Automotive Purchasing Weekly 2 May2016 - page 2

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A Publication
E. & O.E. © 2015 Three 6 Zero Limited - Automotive Purchasing
Simon Duval Smith -
Alex Kreetzer -
Stretchingout
China is a country of individuality, demanding unique
vehicles that are not sold in other markets. This is has
created some very profitable niches for automakers, who
are prepared to meet these customer demands. This has
seen many long-wheelbase variants of western-world
vehicles into China, whose presence could be seen at this
year’s Beijing Motor Show. The event showcased a range
of long-wheelbase vehicles, with Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar,
Audi and BMW all presenting some rather individual
designs.
Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar introduced long-
wheelbase variants of the E-Class and XF which are as
you might expect them to be. These executive sedans are
focused on comfort, which would be perfect when being
chauffeured in them and do remain true to their original
design. In addition, the Jaguar XF L will become the first
Chinese-built Jaguar, signifying a commitment to the
region when production starts in the Changshu plant. The
plant already manufactures the Range Rover Evoque and
Land Rover Discovery, at the Chery-JLR facility. However,
BMW has taken this variant a step further, redefining its
segment with a long-wheelbase compact SUV, the X1 L.
The demand is there so, I guess, why not? Though it does
strike me that, by enlarging a compact SUV designed
mainly to be nimble in the city, BMW may have pushed
aside their traditional range values for its Chinese
consumers.
Yes, this may seem a little bit strange but there is
an explanation. A chauffeur-driven car symbolises the
ultimate success in China, so there is great demand
for longer wheelbase vehicles to accommodate this
‘backseat’ transportation. Everyone wants to achieve the
businessman image, without the premium price tag that
comes with it. In addition, the government has imposed
import taxes which penalise higher capacity engines,
meaning that consumers who want European models will
want to avoid larger motors. Premium-badged European
cars are, understandably, favoured over local brands and
this will be the case until manufacturers, such as Geely
and GAC, further develop their brand image.
You could draw similarities from other regions, such as
Europe, which is starting to favour compact SUVs, much
like the original size X1, in order to have the comfort of an
SUV but in something better sized for city life. Throughout
the industry, vehicle segments now
range from subcompacts to grand
saloons, catering to big-bellied
consumers.
If you don’t ask, you
don’t get.
Sam Ogle -
Mitsubishi-theendofthe
roadorjustaflattyre?
In the latest fuel economy scandal to hit the global
automotive industry, Mitsubishi has admitted to having
rigged fuel consumption tests for 25 years.
The OEM’s statement that it had “conducted testing
improperly to present better fuel consumption rates
than the actual rates” is particularly depressing in the
light of the Japanese carmaker’s advanced combustion
technology and its success with it’s PHEV hybrid
vehicles.
Apparently the falsification was due to a high speed
coasting, or sailing, test; consisting of timing and
measuring how far a vehicle will roll with the engine
disengaged. This procedure almost invites chicanery;
why not over-inflate or choose extremely low-friction
tyres? And why not use the lightest drivers that one can
find? A following wind could be an accident of nature or
a fortunate coincidence...
Mitsubishi has been using an outdated version of the
test, which has not been updated since the late 1990s.
The story behind this, and indeed the legislation in
Japan, is still unclear. While Japanese testing authorities
have revised the procedure, some carmakers still use
the older tests.
In Europe, we tend to think of Mitsubishi as a small
car company; in most markets in the EU it has just three
or four models in its range. However, it is a major global
player. It is the sixth largest (by volume) Japanese car
maker and ranks 16th in the world, making more than
1.2 million cars and trucks in 2015. As such, and with
it’s advanced gasoline direct injection technology, it
was the partner of choice for an engine design and
manufacturing joint venture with Chrysler and Hyundai,
the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA) which
started in 2005.
The GEMA engines live on in the form of the 2.4-litre
Tigershark SOHC in-line 4-cylinder petrol engine that
combines Mitsubishi’s innovations with Fiat’s MultiAir 2
variable valve timing and variable valve lift technology,
sophisticated (and quite expensive) for a high-volume
engine.
What all this points to for me is that the Japanese
carmaker is ripe for a takeover, or at least ready for a
union with a strong ally. With its
successful EV/hybrid programmes
and its proven i.c. powertrain
expertise, it has much to offer a
nurturing parent or partner OEM.
Time for a global car maker to
blow the tyres up again?
A look at some of the current issues in the automotive industry.
If youwant to have your say get in touch by emailing us at:
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Istheanswer tothedriver
shortagerightunderour
noses?
The chronic and ongoing shortage of truck drivers in the
United States and Europe has been well-documented, not
least of all in this column. In the US the crisis, for crisis it
most assuredly is, has reached the point where alternative
solutions must be found if the land transport industry is to
continue to serve shippers as it has done so admirably in
the past.
According to the American Trucking Associations, the
shortfall in the number of drivers has reached 48,000. The
doomsday scenario is that this number could mushroom
to more than 170,000 in the next ten years. Even those
industry observers who say that the automotive industry
has always found a way to ensure deliveries, and will
continue to do so, must realise that they are in danger of
imitating the ostrich.
Weknowwhere thecruxof theproblem lies. The trucker’s
working life can be brutal. Lead times are tight and long
periods away from home are not conducive to a fulfilling
family life. There are increasing and worrying reports of
truckers succumbing to substance abuse. Many solutions
have been tried, some more successfully than others. One
to which I have always subscribed is to engage people
leaving the armed forces. Many of these veterans already
have experience of driving heavy vehicles. They have a
built-in sense of responsibility and are used to receiving
and obeying orders. Driving a truck on American freeways
must seem like a walk in the park compared to Afghanistan
or Iraq. Many trucking companies have tried this approach,
some very successfully, and yet the crisis persists and is
growing. We need to find additional solutions.
How about immigrants? Could they be the answer?
Europe is facing its biggest influx of people since the
second world war. The immigrant population of America
is steadily rising. Already, according to the latest American
Community Survey, nearly 30% of foreign-born drivers are
from Asia, the Middle East, the former Soviet republics
and, okay, Europe. There is also a growing number of
immigrants from Latin America. How many of these people
are looking for work? How many of them can drive or have
driven heavy vehicles? Okay, I can already hear the bleats
from the ‘protect American jobs’
brigade. Look folks, you’ve
tried to fill these jobs and
you’ve failed. If you want to
sustain the trucking industry
and, with it, the American
economy, isn’t hiring immigrants
one way of doing so?
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