+++ The hardest job for a manufacturer is the time-consuming and expensive business of finding new customers, then persuading them to open their wallets. After that comes the second most important task: retaining clients, ensuring they’re happy, and incentivising them to buy again – and not defect to a rival firm. Temporarily at least, APPLE has lost sight of the above. It’s seriously annoyed this and other hitherto loyal customers, due to its insanely provocative decision to remove headphone sockets from its latest phones. Telling me I can’t plug a pair of headphones into the new iPhone I’d like to – but now can’t – buy is as lunatic as telling me my next car won’t feature a built-in radio. I’ve written to Apple boss Tim Cook, informing him after spending thousands on Apple products, I’m defecting – unless he lifts his consumer-unfriendly ban on headphone sockets. And for what it’s worth, I’ve also warned Cook that when he inevitably moves into the car game he can forget about his likely ‘plan’ to delete radios and speakers. Furthermore, I’ve somewhat arrogantly advised him his rumoured buy-out of McLaren is a no-no, not least because the Woking firm is a hungry minnow whereas Apple is a whale bloated by full – for now – order books and bank balances. It needs a mass manufacturer partner, not a tiny (in sales terms) one. As the world’s most successful company, Apple makes profits of over 1 billion dollar per week, so can afford to wed or take over an independent, high-volume car/engine designer or manufacturer. Preferably one that’s cutting edge, slightly alternative, hugely respected and with an East meets West air about it.  That company is Honda of Tokyo/Swindon. True, it’s lost it’s way a bit. But it could thrive with financial and retailing assistance from Apple. In turn, the Californian firm that’s a motor industry novice would gain access to the widest range of power units on the planet, plus Honda’s undoubted prowess in the autonomous vehicle field. In Japan in the eighties, it showed me early ‘self-driving’ Hondas that could be called like well behaved pets. I was, and still am, mightily impressed. Both parties certainly have their flaws. But a wedding between Apple Honda (AH) – or should it be Honda Apple (HA)? – is my idea of a marriage made in heaven… via Swindon, of course. +++

+++ The CHEVROLET Camaro has outsold the Ford Mustang in the United States for the first time in almost 2 years. In September, General Motors managed to sell 6,577 examples of the Camaro, 148 more than the Ford Mustang, which has outsold Chevrolet’s muscle car every month since November 2014, thanks to the introduction of the hugely popular sixth-generation model. The key reason for the bump in Camaro sales is that incentives in the 2016 model jumped from $1,080 in August to a $3,340 average in September, as Chevrolet looks to sell off its current inventory before the arrival of the 2017 Camaro. Speaking with AutoNews, Chevrolet spokesman Jim Cain said “We wanted to reduce our 2016 model year inventories ahead of the 2017 launch, so we had very good offers in the marketplace. The result was a significant increase in retail market share and a very nice reduction in our inventories on dealer lots”. The sales battle between the pair of iconic muscle cars has been particularly interesting in recent years. With the bold redesign of the fifth-generation Camaro, it managed to outsell the Mustang every year from 2010 through 2014. When the sixth-generation Mustang arrived, the tables turned and it took the crown. Despite the Camaro’s win in September, it won’t outsell the Mustang for this calendar year, currently languishing behind with 54,535 sales at the end of September to the 87,258 of the Mustang. +++

+++ FIAT CHRYSLER Automobiles, which popularized the MPV three decades ago and remains its top seller, is seeking to stay on top with a social media campaign targeting its new Chrysler Pacifica model directly at the people squabbling in the backseats – American kids. MPVs may be not be sexy to moms and dads and indeed market share of the segment has fallen in the United States in recent years, but kids like them, said FCA executive Tim Kuniskis. He contends that today’s children are intricately involved in making family decisions. “When I was a kid, my parents didn’t ask my opinion on anything”, said Kuniskis, head of FCA’s car brands Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat, who wants children to influence parents on a vehicle purchase, generally the second-largest family expense, behind housing. A six-week “PacifiKids” social media campaign attempts to lure kids with a video of actor children who last month “took over” a California Fiat Chrysler dealership and sold Pacificas to unsuspecting buyers. The social media effort, which includes contests to win new Pacificas, can be done at a fraction of the cost of television advertising, said Kuniskis. MPV share of the U.S. auto market has diminished in the past decade that was dominated by SUVs and trucks, and is not growing, but with only a half dozen entrants, FCA can profit as the market leader, Kuniskis said. Through September, FCA’s three MPVs, the Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Caravan and the discontinued Chrysler Town & Country, accounted for 45 percent of about 440,000 MPVs sold in the U.S. market. FCA makes the Pacifica and the Caravan at a Windsor, Ontario plant, where workers may go out on strike if a new contract is not agreed by late Monday night between FCA and the Canadian union Unifor. The company has enough Pacifica MPVs on hand, about 70 days supply, to withstand a short strike. The inventory data is from Automotive News. +++

+++ FORD will halt production of the Mustang this week on the back of falling demand for the model and a rising inventory. The Detroit News reports that Ford’s Mustang inventory stood at 89 days at the end of September, much higher than the 60 days supply which analysts believes is a healthy target. This comes as sales of the sixth-generation Mustang continue to fall and are down by 32 per cent last month alone. Year-to-date sales are also down 9.3 per cent to 87,258 compared to the same time period last year. In an email, Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said “We continue to match production with demand. Mustang remains the top seller in its segment in total and retail sales”. While that’s true for year-to-date sales, last month, the Camaro became the best selling vehicle in the muscle car segment after incentives for the car were nearly tripled. +++

+++ Porsche’s Mission E platform could underpin other vehicles within the Volkswagen Group umbrella, opening the door to an all-electric LAMBORGHINI supercar. The Raging Bull’s brand chief, Stefano Domenicali, recently admitted that the company was eyeing electrification technology and “flexible to shift in that direction” once the cost and performance numbers are viable. An AutoBild report now suggests such a project is already underway, referred to internally as the ‘Vitola.’ Sources claim Lamborghini will attempt to squeeze even more performance out of the Mission E platform than the Germans, with a zero-to-100 km/h target of 2.5 seconds and a top speed over 300 km/h. The model could help Lamborghini meet modern emissions regulations, set to tighten once again in just a few years. A time-frame for the Vitola remains unclear, though it is unlikely to arrive before the Mission E’s expected 2019 launch. +++

+++ Ford ’s luxury unit LINCOLN is studying whether to produce cars locally in China, the brand’s China chief said, as its sales surge in the world’s largest auto market. Lincoln nearly tripled its China sales in the third quarter to 8,546 vehicles, the company said. Despite rapid growth, Lincoln sales distantly trail those of more established German competitors as well as American rival General Motors’ Cadillac, all of which produce cars locally to avoid hefty taxes on imported vehicles. Lincoln is accelerating its entry into China with plans to have 65 Lincoln stores by the end of 2016, instead of previous plans of 60, with 80 planned for year-end 2017, Lincoln China President Amy Marentic told Reuters. Marentic said the company will also open five to 10 smaller sales branches to tap into fast-growing auto sales in lower-tier Chinese cities. The company is additionally studying the possibility of local production, she said. “You’re always looking for ways to optimize your business”, Marentic said, declining to elaborate. In the first three quarters of the year, Lincoln sales in China leapt 191 percent to about 21,000, Ford said. Even with the surging sales, Ford’s Lincoln lagged Detroit rival General Motors and its luxury Cadillac brand, which got a much earlier start. In September in China, GM sold about 12,500 Cadillacs, up 63 percent. In 2016 through September, GM has sold about 77,000 Cadillac vehicles in China, up 35 percent, more than 3 times Lincoln’s sales. Ford said it hopes its China sales will be boosted by a new version of its flagship sedan, the Lincoln Continental, to go on sale at Chinese dealerships in the fourth quarter. +++

+++ The ‘tipping point’ when electric cars become fully established as a new technology is expected to be reached in February next year, according to Jürgen Schenk, MERCEDES’ electric car boss. Quoting the mathematical theory of technology adoption, electric cars are expected to break through the 1% share of the global car market early next year. Currently they make up 0.6% of the market. “One per cent is the point at which the technology can’t be stopped and it is here to stay”, said Schenk. “And the tipping point in Europe is not far away either”. Electric cars currently have a 0.4% market share in Europe, with the 1% threshold forecast to arrive in early 2018. Once 50% market share is reached, the technology will start to take over from the internal combustion engine, signalling the decline of the powerplant that powered the car for its first century of production. Schenk said Mercedes’ announcement of its new EQ electric car brand and the unveiling of the EQ concept at Paris are closely linked to this nearing tipping point. “There are many reasons but one of them is that we recognise that technology is changing and this tipping point is approaching”, he added. “We are eager to go for this plan”. Mercedes announced a new 10-model line-up of battery-electric cars to be launched by 2025, when they will contribute 15 to 25% of Mercedes’ total passenger car sales. Depending on how Mercedes’ car sales grow over the next decade from last year’s 2 million units, conservative estimates suggest that could be equivalent to 1 million-plus EVs. Volkswagen is planning on selling 1 million electric cars per year on a similar timescale, with a further 2-3 million spread across its other brands, representing significant growth in EVs. Schenk is also predicting significant improvements in battery technology over that period and expects an electric car with a 1.000 km range on a single charge to be technically possible. “Then we will have to decide on a balance of cost and range” he said. “Should we give a premium car this level of ability or spend the money on other aspects of its design?”, he added. An important breakthrough will be increasing the energy density of batteries, with designers being able to cram more cells into the same volume of battery pack. “Battery energy density doubled between 2009 and 2016”, said Schenk. “It will continue to grow as we learn how to fit more cells into a given volume”. +++

+++ VOLVO has posted its 16th consecutive month of growth and is on target for a record-breaking year of sales. In September, it delivered a total of 48,259 vehicles around the world, up 6 percent over the same month last year. The impressive September growth also helped Volvo achieve 379,329 sales for the first 9 months of this year, 9.6 percent better than Jan-Sep in 2015. Of all markets, China accounted for the most significant increase in September sales, soaring by 27.8 percent to 8,891 units sold. Sales also increased in the United States by 1.6 percent and Western Europe by 5.3 percent but fell in Sweden by 5.3 percent and other markets by 0.5 percent. Through the first three quarters of the year, the United States has enjoyed the largest gains. In fact, sales are 26.2 percent higher and this year, 58,532 vehicles have been sold locally compared to the 46,381 of 2015. In China, year-to-date sales are up by 11.9 percent, in Sweden by 5.6 percent, Western Europe by 6.7 percent and other markets by 4.1 percent. The firm’s most popular model remains the XC60 and in the first nine months of 2016, 111,937 have been sold. Next up is the V40/V40 Cross Country with 71,790 sold and the XC90 third with 66,347 sales so far this year. +++

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