There goes another.
In a year when the term, permacrisis became embedded in common discourse –both as adjective and state of mind – those who believed the onset of 2022 would herald a return to relative stability and (relative) certainty were in for quite the disappointment. So as we bid farewell to another year, it’s time to cast back over some highlights of the Driven to Write year, one where reading the runes made as little sense as reading the (automotive) news, where forecasters flung their crystal balls aside in exasperation and most of us simply resigned ourselves to a state of perma-confusion.
Uncertainty was the leitmotif at the beginning of the year in Warwickshire as doubts were expressed about JLR’s Re-Imagine programme for brand-Jaguar. These would be crystallised by year’s end by the surprise ousting of CEO, Thierry Bolloré, amid a mounting set of challenges facing the embattled UK carmaker. But whatever Bolloré’s sins may have been, a principal one appears to have been an inability to keep the press and analyst community on-side. With a caretaker CEO in place, JLR (and brand-Jaguar in particular) faces an even more uncertain 2023. A serious re-imagining of Re-Imagine doesn’t appear in any way far-fetched.
The Italian side of the Stellantis business made the lion’s share of the product headlines in early 2022, with Alfa Romeo’s crucial Tonale product breaking cover, while at the upper end of the brand spectrum, Maserati’s equally important new crossover (also featuring some Biscione DNA), made its debut. Later in the year, it was the turn of the French arm, with both Peugeot and Citroën introducing two similar, yet markedly different derivations of the raised height saloon/ hatch recipe. May would see its Rüsselsheim outpost’s latest C-segment offering receive DTW’s gimlet-sodden analysis.
Two debutants would also enter the frame as Spring gave way to early summer, with large crossover offerings (what else nowadays?) from Mazda and Lotus being previewed. Neither thrilled at first acquaintance. Additionally, and in a break from contemporary fare, a diligently researched three-part DTW series conclusively demolished the long-cherished journalistic link between Soviet Steel and rusty Italian automobiles. A necessary and important piece of automotive archaeology.
On the subject of archaeology, during September, DTW outlined the definitive design genesis of the 1982 Ford Sierra, as told by the man in the centre of the vortex, eminent designer, Patrick le Quément. Neither he, nor the story which unfolded, minced its words. DTW was intensely proud to host this important historical document.
We also said goodbye during the year to what is likely to remain the last cerebral BMW, as the final i3 electric vehicle was built. Much like microchips, bravery pills appear to be in short supply at Milbersthofen nowadays, the ethos which saw these cars created having been irredeemably lost. After all, it’s worth bearing in mind that the BMW which produced the cars which aficionados revere was at heart a socially responsible business, while still catering to those who valued the Bavarian recipe for enthusiastic motoring.
On the other hand, today’s equivalent, as evidenced by the Vierzylinder’s 2022 debutants exhibits little but disdain, espousing an aesthetic rooted in toxicity and confrontation. These vehicles aren’t just ugly, they are vile – and proud of it. Which, as I’m confident you’ll agree, is very on-zeitgeist. On this basis, BMW is the gleeful recipient of DTW’s Bringing the Automobile into Disrepute award for 2022. In this decision, the jury felt confident the Bavarians will continue to excel in this area throughout 2023 and beyond.
But while BMW continues to circle the drain, over in Korea, the automobile is being reshaped in more interesting and infinitely more creative ways. And while the day-to-day fare we see may not as yet fully adhere to the increasingly high standards emanating from Seoul, the change is under way and at pace. The European industry ought to be concerned – Korea is the new Turin. DTW’s 2022 Saving Grace award therefore goes Eastwards, to add to the ECotY award garnered by the KIA EV6 in March.
But as autumn shortened the days, with Toyota introducing a newly fashioned Prius and Volvo a less than inspired SUV-EV flagship, it has fallen to a hitherto unlikely source to garner our most prestigious award. The Driven to Write Revelation of 2022 goes to General Motors and Cadillac in particular for the Celestiq EV. Proof that not only can one never write anybody off entirely, but that it is still possible, even in today’s febrile environment, to be genuinely surprised. And praise the heavens for that.
And so, as we enter 2023 with sore heads, good intentions and a n element of trepidation for what comes next, I wish you a year of good health and good fortune, and express the hope that you will, above all, continue reading. We will of course continue to uphold our end of the bargain, doing our utmost to keep you entertained and (hopefully) enlightened.
Best wishes for the coming year from all at DTW.
 A state known to hair stylists the world over. (Pun alert).
 Following his departure, the auto press lost no time in picking over Bollore’s corpse. But in truth, few outside Tata Motor know why the decision was taken. Nick Gibbs at Automotive News provided the only truly balanced reportage I could find. (The less said about Autocar’s coverage the better…)