The past they say is a foreign country. I wouldn’t know about that, but a lot has happened in ten years. Hasn’t it?
It doesn’t seem all that long ago, but through mathematical deduction I can deduce that 2006 is in fact a decade old this year. To further the so much, yet so little has changed analogy, looking at geopolitical events of the year, the big issues at the time remain front page news now. The Middle East, North Korean’s nuclear ambitions, Oil prices, extreme weather; although the International Astronomical Union’s planetary downgrade of Pluto could only realistically be described as a one-off, although the astronomical entity itself was said to be absolutely gutted by the decision.
Earthbound, the automotive industry was enjoying a final fling before the meltdown of Autumn 2008, but events were unfolding nonetheless.
At Wolfsburg, the overarching plotline was the Porsche clan’s attempt to take control of the entire VW group. The lines were being drawn – Piëch versus Pischetsrieder and frankly there could only be one outcome – the anointment of Winterkorn. Yes, heady days before Wendelin Wiedeking’s failed takeover attempt, Piëch’s dramatic downfall and well, you don’t need me to tell you how it unfolded.
Majoring in VW’s advertising that year was the TSI petrol engine, employing VW’s twincharger technology. This advanced 1.4 litre power unit, Autocar’s engine of the year, employed an engine driven supercharger and a turbo, providing both power and economy, but would prove to be short-lived. Diesel of course was cheaper and achieved better results. Nevertheless, the sight of a VW ad featuring the tagline of Low emissions appears grimly ironic now.
Across the Atlantic, speculation was rife that Ford were actively seeking to offload Jaguar, whose losses the Blue Oval were no longer prepared to justify. First they were for sale, then they weren’t. Reports that Henry would bundle in Land Rover to sweeten any putative deal were hotly denied by Bibi Boerio, perhaps Jaguar’s shortest-lived MD, who told reporters; “my priority is to execute the hell out of the stuff that we’ve got…” Execute being the operative word, one assumes.
Speaking of executions, back in 1999, the embattled Fiat Auto chairman, Herbert Dremel was on the verge of killing Lancia entirely. But the marque somehow evaded the woodman’s axe, limping on and in 2006 celebrated its 100th anniversary, which must have been a sombre party. New Fiat Auto MD, Sergio Marchionne however was reportedly a fan of the brand and amid the festivities was the announcement of plans to reintroduce Lancia to UK on back of new models, giving the UK press ample opportunity to wheel out all the usual cliches about rusting Beta’s, frangible Gamma’s and such like. Lancia of course did eventually hobble breathlessly back to Blightly, wearing false moustache and glasses. Nobody was fooled. A decade on, and Marchionne changes the subject when the shield and the flag is mentioned.
In 2006, Daimler-Benz still owned Chrysler, Both Ford and GM were actively looking at radically shrinking their businesses, amid mounting costs and serious losses – neither would do so sufficiently quickly to escape the cataclysm of 2008, although Ford as we know bailed faster and harder. In Britain, while analysts were still picking over the carcass of MG Rover, PSA closed its assembly plant at Ryton – ending a history of car production that encompassed Peugeot, Talbot, and the Rootes marques.
Marcos was making one of its many shortlived comebacks, and Lotus was planning a series of new models – yes, the Great Bahar didn’t have the monopoly on thwarted ambition in Hethel. Of these cars, only one would see the light of day – the 2008 Evora.
While cinema-goers settled down to enjoy the documentary film, ‘Who killed the electric car’; a heartfelt polemic against the craven interest groups who may or may not have conspired to cripple GM’s billion-dollar EV1, few seemed to notice the electric car, far from deceased, was in fact staging a remarkable comeback, thanks to someone called Elon Musk and a bunch of fantastically wealthy venture capitalists and ultimately, the US government. The Lotus-based Tesla Roadster didn’t look like much of a trailblazer at the time, but how the hell could we have known.
Suddenly 2006 seems like a very long time ago.