Cross words nearly upstage crossovers at NY Auto Show
This year's New York International Auto show, which runs through April 12, will stand out among others for two reasons -- the sheer number of new SUVs and crossovers on display and, for a host of very public disagreements between car companies in attendance.autos Updated: Apr 10, 2015 15:28 IST
This year's New York International Auto show, which runs through April 12, will stand out among others for two reasons -- the sheer number of new SUVs and crossovers on display and, for a host of very public disagreements between car companies in attendance.
During a press roundtable on the show's first day attended by Detroit News, Honda's senior vice president for automobile operations at its US unit, John Mendel decided to be refreshingly open when asked about how he felt about Nissan -- its closest direct rival -- and its growing US sales volumes. "I don't really give a damn about Nissan, really I don't," he said before accusing Nissan of manipulating its sales figures via its fleet business.
"They have a whole systematic group of people who go into the dealers on the 20th of the month based on what Nissan needs to beat Honda and forces the dealer to put an additional 10 or 15 rental cars in service."
Nissan denied Mendel's allegations, stating that its US performance is down to consumers buying its cars in greater numbers. "The wide majority of our growth has been due to retail sales gains, not fleet," said Nissan spokesperson David Reuter. However, unlike Honda, Nissan does combine fleet and retail numbers when reporting sales figures.
The bickering wasn't confined to Japanese marques, there were also transatlantic tensions thanks to the latest Lincoln concept car, the Continental, which was unveiled at the show and which got Luc Donckerwolke, Bentley's chief designer, very upset.
Feeling that the concept was very similar to the Bentley Flying Spur, Donckerwolke took to Facebook and posted "Do you want us to send you the product tooling?" on Lincoln head designer David Woodhouse's page.
The comment quickly disappeared but then on his own Facebook page, Donckerwolke wrote "I would have called it a Flying Spur concept and kept the four round lights."
All of which led Stephen Odell, Ford's global marketing head, to step in: "There's no way that we've copied anybody's design," he told Bloomberg. "Our Continental has its own character, its own architecture and its own aspects as a car."
But perhaps the biggest feud came courtesy of Aston Martin who arrived in New York fresh from starting legal proceedings against one-time chief designer Henrik Fisker. Aston felt that Fisker's latest "design study," a one-off car called the Thunderbolt and based on the current Aston Martin Vanquish, had crossed the line in terms of trademarks, design and intellectual property rights.
However, on Wednesday, Aston Martin and Henrik Fisker issued a joint statement reporting that they had swiftly and amicably resolved their differences. Although what the resolution is will remain confidential, it's believed that Fisker has agreed not to put the Thunderbolt into limited production.