2018 has been a bumper year for new models, or for some manufacturers, coping with planned releases along with scandal and a rapidly changing market. A market that is changing faster than the investment programmes required to make those new models. Some laws which need to be met in order to sell brand new vehicles have been harmonised around the world (tailpipe emissions for example – although the emission targets are set by national governments and so far are not harmonised. Further, lobby groups push for ‘solutions’ – especially environmental ‘solutions’ – that are not yet required by law.
Vehicle manufacturers build each model range to reach the biggest international audience with minimal modifications for each destination market. Where regional demand is high enough – in the case of Europe, diesel engines – the manufacturers were happy enough to build specific powertrains knowing the sales volumes made a sound economic return on investment.
What happens when a series of self-inflicted scandals and confused short-term law revisions occur at the same time? The new car market turns its back on diesel engines in less than two short years. For a vehicle manufacturer who planned diesel powertrain investments way back in 2014, where most of the cash has been spent on development as well as tooling, such a development would be a disaster. That is no longer theory – the disaster has happened.
Here’s how a model range should feature right now to cope with international laws as well as regional lobby groups:
Small hatch – collision alert, lane keeping, multi steel alloy body, small turbocharged petrol engine with StopStart as well as 48V electrical system.
Medium hatch / saloon – as for the small hatch with the addition of hybrid drive and auto brake.
Large saloon/estate – as for medium hatch with the addition of plug-in hybrid drive (PHEV), blind spot detection, auto steering correction and a mixed aluminium/steel alloy body. Note the engine size should start at 1.5l and extend to around 2l. A pure electric powertrain will also be added.
Small MPV/SUV – as per the medium hatch/saloon
Large SUV – as per the large saloon/estate, except diesel powertrains will be eliminated and all versions will be equipped with either hybrid or PHEV.
How many manufacturers have a complete range of models like that right now? None. How many manufacturers will have a model range like that by 2021? Most.
We are in the heart of the revolution right now, where super clever strategy rubs shoulders with poor decisions. The upshot is a huge demand for new model investment that manufacturers struggle to attract and even if they could, would struggle to fully deploy. The result is extension of model life cycles beyond the original planned replacement with additional facelifts, and serious bunching of launches which translates to delays.
The symptoms? Brand new model programmes launched to selected journalists in a unique setting, in that the cost of doing this is on par with running a stand at an international motor show and is no longer tied to the motor show season. The invited target audience then has no choice but to concentrate on a single model. The big difference? Such events have happened for decades, but not attending one of the big international shows was unthinkable.
The old order had the ‘season’ open in January with Detroit, followed by Geneva in March, New York in April, Frankfurt or Paris alternating each year in September and Los Angeles in November. Additional major shows included Japan (which died and has risen again) along with regional shows. All of these are very important to sell vehicles to the public, but have become less important to reveal the latest models to an international audience.
The change started with smaller manufacturers who could not afford stand space and so would host an invitation only event at the same time in the same city as a motor show – which then migrated to holding the events in different locations at the same time. Big vehicle manufacturers, searching continuously to reduce cost, saw this and decided to do the same.
Is there an issue?
Yes. The information shared at such events can be selective but is usually rather comprehensive – yet the invited publications do not publish the material. The proof? The presentations are occasionally published on the press sites months after the event – and a check of the published stories and the source material reveals big gaps.
So far this year we have a major C car programme (Golf size) that overshot its start of production deadline by at least three months, which had been delayed by a commercial vehicle and bakkie facelift launch delay. An electric SUV that was launched on time but has effectively delayed deliveries to customers by at least three months – because it was not ready. At the time of writing this article, the major C car programme that is on sale does not have all methods in place, and the replacement A class W177, which is also on sale, also has lots of methods missing.
These are all symptoms of vehicle manufacturers struggling to keep up with the demands of emission law, the back-lash in some markets to diesel, the imposition of new import tariffs to the U.S. (which alone has slaughtered the profitability of most premium brands) along with the red ink pouring out of investments made in good faith but which are now of limited value.
Add to this the resurgence of sub-prime vehicle loans in the U.S. and one can see 2008 is about to have a re-run.
The Paris Show
It would be easy to say the impressive list of manufacturers that did not show (Fiat, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Volvo, Volkswagen, Ford, Opel, Nissan, Infiniti and Mini) was all down to motor shows being old-fashioned and a relic of the past. Once the non-event press days are over, we can see Paris hosted the global reveal of BMW 3 series saloon G20, the latest application of the CLAR platform first introduced with 7 series G11 / G12. There are improvements introduced for the saloon with the next generation of adaptive damping as well as roll control, we learnt the Touring G21 will arrive in 2019, and the addition of a pure EV 3 series by 2020.
Not to be outdone, PSA revealed the group strategy for plug-in hybrid (PHEV) front wheel drive as well as their second-generation four-wheel drive system with electric only drive for the rear wheels, which is also a PHEV. This will be introduced on the Peugeot 508, 3008, sister Citroen and Opel models. Meanwhile the Peugeot Design Lab studio produced a retro concept as a tribute to the Pininfarina styled Peugeot 504 coupe, called e-Legend concept, with the mission ‘un-boring the future’. Yet – what do we see? 1970 velour seat facings, a dash from a late 1970s BMW and an exterior that ‘redefines’ one of the most exquisitely executed coupes of all time by adding lots of flourishes but little form. Oh, and it has autonomous drive, with a fold away steering wheel and everything else. Confused? Peugeot Design Lab seems to be.
Paris marked the first European appearance of the all-new Suzuki Jimny, 20 years after the last version was launched. Jimny picks up powertrain technology already seem on Swift as well as Ignis teamed with a brand new boxed ladder chassis. Yup. Jimny still has body on frame construction, with live axles front and rear. The super lightweight small 4×4 gets to live for another few decades.
Renault revealed a dedicated low-cost EV model for China model based on Renault Kwid, which is due in 2019. There was the donation of the latest 1.3l petrol turbo engine to the Renault Duster, and a major investment in hybrid drive to be used across the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance for 2020.
Why does any of this matter?
Seismic changes are underway in the automotive industry as investment decisions made more than five years ago become reality. The collision repair market needs a heads up on what technology is coming, and sadly most of the mainstream bloggers/motoring magazines no longer report technology in a meaningful or useful way. Rest assured Automotive Refinisher South Africa loves technology, and will continue to dig and dig until we get that all-important information. In turn, that information will make decisions about future investments in the collision repair business slightly easier.
You can tell the content of the show was, how you say, wafer thin. Will the Paris motor show be held in 2020? Yes, probably as a show primarily aimed at the motoring public of France rather than a full-blown international show. Oh dear, Mr2.
Auto Industry Consulting is an independent provider of technical information to the global collision repair industry via EziMethods, our online collision repair methods system. For more information please visit the website: www. ezimethods.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org