Beijing 2014: The most impressive Chinese carmakers #5 to #2

April 24th, 2014 1 comment

Dongfeng Number 1 conceptDongfeng Number 1 Concept

This is it: the top of the crop, the utmost impressive Chinese carmakers at the Beijing Auto Show. It doesn’t get better than this. Would you have guessed them? This is Part 8 of my Beijing Auto Show coverage, check out also Part 1- First impressionsPart 2 – Most impressive Chinese carmakers #30 to #26 and Part 3 – #25 to #21Part 4 – #20 to #16Part 5 – #15 to #11Part 6: A Voyage through Beijing hutongs and Part 7: Most impressive #10 to #6.

#5 Dongfeng

PSA Peugeot Citroen’s new shareholder, Dongfeng is involved in some of the most successful joint-ventures in the country but had never surprised by its own branded cars. Until now. This brand was one of my biggest surprises at the Show, firstly by the size and the playful vibe in its stand, the amount of novelties they presented and (a pet fave of mine) the streamlining of a multitude of sub-brands into very clear Dongfeng Motors signage.

Dongfeng L60 ConceptDongfeng L60 Concept

Two all-new models: the Honda CR-V-inspired Fengshen AX7 and the surprisingly good-looking Fengxing S50, and three impressive concepts: the L60 sedan looking rather aggressive at the front, a Hummer-inspired totally insane 4WD knowing full-well how ludicrously pleasurable it is. The flagship Number 1 for its part has the potential to change everyone’s mind about DongFeng. Yes the technology is not new (Citroen C6) but damn it looks badass and imposingly slick. To top it off, the two starlets promoting it genuinely looked like they were having the time of their lives. It’s fun to be Dongfeng! Now that’s a surprise.

Haima S5Chinese Popstar Wu Mochou talking the Haima S5 up

#4 Haima

Haima does old-fashioned Mazdas no more. The Chinese carmaker has grown up and is decidedly having fun doing it. By far the most enthusiastic Chinese brand at the Show, Haima unveiled its S5 SUV with a live performance from local popstar Wu Mochou. No boring Haima official ever came on stage, instead the unveiling was MC’ed by a young hipstery presenter that gave the brand a serious image refresh. When it becomes interesting is that the video clip played alongside Wu Mochou’s performance featured her driving the car and interacting with it the entire time. Those of you who work in advertising know how hard it is to achieve this without looking too contrived. In my opinion and in a Chinese context Haima did a great job.

Haima M5Haima M5

Also, the singer didn’t leave the stage after the song was over but joined the presenter to talk the car up. Perhaps a little cheesy by Western standards but it worked very well here, giving the show a welcome casual ambiance. China’s ban on Youtube prevents me from publishing the video now but I will do so as soon as I return to Australia. The other reason why Haima ranks so high here is that according to Chinese car expert Tycho de Feijter from Carnewschina.com, Haima’s image in China so far has been bland at the best of times. So they were way out of their comfort zone with the S5 launch and pulled it off. I have never agreed with Haima designs and the Show confirmed this, but huge kudos to the brand for this launch mise-en-scène.

GAC Trumpchi GA6 ConceptGimme gimme, gimme a GAC Trumpchi GA6.

#3 GAC Trumpchi

While GAC Gonow was one of the worst Chinese offenders (ranking #28), sister company GAC Trumpchi triumphed. First massive surprise: GAC Trumpchi is involved in a very official tie-up with the upcoming Transformers movie, making it the first Chinese carmakers to step inside a Hollywood movie, ever. Lots of Transformers references on the stand and Transformers robot characters wandering around already make GAC Trumpchi earn their high ranking. But they went further by presenting some kick-arse looking cars. The All-new GA3S would have been a better Infiniti Q50 and the GA6 Concept is what a truly exciting Toyota Camry should look like.

Hongqi L5Retro-cool: Hongqi L5

#2 Hongqi

Chinese car luxury exists and it’s called Hongqi (Red flag). Thanks FAW for making it completely separate from your other brands, for giving it its own logo and its own very sophisticated red, black and wood stand. I loved the red ‘diamond’ on all bonnets, I loved the powerful interior and the serene confidence that exudes from your stand.

Hongqi H7 interior with future buyerDreaming of a Hongqi

I love that Chinese kids can dream over a Chinese brand. The H7 design still looks a little American 90s, so wouldn’t it be great if you had a truly cool car. And now you have. The L5 unveiled at the Show is a retro-cool reinvention of the original Hongqi model launched in 1958 in the same way Mini did. Now to convince these Chinese businessmen to choose you over Audi. After all, with a $51,300 starting price, it’s a full normal Chinese car ($10,000) less than an equivalent A6L.

Hongqi H7 bonnetHongqi H7 bonnet

If you have been reading this ranking very closely you will have guessed the #1 already… Unveiling coming soon…

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World Q1 2014: Toyota ahead of VW and GM again

April 24th, 2014 2 comments

Toyota Tundra. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comToyota Tundra. Global Toyota sales are up 6% year-on-year so far in 2014.

Toyota announced yesterday they sold 2.583 million vehicles worldwide over the First Quarter of 2014, enabling the Group to keep the world leadership for the third Quarter in a row. General Motors comes second with 2.42 million vehicles and Volkswagen is in third position at 2.4 million units. Year-on-year, Toyota is up 6% vs. just +2% for General Motors, #1 a year ago. At this rate, all 3 carmakers could pass the 10 million units by the end of the year at this rate! Source: ibtimes.com

Categories: World

Serbia March 2014: Fiat 500L leads, Doblo up to #2

April 24th, 2014 No comments

Fiat Doblo Serbia March 2014Fiat Doblo

* See the Top 10 best-selling models by clicking on the title! *

According to data from Central European market data specialists www.ceauto.co.hu, Serbian new car sales are up a splendid 23% year-on-year in March to 2,402 registrations, bringing the First Quarter total to 4,955 units, now up 9% on 2013. Serbian consumers confirm their patriotism, keeping the locally-produced The Fiat 500L in pole position thanks to 133 sales and 5.5%, adding up to 315 units and 6.4% year-to-date. Fiat even manages a 1-2 this month with the Doblo shooting up to 2nd place with 110 sales and 4.6% while the Skoda Octavia rounds up the podium like last month at 97 units and 4%. The VW Golf is up 5 spots to #4, the Skoda Fabia down 3 to #5 and the Dacia Sandero up one to #6. Hyundai places the i20 at #7 and the i30 at #8.

Previous month: Serbia February 2014: Fiat 500L just under 11% market share

One year ago: Serbia March 2013: Skoda Fabia catches up on Fiat Punto Classic

Full March 2014 Top 10 models Ranking Table below.

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Categories: Serbia

Beijing 2014: The most impressive Chinese carmakers #10 to #6

April 24th, 2014 2 comments

Venucia e30Who would have thought Venucia could glam up the Nissan Leaf?

We are now getting serious and entering the Top 10 most impressive Chinese carmakers at the Beijing Auto Show. This is Part 7 of my Beijing Auto Show coverage, check out also Part 1- First impressionsPart 2 – Most impressive Chinese carmakers #30 to #26 and Part 3 – #25 to #21Part 4 – #20 to #16, Part 5 – #15 to #11 and Part 6: A Voyage through Beijing hutongs.

#10 Venucia

Similarly to Baojun, Venucia is a low-cost brand only available in China. It was created by the Dongfeng-Nissan joint-venture and to this day only consisted of a regurgitated version of the previous generation Tiida, called D50 (sedan) and R50 (hatch). In spite of this Venucia sales have been progressing regularly, to break the 10,000 monthly unit-mark 5 times so far and peaking at 13,731 last December. So I was intrigued. And I was right to be. Miles away from Baojun’s bland stand, Venucia stood out from all other Chinese carmakers with a youthful and very colourful vibe, topped up by very glamorous starlets. “New” models were up en masse too: the all-new D30 (based on the Nissan March), the e30 plug-in (based on the Nissan Leaf) and the Viwa concept finished to convince me that Venucia is here to stay. Only negative: impossible to step inside any of the cars, which is always a bad sign.

JAC S3Now look at the car.

#9 JAC

Better known for its trucks, JAC definitely amped the sexiness at the Beijing Auto Show, turning around the rather bland image I had of them. Impressively, JAC presented 4 sales-ready all-new models: it took risks by unveiling the all-new S5 SUV in a bright orange robe, adorned with a very sultry starlet in sizzling black and pink outfit. Who would have thought JAC could be capable of such glamour?

JAC iEV5Surprisingly both cool and production-ready: the JAC iEV5

And the glamour wasn’t just skin-deep: the iEV5 plug-in sported a very fun grille and the coolest interior of any Chinese car at the show! (click on Read more at the end of the article to see it) Unfortunately it’s JAC’s third new entrant that prevents the brand from ranking higher in my ‘most impressive’ list: the Heyue A20, the ‘normal’ version of the iEV5, disappointed with VERY shiny interior plastics. And sadly JAC still thinks it’s ok to blatantly copy Western cars: the Refine A6 looks like a rushed Audi A4.

ChangAn Eado XT Pink frontNow that’s a bit daring from ChangAn…

#8 ChangAn

LCV specialist (with the Chana brand) recently converted to making more than Mazda copies, ChangAn stepped up to the game at the Show. It delivered a mix of very honest models and quirky one-offs like a Boss. No one else dared show one of their newest models in bright pink. ChangAn did with the exciting Eado XT. Lots of bonus points as well for showing a (Very) Grand Raeton extravangant limousine. All this topped off by an impressive CS75 SUV complete with top notch interior made ChangAn one of the most improved Chinese carmakers at the Show.

Zotye T600 interiorImpeccable: Zotye T600 interior

#7 Zotye

If I had to vote with my heart Zotye would be Number 1 in this ranking. I already had followed with interest the blooming of this brand that used to simply sell a rebadged previous gen Daihatsu Terios, so I knew what they were capable of which means they didn’t “impress” me that much if that makes sense. Zotye continues to grow with a very good Z500 unveiled at the show and, I will say it, the T600 SUV delivering one of the Top 3 most sophisticated interiors of all Chinese carmakers present in my view. Yep, no less.

Zotye fun Beijing 2014bWhat car shows should be about: pure fun.

I was preparing for the worst when the super friendly staff opened the T200 (facelifted Terios) for me but it wasn’t that bad. One starlet interacting with a kid taking her picture remains my favourite ‘moment’ of the show, and the salesman so excited at me publishing photos of their cars on my blog made this brand extremely likeable. Little Zotye will become big.

BAIC BJ100 ConceptOutrageously and deliriously pleasurable: BAIC BJ100 Concept

#6 BAIC

My understanding of BAIC was limited to the very successful E-Series and a Nicolas Cage-endorsed sporty Senova D70. Plus a few Jeeps. So you can imagine my surprise when faced with dozens of models, 2 striking concept cars, 3 production-ready all-new models and a special series looking very sporty indeed. You can’t miss the Senova D60 Aero when approaching the BAIC stand: its aggressive front makes you do a double take as it kind of looks like a Mercedes CLA. Not what I expected from a State-owned Chinese carmaker indeed. But wait there’s much more.

BAIC Concept 900Sharp: BAIC Concept 900

To me the Concept 900 is simply the best looking Chinese concept car of the Show, actually its grille is thanks to a great expansion on the brand’s logo. And the outrageous BJ100 Concept, love it or hate it, does stop you in your tracks. Add to this the new Senova D50, Senova D60 and BJ80 Jeep and you have one of the most dynamic Chinese carmakers at the Show. Negatives: the E-Series disappointingly very beige inside (both literally and not) and the BJ80 Jeep looking like a Mercedes G-Class on a very bad hallucinogenic trip and closed even to the press, probably to spare them an interior equally questionable.

The Top 5 most impressive Chinese carmakers at the Beijing Auto Show will be published shortly.

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Bosnia & Herzegovina March 2014: Skoda Octavia #1

April 24th, 2014 No comments

Skoda Octavia Europe February 2014. Picture courtesy of automobile-magazine.frSkoda Octavia

* See the Top 10 best-selling models by clicking on the title! *

538 new light vehicles found a buyer in Bosnia in March, down 10% year-on-year and bringing the First Quarter total to 1,610 units according to data published by Central European market data specialists www.ceauto.co.hu. For the first time this year, the Skoda Octavia is Bosnia’s favourite vehicle this month thanks to 35 units sold for a 6.5% market share, kicking the VW Golf down to #2 at 28 sales and 5.2%, ex aequo with the Opel Astra. The Golf remains 2014 leader so far. The VW Caddy, Dacia Duster and Renault Clio are back in the Top 10.

Previous month: Bosnia & Herzegovina February 2014: VW Golf at 15% share

One year ago: Bosnia March 2013: Dacia Logan and Skoda Rapid shine

Full March 2014 Top 10 models Ranking Table below.

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Categories: Bosnia & Herzegovina

FYR of Macedonia March 2014: Dacia Duster holds onto top spot

April 24th, 2014 No comments

Dacia Duster Macedonia March 2014. Picture courtesy of largus.frDacia Duster

* See the Top 10 best-selling models by clicking on the title! *

Based on data communicated by Central European market data specialists www.ceauto.co.hu, 404 new cars were sold in the FYR of Macedonia in March, bringing the First Quarter total to 966 units. The Dacia Duster is the best-selling vehicle in the country for the 2nd month running thanks to 25 sales and 6.2% share, ahead of the Skoda Rapid at 23 units and 5.7%. This makes for an extremely close race year-to-date: the VW Golf still leads (like in 2013) with 53 sales and 5.5%, an estimated two more than the Duster and three more than the Rapid! The Fiat Doblo (#3), Hyundai ix35 (#5), Dacia Sandero (#6) and Citroen C4 (#7) also shine.

Previous month: FYR of Macedonia February 2014: Dacia Duster surprise leader

One year ago: Macedonia March 2013: Skoda Rapid in the lead!

Full March 2014 Top 10 models Ranking Table below.

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Categories: Macedonia

Moldova March 2014: Daewoo Matiz up to 2nd place

April 24th, 2014 No comments

Daewoo Matiz Moldova March 2014Yes the valiant Daewoo Matiz is still on sale in some countries…

* See the Top 10 best-selling models by clicking on the title! *

According to Central European market data specialists www.ceauto.co.hu, 482 new cars found a buyer in Moldova in March, adding up to 1,135 units over the First Quarter 2014. The Dacia Logan continues to dominate the sales charts without much competition, holding 18.9% of the market thanks to 91 sales, 21.4% if we add the MCV variant. Surprise in 2nd place: the antediluvian Daewoo Matiz, imported from Uzbekistan, sells 42 units for a 8.7% market share and jumps up to #2 year-to-date also. The Hyundai Santa Fe brilliantly rounds up the podium for the 2nd month in a row, followed by its little brother the Hyundai Tucson up 6 spots on February. Notice also the Skoda Superb still the brand’s best-seller in Moldova at #5 and the new generation Toyota Corolla making its first appearance in the Top 10 at #6.

Previous month: Moldova February 2014: Chevrolet Trax invites itself at #2

Full March 2014 Top 10 models Ranking Table below.

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Categories: Moldova

Media Post: 2014 Land Rover LR4 HSE Review

April 24th, 2014 No comments

Land Rover LR4 HSE. Picture courtesy of caranddriver.com

If you want a hardcore off roader and family car all-in-one, few vehicles can match the Land Rover Discover. The Discovery for more than ten years has been a number one choice for families who want the safety and reassurance of an all-wheel-drive big car. Over the years, the car has been revised to fit in with modern lives, and the Discovery now has more technology and a better design than ever before. This year, Land Rover has released the LR4 HSE. This version of the Discovery an all-new V6 supercharged petrol engine with an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Power is good, at 340 bhp and 332 lb /ft, and Land Promises that the LR4 HSE will offer drives a balanced drive.

So, what’s it like?

It’s a lot like any other Land Rover Discovery in truth. The engine, however, is something new to Discovery drivers and it’s really rather sweet, with lots of grunt low in the rev range, a sharp throttle response, and plenty of top end pull. The engine works best between 2000 and 5000 rpm and keep the engine boiling between here and the LR4 HSE flies. The supercharged V6 replaces the ageing V8. During regular driving, the engine is quieter and more refined and it feels just as fast when you put your foot down. It’s also more efficient.

The only outward differences to the older LR4 HSE are a revised front end – the fog light housings are now squared off and the grill has a new trim piece. At the back, the tail lights have a glossy black surround and there are new alloys, too. Unless you’re a dire-hard Discovery fan, though, you are unlikely to notice the revised exterior. That’s not a bad thing, really, because the LR4 still looks fresh and up to date.

Strangely, Land Rover have still not updated the LR4. The interior is now looking a little dated (the steering wheel is a prime example), and it’s not a patch on a Range Rover… a better interior finish would be welcome. According to Farnell Land Rover, the Land Rover Discovery will get a new interior in the next version. The LR4 now has air suspension as standard. This gives the Discovery a very subtle ride that never becomes unsettled. Whether you are on snow, tarmac, gravel, or scaling a cliff edge, the Discovery feels great. When bends come up, the Discovery is planted and agile. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget you’re in such a big car, such is the effectiveness of air suspension.

Overall

The new LR4 HSE might not be a huge update, but the new V6 supercharged engine and subtle exterior updates are enough to breath fresh life into the Discovery and attract new sales. It would have been nice to see a refreshed interior, but the Discovery is still the best car in its class for ruggedness – the interior will almost certainly fair well against bumps, knocks, and fidgeting children.

Categories: Uncategorized

Photo Report: A voyage through Beijing hutongs

April 23rd, 2014 3 comments

1 Chana Star 2 DongsiChana Star in Dongsi hutong

The legendary Beijing hutongs are tiny, charming alleyways formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences. An endangered species, the real Beijing lives and breathes in hutongs where a warm sense of community and hospitality survives. I was lucky enough to spend some time visiting hutongs during my short stay in Beijing, so here are some snaps for you. As you will see, the tiny streets have not discouraged hutong inhabitants from bringing their Cadillac SUV at their doorstep…

2 VW Santana Taxi Qudeng HutongVW Santana taxi in Qudeng hutong

2 Great Wall M4 VW JettaGreat Wall M4 and VW Jetta in Dongsi hutong

3 Cadillac SRXCadillac SRX in Dongsi hutong

4 Chana StarChana Star and a wall of bricks

5 Jinbei Haise Kia K2Jinbei Haise and Kia K2 in Dongsi hutong

6 Nissan SunnyNissan Sunny in Dongsi hutong

7 Hyundai VelosterHyundai Veloster in Dongsi hutong

8 Hafei MinivanHafei minivan in Dongsi hutong

10 Wuling Hongguang DashilanWuling Hongguang in Dashilan hutong

10 Chana logoNew Chana logo (on Taurus only)

The Photo Report continues below with 10 additional pictures.

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Beijing 2014: The most impressive Chinese carmakers #15 to #11

April 23rd, 2014 No comments

Maxxus G10 Beijing 2014Maxxus G10. There. Now you know a new Chinese brand.

I am getting more and more impressed as we go up my list of the most impressive Chinese carmakers at the Beijing Auto Show, now from #15 to #11. This is Part 5 of my Beijing Auto Show coverage, check out also Part 1- First impressionsPart 2 – Most impressive Chinese carmakers #30 to #26 and Part 3 – #25 to #21 and Part 4 – #20 to #16.

#15 Maxxus

You would be forgiven for never having heard of the Maxxus brand. My only encounter with it was two random trucks passed on my way to Bourke in my recent Australian Outback trip – I didn’t even know they exported to Australia! Maxxus specialises in light commercial vehicles and this is where they earn they first bonus points: the entire Beijing Auto Show is dedicated to Passenger Cars, with LCVs relegated in the cold outside. Except for Maxxus which not only had the balls to play with the big boys but also launched the all-new and very alluring G10 complete with very alluring starlets indeed.

BYD Tang Hybrid ConceptBYD Tang Hybrid Concept

#14 BYD

BYD once topped the China Passenger Car sales charts with the F3 and promised to ‘Build your Dreams’ by becoming the world’s #1 electric car battery maker with Warren Buffet as a shareholder. They have revised their pretensions since but  had fallen into some kind of oblivion. Well BYD is back and kicking at the Beijing Auto Show, rekindling with its eco-friendly roots as a very eco-friendly stand – down to the showcars being either white or blue. However one mean BYD Tang hybrid SUV Concept turns out to be a mere kick arse version of the all-new S7, itself a bigger S6. And the new G5 looks like the G6.

FAW Xiali N7 interiorMuch better than you’d expect for a $7,300 car? I agree.

FAW Xiali T012FAW Xiali T012

#13 FAW

Frankly on the lower end of the price scale (except perhaps for its Besturn sub-brand) and not in great shape commercially: I wan’t expecting wonders from First Automotive Works at the Show. And I was pleasantly proven wrong. FAW shows refreshed designs that looked anything but drab, takes risks with the all-new Xiali T012 looking decidedly different, makes me go aaah! by putting the same FAW logo on all its models meaning the Xiali and Besturn sub-brands are actually sub-brands, a rare stance in China. But I kept the best for last: the $7,300 Xiali N7 wowed me with its very neat interiors definitely miles away from what you would expect from such a cheap car.

Baojun 730Baojun 730

Baojun 730 interiorNot so low cost-looking after all: Baojun 730 interior

#12 Baojun

Baojun is the low-cost brand launched by the SAIC-GM joint-venture two years ago with the 630 sedan. It took a while, but we now have two additional models, both presented at the Beijing Auto Show. On the plus side, perhaps even more so than for the FAW Xiali N7 above, I was very pleasantly surprised by the 730 interior: lovely design, very complete without feeling too complicated, robust enough and very far away from a low-cost interior indeed. On the not so great side: the 610 hatchback took two years to simply offer a 630 cut short with an uninteresting back.

Wuling Hongguang SWuling Hongguang interior. Yep, a Chinese LCV.

#11 Wuling

Wuling is a Light Commercial Vehicle brand, except for the country’s best-seller overall, the Hongguang, at the border between MPV and LCV. On a good day, 3000 Hongguang find a new home in China. Yes you have read that right. Twice as many as VW Golf in the whole of Europe. And stepping inside for the first time at the Show, I understood why. This is the third brand in a row that changed my mind based solely on the quality of their interior, and although Wuling only showed one car, the new Hongguang S, it nailed it. I will say it: the Hongguang is one of the Top 5 best Chinese interiors at the moment. No less. Not bad for an LCV.

More photos below.

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