28 June 2014

Finland Top 4 Brands : 1956-59

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. For the different ones:

In the chart below, 'Mosk' 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 'Wart' or Wartburg. They were a car made in East Germany in Eisenach where the Wartburg castle is situated.

Moskvitch 402. Cars have come a long way since then

Sales back then in Finland were about 20,000 per annum, with just under 15,000 in 1958. Sales are in thousands with the decimal point for hundreds. The extreme right column represents the top 4 share of total sales, with says little at this point.

Yr 1st Sales % 2nd Sales % 3rd Sales % 4th Sales % %
1956 Mosk 4.1 19 GAZ 2.8 14 Skod 1.9 9 VW 1.9 9 51
1957 Mosk 4.8 25 Skod 4.8 25 VW 1.6 8 Wart 1.4 7 65
1958 VW 2.5 18 Ford 1.2 8 Fiat 1.2 8 Peug 1.1 8 41
1959 Mosk 3.6 17 Skod 2.9 14 VW 2.0 9 Fiat 1.2 5 45

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, and 2000-13.
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.

One point of note is the share the top 4 held. The extreme right column shows a drop for these to 47% by the decade's end. All of the top 4 had lost share. Below sales are in thousands with a decimal place for hundreds.

Yr 1st Sales % 2nd Sales % 3rd Sales % 4th Sales % %
1980 Vol 50.5 26 Saab 27.6 14 VW 18.7 10 Opel 17.5 9 59
1981 Vol 49.8 26 Saab 26.7 14 Ford 21.1 11 VW 20.0 11 62
1982 Vol 57.5 26 Saab 30.6 14 Ford 22.4 10 Opel 22.2 10 61
1983 Vol 62.0 29 Saab 29.3 13 Ford 21.6 10 Opel 20.8 10 62
1984 Vol 62.5 27 Saab 29.6 13 Ford 25.5 11 Opel 22.0 10 60
1985 Vol 71.1 27 Ford 28.6 11 Saab 27.4 10 Opel 26.8 10 59
1986 Vol 64.6 24 Ford 29.9 11 Saab 29.6 11 Opel 24.3 9 55
1987 Vol 72.5 23 Ford 34.3 11 Opel 31.1 10 Saab 30.2 10 53
1988 Vol 74.6 22 Ford 35.9 10 Opel 28.9 8 Saab 27.1 8 48
1989 Vol 66.6 22 Ford 28.6 9 Saab 25.8 8 Opel 24.8 8 47

1998 Opel Kadet

Thanks to BilSweden for the data.

For others in the series, please click on the years: 2000-13, 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. Quite an ugly car

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. The chart below shows sales in thousands.

Yr 1st Sales % 2nd Sales % 3rd Sales % 4th Sales % %
1970 Vol 53.8 26 Saab 34.8 17 Opel 23.8 12 VW 20.7 10 65
1971 Vol 51.4 26 Saab 34.1 17 VW 23.7 12 Opel 21.5 11 66
1972 Vol 56.0 25 Saab 36.1 16 VW 25.0 11 Opel 24.8 11 64
1973 Vol 59.6 26 Saab 37.5 17 VW 22.1 10 Opel 22 10 63
1974 Vol 56.9 22 Saab 41.7 16 VW 30.1 12 Opel 23.1 9 58
1975 Vol 58.1 20 Saab 44.3 16 VW 31.9 11 Ford 25.3 9 56
1976 Vol 75.4 24 Saab 39.5 13 Ford 31.9 10 Opel 31.1 10 57
1977 Vol 55.7 23 Saab 29.7 12 Ford 26.1 11 VW 22.8 9 56
1978 Vol 49.8 25 Saab 27.4 14 Ford 22.0 11 Opel 18.0 9 58
1979 Vol 55.8 26 Saab 29.8 14 Ford 22.8 11 Opel 22.1 10 66

Thanks to BilSweden for the data.

For others in the series, please click on the years: 2000-13, 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 love, 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.

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

Sales figures are in thousands, with a decimal place due to not too large unit sales. Next to sales is market share, and the extreme right % figure shows the total market share for the top 4. Thanks to BilSweden for the data.

Yr 1st Sales % 2nd Sales % 3rd Sales % 4th Sales % %
1960 Vol 40.2 25 VW 30.8 19 OpV 26.6 17 Ford 16.4 10 71
1961 Vol 45.3 25 VW 34.9 19 OpV 26.9 15 Saab 13.7 9 71
1962 Vol 49.0 25 VW 37.0 19 OpV 27.2 14 Saab 20.6 11 70
1963 Vol 53.7 23 VW 42.7 18 OpV 35.7 15 Ford 28.7 12 70
1964 Vol 58.4 23 VW 45.9 18 OpV 42.2 16 Ford 33.0 13 70
1965 Vol 59.2 22 VW 47.3 17 OpV 47.2 17 Ford 40.0 15 70
1966 Vol 51.2 25 VW 36.3 17 OpV 31.7 15 Ford 23.5 11 69
1967 Vol 45.3 26 OpV 24.5 14 Saab 24.3 14 VW 22.8 13 66
1968 Vol 55.4 26 Saab 30.7 14 OpV 30.1 14 VW 24.6 12 66
1969 Vol 59.1 26 Saab 35.0 16 OpV 29.2 13 VW 25.3 11 66

For others in the series, please click on the years: 2000-13, 1990-99, 1980-89,
1970-79, and 1950-59.