Death At One’s Elbow

It’s the circle of life folks…

Ferrari GTC4 Lusso. (c) automobile

There is, as perhaps you’ll notice, something of a ‘births and deaths’ feeling to our weekend proceedings. Yesterday we reviewed of some of the more significant new arrivals, while today, we don black armbands in doleful anticipation and bid a socially distanced adieu to three storied model lines, soon to make a bid for the eternal.

Our first port of call is Italy’s Po valley, in the region of Emilia-Romagna -Maranello to be precise. That of course can only mean one marque. The FF model was genuinely a prancing horse of a different stripe when it was first introduced in 2011. Not that four-seater Ferraris were novel – anything but. However it was the first production car from Maranello which employed a shooting brake estate-car silhouette, and full-time four wheel drive, mated to a traditional (mid) front-engined, V12 engined powertrain.

With four seater accommodation and a hatchback rear, combined with all-weather capability, this was a Ferrari for all seasons, if not necessarily all terrain. Nevertheless, the FF could go where no cavallino rampante could canter before.

2016 saw it being superseded by the similarly bodied, facelifted GTC-4 Lusso. Employing the same bodyshell, originally styled by Pininfarina, in conjunction with centro stile Ferrari, the GTC was in-house design – Pininfarina by then having either alienated their defining client, or vice-versa. The revised model was a visual success, in that the revisions made for a more coherent, cleaner looking car.

The GTC, available in 6.3 litre V12 or 3.9 litre V8 form (the latter in 2WD form only) proved a relatively successful model line, being that rare thing – a thoroughly usable (by Ferrari standards anyway) 200 mph supercar. Admittedly, there wasn’t a massive untapped demand for such a thing, with 1496 being sold in Europe over the past four years, but there is (or ought to be) even less requirement for a prancing horse badged SUV, yet this is precisely what Maranello is preparing for sale in 2021. Because they can. I’d keep that black armband on if I were you.

Mercedes S-Class Coupé. (c) Motor Trend

We now turn our nose Northwards, towards Stuttgart-Sindelfingen, where Mercedes, having just introduced the world to the new generation W223 S-Class saloon, has announced that the current  C222 Coupé and convertible will not be replaced once their model cycle ceases. Given the style, visual bulk and chintz-laden accoutrements of the outgoing cars, this is not necessarily a departure necessarily worthy of lachrymose musings. However, it does represent the final act in a (once) worthy line of large-format, indulgent grand touring coupés and convertibles from the three pointed star.

The rationale behind the decision is that demand no longer justifies the investment, but what perhaps sits behind it with greater imperative is the fact that even before the onset of the C-19 pandemic, Mercedes’ Daimler parent was massively overstretched, haemorrhaging vast quantities of Euros on what has become an unmanageable and unsustainable product portfolio.

Over now, not to the Czech Republic, as we might have thought, but nearby to Bratislava in Slovakia, home to the VW Group Up! Mii and Citigo trio. Introduced in 2011, Škoda’s Citigo was the Bohemian offering amid the A-segment trifecta of Wolfsburg, Martorell and Mláda Boleslav.

Never a hugely compelling product, being by hierarchical imperatives a less desirable offering than its VW equivalent, the Citigo was nevertheless a worthy one, with as much to recommend it as anything else in the compact European city-car segment. Powered, initially at least, by a shared 1.0 litre triple, the Citgo was remodelled quite comprehensively last year when its combustion engine was replaced by a battery-electric powertrain, the first to be offered by Škoda Auto.

Once again however, what might have been considered expedient or at least broadly acceptable has been rendered null and void under the current fevered circumstances. There is no money to be made on sub-compact EVs – they emit only one thing – red ink. So the Citi must go. Škoda PR states that the newly announced Eynaq iV will remain for now the Czech carmaker’s electric torchbearer. They might make a few Euros on that one. Maybe.

Matters are coming to a head for all carmakers; Ferrari is (currently at least) acting primarily to print money, while it can, but for the likes of Škoda and even the mighty Daimler, there is no immunity from the coming reckoning. Attrition is the way forward. Entire formats are for the birds – or the history books at least. Just as in life, there is only one true leveller. All things must pass.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

28 thoughts on “Death At One’s Elbow”

  1. Good morning Eóin. It is sad to witness the demise of the large Mercedes-Benz grand touring coupé. The final model is certainly not the best of the breed and one has to go back a long way to find a truly elegant and handsome iteration. I would choose the C107 SLC, although I have still a sneaking regard for the C140, despite its visual (and actual) bulk.

    Ferrari is largely a matter of indifference for me these days, given its blatant exploitation of the storied marque to maximise profits by whatever means. ‘Merchandising’ (in other words, ludicrously expensive Ferrari branded trinkets) theme parks, and now an SUV. Enzo Ferrari would be horrified .

    Regarding the Citigo, the demise of A-segment cars is really worrying trend, precisely the opposite of what is needed and an unintended consequence of increasing safety and emissions regulations.

    1. Is the demise of A-segment vehicles really an unintended consequence of the regulations? I doubt it.
      A regulation whereby the vehicle weight determines the amount of emissions has certainly not been made unintentionally. (And if so, that would say something about the rule-makers in Brussels.) This regulation prefers heavy (i.e. large) vehicles.

      It is (or was) foreseeable that the old mobility, as we have known it since the beginning of the 1950s, would inevitably lead to a dead end due to the limited resources. The “new mobility” will probably take us back to the time before 1930, if not earlier. Coming societies will find themselves in a technological middle age. The new nobility has already issued the new slogan, it no longer means “by the grace of God”, but “by the grace of the climate”.

      Since we are currently also seeing a political tendency (at least within the EU) that is pushing the restructuring of society on the requirement (or the pretext?) to save the climate.
      A decisive part of this (planned) conversion is the change in mobility by reducing individual traffic by cars. This leads, more or less, to the fact that the status quo will be maintained for the affluent part of society – and this part does not want to forego personal safety, which is why the vehicles are getting bigger and bigger to accommodate all safety devices.
      The rest of society should take the bicycle to stay mobile – after all, someone has to save the climate.

      In this respect, the disappearance of the A-segment is not really a surprise to me.
      Not even the disappearance of the grand touring coupés. These are replaced by the SUV-tanks in which the remnants of the bourgeoisie and the rich feel protected from the mob.

    2. Hello Daniel,

      Excellent article.

      “You’d need to sell an EV [like an ID] just to be able to sell a city car.”

      That explains it, I think – the legislation is targeting city air quality and is framed to favour EVs in cities.

    3. I’m intrigued as to how Dacia are going to deal with the emissions challenge. Their range isn’t exactly cutting edge, emissions-wise is it?

  2. As for the Citigo. When British automakers made such a cheap form of badge engineering, the whole bunch of european journalists made jokes about it and mainstream writing was “no wonder they went down the drain”.
    Even in the darkest times of BLMC / BL ff., product managers would have had doubt about getting away with it.
    When Volkswagen does the same thing, it goes without saying that people write about different products. Pathetic hypocrites.
    And worst of all, probably the majority of buyers actually believe they are buying a VW, a Seat or a Skoda.

    1. I wonder, perhaps naïvely, why all brands have to cover all segments. In a large manufacturing group, I’d be tempted to make brands specialise a bit more. You could still share platforms and technology. It would allow greater brand differentiation and allow more effort to be spent on individual vehicles.

    2. Mr Eger’s bleak and cynical interpretation of what seems to be happening here is one with which I concur. And I thought it was just me….. Never mind, if history teaches us anything it is that the mob will eventually revolt. Probably led by the French.
      But not in my life time, so I shall continue to play with Jowetts, Triumphs and my wife’s Panda for as long as I can find something to put in their tanks.

    3. Hi Charles. I dont think that’s at all naïve to ask that question. It’s always been a source of puzzlement to me how little differentiation there really is between the VW Group’s mainstream marques, including Audi. I think it’s a consequence of so much platform and component sharing. It seems impossible to decontent a VW to make, for example, a direct competitor to Dacia. Didn’t VW cite this reason for abandoning an attempt to build an emerging markets car in the mould of the Datsun Go? (It might also have been because Nissan was widely criticised for the poor crash test performance and lack of safety kit on the Go and, following the diesel emissions scandal, VW couldn’t risk another drubbing in the media.)

      The same situation is emerging at PSA following the acquisition of GM Europe will only become more acute with the FCA takeover.

      As for Mercedes-Benz and BMW’s ever expanding reach in every direction, I would put down to competitive megalomania, and those chickens might now be coming home to roost, as Eóin suggests above.

  3. To use the words of Oscar Wilde: “No, I am not at all cynical, I have merely got experience, which, however, is very much the same thing.”

  4. A quick online search (to make sure I’m not imagining it) shows Auto Express has done two tests of the Up vs the Citigo! Other VW Group comparison tests are maybe justified in that (eg) the Octavia and Golf are slightly different propositions, but Up/Citigo is little more than comparing different trim levels of one vehicle. The small car segment at least gained one new entry of late, with the new electrified Fiat 500. The small, cheap car new segment is certainly loosing choice of late though. The number of sub-£10k new cars is very limited now, although perhaps this doesn’t matter if you’re looking to pay £x/month on finance these days? Recent departures include the Ford Ka+, Mitsubishi Mirage, Suzuki Celerio and Vauxhall Viva/Opel Karl.

    While most firms are probably looking worried, I think I read that a certain Mr Musk has become one of the world’s richest men of late.

    1. I wonder whether European manufacturers are inviting a rude shock from those on other continents, especially as the cost of batteries continues to fall dramatically as supply increases.

      I think what Elon Musk has achieved is astonishing.

  5. Chalk up another one – the Alfa Romeo Giulietta is going away as well. Might not seem like the most important model to be missing from the dealerships, but if one looks at how long AR has been continuously present on the hatchback market it’s quite shocking what’s happening in the automotive world. Even the Italian press is only speculating whether it will have a replacement or if the Tonale will even go to production as planned amidst the FCA-PSA merger.
    It looks like the European sales of the Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ may also be discontinued silently, although that is not official – it’s just that it started disappearing from Toyota communications and even some Toyota webpages no longer list it (may remain available in RHD countries).

  6. The first Toyobaru 86 was a disappointing attempt at a Japanese Jowett Jupiter.

    Lets hope the next generation is better, but it seems to be shaping up to follow The Japanese Sports Car Charter – bigger, heavier, lots more power but far less enjoyment.

    1. A reader and commenter contacted the site recently, asking if we knew of any other front-engined, rear-wheel driven, boxer-engined cars – apart from the Toyaburu and recently discussed Jowett? I hope he doesn’t mind my forwarding the question to the group…

  7. 1936-40 Jowett Ten. Steyr 50/55.

    If flat twins are allowed, almost all the rest of Jowett’s pre-war output Tatra 11, Toyota Publica, and Glas Isar.

    1. Ferrari Daytona. It’s not a popular layout, as boxers, although low, tend to be too wide, affecting steering.

    2. Hello Eóin – I phrased that sloppily – apologies. I meant it can make packaging things, especially the steering, awkward.

    3. …and I’m thinking of the later engine in the mid-engined car, so that’s wrong.

  8. Another car that will be going away (to a private collection, hopefully very) is a one-off called “Vulgar”, errrr… “Victor”. Official photos courtesy of Aston Martin.

    1. C’mon – it’s creatively repurposing at least one of those leftover One-77 (One-11?) body shells and a few Vulcan components. How very efficient and sustainably, is it not?

    2. Ouch! That must be an acquired taste.

      And thank you Robertas for your answer on RWD boxer cars; I wasn’t aware of any of these.

    3. Is Aston Martin now supplying cars to Batman as well as James Bond?

  9. @ Daniel O’Callaghan

    It is the case. And it’s more than crazy.

    Not just that the EU’s CO2 regulations perversely favor larger and heavier ones.

    Since January 2020, new car models must have an “Onboard Fuel Consumption Meter” in order to be approved as a vehicle type. From January 1, 2021, this will apply to every newly registered car in the EU. (Needless to say: The consumption data of the vehicle must be communicated to the EU Commission.)
    With the “E-Call” regulation that has already been introduced and the associated link in the software and hardware in the vehicle, one can imagine where the journey is going. The idea that a vehicle can be switched off remotely – because it is not wanted in certain places or because personal consumption is exhausted – is no longer far from reality.
    Welcome to the brave new world.

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