- Jaguar's BMW 3-series rival – first pics
- VW Group sees big leap in sales and profits
- Audi A3 saloon to arrive this year
- Charles Morgan replaced as Morgan MD
- Kia Procee'd first drive review
- Quick news: JLR sales increase, Ampera for Irish police, driving tests at fire stations
- New car sales up in February
Posted: 14 Mar 2013 05:49 AM PDT
Jaguar begins testing of its new compact saloon
Jaguar's crucial new compact saloon has been spied in testing for the first time. The new baby Jaguar, prototypes of which have been seen in both the UK and Sweden, will be a compact and lightweight rear-drive saloon that will spawn other body styles and spearhead a significant sales expansion for the brand.
However, the new line won't be an obvious rival for established premium cars such as the BMW 3-series and Audi A4, according to senior sources. It will attempt to outpoint the German opposition by emphasising its lightweight aluminium construction and cutting-edge, super-frugal four-cylinder engines.
The junior model range will be based on a new set of components that will be scaleable enough to be used in the next-generation XF and XJ models. This will allow the company eventually to achieve "90 per cent" of all production from one common component set, according to Jaguar's global brand director, Adrian Hallmark.
Jaguar intends that building all three model ranges on the same highly scaleable Premium Lightweight Architecture (PLA) aluminium platform – which made its debut under the Mk4 Range Rover – will allow the company to drive into sustainable profitability by running its Castle Bromwich plant at full capacity.
The model spied in testing might resemble an XF at first glance, but on closer inspection there are several clues that give its identity away as the smaller saloon. The tracks are much narrower than on the XF, the wheels hardly making an impression on the arches. The radiator is also set much further back in the nose, and tell-tale signs of a model not matching its body include ill-fitting door handles and fuel filler cap.
"Trying to find a gap to exploit is a real challenge," said Hallmark last year on the positioning of the new models. "Nobody is waiting for another competitor to enter a segment. For us to enter, we need to have a winning proposition. It has to have a twist, something relevant to the consumer. But the Jaguar brand should define everything."
He also hinted that the new model would expand into a full line-up of body styles: "All makers in that segment have a successful strategy of different versions: coupés, cabrios, estates, engines. You have to be flexible in that segment."
Posted: 14 Mar 2013 03:46 AM PDT
Acquisition of new brands further strengthens VW's global position
The Volkswagen Group saw before-tax profits leap by £5.7bn to £25.5bn in 2012 as sales of vehicles from its 12 brands – which include truck makers MAN and Scania – jumped by one million units to 9.3 million. Total VW Group 2012 revenue was £167bn, up 20.9 per cent on 2011.
VW's automotive division now has a 12.8 per cent share of the global car market.
Of these 9.3 million sales, 5.7 million were VW-branded vehicles, up 12.8 percent over 2011. VW made an operating profit of £3.1bn, which was down four per cent on 2011. Company bosses blame this on the significant costs of rolling out the new MQB platform and factory system.
Skoda sales in 2012 were up 6.8 per cent to 939,000 vehicles, but profits slipped to £618m. Seat sales dropped by 8.3 percent to 321,000 units, which VW attributes to the state of the Spanish and wider southern-European economy. Seat's losses were cut by £59.8m, but it remained £135m in the red.
Bentley continued its turn-around with sales in 2012 up from 7003 to 8510 units, contributing to an operating profit of £86.7m. Porsche only became a full member of the VW Group in August, but it sold "over 140,000" units in 2012 – a record for the brand. VW said that the company made a profit of £820m between August and December last year.
The Audi brand, as Autocar reported earlier this week, delivered 1.5 million vehicles (up from 1.3 million in 2011), and operating profits grew marginally to £4.7bn. VW Group sold 2.8 million cars in China, up 24.6 per cent year-on-year.
VW Group says that the return on investment at its automotive division was down from 17.7 per cent to 16.6 per cent in 2012, though this is still well above its self-imposed target of 9 per cent. VW Group sold 1.4 million vehicles across January and February this year, up 8.3 per cent year-on-year.
Posted: 14 Mar 2013 03:03 AM PDT
New four-door will arrive in Britain this year to further expand the A3 line-up and rival the Mercedes CLA
The first Audi A3 saloon offered in Britain will go on sale later in 2013 after its world debut at the Shanghai motor show in April. China is expected to be the largest market for the new model.
The saloon is not expected to take many sales on these shores, owing to the market preference for hatchbacks. The four-door will, however, will be a direct rival for the recently launched Mercedes CLA.
An S3 variant of the saloon would be feasible given that the saloon ostensibly shares the same MQB-based underpinnings as the A3 hatchback, but fast saloons are an even smaller market in Britain.
Posted: 13 Mar 2013 08:32 AM PDT
Steve Morris, operations director, appointed managing director; Charles Morgan to remain "face of Morgan"
Charles Morgan has been replaced as the managing director of Morgan Motor Company, following a decision by board members and shareholders.
Taking his place is Steve Morris, who was previously the operations director at Morgan.
"Charles Morgan will concentrate on his vital role as the face of Morgan internationally, promoting the brand and selling the company's products worldwide," a Morgan statement read.
A Morgan spokesperson added, "It gives Charles the time to do what he needs to do on an international level, and it felt like a natural progression for Steve."
Morgan insisted that the change was amicable and not driven by a lack of satisfaction with Charles Morgan's performance, as had been rumoured.
Nick Baker, sales manager at the Morgan Motor Company, said, "Charles will remain the figurehead of Morgan. His role is now to focus on opening doors and creating the market."
Posted: 13 Mar 2013 04:21 AM PDT
Kia's three-door version of the Cee'd is sharply styled and well equipped, but lacks the final level of dynamic polish that marks out the best cars in its class Another looker from Kia. This time, it's the three-door version of the second-generation Cee'd, the Procee'd.This sleek new hatchback shares all its dimensions with the five-door save for its height, with the Procee'd coming in 40mm lower. The body is new from the A-pillars back, but underneath the Cee'd and Procee'd are pretty much identical.Kia is positioning the Procee'd higher than the Cee'd, with its own bespoke trim levels (S and SE). Two of the more potent 1.6-litre engines are offered from the Cee'd to reflect the more premium positioning: a 133bhp petrol unit and a 126bhp diesel. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a six-speed dual-clutch auto optional on the petrol.
Posted: 13 Mar 2013 03:44 AM PDT
New models boost Jaguar sales, Vauxhall trials hybrid with the police and learners in Salford get a new test centre
Vauxhall is trialling the Ampera range-extended hybrid with Northern Irish police. Last year's European Car of the Year will be used in Belfast as an incident response vehicle. The Ampera will benefit from Ireland's advanced charging infrastructure, where no EV owner is further than 10 miles from a charging point.
Jaguar Land Rover's sales figures for February show a 3 per cent rise over the same month in 2012, contributing to an 18 per cent rise for the year to date. Of 26,855 JLR sales, Jaguar took 4595, up 27 per cent on last year. Land Rover's 22,260 units is down slightly on 2012, but sales of the Freelander were up 26 per cent.
The Dodge Challenger SRT-8 owned by Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne will be auctioned off next month. The Pitch Black car features a sports exhaust, coil-over suspension and an on-board vehicle information centre. The money raised will go to the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond has implemented plans that will allow practical driving tests to be taken at fire stations. The first tests will be available from 16 April at Salford fire station. The move follows previous initiatives that have seen Halfords stores and Nottingham Trent University host driving tests.
Posted: 11 Mar 2013 09:19 AM PDT
Increase in sales figures during typically quiet February augurs well for this month's plate change
The UK car market is continuing to post healthy growth figures according to data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
New car registrations in February showed an increase of 7.9 per cent compared with the same period last year.
February was the twelfth consecutive month of growth and came on the back of rising private sales, despite the plate change in March. Traditionally, February offers the lowest sales volumes. Last year just 3 per cent of all registrations occurred in February; it gives some insight into the marketing power of the plate change to note that 18 per cent of 2012 registrations happened in March.
Of total February sales of 66,749 units, private sales increased by 28.9 per cent to 29,282 units, while by contrast combined fleet and business sales fell 4.5 per cent to 37,467. In a sign that private buyers are preferring to fuel their cars with petrol, sales of petrol cars grew by 20.5 per cent, while alternative fuel vehicles (hybrids or full electric) did better again, with sales rising by 26.6 percent to 834 units.
The greatest demand is for superminis. The segment accounts for 35.6 per cent of the market, though smaller city cars posted growth during February of 135.7 per cent, again reflecting strong private sales.
It's therefore unsurprising to find those manufacturers with ranges featuring small cars did well in February. Vauxhall saw its sales rise 26 per cent over last year – from 7102 to 8957 units – whilst Hyundai and Suzuki saw increases of 49 per cent and 100 per cent respectively.
There seems little pattern to those firms posting sales losses. Prestige manufacturers Porsche and Audi both experienced falls of 25 per cent, but budget marques also struggled. Chevrolet sales were down from 475 to 249 units (a fall of 49 per cent) and MG sold just nine cars this February, plummeting from 103 in 2012.
The SMMT predicts 13-plate sales will be slightly up on last year's 12-plate registrations.
February 2013's UK best sellers
1 Ford Focus – 3853 units sold
2 Ford Fiesta – 3655
3 Vauxhall Corsa – 3214
4 VW Golf – 2413
5 Vauxhall Astra – 2181
6 Nissan Qashqai – 1856
7 VW Polo – 1437
8 Peugeot 208 – 1423
9 Mercedes C-class – 1317
10 Nissan Juke – 1106
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