31 August 2012

Car Stats And What It May Tell Us

When looking around the world for car sales statistics, it is amazing how varied the quality of data that is freely available to the public. Western countries are the most open whereas emerging nations not so, and this tells us about the thinking of those areas. However, even within regions, variance is very much in evidence.

As an example, I'll give my experiences with Scandinavian countries to see what we learn about them. Scores will be allocated on quality of the data, both detail and presentation (1), how quickly it is released (2), how helpful if contacted (3). 10 points for the first one, five for the other two:

Nations 01 2 3 Tot
Sweden 09 5 5 19
Finland 09 4 5 18
Iceland 09 4 3 16
Denmrk 09 1 0 10
Norway 01 5 1 7

So what did I learn about these nations? Sweden, Finland and Iceland are open in their dealings with others. I don't recall contacting Iceland so gave a default 3 on #3. Both Sweden and Finland are extremely helpful when contacted. What I learned that was new to me was Finland is much more open and helpful than I thought. Iceland is more open than I expected but I knew nothing before anyway. I guessed that Sweden was anyway so as expected for that nation. Top marks to them.

Denmark surprised me. Good data, but very slow and no reply if contacted. Norway seems inward looking and insular. Data is well presented and speedy but very limited. If you contact them, any reply is suspicious and then unhelpful.

I wonder if people familiar with these nations would verify if these findings fit their national character. Surprising the differences considering their closeness.

26 August 2012

The Rover 200: 2000-05

This is one of four articles about the Rover 200/25 model.
The facelifted 200 was named the 25 and certainly the new look was attractive. Within a year, BMW sold Rover to the Phoenix consortium, a group that didn’t have the resources to revive the company from the state BMW had left it in. A new vehicle was needed, but it would never eventuate.

The new owners tried to leverage all they could from the car, bringing out a sporty MG ZR model in 2001 which proved very successful. In 2003, an ‘urban on road’ car followed named the Streetwise. With a higher ride and body moldings, it was a smart idea with limited success. Production for the three variations were as follows:

1999 19,200 (91,400)
2000 76,900
2001 70,800 (25 - 62,000 / ZR 8,800)
2002 60,700 (25 - 38,100 / ZR 22,600)
2003 58,200 (25 - 28,500 / ZR 22,750 / SW 6,950)
2004 43,450 (25 - 17,400 / ZR 19,600 / SW 6,450)
2005 14,200 (25 - 5,500 / ZR 7,850 / SW 850)
The 2005 figure was only for a few months before the axe fell. The ZR overtook the standard 25 model in 2004, such was its popularity. Unfortunately the 25 needed to sell better. The Streetwise did too little to help the situation. Then MG Rover was gone.

It didn't end there though as the model was bought by SAIC in China and then sold as the MG 3. However, this article is about UK production and sales, so no data from this is included.

PS. Sales for the 25/ZR/SW in selected markets. Spain eventually became the biggest export market, with Portugal not bad for its size. Overall, the sales slide is there for all to see as the aging car just couldn’t hold out against newer offerings from its competitors (2005 is for a few months only):

Year UK Italy Spain Germ Franc Nederl Port Gree Swit Belg
2000 45,500 9,850 ? 6,150 5,350 850 ? 700 ? ?
2001 47,500 4,750 ? 2,900 3,250 400 ? 550 350 ?
2002 43,800 3,400 ? 750 2,400 200 ? 250 375 650
2003 42,900 3,500 4,750 1,500 2,400 400 1,250 200 250 450
2004 30,700 3,200 4,400 1,200 2,300 450 1,200 300 150 600
2005 13,000 1,700 1,750 800 1,000 300 325 250 ? 400

Germany 2000 figure includes 400 series.

Pics of 25 & SW: www.rover-forum.thersr.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=22

The Rover 200: 1996-99

This is one of four articles about the Rover 200/25 model.

The final version of the 200 series (R3) was the most British of them all. It was the best looking in my opinion, but not the best packaged. By the time it was released the sad divorce between Honda and Rover was complete. BMW was the new owner and Honda didn’t want to remain in the alliance if that was the case. It was a reasonable decision by Honda, but effectively was the beginning of the end for Rover.

Below are production figures for the R3. The figure in brackets includes the previous/next model:

1995 3,500 (95,900)
1996 108,900
1997 144,000
1998 145,000
1999 72,200 (91,400)

R3 production climbed as BMW pushed sales, but profits didn’t follow and in 1999, you can see BMW was giving up on Rover. Losing any cost savings that the Honda tie up had brought, nor any other partner sought by BMW, increasing losses were inevitable. The R3 needed replacing, but nothing was in the pipeline. The only option was a facelift and soldier on, not a decision with any future.

PS. Sales for the 200 in selected markets. The sales push of the late 90’s had done well in countries such as Italy, but the critical UK market was down on the previous model:

Year UK Italy Germany France Nederl Denm
1996 53,600 10,475 ? 11,700 1250 180
1997 62,400 31,500 ? 10,000 1500 330
1998 64,900 24,600 13000 10,000 1750 180
1999 45,700 15,900 10,100 11,700 1450 170

Pics: www.rover-forum.thersr.co.uk & en.wikipedia.org

25 August 2012

The Rover 200: 1990-95

This is one of four articles about the Rover 200/25 model.

The second generation Rover 200 (R8) was a model that came as a 3-door, 5-door, 2-door coupe, 2-door cabriolet and 5-door estate (wagon). It also had several engine options, both petrol and diesel. The variations were a big lift from the previous model. Rover were serious about this car. The 4-door version was called the 400 and was often combined with the 200 in statistics, which I don’t agree with. True, it was basically the same car, but was marketed with a separate model number and as a unique variation. Regardless, how did the new 200 go? The production data is as below. The figure in brackets includes the previous/next model.

1989 10,200 (97,000)
1990 96,200
1991 112,200
1992 108,400
1993 110,300
1994 140,300
1995 92,400 (95,900)

Considering the step up on series one, I think production figures were a bit disappointing. The car had gone a little up market though and production was up on the series one. The 200 range had created a solid foundation for Rover, winning back consumer confidence and customers. The future looked bright for the company. Could the next model continue the momentum?

PS. The UK, France and the Netherlands sales are below. The French certainly took to the car positively. The Netherlands figure may be a bit low due to the fact the source is vague with a few figures.

Year Britain / France / Neder
1990 62,500 / _7,150 / 1,050
1991 68,100 / 11,800 / 1,850
1992 77,200 / 13,100 / 1,150
1993 77,800 / 15,800 / 1,300
1994 80,300 / 20,300 / 1,150
1995 68,100 / 16,000 / _800

Pics: www.rover-forum.thersr.co.uk

24 August 2012

The Rover 200: 1984-89

This is one of four articles about the Rover 200/25 model.

The Rover Group was formed out the mess that BL had become. It needed to get its act together and quickly if it was to survive. It started collaborating with Honda, which was very successful for both parties but especially Rover. Rover had done well with the first attempt the Triumph Acclaim, a rebadged Honda Ballade. They then replaced that car with the Rover 200 (SD3) in 1984, based on the new Ballade. It came in 4-door configuration only, with either a 1300 or 1600cc engine. Initially production was modest, but it improved as the car’s quality became recognised. Production figures as below:

1984 26,300
1985 65,800
1986 62,500
1987 76,300
1988 92,200
1989 86,800 (97,000)

1989 full year in brackets, including next model. You can see the increase through its production cycle. Usually a new model peaks early, then falls away until it is replaced. The 200 sales grew as buyers gained confidence in it, such was the damage BL had done to the company. Could the next version of the car continue the momentum?

PS. Some sales figures by country. Limited but hard to find. They are the UK, France, Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

Year Britain Franc Spain Ger Ned
1984 ? 1,600 ? ? ?
1985 43,700 2,800 1,150 250 550
1986 45,200 5,250 ? 950 900
1987 50,300 6,200 ? 1,000 850
1988 58,900 5,750 ? 900 650
1989 68,300 6,400 5,000 ? 750

You can see heavy reliance on the UK for the Rover 200, with solid if unspectacular sales in Europe. Any more sales data anyone can add, please let me know. Thank you.

PPS. Excellent data can be seen in the outstanding website aronline:

22 August 2012

Ford vs GM Opel

These two brands are well established European brands, despite their US origin and ownership. Many years ago Ford had separate units in the UK and Germany, as did GM under the brands Opel and Vauxhall. Ford still develops its Euro offerings in both countries, whereas Opel now runs GM Europe.

Historically Ford has been strongest in the UK, but GM outperformed Ford on the mainland. In more recent times, GM has been overtaken in Europe. GM US took too much money out its European operation and not enough went into R & D. Buyers realised Ford had the edge and there was a shift to the blue oval brand. GM Europe has been playing catch up but has it been enough?

The Insignia model is as example of what Opel/Vauxhall can do. It outsells the Mondeo and that is a good car in itself. However the Fiesta/Focus are outperforming the Corsa/Astra. Ford is still selling better, but both are losing money in Europe. I would definitely buy either over say an Audi, which offers poor value in comparison. Choosing either Ford of GM would give you a value for money offering, but in my opinion generally Ford makes the better car its Ford Europe for me.

17 August 2012

The New 2013 Range Rover

I like to see changes in the look of a car from one model to another. That can be difficult if the current model is a winner in that department, or if management is too risk averse. BMW has a problem with the former with the iconic MINI, and most Japanese firms now have the latter problem.

Which brings us to the the new Range Rover. It is a classic car, in style and the change it brought about in starting a whole new genre. I have to say, this 2013 styling effort is definitely evolutionary. They will get away with that for now, but you don't want a car to end up like the Civic sedan, hard to tell the last six models apart.

So what does the new vehicle bring to the table? I will let LR tell us:

1• Unmistakably a Range Rover, a modern interpretation of iconic design cues
2• Legendary Land Rover off-road capability with transformed on-road handling and agility
3• Lighter, stronger and more refined. The world’s first SUV with an all-aluminum unibody structure
4• Weight savings of up to 926lbs (420kg) when compared to the outgoing model delivers improved fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions. A US specification V8 model is approximately 700lbs lighter than similarly equipped outgoing model
5• A more spacious and luxurious interior provides a truly composed motoring experience for all occupants. Rear legroom increases 4.7 inches

The first one is what I was saying above, not much change in appearance. Secondly, it still goes like stink off road but does it on road now too. Third and fourth, the biggie. The RR has ditched the take aways and super sizing the fries for lettuce salad and smoked salmon. Finally, more room in the back when being chauffeured around, or for those gangly legged kids.

In summary: What LR had to address was the weight and CO2 emissions, while retaining what a Range Rover is all about. Mission accomplished.

15 August 2012

Mercedes Benz CLS Shooting Brake 2013

Is this the ugliest car to be released this year? I cannot believe all the money MB would have spent on this, and this is the prettiest they could make it. They are trying to make a wagon shape look sporty. What they created was this bizarre monstrosity. The even more amazing thing is that some people will buy it because of the badge and the fact that it will be a quality vehicle. Why can't you have that and not look like a prat driving around in the thing?

Now if you want to know how to make a Shooting break look good enough to want to been seen in it, then this is how to do it...

More conservative, but nicely shaped, sporty, contemporary and a quality car as well. See MB, it can be done.

13 August 2012

Honda vs Peugeot

Comparing Honda and Peugeot may seem an unusual choice. However, many of their models go head to head, so why not? One way they are similar is that neither has been doing much to broaden the range of vehicles they sell. Peugeot have recently gone to Mitsubishi for a SUV vehicle model to sell under its brand, something you would think it would have done for itself years ago. Meanwhile Honda have kept its range fairly simple, with fuel efficiency its main focus it seems.

As for differences, Peugeot is mainly sold in Europe, while Honda is strongest in Asia. Honda is bigger, although I do not have up to date data on that. In 2010, Honda produced 3,650,000 cars and the Peugeot brand 2,150,000. Honda are known for reliable but staid styling, while Peugeot are more innovative in the design department, but not always popular in customer satisfaction surveys. Peugeots are a better drive.

So which has the better car range? I would be choosing between Peugeot’s styling and better handling or Honda’s rock solid reliability.

Which one would have me opening my wallet? I would find it a straight forward decision. Models like the Civic hatch and the Jazz (Fit) have some clever features, are miserly on fuel and so well made. I don’t believe Peugeots are engineered to the same level. Diesel motors are a strong point for Pugs, but in NZ at least, buying a diesel car is a crazy decision*. Yes it would be Honda for me. Now if only Honda NZ would be more reasonable in the way they price their new cars....

*The expensive separate fuel tax and much higher registration cost are bizarre.

08 August 2012

BMW & PR Spin

Putting a positive spin on a negative is the way of business today. BMW is very good at it. Take the second quarter of 2012 for example. Revenue was up 7% on increased sales, but net profit was down 28%. When I see those figures a bell goes off in my head saying 'warning'! How can sales and therefore revenue be climbing, while profits tumble?

Here is where the spin comes in. BMW said increased staff costs, higher spending on research and development, and stiff competition had caused the fall in profits. The figures also suffered by comparison with record profits a year earlier. Then BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer said the BMW group is continuing to perform extremely well by having "achieved new sales volume and revenue highs as well as the second-best operating profit in the company's history."

So lets analyse the situation. BMW achieved record profits last year on record sales. This year on yet more record sales, a profit slump. Hmmm. Of course, staff cost and R & D increases. Yeah, right. Increased sales should have covered for that. The real problem is reducing margins to maintain increasing sales and retaining top spot as the number one premium brand, in BMW speak 'stiff competition'. At what price is BMW prepared to slash profit to continue at #1?

The real situation: BMW is feeling the heat particularly from Audi, which keeps development costs down through it being part of VW Group. BMW is trumpeting record sales through its PR department, but at what cost? It will be interesting to see how things pan out over the rest of the year, regarding the bottom line. Record sales should push profit up so are BMW going down the wrong road on this, masking things with a little PR spin ?

06 August 2012

The European Car Crisis: VW / Fiat 2012

Not to labour the point for too long, the final installment in this series compares VW and Fiat in Western Europe. Fiat was the darling of the region many moons ago, with models such as the 125, 127 and 128. Ah, those were the days. VW has been more consistent, in fact consolidating its position of late. Going back as far as I have data, VW was third in 1990 (10.4% share) and Fiat fourth (9.9%) in Europe West.

Things are different today, as the stats below from Europe's four largest markets reveals, as well as Europe total sales. This is for Jan-Jun '12:

1 VW 21.9%
11 Fiat 2.5%

3 VW 9.1%
15 Fiat 2.5%

1 Fiat 20.6%
2 VW 8.1%

4 VW 7.3%
7 Fiat 3.5%

Europe West
1 VW 12.9%
9 Fiat 4.8%

Fiat needs to shut a factory or two if it hopes to be profitable in the region. VW on the other hand has no such problem. Fiat cars are not as good as they used to be, hence it's need to downsize. VW cars are solid, but the brand's success surprises me. VW cars are not as good as Euopeans think they are. Perhaps they benefit from some fairly ordinary competition.

VW is one of the few brands Euro brands not struggling with the crisis. Fiat certainly is. However, if things continue as they are, VW will start to feel it too.

03 August 2012

The European Car Crisis: PSA/Renault 2012

The three main car producers in France, Peugeot / Citroen (PSA) and Renault are doing it tough. Sales are falling because of too much reliance on Europe which is doing badly. Also, they have been not very aggressive expanding into new niche areas like you would expect French brands to be doing. They once produced fine cars as you see pictured, however now they don't. In a word, they have become complacent. Strong sales in Europe masked all this, but economic changes have brought it to the fore. To see the impact of recent times, let’s look at some data. Sales as listed are for the first six months of 2012 by main markets and West Europe as a whole:

1 Renault 21.2%
2 Peugeot 16.2%
3 Citroen 14.7%

8 Renault 3.4%
12 Peugeot 2.5%
13 Citroen 2.1%

7 Peugeot 5.0%
10 Citroen 3.5%
18 Renault 1.9%

6 Citroen 5.2%
7 Peugeot 4.6%
8 Renault 4.5%

Europe West
4 Renault 6.7%
5 Peugeot 6.5%
6 Citroen 5.7%

Even with over 50% of the French market, PSA and Renault are still doing it tough. PSA have held up reasonably well across Europe, but Renault has really hurt. It was the second most popular brand in Europe a decade ago and less, peaking at 10.7%. Now it is 6.7% and dropping. Around the same time, it was ranked third in Britain, but is now 18th!

The first thing to do now is get costs under control. Renault is pulling away from unprofitable sales, which is the sensible thing to do. This causes sales to fall, leading to the need to reduce production capacity. That is politically unpopular in France as well as with the French people.

Then they need to gradually expand the reach of French automobiles beyond Europe. This is where future growth is. Unfortunately these measures are neither popular nor easy, but what is the alternative? A slow slide to oblivion?

01 August 2012

Car Sales New Caledonia: 2011

In this small Pacific nation, car sales are stable, with a slight increase. Kia and Dacia did well near the top of the list. Ford maintained a healthy lead, albeit reduced. The three main French brands at times have held the top three spots, but not now. Chinese brands are making a move upwards. It will be interesting to see how they go in future.

1 Ford 1,218 -8%
2 Peugeot 990 2%
3 Kia 929 21%
4 Hyundai 900 -3%
5 Toyota 855 9%
6 Renault 810 -10%
7 Dacia 763 23%
8 Chevrolet 674 9%
9 Citroen 665 -7%
10 Nissan 552 -23%
11 Great Wall 451 53%
12 Suzuki 356 -7%
13 Mitsubishi 314 7%
14 VW 279 11%
15 Chrysler 238 29%
16 Mazda 193 -21%
17 Zhengzhou 169 -21%
18 BMW 150 2%
19 Isuzu 148 -40%
20 Audi 123 15%
21 Subaru 122 -17%
22 Fiat 119 -8%
23 Mercedes 103 -18%
24 MINI 102 23%
25 Ssangyong 82 531%
26 JMC 79 49%
27 Chery 69 New
28 Land Rover 62 19%
29 Tianye 60 -29%
30 Opel 54 -4%
Other 121
Total 11,750 +1.1% increase.

Source: icee.nc - Lower pic: www.newcaledoniaholiday.com