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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Renault wakes up as to what people want

Dacia by Renault.

Many manufacturers forget about what the car buying public wants and make motor cars that the public doesn’t want. This eventually means that the manufacturer has to provide all sorts of ‘sweeteners’ to entice the car buyer. However, Renault in Europe has shown just what the public wants with the reviews of their low-cost Dacia brand.
Dacia stormed to 5th overall in Auto Express Driver Power survey, with top place finishes across the board, including running costs, practicality, reliability and even in-car tech.
Racking up a stunning overall score of 88.04 percent, Renault Group’s upstart brand blasted past hordes of other car firms, including considerably pricier brands like Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. In the process, it overtook most of its direct competitors across a wealth of individual categories too, ranging from in-car tech to practicality and reliability.
Renault Group’s “function over frivolity” brand has already taken the UK’s new and used car market by storm since its launch last January. Dacia’s already sold over 24,000 cars, picking up a series of impressive media awards for its Sandero range and Duster along the way. Now, for the first time, the survey results allowed real life UK customers to dish out the Dacia plaudits. And funnily enough, in true James May-style, the “good news” just keeps on coming.
As might be expected given its low purchase prices, its four-model range of Sandero, Sandero Stepway, Logan MCV and Duster pushed aside most of the competition for running costs, as well as fuel economy, coming an impressive second overall in both categories. Driving its low cost of ownership message home even further, it also came in eighth out of 33 brands for servicing costs.
It also posted a podium position for reliability. Mind you, that’s hardly surprising given that every Dacia is built to cope with every extreme of road and weather condition thrown at it across the globe. Whether it’s relentless rain in the Pampas, or plenty of potholes in Poole.
Topping off its extraordinary debut in the UK’s leading car ownership survey, Dacia impressed once more with a fourth for practicality and an equally remarkable third for in-car tech. No doubt courtesy, in part, to the innovative MediaNav infotainment system, which at 300, costs literally hundreds of pounds less than conventional manufacturer integrated offerings.
Commenting on Dacia’s stunning debut success in this year’s survey, Ken Ramirez, managing director of Renault Group UK said, “Dacia has a great reputation for affordable, high quality products, with impressive reliability. With an ever-growing trophy cabinet and a four-model range available for a full year, its sales just keep on rising. Dacia has very loyal customers right across the globe, so I’m delighted that as one of its newest markets, our UK customers are finding them such a pleasure to own.”
So what is the ‘take home’ message from this press release from Renault? Quite simply, the consumers are looking for value for money, so low cost, reliability, in-car technology and low servicing costs.
All of the world’s major manufacturers could replicate the success of the Dacia range. But will they?


Will we get the Qoros here?

Chinese Qoros 3.

New Chinese car brand Qoros made a successful Beijing International Motor Show debut with its second production model called the Qoros 3 Hatch, which drove off with a number of awards.
The latest Qoros model features a bold, dynamic design, excellent connectivity, class-leading space and a generous level of equipment that is not normally available in compact cars. This includes the brand’s innovative Qoros MMHTM 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system and the pioneering QorosQloudTM connected services platform.
The awards bestowed upon the Qoros 3 Hatch during the motor show included Best Car Design, The Most Beautiful Hatch (Car and Driver China), Best Exterior Design (AutoBild China magazine) and Smart Car of the Year (China Auto Media). The Qoros 3 Hatch is also the first car from a China-based brand to zoom away with the coveted Red Dot design award in March 2014.
Consumers, too, were impressed with the new model, according to data analyzed by Weibo - one of China’s biggest social media channels - and published by Auto.sina, a top motoring website in China.
The analysis showed that during the first three days of the Beijing Auto Show, when public interest was at its highest, the Qoros 3 Hatch was mentioned on Weibo more than any other car displayed at the event.
“We’ve greatly enjoyed our first time exhibiting at the Beijing International Motor Show,” said Qoros chairman and CEO Guo Qian. “Winning awards from respected independent experts of globally renowned organizations is gratifying and a testament to the high standards we have achieved with our cars. Also highly encouraging is the positive reaction and level of interest that we have seen from customers, particularly from modern metropolitans, the specific group for which we have designed and built our cars,” Guo said.


Statement from Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG

In 2014, we are focusing even more strongly on innovative technologies and customer satisfaction.
Through innovation, we continue to develop our brands and drive progress forward in our industry. That is how we secure our own future in an ever changing environment. And that is how we create added value for our customers and shareholders.
Let me give you three examples:
1. The BMW i3: The demand for our innovative electric vehicle is high. In March alone, we sold 1,000 BMW i3 cars worldwide. American customers are particularly open to new types of drive-trains. We expect the majority of BMW i3 cars to be sold in the US. We especially focus on California as a relevant market for electric cars, as it is considered by experts to be a trendsetter for the whole USA. In Japan, the i3 has been available for customers since early April, and China is due to follow later in the year. At our site in Leipzig, production is being ramped up according to schedule - with 100 vehicles produced per day. More than 5,000 BMW i3 cars have been built so far in total. Many of these cars were delivered to our global markets as demonstration and exhibition vehicles. Now, more and more cars are being built to meet customer demand.
2. The BMW i8: As promised, we are going to launch the second member of the BMW i family in June. The BMW i8 is the world’s first plug-in hybrid sports car with the BMW i Life-Drive architecture. It is the first sports car with a three-cylinder drivetrain. And it is the first series car featuring the new laser light technology.
It is currently being tested by international media at our press event in Los Angeles. Carbon fiber is a material with a significant future in our industry, which we will also use in other series models.
3. The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer: This is the first BMW model with front-wheel drive, and is a trailblazer to acquire new customers to the BMW brand. It offers the best technological solution for this very practical and functional car. The Active Tourer will be available as of the fourth quarter.


What did we learn from the Spanish GP?

Well, we learned that Hamilton and Rosberg in their Mercedes are still streets ahead of the rest. From the start they pulled away at one second a lap and were never in danger of losing their positions at the head of the field. Hamilton is now top of the World Driver’s Championship and even though it is still early in the season you can expect to see him on top for the rest of the season as well. However, he has to start acting as the best driver and stop publicly complaining to his crew as to how quickly they serviced him, the strategy and anything else he might consider. Perhaps not enough sugar in his coffee?
The race itself was over 66 laps, of which 56 were a procession, despite graining tyres, ERS, KERS, DRS and any other acronym. And the flat drone of the exhaust sends everyone to sleep. Everyone, from Bernie downwards complains. Mercedes is to trial a ‘megaphone’ exhaust (shades of Manx Nortons) which at best will make the drone louder. Perhaps a DVD of last year’s screaming exhaust note and an amplifier played through a dummy exhaust will fix the problem! And that is about as clever as half the FIA fixes for anything!
Tyre life still dominates the racing with Pirelli saying that the fastest way to approach the race was with three stops, starting on the medium, changing to the medium on lap 20, medium again on lap 38, and hard on lap 54. A two-stop strategy could also be possible. In which case: start on the medium, change to medium on lap 22, then change to hard on lap 45. I’m sorry, I couldn’t care less which tyre is being used, I go to see drivers racing each other, not comparing their tyre strategies.
Daniel Ricciardo continues to impress as the ‘best of the rest’ and Vettel (formerly known as The Finger) is becoming increasingly desperate. Even with Red Bull’s spy Helmut Marko firmly on his side of the garage, nothing has been going right for the German. I will stop short of citing ‘karma’, but Mark Webber must be wetting himself with laughter right now. Having said all that, Vettel did drive well and deserved his fourth place, albeit half a minute behind his team mate Ricciardo.
A brilliant start by Bottas in the Williams saw him at the sharp end of the action and his fifth, two seconds behind Vettel, was well deserved.
Alonso was strangely subdued all weekend and spent most of the time trailing Raikkonen, who had managed to stay awake for most of the race until the drone got him. However, Alonso passed Raikkonen in the final stages of the race to the delight of the partisan crowd.
“Lotus” managed to get into the points, courtesy of Grosjean. And his team mate? Maldonado is still a clot and no end of stop-go penalties and nasty demerits on his license will make him less of a clot. His raw talent is demonstrated by crashes into the fences or clobbering other drivers. FIA style disciplining will not change the man. He should not be there. He should not have a “Super” license. It should be revoked. He is a liability.
Force India was there, but we never saw them, likewise McLaren, who were the first of the also-rans. Ron Dennis is not pleased. Expect changes there for 2015.
The next race is Monaco May 25.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Renault wakes up as to what people want

Will we get the Qoros here?

Statement from Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG

What did we learn from the Spanish GP?