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10 things I don’t understand…

1959 Pontiac Catalina

* See the Full Article by clicking on the title! (and enjoy) *

Over the last 2 years I have been writing this blog and the last 25 years I have been fascinated by car sales around the globe, there has been a few things I haven't got my head around. Simple things, odd things or stupid things. They have been like a nagging voice in the back of my head. So I decided to put them all in one article on here. Now the tone is definitely tongue in cheek, I know most answers to these questions are commercial and financial, but that's boring. So enjoy!

1. Why are the Americans not stuck in the fifties?

In the late fifties and early sixties, American cars were the biggest, boldest and baddest. Oldsmobile Super 88, Pontiac Bonneville, Mercury Park Lane, Lincoln Continental, Cadillac Coupe DeVille, Pontiac Catalina (pictured above), Plymouth Belvedere and Ford Thunderbird: legendary nameplates that have almost all disappeared. Heck, even the Chevrolet (Bel Air) Impala looked good back then. Today what we have to deal with is a Chevrolet Cruze designed in South Korea... Please Detroit, along with importing cars from Detroit, take us back to 1959 all over again!

Lada Largus

2. Why does Lada take so long to launch a car that already exists?

In 2006 Renault launched the Dacia Logan MCV, then bought Avtovaz (aka Lada) in 2011 and decided it would rebadge the Logan MCV as the Lada Largus for the Russian market. It was unveiled at the Moscow Motor Show in August 2011. But we had to wait almost an entire year to see the model go on sale in the country in July 2012... Why oh why? It is exactly the same car. Iranian carmaker Iran Khodro does even 'better' and waited 3 years between the presentation of the Iran Khodro Runna in April 2009 and its on-sale date in Iran in April 2012, whereas the model is a thinly disguised Peugeot 206 sedan dating back to 2006...

You don't like the new Hyundai Santa Fe? That's ok, a new one should be here in 3 years...

3. How does Hyundai do it?

On the other end of the scale, in the same time it takes Iran Khodro to launch an already existing model, Hyundai has decided they would revamp their entire range... I don't mean just facelift, I mean totally revamp their models, like the Hyundai Accent, Elantra, Sonata, Santa Fe, i30 and i40 to name just a few, and also throw in a quirky coupé, the Veloster. And it goes the same for sister brand Kia with a constant flux of all-new models being churned out of the Korean car maker's factories all around the world. But how do they do it?

1963 Panhard 24 CT

4. Where has French luxury gone?

While Louis Vuitton bags, Moët & Chandon champagne, Hermès scarves and Louboutin heels continue to rack up stratospheric sales and churn billions of dollars, keeping the French economy afloat in the process, in the automobile world French luxury has gone missing. Renault Vel Satis anyone? Surely if Victoria Beckham can design the interior of a Range Rover Evoque, the French should be able to do wonders. Bonus points to Citroen for its DS range, but please, someone bring back Panhard already!

1957 Fiat 500 

5. What is wrong with Fiat making (very) small cars?

Fiat Bravo, Stilo, Marea, Croma, Ulysse... Rather forget about them? That's right. Fiat doesn't do medium or large cars very well. Fact. Fiat Topolino, 500, 600, 850, 126, 127, 128, Uno, Panda, Cinquecento, Seicento, Palio, Punto, Grande Punto, Nuova 500, 500L... Fiat does (very) small cars. And does it (very) well. And there is nothing wrong with it. So get over it and bring more on!

See the next 5 things I don't understand below...

I also published this article on American website The Truth About Cars. Check it out, there are fascinating comments there as well from people within the industry.

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Categories: World
  1. Paul
    January 1st, 2014 at 02:36 | #1

    @David O

    There is no need to build pickups in Australia because they have a free-trade-agreement with Thailand, paying very little import duties.

    With regards to the lack of French luxury brands in the automotive sector, after the second World War the French government increased taxes on cars with big engines. This killed of brands like Bugatti, Delahaye, Hotchkiss, Facel Vega, because there was no strong domestic market to support. Ah, those socialists…

  2. PG
    November 30th, 2013 at 03:08 | #2

    @Mike Tippett

    Why did Peugeot lose African consumers with FWD cars? Can you explain?

  3. João Carlos da Costa Reis
    November 16th, 2013 at 06:14 | #3

    I’m 70 y’old and I’ve followed the launching of the Edsel, with many (paid, many of them?) articles in the press/media talking about a “new and revolutionary car that will come”, that would accomplish the market wishes.
    When Edsel appeared in the market it was revealed that it was “only another new car”. Nothing really revolutionary… Nothing really extraordinary…
    And the Edsel, only a new pretty big car as so many other, faced the competition of many traditional and beautiful cars that year (1958): Chevrolet, (best selling car of the year, once more), Ford (its “brother”, 2nd best selling car of the year), and many others…

  4. João Carlos da Costa Reis
    November 16th, 2013 at 05:45 | #4

    I’m Brazilian, and I can tell you Brazilians are very conservative when he decides to buy a new car.
    Brazilian car market has grown twice in the last decade and now Brazil is the fourth largest market in the World.
    Because of this many entirely new (and beautiful) cars have been launched in the Brazilian market, such as Chevrolet Prisma and Hyundai HB20S sedans. Nevertheless they are not included in the top ten best selling cars list.
    On the other hand cars based in (very) old designs such as Siena (Fiat) and Voyage (Volkswagen) still sells a lot and were among the 10 best selling cars, at least up to September this year…

    Please correct the text, thank you).

  5. sandeep
    November 4th, 2013 at 01:31 | #5

    I Have also 1 question : Why aren’t stationwagons well received in the USA & Asia and many other markets? , as for example in India There isn’t any stationwagon new available now!! , its really sad to see that & there must be many other countries too where the situation is the same.

  6. Yocompro
    September 16th, 2013 at 13:49 | #6

    its a shame that VW Kombi dont have a second chance in the market, could have a refresh!

  7. oliversmith
    September 15th, 2013 at 19:43 | #7

    This is an awesome car blog. I loved reading the complete post. It was very informative. I found Dacia Logan MCV is one of the best model of Logan produced by Renault. This car is manufactured with 5-seater and fuel economy of 48.7–74.3. It has excellent exterior look and gives efficient driving comfort.

  8. oliversmith
    September 15th, 2013 at 19:39 | #8

    Thanks for sharing a great blog. It’s really interesting read your blog. Dacia Logan MCV, is a small family car introduced by Renault. It was produced in the year 2004. There are many models in Logan. Some of them are Logan MCV, Logan VAN, Logan Pick-Up, Logan II ,etc.

  9. charley
    September 11th, 2013 at 18:15 | #9

    hi matt I am in david beebys class and I would like a job on your site

  10. September 9th, 2013 at 14:53 | #10

    Peugeot lost Africa when they stopped building RWD cars. Full stop.

  11. September 5th, 2013 at 12:29 | #11

    the Maserati is not on sales because it is rubish it is sort of like Porsche’s mistake with the Cayne.

  12. nlpnt
    July 24th, 2013 at 09:54 | #12

    @Mustafa Ali

    – The Aurion is basically the same car as the Camry.

    – The Edsel failed due to a number of factors; the 1958 recession and the success of the four-seat Thunderbird were two. The former was beyond Ford’s control, the latter demonstrated to Ford that they didn’t need a medium-price division and thenceforth Ford Division would run right up to Lincoln’s price point.

  13. Mustafa Ali
    July 6th, 2013 at 05:11 | #13

    Why Toyota Aurion only sells in Australia?
    Why Edsel Fails

  14. David O
    July 1st, 2013 at 19:20 | #14

    @matgasnier Matt, compared to the Hilux, the Colorado is a flop just like all the other imported wannabe’s that have come and gone. Take a trip out bush and all you will see is Toyotas. Colorado might have the occasional sales surge in the suburbs with painters and landscapers but they’ll desert the Colorado the second that something prettier comes along. Hilux brand loyalty is incredible because of its early reputation for toughness. I think we could build something locally that could match it. Surely that’s gotta be a better gamble than building Cruze’s. Theres no way that the Colorado is accepted as an ‘Australian equivalent’ mate. Just look at the name!!


    • matgasnier
      July 2nd, 2013 at 01:09 | #15

      Mate, if Toyota or Holden can’t make a profit manufacturing the Cruze or the Camry in Australia, I can’t see how they could make a profit manufacturing a ute here. Firstly, if that was a viable and profitable option Toyota would have long started assembling/manufacturing the Hilux here as it does in South Africa for example. Secondly, most of the utes sold in Australia are manufactured in Thailand which is the worldwide production hub for 1-ton pick-ups. Each manufacturer has built one or two factories in that country solely dedicated to 1-ton pick-ups. Toyota has two Thai factories churning out about half a million Hiluxes a year. Nissan builds the Navara, Ford the Ranger, GM the Colorado, Mazda the BT-50, Mitsubishi the Triton there. Huge economies of scale and huge cost savings: the minimum wage in Thailand is $10 a day! Australia can’t compete with this and yes, the Camry and Cruze (let alone the Commodore) are ‘the best of the worst’ to be manufactured locally. Any other model would be suicide, and these two models are already suicide.

  15. David O
    June 29th, 2013 at 18:17 | #16

    Heres something else I don’t understand Matt. Why doesn’t Holden (GM) Australia locally build a competitor to the Hilux? Surely the market is big enough. The Hilux outsells Commodore and Falcon put together. Imagine a tough, simple, super reliable, 4×4 cab chassis, aimed directly at the farm and mining market… sold and backed by Holden’s nationwide dealer network. (They have dealers in every little country town!). How hard could it be? GM probably already has all the bits at their fingertips. ‘Australian designed and built’ might actually still be an advantage for a vehicle like this. Keep it simple. The farmers want reliability and value, not a lot of cup holders and electronic junk like 10 speaker sound systems. Crikey, even the Chinese are getting in on the no frills 4×4 cab chassis market now. You’re the expert Mat. Could it work?

    • matgasnier
      June 29th, 2013 at 19:12 | #17

      Hi David,
      Holden already has the Colorado, and even though it imports it from Thailand, in the mind of a lot of Australian consumers it is an Australian equivalent to the Hilux. Now you also have to remember that the Hilux has such a success story in Australia for decades that it has entered the Australian psyche and is almost considered Australian itself.

  16. Gerhard
    June 19th, 2013 at 01:32 | #18

    Great blog!

    Indeed, I would far rather that Hermes (French luxury goods, not the freight company) or some other elegant brand styled the interior of the Evoque and not a former pop star of dubious tastes.

    Why can’t Renault make a large 4wd hybrid luxury saloon, and not some Korean re-badge?

    • matgasnier
      June 19th, 2013 at 12:26 | #19

      Many thanks for your praise Gerhard!

  17. haris
    June 7th, 2013 at 20:51 | #20

    My mind confused with why Hilux, Strada and other thailand based pickups become gigantic now? I still remember the time when Toyota Hilux was a simple and compact Pick up to move around the small villages. But now, it occupy the whole width of road with gigantic and fat body… I don’t understand why they move that way…

  18. Todor
    May 9th, 2013 at 17:22 | #21

    Thnak you for the answers. :)

    BTW I have another one:

    11. Why Hitler’s peoplecar (Volkswagen) which was made especially for the Aryan race is so popular today? Isn’t ironic to see the whole Europe and the world drivibng VW?

  19. May 9th, 2013 at 16:08 | #22

    Excellent web site. Plenty of helpful information here.
    I’m sending it to some buddies ans also sharing in delicious.

    And certainly, thank you on your sweat!

    • matgasnier
      May 9th, 2013 at 16:42 | #23

      Thanks very much for the praise davidoff and I’m glad you are enjoying the site!

  20. TheK
    May 9th, 2013 at 11:52 | #24

    1) Skoda models are *very* conservative styled; so Volkswagen keeps the fresher styled Seat. Lancia and Lincoln still exist, because Fiat and Ford want to keep a foot in the luxury market.
    3) Most people worldwide prefer local cars. Japanese brands got into the US market, because US cars were so bad back then.
    5) Mostly words having some bad context, often sexual. A very special story is Chevrolets “SS”, which would attract the wrong people (racists) in Europe…
    6) The Toyota Crown has a similar state like a Ford Mustang or the “DS” series by Citroën – both also having their own emblem. Also at least Toyota and Mazda are separated into sub-brands in the Japanese market.
    7) Many customers judge the entire brand as one block.
    8) Maybach was reborn to compete with brands like Bentley, RR or Maserati. A “Mercedes-Benz” is a to usual car for such people.
    9) Usually, because the models have a bad reputation (and falling sales) – even though it mostly gets worse afterwards; esp. is the name is already established.
    10) BYD claims to get 300 km, but nobody has ever verified this – I’ve seen efficiency claims from Chinese brands, which are only possible with rolling downhill!

  21. Todor
    May 9th, 2013 at 08:58 | #25

    What I can’t understand:
    1. Why Seat, Lancia and Lincoln still exist?
    2. Why Ford prefers to lose money in Europe instead of keeping Belgian plant and selling new Mondeo with profit right now?
    3. Why Europe refuse to buy japanese cars?
    4. Why French automakers don’t sell cars in USA?
    5. Why many automakers have to change the name of some models in different countries?
    6. Why some japanese models has their own emblem instead of the emblem of the company (like Toyota Crown)?
    7. Why many automakers have to create cheaper brands like Renault Dacia and Nissan Datsun instead of just producing cheaper models like Peugeot 301 for example?
    8. Why Mercedes had to reborn Maybach, when people knew that it is just a bigger and much more expensive S-Class?
    9. Why automaker have to change names after all? If Ford kept the name Escort instead of changing it to Focus now they would have more sales than Golf and would be very close to Corolla?
    10. How Chinese from BYD could produce e6 model with a range of 300 km (186 mi), but Nissan, Renault, Ford, GM and so on couldn’t?

  22. Miroslav
    May 9th, 2013 at 03:13 | #26

    I don’t understand that car sales explosion in Thailand. With over a million new sales at a 60-65 million, they already overpassed Turkey, with less than 800k new cars off the similar population. Although average salary in Turkey is almost double of that in Thailand, and Turks mainly buy compact sedans and light vans, in Thailand its mainly pickup trucks and large sedans… with average salary of 400-500 Eur.

  23. Yoda
    May 7th, 2013 at 07:16 | #27

    1. This. “Big, bold and American” wasn’t just in fashion, though. It was all that was available.
    8. Buick Encore, meh. It comes from (well, through) a brand still mostly associated with big, traditional cars for the old and old-at-heart and features SUVish ride height and style cues that are downright repellent to the traditional iconoclastic American small-car buyer (the ones snapping up Minis, Fiat 500s and optioned-up Fiestas and Fits.

  24. bosch
    April 26th, 2013 at 21:03 | #28

    i don’t understand why hyundai “totally revamps” its cars every 3 years and lada produces the same car for more than 35 years (i.e. niva aka lada 4×4 since 1977)

  25. April 26th, 2013 at 21:02 | #29

    Hey there! I know this is kinda off topic however I’d figured I’d ask.

    Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest

    writing a blog article or vice-versa? My website addresses a

    lot of the same subjects as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other.

    If you

    happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an email.
    I look forward to

    hearing from you! Awesome blog by the way!

  26. April 21st, 2013 at 15:20 | #30

    Please let me know if you’re looking for a article author for your blog. You

    have some really great posts and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take

    some of the load off, I’d really like to write some articles
    for your blog in

    exchange for a link back to mine. Please send me an e-mail if
    interested. Regards!

  27. Brandon
    April 19th, 2013 at 11:21 | #31

    Arnold, Americans don’t buy diesels, especially in comparison to Europe. 97% of all cars sold in the US have petrol engines, and the remaining 3% are diesel. I do agree however, that journalists, especially auto journalists, love diesel for whatever reason. Yes they may be more fuel efficient, but the overall cost is much more expensive. Diesel fuel is more expensive then petrol, the diesel filter replacement costs, plus just buying a diesel car is more expensive, not including the pollution it produces. So I don’t think Americans will buy them in big numbers. Diesel is more niche really.

  28. Arnold
    April 17th, 2013 at 10:15 | #32

    Why the hell do American automotive journalists still believe bullshits such as Audi, VW, BMW, Mercedes and now Chevrolet Cruze “clean Diesel” ?!

    It’s like Lucky Strike sellling cigarettes to young opera singers in NYC after WWII making them believe it would enhance their voice !

    Diesel is cancer, whatever you add in it or put at the end of the tube…

    WHO knows it and has said it for years as Japan has intelligently forbidden it for decades !

    America, Europe (especially France) wake up and stop buying shitty Diesel cars thinking you’re the smartest guy in the class when you’re actually the dumbest and the most dangerous one !!!

  29. Augusto
    April 5th, 2013 at 19:01 | #33

    Great job Matt!

    I am from Argentina and was raised among Fiats, Peugeots and large American cars. We had the best from the different manufacturing places in the world. At first I liked the influx of Brazilian made cars, but although Brazil grew so rapidly, this had not reflected in much improved offerings coming from there. We ended up importing and producing old and staid structures. I hope things change otherwise for that I’ll would have kept an old Falcon, 505 or even a R18. I can see that blame fall mostly in a deficient political and entrepreneurial class here, it’s sad because we are resigned to have to pay so much for old technology. However, I can’t fancy why Brazilians with all their growYou have to put up with this situation. You have to see how much more developed the Chilean market compared to Mercosur one is. Just my 2 cents….

  30. BLM
    April 5th, 2013 at 07:47 | #34

    Mystery No 6 – African Peugeots retire to sunny Morocco – mostly Marrakech and Fes !

  31. April 5th, 2013 at 00:07 | #35

    My question is totally different, why all car makers change their dash board like old cars?some cars put speedometer in the center of dash,why these car makers do such type silly mistakes?these speedometer seems ugly and dull.Even a major company Mercedez Benz make such type of dash.I am surprised,my question why the car maker make ugly dash and speedometer?

  32. April 2nd, 2013 at 20:52 | #36

    interesting about auto industry

  33. March 22nd, 2013 at 22:41 | #37

    Interesting blog,its nice to seeing how people respond to the questions.

  34. March 13th, 2013 at 04:29 | #38


    i think that Peugeot wanted to make money on parts as well, their cars could run forever without any maintenance, funny but true.

    but they had another card, handling, the 205GTI was a superb machine, either you had the 1.6 or the 1.9, this car was about curves, great sound and great feedback from the steering wheel, i remember the reliability issues of that small car, i remember a shitty interior and parts falling apart during acceleration, water leak from the big sunroof, and that’s before we get to the engine, but it was worth all the problems that came with it. it was fun.
    the 106 that was supposed to replace the 205 was a great car, but everybody loved the 205 and it stayed in the market for years after the 106 was introduced.
    what happened than? the 206 came out with a needed new design language, a top seller.
    but Peugeot started to walk back since, the sporty version of the 206 wasn’t sporty enough, the sharpness of the 205/106 was gone, Peugeot became a soft fancy car.
    Renault had the Clio Sport, which was even sportier than the RSI.
    Renault became the new Peugeot.

    it’s sad, but Peugeot-Citroen just lost it. i rather live in a fantasy world where Peugeot is a 205GTI or 405 MI16, Citroen is Hydraulic and special, the last real Citroen was the XM, and a CX GTI turbo or even the BX GTI is how i want to remember Citroen.

    i always wanted the European brands to do a comeback to the US.
    i am waiting for Alfa, Renault, i even wish to see Skoda and SEAT over here before the french pair.

  35. March 4th, 2013 at 17:58 | #39

    Such a nice graphic of the Catalina. Nice exaggerated wideness and a handsome smiling dude driving just like in the old mag ads. Nicer more relaxed times.

  36. March 3rd, 2013 at 21:16 | #40

    8. Why is there no Nissan Qashqai in the USA?
    nissan Qashqai name in the USA is Rogue
    good sales in 2012

    USA Full Year 2012
    26 Nissan Rogue 142,349

    • matgasnier
      March 4th, 2013 at 09:24 | #41

      Hi Mostafa,
      The Nissan Qashqai and Rogue are two different models.

  37. Jim Deegan
    March 1st, 2013 at 11:38 | #42

    U.S. drivers buy larger motor vehicles because gasoline is much cheaper here than most places in the world because of lower motor fuel taxes. @Cyrus EM

  38. February 15th, 2013 at 10:12 | #43

    Hi Matt

    I enjoy reading your blogs, because I am a Peugeot supporter and it is the only way to see the monthly rankings in Singapore. I think Peugeots of old lasted too long and owners liked to tell others how much they loved their Peugeots and how reliable they were, to the extent that they hung on to their cars too long and forgot to buy new Peugeots, so the sales went down. A minister in Singapore had a 505 but was upset that his son bought a Toyota instead–all he could do was slap his forehead. A timber merchant in Malaysia could not let go of his 403 in spite of the doors almost falling off, and when my father saw that, he also bought a 204, and kept running it despite a big hole due to rust in the rear floorpan. So this Peugeot quality was ingrained in myself and I am still running my 4th 405. I think that Pininfarina is missing nowadays and Peugeot’s style has gone down the drain, except for the 508, 208, and perhaps 301. Even the RCZ cannot compare with the 406 coupe. The best Peugeot I have driven (not tried the 508 since I cannot afford it in Singapore, where cars are the most expensive in the world) was the 406, which had the best suspension, dismissing the most irritating of bumps like go-slow humps with disdain. It was also the quietest. However, when I tried another 406 that was a few years old, the noise level was higher, so I guess that is one reason why Peugeot cannot make it for luxury cars. Mercedes cars sound like new for longer, and so do 6 cylinder BMW’s. But that is ok, would Peugeot please continue to make middle sized affordable models like the 301 that is said to be, comfortable, super economical at 3.5 litres per 100 km for the 1.6 diesel, and good looking cars like the 208. And please phase out the rest of its really ugly cars, like the 107, 408, 207 sedan, and make more notchback models for outside of Europe. Style is still a very important issue no matter how capable a car is technically, and what is more there are other low priced stylish cars. Peugeot must find a way to make more cars like the 301. For me, I would never buy a non-Peugeot as the quality makes me a convert forever, but I am on a budget, so please hurry with the rest of the 01 range, thanks and long live Peugeot.

  39. February 15th, 2013 at 00:02 | #44

    Love french luxury cars too hope one day to see the Simca and Panhard rised again and wrote the history of the automobile industry
    And hope to see new models from Fiat in the C and D segment

  40. February 14th, 2013 at 23:56 | #45

    Hi Matt!I like very much you blog!And Maybe next year we will se on the streets the new Kubang now i think in Modena make upgrates of the construction of the model.

    • matgasnier
      February 15th, 2013 at 09:25 | #46

      Thank you very much for your praise Powerfox, I really appreciate it!

  41. xtx
    February 10th, 2013 at 21:18 | #47

    Hi, Matt
    I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while. There are really fantastic informations and thanks for sharing.
    As a Chinese I might offer some thoughts on question 7. You know that volksvagen entered Chinese market early in 1980s when no other automotive giants showed interest. In the 90s Germans accumulated their brand equity through sales to the government while private car ownership was still rare. So when the private market exploded after 2000, VW was unquestionablly the NO.1. This monopoly power was also strengthened by the anti-Japan sentiment later.
    But the VW original designs were either too expensive or too small. They couldn’t really satisfy the Chinese middle-class who were the first generation car buyers in the country and expect one car to hold the entire family within budget. So VW kept their old compact models and developed special Chinese version with stretched body and outdated technology. This way an upscale brand can also sell cheap roomy cars and differentiate in the biggest segment on auto market. This strategy proved really successful and was copied by other manufacturers like Hyundai and GM.
    As you mentioned in the other blog, two seperate partnership is also a factor.

    For the car size thing, I’ve also been quite curious about the size difference between US and European cars. My thought is that the US suburbs are much more open than those in Italian old cities. It’s much easier to park or take turns. When your automotive industry is not as competive as German and Japanese counterparts, you focus in the segments that foreign automotive industry no longer emphasize on.

    Why there were so many exciting American designs before the 1970s? Back then oil was still cheap and Americans were much richer than other nations. So Americans could afford the most fancy and impratical designs. However when other countries caught up and start to invade the US market and oil became so expensive, being a bit more pratical is the only way you can stand against Japanese. And pragmatism definitely made American brands loose its style

  42. TheK
    February 9th, 2013 at 04:57 | #48

    1) Oh how true! And it’s not only the 50s, they also kept making cool cars until somewhere in the early 1970s. But since then it’s only about SUVs without *any* brand identity (or one being totally changes every new generation). The only exception are a few Dodge and Chrysler models, which again have a slightly comparable design.
    4) gone for “we want to compete for the German Autobahn”. Drive a good old DS and you feel like on a sofa. Drive even a modern DS5 and you feel like in just another car trimmed to be “sportive” (most other French cars are even much worse). Maybe this also explains #6.
    7) It’s not only Chinese models, it’s their entire companies (even other brands) concept. Make every car look the same and even more keep this over generations. The idea is to keep a high resale value (something called very important here in Germany), but it starts to become boring.
    8) I’d change the question into: “why do US ‘compact SUVs’ need to be so fat?”. US cars are overall about two classes bigger than those in Europe, but with SUVs the US market starts at the same size the European market ends!
    9) The entire South American market is a mystery to me. Everywhere else in the world the major brands now sell the same cars; sometimes (esp. in China and in developing countries) they also keep a few cheap older models – only in South America every company has an entire different lineup for every country with sometimes four or five models in the same size but for a different price. I think, Volkswagen has four of five subcompacts in Brasil; everywhere else you’d just have four brands for that…

    Oh, and one question I have: Why do US customers demand so much on high car power? With limits of usually only 65 mph even 30 hp per ton would be far more than enough – still US cars usually have must more than even German cars (where everybody expects a subcompact to be able for 100 mph), sometimes even twice as much than the usual (you know, Germans love their addon-feature-lists with about 20 different engines available) German version…

  43. Cyrus EM
    November 28th, 2012 at 00:32 | #49

    I have answers for a couple of the questions:

    2. Why does Lada take so long to launch a car that already exists? – Renault did not want to cannibalize its sales – waited right until it released the new Logan (and therefore stopped making the old one)

    8. Why is there no Nissan Qashqai in the USA? – Nissan thinks we want more chrome, less plastic. So we get the Rogue – we (US) lose out…

    For the VW question – in the long run, if VW does not streamline its product line in China, it will pay the same price GM did in the 80’s – too much overlap, loss of identity…

  44. Richard
    November 24th, 2012 at 13:17 | #50

    In Brazil there is another car worth mention, Gol 4th generation. They already launched the sixth, but the fourth is still being sold. Actually, since the launch of the fifth, they continue to sell the fouth along with the newest.

    The Gol third generation was a first update of the second, actually, and the fourth a second update of the second. They named this second update of the second generation fourth generation as a way of marketing strategy and to try to give a fresh air to its image.

    This is a big lie. A total lack of respect. The 4th generation, similar to Corsa, is a 2(point)2 version of the 1994 Gol. And the worse: sells like hot cakes. My bro-in-law has one and I know it well, and maaan… tsc tsc tsc

  45. November 23rd, 2012 at 23:35 | #51

    This article brings back memories, my father had three Citroen D/DS models (great cars), I used to love the Panhards. maybe I am getting old, modern cars seem to lack the national individuality of the old ones, the Panhard could only be French, the Fiat 500 could only be Italian, American cars were big and flashy, the Swedes did things their own way (and brilliantly) with Saabs and Volvos and owning a Mercedes meant that you are very rich. I worked in Libya for fourteen years and every other car was a 504 Station Wagon, these cars survived the harsh conditions while others fell apart, great article, thank you.

  46. Tiri
    November 23rd, 2012 at 10:09 | #52

    Point 5. Fiat 124 or Fiat 131 were great large cars in the 70s very popular in Italy, Spain and other countries without native brands.I think the problem began when fiat 131 give the way to Fiat Regata, this car couldn’t fight with Renault 21, Ford Sierra, Citroen BX or Opel Ascona for example…and they never mended the mistake. Its sedan was always based on a compact car (Tipo, Brava). Maybe they thought that making a bigger car would be a commercial failure outside Italy…

    But once we are here… what about Renault?yes, they have the Scenic, but Laguna sales are testimonial if you compare them with R-21 or the Laguna first generation. The same with last Ford Mondeo vs Ford Sierra or first Mondeo.

    Maybe the big problem of Fiat it’s that after Multipla the didn’t develop a MPV like Scenic, Picasso, C-Max or a rational compact car like Megane or Focus.

    Sorry for my poor english.

  47. November 23rd, 2012 at 06:27 | #53

    1 – Because in the last years they’ve got stuck in the pony car era of the 60’s/70’s. Maybe when that ends, they’ll get a 50’s retro fever;

    2 – They still got old soviet habits, like developing a car for 10 years, only to realise then that the car is already outdated;

    4 – oh yes, the 1 million euro question…It’s not only luxury cars, if you look around all things french, you’ll see the slow decay that is taking place, for example here in Portugal the french supermarkets like Intermarché or Leclerc are being replaced by Aldi’s or LIDL’s, and that’s just one example, generally as the german influence rises here, the french diminishes…A complicated topic that should worry all francofiles (like me);

    5 – In my view, FIAT should concentrate on what it’s good (small cars up to C Segment), leaving the rest to the other brands of it’s Group, like Lancia or Alfa Romeo;

    6 – See question 4;

    7 – VW clones is not a chinese exclusive, just see the last products from VW empire…

  48. Enorio Luiz Simon
    November 23rd, 2012 at 02:43 | #54

    The Chevrolet Corsa, renamed Classic is the car that is based on the Corsa 1993. And production is normal and reasonable sales. His last small restyling was based on the Sail when in production in China. And the Corsa 2000 model was discontinued this year.

  49. nemanja s.
    November 23rd, 2012 at 00:02 | #55

    Excellent questions!
    I have some, too. Why Americans can’t buy ordinary cars with diesel commonrail engines? Oil is not so cheap anymore. Why is VW Golf so popular in Europe? It is not cheapest car in segment, there are more competetive models in this segment, last 3 generations of Golf looks the same!Another question is about Suzuki. It was pioneer in small SUV segment 20 years ago. Today almost every manufacturer makes small SUVs, they sells it very well, but Suzuki in not in top 10 in this segment in EU. Gone from US market this year! Another question is about FIAT. They have exellent results on Brasilian market, and all Latin America. Where is FIAT in China, Russia, India, Fiat had good results in Poland,Spain, Greece, former Yugoslavia. I am from Serbia, and I know how popular it was during eighties, ninethies. There is no cheap FIAT, like we have Renault’s Dacia. Why they don’t make new Grand Siena in East Europe, some car under price of 8.000 euros?

  50. November 22nd, 2012 at 23:12 | #56

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  51. Steam
    November 22nd, 2012 at 22:51 | #57

    Very interesting posting, than you.

  52. Paul
    November 22nd, 2012 at 22:12 | #58

    True. The 93 Corsa B continues in a number of markets heavily restyled (Chevrolet Classico) and the 2000 car is indeed unique to Latin America, and not a Corsa C.

  53. Paul
    November 22nd, 2012 at 22:09 | #59


    After the war there seemed to be a reaction against luxury in France, witness the collapse of Delage/Delahaye/Delauney-Belville as examples. The French could most certainly do luxury as well as anyone up to that time. I think it had something to do post-war austerity, and the then-flirtation with communism/socialism.

  54. Thomas
    November 22nd, 2012 at 21:50 | #60

    Hi Matt,

    As a French, I can tell you my opinion on the points 4 (French luxury) and 6 (Peugeot in Africa).

    Despite being famous for their arrogance abroad, my fellow countrymen actually spend their time at home to self-criticism. They always compare French cars to German ones, underlining their own weaknesses. Few years ago, they were repeating that French cars don’t have the German quality. Now that PSA is trying to improve its products quality, they ask why is there no dual clutch gearbox or V6 engines, even if they wouldn’t buy them. They aren’t proud enough about their local car makers’ achievements (hybrid diesel tech for example). Other example: the same THP engine is viewed as unreliable in Peugeot; as dynamic and efficient in BMW/Minis…

    As a consequence, French car makers adopt two wrong strategies for luxury cars: 1) They become extravagant (Avantime, Vel Satis, DS5). It doesn’t work, as buying a car is a rational choice. 2) They give up in the highest categories (Full size/H segment discontinued) in order to focus on small cars.

    Personally I drove and loved the Citroen C6, but how to sell it abroad when you are yourself convinced that everybody would prefer a MB E-Klass? Sale figures of the Peugeot 508 are quite disappointing (even if it’s a fantastic car), so why trying to do bigger cars? I think we need to be more self-confident, but not over-confident. We haven’t found this balance yet, but I hope we will.

    Concerning Africa, the workhorses you are thinking about (504/505) were strong and simple cars. Many of them where used cars imported from France through networks remaining from old colonial ties. We lost this market as we didn’t pay enough attention to it, thinking that it was secured. In that specific case, I assume that we have been really arrogant. We went on more sophisticated cars, focused on Europe, while Asians start offering cheap and reliable cars in Africa. Now we are trying to recover. Renault Logan or Peugeot 301 could help, but it wouldn’t be enough and it would take time anyway.


    • matgasnier
      November 22nd, 2012 at 21:55 | #61

      Awesome analysis Thomas – merci beaucoup! :)

  55. Steam
    November 22nd, 2012 at 21:34 | #62

    matgasnier :Hi Johan,I’m afraid not – the ‘skin’ is similar to the 2000 model but not the actual car. cheersMatt

    If I understand your article right you wrote, the Corsa is based on 1993 model.

    • matgasnier
      November 22nd, 2012 at 21:41 | #63

      That’s correct Steam :)

  56. Steam
    November 22nd, 2012 at 21:01 | #64

    2. Russia is in a period of post-socialism. Somehow democratic, but may be not totally. Economy is regulated stronger as in other countries. So it takes more time to improve things.

    3. Hyundai seems to have a strong management. Always willing to learn, to improve, to work hard. The workers are not payed too well and are working many many hours every week. And the factories are in low-cost-countries.

    4. The french luxury …. where has it gone? Nobody knows that. To me the last really impressive french luxury-car was Citroen DS, but this is a long time ago. Actually the luxury-segment in europe is dominated by german brands. They offer good technique and have international design-teams headed by italian (VW) or dutch (BMW) designers. To me french designers lost their leading influence in car-design and german brands use international teams in order to put those things right, which are (traditional) not done so well by germans.

    In fact nowadays Citroen is copying Audi-design because of management buyout of some Audi-designers. See the look of C5. In the old times Citroen-design was leading.

    5. Similar question, but more extrem because french brands are still successful with cmpact-cars while italian brands are only happy with small cars. On the other side italian brands play their role with sports-cars (Ferrari) or luxury-cars (Maserati) better than french brands.

    The story about Alfa Romeo and Lancia makes me depressive. The front-design of MiTo and Giulietta is a disaster – older models were much nicer. To me italian compact-cars are just weaker than products of Peugeot, Citroen, Renault, Opel/Vauxhall, Ford or VW. The reasons are mixed: Economic problems, wrong models, problems with reliability.

    7. The situation in europe: If you see just the front VWs are VERY similar, but if you see the whole car, you can identify it. In china it may be different because there are many parallel models in some segments (Bora, Jetta, Sagitar, Lavida, Golf in compact class for instance and do not forget the Santana which is same size). This is a lot of models and to be honest I don’t understand this wild mix. But the chinese people buy them so VW is right. ;)

    9. All over the world we find examples of models from older generations. There seems to be a number of people prefering them, may be because they do not need the newest technique and prefer reliable low-cost cars. Dacia is also selling to these clients.

  57. Johan
    November 22nd, 2012 at 20:56 | #65

    Hi Matt,

    The Corsa on sale in Brazil you mention under 9. is based on the 2000 model (Opel Corsa C), not on the 1993 Corsa B.

    • matgasnier
      November 22nd, 2012 at 21:03 | #66

      Hi Johan,
      I’m afraid not – the ‘skin’ is similar to the 2000 model but not the actual car. :)

  58. Marthin
    November 22nd, 2012 at 20:47 | #67

    Hi Matt,

    Good Topic, too much people will answer you by saying ‘Automotive industry is driven now driven by monney and not anymore by passion’.

    I just want to replace this kind of answer into the big picture. (and not only beacause i’m financial).
    1/ we -as automotive passionates- aren’t anymore representative of the demande.
    2/ Yes, automotive industry want to make profit (and it’s the aim of any company, any capitalist people)
    3/ To make profit, a company has to give the best answer to the demande.

    Does people want beloved car ? Yes !
    Does people are ready to pay the cost of beloved car ? No !

    Into mature market, cars are not anymore a passion or a way to show off; it’s just a utility that has to give you the best for the cheapest.

    But of course, this is a endless discussion.


  59. HVM
    November 22nd, 2012 at 20:21 | #68

    Hi Matt, nice list! Here’s a tiny little thing that I’ve been wondering about: Is it just me or are Canadian mfg’s websites always less appealing than the US ones? Just look at Ford’s…

  60. ant
    November 22nd, 2012 at 19:53 | #69

    Dear Matt,
    very interesting questions…. as I am italian I can tell you my opinion about question n 5 and 10.
    nothing wrong is Fiat produce little cars and you are right they do the job well enough. We are often forced to buy foreign cars because lots of segments has been abandoned by fiat group. Our market logically became some sophisticated and fiat didn’t care or believe on it. Kubang I think it was a postponed investment because it was probably necessary to have sales goal with decent production numbers forecast in fact now after fiat/chrysler marriage it will be done with production in former bertone ‘s factory with main sales in Us and Chinese market. If i can say something about Brasil question i think that for most of big producers it’s possible to make still old models using old platforms because the market is growing very well but it’s still not looking for fashionable smart developped models probably a good quality and reliability for them it’s enough…but things will change soon i think thank you ciao ant

  61. renato
    November 22nd, 2012 at 16:18 | #70

    Hi Matt,
    I loved your 10 things list.
    I’m brazilian and i have no idea why cars like kombi, corsa, golf, uno etc are still being made
    Sometimes i think that is manufacturers fault, not making better, newer and cheaper cars.
    But I think that, the brazilian consumers are the problem, we accept everything, Kombi, uno, gol,celta, ka, fiesta, and others, We buy it.

    • matgasnier
      November 22nd, 2012 at 16:25 | #71

      Hi Renato,
      Glad you loved the list!
      And thanks for your insight from inside Brazil – appreciate it.

  62. haris
    November 22nd, 2012 at 16:12 | #72

    I absolutely agree with you, especially on item no. 6…I love that “indestructible workhorses under very harsh conditions”, and I also could not found it in newly updated models.

    Great article!

    • matgasnier
      November 22nd, 2012 at 16:24 | #73

      Thanks Haris :)

  63. Bruno
    November 22nd, 2012 at 15:56 | #74

    1. Cuz in the fifties American economy was exploding upward (bar the ’58 crisis), gas was extremely cheap and new car market was more than half of the entire earth and there weren’t any serious foreing competition (bar the VW). Big, bold and American was in fashion.
    2. Probably because of tooling cost getting cheaper by the time. It always happens in less-competitive markets.
    3. All the opposite. Hyundai invest a lot in product development and marketing, and they rank as a favourite in very competitive (and large) markets with more profit.
    4. High taxes are to blame. You have Bugatti through.
    5. They are like Suzuki. Even if usually a smaller car get smaller profit they changed that philosophy with the 500. But they need another worldwide hit.
    6. That happens when you have little to no competition.
    7. I think they are trying to emulate (to the extreme) the family feeling of the premium german brands.
    8. As unpopular as they may be, past commentaries of some CEO’s about small cars not doing very well in the U.S.A. are certainly true. We’ll see how good the Buick Encore does there.
    9. Cheap to manufacture. Less costly to mantain and easy to get fix. Obviously safety and emission regulations are almost inexistent there, so compines get full benefit of selling the same stuff forever.
    10. Another costly SUV? omg

    • matgasnier
      November 22nd, 2012 at 16:23 | #75

      Thanks Bruno!
      As I said, most answers are all cost or competiton-related, but that’s boring! What are the 10 things you don’t understand?

  64. eddy
    November 22nd, 2012 at 15:30 | #76

    Hey Matt,
    Great write-up on those 10 things! :-) Those really gave us outsiders some insight about certain issues that we never have thought about it.


    • matgasnier
      November 22nd, 2012 at 16:19 | #77

      Glad you like it Eddy :)

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