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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.