Our first (for 2020) look at the current stories that matter. To us. 

Bentley Mulsanne. (c) autoblog

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.

(c) Autocar

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.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

22 thoughts on “NewsGrab”

  1. Interesting times, to say the least.

    The demise of the i-eight, in particular, deserves a further elaboration. It can be argued perhaps that this abrupt decision reveals certain initial reservations about its production cost as possibly well founded. Their “i”-range is in a passionate love affair with ultra high technology, most notably in the levels of advanced carbon-fiber architecture used – the latter are incompatible with the price segment, rendering its fiscal performance far
    from commercially viable at this stage (a technological show off sums
    it more concisely). The production infrastructure is a highly specialised
    one, and what will they do with it opens up interesting options – this is also linked
    to the commercial destiny of the i-three.

    Taken from another angle, the i-eight is just a different rear-“subframe” solution away from being a very advanced, stiff and competitive basis for a contemporary, relevant Hybrid-Hypercar. With this in mind, it might not come as a surprise if, in the coming period, an entirely new sub-brand appears, inaugurated by a 918-spec. Hy-Hypercar
    which would be largely based on the i-eight structural foundation. Whether it would
    be priced to compete with the exotics, or more targeted towards the “new rules”
    segment that GM cunningly opened up with their game-changing C8 Vette
    (another ‘eight’!), is entirely academic at this stage.

    I also wouldn’t dismiss a possibility for an acquisition of another, fast developing existing Supercar brand (one that maybe already sounds iconic), and synergise it with the inevitable lessons for “mass”-producing a CF-car that the “i”-exercise has taught them.

    Or maybe the lessons learnt were simply “wasn’t worth it”.

    The marketing usage of the letter “i”, which is subliminally embedded in the minds of their brand’s afficionados (stemming from the “_ _ _ i” model denomination from the ’80s),
    was, in hindsight, both a curse and a blessing. While it inevitably gives appeal and is linked
    with the main brand almost inseparably, placing the “i” in front of a number (i3, i8…), gives a perception of ‘complete reversal’, maybe putting off their most brand-dedicated customers. Creating, psychologically speaking, an inner perception of an anti-Bimmer,
    that Honda and Renault purists would find appealing, but would they drive a car
    with a propeller & kidneys? Potentially counterproductive. In times so unpredictable,
    maybe even such a seemingly superficial factor could produce effects that’d
    doom an entire product.

    Just saying.

    1. The i8 certainly deserves a fuller eulogy.

      The image that Eoin has chosen for this article is unflattering and shows the i8 at possibly its most awkward angle… on the road it looks both imposing and fresh, the weight and expectation of all that BMW brand equity balanced with a welcome lightness of touch, even a little playfulness.

      It has been effectively replaced by the 8 series, which is a pointless footnote in the history of BMW, never mind the wider industry. It really adds absolutely nothing to our world.

      The naming issue is interesting. Maybe BMW’s existing customers felt that the i8 was not for them, and so shunned it.

  2. Not to kick a nag when said hidings have already been extensively administered here to excellent effect, but…

    To wit:

    What is Citroen’s key selling point?

    “Comfort,” Jackson says.

    “We think comfort is the new cool,” stresses Jackson. “In the past it was about suspension and seats. We need to take it further with a more modern approach. Now it’s about connectivity, big screens, storage spaces, light in the car, and air quality.”

    I really hope the move described above is as it looks and is indeed a demotion/way to get her out of any position in which she can do (further) damage.

  3. Tahnk you Eoin for these updates.We now move on to some Citroen news:

    This week’s Auto journal features the next Citroen C4 which should appear in 2020. I believe the illustration is very close to the production version as L’Auto-journal has already seen it. But the interesting thing is that the DLO has been inspired by the GS which will be 50 years old this year. Just the other day I was wondering if the C3 XR’s DLO was inspired by the Dyane and now l’Auto journal states that the next C4’s windows are directly inspired by the GS ! The tail lights are said to be of the sticking out sort, in the same manner as the Toyota CHR, which will help the car appear wider as it will be based on the CMP platform which is said to be a bit narrow for the C4 (the 604 thing all over again then)

    1. The front end, which featured on the C Experience concept, and will be on all new Citroen already has a nickname: the goose leg (paw ?) because of the grille.

      That’s it for me and Citroen, over to Eoin in the DTW’s studio. Good evening.

    2. Sorry to interrupt Daniel’s inaugural speech but this just came in: the very first pictures of the prototype of the new C4 illustrated above and published today by our colleagues from Auto Express in the Netherlands. Our previous report on the physiology of this eagerly awaited C4 Cactus replacement is vindicated by those spyshots showing that our counterparts at L’auto Journal were well informed as we can see the GS-inspired DLO peeking through the camouflage.
      We’ll keep you updated as the story develop of course. In the meantime have a very pleasant day here on DTW and it’s back to Daniel for more on that guy that murdered Rover.

    3. I apologise, it’s from our colleague at AUTOWEEK in the Netherlands and not the lazy good-for-nothing folks at Auto Express.

  4. The Mulsanne, finely crafted though it is, has always had a whiff of 1970’s Americana to it, I think as as a consequence of its “coke-bottle” rear haunches, glitzy light units and those enormous circular headlamps. I think they were aiming for something slightly more raffish than the stately Phantom, but missed that target by some distance. The style that served the company well for the Continental and Flying Spur didn’t scale up well, unlike the Phantom’s, which worked perhaps even better on the Ghost. Does this mean that Bentley is now abandoning the super luxury limousine market? Ferdinand Piech will be turning in his grave at this abject surrender.

    Alex, regarding the “specialness” of the “i” prefix, hasn’t Hyundai rather spoilt it for everyone else with their range of perfectly sensible but rather dull conventional cars bearing this model designation?

    The i8 is a car that has rather passed me by. I’ve spent a few minutes studying one in the Norwich BMW showroom while dropping our Mini in for a service, but have been rather unmoved by it. For some reason, it put me in mind of this:

    (I prefer the 300ZX though!)

  5. I rather assumed the i3 and i8 were intended as technological showcases in any case – whatever about the i8, BMW could surely never have expected to make any money on a superman sized car, however clever, made of exotic materials and of complated construction. And certainly not with the example of the Audi A2 ahead of them. The experience should not have been wasted, though: hopefully they will have learned something about productionising CRP and aluminium structures. It could be that the lesson is not to try it again for another generation or two of tooling and maintenance solutions!

  6. Sorry, “complated” construction techniques were not used in the i3! Complicated ones, however, were…

  7. Daniel,
    didn’t think at all about that possibility you wisely mentioned. I was too immersed into the subliminal brand impulses that seem immanent to the BMW brand. The “i” might be overplayed, after all. What with S.Jobs’
    game-changing, brazenly breaking through technological innovation bearing that moniker, and
    lately Hyundai, it does not sound that distinctive anymore, I suppose.

    What might be interesting though, is whether Petuelring will opt to use the “i”-delete on certain entry models
    (such as the venerable 315 E21, which discarded the “i” and the injectors for a good old carb diet).
    Maybe a hybrid-drivetrain is enough to justify an “i”-delete marketing exercise, since
    the e-motor is not injected. The 325 e (Eta) actually had an Injection engine, and
    still did well (relatively speaking… or didn’t it?) without the “i”.

    1. The “i” used to signify injection.
      But my 2002tii was confusing: you couldn’t inject fuel in two ways — at least its Kugelfischer mechanical kit couldn’t.
      It did the biz, though, albeit with alarming consequences: max wellie made the rear squat, so raising the front and making steering light-headed. And cornering in the wet? You just didn’t.
      Much of this was fixed for the 323i — or London’s City traders would have lost half their staff wrapped round lampposts on their way to the Cotswolds.

  8. I haven’t seen this discussed much elsewhere, but I feel like this little snippet deserves wider airing:

    “Last week, PSA said the CEOs for the Citroën and DS brands were moving into new roles to focus on brand positioning, differentiation and cost savings. PSA matches each of its brands with a competitor whose results it aims to beat, Blaise said.

    “‘We have Citroën, which is the people-minded brand,’ he said. ‘Peugeot is the high-end mainstream brand. DS Automobiles is a premium brand with a French flair. Opel is the true German brand, and Vauxhall is a brand for the British. We want to maximize our brand positionings within the group portfolio. … Carlos always says, ‘Every brand has its own chance.'”

    Where to begin here? I tend to agree with Richard’s musings in the past that there are, for all practical purposes, only three meaningful distinctions to be made in the wider market, and that the single- or at most dual-brand business model is clearly the way to go for a multitude of reasons, if you have the opportunity to carry it off. But let us grant that while it may not be Tavares and co’s preference to have 13 brands to manage, it is nevertheless the cards they have been dealt. What is so striking in the above is an apparently serious commitment to the kind of branding-as-PowerPoint-presentation insanity that defined the 1990s and early 2000s. This seems to be self-evident from two elements contained therein:

    1) A near-desperate need both to (mis)characterise the history and proposed remit of brands in an attempt to force square plugs into more rounded openings, to the point of devising what amounts to, essentially, a plan of sheer, unbridled, delusional nonsense. I know all about ‘dress for the job you want’, but aspiration to the point of absurdity does not a business plan make. And, incidentally, see my earlier comment – is Citroen about comfort, or is it about people-mindedness? (Take from that what you will; presumably, in the interests of differentiation, Peugeot will be marketed as a decidedly anti-people brand.)

    2) A failure to explain exactly why a customer would want a “people-minded brand”, or a “true German brand” (!). That rumble was the boardrooms shaking with laughter in Stuttgart and Wolfsburg – they only last week got around to acknowledging that the bumpkins from Bavaria are allowed to play at the big boys’ table. Let alone why a customer would want a brand specifically for the British. Maybe someone should let the Irish distributor know.

    Point 1 is a prerequisite to delivering products that the market won’t accept because the manufacturer is in denial about how it is really perceived. Point 2 guarantees that outcome will be fulfilled.

    This whole thing really is going to redefine trainwreck, isn’t it?

    1. I wonder if the new T-Cross is cannibalizing sales of the Polo?

    2. Hi Daniel,

      I’am not sure but I doubt the T-cross is stealing that many sales from it. If I remember correctly that Polo didn’t have a such good sales start(as in, not what we were used to from that car) even before the introduction of the T-Cross. And the Clio, 208, Fiesta, C3 and Corsa sales numbers and chart positions (compared to their SUV counterparts) seem to me to suggest something else is at work here.

    3. For example the C3 and the Polo were introduced in 2016 and 2017 respectively, not that long apart then, but the C3 outsells the Polo now even though they’re roughly the same age. I would think you’d have to go back a long time ago to see Citroen ahead of VW in that segment on a European level, if that ever occurred.

    4. I can’t say I’m unhappy to see the new Polo struggling because it looks awful compared to its handsome predecessor.

      Ford must be worried. Were the new Kuga and Puma on sale in February? If so, the 20% drop in sales is surprising. Maybe they’re not fully on stream yet?

    5. I had a feeling styling could be to blame, because intrinsically it’s just another Polo with the same qualities as its predecessors. I was very underwhelmed by its exterior appearance when it was launched and usually I don’t mind VW’s clean if not clinical approach to design. The current one looks a tad dated and bloated in my opinion.

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