Let's talk about car brands, more specifically Buick. If you are like me, living in the western civilization, you probably think the same thing as I when you hear Buick….. Yuck! Ugly! Boring! Right?
Well, if you're Chinese you probably don't...
General Motors currently have four brands in their portfolio; Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick. But do they really need all of them? Let's break it down; Chevrolet is currently the top selling GM brand in the US, so let's keep that. Cadillac is the edgy luxury line for cool, young, rich people, so Cadillac can stay, and GMC is GM's truck line, they got to have one of those. But why keep Buick?
In recent years, the Buick consumers have consisted of mainly 70 year olds that bought the car in the 1970's and appreciate the reliability that comes with the brand. But with a nearly extinct consumer group, who is left to buy the cars?
A remarkably well orchestrated brand positioning in China provides the answer. Buick began their expansion to China during the 1990's when they introduced their US model "Century" to the Chinese. But in China it was renamed to "New Century" and the sales started with the start of the 21st Century (nice touch). New Century quickly became popular among upscale, professional families in China. The brand positioning as well as the evocative brand name contributed to the success of this model. GM was in effect selling the American Dream to the Chinese people.
The Buick "New Century"
Later on Buick introduced the model GL8 which was a large van, marketed as "business class on land". Most of them were sold in China and they are now mostly used for business occasions. Other models that have been launched with success in China are for instance the LaCrosse and the Regal. Though sold under Chinese names that translates to "A Kings Might" and "A King's Advancement" respectively.
This is a very typical example of how important brand perception is; the name, the image, the heritage and marketing. You need to know your market well in order to be successful, and Buick apparently does. They recently sold their 3 millionth car in China(April 2011) and are currently one of the top selling foreign brands. Motor journalists credit the brand strategy laid out in 2008 by GM China for this success.
During the Shanghai Auto Show 2011, a new marketing video was released to promote Buicks new electric concept, the Buick Envision. You can watch the video below. When I first saw it, I had to investigate more about Buicks current position in the world and especially China, because I could not believe my eyes and ears. If this add would have run in Europe or the U.S, people would take it for a joke. However, it's a different story in China…
BMW recently released pictures of their latest hommage model, the BMW 328 Hommage. The 328 hommage marks the 75th anniversary of the renowned 328 from the 30's racing scene. If you're unfamiliar with the original 328, let's do a short recap. The 328 is considered a milestone in the auto industry. It was a sports model but on paper one could not suspect it to win any races. It wasn't particularly powerful and there wasn't any turbo or jet engine in it either, remember it was the 1930's. No, it was a perfect combination of lightness, aerodynamics and driving dynamics that made this car one of the most brilliant race cars of all time. It is most renowned for it's achievements in the all time classic Mille Miglia races, held during 1927-57, where it earned the fasted average speed of 166,7km/h, a record it holds to this day.
It was also a milestone for BMW since this was the first model that incorporated the concept of lightness as a performance factor. Later on this has been seen in numerous BMW models and other makers' model as well. For instance, the 3.0CSL, the M3 CSL and many more.
Let's dive in to the 328 hommage then. You might recognize the shape of the body, it is infact the BMW ConnectedDrive concept (link to post). However in this version, it has been stripped from all hi-tech communication to give room for raw racing spirit.
As for the original 328, lightness is key for the hommage. The entire body is made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) which BMW has started to incorporate in for instance the BMW M3 and M6. Soon it will, according to BMW, be used in a larger volume, in their new all-electric i-cars, the i3 and i8. In the 30's however the lightest materials available for the auto industry was mainly magnesium and aluminium.
Carbon fibre offers the best combination of strength and lightness today, however it has recently become very expensive since the carbon fibre suppliers are raising their prices. So it will probably be a while until we see this material used in a larger scale, for now it is best suited for concept cars and sports cars in the above €500,000-1,000,000 range such as the Pagani Zonda, the Bugatti Veyron and Koenigsegg Agera. Hopefully though it will start to reach the "lower end" of the auto market in the next coming 20 years or so.
Back to the hommage then. Let's talk about the design, also a key parameter for racing cars and a core brand value for BMW. We have seen most of the design before as I said in the ConnectedDrive concept but in order to pay tribute to the 328 the chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk has incorporated a taller grille, leather straps over the bonnet and the traditional X-tape look over the headlights. Although the hommage is interesting and inspiring it is not exactly beautiful. It is a mix of classic and modern but since that's the point of the hommage, it actually works. If they had said that this was their new Z4 concept for the future I would raise my eye brows a little higher, but for an hommage, it is truly great.
The trick is to make it obvious, of course the car doesn't need leather straps on the bonnet to hold it down and the X-tape over the headlight isn't really tape, the headlights have been designed in this way. It has an aura of lightness and racing around it. The original 328 had these design cues for primarily functional reasons, but for the audience and the general public it provided a visual cue to its racing performance and lightness, much like naked carbon fibre bodies do today.
As a last treat in this post I would also like to give you a recap of BMW's 70th anniversary of the 328. The Mille Miglia concept that was displayed in 2006. I wonder if their will be an 80th anniversary as well?
Amongst other new cars at the Shanghai Motor Show 2011, this Volvo concept called Concept Universe is by far the most interesting. A car made exclusively for the Chinese market by a European automaker.
"The Concept Universe gives a sneak peak of what our customers can expect from our new luxury sedan,…, We will listen carefully to our Chinese customer's response and what they think about the design of the new concept,…, Later on, we will also present the Concept Universe on other markets in order to incorporate it in our global market strategy, as we do with all our cars" says CEO Stefan Jacoby
When it comes to concept cars of this sort it is inevitably the design that steals the show, both interior and exterior. And it is, to say the least, interesting. The lines of the car follow the basic principles of design to make the car look elegant and big. Sweeping lines across the side and around the car makes the car look long and sleek. The front and grille is straight and flat, giving an imposing face, with sense of purpose and confidence. Rolls-Royce's key design element. The front is perhaps the most controversial design feature on this concept. It is somehow very simple, without any crossing lines or odd edges. But at the same time very messy with the repeated grille and headlight shape lines that creates a sort of hypnotizing feeling when the car is seen from the front.
The bonnet also stands out with its oval shape, this is however very intentional, as it relates to the older Volvo models the Volvo Amazon and the Duett. Unfortunately it also resembles the latest SAAB 9-3 models, the question is who got the idea first then.. Hint: the Duett was launched in 1953…
The back end's coupé profile follows the latest trends developed by Volvo's German and British rivals, the Mercedes CLS, Audi A7, Aston Martin Rapide and more. It is not a bad thing, on the contrary, it is a necessity to compete with their rivals as this new trend has been greatly appreciated world wide. Nobody wants to buy a luxury sedan that looks likes a luxury sedan anymore, because old fashion luxury sedans are boring and to be frank, ugly.
The rear lighting is probably the most beautiful feature on this concept, sweeping across the back end, with a great 3D effect in the LED lights that creates a depth and also a dynamic feeling as the rear lights look different from different angles.
The interior design is very Volvo and has a calm feeling together with a sense of modern Scandinavian design. There is of course a touch-screen in every corner and wood decorations together with metal and transparent details. Much resembling the previous XC60 and S60 concepts.
The layout is very driver oriented, with easy access to controls and instruments. The infotainment touch-screen even approaches the driver as he or she reaches for it. In this particular concept a special homage has been incorporated for the Chinese market in the form of porcelain decorations on the steering wheel and gear knob. A nice feature, for the Chinese….
In total I think that the idea of presenting a concept at the Shanghai Auto Show was a move in the right direction. Volvo needs to establish themselves on this market and also bring competitive vehicles that can outclass their European rivals. The big question is what the Chinese will think about this design. I think that the Concept Universe is unbalanced, the rear and the front seems to be two different vehicles. And unfortunately there are too many design elements that resembles other brands. The only thing that stands out as being Volvo unique is the front, and unfortunately it is also the ugliest feature on the car.
And others might say that it is impossible to draw a line on a new car that hasn't been drawn before. But let me refer to the new Citroën Metropolis as a benchmark in this matter. I have never seen any car with those lines, except for previous Citroën models. And that car is also a rival to the German brands. And it is also much more beautiful and interesting than the Volvo Concept Universe.
Volvo has posted a teaser video of their latest design study concept. It will probably be unveiled either at the New York Auto Show or the Shanghai Show on the 19th of April. I will keep you posted on more about this concept. It looks beautiful, It is however difficult to see what kind of car the sketches are supposed to represent. But from the profile it looks like some sort of coupé. Perhaps a 4-door coupé-like beast to rival the Audi A7 or Mercedes CLS? Or a smaller M3 killer? Let's hope so!
Bugatti recently got a green light from its big brother Volkswagen to build the Bugatti Galibier. The Galibier was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show last year and was very appreciated by the audiance and press. This model embodies Bugatti's mission to build the fastest and most elegant sedan in the world.
It is a four seater coupé-shaped sedan resembling the Bentley Continental GT or perhaps the Porsche Panamera.
Ever since the crisis these cars have been popping up, four-door enormous cars with thirsty engines and a price tag only suitable for princes and dictators. But it is a beautiful and elegant car, perhaps except for the pipes at the back, 8 exhaust pipes to be exact, but I think it is OK if it actually needs all of them somehow. But if they're just for show, skip them.
The Galibier will be priced around 1 million euros. It will make use of the Veyron 16 cylinder engine with 1.000 BHP, enough to spin the world the other direction!
That's not all though, these four door coupé mushrooms are continuing to spread around our backyard, for instance, Lamborghini has also asked their big brother Volkswagen if they can build a "Galibier-style-car" too!
Automotive analysts say that the reason why all brands are starting to build four doors saloons or coupé monsters are that they are very easy to communicate the brand values with. They have alot of details and space to incorporate design cues from older cars or space to introduce new ground braking designs and features. They serve as a sort of flagship. - Bloomberg
The biggest surprise for me at the Geneva motor show this year was, as I have mentioned in the previous post, the Citroën Metropolis. It surprised me because while all the other brands showed off their latest smallest hybrids and electrical cars, Citroën had the guts to show us an enormous saloon car. And it is literally enormous, with a length of 5.3 meters it is longer than the BMW 7 series, the Rolls Royce Phantom and almost any luxury car on the market today.
One thing that’s not that surprising about this car is that it is going to be built in China for the Chinese market. I have mentioned earlier that the Chinese demand bigger and longer luxury cars to be driven around in. And if I was a Chinese businessman I would surely go for the Metropolis instead of the mainstream German Rivals.
It’s not only for show this car then, it is actually going to be built. It will have a V6 engine accompanied by a 40kW electrical engine, which in total gives it V8 power according to Citroën. So this means that it will be able to drive a few miles in the city without any emissions. This means that it actually is a hybrid like the rest of them. No, not really….
The hybrid power train seems to becoming a standard from now on. It seems like everybody is trying to “keep the whole cake and eat it too” We want high performance cars with Zero emissions… is this really possible? Perhaps, but I don’t believe in selling a big shouting luxury car with a hybrid engine. The sort of people that wants to recycle, reuse and drive hybrids doesn’t seem to be the same as those that want to be driven around downtown Shanghai by their chauffeur… I would much rather see big thirsty cars that stand for what they are and smaller, super-efficient, battery-driven. city cars for those that want to be environmentally friendly. You can’t keep the whole cake and eat it!
Anyway, we’ll have to wait and see if they actually manage to sell this hybrid monster saloon. The Metropolis is beautiful and crazy, just as a concept car should be. Let’s hope they keep it that way for the production car and let’s hope they put a decent engine in it to match the exterior!
It's been a while since I posted anything on the blog and with good reason! I have been to Geneva to visit the 81st annual motor show there. It was really amazing, so many people there and too many cars. I managed to take photos of the cars I thought were most interesting and jaw-dropping. Unfortunatly, I didn't have the privelage to be at the motor show before it was open for the public, thus it was somewhat difficult to get pictures of all the cars without having other people standing in the way, but I got some at least.
In the Gallery i have uploaded most photos that can be of interest to you, I might upload some more. I will also comment each photo and tell you a little about each car. I will do this continuosly since it requires some time.
Overall the show was great, it featured car brands from all around the world and also visitors from all around the world. During the week that it was open for the public, close to 700 000 visitors trampled the exhibition floor!
The different stands were also jaw-dropping, for instance Audi and Volkswagen who had the largest stands together with some of the French brands close behind. Much due to the fact that they had a lot of cars to show off.
Audi totally blew me away though, not only with their immense stand but rather their quality throughout all the cars they showed. I was impressed by their color choices for the interior, the clever hiding of cables and other tech-stuff on the body. Not to mention their respect to details. I sat in their flagship model, the A8 for a long time and studied every piece of the interior. Everything was well put together and had a great finish to it. And the feeling of luxury was evident no matter if I sat in the back- driver- or passenger seat. They truly can make high-end luxury cars.
But the most amazing car of the motor show for me was the Citroën Metropolis. This enormous luxury saloon looks like a spaceship that recently took a course in gentlemen manners. It is elegant but avant-garde, insane but still relaxed. Truly beautiful. Go and read more about this amazing concept in the gallery and judge for yourselves.
Anyway, there were great cars, great surprises and I had a great time, I hope you'll enjoy the pictures in the gallery and please give me feedback if you want to know more or give me any tips.
On a last note, perhaps most interesting for all the Swedish people reading this: There is an award given to the most creative stand of the year, and this year the award went to Volvo Cars which I thought was brilliant. Their stand reflected the brand image and was smart and innovative (you can see/read more about this in the gallery) They were nominated together with BMW and Smart. The jury's motivation was as follows:
"Context: the choice of wood for the floor creates an exclusive feeling but still gives an embracing impression. It represents perfectly what Scandinavian design represents - a feeling of relaxation and self-contemplation.
Technology: The integration of mainly three main-screens, that are visible from every angle in the exhibition hall and also in the connectivity room is perfect. A sheltered room allows the visitor to utilise and experience new technologies in an intelligent way.
Innovation: The flagship of the brand - the V60 Plug-in Hybrid - is presented centrally and perfectly on stage. The other models are presented in an optimized way and are easily accessible both to the public and to those who present the cars."
BMW has recently announced that they will launch a new segment in their model range. It will be called simply "i", (big surprise?) Leaving the discussion about calling everything something with "i" in it to make it seem new and modern, we instead dive into what this new range is all about.
Not long ago, BMW revealed their supercar concept the "Vision Efficient Dynamics". It was displayed as a hybrid supercar with both an electric and a diesel powertrain which propelled it from 0-100km/h in about 4 seconds. (M3 performance actually). They have developed this concept further to become all electric and it will be manifested in their new i range together with a smaller "Mega City" vehicle, as they call it. The two cars will be named i3 and i8.
Together with these new environmentally friendly and efficient vehicles there is also a new business proposal. Customers will be able to lease these cars and with them you also lease the batteries. As re-charging batteries affects the lifetime of the battery, an i3 or i8 owner will be able to replace the batteries free of charge when it is depleted and no longer can maintain a proper charge.
The idea is not bad, many companies are now seeing potential business in leasing cars and having car pools for larger cities. People living in larger cities prefer to use public transport more frequently because of the high gas price and environmental awareness and thus it can be profitable to only use a car when you actually need one, for weekends or longer trips.
The i3 and i8 not only brings new business ideas but also new design features that have not yet been launched in such a large scale. The two cars will utilize BMW’s new LifeDrive architecture. The LifeDrive architecture provides lightness with strength, the cars will have an aluminium based chassis to hold the powertrain and a carbon fibre monocoque that surrounds the occupants. This has been common technology in supercars and sports cars but has not yet been utilized in everyday cars for everyday people.
Lightness is however a key parameter when developing fuel efficient cars, together with aerodynamics and the “i-cars” seem to have been developed with this in mind. The LifeDrive architecture is not cheap though, thus another reason for leasing the i3 and i8 instead of selling them, it would simply not be possible to sell them on the market since they would be too expensive.
Regardless of the silly “i” name, the idea is good; cars that cause minimal environmental damage, whenever you need them and to a reasonable price. That is probably what future transportation in larger cities will be like. The i-Cars will be launched in 2013, until then, keep yourself updated at www.bmw-i.com
SAAB has taken a big step out of their misery a couple of years ago. Even if they still are not reaching the sales figures they have set, they continue to produce valuable products for their customers. It is obvious that they have big ambitions to re-establish themselves on the global market, still only as a brand "not for everyone"
The new 9-5 which was launched some years ago was no extraordinary vehicle, it was big and heavy but sort of interesting mainly due to the design.
Now though, something has changed. The Phoenix concept has been revealed at the Geneva Auto Show and this concept car truly is everything a concept car should be. It is avant garde and new, it's packed with future technology and loaded with heritage from previous and actually very early SAAB models.
The Phoenix concept is the product of SAAB lead designer Jason Castriota. He explains the concept as being not the proposal for a production car but a vision of what SAAB will be about the next coming years. It will be focused on aerodynamics and driver-in-focus. This is evident in the design. The exterior is a really extraordinary and completely new design which has been crafted using Saabs wind tunnel. The aerodynamic capabilities are most evident in the new wings flowing alongside the roofline. Castriota explains that the shape of the wings create an aerodynamic flow around the car which actually produced more concentrated airflow and handling capabilities than a normal horizontal placed wing such as those used in Formula 1.
The interior is clearly concentrated on the driver. The driver is wrapped by the interior and all instruments are close at hand and easy to reach from the driver position. Castriota explains that he wanted to make the driver feel more connected to the car, to feel as driver and car are as one. Sort of what BMW has been thinking for a long time. This task is rarely managed though. Perhaps the new engine will help with this, the Phoenix is powered by a BMW engine, more exactly it's their 1.6 turbocharged petrol engine which produces 200bhp. That's not all, of course this is also a hybrid car, like every car is nowadays. The 1.6 petrol engine is accompanied by a 34bhp electrical engine at the back of the car.
There is however one feature on the Phoenix that is more noteworthy than the entire car itself, it's the new iQon infotainment system incorporated in the Phoenix.
The iQon has been developed together with Google and Android mobile technologies and is essentially an app based infotainment software incorporated in the car. The system is constantly connected to the internet and makes it possible for the driver to stay up to date with current events on various social medias and e-mails. It is also loaded with apps that are useful to the driver and also some that perhaps aren't that useful but at least fun! The iQon system has its own app store incorporated in it which enables the driver to be updated with the latest software and add-ons anytime. It is also customizable according to the driver's preferences.
The iQon system interface is a large touch screen which the entire infotainment, vehicle settings and climate control of the car is communicated through. It's a world first and it's in a SAAB something every Swede can be proud of.
The Phoenix concept is beautiful and smart and will probably lay the foundation of the new design strategy for SAAB, so let's hope the new 9-3 model captures some of the features of the Phoenix concept. Check out the image gallery at Autoblog.com
De Tomaso is a car brand known by those who love italian sportscars from the 80's. Together with Maserati, Ferrari and Lamborghini, De Tomaso has produced some of the most beautiful sports roadsters. That was a long time ago though, the brand has been lost in the woods for sometime now and has not produced a new model since the Guará, which lived only to the year 2004.
De Tomaso SLS Concept 2011
But De Tomaso has been revived, and this time they have not had the ambition to take on the battle of the sports cars with Maserati and the other V12 familiy brands. This time they aim to battle the luxury saloon segment.
Their weapon is a new concept car which will be revealed at the Geneva Auto show in March, it's called the SLS (Sports-Luxury-saloon) Concept. And I am sorry to say that I'm not impressed by their effort. First of all, De Tomaso made beautiful sports cars such as the Pantera seen on the picture below. They also made some luxury saloons but they were still very sporty.
De Tomaso Pantera
Their most recent creation, the SLS concept looks like a carbon copy of the BMW 5 Gran Turismo. I like the BMW 5 GT, but there is no need for an italian version of it if you ask me! So I am sort of glad that De Tomaso is back on their feet but I'm not impressed with their new shoes. So lets hope they come to their senses and brings forward a new Pantera the next time instead! If you want to see more of the De Tomaso 5 GT go to Autoblog