Auto Sales Get Decimated In October – A Sign Of Things To Come?

The month of October was not friendly to most car manufacturers, as overall sales in the United States dropped 6%. This sharp drop can be attributed to volume sellers who saw declines that haven’t been posted in quite sometime. Is this a reason for concern moving forward? Is a slowing auto market going to be the new reality that manufacturers will face for at least the short term? New car sales have been slowing over the past few months, but October’s sudden drop in overall sales is nothing that should be taken lightly.

It should be noted that October of 2016 had two fewer selling days than October of 2015, but with some of the percentages that were posted, not even two extra selling days could change the outcome of a bleak new car market.

Fiat-Chrysler Massacre

It has not been a good year for the Fiat-Chrysler group, and October magnifies the downward trend in sales for most of the brands. Chrysler posted a decline of 44.7%, Fiat down 24.3%, Dodge -16.4%, and Jeep -6.6%. Three out of the four brands listed are down on the year for new car sales, while Jeep is still maintaining an increase of 9.7%. With Dodge ending the Dart and Chrysler no longer producing the 200, sales figures being down was to be expected, but for the auto group as a whole, there’s not much excitement for any of the brands, besides Dodge which produces the Challenger and Charger.

BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo and Land Rover Experience Sales Decline

2016-bmw-328i-sports-wagon7

Volvo and Land Rover, two manufacturers who are both up on the year in new car sales in the United States, saw sharp declines in the month of October. Volvo, a brand that has been revived thanks to the all new S90 and completely redesigned XC90, experienced a 14.6% drop in sales. Land Rover saw a decline of 23.2% in October. Despite the sharp drop in sales in the United States, Volvo and Land Rover are still having a fantastic year overall, and shouldn’t be too concerned about the final quarter of the year, unless lower sales figures overall in the automotive market becomes a trend.

BMW may be the biggest surprise for lower volumes in sales, not only for October, but for the year of 2016. Down 18.4% last month, and down 9% for the year, BMW is the only brand out of the big three luxury manufacturers in Germany that has experienced declines. Mercedes Benz and Audi are still strong, and while sales were flat in October, the loss of two sales days could be a contributing factor. Volkswagen on the other hand has not recovered from Diesel Gate, and with a loss of 13.5% on the year and another double-digit loss last month, it just continues to get worse for the German auto brand.

Bentley, Jaguar, Maserati, and Porsche Have Strong October

2017-bentley-bentayga-front-three-quarter-07

Not everyone is reeling from the October blues, there are car brands that had a fantastic month with Bentley, Jaguar, Maserati, and Porsche having double and even triple digit increases in sales. The British are leading the way and Jaguar’s 226% sales increase can be attributed to the F-Pace and XE, which have both taken their respective markets by storm. The F-Pace is Jaguar’s first attempt at making an SUV, and so far it has been a great success, while the XE, which is the British’s answer to the BMW 3 Series, is seeing strong sales since it’s arrival to the market earlier this year.

Bentley’s impressive gain of 158% in sales last month is all thanks to the Benteyga, which is Bentley’s first ever SUV. In October, the Benteyga contributed more than 33% of sales for the Bentley brand. While the British luxury car maker is down on the year by 6.8%, the entrance into the luxury SUV market has yielded strong sales figures, with the Benteyga making up about 50% of Bentley’s sales in the US since it’s debut on the market in August.

Maserati, much like Bentley and Jaguar, has seen strong sales numbers since entering the SUV market as well. The Levante, which also brought in about 33% of sales in October for Maserati, has received raved reviewed by journalists and consumers. Maserati has hit a home run with their luxury SUV, and that is starting to trickle down to other cars in the lineup. The Ghibli had a strong month alongside the Levante, leading to Maserati’s 11.8% increase in sales for the month of October.

Porsche had the best month out of all German brands in October, with luxury SUV’s again being the main contributor for strong sale. Up 10.7% in October and 3.2% for the year of 2016, Porsche has seen tremendous sales figures and it’s the Cayenne and Macan that is carrying the once sports car dominated lineup.

Strong sales across the board for luxury brands could be a good sign, despite the slowing of overall sales in the market. While Fiat-Chrysler, BMW, Volvo, and many others struggled in October, there’s no reason to panic just yet. If the fourth quarter of 2016 continues a downward trend and that transitions into the new year, then there would be a legitimate reason for concern. As for right now, we can only hope that October isn’t the start of a trend, and that the holiday season and the incentives that come with it could motivate consumers to buy in November and December.

2017 – The Year of Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Jaguar: Alfa Romeo Giulia

We’re nearing the end of 2016 which can only mean one thing; new car unveilings! Car shows start touring across the United States and consumers from Massachusetts to California can take a close look at new cars that will be on dealerships’ lots this upcoming year, and for some models, hitting the showroom before the new year. 2017 is shaping up to be the year of Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Jaguar, as all three manufacturers have extended their product lines to compete in markets that were once considered foolish to enter. These models include the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Maserati Levente, Jaguar XE, and Jaguar F-Pace.

Over the next few days, we will go over each model that these three manufacturers have already added or are adding to their lineups. So let’s start off this series with the all new Alfa Romeo Giulia.

giulia-ca-1

Car enthusiasts are excited and anxious for Alfa Romeo to officially mark their return to the United States with the arrival of the Giulia. With the 4C introducing consumers to the Alfa brand, the Giulia is what will put the Italian automaker on the map in the American car market. Their answer for the BMW 3 Series and M3, Alfa Romeo is putting a lot of pressure on themselves to hit a home run with the Giulia Quadrifoglio, not only in terms of reliability, but performance as well.

Car and Driver’s review seems to echo most journalists, and also enthusiasts, who are well aware of the Italian’s electrical and mechanical issues.

The car is impressive. Well, mostly. We did find a surprising number of electrical idiosyncrasies in the cars we drove in Italy, from freezing display screens to a check-engine light. We also found the interior trim did little to dismiss stereotypes about Italian build quality, with some cheap-feeling switchgear and a center console that deflected under gentle pressure. We’ll wait to reserve our final judgments until we have more time behind the wheel, but the Giulia Quadrifoglio seems well prepared to battle the competition from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac. It outguns all but Mercedes’ C63 S by a fair margin and—based on our limited first exposure—delivers more emotional appeal, too. This is one comparison test that we’re really, really looking forward to.

The most appealing aspect of the Giulia is the Ferrari powered V6 engine that puts out 505 hp. Unfortunately Alfa Romeo recently said that a manual transmission will not be offered in the United States, which has already disappointed many. On the bright side, the Giulia is not sharing the same platform as the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 and instead is built on an Alfa Romeo designed RWD platform making this car unique to the Fiat-Chrysler brand. In terms of performance, it appears that BMW and Cadillac have some serious competition with the Italian’s arrival to the market, and now Mercedes Benz might have a legitimate contender for the C63 S.

Despite the paranoia that the Giulia might end up like many Alfa Romeos that have proceeded it in the past, there’s a lot of hope and excitement for the future. The Italian automaker is hitting the right chord among consumers. They’ll be offering a base model with the price still to be determined, but early estimates are around $40,000, which is within the range of the BMW 3 series, Audi A4, and Mercedes Benz C-Class. A 280 hp 2.0L 4 cylinder engine paired with an 8 speed automatic transmission, and RWD and AWD drivetrains as options, Alfa will have a cornerstone to build from, giving them a good chance of capturing market share rather quickly once it arrives in showrooms in November.

Take it which ever way you want, but Alfa Romeo built the Giulia with absolutely no parts from the Chrysler brand. Completely Italian inspired, Alfa has the chance to distance itself from being considered a product of the Fiat-Chrysler brand, which would be an ideal perception they want from consumers as Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep have had many issues in it’s history since the acquisition by Fiat.

160510_alfa-romeo_giulia_30

Alfa can start off fresh and hit the ground running once the Giulia enters the US market. The Italians are hoping for a successful launch as the their sedan will set the stage for phase two, when the crossover SUV known as the Stelvio, joins the Giulia in Alfa Romeo dealerships’ showrooms in 2017. This is now their time to shine, and as car enthusiasts, we can only watch and wait to see if this return to America is a success.

Is Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz Styling Becoming Lazy?

Remember when you were walking back to your car with groceries and saw a Mercedes Benz and knew exactly what model it was? Have you seen two Audis parked next to each other and could distinguish the difference between the two from a distance? Do you also remember when BMW’s numbering system actually made sense? Those were the days. Now German automakers just extend or shorten the length of models, stick on a different number, and sell it with some added gimmicks or lower price tag. Anyone else see a growing problem from the German luxury market?

Needless to say, the interiors that Mercedes Benz offers is in a league of its own. A comfortable and welcoming environment could make the idea of living in an S-Class sound reasonable. Audi’s updated cabin that’s now noticeable in the 2017 Q7 and A4 will put them in the upper echelon when it comes to stylish and luxurious interiors. But when you take a look at the outside of most of the models the big three German manufacturers offer, you begin to realize just how lazy automotive design has become.

Starting with BMW, the 3 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series all had a slightly different face a few years ago. You could tell they were from the same family, but the siblings were not identical. Today with the recent addition of the 4 Series, the two door coupe and convertible are essentially the sportier versions of the 3 Series sedans. But it doesn’t stop there. With the 435i Gran Coupe, BMW has effectively created a dilemma where a four door has been given a number that was supposed to symbolize the difference between the coupes from the sedans. There’s no value proposition that the Gran Coupe offers, in fact you pay more for what is a 3 Series with an extended trunk.

Lately, car enthusiasts have had to ask themselves, “What is Mercedes Benz doing to their lineup?” There was once a time when the C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class were all distinctive. As recent as 2014, the C-Class and E-Class from front to back were completely different, with the C-Class clearly being more of an entry level sedan, and the E-Class having a very upscale presence, both in terms of the exterior and interior. Now with the 2017 models hitting showrooms, the C-Class sedan, and more noticeable with the coupe, have the same body style as the S-Class. The redesigned E-Class has become the middle child, having a very similar appearance to it’s bigger and smaller siblings. Mercedes Benz has defined the term “German luxury” for the past decade; there was no reason to make carbon copies of their models

Audi might just be he laziest of them all, despite BMW and Mercedes Benz attempts to claim the thrown on producing identical cars. Park an Audi A6 and A8 next to each other, same color and year, and you’ll have a 50% chance of guessing the correct model. If you subtract the A7, TT, and SUVs from the Audi lineup, you’re left with three sedans and one coupe that all have similar body styles and faces, but only differ in size. At some point, an executive at the corporate level must take a look at the lineup and think, “Maybe we need to stop being so mundane”.

The lack of creativity and originality is frightening to say the least. Yes the Mercedes Benz AMG’s, BMW M-Series, and Audi S-Line make our mouths water and we crave more power, but at the end of the day, the German automakers are beginning to lose their speciality. Right now we’re living in an era where the i8, R8, and GT-S are the only iconic cars that we’ll look back on and remember. Twenty years ago, the BMW M3 and Mercedes Benz 190E Cosworth were attainable sports cars that we could all enjoy. Today there’s not a special car within the reach of the average American.

German cars will always be looked at as the very best in luxury. However, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for a car that is unique. Jaguar and Volvo are beginning to find a foothold, and once their new and updated lineups are completed, the Germans will have stiff competition coming from Britain and Sweden.

Maserati and Jaguar Are Ready To Take The Stage

The perennial powerhouses, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz could be on the verge of a luxury market share war with the British and Italians very soon. For far too long, the big three German automakers have gone untouched, growing their lineups by adding vehicles that reach every market sector in the automotive industry. With models consisting of bigger or smaller versions of their siblings, the Audi A3, A4, A5, A6, and A8, Mercedes Benz C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class, and BMW’s 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series, all have similar, or downright lazy styling in terms of exterior. The time has come for a fresh design from other automakers, and ones that aren’t based in Germany.

It’s Jaguar and Maserati’s time to shine, and with new models ready to hit the market this year for both automakers, the British and Italians are ready to make a huge splash. Maserati unveiled their new and first ever SUV, the Levante, which starts at $72,000 and we should expect to see Maserati’s newest addition to the lineup in September. Jaguar is only months away from offering the new XE and first ever SUV, the F-Pace, in showrooms across the United States, which is expected to be in June. It seems as though the pieces are coming together for Jaguar and Maserati, and once they’re in place, they’ll be off an running to take on much larger companies.

The new Jaguar XE will be priced starting at $34,900, which will immediately take on the Audi A3, Mercedes Benz CLA, and BMW 320i, which are all in the same price range. Since the XE can exceed a $50,000 price tag, it will also be a direct competitor to the A4, C-Class, and 3-Series. In terms of power, the XE will get a 240 hp 4 cylinder turbo engine and also a 340 hp supercharged V6 on the higher trims. This will put them right in line with their German counterparts, as the new Mercedes Benz C450 AMG will top the list with a 362 hp bi-turbo V8.

2017-jaguar-xe-s-inline5-photo-660839-s-original

The new F-Pace comes with two different engine types; A 180 hp 4 cylinder diesel, or a 340 hp turbocharged V6. Pricing starts at just over $40,000, which will take on the Audi Q5, Mercedes Benz GLE, and BMW X3. Because Jaguar is basing their SUV off the F-Type, the F-Pace is performance driven. This is not your typical soccer mom SUV, and in fact, dads can now have fun with the grocery getter, as the F-Pace is capable of going from 0-60 in 5.4 seconds. While this is not advised, it can also reach a top speed of 155 mph, so the young guy in a sports coupe might not have such an easy time leaving you in the dust. On higher trims, the F-Pace can exceed $50,000, but thankfully the V6 can be paired with any trim level.

As of right now, we don’t know the performance that the Maserati Levante will have. We can only speculate that it will receive a similar engine to the Maserati Ghibli, which would be a 345 hp twin turbo V6 on the entry level trim, and possibly the 404 hp twin turbo V6 on the higher trims, but that’s purely speculation. The Levante is set to take on the BMW X6 xDrive50i and Mercedes Benz GLE450 AMG Coupe which are beginning to roam the streets. Another automaker which hasn’t been discussed that will also get their turf impeded on by the Levante is Porsche. Still more of a niche manufacturer, Porsche and it’s compact SUV the Macan, will now have to take on a new competitor in its class. The performance SUV market is going to get real interesting by the end of this year, and it will be exciting to see who ends up on top after this is all said and done.

Jaguar and Maserati can no longer be looked at as small time players in the high-end luxury market. While Maserati will stay above $70,000 on all their models, Jaguar will now be entering new territory by offering a model within the $35,000 – $40,000 price range. Soon, consumers will be able to choose from other countries besides Germany to find the best the luxury market has to offer. As it turns out, Porsche’s decision to introduce an SUV to sports car only lineup, set the stage for other manufacturers to do the same. Now Jaguar and Maserati can compete on bigger scale and begin to take market share away from the German powerhouses.

The Poor Man’s Exotic: Jaguar F-Type

Jaguar F-Type
Jaguar F-Type

I know what you’re thinking, Boston Auto Blog the Jaguar F-Type is already priced near $100,000, which can buy you a Lamborghini Gallardo. Yes, while the new Jaguar F-Type R already exceeds six figures, the argument can be made that this Jaguar could be considered an exotic. However the 2014 models are beginning to hit the used market, and great deals are out there for the taking. Your wait for the British performance car to depreciate in value might be shortened as you can get behind the wheel of this amazing car right now if you’re in the financial position to do so.

It will require some searching and traveling depending on your location, but there are 2014 Jaguar F-Type’s on the market for as low as $55,000. Mileage on the tachometer is around 6,000 – 12,000 on the lower end of price range spectrum. These models aren’t just base trims either, you’ll find the S trim within the $55,000 – $60,000 price range, which means you’ll get 40 extra horses under the hood for a total of 380 horsepower and supercharged V6 engine. Since these are 2014’s, you’re limited to the convertible, as the coupes didn’t hit the market until 2015.

If you want to spend more than $60,000 and closer towards a $70,000 price tag, the V8-S trim is available, giving you a whopping 495 hp. Unfortunately, the 2015 F-Type R is still near the six figure mark, and to find a coupe you’ll be looking at spending $80,000. With that being said, the 2014 convertible is still a solid choice at this price range. You’re getting European performance at a relatively low cost, especially if you look at other options in this price range. While the Alfa Romeo 4C, Lotus Evora, older Porsches, and Chevrolet Corvettes on the market could satisfy anyone’s hunger and desire for speed and performance, there is no denying that the F-Type’s roar alone makes it a serious consideration for those looking at sports cars to have fun with in the summer.

Unlike the other cars that I’ve talked about as being a “Poor Man’s Exotic”, Jaguar offers leasing programs for the F-Type. Prices vary, but $699/month appears to be the consensus. Now, I understand that leasing isn’t very popular due to mile limitations and the fact that the car isn’t really yours, but it is an option worth mentioning.

In appearance, the Jaguar F-Type resembles the Ferrari California T, which is why it should be considered a “Poor Man’s Exotic”. While the F-Type’s predecessor, the XK, has some affordable options on the market right now, both cars differ to a certain degree in terms of perception, where figuratively the XK is more of a car you go to the golf course with, and the F-Type is for having fun on the open roads.

“It’s Good To Be Bad” should be taken literally, because this bad cat is very fun to drive.

Don’t Look Now But Jaguar Is On The Prowl

Jaguar F-Type
Jaguar F-Type

Across the pond, there’s a luxury car manufacturer ready to steal market share in the compact sedan and SUV markets. No, they’re not from Germany, but from a town in the West Midlands of England. Jaguar is back and with a vengeance as the 2017 XE and F-Pace are ready to shake things up in a German dominated automotive segment. Two vehicles that will put Jaguar on the map in the entry level luxury market in the United States are set to be released in 2016. Is Germany ready for another battle against Great Britain, this time being in the automotive world?

Starting prices for both the XE and F-Pace are extremely competitive with the competition, and the prestige that comes along with owning a Jaguar could have an affect on consumers’ buying decisions next year. The base model XE starts at $34,900, and the F-Pace, $40,900. Along with the badge, owners will also get performance to go along with luxury, as the compact sedan will get 240 hp, with the option of receiving 340 hp with the XE S. The F-Pace will come with a V6 and 380 hp on the higher trims, making SUV’s the ultimate grocery getter for the car enthusiast with a family.

British cars are often looked at being very expensive, prestigious, and high class luxury, and with these two new additions to the Jaguar lineup, some people question whether the lower prices changes the perception of the brand. One could argue that it enhances the Jaguar brand, as British luxury, performance, and styling, are now available at a more affordable price. Their tagline, “It’s good to be bad” is not just a jab at Aston Martin and James Bond, but it’s a mission statement and identity that reaches out to the younger consumer who wants to feel power, both literally and figuratively.

Good things are happening for the British automaker, as the F-Type is the foundation that created the XE and F-Pace. The engineering behind the two door sports car is now the soul of Jaguar, and they’re implementing that styling and performance into all their models. BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Audi better start looking over their shoulders, because the big cat is on the prowl, and now has the ability to pounce on its competitors.