Martin Ward, CAP’s manufacturer relationships manager, scours the globe for the week’s insider fleet intelligence
Down to SEAT’s factory in Barcelona to have a look at some of the first of the new Ibizas to come off the production line.
The five-door version goes on sale in July, with the three-door due next February.
On close inspection of the Ibiza, you cannot help but notice the huge improvement in quality, especially the interior fit, finish and materials used.
The exterior gaps are now much closer and consistent throughout the car. SEAT wants to have Audi quality, but at lower prices.
The new car certainly has style and, if it is priced right, there is no reason why it should not be on choice lists alongside the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot 207 and Renault Clio. We drive it next month.
A nice local trip in Yorkshire for a change – over to Harrogate to see Paul Williams, managing director of Koelliker UK – the new importer of Ssangyong.
Paul is best known for his previous role at Kia, but he now intends to put this other Korean manufacturer firmly on the map.
He says that the awareness of Ssangyong in the UK is poor with 99% of people not having heard of them.
According to Paul, the reason most people go into a Ssangyong showroom is because they are lost.
But Paul and his small management team want to change this, and sell up to 3,000 vehicles this year.
With 20 new models coming between 2010 and 2014, the future looks bright.
Ssangyong is not going to advertise in national newspapers, but will target the audience in caravan, agriculture, boating, country pursuit magazines and shows.
Paul admits that the product does not have the reputation or image of other competitors, but is two-thirds of the price, reliable, practical and high quality, and it does exactly what it is supposed to do.
He says breaking into fleet is not going to be easy, but the majority of customers will want to finance or lease cars, and he is happy to talk to any leasing company and show them his three current models.
Ibiza was the destination for the international launch of the new Audi A4 Avant.
We drove it on a variety of roads, including some nice twisty stretches, and the A4 felt safe and solid in all conditions.
The A4 as a saloon is a very stylish car, but as an estate it is even better and will continue to be the choice of many fleet drivers as it offers them the best of all worlds.
We drove various engines and the most impressive was the extremely quiet and powerful 2.0 TDI with 170bhp.
I spoke to Gerhard Mauter, who is head of ergonomics and haptics at Audi AG, and he told me that having the right touch, feel and sound on all components is now paramount.
Switches are tested 100,000 times, rotation buttons – such as those used on radios and heaters – 500,000 times, but the MMI control is now rotated and pressed more than a million times before it is passed off for production, with all of them not only working correctly, but sounding and feeling the same after so much use.