Tinseltown in the Rain

Reflections on Jaguar’s XJ: DTW’s resident Jaguariste remembers a time when life and advertising met, sniffed one another before hurriedly going their separate ways.

jaguar-xj-2010
Image credit: (c) Jaguar

In 2009, I became somewhat overexcited about a new car launch. Following over 40-years of stylistic diminishing returns, to be presented with a twenty first century interpretation of the Jaguar XJ was exciting beyond rational explanation. Lacking a decent opportunity to Continue reading “Tinseltown in the Rain”

Passengers: Testament of Faith

They’re not like us – well, not much like us anyway

Opel Manta 400 - image via showerks
Opel Manta 400 – image via showerks

Sean’s fine piece on Denis Jenkinson earlier this week prompted this clip of rally legend, Ari Vatanen giving his co-driver an education in belief during stage 4 of the 1983 Manx Rally. Vatanen gets his Opel Manta 400’s tail wagging alarmingly on the narrow Isle of Man lanes prompting the now immortal exclamation from normally unflappable co-driver, Terry Harryman. (About 2 mins in, if you don’t want to watch the whole thing)Continue reading “Passengers: Testament of Faith”

Post For The Day

A Valentine’s Gift

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As you know, Mr Editor Kearne keeps us under a tight rein. His reputation as the Elliott Ness of transport publishing means that the industry knows that he can’t be bought so, unfortunately, this preconception unfairly passes on to his team of writers.

As such, it was rare for this piece of blatant bribery from Vauxhall to pass through the net and, so desperately grateful am I, that it would be wrong of me not to draw your attention to the car it refers to.  Continue reading “Post For The Day”

Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus? – Part Two

Driven to write concludes its examination of Jean-Marc Gales’ plans to save Lotus

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Many of Lotus’ apologists incline towards the view that Dany Bahar had the right basic idea, but was thwarted by DRB-HICOM’s lack of imagination. Unsurprisingly then, their view on Jean-Marc Gales appointment is of a similarly reactionary hue. Gales made a mess of PSA they contend, and will do likewise at Hethel. Leaving aside the steaming lake of ordure their spiritual leader left behind at Lotus for a moment, the question is worth considering. Is Gales the right man?

Continue reading “Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus? – Part Two”

Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus?

Part 1: Driven to write fixes its gimlet eye towards Jean-Marc Gales and asks if he has what it takes to transform Lotus’ fortunes in a post-Bahar era.

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Don’t mention the Bahar – Jean-Marc Gales with the team behind the Lotus Elise-S Cup. Photo via automotivpress

Four years ago at the Paris Motor show, Lotus attached a rocket to its back and aimed for the stars showing five audacious concepts. Rocketman, Dany Bahar, Lotus’ shamanic leader attained perihelion before learning a valuable, if rather messy lesson in physics. Bahar told The Telegraph recently he in fact never intended making all five concepts, his intention merely being “to make a lot of noise”. It clearly escaped his notice that it’s a lot easier and ultimately less time-consuming to just set fire to huge wads of cash in public. Just ask the KLF.  Continue reading “Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus?”

Death Has a Revolving Door: Here’s Borgward!

The coffin lid groans as the once lifeless corpse reanimates

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It was revealed earlier this week that Borgward, the long-dead German quality auto marque will announce their first new vehicle in over 50-years at this year’s Geneva Motor show. Borgward, who last produced cars in 1961, join Saab and Bristol amongst deceased marques making belated and in Saab’s case, serial comebacks from the grave.

Although amazingly, neither have as yet Continue reading “Death Has a Revolving Door: Here’s Borgward!”

Unforgetting: Ford GT70

I vaguely recall seeing photos of this car in a magazine somewhere, but never knew much about it. But having watched this short film from 1970, I now know more – if only a little…

GT70 - photo via autowp.ru
GT70 – photo via autowp.ru

During the late 60s, Ford was taking motorsport rather seriously. Ford’s 1970 rally weapon was the newly announced Escort – the sort of no-nonsense rugged warhorse that was perfect for forest stages and Safari’s. But on faster asphalt rallies, they were being humbled by more specialised machinery – notably the all-conquering Alpine A110’s.  Continue reading “Unforgetting: Ford GT70”

Sierra Shock – Ford’s Aero Banana Skin

Ford’s shapely Cortina replacement proved to be less aerodynamically accomplished than its slippery wrapping suggested. 

Image credit: (c) complexmania

Sierra was intended to mark a fresh direction for the Blue Oval. The brainchild of Robert Lutz, Ford’s Eurocentric Director of operations, it was designed to take on the upper-middle class European marques in sophistication and appeal. Lutz wanted a more dynamic, technological image, especially in Germany, where the ancient Cortina and Taunus’ models were viewed as throwbacks. Continue reading “Sierra Shock – Ford’s Aero Banana Skin”

Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In

We ask whether aerodynamics’ post-war, post-aviation beginnings have anything in common with tomorrow’s hydrogen-powered wonders.

The future? Volkswagen-xl1-photo via motortrend
The future? Volkswagen XL-1. Image: Motor Trend

Car manufacturers have historically enjoyed a somewhat patchy relationship with the concept of aerodynamic theory. During the post-war period only a handful of motor manufacturers paid more than lip service and of those, most had their origins in aircraft manufacture. Bristol and Saab, for example were both forced to diversify during post-war austerity when demand for their mainstay aircraft businesses collapsed in peacetime. Continue reading “Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Release The BATs

Aero could be fun too…

The three BAT cars - photo via carnewscafe
The three Alfa Romeo BAT cars – photo: carnewscafe

Aerospace iconography permeated everywhere throughout the 1950s, particularly car styling. So when Alfa Romeo commissioned a series of concept cars, science fiction melded with aerodynamic theory, creating the extraordinary BAT cars.  Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Release The BATs”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 14

Phase four – 1986-1994: An Ecstatic Début. Jaguar’s management bask in the approbation of a valedictory UK press as XJ40 breaks cover at last.

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Sir John Egan presents his magnum opus – image: Jaguar Heritage

It even made the TV news. On the 8th October 1986, Jaguar finally revealed their long-anticipated XJ6 and the UK media went nuts. There wasn’t this much excitement since the Austin Metro launch, six years previously. Car, devoted 28 editorial pages to the new Jag, describing it as a triumph of engineering against overwhelming odds, which to some extent it was.  Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 14”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Index of Efficiency

They don’t get any more aerodynamic than this…

Photo via ultimatecarpage
Photo via ultimatecarpage

What you’re looking at here is the last of the pure streamliners – the 1964 Panhard CD Le Mans. This Index of Efficiency contender for the 1964 Le Mans race boasted a drag co-efficient of a mere 0.12, reputedly the lowest of any racing car to date. This car is significant for two reasons: Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Index of Efficiency”

Dany Bahar’s Lotus Fantasia

Dany Bahar: Misunderstood visionary or public enemy number one? 

The Great Behar - photo via Jalopnik
The Great Bahar surrounded by his pet unicorns – photo via Jalopnik

It’s probably safe to assume that disgraced ex-Lotus boss, Dany Bahar believes in unicorns. It remains the only reasoned assumption following his abrupt career at the storied Sportscar brand. Appointed in 2009, Bahar took Lotus on a journey into the heart of darkness, edging them closer to the abyss than at any time in their chequered sixty three-year history.  Continue reading “Dany Bahar’s Lotus Fantasia”

The Great Curve

Britain’s Aerodynamic Pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer profiled.

Image credit: (c) Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory/NASA

During the 1930s, rapid advancements in aviation were in no small way fuelled by a growing understanding of the science of aerodynamics. Following the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, with scientific interest supplanted by urgent necessity, the pioneering research into airflow management would now come with an added dimension. The increased application of wind tunnel testing allowed engineers to Continue reading “The Great Curve”

Theme : Aerodynamics – The Great Curve – Costin and Sayer Part One

Britain’s Aerodynamic Pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer profiled.

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During the 1930s, rapid advancements in aviation were in no small way fuelled by a growing understanding of the science of aerodynamics. Following the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, with scientific interest supplanted by urgent necessity, the pioneering research into airflow management would now come with an added dimension. The increased application of wind tunnel testing allowed engineers to properly assess the behaviour of aircraft in simulated flight and more accurately determine the most efficient shapes.
Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – The Great Curve – Costin and Sayer Part One”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Buttresses, A User Guide

Driven To Write attempts to decipher an aerodynamic staple but finds the going surprisingly turbulent.

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Flying buttresses on York Cathedral. Image unknown.

In architectural terms, a buttress is defined as a structural member built against or projecting from a wall serving as a support or reinforcement. They were more prevalent at a period when structural engineering was more of a naive art, employed as a support against sideways forces. As architect’s skills developed, the need for buttressing decreased, latterly viewed as something of an admission of failure, much like an air dam or spoiler in automotive terms. There are several types of architectural buttresses, the most visually spectacular probably being the ‘flying buttress’, a structural device used in the design of many Gothic cathedrals.

Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Buttresses, A User Guide”

Renewed Joy for Honda?

Honda has launched a new H-RV, but where’s the joy?

2015 HR-V photo via carsreleased.com
2015 HR-V photo via carsreleased.com

Honda will shortly launch its new compact crossover contender to rival the likes of the Nissan Juke and its all-conquering Renault Captur sibling. It is, as one can reasonably expect, spectacularly unadventurous in appearance and technical specification. In fact, there is a very good chance that the HR-V (as Honda has named it) will prove to be a virtually invisible piece of street furniture when it lands in a town near you later this year.  Continue reading “Renewed Joy for Honda?”

Dream On, Honda

Honda came within touching distance of premium status only to let it slip through their fingers. What happened?

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Even its own mother would disown it – the 2015 Civic

Honda Europe has made a profit just once since 2007, when sales in the region peaked at 313,400 cars. In 2013 sales collapsed to a mere 139,700 cars. What on earth is going on at Japan’s number three motor manufacturer?

During the latter years of the 1980’s Honda appeared poised to make a significant breakthrough in the European market. Perhaps the most engineering-led of mainstream Japanese manufacturers, Honda achieved what its better selling rivals had hitherto failed to manage – credibility. Continue reading “Dream On, Honda”

Trompe Le Mondeo

A Mondeo in drag? Driven to write examines Jaguar’s ‘much-loved’ X-Type to establish whether there is more to it than this shopworn pejorative might suggest.

Jaguar X-Type
Image credit: (c) carpixel

It’s probably accurate to say that the X-Type essentially bankrupted Jaguar. Certainly, the Ford-owned carmaker never recovered from the losses incurred by the X400 programme. According to a study carried out by financial analysts, Bernstein Research, Jaguar lost €4600 on every X-Type built – a net loss amounting to over €1.7 billion. Allow that to sink in for a moment.

Given that it remains the best-selling Jaguar to date with 362,000 produced over an 8-year lifespan, the reasons behind the X-Type’s failure and subsequent pariah status remain a matter of Continue reading “Trompe Le Mondeo”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 13

Phase three – 1980-1986: Pull Back and Reveal. 

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As the third phase draws to a close we review what Jaguar was offering the public in 1986 and reflect upon some of the wider changes that took place over the intervening 14-year period.

With Jaguar gearing up for their most important launch in generations, the company faced a vastly different landscape to the one that existed when XJ40 was initiated over a decade earlier. In 1972, Britain languished outside the Common Market, although Ted Heath’s government would take the UK into the EEC the following year. 1972 saw Sir William Lyons’ retirement and Jaguar’s complete immersion into BLMC. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 13”

Trompe Le Mondeo (Part 1)

Driven to write looks back at Jaguar’s ‘much-loved’ X-Type and asks whether it was it simply a Mondeo in drag or something a little more nuanced?

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Jaguar X-Type. Image uncredited

It’s probably accurate to say that the X-Type essentially bankrupted Jaguar. Certainly, the Ford-owned carmaker never recovered from the losses incurred by the X400 programme. According to a study carried out by financial analysts, Bernstein Research, Jaguar lost €4600 on every X-Type built – a net loss amounting to over €1.7 billion. Allow that to sink in for a moment.

Given that it remains the best-selling Jaguar to date with 362,000 produced over an 8-year lifespan, the reasons behind the X-Type’s failure and subsequent pariah status remain a matter of Continue reading “Trompe Le Mondeo (Part 1)”

Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class

Mercedes’ new W222 S-Class is decimating its European and Asian rivals. A renaissance for a declining sector or the final gasp? Driven to write investigates.

The All New Mercedes-Benz S-Class (2)

The S-Class is the quintessential Mercedes and the centre of gravity around which the entire Stuttgart-Untertürkheim behemoth pivots. None more so than today’s W222 series; which if current sales are a reliable barometer, is shaping up to be the fastest selling iteration in the model’s history. Continue reading “Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class”

Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up

Despite well-publicised woes, Fiat is actually doing decent business in the lower reaches of the European market, with 2014 sales figures suggesting a recovery – well, of sorts…

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European car sales figures from Jan-September 2014 illustrate an unexpected bright spot at FCA’s beleaguered Fiat division. It’s not much to write home about, but the former Torinese powerhouse is once again dominating the sub-compact car market. Between the top selling 500 and second placed Panda, Fiat have the mini-car sector sown up, with joint recorded sales of over 239,000 in the year to September. The 500 has performed well above expectations this year; especially so given the model’s age, with sales up 16% on 2013. The good news for Sergio continues with a small miracle occurring at Lancia. Continue reading “Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 12

Phase three – 1981-1986: The Legend Grows Old Waiting. As the AJ6 engine breaks cover, the press lose patience.

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The 1983 AJ6-engined XJ-S 3.6 – image: Jaguar Heritage

The autumn of 1983 saw Jaguar offer an AJ6-engined car to the public. The 3.6 litre XJ-S was launched in the familiar coupé bodyshell with the added novelty of a drophead two-seater version. Both were powered by the new AJ6 unit in 225 bhp 24-valve form.

The British motoring press devoted pages of copy to the introduction, this being the first all-new Jaguar engine since the V12 of 1971. Expectations were high, given the peerless refinement of the larger-displacement unit. The fact that this engine would become the mainstay power unit for XJ40 only added to its significance.  Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 12”

Drawing Restraint

Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.

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Image credit: car revs daily

Based on the cumulative reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to Continue reading “Drawing Restraint”

History in Cars: Midlife Krisis KA

If you’re going to have a mid-life crisis, at least get a decent set of wheels.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in his forties has a higher than average propensity to some form of mid-life introspection. As we know, the clichéd route to self-actualisation ranges from an inadvisable tattoo, to an inappropriate affair with a younger member of whichever gender he’s attracted to. Some choose to experiment with various derivations of the above. The more conventional opt for a sportscar or convertible. After all, just because you’re in the throes of a life event doesn’t mean you have to be original about it.

Continue reading “History in Cars: Midlife Krisis KA”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 11

Phase three – 1981-1986: Free at last. Jaguar’s independence becomes a reality as Sir William takes a more active role.

Egan and Lyons
Two Knights, two Jags – Egan and Lyons – image: Jaguar Heritage

When John Egan made contact with Sir William Lyons in 1981 to sound out the Jaguar founder for the role of company President, he was taken aback by his response. ‘I already am, lad!’, Lyons informed him. Amid the turmoil of the previous eight years everyone appeared to have forgotten. Lyons warmly embraced the new incumbent, believing the Lancastrian was the man to reconstruct Jaguar after the disastrous Ryder years. The two men quickly developed a rapport and Egan became a regular visitor to his Wappenbury Hall home where he would take advice from Jaguar’s venerable founder.

Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 11”

Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?

Sales of dropheads have halved. So is the convertible on the skids? 

vauxhall-cascada

Nothing says ‘I’m living the dream’ like driving a convertible. There is no rational or practical reason behind it other than to demonstrate to the world you have reached a point of affluence, crisis or sheer devil-may-care indifference that can only be manifested by driving into a roseate sunset with a piece of inappropriate headwear wedged in place to prevent your hair being ruined. As pointless indulgences go then, convertibles are right up there with chocolate teapots.  Continue reading “Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?”

1988 Renault Megane – Here’s One They Made Earlier

Patrick Le Quément’s legacy of highly convincing, but unrealised Renault concepts begins here…

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Renault seem to have been making attempts to crack the luxury car market for decades now. During the 1970’s they offered us the R30 hatchback – a kind of updated R16 with a V6 engine and luxury trim. It wasn’t a bad car – in fact contemporary reports suggest it was rather good. But success eluded it – although the smaller-engined R20 model sharing an identical bodyshell can’t have aided matters.

During the 1980’s Renault tried again with the more attractive looking Robert Opron-inspired R25. They got around the issue this time by offering the same model with a range of engines and while the car proved moderately successful outside of its home market, it too failed to make serious inroads upon rivals like the contemporary Audi 100 and Ford Scorpio.

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During 1987, with Opron (and consultant, Marcello Gandini) gone, Renault appointed Partick Le Quément as Vice President of Corporate Design with a remit to shake up Renault’s styling and by dint, its position in the market. Le Quément got to work and one of the first fruits of this new regime was shown at the 1988 Paris Motor Show. The Megane concept was a three volume saloon with a drag coefficient of 0.21; Renault describing the Megane’s appearance as “plump yet not appearing so, a completely new form.” (Note the complete absence of the word ‘sporty’ – although one has to admit, ‘plump’ wouldn’t have been my choice of words)

Megane01

Its huge sliding doors revealed an interior that resembled that of a private jet, the Megane in some ways anticipating the later Avantime in providing exceptional comfort for four occupants – Le Quément calling it “a supercar for living.” Some of the more outré features such as the two luggage compartments and its ability to switch from a three volume to a hatchback by sliding its frameless rear window aft were somewhat far fetched show car frippery, but there was within this concept, the bones of a convincing big Renault for the 1990’s – one that could have given the Citroën XM a bit of a fright. So how on earth they went from this to the 1992 Safrane is anyone’s guess. One can only assume it was an argument Le Quément lost to more risk-averse minds.

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Certainly, it was one that served Renault poorly, given the Safrane’s lack of sales success and Renault’s continued inability to wrest even a decent proportion of their German rival’s market. The Safrane’s lack of appeal saw Renault’s share of the mainstream luxury car market shrink to levels that were frankly unsustainable by the time it was eventually replaced by the Avantime and Vel Satis. A matter that should be borne in mind when considering their eventual fate.

The Megane concept therefore marks the beginning of a generation of avant garde Renault concepts – visions of what would become an impossible future.

Further musings on Renault’s recent design history can be read here and here

Photo credits/sources: howstuffworks.com/ favcars.com/ onliner.by

In Emergency Dial ‘F’

Sports models have kept Jaguar in business in the US market for decades, so what’s the matter with their saloons?

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Photo: Jaguar Cars USA

At Driven to Write, we are constantly at pains to point out the repetitive nature of Jaguar’s history, much of which has to do with the marque’s frequent lapses into commercial and financial abysses. For example, during the mid-1960’s Jaguar’s sales in the US slumped dramatically on the back of the commercial failure of the MK 10 and S-Type saloons. Continue reading “In Emergency Dial ‘F’”

Death of a Carrozzeria

We bid a tearful adieu to one of the greats.

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This year, Bertone has joined the doleful list of recently deceased Italian styling houses, having held out against the inevitable longer than most. The quantity and quality of Bertone’s output had been in decline, particularly as commissions from major manufacturers began to dry up. The era of the great Italian styling houses is over and the centre of gravity has moved away from its traditional Italian heartland. Continue reading “Death of a Carrozzeria”

The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs

Maserati’s 2014 sales gain is astonishing, but is it a false dawn?

Maserati-range-2014

One of the reasons the motor industry continues to be such compelling subject matter is its almost limitless capacity to surprise. Last week, we looked at FCA’s decision to float off Ferrari as a stand-alone business – a move that surprised many – (if not ourselves). Now however, we are compelled to eat a portion of humble pie on the back of sales figures for Maserati that appear to demonstrate the storied brand’s continued growth to be no mirage, despite strong misgivings we expressed on the subject back in May.  Continue reading “The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 10

Phase Three – 1981-1986: Not so Fast Mr. Egan. Was Jaguar really going to launch XJ40 in Autumn 1984?

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The first pilot-build XJ40 is completed, but are celebrations a little premature? Image: unknown

With Jaguar heading for privatisation, internal BL politics once again reared their head. Sir Micheal Edwardes’ successor, Ray Horrocks was opposed to Jaguar’s independence, lobbying to prevent Egan successfully manoeuvring towards BLexit. With BL at work on an executive saloon to be launched in 1986, Horrocks also moved to ensure there would be no encroachment into Rover’s market. Unsurprisingly, Jaguar’s Chairman had other ideas.
Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 10”

Trading the Bloodstock – Ferrari’s Shock Sell-Off

But just how shocking is it really?

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The world’s least influential motoring blog we may be, but that doesn’t prevent Driven To Write being ahead of the curve every once in a while. Back in May, we took a detailed look at Sergio Marchionne’s plan for FCA’s turnaround, offering a hypothesis regarding its likely success – or otherwise.

Continue reading “Trading the Bloodstock – Ferrari’s Shock Sell-Off”

Theme: Concepts – Jaguar’s Lost Gamechanger

Driven to Write takes the Sir William test with Jaguar’s 2003 R-D6 concept and asks, could it have been Coventry’s TT?

Jaguar_RD6_large

Most concept cars are created to invite a dialogue with the customer about the future, or at the very least, nudge them towards one the manufacturer has already committed to. However, in the case of the concept cars prepared under the design leadership of Ian Callum, it was a bit more like forensic research. With Jaguar’s styling atrophied under the weight of over two decades of introspection, it was a case of asking; ‘what would Sir William Lyons have done?’ Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – Jaguar’s Lost Gamechanger”

Theme : Concepts – Small Is Beautiful

The 1983 Opel Junior concept marked a new, friendlier frontier in small car design. Its impact was to be lasting. 

opel-junior-05

The 1983 (is it really that old?) Opel Junior was one of the stars of that year’s IAA at Frankfurt, where it debuted. Small and really rather perfectly formed, the little Opel was the work of a team of designers at Opel’s Rüsselsheim styling centre, under the direction of Hideo Kodama. Alongside Kodama was Gert Hildebrand and neophyte, Chris Bangle, who it’s said, was responsible for the concept’s modular interior.  Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Small Is Beautiful”

Concepts: From Dialogue to Thesis

The 1998 Dialogos concept previewed the full-sized Lancia’s final fling.

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During 1996, Lancia began work on a new large car concept. Lancia design director, Mike Robinson was briefed to create a car that would honour marque traditions, while also being a showcase for upcoming in-car technology being developed by Fiat at the time. The concept was also intended to preview the next generation full-sized Lancia saloon style.  Continue reading “Concepts: From Dialogue to Thesis”

Theme : Concepts – Essence of Alfieri

Déjà vu on the show circuit 

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At this year’s Geneva show, Maserati announced the Alfieri concept; a preview for a new Grand Turismo, aimed at the sort of affluent customer who might otherwise choose a Porsche 911, Aston Martin or heaven help us – one of those vulgar new Mercedes-AMG things.

Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Essence of Alfieri”

Theme : Concepts – Ride A Rocket

Mini raised every enthusiast’s hopes to the heavens with their 2011 Rocketman Concept, only to have them burn up on re-entry. Thanks for that…

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At the 2011 Geneva Motor show, MINI debuted the Rocketman concept and from Palexpo to Peterborough, Mini enthusiasts wept with relief, because here at last was a proper Mini-sized MINI, rather than the lumbering behemoths that were actually available for purchase.

Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Ride A Rocket”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 9

Phase Three – 1981-1986: Trouble at ‘Mill. As John Egan begins extricating Jaguar from BL’s grasp, XJ40’s development programme hits some early setbacks.

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XJ40 SDV testing in the Australian outback – image: Car Magazine

As quality improved, Jaguar customers could appreciate the cars’ elegant lines and refined character anew, and sales rose sharply. Despite a continuing sales depression in the US market, 21,632 cars were sold worldwide in 1982 – up from 15,640 the previous year. For Egan however, exit from the BL straitjacket became his primary focus. Amongst discussions held was the serious prospect of a tie-up with BMW. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 9”

JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 3

The limping cat: In this third part Driven to Write asks why Jaguar continues to under-perform in its most crucial market? 

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Despite the improvements that took place under Ford ownership and enhanced resources provided by Tata, Jaguar continues to seriously under-perform globally. According to JLR, Jaguar sales rose 13% year-on-year, retailing 49,656 vehicles in the calendar year to date and 6,069 in the month of July alone*. However these figures belie several more troubling factors. Jaguar sales in the once vital American market keep falling. Continue reading “JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 3”

JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 2

In the second part of our examination of JLR, we look at Land-Rover’s market stratification, Ford’s powertrain legacy and their less than stellar reliability record.

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Land Rover’s confused offering
JLR’s strategy with Land Rover is to stratify the brand into three distinct levels. Land Rover at entry level, Discovery as median level and Range Rover as upper level. However, at the time of writing, this distinction remains insufficiently clear. The newly announced 2015 Discovery Sport is a good example of this – appearing a little too akin to its Range Rover derivative, and suggesting there is work to be done to put some discernible distance between the individual marques. Until a new generation Defender is available, this strategy will continue to confuse customers, with the added problem that JLR have nothing to offer buyers trading from the outgoing Freelander model – unless they are prepared to dig considerably deeper into their pockets.  Continue reading “JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 2”

JLR – The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand

Driven to Write examines the JLR success story.

f-type___rr_-_skyline_DesktopHero

Jaguar Land Rover’s commercial renaissance over the past five years has prompted a deluge of scepticism in some quarters, because on the surface of things at least, its rapid turnaround has stretched belief. When the Ford Motor Company sold the Jaguar and Land Rover brands to Indian industrial giant, Tata Group for £1.2bn in 2008, both businesses were loss makers – Jaguar in characteristically epic fashion. Continue reading “JLR – The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand”

Concepts: Saab 9X BioHybrid

Getting it right at precisely the wrong time.

Saab biohybrid
Stunning. Saab 9X biohybrid

At the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, Saab presented a concept that perfectly encapsulated the future direction the marque needed to take. Given the multitude of factors massed against it, its non-adoption was perhaps inevitable, but that didn’t stop enthusiasts howling in frustration and thwarted desire. Derived from earlier 9X concepts, the C-sector 9X BioHybrid concept not only looked fantastic, but also successfully imagined Saab’s entry into a sector that should have proven both lucrative and sustainable – hybrid technology or no. Continue reading “Concepts: Saab 9X BioHybrid”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 8

Phase Three – 1981-1986: Picking Up the Pieces. The early phases of XJ40 development centred around the battles played out to retain Jaguar’s identity. The third phase would be dominated by efforts to remove themselves from BL’s influence entirely.

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A tough act to follow – the Series III – image: Jaglovers

For John Egan, the first eighteen months at Browns Lane proved something of a high wire act. With morale in tatters, and unfinished cars piling up, Egan initially believed that Jaguar’s problems were marketing rather than production based, a notion he was swiftly disabused of. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 8”

Showtime Showdown – Olympia 1957

In this extract from Simon A. Kearne’s excellent biography of Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule, he details the only recorded meeting between the legendary engineer and bitter rival, Len Brik at the London’s 1957 Olympia Motor Show. 

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Simon A. Kearne writes: Sir Basil never missed an opportunity to attend the annual London Motor Show, although he habitually detested everything he saw there. He would sweep around the show stands, the ever-present Montclair in hand, accompanied by his faithful assistant, Boothby, unintentionally insulting ally and foe alike. On this occasion, I accompanied them during press day and as we arrived at the Lotus stand, Colin Chapman hurriedly ducked behind some packing crates in a vain attempt to avoid our party.

Continue reading “Showtime Showdown – Olympia 1957”

Theme: Advertising – Smitten by a Griffin

Vauxhall, ‘Once Driven Forever Smitten’.

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As an ad-slogan, it never really sounded right to me, carrying within it a sense of deadlines unmet and frantic solutions cobbled together. It also suggested not so much an ad-agency creative team out of ideas, more a client without a clue.

Continue reading “Theme: Advertising – Smitten by a Griffin”

Advertising: Speak My Language

Vorsprung durch… advertising.

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When Sir John Hegarty; doyen of UK advertising (and co-founder of renowned ad-agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty) took on the Audi creative account back in 1982 the Ingolstadt marque’s image was somewhat woolly.

Continue reading “Advertising: Speak My Language”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 7

Phase Two – 1976-1980: Egan Takes Knight. As XJ40’s vaults its final hurdles, John Egan arrives at Browns Lane. 

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Image: Birmingham Evening News

Throughout 1979, Sir Michael Edwardes began talking to the man he believed could pull Jaguar out of the abyss. Having previously revived the ailing Unipart business before quitting in the post-Ryder schisms, John Egan had all the right credentials. The only problem was convincing him to take the job. Central to Edwardes’ desire to recruit Egan was a mounting belief that he had made a misjudgement in Bob Knight’s appointment. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 7”

Luca’s Woolly Nemesis

The sudden departure of Luca di Montezemolo as Ferrari MD has shocked tifosi and surprised analysts. But one key question remains unanswered – what happened? 

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Ever the truth-seekers, Drive to Write appear to have accidentally stumbled upon the answer, gleaned from (admittedly dubious) sources close to FCA itself, revealing the unspoken reason for his departure – the mysterious disappearance of Sergio’s favourite jumper – (A particularly fine blue angora number). Continue reading “Luca’s Woolly Nemesis”