High Hopes for GM in Europe as Meriva Mini-MPV Previewed
Jan05

High Hopes for GM in Europe as Meriva Mini-MPV Previewed

By Andy Bannister

01.05.2010

Vauxhall Meriva doors openRecent uncertainty about the future has not halted the new-product offensive at GM Europe, which has just unveiled pictures of its next-generation Meriva mini-MPV, set to debut at Geneva in March.

The company, based in Germany, has eschewed the traditional sliding door solution for rear access in favour of innovative rear-hinged “suicide” doors, although you can be sure GM’s marketeers won’t be using that term.

The car, to be sold as an Opel in most of Europe and as a Vauxhall in the UK – our pictures show the Vauxhall version – will be a key player in the small family car market, pitched against rivals like Citroën’s C3 Picasso, the Skoda Roomster, Nissan’s Note and the new Kia Soul.

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Genius or Joker? João Gurgel and the Lost Cars of Brazil
Dec29

Genius or Joker? João Gurgel and the Lost Cars of Brazil

By Andy Bannister

12.29.2009

Joao GurgelAs 2009 draws to a close, spare a thought for one of the lesser- known personalities of the auto industry to die this year, the enigmatic João Gurgel.

Largely unheard of outside his homeland, Gurgel was lauded by nationalists there as “Brazil’s Henry Ford”. He created a car brand which bore his own name and sold some decidedly outlandish creations in the years up to the early 1990s.

His dream of a mass-market, wholly Brazilian small car was brave but ultimately doomed.

Back in 1969, when enterprising 43-year-old businessman Gurgel set up his own tiny factory, Brazil was still a slumbering giant, with a small local auto industry. It was protected by strict regulations effectively preventing car imports.

A string of multinationals like GM, Ford, Chrysler and Volkswagen were, however, well-entrenched, manufacturing cars locally, and had the market all but sewn-up.

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The Strange Tale of the Israeli Cars That Tried to Conquer America
Dec24

The Strange Tale of the Israeli Cars That Tried to Conquer America

By Andy Bannister

12.24.2009

Sabra-cactus-badgeSome countries, it seems, are pre-destined to be car builders, others acquire an auto manufacturing industry almost by accident, while a third category simply try their best but fail.

In the latter grouping sits Israel, today the centre of a politically-troubled region which generally has more to worry about than producing automobiles.

Half a century ago, however, it was a different story. Little Israel was busy gearing up for an improbable assault on what was then by far the most advanced car market in the world, the United States of America.

Behind this audacious move was a bold outfit called Autocars Ltd, based beneath the slopes of the biblical Mount Carmel, in the port city of Haifa.

Israel then was a new and young country, born somewhat controversially in 1948 out of the horrors the Jewish people had suffered in the Second World War, and suffused with an optimism that anything was possible.

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Toyota Readies New Budget Car For Emerging Markets
Dec24

Toyota Readies New Budget Car For Emerging Markets

After Suzuki throws in with the guys from Wolfsburg, Toyota suddenly hears VW’s footsteps

By Andy Bannister

12.24.2009

Toyota LogoWith car industry growth next year likely to be led by emerging markets like India, Toyota is about to pitch in with a new budget car to be shown in concept form at the New Delhi Auto Show next month.

According to Autocar India, the new model will be called Etios and will be priced at around $10,000.

This means the company has shied away from direct competition with the much-hyped Tata Nano, which competes in a much lower class and price range.

Instead, the Etios – its name means “the origin of” – will be aimed squarely at the highly successful Suzuki Swift, made by Suzuki’s Maruti subsidiary in India.

Maruti has long been one of the country’s leading brands, and Suzuki’s recent alliance with the resurgent Volkswagen group heightens the urgent need for Toyota to make inroads into India.

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How Big Can a Mini Get?
Dec17

How Big Can a Mini Get?

By Andy Bannister

12.17.2009

Mini Beachcomber concept

The inherent contradiction in the Mini brand is coming into sharper focus with the release of pictures of the firm’s latest Beachcomber concept car, which gives more clues to the future small SUV from the BMW-owned outfit.

Mini, by its very name, is meant to be a maker of small cars, but as the company’s portfolio expands, so does the size of its models.

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