28 June 2014

Finland Top 4 Brands : 1956-59

Moskvitch 402. Cars have come a long way since then

I have car sales for the land of lakes that go back to 1956, thanks to Autoalan Tiedotuskeskus. Things were fluid back then, with brands up and down quite dramatically. There were also some different brands around too.

In the chart below, 'Moskv' stands for Moskvitch which basically means Moscovite. They were a solid car made for tough Russian roads and sold well back at this time, often with a waiting lists for their cars. GAZ was a Russian car named the M20, or as in Finland the Pobeda. Another unusual name is the 'Wartb' or Wartburg. They were a car made in East Germany in Eisenach where the Wartburg castle is situated.
Sales back then in Finland were about 20,000 per annum, with just under 15,000 in 1958.

Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
1956 Moskv 4,066 GAZ 2,835 Škoda 1,918 VW 1,873
1957 Moskv 4,803 Škoda 4,785 VW 1,636 Wartb 1,364
1958 VW 2,545 Ford 1,196 Fiat 1,155 Peug 1,100
1959 Moskv 3,570 Škoda 2,879 VW 1,998 Fiat 1,153

GAZ M20 or the Pobeda. Stylish for its day

Data source: Thanks to Autolan Tiedotuskeskus.
For other decades: 1960-69, 1970-79, 1980-89, 1990-99, 2000-09. and 2010-19.
Pobeda picture: Wiki/nailgun
Moskvitch picture: Wiki

27 June 2014

Sweden Top 4 Brands : 1980-89

1982 Volvo 345.  The 300 series ran from 1976-91

While Volvo remained the most popular choice for Swedish car buyers in the 1980's, Saab was starting to struggle holding second place. Ford came back with a vengeance, and Opel remained a strong seller. VW fell from grace in this period.

The low point of this period was 1981 when there were 188,500 sales for the total market. It then peaked in 1988 with 344,000 sales. Sweden had a financial boom during this time, causing the sales spike. A economic meltdown in the 1990's caused a slump in car sales, which you will see in the 1990's top 4 chart.

Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
1980 Volvo 50,547 Saab 27,619 VW 18,693 Opel 17,527
1981 Volvo 49,766 Saab 26,741 Ford 21,128 VW 20,002
1982 Volvo 57,522 Saab 30,562 Ford 22,407 Opel 22,184
1983 Volvo 62,012 Saab 29,270 Ford 21,556 Opel 20,847
1984 Volvo 62,495 Saab 29,610 Ford 25,539 Opel 21,957
1985 Volvo 71,135 Ford 28,571 Saab 27,352 Opel 26,770
1986 Volvo 64,630 Ford 29,944 Saab 29,590 Opel 24,317
1987 Volvo 72,492 Ford 34,299 Opel 31,077 Saab 30,202
1988 Volvo 74,626 Ford 35,921 Opel 28,940 Saab 27,083
1989 Volvo 66,576 Ford 28,629 Saab 25,800 Opel 24,775

1998 Opel Kadet

Thanks to BilSweden for the data.

For others in the series, please click on the years: 2010-19. 2000-09, 1990-99, 1970-79,
1960-69, and 1950-59.

Hydrogen Power A Step Closer

Aggressive styling and detailing

I mentioned in an article recently about future fuel options hydrogen or fuel-cell powered cars (FCVs) that can be seen by clicking here. Well, it just got a little closer with the Japanese government getting behind helping set up the FC dispensing infrastructure and subsidies for the cars themselves.

The benefits of FCVs is they emit water from the exhaust pipe. They run on hydrogen which - depending on the source and process it is achieved through - has a good potential environmental impact. Using fuel cells to power your electric car is better than heavy and not eco-friendly batteries. They have a much better range than batteries also.

The problems are not insignificant. Fueling stations are rare and expensive to set up. Apparently you just cannot charge up a car after the last one, there is time required before the next car can be charged. The cost of the cars is high until manufacturing volumes are sufficient.

Those who will gain are especially Honda and Toyota, both having invested heavily in the technology, but without success up to now. They will be gearing up production for early 2015. They will lose money on every vehicle they sell, but that always happens with new ideas and ways.

The risk is still there though. Who is to say that FCVs are the way forward? Another technology may come along with more advantages and take the industry in a different direction. That is always an imponderable with any decision such as this. Sometimes you just have to take that chance.

Therefore government assistance is essential. Some car makers have to give it a try. We will see if it has any future.

Penguins approve too, so it was nice they turned up in support

25 June 2014

Nissan Leaf Price Slashed In NZ

So quiet and clean even the wildlife didn't hear or get a whiff of it

You would think that 'clean, green' New Zealand would be promoting cars that were environmentally friendly such as electric. Most power here is hydroelectric which is ideal for such cars. Unfortunately no, but as a free market economy, cars with electric propulsion have to go it alone. The price has been prohibitive and range limitations rule it out for many potential purchasers, such as myself.

Nissan has decided to take the bull by the horns and slashed the price of the Leaf model. It was selling for an eye watering NZ$69,700 but is now NZ$39,990. That is some reduction and puts it into close proximity to fossil fuel powered cars of the same size. As NZ imports used cars from Japan, it made little sense to buy new when late model imported Leafs were much cheaper. In Japan such cars do get subsides when bought new so late model cars can be landed here well below our new price. This probably is the reason for the decision.

I would love to go electric, but a single car family in a town hundreds of kilometres from other bigger urban centres makes it impractical. Still, I like the bold step and it should translate into much stronger sales. According to the LTSA, 11 were sold in NZ in 2012 and 3 in 2013 so they were not flying out of car dealer's yards.

The number of Nissan dealers who will sell and service them is up to nine, all city based dealers I would imagine.  Any new way of doing things is difficult to establish, to be successful enough to pay its way. However, fortune favours the brave they say, and such a price realignment deserves to do well.

Britain's Biggest Private Car Collection For Sale

 Britain's biggest private car collection is for sale for £100m. James Hull has filled a number of warehouses with cars from the past 80 years. Due to health issues the owner James Hull has decided to move them on. It seems he would like to keep the collection intact if possible. I would imagine he would get more individually but for sentiment I can see why he wants it that way.

The 450 car collection has some models that are rare and others with special history. If you want more about that, it is available on the internet. Suffice to say, it is an amazing collection of British cars of yesteryear, one very much worth keeping together.

Some cars here that are not so old, I remember them (yikes)

Some rather nice cars among this lot

A Jaguar collection 

Even a plane thrown in here

24 June 2014

BMW Cutting Costs

BMW is quite profitable, as are premium brands generally. There are differing reports on the amount that is wished to be saved, however it seems they they do want to cut costs. If you are making solid profits, why the need to do so? I can think of a few reasons that are behind the move.

Main reason: It seems to me to be tied to the bragging rights of being the biggest premium brand by unit sales. BMW has that presently, but MB and especially Audi are closely following. Audi has the advantage of being part of the VW Group, sharing costs with the other makes within the company. BMW doesn't have that kind of cost saving, apart from a little with the MINI brand. I see this as trying to match Audi's costs, which must be lower.

Am I the only one who sees this as a bland and overpriced?

Lesser one perhaps: Another issue is creating niche vehicles. BMW is a master at finding ways of creating more model variants. These sell in smaller numbers so getting a good return on such must be harder than in more mainstream segments. This will surely reduce profits per sale, even if overall profit increases.

The ultimate niche model, the BMW X6. Not that practical.

Possible one: Also, the line between premium marques and mainstream makes is not as clear. Premium car makers have moved more into smaller segments, while everyday cars are getting more sophisticated features. So while many buyers happily pay a sizable excess in price over mundane brands, in reality the gap is quite narrow now. If the public finally notice the extra paid for premium makes simply isn't good value for money, sales could shift to less prestigious  models*.

Summary: Every company should manage expenses carefully. How far to take it is the key. BMW not only has two German competitors. Japanese car makers want to push their upmarket brands more. Jaguar and Land Rover are becoming big enough to be taken very seriously under astute Indian ownership. The Chinese now own Volvo and have big plans for that marque. It's getting hot in the kitchen and for BMW that means cutting some costs.

*One reason for buying a premium marque is the prestige of ownership. That is a strong motivation to drive a car with an upmarket logo. (Value for money is something that means a lot for me, but impressing the neighbours as I exit my driveway is is something I have no interest in). As long as such does matter for many, and premium brands manage their reputations well, there will be enough buyers for them to continue their success.

23 June 2014

Sweden Top 4 Brands : 1970-79

Julie Andrews discovers the Volvo 244

The 1979s was a steady time for the top 4. The two local makes took charge, taking about 40% of the total sales. Ford, GM and VW were left fighting it out for the other two spots. The top 4's share of the total is shown at the extreme right of the chart, which remained stable.

A success story at this time in Sweden was Mazda. They entered the market in 1971 and was the 6th best selling brand by 1979. Nissan also entered around the same year and were 12th by decade's end. Japanese brands were making inroads during the 1970s.

The Saab 900. More stylish than the Volvo I must say

Total sales started the decade at 203,300 and finished at 215,300. A peak of 312,900 sales came in 1976.

Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
1970 Volvo 53,842 Saab 34,750 Opel-V 23,781 VW 20,674
1971 Volvo 51,403 Saab 34,101 VW 23,688 Opel-V 21,461
1972 Volvo 55,959 Saab 36,142 VW 24,971 Opel-V 24,831
1973 Volvo 59,556 Saab 37,530 VW 22,086 Opel-V 22,025
1974 Volvo 56,917 Saab 41,733 VW 30,086 Opel-V 23,053
1975 Volvo 58,139 Saab 44,250 VW 31,930 Ford 25,330
1976 Volvo 75,425 Saab 39,520 Ford 31,894 Opel-V 31,149
1977 Volvo 55,681 Saab 29,667 Ford 26,060 VW 22,755
1978 Volvo 49,831 Saab 27,427 Ford 22,043 Opel-V 17,969
1979 Volvo 55,780 Saab 29,838 Ford 22,813 Opel-V 22,141

Thanks to BilSweden for the data.
For others in the series, please click on the years: 2010-19. 2000-09, 1990-99,
1980-89, 1960-69, and 1950-59.

21 June 2014

Nissan e-NV200 Van

The e-van in the usual Nissan aqua blue

Vans in Europe are generally diesel fuelled, an engine that is robust and economical. However, Nissan is lobbing into the market a Spanish built Nissan electric van. The maker claims lower running costs, better handling and reduced emissions. Lower costs are the fuel, but mainly through less maintenance expense. The battery is placed low and centrally, improving stability and reducing body roll. All makers are trying to bring down their CO2s as well.

Many vans don't actually do big mileage due to staying close to their home base, so range anxiety isn't an issue for many potential owners. So what is the catch? They are pricey without government incentives, so strong sales will depend on that. Still they will find some buyers, perhaps 1200 pa initially. They are only made in Spain for the global market, so it shows how hard electrically powered vehicle makers are finding it to get sales.

In summary: I like the e-NV200 and it is good thinking to bring a battery powered van into the marketplace. They will be sold to taxi and delivery companies. It's a shame that they will sell in such small numbers.

It carries people too. I would like one but for the range and price

20 June 2014

Subaru WRX vs VW Golf GTi Performance

Google Blogger playing up again, like happened this time last year. If I cannot post, it will be another time of few articles coming through. This from the company that wants to bring us driverless cars. Scary. 

The WRX looks like it means business...

I was reading the NZ Autocar magazine for May 2014. In it was a head to head comparison between the above mentioned vehicles. As I will never be getting familiar with either model, it was interesting to hear the opinions of those that have.

First up the GTi. It was considered the more refined drive, with a nicer cockpit too. The twin clutch auto was rated better than the CVT in the Subaru. It was called a great allrounder, meaning I guess it did all things well. It came in at NZ$65,500.

...while the Golf GTi looks the more refined

The WRX was described as a better all-weather, all-road weapon. That I assume means the better drive of the two. It was also roomier. The price of the car is NZ$49,990.

The summary: The cars will appeal to different sorts of people, it was stated. I got the impression older ones will prefer the refined VW, but younger drivers the Subaru. It was also noted that the price difference for many would be too much to ignore. The GTi Performance is over 30% more expensive in NZ, and I cannot see anything that the VW has to offer over its Japanese opponent making it worth that. Where you live, pricing may be different, but down here a clear victory for the WRX.

PS. If VW NZ wants to prove that the VW is worth it, please email me at rdc1234@gmail.com for a test drive. I await your response. (Years later still waiting, starting to lose hope now).

19 June 2014

Honda Europe's In A Hole

The first generation Civic was cute and fun

It's hard to know what the top brass in Honda are thinking. Once a brand known for small, fun little cars to one that now does conservative. For car buyers in Asia and North America, conservative is obviously good as sales are solid there. In Europe and Australasia it is not a good thing, as sales flounder.

Honda's European market share for January to March 2014 was 1.1%, down from 1.2% in 2013 for the corresponding period. In 2007 it was 2.0%. One reason I suspect for the fall is the weak market conditions in the region. While competitors often discount to keep their sales up, Honda refuse to do so. So penetration is poor and slipping.

Another reason is making the cars eco-friendly is the company's priority, rather than sporty to drive. In Europe that is not the way to sell cars. It is known as a brand for older people, retired and conservative. The Honda Civic hatch is a rare example of an exciting looking car they are capable of designing. Yet the driving experience doesn't match its appearance.

That's a shame as they have well engineered cars, but its lack of excitement has put Honda Europe in a hole. They need to rediscover their love of motoring and the brand is crying out for enthusiastic direction from the management in order to achieve that. They will realise the need to change, but conservative thinking must be overcome first. Honda is "The Power of Dreams". More dreaming is required.

The 2014 Civic Tourer. A fine vehicle, but will it be a strong seller?

17 June 2014

Sweden Top 4 Brands : 1960-69

The Volvo 145 with the company's squared off styling...

The 1960's saw sales grow strongly in Sweden as it did across Europe. Sales in 1960 were 160,000 and 255,000 by 1969. A 275,000 peak was made in 1965.

Volvo no longer was fighting for top spot as it had a sizable cushion between it and second. VW was strong for the early part of the decade but fell away toward the end of it. Opel was consistent and Ford couldn't keep a top 4 place because of the emergence of Saab. The latter was clearly second by the end of the 60's.

...while Saab went for an aerodynamic look with its 96 model

Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
1960 Volvo 40,154 VW 30,791 Opel-V 26,562 Ford 16,381
1961 Volvo 45,329 VW 34,871 Opel-V 26,941 Saab 13,726
1962 Volvo 48,978 VW 37,016 Opel-V 27,211 Saab 20,580
1963 Volvo 53,665 VW 42,656 Opel-V 35,739 Ford 28,686
1964 Volvo 58,402 VW 45,886 Opel-V 42,170 Ford 32,974
1965 Volvo 59,204 VW 47,310 Opel-V 47,201 Ford 40,037
1966 Volvo 51,155 VW 36,315 Opel-V 31,668 Ford 23,496
1967 Volvo 45,348 Opel-V 24,461 Saab 24,303 VW 22,837
1968 Volvo 55,371 Saab 30,687 Opel-V 30,063 VW 24,632
1969 Volvo 59,088 Saab 35,015 Opel-V 29,238 VW 25,347

For others in the series, please click on the years: 2010-19. 2000-09, 1990-99,
1980-89, 1970-79, and 1950-59.