Our North Western England correspondent, with only a torch for company, takes to the lesser populated byways, for your Sunday amusement.
Autocar remains the weekly go-to on matters motoring since its 1895 inception. Born alongside the British car industry, the periodical has witnessed multitudinous change with probably its most profound being the transition to digital. Although the weekly printed copy remains (£3.80 at all good news vendors), one can be updated many times a day via the website. Subjects diverse as Industry News, Car Reviews, Features, Technology News and Opinion, all available without a proper search engine.
Rather frustratingly, one cannot easily search for information on, for example, a 2003 Daewoo Nubira or the 2004 announcement of the Mercedes CLS. One has to take to the darker end of proceedings, wading through page by page. At the time of writing, 3415 pages were available to view; right back to March 5th 2003, eighteen long years ago when the internet was still pretty novel to most people.
Suitably armed with a 9v torch, supermarket meal deal and a lunch break to avoid the perishing temperatures outside, your host waded in so that you never have to. Trust me, my doctorate in Filling Time Unnecessarily is deserved.
The earliest entry revolves around the introduction of a cheaper Porsche Cayenne. With disappointing sales pinned to the V8 variants, this 3.2 V6 with, gasp, manual transmission could be blocking a side street for £34,350. No picture was thankfully offered of the amorphous blob that filled the Stuttgart brand’s coffers to overflowing but the new for 2004 model could be had with PODA, Porsche’s Drive Off Assistant to prevent you inadvertently running into the school gates.
The same date gave us snippets on a faster Audi A2 and potentially huge showroom savings that could be had on the 5-series. Then either an admin error or literally nothing happening until staccato reports again arrive in May and July with the taps fully open by early September.
One example from October 1st concerned BMW’s iDrive being investigated by the NHTSA, a US road safety agency. Their law stated a control and display unit should be adjacent, though it would seem nothing came of this headline. This swiftly becomes a website theme.
Twenty First of October 2003 and the headline “Elise Footrot Only Cosmetic, says Lotus” would obviously quell any ill feeling. Elise Mk1s (a handful of) had corroding footwells due to the PVC matting holding water from footwear and a reaction to the adhesive. Lotus gave the following (un) helpful advice: wash the cars floor with a nylon brush, dry then re-seal with appropriate tape. No pictures once again nor mention of a Hethel recall.
Tenth March 2004; “We want to intensify the face of the vehicle” opined Ford European boss Chris Bird, with a beady eyed Martin Smith overseeing the end to the oval arch. No pictures.
Appropriately enough for the date, 1st April, a spokesman informed Autocar that Daimler was about to be resurrected. No follow up information was to be found. But a few weeks later on the tenth of May, here’s everyone’s favourite Gerry heading up Land Rover design. His smile only masked by the photographic quality. Was Douglas Land-Windermere unavailable?
By the eleventh of August, everyone could sit more comfortably as we were told that cars are getting lighter and airier with bigger windows and glass roofs. The example given (no pictures) was a Peugeot 307 station wagon that now had a larger percentage of glass than the old model. Contain that enthusiasm. Whilst finding something new to report on must prove frustrating, their lack of clarity (pun intended) beggars belief. If anything, glass was becoming scarce as more angles and letterbox openings were soon to proliferate. Was their finger on the pulse or cut by a stray shard?
23/09/04 some Alfa Romeo news at last. The 147’s launch at the Paris motor show. Shonky pictures backed up with little information. Sigh… and it gets no better for on the 6th October, Bob Lutz warmed everyone’s cockles with this. “SAAB are no longer considered Swedish. Design is international. What’s important is those cars are formed by an aero maker.” Resting easy thanks to Maximum Bob, a month later the site chimed the initial death knell with the headline “Trollhattän facing closure even with €160M new motorway link.” As the old phrase goes, No News is Good News…
The Rover 75 two-door coupé was lauded just after bonfire night, presumably strapped to a Guy Fawkes mannequin. But to brighten Christmas, the BMW 325i SE with air-con, multifunctional wheel, parking sensors and cruise could be found in the outside lane early next year for £25,155. Better yet, early February 2005 the revised 7 series was considered “less ugly.” Jolly Dee.
The bleak midwinter continued with the Fiat/GM court battle. Fiat attempted to invoke GM buying Fiat outright. The General countered, arguing the agreement was no longer valid due to Fiat’s “diluting restructuring.” With GM taking a 20% share of the Italian firm in 2000, they were potentially facing a €1M fine but one good news connection being this issue would not impact the forthcoming Croma. Be still my beating heart.
The early April 2005 headline of “SAAB Not For Sale” came from Peter Augustsson who continued with “GM stands behind SAAB. Trollhättan could make Opel’s, Cadillac’s and of course SAAB’s.” Just then my flashlight failed, plunging me into darkness. In accordance with any form of media or news service, Autocar can only report on what’s there.
But the lack of search ability blended with often frightfully wilful reporting does make one wonder who allows these articles through. Can they be purely for income generation? Or starry eyed journos embellishing the merest thread? Similarities to the world at large make the car industry a fascinating medium to plumb. These eyes tune in most days, if only for those moments that invoke a raised eyebrow.
Newspapers became chip paper back in the day. Electronic forms without an index should do as my flashlight did – stay in the dark.