China car times
Ford CEO Alan Mulally was in Chongqing earlier today to announce the start of work on a new 500 million dollar facility that will be used to produce engines. The new Changan Ford Engine Plant (CAFEP) will focus on producing Ford’s 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost and 1.5-liter four-cylinder engines with the Ecobost range eventually rolling out to the majority of the the Ford line up by 2015.
The new facility will begin with an initial capacity of 400,000 units which doubles Chang’an Ford’s current engine production capacity of 350,000. Ford claims the new factory will reduce the environmental impact by reducing water, electricity and chemical usage and will keep CO2 emissions low.
“This new engine plant is world class,” said Alan Mulally, president and chief executive officer of Ford. “The engines produced here and the process by which they are manufactured represent the latest in sustainable and green manufacturing processes. The 1.5 and 1.0 liter engines produced will help power Ford’s continued growth here in the world’s largest automotive market.”
Ford will initially manufacture two engines at CAFEP: a 1.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder, and Ford’s award-winning 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, recently named International Engine of the Year for the second year running. Producing engines for vehicles including the Ford EcoSport and Fiesta, CAFEP will help to support Ford’s plan to introduce 15 new vehicles in China by 2015.
Chery are set to refocus their attention on a core range of products after a disastrous expansion into a range of sub brands which did not resonate well with consumers in China. The new plan will see Chery focus on four core brands within its range: Arrizo, Fulwin, Tiggo and QQ.
The Arrizo range of vehicles has not yet launched although it was aired at the Shanghai Auto Show last month under the aplha nameplate
The Fulwin range is currently made up of just the Fulwin 2, although that is eventually expected to be expanded to include other A0 A-segment vehicles.
The Tiggo range is currently made up of just the Tiggo3 sedan although that is expected to be expanded to include the Tiggo 5 which is currently known as the Beta SUV which was aired at the Shanghai Auto Show last month.
The QQ range is currently made up of the new QQ hatchback which is aiming to be a low cost fashionable city vehicle.
BMW are planning to bring the wagon variant of the current 3-Series sedan to the Chinese market very soon according to spy pictures along with leaked model information. The 3-Series Wagon wont see Chinese production immediately but will rather be imported into China along with the short wheel base 3-Series which is sold alongside the stretched 3-Series which is made locally. The Wagon will likely use the same 2.0T power train that is offered in both low and high output in the Chinese market, a smaller 1.6T Chinese made 3-Series is likely to launch soon as well.
The 3-Series GT has already arrived at BMW dealerships in China although pricing has yet to be announced, the official launch of the GT will happen on June 26th.
GAC’s latest addition to its Trumpchi range, the GA3, will launch in early July according to Chinese media reports. The GA3 will be the cheapest model in the range with prices starting at a rumored 80,000RMB, the GA3 has already been shown at the Shanghai Auto Show and will be available for consumers to buy from early July onwards.
The GA3 is thought to be based on the Alfa Romeo 166 platform that is shared with the larger GAC models, some Alfa styling is also noted on the rear door handles. Power will initially come from a 1.6L engine although a 1.3T option is also in the pipeline.
In addition to the GA3, GAC are also planning for a new large SUV and large MPV for the Trumpchi range. A new GS7 SUV to sit above the current GS5 and an all new GA7 MPV for business orientated users will be arriving soon, in particular the MPV will make use of a 1.8T engine
At a recent Honda China event, Honda announced that they plan to introduce 12 models into the Chinese market by 2015 including the introduction of locally made hybrid models.
The new model range includes both new generations of vehicles and facelift vehicles. Honda will introduce new engines for the Chinese market including 1.5L i-DCD and a 2.0L i-MMD with both mid size hybrid vehicles. Honda also plan to introduce the Honda Link system, a system similar to GM’s OnStar system which will allow for inter-vehicle technologies.
The Honda C-Rider model has already been introduced at the Shanghai Auto Show and will launch on June 26th. The C-Rider will be produced by Guangzhou Honda.
Reuters top China automotive journalist, Norihiko Shirouzu, brings the background story on Fisker’s mercy trip to China where he was tasked with finding a suitor – the only issue being is that Fisker favored another partner over Geely’s deep pockets.
n late January, consultant Joel Ewanick arrived at Geely’s headquarters in eastern China to deliver an impassioned pitch on behalf of Fisker Automotive, the California-based boutique green-car maker that was running out of cash and sliding toward bankruptcy.
Ewanick, a former General Motors Co and Hyundai marketing executive, walked Geely Chairman Li Shufu through the pros and cons of taking a majority stake in Fisker. He suggested Geely could take control for as little as $250 million, about an eighth of Fisker’s self-estimated value in late 2011.
“Chairman Li’s eyes got big, and it was as if, ‘that’s all!?’” according to one of the people who attended the meeting.
The deal ultimately fell apart for many reasons, including hard-to-meet terms of Fisker’s U.S. government loan. But the outcome was also the result of missteps by Fisker’s top managers, including openly appearing to favor a rival Chinese automaker early on, according to eight individuals with direct knowledge of the effort over the past year.
By betting on the wrong company as its potential white knight, Fisker may have bungled an opportunity to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Fisker’s board sent out at least two search teams, but proceeded without a clear roadmap or coordination between the teams, those knowledgeable individuals told Reuters.
The events show how Fisker’s last-ditch bid for survival has been just as messy as the mismanagement that led the company to burn through more than $1.4 billion in public and private funds in less than six years.
JMC are planning a new compact SUV according to these pictures leaked to the Chinese media, the new SUV is called the N330 and will be powered by a 2.0T engine that is also shared with JMC’s foreign partner Ford. The N330 appears to be a compact SUV in a similar vein to the current Forda Kuga (Escape in North America), the front is overly sporty but rakes back into a wider design that seems to be similar to the Infiniti FX range of SUVs.
Apparently the new SUV will be launched in early 2014 with pricing estimates currently from 130,000RMB and rising.
Reports said the Chinese authorities have received a complaint from an unknown person over subsidies to cars imported from the EU with engines of 2 litres or larger.
According to foreign media outlets, China is considering imposing import duties on high-end European cars following the recent wine investigation, inciting worries that EU-China trade dispute might escalate into a broader trade war.
The Chinese authorities have received a complaint from an unknown person over subsidies to cars imported from the EU with engines of 2 litres or larger, the European car industry association said citing information from its Beijing office and legal counsel.
The decision of launching an anti-dumping probe into EU wine made by the Ministry of Commerce right after EU slapped tariffs on Chinese solar panels, was widely interpreted as a retaliatory act, which, though, was denied later by the Chinese Mission to EU.
More duties on EU luxury war would hit hard German automakers including BWM, Mercedes Benz and Audi which are leading China’s high-end car market. Italian brands like Porsche and Ferrari are also likely to be affected.
Germany led an opposition against EU’s decision of imposing tariffs on Chinese solar panels while European states such as France and Italy backed the move.
A Chinese source familiar with the matter, however, played down the risk of a formal investigation and any more duties on EU luxury car imports in the near future, adding Beijing was focused on talks to resolve the dispute over solar panels, said the Telegraph.
Japan’s leading steel manufacturers Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp will create a new steel mill to specifically create automotive steel as part of a JV with China’s Baosteel Group Corp.
The Nikkei reports that the investment will likely total 30 billion Yen/302.6 million USD, the largest investment in China since September 2012 when wide scale anti-Japanese protests broke out across China over the Diaoyu Islands issue.
At 10am the UK Press from motoring magazines, newspapers and TV gathered in small hospitality room within Longbridge’s engineering department. In addition to the UK visitors, dozens of SAIC engineers and suppliers had flown in from China for the occasion. We were all waiting to see the simultaneous unveiling of the newly enhanced design centre and the UK launch of MG3.
Somewhat cannily MG had billed the event as a rebuke to Jeremy Clarkson’s recent article which heavily slated the newly launched MG6 diesel range. However, it was quite clear that the event had been in the planning for quite some time.
MG PR and Events Manager, Doug Wallace. ushered us into the newly built Visualisation Suite for the presentation. This very large ‘booth’ will be used to project life-sized images of sketches in either 2d or 3d aspects. The idea of this is to give stylists a flavour of what has been sketched in China, the UK and for contractors. For such “high-end kit” I was disappointed the giant screen in the room was used for just for a PowerPoint presentation which MG UK Sales and Marketing Director Guy Jones kicked-off.
He told the assembled audience that SAIC “was immensely proud” of the result of the sizable (£5m+) investment which was gone on over the past 3 years –doubling the size and number of design studios. As hacks, to be brought in to see the investment in facilities and products was said to be “a unique, one off opportunity”. I can understand that, for the whole place was to be wide open to us. Incidentally, all 300 engineers on site are now fully integrated into working with the 2,000 Chinese engineers on projects. There doesn’t appear to be any demarcation over design now, although design direct does emulate from Shanghai – I digress.
Guy soon handed over the presentation to designer Anthony Williams-Kenny who waxed lyrical that Britain “was a leading light in the world of industrial design.” He claimed the facility would help imbue the products with the MG brand core values of being British, Fun and Affordable. I did feel at one point I was taking part in a Brit-Pop video however….
Of SAIC’s 130 stylists, there are 30 on site at Longbridge in the 2 styling studios. These artists are especially pleased with their “new, 5 axis milling machine”. I was later to see this machine finalising a change to the flanks of the good looking MG SUV vehicle…but on with the presentation.
The boss within styling at Longbridge is Martin Uhlarik. Just before he took over from A K-W we watched a short video. Now this video, on a huge screen in a dark room remember, reminded me of the torture melted out to Harry Palmer in the Ipcress Files movie as ‘they’ attempted to brainwash him. I genuinely thought they were trying to mass hypnotise the audience before giving us the full low down on changes that make the MG3 desirable and acceptable for the British market.
Essentially, MG will be pitching the MG3 at the young and trendy who want a MINI or an Audi A3, but can only afford a Fiesta or FIAT 500. There is big emphasis on personalisation of the car at the point of purchase meaning genuinely interesting and wacky graphics and bits of colour-coded dash. These are intended to clash/compliment the 10 bold colours on offer.
MG also realise that you need to equip a car with the very latest in plug-in bits for your Sat-Nav, digital radio, iPod and whatever else and have thoughtfully placed these sockets and power points in a large slot on top of the dash. This slot is rubber lined to stop objects rattling on the move and has a folding lid to hide said objects when parked-up.
MG refused to answer any further questions relating to the sales and marketing budget for the car, other than to say there wouldn’t be a TV advertising campaign for it. They did admit however, that they’ve been holding off marketing spend until the MG3 is launched to the public. They also refused to disclose their expected sales target and couldn’t give me a definite date when it will be available. They are expected to reach all 29 dealers by Sept 1st however for test drives.
Visually, there are no sheet metal changes to MG3, but the front bumper and grille is new. These contain the front end’s calling card of “hockey stick” LED daytime running lights. They are bold and visually enhance the slightly bland frontal aspect, although the headlamps do feature an internal octagon, a feature isn’t immediately obvious.
The side of the vehicle has new side skirts which look neat and are finished in matt blank along the lower centre section and body coloured as they touch the wheel arches. These skirts visually lower the vehicle and make such a tall, narrow vehicle look more ‘ground hugging’. The wheels are said to be diamond cut alloys in a two-tone finish. Disappointingly these show the rear drum brakes off all to readily.
The rear of the vehicle is visually the smartest aspect of the styling I feel. In addition to the already neat design, a large rear spoiler tops the tailgate while the new rear bumper moulding houses a substantial rear valance said to have been inspired by the British Touring Car series. A chrome exhaust finishes the detailing.
Internally, the general feel is of decent enough quality for the class, rather mimicking the last generation VW Polo in terms of style and layout. As previously mentioned, you can colour-code certain bits of interior plastics to add “fun” and alleviate the old-school blandness. The needles for the speedo and rev counter do a neat sweep and re-set when the ignition is switched on, just like a racing cars’. With regard to interior space, the passenger room is a revelation and “fun” could certainly be had by an amorous young couple.
The seats feature read stitching to match the stereo surround illumination and a large Octagonal insert. There has been a great deal of thought gone into those seats too. A stronger (yet still light) seat frame, a robust double backrest adjustment mechanism (for crash safety) and denser foam padding (for fat man comfort) have been carefully thought through to cope with an average Brit. I was deeply impressed with the diligence that had gone into making the seats suitable for us Brits.
Go for the climate control system and you get a well-designed, simple to use control panel that looks good. Go for the base model and you get dated heater control dials of dubious quality and appalling action. You have been warned.
Finally on base models you get a manual ‘joystick’ adjusted for the external door mirrors. This reminded me of the old Rover ‘XX’ 800 series and gave me a warm glow. Overall the car did give overtones of the much missed MG Metro. So much so, I enquired as to why the car hadn’t been given red seat belts. I was told that they had been considered, but the dye does things to the webbing would therefore require the car to go through homologation again…..
Powertrain & Chassis.
The MG3 has been extensively driven all over the UK to ensure the chassis is up to the MG moniker. That means the car rides 10mm lower than Chinese versions and boasts all new springs, dampers, anti-roll bars, rubber bushes and wheel/tyre combinations. Almost uniquely, the MG3 will come with good old fashioned hydraulic power assisted steering. Such a system is great for feel and feedback, but has fallen out of fashion due to its effect on a vehicle’s CO2 output. I did ask what the MG3s CO2 output would be, but I was told that MG would be making “No Comment” until the vehicle pricing structure has been worked out.
The engine is the new (to us Brits) 1.5 16 valve unit feature variable valve timing on the inlet values. Such an engine is large for its class and anticipated demographic although the car won’t be over powered with just 105ps available. The engine mapping and throttle response is said new to be unique to the British market. Its CO2 output however, will be supercritical to customer acceptance.
First impressions of the MG3 are good, but in no respect is the car cutting edge in the immensely competitive Supermini section. The styling is trying to be youthful and trendy, but at the same time it is saddled with a practical, yet boxy bodyshell. This could be considered a USP, but it doesn’t feel it. The biggest issue that will hinder the cars sales success is the miniscule dealer network. Plans are said to be afford that will see this increased to a much need 100 over the next two years. Indeed at this very event, national dealer groups were being courted into taking on MG franchises.
French press / Presse française
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- Le câbleur automobile allemand Schlemmer double la capacité de son usine de Tanger
English Press / Presse anglaise
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