21 March 2017

LDV New Zealand


LDV commercial vehicles has a colourful history. They were part of BL many moons ago, hence the (L)eyland. Later it was owned by (D)AF, therefore the LDV name. In 1993 it became an independent operation and eventually became owned by SAIC in China in 2010 after some turbulent times leading up to that final acquisition. Production was moved from the UK to China.

Things now seem to be on the up with LDV. In New Zealand it is going exceptionally well, the brand name remembered for its association with the NZ ambulance service some years ago. Popular vans  by Toyota, Ford and Hyundai may not have seen LDV as a huge threat but they will be now. NZ has the highest percentage CV penetration for the brand anywhere in the world

They arrived in NZ late 2013 with 45 sold. In 2014 nearly 400 and 2015 close to 500. Over 1,000 were registered in 2016. There are 17 dealers which also sell the SsangYong brand, which is a nice fit with their range. The range consists of four vans, a cab chassis, two mini buses and a large MPV. A range of pick up trucks will be added mid-year and as this is a very popular vehicle in NZ, it will do well.

When China started building vehicles, I expected cheap cars to flood in. A few dipped their toes in the water but they didn't succeed. Light commercial vehicles seem to have much more potential. I don't recommend Chinese brand cars due to their crash safety ratings but the CVs seem to be much more sorted than the cars.

Picture source: LDV NZ.
Text source: RayCee.

14 March 2017

Takata


One song says love changes everything, and so does money. Corruption is rife in the world today and money is so often the motivation. Even human life can be a secondary consideration in the quest to gain or protect money.



Cars are convenient but also dangerous. Safety features are important to consumers and modern cars are full of  such life saving features. I find some such as lane departure warning as quite laughable but most are welcome additions. I must say as one who has always used seat belts I thought airbags were for Americans too lazy to buckle up (no offense intended). However, they do add to occupant safety so I've been won over.

Which leads to the point of the article. Japanese firm Takata changed the main ingredient for its airbags from tetrazole to ammonium nitrate in 2001. Ammonium nitrate provides more bang in a smaller volume than other propellants, which allows the company to offer a more compact device to manufacturers. It was also cheaper to make. However, they have in a few cases caused death by exploding and sending pieces of the device into the car's occupants.

Employee emails show that there were “dire warnings about safety and quality lapses years before Takata Corp would fully acknowledge the threat posed by its defective airbags,” according to a report by the Senate Commerce Committee. Senator Bill Nelson, a Floridan Democrat, says it now appears that Takata was aware of “serious safety and quality control lapses” in its factories as early as 2001.

Company officials debated the data regarding the product and testing of the inflator was manipulated to cover the issues. Nissan, BMW of North America and Ford have accused their airbag supplier Takata of fraud in a lawsuit to cover losses they incur because of its faulty inflators that have been linked to at least 17 deaths worldwide. Court documents filed in United States claim five automakers were aware of potential defects but continued using Takata’s airbags because they were less expensive. The allegations involve Ford, Honda, Nissan, Toyota and BMW.

All in all a sad tale of a business trying to get a competitive edge but getting it wrong and trying to cover it over. Did they really think they would get away with it? The cost of owning up would have been huge. It got worse by not coming clean. Money changes everything.

11 March 2017

The Car Industry Bully Boys - Part Two

The UK sourced Honda Civic Hatch Stateside

This is a two part series. If you haven't read Part One, it sets the scene for this Part Two. To view that one first, simply click here. In part one, I looked at the pressure UK car maufacturers are trying to exert. I ended the article by asking why aren't European car makers not pressuring the EU to forget about a tariff they have raised and threatened with? There could be several reasons.

One is that the EU is fearful that the union may disintegrate due the the UK's imminent departure. Other countries may decide to leave too and that would create much change. Business hates disruption as it leads to uncertainty and the car industry doesn't want to go there. Trying to bring the UK to heel is deeded the best way to retain the status quo.

Another reason is that the UK simply doesn't have enough component manufacturers. Most are imported so a lower pound costs. A solution would be increase component making in the UK. That would be initially costly and in some cases economies of scale would be lost in the factories where the components are currently made.

Also most UK car makers are importers of fully built up cars as well, in many cases the majority of what they sell in the UK is imported. It has been cheaper to import into the UK with its historical over valued currency. Sterling is down so no longer better to import. Many car makers already have ample capacity, so they won't want to open UK plants. However, that may be a tempting solution if the present currency rate remains.

I cannot recall such public outpourings of negativity from an industry in trying to change political direction. Stand over tactics may work in some countries but I don't see it happening here. What it does do is make the car manufacturing industry in Europe look like bullies and rather pathetic ones at that. They are used to getting their way and can get nasty if they don't. Just as you would expect from any self respecting bully.

PS. Some car makers have been upbeat about the lower pound. Both Aston Martin and Mclaren have said it has been good for the bottom line. Honda’s Swindon factory is capitalising on a lower pound, which has lifted exports of its British built Civic hatchback to the USA and other international markets including Japan. For more on Honda's positive attitude, simply click here.

Picture source: Netcarshow.

Honda is one of a few manufacturers upbeat about UK manufacturing