On the surface of things, the facelifted Audi A4 is an entirely predictable product action, but what it symbolises could be far more momentous.
It’s highly probable that the design director role at any prestigious OEM carmaker comes with a reasonably well-remunerated package of monetary benefits. This being so, we can take a wild guess that Audi’s Marc Lichte is not therefore on tuppence ha’penny wages.
The money must be, one supposes, some consolation, because there certainly cannot be much by way of creative satisfaction Mr Lichte could derive from masterminding Ingolstadt’s current design direction. At this point of course, we really ought to Continue reading “Empty Gesture”
While we await events or at least someone to quack the story, we speculate upon the probabilities surrounding a possible PSA / JLR marriage.
There is a commonly quoted saying which states that if something looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, there is a strong probability that it is in fact an amphibious biped. Apply this reasoning to the speculation currently swirling around Jaguar Land Rover’s Warwickshire headquarters, and to the untrained eye it does appear that its Gerry McGovern designed outdoor water feature must be teeming with waterfowl. Continue reading “Crying Fowl”
Renault has made a name for itself as a monovolume specialist. This must change.
Recently, we highlighted Ford’s retreat from the Euro-minivan sector, amid a rapidly contracting market for such vehicles and FoMoCo’s own fiscal woes across the region. However, the blue oval is far from alone in viewing this segment with jaundiced eyes, with news breaking more recently that owing both to falling sales and the advent of the newer and more crossover-ish C5 Aircross CUV to the market, Citroen is ceasing production of the short bodied SpaceTourer (aka Picasso).
Having previously declared the compact MPV sector for Renault’s Scenic, further study however reveals that the real 2018 winner was in fact the VW Group, who arguably had the good sense to Continue reading “Fade Away and Radiate”
As a younger man, I used to marvel at the enthusiasm with which my more elderly relatives would pounce upon the obituary section of their local newspapers. At the time it seemed a rather morbid pasttime to seek out those amongst one’s number who had most recently entered the spiritual realm, but as I’ve entered middle age and become a little more empathetic, (not to mention closer to time’s scythe), I’ve realised that this habit stems more from a not unreasonable concern that a neighbour or acquaintance might Continue reading “Gran Illusion”
As we await the newest iteration of VW’s bestseller, we examine what opposition it will face.
It’s no good. Despite repeated efforts, no European carmaker has successfully unseated the Volkswagen Golf from its lofty promontory; a position unique insofar that not only does it occupy a sub-segment of its own, but also in that its name can be expressed as both noun and adjective.
Mercedes has brought its predator face to the C-segment and is devouring all before it. Is the A-Class becoming an unstoppable force?
There is a certain point in most career arcs where things begin to go somewhat awry. Sometimes it’s a blip, a momentary reversal or poorly judged decision, quickly righted. But for others, it’s a full-blown meltdown. After all, success can frequently be its own undoing. This is certainly true of Germany’s three upmarket car brands, who it can probably be safely said to have been in the throes of a full-blown stylistic mid-life crisis for some years now.
Has Genesis shown us a fresh face in emission-free motoring?
Since the advent of the automobile, cars and cities have co-existed in uneasy truce, but as concerns over deteriorating air quality gain traction across the developed world, it seems increasingly likely that our towns are simply not big enough for both. So the mid-term future for the combustion-engined private car, in an urban context at least, is looking bleak.
However, like most behavioural shifts, this is unlikely to occur overnight, but already, as previously reported both here and elsewhere, city legislatures are taking matters upon themselves by limiting or banning outright, vehicles which fail to Continue reading “Fresh Mint”
As reports emerge that Ford is preparing to study KA no more, we try to sound upset.
As your correspondent is perhaps over-fond of observing, the Henry Ford Motor Company does quite a line in unlearning nowadays. So much so in fact that it’s been getting rather difficult to keep up. Unlearn : Saloons. Unlearn : Minivans. Unlearn : Up to 5000 jobs in Europe this year.
Audi’s concept car for this year’s Shanghai motor show is an autonomous, electric homage to the brand’s legendary A2 model. Or so we’re told.
On the surface at least, there doesn’t appear to be much terribly wrong with Audi’s AI:ME concept car. It’s not an SUV for a start; its autonomous functions aren’t reflected by the lamest concept car trope of the past few years (swivelling seats), and it – supposedly – pays homage to no less than Audi’s bravest failure, the misunderstood A2.
However, as always, a surface is but a thin layer, whereas what lies beneath is an altogether more meaty matter. And the meat of this AI:ME is hardly scrumptious.
As Transport for London enacts its Ultra-Low Emission Zone, the case for DTW’s 1996 Saab 900S (and others like it) becomes scalpel-thin.
When it comes to motor cars there is absolutely nothing dull about metronomic reliability. I therefore hesitate to employ the adjective ‘boring’ when it comes to the dependability of my Saab, despite the undeniable fact that, in the almost six years I have been its steward, it has been an almost entirely trouble-free experience.
Cadillac is in the midst of yet another revival. For real, this time. Honestly.
Cadillac may never have been a noteworthy brand to Europeans on the basis of sales figures on the old continent. But that hasn’t prevented the erstwhile Standard Of The World from gaining fame (and some notoriety) on this side of the Atlantic, on the simple basis that Cadillac is one of the most storied, evocative brands of all time, anywhere. Continue reading “Caddy Lack”
As Ford shuffles its CUV deck on both sides of the Atlantic, do we detect a certain softening in the Blue Oval’s visual palette?
It has been, as DTW’s curiously silent Ford-obsessive, Myles Gorfe might have said, a very busy week in Ford circles, with not one, but three new CUV model lines being revealed. Although, in the interests of accurate reporting that statement might want to be revised downwards, given that the new-generation K U G A and E S C A P E models are broadly one and the same.
But to be even more factually rigorous, one really ought to refine this statement further, given that Ford did not at the time of writing get around to fully revealing the forthcoming Puma – (or should that read P U M A?) badged model, electing instead to Continue reading “This Aggression Will Not Stand”
Often described in ‘social death’ terms by the more hyperbolic members of the media, the MPV itself is now fading out before our eyes.
An oft-spoken cry from the more dogmatic end of the automotive spectrum came closer to coming true yesterday, following Ford’s announcement that production of B-Max, C-Max and Grand C-Max MPVs will cease at its Saarlouis plant in Germany at the end of June.
Of course, nobody is likely to (a) be poleaxed to the spot in shock, or (b) possessed by a frenzy of bathetic fervour at the news, given that sales of what are termed Minivans by our US friends have been in freefall for some time now, as carbuyers increasingly Continue reading “Death to the Minivan”
Porsche announces a new spicier Cayenne. Is less more?
Amongst the delicacies on offer at the recent Geneva motor show was the debut of Porsche’s latest derivation of the eternal Nunelfer, a revision apparently so accomplished, our German Palexpo explorer was moved to observe; “Changes [to the Porsche 992] are actually minuscule, but they’re all so superbly executed that this must rank, from an aesthetic perspective as one of the finest 911s of them all.”
When the announcement came, it was met with resignation. For those attuned to the mood music surrounding the embattled Japanese marque of late, and following a decade of under-achievement it has been difficult to feign surprise that Nissan’s upmarket nameplate is shortly to depart Western European markets, seemingly never to return. For everyone else however, it’s been more a case of ‘Infiniti who’?
Ford has announced another turnaround plan. Five thousand jobs to go in Germany, others in the United Kingdom.
The news is reported here and here and, of course, here. “Some of the losses in Germany come from ending production of the C-Max minivan, one of the products Ford will stop making as it reduces its portfolio to more profitable models,” said the FT**.
Why are Ford hacking at the payrolls? Ford’s market share has declined roughly two percentage points of the EU market, from a little over 8% to just under six. That’s actually quite bad because it represents a 25 % drop in absolute terms. Only the fact the market grew a bit overall mitigates that decline.
Everybody appreciates a grafter, but some people really ought not bother.
Earlier in the week we sampled an array of Palexpo hopefuls, but a hapless confluence of waifs and strays remain for us to consider. These generally fall into distinct categories – once-storied nameplates seeking to demonstrate renewed relevance, reanimated marques exhumed from the grave attempting to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – The Hopeless”
DTW’s Geneva coverage in conjunction with Auto-Didakt continues with a stroll through hypercar valley.
Geneva has traditionally been a shopfront to all manner of low-volume fantasy-merchants, but given the explosion of what journalists are fond of calling high net worth individuals, a growing cohort of dream factories have emerged to cater to their increasingly specific needs, wants and hitherto unrealised desires.
A of course stands for Aston Martin and the storied purveyor of superspy conveyances arrived at Geneva with a brace of hyper-concepts and near-production cars. Perhaps most convincing, if grindingly predictable being the Vanquish concept, having undergone a radical mid-engined makeover. A production version is allegedly being readied to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – The Hopeful”
For one DTW reporter, there was only one star of the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show. We take stock of Fiat’s Concept Centoventi.
Still in mild shock at the most dramatic ECotY announcement in years, my Geneva companions and I took our customary evening promenade round the halls of Palexpo. The FCA stand promised little. We knew they had no new cars, but at least they turned up, unlike some, and Alfa and Fiat had heavily concealed concept cars to show the following morning.
Later in the evening we talked of what is to become of Fiat. Three of us, we have all had various Fiats in our lives and enjoyed the experience. Now the company seemed to be ever more marginalised in the increasingly Jeep-centric world of FCA in the Manley Era.
Searching for the state of the art amid the vanguard of the EV revolution at the Palexpo with Auto-Didakt’s Christopher Butt.
If there is a leitmotif for Geneva 2019, it is electrification; Audi for instance making much of the fact that they have no combustion engined offerings on show at all, the entirety of their Palexpo fare being in some way (ahem) amplified. Illustrating a notable keenness to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – Watt’s Goin’ On?”
Our man in Geneva reports from Battista’s official reveal.
Pininfarina S.p.A has adopted many alternative identities over its 89-year lifespan. Not simply the World’s most famous and acclaimed Italian coachbuilder and design consultancy, but also contract manufacturer – building cars for the likes of Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Peugeot amongst others, and now it would seem, a carmaker in their own right.
“And I can’t deny the fact that right now, you like me. You like me!”
To our eternal disappointment, automotive CEO’s aren’t particularly noted for this kind of thing, so if you’re expecting the kind of tearful emoting in the manner of Sally Field’s 1984 Oscar acceptance speech, you’re likely to be disappointed. Mind you, if they sharpened up their act a little, they might attract the networks and get the whole thing televised. Perhaps BMW’s Harald Krüger could be convinced to Continue reading “ECotY 2019 – The Jury’s In”
…oh, wait a minute. We bring news of DTW’s Geneva intentions.
This week marks the opening of the 89th Salon International de l’Automobile at Geneva’s Palexpo exhibition centre. Open to the public’s lovestruck gaze from March 7 to 17, it will be preceded (as is customary) by two successive press days (5th and 6th).
Joining the likes of Ford, JLR, Hyundai, Infiniti, MINI, Opel and Volvo, (we’re very now) DTW’s full-time editorial team will be non-attendees I’m afraid, but in time-honoured tradition, we have retained the services of two regular contributors for both press days who will allow you to Continue reading “Geneva, Here We…”
On the face of things, Honda’s Geneva e prototype – a thinly veiled (95% production-ready, we are told) version of the forthcoming production Urban EV, marks not only a refreshing change from the over-decorated norm but also a satisfyingly close approximation of the car Honda showed at Frankfurt 2017 to audible gasps of pleasure from the massed cohort of auto-commentators, this non-attending scribe included.
Because if indeed this broadly represents the form the production version will take (and informed speculation suggests it does), it presents a wildly divergent face to the one Honda currently presents to the world. Continue reading “Charges Will Apply”
A new Defender will be announced later this year. But is the case for it already holed beneath the waterline?
Some plans are simply better left in the realm of theory. One means of establishing this is to interrogate the fundamental necessity of the task, not to mention the level of enthusiasm that exists for both it and its likely conclusion – assuming a destination point has first been plotted. But some projects exert such a strong emotional pull that even if they fail the basic due diligence, the urge to Continue reading “England Expects”
In the 21st century, common knowledge dictates that a car brand has to please everyone in order to succeed. Thankfully however, Mazda appear to disagree with this assessment.
Mazda’s most recent concept cars don’t photograph well.
What may sound like a negligible statement has, in fact, significant subtext. For in this day and age, photos are everything. In terms of marketing, appearances have never been of greater importance. In the age of the internet, social media et al, the word has lost most of its value to the image. So when food is judged by its looks rather than taste, car makers could be forgiven for making their cars, and concept cars in particular, not so much eye as phone camera candy. Continue reading “Kodo Arrigato”
A group of high-profile designers have left BMW’s design studios over the past few years. Time to assess whose loss turned into whose gain.
This photo, taken in about 2006, depicts BMW Group design at the height of its creative powers. Unlike giants such as Ford, GM or VAG, BMW achieved the seemingly impossible in running each of the company’s core brands (BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce) as a creatively self-sufficient unit. For that reason, a Mini didn’t come across like a de-contented BMW, nor did anybody mistake a Rolls-Royce for a tarted-up 7 series. Every BMW brand’s design possessed its own set of stylistic rules and values.
More than a decade later, none of the people depicted in the photo are in charge any more – apart of course from Adrian van Hooydonk, who’s been running BMW Group’s design fortunes for a decade this year.
The last two years of that reign have been somewhat overshadowed by an unprecedented creative drain though – unprecedented not just regarding BMW Group, but within the industry as a whole. With the Bavarians’ stylistic fortunes currently shrouded in controversy, it would appear to be the right time to Continue reading “Life After Munich”
The matter to which we turn our attention today is the Chinese car market, which (and I burn with shame to admit this) for the most part has remained a matter of supreme indifference to me. This is a frightful dereliction of duty on my part; I ought, as one of DTW’s editorial team to Continue reading “The Magic of Stones”
As affairs go, it was short-lived. We bid adieu to the Twingo – from these shores at least.
Barely pausing for breath following the announcement of a mid-life revision to their entry-level Twingo, Renault subsequently announced that the refreshed model will henceforth be withdrawn from these islands. Citing the intention to simplify their offer, a Renault spokesperson told Autocar this week that the carmaker will refocus upon a new range of models and drivetrains over the coming year as part of Renault’s Drive The Future plan, which will include a new iteration of the top-selling Clio model.
But for all of its unquestionable sales success, it’s probably fair to say that the B-sector Clio has not truly entered the emotional consciousness of the buying public. A thoroughly competent and attractive proposition by all accounts, but a car which has evolved in such a manner that it is neither as compact, nimble, nor sufficiently easy to Continue reading “Such a Little Tear”
Compact and comely, the Daihatsu Copen Coupé is something of a balm to the crossover contagion.
Despite the inexorable decline and likely demise of the small sports car; victim to the kind of commercial logic that has seen crossovers and their ilk take over every sub-niche, there remains one market that is seemingly still immune from contagion. Japan’s Kei car scene.
Daihatsu’s diverting little Copen roadster requires little introduction given that Driven to Write has warmly spoken of its compact pleasures in the past. The first series Copen was officially discontinued in 2012, and since then, owing to Daihatsu’s regrettable withdrawal from the European market, Kei-car enthusiasts have been denied its current incarnation.
2018 is very nearly over and in many ways it was another dreary waste of all our time. The only thing to be said for 2018 is that it wasn’t as bad as whatever 2019 will bring.
In previous years I have provided our readers with a run-down of new car launches and a digest of the year just gone. Simon A. Kearne has informed me that the considerable time and vermouth required to do this is not justified by the dismal expected viewing figures.
So this year I will just open a bottle of Marsala** and invite readers to struggle to remember what was launched. I remembered three for certain: the Ford Focus, the Suzuki Jimny and Rolls Royce Cullinan. I had a look around for a definitive list of new cars and did not find one that I believed was able to satisfy my need for certainty that it could Continue reading “All And All Forgotten, Remembered”
Running the gauntlet of endless repetition, DTW’s resident kitty-fancier asks, how do you solve a problem like Jaguar?
In 2005, a chastened senior Jaguar executive conceded that both they and their Ford masters had made a strategic error, admitting to British parliamentarians that they had jointly pursued “a failed growth strategy” for the heritage marque. Once this realisation hit home, the residents of Dearborn’s Glasshouse began a fundamental rethink of the leaping cat.
Amongst the changes wrought was that Jaguar would henceforth emphasise its sporting credentials, with the cars’ dynamic dial being shifted from traditional values of NVH isolation and ride refinement towards matters of incisive turn-in and outright handling prowess.
The second strand to this change of ethos lay in abandoning the chase for sales volume, pushing them further upmarket. The key to this transformation was to Continue reading “Gone To Earth”
It’s not easy being an automotive executive these days, but spare a thought for one in particular.
While life for Auto-industry bosses everywhere is, to put it mildly, challenging, the situation facing Jaguar Land Rover CEO, Dr. Ralph Speth appears to be steadily worsening. According to a recent Financial Times report, JLR will announce up to 5,000 job cuts across the UK business in the new year as the carmaker implements a three-year ‘Project Charge’ restructure – a drive to Continue reading “Think Fast Dr. Speth!”
Authorities have expressed concern as reports of unicorn sightings are once again rife in Norfolk.
When former Lotus CEO, Dany Bahar packed his trunk and said goodbye to the Norfolk broads, the outpouring of relief was not only palpable, but most likely mutual. After all, for the former Ferrari sales and marketing supremo, the unglamorous environs of Hethel were unlikely to have been to his taste and for Lotus themselves, because his ludicrously unrealistic visions and spendthrift policies had to all intents and purposes bled the business dry.
In his stead, former PSA chief, Jean-Marc Gales became the putative safe pair of hands, successfully stabilising the business, arresting an alarming talent-drain and restoring a missing sense of purpose and fiscal rectitude. However, following last year’s partial acquisition of Group Lotus by Geeley Auto, Gales departed, replaced at Group Lotus by the Chinese car giant’s group head of engineering, Feng Qingfeng and directly at Lotus Cars by former JLR and Sunseeker Yacht executive, Phil Popham.
Following Geeley’s controlling stake in the business, many speculators and commentators converged around the notion that the Chinese motor group, who have so successfully stewarded Volvo’s post-Ford resurgence, and currently control Polestar, Lynk & Co, taxi builder, LEVC, Proton Cars and aero-car maker, Terrafugia would set Lotus on a similarly upward trajectory. Even those of a more cynical bent suggested that this would likely be the best (and possibly final) opportunity the historic specialist carmaker would be offered to Continue reading “Lotus Rules Apply”
As the Audi TT hits a significant historical milestone, it appears to be on the verge of taking an altogether different kind of hit.
It isn’t every birthday celebration that doubles as a wake, but the times are not what they were. Twenty years after Audi unveiled the production TT sports model, speculation is rife that the current iteration is likely to be its last – at least in the format we have come to know and love.
Indeed, this last component may form part of the problem, since the love affair has, it appears, run its natural course. Certainly, senior Ingolstadt management, when they can Continue reading “Death Disco”
Today automotive News posted an item headlined “VW says next generation of cars with combustion engines will be the last”. The next sentence is “Volkswagen Group expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026.” Hey sister, that’s 8 years away. Bloomberg has much the same story, by the way.
In my October 6th article I wrote “A car launched in 2018 might be replaced in 2025 leaving a short product cycle to recoup investments. That makes the period around now the last point at which it will be worth bothering to engineer for ICE engines.” I did not expect that. It means that VW will Continue reading “Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?”
In late 2018, it’s time for a bit of reluctant praise to the automotive realm’s popular overachiever, the Porsche 911.
Intellectuals detest Tom Cruise. The combination of decades-long success in mainstream blockbuster movies, ridiculously good looks, as well as penchants for sofa jumping and sinister cults has seen to that.
Be that as it may, there is also a different side to Mr Cruise Mapother. The side that gave one Stanley Kubrick two years of Mr Cruise’s life at arguably the peak of the latter’s career. The side that gave cineastes Frank T J Mackey. The side that causes a 50-year old to Continue reading “Der Spießer”
Lately we’ve been chewing the gristle on the topic of Maserati and by association Fiat. Are they too far gone to save?
As we all know, we’re living in a dispiriting age of mass extinction. Once assured populations are collapsing. Things we considered fixtures in the firmament drop like leaves. Oldsmobile was once the biggest selling car in the US market. Dead.
Take GM’s recent decision to end their presence in the Euro market, for example. I called it GM’s Teutoburger Wald moment though perhaps a more careful sifting in GM’s recent history might find a better instance of the finitude of this firm’s corporate reach.
Can Fiat-Chrysler’s new CEO deal with FCA’s lopsided business or is it time to bring out the bonesaw?
FCA’s late CEO, Sergio Marchionne was at various times hailed as something of a visionary, and without doubt, he achieved the seemingly impossible once he orchestrated Fiat Auto’s audacious takeover of the embattled Chrysler business in 2009. Nevertheless, an equally cogent argument could be posited that should Marchionne’s legacy simply be that of FCA’s continued existence, then it is built largely upon failure.
ECOTY 2019 is soon to be upon us. Who will learn to accept their reward this coming March?
As November slips silently from our grasp, and the season of good cheer has not yet fully broken upon us, we find ourselves at Driven to Write already looking ahead to March. But neither time, news agendas nor indeed my senior editor are known for qualities of patience or mercy, meaning I’m bound at least occasionally to report on the stories (as they say), that matter. The shortlist for the 2019 European Car of the Year award was officially announced this week, so let us take this opportunity to Continue reading “All Wrapped Up the Same”
The third Mazda 3 had a curiously short life: six years only. No wonder it only seems like yesterday when it was introduced.
And now a new one is upon us, revealed at the LA Motor Show which is in LA this year. God bless them, Mazda have seen fit to grace the car with a comprehensible engine line-up of 1.5 and 2.0 litres plus a super-efficient diesel for those markets not scared witless by DERV. Mazda, like Honda, do still seem to be interested in engines and so the new diesel “uses multi-hole piezo injectors to Continue reading “Like Unto Being Two Souls In One Heart”
Is FCA’s Poseidon Adventure approaching its climax?
Last week, we examined FCA’s stewardship of Maserati and concluded that under the leadership of former CEO, Sergio Marchionne, several significant mistakes were made. Now that the carmaker is being lead by a newly constituted management team, what fate lies in store for the Trident of Bologna?
As has been reported, Maserati has seen a torrid 2018, shedding volume, margins and becoming an increasingly onerous drain upon the FCA business. At the end of October, as part of their responsibility to Continue reading “Fontana di Nettuno”
Earlier this week, we reported on Maserati’s current woes. Today, we continue our analysis and pose a few uncomfortable questions.
In the aftermath of Sergio Marchionne’s untimely death earlier this year, many observers offered a range of views as to the former FCA Chief Executive’s legacy. As is customary in times of personal tragedy, criticisms were muted and delicacies were observed. In his stead has stepped new CEO, Mike Manley, tasked with steering the still-listing FCA vessel through another four-year plan unlikely to be worth the powerpoint programme upon which it was scribed – both then and given the subsequent turn of events, now.
Armed with a hefty fire extinguisher, a hastily re-scribbled plan (subject to further change, no doubt), and a reshuffled team, his task, even for the more successful of FCA’s brand portfolio looks onerous. But for the ill-performing upmarket end of the spectrum, and especially its embattled Maserati business, it’s impossible to Continue reading “Blunting the Trident”
Towards the end of ANE’s article is this bit: “Former FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne’s 2014-18 business plan for Maserati envisioned full-year vehicle sales of 75,000 units in 2018.” And I notice that in 2017 Alfa Romeo sold about 86,000 cars. FCA’s new boss, Mr Mike Manley has conceded that when Maserati was bundled with Alfa Romeo it ended up being treated like a mass market brand. By that he meant its interests were placed second to Alfa Romeo and there was not enough focus on the brand.