We had an interview Sebastian Mackensen, Senior Vice President of MINI: “we sell a lifestyle…”

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At the recent Brussels Motor Show we talked with the Senior Vice President of MINI. Born in The 46-year-old Sebastian Mackensen with a master’s degree in business administration and economics joined the BMW Group in October 2013 and brought with him many years of international sales experience in the automotive premium segment. He started as head of worldwide MINI Sales. In March 2015 he then succeeded Jochen Goller as Senior Vice President MINI…

Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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New Kia Ceed increases the pace in the European C segment…

 

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The Geneva Salon will bring some very interesting news, amongst others the new Ceed, which now enters in its third generation. Note that the new Ceed is being designed, developed, engineered and built in Europe. Like its predecessors, the new model has been designed, developed and engineered in Frankfurt by Kia’s European design, product development and R&D teams. It will be manufactured at the brand’s production facility in Žilina, Slovakia, alongside the Kia Sportage and Kia Venga.

Kia improved further the looks of its key model in the range, being more angular and sporting. The new Kia Ceed has been designed at the brand’s European design centre in Frankfurt, Germany, under the direction of Gregory Guillaume, European Head of Design, and Peter Schreyer, President of Design and Chief Design Officer.

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But that is not all. Let us just review here the main points:

Constructed on Kia’s new ‘K2’ platform, the new Ceed is 20mm wider (1,800mm) and 23mm lower (1,447mm) than the outgoing model. The new model boasts a larger, 395-litre boot, as well as greater shoulder room for rear passengers, more headroom in the front row, and a lower driving position.

Gasoline options include an updated version of Kia’s popular 1.0-litre T-GDi (turbocharged gasoline direct injection) engine, producing 120ps, as well as a new 1.4-litre T-GDi power unit. Replacing the earlier 1.6-litre GDI engine, the new ‘Kappa’ 1.4-litre T-GDi engine produces 140ps, 4% more than its predecessor despite its lower displacement. A 100ps 1.4-litre MPi (multi-point injection) engine will also be available.

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The new Ceed is also available with Kia’s all-new ‘U3’ diesel engine. Designed to go beyond the stricter limits laid down by the latest Euro 6d TEMP emissions standard, the new ‘U3’ 1.6-litre CRDi (common-rail direct injection) uses Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) active emissions control technology to significantly reduce emissions. The new engine therefore produces less carbon dioxide, particulate matter and NOx compared to earlier Kia diesel engines. Available with a choice of power outputs (115 and 136ps), the new 1.6-litre diesel produces 280 Nm of torque. Fitted with the new engine, the Ceed’s carbon dioxide emissions are expected to fall below 110 g/km on the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), when converted to the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).

Every engine will be paired with a six-speed manual transmission, while the new 1.4-litre T-GDi and 1.6-litre CRDi engines will also be available with Kia’s seven-speed double-clutch transmission.

It is the first Kia with “Lane Following Assist” technology for level 2 autonomous driving.

Just not forget that the name has changed now from the former Cee’d to just Ceed. It comes with a seven year guarantee or 150.000 km.

The new model will make its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March, where a second body type will also be unveiled for the first time. The five-door hatchback will enter production in May. Sales of the new Ceed will commence exclusively across Europe at the end of Q2 2018.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

BMW launches second generation BMW X4 in Geneva in March…

P90291901_lowRes_the-new-bmw-x4-m40d-There is important BMW news at the International Motor Show in Geneva in March 2018: BMW will present there its second generation mid-size Sports Activity Coupé. The design is attractive as ever, and is paired with the well proven BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive technology. The chassis has been extensively lightened and upgraded.

The range is also enhanced by the addition of two new M Performance models – the BMW X4 M40i and M40d – to further underscore the high performance of the vehicle and cater to customer tastes.

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The all-new BMW X4 is 81mm longer than its predecessor, with 54mm added to the wheelbase and 37mm extra width. It is also lower by 3mm. All of these elements come together to give it dynamically stretched proportions that emphasize its perfect 50:50 weight distribution and hint at the enhanced performance potential.

The driver-focused layout of the cockpit – a BMW tradition – helps to create a supremely assured and wonderfully sporty driving experience at all times. Redesigned sports seats with boldly contoured side bolsters provide outstanding lateral support even in extreme handling situations.

More space

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Three full-size seats are fitted in the rear compartment of the X4, providing passengers with an additional 27 millimetres of legroom over the previous model. The boot has a capacity of 525 litres and the load space can be expanded to a maximum of 1,430 litres by folding down the sections of the rear backrest, with its standard 40:20:40 split.

The legendary BMW driving experience retained…

The new X4 will be launched with a choice of latest-generation power units comprising of two diesel engines – xDrive20d and M40d. Their advanced BMW TwinPower Turbo technology promises dynamic power delivery accompanied by remarkably low fuel consumption and emissions.

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Joining the BMW M Performance model of the M40d will be the petrol-powered six-cylinder in-line engine M40i as well as another straight-six diesel unit – xDrive30d. All model variants direct their engine’s power to the road via an eight-speed Steptronic transmission and BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive as standard.

The BMW M Performance models and the BMW X4 xDrive30d are equipped with an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission offering exceptionally fast gear changes as well as a Launch Control function. The standard-fit Driving Experience Control switch lets drivers choose from SPORT, COMFORT and ECO PRO set-ups, while the BMW X4 M40i, BMW X4 M40d and BMW X4 xDrive30d models also add a SPORT+ mode.

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BMW improves the cleanliness of their diesel engines still further: the diesel models boast BMW BluePerformance technology comprising a particulate filter, an oxidation catalyst, a NOx adsorption catalyst, as well as an SCR catalyst with AdBlue injection.

Superb handling

Standard specification for the all-new BMW X4 includes not only M Sport suspension but also variable sport steering. Specially tuned to deliver extra-dynamic handling qualities, this version of the Electric Power Steering system ensures precision through keenly taken corners and supreme straight-line stability. The speed-sensitive Servotronic power assistance, meanwhile, makes light work of manoeuvring.

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In sport mode, the digital instrument cluster hue changes into red and more bold lettering in the displays…

The car’s impressively sporty and sure-footed handling characteristics are further helped by the powerful lightweight braking system and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system, whose features includes an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Automatic Differential Brake (ADB-X), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), Start-Off Assistant and Hill Descent Control (HDC).

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BMW X4 xDrive30d and BMW X4 xDrive20d: efficient pulling power.

A latest-generation six-cylinder in-line diesel engine gives the all-new BMW X4 xDrive30d vast reserves of pulling power.

The maximum output of 265hp and peak torque of 620Nm propel it to 100 kph from rest in 5.8 seconds. The X4 xDrive20d is powered by a 190hp diesel engine whose torque peaks at 400Nm. It accelerates in 8.0 seconds from zero to 100 km/h.

A six-cylinder in-line petrol engine in the all-new BMW X4 M40i and a straight-six diesel unit in the all-new BMW X4 M40d provide the underpinnings for an exhilarating form of driving pleasure.  The engines under the bonnets of the two BMW M Performance Automobiles stand out with their instantaneous response and tireless power delivery.

With its trademark free-revving performance, maximum output of 360hp and peak torque of 500Nm, the power unit in the X4 M40i enables it to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds.

The all-new BMW X4 M40d makes its mark on the road with prodigious pulling power. Its BMW M Performance diesel engine generates output of 326hp and peak torque of 680Nm. The BMW X4 M40d darts to 100 km/h from rest in 4.9 seconds.

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The X4 comes with the latest version of the iDrive operating system, designed to offer even more flexible and ergonomic control of vehicle, navigation, communication and infotainment functions.

The Driving Assistant Plus safety package – unmatched by any rival – offers X4 drivers even more extensive assistance. Its features include the Steering and Lane Control assistant operational at speeds between 0 and 210 km/h (0 – 130 mph), Lane Keeping Assistant with active side collision protection, and Crossing Traffic Warning and Crossroads Warning systems.

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The state-of-the-art character of the X4 shines through in the wealth of digital services on offer through BMW ConnectedDrive.

Using a flexible Open Mobility Cloud platform, BMW Connected works alongside Apple iPhones and Watches, smartphones and smartwatches running the Android operating system, and the Amazon Alexa voice-controlled personal assistants. So the business driver is also truly spoiled …

We can’t wait to sample this remarkable BMW, which can be ordered already within the coming days!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Renault Mégane Grandtour DCi 130 hp: a smooth and stylish operator…

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Renaults now really stand out in style, thanks to the creativity and talents of Laurens Van den Acker and his team. Renaults have now a bold and characteristic styling language and identity. Moreover, they have timeless and excellent proportions, and this Grandtour version of the Mégane amply proves the point. On top of all that, there is mechanical refinement to be enjoyed, and indeed, during the test of this diesel engined, lively Renault, we more than often had broad smiles on our face…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Fiat 500L Cross 120 HP MultiJet 1,6: an icon goes offroad…

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The Fiat 500L is now already for 5 years the undisputed leader in the European compact MPV segment, and its superb design, with its timeless proportions is more contemporary than ever. Its unique personality is now further enhanced with a Cross version, which lets you enjoy driving pleasures off the beaten path. We drove the rejuvenated 500L with a quite lively 120 HP state of the art MultiJet diesel, and this makes this MPV one with a very sporting heart…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We spoke with the men and woman behind the new BMW 2 series Gran and Active Tourer: the art of creating a bestseller…

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They prepared the new BMW Series 2 bestseller: Pascale Goudvis and Armin Hultzsch spoke with us in Brussels…

On the Brussels Show, we spoke with Armin Hultzsch, Head of Project BMW 2 Series Active Tourer/Gran Tourer, Marcus Tauchen, Project Management Office BMW 2 Series Active Tourer/Gran Tourer and Pascale Goudvis, Product Management BMW 2 Series Active Tourer/Gran Tourer.

The car is very important to BMW in this Sports Activity Tourer (SAT) segment, and this was a good reason for this interview…so just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We spoke with the men and woman behind the new BMW 2 series Gran and Active Tourer: the art of creating a bestseller…”

We drove the Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 hp Quattro Sport: four rings for you to enjoy…

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Compact SUV’s are all the rage now, and the Q5 has always stood out as one of the very best. It now is rejuvenated recently, and we were delighted to have the opportunity to have an extended test drive with the 2 liter 190 HP Diesel version, equipped with the formidable S Tronic transmission and last but not least 4WD of course.

You can imagine that we enjoyed the style, sportiness and refined experience of this lavishly equipped and powerful Audi…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 hp Quattro Sport: four rings for you to enjoy…”

We drove the Opel Grandland X: driving pleasure enhanced with (s)pace and grace…

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Opel has some impressive cards up its sleeve in the compact SUV segment, and the most recent addition to the range, the Grandland, hits all the stops: it is stylish, roomy, comfortable and offers genuine driving pleasure. It revealed itself as a comfortable and smooth urban cruiser as well as a zesty and fast tourer on the open road. Op top of all that, it remained quite frugal too…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Opel Grandland X: driving pleasure enhanced with (s)pace and grace…”

We spoke with Jean-Philippe Parain, Senior Vice President at BMW of the Sales Region Europe, on the future of BMW in Europe.

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Dear reader, here follows the first interview in a series, were we talk in depth about the future of European and global car makers. BMW is the first brand entering the arena…

Q1: What were/are your challenges in the European market outside Germany?

A: Of course, the biggest challenge in 2017 was the situation in the UK, because with the Brexit we had a very difficult and volatile market. We had an excellent first quarter, this was still before the real effect of the Brexit took hold, and also then there was a tax change on the first of April, and after that it (the market) was really a mess, we had to be very careful in choosing the channels in which we sold our cars, because we saw a big drop of the residual values, we saw a big pressure on the Diesel used car market, we had to work very closely with our retail partners, with our dealers, to avoid making the wrong decisions and that we produce too much cars for this market. So we had to monitor and steer this market very carefully.

So that was also the biggest market in my region, it accounts for more or less 30 pct of my region.  It was a big challenge for me that despite the situation in the UK, to reach another record sales figure for my region.

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We also saw a strong growth in the south of Europe, on the one end inflated by the share of the rental market, last but not least because of the tourist boom in Spain and Italy in the wake of the terrorist threat, but the real private market was not that strong. We wanted to maintain our market share, but we do not want to go (too strongly) into the rental market, so this was a very difficult exercise to find the opportunities, the right channel. We want to go strongly into the fleet market, which is very important for us. We are investing a lot into our processes, into our structures to be performing in the fleet market. Speaking of political uncertainties, Cataluña is also something that has hit us at the end of 2017.

The second thing is diesel, we have seen a big shift of demand in markets like France, UK, the UK is the biggest change together with Germany, the share of diesel for premium brands have even gone down to close to 50 %, in France it remained quite high but went down as well, the total market is already close to 50 %, the premium segment still around 70 %, but went down from 95 %, so also there, you have to make the right shifts in your production capacity towards petrol and plug-in hybrid and electric cars.

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The further challenge is how do you manage the used car market and the resale values, and last but not least there is also the lobbying towards the political circles because in our opinion, diesel is more part of a solution than part of the problem, the diesel engine is still very efficient, we believe that we have non manipulated and clean diesel engines. But the whole industry has been concerned indirectly. The French election then was rather positive for the market. Overall, despite the good macroeconomic environment, we are still dependent on the political developments. That is something we need to anticipate. The other thing is that we have grown considerably in volume in electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

Q: Are you satisfied here with the sales results?

A: Yes we are, 103.800 sold electrified vehicles sold, that is almost as much as Tesla, we are leader in the premium segment in that field, we have a big share in the total market, in Norway for example,  we have now 60 % of our volume sold there as electric or plug in hybrids. We had also very good growth in France and in the UK. With the latest tax changes there is a big increase in demand for plug in hybrid and electric cars in the UK now, overall we have not enough production capacity for the i3’s, we have long lead times now. We are now number 2 behind the Zoe, which is great for a car in the premium segment.

Q: Aren’t you worried that the diesel market contracts too fast?

A: We think that now this trend will continue, but it will be more managed, there will be a more softer or gradual evolution.

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Brothers in arms: Jean-Philippe Parain alongside Peter Henrich, presently President and CEO of BMW Belux.

Q: Indeed, BMW’s are valuable, well made products with a long service life, so political developments affecting their value are very important…

A: Indeed, our CEO Harald Krüger made at the last IAA an important statement that we are there to make quality cars which stand out for their technical excellence and that we stand firm in our shoes as manufacturers and stay clear from any manipulation.

Q: So you are very pleased with the sales results of the electric/electrified cars?

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Driving pleasure will remain paramount, also in autonomous driving…

A: Yes, we have a high demand, we would need even more models, for example we have not yet a compact SUV with the plug in hybrid drivetrain, but we have already a very wide range and the arrival of the Mini Plug In Hybrid Countryman is also a very good complement to the BMW brand.

Q: Of course, you are looking also the high-end market…

A: First of all we are number one in Europe with the 7 series, around 20 pct more than the S class, and we have the new 8 series which will come later this year, and we have the X7 which will really build up our portfolio in this segment. Mercedes is now selling 60-70.000 GLS worldwide, so this will be also a very important segment for us, as well as the 8 series.

Q: I think it is also a challenge in marketing, that  you make the public aware of new concepts like Reach Now, Charge Now, Drive Now…

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A: For sure, I had the pleasure to launch Drive Now in Brussels in the summer 2016, it is a successful operation now in Brussels. We would like to expand in Europe, we are currently discussing with Madrid, Rome, Milan

Q: It cannot go fast enough…

A: Well, it is not always a smooth ride. There are a lot of discussions in Paris, as you know there is Autolib, so it is not always an easy entry and to be well aligned with the authorities, even in Brussels it took some time to achieve that, but we are really satisfied, we have a good cooperation with the team here from Drive Now. It reaches a lot of people who have never driven BMW’s before, so that I truly very interesting for us.

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Q: I also heard that in the 2 series, 70 pct of the customers are new to BMW…

A: Indeed, exactly. It is also noteworthy that 40 pct of the volume of these 2 series is indeed the hybrid version, so that is significant. This segment is now a bit under pressure from the SUV segment, so more and more people now buying the active tourer will move to the SUV segment, that is why the renewal of our X range, with the X3, X2 and later in the year the new X5, is very important.

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Q: One last question, autonomous driving, you have a special view on that, in the sense that you want it to be active autonomous driving, could you comment this further?

A: We are very active in this field, we will see soon iNext, our BMW i product in 2021, we will bring a new benchmark in the market in terms of autonomous driving, we have successfully invested in a new center in the north of Munich and hired many engineers, started cooperation with Intel and Mobileye, which is one of the benchmark co operations in the industry, and we are confident that we will be leading the pack in terms of autonomous driving technology.

We thank you for this interview.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Volvo brings its XC40 to the Brussels Show…and meets avid buyers.

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On the introduction of the XC40 at the Brussels Show, Managing Director of Volvo Belux, Wim Maes, commented on future plans and commercial results…

In November last year, the production of Volvo Cars’ first ever small premium SUV started off at the Volvo Cars plant in Ghent. The car is meeting great interest, and indeed orders are streaming in by the thousands already.

With the XC40, Volvo completes its SUV line-up, and gets a firm foothold in the fastest growing segment of the automotive industry. Together with the XC60 and de XC90, Volvo has a strong set of cards indeed in this segment…

We saw the XC40 for the first time “in the flesh” here, and indeed it looks pleasing and well balanced.

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At the presentation of the XC40, managing director of Volvo Belux, Mr. Wim Maes, commented on the car and the commercial results and perspectives of Volvo both globally and for the Belgian market, together with the Managing Director of the Ghent plant, Eric Van Landeghem.

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Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “Volvo brings its XC40 to the Brussels Show…and meets avid buyers.”