Posts tagged ‘Mazda’


All the Geelys on Autocade

01.12.2014

The Geely King Kong Hatchback, one of the new entries on the Autocade website.

Not that I blogged it at the time, but Geely’s multi-brand strategy in 2009 felt doomed. Earlier this year, the company retreated, and brought everything from Englon, Gleagle and Emgrand back under its parent brand again.
   It wasn’t unlike Mazda’s attempt to do the same in the early 1990s, when it began selling cars under marques such as Efini, Autozam and Eunos, as well as its own brand. The bursting of Japan’s bubble economy didn’t help things, but the problems went deeper than that. Those who were used to buying a Mazda Capella from a certain outlet were surprised to find that it had become one of these new channels, and there was no Capella or equivalent to be seen. In fact, for those years, there was no Capella—a nameplate Japanese buyers had become accustomed to for decades—as Mazda decided to offer cars such as the Cronos, which went over the 1,700 mm width that landed it in a higher tax bracket.
   We never noticed much of these issues outside Japan, as these cars were simply sold as Mazda 626, and there were fewer signs of the company’s ambitious plans that landed it in such trouble then-shareholder Ford installed a Scot in charge. It was the first time a Caucasian wound up running a car maker there. Mazda felt embarrassed it wasn’t one of their own.
   Geely might not have had the Chinese economy collapse on it, and it may have been buoyed through the 2000s as it went from being a manufacturer of recycled Daihatsus to a major Chinese automotive force, but there was the obvious problem of increasing its marketing costs dramatically. Could it also develop lines for four marques all of a sudden? Remember, too, it would swallow Volvo around this time, giving it a fifth marque.
   The answer was no: Geely wound up shifting various models to different marques, badge-engineering others, and generally confusing the state of affairs for Chinese consumers. There’s a solid argument to be made for Geely at the time though: the automotive market was clearly segmenting, and there was a need to have budget and luxury brands. But it didn’t seem organic, but dramatically forced. I take my hat off to Geely for carrying it out, nevertheless, even if some of the models were lacking: the Emgrand EC7, for instance, had rear torsion beam suspension, and it was supposedly a premium product for the well-to-do upper-middle-class Chinese buyer.
   It all came crashing down earlier this year, when Geely realized that it lost economies of scale in marketing, and the most important player in all of this—the consumer—really couldn’t follow what was what. To top it off, these new brands had no goodwill, just as Mazda’s didn’t 20 years before. Unless you’re willing to push these brands like crazy, it’s a hard battle to win, especially in the most competitive market on earth. China, too, has had a downturn in car sales this year, and the heady days of thinking one can adopt multi-brand strategies without the numbers to support them are over.
   Why has it come up? Today, Autocade has successfully recorded the entire current line of Geelys, and there are quite a few historical models in there, too. It was incredibly confusing, too, tracking the new identities of a lot of the models—did the Englon SC5 get renamed? Which lines were dropped because there was a badge-engineered equivalent? And, as is particularly common among Chinese models we put on Autocade, how on earth shall we translate some of these model names? (The practice is to use the Chinese company’s own translations, where available, and not succumb to using the export names to index them.)
   While some pages had the new Geely names appended to the old Englon, Emgrand and Gleagle model pages, there were new entries for the Geely New Emgrand, the old King Kong line along with the Englon SC5-based King Kong hatchback, the two generations of Geely Vision, and the historical Geely Haoqing (an old car based around a 1980s Daihatsu Charade: to think, at the turn of the century, this described pretty much every car in the Geely range) as well as the new flagship SUV that now bears the name.
   The reason for being a bit obsessive over the Geelys, as well as some other models (we added nearly all the current Cadillacs and a few more Chang’ans), is that with the demise of Auto Katalog, I believe more will go online. If we can present a credible new-car site—although we have a long way to go before we get every current model line up—we may go some way to filling the void with Autocade.

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My holiday as a car anorak

06.02.2011

Since New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are about the only two days I actually take off, I spent some time adding entries on Autocade, a site that doesn’t seem like “work” to me. It’s my hobby.
   The randomizer, which my friend Peter Jobes installed for me on the site’s home page, came up with the Eunos 500 today, which led me to look for this old Dutch commercial from 1993 that I rather liked, with a Chuck and Di theme:

The VO at the end (Dutch speakers, please feel free to correct me) says, ‘Xedos 6. The quietest car in the world.’
   But since I had a few days off, the site’s now up to 1,335 entries, and the latest, at the time of writing, is for the Morris 2200. It’s incredibly hard to find a decent Morris 2200 image, but I tracked one down today without going into my basement. Here’s that entry:

Image:Morris_2200.jpgMorris 2200 (ADO17). 1972–5 (prod. 20,865, incl. Austin 2200). 4-door saloon. F/F, 2227 cm³ (6 cyl. OHC). Twin of Austin 2200, identical in all respects but badging. See Austin entry. Similar to Wolseley Six, on the same basis.

Of course, it means that one has to refer to the Austin 2200 entry, which looks like this:

Image:Austin_2200.jpgAustin 2200 (ADO17). 1972–5 (prod. 20,865, incl. Morris 2200). 4-door saloon. F/F, 2227 cm³ (6 cyl. OHC). Development of Austin 1800, with larger E-series engine that had seen service in Austin Tasman and Kimberley in Australia. Good power from larger E-series, though cars were overshadowed by better Rovers and Triumphs. Twinned with Morris 2200 and Wolseley Six.

   Spot the similarity apart from the cars being basically the same? Both are of the 2200 in motion, wheels turned to the left, in flight.
   One suspects that BLMC didn’t want people getting a look at the car while it was stationary, so the promo shots were done with the 2200 in anger.
   The E-series engine actually wasn’t that bad, but the car was hampered with those same-again looks from the 1800, and a bad driving position, compromising what would have otherwise been a pretty good package.
   The other lot that was of huge interest to me hailed from China. Frankly, you can’t do a car database of recent vehicles without including a large amount from the mainland.
   Yes, of course there will be consolidation, but at the same time we are looking at a large population, happy to buy local (as in cars from their own region), and somewhat reflecting the buying behaviour over in India. There, you see Hindustans in the north, Premiers in the south, and Marutis everywhere; China tends to have models that sell better in their home regions. Even Volkswagen fields two compact sedans in the Jetta class, in recognition of this.
   That was a tough area to research. In the past, I’ve put up some of the newer models such as the Chery A3, or the easy-to-follow remnants of the British Motor Corp. (MG and Roewe), but I began tracing the history of models such as the Geely Haoqing. Geely may be Volvo’s parent company but there’s not that much about some of its earlier models which were based around an ancient 1980s’ Daihatsu Charade.
   Hopefully, there’s now some decent info in the Anglophone web as a result of my work on this and half a dozen other cars which will seem mainstream to readers inside China, and totally foreign to those outside.
   I also had a Twitter exchange with the webmaster behind Carfolio, whose site is far more comprehensive than Autocade. His aim is to record every detail about every variant of every model line, and I don’t envy his task.
   I was saddened to note this on his home page (emphasis added):

Carfolio.com has been collecting and collating automotive technical data for many years, before actually having a website or even an internet-connected computer. Realising that there would be interest in this database, I decided to put my data up online in a very useful and functional way. It has always and will always be free for anyone to utilise. Some people, however, have decided to crawl the site and put all the data into their own database and resell and republish the information without attribution, credit or acknowledgement. Some go as far as to add 10mm to the basic dimensions so as to try and disguise their actions.

The culprits are named on the Carfolio site, so, car anoraks, steer clear of them.
   After reading that warning, I added a small note to Autocade: you can take bits based around Creative Commons, but duplicating the entire site is a no-no. I know this goes against the idealism surrounding CC, but I would be horrified if millimetres were being added to my hard work, and render it useless.
   A few oddball models were added to Autocade for the enjoyment and use of netizens, including the second Honda Z, the Daewoo Royale (of which there is little information, and what exists on Wikipedia is not wholly accurate) and the three Tridents (which I could not have done without reference to Keith Adams’s excellent AROnline site).
   Now that I’ve done my dash for a few days off, it’s back to my real jobs. Have a wonderful New Year.

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