Reviewing the automotive week ending 25 June 2021.

Peugeot 308 SW. Image: autoitocka

It has of late become a little predictable to begin these (relatively) infrequent news-related pieces with the latest machinations of the Stellantis auto group, but that’s hardly my fault given that they are the only carmaker these days truly capable of genuine surprise. This week, the continent-straddling motor giant sprinkled a few more crumbs of their plans for Alfa Romeo, which are believed to encompass a range of three crossover CUVs – (small, medium and large), a Giulia-esque saloon and if the tabloids are to be believed, a coupé.

Speaking to journalists, Alfa Romeo’s new CEO, Jean-Philippe Imparato intimated that he was “very interested” in the idea of a GTV-badged model (a statement that could quite literally mean anything), but given how little actual detail he was prepared to reveal, the space for conjecture and wishful thinking to occupy any perceived vacuum was taken up with gusto by our friends in the media, who aren’t it must be pointed out very good at their sums.

What we do know is that Alfa Romeo’s lineup will be electrified (in a dynamic way, sayeth the good Mr. Tavares) by mid-late decade, and that future cars bearing the legendary Scudetto will (upcoming Tonale aside) employ the new modular group platforms, largely developed by PSA. This includes the models currently on the much-hyped rear-drive Giorgio platform, which allegedly cannot support electrification. Ah yes, dear Mr. Marchionne – such a visionary.

Also confirmed this week was the heralded arrival of the highly-regarded Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos to centro stile Alfa Romeo, as previewed on these pages in May. It may be some time however, before we see the fruits of his upcoming labour.

Meanwhile, his boss was understandably talking up Alfa’s prospects within the group, stating that the Biscionehas the potential to be the global premium brand of Stellantis.” Now, given that we have heard a good deal more than strictly necessary about Alfa Romeo’s potential for some considerable years, it might behove both him and Mr. Tavares to promise less and get on with the delivery side of things.

Staying with Stellantis, this week also saw the official announcement of the second of Peugeot’s new generation 308 models – the SW estate. Following closely from the five door hatch introduced a couple of months ago (and not as yet commented upon on these pages), the SW lends a slightly more cohesive style to the somewhat melted fondant appearance of the new generation hatch.

These new-era Peugeots tend to hang together with more conviction in three dimensions, but one can’t help but feel that in the 308, Peugeot’s current design direction has hit its first significant pothole. Still, it’s most likely to give the current Renault Megane a thorough kicking in the marketplace when it goes on sale in France later this year.

We also heard from JLR’s Thierry Bolloré this week, who outlined a little more about his plans for what he terms the damaged brand-Jaguar. Bolloré intends to employ the successful Range Rover business model for the leaping cat, stating; “When Jaguar was incredibly successful, at the time when the E-Type got onto the market, it was a copy of nothing, that is what we are preparing now.

It appears that group design chief, Gerry McGovern has not been allowing the dust to cling to his heels, having corralled both Land Rover and Jaguar design teams and hothoused a series of proposals which will now form the basis for the new Jaguar-branded lineup; Bolloré stating McGovern’s teams’ “incredible creativity” achieved what would normally take 18 months in a mere 3. Mind you, if you had Gerry breathing down your neck, you’d get pretty darned creative and sharpish.

AutoExpress reports that these three proposals (two crossovers and a 2-door sports model allegedly) have been stylistically signed off, and this new range of cars, which will also contain the existing I-Pace in some shape or form (the only existing car to continue beyond 2025), will start in the region of £100,000 – which is going to make life interesting for JLR dealers in and around transition time.

I’d think twice about that E-Pace madam.

2022 Honda Civic Hatchback. Image: Autocar

Honda has meanwhile revealed its newest Civic model, which will be rolled out across European markets in 2022. This American-built model (Honda’s UK plant is to close) is the eleventh iteration of the Civic nameplate and is notable for a marked transition from the hyper-aggression and busy surfacing of the outgoing model for a calmer, more harmonious appearance.

Proportions have also been tightened up considerably, lending the car a tauter, more dynamic mien, this time however, without necessarily having to shout about it. Honda has clearly got its ill-advised Manga styling period out of its system. All rejoice.

Power is to be from a choice of hybrid petrol/electric powertrains, although which is to specified for Europe remains to be confirmed. The upcoming, range topping Civic R model however, will retain a combustion engine, pumping out something in the region of 300 big ones. Heavens!

While on the subject of calmer styling (and hybrids), Ferrari have debuted their new 296 GTB, its so-called new-era Dino model, which your correspondent confidently predicted would never happen. Much like their friends in Minato, Marenello have been mired in a race to the bottom with rival hypercar-makers over who could style a mid-engined machine in the most visually repellent fashion.

The jury remains out on that, but meanwhile, Ferrari appears to be taking itself out of the game, and following in the footsteps of the well received Roma Coupé, borrowing elements from Pininfarina’s 2013 Sergio concept (in the nose treatment) and Lotus’ Evora around the canopy, the 296 melds traces of Ferrari’s past with more contemporary cues to largely pleasing effect.

Oh and yes, it’s a hybrid V6. Just don’t get your hopes up on a suitably entry-level price. No Mystic Meg is your correspondent when it comes to auto-predictions, but it’s a different story when it comes to commerce. We’re talking Ferrari after all.

Ferrari 296 GTB. Image: Autocar

Another turbulent week at the eternally troubled Aston Martin, this time saying adieu to design director, Miles Nürnberger, who leaves Gaydon for pastures new. Having worked alongside design chief, Marek Reichman at Lincoln in the US, Nürnberger was poached from Groupe PSA in 2008; the German-born designer having overall responsibility for all of the more recent AM designs.

The reason for his departure has not been made public, but unquestionably, some of the recent designs he has helmed have not been particularly well received, especially amid the heartland models (DB 11 and Vantage). Not that he should necessarily bear sole responsibility for that.

Instead he moves to Paris, replacing the chair recently vacated by the above-mentioned Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos at Renault’s Dacia brand. Now only a grizzled cynic would ask what would prompt the lead designer from as prestigious and storied a carmaker as Aston Martin to depart for a value-focussed, mass-market manufacturer like Dacia? Whatever the rationale, it leaves a good deal open to interpretation.

Now finally, and on the subject of genuine surprise, I had intended to complete this roundup with some comment regarding Lancia’s startling reanimation plans, but since I’m already over 1200 words, it’s Sunday and you’re tired, I think we ought to defer that pleasure for another time.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

25 thoughts on “Newsgrab”

  1. Good morning Eóin. Reading that the plans for Alfa Romeo include a “Giulia-esque” saloon made me laugh! They already have a very good one and it’s called the Giulia, but Alfa Romeo have been singularly inept at promoting and, more importantly, providing decent after-sales support for it. That’s where any plan to reinvigorate Alfa-Romeo needs to start. How are the other Stellantis marques perceived in this regard?

    Regarding the new Civic, I’m pleased to see that it’s no longer repellent, but take a look at this photo:

    Is it just me, or are those shut-lines and panel gaps rather too wide and prominent? Even the rear bumper to wing panel gap seems to be unusually obvious.

    1. This is the American made model. Europe will get cars from Japan, which will presumably get tighter gaps. Look forward to seeing the saloon.

    2. I’ve just seen this photo of the new Civic and the relationship between the bonnet shut-line and the bodyside crease is just horrible!

      It looks as though each element was designed in complete isolation from the other. Why on earth didn’t they take the opportunity to conceal the horizontal part of the shut-line within the crease, rather than having it sitting directly above it (and, worse, converging with it as both move towards the front of the car)?

      How can professional designers sign off on such a mess is completely beyond me.

    3. This is how to handle it properly, on the current Škoda Superb:

    4. Bonnet shut-line and irritating plastic finishing detail aft of the rear-side window apart, the new Civic is growing on me. Yes, it’s a bit generic and thus reminds me of the MG5 of a few years ago now, but it’s quite calm and well proportioned and looks better quality than its predecessors. The rear hatch looks like a clam-shell arrangement, which is novel(?) but I think contributes the the sense of too many shut-lines and features along the side of the car.

      I am not keen on the Ferrari – I can see hints of the Lotus Europa as well as the Evora. The front could be anything and the way the bulge over the rear wheel flows into the nacelle lacks conviction – it reminds me of a snake consuming a smallish mammal.

      I seem to be alone in liking the 308 SW – it’s much better balanced than the hatch and looks rather exciting, in spite of the over-flowing grille and naff new badges. I think it rather too close to the 508 SW for comfort and might well steal sales from that car in the way that the 505 did from the 604 all those years ago.

  2. Goodmorning Eóin and thanks for the autonews briefing.
    Never realised the article got so big, hungry for more I suppose, and the number oh words got “eaten” like miles on a highway in a GT car!
    The new 308 has to be “design-wise” covered, I only saw a picture and it looks interesting in being a bit different, long bonnet et all.
    I see so many new DEFENDERS these days, I can’t believe my eyes. And their reliability, service and parts costs are notorius…hmm but so few GIULIAs…whats the catch here? What is ALFA doing wrong?
    If Jaguar manages the same with LR then we are talking of a renaissence.
    Speaking of which…Lancia? Please tell us that there is some good news! Just that will suffice our anxiety.
    P.S. Daniel, nice picture of the new CIVIC. I think the wide panel gabs are part of a more smooth “design transition”! connecting the new and the outgoing models. It would look a bit too much AUDI-like if the gabs were narrower.

    1. Alfa is (or at least should be) competing against Audi, BMW and Mercedes which means they have to be competitive in the company car market which is completely dominated by the fleet lease contract business. Fleet managers expect low monthly leasing fees and drivers expect a product that’s up to professional standards both in use and in service and the German Three have invested a lot of money and effort into creating such a product which nowadays not only consists of the car itself but also of the service provided by the dealer network.
      The high depreciation of Alfas drives up the leasing fees and the complete absence of professionalism on behalf of the dealers drives out the users.
      Leasing companies haven’t forgotten the disaster with hundreds of prematurely cancelled leasing contracts for 156s when fleet managers were fed up by dealers delivering something between sub-standard or no service at all.
      The dealers and their inacceptable standards of service are (and have been for a long time) Alfa’s achilles heel and I don’t see how this is going to improve under Stellantis which themselves aren’t exactly known for dealers delivering proper service. As long as this fundamental problem isn’t fixed any money invested in Alfa is simply lost.

  3. Dear Eóin

    Your entertaining recap shows a certain parallelism between the events at Alfa Romeo and Jaguar. And this, in itself, for the umpteenth time, after both brands have presumably undergone a similar number of attempts to revitalise or even reinvent themselves as a brand over the last 30 years.

    With Jaguar, in particular, I have the impression that they are embarking on a rather promising course. At least that’s what I take from Autocar and Auto Express – which this week both claim to have published the first and only interview with Thierry Bolloré on Jaguar’s current direction – a few quotes that give me cause for confidence.

    Especially the comparison with Range Rover is perfectly comprehensible to me. This brand is usually bought for its own sake. Unfortunately, things feel quite different with Jaguar at the moment. The best example is a very good friend of mine who until recently was a loyal customer of BMW and regularly bought very finely equipped 3 Series from them. His switch to a new Jaguar XE was not so much due to the XE’s substance (which surprised me positively after a first drive), but primarily due to his rejection of BMW’s current design orientation.

    A Jaguar has to be desired and bought again for its own sake. In this respect, I can only applaud Thierry Bolloré’s concluding quote: “When Jaguar was incredibly successful, at the time the E-Type was launched, it was a copy of nothing. That’s what we’re preparing now.”

  4. Is it just me who has the feeling that the Ferrari 296 GTB needs the brand logo on the flanks so that the public doesn’t confuse it with an Alfa Romeo 6C, Lotus Evora or Maserati MC20?
    (The owner doesn’t need it, he has received the invoice with the Ferrari letterhead, paid almost twice the amount for a Maserati and is therefore certain that it must be a Ferrari).

  5. It’s odd – I can’t recall whether I’ve heard about the launch of the 308; I don’t think that I have. That’s surprising, given that I follow the automotive sector quite closely. Perhaps there are too many models and too many media outlets for the message to get through reliably.

    Regarding dealers – thinking about it, Alfa Romeo dealer staff will be part of the same pool of staff from which other makes in large dealer groups are served, so it doesn’t really make sense that they are especially bad, unless there are other things going on (which there probably are, I suppose).

    I wonder how many marques will go down the ‘agency’ route, as VWG have done with their electric vehicles, effectively leaving dealers with a more minor role. Perhaps that will improve matters.

    I’ve always thought that the Ferrari badges on the wings look really cheap and it’s not as if they’re needed. Nice designs of late, though.

    1. Hi Charles. I agree about those Ferrari badges on the front wings. They scream ‘look at me’ insecurity on the part of the owners.

    2. No Dave, in this case, just weird…on an Alfa Romeo!

      Did that racing car have a Ferrari engine, or was it an early example of random sponsorship?

    3. The prancing horse is Enzo Ferari’s personal coat-of-arms. Enzo originally was an Alfa Roneo employee and head of their racing department. Then the inevitable happened and he left Alfa, founding his own racing team ‘Scuderia Ferrari’ that exclusively used Alfas and was the semi-detached factory racing team, much like the later Autodelta.
      The Ferrari sign on those Alfas simply was an indicator for the Scuderia, just as it is on today’s F1 racers.

    4. Autocar has announced the new 308 today (29/06) so you were not alone….

  6. Hi Eóin, so many false dawns for Alfa… PSA has done admirably with Peugeot, Citroën and Opel, if less convincingly with DS, to my mind anyway. Now as Stellantis it has a load more brands to find niches for. Fiat should still have potential if it gets a vaguely sensible and predictable model strategy, Alfa has had convincingly engineered, if poorly selling models of late, so there should be at least some potential – again probably hinging on a sensible line up and some staying power to build the brand back up. Lancia seems a very long shot, though.

    The 308 to me makes a convincing case for the Volkswagen Up: It seems these days that a good design doesn’t really age that much and doesn’t necessarily need replacing, even the Tesla Model S has been around virtually unchanged for quite a while now. The previous 308 still looks nice enough to me, the new one a busier update for update’s sake with few genuinely new ideas, making the whole thing weaker as a result. The latest Clio follows a similar path, but pulls it off better. Honda, however, had some cleaning up to do, design wise, and fortunately, they did.

    The Ferrari looks lovely, but as Mr. Eger mentions, the similarities between a great many mid-engined sports cars is quite striking. Somehow it reminds me of the previous models Opel Corsa and Hyundai i20: strikingly similar without actually sharing anything.

  7. The new Alfa Romeo ‘GTV’ will just be a derivative of the Peugeot 508 in fancier clothes – if the business case stacks up. A ‘coupe’ needn’t even have 2 doors these days eh? Oh be still my beating heart.

    As for the Giorgio platform, apparently it is the basis for the forthcoming smaller Maserati SUV, and that will have a full electric version. So who is telling the truth here?

    1. I think it’s Stellantis that is bending the truth but they need a story for terminating the Giorgio platform. The Giulia is the first Alfa since the 156 that doesn’t need excuses to own but it doesn’t sell. Continuing production of this platform for just one slow-selling car doesn’t make sense. Basing an Alfa in one of Stellantis’ current sub-standard platform doesn’t make sense, either as it will give us cars like early 155s. It will drive Alfa down in the market’s brand hierarchy but at least then the lousy service quality of the dealers won’t matter anmore.
      Why can’t they simply let Alfa die in peace?

  8. „ Much like their friends in Minato, Marenello have been mired in a race to the bottom with rival hypercar-makers over who could style a mid-engined machine in the most visually repellent fashion.“

    Brilliantly put and oh-so true, that’s why I keep coming back to DTW! Thank you and please keep up the great work!

  9. From what I have read, Tavares seems to be allowing his new brand CEOs each 10 years and a pot of money (I have not read as to how large the pot may be) to prove that their brand can be successful. Obviously, the definition of ‘successful’ is not – erm – explicitly defined for public knowledge, but, knowing Tavares, it’s probably connected to return and margin of profitability of some – umm – definition. Hence, Lancia, Alfa, DS, Maserati (i.e. all the under-performers) being given 10 years to hang themselves, or emerge, Houdini-like, into the pantheon of Stellantis’s strategic brands. Further ‘guard rails’ are that the brand CEOs have to play with the Stellantis platforms/ technology/ engineering toy-boxes prescribed by playmaster Tavares. Hence, Alfa isn’t allowed to play with the Giorgio platform anymore, but it seems Maserati can for a bit longer. It’s like some dystopian version of The Apprentice, or the automotive equivalent of The Hunger Games.

    I actually wonder whether the power and success has affected him – all too often it does. He’s been successful, pulled off a mega-deal and now he thinks he’s omnipotent and omniscient . I’ve met such people before and it usual ends in omni-shambles.

    1. No S.V. it’s worse, much worse.

      From Stellantis:

      Abarth – “Heating Up People, But Not the Planet”
      Alfa Romeo – “From 2024, Alfa Becomes Alfa e-Romeo”
      Chrysler – “Clean Technology for a New Generation of Families”
      Citroën – “Citroën Electric: Well-Being for All!”
      Dodge – “Tear Up the Streets… Not the Planet”
      DS Automobiles – “The Art of Travel, Magnified”
      Fiat – “It’s Only Green When It’s Green for All”
      Jeep® – “Zero Emission Freedom”
      Lancia – “The Most Elegant Way to Protect the Planet”
      Maserati – “The Best in Performance Luxury, Electrified”
      Opel/Vauxhall – “Green is the New Cool”
      Peugeot – “Turning Sustainable Mobility into Quality Time”
      Ram – “Built to Serve a Sustainable Planet”
      Commercial Vehicles – “The Global Leader in e-Commercial Vehicles”

      * sources: Pants on fire, hair on fire, sky falling, stung by a scorpion, choked on croissant, vorsprung durch panik.

    2. Are the Abarth offices by chance located near a microwave transmission tower?

      Spied on the street, a future Dodge “muscle car” featuring gullwing doors:

    3. Good evening gooddog. Do I detect a hint of scepticism on your part regarding Stellantis’s good intentions? You seem a little out of sorts. 😁

  10. Yes Daniel, Most of their brands compete directly against each other, but there is not a single world class competitive electric vehicle in the whole bunch. What could go wrong with this new strategy?

    Also I don’t believe in magic, so please excuse me for being a heretic, but at whose expense did PSA wave a wand over Opel/Vauxhall and make it profitable?

    I am “happy” for Lancia, I guess. Is there still some kind of non-compete clause between Alfa-Maserati and Ferrari? I can still remember when occasionally Alfa kicked Enzo Ferrari’s gloriously pompous arse on the racetrack, and when Maseratis were supercars of comparable status to Maranello’s finest, but we all know that era isn’t coming back. So two of those brands need to compete with Porsche, AMG-Mercedes, Jaguar etc. an with each other with one hand tied behind their back. What could go wrong there?

    Fiat is dead (again) in the US. and not a player in China…

    Yes I am annoyed that Stellantis exists as it does. Reminds me of when GM had fifteen or so brands worldwide, and I am reminded of how many they have now, and how wonderfully healthy they all are. I like all the Stellantis brands, but I don’t see how Tavares, Elkann, et al could possibly do them justice.

  11. And there is nothing wrong with change, bring on the Teslas, the Nios, the various Geelys, Xpengs, Lucids etc. But each of those sales is going to come at some “legacy” brand’s expense. Stellantis needs to get real.

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