Breakfast In Bath

Occasionally I trawl randomly among the newsroom pages of various car manufacturers. What did I find this time?

2018 MG GS: MG Cars UK

The first marginally interesting snippet involves MG Cars. Despite it all, they are selling more and more cars albeit not many more cars.

“More than 4,440 new cars were registered by the iconic MG Motor UK brand in 2017, an increase of around 6% year-on-year, according to the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) released today (4th January 2018). In December alone, MG Motor UK achieved 100 additional unit sales over 2016 figures, thanks largely to the roll-out of the new MG ZS Compact-SUV. ”

Another thing I discovered was thattaking a screen shot using a MacBook Air is a pretty cumbersome process. I won’t go into it but the Windows-based laptop I normally use is a lot easier to use in that regard. That’s why there is a little “x” in the MG picture. It’s a screenshot from my ‘phone.

Image: autocar.com

Other news: VAG cars have almost swept the board in the “most popular cars in Europe” game. VW Ireland will be wondering what they did wrong to let the Hyundai Toucson take the top spot. In Denmark the Peugeot 208 ranks highest among Danes’ affections. In Greece the Yaris is numero uno. In France, not surprisingly, it’s the Clio. There isn’t one GM car in the top spot.

Regular readers will not be surprised to find out that Italy’s second best selling car is the Lancia Ypsilon.

Over at Subaru, the plan is to remind buyers that if their cars might look a bit rough they are also tough and well-engineered. This one resonated with me as a Subaru Legacy saloon (!) parks on my street and I have to agree with myself that it exudes a perceptible aura of clunky.

Not unlike Toyota’s quondam gift of manipulating blandness, Subaru hire a certain type of journeyman designer whose not-very-good styling skills are assisted by competent engineers and studio design managers. Before Subaru UK write in to complain I want to say I think the schtick is very clever.

I might be tempted to tell Subaru to dial up the clunky a bit more – the Legacy is almost a good-looking car in its own way. “Better where it matters” is the tagline for the campaign. I hope that the tagline is not supposed to suggest any kind of double-meaning.

2017 Rolls Royce Sweptail: autocar.co.uk

Rolls-Royce have a press page. The first real bit of news is that RR sold more than 3000 cars last year. They don’t make cars or sell cars: their cars are commissioned: “Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has today announced a highly successful 2017, with a total of 3,362 cars commissioned by customers in almost 50 countries around the world.”

There isn’t much new at Mitsubishi but I did find a pretty workmanlike pick-up truck, the LM200. It has a meaningless name and it can pull 3.5 tonnes.  That’s professional.

Skoda’s PR page reports some WRC success. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday goes the adage. Sure enough we find this: “Octavia and Karoq, two Skoda models win the “Best Cars 2018” awards of the German magazine ,auto, motor und sport in their categories. More than 117.000 readers took part in the ‘Best Cars 2018’ awards. For the 5th time in a row, the Octavia has been awarded the title of best imported car to Germany in the ‘compact car’ category with 18.6 per cent of the vote. The new Karoq is a winner right off the bat: barely on the market, yet already selected as the best import car in the ‘compact SUV / off-road vehicle’ category with 16.5 per cent of the vote.”

Note to Skoda UK: please stop using all-caps in your press releases. The same goes for Skoda Ireland who used all-caps for their model names in this bit of text. “Skoda Ireland have also recorded Market Share of 6.9% which is the highest ever share recorded by the brand in Ireland and saw them deliver 9,056 new vehicles to customers in 2017. The growth has solidified Skoda’s position as the sixth bestselling car brand in the country for the third year in a row, as the brand now sets its sights on a top five finish in 2018.” I removed the all-caps. I must ask Skoda Ireland why they have to use all-caps. Watch this space.

1976 Audi 100 C2. Image: Favcars

We almost finish our tour with the fact that Volvo had a record year in 2017 with the sales of half a million cars. This is the pertinent slab of text: ” Volvo Cars, the premium car maker, reports record sales in 2017, as global sales rose 7.0 per cent compared to 2016 to 571,577 cars, driven by growth in all regions. Sales of the new XC60 and the 90-series cars were the main drivers, highlighting the effect of Volvo Cars’ in-house developed Scalable Product Architecture, a modular vehicle architecture, in terms of design, technology and brand.”

1968 Audi 100: source

Finally, to Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm: Audi report that their employee ideas programme has saved more than 100 million euros. What I like about this item is that the savings come from ideas that range in scale from a modest marking of wrenches to altering ventilation system programmes. It is piecemeal stuff but all adds up  and stands in contrast to the typical engineers’ insistence on “silver bullets”.

The other pleasant aspect of such a programme is that it also helps staff feel valued. As a counter-example, a decade ago I was working as an engineer and spotted a modest potential saving at my workplace: make sure PCs were switched off at night and not merely on stand-by. I failed to convince the IT troll that it was “worth it” for him to set up an automatic reminder to staff. In essence he was saying he couldn’t be bothered. Audi in contrast gets a) to save money and b) the staff feel hugged too.

So, good news for Lancia, MG, Skoda and Volvo.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

13 thoughts on “Breakfast In Bath”

  1. Richard, on a Mac press Shift + Command + 4 then either a) draw a rectangle around the area you wish to screenshot, or b) press Space (the cursor will change to a camera) to screenshot the active window. A time-stamped PNG file will be saved to your desktop. It’s actually pretty great once you know the trick.

    I’m sorry this comment wasn’t about cars.

    1. Thanks – on a PC the screenshot data is on the clip-board. If I open up Paint and click “paste” it lands on the canvas. It doesn´t become a file until it is saved or saved as.
      I will try your method.

  2. A whole 100 extra cars over a whole year due to the launch of the MG ZS? Wow, they’re really doing a great job with MG aren’t they?

    MG just makes a bunch of ‘me too’ boring stuff that is less well made, not as nice to drive and even more boring than the boring stuff they copy!

    Well done, quite an achievement

    1. MG, Qoros and Borgward: it isn´t easy being a new entrant in the market. Even long-established players with with credible product are making heavy weather (Jaguar and Opel). Much-loved names with believable cars are also stalling (Alfa Romeo). You´d think that that AR would have made more impact. So, how will Kia do with its Stinger? Probably well enough, other thing being equal. They are an established brand and are extending their range on a firm footing.
      Just what the heck are MG really up to? I wish them well because people´s livelihoods are involved and I like the Midlands people very much. That said, there is nothing compelling about the cars. They really ought to have designed something with a USP: a dull car costs as much to design as a different one.

  3. I’m not sure why anyone gives ‘MG’ any credibility these days – the name is just a front for whatever Chinese outfit owns the badge these days. The designs are becoming inferior facsimiles of Mazda’s current design language, a bit like the Landwind (?) thing that is like bad impression of the RR Evoque. The only painful difference is that they are still being marketed in the UK under the ‘iconic’ (should that now be ‘ironic’) British brand name (buerk!).

    The Subaru comments made me smile. I’m wondering whether the brand is on the verge of something, though, image wise, kind of like where Volvo was about 30 years ago – functional, engineering-led, and fit for purpose in an non-self-conscious manner (i.e. gives the Marketing Department constant nightmares), and hence … kind of cool!

    1. Does MG have any credibility? The blame falls squarely on the owners who don´t seem to know what to do with a car company. Imagine launching at huge expense a product call Marrs Barr which is a bit cheaper and bit less good than the leading product in the market. That´s MG right now.

    2. SV, what you describe here as Subaru’s image is what it had here in Switzerland about 10–20 years ago: no-nonsense cars for people who need reliable transport also in winter and off-road. Good for driving your milk cans from the cottage and even for having some fun, if you choose a WRX. The coolness factor has largely gone and so has the market share. Skoda and VW have taken over the ‘sensible’ market, and the sportier guys have been lured away by cheap AMG leasing rates.

  4. Simon: without wanting to get tied up in knots might I suggest the lack of obvious “coolness” makes Subaru actually cool? I agree Skoda attracts “sensible” buyers. VW cars are so studiously tasteful as to suggest customers are acutely sensitive about the cars. I see VW as a European equivalent to Buick c. 1965: middle class good taste (Buicks were once very pleasant cars). Volvo had that mantle for a long while – I can’t place them now.

    1. I fear that the current Subaru offer is a bit too bland to have this ‘uncool’ coolness factor… They’re on a good way though, I think the phase of the worst designs is over and they might gain some reputation again.

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