Down to Sandouville, which is about three hours north of Paris, to Renault’s plant where the Laguna and Vel Satis are built – yes the Vel Satis is still produced, but not for the UK.
This factory opened in 1964 and since then has produced nearly eight million cars. Every day, 230 trucks arrive with parts and components from 490 suppliers. I have been to many car production facilities all over Europe and I have never seen so many workers assembling cars by hand.
Quality is the key word from Renault and with the new Laguna due in mid-October, it is working hard to achieve higher quality by using better production techniques.
Quality is also a key word when these cars hit the used market – the better they are built, the longer they last, so should be worth more money.
Another new initiative to protect cars after build is to widen the car parking spaces at the factory so when the cars are parked they do not get damaged when opening doors. It’s all pretty basic stuff really, but Renault says quality has to improve and it’s the small things that add up. Whether Renault has done enough to raise build quality remains to be seen – we’ll have to wait a few more weeks until we get to see the car in the metal.
A new Skoda Fabia test car arrived and what a great car it is. Now it has got the quality right, especially the interior, it’s as good as anything on the market. It also looks much better in the metal than in the photographs.
The new television advert is attracting attention too – the one where the Fabia is made entirely out of cake and sweets. It is clever, to the point, but more importantly makes you want to watch it again.
The all-new Fabia has seen a rise in residuals, now showing at 39% of cost new for a Fabia 2 1.4 TDi 80 after three years/60,000 miles.
Read a press release from the Society of Motor Auctions saying that fleet operators are insisting on inappropriately high reserve prices when entering cars at auctions.
I spoke to Andrew Hulme, BCA’s UK managing director, who confirmed that clean cars with the right spec and conventional prices sell first time and make good money, but cars in average condition will only attract average money, if the seller is lucky. It is not unusual for cars in average condition to remain unsold at auctions for many weeks. The moral of the story is to price cars to sell, and price them to reflect the condition. It’s a fundamental rule in the motor industry, and one that many try to break – unsuccessfully.
I had a fascinating day at Longbridge in Birmingham – home of the old MG Rover.
After the business failed I never thought I’d be back there, but it is now producing cars again. I met with Stephen Cox and Gary Hagen, sales and franchising manager and sales and marketing director respectively for Nanjing Automobile Corporation in the UK – the new owners of MG.
Production of the MG TF starts again in July and it will be on sale in the UK in September. The firm is currently building a dealer network and plans to have between 40 and 50 franchises by September – all sharing sites with other manufacturers.
Between July and December Longbridge will build 700 cars for the UK market and next year 3,500. The body panels are still pressed on site but virtually everything else is shipped in from China.