Alfa Romeo stared success in the face with 2003’s Kamal crossover concept, but opted to pursue MINI instead. Was this Fiat Auto’s worst product planning decision ever?
Product will only get you so far in the auto business, but it certainly does help. It helps a great deal more when it is the right product, preferably at an opportune time. Successful product planning is a subtle art and a rock many a car company have stumbled messily upon, for exact science it is not.
In the immediate post-Millennium period, Alfa Romeo was in serious financial trouble, losing millions of Euros a day, despite having Continue reading “Culture Club”
The concept of fun isn’t one we’d habitually associate with brand-Volkswagen, especially of late. But all that appears set to change.
In matters of crisis management, it is essential to maintain control of the narrative. Lose that, and the organisation becomes untethered, prey to attack from all sides. Inaction, by default, becomes one’s chosen action in both the eyes of critics and the wider public.
When Volkswagen’s systematic and sophisticated emissions gaming came to light in 2015, the carmaker seemed to have frozen in disbelief and denial. Regardless of how matters were being handled internally, the glacial pace of their response was viewed in the Continue reading “Crisis of Identity”
The Arese merry-go-round has a fresh face in new CEO, Tim Kuniskis. Will he enjoy better fortune than his predecessors, or will it simply be more of the same?
Who’d take on a basket-case like Alfa Romeo? A marque with almost boundless potential for greatness, yet equally one with an unimpeachable aptitude for tragi-comic reversals of fortune. A state of affairs which is rooted in successive management failures – from those amid the semi-state Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale who oversaw Alfa’s affairs until 1987 and subsequently, the individuals Fiat Auto appointed to Continue reading “The Circle Game”
Reports have surfaced of Alfa Romeo readying a two-door version of their Giulia saloon later this year. As aficionados of the coupé, we should be delighted, so why is Driven to Write more troubled than pleased?
While not entirely immune from hyperbole’s more strident notes, Autocar can normally be relied upon to swerve outright speculation. However, last week, Richard Bremner – a respected journalist who these days seems reduced to penning listicles for their online edition – reported (citing ‘sources’), that FCA are at work on a Giulia-based coupé, said to employ the Sprint nameplate. “The Giulia coupé could appear towards the end of this year and go on sale in 2019”, his Autocar piece suggested.
With Ford’s Taurus the latest sedan nameplate set for a date with the eternal, what does this growing convergence mean for the large blue-collar American saloon?
Cadillac’s recently announced plans to remove a number of sedan model lines in response to shifting commercial realities appears not to have occurred in a vacuum. Last week it was Ford’s turn, first with reports of the Mexican-built Fiesta being phased out, but more dramatically, that executives have elected not to Continue reading “Victim of Stars”
Cometh the hour, cometh the car. 1988’s E34 BMW 5-Series arrived at just the right moment, redefining the model line and clarifying a template that arguably hasn’t been bettered.
If 1961’s Neue Klasse saloons served to define Bayerische Motoren Werke’s style template and 1966’s 1600-2 popularised it, the Paul Bracq-inspired E12 5-Series of 1972 would take the design principles of Wilhelm Hofmiester and recast them in a modish, yet still highly disciplined context.
A design which married a sharply pared and engineered steeliness with an almost Latin softness, the E12 became BMW’s visual touchstone for almost two generations. So much so that its replacement, 1981’s E28 was essentially a reskin of the outgoing car. Continue reading “Five in Time”
As Cadillac’s Johan de Nysschen prepares to stun the World with a flagship model, we look back thirty years to a previous attempt at shock and awe.
Throughout Cadillac’s rich and honourable a history of so-called dream cars, what distinguished the concepts of the marque’s heyday was that they accurately signposted the direction styling would take, whereas latterly, they appear to exist only in order to Continue reading “Fantastic Voyage”
GM’s plans for Cadillac sound ambitious, but the gulf in product and perception terms facing the US luxury car brand appear to echo that of another, more familiar luxury marque.
When General Motors sold their European outpost to Groupe PSA last year, many believed the US car giant had upped sticks and left the Old World for good. But this week there was some fairly solid grounds for reviewing that assessment.
Speaking at the NADA-JD Power Automotive Forum at the eve of the New York auto show, Cadillac President, Johan de Nysschen announced to delegates, “Ladies and gentlemen, I can assure you that things are about to Continue reading “Building On Daring”
With Ford poised to officially reveal its spiritual successor, we examine the car which fifty years ago paved its path, becoming the fifth best selling car of all time.
It’s a curious choice of name when you think about it, connotating little by way of glamour or allure, unlike for instance its Cortina sibling. The car as companion perhaps? A no-nonsense non-specific name for what began as a practical, utilitarian no-nonsense car.
The Escort name in fact predated this model, first turning up on a variant of the 1950s British Ford 100E range, but more salaciously, it was also the title of a popular UK top-shelf publication, beloved of the school playground and travel motel dweller alike.
In 1978, Fiat and Pininfarina displayed both their environmental credentials alongside the Ecos styling study. Twenty years later, were its themes reprised for of all things, an SUV?
As we’re fond of pointing out round here, the storied Italian design houses were not exactly above rehashing and repurposing design concepts for rival clients should the need arise (And it frequently did). After all, there are only so many ideas out there at a given time and if the intended client isn’t biting, why not Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday: 1978 Pininfarina Ecos”
Lancia’s 2004 B-sector monospace was that rare thing – a commercial success. But was it a better Idea than its Fiat sibling?
It has been suggested that the Lancia Musa died prematurely, production ceasing when Fiat Auto’s Stabilimento Mirafiori car plant was idled in 2012; victim of the catastrophic fall in Italian new car sales in the wake of the financial crash, sovereign debt crisis, not to mention the legacy of Fiat Auto’s inability to Continue reading “The Muse of Melpomene”
Death’s door revolves once more for VW’s retromobile. Perhaps we’ll miss it this time, but only if it promises to go away.
At the recent Geneva motor show, Volkswagen’s research and development chief, Frank Welsch confirmed the much rumoured demise of the Beetle. Many commenters had speculated since VW’s fortunes (both reputational and financial) took a dive in the wake of the firm’s emissions-revelations, that niche models like the Beetle were on deathwatch, so in many ways this news comes as no surprise.
Two impressive Geneva concepts from India’s largest carmaker suggests a growing maturity and ambition. We investigate.
It may surprise you to learn that Tata Motors have been part of the Indian automotive landscape for over 70 years. For most of that time, Ratan Tata’s motor business concentrated on the commercial field, before becoming famous for the Nano, billed as the World’s cheapest car. But they are probably best known for their surprising (and lucrative) 2008 acquisition of what became Jaguar Land Rover.
In its two and a half decades in the passenger car business, Tata have been predominantly a domestic player, but as the Indian car market has grown both in size and relative sophistication, Tata, in conjunction with its design and engineering satellites (not to mention independent partners) in both the UK and Italy, has reshaped its domestic offerings to compete with the big names.
The 2018 Kia Ceed is now punctuation-free and in possession of a new, more sober attire. Sound familiar?
Notwithstanding one or two brave and ultimately doomed adventures into the leftfield during the early 1970s, the European C-segment has never been a bastion of progressive design. So it should be with little or no surprise that we consider the ongoing convergence of the principal players, not just in engineering and layout, but if the current Geneva motor show is a reliable indicator, in styling terms as well.
Two significant saloon cars debuted at Palexpo this week, but according to our man pounding the show floor, only one makes the grade.
As any traveller will tell you, getting upgraded from economy is much easier said than done. Indeed, the more habituated one is to travel economy, the key to that threshold appears even more arbitrary and capricious. PSA knows all about this. Having squandered brand-Peugeot’s upmarket credentials during the 1980s and having got their creepy ‘drive-sexy’ phase out of the way latterly, the Lion of Belfort has been painfully clawing its way back to some semblance of stylistic and reputational credibility.
Reporting from the 88th Geneva motor show, Driven to Write, in conjunction with Auto-Didakt searches in vain for signs of progress amid the weaponised SUV landscape.
Having launched what is quite likely the star of the Geneva motor show in the comely form of the Jaguar I-Pace, JLR are quite understandably basking in peer-group approbation and the warm glow of being on-zeitgeist. But meanwhile, there is more conventional fare to be made and sold – and a bottom line to be protected. After all, introducing a BEV is a witheringly expensive business, especially one whose sales potential still remains a relative unknown.
So offering what is arguably the yang to the I-Pace’s ying, JLR also debuted the limited-run Range Rover SV Coupé – all £220,000 (before options) of it. To be constructed at JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations atelier in Coventry, only 999 examples will Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – Above and Beyond”
Continuing his review of the 88th Geneva motor show press days, Kris Kubrick consults with the oracles at GFG Style.
Last week, we presented the CAD-rendered images of GFG Style’s newest concept. GFG is the latest business venture of perhaps the World’s most famous (certainly most influential) car designer following his surprise departure from the VW-owned Ital Design, a carrozzeria now rendered doubly irrelevant.
Not content with one, DTW has two embedded correspondents roaming the fleshpots of the 88th Geneva show press days. Today, Kris Kubrick casts an Auto-Didaktic eye on Palexpo’s highlights.
First up is the Mercedes i30, sorry – A-Class. (It gets so confusing these days) So having taken lines and creases out of everything, one is left with… well, this one supposes. Best Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections”
Far from simply purveyors of amusing retro-curiosities, Japan’s 10th most significant car maker is in fact at the forefront of modern luxury.
You’ve got to hand it to the Japanese. For a country which is often characterised by rigid social conformity and deep-rooted behavioural reserve, they do seem to have an interesting sense of humour, albeit one that doesn’t always translate that well.
Another future postponed. Today we look at an engine technology from the early 1990’s which, for a short time at least, looked like a certainty.
Where do ideas go to die? Are blueprints simply rolled up and secreted away, to be dusted off by historians in decades hence or are there engineers in a quiet workshop somewhere in Australia (or Toyota City) still burning with religious fervour for what now appears to have been something of a lost cause?
Founded by engineer, Ralph Sarich, the Orbital Engine Corporation was based in Perth and during the early 1990’s attracted the interest of a number of big name manufacturers for a clever reworking of the time-honoured but somewhat flawed two-stroke engine design. For a short period of time, it sounded tantalisingly like Continue reading “Stroke of Fortune”
Almost three years on from VW’s monumental lapse of judgement, the only thing that is clear amid the noxious murk is an overwhelming and potentially damaging lack of clarity.
Not simply a colossal failure and a swingeing indictment of VW’s corporate culture as espoused by the management style of former chairman, Ferdinand Piëch, the repercussions of VW’s 2015 betrayal are proving even wider and faster-accelerating than anyone might reasonably have anticipated.
As Tesla outsells its German flagship market rivals on home turf, have we reached that much anticipated watershed or are the majors about to nick Elon’s lunch money as he’s about to cash in?
Last week it was reported that European sales of the Tesla Model S outstripped those of the German luxury flagship saloons for the first time, marking an alleged pivot point for the adoption and acceptance of electric vehicles across the region. A watershed moment perhaps or simply sensationalist reporting?
Fair question, because firstly there is some conjecture as to whether the Model S is a direct rival to the S-Class Mercedes and its ilk, especially when Elon Musk himself describes it more as an E-Class and Five Series competitor. Sizewise, Musk is broadly correct, but in terms of price, he most certainly isn’t. But regardless of which segment of the market it’s aimed, for a section of society who have the financial wherewithal to Continue reading “No Resistance”
At Driven to Write, we believe all marques have a story to tell and today’s subject, from a half-forgotten outlier is no exception. But before we get to the subject at hand, it’s probably worth a little recap.
The Proton motor company was founded in 1983 and until the advent of rival, Perodua a decade later, was the sole indigenous Malaysian carmaker. Initially partnered with Mitsubishi, who for a time owned a minority stake in the business, Proton cars were mildly reheated Mitsubishi models, like the unfortunately named Saga, which was Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional’s earliest offering in the United Kingdom – first introduced in 1989.
But despite its senior citizen connotations, the Saga proved a successful model line, with over 30,000 sold in the first three years. Indeed, Proton was for a time at least, viewed as Continue reading “A Proton Saga”
A clumsy name for a rather clumsy car. Ten years ago, Alfa Romeo took aim at the MINI (and its ilk) and missed. We plot the MiTo’s wobbly trajectory.
Alfa Romeo has throughout its long history enjoyed a distinctly patchy relationship with small cars. Pre-War, such a notion would probably have been laughable but even in the latter half of the 20th century, despite the occasional prototype, the smallest car Portello actually got round to Continue reading “Two Cities, One Car”
The history of the motor industry is littered with lost causes and alternative realities. Today, we look at one of the more poignant examples.
Even in automotive terms, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell is not a household name, although perhaps he ought to be. The late German engineer and product supremo enjoyed a stellar career at BMW and in 2004, landed what appeared to be not only a dream job, but one which promised truly great things.
Another year, another Maserati sales crisis. But just how tarnished are the Trident’s prongs?
It does appear at times that the only Maserati news is bad news. When we last reported on the Tridente’s fortunes in 2015, a woebegone tale was unfolding, with FCA’s Harald Wester revising his forecasts downwards in the wake of disappointing sales.
Last Autumn it was widely reported that production at the Mirafiori plant which builds the Levante crossover (and Alfa MiTo incidentally) was temporarily halted, owing to changes in Chinese regulations regarding the manner in which manufacturers and dealers should Continue reading “Hammer Time”
The current KA+ is a dispiriting sight for those who appreciated the original’s daring style. Today, we consider lost causes in the form of the 2010 Start concept.
Presenting a plausible and attractive evolution of the Ur-KA silhouette, Start came out of Ford’s Californian design centre, allegedly as a conceptual piece of blue sky thinking. Designed by Jeff Nield under the supervision of Freeman Thomas, Start debuted at the 2010 Beijing motor show, touted as a technology trailblazer for the blue oval.
A delightfully organic, podlike shape, the stylistic homages to the original 1996 KA are abundant, especially in the shaping and treatment of the Continue reading “Start at the End”
Not even two years since its European launch, Ford have got the magic markers out on the KA+. What can it all mean?
“The KA+ was introduced for customers in Europe as a spacious, well-equipped and value-for-money small car that offers excellent fuel-efficiency and fun-to-drive dynamics at an affordable price”. You have been reading the words of Ford’s press department before you write in to complain. A ‘Fiesta Minus’ with ‘milquetoast styling’ is what Driven to Write had to say on the matter in 2016.
There’s little doubt. Toyota have a hit on their hands in the C-HR crossover. But what are the implications for its more reserved hatch sibling?
As even the dogs in the street know by now, the way of the Crossover is the path the European industry is hell-bent on pursuing. Decry it all we wish, the buying public appear to prefer the cut of its jib, its loftier driving position, its faint (if somewhat fraudulent) air of go-anywhere capability.
The automotive equivalent perhaps of a pair of Sketchers* trekking shoes, the marketing message exudes that ‘I’ve just emerged from my mindfulness class and now I’ll probably Continue reading “Doubt and Disbelief”
As Ford readies its 2018 Euro-offerings, Driven to Write asks whether Henry’s Focus remains slightly askew?
In a Automotive News report this week, it was revealed that Ford will not unveil the new-generation Focus model at the Geneva show in March, electing to do so at a bespoke event the following month. The Ford spokesperson did not explain why this decision was taken (nor, it seems was the question asked) but it does suggest that Ford’s marketers believe they will Continue reading “Ford ReFocuses its Offer”
Thirty years before Urus, Bertone envisaged a fashionable high-riding Lamborghini four-door. But it wasn’t an SUV – after all, they already made one of those.
Despite being largely associated with mid-engined supercars, Lamborghini remains something of an exception in automotive terms. Perhaps it’s a function of the marque’s beginnings as makers of farm machinery, but the abstract of Lamborghini appears more malleable than most. Debatable of course, but to a large extent, it’s possible to Continue reading “Monospace di Bertone”
Suspending his disbelief, Driven to Write asks whether Citroen’s claims for their Advanced Comfort® programme are worth their weight in hydraulic fluid.
Last October, Citroën announced a heavily revised C4 Cactus, intended not only to boost the fortunes of the established (and fading) model, but also to replace the moribund C4 hatch. As we know, in so doing, Citroën abandoned the original car’s distinctive and pleasingly unaggressive style, reverting to a less polarising, yet also more generic look. More grown-up, as the gentlemen of the press might put it.
You wait decades and three motoring ‘big beasts’ relaunch at once.
Every movement has its icons and given where we are now I think we can probably describe the current SUV contagion as a movement. In terms of icons, the holy trinity of sports utility vehicular worship appears to consist of the Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender and Toyota Landcruiser. Just outside, but banging rather conspicuously at the door is Mercedes with its interloper G-Wagen.
The original Willys MB Jeep is known to all – man, woman and small dog. Created as a military vehicle during the second World war, it entered full-scale production in 1941, going on to Continue reading “Three Lions”
An encounter with the Ka’s more glamourous cousin has prompted Driven to Write to seek the word on the Street.
The 2002 Ford StreetKa was first shown at the 2000 Turin motor show as a concept, but its roots go back to 1996, when Ghia presented the Saetta, a teaser for that year’s Ka hatchback, but also the StreetKa’s direct forebear.
No sticklers for current affairs are we, (spin cycles etc…) but given that it’s my first dedicated 2018 post, I thought I’d confound expectations. Mine, as much as yours.
Earlier this week, Autocar’s reverse-cassandra, [this analogy doesn’t entirely hold water, but bear with me] spoke to Ford Motor Company CEO, Jim Hackett, obtaining assurances that the American car giant has no intention of following General Motors out of the European car market. “I have in my hand a piece of paper…”, Steve Cropley didn’t quite say.
Our final retrospective waltz in this series lands in 1957.
1957’s Sweet Smell of Success was an unusual film for its era, made by a director better known for lighthearted comedies, casting its two leads against type and portraying a seedy, rapacious twilight world behind the gloss of celebrity culture. In that respect, it was a very modern film, but it was one the public were not ready for, dying on its feet in cinemas.
Ah 1967: The Summer of love. Sgt. Pepper. Twiggy. Bond.
But leaving popular culture aside, the mood music was more sombre. In the UK, land speed record holder, Donald Campbell died attempting to break the water record on Lake Coniston in his Bluebird K3 jetboat. While back on terra firma the advent of the Road Safety Act set a maximum permitted blood alcohol level, allowing breathalyser tests to be performed on drivers for the first time.
Whether it was Liz’s Jubilee, BL’s annus horriblis, the death of Elvis, the first space shuttle flight or the beginning of the Star Wars juggernaut, 1977 was a year of transitions. Even the music business reflected this, with Fleetwood Mac’s cocaine and divorce epic, Rumours topping the album charts while David Bowie (now off the white powder) offered the icy sheen of Low, a record which suggested a future (if not necessarily the future).
The waltz continues its overdue retrospective sweep through 1987.
By the mid-80’s the Japanese car companies were beginning to really give the European car business the willies, with the UK’s Car magazine bewailing their advent in luridly melodramatic terms. With Honda’s existing midliner being Accorded viable 3-Series rivalry status, Minato-Tokyo prepared a fresh salvo into the hearts and minds of their European rivals with this third generation Prelude.
It’s been a while since we did one of these, and while today’s candidate might appear a little tenuous at first sight, look beyond the scudetto and there are chevrons galore.
First shown at the 1983 Geneva motor show, the Delfino was an attempt by carrozzeria Bertone to update the classical luxury gran turismo after almost a decade of decline. Alfa Romeo’s relationship with Bertone was long-standing, but had entered a prolonged period of stasis, with Portello forging a closer relationship with Ital Design when they were not Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Bertone Delfino”
Continuing DTW’s meta retrospective, we dial the time machine back to 1997.
1997 was an eventful year (weren’t they all?) which in a series of reversals for establishment-Britain saw the Chinese regain control over Hong Kong, and the dominant Conservative party lose power domestically following an 18-year run. In Paris that autumn, Princess Diana died in a car accident, the Hale-Bopp comet had its initial sighting, and oh yes, the Titanic sank again.
In a series of articles, Driven to Write gives 2017 the meta treatment.
It’s normally customary at this time to reflect upon the just-departed year, its themes, its happenings and how these events might offer some guide to the coming one, but my DTW colleague-in-arms has already covered that. No, what I am offering today (and over the coming days) is to all intents and purposes a series of retrospectives on a series of retrospectives. Well after all it’s Driven to Write you’ve blundered upon, what exactly were you expecting?
A (modest) commercial success, but ultimately a creative failure, the 2007 XF opened Jaguar up to a non-traditional audience, but in the final analysis, probably cast too many values on the fire.
By 2005, Ford’s ambitious growth strategy for Jaguar lay in tatters following a series of misguided creative decisions based on a discredited retro aesthetic. As Ford’s Premier Automotive Group began its slow dissolve, the storied luxury car maker’s consistent inability to Continue reading “The Death of Romance”
The 1957 Lotus Type 14 was uncommonly beautiful, brilliantly courageous but ultimately doomed.
“Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic Orders? And even if one were to suddenly take me to its heart, I would vanish into its stronger existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear, and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains to destroy us. Every angel is terrible.”René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke – First Elegy.
Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman was no angel, but a visionary, risk-taker, rascal, genius? He’s been called many of these things and indeed some of them may Continue reading “Terrible Angel”
Heralding a stylistic revolution to follow, the 1996 Alfa Romeo Nuvola would underline in the most eloquent fashion the power of the past.
Alfa Romeo’s mid ’90s output was a mixture of the sublime and, if not entirely ridiculous, the at least unconvincing. On one hand we had the ageing, but still elegant 164, the sharp-looking 145, and the strikingly handsome 916-series GTV / Spider, while on the other, there was the 146 and 155 – hardly Alfa designs for the ages.
Commonly regarded as the most beautiful Alfa Romeo saloon shape of recent times, the Alfa 156’s svelte lines remain a credit to its designer. But questions remain as to its authorship.
Over the past sixty-odd years, Alfa Romeo berlinas and the notion of ravishing beauty were (for the most part) mutually exclusive. Now of course this doesn’t necessarily mean Arese wasn’t home to some very fine and finely wrought motorcars, but it’s difficult to avoid the view that the habitual centro stile fare hasn’t exactly been an art curator’s dream.
The 1992 Alfa 155 certainly wasn’t. Based on the Tipo-derived Type Three corporate platform, its tall, narrow-looking silhouette combined with skin surfacing endowed with an over-abundance of character lines, and clumsily placed shutlines was a clear evolution of its 75 predecessor, but hardly a car to Continue reading “Beauty Stab”