CAP forecast manager for cars Jeff Knight and I met Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Nissan and Renault, who was in the UK to explain how important residual values and customer satisfaction is to them, and how they have to improve.
He said he was 100% happy with the quality of the new Laguna. Over lunch he told me he has been driving a new Laguna around Paris, as well as competitor vehicles.
Although he admitted its styling was conservative he felt the driving pleasure was competitive but above all the quality of materials used was better than anything else in its class.
He has a real battle on getting quality up, and costs down, as raw material costs are rising, and customers want even better value for money.
I asked about up and coming players in the car manufacturing business such as India and China, and he said that they cannot be ignored or underestimated.
He revealed that Renault will be introducing 26 new cars in the next four years with half of them being in new sectors, including a 4x4 which will share a Nissan platform.
He said self-registration is childish and the industry must be more mature, but before lecturing to everyone else Renault had to be grown up, but changing the way business is done is proving difficult.
A very valuable few hours in the presence of Mr Ghosn – a man you can trust and admire.
Down to Luton to have a look at the new brand in GM UK’s portfolio – Hummer. It looks a big thing, but is about the same size as a Land Rover Discovery, and prices start at £26,495.
The Hummer looks great, the quality looked OK and has off-road capabilities as good as most 4x4s. GM UK expect to sell around 500 per year, which should be reasonably easy.
Flew to Sardinia for the launch of the new Audi A4 (see Road tests on Thursday). The A4 has grown by 12cm in length, 5cm in width and the wheelbase has increased by a 16cm, making it the largest car in the premium sector.
The A4 has always been criticised for lack of rear passenger room, but the new one has solved the problem.
We drove it on a variety of roads, and found the steering to be very precise and the handling superb.
We also drove it on a disused airfield, around cones, and on a man-made skid-pan to test the new anti-this and anti-that technology, which makes for safer driving.
We had a presentation on how it all worked, but most of it went right over my head – the most important thing is that Audi did prove it has developed a well balanced and safe car.
The acoustics in the new car are really good, with hardly any noise in the cabin. The quality – and this almost goes without saying – is as good as you’ll get and the exterior styling is most definitely an Audi A4 – evolution, not revolution. The current A4 is great, the new one is better.