Poles Apart on Piccadilly

Two recent arrivals to the capital have helped underline the yawning chasm that exists between London’s Green Park and Piccadilly Circus. We take a sniff at both. 

An Image from the ARES Design website

Everywhere you go, the centre ground is crumbling, most notably on our high streets. As the mid-market vanishes, our thoroughfares are being transformed. Recently, I took a stroll down London’s Piccadilly; historically host to a number of car showrooms. Today it’s home to two, illustrating in its own way just how stratified the auto market has become.

Occupying showroom space next to Green Park Tube is ARES Design; the Great Bahar’s latest automotive adventure. Carrrozzeria or customiser? Possibly a bit of both – their website billing them as an ‘exclusive automotive atelier’. It goes on to state; “ARES was founded by pioneers in the international trade of luxury vehicles and visionaries of proven, award winning super sports car design. Our aim: to redefine automotive excellence.”

ARES' showroom at 77 Piccadilly. Image via motortrader
ARES’ showroom at 77 Piccadilly. Image via motortrader

Naturally you are burning to be appraised of ARES’ unicorn status and I can reliably inform you in the affirmative. ARES’ website previews concepts for SUV versions of Bentley’s Flying Spur and Mulsanne, Mercedes-Benz’s G-Wagon – (itself an SUV, but anyway) – and Rolls Royce’s Ghost. SUVs now being universally acknowledged as sports cars, there’s clearly no conflict with ARES’ mission statement. None I tell you. However, with Dany’s recent history, the likelihood of any of the above seeing the light of day probably isn’t brilliant.

Unicorn ahoy! ARES concept Rolls Royce Ghost SUV. Nice.
Unicorn ahoy! ARES concept Rolls Royce Ghost SUV. Noice.

Nevertheless, ARES is the distillation of Eau de Bahar. Expensive, ephemeral, and devoid of substance. If unlimited personalisation is your wont, Dany can make it happen – in the virtual realm at least. Earlier this year, Autocar’s Steve Cropley described ARES’ business model as genius, but frankly, the once authoritative antipodean has never been the same since that bump on the head.

Nothing wrong with the MG6's looks. Image via crazy4cars
Nothing wrong with the MG6’s looks. Image via crazy4cars

Down the less fashionable end of Piccadilly, clinging on in quiet despair lies MG’s London showroom. MG, lest you need to be reminded represents the charred remains of MGRover’s inglorious firesale. Now owned and operated by SAIC Motors, MGs are built in China, then shipped to Longbridge for final assembly and a quick slap of local aftershave, before being offered like day old crumpets to a largely apathetic public.

MG’s current model range consists of MG6, based on a stillborn Rover platform and originally powered by a development of Rover’s K-Series engine. Today it’s SAIC’s 1.9 litre diesel unit or nowt. A not unattractive shape, the MG6 has been summarily dismissed by a vast swathe of the mainstream motoring press, which may or may not be a little unfair. Also available is the supermini sized MG3; a more recent design and one which has faced less of a critical thrashing. Hamstrung by an inefficient 1.5 litre petrol engine, there appears little else wrong with the 3. It comes in some fetching colours and if it’s your style, MINI-style decals. These aren’t bad cars, just not terribly good ones.

The 3 isn't bad either. Image via thisismoney
The 3 isn’t bad either. Image via thisismoney

Part of MG’s problem is apart from a short-lived TV campaign, few potential customers know or care. MG lacks a coherent image and more importantly, much in the way of visibility; a situation the Piccadilly showroom was probably obtained to address. Perhaps having a central London address represents smarter use of MG’s marketing spend than advertising; better minds than mine would have to adjudicate on that. However I view it as flawed thinking – similar to imaging a storied badge and some clichéd iconography will convince the buying public your bought-in crumpets are home-baked. Maybe they should give Swiss-Beatz a call…

And not a unicorn in sight. Image via Autocar
The Great Bahar. Image via Autocar

ARES and MG operate at opposing ends of Piccadilly in every sense of the word. Yet despite this disparity, both fail to convince for similar reasons. Neither makes a clear case for its offering; both it seems hoping the punter will swallow the fluff and not peer too closely behind the curtain. It’s not that I wish either ARES or MG to fail – there are jobs and livelihoods resting upon both businesses survival. More I simply cannot envisage either of them succeeding with their current offerings. Frankly, I fully expect both sites to be otherwise occupied in six month’s time.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. [Dis]content Provider.

7 thoughts on “Poles Apart on Piccadilly”

  1. There must be a horrible lonely feeling to accompany being the front man for a cash furnace like Ares. You have to give the impression of success as huge as the clients’ but know the Excel sheet’s last line is red and the number is big enough to need a wider column.
    Beyond design? That has not much meaning. If you use another abstract noun you can see it’s still meaningless: beyond nude. Beyond tidiness. Beyond function. It only has literal meaning if it is taken to mean “not” or “outside the area of”. Ares- not design. Or: Ares -outside the area of design. If only there was a category that included design but went further. Alas, such a thing is not imaginable. You may as well write “Beyond infinity”.

    1. Wow, really? I had assumed the Malaysian accountants would have killed that showroom early on in the post-Bahar review. Perhaps they’re stuck with a long lease and tough penalties for breaking it. Or perhaps they sell a lot of retro racing livery polo shirts and F1 merchandise to tourists.

  2. I noticed these showrooms when in London for business about a month ago. I must admit I had not put 2 and 2 together re ARSE, sorry, ARES being the latest Bahar bandwagon. This is just a glorified Kahn-type offering without the attitude, isn’t it? At present,the ARES showroom is full of Lamborghini and such like and I had assumed it was just some naff tuning outfit’s pop-up shop squatting in a high class location. Silly me.

    I very much agree with your sentiments re MG. I think the press is being a little unkind, the MG6 is quite handsome in a Korean kind of way, and the MG3 is rather distinctive. Both cars suffer from poor drivetrains and questionable plastics and aspects of design inside, but they are quite cheap. I actually think that the company knows this deep down and the lack of oomph in the marketing reflects a lack of confidence. Perhaps the biggest problem is that they just are not what you expect an MG to look or be like, and so maybe they’d be better dropping the brand in the UK and becoming SAICs instead?

    1. Yes: MG creates a distinct expectation and these cars do not meet that. I know some people working there and that if they could they’d do things differently. SAIC should follow Tata’s lead and let them get on with doing a proper, modern MG. Or else relabel the cars.

  3. I can imagine Project Baharn could survive as a purveyor of luxury & performance car embellishments for the wealthy like Kahn, Mansory and any number of US based custom garages seem to. The Ghost SUV would be possible with some raiding of the X-drive 7-series and X5 parts bins, and a coachbuilt body. But the showroom seems like an unnecessary indulgence.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s