Autofield Blog

Renault’s New Design for a. . .Pickup


By: Gary S. Vasilash 11. November 2014

While pickups may be big in the North American market, they are massive in South America, comparatively speaking.

So it is fitting that the Renault design center in Sao Paulo created a show car for the recent Sao Paulo Motor Show  that is a combination between an SUV and a pickup.

(Think the gone-and-lamented Ford Explorer Sport Trac).

Ford Explorer Sport Trac V8 LIMITED

2010 Ford Explorer Sport Trac

The Duster Oroch concept was designed by RDAL, the Renault design center for Latin America, based in Sao Paulo.

Renault Duster Oroch

Duster Oroch

Laurens van den Acker, Renault senior vice president, Corporate Design, said, “The Renault Duster Oroch show car boasts the energetic, robust stance that appeals to customers. It’s the work of our Sao Paulo design center and packs an emotional punch which is characteristic of design in Latin America. While it takes its inspiration from the Duster, itself a robust vehicle with an assertive personality, our local design team has delivered a fresh interpretation of the model in the form of this show car.”

This, incidentally, is the Duster, an SUV:

Renault Duster

Duster

Noted Denis Barbier, Renault senior vice president and chairman of the Americas Region, “The show car explores the world of pickups—a segment we’re absent from at the moment but which totals around 900,000 vehicles a year.”

In reporting its third-quarter performance, Renault Group’s overall registrations were stable, but down 20.6% in the Americas region, which as a market was down for automakers by 8.3%.

Seems like a piece of that 900,000-vehicle market would be helpful to Renault’s fortunes in the region.


“Earl Grey, Hot.”


By: Gary S. Vasilash 11. November 2014

Were Captain Picard to have the opportunity to visit a Lincoln store in Beijing, Shanghai or Hangzhou—all of which opened last week—he would have the ability to partake of a beverage in the store’s tea room. Presumably while musing over the vehicle of his choice.

Lincoln Opens First Three Stores in China: Tea House

Or perhaps he would simply spend his time in the “Personalization Studio,” where there is a 46-inch LCD touch screen that can be controlled to display a configured vehicle, inside and out.

It may not be the Holodeck, but it is certainly a far cry from what many people are familiar with when it comes to their “dealership experience.”

In China they’re operating under the label, the “Lincoln Way.”

Apparently, Lincoln discovered during three years of research into the Chinese luxury market that the Chinese buyer is no longer interested in luxury as “an overt statement of their personal net worth,” but as “a way to express their unique individuality.”

Individuality seems a bit odd in what is still a collectivist state.

Lincoln Opens First Three Stores in China: Store environment

Anyway, the Lincoln customer (it is not clear whether are tire-kickers in China, people who might roll into the dealership just to kill time, which in this case might include having a delicious hot drink) will have the opportunity to interface with the “Lincoln Team.”

This consists of the Host, who is the primary person working with the customer. If the Host needs to get some additional help (is this a variant of “I’ll have to run this by my manager”?), then the Master gets involved. The Master is said to be “the customer’s trusted resource during the sales process.” Then there is the Craftsman, who handles repair, which is quite a controversial thing in China, such that not only does the Lincoln Way have it that there are cameras in the service bays that the customer can access while sipping tea in the Star Lounge (a bit Big Brother), but once the repair is done, the Craftsman can return the used parts, “packaged in a Lincoln box and tagged with a label, extraction date and the name of a service technician.”  Presumably, this is to provide assurance to the customer that what was said to have been done was, indeed, done.

Lincoln Opens First Three Stores in China: Vehicle display

Lincoln plans to open five more stores before the end of the year, and have 60 stores in 50 cities by 2016.

According to a recent report by automotive data company Inovev, in June 2014 there were 23,348 dealerships in China, up from 21,756 in July 2013.

Here’s hoping the tea is good.


Taking a SWOT at Sales


By: Gary S. Vasilash 10. November 2014

Strengths. Weaknesses. Opportunities. Threats.

Those are the fundamental elements of a SWOT analysis, which is sometimes deployed in companies to figure out what they’re good at, not so good at, what they might do, and what they need to watch out for.

Last week, the OEMs reported how they were doing in terms of sales for October.

So on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” John McElroy, Joe White of the Wall Street Journal, Scott Burgess of Motor Trend and I take a SWOT at how some of the OEMs did.

2015 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

The Cherokee’s sales are going in one direction: Up.

Take Chrysler Group, for example:

  • Strength: Jeep. Up 46% for the year, with 571,585 units sold. (Cherokee is doing remarkably well, with 147,733 sold so far, and given that the other vehicles in the lineup are doing well, too, it isn’t like there is cannibalization.)
  • Weakness: Cars. The Chrysler 200 is -22% for year, the Chrysler 300 -9%, the Dodge Dart -5%, the Dodge Charger -3%, and the Dodge Challenger -3%
  • Opportunities: Cars.
  • Threat: The 2015 Ford F150. That is, Ram sales are up 23%, and total sales this year of the pickup are 359,702, which represents 63% of Jeep sales for the Ram pickup alone. The EcoDiesel version is widely hailed for its fuel efficiency. But what if the F-150 comes in at a lower price point with equal-to or better-than fuel efficiency?

So White addresses some of the key business considerations for Chrysler (and the other companies we talk about). Burgess knows cars and trucks exceedingly well, so he is able to address the sheet metal portion of the business. And McElroy has bridging knowledge that accommodates both positions. (E.g., he suggests, for example, that given the poor performance of the Dart, which he considers to be an outlier in a brand that is positioning itself as a “performance” brand, the Dart ought to be moved over to the Chrysler side of the house, and reconfigured to become the Chrysler 100.)

In addition to the SWOT, we take a look at the melee at the NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA Texas 500, the economics of Formula One, and much more.

You can check it out here:


Hyundai & Art


By: Gary S. Vasilash 7. November 2014

Although we could take this opportunity to point out that earlier this week Hyundai and Kia (remember: Hyundai Motor Group owns Kia) received a $100-million penalty from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency thanks to the U.S. Department of Justice—the largest penalty in the Clean Air Act’s history—for misstating/miscalculating the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted from several of the companies’ cars and SUVs, we won’t.

Rather, we’ll talk about something more uplifting.

Tate

Three Eggs (1975-82). A video installation. © Nam June Paik Studio

As in Hyundai Motor’s 11-year partnership with the Tate Modern museum in London, which is supporting a newly curated display of work by South Korean artist Nam June Paik, as well as the acquisition of nine of the late artist’s works for the museum on the Thames.

Among the work shown is Paik’s Can Car, a sculpture produced in 1963, consisting of a tin can, an electric motor and a pair of wheels.

Clearly, Paik was ahead of his time vis-à-vis electric vehicles.

(Hmm. . .presumably those aforementioned greenhouse gas emissions wouldn’t have been a problem were those cars and SUVs EVs. . . .)


Toyota: Ah, Maybe They Didn’t Put It Quite Right


By: Gary S. Vasilash 6. November 2014

A news release from Toyota coming out of SEMA opens like this:

In drag racing terms, a “sleeper” is a car that   looks as innocuous as possible, but has the means to blow the doors off the competition.

And then it goes on to explain that the folks at Motorsports Technical Center created a 850-hp sleeper car that makes use of a 5.7-liter 3UR-FE V8 from a Tundra—blown with a TRD supercharger and equipped with a wet nitrous system—as well as a Tundra’s transmission, rear axle and electronics.

Camry

The sleeper in question is a 2015 Camry.

In fact, they call the car the “Sleeper Camry.”

Here’s the thing: While the Camry may not be the most exotic thing in the midsize sedan category, arguably the 2015 version is far more expressive than anything carrying the Camry name since. . .well, since the Camry has existed.

Toyota is positioning the Camry as having a design that is “bold,” that has styling that “excites from every angle.”

And at SEMA they’re saying it is a snooze?

Not clever.




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