31st May 2009

Renault Megane Coupe: on the way

The Renault Megane Coupe could raise the profile of the brand in Australian streets.

That’s because, if you want to establish some street credibility in the Australian market you need a halo car, preferably a coupe. So after eight years of battling to re-establish its local identity, Renault Australia finally has a car that could pitch the brand into the mainstream, the Megane coupe.

The company’s managing director, Rudi Koenig, this week confirmed that the coupe would join the line-up around June next year with a hatch and sedan to follow. Koenig believes the new-generation Megane has the potential to be a volume player. It wants to start with the coupe to establish some credibility and recognition, much like the impact the Koleos has had among buyers, he says

The Megane will be pitched as a volume seller with keen pricing to attack the dominant Japanese players. “We will clearly be concentrating on these Japanese rivals,” he says. That means pricing could start around $22,000 for an entry hatch, rising to VW Golf GTi territory for the performance-oriented coupe.
“Megane will be a car in both hatch and sedan form that will be very important for us,” he says.

“The small car segment is vital and it’s the segment that produces the highest volume selling cars. “We have to succeed in that segment.”

Renault could have introduced the European-built Megane sooner but it would have had a premium European price. “In that segment, let’s face it, we are the weakest because our previous model’s shape wasn’t accepted in the market,” Koenig says. “The new Megane has a mature, sporty shape that has global appeal.”

The coupe will be sourced from France. It has taken a long time to secure the new Megane because Koenig wanted the “international” version of the hatch and sedan, which will be built in both Turkey and South Korea.
“The basic design and DNA will be maintained but some features will be specific to Australia,” he says.

Renault Australia is now working out potential sourcing and has several options. It can import the hatch and sedan from Turkey or from its Renault-Samsung affiliate in South Korea.

“That will be decided before the end of this year,” he says. “That’s one of the pressing issues I will be discussing with Paris.”

The sedan and hatch may even end up coming from different plants and could have different names.
“That’s to be sorted out,” he says. “But we are determined to bring in a car that gives us a competitive edge, either in the vehicle itself or value proposition.”

The range-topping coupe arrives first, closely followed by a hatch and sedan by the end of 2010. In Europe the coupe is available with three petrol engines and three dCi turbo-diesel engines. Renault Australia is expected to go for one or two highly specified models.

At the top-end the choices are a six-speed manual 134kW/300Nm 2.0-litre TCe petrol turbo or a 104kW/195Nm normally aspirated petrol four with CVT transmission, as well as a 96kW/300Nm 1.9-litre dCi with a six-speed manual.

In Europe the even the entry model gets 16-inch alloys, air conditioning, electronic stability control with anti-skid regulation and understeer control, six airbags, electric heated body coloured door mirrors, cruise control and electric windows.

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31st May 2009

Autobiography Of BS: How I Violated The One China Principle

For more than 10 years, every word a certain high executive of Volkswagen uttered in public was pure BS. I wrote his speeches. I wrote articles under his name. I even ghostwrote a book for him. I studied his mannerisms, his way of thinking and talking. He slowly but surely slipped into the role for which I wrote the script. He’s retired now, but still a sought-after speaker on the conference circuit.

He liked to live and work on the edge, and I gladly walked him there. We had a strange symbiotic relationship. His trust in me bordered on the obscene. Even before major strategy announcements, his brief for the speech usually amounted to: “You know what to write.” He rarely did read the speech before giving it. He always delivered it with great aplomb, and usually to thundering applause. I could put practically any word into his mouth. Power that had to be used wisely.

Twice a year, there was an international conference during which the top brass of VW’s many outposts throughout the world congregated in a European city. My job: Write the keynote speech that opened the event. Then write the wrap-up speech for the finish.

The keynote speech could be written at leisure. The wrap-up speech was always written under great duress: I had to make summations of remarks by other executives that they had yet to make. The other execs played their speeches close to their chests and wouldn’t surrender their manuscripts. I finally struck a secret deal with the simultaneous translators: They would trade the classified manuscripts for the supposedly off-the-cuff closing remarks of my guy.

And again, a conference came to an end. I was slap-happy from a lack of sleep. It was his time to give the closing remarks, for which I had pulled an all-nighter, as usual.

He headed for the podium, then stopped and gave me that “come hither” wave.

“We’ve got to change the speech.”

“We’ve got to what?”

“Change the speech. Something came up.”

“Are you nuts? You are going to be up there in 30 seconds. How am I to re-write a speech which you will give in — 25 seconds?”

“Change the speech. Something happened. Something about China.”

“What happened?”

“Gotta run. Showtime. You know what to write.”

And off he went into the varilights.

As usual, I had no idea what he was talking about. I asked around. My spies rolled their eyes. It turned out that during the conference, a silly speaker had used the phrase “You in China.”

This had bothered the two Chinese delegations to no end.

To this day, Volkswagen’s business in China is run by twins who don’t get along.

Volkswagen’s joint venture partner FAW in the North is the bitter enemy of Volkswagen’s joint venture partner SAIC and the SVW venture in the South. There is no “You in China” in the eyes of the Chinese. At least not as far as VW is concerned.

Slipping a changed speech on the fly to my guy was easier than I had thought in my first shock. There was a video segment towards the end, during which a revised manuscript could be swapped with the old one.

I, however, was in a foul mood and wanted revenge.

I sat down and typed away. The printer purred. We were up to 18 point Courier – his eyesight weakened and he was too vain to wear glasses on stage. The video came. The manuscript was swapped. I even kept my deal with the simultaneous translators and gave them the revised version, to be translated into many languages.

End video. Spot on speaker:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we nearly had a diplomatic incident at the conference,” he intoned with his usual gravitas.

“Apparently, someone carelessly referred to China as China.”

That got the interest of the two Chinese delegations. Their ears perked up.

“Ladies and Gentlemen: We are fully aware of the importance of the One China Principle.”

The Chinese delegations developed a distinct “WTF?” expression on their faces.

“We know, the One China Principle is dear to the heart of our Chinese friends. But …”

Panicked looks from both Chinese factions.

“But this is Volkswagen, and as far as Volkswagen is concerned, the One China Principle does not exist!”

The Chinese delegations, at the time with short cropped hair and with a certain military bearing, because that’s where they had worked before (or were still,) suddenly sat ramrod straight in their seats.

“Get it in your heads, there is no One China at Volkswagen!”

Some Chinese went pale and gasped. Mouths dropped.

The rest of the audience – not as much in tune with Chinese politics as they were with corporate politics – was mostly oblivious.

“The One China Principle doesn’t exist at Volkswagen. There is FAW-VW in the North, there is SVW in the South. Keep that in mind, and keep it apart.”

The Chinese delegations exhaled, looked at each other. One Chinese tried on a sheepish grin, it was returned by the other Chinese. Then they laughed, and finally broke into a roaring applause. The rest of the audience, still oblivious, but polite, joined in.

When the speech was over, both Chinese delegations rushed to the podium, slapped him on the shoulder, pumped his hand, a chorus of “xie xie!” and “heng hao!” ensued, one ebullient and short-cropped Chinese even hugged him.

He took the adulations in stride.

Then he waved me over and whispered:

“What did I say?”


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31st May 2009

Is there a future for a BMW M7?

The top brass from Munich have officially shot down any possibility for a future BMW 7-Series wearing an M badge. That role of a high performance limousine has traditionally been left to Alpina. But apparently, just the other day, spy photographers caught this stretched Bimmer that reportedly “really seems like an M version of the 7-Series.” So the question is, what was it?

BMW representatives have said that the M image doesn’t fit in a limousine model, but just a short while ago, they said the same thing about the X5 SUV, a vehicle that is now part of their lineup. So, what’s the true story behind this camouflaged 7-Series.

A closer look at the prototype seen in the photo reveals plenty of M characteristics; like the larger big mouth front bumper and what could be a hood made from lightweight aluminum. If this is the case, and there is going to be an M7, it will most likely be powered by the same twin-turbo eight cylinder found in the BMW X6 M, with an expected output somewhere between 500 and 550 HP.

Check out the link below to see the rest of the spy photos.

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31st May 2009

German government approves majority sale of Opel to Magna, Russians

Filed under: GM, Opel

German government approves majority sale of Opel to Magna, Russians

by Sam Abuelsamid on May 31st 2009 at 11:44AM

With General Motors expected to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York on Monday morning, negotiators in Germany scrambled to finalize a deal to save Opel from insolvency. Following a six-hour meeting in the German Chancellor’s office in Berlin on Friday evening, a deal was finally announced by finance minister Peer Steinbrueck. Although an overall deal to transfer control of Opel from General Motors was reached, details are still being worked out and a final contract won’t be signed for several more weeks.

Under the deal announced early Saturday morning, GM will retain a 35-percent stake in Opel, which would allow the automaker to continue sharing technology with the German brand. Russia’s government-controlled Sberbank is providing most of the financing for the deal and also gets a 35-percent share. Canadian auto parts maker and contract assembler Magna International will own 20 percent and the remaining 10 percent will go to Opel employees.

The German government will also provide a $2.1 billion bridge loan to Opel to help it keep operating during the transition phase. A key to the deal was German government demands that Opel assets be protected from GM creditors during a US bankruptcy proceeding. Opel will apparently be placed into some sort of trust in order to keep it whole and preserve its value for the new majority owners. President Barack Obama agreed to the deal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a late-night phone call.

It’s not known at this point how GM’s UK operations at Vauxhalll figure in to all of this and whether any of it will be preserved, consolidated into Opel, or sold off separately.

[Source: Reuters]

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31st May 2009

Gettin’ Jetson: 2010 Toyota Prius

As I pressed the starter button and the 2010 Prius’s hybrid-system monitors lit up, so did my daughter’s eyes. “Whoa!” she said from the back seat as we prepared to drive to school this morning. “Is this the kind of car a secret agent or James Bond would drive?”

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31st May 2009

Obama: No choice but to take majority stake in GM

Washington — President Barack Obama said his administration had no choice but to take a majority stake in General Motors in a television interview that aired Saturday.

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