We don’t do a lot of this on DTW, but here’s a brief roundup of the (UK-centric) news highlights from w/e 6/12/19.
December is generally a quiet time of the year for most carmakers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all tumbling weeds within the automotive universe. But rather than highlight any one aspect, let us take this opportunity to consider some of the more significant stories pillaged from the news outlets this past week – with an added dash of subjectivity.
Monday saw Jaguar officially launch its facelifted F-Type to a waiting world. Having previously squandered heaven knows how much on silly, elaborate pyrotechnic stunts to publicise previous launches, it was somewhat refreshing to see in these more straitened times that JLR’s PR team elected instead to concentrate on something a good deal less expensive, if equally silly.
But of course it was the full-size version we wanted to see, and yes (at first glance at least), no pooches (or kitties in this instance) were screwed in the refashioning of this car. Otherwise, changes have been relatively minor – the F-Type most likely enjoying a development budget the size of a small round down their local Bishops Itchington boozer. Improved materials in a largely unchanged cabin, the de rigueur digital instruments, improved infotainment interface and at the rear, revised tail lamps. And disappointingly, no straight-six – for cost reasons.
The overwhelming impression one gets is that Jaguar have gone to the trouble of attending to the one aspect of the F-Type which perhaps least required it. The F’s big enemies have always been weight, powertrains (these two are related), perceived reliability and price. With those unaddressed, it’s difficult to see how this will shift perceptions.
A carmaker with less to worry about is Toyota, who announced earlier this week that from 2020, all Corollas sold in the UK would be hybrid-only. While it remains possible to obtain a entirely combustion powered Corolla while stocks last, one assumes, it will not be possible to do so once these have been (coughs…) exhausted.
Smart move, especially on the back of reports that in November, one in ten new cars sold in the UK was either Hybrid or electric powered. Nevertheless, while that may sound like good news for carmakers like Toyota who have suitable product to sell, the overall trend is downwards, with many potential buyers simply bewildered as what to do in the current febrile climate.
Another facelift light on meaningful change took place at PSA-owned Opel / Vauxhall, who got the blusher and foundation out for the embattled Insignia. Like Jaguar, changes were largely confined to the nose, with only minor tweaks to the cabin and ‘all together everyone’, the infotainment. Again, like the F-Type, powertrains are where the Insignia is reckoned to lag behind, so any tangible shift in fortunes seems off the table. One has to wonder about the Insignia – especially as it has also this week been announced that its US market Buick Regal equivalent will be axed as of 2020. If you encounter an Opel aficionado this week, give their hand a consolatory squeeze.
One also has to feel for Jozef Kabaň . The highly rated design director who began his career at VW, Audi and later, Skoda, was headhunted by BMW, only it seems to fall victim to the turbulence and creative stasis which has latterly buffeted the FIZ. Following an even shorter stint at Rolls Royce prior to his ultimate departure from Munich, it was announced this week that he is to return to the banks of the Mittelandkanal later in 2020 as design chief for brand-VW.
In what appears to be something of a much needed reshuffle, Klaus Bischoff who had headed Volkswagen’s current underwhelming design direction, now moves up to an overall responsibility role for the entire group, while Michael Mauer, who had been moonlighting in that role while also directing Porsche’s designers will return to Zuffenhausen to concentrate his energies where they can be best effected. Kabaň will (if allowed), provide a breath of fresh air at stuffy old Wolfsburg. Can’t come soon enough.
Billionaire considers buying Aston Martin. As headlines go, it’s not even news, is it? Why not a matching pair, since you’re flush? But no, this particular individual, instead of pouring money into the current UK election campaign, or buying Greenland, is reputed to be part of a consortium considering the partial purchase of the embattled and financially embarrassed luxury carmaker and superspy conveyance provider, Aston Martin Lagonda.
Now, I’m way ahead of you here, because the surest way to lose a fortune is put one’s own money into Aston Martin – history having recorded a decent number of previously well-heeled individuals who have done so and watched their fortunes dwindle for their trouble. It’s all somewhat speculative right now, so get the popcorn out, sit back and enjoy. Because just like the Broccoli-family movie franchise, there’s bound to be another exciting episode before long.