Saturday, November 3, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Next Audi TT to return to its roots

Posted: 03 Nov 2012 02:00 AM PDT

Audi wants to recapture the impact made by the original TT in the design of its third-generation car

Audi will mix design elements of both the current TT and the original when creating the third-generation car, according to insiders close to the project. The aim, they say, is to recapture some of the distinctiveness and impact of the first-generation car. 

There's a feeling in some quarters of Audi that the striking Bauhaus style of the first Audi TT - distinguished by a strongly functional shape largely untroubled by ornamentation - should be revived in the next car, which will make its debut as a coupĂ© in 2014, with a roadster arriving the following year.

The latest version of the TT will be based on the new VW Group MQB platform, whose architecture allows for a shorter front overhang and a longer wheelbase relative to the car's overall length. 

The new TT will have wider tracks, too, but the overall size of the car will be little changed. 

Audi's latest six-corner grille, more angular headlights and contoured clamshell bonnet will all feature, along with the trademark rounded tail and motorised tail spoiler. It's believed that the wheel arches will also have greater sculptural emphasis.

The new TT will have a chassis set-up intended to deliver a more engaging drive than the current car's, Audi's dynamic target being the Porsche Boxster

To this end, there will be a higher aluminium content in the TT's structure to further reduce mass. Today's base model weighs an already competitive 1240kg. 

As now, there will be front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive options. 

Engines will include the latest slimmed-down 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre EA888 petrol engines, which will include fuel-saving cylinder deactivation. A mildly updated direct injection 2.0-litre diesel will also be in the line-up. In 2015 a reworked version of the 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine will make its debut in a new high-performance TT RS.  

Inside, Audi is again aiming to set new standards of fit and finish, to maintain the TT's position as a compact coupĂ© — and roadster — that's strong on design and sophistication.

New design chief to keep Cadillac style

Posted: 03 Nov 2012 01:30 AM PDT

Cadillac will not incorporate European design features under the direction of former Vauxhall design boss, Mark Adams

Cadillac will maintain its characteristic sharp-edged Art and Science design theme under new British design boss Mark Adams. 

Speaking at the Paris motor show, Adams said he wanted to add 'design quality' to build on the US marque's crisp-edged styling lines, gently curved body panels and tall, narrow headlamps and tail-lights.

This is contrary to the expectations of some in the Cadillac design department, who had expected Adams to introduce European elements.

Art and Science was created in the late 1990s under chief designer Wayne Cherry. It gives Caddy's cars a personality apart from German rivals now dominating the global luxury market.

Adams believes his mission will be eased by a recent reorganisation of GM's North American design department that ensures staff work only on the marque they're allocated to, rather than by platform or vehicle type across all the brands.

Adams plans to further refine the creative process at Cadillac, which should be a success, since he's widely acknowledged in the  industry as having had a very positive effect on design at Vauxhall when he worked there. 

Cadillac will also maintain its ambition to become a significant global premium brand. But in Europe, at least, that road will be long.

How vital is the Vanquish to Aston Martin's future?

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 08:31 AM PDT

Aston Martin is producing some excellent new product, but it faces a tough few years in the face of impressive sales from rivals, including Ferrari

The importance of the new Aston Martin Vanquish cannot be underestimated.

The Vanquish replaces the DBS, which carries a £60k premium over the DB9 and has sold in quantities of 600 to 800 units a year since launch in 2007. Within Aston, the DBS is regarded as a bigger success than the original Vanquish.

Crucially, the DBS's healthy profit margin has contributed significantly to Aston's survival since the 2008 crash, largely because its traditional customer base has proven more loyal.

In fact, DBS sales actually went up in 2008-2009 - the first full year of the crash - while sales of the rival Ferrari 599 GTB collapsed to half of pre-recession levels, according to figures from IHS Global Insight. "The DBS has proved resilient, but the overall picture at Aston is not so good," says IHS analyst Colin Couchman.

Today, the unanswered question is whether the new Vanquish will repeat the success of the DBS over the next five to eight years, given the technical progress being made by rivals.

The Ferrari F12 has arrived with a stonking 730bhp and agile chassis, and competition from Mercedes' SLS - which outsells the DBS nearly four to one - can't be overlooked.

Undeterred, Aston is said to be eyeing Vanquish global sales of 1000 a year, but the Vanquish must fight on with a 10-year-old V12 and modified alloy platform. How it fares is likely to shape Aston's future.

Compare the success of the DBS with the struggles of its stablemates, the Vantage and DB9. The sobering figure for the Vantage is a 62 per cent sales decline from its peak. For the DB9, the decline in sales is 71 per cent.

In 2007 the Vantage commanded about 3600 sales but has since declined inexorably to 1300 units.

Of course, the segment- defining Porsche 911 has suffered, too. But whereas the Vantage was once achieving 10 per cent of 911 sales, it is now worth just six.

And the consequence of the arrival in 2009 of the Ferrari California has been a dramatic slide in DB9 sales, which are now in the 1000-a- year bracket.

Ferrari's healthy sales figures for its mid-engined F430 and 458 shine an even harsher light, tracking at about 3300 a year.

Against this background, Aston faces a tough task planning replacements for its core Vantage and DB9 models. A conservative view might predict only 2500 sales annually for these two-door models, a challengingly small number. Overall, Aston is running at about 4000 cars a year, down from 6500-plus in 2007.

So what's the future for Aston? It's hard to see how the revenue from 4000 cars a year will be sufficient to self-fund a new alloy chassis platform plus a V8/V12 engine family and multiple body styles.

The day when Aston needs a technology partner - at least for an engine - seems to be approaching ever faster.

Do not resuscitate

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 06:51 AM PDT

Fiat revealed its third-quarter financial results this week and informed investors of its future plans. Hidden in the fine print were some startling developments

Buried in the financial documents released this week by Fiat Auto were a number of very striking admissions.

One note dryly says the company has an 'inability to leverage the Fiat brand into the C-segment and above'. In non-financial speak, Fiat has decided it can't compete in the Golf segment and above, so it's given up trying. That's a pretty big move, but possibly not as big as the next one.

Fiat also says that core new car segments have become 'commodity purchases with limited ability to return capital employed'. Translation: You can't make any money from selling mainstream mass-market cars in Europe, such as the Punto, especially if they're built in Europe. So Fiat has also killed the conventional supermini hatch.

And that's not the only sacred cow put to the sword. 'Lancia-Chrysler integration hindered by market conditions and limited brand appeal outside Italy'. So Lancia will probably - over time - shrink back to one model, the Ypsilon. And Lancia will probably wither outside Italy.

As an outside observer, I'm a big fan of Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne, because he seems to be prepared to think the unthinkable. At last, somebody has realised that endlessly re-launching into a market, as Fiat did with Bravo and Stilo, is ultimately a waste of time and money.

Admitting that building commodity cars built in European factories is all but over as a business proposition should also have been a tremor that rocked the EU car industry. But it didn't because nobody, outside Fiat, seems to want to listen.

This week we also got Q3 financial reports from GM and Ford, both losing big money in Europe. And we saw the same 'solutions' repeated: more cost-saving, sharper design, more platform and component sharing, more expectations of the European market reviving in a couple of years. GM assured market watchers that it will also drive its brands upmarket, in an attempt to escape the commodity car slaughter.

It's about time that the car industry got a grip and looked hard into the corporate mirror, as Fiat Auto has just done. First off, most established brands will never be revived or significantly grown. Rover and Saab proved that, short-term blips aside, by never consistently rising above their long-term average annual sales. Jaguar is in the same position, as is Lancia.

Secondly, it's now clear that the only mainstream European-built cars with any chance of making money over a lifecycle are, in general, SUVs or option-laden 'premium' character cars such as the Fiat 500 and Mini. Peugeot is already selling versions of the new 208 for slightly less than the old 207. Making £80 per car - rumoured to be the case for some mass-market superminis - is not a business case.

Thirdly, trying to send an established mass-market brand 'upmarket' is pointless. Renault has tried and failed. BMW wasted hundreds of millions on Rover. Punters won't write the cheque and the brutal used car market will slaughter the promised residuals. And, fourth, you need a global footprint for your product.

On top of this, the average European consumer, if they are willing to buy a car, are driving a very, very hard bargain. We consumers also need to understand that European-built cars are too sophisticated for the showroom price we're willing to pay. These bargain buys are killing the companies making them

The European car industry is approaching the abyss and conventional thinking is steering it straight down the hole. I have no doubt that it's all over for the mainstream European car industry that we have today. It's time for both the manufacturers and punters to go back to basics, starting with simpler cars made in fewer factories.

First drive review: MG5

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 05:15 AM PDT

The MG5 offers distinctive design, strong heritage and a well made interior but the entire package let down by a poor drive train The concept version of the MG5 was aired at the Shanghai Auto Show in 2011 and was easily the star of the show, Chinese and foreign media crowded the MG stand to get a look at the first potential hot hatch from SAIC.Concept and production cars seldom look alike but the MG5 has kept the same corporate front end as the rest of the MG range and also sports the same clean uninterrupted side profile as the MG3 and the MG6, but the 5's rear has diverged away from the original concepts sleekness into a mismatch of design elements, making it difficult to accept for even die hard MG fans. 

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