Believe it or not, this week marks the middle of 2020. That’s right, we’re already half way through what must go down as one of the strangest years in recent memory.
However, while there here and now is a little unusual to put it mildly, this time-based idea got us thinking, and we dug out our Top Five classic cars celebrating their birthdays this year.
What’s more, we’ve lined them up with their modern-day production or concept successors to see how far things have come. On that topic, if you haven’t already signed up for our free Automotive Safety and Security Online event, please feel free to do that below.
Here are our Top Five picks:
#1 – Renault Clio – 30 years old
Cast your mind back to 1990… you’d be listening to songs like Madonna’s Vogue, Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins, or perhaps cranking up Sinead O’Connor’s cover of Prince’s classic Nothing Compares 2U.
As for cars, if you were lucky you might catch sight of a brand-new Honda NSX in 1990, but, if you were in Europe at the time, you’d be very likely to see plenty of new Renault Clios running around. Launched at the Paris Motor Show, the Clio replaced the ageing Renault 5.
The fifth generation Clio was recently launched, bringing with it new ADAS functions including auto city braking, and an E-TECH PHEV version. This uses a rear-mounted 1.2kWh battery to power two e-motors that supplement the ICE. It’s built on the CMF-B platform, which we covered in our EV Platform’s Top Five just last week.
#2 – Fiat Panda – 40 years old
One of designer Giorgetto Giugiaro’s classics, the original Fiat Panda arrived in 1980 as a response to Fiat’s quest to create a then-modern rival to utilitarian cars like the Citroen 2CV or Renault 4.
The Panda was super simple, and launched to great success at the Geneva Motor Show of that year. It also spawned the first mass-produced electric car 10 years later. The Fiat Panda Elletra had a range of 62 miles from its 12 lead-acid batteries, powering its 9.2kW motor. A 1992 update brought a 17.7kW motor and a switch to NiCad power.
Fast forward to today, and Fiat created the excellent Centoventi concept, which appeared at the 2019 Swiss show.
Called 120 in Italian, in reference to Fiat’s 120th birthday in 2019, the car previews modular personalisation options that will be part of the next Panda’s makeup, along with modular batteries to extend the EV’s range from 62 miles up to 311 miles.
#3 – Audi Quattro – 40 years old
Sharing its birthday with the Panda, the Audi Quattro also made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in 1980. Designed to take advantage of four-wheel drive being allowed for Audi’s factory rally team, the Quattro road car remained in production for 11 years.
Today, the Quattro lends its name to any Audi with any kind of four or all-wheel drive system. That includes the Audi e-tron Quattro electric SUV, launched in 2018.
The EV has a total output of 408hp, and completes the 0-62mph sprint in 5.7 seconds. The Ur-Quattro meanwhile, featured a more modest 200hp, and could reach 62mph from a standstill in 7.1 seconds.
#4 – Citroen SM – 50 years old
Winding the clock back another decade, 1970 saw the debut of not one but two new Citroens. The economy class Citroen GS slotted into the range between the 2CV and Ami, while the larger, sportier SM – complete with oleo pneumatic self-levelling suspension and swivelling headlights – was the firm’s flagship car.
Citroen no-longer competes in the premium segment, but has just launched its latest C4, which competes in the price-conscious C-segment, but comes with features that would have been seen as out of this world in 1970.
This includes an e-C4 with a 136hp electric motor, 50kWh battery, and range of just under 200 miles, Citroen’s latest infotainment and safety tech, plus the firm’s hydraulic cushion suspension and ‘Advanced Comfort’ seats to mimic the plush ride of its predecessors.
#5 – VW Type 2 – 70 years old
Last but by no means least on our list is the VW Type 2 – or the Transporter, Kombi or Bus, depending on where you’re from. Famously inspired by a converted Type 1 (Beetle) chassis that was being used to carry parts around VW’s factory, the Type 2 has become a cult classic that lives on to this day.
The Bus was especially popular in the US, where VW’s reputation has been most directly hit by the dieselgate scandal. In a move to restore some goodwill, VW announced the ID BUZZ concept, which previews a new, EV Bus, due in 2022.
Built on the firm’s MEB platform, the new van will feature a 369hp output from two e-motors that power all four wheels, and an electric range of up to 373 miles.
BMW X3 M Modified By Tuner Has Pure Rear-Wheel-Drive Mode
Thanks to the clever manipulation of on-board computers, tuners can change far more than just the power output of your car. Modern cars rely heavily on computers to control virtually every aspect of the vehicle including the drivetrain, infotainment, and safety features to name a few. These computer systems make it hard for the average car owner to work on their vehicle, however, it opens up a world of opportunity for tuners. Take for example the high-performance BMW X3 M, which now has a rear-wheel-drive mode thanks to the clever tuners at Mission Performance.
It’s fairly commonplace to see tuners adding impressive horsepower to turbocharged engines with a simple tune file, but a new market is slowly emerging. Now with greater computer-integration, tuners can access more aspects of a vehicle. Tuners can add flex-fuel capabilities to allow cars to run e85 ethanol, reprogram automatic transmissions, and even change how your brake lights react to different brake pressure. Although these features are impressive; Mission Performance has changed the game allowing X3 M owners to change their all-wheel-drive SUV into a rear-wheel-drive drift missile at the flip of a switch.
This new tune feature is currently in progress while the team works to refine the tune before releasing it to the public. This new feature is offered from the factory on the BMW M5 and M8 so it’s certainly within BMW’s capabilities to offer this from the factory, however, they choose not to add this feature to the X3 M. Mission Performance is here to make things right and offer owners the option to have a rear-wheel-drive BMW performance SUV.
The results are predictably amazing as the X3 M completes some impressive donuts without any intervention from the front wheels. This ability offers the best of both worlds and allows you to enjoy the benefits of all-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive with the flip of a switch.
Chinese truck maker making big moves in Mexico
Global manufacturer Shacman Trucks recently expanded into Mexico, aiming for the Class 6-8 market for heavy- and medium-duty trucks.
The company is creating a distribution and service network throughout Mexico, and plans to open a truck assembly plant within a year or two, said Carlos Pardo, chief executive officer of Shacman Mexico.
“My responsibility goes from Mexico to the United States to Canada. And our plan is to start in Mexico, set a strong footprint in Mexico and from here start going up north,” Pardo said from Mexico City. “We are planning to assemble vehicles in Mexico to meet the specifications of the [United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement].”
Shacman Trucks is based in Xi’an, China. The company, known as Shaanxi Heavy Duty Automobile Co. in China, is one of the largest truck manufacturers and dealers in that country, according to its website.
The company has factories in 13 countries, around 35,000 employees worldwide, and 100 dealerships in countries throughout Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America.
Shacman launched in Mexico in December, when Pardo came aboard as CEO. Prior to joining Shacman, Pardo had been the CEO of Navistar Mexico since 2011.
The company plans to develop an assembly plant in Mexico sometime in the next two years, Pardo said.
“We’re going to start with a small assembly line and grow from there, step by step,” Pardo said. “We are in the process of looking logistically at what will be the best place to be located, in terms of suppliers, customers, finding the best spot.”
Currently there are only two truck manufacturers in Mexico, including Daimler Trucks North America, which produces its Freightliner Cascadia in the cities of Saltillo and Santiago, and Navistar, which has a large truck assembling operation in the city of Escobedo.
Shacman’s products include military off-road vehicles, heavy-duty trucks, medium- and light-duty trucks, medium and large coaches and buses, mini vehicles, mini vehicle axles, Cummins engines, heavy-duty axles and various vehicle components.
“In Mexico, we are starting with two type of trucks — a Class 8 truck in different applications, tractor trucks, mixers, heavy duty; and also a medium-sized truck,” Pardo said.
The two trucks — the Shacman X3000 and Shacman L3000 — can be configured with a diesel engine, concentrated natural gas (CNG) engine or liquefied natural gas (LNG) engine.
“Our strategy is to be the number one natural gas engine option in the country,” Pardo said. “The three main [truck] players in the market don’t have a [CNG] option, or if they have an option, it’s a modified truck or it is very expensive, and doesn’t fit the necessities of the market.”
Shacman has opened or will soon have dealerships/distributors in Mexico City, Monterrey (northern Mexico), Guadalajara, Veracruz and Bajío (central Mexico) by the end of year.
“The most important thing is that we are developing all the service points throughout the country in order to make sure that our trucks can be served and maintained, wherever they are,” Pardo said.
Pardo said the coronavirus pandemic has slowed the company’s plans, but Shacman remains focused on growing the dealer network and brand awareness across North America.
“Right now our focus is Mexico, but we do see opportunities in the U.S. and Canada,” Pardo said. “We want to set a firm foot in Mexico first, gain a reputation of quality, gain a reputation of profitability for our customers, set up our manufacturing facility, then we’ll start exploring going north.”
Geofencing data: Less-than-truckload boost carries into June
Less-than-truckload (LTL) volumes continued to improve throughout May and into the first week of June, said Deutsche Bank (NYSE: DB) analyst Amit Mehrotra in a note to clients.
He reported that in the first week of June, LTL activity levels improved 7% versus the average levels seen in May and were up 8% compared to the last week of May. Mehrotra believes that Old Dominion Freight Line (NASDAQ: ODFL) and SAIA (NASDAQ: SAIA) outperformed the average increase and UPS (NYSE: UPS) and YRC Worldwide (NASDAQ: YRCW) underperformed.
The investment firm has mapped approximately 1,000 LTL service sites, providing it with a high-frequency geolocation dataset for the LTL industry. The geofencing data covers all regions for major public and private LTL carriers, including all of Old Dominion’s more than 200 facilities. The week-by-week analysis evaluates shipment trends for both regional and national carriers. The note said that the firm hasn’t mapped XPO Logistics’ (NYSE: XPO) facilities yet.
The regional data showed “sharp inflections.” The Midwest saw activity improve 19% and the Northeast climbed 28% in the first week of June compared to the last week of May. The data shows that activity “stabilized at lower levels” in the Southwest.
The PMI, a survey of manufacturing supply executives, jumped 9.5 percentage points in June to a level of 52.6%. A reading above 50% implies expansion in the U.S. manufacturing sector. This was the second consecutive monthly improvement in the survey. The New Orders Index increased 24.6 percentage points from May to 56.4%, with the Production Index climbing 24.1 percentage points to 57.3%.
Manufactured goods can represent nearly 85% of total tonnage for some LTL carriers.
The early June data is a continuation of a meaningful recovery from the COVID-19-induced lows seen in April. Many LTL carriers highlighted improving tonnage and revenue trends from April to May in their midquarter reports.
ArcBest Corp. (NASDAQ: ARCB) and Old Dominion reported year-over-year revenue declines of around 20% in April and in the mid- to high teens in May. SAIA reported a 12.9% year-over-year decline in April tonnage, with May tonnage down only 8.8%. SAIA doesn’t provide midquarter yield metrics.
“Our observations are positive for our overall bullish stance on LTL industry and pricing dynamics, with our top picks remaining XPO and SAIA, and only valuation keeping us on the sidelines with respect to ODFL,” concluded Mehrotra.
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