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USA Coast to Coast 2014: Final destination LA + Final Albert review

December 10th, 2014 No comments

Albert Hollywood 3Albert made it to Hollywood

You can see all my USA Coast to Coast Reports here! *

This is it! After 5.722 miles or 9.209 km Albert and I have made it across the United States of America from Coast to Coast and have arrived in Los Angeles. This is the final instalment in this Coast to Coast series. It features Los Angeles car landscape and impressions, a final long-term review of Albert and my Top 10 highlights of the trip.

Los AngelesNearly there…

The drive from Palm Springs to Los Angeles is supposed to be a breezy 2 hours, which rapidly escalated to 4 hours due to a gigantic highway traffic jam before and upon entering I10. I know some of you suggested to take the Palms to Pines Hwy (74) straight to the Pacific Ocean for a much more enjoyable experience however we opted for the (supposedly) fastest way as we were running out of time and daylight for Santa Monica Pier snaps before returning Albert the day after. Well to tell you the truth I still wish we took the Palms to Pines option because we ended up taking as much time to reach Santa Monica Pier on the excruciatingly boring I10. Oh well, next time…

Albert Santa MonicaAlbert posing next to Santa Monica Pier

Move over Texas, California is where drivers are truly reckless, whooshing past on the right lane at over 100mph. To their credit though, Californian drivers ended up being very predictable in their recklessness, and provided you expect everyone will drive 20mph above every indicated speed limit, it is actually possible to weave through the traffic at high speed driving a full-size pickup truck, an object getting rarer and rare as we approach Los Angeles.

Santa Monica 1The Pacific Ocean at last

I won’t deny it, I got a little emotional when I spotted the Pacific Ocean for the first time approaching Santa Monica Pier. You don’t realise until you do it for real, but the USA is a very large country and even though I took a much longer route than I could have (but also I believe much more interesting), it takes a while to cross it. Can’t help but think of the first Western pioneers travelling on horse-carts in constant danger of being attacked by hostile Native American tribes. Well done you guys I say. Or maybe I have it all romanced in my head, having watched too many Western movies.

Los Angeles 2Everyday traffic in Los Angeles CA

Back to reality in LA which is, I’d rather be honest for a minute, just one big fat and endless traffic jam. Take a wrong turn to a different interstate and by the time you turn around and find your way back in stalled traffic, even if you take the first exit humanely possible, you’ve just lost 45 minutes right there. For those of you readers who live in LA: I do not know how you do it!

Honda Insight Los AngelesHonda Insight in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles CA

Squeezing Albert through the tiny (one way?) uphill streets of Hollywood Hills in order to find the perfect spot for his selfie enabled me to discover how Hollywood stars, producers, filmmakers and reality TV personalities (can’t use the word star here) spend their money, but also how faithful they are to their first hybrid love. Proof: this first generation Honda Insight papp’ed above. As a reminder the Insight was the first hybrid car to go on sale in the US in December 1999 – 6 months before the Prius.

Toyota Corolla Los AngelesToyota Corolla in Hollywood Observatory, Los Angeles CA

Unsurprisingly, Los Angeles – and in particular the Hollywood area – is the kingdom of Toyota Prius. They are absolutely everywhere and seeing 3 of 4 in a row in traffic is a common occurrence. After all, it’s Hollywood actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Dustin Hoffman, Sandra Bullock, Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom and Julia Roberts that essentially did all the advertising for this car, so nothing more logical than seeing it plastered at every street corner in Hollywood. The Prius family (also including the Prius c small hatchback and Prius v MPV) is the best-selling nameplate in California. True to form, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla are also very common in Los Angeles as their respective California state rankings (#2 and #5) indicate.

But let’s stop beating around the bush – I know a lot of you have been eagerly anticipating the final review of Albert. So without any more delay, here it is below in all its glory.

Albert Hollywood 1

Albert great

The truck we all know as Albert by now is a Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Tradesman Crew Cab 4×4 Model Year 2014. All-in-all and I will say this in all honesty, I have been extremely impressed with Albert. This was the first time I got to drive a full-size US pickup truck over a long distance and I was expecting a laborious drive at best. Turns out, the Ram 1500 combines features from a spacious passenger car, some of the convenience of an SUV and the practicality of a pickup truck. The best of all worlds? Quite possibly so… Here is what I particularly liked about Albert.

30 mpg

FUEL ECONOMY

  • Reaching a 30 mpg average over thousands of miles – even for a short time after a particularly long highway drive – was in my view the most impressive feat Albert achieved during this Coast to Coast trip. The EcoDiesel 3.0L V6 engine is just perfect for this type of vehicle and trip, in fact it makes you wonder why other manufacturers haven’t launched diesel variants for their base full-size pickups yet. GM will do so next year with the mid-sized Colorado and Canyon and this will be interesting to follow, as pickup buyers don’t differentiate between full-size and mid-size pickup as frankly as manufacturers do, so in effect the upper versions of the Colorado and Canyon are competitors to the base variants of the Ram 1500 like Albert.
  • Albert’s fuel economy gauge (below the average) updates in real time, and this is a great way to influence it once you digest what triggers it to go up and down as you drive. Essentially driving as smoothly as possible on the highway, not rocket science but seeing the instant fuel economy vary second by second is a great way to keep you honest.
  • Albert’s final fuel economy over the entire trip stood at an excellent 26.2 mpg over almost 6.000 miles. Had I not spent hours stuck in traffic in LA and New York it would have been even higher, but I guess that brings the ‘city’ mileage into the combined equation and keeps the average realistic. 26.2 mpg combined is outstanding for this type of vehicle and confirms the Ram really is the most fuel efficient full-size pickup around. These figures are actually markedly better than the official EPA fuel economy figures advertised for this specific 1500 EcoDiesel 4×4 model: 27 mpg highway, 22 mpg combined and 19 mpg city. It is also way better than the equivalent 2015 Ford F-150 4WD models: the ecoboost 2.7L gets 23/18/20 mpg highway/city/combined and the 3.5L gets 23/17/19 mpg.

8. Albert New Mexico

HIGHWAY PERFORMANCE

  • This is one of the areas where I had the least expectations for Albert, in fact I was a little sceptical of how comfortable and/or enjoyable a full-size pickup ride would be on thousands of miles of highway, day in, day out. When I set out on this Coast to Coast trip a few of my automotive press colleagues raised eyebrows asking why oh why did I not opt for a ride like a Ford Mustang. “Driving across the States at high speeds? You may as well do it in style!” they said. My motivation was simple: I wanted to cross the country in a quintessential American vehicle, and the Mustang ticks that box – granted, but one that defines America’s tastes in vehicles like no other. No other country in the world worships full-size pickups like the US and Canada do. In one word, what makes American consumers different to the rest of the world is those pickups. I was prepared to sacrifice driving pleasure to experience what the majority of Americans do when they roll their full-size pickup truck around. And the truth is I didn’t have to sacrifice much, or anything for that matter.
  • The 3.0L EcoDiesel V6, on top of being very frugal, has also been set up to not let you down when you need it most. The best example of this happened on Californian highways before hitting standstill in downtown Los Angeles. I had to reach LA before sunset to ensure optimal photo exposure. So for two hours I needed to weave through fast-moving yet heavy traffic as fast as physically possible, ignoring speed limits (sorry) and changing lanes every 10 seconds or less to be sure to advance to the next inch of free highway space as effectively as possible. A good way to test Albert’s psycho driving skills.
  • Californian drivers, in their regimented recklessness, allow this to happen by keeping traffic fluid but most importantly I am happy to report that no other vehicle was able to link Palm Springs to Los Angeles faster than Albert on that stretch of road. The engine and its 8-speed automatic transmission responds without delay when called upon to overtake suddenly, giving you torque when and where you need it. Very reassuring and to my view very satisfying for a vehicle of this weight.
  • Pushing Albert above 100mph in New Mexico did not transform the cabin into a whirring, shaking hell in the least. In fact Albert swallowed the increasing speed levels very stoically indeed. Engine noise is (somewhat disappointingly – I miss the gargling diesel sound) kept to a very low level at all speeds: driving at 60 or 110mph brings almost no difference. Certainly not what I expected from a diesel pickup. Pleasantly surprised.
  • When not in need of nervous driving, the Ram 1500 can easily slot itself into a very precise cruise control you can adjust to the mile and that returns to the pre-set figure once you have accelerated to pass a slower vehicle. A standard ‘set and forget’ system common on most vehicles today but a welcome addition to a set of features that made driving Albert on the highway for 6.000 miles a total breeze. Among them also: an ergonomic driver seat that left me with no back pain even after many stretches of 8-hour drive days in a row.

Albert Charleston

CITY DRIVING

  • Taking the wheel in Uptown Manhattan NY on the first day Albert was delivered to me was daunting. The width of the truck and the tiny, double-parked-to-the-brim one way streets did not seem to agree with each other in the least at the start. For the first couple of minutes only though. Very responsive commands and efficient power steering make Albert extremely manoeuvrable and very predictable in its movements.
  • So much so that once used to the enormous size of the vehicle, reverse parking becomes an effortless manoeuvre you could almost achieve with one thumb on the steering wheel (almost). Although I do consider myself a reverse parking ace thanks to very smart French driving school instructors in my youth, I have to admit I didn’t expect Albert to be more nimble than my mom’s good old tiny Peugeot 206. And it was.
  • Driving Albert in America (even in cities) gives it what you could call an unfair advantage as U.S. roads and streets are for the most part built to accommodate this type of pickup truck’s turning circle, however it does work. U can U turn in one go on most roads.
  • Finally as a confirmation of the very low cabin noise review on the highway, you have to prick up your ears to hear the engine when stopped at a traffic light. Stepping out to take pictures on a busy Manhattan street, it is impossible to guess whether the engine is running or not, as a heavy duty engine cooling system will never betray its running state with loud breathes.

3. Albert Death Valley 1

SUSPENSION AND HARSH CONDITIONS DRIVING

  • A bout of late-night driving in a particularly weakly-lit suburban Dallas street resulted in Albert having a forced speed date with a sizeable middle-street sidewalk: after the initial surprise, the truck’s suspension absorbed the change of terrain admirably and forgave my mistake to the point where the passengers hardly noticed.
  • Admittedly I didn’t push Albert into truly harsh 4WD driving as Monument Valley’s unsealed and sometimes abrupt drive was as close as it came to being unleashed in the wild. Still, it did the job as a willing workhorse would: flawlessly.
  • Albert hardly noticed we ventured into Death Valley. It seemed he was made for this type of harsh climate, and the climb to Coffin Peak was not even sanctioned by heavy engine cooling panting at the end. Nup, silent. Content. Impressive.
  • Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to test Albert’s towing capabilities during this trip, however the next US trip will definitely correct this.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Albert gearbox

SPACIOUS, NO NONSENSE INTERIOR

  • At $35.805 base price and $40.495 for the model I have driven, Albert is a lot of truck for the money. I can fit easily in the truck bed and sleep there for the night. But where I was surprised to find that much space was clearly inside. Albert is a Crew Cab meaning the equivalent of a large passenger car inside, with a truck bed stuck on the back of it. When I talked about the best of all worlds earlier, that’s what I meant. I wasn’t the only one impressed by interior space: I showed Albert to a few moms that couldn’t believe how much they could fit in the back row. Plenty of leg space both at the front and back added to Albert’s extensive width and a middle front seat folding back means you can fit 6 people quite comfortably in this base Ram.
  • Call me stupid but somehow I am used to having a trunk in which to hide my luggage when I drive. Seeing the open truck bed when I took Albert’s keys I had a half-second of horror thinking my photographer would throw a sizeable tantrum at having to leave his $5.000 photo equipment bags for all to see on the back seats at each of our stops. Not to worry: the back windows are heavily tinted so you can store your luggage there without anyone knowing.
  • The dashboard and commands are simple but sufficient and intuitive for the most part. They may not be complete as as we’ll see further down but this is a functional truck to operate smoothly for sure. You can see a more detailed review of Albert’s commands here.
  • There were some clever bonuses that just put a smile on my face every time I used them. Having started to drive at a time where discmans were all the rage (the CD version of a walkman – if you were born after 1990 just ignore these lines), I just sigh with contentment every time I step into a car with a USB port. Simple pleasures I know. The gearshift rotary dial on the central console (pictured above) replacing the traditional shift lever on the steering column both freed leg space and made me very happy, as well as the coin holder located inside the central container and keeping Albert in touch with its Tradesman label, roots and target market. Finally the cup holders are tight enough to unscrew a bottle with one hand while driving. Very handy indeed.

Albert back Death Valley

Albert improve

Some of these improvement points come from the fact that Albert is the very base Tradesman model and therefore has been optioned-out to the max. Still, I would have expected the below features to be included.

HEADLIGHTS

The Ram 1500 Tradesman Crew Cab 4×4 Spec sheet says one of the exterior features is Halogen Quad Headlamps. They are simply not strong enough and I found myself scrambling to action high beams while already being on high beams. Change the headlights if you buy one of Albert’s brothers.

COMMANDS

Although globally intuitive, there are a few missing elements in Albert’s commands. There are no volume and track rockers on the back of the wheel, which means you have to fiddle with the central console every time you want to change anything. It keeps your eyes away from the road for too long and could be fixed by actually adding a right control bar on the back of the wheel: at the moment there is only a left one. The GPS is also MIA, which is kind of a big deal when crossing the country. Luckily the Google Maps app of my iPhone was totally up to the task and the USB port kept it fully charged at all times.

HEAVY RAIN DRIVING

A caveat here is I drove Albert on arrival in Savannah GA in the worst stormy rain I ever got to drive in in my entire life (true story). Cars were literally stopped in the middle of the highway for lack of visibility, or driving off their lane without realising it. Heavy rain driving is my pet hate, and Albert’s wipers were not fast enough to handle this type of weather which, based on the comments I got from the locals, seems to be rather frequent in that part of the country. High speed driving under heavy rain did not seem like a great idea with Albert either as the weight of the truck can mess with clean braking and the tail tends to wobble a little – pun intended.

TRADESMAN LOOK

By this I mean Albert’s black front grille and bumper. I will confess I have spent the most part of the trip hesitating between liking this look and not liking it so much. And I still haven’t decided. It does make Albert appear rough around the edges and ready to rumble in a good way. Although I do love the chrome of his higher spec’ed brothers…

Albert Hollywood 2

10 highlights

I’ll finish this series by very subjectively selecting my 10 highlights of the trip, they are all linked to the corresponding reports, just in case you missed any of them. I hope you enjoyed the journey!

1. Elvis Presley museum in Memphis

2. Bourbon Street and jambalaya in New Orleans

3. Blue bird café in Nashville

4. Modern living in Palm Springs

5. Driving Albert through Manhattan

6. Majestic Monument Valley

7. Motel-ing it all through the trip

8. Art deco roadside stops along Route 66

9. Surviving Death Valley

10. Real America in Fort Worth – Texas

A big thank you to FCA/Ram for lending me this Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Tradesman, without which none of this would have happened.

Stay tuned for more world travels!

The Photo Report continues below.

Read more…

USA Coast to Coast 2014: Palm Springs, California

November 28th, 2014 No comments

1. Albert Palm Springs 1Albert in West Cielo Drive, Palm Springs CA

You can see all my USA Coast to Coast Reports here! *

Many thanks to David Curry for the photos in this report.

After surviving Death Valley we now arrive at our last stop before reaching the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles: Palm Springs California, the mid-century architecture mecca of the world. The traditional Photo Report, car landscape study, Palm Springs trivia and a guide to the unmissable architectural attractions in town are below. Don’t forget to click on any picture to enlarge!

2. Ford Thunderbird Palm SpringsThe Ford Thunderbird is the Hero in Town in Palm Springs CA

Before we go into some Palm Springs trivia and the reasons behind this small desert town’s popularity, I have to spend a bit of time on the Hero in Town: the 11th and last generation Ford Thunderbird, on sale from November 2011 to June 2005. I had seen a couple in New Orleans but apart from that the Thunderbird had been extremely discreet, in line with its poor sales during its short-lived career. That was before Palm Springs. Very noticeable notably in its vintage colours – turquoise, torch red and bright yellow – they are everywhere to be seen in town. Obviously not the most frequent car in the Palm Springs streets, but way more popular here than in all the cities I have visited so far in this Coast to Coast trip… combined.

As opposed to the 9 generations in between, the 11th generation Ford Thunderbird followed a then-recent trend for retro styling initiated by models such as the VW New Beetle, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Mini Cooper, and used design cues from the first generation Ford Thunderbird launched in 1955. In this context, its popularity in Palm Springs is more understandable, as it suits the mid-century architecture, furniture and car obsession in town.

1955 Ford ThunderbirdThe original 1955 Ford Thunderbird

Living in Palm Springs means you probably own a house designed in the fifties, with the corresponding vintage furniture you have accumulated throughout the years, so it only makes sense to own a car that takes its design cues from this era. It’s the second-best option to owning a car actually made in the fifties. Add to this the unusually low ratio of family with kids in Palm Springs (15% of households) and you have the perfect breeding ground for vintage-looking 2-seat coupés/cabriolets like the Ford Thunderbird.

3. Palm SpringsCasa Blanca Motel in Palm Springs CA

Though it was initially well received by the automotive press in its first year of existence, many publications changed their mind after a few years, with Car and Driver Magazine even making it one of the “10 Most Embarrassing Award Winners in Automotive History”. Ford expected sales of 25,000 units per year, but despite a great start in 2002 which saw dealers charging well over the manufacturer’s suggested retail price and 31.121 units produced, subsequent years did not reach half that figure. Forbes attributed this failure to lack of marketing: “Ford dealers have been successful selling $40,000 trucks but have little experience selling automobiles in the near-luxury price range. If there was a marketing effort by Ford Motor, I wasn’t aware of it. Naturally, sales didn’t meet expectations.” said Forbes writer Jerry Flint.

Ford Thunderbird production:

Year Production
2002 31,121
2003 14,506
2004 12,671
2005 9,220
Total 67,518

Source: Wikipedia

4. Albert Palm Springs 2Albert in Palm Springs CA

Now that we have cleared the cult status enjoyed by the 2002 Ford Thunderbird in Palm Springs, let’s get into some trivia. Palm Springs is a desert resort city located just 107 miles (172 kilometres) east of Los Angeles within the Coachella Valley in California. It is home to just 44.552 inhabitants and enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year. The city became a fashionable resort in the 1900s when health tourists arrived with conditions that required dry heat. Palm Springs was more comfortable in its microclimate because the area was covered in the shadow of Mount San Jacinto to the west and in the winter the mountains block cold winds from the San Gorgonio pass. In the 1920s, Hollywood movie stars, attracted by the hot dry, sunny weather and seclusion, started building homes and estates here.

5. Palm Springs House 1Palm Springs house in Monte Vista

After World War II, architectural modernists flourished with commissions from the stars, using the city to explore architectural innovations, new artistic venues, and an exotic back-to-the-land experiences. Inventive architects designed unique vacation houses, such as steel houses with prefabricated panels and folding roofs, a glass-and-steel house in a boulder-strewn landscape, and a carousel house that turned to avoid the sun’s glare. In 1946 Richard Neutra designed the Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann House. A modernist classic, this mostly glass residence incorporated the latest technological advances in building materials, using natural lighting and floating planes and flowing space for proportion and detail. Culver (2010) argues that Palm Springs architecture became the model for mass-produced suburban housing, especially in the Southwest. This “Desert Modern” style was a high-end architectural style featuring open-design plans, wall-to-wall carpeting, air-conditioning, swimming pools, and very large windows.

6. Dodge Challenger Palm SpringsDodge Challenger in Palm Springs CA

Although the home of dozens of striking mid-century houses, it’s relatively hard to find a reliable list of must-see architecture in Palm Springs online. The Palm Springs Modern Committee however sells (for a mere $5) an awesome map of Modern Palm Springs, featuring no less than 82 mid-century landmarks, their location, exact address, date of construction and corresponding architect. A goldmine, also available as an app on palmspringslife.com/psmodapp. I highly recommend it and can happily report I have spent a good 5 hours making sure none of the 82 landmarks went unchecked.

8. Albert Kaufmann House Palm SpringsAlbert reverse parking into the world-famous Kaufmann Desert House in Palm Springs CA

The highlights among these 82 landmarks are – very subjectively – with their construction date and architect:

  1. Franz Alexander House (1954 – Walter White), Palevsky Residence (1968 – Craig Ellwood), Edris House (1953, E. Stewart Williams) and pretty much all houses towards the up-end of West Cielo Drive. Breathtaking views from here and casually manicured desert gardens. To me, the essence of Palm Springs. I’m moving here now!
  2. Village Manor – Orbit In hotel (1955 – Herbert W. Burns)
  3. Kaufmann Desert House (1946 – Richard Neutra)
  4. Casa Blanca Motel (1970s renovation – Hugh Kaptur)
  5. Most houses around Monte Vista and Camino Sur in Palm Springs North
  6. House of Tomorrow / Robert & Helene Alexander Residence, Elvis Presley Residence 1966-1967 (1962 – William Krisel)
  7. City National Bank / Bank of America (1959 – Victor Gruen Associates)
  8. Coachella Valley Savings & Loan No. 3 / Chase Bank (1960 – E. Stewart Williams)
  9. Dinah Shore Residence (1964 – Donald Wexler) but would have been better to see inside the house – Google it for pics
  10. Frank Sinatra Residence (1947 – E. Stewart Williams) here again better inside than out – see Google for pics

One disappointment: Southridge Drive in Palm Springs South offers fantastic views down below on the city but no way to stop the car to take it all in as it is fiercely guarded. That means both the Steve McQueen Residence (1968 – Hugh Kaptur) and Bob Hope Residence (1978 – John Lautner) are off limits along with a couple of other landmarks.

Albert Elvis house Palm SpringsAlbert in front of the House of Tomorrow (Elvis Presley’s residence 1966-1967) in Palm Springs CA

9. Bank of America Palm Springs1959 Bank of America building in Palm Springs CA

7. Nissan Versa Palm SpringsNissan Versa and Chrysler 200 in Palm Springs CA

Now onto the Palm Springs car landscape. Apart from the surprising (but logical) frequency of 2002-2005 Ford Thunderbirds, Palm Springs is the first town in this Coast to Coast trip where the Toyota Prius is truly successful. Once again this is logical: we are in California where the Prius family tops the sales charts, and on top of it we are in a very wealthy town – which has proved to be a good pre-requisite for environmentally aware customers that want to show that even though they spend gallons of water on their golf course, they still care for the earth enough to drive a hybrid car. Hollywood stars were a big part of making the Prius mainstream, and they still have residences here. In fact, it seemed that as we were here on the weekend, every second person we spoke with lived in LA and only spent a weekend in their 2nd home in Palm Springs here and there. Such a hard life…

10. Nissan Sentra Palm SpringsNissan Sentra in Palm Springs CA

Even though the hispanic population in Palm Springs is only 25% vs. over 50% for most parts of California, Nissan still very strong here with the Versa fighting for the title of best-selling nameplate in Palm Springs, and the Sentra potentially inside the Top 5. A hypothetical ranking based on meticulous street observation of the most recent cars in town gives us:

1. Honda Accord

2. Nissan Versa

3. Toyota Prius

4. Honda Civic

5. Nissan Sentra

Beyond the absolute best-sellers, other observations on the Palm Springs car landscape include the particular popularity of GMC with the Sierra, Acadia and Enclave very successful, the rarity of Ford F-Series (in accordance with Californian sales charts) with only a couple of private F-150 spotted, the Audi A3 sedan already making its mark and a shiny-as-new 1987 Ford F-150 spotted in the centre of town. Most pickups are company cars used for road work (there is a lot of it in Palm Springs) and are the heavy duty variant, for example the Ford F-350 or Ram 2500 Tradesman, my very own Albert’s big bro.

8b. Albert Palm Springs Car Wash 1How much more perfect can this picture be?

Best-sellers in California – Full Year 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Toyota Prius (all models) 69,728
2 Honda Civic 66,982
3 Honda Accord 63,194
4 Toyota Camry 56,788
5 Toyota Corolla 52,167
6 Ford F-Series 41,671
7 Honda CR-V 31,850
8 Nissan Altima 31,029
9 Toyota Tacoma 28,182
10 BMW 3 Series 27,026

A quick reminder of the best-sellers in California last year, and this time (as opposed to Death Valley) we are getting a little closer in Palm Springs with the Prius, Accord, Camry and Corolla all very frequent. It would appear Nissan over-performs in Palm Springs as well, particularly the Versa and Sentra.

12. Albert Palm Springs 5Albert in front of the 1965 Tramway Gas Station, now Palm Springs Visitors Center

Let’s finish on a review of the Orbit In Hotel where I stayed while in Palm Springs, described by Time as “the place to stay” in Palm Springs and a “modernist heaven”. For once the critics have it right. A quintessential mid-century modern property set around a saline pool with all rooms sporting designer furniture by Eames, Noguchi, Jacobsen and many more, the Orbit In was actually relatively cheap for the luxury it offered (from $149 per night). Plus the owners, a lovely couple, were there almost the entire time making sure every one was happy. Once you pay for the room, everything is free including cocktails during the cocktail hour which ended up lasting 3 hours, breakfast, daytime sodas and snacks, wifi and cruiser bicycles to borrow. A typically American generosity that, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to find in one of the poshest hotel in this uber-posh town. The cocktail (3) hour(s) brought all guests together to exchange travel stories and our Coast to Coast trip with Albert made them all envious. As they should be!

Next is the very last episode of this series, the arrival in Los Angeles and my final review of Albert. Stay tuned so you don’t miss it!

The full Photo Report (28 pictures) continues below.

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USA Coast to Coast 2014: Death Valley, California

November 26th, 2014 No comments

Albert Badwater with sea levelAlbert’s first incursion below sea level at Badwater, Death Valley CA

You can see all my USA Coast to Coast Reports here! *

Many thanks to David Curry for the photos in this report.

We now leave Las Vegas to enter the final state of this Coast to Coast trip: California. Crossing the state line, we enter Death Valley National Park and this is a perfect location for an extended photo session with Albert. I give you the Photo Report, California sales data, Death Valley trivia and a review of how Albert coped with Death Valley heat below.

Ford F-150 AmargosaFord F-150 at Amargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction CA

Just past Nevada is Death Valley Junction, home of the sleepy Amargosa Hotel and… Opera House. Yep. In the middle of the desert. We almost missed this gem and are so glad we persevered despite windows decidedly harbouring a ‘closed until further notice’ look. The Amargosa Opera House, aka Martha Becket’s Opera House (more detail on www.amargosaoperahouse.com), has a fantastic story worth relating here.

In March 1967 while finishing her One Woman Show tour of America, actress, dancer, choreographer and painter Marta Beckett came to Death Valley Junction to repair a flat tire at the former service station. While exploring the abandoned buildings, Marta found the old social hall in pretty bad disrepair. She rented the building, moved and has lived here ever since! Marta began performing to empty seats as she was not known yet, so she decided to paint an audience as murals inside the Opera House. She began performing to a live audience in February 1968 and did so for over 40 years. Now aged 90, Marta still lives in a room in the adjacent Amargosa Hotel, but was resting when we visited. We would definitely have said hi otherwise!

Amargosa (2000), Todd Robinson’s documentary about Marta Becket, won a 2003 Emmy Award for cinematographer Curt Apduhan.

3. Albert Death Valley 1There’s no denying it now Albert…

Less than 20 miles further West from Death Valley Junction is the actual entrance of Death Valley National Park and time for Albert to prove he’s been here with a pose next to the road sign above. It was late September when we visited so still in the midst of summer. As its name indicates, Death Valley is a pretty extreme place to be finding ourselves in. The free Visitor Guide and Map available at information points peppered through the park airs stark warnings for all visitors. Among them:

  • Clothing keeps you cooler. If you are not wearing a shirt, sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat you are not prepared to walk anywhere in Death Valley! 
  • The most common cause of death in the park is not heat but single car accidents. A moment of inattention can send you, your car and your loved ones flipping into the rocky desert! 

Death valley deaths

But this remains my favourite warning:

  • Do not rely on technology! Your cell phone will not work in most of the park. GPS devices frequently tell Death Valley visitors to turn off well-travelled roads, and take “shortcuts” over the desert and into canyons. Common sense and good judgement are far more reliable

Sadly, Death Valley keeps justifying its name year after year and this Summer there has been 2 heat-related deaths in the valley.

4. Death ValleyThe view upon Death Valley from Coffin Peak

But how hot is it really in Death Valley? Based on temperatures recorded at the official weather station at Furnace Creek down at what felt like the hottest point in the entire National Park, the average maximum temperature is at its coldest in December at 65°F (18°C) but reaches 110°F in June (43°C), 116°F in July (47°C), 115°F in August (46°C) and 106°F in September (41°C). True to form, Albert’s exterior temperature gauge was stuck at a balmy 105°F (40°C) the entire time we were down the Valley. Not that impressive? Wait there’s more…

5. Chevrolet Impala Coffin PeakChevrolet Impala in Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

The highest temperature ever recorded on earth was at Furnace Creek on 10 July 1913 at 134°F (57°C). A high temperature of 129°F (54°C) is the closest we have come to tying this record and was recorded on 17 July 1998, 6 July 2007 and 30 June 2013. The heat is coming back strong as you can see… Another interesting record is the driest stretch of weather: only 0.64 inches of rain over 40 months between 1931 and 1934.

6. Albert mpg Coffin PeakAlbert’s mpg average right after the Coffin Peak climb – still a very good 24.2 mpg.

One way to escape the heat is to climb the steep paved road to Coffin Peak and Dante’s View, easily the most breathtaking viewpoint in the park, more than 5000ft (1524m) above the floor of Death Valley. From here you can simultaneously spot the highest and lowest points in the contiguous USA: Mount Whitney at 14,505ft and Badwater at 282ft below see level. The climb is harsh but Albert hardly noticed, with no overheating, no engine ventilation on for decades after we parked (contrary to all other vehicles parked here) and a fuel economy average down, granted, but to a still very impressive 24.2 mpg – that’s higher than the EPA average for the all-new 2015 Ford F-150. This would end up being the lowest mpg Albert would display in the entire trip.

7. Chevrolet Spark Coffin PeakChevy Spark and a slew of rentals at Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

Expectedly, being almost a tourist-only region, 95% of vehicles in circulation in Death Valley are rentals, but interestingly people haven’t seemed to shy away from the smallest, arguably more ‘tender’ options in these harsh conditions like the bright red Chevy Spark pictured above or the Nissan Versa. The traditional rental staples as described in my Monument Valley report are back with a vengeance: Chevy Impala, Tahoe and Suburban as well as GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, along with the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave as pictured above in Coffin Peak.

8. Albert Coffin Peak 3Albert in Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

All in all though, the most frequent car in Death Valley is a rental Ford Mustang, seemingly the preferred way to complete a one-day tour from Vegas. I remember last time I was in Vegas there were special offers for 1-day Mustang convertible rentals that made them cheaper than the smallest car available – difficult not to be tempted, and apparently these ‘special’ offers are still on to this date. Talking about the devil/Mustang, I saw a camouflaged 2015 model zip past Albert as well as a hardly-camouflaged Jaguar XE. Death Valley is a notorious extreme weather testing ground and each summer day a couple of manufacturers are torturing prototypes on the valley’s roads. Last time I was here in 1995, I saw a string of Smart Fortwos a full 3 years prior to their European launch, and at the time they weren’t even scheduled for a North American career which made their presence here all the more interesting…

9. Chevron Furnace Creek 1Lucky we didn’t have to refuel here… (in Furnace Creek, Death Valley CA – 22 Sept 2014)

9b. Chevron Shoshone…nor here! (in Shoshone, Death Valley CA – 22 Sept 2014)

Remoteness and being in one of the worst places in the world for a car breakdown have encouraged service stations in the Valley to practice simply outrageous gas prices, a full 2 dollars per gallon above the prices that were the norm in Las Vegas at the time of our visit (see pictures above). These have receded by now but remain way above the national average. According to Gasbuddy.com, as at 27 November the Furnace Creek Chevron station (first picture) was selling Regular Gasoline at $4.22 per gallon and Diesel at $4.51. Shoshone Chevron prices were unavailable, but should still be at a shamefully extravagant $4.50 Gas and $5 Diesel even if they decreased at roughly the same rate as in Furnace Creek. That’s close to double the national average! Funny thing is Shoshone is much closer to ‘civilisation’ than Furnace Creek yet gas prices are even higher.

10. Ford E-350 Furnace CreekFord E-350 in Furnace Creek, Death Valley CA

Furnace Creek perfectly earned its name by displaying a hair dryer-like heated wind that grips you to never leave you alone as soon as you leave the car, making your eyes water. Even though the visitor centre encourages to turn off air con in the car to lessen strain on the cars and minimise the risk of breakdown, I knew Albert wouldn’t let us down, and he didn’t. In fact, our Ram 1500 ecodiesel was at its best in the heat and a mix of gravel roads and seemingly infinite stretches of bitumen. This workhorse is made for galloping.

11. Albert Devils Golf Course 3Albert at Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

Another attraction right in the bed of Death Valley is Devil’s Golf Course, an immense area of crystallised salt deposited by ancient salt lakes and eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires. So incredibly serrated that “only the devil could play golf on such rough links.”  On a windy day (not when we were there), you can apparently hear a metallic cracking sound as the salt pinnacles expand and contract.

12. Devils Golf Course 2Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

13. Devils Golf Course 3Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

14. BadwaterBadwater, Death Valley CA

Finally our last stop in Death Valley was Badwater, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (read the Americas) at 282ft or 85.5m below see level. Death Valley belongs to a worldwide geographic rogues. Finding oneself below sea level is an extremely rare occurrence, a map displayed at Badwaters actually shows only 16 other ‘minus’ locations worldwide, including the Dead Sea in Jordan/Israel at -1360ft / -414m, Lake Assal in Djibouti at – 508ft / – 155m and Lake Eyre in Australia at -49ft / -15m. Like most of these locations, Death Valley was not created by a river’s erosion. Movements in the earth’s crust have dropped it to such great depths.

14. Matt BadwaterIt’s bloody hot out here! In Badwater, Death Valley CA

We’ll finish on the official best-sellers in California, although as we have seen earlier, these do not translate into the car landscape of Death Valley, but are rather a reflection of the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets.

Best-sellers in California – Full Year 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Toyota Prius (all models) 69,728
2 Honda Civic 66,982
3 Honda Accord 63,194
4 Toyota Camry 56,788
5 Toyota Corolla 52,167
6 Ford F-Series 41,671
7 Honda CR-V 31,850
8 Nissan Altima 31,029
9 Toyota Tacoma 28,182
10 BMW 3 Series 27,026

California is the second state and in this trip after New York to not feature any pickup truck in its official Top 5 best-sellers, with the Ford F-Series ranking at a paltry 6th place, and the Toyota Tacoma at #9. One can argue the Honda Civic is the real Californian best-seller, as the entire Prius family (including the c small car and the v MPV) is accounted for in its sales figure. Honda also brilliantly places the Accord at #3 and the CR-V at #7 while Toyota positions the Camry at #4 and Corolla at #5. Very impressive performance of the BMW 3 Series in 10th place with over 27,000 sales.

15. Toyota Corolla BadwaterToyota Corolla in Badwater, Death Valley CA

The Full Photo Report (33 pictures) is below.

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World: How the Chinese are setting themselves up for success (Part 5: Mature markets)

April 20th, 2014 12 comments

Qoros 3 The Qoros 3 was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show last April.

* This is Part 5 of 5 in my series on Chinese carmakers abroad. See also Part 1 (Africa)Part 2 (Latin America)Part 3 (Eastern Europe) and Part 4 (Asia) *

The first 4 Parts in this series have shown Chinese manufacturers securing the less developed markets in each region as springboards to expand further. Less developed means smaller and less sophisticated but also less regulated as far as pollution and security are concerned. These last two aspects have been the main barrier to the Chinese carmakers’ entrance in mature markets to date, and specific strategies have had to be developed to address this. This is why I am grouping all ‘mature markets’ in one article, independent of their geographic location.

Brilliance BS6 Crash Test 2007. Picture courtesy of autozeitung.deBrilliance BS6. This 2007 crash test put a dent into Chinese carmakers’ plans in Western Europe.

Chinese manufacturers have learnt this the hard way back in 2007 when disastrous crash tests for the Brilliance BS6 and Landwind SUV meant these two carmakers and all other Chinese manufacturers that were seriously thinking about setting shop in these regions had to postpone their plans. 7 years later, manufacturing quality has improved and there are a few mature markets where the Chinese have started to make their mark, among them Australia, Italy and the UK. The launch of the new Qoros brand by Chery at the 2013 Geneva Auto Show is another important milestone even though European sales of the brand will remain limited.

Great Wall V200 Australia October 2012The Great Wall V-Series is the first Chinese model to break into the Australian Top 50

The main success story so far for a Chinese manufacturer in a mature market is Great Wall in Australia. You can see the full details in my article Australia: An interview with Daniel Cotterill from Great Wall and hear the experience of a very happy Great Wall customer met in Bourke last week here. Great Wall launched in Australia in 2009 and finished 2012 as #17 brand with sales up 27% to 11,006 units and 1% share, totaling over 30,000 to-date. Even though these figures seem small, they are based on only two models and as a result it is actually one of the most successful car brand launches in the country in the past decade, as the market is already completely saturated with over 50 brands present, way more than in the US which is 14 times bigger…

The Great Wall V-Series pick-up (aka Steed) is the first Chinese model to break into the Australian Top 50, finishing 2012 at #49 with 7,490 sales, up 35%, and the Great Wall Australian range has only one other model, the Hover SUV.

Even if 2013 and 2014 year-to-date figures have been disappointing, one of the key factors in Great Wall’s success in Australia has been to embrace the brand’s provenance rather than hide it. Both their slogan ‘The Great cars of China’ and strong positioning on price are unapologetic. The main element to remember here is that by focusing on a sturdy workhorse (the Steed pick-up truck), Great Wall is building itself a solid reputation of reliability under the harsh Australian climate which is at polar opposites with the likes of Hyundai when they first launched there, as evidenced by the healthy amount of repeat business the brand is already experiencing. Chery, Geely and Foton are also present in Australia but not successful at this stage.

DR1 Europe April 2011The Riich M1 is assembled and sold in Italy as the DR1

Italy is the only mature market to assemble Chinese models. Chery cars are assembled by the DR Motor Company since 2007 in Macchia d’Isternia, North of Naples. The range is composed of the DR1 (Riich M1), DR2 (Chery Kimo) and DR5 (Chery Tiggo) however sales dropped from 2,938 in 2011 to just 710 in 2012 and 435 in 2013.

The Great Wall Hover ranked #32 in Italy in December 2011. More of a freak event though.

Great Wall also imports in Italy which became the first Western European country to welcome a Chinese model within its monthly Top 50 in December 2011 when the Great Wall Hover ranked #32. This was a freak event though as it seems Great Wall sold all their stock that month to dealerships but continued to sell to consumers all through 2012 even though official sales figures were down from 1,675 in 2011 to just 10 (!) in 2012, before going back up to a still extremely shy 235 in 2013.

The MG6 has disappointed in the UK so far.

The UK is the third mature market where the Chinese are gaining valuable experience. MG, now owned by SAIC, was reintroduced there in 2011 with the MG6 albeit with disappointing results: the model ranked only #203 with 772 sales for its first full year in 2012 and was down 82% over the first Quarter of 2013. Inspired by its Australian success, Great Wall soft-launched there in 2012 with the Steed pick-up and finished the year as #15 LCV brand with 476 sales and 0.2% share. Very small numbers still but the footprint is there.

Shanghai Englon TX4 Shanghai Englon TX4

Another angle Chinese manufacturers are starting to pursue is the delivery of electric public transport to big metropolitan cities. BYD is set to deliver 50 of its electric hatchback e6 to operate as London taxis while the first batch of 45 e6 has now arrived in Hong Kong, and will start manufacturing electric buses in California later this year. But the biggest development in that area happened last February when Geely acquired iconic London Taxi maker Manganese Bronze. Geely was already manufacturing and selling the London Taxi in China as the Shanghai Englon TX4 and is now looking into developing an electric version.

Qoros logo. Picture by theglobeandmail.com

The last element of the puzzle of Chinese carmakers in mature market is a rather puzzling one indeed. The new company Qoros is a joint-venture between Chery and Israel Corporation which was created in 2007 and has put together a European team of motoring executives and experts with extensive experience from mainstream brands to lead it. Gerd Volker Hildebrand, creator of the modern Mini design, came up with the first Qoros model, the Qoros 3, which was unveiled at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show along with two concept cars announcing the future of the brand.

Qoros sales are only now starting in China – very slowly for now with just a few hundred units so far in 2014. However, far from announcing the long-dreaded large scale invasion of Europe by Chinese manufacturers, Qoros say their main target is… the Chinese market, where consumers like buying European products but don’t like diesel. As a result, no diesel motorisation is planned in any of the future models, which considerably reduces their appeal in Western Europe, and Qoros predicts that only 10% of its sales will actually be in Europe. Its price point between 16,000 and 20,000 euros place it well above the budget brands currently selling like hotcakes there, but could be an interesting test to see whether European consumers are ready to buy ‘expensive’ Chinese cars. More details on Qoros’ launch plans in Eastern and Western Europe here.

Last bit of information, all Qoros cars will be made in Changshu in China, in a new factory that will initially have a 150,000 cars/year capacity, with the possibility to extend to 450,000/year. Not a single Qoros will be made in Europe. So in other words, Qoros is a Chinese brand that wants to sell European-designed models made in China to Chinese consumers thinking they are buying a European car. Tricky.

This concludes our series about Chinese carmakers abroad. I hope you enjoyed it!

Categories: China, STRATEGY, World

California (USA) Full Year 2013: Toyota Prius remains on top

February 14th, 2014 1 comment

Toyota Prius California 2013. Picture courtesy of Motortrend.comToyota Prius

* See the Top 20 best-selling models by clicking on the title! *

The Californian new light vehicle market easily outperforms the US overall, with sales up a huge 12% on 2012 to 1,711,563 registrations. This means if California was a country, it would rank #11 in the world just below France (1.79 million) and Canada (1.74 million) and well above South Korea (1.49 million) and Italy (1.31 million)! Very impressive indeed and it gives you an idea of how important a market California actually is. This year the Toyota Prius family remains the most popular ‘model’ in the State with 69,728 sales and 4.1% share, however this figure includes the Prius C and V as CNCDA does not split Prius sales.

Ford F-Series California 2013. Picture courtesy of caranddriver.comFord F-Series sales are up 64% year-on-year in California in 2013.

So it is fair to say that the Honda Civic is actually the best-selling single model in California thanks to 66,982 units sold for a 3.9% market share. The Honda Accord is up 28% and one spot on 2012 to land on the podium at #3 with 63,194 sales, kicking the Toyota Camry down to #4. Another excellent gain for the Toyota Corolla up 37% but remaining 5th while the Ford F-Series, strikingly less popular here than in the rest of the USA, is catching up (kind of) at +64% to #6 with 41,671 units. Notice also the Nissan Altima up 31%, the Toyota Tacoma up 28% to 9 (making it 8 Japanese vehicles in the Top 9!), BMW 3 Series up 43% to break into the Top 10, the Ford Fusion up to #11, Chevrolet Silverado up 42%, Toyota RAV4 up 55%, Nissan Versa up 40% and Ford Escape up 61%. Finally, notice the Tesla Model S selling 8,347 units, almost half of its overall US score!

Previous post: California (USA) Q4 2013: Honda Civic leads, Mercedes CLA a hit

One year ago: California (USA) Full Year 2012: Toyota Prius new leader

Full Year 2013 Top 20 models Ranking Table below.

Read more…

Categories: California (USA)

California (USA) Q4 2013: Honda Civic leads, Mercedes CLA a hit

February 14th, 2014 No comments

Honda Civic California December 2013. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comHonda Civic

* See the Top 20 best-selling models by clicking on the title! *

New car sales in California are up a fantastic 9% year-on-year over the last Quarter of 2013 to 422,513 registrations, bringing the Full Year 2013 total to 1,711,563 units, up an impressive 12% on 2012 vs. ‘just’ 7% in the USA as a whole. The big event over the period is the pole position of the Honda Civic with 16,402 sales and 3.9% share, passing the perennial leader the Toyota Prius family at 15,665 units and 3.7%, however the Prius keeps the lead over the Full Year. In third place and less than 500 sales below the Prius we find the Honda Accord at 15,177 sales and 3.6%.

Mercedes CLA California December 2013. Picture courtesy of www.motortrend.comThe Mercedes CLA is already a hit in California.

The we have the Toyota Camry, the Toyota Corolla and the first US model in 6th place: the Ford F-Series. The BMW 3 Series ranks at an amazing 9th place like over Q3, followed by the Ford Fusion up from outside the Top 15 in Q3 to #10. Notice also the Mercedes E-Class up to a beautiful 12th place thanks to 6,661 sales and the Mercedes CLA shooting up to an excellent 2,966 sales and 0.7% share over the period.

Previous post: California (USA) Q3 2013: Toyota Prius and Honda Civic shine

One year ago: California (USA) Q4 2012: BMW 3 Series and Mercedes E-Class up

Full Q4 2013 Top 20 models Ranking Table below.

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Categories: California (USA)

California (USA) Q3 2013: Toyota Prius & Honda Civic shine

January 2nd, 2014 1 comment

Toyota Prius California September 2013. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comToyota Prius

* See the Top 15 best-selling models by clicking on the title! *

Better late than never! Finally I can share with you data for new light vehicle sales in California over the third Quarter of 2013. The market is up 12% year-on-year over the period to 447,054 registrations vs. a 8% growth in the US market overall. Year-to-date gains for both California and the US are exactly the same, with Californian sales adding up to 850,712 units, almost 100,000 more than at the same stage last year. It is fascinating to observe the market shares of different nationalities in California vs. the US as a whole: Japanese brands account for a staggering 48% of sales here vs. 37% in the US, domestic brands are at a paltry 29% vs. 46% in the US and Europeans at 15.6% vs. 9.1%.

BMW 3 Series California September 2013. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comThe BMW 3 Series is the 9th best-selling vehicle in California over the period.

Model-wise, the Toyota Prius continues to lead the way and even improves its market share during Q3 to 4.6% thanks to 20,076 sales, adding up to 54,063 and 4.2% year-to-date. Keep in mind though that this figure includes the Prius C and V models. In fact the entire Top 8 best-sellers over Q3 is identical to the year-to-date ranking, with the Honda Civic also shining at #2 with 18,782 units and 4.3% vs. 3.9% year-to-date. The Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Corolla follow, while the BMW 3 Series is up one spot to #9, the VW Jetta back up to #11, Toyota RAV4 at #14 vs. #16 year-to-date and the Kia Optima up to #15. Notice also the Mercedes E-Class at 1% share and 4,241 sales, the Tesla Model S selling 1,840 units and the Mercedes CLA at 422 sales.

Previous post: California (USA) Q2 2013: Toyota Prius and Honda Civic on top

Full Q3 2013 Top 15 models Ranking Table below.

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Categories: California (USA)

Monaco August 2013: Millions on display – Photo report

August 30th, 2013 3 comments

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Monaco August 2013Good old me with a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta in Monaco – picture by my dear dad.

After Italy yesterday and while we feverishly await for the First Half 2013 sales figures for the Principality, I have the pleasure to share with you today my Photo report of Monaco, or more precisely the “Place du Casino” I had the privilege to visit yesterday, arguably the location with the biggest concentration of prestige and supercars in the world…

Ferrari California Rolls Royce Phantom Monaco August 2013bFerrari California and Rolls-Royce Phantom in Monaco, August 2013.

And in that area I wasn’t disappointed! Still very rare in the sales rankings, two Ferrari F12 Berlinetta were on display only metres from each other, gently accompanied by a Ferrari California and a Ferrari F430 Scuderia Spider. And that’s only the ones parked as many more were doing the rounds while my dad and I were busy taking pictures…

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Rolls Royce Corniche Monaco August 2013Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and Rolls-Royce Corniche in Monaco, August 2013.

Rolls-Royce is also very well represented, both with current models (Ghost and Phantom) but also older ones: there were two Corniche driving around and showing off while I was there…

Bentley and Casino Monaco August 2013The Casino reflects into the bonnet of a Bentley Continental GTC, Monaco August 2013.

If you are a regular reader of BSCB you will know the love story that exists between the Principality of Monaco and Bentley. If not, one figure is enough to understand this phenomenon: the Bentley Continental is the 9th best-selling model in Monaco in 2012 with 1.9% market share! It’s as if Bentleys are the default car in the place. For lack of imagination, choose a Bentley!

Ferrari F430 Scuderia Spider Monaco August 2013Ferrari F430 Scuderia Spider in Monaco, August 2013. Picture by my dear dad.

BMW Z8 Monaco August 2013bMove along Pierce Brosnan, this BMW Z8 is mine! (I wish) Picture by my dear dad.

I was amazed to see a very rare BMW Z8 discreetly parked, it even looked exactly like the one Pierce Brosnan was driving in the 1999 James Bond movie “The world is not enough”. How I dreamt of that car…

Dacia Sandero Monaco August 2013Wait – is that a Dacia Sandero among all the Bentleys? Yes, Sir! Picture by my dear dad.

A few surprises too, some of which won’t be if you are familiar with the 2012 best-sellers in the Principality: lots and lots of Smart Fortwo, a couple of Renault Twizy, the French completely under-represented apart from a Dacia Sandero looking a little out of place!

Rolls Royce logo Monaco August 2013Rolls-Royce Phantom in Monaco, August 2013.

Previous post: Monaco Full Year 2012: Porsche Cayenne & Bentley Continental in Top 10!

The Full Photo report is below!

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Categories: Monaco

California (USA) Q2 2013: Toyota Prius and Honda Civic on top

August 17th, 2013 12 comments

Toyota Prius C California June 2013. Picture courtesy of www.motortrend.comThe Toyota Prius is one of 3 Toyotas in the Californian Top 5 over the period.

* See the Top 15 best-selling models by clicking on the title! *

New car sales in California continue to outpace the US market overall, up a fantastic 12% year-on-year (vs. +8% overall in the US) both over the 2nd Quarter of 2013 at 447,054 registrations and year-to-date at 850,712 units. Like in the country as a whole, Californian sales are pulled up by light pick-up trucks (+17%) while domestic brands (+21%) fare better than the Japanese (+10%). The Passenger Car market share in California is 63% vs. 51% overall in the US, domestic brands account for just 29% of sales vs. 46% in the US and Japanese brands are at 48% in California vs. 37% overall. The Toyota Prius remains the best-selling ‘model’ in the state at 18,326 sales and 4.1% over Q2 and 33,987 year-to-date, however this figure include both Prius C and Prius V which skews the results.

BMW 3 Series California June 2013. Picture courtesy of www.motortrend.comThe BMW 3 Series is among the Top 10 most popular cars in California.

The most popular ‘single’ model is in fact the Honda Civic at 16,880 sales in Q2 and 31,798 year-to-date, passing the Honda Accord at 16,207 and 31,576. The Toyota Camry ranks 4th at 15,007 units, ahead of the Toyota Corolla at 12,334. Notice also the BMW 3 Series up from outside the Top 15 over Q1 to #10 with 7,430 sales, the Hyundai Elantra up to #12 with an estimated 6,800 units, the Toyota RAV4 up to #14 and the Mercedes C-Class up to #15.

Previous post: California (US) Q1 2013: Honda Accord best-selling unique model

Previous year: California (USA) Full Year 2012: Toyota Prius new leader

Full Q2 Top 15 Ranking Table below.

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Categories: California (USA)

World: The new Toyota Corolla sedan is here

June 7th, 2013 8 comments

Next year's European-style Corolla sedan. Overseas model shown.2014 Toyota Corolla (European version)

Ford claims it’s the Focus, but BestSellingCarsBlog worldwide sales figures place the Toyota Corolla as the best-selling car in the world in 2012. You can see more about this debate in my article: World Full Year 2012: Ford Focus or Toyota Corolla crowned? In any case, we are talking about over 1 million units sold worldwide each year and 40 million since the Corolla nameplate was launched in 1966, making it the most successful nameplate in the history of automobile.

Toyota Corolla World June 20132014 Toyota Corolla (US version)

So the redesign of Toyota’s compact sedan is very important for the Japanese automaker. If there is one model they need to get right, it’s this one: it will be built in 16 locations and sold in more than 150 countries. The last generation Corolla (#10) was launched way back in 2008 which means Toyota has been waiting a little too long to update it, when you know that Hyundai tends to launch a new model in this category every 3 years. The Corolla has been sliding down the US and Chinese rankings over the last year or so and the launch of the 11th generation will be a breath of fresh air for Toyota.

What does this mean for our worldwide rankings? Click on ‘Read more’ below to find out.

Full article below.

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Categories: World