31 March 2021

Renault Production France : 2016-20

Renault production in France involves six factories, the Renault Group model or external brand they are made for are listed below. Total production across Europe (including Russia) was 1,671,700, down 22.4%. Renault and Dacia are the Renault Group models made. The vehicles they make for other companies are shown as totals rather than models. The data is from Renault and is generally easy to follow but there are a few areas where I had to estimate. 

The miserable 2020 is reflected by what is seen here. It is unreasonable to read too much into the data, other than to be aware of the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had on things. The total of vehicles made in France alone was 543,300, -20.8%. The new Clio had a lift in volume but otherwise it was subdued. 2021 is continuing the theme of challenging issues that car makers currently have to face.

27 March 2021

The Ford Mondeo 1993-2022

The traditional car style that was the mainstay of the car industry is in decline. What is called the SUV is taking over. I say called because the line between a car and SUV is increasingly blurred. That created yet another category the CUV or crossover vehicle. Some of these are nothing more than a hatchback with marginally differing height.

That as it may be, I don't want to hijack myself into a discussion of how cars should be categorised, other than to say it needs an overhaul in my humble opinion. The large saloon car is in retreat, in some regions of the world more than others. 

In Europe, the home of the Mondeo, that is the case with the demise of the model altogether in about a year's time. Ford is exiting the traditional car with more zeal than most but in that, they are setting a lead that others will surely follow in due course. 

While the Mondeo was sold in many countries, the data below is eurocentric. The series I model don't have European sales data so inserted combined production numbers instead. That's a bit misleading as that figure includes exports beyond Europe, but that's all I had.

After that, the statistics are yearly sales for the European region so a clearer pattern emerges. The series II was exceeding 300,000 in its best years, III only bettering 200,000, IV found 100,000 a challenge and V never even got near to that figure. 2020 was an unusually poor year but 20,000 sales is a non-sustainable pittance.

From that, we can see the decision to end the Mondeo was a no-brainer. People don't want them anymore. The plant in Spain where they have been made since 2014 (Belgium before that) will continue with the Galaxy, S-Max and more battery packs. For the Mondeo, it's the end of the road. 

23 March 2021

Canada Top 50 Models : 2020

Apparently, it snows in Canada?

Getting reliable data is an increasingly difficult task. I held off with this post because I wasn't happy with the quality. It's better now but there could be a few minor discrepancies. The 20% drop in sales in Canada is reflected in the amount of yellow on display. Some models did manage to increase.

Ford is the leader with the F-Series but no surprise there. Next is what I call the Dodge Ram P/U, although RAM became a stand-alone division in 2020 when it was separated from Dodge. The Chevrolet Silverado had a good year as did the GMC Sierra. Pick up trucks are the big models in Canada as they are south of the border.

The Ford Ranger is back

22 March 2021

Thinking Laterally

Imagine being very well endowed financially and having a basement swimming pool. You want to make use of this low-level water tank but you're not really into swimming. Getting wet isn't your thing. The idea of making it a super-sized fish tank just isn't appealing either. There must be something it can be used gainfully.

The solution? Well, you own a say a Range Rover Evoque, all of their range well known for their versatility. Besides, you don't have the time to take it out fording streams and conquering the wild outdoors. So you have a couple of pool ramps installed. It avoids the unpalatable idea of getting wet and yet meets the desire to take your SUV into an environment more taxing than city commuting. Problem solved, I'd say. It's all about thinking laterally.

20 March 2021

Russia Top 50 Models : 2020

Should have used the satnav

As there is import duty here, models have to be assembled to sell in quantity. The market is big enough to have quite a few in that category. It's no surprise to have the top two placings filled with Ladas. Hyundai, Kia, VW, Renault (Dacia), Toyota and Škoda all showing up strongly. 

China and Russia seem to have close ties politically and this filters down into commerce, with a few more  Chinese models entering the Top 50.

Home, home on the range....

18 March 2021

UK Bus & Heavy Truck Sales : 2020

An Alexander Dennis product plying its trade in London

To have heavy trucks and buses at a site that is all about cars may seem incongruous but some of us may have an interest in the larger vehicles that share the road with us. I will first of all cover buses, which includes any conveyance with multiple seats. I would have preferred just the larger sort but this is how the SMMT releases the data. Then we can consider large trucks.

Bus: Ford had an increase in a depressed market but it had a very poor 2019 so that has to be taken into account. Still a good result. The first big bus company is Alexander Dennis, unfortunately down 46% but large bus sales can be variable so not too much to be read into one year. 

It's nice to see Wrightbus still trading after it went into receivership a couple of years back. The second half of 2020 went very well for the Northern Ireland company. It's now got a hydrogen-fueled bus which gives it an excellent opportunity to succeed in a tough industry. As for the rest, there are plenty of minor players that had varying degrees of success.  

The world's first hydrogen double-decker bus

Truck: This is very much a specialised field, unlike many years ago when many carmakers had a truck division. A few still do but there are only a handful of companies that make most of the large trucks today. 

DAF is by far the dominant brand, many of the sales below sourced from their plant at Leyland in the north of England. It's part of the Paccar Group. Another local manufacturer is Dennis Eagle, part of the Terberg, Rosroca Group. It isn't big in volume but had a tidy increase. It specialises in refuse collection trucks. 

16 March 2021

Australia Large Car Sales Graph : 1995-2018

I've written about this before both here and here. However, a graph can put a lot of data into a compact space and can also clarify it. Below are (Australian made) large car sales. If you put each coloured bar on top of each other for each year, then that would help to drive home the collapse of sales that took place. 2013/14 was the time it was decided to pull the plug, by which time there was little to save.  

15 March 2021

Safety Stars

Picture source: NRMA Australia.

Car crash testing involves awarding starts depending on their safety in preset crash tests. Because all cars are assessed by the same standards, it's a case of comparing apples with apples. One can decide whether a car meets your safety standards compared to the competition before you make a purchase decision. 

What happens if the testing organisation moves the goal posts? Then it would depend on when the vehicle was tested. If they were tested years apart, then the comparison between models becomes irrelevant. A recent example in Australia highlights this.

A few years ago, a Renault van was tested and got three stars. Since then, many safety aids were added to the scoring system. Mitsubishi released the same van onto the market but rather than apply the same stars to it as the equivalent Renault model, the van was retested and the result was a zero star score. 

So here we have the same van sold under two nameplates, one can claim a three-star safety rating and the other zero. It exposed an anomaly where vehicles that have been on the Australian market for several years may have a five-star rating and a new model that may have more safety features could receive a lower rating, due to the much stricter scoring regime applied to it.

How is that supposed to help people make an informed choice? Until recently tests only covered structural safety and now technological safety features have been added. Surely for the time being a structural score and a technological score could both be issued. That would let people know that the structural integrity of the vehicle is sound but it lags in the technology side of safety. 

At some point in the future, the stars could be combined from both sides to create a higher star rating of say ten rather than just five. Giving a vehicle a zero score when it has some structural safety is misleading. The zero to five scoring system is too narrow to allow for this.    

The organisation ANCAP - which was behind this bizarre situation - introduced its tougher scoring system with good intent. As virtually all cars now get a five-star rating, the results weren't saying much. Adding new criteria was a way to highlight the safety features modern cars are expected to have. 

But to have a system that makes older vehicles look safer than new ones (when in some cases the opposite is the case) is working against helping people chose safer vehicles. For this, I give ANCAP zero stars.

14 March 2021

France Top Premium Brands Graph : 2000-20

France doesn't have a premium brand unless one counts the fringe player DS which has recently been created for that purpose. It should morph into something more premium rather than being a Citroën with bling, which seems to be what's happening. 

German premium marques are the mainstay of this segment. Back in 2000, it was Mercedes, followed by Audi. The arrival of the MINI just after that gave impetus to the company's sales and has led since 2007. Audi got the better of Mercedes for a few years but M-B struck back. DS came on quickly but is now regrouping after a sales retraction.

As for the bottom feeders, Alfa Romeo has been quite popular but even dabbling in an SUV hasn't been enough to avert a slump. Volvo is slowly on the up and JLR has meandered along without ruffling competitor's feathers.

I don't know if a picture of someone waiting for a car to
be recharged is the way to promote electric propulsion

12 March 2021

France Top Brands Graph : 1995-2020

The Peugeot 208

Below is a France graph or as I call it fra gra. Culinary jokes aside, it becomes clear the strength of French brands in their homeland. Renault has been the kingpin for so long but is currently fighting off Peugeot for that position. Citroën was closer to the two leaders but has fallen back since around 2010.

The Citroën Xsara Picasso

Ford and Opel were quite well placed in 2005 but over the decades, the trend has been downward. VW has held steady through some financial downturns but this 2020 well and truly beat it. Dacia is owned by Renault and benefits from that connection, surging from 2005 but it too succumbed to the virus. Toyota gained through the 1990's and early 2000's and in 2020 fared better than others. 

The Renault Mégane

11 March 2021

Russia Top Premium Graph : 2005-20

The premium segment has grown strongly in Russia since 2005, a trend that is seen in many countries. What has changed the landscape somewhat is tariffs that have increased on imported vehicles. BMW, Mercedes and Volvo assemble some vehicles so have benefited somewhat from these moves.

Around 2007 and 2008, Volvo and JLR were the best selling marques. Then came a rush from the German brands as well as Lexus. As duties have had their impact, full importers Lexus, Audi and JLR have pulled back on volumes. BMW/MINI and Mercedes have benefitted the most.

10 March 2021

Korea Mainstream Domestic Brands Graph : 1995-2020

In 1995, Hyundai was by far the biggest selling brand. Kia and Daewoo (GM) were dogfighting it out much further down the sales chart and SsangYong was barely a blip on the radar. Imports in the mainstream arena are minimal so that pretty much summed up the choice Korean car buyers had.

The Asian financial crisis hit sales badly in 1998 but things soon rebounded. Kia established a clear second and Daewoo descended into marginalism. In 2011, the Daewoo name was replaced as the company changed to GM Korea and the cars became Chevrolets. That move seemed to help sales slightly,

Meanwhile, at the business end of the market, Kia was challenging its more popular sibling and even took the lead in 2016 and 2017. Hyundai has a small lead now. As for the bottom feeders, they continue to battle for whatever crumbs they can scavenge. 

09 March 2021

Women's World Car of the Year : 2021

I don't think there is a man's car of the year award but perhaps as most motoring journalists are men, it was felt women weren't being heard. If so, this award puts that right. The shortlist by category is below.

The finalists: 

Peugeot 208 - Best Urban Car 
Skoda Octavia - Best Family Car
Lexus LC 500 Cabrio - Best Luxury Car 
Ferrari F8 Spider - Best Performance Car 
Peugeot 2008 - Best Urban SUV 
Land Rover Defender - Best Medium SUV 
Kia Sorento - Best Large SUV 
Ford F-150 - Best 4×4 & Pick-Up 
Honda e - Best EV

Now looking over that list, what car would you choose to be a woman's preferred world's best car? They chose the Land Rover Defender as the winner. That did surprise me as it seems such a masculine vehicle, the sort Indiana Jones would have definitely plumped for. However, there is no reason to pick one car over another as the one that would the chosen. In reality, it could have been any one of the finalists. I like their choice.

When doing the school run...

...or taking the kids to see the grandparents.

08 March 2021

Pictures Explained (2)

This is the second in a series of insightful clarifications of pictures that may otherwise be misunderstood. Years of following the car industry allow such insight. So here we go a second time.

This is a factory tour of a VW plant in South Africa. What isn't known is that the above conveyance was originally intended for game parks. However, trials revealed that those in the carts felt like sitting ducks, riding a gravy train for local lions. So this prototype was snapped up by VW to do factory tours instead. Clever.

A local NZ car magazine (Autocar NZ) prides itself on getting to the point in its road tests. So while the bears in this picture may appear to be simply going along for the ride, it is in fact a subliminal message that says they keep to the bare facts. So subtle you probably missed that one. 

In some companies, the new CEO is decided with a boxing match. Here is a weigh-in, all very polite but the clenched fists indicate they mean business. 

And the winner is...

Well done sir, You must have dreamed about this outcome as dreams have power.

At first appearance, this may seem like a fist bump but the medal around the lady's neck is the giveaway. She is obviously the world champion at rock-paper-scissors. The fact this is taken at a car plant is irrelevant. It's a way of celebrating this momentous achievement at her workplace. First up effort a tie. 

Social distancing has been around for about a year now and many have forgotten, or feel awkward about, more normal interacting with colleagues. In this plant, workers have been encouraged to practice working closer together. Erm... not too close, please.

For the others in the series, simply click the links below:

07 March 2021

Muscle Car America

When I think of what is termed muscle cars, I think of the US, especially the 1960's. They are not the sort of car I have had much to do with and they were never that popular in NZ. So some of you dear readers will more au fait with them than I am. What I can offer is a bit of insight and data. 

Ford Mustang: I loved the look of the original model which went from 1963 to 1973. Sales were initially huge but soon settled at a more modest level. The peak of US sales was 540,800 in 1966 but down to 120,500 in 1972. I collated production numbers which can be seen by clicking here. That data would include exports. 

In 2020, sales were 61,000 which is a far cry from initial sales but reflective of recent trends toward less cars and more SUVs. 2020 was a poor year for car sales anyway so it will be interesting to see if any sort of rebound will happen in 2021.

Dodge Challenger: This is a harder model to follow historically. it's first full year of sales was 1970 and that only reached 54,000 units. It went down from there and ended in 1974. The second generation surfaced in 1978 and ended in 1983 but was a rebadged Mitsubishi so not a US muscle car. 

Then it returned in 2008 as the real deal and has continued since then. It currently outsells the Camaro, which I find surprising, given the size of the respective companies. 53,000 sales in 2020 was a fine result, not that far removed from the 2019 total. 

Chevrolet Camaro: GM reacted to Ford's pony car with the Camaro. Its 1967 sales total of 206,000 wasn't a bad effort but like the Mustang it fell away pretty quickly. Only 45,000 found buyers in 1972. It has continued through to today, with only a break from 2003 to 2008. Production numbers can be viewed by clicking here.

As sales couldn't even reach 30,000 for 2020, it was a sad result. While GM has apparently committed to producing the model until at least 2026, beyond that who knows? 

GM also ran the Pontiac Firebird and shared its platform with the Camaro. It ran from 1967 to 2002 so doesn't feature in the data below.   

06 March 2021

Europe Top Premium Graph : 2010-20

2012 BMW 1-Series 
No surprises here, with the three German brands well clear of other makes. They get huge support from their home market but enjoy pan-European support. The MINI keeps BMW ahead of the rest, while Audi was more popular than Mercedes, until 2016. Dieselgate came out in 2015 (just saying). 

Volvo has its home premium market in Sweden to thank for its strong showing and is on a roll with new products like the XC40. It still has a long way to go to threaten the top three. JLR hasn't got the same support from the UK, even some way behind the top three there. It's become a very self-centred place.

Pictures: Netcarshow.

2015 Volvo XC90