30 June 2012

The Austin / MG Montego

The Austin / MG Montego started life in 1984. It should have been released sooner, but for issues within the company at the time. It replaced the Ital model, which was an unfortunate facelift of the Morris Marina. I remember seeing some around NZ, although not in large numbers. The car itself was underrated by the typically cynical British media and public. I guess years of poor management at BL didn't help. It was a good drive by all accounts, practical and garnered many happy owners. For some it was staid and unimaginative.

The figures below show production figures, followed by UK sales, position achieved in the UK for that year and the percentage of UK sales against production numbers. Comparing production data with sales figures isn't perfect but gives a reasonable insight.

Year Prod UK Pos % UK
1984 58,800 34,700 11th 59%
1985 95,900 74,000 7th 77%
1986 70,600 62,700 7th 89%
1987 73,400 56,200 8th 77%
1988 79,500 63,600 8th 80%
1989 76,500 57,800 10th 76%
1990 50,700 43,800 12th 86%
1991 24,500 23,100 19th 94%
1992 12,900 7,500 ? 58%
1993 15,300 8,200 45th 54%
1994 14,500 7,800 49th 54%
Total 572,600 439,400
Avg 52,050 39,950

Clearly the car needed to have a much larger export market. 77% of cars made sold in the UK was far too many. Some markets I found peak sales for France and The Netherlands are as follows (I'm unsure if Spain and Germany are the best figures):

France 5,100 1990
Spain 4,200 1989
Germany 1,600 1986
Netherlands 800 1986

The Montego should go down in history as a brave effort. In France and Spain it sold well, but German buyers clearly didn't give it a fair go. I believe the French particularly went for the Estate (Wagon) version. BL was poorly managed and Montego production was hampered by industrial unrest. It deserved better.

It was replaced by the Rover 600 (see article on that car under "Brand - BL / MGR")

Pics: http://www.vpoc.info/vpmont.htm

26 June 2012

Snow And The Car

We never get snow where I live, but recently we had a flurry of snow over night. By the time I went out with the camera, most had gone and only traces remained in sheltered spots. I sent off photos to friends about our rare 'snow fall'. My relative in Canada must have chuckled. Anyway, here is some real snow in Russia. I cannot imagine how it must feel digging your car out. Would anyone like to share a though if it is what you have experienced?

21 June 2012

JD Power Reliabilty Survey USA: 2012

I'm not a huge fan of reliability surveys. Some failures are minor, others major. Some not really an issue, others really frustrating or annoying. These surveys don't seem to differentiate. Also, really poor reliability does go against a brand, but generally people don't get put off. Customer satisfaction is much broader than this sort of survey. Are they useless? No, otherwise I wouldn't bother mentioning them. Accept them for what they are and it may confirm of change your opinion of certain marques. For those who just want a reliable car over all other concerns, you will love this JD Power Survey.

According to JD Power "Overall initial quality for the industry improves by 5 problems per 100 vehicles to average 102 in 2012-an improvement of 5% from 2011. There are gains in most areas with one notable exception--audio, entertainment, and navigation problems have increased by 8%. This continues a recent trend, as problems in this category have increased by 45% percent since 2006 while other categories have improved by 24% percent, on average".

Lexus 73
Jaguar 75
Porsche 75
Cadillac 80
Honda 83
Acura 84
Infiniti 84
Toyota 88
Mercedes 96
BMW 97
Mazda 97
GMC 99
Nissan 99
Ram 99
Chevrolet 100

Average 102

Audi 105
Buick 106
Hyundai 107
Kia 107
Lincoln 107
Volvo 108
Subaru 109
Jeep 110
Suzuki 115
Chrysler 116
Scion 117
Ford 118
Land Rover 119
Dodge 124
Mitsubishi 124
Volkswagen 124
MINI 139
Fiat 151
smart 151

One thing I notice when reading comments on websites is how some people still thing a car's reliability twenty or thirty years ago will be the same now. For such ones, read the list and learn. Jaguar was an unreliable brand many decades ago, now it is at the top of most lists. JAGUARS ARE NOW VERY RELIABLE. More so than Merc, BMW and Audi. Audi is below average and VW is virtually last. Fiat hasn't changed over the years it seems. Smart surprises, as does MINI. The last three all sell small premium cars!

So take what you will from it. Such surveys have their place, but they only tell part of the story. How happy customers are tells you the rest.

Read more at: http://autos.jdpower.com/ratings/quality-press-release.htm

18 June 2012

Car Production Austria: 2011

Yes, they make cars in this alpine country, thanks to a Canadian owned company named Magna Steyr. All cars made here are from this company, made for other companies. In fact, it is the largest contract manufacturer for vehicles in the world. So how did things pan out on 2011:

MINI Countryman 89,000 +260%
BMW X3 17,900 -44%
Peugeot RCZ 13,700 _29%
M Benz SLS AMG/G-Class 7,200 +31%
Aston Martin Rapide 1,500 +0%

Total 129,300 +46%

Chrysler has just ceased making cars in Austria after many years. The X3 has finished I believe and the Rapide goes to the UK about now. Production was 209,000 in 2004, but by building for other car makers makes the whole operation subject to fluctuations. That accepted, it has done well to maintain as much consistency as it has.

15 June 2012

Honda Civic Ninth Generation

The ninth generation Civic has arrived down under. I remember the first one, a strong selling small car introduced forty years ago. The car has grown and been refined a great deal since the first model. However, this incarnation has hardly changed from the preceding model, despite every body panel being new apparently. Evolutionary you would have to say.

I took a saloon (sedan) model for a run the other day and must say it is a very nice car. It is very smooth to drive, economical, and has a feel of quality. You could drive many miles with minimum fuss and arrive fresh. It has plenty of room within the both the cabin and boot (trunk) areas. I was very impressed. As touched on already, they could have been more daring with the styling, but that aside it's hard to criticise.

The variation that has never been available in NZ is the 5 door Euro Civic....until now. It is just being released and if that model has what the 4 door version has - but with a practical hatch back area - then surely that would be the one to pick. It will available in En Zed at the end of May '12. With the Pound quite weak, there is now a business case to send it all the way down here.

14 June 2012

Car Production Germany: 2011

Car production in Germany was strong in 2011. Porsche led the way, partly at the expense of manufacturing at Finland's Valmet plant. The only positional change was BMW passing Mercedes. Opel would have dropped more but I didn't count Belgian production in the German figure of 2010, despite many sources doing so.

1 VW 1,459,900 +12.0%
2 Audi 1,109,000 +11.6%
3 BMW 1,025,400 +8.9%
4 M B 1,021,400 +4.4%
5 Ford 730,100 +0.0%
6 Opel 452,400 -4.1%
7 Porsch 119,000 +33.5%
Others 400 -4.3%

Total 5,917,700

It seems that growth is what can be expected in the future.

Pic: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

07 June 2012

BMW MINI Engine Milestone: 2012

The three-millionth engine has been produced at BMW Group's UK engine plant circa Birmingham. Four-cylinder petrol engines have been built at Plant Hams Hall for over a decade. The engines go to plants in Germany, Austria and Oxford, UK, currently powering the BMW X1, 1 Series and new BMW 3 Series, as well as all MINI petrol models. Facilities are to be upgraded at the Hams Hall plant to enable production of a new generation low-emission petrol and diesel engines.

Production for BMW engines in the UK:

01 * 70,000
02 * 154,000
03 * 124,000
04 * 146,000
05 * 181,000
06 * 217,000
07 * 367,000
08 * 371,269
09 * 362,300
10 * 385,051
11 * 433,689
12 * 188,691
Tot 3,000,000

While German premium brands sell well in the UK, it seems that only BMW put anything of substance back into the economy. 800 people are employed at the engine plant.

06 June 2012

Car Sales Korea (Total): 2011

When you look at the Korean market, you soon see something is amiss. When people are offered choice, unhindered by government intervention, then many brands will do well. Import duties among other things create imbalanced sales. That is what has happened in Korea. It wants to export, but not import, an attitude seen across Asia. To see what I mean, below shows passenger car sales for 2011, market share and percentage change:

1 Hyundai 499,043
39.7% +3.5%
2 Kia 436,672
33.2% +0.4%
3 GM Daewoo 127,697
9.7% +13.5%
4 Samsung 109,221
8.3% -29.9%
5 Ssangyong 38,651
2.9% +19.1%
Imports 105,037
8.0% +16.0%
Total 1,313,321
0.6% increase.

Imports are making inroads, a positive trend that looks likely to continue. Still, most imports are premium models, not everyday hacks. Therefore, it must be an incredibly boring place to buy a basic car if all you can consider is a few local models. I recently tested a Hyundai i20, and cars don't come any more ordinary than that one does. Zzzzz.

In summary: Hopefully one day more imports and better selection of fairly priced cars for Korean buyers.

Source: Kama

02 June 2012

Customer Satisfaction Survey UK: 2012

I prefer customer satisfaction surveys as they cover a broader field than just a reliability one. If customers feel satisfied with the car they bought, they will more likely return to the brand next time.

The J.D. Power & Associates/What Car? 2012 UK Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study according to the jdpower.com website "is based on owner evaluations of their vehicle and dealer across 67 attributes grouped in four measures of satisfaction. In order of importance: vehicle appeal, which includes performance, design, comfort and features; ownership costs, including fuel consumption, insurance and costs of service/repair; vehicle quality and reliability; and dealer service satisfaction".
I'm sorry I couldn't get it clearer. I wrote out the data in case you cannot see it well on your screen.

Jaguar 828
Lexus 801
Skoda 801
Honda 797
Mercedes 794
Toyota 793
Audi 786
VW 781
Volvo 779
BMW 778
Land Rover 774
Average 770
Kia 769
Seat 769
MINI 768
Ford 765
Mazda 763
Peugeot 763
Alfa Romeo 762
Citroen 760
Hyundai 760
Mitsubishi 757
Renault 756
Suzuki 753
Fiat 748
Vauxhall 747
Chevrolet 713

The results show Jaguar was an easy winner. Respondents felt Jaguar "performs particularly well in the service satisfaction, vehicle appeal, and vehicle quality and reliability measures". That seems to cover most bases.

At the other end, Chevrolet from Korea were well off the pace. With Vauxhall just above, not a good result for GM. French and Italian brands were disappointing also. Hyundai was well below par, which is interesting.