Europe October 2017: Golf, 208 and 3008 shine in market up 5.6%

The Peugeot 3008 is up to a record #14 in Europe. Picture perrys.co.uk 

* See the Top 50 best-selling brands and models by clicking on the title *

New car sales in Europe (27 markets excluding Russia and Turkey) are up 5.6% year-on-year in October to 1.202.877 registrations, the highest score for the month since 2009 (1.26m). This brings the year-to-date volume up 3.6% to 13.184.592 deliveries after ten months, the highest score at this stage of the year since 2007 (13.62m). The split data by fuel type is rather interesting this month: wiht 619.300 sales, standard petrol vehicles account for 51.5% of the total market vs. 46.4% a year ago while diesel vehicles continue to freefall at 498.500 sales, down 9.9% to a 41.4% share vs. 48.5% in October 2016, its lowest October share in the past ten years. In contrast, alternatively fuelled vehicles are up to 5.5% share thanks to 66.000 sales. Segment-wise, SUVs are up 21.3% to 373.978 sales and 31.1% share while all other main segments are down: small cars are down 0.5% to 239.105, compact cars down 0.4% to 230.166 and medium cars down 3.7% to 96.732.

The VW Golf surges 24% year-on-year, its largest increase in almost four years. 

Unsurprisingly, Volkswagen remains the most popular carmaker in the region but trails the market slightly at +3% to 133.881 sales. The next best-seller on the other hand all gain share: Renault (+15.8%), Ford (+7.1%), Peugeot (+16.7%) and Mercedes (+8.8%) all advance faster than the market. Note Peugeot reclaims the #4 YTD spot off Mercedes this month. Skoda (+10.6%) and Toyota (+21.2%) are the other two double-digit gainers in the Top 10. Further down, notice Jeep (+20.8%), Seat (+21.1%), Dacia (+21.3%), Alfa Romeo (+22.8%), Suzuki (+31.5%), Lamborghini (+55.6%), Aston Martin (+58.9%), Tesla (+99.4%), Lada (+155.2%) and McLaren (+304.8%) all positing spectacular gains. At the other end of the scale, Opel (-2%), Fiat (-4.2%), Nissan (-5.3%) and BMW (-8.9%) are the only brands in negative in the Top 23, with Lancia (-18.4%), DS (-19.6%), Rolls Royce (-23.5%), MG (-24.5%) and Jaguar (-30%) the hardest hit.

The Peugeot 208 hasn’t ranked this high in Europe since May 2013. Picture largus.fr 

Over in the models ranking, the VW Golf confirms its return in shape, posting a second consecutive double-digit gain and the largest since January 2014 at +24%. Yet its YTD tally remains in negative for now at -3.5%. The Renault Clio is back to the 2nd place it holds year-to-date, up a solid 7.4% this month and distancing the Peugeot 208 up a fantastic 14.8% to sign its first European podium since May 2013. This is only the fifth time the 208 features in the Top 3 after August 2012, October 2012, May 2013 (#3) and December 2012 (#2). The Ford Fiesta (-10.4%) slowly returns to its traditional level now that the new generation is establishing itself, back up 9 spots on September to #4 while the VW Tiguan reclaims the SUV crown off the Nissan Qashqai at #5 vs. #7. Meanwhile the Toyota Yaris (+14.9%) equals its European ranking record at #8 (also hit last July), posting a fourth consecutive month inside the Top 10. The Citroen C3 breaks into the Top 10 for the second time this year after April. It’s the C3’s sixth incursion in the European Top 10, the first one being in June 2010.

The Toyota Yaris ranks at a highest-ever 8th place. 

Outside the Top 10, the Fiat Panda (+10%) and Ford Focus (+21.9%) improve significantly whereas the VW Passat is down 1.5%. The Peugeot 3008, more than doubling its sales year-on-year thanks to the new generation, signs a new ranking record at #14, beating the #17 it hit last July. Other great performing nameplates in the European Top 50 this month include the Dacia Sandero up 22.9%, the Mercedes E-Class up 27.8%, BMW 5 Series up 46.7%, Mercedes GLC up 50.9%, Ford Kuga up 52.9%, Opel Insignia up 65.2% and Renault Scenic up 164.4%. Reversely the Opel Corsa (-18.1%), Audi A3 (-22.6%), BMW 3 Series (-31.4%) and Opel Astra (-32.6%) all struggle. As it has been the case for eight of the past nine months, the Toyota C-HR is the only recent nameplate launch (<12 months) to manage a Top 50 ranking this month, the only other one being the Audi Q2 last August.

Previous post: Europe September 2017: Discover the Top 348 models and Top 55 brands

Previous month: Europe September 2017: Nissan Qashqai up to record #2 in market down 2.2%

One year ago: Europe October 2016: Opel Astra and VW Tiguan shine in market down

Full October 2017 Top 50 brands and models below.

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Hungary October 2017: Four SUVs in Top 5, Suzuki S-Cross up to #3

The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is up to #3 in Hungary in October. 

* See the Top 10 best-selling brands and Top 30 models by clicking on the title *

The Hungarian new car market flies up 30.4% year-on-year in October to 10.366 registrations, leading to a year-to-date tally up 20.2% to 93.056 units. Market leader Suzuki does even better though with deliveries up a whopping 62% to 14.9% share vs. 13.2% so far this year. Ford (+25%) remains in 2nd place ahead of Volkswagen (+30%), Opel (+32%) and Skoda (+30%) all matching the market. Toyota (+56%), Renault (+72%) and Mercedes (#9) also shine. Model-wise, the Suzuki Vitara jumps up 71% to 8.1% share whereas at #2 the Skoda Octavia is down 1%. The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross steps up onto the podium, cementing its 4th place YTD vs. #11 in 2016. The Dacia Duster is back up to #4 and the Ford Kuga up 4 spots on September to #5, meaning there are four SUVs in the Hungarian Top 5 this month. The Nissan Qashqai (#9) and Hyundai Tucson (#10) make it six in the Top 10. In the YTD Top 30 models ranking, notice the Ford Ranger at #16.

Previous month: Hungary September 2017: Suzuki Vitara up 102% in market up 16.8%

One year ago: Hungary October 2016: Market down for the first time since March 2013

Full October 2017 Top 10 brands and models and Top 30 YTD models below.

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Cyprus October 2017: Ford Focus leaps to #1 YTD

The Ford Focus is now the YTD best-seller in Cyprus. 

* See the Top 30 best-selling models by clicking on the title *

Thanks to data provided by SEMO Cyprus and analysed by INNOSOFT, we can share with you today October sales for Cyprus, a market up 12.6% year-on-year to 1.044 registrations which brings the year-to-date tally up 6.2% to 11.333 units. The Ford Focus posts a second outstanding month at 10.7% share with sales up 7-fold on October 2016 and leaps from #5 to #1 in the year-to-date order with deliveries up 36% on the same period in 2016. The Hyundai Tucson is knocked down to 2nd place but still manages to be up 3-fold in October to 7.2% share, ahead of the Renault Captur up 9-fold to 4.3% share and making a come back inside the YTD Top 30 at #25. The Toyota C-HR stays at a stunning 4th place and nudges up one spot YTD to #6, while the Toyota Yaris (-32%) and Nissan Qashqai (-5%) both struggle. Notice also the BMW X1 up 156% to #10, the Honda Jazz up to #12 and the Mercedes GLC at #20.

Previous month: Cyprus September 2017: Ford Focus leads, Hyundai Tucson #1 YTD

One year ago: Cyprus October 2016: Toyota Yaris leads, Honda HR-V up to #5

Full October 2017 Top 30 models ranking below.

(more…)

Guangzhou Auto Show 2017: 20 Highlights, 150 Pictures

Lynk & Co 01 headlight detail

Last week was the opening of the Guangzhou Auto Show 2017, and for the second time after 2015 BSCB was able to attend. The main objective was to stay on top of the numerous new launches by Chinese carmakers so this report will mainly focus on these, with foreign brands covered in the last three points. I give you 20 Highlights of the Guangzhou Auto Show 2017 in 150 pictures. Remember to click on any pic to enlarge it.

1. Lynk & Co is where it’s at

Only one year after its unveiling, the Lynk & Co brand has already gained the title of coolest Chinese brand around. Its stand was by far the busiest in the entire show, including a very large delegation of Volkswagen executives that spent a good hour examining every millimetre of vehicle during the Press Day. On top of displaying two 01 crossovers as well as one 03 sedan concept, Lynk & Co masterfully managed to pull an almost impossible balance between premium and accessible. The stand is a smart black background that inversely heroes the cars, but the (mostly Western) staff is all-smiles and wearing a variety of playful/incongruous tees (“so rong it’s write”) and the space is populated with a multitude of inclusive areas such as multiple swings (yes), photo booths, a bar and a DJ booth playing music that makes me feel I should definitely get onto this Spotify subscription or risking feeling hopelessly old-fashioned very quickly: there is such a thing as a Lynk & Co rap (see video above at 2:00).

The 01 crossover itself is full of very satisfying finds, such as the unique front and rear lights, almost perfect interior allying plushness, modern design and liveability, and unquestionable four-wheel drive ability as featured in a stunning promotional video (see above) shot both in the Inner Mongolian desert and in Sweden – Lynk & CO also has Swedish genes as it shares its platform with the new Volvo XC40. Then there is the innovative 100% online sales strategy coupled with new subscription models also trialled by Volvo. Contrary to the other attempts at premium by Chinese carmakers, and in those I will include Qoros, WEY and Exeed – all covered further down in this Report – Lynk & Co has already understood that to succeed, premium doesn’t have to mean aloof. You can be welcoming and high quality at the same time, and it’s called confidence. Although Lynk & Co hasn’t sold a single vehicle in market yet, it already exudes a level of confidence I have not yet witnessed in a Chinese carmaker – even with Haval and Geely. There, I’ve said it, and I look forward to the next steps.

2. Changhe stuns with the Q7 SUV

Bought by BAIC in late 2013, Changhe had some kind of revival in 2016 with the successive launches of the Q25 and Q35 crossovers, based on BAIC Senova models but displaying their own personality. But despite the additional launch of the Freedom M70 MPV last January, I pronounced Changhe well and truly dead in 2017 with sales crumbling down 53% in May, 37% in August, 28% in September and 29% in October. But no, BAIC has not given up on Changhe, in fact the opposite is true. It is launching two new nameplates in Guangzhou: the good-looking A6 sedan with much-improved interiors, but the one that will shatter low-end perceptions of the brand is the Q7 SUV.

Above and below: Changhe Q7

Below: Changhe A6

The exterior is robust yet sober, with nice premium touches like the Changhe name in curvy writing on the back pillars, sharp head and backlights and a chromed grille, but it’s the interior that makes a remarkable statement, successfully applying a rectangular shape theme to the air vents, floor console, wheel commands, touch screen and electric window commands. Sown leather feels plush, all commands invite use and I just want to touch everything inside this very surprising car. Assuredly one of the best interiors ever released by a Chinese carmaker. Who would have ever thought that of Changhe?


3. The Arcfox Lite: the first truly cool Chinese EV

Almost managing to make more noise at the Show than Lynk & Co, Beijing Auto BJEV is the unexpected creator of the first truly cool Chinese EV: the Arcfox Lite. Arcfox is the group’s new EV brand launched in April 2016 at the Beijing Auto Show, and the Lite is its first model. However the accent is fully put on the Lite name, with Chinese media referring to it as Lite by Arcfox. Regardless, this is a cute little minicar and there were literally dozens of them inundating the Beijing Auto stand in both bright and pastel colours. Two main attractions in the Lite. First, the interior which is one of the most exciting ever launched for a Chinese brand, featuring not one but three 8 inch screens forming a full digital bar. Second, it has LED displays at the front and rear of the car where both the driver and passenger can ‘advertise’ their own messages, in Chinese or Western alphabets, and even emoticons. Above you can see the front display filled with hearts. Cute. It’s like the car is speaking with pedestrians! Plus you get to be able to write what you want, including insults. Now that’s cool.

Hanteng X7 PHEV and X5 interior

4. One year-old Hanteng is improving fast

Created in 2013, Hanteng Motors is, like Zotye, owned by Tech-New. It appeared in the Chinese sales charts a little more than a year ago with a Zotye T600 rebadge, the X7, then unveiled the smaller X5 at last year’s Guangzhou Auto Show in November 2016 but is yet to be sold nationally. So far, nothing spectacular. And this is why Hanteng ranks so high in my list of surprises this year: the carmaker introduced not one but two new designs for the X7 (the X7 PHEV and X7S) as well as a rejigged X5. The interiors are a giant leap forward with high perceived quality, sown materials and the brand name embedded in the armrest. I’m very impressed.

5. The new Landwind Xiaoyao is only a half-clone

That’s always better than a full clone, right? One of the best surprises of the Show is this stunning-looking Landwind Xiaoyao, originally unveiled as a concept one year ago at Guangzhou Auto 2016. It is simply the best looking Landwind launched so far and a far cry from the infamous Range Rover Evoque clone, the X5. Landwind has however not entirely given up on cloning, and a look at the car sideways and from the rear will undeniably remind you of a certain Mercedes GLA. The interior is okay if only a little too shiny and plasticky, but these sharp front headlights make it all worthwhile. Way to go Landwind.

6. Baojun gallops ahead, again

We are still digesting the astronomical sales figures of the latest Baojun launch, the daringly-designed 510 headed towards becoming the fastest nameplate in the history of automobile both in China and the world to reach 300.000 sales (10 months). Yet Baojun strikes again, giving the 510 a larger brother named 530. Don’t change it if it ain’t broke: the 530 utilises the cutting-edge design cues of the 510, adding a bit more chrome around the grille and down the bumpers. Although larger, the 530 remains a five-seater and is, too, destined to a stellar career.

But this Show was also the opportunity for me to step inside the 510 for the first time and see what the fuss is all about. And straight away I understood. With pricing starting at just 59.800 yuan (US$9.000 or €7.700), the 510 offers inside luxuries otherwise reserved to cars a few segments up: electric seats, sown materials, pleasant fabrics, rotary gear shift, Mercedes-style dials and my pet fave: a slow-opening glovebox. I want one. Could General Motors sell this as an entry-model crossover under the Chevrolet brand please? Or even better: as a Holden in Australia where I live?

WEY P8, VV7 interior and VV5 exterior details

7. Are WEY cars all the same?

New Great Wall premium brand WEY has decided all its models should be painted red at the Show, perhaps to better contrast with Haval cars mostly white here. And some contrast is needed as I still can’t shake off the feeling that both the WEY VV5 and VV7 look like more aggressive Haval H2s or H6, but are lacking differentiating personalities. The Chinese public certainly disagrees with me, having gobbled up no less than 45.000 WEY cars since sales started a mere four months ago. To this confusingly similar-looking tandem, WEY has added the P8 plug-in hybrid unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show last September, adorned with a Lexus-styled grille. The interior looks almost identical with a few additional rotary controls. Don’t get me wrong, interior quality is at its best for a Chinese brand but I’m left wanting more.

Exeed TX and Exeed stand at the Guangzhou Auto Show 2017.

8. Can Exeed succeed?

Contrary to Lynk & Co and WEY which both had their very own stand located in completely different halls than Geely and Haval respectively, Chery’s new premium brand, Exeed, remains closely linked to its creator. The mention “by Chery” is placed below the Exeed name on billboard advertising around the Show’s venue and the TX SUV was positioned right in the middle of the… Chery stand in Guangzhou. A half-baked attempt at this stage. The car design itself looks a little heavy and is lacking some dynamism, definitely showing that it’s Chery’s largest SUV to-date. Nothing outstanding exterior design-wise, if anything it looks less modern than the Tiggo 7 or 5x, and the interior is plush without being exceptional, with a very confusing asymmetrical central armrest in-between the front seats. A pretty unconvincing performance so far by Exeed, especially given all the hype surrounding both competitors Lynk & Co and WEY.

9. More SUVs from Dongfeng

There is only one word on the lips of Dongfeng executives: SUVs. Building on the historical success of the Fengguang 580 (almost 20.000 sales last month), Dongfeng has just unveiled the Fengxing S560 to market (see our October All-new models report) and will launch the Fengdu MX3 shortly, but that’s no excuse not to launch more, correct? Correct. Introducing the totally revamped Fengxing Joyear X5 five-seater and and the all-new Joyear X6… seven-seater, both coming with two slightly different snouts for the price of one and looking better and better with each launch, if only a tad too close to Volkswagen…

Haval H4 Red label Haval H4 Blue labelNew Haval H6 Coupe Red label Haval H6 Red label
Haval H6 Blue label. Below, Haval H4 interior.

10. Three more Havals

In 2016, Haval inaugurated a two-fold blue and red label strategy, in effect instantly doubling the size of its lineup. Not to be slowed down, after launching the M6 a couple of months ago (and a new brand, WEY), Haval surprises us with another identical-looking SUV: the H4, of course available in slightly different designs for blue and red labels. Its interior is of great quality as we have come to expect from the brand, but a little schizophrenic, hesitating between the straight lines of its touch screen and the more rounded aspects of the rest of the cockpit. Oh and for good measure, let’s throw in a totally new H6 Coupe Red label design looking like a… M6 which is blue label, obvs. Wait, what?


11. The FAW Hongqi H5 impresses with its interior

Ever since the first Chinese Auto Show I attended, back in Beijing in 2014, the FAW Hongqi brand has been big on promises but not so much on delivery. It now has a realistic model under its belt in the form of the H5, which really impressed me with its interior. Some fun design statements like the floating armrest, along with electric seats, plush materials and a well-proportioned and very digital central console are only let down by a glove box falling abruptly with a cheap “clang” – one of my pet hates. Pity no sales figures are communicated by the carmaker. The LS5 SUV was once again on display but seems to be destined to forever remain a dream.

12. Geely continues to launch like a Boss

There’s a confident air at the Geely stand with the information desk set up in minimalistic manner just next to an elegant tea bar. Quietly celebrating its highest monthly sales on record (125.201 units in October), Geely couldn’t go an Auto Show without a new model launch – the seventh in the past 20 months! – and here comes the Vision S1 hatchback, with simple yet sophisticated interiors. It’s good to see that Geely hasn’t got distracted in the least by the Lynk & Co fanfare.

13. Wuling proudly goes SUV with the Hongguang S3

Unveiled in Shanghai last April and on sale since earlier this month, the Hongguang S3 is Wuling’s very first SUV, albeit built on a Hongguang MPV platform as its name indicates. The brand has been struggling lately due to the freefalling of the commercial minivans that used to be its bread and butter. Even the best-selling Hongguang and Hongguang V are declining in the double-digits, so this S3 comes just at the right time. I wanted to see whether the interior was very Wuling of very SUV, and the latter is true, with bluffing materials for a starting price of 59.800 yuan (US$9.000 or €7.700)… The cherry on top: from Day 2 of the Show Wuling proudly displayed an extravagant race car version of the S3!

14. Chery confirms progress with the 5x – pity about the name

After showing us a much-improved design and interior with the Tiggo 7, the works of new design house Granstudio (the design agency established by former Pininfarina design director Lowie Vermeersch), Chery confirms it is on the right path with this 5x, whose interior shows, well, actual style with just enough chrome and quality materials. Now about the naming. Chery seems to have now got into the habit of denominating with x their new models: choosing Tiggo 3x instead of the more logical Tiggo 4 and now Tiggo 5x instead of, why not, Tiggo 6?

15. Brilliance V6 a good exterior design let down by its interior

Brilliance is one of the worst-faring Chinese carmakers at home this year with sales down an abysmal 48% after ten months. A new SUV is just what the doctor ordered, and thankfully the V6 is here. It’s a marked progress in terms of exterior design, rather modern while keeping the brand’s proprietary grille. Unfortunately, the interior, albeit featuring a reasonably-sized touch screen – a must for Chinese cars nowadays – is all a bit too bland and shiny and seems stuck a few years back.

16. BYD offers a stylish concept, but that’s about it

It’s potentially the start of a renaissance at BYD, with the already successful Song MAX MPV the first model penned by new head of design and ex-Audi man Wolfgang Egger. The brand needs it, with sales down 20% so far this year. But it had not much else to show in Guangzhou, except for a sexy Dynasty concept featuring cameras instead of rear-view mirrors (the way of the future) and a gigantic and protruding touch screen inside – unfortunately the doors were closed.

17. The Chinese carmakers that disappointed

Although based in Guangzhou, local player GAC Trumpchi was far from being the star of the show. Granted, it had a pretty busy year already with the very successful launch of the gigantic GS8 and the arrivals of the GS7 and GS3. Still, it had one novelty at the Show: the enormous GM8 luxury MPV that will target the BYD Song MAX and try and steal some Buick GL8 buyers. Given how fantastically GAC Trumpchi has broken all taboos about successful Chinese large SUVs with the GS8, it could very well do the same in the MPV segment with this GM8…

Chery-owned Qoros is down 44% in 2017 on already very disappointing results, and it doesn’t look like a sales spark will be triggered any time soon: when you call your latest novelty “model Young” just in case your target market isn’t clear enough and launch a car which essentially looks like a Chery Tiggo 7, it reeks of desperation. Clearly, the priority now for Chery in terms of semi-premium brands is Exeed.

The only satisfying model on Lifan’s stand is the Xuanlang MPV, that’s if you’re willing to ignore it is almost a picture perfect clone of the Ford S-Max. The interior of the also-new X80 could have passed three years ago but not in 2017, and no sign of the X70 SUV which would have given the moribund stand a much needed touch of sexiness. Weird.

It has disappointed me before, but this year Haima has reached new lows. Yes, the “camping holiday” theme on the stand is cute with staff wearing Hawaiian shirts, but the “new(?)” F7 crossover is just a stilted version of the V70 which itself was recycling a decade-old design. But it gets worse when you step inside: shiny plastics and analogue speedos galore. It would appear Haima got lost somewhere around 1994. The market responded accordingly with sales down 35% in 2017 so far.

Although very well represented, not all Chinese carmakers were attending the Guangzhou Auto Show this year, with the most notable absentees being Zotye, followed by Leopaard, Cowin, Karry, Zhi Dou, Bisu and Yema. Hopefully they will all make up for it at the next Beijing Auto Show in April 2018!

18. Is PSA Peugeot-Citroen hungry enough?

With Peugeot down 28% so far this year, Citroen down 56% and DS down 62%, PSA Peugeot Citroen is in serious need of a couple of blockbusters. If Peugeot logically put all its energy on the 4008/5008 tandem, Citroen shows us the C5 Aircross. Neither the new C3 nor the C3 Aircross convinced me (cheap interiors), so this is a good test that Citroen passes with highest honours. Contrary to the aforementioned models, the C5 Aircross’ cockpit does feel premium and very original yet pleasantly understated. A huge step in the right direction for the French carmaker.

Over on the DS stand, it’s all about the new DS 7 Crossback that has launched almost simultaneously in Europe and China. I was totally impressed by the DS Experience at last year’s Paris Auto Show, but this time the stand feels cramped with the brand bent on showing absolutely all its models in one go. Granted, the DS 7 is sophisticated, with the Chinese opting to play up its “sponsorship” of France’s new president Macron’s inauguration – a la Hongqi with Chinese presidents – but the over-use of the DS logo’s angular motif virtually everywhere inside is trying too hard. DS hasn’t posted a four-digit sales month since last January and the DS 7 will need to create a lot of momentum to reverse the trend. A tough ask.

19. Korean carmakers are all SUV guns blazing!

For very different reasons than PSA, 2017 is also a nightmare year for both Hyundai (-34%) and Kia (-49%), losing in the space of a few months years of diligent sales progression in China. There is only one way to remedy this hell: SUVs, and lots of them. Reassuringly, both brands answer present with Hyundai adding a thoroughly revamped ix35 on sale locally since last week as well as the all-new Kona scheduled for early 2018 and renamed Encino for China. The Encino will aim right at the über-successful Honda Vezel/XR-V tandem. For Kia, the thinking behind the mysteriously named NP is less clear: it’s relatively big for China while the small KX3 is in dire straits. This Korean SUV assault just as Japanese Mazda, with the CX-3 only dipping its toes in China now, and Toyota, not even showing the C-HR slotted for a summer 2018 release here, are lagging way behind.

Both the Chevrolet Colorado and Silverado were on display in Guangzhou.

20. General Motors got it right

Still ultra-dominant In China, the Volkswagen Group maintained a steady presence in Guangzhou, showing off the new Skoda Karoq, a deliciously sporty VW T-Rocstar (see what they did there?) which reminds us the T-Roc should have been launched in China before Europe and not the other way around, and the dreamy Audi Q8 Concept, a very sexy proposal indeed.

Audi Q8 Concept

But one foreign manufacturer got it more right than others in Guangzhou this year: General Motors. Even when putting aside the very impressive showing of SAIC joint-venture brands Baojun and Wuling, GM shines with its American brands Buick (new GL6 and Avenir) and Chevrolet, which very interestingly showed both Colorado and Silverado pickups as well as a very aggressive Equinox RS. This as Ford didn’t even bother with the F-150 Raptor albeit now officially imported into China, and just when Nissan announced it will start importing the Titan full-size pickup to China next year, to come alongside the locally-produced Navara.

VW T-Rocstar 

That’s all for our coverage of the Guangzhou Auto Show 2017. Stay tuned for a thorough exploration of the car landscape of the city, coming shortly on BSCB.

China October 2017: Focus on the All-new models

Dongfeng Fengxing S560 

After detailing October sales for China, as is the tradition on BSCB we now focus on the new locally-produced launches for the month, so you can stay up-to-the-minute on the latest additions in the world’s largest market. After ten new arrivals in September, the October class has another seven new arrivals, four of them Chinese, three SUVs and two EVs.

Dongfeng Fengxing S560 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

1. Dongfeng Fengxing S560 (#142 – 4.637 sales)

Dongfeng sales are down 5% so far in 2017, avoiding a much more dramatic fate thanks to the smashing success of the Fengguang 580, almost hitting 20.000 sales in October. The remedy: more SUVs, and Dongfeng has got the message, launching this surprisingly good-looking Fengxing S560. At 4.515m long and powered by a 138 hp 1.8L engine mated with five-speed, six-speed manuals or a CVT, the S560 is a seven-seat SUV and features a 7 inch touch screen that offers 360 degree camera, rear view camera, Baidu CarLife, Bluetooth, and a Wifi hotspot (!). All this available at the cutthroat price of 69.900 to 96.900 yuan (US$10.500-14.600 or €8.900-12.400). Aimed mainly at buyers in second and third-tier cities, the S560 is priced lower than the very successful Fengguang 580 (72.900-123.000 yuan) and competes with the likes of the Wuling Hongguang S3 (56.800-81.800 yuan), Changan CX70 (59.900-109.900), Baojun 560 (69.800-117.800), Hanteng X5 (79.900-122.900) and Changan CS55 (83.900-132.900). Above 7.000 monthly sales will the S560 be judged a success, but Dongfeng is secretly hoping it will replicate the levels of the 580…

Bar for success: 7.000 sales

2. Buick GL6 (#175 – 3.507 sales)

Only a few months after renewing the hugely successful GL8, Buick launches its little brother the GL6 which appears in the Chinese sales charts ahead of its debut at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November. A China-exclusive model based on the Opel Zafira Tourer, the GL6 arrives at difficult times for overall MPV sales in China, however the 15.6% year-on-year drop so far this year only affects low-cost Chinese fares and not the new GL8 which beat its all-time volume record in September at 13.899 and is up 166% in October. Good looks and Buick’s decades-long tradition of strong sales in China augurs well for the GL6, a 5 or 6-seat 4.69m-long MPV powered by a 156 hp 1.3 turbo four-cylinder petrol engine.

 

Buick GL6 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn 

Priced very competitively from 144.900 to 166.900 yuan (US$21.800-25.200 or €18.500-21.400), the GL6 is unabashedly zeroing in on the VW Touran (145.800-230.800) whose volume record is set at 9.356 last June. This is a good target for the GL6, whose pricing will prevent it from cannibalising the GL8 (229.900-449.900), but the Envision SUV (209.900-349.900) could be more at risk. Buick would also want to try and upgrade existing Baojun 730 owners (60.800-108.800) or even BYD Song MAX prospective buyers (79.900-119.900).

Bar for success: 7.000 monthly sales

3. Buick Excelle GX (#215 – 2.340 sales)

Buick is pumping out the novelties like there is no tomorrow this month. Second off the starting blocks is the Excelle GX, a station wagon variant of the Excelle. This is the third Buick station wagon to be sold in China after the SR-V (2001) and first generation Excelle wagon (2005). The GX is powered by either a 125 hp 1.0 turbo 3 cylinder or a 163 hp 1.3T 3 cylinder, mated to either a 6-speed manual, auto or DCT. The Excelle GX is priced from 119.900 to 146.900 yuan (US$ 18.100-22.100 or €15.300-18.800), and it competes with the Skoda Octavia SW (119.900-179.900), VW C-Trek (125.900-162.900) and VW Gran Lavida (112.900-162.900)

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales

4. Roewe RX3 (#259 – 1.546 sales)

Roewe wants to build on the astonishing success of the RX5 with this miniature version, the RX3 based on the same platform as the MG ZS. Since its launch in July 2016, the RX5 has taken Roewe into brand new sales territory, achieving 20.000 sales as early as for its fourth month in market and still gaining ground 18 months after its unveiling: it broke its volume record both last September (25.066) and October (28.203). This is the perfect platform to launch an identical-looking smaller variant: the RX3 comes in at 4.408m long and is powered by a choice of 125 hp 1.6 and 163 hp 1.3 turbo.

Roewe RX3 interior. Picture courtesy pcauto.com.cn

The RX3 starts 10.000 yuan below the RX5 at 89.800-135.800 yuan (US$13.500-20.500 or €11.500-17.400) vs. 99.800-186.800 for the RX5. This way, the RX3 competes with the likes of the Changan CS55 (83.900-132.900), GAC Trumpchi GS3 (73.800-116.800), Haval H2 (86.800-118.800), Haval H6 (88.800-146.800) and its platform sibling, the cheaper MG ZS (73.800-115.800). Although presumptuous to expect the same volumes as the RX5, Roewe is in its own right to expect sales figures north of 10.000 per month for the RX3.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly sales

5. Dongfeng Fengshan E70 (#404 – 131 sales)

Dongfeng has topped the 1.000 monthly sales twice in the past three months with the Junfeng ER30 and wants to better this with the Fengshan E70. Not much info dribbling through the net about this nameplate so far, except its price set at 212.800-222.800 yuan (US$32.100-33.600 or €27.200-28.500) before government subsidies are applied. With it, Dongfeng is aiming directly at the Geely Emgrand EC7 EV (165.800-215.800 yuan) but also the BYD e5 (195.900-215.900), Chery Arrizo 5e (212.800-232.800) and BAIC EU-Series (205.900-224.900).

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly sales

6. Yu Lu EV2 (#412 – 76 sales)

Yu Lu is a new brand created in 2015 by the Dongfeng-Yulong joint-venture and dedicated to producing EVs. Its first offering is the EV2 priced from 119.800 to 122.800 yuan (US$18.100-18.500 or €15.300-15.700) minus 70.000 yuan of government subsidies. That’s all the info available about this nameplate so far, and Dongfeng-Yulong will be hoping to convince as many car-sharing schemes as possible to ensure the success of the EV2.

Bar for success: 1.500 monthly sales

7. BAIC Huansu S7 (#416 – 65 sales)

Just as its passenger car sales plunge down 27% year-on-year in 2017 and 30% in October, BAIC continues to launch vaguely similar-looking SUVs under all its sub-brands. After the S2 (August 2014, personal best at 6.220 sales), S3 (August 2014, PB 20.868), S6 (November 2015, PB 5.150) and S5 (January 2017, PB 3.013), the Huansu sub-brand receives its 5th SUV in the shape of this rather appealing S7 with a giant Lexus-like grille. The S7 is a seven-seat variant of the S5 five-seater launched last January. At 4.80m long, the S7 is powered by a 150hp 1.5 turbo petrol engine mated with a five-speed manual box.

BAIC Huansu S7 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

Interior quality shows the steady progression of BAIC in that domain, especially when you consider that the S7 is priced from 78.800 to 115.800 yuan (US$11.900-17.400 or €10.100-14.900). That’s a lot of SUV for this price, and the S7 enters the sandpit where cheap Chinese fares are already playing, such as the Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (72.900-123.000), Changan CX70 (59.900-109.900), SWM X7 (85.900-113.900), Bisu T5 (72.900-89.900) and BYD S7 (99.900-139.900). It will appeal to buyers in second, third-tier cities and below and won’t make much of an appearance in the bigger mega-cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. It looks like the more SUVs Hansu launches, the less successful they are, so we shouldn’t expect too much for the S7.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales

Previous month: China September 2017: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China October 2017: Focus on the All-new models

China October 2017: Geely and Baojun post all-time record volumes

The Boyue is the first Geely nameplate to sell over 30.000 units in a single month.

* See the Top 77 All China-made brands and Top 443 models by clicking on the title *

The Chinese new vehicle market edges up 2% year-on-year in October to 2.704.000 but passenger cars are up just 0.4% to 2.352.000, the market being pulled up by commercial vehicles up 14.8% to 351.000 (buses up 10.2% and trucks up 15.6%). This is the fifth consecutive month of growth in China but its weak progression means the market probably won’t reach the 5% annual growth target the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers set at the start of the year. As a reminder, China sales grew 14% in 2016, boosted by a tax cut on vehicles with engines of or under 1.6L. These cars account for 1.637.000 units in October or 69.6% of the passenger cars market vs. 72.1% a year ago and 13.336.000 year-to-date or 68.4% vs. 71.3% over the same period in 2016. The SUV segment continues to be the sole responsible for the overall passenger car growth with year-on-year gains back into the double-digits in October at +11.4% to 1.023.672, the segment’s first millionaire month of 2017. Never before had SUV sales been that close to cars, down 5.2% to 1.109.750. MPVs for their part tumble down 16.3% to 181.029.

The Haval H6 is the most popular vehicle in China in October despite sales down 14%. 

Year-to-date, the overall market is up 4.1% to a record 22.927.000 units. Passenger cars are up 2.1% to 19.502.000 units with SUVs up 15.5% to 8.028.068, cars down 1.8% to 9.451.054 and MPVs down a harsh 15.6% to 1.601.474. Commercial vehicles are up a whopping 17.2% to 3.425.000 with buses down 6.7% but trucks up 21.3%. Chinese brands mark a pause at home this month: at 1.039.000 sales, they account for 44.2% of passenger cars, down from 45.2% in October 2016. The Chinese SUV share is up 0.2 point to 62.3%, Chinese car share is down 1.9 point to 18.8% and the Chinese MPV share down 7.7 points to 83.8%. Year-to-date, Chinese brands represent 43% of total passenger cars at 8.393.000 sales, up from 42.5% a year ago, with Chinese SUVs reaching 59.7% vs. 57% a year ago thanks to sales up 21.3% to 4.768.000. Finally Chinese MPV sales are down 22.8% to 1.371.000 or 83.6% of the market vs. 89.7% over the same period in 2016.

First four-digit sales month for the BAIC EC-Series, the best-selling EV in China.

Sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids continue to gallop ahead at +106.7% year-on-year in October to 91.000, adding up to 490.000 so far this year, up 45.4% on the same period in 2016. CAAM expects this market to top 700.000 units by the end of 2017. EV sales are up 95.8% to 77.000 while PHEVs are up 194% to 14.000 while year-to-date, EVs are up 55.9% to 402.000 and PHEVs up 11.2% to 88.000. The best-seller in the category, the BAIC EC-Series, crosses an important milestone this month, selling more than 10.000 units in a single month for the very first time at 11.315. It is followed by the Zhi Dou D2 (+349%), BYD Qin (+15%), JAC iEV (+244%), BYD e5 (+23%), Zotye E200 (+42%) and Hawtai EV160.

The VW Santana decades-old nameplate breaks its monthly volume record this month.

Some manufacturers officially announce Chinese retail sales including imports which differ from the data tables we provide further down in the article (locally produced wholesales), and the next few paragraphs are dedicated to these announcements – model sales remain locally-produced wholesales. The Volkswagen Group reports sales up 9.4% in October to 398.100, lifting its year-to-date tally up 2.3% to 3.29m units. The VW brand wholesales ex-imports is up 6% to 309.071. Two of the group’s three best-sellers beat their monthly volume record this month: the VW Santana gains 18% to 38.503 (previous best: 34.462 in January 2016), the VW Tiguan soars 76% to 37.971 – its 2nd consecutive record month and the highest score ever reached by a foreign SUV in China – while the VW Jetta posts its 2nd best-ever month at 38.157 (+29%) below the 43.265 reached last January. The VW Teramont also breaks its record for the 2nd month running at 9.040 sales, but the Lavida (-38%), Bora (-7%), Magotan (-10%), Polo (-3%), Golf (-7%) and Passat (-40%) all skid down. Skoda is up 3.2% to 33.000 with the Kodiaq SUV already its 2nd best-seller below the Octavia.

The Baojun 510 is bound to become the fastest nameplate to 300.000 sales in China.

General Motors advances faster than its archenemy but remains below at +11% to 382.723 units. One of the heroes of the month is low-cost fare Baojun up 56% to 104.755 retail or up 25% to 108.387 wholesale, in any case a new volume record for the brand and only its 2nd time above 100.000 after December 2016 (101.246) and 2nd time inside the Top 5 brands in the country after February 2016. Both the 510 (45.047 and #2 overall) and 310 (25.983) smash their volume bests in October. To put things into perspective, the Baojun 510 has now hit a higher monthly record than the 560 (42.077), and it’s only the third time a Baojun nameplate has sold more than 45.000 monthly units: the 730 MPV hit 47.690 in December 2015 and 50.128 in December 2016. 9 months after launch, the 510 totals just under 255.000 units, slightly less than the 560 at the same stage (258.056) but more than the 730 (230.618). With the 730 at just 26.000 and the 560 at 25.000 for their 10th month, the 560 is bound to deliver the largest first 10 month-volume in the history of automobile in China (and the world), and could be the first ever nameplate to reach 300.000 sales in that period. Note these three nameplates are the most successful launches ever in China.

Second consecutive all-time volume record for the Cavalier, helping Chevrolet up 17%.

Outside of Baojun, other GM news include Cadillac up 36% to 17.018 with the XT5 beating its monthly record at 7.416 (+54%), Chevrolet sales are up 17% to 61.065 with the Cavalier recording a 2nd consecutive all-time volume record at 24.248 (+75%) and the Malibu up 48% to post its highest result since December 2014 at 14.521. Buick is up 2.1% to 107.297 retail but down 1% to 113.473 wholesale. However Wuling is down 15% to 92.588 retail including commercial vehicles, with the Hongguang down another 30% but close to reclaiming the YTD lead due to the VW Lavida’s paltry performance this month. Year-to-date, GM is up 2.2% to 3.13m units. Nissan Motor gains 11% to 1.17m year-to-date, overstepping Honda Motor up 17% to 1.16m, while Toyota Motor edges up 8.5% to 1.07m. The Honda Civic is up a whopping 75% year-on-year to post a new all-time record of 17.613 sales while two newcomers also beat their record: the Honda Avancier (9.679) and the Nissan Kicks registering its first ever five-digit sales month at 10.392. Notice also the Honda CR-V up 85% boosted by the new generation.

The Nissan Kicks is above 10.000 sales for its fourth month in market. 

Meanwhile Ford Motor continues to struggle at -5% to 105.809 units in October, despite Lincoln sales up 48% to 5.514. For Korean Hyundai and Kia, the end of the tunnel isn’t here yet. If Hyundai manages to contain its drop to 11% vs. -34% so far in 2017, Kia plunges another 40%, almost as much as its YTD rate of -49%, and this despite the success of the newly launched KX Cross, up 43% on its inaugural month in September. Similarly, PSA remains in deep trouble with Peugeot (-19%), Citroen (-25%) and DS (-38%) all recording harsh declines, and this despite the new 4008 (record at 5.453), 5008 and C5 Aircross (5.244). In the premium race, Audi has well and truly reclaimed market domination after some turbulences earlier in the year. The brand is up 15% in October to 53.828, distancing BMW Group up 14% to 50.412 and Mercedes up 11% to 46.016. Audi is helped by the A4L up 82% to 11.338 and the Q3 up 61% to 8.834. Year-to-date, Mercedes is still in the lead for now at +28% to 488.915, followed very closely by BMW up 15% to 487.069 while Audi stays in third place at -3% to 472.498. The race to the 2017 premium finish will be a very close one indeed.

The Emgrand GS is one of six Geely nameplates to break their all-time volume record in October.

Among Chinese carmakers, Geely confirms it is the success story of the year, with deliveries up another 30% year-on-year to an all-time record of 125.201 units, beating its previous best established just last month (108.980). Geely comes in at #2 brand overall in China, outsold by Volkswagen only. This is Geely’s highest ever ranking at home (previous best: #3 last February), putting the carmaker on target to hit 1.1m units by year end with cumulated sales up an incredible 70% to 945.557 after ten months. The Geely Boyue gains another 80% year-on-year to break its volume record for the 6th time in the past 8 months and become the very first Geely nameplate to sell over 30.000 units in a single month (30.138): the previous Geely record was held by the Emgrand EC7 with 28.842 in November 2016. But the Boyue isn’t alone: the Emgrand GS (16.063, up 60%), Emgrand GL (13.513, up 92%), Vision SUV (11.214, up 3%), Vision X3 (7.007) and Vision X1 (3.061) all also beat their all-time volume record this month…

The VV5 is up 75% on September, lifting the WEY above 16.000 sales this month.

Great Wall Motor sees is sales progress 3% year-on-year to 108.008 units and shows a changing profile once again. The Haval H6 is the best-selling nameplate in the country in October and for the 2nd time this year after July, this despite sales down 14% year-on-year to 49.015. The success of the M6 (7.051 – new record) fails to compensate the significant losses of the H2 (-17%), H7 (-56%) and H1 (-81%) with Haval total sales down 13% to 81.653. Great Wall pickup sales however are up 12% to 9.418 but the company’s good fortune this month has to do with the implacable success of its new semi-premium brand: WEY, by far the most successful brand launch in China over the past 12 months. The VV7 continues to progress at 8.153 deliveries and the VV5 gains 75% on its inaugural month to break into the Top 100, meaning WEY is above 16.000 sales in October, a rather impressive start. Overall and thanks solely to WEY, Great Wall Motor SUV sales manage to edge up 4.1% to 97.820. Year-to-date, Great Wall is up 2.4% to 813.514.

The Zotye T700 crosses the 10.000 monthly sales milestone in October.

Other successful Chinese brands include GAC Trumpchi up 22% with the GS8 recording its third ever month above 10.000 sales, Roewe up 16% with the RX5 posting a new all-time record at 28.203, Zotye up 9% with its new best-seller the T700 posting its first five-digit month at 10.006 units, Hawtai up a whopping 208% thanks to the Shengdafei delivering a 2nd consecutive all-time record at 11.336 units, Soueast up 43%, MG up 87%, Venucia up 38% (new record for the T90 at 6.119), Leopaard up 27%, Hanteng up 17%, Zhi Dou up 36% and Maxus up 104%. Dongfeng edges up 2% thanks to the Fengguang 580 posting a record 19.771 sales and FAW is down 1% despite the Besturn X40 signing a record 8.939 units. Reversely, a long list of Chinese carmakers record worrying double-digit losses: Changan (-15%), Weichai (-17%), Borgward (-21%), Foton (-25%), Lifan (-27%), Changhe (-29%), Beijing Auto (-30%), Chery (-30%), BYD (-30%), Landwind (-33%), Jinbei (-37%), JAC (-38%), Haima (-44%), JMC (-44%), Brilliance (-47%), Qoros (-56%) and Cowin (-60%).

Previous month: China September 2017: SUVs post smaller gain, VW Lavida now #1 YTD

One year ago: China October 2016: Geely and Haval impress in market up 20%

Full October 2017 Top 77 All China-made brands and Top 443 models below.

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Côte d’Ivoire Full Year 2016: Toyota Hilux and Renault Duster on top

The Toyota Hilux is the most popular nameplate in Côte d’Ivoire in 2016. 

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

New vehicle sales in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) are down slightly in 2016: -2.6% to 8.962 registrations. Toyota remains master in command despite a 15% drop to a round 19% share, eclipsing Hyundai down 16% to 12.3%. Renault gains an impressive 20% and one spot to land on the third step of the podium with 11.6% of the market, knocking Mitsubishi (-9%) down to #4. Peugeot surges 59% to #8 and Citroen is up 9% to #10 whereas Kia tumbles down 42% to #9. Chinese manufacturers account for 7.5% of the market this year, led by Great Wall (#11) and Foton (#17). Newcomer Haval lands at #24 in-between Chevrolet and Audi.

The Citroen C4 Aircross surprises with a Top 15 ranking. 

Model-wise, the Toyota Hilux confirms it is the crowd’s favourite but drops a harsh 24% to 7.7% share, distancing the Renault Duster up 23% and two spots to 5.1%, the Mitsubishi L200 (-16%) and the Mazda BT-50 (-14%), making it three pickups in the Top 4. There are no passenger cars in the Top 10, only composed of pickups (6) and SUVs (4). The Toyota RAV4 is up two ranks to #5, the Hyundai Santa Fe up three to #7, the Hyundai Tucson lands directly at #8 and the Nissan NP300 Hardbody is up 13 to #9. The Great Wall Wingle breaks into the Top 10, the Peugeot 301 (+171%) is the best-selling passenger car at #11, the Hyundai ix25 lands at #12 and the Citroen C4 Aircross (+28%) is up to #15.

Previous post: Côte d’Ivoire First Half 2016: Pickups and SUVs ultra-dominant

Previous year: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) Full Year 2015: Podium 100% pickup

Full Year 2016 Top 10 brands and models vs. Full Year 2015 figures below.

(more…)

Angola Full Year 2016: Fiat Doblo and Panda in the lead

The Brazilian Fiat Doblo is the best-seller in Angola in 2016. 

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

Better late than never: here comes Full Year 2016 data for Angola. The new vehicle market seems to have taken a harsh beating this year in Angola at just 9.167 registrations vs. 20.584 in 2015. Fiat comes out of nowhere to rank #1 brand with 16.1% of the market, distancing Toyota at 15.9% (-49%) and Hyundai at 10.3% (-60%). #1 in 2015 with 18.9% share, Suzuki tumbles down 79% to just 9% this year. Ford gains two spots to #5 and 8.5%, Kia is down one to #6 and 8.1% as is Renault at #7 and 5.2%. Chevrolet is down 83% to #7, Mazda down just 14% to #9 and Nissan down 78% to #10. The only Chinese carmaker in the ranking is JMC at #22. Model-wise, two Fiats dominate: the Doblo at 5.3% share and the Panda at 5%, dethroning the Suzuki Alto 800 down 80% to 4.1% of the market. The Toyota Hiace and Hyundai i10 round up the Top 5 while the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and Toyota Yaris all break into the Top 10. Notice also the Suzuki Jimny at #15, the Fiat 500X at #16 and Suzuki DZire at #19.

Previous post: Angola January-May 2016: Fiat Panda triumphs

Previous year: Angola Full Year 2015: Suzuki Alto 800 and Chevrolet N300 reign

Two years ago: Angola Full Year 2014: Suzuki and Hyundai on top

Full Year 2016 Top 10 brands and models vs. Full Year 2015 data below.

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Photo Report: Driving a Volvo V90 through the Norwegian fjords – Part 4: Geiranger, Ålesund and the Atlanterhavsveien

Lars in Dalsnibba 

This is Part 4, the final part in our series exploring the Norwegian fjords in a Volvo V90 Cross Country. Check out Part 1: Stockholm to Preikestolen here, Part 2: Stavanger and Bergen here and Part 3: the heart of Fjordland here. We kept the best for last: Geirangerfjord is arguably the most famous fjord in Norway, and it’s well deserved as it is also the most spectacular. Remember to click on any pictures to enlarge them.

Part 4 itinerary, just add two more days back to Stockholm…View down onto the road to Geiranger from the Dalsnibba lookout.

Dalsnibba lookout

But first we take the detour to the Dalsnibba lookout, whose tariff has increased sharply from Nkr85 according to the Lonely Planet published in 2016 to Nkr 130 in September 2017. This lookout, at an altitude of 1.481m, is supposed to give you the most stunning views of Geirangerfjord, unfortunately clouds were in the way when I reached it, but the trip was well worth it as it gave me the opportunity to take some of the most spectacular shots of the car during this trip (as featured at the top of this article) on the way down to the Djupvatnet lake.

Renault Twizy fleet in Geiranger. 

Arriving in the tiny village of Geiranger (population 250), we are greeted by an army of Renault Twizy, apparently used for tourist to roam the streets of this familiar-looking town. After a search on IMDB I figure out why I seem to recognise this place from somewhere: it featured in the Norwegian disaster movie “The Wave” where a landslide triggers a fatal tsunami that engulfs the town. Hopefully not today Geiranger. Unfortunately the town has lost much of its authenticity, a victim of extreme tourism: in the space of a couple of months during the summer season, up to 600,000 visitors and 150 cruise ships “honour” Geiranger of their presence.

Geirangerfjord

Taking a few snaps of the fjord from the town’s harbour, I believe I’ve seen it all and decide to follow my plan which was to take the Ørnesvingen (Eagle’s Way) north of town to reach the Trollstigen Route. After 11 hairpin bends and 7km of spectacularly scenic views, I stop at the lookout and discover that Geirangerfjord is much longer than I thought, and I can see over the bend sun-soaked green cliffs. The last ferry of the day departs in 10 mins from Geiranger harbour: what better way to test the Volvo V90’s Polestar power-boost through winding mountain roads? And this would end up being the most adrenaline-inducing bit of driving of the entire trip: the car sticks to the road amazingly well, surges with fury and brakes with discipline. I can’t fault it even though there were multiple opportunities for skidding. I reach the ferry just as the staff was about to close the door, and can enjoy for a full hour the twisting 20km-long emerald-green waters and towering cliffs of Geirangerfjord on the way to Hellesylt. Awkwardly, Lars had its alarm ring four times during the ride, perhaps because the ferry was rocking a bit.

Awaiting the ferry in SykkylvenÅlesund 

Ålesund car park: Suzuki Ignis, Tesla Model S, Hyundai Ioniq, Tesla Model X, Toyota Yaris.

The second and last ferry of the day departs in Sykkylven, offering me the best sunset of the entire trip, and I reach the Ålesund peninsula at night. Norway’s cod-fishing capital, Ålesund was rebuilt in Jugendstil (Art nouveau) style after a devastating fire in 1904 and was one of my anticipated highlights of the trip. I take a couple of hours the next morning to visit the town, even hitting the lookout for a panoramic view, but can’t help but being a little disappointed: the building are all very consistent but it somehow turns into a rather bland combination in my view. I wasn’t wow’ed. The car park is very similar to the one I saw in Stavanger: Tesla is here in force with both the Model S and X and the BMW i3 and Hyundai Ioniq have already conquered many buyers. I also spotted in Ålesund the third Opel Ampera-e of the trip. Suzuki is very strong in this part of the country with the new Ignis and Swift already established and the S-Cross and Vitara popular.

Labygda   Stordal church Grassy approach in Geiranger Grass-roofed houses: a Scandinavian tradition.

Driving east towards the Trollstigen Route, I pass the sumptuous village of Stordal with its stunning church and many a house with grass roofs. Torvtak, or sod roof, is a Scandinavian tradition that dates back hundreds of years. The weight means the walls of the traditional log houses are compressed (less leaks), the thickness and composition gives an insulating roof (less heat escapes in winter, the house isn’t turned into a sauna in summer) that is wind and waterproof. Usually short grasses and low flowers are used. Sometimes longer grasses are used or wildseed themselves and then a schyte can come in handy (or a couple of goats)…

Innfjorden

Finally it’s the towering bare mountains of Innfjorden jutting towards the sky and piling up around deep, dark and quiet lakes.

Trollstigen Route 

One day late, I finally reach the Trollstigen Route (aka the Troll’s Ladder) for a steep descent. It was completed in 1936 after eight years of work and received 700,000 visitors annually. The road slices through surprisingly dark rock cliffs and clouds were adding to the moody atmosphere when I drove down the single lame through 11 steep hairpin bends on a 1:12 gradient. Photo opportunities must be snatched quickly while there are no other cars nearby on the road. Numerous waterfalls, including the thundering 180m-high Stigfossen, echo throughout the amphitheater shaped by the cliff, giving off a sinister, troll crying-like ambiance.

Chevrolet/Ram import dealer in MalmefjordenToyota Proace in OsloFord Ranger on the Atlanterhavsveien

We are now headed north towards the Atlantic Coast, and on the way I spot a rather large car dealership specialised in U.S. imports (Nerland Autosalg in Malmefjorden): I count 15 Chevrolet Silverado and 5 Ram Pickups displayed outside, all from the latest generation. The And I’ll take this opportunity to confirm the sales surge of pickup trucks in 2017 in Norway, especially by the Toyota Hilux (+141.6% over the first eight months of the year) and Ford Ranger (+67.67% 0in August). The VW Amarok is also up a market-beating 32% in 2017. Other heroes, as confirmed by the car Oslo car park, are the new Toyota Proace (+220.7% year-to-date at the time of visit), Peugeot Expert (+183.4%) and Citroen Jumpy (+180.5%).

Atlanterhavsveien

The Atlanterhavsveien, or Atlantic Ocean Road, is a succession of eight bridges connecting 17 islets between Vevang and the island of Averøya. The UK’s Guardian newspaper crowned it the “world’s best road trip” which was one of the reasons why I travelled all the way to here. Well. Don’t rush to your cars just yet, because for starters it’s not much of a road trip: it’s only 8 km long. And it’s not that impressive either. Granted, the weather was very calm when I was there and it probably would be a lot more spectacular during storms. One cool element though is the fact that some of the bridges are angled in a way that looks like they are shooting towards the sky. But that’s about it. I guess it’s the price to pay for having ventured through such spectacular fjord landscape during the past week…

Auto Motor & Sport Sweden is quoting BestSellingCarsBlog figures each month! 

Then it’s the two-day drive back to Sweden and Stockholm. Before then, I realise that Norway is a country of roundabouts, with little to no red lights. It’s a slow country too: the highest speed limit is 90 km/h but only for short times and sanctioned by a toll every time. The general limit is an excruciating 80 km/h. I am told it’s because of the snowy and icy conditions in winter. Then how about different speed limits for summer and winter? In France, the highway speed limit is 130 km/h in sunny weather and 110 km/h in rain… The return to Sweden features a lot more neons and billboards along the highway, a lot more Volvo V90 twins on the road including a Police vehicle, plus the speed limit rises to 120 km/h after Vasteras!

It’s also the opportunity to notice that local best-selling car magazine Auto Motor & Sport has got into the habit of quoting BestSellingCarsBlog figures! A very unexpected surprise that follows-on on last year’s discovery. As I return Lars to the Volvo dealership in the suburbs of Stockholm, its odo has almost doubled, from 3.881 km at the start of this adventure to 7.551 for a total of 3.670 km for this trip and a very reasonable average fuel consumption of 6.5l/km. So. What did Lars do well, and what could he improve?

  • Outstanding road handling at high speed in fjord cliffs’ hairpin bends (the whole point of this drive, right?)
  • Aggressive yet pure and sober exterior design, feels a lot more dynamic than the XC90
  • Luxurious cockpit and incredible sound system by Bowen & Wilkins
  • Very intuitive and practical touch-screen console (the same as the XC90 tested last year), able to monitor all elements at once while zooming on a particular one, pinch and zoom function great to use.
  • More oomph than the XC90 I drove last year: when starting the car, but also when passing at high speed
  • Very comfortable sport seats that stick close to your body at every angle: my usually sensitive back recorded absolutely no pain, whereas the massage function had to be used extensively last year on the XC90
  • Line assist and safety features second to none on the market: as per the XC90 (see last year’s review for more details) this is one of Volvo’s greatest assets and a strong point of difference, and it shows.
  • Headlights are so strong there is no need for high beams most of the time
  • All-in-all the GPS is very reliable with only one road not recognised during the entire trip

  • “Km to refill” indicator is unreliable: it varied greatly and illogically throughout the drive.
  • Cockpit liveability and practicality not as functional as the XC90: big bottles wouldn’t fit on the side doors for example.
  • Adaptative cruise control loses track of the car in front of you in roundabouts and sharp bends, making you dangerously accelerate towards it.
  • Windscreen wipers aren’t always triggered by rain automatically.
  • Each and every time you start the car it invariably and unnecessarily says out loud “Route being calculated”. Gets a little irritating after a while.
  • No sunnies holder above your head.

Sadly, it’s time to return Lars to the Solentunna Volvo dealership after 3.670 km together… 

Stay tuned for our next test drive: a Tesla Model X along the Australian eastern Coast…

South Africa October 2017: VW Polo Vivo snaps top spot, market up 4.6%

The VW Polo Vivo is the best-selling nameplate in South Africa in October. 

* See the Top 35 All-manufacturers and Top 256 All-models by clicking on the title *

The South African new car market is up year-on-year for the 5th consecutive month at +4.6% in October to 51.037 registrations, lifting the year-to-date tally up 1.7% to 467.212 units. Passenger cars are up 7.9% to 35.316, with rental sales accounting for 26.1% of this total, while light commercials are down 1.7% to 13.376. Toyota beats the market at +11% to a strong 24.1% share vs. 22.7% so far this year, whereas the Volkswagen Group (-2%) and Ford (-12%) both decline. Hyundai-Kia (+17%), Nissan (+32%), Renault (+51%) and Mazda (+15%) all shine inside the Top 10 while beyond, Suzuki (+151%), Jaguar Land Rover (+40%), Mitsubishi (+37%) and Chinese JMC (+38%) make themselves noticed.

Over in the models ranking, the valiant VW Polo Vivo snaps the top spot for the first time since last January thanks to sales up 6% to 5.7%. The Ford Ranger (-4%) lurks 42 sales below while the Toyota Hilux drops 11% to 4.9% but maintains its YTD leadership at 29.797 sales vs. 27.072 for the Ranger. The Toyota Corolla (+8%) and Etios (+35%) both post solid results, while the Isuzu KB (+47%), Kia Picanto (+70%), Toyota RAV4 (+144%), Kia Rio (+80%), Renault Clio (+191%) and VW Golf (+92%) also shine. The Ford Everest surges 379%, the Nissan Almera is up 272% and the Renault Kwid leads recent launches (<12 months) at #24 above the Hyundai Creta (#30), Toyota C-HE (#48) and the Range Rover Velar up to a fantastic 61st position.

Previous month: South Africa September 2017: Toyota Hilux up 30% in market up 7%

One year ago: South Africa October 2016: Ford Ranger back to #1 in market down 10%

Full October 2017 Top 35 All-mnaufacturers and Top 256 All-models below.

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