Our first (for 2020) look at the current stories that matter. To us.
As the motor industry gears up for the first (and possibly most significant) motor show of the season, powder is being for the most part kept snug, warm and dry. However, 2020 is shaping up to be a pivotal one for European carmakers as European Union-imposed emissions regulations begin to take effect. It’s likely that this, and the industry’s response will define the coming year, for better or in some cases, for worse.
Which of these two states this week’s announcement from Bentley Motors represents is reliant upon a number of factors, not least one’s viewpoint. The Crewe-based luxury carmaker’s own impressions can be gleaned from their website thus; “The Mulsanne, with its understated elegance and phenomenal power, remains Bentley’s consummate saloon. It is the purest expression of luxury and performance.“
So strongly is this felt, that the heritage carmaker has elected to axe the ten year old Mulsanne this spring, announcing this week a run-out limited edition, with 30 examples being built by bespoke atelier, Mulliner. Dubbed 6.75 in deference to the venerable 523 hp twin-turbo powerplant which provides motive force, the Mulsanne 6.75 honours both the demise of the model line and its V8 engine, which is likely to be victim of 2020 emissions rule changes.
Unlike the torque-laden (811 lb/ft) L-Series RR engine which made its debut in 1959, the Mulsanne itself, which to these eyes has never looked anything other than awkward, is unlikely to be greatly missed, even if it did represent an approximation of the classic (very) full-sized Bentley saloon. Spokespeople are suggesting that for the foreseeable future, the recently announced Panamera-based Flying Spur will have to deputise as “the ultimate representation of Bentley’s design, craft and engineering expertise.”
While clearly no victim of this year’s more stringent emissions changes, BMW is nevertheless bidding its mid-engine i8 performance model farewell later this year – for reasons which are perhaps known only to themselves. While the mid-engined hybrid cannot be classed a commercial success (hardly the point with a low-volume halo model such as this) it has creatively speaking, alongside its more practical i3 sibling been the most interesting and progressive design to emerge from Munich’s Forschungs und Innovationszentrum in well over a decade.
A cynic might therefore observe that the i8’s impending demise might deflect any unwelcome comparisons from being made about the current creative outpourings from Munich-Milbershofen. (We of course would never make such a scurrilous and unfounded suggestion). Meanwhile, we’re reliably informed that BMW will for now concentrate their attention upon more mainstream electrified fare. But fear not dear reader, there is still much to look forward to from the Petuelring throughout 2020.
As the resurgent French carmaker prepares to become part of a much larger automotive combine, Groupe PSA has named new CEOs for brand Citroën (Vincent Cobee) and DS Automotive (Beatrice Foucher), replacing incumbents, Linda Jackson and Yves Bonnefort respectively. Both have been moved to newly created ying and yang strategic positions within the organisation – Jackson’s remit being brand differentiation across a multi-marque portfolio while Bonnefort’s will essentially be the opposite, examining potential synergies. Should make for interesting board meetings. Both newcomers hail from the unravelling Renault-Nissan alliance.
And while on the subject, Renault-Nissan have rebuffed reports this week in the wake of the Goshn Ultimatum (soon to be a major film starring Idris Elba), the embattled alliance is set to unravel. Chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard exasperatedly told reporters this week that reports of the alliance’s demise were to put it mildly, exaggerated, citing the dread words, “fake news”. Well, that’s our minds put at rest, Jean-Dom.
Having missed out (or swerved a bullet if you prefer) on a deal with FCA last year, Senard told Automotive News that once they had achieved their cost-cutting goals and stabilised the business the alliance would once more become attractive to other potential partners – presupposing there might be any. It’s meanwhile widely tipped that former Alfa Romeo and latterly Seat CEO, Luca de Meo, who has recently resigned from the VW group will shortly take over as Renault CEO. We wish him bon courage.
This month has also seen Toyota mark a new awareness of their place in the pantheon, addressing their past with the introduction of the GR Heritage Parts Programme, aimed at supporting owners of older, more collectable Toyota models. Starting with the Supra model (the mid, like -80s A70 and its later A80 replacement), Toyota intends to roll out high-quality OEM parts for other Toyota models, such as the AE86 Corolla, Celica and MR2 at a later date. Smart move.
Widely perceived as being slow to join the BEV bandwagon, Toyota City’s lead in hybrids is unquestionable. Ditto fuel cells, still widely believed (by industry insiders at least) as the propulsion system with the most mid-to long-term potential. Having shown the new generation hydrogen fuel-cell Mirai as a concept last year, Toyota announced the vehicle in production form this week at a brand event in Amsterdam.
The production Mirai appears virtually identical to the well-received concept and is expected to go on sale later in the year in selected markets. Is it possible that this car could ultimately do for hydrogen what the Prius did for hybrids? History after all does have a curious habit of repeating.