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Sun, Jan 02, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Different regions, different car models

DPA , HAMBURG

Never before has there been such a variety of car models on the international automobile market but despite globalization Europeans, Japanese and Americans have distinctly different taste when it comes to cars.

The major car manufacturers have learned to adapt their vehicles to different national tastes and regulations. Only the premium car market is unaffected.

"A Lexus is admired all over the world. BMW, Mercedes or Audi can sell the same car anywhere and need only change a few nuances," says the marketing chief of Nissan Europe, Mario Canavesi.

"There are niche markets for instance for convertibles or SUVs where the car can be sold on all markets," according to Canavesi.

But the volume is low. If manufacturers want to sell a car to the masses they have to adapt to regional taste.

Nissan in its global portfolio has more than 40 car model ranges with only about a dozen being offered in Europe. In Japan and the US the models are not always offered at the same time.

While there are same similarities between European and Asian models the automobile taste in the US is simply different, according to Canavesi.

Fuel consumption and space still play an insignificant role in the US which means that the cars sold there have a size and fuel consumption that would never sell in Europe.

Automobile researcher Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer from the High School of Gelsenkirchen points out that the limited space in Japan requires compact cars.

The luxury car segment does not produce extra cars for the US or Japan. But adapting the exhaust and lighting system to local regulations is not enough. Audi spokesman Udo Ruegheimer says that the different fuel quality has to be taken into account and the engines adapted accordingly.

BMW spokesman Alfred Broede says that diesel engines are not actively marketed in Asia and North America. The chassis is also adapted to poor road conditions in some countries. BMW and Mercedes sell their luxury S-Class or 7-Series on several continents only in versions with a long wheel base.

Significant regional differences are apparent when it comes to color and extras.

Only three of 100 Cayennes sold in Germany are white. But the figure is nine for Japan, 11 for Latin America and 30 in the Middle East.

Waiting for extras abroad can mean that the car has a long delivery time.

"Customers in the United States are impatient. Nobody there is prepared to take into account long waiting periods," according to BMW spokesman Broede.

"The customer buys the car as it stands in the showroom."

Station wagons generally are only popular in Europe, Broede says. On other markets, especially in Asia, it is an absolute niche product.

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