Posts tagged ‘car industry’


Are hybrids better for the environment than pure EVs?

19.08.2022

Shared by a family member. Hear out Dr Graham Conway, principal engineer in the Automotive Division at Southwest Research Institute, and why zero-emission vehicles are not truly zero-emission. It’s a point I’ve made way, way back (in the 2000s) when I cited a study which showed the Ford Fiesta Econetic, a diesel car, was the best vehicle for the environment over its lifetime.

This TEDx talk is from 2020, and Conway believes hybrids are a better bet for the environment than full EVs. Have a watch as he explains why.
 

 

TED has flagged Conway’s talk with the following statement: ‘This talk only reflects the speaker’s personal views and interpretation. Several claims in this talk lack scientific support.’ I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t quote this. It’s also worth having a read of this from 2021 and this from 2020. Here’s one more link from Green Car Reports in 2020, titled ‘Lifetime carbon emissions of electric cars are much lower than previously suggested’. All of these suggest that newer production processes and decarbonization may be helping EVs rank better when their lifetime (including production) emissions are counted.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, technology | No Comments »


If corporate America says it, it’s probably untrue

16.07.2022


Le dernier.
 
I see the Le Snak range has now left us, after its US owner PepsiCo cited a lack of demand. I call bullshit, since during 2021 it was becoming increasingly difficult to find them on the shelves. Throttling distribution is not the same as a lack of demand, something you see time and time again with corporate claptrap.

It’s like the myth that New Zealanders all prefer automatic transmissions. No, not supplying manuals will inevitably force people to change. Has the industry done a survey as I have? Last time I conducted one, in the 2010s, we were still running 50–50, with a lot of people saying, ‘I prefer a manual, but I had no choice but to buy an automatic.’

Ford is a useful example of US companies citing reduced demand but doing things behind the scenes to ensure it. The line that no one was buying big cars saw to the end of the road for the Australian Falcon and the closure of its Broadmeadows plant. Did any of you see any advertising for the Falcon leading up to that? Or see many Falcons on dealer lots? It seems to me that a corporate decision had been made, and steps taken to guarantee an outcome. Throttle the distribution (‘We’re out of stock’) and of course demand falls.

Get your tape measures out, and you’ll find the Falcon was smaller than the Mondeo (which at that point was still selling) on key measures other than overall length and, presumably, boot volume. The two-litre Ecoboost Falcon with its rear-wheel drive was promoted with all the energy of a damp squid, but it had all the ingredients for success as a decent-handling sedan. But Broadmeadows was an inefficient plant, from what I understand (from hearsay), and bringing it up to speed would have cost more than a bunch of Pinto lawsuits. ‘But there’s no demand for what it builds anyway!’ they cry. Then they can justify the closure.

Go back to the 1990s and the same thing happened with Ford’s Contour and Mystique twins in the US. People were buying BMW 3-series in droves, cars the same size as the Contour. But Ford claimed there was no demand, leading to its US cancellation after the 2000 model year. Reality: I say the Dearborn fiefdom didn’t like the fact the Contour was part of a world-car project (which gave us the original Mondeo) led by Ford’s Köln fiefdom. Not-invented-here killed the Contour, and a relative lack of promotion also guaranteed its fate. (Ford would wind up contesting the segment again later in the 2000s with the Fusion and Milan, but put far more effort into promoting them since they were US-led programmes. I actually saw advertising for them in US magazines! I saw a Milan in Manhattan with Mercury encouraging us to try it out!)

If you take the line that anything a big US firm utters is an utter lie, it keeps you in good stead. Use that approach with Facebook, for instance, and you’ll find things make sense more often than not. And of course we all knew what Elon Musk meant when he said he wanted to buy Twitter.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, marketing, New Zealand, USA | No Comments »


Most of our top 10 sellers reflect our ignorance

25.03.2022


The Suzuki Swift: one of the saving graces on New Zealand’s top 10 list.
 
At the Opel relaunch briefing yesterday, I was shocked to find that these were New Zealand’s top selling vehicles for 2021. I knew about the first two, but had always assumed a Toyota Corolla would follow, plus some regular cars. From this, I gather the rest of New Zealand thinks the opposite to me. I personally believe petrol is expensive.
 
1. Ford Ranger
2. Toyota Hilux
3. Mitsubishi Triton
4. Mitsubishi ASX (RVR on the home market)
5. Toyota RAV4
6. Mitsubishi Outlander (presumably the outgoing one)
7. Mazda CX-5
8. Nissan Navara
9. Suzuki Swift
10. Kia Stonic
 

Not a very discerning lot, are we? We say we care about the environment yet enough of us have helped fuel the second biggest contributor to the carbon emissions’ rise in the last 10 years: the crossover or SUV.

And I’ve driven those RVRs. Why are people buying, in 2021, a vehicle that feels like a taller, larger Colt from the 2000s?

I have no issue with those of you who really need an SUV or ute. But for those who pose, you aren’t helping yourself or your planet. And even if you bought some electrified variant, I thought it was universally understood (certainly for any of us alive during the 1970s fuel crises and those who observed the aerodynamic trend of the 1980s) that tall bodies and big frontal areas would consume more energy.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, culture, New Zealand | 1 Comment »


GM and Ford keep falling down the top 10 table

30.10.2021

It’s bittersweet to get news of the Chevrolet Corvette from what’s left of GM here in New Zealand, now a specialist importer of cars that are unlikely to sell in any great number. And we’re not unique, as the Sino-American firm pulls out of entire regions, and manufactures basically in China, North America, and South America. Peter Hanenberger’s prediction that there won’t be a GM in the near future appears to be coming true. What’s the bet that the South American ranges will eventually be superseded by Chinese product? Ford is already heading that way.
   Inconceivable? If we go back to 1960, BMC was in the top 10 manufacturers in the world.
   Out of interest, I decided to take four years—1990, 2000, 2010, and 2020—to see who the top 10 car manufacturers were. I haven’t confirmed 1990’s numbers with printed sources (they’re off YouTube) and I don’t know exactly what their measurement criteria are. Auto Katalog 1991–2 only gives country, not world manufacturer, totals and that was my most ready source.
   Tables for 2000 and 2010 come from OICA, when they could be bothered compiling them. The last is from Daily Kanban and the very reliable Bertel Schmitt, though he concedes these are based on units sold, not units produced, due to the lack of data on the latter.

1990
1 GM
2 Ford
3 Toyota
4 Volkswagen
5 Daimler-Benz
6 Mitsubishi
7 Honda
8 Nissan
9 Suzuki
10 Hyundai

2000
1 GM
2 Ford
3 Toyota
4 Volkswagen
5 DaimlerChrysler
6 PSA
7 Fiat
8 Nissan
9 Renault
10 Honda

2010
1 Toyota
2 GM
3 Volkswagen (7,341,065)
4 Hyundai (5,764,918)
5 Ford
6 Nissan (3,982,162)
7 Honda
8 PSA
9 Suzuki
10 Renault (2,716,286)

   If Renault’s and Nissan’s numbers were combined, and they probably should be at this point, then they would form the fourth largest grouping.

2020
1 Toyota
2 Volkswagen
3 Renault Nissan Mitsubishi
4 GM
5 Hyundai
6 Stellantis
7 Honda
8 Ford
9 Daimler
10 Suzuki

   For years we could predict the GM–Ford–Toyota ordering but I still remember the headlines when Toyota edged GM out. GM disputed the figures because it wanted to be seen as the world’s number one. But by 2010 Toyota is firmly in number one and GM makes do with second place. Ford has plummeted to fifth as Volkswagen and Hyundai—by this point having made its own designs for just three and a half decades—overtake it.
   Come 2020, with the American firms’ expertise lying in segment-quitting ahead of competing, they’ve sunk even further: GM in fourth and Ford in eighth.
   It’s quite remarkable to me that Hyundai (presumably including Kia and Genesis) and Honda (including Acura) are in these tables with only a few brands, ditto with Daimler AG. Suzuki has its one brand, and that’s it (if you want to split hairs, of course there’s Maruti).
   Toyota has Lexus and Daihatsu and a holding in Subaru, but given its broad range and international sales’ strength, it didn’t surprise me that it has managed to have podium finishes for the last three decades. It’s primarily used its own brand to do all its work, and that’s no mean feat.
   I’m surprised we don’t see the Chinese groups in these tables but many are being included in the others’ totals. For instance, SAIC managed to shift 5,600,482 units sold in 2020 but some of those would have been counted in the Volkswagen and GM totals.
   I won’t go into the reasons for the US manufacturers’ decline here, but things will need to change if they don’t want to keep falling down these tables. Right now, it seems they will continue to decline.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, cars, China, USA | No Comments »


Have you driven a Ford … lately? Probably not

13.09.2021


Ford’s Brazilian line-up, 2021. Once upon a time, there were locally developed Corcels and Mavericks; even the EcoSport was a Brazilian development. Today, it’s Mustang, a couple of trucks, and a rebadged Chinese crossover.

We heard a lot about the demise of Holden as GM retreats from continents at a time, seemingly in a quest to be a Sino-American player rather than a global one. We’ve heard less about Ford shrinking as well, though the phenomenon is similar.
   Ford’s Brazilian range is now the Mustang, Ranger, Territory (which is fundamentally a badge-engineered Yusheng S330 from China with a Fordized interior), and Bronco. It’s beating a retreat from Brazil, at the cost of tens of thousands of jobs (its own, plus associated industries’) in a country that already has 15 per cent unemployment.
   Their reasoning is that electrification and technological change are driving restructuring, which seems plausible, till you realize that in other markets, including Thailand where there’s still a plant making Fords, the company is fielding essentially trucks, the truck-based Everest, and the Mustang.
   Ford warned us that this would be its course of action a few years ago, but now it’s happening, it makes even less sense.
   Say it’s all about (eventual) electrification. You’d want vehicles in your portfolio now that lend themselves to energy efficiency, so that people begin associating your brand with it. Trucks and pony cars don’t fit with this long-term. And I still believe that at some point, even before trucks commonly have electric powertrains, someone is going to say, ‘These tall bodies with massive frontal areas are using up way more of the juice I’m paying for. We don’t need something this big.’
   Let’s say Ford quickly pivots. It sticks a conventional saloon body on the Mustang Mach-E platform (which, let’s be honest, started off as a Focus crossover—the product code, CX727, tells us as much) in record time. Would anyone buy it? Probably not before they see what the Asians, who don’t abandon segments because they can’t be bothered working hard, have in their showrooms. Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, and countless Chinese marques, have been building their goodwill in the meantime.
   It’s why two decades ago, I warned against DaimlerChrysler killing off its price-leading brand, Plymouth. You never know when recessionary times come and you want an entry-level brand. Before the decade was out, that time came, and Chrysler didn’t have much it could use without diluting its existing brands’ market perceptions to have some price leaders.
   Ford retreating from B- and C-segment family cars, even CD- and E-segment ones, means it’ll find it difficult to get back into those markets later on. A good example would be the French, who don’t find much success in the large saloon market generally, and would find it very hard to re-enter in a lot of places.
   I realize the action isn’t in regular passenger cars these days, but the fact that Fiat, Chevrolet and Volkswagen still manage to field broad lines in Brazil suggests that the market still exists and they can still eke out some money from their sales.
   It’s as though the US car firms are giving up, ceding territory. And on this note, Ford has form.
   In the 1990s, Ford’s US arm under-marketed the Contour and Mystique Stateside, cars based on the original European Mondeo. I saw precious little advertising for them in US motoring press. As far as I can tell, they wanted to bury it because they didn’t like the fact it wasn’t developed by them, but by Ford’s German-based team in Köln. ‘See, told you those Europeans wouldn’t know how to engineer a CD-segment car for the US.’ The fiefdom in Dearborn got its own way and later developed the Mazda-based Fusion, while the Europeans did two more generations of Mondeo.
   In the 2000s, it decided to flush the goodwill of the Taurus name down the toilet, before then-new CEO Alan Mulally saw what was happening and hurriedly renamed the Five Hundred to Taurus.
   It under-marketed the last generation of Falcon—you seldom saw them on forecourts—and that looked like a pretext for closing the Australian plant (‘See, no one wants big cars’) even though by this point the Falcon was smaller than the Mondeo in most measures other than overall length, and plenty of people were buying similarly sized rear-wheel-drive saloons over at BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
   The Mondeo hybrid has been another model that you barely hear of, even though the Fusion Hybrid, the American version of the car, had been on sale years before.
   Think about what they gave up. Here, Ford once owned the taxi market. It doesn’t any more as cabbies ultimately wound up in Priuses and Camrys. Had Ford fielded a big hybrid saloon earlier, Toyota might not have made inroads into the taxi market to the same extent. Ford almost seems apologetic for being in segments where others come to, and when challenging the market leaders, doesn’t put much effort in any more.
   Objectively, I would rather have a Mondeo Hybrid than a Camry, but good luck seeing one in a Ford showroom.
   Maybe Ford’s smart to be putting all its resources into growth areas like trucks and crossovers. Puma and Escape have appeal in the B- and C-segment crossover markets in places like New Zealand. They’re fairly car-like now, too. But to me that’s putting all your eggs into one basket. In countries like Brazil and Thailand, where Ford doesn’t sell well resolved crossovers in these segments, it’s treading a fine line. I look at the market leadership it once had in cars, in so many places, and in 2021 that looks like a thing of the past. More’s the pity.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, cars, China, globalization, marketing, USA | 1 Comment »


Brand, sub-brand or model? China’s getting into a confusing phase

16.02.2021


The Dongfeng Aeolus AX7. But just where does Aeolus sit when it comes to indexing in Autocade?

This is something that might have to come out in the wash, and it might take years.
   I think we can all agree that Ssangyong is a marque or a make, and Korando is a model. Never mind that there’s currently a basic Korando, the Korando Sports (a pick-up truck) and a Korando Turismo (a people mover), none of which really have much connection with the other, name aside. We are as comfortable with this as we once were with the Chevrolet Lumina and Lumina APV, the Ford Taurus and Taurus X, and the Toyota Mark X and Mark X Zio. So far so good.
   But when do these drift into being sub-brands? BMW calls i a sub-brand, but as far as cataloguing in Autocade goes, it doesn’t matter, as the model names are i3 or i8 (or a number of ix models now coming out). Audi’s E-Tron is its parallel at Ingolstadt, and here we do have a problem, with a number of E-Tron models unrelated technically. It’s not like Quattro, where there was the (ur-) Quattro, then Quattro as a designation, and everyone accepted that.
   Similarly, the Chinese situation can be far from clear.
   Many years ago, GAC launched a single model based on the Alfa Romeo 166 called the Trumpchi. So far so good: we have a marque and model. But it then decided to launch a whole bunch of other cars also called Trumpchi (the original became the Trumpchi GA5, to distinguish it from at least eight others). Some sources say Trumpchi is a sub-brand, others a brand in its own right, but we continue to reference it as a model, since the cars have a GAC logo on the grille, just as the GAC Aion EVs have a GAC logo on the grille. (The latter is also not helped with Chinese indices tending to separate out EVs into ‘New Energy Vehicle’ listings, even when their manufacturers don’t.)
   I feel that we only need to make the shift into calling a previous model or sub-brand a brand when it’s obvious on the cars themselves. That’s the case with Haval, when it was very clear when it departed from Changcheng (Great Wall). Senia is another marque that spun off from FAW: it began life with the FAW symbol on the grille, before Senia’s own script appeared on the cars.
   The one that confounds me is Dongfeng Aeolus, which was make-and-model for a long time, but recently Aeolus has displaced the Dongfeng whirlwind on the grille of several models. We have them currently listed in Autocade with Dongfeng Aeolus as a new marque, since there’s still a small badge resembling the whirlwind on the bonnet. The Dongfeng Aeolus AX7 retains the whirlwind, but has the Aeolus letters prominently across the back, but to muddle it up, the AX7 Pro has the new Aeolus script up front. These can’t be two different marques but the visual cues say they are.
   Maybe we’ll just have to relegate Aeolus back to model status, and do what Ssangyong does with the Korando (or Changcheng with the Tengyi). These are the things that make life interesting, but also a little confusing when it comes to indexing an encyclopædia.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, China, internet, publishing, USA | No Comments »


How Jaguar Land Rover can still win its Land Rover Defender IP case against Ineos

09.08.2020

I haven’t read the full judgement of the Land Rover Defender case, where Jaguar Land Rover sought to protect the shape of the original Defender under trade mark law, to prevent Ineos from proceeding with the Grenadier.
   According to Bloomberg, as reported in Automotive News, ‘The judge upheld the findings by the IP Office that while differences in design may appear significant to some specialists, they “may be unimportant, or may not even register, with average consumers.”’
   On the face of it, this would appear to be a reason for upholding JLR’s claim—but the Indian-owned Midlands car maker seems to have muddled the cause of action it was supposed to have taken.
   I’ve already taken issue with its inability to protect the L538 Range Rover Evoque shape in China under that country’s laws, and while that judgement was eventually overturned in JLR’s favour, the company could have saved itself a great deal of stress had it filed its registration in time. It had been ignorant of Chinese law and wasted time and resources pursuing Ford Motor Company affiliate Landwind for its Range Rover Evoque clone, the X7. I sense Landwind could have afforded the ultimate fine.
   Here I think arguing copyright might have been a better method. The Land Rover Station Wagon shape hails from 1949, and with 75 years’ protection, the company is covered till 2024. You don’t need to show a registration, and the onus of proof, once objective similarity is found, is on the defendant. That test of objective similarity, unlike that in trade mark, is not based on what the average consumer thinks, but on what specialists think. And the scenes à faire doctrine has been adopted by precedent in the UK.
   Maybe that was the game plan all along: to fail here, and to proceed using copyright later. I’m sure the plaintiff knows this. Now, armed with the judgement’s findings—that the differences are insignificant— Jaguar Land Rover can pursue a copyright claim using these as evidence.
   To me, the Grenadier is sufficiently similar. Some point to the Puch G as another source of inspiration but I can’t see it. And since a court has ruled that they can’t see it, either, then Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos had better not break out the champagne just yet.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, cars, design, India, UK | No Comments »


Autocade reaches 20 million page views

26.07.2020


Above: The 4,243th model entered into Autocade, now on 20,008,500 page views: the Maxus G50.

Autocade’s passed the 20,000,000 page-view mark, sitting on just over 20,008,000 at the time of writing, on 4,243 models entered (the Maxus G50 is the newest), an increase of 101 models over the last million views.
   As it’s the end of July, then it’s taken just under four months for the site to gain another million page views. It’s not as fast as the million it took to get to 18,000,000 or the previous million milestone.
   To be frank, the last few months have been a little on the dull side for updating Autocade. No Salon de Genève meant that while there were new models, they weren’t all appearing during the same week at one of the world’s biggest car shows. And it’s not all that interesting talking about another SUV or crossover: they’re all rather boxy, tall, and unnecessary. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we have certain behaviours that aren’t really helping our planet, and surely selfish SUVs are a sign of those?
   I don’t begrudge those who really use theirs off-road, but as a statement of wank, I’m not so sure.
   So many of them seem like the same vehicle but cut to different lengths, like making cake slices and seeing what remains.
   During the lockdown, I put on a bunch of older models, too, which made the encyclopædia more complete, but I imagine those who come to the site wanting data on the latest stuff might have been slightly disappointed.
   It does mean that we didn’t see much of an increase in traffic during lockdown here, but the opposite.
   As is the tradition on this blog, here was how the growth looked.

March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million, from first week of October to December 27)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million, from December 27 to April 9)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months, from April 9 to July 26)

   Unlike the last entry on this subject, the Alexa ranking stats have been improving, despite the slow-down in traffic.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, China, internet, media, publishing | No Comments »


May is always quieter for blogging—and we get to 4,200 models on Autocade

12.05.2020

Again, proof that each 100th vehicle on Autocade isn’t planned: the 4,200th is the second-generation Mazda Premacy, or Mazda 5 in some markets, a compact MPV that débuted 15 years ago. If it were planned, something more significant would have appeared.
   I know MPVs aren’t sexy but they remain one of the most practical ways to ferry people around when it comes to the motor car. In terms of space efficiency and the percentage of the car’s length dedicated to passenger accommodation, they remain one of the best. And with the old Premacy, they handled really well, too.
   It must be the times we live in that people demand inefficient crossovers and SUVs instead, and that is a shame. Maybe with the pandemic people will re-evaluate what’s important, and signalling that you have some inadequacy with a large vehicle might fall down the pecking order. MPVs were usually cleverly designed, and the Premacy was no exception—what a shame Mazda, and so many others, are no longer in this market as buyer tastes shifted.

Out of curiosity, why do people visit Autocade? We haven’t had a big jump in visits with COVID-19 (contrary to some other motoring sites), as I imagine encyclopædias aren’t as fun as, say, AROnline, where at least you can reminisce about the British motor industry that was, back in the day when Britain had a functioning government that seemed terrible at the time when no one could imagine how much worse it could get. Obviously we haven’t had as many new models to record, but are they the reason people pop by? Or are the old models the reason? Or the coverage of the Chinese market, which few Anglophone sites seem to do? If you are an Autocade fan reading this, please feel free to let us know why in the comments.

One moan about Facebook. Go on.
   Sometimes when I pop in—and that remains rarely—and look at the Lucire fan page, I’ll spot an automated Tweet that has appeared courtesy of IFTTT. It’s had, say, no views, or one view. I think, ‘Since there have been no real interactions with this bot entry, maybe I should delete it and feed it in manually, because surely Facebook would give something that has been entered directly on to its platform better organic reach than something that a bot has done?’
   With that thought process, I delete it and enter the same thing in manually.
   Except now, as has happened so many times before, the page preview is corrupted—Facebook adds letters to the end of the URL, corrupting it, so that the preview results in a 404. This is an old bug that goes back years—I spotted it when I used Facebook regularly, and that was before 2017. It’s not every link but over the last few weeks there have been two. You then have to go and edit the text to ask people, ‘Please don’t click on the site preview because Facebook is incapable of providing the correct link.’ Now you’re down some views because people think you’ve linked a 404. Not everyone’s going to read your explanation about Facebook’s incompetence. (Once again, this reminds me why some people say I encounter more bugs there than others—I don’t, but not everyone is observant.)

   This series of events is entirely counterintuitive because it means that bot activity is prioritized over actual activity on Facebook. Bot activity is more accurate and links correctly. And so we come back to the old, old story I have told many times about Facebook and bots and how the platform is bot city. In 2014, I rang the alarm bells; and I was astonished that in 2019 Facebook claims it had to delete over 5,400 million bot accounts. You should have listened to me then, folks—unless, of course, bots are part of the growth strategy, and of course they are.
   So, when feeding in links, remember this. Facebook: friendly to bots, not to humans. It’s probably not a bad way to approach their site anyway.

I’ve looked at my May blogging stats going back a decade (left sidebar, for those on the desktop skin) and it’s always quieter. I blog less. I wonder why this is. The beginning of hibernation? The fact that less interesting stuff’s happening in late autumn as the seasons change?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, design, internet, New Zealand, politics, publishing, technology, UK | No Comments »


Z cars

11.03.2020

I did say I’d blog when Autocade hit 4,100 models, which it did yesterday. Proof that the hundredth milestones aren’t planned: the model was the Changan Zhixiang (長安志翔 or 长安志翔, depending on which script system you prefer) of 2008, a.k.a. Changan Z-Shine. A less than stellar car with a disappointingly assembled interior, but it did have one thing many period mainland Chinese cars lacked: a self-developed engine.
   It shows the nation’s quick progress. The Zhixiang was Changan’s (back then, we’d have written Chang’an) first effort in the C-segment, after making microvans, then A-, then B-segment cars, with quick progress between each. The Changan Eado, the company’s current C-segment sedan, might still be rather derivative, but the pace of improvement is still impressive.
   After 1949 through to the late 1970s, Chinese cars in the PRC were few in number, with mass production not really considered. The first post-revolution cars had panels that were hand-beaten to the right shape in labour-intensive methods. Some of those cars borrowed heavily from western ones. Then came licensed manufacture (Jeep Cherokee, Peugeot 504, the Daihatsu Charade at Tianjin) as well as clones (Citroën Visa, SEAT Ibiza). By the 1990s some of these licensed vehicles had been adapted and facelifted locally. The PRC started the new century with a mixture of all of the above, but by the dawn of the 2010s, most Chinese press frowned upon clones and praised originality, and the next decade was spent measuring how quickly the local manufacturers were closing the gap with foreign cars. It’s even regarded that some models have surpassed the foreign competition and joint-venture partners’ offerings now. Style-wise, the Landwind Rongyao succeeds the company’s (and Ford affiliate’s) Range Rover Evoque clone, the X7, with a body designed by GFG Style (that’s Giorgetto and Fabrizio Giugiaro, the first production car credited to the father-and-son team’s new firm) and chassis tuned at MIRA. The Roewe RX5 Max is, in terms of quality, technology, and even dynamics, more than a match for the Honda CR-V—a sign of things to come, once we get past viral outbreaks. Styling-wise, it lacks the flair of the Rongyao, but everything else measures up.
   But the Zhixiang was over a decade before these. Changan did the right thing by having an original, contemporary body, and it was shedding Chinese manufacturers’ reliance on Mitsubishi’s and others’ engines. To think that was merely 12 years ago, the same year Autocade started.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, cars, China, design, interests | No Comments »