30 September 2015

UK Car Industry: GM Vauxhall #6

Ellesmere Port plant 2002

Vauxhall is the oldest of the major brands made in the UK. It was named after a district in London where it was founded. It started making cars in 1903 and moved the bulk of production to Luton, Bedfordshire in 1905. In 1925 the company was bought by GM and Bedford trucks were made from 1931. Another car making plant was added in 1964 at Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.

Vauxhall cars were popular after the war and we had a couple of them as a family (a '62 FB Victor and '65 Velox) when I was a lad. They were good cars, especially the Velox. I also worked for a company where Bedford vans were used (the CF model), which I thought were good. My wife had a 1978 HC Viva when we met but by then they were not as good. In New Zealand, Vauxhall and Bedford had sold alongside Holden cars but were eventually withdrawn in the early 80's.

Vauxhall UK car production had its ups and downs. Production by model can be found as follows: 1979-95 and 1996-2012. Ellesmere production from 1964 to 2013 as an annual total can be viewed by clicking here. Now it makes the Astra (5 door hatch & Sports Tourer) at Ellesmere Port and Vivaro van at Luton.

Astra production Ellesmere Port
Picture credits: © GM Company.

Value to the UK: Vauxhall comes under the wing of Opel, where its car are designed. In 2014 Vauxhall made 78,000 cars in the UK and 269,000 were sold in Britain, making it a net importer of 191,000 cars. In addition 44,000 Vivaro vans were made at Luton. All the engines seem to be imported. So in terms of value added to the economy, GM's UK operation is modest.

It would be nice to see more UK sourced vehicles, considering how popular Vauxhall cars are in the UK. The fact is GM Europe has over-capacity so keeping the plants open acknowledges their efficiency.

Production share (car) of the UK total: 5.1%. UK value rating: 3/10.

The previous article is for Honda (found here). Next is Jaguar (found here).

A United Front

Is this how we want it? 

One thing the automobile industry doesn't see before it is a pathway forward. As with all human endeavour, decisions are hamstrung by self interest and a lack of meaningful cooperation. Los Angeles takes it's own road trying to reduce pollution. It is a city with a serious smog situation as with many others. Some cities in Europe such as London and Paris also have an air quality issue and progress toward cleaner air seems to have stalled. Seeing that current measures aren't winning the war, what could be done better?

A clear focus. There is no clear pathway forward on what the future fuel should be and therefore no attempt can be made to nurture its acceptance and take up. Public power points for electric cars is a help, but when the vehicle's purchase price is too high and the range per charge up too low for many, it won't get broad acceptance. Battery disposal is another issue.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars seem to be a way forward but where are the fuel stations? Car makers cannot release these cars without the availability of a functioning refuelling network. No one seems to be taking any of this seriously. The way forward is to let all of this take its natural course thorough market forces or random emissions standards. Well, fracking and reduced prices has made fossil fuel propulsion even more difficult to dislodge. (Alternative fuels are discussed here).

Do something! Government intervention is needed but a unified effort too. The EU could have been at the forefront but all it has done is insist on lower CO2 emissions and told the car industry to meet them. What a ridiculous policy! The industry cannot meet endless reductions, so what are they supposed to do? (More on this can be found here).

Surely a better solution is tax fossil fuel car ownership and use that money to build an infrastructure to support alternatively fuelled vehicles. That coupled with incentives to purchase and run these vehicles to encourage ownership. The fossil fuel tax could be increased each year to keep the revenue stream going. People would then switch once there is a genuine alternative that isn't too expensive or inconvenient to use.

Summary: Without any clear direction forward you soon get lost. Moving away from fossil fuel seems just such a journey. The car industry operating in a capitalist system is supposed to find a way. However, consumer spending and profit is the carrot on the stick for any industry so we can't rely on that.

United governance is needed to send mankind on the way forward. Unfortunately there is no good track record on that one, as self interest and the next election is all that drives democratic governments. Unity of purpose is nothing more than a fanciful dream for idealists.

29 September 2015

US Car Production By Make : 1990-99

The first US assembled Subaru, the Legacy

The 1990's were a continuation of the previous decade, with US car makers losing production volume as the Japanese companies moved in. The truck/SUV side of the industry was roaring ahead and profits were better there too. That is where the US automakers were heading, increasingly leaving the car side to foreign brands. So production numbers are not as bad as they look if you factor in the swing away from the traditional car.

Honda moved to third and Toyota fourth, with Chrysler now fifth. Nissan was one brand going the other way, with production shifting to Mexico, another trend to affect car making numbers in the USA. VW made all its cars south of the border.

Below numbers are in thousands so three zeros need to be added.

Yr GM Ford Hon Toy Chry Nis Mit Sub Maz BMW Total
90 2,613 1,389 435 322 717 96 64 32 91 - 5,759
91 2,909 1,645 451 299 703 134 82 58 91 - 6,372
92 2,466 1,334 458 346 582 171 83 58 89 - 5,587
93 2,457 1,593 404 356 533 292 98 47 116 - 5,896
94 2,720 1,661 499 390 583 313 122 54 133 - 6,475
95 2,513 1,396 552 517 597 333 116 81 99 12 6,216
96 2,198 1,426 634 545 529 278 122 99 96 51 5,978
97 2,258 1,290 648 554 452 280 110 102 91 62 5,847
98 1,985 1,211 695 539 434 223 97 104 94 55 5,437
99 2,151 1,225 686 517 432 168 119 93 87 48 5,526

28 September 2015

UK Car Industry: Honda #5

Swindon is in Wiltshire, in South West England and where Honda has a car plant. It came about due to a collaboration with BL (MG Rover) and the two got involved with various projects of mutual benefit. Honda started making the Accord in 1992, after the Concerto had been made for them by Rover. UK production from 1989 to 2011 can be found by clicking here.

In 2014 122,00 cars were made down on capacity by some margin so part of the plant has been mothballed. Engines made added up to 119,000 units. So a solid contribution to the economy but more is to come. Soon the Civic will be the only model made there and be exported around the world. The idea will be economy of scale no doubt, although just one model is exposed to life cycle fluctuations.
(More on that here).

Year CR-V Civic Jazz Total

2010 51,215 54,665 33,398 139,278

2011 47,971 26,215 23,273 97,459

2012 62,880 77,498 25,252 165,630

2013 71,972 41,840 25,000 138,812

2014 54,020 43,815 23,964 121,799

Total 288,058 244,033 130,887 662,978

Production share (car) of the UK total: 8.0%. UK value rating: 5/10.

The previous article is for the Toyota (found here). Next is GM Vauxhall (found here).

US Car Production By Make : 1980-89

The Honda Accord was the first US made car for the company

Things were changing in the 1980's. Trucks were making a mark (which are not included here) and the Japanese manufacturing invasion was underway. Total car sales were declining and AMC had gone, leaving just the three local car makers. While Ford and Chrysler actually managed small increases, GM's production volume was much lower.

While the four Japanese car brands that had entered domestic production were still in their infancy, the writing was on the wall. They had a better reputation for reliability and were now using US production to gain acceptance. They were no longer taking jobs, but creating them.

Production numbers below are in thousands, so you need to add three zeros.

Yr GM Ford Chrys Hon Toy Nis Maz AMC Total

80 5,053 1,584 770 - - - - 200 7,607

81 4,133 1,396 795 - - - - 137 6,461

82 3,516 1,163 594 1 - - - 102 5,376

83 3,511 1,244 739 55 - - - 169 5,718

84 4,682 1,814 1,176 139 - - - 209 8,020

85 4,491 1,736 1,315 145 65 44 - 150 7,946

86 4,351 1,810 1,169 238 206 65 - 65 7,904

87 3,711 1,601 1,306 324 187 117 4 42 7,292

88 3,182 1,911 1,104 366 75 110 144 - 6,892

89 3,385 1,747 974 362 231 116 51 - 6,866

26 September 2015

Škoda Worldwide Production Car/LCV By Nation : 2011-14

Škoda is a brand that is going well. At 21st for worldwide production, there is plenty of scope. Volumes are not helped by the fact that it is only strong in Europe and China. I think parent VW has missed an opportunity by not using it more. Renault has benefited immensely with Dacia and while Škoda isn't the same sort of budget brand, it still is more low cost than VW.

With over 60% of production in its home nation and much of the rest in China, Škoda is limited in its spread. It seems VW is the brand that the parent company wants to push more. Yet Škoda is more profitable and I believe that some within VW are not happy about. I read somewhere it was to do with the belief that Škoda was getting VW technology too cheaply.

It will be interesting to see how the emissions scandal will affect the Czech make as its diesels are affected too.

11 12 13 14 Nation 2011 2012 2013 2014 %
1 1 1 1 Czech Rep 630,285 571,541 596,347 639,207 60.9
2 2 2 2 China 218,945 230,481 255,222 277,138 26.4
3 3 3 3 Russia 43,725 58,741 67,217 80,476 7.7
5 4 4 4 Slovakia 1,072 38,574 42,971 41,974 4.0
4 5 5 5 India 19,806 35,555 15,310 10,887 1.0

Total 913,833 934,892 977,067 1,049,682 1.3

Data source: OICA.