The automotive business blog from Dave Leggett
If you would like to offer your comments, opinions, suggest topics or just have a good rant, please feel free to email: Dave Leggett.
"You heard right. I'll take an Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI."
02 Dec 2013 14:33
The big football teams in Europe come with some interesting sponsors. There are some big sponsorship opportunities and car brands have not been slow to see them. Audi has a big deal with Real Madrid. The players have recently collected their latest cars under the deal. Yep, as you would expect, there are a whole lot of Q7s. Kudos to the understated guy who went for an A3...
Autumn issue of Lotus Engineering's proActive is out
19 Nov 2013 15:36
The latest issue of the magazine we help put together for Lotus Engineering - proActive - is out. It includes an interview with Richard Noble, he of the land speed record set in 1983 that stayed unbeaten until 1997. He's leading a British team aiming for a new record with the Bloodhound SSC, in South Africa in 2016. Interesting chap and a very interesting project. I learned that there is a lot more to it, though, than just going very, very fast...
Dummy-nomics and an almost forgotten red Elan
12 Nov 2013 10:23
Hyundai-Kia's R&D centre at Namyang was a fascinating whirlwind.
Among the highlights was a look at the wind tunnel (which will deliver a 200 km/h wind blast), a vast proving ground (which included a dust tunnel) and the crash test facility. There were some sights to make the jaw drop. Unfortunately, as is standard, all cameras were confiscated. That's a pity. There was a particularly surreal sight in the crash test facility area. The dummies were 'resting', arms/hands all raised above their heads. It looked like a mass surrender.
How much does a crash test dummy cost to buy? Answer: an incredible $200,000-$300,000. They are high value bits of kit.
There was also a museum with a number of blasts from the past on display - eg late 1970s vintage Hyundai Pony, white-walled tyres fitted Kia Pride from 1993 and so on. But our party of journalists was captivated by one car in particular. In the corner was a red Lotus Elan, but it wasn't a Lotus. No, it was a Kia and it was made by Kia in Korea in the late 1990s and fitted with a Kia engine. Some 1,000 Kia Elans were made, of which around 250 were exported. I guess it was an attempt to do some final business on the old model after it was replaced by Elise. My word, though, what an automotive curiosity and I wonder where they are now...
Seoul: yes it's a megacity
11 Nov 2013 20:24
Weather here is cool and dry, visibility very good
Seoul is, by any yardstick, one pretty big and heavily populated city. The metropolitan area including Incheon has a population estimated at over 25m and that's around half of South Korea's total. All things considered, congestion on the roads hasn't been a problem yet.
Kia is taking us to the Namyang R&D centre later today and I'm hoping to talk to the engneers there about the big challenges ahead that they are working on.
One thing that I am doing is looking for signs of import cars on the roads. Market access and the EU free trade agreement with South Korea is a hotly contested subject. Imports mainly seem to be German brands - VW, Mercedes and BMW - and do, indeed, seem pretty low in number.
Incidentally, I am staying on the 16th floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel on a hillside on the edge of this vast metropolis. View out of the window isn't at all bad.
When in Korea, be prepared...
10 Nov 2013 12:29
Kia Ray EV
I am flying to Seoul later today on a press visit with Kia. The itinerary includes a visit to Kia's Namyang R&D centre to talk to engineers, a chance to drive the Ray EV and a briefing at the company's HQ. It all sounds good. Nice to get out occasionally.
The helpful people at Kia UK have also provided a useful guide and travel companion with all kinds of useful info. It includes a list of some useful phrases and words in Korean - hello, thank you, that kind of thing. A few cheeky phrases crept in. Click on 'view 1 related image' to see them. Made me smile. My past experience as a traveller suggests that 'sorry' will be the local lingo word I may need to master...
Celebrity endorsement fail
05 Nov 2013 13:16
Hyundai marketing managers in China must have been pleased when they secured well known Olympic champion swimmer Sun Yang as a brand ambassador and TV advertising campaign star.
Yes, perfect fellow to be seen extolling the virtues of the Santa Fe SUV in China.
Oh, but he's had a road traffic accident. Not necessarily a problem, but he can't present a driving licence, so he's in trouble with the police and the attendant publicity is, well, not all that good. Looks like he has not passed his driving test, but likes to drive anyway. And he was in an SUV, but it was not a Hyundai.
Andy Palmer on Nissan in China
28 Oct 2013 16:02
I have come across an interview that Nissan board member Andy Palmer did in Shanghai earlier this year on how Nissan sees the Chinese vehicle market. It's worth a look. The Nissan Friend-ME concept that was shown in Shanghai is designed to appeal to the balinghou generation, the generation that is the product of the one-child policy in China. He also mentions the successful launch of the Teana and Nissan's plans for an electric vehicle for China under the Venucia brand in 2015.
An EV that can also be cool and appeal to the urban middle-class balinghou generation?
BMW i3 and questions posed for the US...
22 Oct 2013 09:46
The BMW i3. Hmm. It certainly looks impressive and is clearly the result of some clever future-looking corporate strategising backed up with heavy investment, though we at just-auto haven't yet driven it ourselves, so we reserve judgement there.
Here's an interesting review from US-based John Voelcker, who poses some interesting questions concerning how the car will be perceived in the US marketplace and, indeed, how relevant it will ultimately be to the typical US car-buyer. I guess we're into a numbers game: how many affluent types are there in target US cities for whom an i3 makes sense and will come under serious consideration for future purchase?
This model, remember, was rolled out to journalists earlier this year, with no shortage of razzmatazz and hyperbole, in London, Beijing and New York City. The i3, we were told, heralds the start of a new era for BMW (and, well, the human race!) and all that. Clearly the US market is going to be pretty important for a model with such global significance and relevance to the bright new sustainable future - the premium EV, a new sub-brand, properly engineered and sorted from the trusted maker of hugely successful and desirable premium cars. Legions of US media people have been shipped to Amsterdam to try the car out. Amsterdam, though, is not US suburbia.
A couple of nuggets for people in Munich to chew on from JV:
- 'In building its first battery-electric vehicle, BMW has done precisely what it has been saying for three years it would do: build what may be the world’s best electric city car. The question is simply whether that’s relevant to a country where no head of household in recorded history has ever said, “Honey, let’s go buy a city car.”'
- 'BMW has built a very good city car, one that does something that no other electric small car does: actually makes the driver willing to tolerate congestion and chaotic urban traffic. How applicable that is to the majority of Americans who live in suburban sprawl remains to be seen.'
Food for thought, but I guess we're back to the raw numbers and where they live, demographics/incomes, changing social attitudes, high-tech appetites etc. What vehicle would someone get out of to get into an i3?
The dangers of percentages
02 Oct 2013 14:18
Percentage change numbers are something to be wary of. In particular, the base for comparison needs to be understood. Monthly sales numbers and comparisons with a year ago need to be handled with care. As do percentage changes on low volumes, when product actions or introductions can make a big difference to totals.
I have just been looking at the latest KBA numbers for the German car market in September. Electric cars were up a whopping 197.2% on last year. Wow, someone somewhere might think; this part of the market is clearly hot...er, well, no, not quite and maybe put that Champagne glass down Mr Ghosn. The absolute numbers are still very low - September electric car sales were 532 units, or just 0.2% of the total German car market last month. Nissan is, however, now selling many more Leafs and the Renault Zoe is rolling out this year (as is BMW i3)...so electric car sales will continue to show strong year-on-year growth in the coming months. But a seismic shift, it is not.
A reality check on Tesla's share price
23 Sep 2013 22:00
It's hard not to admire a visionary like Elon Musk. He's also taking on some pretty established companies to say that he can do things differently, that the electric vehicle is worth doing properly. And more than being a visionary, he appears to have a pretty good business brain and even a sense of humour.
A look at the Tesla share price and it's obvious that Musk has charmed investors. The Model S looks like a credible product and sales are rolling out. Tesla has even turned its first quarterly profit.
But hang on a second. We're talking 20,000 units of volume this year and there are sizeable risks attached to future earnings and the competitive environment. That share price is perhaps a little bit inflated. Interesting article from a writer at Forbes adds a little perspective.