30 September 2011

Some MG Rover Sales Peaks Of The 90's

When BMW took over MG Rover, they lost Honda as MGR's partner and cost savings associated with the tie-up. BMW's bizarre response was to quickly ramp up sales to get volumes and maintain profitability. However, you simply cannot turn a relatively small, almost niche manufacturer into a much larger company over night. MGR quickly sank into red ink and BMW mocked it's "English patient', rather than admit it screwed up big time.
Anyway, the brief sales flurry of the relatively small company did produce a few highlights. Below are sales from peaks in the 90's in certain markets, market share and rankings:

1997 Italy 57,700 2.4% 10th two years running
1994 France 47,000 2.4% 8th three consecutive years
1998 Spain 23,000 1.9% 11th
1998 Portugal 6,600 2.7% 11th (10th one year)

Some good figures and market shares there. All these figures exclude Land Rover, they cover the car range only. The problem is shown in the statistics above. Notice how only Southern European nations appear. Northern Europeans were not as keen, especially the critical UK home market, where sales were high but declining through the decade. Of course BMW needed a partner to replace Honda - not just sales - as they would never be enough to support MGR carrying new model development costs on its own. BMW know how to manage premium brands but not mass produced ones. It is all about big volumes at the lower end.

Now SAIC will try to do what BMW failed so badly at, getting MGs back on the roads en masse. They will do a better job eventually, but with more patience shown.

26 September 2011

The VW-Suzuki Fall Out

Two years ago VW bought a 20% share of Suzuki and Suzuki a 1.5% share of VW. Why? Suzuki is strong in both small car manufacturing and the Asia region - especially India, things that VW could benefit from. Suzuki could gain from power train technology and perhaps larger car making, areas that Suzuki lag in.

Now Suzuki has agreed to buy from Fiat some diesel engines, something VW says breaches the terms of its joint agreement. Suzuki says it does not. VW says pull out of the deal, but Suzuki says it would be too costly to do so. Suzuki now wants out of the alliance, with both sides buying out of the cross share arrangement. VW has not wish to do so. Suzuki also wants VW to retract its allegation of breaching its agreement because it hurts Suzuki's reputation.

In reality it is hard to see what has been achieved in the last two years of this tie up, as it seems little or nothing has been shared. Also, the problem with any alliance is deciding whether is it an equal partnership, or is one going to be the dominant partner. I think Suzuki saw it as the former, while VW the latter. It will be interesting to see where it will end.

In summary: German bossiness meets Japanese pride...ouch.

23 September 2011

Toyota vs Nissan: Japan

Traditionally the big two car brands in Japan are Toyota and Nissan. In 1975 for example, their combined sales accounted for nearly 70% of the Japanese market! (See chart below). Understandably, that hasn't been maintained. In fact, Nissan has slipped to third occasionally of late; the italicised figures below show when on this chart that occurred. The 2011 sales figure is for the first six months of the year. All sales figures are in thousands, so please add three zeros:

Year       Toyota       Nissan
1970 709,000 29.8% 588,000 24.7%
1975 1,073,000 39.2% 856,000 29.4%
1980 1,064,000 37.3% 828,000 29.0%
1985 1,323,000 42.6% 781,000 25.2%
1990 1,893,000 37.1% 1,057,000 20.7%
1995 1,373,000 31.2% 827,000 14.0%
2000 1,216,000 28.5% 691,000 11.8%
2005 1,507,000 31.8% 744,000 15.7%
2010 1,415,000 33.6% 566,000 13.4%
2011 433,000 26.9% 244,000 15.1%

The 2011 figure is ugly for Toyota, although in any other context over a quarter of the market for a brand would be considered good. Nissan on the other hand is making a bit of a comeback with more interesting cars than many of its rivals.

When you add all the other Japanese brands to these two, you realise how insignificant import brands are in the country. With a mixture of crafty measures and strong loyalty, foreign makes remain on the periphery.

Figures: JAMA

21 September 2011

New JLR Engine Plant For Wolverhampton, UK

Jaguar Land Rover has announced plans to open a new engine factory in Wolverhampton, to make advanced technology, low-emission engines in the U.K. West Midlands businesses will benefit, with up to 750 highly-skilled engineering and manufacturing jobs to be created, as well as flow on employment also. The plant will be situated on a 297-acre site at the i54 business park in South Staffordshire, recently named as an enterprise zone site.

As always, good news for one region, not so others. In this case some in South Wales - where the engines are currently made - had hoped to benefit, with the new plant being located there. I think the new location in Staffordshire makes sense. Hopefully Wales will benefit from other investments.

The majority of JLR's current engine line-up is built in a dedicated Jaguar facility within Ford's Bridgend plant in South Wales as part of a tie-up between the two manufacturers. Jaguar and Land Rover were both owned by Ford until recently, but new owner Tata is now moving to greater independence on the engine front.

In summary: Great news for the South Staffordshire area, and it is important more fuel efficient engines find their way under JLR bonnets.

19 September 2011

Ten Years & Two Million MINIs

BMW's MINI has hit a double milestone. There have been ten years of building the new 'not so mini' MINI at Oxford, England and in that time two million of them have also rolled off the production line. Over the last decade, one Mini has been made at the plant every 68 seconds. That is impressive by any standards.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron took this photo opportunity, where he also congratulated workers on the achievement. He also toured the new production line presently being constructed, where the next generation BMW Mini is to be made.

The car was a MINI Cooper Convertible as you can see, with an ugly decal on the door. This MINI is to be won in a Facebook giveaway. Being a left hand drive car could be interesting if the winner drives on the other side of the road.

MINI has been a good export earner for the UK, with in excess of 1.5 million of them exported. In the first half of 2011, the principal overseas markets were USA (29,800), Germany (20,200), France (10,800) and Italy (10,600). The UK total was 24,600.

17 September 2011

Opel vs VW: Nederland

For decades GM Opel was easily the top brand in the Netherlands. Of late VW came up as an opponent and what ensued can be seen below. The first column is the year, 2nd - Opel's sales followed by position in the market and percentage of market held, 3rd - the same but for VW:

Year Opel
1985 88,000 1 17.7% 39,000 3 7.8%
1990 72,000 1 14.2% 39,000 4 7.8%
1995 63,000 1 14.1% 48,000 2 11.7%
2000 77,000 1 12.9% 71,000 2 11.9%
2005 44,000 2 9.6% 45,000 1 9.7%
2010 23,000 5 7.0% 35,000 1 10.7%

Opel's market share is down from nearly 18% to only 7% in that time and its position from 1st to 5th. VW meanwhile has increased share by three percentage points and gone top from 4th in 1990. GM has been strapped for cash at times and the product, while OK, is not class leading. VW does has good quality, if not particularly good value. I would personally pick Ford Europe as offering a better all round range than either of the above makes, but that marque only sold the same number of cars as Opel - just beating it to 4th spot.

In summary: GM Europe needs to work hard is it hopes to claw back lost ground on the sales front.

16 September 2011

The Jaguar XF 2.2D Is Here

Jaguar sales have been slower of late, no doubt people have been awaiting the refreshed XF model. Well along with the facelift, the new XF 2.2D has arrived with a refined 4 cylinder turbo diesel engine. It is now mated to a new 8-speed gearbox with an amazing combined fuel consumption of 5.4 l/100km, capable of travelling 1250km on a single tank of diesel...wow. This engine option is expected to make up 60% of XF sales worldwide. It will be especially popular in Europe and in fact, since 2008 over 37,000 XFs have been sold in the UK alone. With this new engine, sales will be brisk to say the least.

The 4 cylinder diesel engine in the premium segment is apparently very popular in Europe, and Jag simply hasn't been there. Estate models are likewise sort after and Jag still isn't there yet. Still, it's good to know that they are now taking on more than a fraction of the XF's potential market. When executives from competing marques see this new 2.2D model, along with the just released LR Evoque, they surely must find themselves soiling their lederhosen. I know I would if I was in their position. Now they have real competition....

14 September 2011

The Jaguar C-X16 Concept Revealed

Jaguar's C-X16 compact sports car, which has just been shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show is the Company's smallest car since the 1954, XK120. It is a compact, rear-wheel drive, two-seater, underpinned by immensely strong aluminium architecture with 50:50 weight distribution. The C-X16 is powered by an supercharged 3.0-litre V6 producing heaps of power and torque. A hybrid system controlled by a steering-wheel mounted 'Push to Pass' button boosts output also.

It has a top speed of 300 km/h, and can reach the legal speed limit faster than a flick of a lamb's tail. Excellent overtaking acceleration is most useful for safe driving when stuck behind a slow BMW/Merc/Audi (we've all been there).

I am sure they will build it. So much to do, so little time.

Photos: SpeedLux

12 September 2011

Renault, Peugeot & Citroen Sales France: 1980-2010

Below is a list showing how the big three brands have fared over the last three decades in the French car market. Renault has been the number one brand all that time, but is now under pressure to keep it that way. All the figures are in thousands, so you need to add three zeros. The first column is the year, 2nd - Renault's total French sales and market share, 3rd - the same but for Peugeot, 4th - again for Citroen:

Year / - Renault - / - Peugeot - / - Citroen -
1980 / 759 40.5% / 293 15.7% / 271 14.5%
1985 / 508 28.7% / 364 20.6% / 227 12.8%
1990 / 639 27.7% / 498 21.6% / 267 11.6%
1995 / 564 29.2% / 342 17.7% / 241 12.5%
2000 / 602 28.2% / 398 18.6% / 262 12.3%
2005 / 524 25.4% / 362 17.5% / 271 13.1%
2010 / 498 22.1% / 401 17.8% / 328 14.6%

Back in 1980, a combined Peugeot & Citroen (PSA) was well short of Renault. However, Renault has steadily declined whilst both PSA brands have increased. Of course, Renault's 1980 market share was never going to be sustained and the brand is now more focused on making profit than simply moving metal.

09 September 2011

The Value Ford Mondeo

In my Top Gear Magazine for August, 2011, it says this about the Ford Mondeo: We like - $100k luxury for half the price. We don't like - $100k luxury with a Ford badge. I think this is the frustration that Ford Europe face. It makes cars that eat Mercs and Audis on value for money, but the former two have snob value badges. Are people that shallow? Yes, it seems. I would rather have a very fine Ford Mondeo, offering the quality of a car twice its value, than a snob brand offering scarcely anything more tangibly bar a whopping price tag.

Pics: ZerCustoms

07 September 2011

Ford Sales UK: 1980-2010

Below is a list showing how Ford has slid in the last three decades on the UK sales charts. Ford has been the number one brand all that time, but is now fighting a rearguard action to maintain it. All the figures are rounded with three zeros. The first column is the year, 2nd - Ford's total UK sales and UK market share, 3rd - top Ford model that year preceded by position achieved, followed by sales, 4th - second Ford model that year preceded by position achieved, followed by sales.

Year Ford Share

1980 465,000 30.7% 1 Cortina 190,000
2 Escort 122,000
1985 486,000 26.5% 1 Escort 157,000
3 Fiesta 124,000
1990 507,000 25.3% 1 Fiesta 151,000
2 Escort 142,000
1995 411,000 21.1% 1 Escort 138,000
2 Fiesta 130,000
2000 374,000 16.8% 1 Focus 115,000
3 Fiesta 92,000
2005 348,000 14.2% 1 Focus 145,000
5 Fiesta 84,000
2010 280,000 13.8% 1 Fiesta 103,000
4 Focus 78,000

Ford's share is down each period. The market has gone that way over the years, with car buying choice diversifying. However, it does reflect Ford has lost dominance and Vauxhall in particular has been closing in. Does Ford have the product and marketing savvy to fight off other brands? I think it has the former, but regarding the latter, I cannot say.

05 September 2011

China To Reduce Car Sales

This was always going to happen. I am only surprised it didn't happen sooner. China wants to be a power in the auto industry. It insisted on joint ventures to get technology transfer from the West to China, and then have strong Chinese brands. That hasn't happened to the degree hoped. Pressure on foreign manufacturers to have components made locally - not imported - and massive duty on fully built up cars shows the real intent. Stimulating the market with incentives has led to car makers increasing capacity with indecent haste. Now the market will be cooled and suddenly over capacity will be the problem.

Of course, there are congestion issues but why overheat the market aggressively? I could see it coming. So what will car makers in China do? Accept the fact they will have factories well short of full production or will they start exporting? There has been no opportunity to export so far when burgeoning sales meant meeting demand
within China was all they could do anyway. I wonder what pressure car makers will experience when reduced Chinese sales take full effect? Workers will have to be laid off. Western brands have plants to protect all around the world and they cannot unleash a flood of cars made in China. I wait with interest.

In summary: I suspect China doesn't really want a car industry dominated by foreign brands and not exporting much either.

02 September 2011

Best 4x4?

In a new MSN Cars poll, just under 40,000 people were asked the question "Which firm makes the best '4x4' type cars". They were invited to choose their favourite from a list of 12 leading 4x4 manufacturers. The result?

Land Rover 54%
Toyota 9%
Audi 8%
BMW 6%
Mitsubishi 5%
Subaru 4%
Jeep 3%
Mercedes-B 3%
Lexus 2%
Volkswagen 2%
Volvo 2%

That is an emphatic result, but not really surprising. I would have voted the same way. They do make consistently the best off road vehicles, that actually look good too. The new Evoque will only add to that reputation too.

Source: http://tiny.cc/72nhc