A review of the automotive week ending 26 June 2020.
Half the year gone already and not a child in the house washed. But as this little pocket of the world gradually and carefully opens back up, the broader European motor industry too is doing its level best to pretend this crisis never happened, catching up on all of those product launches inconveniently delayed by the dreaded virus.
Not that recent global affairs have had much impact upon Haymarket Publishing’s storied automotive weekly, where fairies and unicorns continue to flit merrily, social distancing notwithstanding. Monday therefore saw Autocar online report (and not for the first time either) upon the possibility that Jaguar might build a C-segment five-door front-wheel drive hatchback.
Earlier this year, in an interview with Steve Cropley (a scribe who is to hyperbole what Mo Salah is to scoring goals), Jaguar’s design chief, Julian Thomson mentioned in passing that he’d quite like to do a smaller Jaguar. This was somehow conflated in the mind of journalist, Hilton Holloway into an exclusive suggesting the Midlands carmaker might dust down their ideas for an A-Class rival. Holloway has form in this area, and while such an idea did gain traction at JLR a number of years ago, you can probably consign this to more kite flying on Autocar’s part. Well, everyone needs a hobby.
Keeping with Gaydon for the moment, Land Rover have been doing their bit, not only to keep their new Defender in potential customers’ minds, but to further the cause for patriotic Britons to staycation this summer by announcing a £3k roof tent option to be made available for the freshly minted all-terrain icon. Of course, this presupposes one can actually get hold of a Defender this side of 2021. In the interim however, I’m sure Halfords could rustle up something equally useful for your Tiguan, madam, as you enjoy Britain’s delightfully empty South coast beaches.
Moving Northwest to Crewe, where Bentley, in between readying a painfully mild revision of the still-unlovely Bentayga (June 30 folks, don’t touch that dial!), rolled out CEO, Adrian Hallmark to speak to the press, who suggested that the Covid-19 fallout is likely to further hasten the demise of the internal combustion engine. “We have had to ruthlessly prioritise our spend. All of our plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles are full steam ahead”, he told journalists this week. “If you have to prioritise, where do you place your bets? More horsepower or more cell technology? The obvious answer is the latter.”
But while the internal combustion engine itself appears doomed (sooner rather than later), one in particular has somewhat ironically bit the dust this week, as Bentley built the final edition of their venerable 6.75 litre V8 as fitted within the Mulsanne – production of which has now ceased. While the car itself probably deserves few tears, the power unit itself was a thing of wonder, if a throwback to a very different time. Legium pro Britannia.
Moving from tearful farewells to fresh beginnings, PSA have this week again demonstrated how nimble a business it has become under Carlos Tavares’ leadership, with the formal announcement of the Opel/Vauxhall Mokka crossover CUV, set to arrive in showrooms early next year, but available to order this summer. A close approximation of Opel’s GT X concept from 2018, it debuts the brand’s new ‘face’, as defined by the retro-futuristic so-called ‘visor’ frontal design, which encompasses grille and headlamps, which is set to feature across all forthcoming Opel/Vauxhall models.
The Mokka is based on the same PSA group platform as that employed by Peugeot’s 2008 and DS Auto’s DS3 Crossback, which has entailed a rather dramatic dimensional shift. It’s 12.5cm shorter than its predecessor, owing to reduced overhangs (61mm front and 66mm rear), but because the wheelbase is 2mm longer, and the body is now 10mm wider, neither cabin, nor boot space has been adversely impacted. PSA claim the car is 120kg lighter than the outgoing car, depending on specification, while torsional stiffness has been improved by 30%.
Visually, it certainly appears by far the most accomplished of the trio, further evidence that just as PSA’s stewardship of the former GM satellite appears increasingly assured, so too does design chief, Mark Adams’ grasp of brand-Opel’s design direction.
Moving from Rüsselsheim to Wolfsburg, Volkswagen have seen fit to introduce a mildly facelifted version of their pointless Arteon (it’s no more attractive to behold I’m afraid) and have taken this moment, about half way into the model cycle to introduce a shooting-brake style estate model. We’re all geniuses in hindsight of course, but one cannot shake the feeling that VW have announced this very much through clenched teeth. They certainly wouldn’t sanction such a thing now, although why a five-door version of a five-door vehicle was deemed an astute use of resources is a question worth asking, C-19 notwithstanding.
Having begun our odyssey in Warwickshire, we end it there with the news that beleaguered Aston Martin who are believed to have lost in the region of £119m over the first three months of the year, are embarking on a share issue in an attempt to re-finance the business, hammered by a collapse in demand for their sports GT offerings. Given the scale of the carmaker’s problems, it might be argued that the enforced shutdown since March had been a blessing in disguise, giving them the opportunity to reshape the entire operation upon a more secure footing, and stem the tide of red ink.
Actions have been taken. Andy Palmer out, Tobias Moers in (later this year), not to mention the appointment of former JLR CFO, Kenneth Gregor who will have his work cut out righting Lawrence Stroll’s leaking vessel. The beloved secret agent conveyance provider has also drawn upon the UK government’s Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme for 20m large ones and aims to borrow around £55m. Anyone got a few quid down the back of the sofa?
With production of the DBX crossover starting (but no rush to resume carmaking at Gaydon until excess stocks of Vantages and DB11s are cleared) it looks increasingly as though AML will very soon become a predominantly CUV purveyor, much like everyone else.
Good to see things returning to normal at last.