list then:

Daihatsu Sirion (pic)
Ford Fiesta
Honda Jazz (Fit)
Toyota Yaris (Echo)
VW Polo.

Medium small:
Ford Focus
Hyundai i30
Nissan Qashqai (pic).


Range Rover Evoque
Land Rover Freelander
Skoda Yeti.

Lotus Elise
Mazda MX5.

In summary:
Small is good.

15 June 2011

The MINI Family Just Keeps Growing

On would have to say that German car companies are aggressive. They don't just exist in the market, nor do they merely compete in the market either. No, they attack it. Take BMW and its MINI brand. It started out as a smallish two door hatch in 2001, the convertible (2005), Mk II (2007), Clubman (2008) and Countryman (2010).

Later in 2011 comes the Coupe, then more variants later. The MINI range is fast becoming like a rabbit warren. The fact is this needs to happen, to keep the MINI range fresh and entice new buyers into the fold. Of course, each new model must be well thought out and the whole range having a purpose for being there. I thought the Clubman was not that well executed (and somewhat redundant now with the new Countryman). One suicide door only on one side wherever it was sold and not that practical either. The Countryman is rather large to be a MINI but for some that will be just what they want.

The MINI range will continue to attack the market aggressively. It will have success and see off the pretenders such as the limp, uninspiring Audi A1. The latest MINIs could be better looking, but unless there is UK design input, unattractive Teutonic style is what will be. That said, the new model range is working and new additions will continue to keep the MINI brand at the forefront of its niche.

13 June 2011

The Nissan Qashqai Mk II

The first Qashqai (Dualis) was designed, engineered and mainly built in the UK. The next one (Mk II) will be too. This car has been a rip snorting success. In 2010, Sunderland production reached 271,200, just over 21% of all UK car manufacturing and well ahead of second placed MINI. Pan European Sales reached a very impressive 235,500.

The decision to have the UK do it all again for the second Qashqai represents a £192 million investment in Britain and is being funded entirely by Nissan. The first stage of development will see the new version styled at Nissan's European Design Centre in Paddington, London. Once the design is finalised, engineers from the Nissan Technical Centre Europe in Cranfield, Bedfordshire will take hold of the project. The completed car will be built in the company's Sunderland manufacturing facility.

UK built Qashqais make it to markets around the world, including Australia and New Zealand. It is a vote of confidence in Nissan UK’s capabilities. It will be interesting to see if they play it safe and simply refine the innovative design, or try to push the envelope yet again. I am picking they will not do anything too radical.

In summary: Sunderland will continue to be the home of the Qashqai.

10 June 2011

Car Sales Nouvelle-Cal├ędonie: 2010

Car sales in New Caledonia are about 11,500 sales per annum. The three French brands of Renault, Peugeot and Citroen took nearly two thirds of the market as recently as 2001, but for 2010, under a quarter. Premium brands are not big sellers on this autonomous overseas collectivity of the French Republic.

1 Ford...... 1,325.. 11.4%.. 18.2
2 Peugeot.. 970... 8.3%.. -8.0
3 Hyundai.. 930... 8.0%.. -2.5
4 Renault.. 900... 7.7%.. -8.1
5 Toyota... 790... 6.8%.. -3.9
6 Kia....... 770... 6.6%.. -3.0
7 Citroen.. 715... 6.1%... 5.3
8 Nissan... 715... 6.1%... 23.4
9 Dacia..... 620... 5.4%... 33.2
10 Chevrolet 620... 5.3%... 15.0
Others...... 3,300... 28.2%
Total 11,600 5.4% increase.

It is a small car market, but the population is only about 250,000. Apart from French marques, European brands do not sell that well here. Ford took top spot in 2009 and consolidated its position for Y2010. The Ford Ranger Pick Up truck is easily the best selling vehicle.

In summary: The roads are increasingly less French of late.

Source: ISEE

08 June 2011

The 2012 Jaguar XK

Generally facelifts do little to improve a car, often to give buyers the excuse to trade in the pre-facelift model. Some seem to take the design backwards. I must say the changes for the Jaguar XK 2012 really work. It involves a larger grille, new bumper design, slimmer chrome trim, new wheels, and new exterior colors. The slight exterior changes have made for a smart looking improvement. With the interior, Jaguar is doing new trim materials, gloss black finish for the center console, phosphor blue halo illumination and ambient lighting. The drive is also improved with suspension changes and improved handling through reprogrammed Adaptive Dynamics.

My take: The XK Jag is the ultimate high speed cruiser, eating up miles like no other vehicle. Now it got a whole lot better looking doing it.

06 June 2011

Lamborghinis That Don't Work No More

Here is a fine police car in Italy. I am sure many a law enforcer on the beat anywhere in the world would like to have one of these...

Of course driving a supercar is more challenging than a regular car so they need extra care. Unfortunately, this a post about Lamborghinis 'that don't work no more'....

I think this officer had some explaining to do.

For some of these temperamental beasts, they stop working without the need to hit other cars or objects. It can be very frustrating to spend so much on a car, only to find it is always having problems of some sort. It could drive you to attack it...with sledgehammer!

Car Manufacturing In Japan Well Down

The Tsunami and sales downturn has really hit Japan. Manufacturers around the world who source components from there have been hit too. Looking at production figures, one can see how bad it is. If we compare April 2011 to 2010 by manufacturer:

Toyota 50,000 –80%
Nissan 45,000 –50%
Mazda 35,000 –50%
Mitsub 27,500 –30%
Subaru 25,000 –40%
Daihatsu 20,000 –60%
Honda 15,000 –80%
Total 290,000 –60%

Why some brands have fared better than others I cannot say, but not a good look. The total YTD figures are down to 2,200,000 (–30%). Things will be improving as the year progresses.

In some markets the effects are dramatic. In Australia for example, Toyota outsells its main rival GM by 2 to 1. In May ’11, GM actually pipped them to the top spot. The reason is not GM sales soaring but Toyota crashing. Other manufacturers would surely like to cash in to a greater degree, but cannot ramp up supply that quickly.

In summary: It is only a temporary situation and I hope that things can get back to normal soon after this terrible disaster that Japan experienced.

03 June 2011

Chrysler Brand To Go From Europe

The Chrysler brand has ceased to exist on mainland Europe. It has never sold well there so its owner Fiat has pulled the plug on it. Lancia will take over the dealers to broaden its coverage on the continent, the only place where they are sold anyway. It will also widen its range of just three vehicles by selling rebadged Chrysler vehicles under the Lancia logo. On the other hand, Chrysler will concentrate on the rest of the world, adding rebranded Lancias to its range of cars. So this seems a good fit.

Will Chrysler buyers go for the very different style of Lancia cars sold with their badge on them? Conversely, will say a Chrysler 300 sell strongly with a Lancia moniker? Whether potential purchasers will take to the new direction time will tell.

As I see it: The idea is good but with the very different range of vehicles each brand sells, I don't see any commonality. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

01 June 2011

Jaguar SUV...Finally

Finally Jaguar is planning to launch a new SUV to boost sales. Although this is the area of Land Rover of the same company, Jaguar intends for an off road vehicle to meet the development cost of a new platform. Besides, VW, Audi and Skoda all compete in the SUV sector within one company.

While much is yet to be known of the new vehicle, it will be made of aluminum. This is the material for all Jaguars of the future. That includes the new compact rear-wheel drive the new model to be below the XF, However, the current XK platform is too large for this compact model and the new model will not be sufficient to meet the development cost of the new platform, so the Jag SUV will help spread that wide enough to warrant the investment.

This new SUV is expected to surface in 2015, fitted with the all-wheel drive system currently being developed for the 2013 XJ saloon car. Engines planned are the 2.6 and 3.0 L V6 diesels, in petrol form perhaps a four cylinder turbo, and a hybrid model too. All the engines will be mated to an 8-speed auto box. (As to how it will look, see picture).

My summation: A must have for Jaguar, but another case of JLR following the pack - very tardily in this instance.

Special BMW Car Polish

Someone once said that people will buy anything with a BMW badge on it. I suppose that provers that the company has managed its brand very well. That means they sell better than they should, even models not that well executed. The above 1-Series is a classic case of that. While a good drive, it was also impractical, as the rear seating and boot area were very cramped. While some may not worry on that score, many who bought it probably did need those features, but the badge mesmerised them. As for looks, I saw it as fairly ugly. I believe one motoring scribe likened it to looking like a van. Again, badgeophiles would not even notice (I just created a new word).

Some say that if you stuck a BMW badge on a turd, it would sell. A turd is a piece of dung, something unpleasant or contemptible. Now I'm not saying BMWs are bad, but below is pictured a new product for BMW owners. I'm sure it will sell well, even more so if sold at authorised dealer showrooms.

To sum up: A must have for all those enamoured by the blue and white logo, especially for 1 Series and X6 drivers. Of course, choose the matching colour polish.