Tag Archives: Mercedes

Penske’s Saturn: The Post-Modern Auto Company

Auto companies have traditionally been engineering and manufacturing businesses, rather than marketing and retail businesses. Henry Ford, for example, insisted dealers pay for his Model Ts as soon as they left the factory door. But what made sense in Henry’s time, and reached its apotheosis with the huge River Rouge plant, the most vertically integrated automobile factory in the world, has become a liability today. Auto plants cost staggering amounts of money to build and to run. And in an era where the manufacturing process no longer delivers major differentiators in terms of the finished product — all vehicles have to meet similar safety and fuel economy mandates, and the cost and quality differences between the best and the worst are getting smaller all the time — that’s money many auto industry insiders wished they no longer had to spend. Especially as what largely defines an auto company these days is not where its products are made, but how its brands are perceived by consumers.A Boxster is still a Porsche, even though it is built in Finland by Valmet. A Grand Cherokee is still a Jeep, even though it is built in Austria by Magna Steyr. Right hand drive Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series models are still seen as German cars, even though they are made in South Africa.Which is why Roger Penske’s Saturn play is a stroke of genius. With Saturn, Penske has the opportunity to create the first truly post-modern auto company. Penske’s Saturn doesn’t own a single factory, design studio, or proving ground. What it does own — and all it needs to own — is the intellectual property of the Saturn brand. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect candidate to become a post-modern auto company than Saturn. Envisioned by GM chairman Roger B. Smith as an import fighter because of advanced manufacturing techniques that included a highly automated plant and plastic body panels, Saturn succeeded not because the original car was good — actually, it wasn’t even remotely competitive with anything from Toyota or Honda — but because it was cleverly sold and marketed. Saturn consumers bought into the defining promise of the brand — no haggle pricing and great customer service — rather than the physical attributes of the vehicle.Although GM has agreed to build Saturns for Penske for at least two years, future Saturn models may be sourced from a variety of automakers around the world (the latest rumor has Penske talking with Renault). Saturn could simply rebadge another manufacturer’s existing model, paying for U.S. market certification costs and minor cosmetic changes, or it could commission an automaker to design, engineer and manufacture a complete new vehicle. Either way, it could bring new models to market for way less capital cost than a traditional automaker. Finding someone with spare factory space to build Saturns won’t be hard: The world’s automakers currently have the capacity to build 92 million vehicles a year, but will be lucky to build 60 million in 2009, says respected industry forecaster CSM Worldwide. And with the global economy expected to recover slowly from recession, there’s going to be plenty of spare capacity around the world for a long time yet.All Penske’s Saturn has to do to succeed is sell cars and trucks that deliver on the promise of the Saturn brand. The actual vehicles can be made anywhere, by anyone, and as long as they are competitive with the mainstream players in their respective segments in terms of performance, economy, quality, and equipment levels, it almost doesn’t matter what they are, because the Saturn brand is mostly defined by a classy purchase experience. And if there’s one thing Roger Penske knows how to do with class, it’s selling cars and trucks.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6538063/editorial/penskes-saturn-the-post-modern-auto-company/index.html

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July Sales: Cash for Clunkers Spurs FoMoCo; Toyota Regains Second-Place

DETROIT – Ford Motor Company is ebullient about its first year-over-year sales increase since November 2007. Total Ford-Lincoln-Mercury sales, including fleet, rose 2 percent in July 2009 compared with July 2008, and of that, retail sales rose 9 percent. Still, it’s too early to party. The Great Recession isn’t over yet.”Right now, the legs under the economy are not strong enough to sustain a 14-16 million sales rate as we saw at the end of July,” says Ford analyst George Pipas. “A sales increase in July is not the end of the journey.”Aside from the minor increase compared with a very weak July ’08, when gasoline averaged $4.11 per gallon, Ford proved through individual model sales that the Cash for Clunkers program helped move fuel-efficient metal. Probably not coincidentally, the low-priced cars and trucks that consumers who until now were driving clunkers could afford to buy moved the most. Ford Focus sales surpassed Fusion sales, although both models were up compared with last year. Even though a four-cylinder Fusion is within a couple mpg city/highway, the smaller, cheaper Focus easily outsold the Fusion, 21,830 (up 43.6 percent) to 17,610 (up 66 percent).The redesigned-for-2009 Focus became Ford’s darling when gas topped $4 per gallon. Earlier this year, the facelifted 2010 Fusion was Ford’s savior in some of the slowest sales months in decades. Advertising dollars targeting new models helps.If Cash for Clunkers money drew a lot of prospective buyers to Ford lots in the last week, I’ve got to bet that some of those consumers trading in ’90s Explorers chose, say an $18,000-list Focus over a $23,000-list Fusion because it better met their budgets. Many of those clunkers undoubtedly were third or even fourth cars, driven by the high schoolers in the family. Estimates of how much oil the program saves may be a bit of a stretch.No matter. The program is a success for bringing consumers back into the market — either those who have been holding off or those who figured credit had dried up so much, it wasn’t worth it to walk into a showroom. General Motors estimates July sales for all makers totaled an annual rate that would equal about 11.3-million vehicles, marking the first month in 2009 above the 10-million level.And GM has just announced a lease program with U.S. Bank for Chevrolets, Buicks, GMCs and Cadillacs (its core four in North America) for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan and Ohio through August 31. U.S. Bank leases for the new Cadillac SRX are available nationwide.Meanwhile, Chrysler says that The Wall Street Journal got it wrong Monday morning. Chrysler will continue to offer matching incentives of up to $4500 on certain models whether you bring in a clunker or not. Obviously, if your local dealer is out of, say, 2009 PT Cruisers, you’re not going to get $4500 off a 2010 model. And so, to the numbers:GM: 189,443, off 19.4 percent.Inventory of about 466,000 is the lowest on record, says sales veep Mark LaNeve.With inventories dropping for all automakers, the deals aren’t likely to get any more desperate.Chevy division sales were relatively strong, at 124,948, still down 9.3 percent.Equinox was a rare gainer, up 77.8 percent to 10,834. About 60 percent were ’10 models, and most of those were four-bangers.Buick Enclave remains strong, selling 3,797, off 2.5 percent.Cadillac, at 6,171, off 52.6 percent, was the biggest loser of the core four.Saab was off 71.7 percent to 574 and Hummer was off 57.4 percent to 799.Impala was up 9.6 percent to 14,649 but Malibu was off 7.8 percent to 15,339.Modern wagon wars continues: Toyota sold 9,407 Highlanders, (+39.1 percent), Chevy sold 6,690 Traverses, Honda sold 6,430 Pilots (-15.3 percent), Dodge sold 4,165 Journeys (+21 percent) and Ford sold 3,631 Flexes (+64.7 percent).The new Camaro continues to be in short supply. Chevy sold 7,113, vs. 6,686 Ford Mustangs (-37.6 percent) and 886 Dodge Challengers (-69 percent).GM will build some 2010 G6s for fleet customers, LaNeve said, making it the last Pontiac.The New GM of Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac, sold 160,078 vehicles, a couple thousand more than Ford/Lincoln/Mercury but short of Toyota.Toyota-Scion-Lexus: 174,872, off 11.4 percent.Toyota division accounted for 156,355 (including Scions), off 10.8 percent, making Toyota the U.S.’ best-selling brand.Lexus fell 16.5 percent to 18,517.Prius jumped 29.7 percent to 19,173. Camry sales fell 19.4 percent to a still-strong 33,974.RAV4 may have benefited from the clunkers credit, up 32.5 percent to 15,912.Midsize pickups also are doing well. Tacoma was up 7.6 percent to 12,552.Monthly Scion numbers: 6,754, vs. 11,906 in July ’08.Ford-Lincoln-Mercury: 158,838, up 2 percent.Focus was Ford’s best-selling car, up 43.6 percent to 21,830.Fusion was up 66 percent to 17,610.F-150 remains Ford’s best-selling vehicle, off 19 percent to 36,327.Escape was up 94.2 percent to 20,241.Ranger was up 64.5 percent to 7,695. Looks like another Cash for Clunkers winner.Taurus was off 57.1 percent to 1,760 as Ford ramped down the old model.Mercury Milan was up 59.8 percent to 2,934 while Mariner was up 70.5 percent to 3,682 as the Lincoln side of the showroom suffered a 24.3 percent drop.Inventory of 295,000 vehicles, averaging less than a 50-day supply, is 41 percent thinner than at the end of July ’08.Honda-Acura: 114,690, off 17.3 percent.That’s 106,028 Hondas, off 15.8 percent, and 8,662 Acuras, off 32.5 percent.Civic was up 3.1 percent to 30,037.Accord was off 28.1 percent to 29,774.Fit was off 27.6 percent to 8,876 but CR-V was up 9.9 percent to 19,151.Acura RDX was off 62.5 percent to 519 and TSX was off 35.8 percent to 2,232.Chrysler LLC: 88,900, off 9 percent.Winners were small models, helped by heavy incentives. Chrysler PT Cruiser was up 24 percent to 4,092 sold.Jeep Patriot was up 134 percent to 8,084 and Compass was up 95 percent.Jeep Wrangler, which posted increases for the first five months of the year, was down for the second month in a row, off 25 percent to 4,540.Dodge Caliber was up 63 percent to 7,814.Avenger was up 30 percent to 5,616.Sebring was off 27 percent to 2,781. Chrysler has sold 13,466 for the entire year so far, well below Ford Fusion’s monthly sales.Chrysler Town & Country fell 15 percent to 6,837. Dodge Caravan was up 15 percent to 8,405, however.Ram was off 17 percent to 17,723.Nissan-Infiniti: 71,847, off 24.6 percent.Nissan division was off 24.8 percent to 64,751.Infiniti was off 23.3 percent to 7,096.Nissan Versa was off just 2 percent to 8,530, though Sentra fell 13.5 percent to 9,496.Rogue sales were up 3.8 percent to 6,770.Z was up 11.9 percent to 890. Inexplicably, Infiniti QX56 was up 0.4 percent to 553.Nissan GT-R was off by 19 units to 128.OTHERS …Hyundai says 22 percent of its trade-ins were “clunkers.” Sales rose 12 percent, to 45,553. Accent, Sonata, Elantra and Genesis all posted gains and Santa Fe was down very slightly.Kia sold 29,345 units, up 1,324 units from last July. Subaru was up an impressive 34 percent, to 21,839. Mazda sold 19,032, off 15.1 percent.BMW Group, including Mini, was off 26.7 percent, to 21,253. BMW brand sold 16,381, off 31.5 percent. Mini was off 3.8 percent, to 4,872. Only all-ne
w models gained sales last month; BMW Z4 (up 33.8-percent) and 7 Series (up 14.5 percent), and Mini Cooper convertible (up 45.1 percent).Cash for Clunkers helped Volkswagen, which was up 0.7 percent, to 20,590 while Audi says it outperformed the premium segment, dropping just 5.8 percent, to 6,407. The clunkers program does not help with new cars north of $45,000.Mercedes-Benz USA, sold 17,646, including 16,228 Mercedes (off 21.7 percent) and 1,418 smarts, off 44.6 percent.Jaguar Land Rover fell 25 percent, to 2,607. Jaguar was down 45 percent, to 785 cars and Land Rover was down 11 percent, to 1,822.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6564996/car-news/july-sales-cash-for-clunkers-spurs-fomoco-toyota-regains-second-place/index.html

Audi Bucks the Trend, Promises More Product, Not All for U.S.

Hyundai’s U.S. CEO John Krafcik said it best earlier this year: “flat is the new up.” By that measure, Audi AG is riding high. Global sales fell 11 percent in the first half of 2009, versus 18 percent for the whole industry. What’s more, Audi was comparing its number to a record-setting 2008. In North America, sales fell 12 percent in the first half of the year, versus a one-third drop in sales for the industry. More important, Audi is making money. Its global first-half profit was 823 million euro ($1.17 billion), off 36.6 percent. Chief Financial Officer Axel Strotbeck said Friday that the company posted a “clear profit” in both of the first two quarters. “We’re the most profitable premium manufacturer, at the present.”Audi continues its struggle for more premium market share in the U.S., of course. It’s been about 17 years since it nearly left our market. Audi’s still a pretty small player here, only its fourth-largest global market (after Germany, China and Great Britain) whereas we’ve traditionally been the second-largest market for Mercedes-Benz and BMW (though their Chinese sales undoubtedly rival U.S. sales now, too). Nevertheless, Strotbeck said Audi will “not push sales by artificially pushing lease prices down” in the U.S. Instead, it will continue to move upmarket. In terms of features, quality and luxurious interiors, Audi’s reputation is nearly that of BMW and Mercedes. While its A4 and A5 can get very expensive with optional equipment very quickly, the A4 especially strikes many upper-middle-class buyers as an accessible step up from an entry level Lexus, Infiniti or Acura, and perhaps a step-and-a-half up from a loaded Camry or Accord.The other element that’s working for Audi is marketing. While other luxury brands cut marketing and advertising budgets and get out of racing, Audi is a marketing powerhouse that led Super Bowl XLII advertising and spent a truckload of euro to go to Le Mans. It’s setting itself up well for the next decade, when strong marketing will pick the winners in a plethora of good new product. Strotbeck pointed to three new models Audi will introduce in coming months: the A5 Sportback, an all-new A8 coming in calendar 2010 and a new A1 in the third quarter of ’10. Two will not be imported to the U.S. Audi said this about future models/strategy in the North American market:No U.S. production plans for now. This became a big issue for models like the A4 last year when the euro’s value went past the $1.60 mark. Volkswagen is building a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which will build the Passat replacement beginning calendar year ‘1l, but Audi won’t be part of it, for now. No plans to bring the 2011 A1 to North America. Audi hopes to grow A3 sales with a new diesel version coming to the U.S. in December. Problem with the A3 is that it costs nearly as much as a base A4 in the U.S., and despite the Mini’s popularity, we don’t like hatchbacks here. Given the expected technology, the A1 could cost Audi at least as much to build as the A3 or even the A4. Still, if the new A1 is as cool and cutting edge as the original, won’t it be as desirable as a Mini Cooper?While Audi still considers diesels the best green/fuel-efficient technology, it will have a hybrid Q5 on the market in one-and-a-half to two years.All of Audi’s 2010 gas-powered models will have direct injection, and it claims it will be the first to achieve that milestone.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6564153/corporate/audi-bucks-the-trend-promises-more-product-not-all-for-us/index.html

Coolest, Classiest Electric? Mercedes SLS AMG eDrive

While at the Nurburgring for a first-ever drive of the coming 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Gullwing, I also had the opportunity to sit down with Volker Mornhinweg as the AMG CEO showed-off some highlights of his next new vehicular baby: an all-electric version of the Gullwing.

The eDrive version, says Mornhinweg, “will use exactly the same white body as the gasoline-powered car. There’s plenty of room in the existing structure to put electric motors at each wheel and batteries on the floor, ahead of the firewall, and just aft of the seats. The only change is up front, where we’ll have to change the front axle to a pushrod suspension to accommodate the motors.”

Mornhinweg is clearly excited about the eDrive project. “This is not a concept car. The SLS eDrive will be on the road perhaps as early as 2013—certainly by 2015 at the latest.” As such, it’ll be a continuation of AMG’s goal to reduce fleet-average C02 emissions by 30 percent by 2012. “The challenge for the future is to deliver superb performance, but also social acceptance,” says Mornhinweg. “The internal-combustion engine is going to be around for a long, long time, but to improve its efficiency we’ll be using more and more direct injection, downsizing displacement while adding turbocharging, incorporating stop/start systems, and more. You’ll see more four-cylinder engines in the future, too.”

The AMG boss sees myriad benefits to the SLS eDrive. “The SLS’s lightweight aluminum body and structure will help to offset the heavy batteries we’ll need for maximum performance.” Zero to 60 mph, Mornhinweg adds, will take around 4 seconds flat, with a top speed of about 125 mph. Because each wheel will be driven by its own motor, electric four-wheel drive is inherently part of the design. “By tailoring the software that guides the motors, we can also do exciting things like torque vectoring and dynamic stability control,” Mornhinweg says.

The three modular high-voltage batteries in the SLS eDrive will be lithium ion—powering the four electric motors through two transmissions (one per axle). Peak output is equivalent to 526 horsepower (392 kW) and nearly 650 pound-feet of torque—the eDrive should be a formidable player in stoplight Grands Prix. Range won’t be outstanding—only about 95 to 110 miles—but the batteries will recharge to 80 percent of capacity in around five to six hours (plug in when you reach work if you have a long commute home). Plugging-in overnight will deliver a full charge. (Regen brakes, of course, will help to freshen the batteries when driving.)

Mornhinweg is confident that no major hurdles exist in bringing the eDrive to market. And he emphasizes that the eDrive will not replace the SLS’s 6.2-liter gasoline V-8; the two versions will coexist. “Our biggest challenge,” he notes, ”will be adding the emotion that’s so crucial to the enjoyment of a sports car. For instance, with electric drive there’s no vroom vroom during downshifts, which is a sound every enthusiast driver enjoys. So we’re experimenting with various ways simulate the experience using the two transmissions and the electric motors. I’m confident, though, that when we’re finished we’ll have what many enthusiasts will find a very desirable car.”

Which is to say, with its speed, those show-stopping gullwing doors, and that zero-emissions powertrain underneath, the SLS AMG eDrive promises to offer driving sex without the guilt.

Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6563064/editorial/coolest-classiest-electric-mercedes-sls-amg-edrive/index.html

On the Trail of the Orient Express: Day 2

I awoke in Strasbourg to the pitter-patter of rain on my hotel room’s thick-glassed windows. Day 1’s weather in Paris had been warm and humid, so the thought of precipitation had me hoping the clime outside would be cooler. But I wondered: would this welcome pitter-patter soon become unwelcome, following our crew as we journeyed some 300 miles east to Munich, our second stop on the Orient Express tour? While not especially long for a day’s drive — the trip would include a run through the lush mountains of the Black Forest and a visit to the Zeppelin Museum on the shores of Lake Bodensee, just a 40-minute ferry ride away from Switzerland — it was far enough to where the thought of looking out the windshield past sweeping wipers for six hours had me a bit worried.

But as it turned out, the wipers got only a frantic four-hour workout, tiring our eyes and fatiguing our bodies but not our minds — ah, they would be alive and well upon our arrival in Bavaria’s hip and historic capital, relishing Deutschland’s great twisty roads and high-speed autobahns, and the amazing stories behind such transatlantic behemoths as the Hindenburg.

Twenty or so minutes after leaving Strasbourg, we entered Germany and quickly jumped on the A5 autobahn, which would take us south to Freiburg, where we’d bust east and then head into the Black Forest. I had never been to this famous, heavily wooded area, so I was looking forward to experiencing what I had been hearing for years — a serpentine drive through the twisty mountain blacktop was as majestic and alluring as the breathtaking scenery. MacKenzie seemed equally eager to get there, pushing his silver Genesis 4.6 up to an effortless triple-digit cruising speed. I promptly stomped on the throttle of my blue 375-horse Hyundai, and tucked in behind him.

As we entered the Black Forest, a natural park spanning nearly 927,000 acres between the Rhine and Necklar rivers, I was instantly reminded of the landscape in the Cascade Range of Oregon and Washington. Like the mountains and national parks of America’s Pacific Northwest, this area of Germany featured everything from daunting rock formations and deep canyons to alpine lakes and rushing rivers. And, lest I forget, some great driving roads, too.

I had yet to pilot a Genesis up and over a mountain pass, much less one in Europe, so I was pleasantly surprised at the results. While not as sporty as, say, a BMW 550i, the Genesis nonetheless proved a happy hauler along 60 to 80 mph sweepers that meandered their way through the verdant hillsides. Grip and balance were commendable. Steering was light and linear. And the power and smoothness of the Tau V-8 were impressive. The only sections in which the big Hyundai seemed somewhat unhappy were those of the tight, hairpin variety, where its size and softer turn-in translated to moderate understeer. This Korean is a luxury sedan you want to aggressively nudge rather than flat-out push.

With the Black Forest in our rearview mirrors, we headed southeast along the northern shores of Lake Bodensee, destination the Zeppelin Museum. Opened in 1996, this 43,000 square-foot Bauhaus style building — formerly the Hafenbahnhof railway station — houses artifacts, photos, and displays encompassing the giant airships of the 1930s. Most notable, the museum features a 108-foot reconstruction of a section of the infamous LZ 129 Hindenburg, the Zeppelin that went up in flames in Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1937. Not only does this replication give an idea of what it was like to “silently float” across the Atlantic, enjoying the pleasant lounge and smoking room and the surprisingly plush sleeping quarters, but it also sheds light on the unparalleled engineering and technology of the time. For instance, the structure of the Hindenburg was built from lightweight aluminum (even the lounge’s grand piano was made from the feathery metal), the diesel engines came from esteemed automaker Maybach, and the gearboxes were sourced from ZF, which, ironically enough, sources the Genesis’s six-speed. The Hindenburg’s construction and supplier list almost reads like that of one of today’s top German automobiles.

A few crazy and cool factoids about the Hindenburg: 1) At 245 meters long (268 yards or the combined length of about three American football fields), it is the longest aircraft to ever make a transatlantic flight. 2) To minimize weight, artists painted their work directly on the Hindenburg’s interior canvas walls, thus eliminating the need for frames, nails, and wires. 3) Watchmen manned the four engine gondolas, working in four-hour shifts due to noise and heat. Better yet, they had to scale down a ladder outside the aircraft to enter and exit the gondola.

With our Zeppelin fix satisfied, we hopped back in the Hyundais and aimed for Munich, a relatively short 120-mile jaunt. I say relatively short because on the A96 autobahn, where the two Genesis sedans could occasionally clip along at a rate of 130 mph, it took us just a couple hours to make the trip. Granted, it wasn’t an exactly relaxing two hours, as inclement weather and a traffic jam taxed our focus and patience, but the Genesis proved it wasn’t a fish out of water, easily swimming along the wet tarmac with aplomb. In fact, MacKenzie had no problem hanging with a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, whose driver was most likely wondering, “What the hell is that thing?”

It’s a Hyundai retracing the trail of the Orient Express, of course.

-Photos by Brian Vance

ORIENT EXPRESS SERIES: Day 1 – Paris to Strasbourg

Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6562116/miscellaneous/on-the-trail-of-the-orient-express-day-2/index.html

Chery: We Want to Compete with Audi, BMW and Mercedes

Most of us first heard of Chery in 2004 when the Chinese automaker’s QQ minicar was accused of being a copy of  GM’s Daewoo-developed Matiz, pretty much right down to the last spot weld. Attempts to sue Chery failed to gain traction in Chinese courts. At one point Chinese officials claimed they could find no evidence Chery had copied a GM car, even though the doors on the QQ were interchangeable with those of the Matiz. GM dropped the case in 2005 after having reached a settlement with Chery, apparently with the encouragement of the Chinese government.

The Chery QQ episode epitomized China’s notoriously lax attitude towards intellectual property theft, and the bind in which foreign companies find themselves when attempting to gain a foothold in the fastest growing consumer market in the world. It’s highly likely GM took the long view over the QQ, preferring to retain the goodwill of the Chinese government, which allows the company to participate in the highly profitable GM-Shanghai joint venture business, over having its day in court.

Five years later, it’s Chery taking the long view. Company chairman and general manager Yin Tongyao says Chery has V-6 and V-8 engines under development, along with a rear drive platform, as part of an aggressive push into the luxury sector. “You want to compete with Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz?” I ask the personable Yin, who happily conducts our interview on the Chery stand at the Shanghai Show in English, without the phalanx of PR flacks and interpreters preferred by Japanese auto execs. “Not yet,” Yin says. “But some time, yes. And we try to.”

Germany, you’re on notice.

Huh? Right now, the notion that Chery is gunning after the world’s most successful premium automakers is laughable. This is a company that wasn’t founded until 1997, didn’t build its first car until 1999, and barely eight years ago sold just 28,000 vehicles in total. Chery’s current product range is a mish-mash of recycled — or ripped off — Korean and Japanese hardware sometimes wrapped in surprisingly good looking styled-in-Italy sheetmetal (Chery A3) and sometimes truly hideous D-I-Y tin (Chery QQme).

But Yin is serious, and he’s instituted a program called 15/7 — which means he and his senior executives are working 15 hours a day, seven days a week — to help make it happen. He’s also just launched Chery’s own premium brand, Riich. That’s no typo…

Old habits die hard. The Riich logo is a none-too-subtle knockoff of Bentley’s famed winged B. “We try to create some luxury, something a little bit classical,” says Yin. “We think BMW, Mercedes, Audi. That’s why we use Riich . Rich people are the buyers.”

Hmmm… In China, real rich people — and there are reportedly 300,000 US dollar millionaires in the country — buy trinkets like Ferraris and Rolls-Royces and high-end Benzes. Chery’s first Riich models, the G6 (below) and G5 (at left), resemble the sort of plasti-wood, faux-lux sedans Hyundai and Daewoo used to build for the Korean market in the late 80s. The Riich M1 (pictured at top) is basically a reskinned Chery QQ with delusions of grandeur. None is going to get the primo parking spot outside of any of Beijing or Shanghai’s hipper hotels and clubs.

And Yin knows it. “This will take a long time, step by step,” he says of Chery’s luxury brand ambitions. “We are still a baby company; we are very weak. So we don’t want to think that tomorrow we will be bigger than General Motors. That’s far, far away.”

But Yin believes Chery’s stand-alone status (unlike most major Chinese automakers, it does not have a joint-venture operation with a foreign automaker) will be an advantage in the long term. “We have not relied on a joint venture, so we have more freedom,” he says. “We can export, and we have the freedom to decide which car is suitable for the market. Other Chinese companies take a long time to introduce their models their partner. We have tried to develop cars by ourselves, and we have tried to create our own R&D capacity. Now that the government wants Chinese companies to do their own development, we are a little bit ahead.”

I have no idea whether Chery really has what it takes to one day become a serious player in the global auto industry, much less a legitimate premium automaker — trying to decipher the inner workings of the Chinese auto industry is a bit like trying to play Asimovian hyperchess blindfolded. But I do know this: We laughed at the Japanese 50 years ago, and we laughed at the Koreans 20 years ago. Their first products were also klutzy, poor quality copies of other people’s cars. Today, no-one laughs at the Japanese or the Koreans. Not even Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz.

Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6554445/china/chery-we-want-to-compete-with-audi-bmw-and-mercedes/index.html

Mercedes SLA rendering

Posted on 12.8.2008 20:00
by
Simona Alina,
Myles Kornblatt
Filed under:
Mercedes | future cars | Mercedes SLA
Rumors about a small two-seat roadster based on the A-Class started to heat up again last week last week. What we heard then was that it was going to be based on Vision SLA concept. Now AutoCar has taken the lines of that concept car and reskined it to give an appearance closer to the rest of the Mercedes family. If this little roadster becomes a reality, it probably won’t see production before 2012. By then it should be in hot competition with Volkswagen/Audi’s future mid-engined (…)

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Mercedes Gullwing

Latest spy shots show new Mercedes supercar is close to showroom-ready.
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Mercedes considering two-seat roadster based on the A-Class

Posted on 12.5.2008 14:00
by
Simona Alina,
Myles KornblattFiled under:
Mercedes | roadster | future cars | Mercedes SLAAs goes Volkswagen and BMW, so goes Mercedes. Since VW/Audi are going to make a small roadster and BMW is toying with the idea of a Z2, Mercedes doesn't want to be left out, and is exploring the idea of making its own roadster based on the A-Class. Mercedes already has a few design studies to work from, and it's looking back to the SLA concept from the Detroit Auto Show in 2000. "It is part of the regular new-model review at Mercedes-Benz to look at ideas from the past," a senior (…)
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2010 Mercedes E-Class spy shot

Posted on 12.4.2008 17:00
by
Simona Alina,
Myles KornblattFiled under:
Mercedes | sedan | Spy Shots and Rendering | mercedes S-Class | luxury carsThere's an updated S-Class on the way for 2010, but as you can see from this spy shot, the cosmetic change is expected to be minimal. New bumpers, new LED side lamps, and facia design inspired by the Ocean Drive Concept. Although the engines won't change aside from the addition of a hybrid model, there could possibly be more under the skin. We haven't heard any firm rumors yet, but the S-Class is Mercedes' test bed for new technology. So hopefully this one will have an few fun new toys. (…)
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