Friday, September 29, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
The new Mondeo joins the troops of mainstream midlle-class, midlle-size cars that are fighting the decadence of this class. Once one of the most important segments in Europe, it has lost sales to SUVs, people-carriers (both large and small), compacts and base versions of the offers from luxury manufacturers. And this looked like a lost batlle but the mainstream midlle-size is fighting back with emotional design and the influence of the 4-door coupe. The Peugeot 407 is a successful car with its emotional design, although it is short on space and practicality. The VW Passat is a strong contender, leader in the mainstream class, very strong in space, and with an elegant design even if a bit dull. But wait for the future 4-door coupe version for added style. And now the Mondeo arrives with the strong kinetic design, lots of space, sophisticated and refined diesels (developed with PSA) as well as a 5-cylinder turbo that sounds fabulously. Now we just need to wait for another promising car in this class, the Renault Laguna. However, strangely, our sources of information that have worked in the new Laguna are not happy with it. Don't worry, it will be a great car, it's just that engineers are not happy. Later, when it is presented you will know why.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Thursday, September 21, 2006
The Alfa 149 will fit in an expanding segment in Europe. The “premium-compact” segment features such cars as the Audi A3, Volvo C30, and Alfa 147/149. All of these cars share most of the underpinnings and parts with much cheaper models but are cleverly marketed and presented to appeal to a more sophisticated audience. Design features and interior presentation are key-areas to excel in this class of cars. The Alfa 149 will face very stiff competition from the Audi A3, Volvo C30 and possibly a future Saab 9-something. But it also competes with the “uber-compacts” from the luxury-compact segment. More cash-filled consumers as well as conaisseurs and enthusiasts tend to spend their money in the BMW 1-series or the Mercedes sportcoupe that feature superior RWD platforms and superior levels of quality and reliability. Still, the Alfa 149 has very good chances if the design is as good as it promises. And Alfa needs to find success with this car since the Alfa 159 is not selling as expected...
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The original 206 SW is probably the only sucessfull derivation from cars in this class. There are mini people-carriers derivations (Renault Modus, Peugeot 1007, etc), small saloons (Seat Cordoba, Polo classic) and all of these are hideous and do not sell much. The break versions of such small cars are not that bad, for example the Fabia break but mainly the very sucessfull 206 SW. So the 207 SW should look very good and hopefully have more luggage space than the previous version. Or maybe not, Peugeot is famous for prefering style to practicality.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
The luxury crowd, namely Mercedes, will be the first to arrive with sophisticated common-rail technology, a newly-developed NOx adsorber in the E320CDI, (a catalytic device that converts NOx to nitrogen) and a urea-based injection system (GL320CDI). Mercedes will have this technology ready for the market in order to meet the next California LEV II LEV and EPA Tier 2 Bin 5 diesel emissions requirements in the US. BMW is also developing these technologies for a 2008 introduction and others will follow. This means a fresh restart for diesel and having as leaders the top manufacturers.
But even more interesting is the promise that Honda will have ready by then a different technology, an electric-powered plasma reactor that can meet future emission standards, place diesels at the same level of gasoline engines for NOx emissions, and doing all this without recurring to urea tanks that need to be refilled. This is the most interesting news about diesel so far. Honda is a very important player in the mainstream market in the USA and the promise of such technology means that competitive, refined cars will be available from a market leader.
Let’s clarify the relevance of these news. The commitment of Mercedes and BMW will bring image, status and credibility to diesel cars, in a way never before achieved in the North-American (NA) markets. And this is important to change public perception about diesels. But also Honda’s developments will make this technology affordable by everyone. The commitment of such a respectable mainstream player and the top luxury manufacturers means that the diesel future is for real. The boom of diesel in NA will happen!
How is this relevant to you? The American readers might consider this information for a car purchase in the next 2 to 3 years. And of course, if you check the top of this page you will notice the words “Auto” and “Future”. That’s what this is all about. This “Future” is particularly relevant for the American manufacturers. Are they preparing for this events? Will Ford, GM and Chrysler have a response ready for this new developments from the competition? This time, they better be ready! Of course, Chrysler is in a good position due to the association with Mercedes. Ford can engineer a good response due to its liaison with diesel-specialist PSA in Europe. And GM is in trouble because of their poor diesel offers, even in Europe - the only good Opel diesels have Fiat sourced engines…
Outline of Honda's system
Mercede's Bluetec technology
Monday, September 04, 2006
The idea of a small roadster is not new. When Pischetsrieder arrived at the top of VW group one of his ideas for new models was a small roadster with central engine and rear-wheel drive. A sort of VW MR2 using engines and suspensions from the Polo. Making this car as an Audi model makes sense because it fits well into Audi marketing target and it’s easier to justify the premium positioning. However, don’t get too excited because the A1 roadster will probably turn out to be just a 2-seat cabrio with FWD - a sort of Opel Tigra but much more expensive...
Friday, September 01, 2006
The C-pillar design is an interesting departure from the usual norm at VW to have almost vertical pillars to maximize load space up to the rear hatch-door glass (check the old Golf IV and Passat variant versions). But the new design is more sophisticated and gives a more sporty appearance to the car. In VW group cars it was first used with the A6 variant. Although it doesn’t allow so much trunk space up to top level it has another interesting design advantage: it sort of masks or disguises longer rear overhangs. In this way VW can increase the rear overhang and have bigger luggage space without the car looking goofy or with wrong proportions. Just check the current Jetta design for an example of too much rear overhang that looks wrong.