Autofield Blog

Half a BRIC Short


By: Gary S. Vasilash 12. December 2014

It wasn’t all that long ago that economists were rhapsodizing about the powerful potential of the BRIC countries—that’s Brazil, Russia, India, China—about how the BRICs were going to leave the Western countries in the dust.

Volkswagen Group announced this morning that it has had a record sales performance from January to November 2014, with deliveries of 9.08-million vehicles during that period.

“The ten-million mark is within reach in spite of all of the uncertainties in the global automotive sector,” said Christian Klinger, group board member for Sales.

Wolfsburg

Golf production in Wolfsburg, Germany

In Western Europe, sales were up 7.7%.

In Germany—which is calls out separately, given that it is, after all, the home base—sales were up 5.0%.

In Central and Eastern Europe, sales were up 1.3%.

In Russia—the R in BRIC—sales were down 12.9%.

In South America, Volkswagen Group sales were down 19.7% overall, with sales in Brazil—the B in BRIC—were down 15.8%.

So we have two of the four not performing well.

Things, admittedly, were better in the I and especially C.

In the Asia-Pacific region, sales were up 11.7%.

In China, deliveries increased 12.9%. China is now the Volkswagen Group’s single biggest market.

So there you have it. Half a BRIC.

Those economists are about on par with weather forecasters.


Bentley Motors Is Bullish


By: Gary S. Vasilash 11. December 2014

Bentley, according to Autodata, delivered 323 vehicles in the U.S. in November, which is precisely the number it delivered in November 2013. And year-to-date, its deliveries are 2,591, up from 2,522 for the same 11-month period in 2013.

Last year, on a global basis, Bentley sold 10,120 units, a record then, and one that it plans to break this year.

(Last month, Buick sold 19,143 vehicles in the U.S. Not exactly a fair comparison, but. . . .*)

Bentley SUV

Tease of forthcoming ultra-lux Bentley SUV

That said, either there must be plenty of upside in the luxury market, because this Volkswagen AG company has announced that it is making a £40-million investment on its HQ campus in Crewe, UK, for a 45,000-sq. meter research and development center that will house some 1,300 engineers.

This £40-million is on top of the £800-million that they are in the process of spending over a three-year period.

Bentley is also creating 300 additional jobs, in engineering, manufacturing, quality, sales, marketing, and product management.

One driver of Bentley’s bullishness is the ultra-luxury SUV that it plans to have available by 2016.

*A more-fair comparison would be with Rolls Royce, the BMW company. In November, according to Autodata, there were an estimated 62 Rolls delivered, which is one more than it delivered in November 2013. And year-to-date, its deliveries are 744, staunchly up from 404 for the same 11-month period in 2013.)


2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T SE w/ Connectivity & Nav


By: Gary S. Vasilash 10. December 2014

The Volkswagen Jetta just may be the quintessential car.

It is the sort of straight-up car that looks like a car, drives like a car, has sufficient room for people and cargo as a (compact) car.

It just is, well, a car.

And I mean that in a good way.

Jetta 1

There is nothing flashy about it. Nothing trendy about it. Nothing that says “Hey, look at me!” about it.

Which some people might not find all that engaging as they are more interested in what a car says than what a car does.

But if you’re more interested in speaking for yourself rather than letting an object speak for or about you, if you’re interested in a car that does what a car should with evident competence, then maybe the Jetta is a car that you ought to take a look at.

Jetta 2

It is a four-door sedan. The car that I had was painted “Platinum Gray Metallic.” It is gray. A nice gray. But an anonymous gray. The interior is black. A leatherette. Not real leather. It seems like real not-top-quality leather. The black plastic materials throughout the cabin have nice texture and graining. They are accented with trim that is a patterned silver metallic plastic material. The backlighting of the gauges and whatnot are red. It is sort of darkroom chic.

The four-cylinder, direct-injected turbocharged engine is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Sometimes turbocharged engines have a distinctive lag. This 170-hp engine doesn’t. Sometimes dual-clutch transmissions provide a herky-jerky feeling when shifting. This one doesn’t. The engine is nicely responsive. The transmission is seamless.

Again: just what you’d expect from a compact car.

There are some nice touches. Like active grille shutters which improve aerodynamics and contribute to the highly respectable fuel economy rating (25/37 city/highway). Like the available Lighting Package (a $995 option on this trim level—and that name up there in the headline is the actual name of the vehicle, ampersand included) that has bi-xenon headlamps with dynamic cornering (turn the wheel and the lights shift in that direction) along with 15 LEDs in an L-shape for the daytime running lights.

Jetta 3

Nowadays I am surprised if I get into a car that costs more than $20,000 (the MSRP for this one is $23,650) and discover that it doesn’t have automatic climate control. I was surprised with the Jetta.

The trunk is capacious, and at 15.7-cu. ft., it is said to be “class leading.” The other members of the class include the Civic, Cruze, Dart, Focus, and Corolla.

While it might seem as though I am damning the car for being inconspicuous, that is far from being my intent. I actually like the car quite a bit because it is so forthrightly what it is.

Jetta 4

It strikes me as a no-nonsense car but not something that is a punishment or a penalty. Rather, it seems to have been developed by people who said, “What do most people really need in their daily transport existence? Let’s answer that question and deliver on those requirements.”

And that they have.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged I4

Material: Cast iron block, aluminum head

Horsepower: 170 @ 4,800 rpm

Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Electrical power-assist rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 104.4 in.

Length: 183.3 in.

Width: 70 in.

Height: 57.2 in.

Seating capacity: 5

Passenger volume: 94.1 cu. ft.

Cargo volume: 15.7 cu. ft.

Curb weight: 3,124 lb.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 25/37/30 mpg


Luxury/Cars/Cars/Luxury


By: Gary S. Vasilash 9. December 2014

In a recent interview with Automotive News, Ewe Ellinghaus, chief marketing officer at Cadillac, said, “Johan de Nysschen, my boss, and I always say we want to build the first luxury brand that just happens to make cars.”

Seems like he may have missed the chance on that one.

When Mercedes rolled out the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class at the Los Angeles Auto Show (where Ellinghaus was interviewed), they also displayed the “Driver’s Choice Collection.” This collection, developed with license partner MAYBACH—ICONS OF LUXURY (doesn’t it seem a little down-market for an outfit to use all capital letters for its name?), is said to “meet the most exacting demands in terms of design, materials and craftsmanship.”

Seems like there’s that luxury brand putting out an array of lux goods—including cars.

Driver’s Choice Collection

And you thought that Prada bag was special

There are various suitcases and messenger bags, belt buckles and cuff links, and two handbags, “Handbag THE ICON I” and “Handbag THE BARONESS I.” (Presumably there will be THE ICON II and THE BARONESS II at some point.)

There is even a blanket, for which “a wonderful pure-new wool was created.”

Cadillac was down 18.7% in November compared with November 2013, and is down 5.9% year-to-date.

Meanwhile, Mercedes was up 0.6% in November (not including the numbers for Sprinter and smart) and is up 6% for the year.

Clearly, it can afford to concentrate on things like THE BARONESS, while Cadillac really needs to focus on building cars that just happen to be luxury.


Camilo Pardo Talks Design


By: Gary S. Vasilash 8. December 2014

Camilo Pardo is an artist and fashion designer. Pardo has a studio in downtown Detroit where his paintings and graphic design works are created and are on display.

Oh, and Pardo worked for over 20 years at Ford. As a car designer.

Pardo

And it should probably be mentioned that one of the cars that Pardo led the design on was the Ford GT. First the concept of 2002. Then the production vehicle (2005-06).

Pardo 2

More recently, Pardo won (“This is the first time I’ve ever won anything”) the “Motor City Masters” design-based reality show that aired earlier this year on TruTV.

Pardo is particularly enthused by things that go fast. By things that have forms that are not merely suited to purpose, but which have a fundamental expression to them.

And Pardo talks about design—his own, as well as designs executed by others (the final challenge on “Motor City Masters” was based on developing the next Camaro, and GM design chief Ed Welburn; Chevy sponsored the show)—and various other subjects with John McElroy of “Autoline,” Lauren Fix, The Car Coach, and me on this installment of “Autoline After Hours.”

In addition to which, I interview Scott Pak, Nissan senior project planning manager, about the 2015 Murano.

You can check it out here:

 




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