Ready for another one?
When Driven to Write was initiated in 2014, it was with a combination of blind faith, optimism and a certain naivety. Now, almost eight years on, we appear to have established a solid niche amid the outer margins of automotive discourse; well removed from the mainstream, but nonetheless, a distinct and distinctive part of the conversation.
2021 has been another intensely difficult year for us all, so much being lost amid a seemingly endless (if mostly necessary) series of restrictions and privations. Yet, we have demonstrated our resilience; our overwhelming capacity to abide, despite seemingly insurmountable odds. But as we bid 2021 a less than fond farewell, please join us in a brief review of some of the year’s more newsworthy highlights at DTW.
We began the year with something of a surprise, the news that Stellantis had lent the stricken Lancia vessel a further lifeline in the form of the once-again refreshed Ypsilon. Further to this would be the announcement later in the year of the prospect of three new Lancia models over the coming decade – one as gratifying to Lancisti as it is miraculous – proving once again that truth is truly stranger than fiction.
On the subject of lifelines, JLR’s Thierry Bolloré threw the limping cat of Coventry a Mae West in the form of the carmaker’s Reimagine strategy. Salvation takes many forms but in this case it manifests itself across the broad shoulders of design supremo, Gerry McGovern, who has made it his personal mission to once again imbue Jaguar-branded motor cars with that long-absent and much-missed characteristic: allure. Action has consequences and the almost wholesale departure of team-Callum to pastures new in 2021 does suggest a multitude. But with baby and bathwater jettisoned, Mr McGovern must now put compelling form upon those high ideals.
Spring witnessed another deferred Geneva motor show, but while the salon was suspended, the Car of the Year competition went ahead regardless, albeit in virtual form. The surprise winner was… well, can anyone actually recall?
Unsurprisingly, electric cars dominated the news agenda during 2021, and DTW took an opportunity to consider the respective merits of the EV state of the art from Korea’s two top-selling carmakers – two sides to a very similar coin; one certain to become common currency over the next twelve months or so (supply issues notwithstanding). The wait however for a truly compelling EV formulation continues to lengthen.
We also donned our Dickies work boots before delving into into the steady decline of the European flat bed pick up, illustrating once again that not everything from the USA translates in an entirely seamless fashion.
While the summer allowed a brief period of respite from restrictions and (in some places) mask mandates, and jaded populations jetted off once more to enjoy themselves in more sun-kissed climes, at Sant’Agata Bolognese a veil of a different variety was ripped off during the Autumn as veteran designer Marcello Gandini launched an unprecedented broadside at Lamborghini’s rather cynical looking homage to the eternal Countach supercar. While there is said be no such thing as bad publicity, in this case, I would rather beg to differ.
November marked the reintroduction of a once-storied nameplate, that of Auto Union’s Horch; now emblazoned upon a stretched and tinselled version of Audi’s flagship A8 saloon. Something as singularly half-hearted as this really ought not elicit comment or effort on our part, but given that the Horch comes across as simply an inferior me-too Maybach, we felt the need to make ourselves (ahem) heard.
As 2021 reached its much-anticipated close, we were presented with the shortlist for 2022’s European Car of the Year contender. Given the direction of current amid the European auto scene and (one imagines) the desire of the organisers to demonstrate their fealty to the forthcoming wave, the 2022 finalist shortlist is entirely EV in nature. It’s shocks away for 2022!
Amid the 2021 auto-industry losses, we bid a final adieu to former Mercedes-Benz CEO, Jürgen Hubbert who left this earth in January, and to illustrious and feted car designer, Robert Opron, who departed us in March. Also worthy of an emotional farewell was the announcement recently of the cessation of Elise, Evora and Exige production at Lotus’ Hethel manufacturing facility. Cars of uneven ability they may have been, but few were as characterful, as beautifully calibrated and as finely honed towards driving engagement. They too will be missed.
Closer to DTW’s home, it has been gratifying to witness the levels of quality and craft which our contributors (both regular and infrequent) have attained this year; the growth (in both senses) of our writers has been a personal 2021 highlight. As a free to access site, it would be both foolish indeed and somewhat vain to fixate upon numbers. Last year witnessed a significant uplift in our viewing figures, a factor not entirely unrelated to the unprecedented situation we faced as SARS-COV-19 cut its dread swathe. However, the fact that not only have we maintained this uplift, but come within touching distance of surpassing it this year does speak volumes.
Allow me a moment therefore to express my gratitude to DTW’s contributors – their carefully crafted and entirely voluntary creations sit at the core of what we are about here. But beyond that, it is you, the DTW reader and commenter, whose elegant restraint, encyclopaedic knowledge, courtesy and erudition make this site as much a pleasure to edit as I hope it remains to read.
From the DTW team, our very best wishes for a prosperous, more expansive, safer and considerably sounder 2022. We hope you will continue to take the journey with us and look forward to entertaining and enlightening you over the coming twelve months – whatever further surprises it may bring.
Happy New Year.
A reminder of some of DTW’s more topical articles from 2021.