Geneva 2017 – l’Insolite Part 1

Not so much Geneva bites, more nibbles from a show which wasn’t short of substantial fare.

Image: autovia-media

There was a Vauxhall at Geneva!

And rightly so. The one-nation marque, which few people outside the UK even realise exists, outdid Jeep, MINI, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Honda, Suzuki and Mitsubishi for sales across the entire EU zone in 2016.

Image: autovia-media

This Insignia Grand Sport even got its own totem, and may have a unique status as a left hand drive Vauxhall. Griffin-badged engine shields don’t seem to be on stream yet either, as the underbonnet view shows.

Image: autovia-media

A Mazda I nearly missed

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The MX-5 RF is here, and I’m rather taken. The folding metal roof is undeniably clever – typical of Mazda to come up with an exceptionally well executed example just as the rest of the automotive world has given up on the idea.

What really captivates me is the look of the thing.  From some angles it’s like a modern Opel GT, from others it’s a revival of sixties Japanese sports cars which largely existed in the imagination.

Karl-Thomas Neumann has a Diplomat

Image: autovia-media

The marathon-running classic car fiend at the head of Opel is no lifelong GM man, having arrived in March 2013 after illustrious careers at VAG, Continental and Motorola.

Image: Motor1

His personal car choice is a perfect statement of loyalty to his new company. It is one of the rarest of Opels, the Karmann-built Diplomat A coupe, and is the last of 347 produced.

Image: Motor1

Lest the cynical imagine it’s merely borrowed from the company museum, Neumann tracked it down to a seller in the Netherlands and bought it personally.  The only engine ever offered was a 227bhp 327ci Chevrolet Smallblock, and the car it powers is an extraordinary mix of American muscle and German precision.

Image: Motor1

I suspect that the car has possessed Neumann, rather than the other way round. At the press conference he declared the new Insignia Grand Sport to be the spiritual successor to the Kapitan / Admiral / Diplomat series.

Hubristic delusion or a statement of intent for a company with an uncertain future? I hope it’s the latter.

Above all the new Jeep Compass is…

Image: autovia-media

A Punto. Or even a Corsa…

That may be stretching a point, but FCA have stretched the platform. The Fiat / GM ‘Small’/SCCS underpinnings have been given a 70mm wheelbase extension over the Renegade. The 2640mm distance between the wheels matches the Nuova Tipo, but the Compass is far more imposing, as well as avoiding its predecessor’s awkward attempt to appear avant-garde with its clumsy wheel arch contrivance and concealed door handles.

Image: autovia-media

In Jeep’s price structure, the Compass fits between the Renegade and the Cherokee – these days a high-riding Giulietta. Where its constituency lies is another matter. I’m thinking those who find a Cashcow too mainstream, and others who might have gone for a Freelander, but find the Discovery Sport beyond their reach.

17 thoughts on “Geneva 2017 – l’Insolite Part 1”

  1. What is the point of volume?

    Vauxhall may shift lots of metal but they don’t make any money doing so, and supposedly 80% plus of Insignia sales are to fleets. So now there are thousands and thousands of ex-fleet diesel Insignias polluting our cities, because this is what the market is offering used car buyers who just want something capable and relatively inexpensive to run.

    Down on GME as I am, I like what Mazda is doing a lot, but the MX5 RF is not a winner in my eyes. The fake side window is unspeakable, and apparently the roof design causes buffeting and turbulence when down, so isn’t really that clever. The soft top is the one.

  2. Volume plus a small profit per car equals a big number. Opel/Vauxhall find themselves permanently on the wrong side of the red line. If Alfa has lost the volume trick, Opel – despite major improvements – has found itself running only to slip back. If I were them I’d go after longer warranties, carry-over warranties, free servicing and 250,000 mile spares support. I’d get into the heritage game too: restoration on site at Russelsheim and priviliges for classic Opel owners. This is about emphasising quality and durability.

  3. I don’t know whether some work has been undertaken on the site, or whether there have been improvements at my end, but I can now see things properly on my work laptop after at least 6 months of reduced functionality and ugly rendering! Either way … I rejoice!

    Back to the plot, and a post somewhere else called the new Insignia GT/ estate … ‘the new Citroen C5’, which I think carries a point. I am still struggling with the rear side window/ pillar treatment (to anyone who has seen one in the metal, is that a rear window or one of those awful blanking plates that does its best to ruin the MX-5 RF, by which I am otherwise bewitched?)

    1. sorry, just realised, it’s a GS, not a GT. Stupid moniker, either way for what is a big hatchback.

  4. Apologies for repeating myself, but I feel obliged (yet again) to point out what a decent job Herr Neumann has done since arriving at Rüsselsheim. For the first time in ages (or ever?), Opel has a proper leader, someone who has a vision for the company and promotes it with some perseverance. His successors – or at least, the ones appointed over the past 15 years or so – on the other hand appeared to be mere representatives of GM, rather than executives truly in charge of the company.

    But most importantly, Neumann did a splendid job of shedding the veil of embarrassment that has dragged Opel down for so long.

    1. I agree. He seems to love the company which is an important attitude. I think Opel is fielding a good and consistent set of cars. Adams and Ward have overseen some great shapes.

    2. ‘Predecessors’, rather than ‘successors’, obviously.

      Yes, Richard, Mark Adams is one of the more underrated people in the industry. And I also like that he isn’t as gibberish-prone as many of his peers.

    3. It seems Carlos T is very much a Neumann fan.

      This from ANE: At a press conference announcing the deal, Tavares said: “It is our intention to make sure Mr. Neumann continues the excellent work he has been doing. We trust that he will be in the best position to lead the turnaround and a profitable future for Opel.”

  5. Brexit came at the wrong moment for Vauxhall. I believe theý´d have posted a profit otherwise. In the long run I think this´ll go down as another stain on GM´s apron. It is also a remarkable act of corporate treachery. The Opel people have doubtless worked hard in management and on the lines to up their game and what they get is to be thrown under the bus so GM can stumble back to its corporate addiction, trucks.
    I don´t think Clarkson can have all the blamed pinned on his broad shoulders. However, he did make it possible for a type of car journalism that dismissed serious products and emphasised cars intended for what is really a small minority. This month´s unbought issue of Car is full of gazillion dollar cars I have no interest in while a raft of new cars with each their own interesting points and failures goes unreported.

  6. The Opel underbonnet markings on the Insignia remind me of the especially byzantine process that marked out GM’s global offerings in the 1990s. Holden took the decision to import the Frontera from Luton, equipped with the Family II engine that they themselves manufactured and exported to be fitted to European Fronteras. It was still somewhat bemusing to see our local-market cars come complete with an Opel badge on the rocker cover.

  7. In some ways then, these Jeep CUV’s are the ‘new’ larger Fiats. One can see some logic in this, but I’m not sure the Jeep name is one that resonates with many in this part of the World. Not according to the sales figures anyway.

    A question. Why couldn’t Mazda simply have made the RF a closed coupe and be done with it? With a fixed roof and side quarter glazing it would be just about perfect.

    I’m guessing that Mr. T doesn’t have a pristine 504 coupe stashed away – he doesn’t seem the type.

    1. A price study of the Fiat and Jeep ranges would be interesting, taking into account the body sizes. Fiat have seven cars of which two are the Punto (it still exists) and the Spyder of which I have seen none on the street. Jeep have five vehicles. Fiat´s range is mostly smallish things plus the new Tipo which comes as an estate, five door and saloon. The saloon is €1000 cheaper than the hatchback – isn´t that the reverse of what you´d expect? I suppose the price reflects the relative demand. Not having a Fiesta/Polo competitor (a viable one) must really dent sales overall. These size cars are regular top ten sellers and the Punto is nowwhere near there. How many do they sell? Down from 260,000 in 2010 to 62,000 in 2016. That´s not as bad as I though but still far from excellent. Actually, isn´t it quite something people still buy that many of them? Who are these people?

    2. 62,000 Punto’s? That’s White Hen territory. It’s also in advance of what Clarence the crosseyed MiTo manages. Of course, one could reasonably argue that all the really hardcore action is taking place in the CUV party-room. ‘Do you crossover’?, the hostess asks in a voice that reaches for sultry, but falls several octaves (or should that be Octavia’s?) short.

    3. “Actually, isn´t it quite something people still buy that many of them? Who are these people?”

      One imagines that a terrifying proportion are straight-to-fleet, flat-white-steelie spec, unloaded at VERY substantial discounts.

  8. I always admired the KAD cars. In the U.K. We got the Cresta – alternately flashy or lumpy – and in Germany they had those fine looking things. And to make it even worse they put a big V 8 into some.

    So hats off to Neumann for his appreciation and commitment. And I hope he has at least a few years before the tightwads at PSA start interfering with his good works.

    1. That Diplomat sums up the spirit of 60s Germany for me. I’d be happy to spend the next 20 years living in 1959-1979.
      The two door has a very fine interior as well. Fords did not come close – apart from Mercedes, did anyone? Borgward?

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