Look-a-like: Alfa Romeo Giulia and…

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Now, don’t get me wrong – I want Alfa Romeo to succeed just like the next person. If that means they need to copy from the best, well, so be it. But in their rush to finish the Giulia in time (the development took a record 26 months) I feel that Alfa’s designers borrowed a little too liberally, copying the good stuff as well as the bad, and not just from the car you are already thinking of…… Continue Reading …

Poll: What do you think of the Citroën Cactus M Concept?

Citroen Cactus M Concept

After weeks of speculation and fan-boy excitement Citroën finally showed off its Cactus M Concept. The car is meant as a modern take on the Mehari, an off-roader offshoot of the legendary 2CV and the reason why the new model is called the “M Concept”. But while the car sure looks cool and most of our readers are probably pretty excited about it, I doubt this car would sell even if PSA was planning to produce it – and they will probably think twice, nah, three times before they commit after the sales failure that were their most recent “out there” cars such as the Citroën Pluriel or the Peugeot 1007.

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Look-a-like: Infiniti Q30 and…


Infiniti Q30This may be one of those situations where you’ll say “Hey, the end product looks great, so what are you complaining about?”, but the Infiniti’s designers desire to pay homage to one of its competitors (aka copy its design) is just too obvious to ignore.

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US sales 2015 first half Premium Large SUV segment

US Premium SUV LargeThe Premium Large SUV segment grew by 7%, a faster pace of growth than the market overall (4%), but decidedely than both the Premium Midsize and Compact segments (26% and 40%, respectively). Nonetheless, it was a respectable performance for what is the largest of the three segments – in fact it is the only case from among all segment groupings (Mainstream, Premium, SUV, SUV Premium) where the largest cars are the most popular. Part of the reason, though, may be in the definition of the segment which deviates from that of non-premium SUVs, and groups cars as disparate as the Lincoln MKX and Cadillac Escalade under the Large banner, for a grand total of 22 models (compared to 17 in Europe).

Lexus RX

2016 Lexus RX

The Lexus RX remains the undisputed market leader, despite being in its final year. With a new, bolder RX about to go on sale this dominance is only set to expand, which is bad news for the competition. In fact, the only trick that Lexus seems to be missing is that it still won’t offer the RX with a 3rd row – it is one of only three models in the top 10 of this segment that don’t offer 3 rows of seating, and while the GX and LX models fill that gap somewhat you have to wonder whether a more modern, monocoque-based model would not sell better (e.g. the Mercedes-Benz GL-class in #6 sells around half as many units as the M-class, while combined the GX/LX sell only around a quarter as many units as the RX). Just something to ponder, Lexus – you don’t want to miss out the way you have been doing by not entering the Premium Compact SUV segment until now, where the NX went straight to #4 in sales.

In second spot is the Acura MDX, though with a 4% drop in sales year-on-year it was almost overtaken by BMW’s new X5, which enjoyed a 30% growth in sales. Both models, along with the Mercedes-Benz M-Class in fourth, are examples of a how the new generation of premium SUVs traded in the muscular looks of the previous generation for less offensive, more aerodynamic looks that make them look like pumped-up wagons more than ever.

Infiniti QX60

Infiniti QX60

Following in #5 is the Infiniti QX60 (née JX), a premium version of the Nissan Pathfinder that clearly has found favor with consumers thanks to its family-friendliness. In fact, its softer looks, better ride and space are clearly in more demand than aggressive looks and Cayenne-chasing handling of its more established brother, the QX70 (née FX), which languishes in 18th spot in sales with fewer than 15% of the units sold.

In #7 is the Lexus GX, the brand’s luxurious take on the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (smaller of the two). In placing as high as it does, it leads the sales charts for body-on-frame SUVs, ahead of other models such as the Cadillac Escalade and its long-wheelbase brother, the Escalade ESV (#9 and #15, respectively, twinned with the Chevy Tahoe/Suburban), the Infiniti QX80 (née QX56, brother of the Nissan Patrol not sold in the US), the ancient Lincoln Navigator (#16, brother of Ford’s Expedition), the evergreen Mercedes-Benz G-class (#20) and the Lexus LX (#21, based on the large Toyota Land Cruiser). Overall, the body-on-frame models accounted for only 17% of the segment in the first half of 2015.
2015 H1 SUV Premium Large

Range Rover Sport

Range Rover Sport

In #8 and #10 are the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover, with the sales of the latter growing especially quickly at 54%. But while the success of the “daddy” Range Rover is good news for JLR, it’s debatable whether they will regard the rate at which the Sport is selling as a success. After all, it’s a brand new model and yet its 14% growth rate is nothing to write home about. One wonders whether the blame does not lie with Range Rover’s confused model strategy, in that it gave its supposedly sporty model a 3rd row, compromising its chances against the likes of Porsche’s Cayenne, but not really luring yummy-mummies away from their RXs or X5s.

Lincoln MKX

2016 Lincoln MKX

In #11 is the first of the three Lincoln models, the soon-to-be-replaced MKX, whose sales were down a whopping 33% (second only to the even older Volvo XC90, whose sales dropped 41%, landing it at the bottom of the sales rankings). Still, it did better on the market than the aforementioned Navigator in #16, or the whale-shaped MKT (#19, sales down 23%). It also beat out the Audi Q7 (#12), which miraculously managed a 1% sales increase in its 8th year on the market. It will be interesting how well the new MKX and Q7 do – I expect especially the latter to do much better when the new model goes on sale.

From among the truly sporty upscale SUVs Porsche’s Cayenne remained top-dog in #13, though it sales were down 8%, suggesting its sales are being cannibalized by its smaller brother, the Macan. Still, it managed to sell more than twice as many units as BMW’s X6 (#17) or Infiniti’s QX70 (#18). While we won’t be able to break them out, it’ll be interesting whether we’ll know how well Mercedes-Benz’s new GLE Coupe will do against this lot.

Why would Honda bring the S660 roadster to Europe?

Honda_S660-frontEarlier this year, Honda launched the S660 roadster in its home market Japan. The 8.600 units of the small two-seater with a 660cc engine planned for this year were quickly sold out as Japanese buyers had obviously an appetite for the open-air kei car. Exports to Europe haven’t been ruled out, although there are rumors it will be fit with a 1.0-liter engine when it does make its way to the continent. Or to be exact: rumors of exports to Europe surfaced as a result of the possible bigger engine, as that engine wouldn’t make sense for the local Japanese market where it would no longer qualify as a tax-subsidized kei car.

The US market would also make sense as an export market considering the success of the Mazda MX-5 Miata and other roadster models, but American Honda has ruled out the possibility of importing the tiny roadster. John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, is quoted to say the S660 would be too small for the American market. “It might be better for India or China or somewhere else”, Mendel said. Besides being prejudiced and perhaps even offensive, this last comment is obvious bullshit, showing he has no idea of the automotive landscape outside of the US, because India and China are among the last places where a bite-sized roadster would make sense.… Continue Reading …

US sales 2015 first half Premium Midsize SUV segment

The Premium Midsize SUV segment grew by 26%, less than the smaller, Compact segment but faster than the Premium Large SUV one. The main driver of this growth has been the introduction of new models such as the Lexus NX, Lincoln MKC and BMW X4, though most existing models also experienced a healthy growth rate. With the new Mercedes-Benz GLK about to go on sale, and the new Audi Q5 and Cadillac SRX just around the corner, all signs point to growth in this segment continuing for a while yet.

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US sales 2015 first half Premium Compact SUV segment

US Premium SUV Compact

The Premium Compact SUV segment grew by 40% year-on-year, the best performance from among all Premium SUV segments that, overall, grew by an impressive 15%. The main driver of growth in the Compact segment has been the introduction of two models to the US market: the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3. And with the new X1 going on sale in the second half of the year I would not bet against this healthy growth continuing for a while yet.

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US sales 2015 first half Large SUV segment

US SUV Large

The Large SUV segment shrank by 3% year-on-year, by far the worst performance of all non-premium SUV segments. It is important to keep in mind, however, that this trend is partly explained by the way this segment is defined – as really large SUVs with body-on-frame construction. And it is the fact that customers are gradually turning away from these rather uncouth underpinnings towards altogether more comfortable monocoque-based cars that will explain the decline of this segment, although many of the Midsize SUVs are, in fact, as big on the outside (and often bigger inside) than those in the Large SUV segment.… Continue Reading …

Look-a-like: new Kia Sportage and…

Kia Sportage

Kia finally released official pictures of the long-awaited and frequently-spy-photographed Kia Sportage. And a handsome beast it is too, with the same muscular stance and profile view as the old model, and an arguably even better-resolved rear. The front, however, leaves a lot to be desired, though it’s easy to imagine what Kia’s designers were going for:

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US sales 2015 first half Mid-sized SUV segment

SUV mid-sizedThe Mid-sized SUV segment grew by 14% year-on-year, slightly faster than the average growth rate of 12% for all non-premium SUVs and a lot faster than the market as a whole (4%). Interestingly, this growth can’t really be attributed to any particularly new model (sales of most newest models actually did not grow that quickly), it is more a factor of practically all models gaining across the board.

Ford Explorer

2016 Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer is the segment leader by a wide margin, selling more than 50% more cars than the second most popular model. The really surprising thing is that its sales grew by 17% even though the new, facelifted model was about to go on sale in the summer 2015 – possibly dealers were offering big discounts to make space for the new model. Also, one has to keep in mind that some of those sales go to the Police, for which the Explorer is the main vehicle in the US, but that is only around 12k units per half-a-year period.

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