Table of contents:
- Volkswagen diesel scandal
- GM bankruptcy
- Carlos Ghosn
- Top Gear and The Grand Tour
- Bugatti Veyron and others (1000-horsepower hypercars)
- How Porsche almost bought VW, but it turned out the other way around
- Greatest Pilots: Schumacher and Loeb
- Recalling millions of cars due to airbags
- China is the number 1 market in the world
2020 is a beautiful number that marks the first 20 years of the 21st century. The automotive industry is not developing as rapidly as the modern world of IT and social networks, but even here an incredible number of events have happened in twenty years. Whole companies were born and died, amazing people appeared and left, and the cars themselves finally ceased to be just means of transportation. We recall the 10 most important events that have gone into these 20 years.
Volkswagen diesel scandal
In September 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suddenly discovered that Volkswagen was reducing the level of harmful emissions of cars with diesel engines dozens of times. And intentionally. It was about the EA189 engine family - cars with such units have been sold in the United States since 2008, they were equipped with both Volkswagen and Audi cars.
Within a few days after the publication of the shocking data, events around and within the automaker began to develop at the speed of light. The head of the concern, Martin Winterkorn, promptly resigned, a number of VW top managers also did not stay in their positions, and some were prosecuted and went to prison. For example, one of the heads of the American division of the company, Oliver Schmidt, received seven years in prison in connection with Dieselgate, and the ex-head of Audi, Rupert Stadler, was brought against several serious charges.
During the investigation, it turned out that the Germans used several versions of special software to underestimate the real indicators. The car was equipped with deceptive software that recognized the beginning of bench tests in specialized organizations and underestimated the level of emissions. However, it did not always correctly determine the environment and was turned on, for example, on ordinary roads by real users, which led to increased wear of the particulate filter. Later, the deceptive "software" on VW cars was updated and learned to recognize the movements of the steering wheel, and, based on this data, turned on and off the "snag".
As a result, it turned out that the Germans were cheating with 11 million cars around the world. The concern's losses as a result of Dieselgate exceeded 30 billion euros, which were spent on fines and recall campaigns that even affected Russia: in 2016, almost 43 thousand diesel Volkswagens were sent for service in our country.
The "diesel scandal" has also caught on other automakers. In particular, the German authorities checked Daimler, BMW and Opel, Renault fell under the distribution from French officials, but they did not find any deceptive "software" in the cars of this brand. It is much more important that after the "diesel gate" the authorities of European cities have intensified their efforts to ban cars with internal combustion engines. Paris and Amsterdam are going to completely ban the entry of vehicles with gasoline and diesel engines into the city from 2030. This, in turn, has accelerated the development of electric vehicles by almost all major manufacturers.
The global economic crisis of 2007-2008 hit almost all large companies, especially in the United States. The largest American automakers also took a hard hit. However, General Motors faced the most serious problems.
The increase in fuel prices, not the most competitive line, unprofitable assets - all this led to the fact that in 2008, at the height of the crisis, the largest car manufacturer on the planet at that time became completely unwell. To begin with, the company tried to close factories and lay off staff, but this did not help improve the financial condition.
In November 2008, the value of General Motors on the stock exchange fell to a historic low over the previous 65 years: the price of one share fell below three dollars.In early December of the same year, the head of the concern, Rick Wagoner, in the company of top managers from Chrysler and Ford, came to Washington to ask for help. And the US authorities provided it: GM received $ 13.4 billion for the rescue.
But even such serious state support did not help: in March, Wagoner left the post of head of General Motors, and in June 2009 the automaker began bankruptcy proceedings. And here the US and Canadian authorities decided to join the process in full. The concern was provided with another $ 30 billion from the budget in exchange for 72 percent of the shares (60 percent for the United States and 12 percent for Canada), Edward Whitaker, the ex-head of the telecommunications giant AT&T, became the chairman of the board of directors, and the concern began to actively get rid of unprofitable assets: so ended the history of the brands Saturn and Hummer, and Saab, although it tried to show signs of life, but already barely noticeable.
It is noteworthy that Chrysler and Ford did not get to the state ownership. Chrysler also filed for bankruptcy, but eventually merged with Fiat, and Ford completely refused the government loan, sold Volvo to the Chinese company Geely, Jaguar Land Rover to the Indian Tate and survived the crisis at its own expense, remaining afloat.
In the 21st century, many stars have flashed (and gone out) in the automotive industry: Dieter Zetsche, Ferdinand Pich, Alan Mulally, Sergio Marchionne. However, none of them can boast the same impressive success as the ex-head of the Renault-Nissan alliance Carlos Ghosn.
The Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese roots rose to prominence when he conceived and implemented a plan to get Nissan off its knees early in the last decade. By Ghosn's arrival, the automaker was working at a loss and mired in debt, and then released the Nissan Qashqai - a car that changed the market once and for all: crossovers owe their popularity to him. And then he teamed up with the French auto giant Renault, creating a powerful alliance that is represented in all key markets of the world.
Ghosn's methods are harsh and merciless. Massive cuts, renegotiation of conditions for suppliers and optimization, optimization and optimization again. Working under Carlos's direction is probably another adventure. However, it is pointless to deny his achievements: under Gona, Renault-Nissan became one of the largest automakers in the world, agreed on a strategic partnership with Daimler, took control of the distressed Mitsubishi Motors company …
But the beautiful fairy tale came to an end: in 2019, Carlos Ghosn was arrested and placed under house arrest. The businessman was accused of financial fraud and abuse of office. Naturally, he denies all charges. The list of crimes imputed to Ghosn, for example, is the payment of his own wedding in Versailles in 2018 at the expense of Renault.
And the whole story with the persecution of Ghosn was initiated by Nissan top managers, who actively expressed their dissatisfaction with the upcoming transformation of the Renault-Nissan alliance into a single company, most of the positions in the leadership of which were to go to natives of Renault. The Japanese manufacturer conducted a secret internal investigation into its own boss and turned over the results to the Japanese prosecutor's office. There they became interested in the documents, and as soon as Carlos flew in on business in Tokyo, he was detained right at the airport. After several months under house arrest, Ghosn broke down and fled.
At the end of December 2019, the ex-head of Renault-Nissan managed to fly out of Japan, presumably under a false name and with the help of private military companies, and then made his way to Lebanon. At the time of publication of this article, Carlos is in the homeland of his ancestors and gives interviews about his misadventures, which, of course, does not suit the Japanese authorities very much.
Top Gear and The Grand Tour
Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May fans are most likely aware of this story. For the rest, let us recall the chronology of events.
In March 2015, after a long and very difficult day of shooting for Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson did not find a hot dinner that evening, which infuriated him. The presenter considered one of the producers of the show, 36-year-old Oisin Taimon, to be guilty of the lack of food. Clarkson resolved the issue radically: he had a fight with the producer, called him "lazy Irish ass" and then punched him in the face.
The BBC, which is the copyright holder of TopGear, did not accept this behavior of the presenter, and the show was suspended. Clarkson, despite his later apologies, was kicked out of Top Gear. May and Hammond left with him.
The temporarily unemployed were instantly sheltered by the Internet giant Amazon, inviting the "holy trinity" to make a new car show for Amazon Prime subscribers. The British did not refuse the offer, taking with them Andy Wilman - a man who was always behind the scenes, but was directly related to the plots and stories that made the Top Gear show legendary. As a result, The Grand Tour quickly became one of the most popular car shows in the world, and Top Gear, which changed several leading rosters, never regained its former ratings.
In the summer of 2003, Martin Eberhard and Mark Tarpenning founded TeslMotors with the clear intention of proving to the world that electric cars are not just cool toys, but the inevitable future of humanity. And this is against the background of the General Motors concern, which was just closing the EV1 project - the first serial electric car, in fact generating only colossal losses.
As part of the first round of investments, which took place in February 2004, the very same Elon Musk appeared in the life of Tesl, who took over as chairman of the board of directors of a small company. In 2008, the first model debuted: an electric sports car with the uncomplicated name of the Roadster. It was built on the basis of the Lotus Elise, equipped with a fully electric power plant. The roadster did not produce the effect of an exploding bomb, having sold about 2,500 units, but was popular with some public characters. And in 2012, the Model S appeared - and away we go.
The electric car has collected countless awards, fought on equal terms for buyers with cars from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, and in the Scandinavian countries it became the best-selling car on the market. Tesla's own evangelists began to appear everywhere, the world's first network of fast charging stations (first on the route from the east to the west coast of the United States) was launched, which were free to customers. Teslas were the first to drive using some kind of autopilot, although they got into very unpleasant situations because of this. The company was the first in the world to abandon dealerships and sell cars directly through its own showrooms - almost like Apple at the dawn of its history.
Today Tesl is no longer a small company created by enthusiasts, but a huge business worth over $ 70 billion. There are already three mass models in the manufacturer's line-up, total sales have exceeded 500 thousand cars a year, and soon a compact crossover and a futuristic Cybertruck pickup truck will appear, a copy of which is already being sold on Avto.ru.
Bugatti Veyron and others (1000-horsepower hypercars)
In 2005, the world of luxury, fast and exclusive cars changed once and for all - the Bugatti Veyron was born. A hypercar created on the personal order of Ferdinand Pich, the then head of the Volkswagen concern, which owns the French brand. A car for which, at the time of its development, there were neither suitable fuel pumps, nor capable of withstanding the required power of the gearbox, nor even tires that would not explode at speeds in excess of 400 km / h.
The Veyron was equipped with an eight-liter W16 engine with two turbines. The output of the unit is 1001 horsepower and 1250 Nm of torque. The price tag is appropriate - more than two million dollars per copy.
They say that on the documents with the terms of reference, Pich wrote the phrase "world domination" with his own hand. And when the hypercar came out, Pikh achieved what he wanted - there were no cooler road cars at that time.And it is thanks to this car that the history of the hypercar segment was divided into "before and after Veyron."
If before a car with a capacity of 500-600 hp seemed almost a racing technique, it is better not to drive without a helmet and a will, then in 2019 even 1000 hp. are no longer perceived as something incredible. Models that have crossed this mark have been pouring out of a cornucopia for 20 years: Koenigsegg, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG, Aston Martin, Lotus and other brands have joined the race for power and speed. And it's not a fact that the next mark of 2000 horsepower will be crossed by a car that will have at least some semblance of a traditional internal combustion engine under the hood.
How Porsche almost bought VW, but it turned out the other way around
It may sound incredible, especially when you consider the size and value of the companies, but in 2005, Porsche did almost take control of the entire Volkswagen group. Yes, the small sports car manufacturer from Stuttgart almost became the owner of the multi-brand giant, which sold orders of magnitude more cars.
The purchase of a controlling stake in Volkswagen was the most ambitious project of the then head of Porsche, Vindelin Wiedeking. The purchase of securities began in 2005, and in 2008 the share of Porsche has already exceeded 50 percent! The procedure was hampered by the adoption by the authorities of Lower Saxony of a special law that protected VW from a takeover - and while Porsche was trying to solve a sudden problem through the courts, a global financial crisis occurred, the sports car manufacturer ran out of money, and lenders refused to provide additional loans.
In May 2009, Porsche stopped trying to take control of Volkswagen. Instead, the company agreed to a merger with the concern. However, Ferdinand Pich, who was then head of VW, entered the scene and refused to merge. He motivated this by the fact that Porsche first should have dealt with debts, which by that time had reached nine billion euros. No new creditors were found, Porsche did not have enough own funds to buy Volkswagen shares and, taking advantage of the moment, Pih started the process in the opposite direction. First, the sports car manufacturer received a loan of 700 million euros from the concern, and in December 2009 VW bought 49.9 percent of Porsche's shares.
After VW became the owner of Porsche, several investment funds sued the management of the Stuttgart company, accusing them of losses in the amount of two billion euros, which appeared due to an unsuccessful attempt to buy VW and the funds spent on it. The career of the genius Wiedeking, who overestimated his strength, is over.
Greatest Pilots: Schumacher and Loeb
The first 20 years of the 21st century gave us two of the greatest race car drivers in history: Sebastien Loeb and Michael Schumacher. The latter became the most titled driver in F1, and the Frenchman turned the WRC World Rally Championship into his own monocup, without losing the title to anyone from 2004 to 2012. Yes, nine consecutive World Cup victories!
After successes in the rally, Loeb got bored and he went to conquer the circuit races and the Dakar. There, Sebastien did not achieve such significant successes, however, you cannot call his performance in other series a failure: two Dakar podiums and two third places at the end of the season in the WTCC are not bad at all.
Schumacher has two less titles, but in Formula 1. And the German, unlike the French, achieved success in two different teams: he won a couple of titles at Benetton, and the remaining five at Ferrari.
In 2013, after the end of his career, the German fell unsuccessfully while skiing and received a serious head injury. After that, he was in a coma for a long time and there is still no reliable data on his condition.
Recalling millions of cars due to airbags
This story began in 2008, when four thousand Hond cars with defective airbags were sent to the United States for repairs. But the story with the defective components of Takata received really wide publicity only in 2013, when more than three million cars had already left for repairs.And the problem was that instead of rescuing the airbags … they killed.
The reason was the poor design of the squibs. The device, directly responsible for the deployment of the pillows during an accident, exploded incorrectly, scattering into small metal pieces - and all this fired at the passengers in the cabin.
In this whole story, several details look frightening at once. First, defective airbags have been installed on cars since the late 1990s. Secondly, Takata had a huge number of customers, and this list includes not only mass automakers like Honda, but also companies that produce very expensive cars. For example, Ferrari.
Thirdly, the reviews due to the products of the Japanese company continue to this day, and it is not clear when they will end.
At the moment, it is known that due to defective pillows around the world, about 30 people died and about three hundred were injured. When in doubt which pillows are in your car, check your car for recall campaigns. You can do this directly on Avto.ru.
China is the number 1 market in the world
At the beginning of the 21st century in China, annual sales did not reach a million cars, and then there was no question of any dominance. The American market, which at that time ranked first on the planet, was 29 times larger.
But then an economic boom began in China, and the authorities did everything to attract foreign manufacturers: they reduced taxes on small cars, allowed all the world's auto giants into the country (albeit only if production was localized with the participation of local companies and the transfer of all documentation and rights in China) etc. The companies willingly agreed - in the hope of spilling the local population, not yet accustomed to cars. And it worked!
In 2009, the Chinese car market showed 51.7 percent growth. In 2010, car sales increased by another 50.6 percent, breaking the mark of 15 million cars a year! All this allowed the Chinese to come out on top in the global ranking, overtaking the United States, and to this day the leadership of the Chinese car market remains unshakable: in 2018, more than 28 million new cars were sold in the country! In America, it is several million less.
True, today the market in China seems to be saturated, government support has decreased, and sales for the first time in 28 years began to fall. However, even with these inputs, only in October 2019, 1,931,000 cars were sold in the PRC. For understanding: in Russia less is sold per year.