Does Alfa Finally See Their U.S. Dreams Come True?
In another example of automakers looking to partner and share synergies rather than swallow one another whole, Fiat and BMW entered into a memorandum of understanding to evaluation cooperative opportunities. They’ve formally agreed to talk about how, and if, they can help one another.
Alfa Romeo may have the most ego wrapped up into the outcome. Desperate to get back into the U.S. car market, Alfa wants the next-generation of the 147 be the lead volume product. They’ve further announced the intent to start building cars in the States in 2011CY, and have started looking for partners to make that happen as well. Technically they do return this summer with the low-volume 8C Competzione and next year with the convertible 8C, but Alfa’s only building 1000 8Cs, including both bodystyles, for worldwide consumption. With only about 100 8C coupes being offered here, the image-building 8C doesn’t make much of an impact on the market.
In the 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards’ crowded Luxury Crossover SUV Segment, the BMW
X3 bested tough competition to rise to the top. With a well-established Reputation, good Handling, and highly rated Safety Features, the X3 impressed owners, who also rated Overall Quality very high, along with All Weather Traction and Feeling of Safety While Driving.
’s RDX was in the top rank of Luxury Crossover SUVs in the 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. Owners gave high marks to its Innovative Technology and Audio System. Driver’s Seat Visibility also scored very high, as did Handling. With a 240-horsepower, turbocharged engine, the RDX also scored very well in the Power and Acceleration department.
Enclave owners placed the vehicle in the top rank of the Luxury Crossover SUV Segment in AutoPacific’s 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. Buick touts “Quiet Tuning” as one of Enclave’s strengths, and it received high ratings for Quietness Inside the Vehicle and Ride. High Safety Features scores also bolstered the Enclave’s victory.
Cadillac Top Brand, Mercedes-Benz S-Class Top Car, Toyota Sequoia Top Truck and Top Vehicle
Tustin, California, May 29, 2008 – A study released today by noted automotive consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc
. summarizes the results of its 2008 model year vehicle satisfaction research. AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award (VSA) is an industry benchmark for objectively measuring how satisfied an owner is with their new passenger car or light truck.
In a year that promises to be the toughest in a decade, owner-based awards like AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award will help customers make their purchase decisions.
The brand with the highest satisfaction rating is Cadillac. The vehicle – car or truck – registering highest overall satisfaction in 2008 is the new-for-2008 Toyota Sequoia Large Sport Utility Vehicle. The passenger car with the highest overall satisfaction score is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
There are twenty-eight Vehicle Satisfaction Award categories. At the manufacturer level, multiple top ranked award winners include: General Motors
(eleven categories), Toyota (nine categories), Ford (six categories), Volkswagen
(four categories), Honda
(three categories) and Hyundai
“Cadillac wins the Vehicle Satisfaction Award as the top brand in a close race. Strong satisfaction performance by Cadillac cars and trucks has Cadillac winning over other leading luxury marques including Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW says AutoPacific president George Peterson. “Top ranked finishes by Cadillac’s Escalade, CTS and DTS helped cement their industry topping position.”
Peterson continues, “Vehicles that are all new received top rankings in several categories: Cadillac CTS, Honda Accord, Mitsubishi Lancer, Scion xD, Toyota Sequoia, Audi Q7, Buick Enclave, Hyundai Veracruz, GMC Acadia, Saturn Vue and Nissan Rogue. These new-for-2008 vehicles were strongly rated by their owners showing that the industry continues to improve as new vehicles are added to the hotly contested American car and light truck markets.”
From a vehicle type perspective, Traditional Sport Utility Vehicles received the highest ratings as a class closely followed by Crossover Sport Utility Vehicles. Peterson says, “Clearly, SUVs continue to be one of the most popular and satisfying vehicle types available in the USA today. Even with skyrocketing gas prices, SUVs are attractive and Crossover SUVs fill the bill for most SUV buyers with better fuel economy.” Cars scored slightly below industry average followed by minivans and pickup trucks.
In a town where most tans are purchased and delivered indoors, BMW offered the US release of the outdoor Ultimate Tanning Machine, the M3 Convertible.
Strolling Miami and LA beaches for years, the 3 series convertible has become iconic for the look-at-me yuppie set. Many have been delivered to brand-enthusiasts with little care for the vehicle’s performance potential. In recent years, however, BMW has offered up M versions of the coupe and convertible to those drawn to open top tanning and motoring. The coupe M3 launched in 1986 and two years later the first BMW M3 Convertible hit the streets.
X6 Blisters the Eyes
Divided Opinions Between Old and Young?
It turns out that others at the North American International Auto Show were agog at the BMW X6. My colleague Jim Hossack related a conversation with senior BMW of North America planner Rich Brekus and it sounded much like my own with him. What is it? “Well, it’ a category defining new idea,” said Brekus. Who will buy it? “People who want something really different with outstanding performance.” I’ll give ’em credit, I guarantee the X6 will be wonderful to drive, once you can get into it, but I think living with it will be another matter. Even if you like the styling, ingress/egress is very compromised. Visibility is poor. Cargo room above the beltline is non-existent (BMW’s response is that folks rarely stack anything above the beltline – true enough).
As Hossack was commenting about the X6 in the AutoPacific staff meeting the Monday following the show, Ed Kim, AutoPacific’s new Director of Industry Analysis joined in saying that he loved the X6. Being younger than me and ‘Sack, and smaller, Ed had a very different take on the X6. Much more positive. Well, he’s entitled to his opinion.
In any event, the BMW X6 promises to be among the most controversial new vehicles introduced this year. NEW — Watch our video montage here.
What are the Germans Smoking?
You wonder what the Germans are smoking, however. Americans must seem very, very conservative to folks who are launching products like the Mercedes CLS (beautiful car you can’t live with – almost, if not quite, a failure in the USA), the Mercedes R-Class (Grand Sport Tourer not setting the world on fire), the BMW X6, the rumored Audi A7 (a CLS from Audi), etc. We applaud Audi, BMW and Mercedes pushing the envelope, but they do it at the potential risk to their vaunted reputations for building some of the world’s best vehicles.
AutoExtremist Weighs In
Peter DeLorenzo of the AutoExtremist website
, wrote this blurb about the X6… we can’t help but agree with most of it.
Speaking of arrogant Germans in the car business (btw, is there a more accurate and time-honored descriptor than that? Uh, no – ed.), you gotta hand it to BMW. I swear these guys don’t understand the word “restraint” in the English language. These guys are inventing niches within niches, and in their obsessive quest to become all things to all people, I believe they get lost in their own talking-to-themselves brilliance to the point that they can’t even see the Black Forest for the trees. Add to that their annoyingly unhealthy habit of believing half the shit that Chief Designer Chris Bangle shoves their way, which just compounds matters, and you have a recipe for a truly ugly little bundt cake. Once again, some of my esteemed colleagues (cough, hack) in the media just couldn’t wait to gush over Bangle’s latest atrocity, the BMW X6, but believe me, it will not “redefine the category” or “set the standard for crossovers for years to come” or any other such nonsense. On the contrary, as a matter of fact. The X6 is nothing more than a German-accented Pontiac Aztek, a vehicle for Bangle’s self- aggrandizement, a rolling monument to one man’s mediocrity and an unmitigated P.O.S. that is “beyond category” tedious. Trust me on this one, the only inspiration other designers will take away from the X6 is the inspiration to turn their heads in horror and then walk – make that run – away. If it weren’t for the perfect albeit overpriced 1 series, I’d be worried that BMW has finally gone off the deep end.
According to AutoPacific’s annual survey of new car and light truck acquirers, the BMW 3-Series, Acura MDX, Lexus RX, Honda Accord, and Infiniti QX56 attract the most tech savvy buyers. Tech savvy consumers made up approximately 5% of the new car buying population in 2007, up from just 2% in 2006. As Gen Y matures and enters the new vehicle market in greater numbers, AutoPacific expects these numbers to continue their growth. Tech savvy car buyers were defined utilizing a collection of data filters from AutoPacific’s Research Suite® database.
BMW Joins the Effort to Spread the Diesel Gospel
If there’s one company out there whose powertrain reputation is beyond reproach, it’s easily BMW. Some underwhelming 4-cylinders from the 80s and 90s aside, it’s hard to point out any BMW motors that weren’t powerful, engaging, soulful, and indestructible. Except for the indestructible part, those descriptors certainly don’t describe diesel, at least in the minds of North American drivers.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Europeans are firing their first volleys in their attempted diesel revolution in the US. They’ve actually tried for years to sell Americans on diesels, touting their economy and longevity as advantages. But thanks to some really notably awful diesels from the 70s and 80s (and consumers’ long memories), the only takers have been automotive eccentrics. Today though, in the days of rising fuel prices and international instability, there is a significant increase in interest in fuel-saving technologies.
You can’t blame the Europeans for using diesel to spearhead their efficiency strategies. After all, Europe has already embraced diesel as a mainstream fuel (67% of BMWs sold in Western Europe are diesels!), and as such they have made tremendous advances in diesel power, refinement, and cleanliness. And, if anyone can help erase that diesel stigma in America, it’s BMW.
Impressive Specs and Power
BMW’s Advanced Diesel strategy in the US starts with their internationally lauded 3.0L inline-6 diesel with twin turbos, pumping out 268 horsepower and a truly stump-pulling 425 lb-ft of torque. This is while delivering 25% better fuel economy than a comparable gasoline engine. The engine is 50-state legal, thanks to an SCR catalyst and AdBlue urea injection.
To start, this fire-breathing yet eco-friendly diesel will be available in the 3-Series and X5. You can expect to see other diesel variants in the coming years.
High Fuel Economy…But Likely High Cost
Despite these impressive specs, diesel’s got a real uphill battle to contend with. Even without considering diesel’s image in the US, there’s the cost – both in terms of hardware and the fuel itself. In Southern California, diesel’s running about 20¢ higher than gasoline, and these new diesel engines themselves are inherently very costly due to their beefy innards and all that expensive exhaust aftertreatment. BMW (and other diesel hopefuls) certainly won’t be able to play the “save money” card with their diesels; they’ll have to find some other unique way to position these powertrains.
There is a real and growing trend among leading edge affluent consumers to equate green with chic. BMW will need to work hard to market diesel’s benefits to these leading edge consumers – and convince them to pay more for the privilege of being green. If they can pull this off with these opinion-leading consumers, diesel just might have long-term hope in North America.