Not just since Luca di Montezemolo’s dismissal have arguments about the merits and demerits of FCA CEO, Sergio Marchionne’s style of conducting business been rather heated. And now we are being presented with a particularly poignant case in point.
Signore Marchionne undoubtedly knows his stuff when it comes to numbers and figures like few others in the business. Which is why nobody was surprised when he – somewhat proudly, it has to be said – explained that the series production Alfa Romeo 4C’s extremely ungainly headlights were his very own responsibility, as their decidedly cheap appearance helped lowering production costs by a few millions. Car buyers, he seemed to believe, don’t really care about details, even particularly blatant ones. Continue reading “Reasoning à la Marchionne”
This has turned into something of a long-term test. With a third chance to drive the car, DTW has some extra insight on living with Toyota’s second smallest car.
Perhaps the most illuminating aspect of adding another four days to the tally of six, is that a few important details have turned up, all of them bad. DTW conducted most of the original testing when the days were longer. This time, night driving in humid weather has shown up two details that might irritate or perhaps prove too grating to live with. Continue reading “2014 Toyota Aygo 1.1 VVTi Review – Part 3”
Just a few days ago I noted that we at DTW had not treated BMW to some of our ire. Here is some ire. Or something passing itself off as such.
The car above is the 2015 BMW 2-series “active tourer” which is a five-door, front-drive hatchback with a great deal in common with the 2011 Ford C-Max which is five-door, front-drive five seater hatchback (below) that sells for a lot less. And looks better. Continue reading “BMW’s Front Wheel Drive Hatchback”
The limping cat: In this third part Driven to Write asks why Jaguar continues to under-perform in its most crucial market?
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”
Automotive News Europe has reported that PSA have launched a China-only vehicle, their second. It is the DS6 crossover.
The appearance is generic SUV while the grille and lights show China´s DS styling. From there back, it´s file under “Forget”.For a brand allegedly majoring in style this is a major puzzle. For a firm as indifferent to the meaning of DS, this entirely to be expected. And we can see this as sign of the future developments for DS, along with the possibility of the brand having its own dealerships, as it does in China. Continue reading “A glimpse of the future for the DS brand”
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.
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”
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”
Renault have decided to abandon yet another category of car. This time they have given up on space-focused people movers.
The Renault Espace was a trend setter and for two decades ruled the roost in the MPV class. The original version is now three decades old and still has a tidy, neat appearance of purest industrial design. This sat well with Renault’s custom of quite rational cars. The last generation did not get out of the show room fast enough. It was luxurious, large, complex and not really the kind of car you really wanted babies to be sick in. Continue reading “More Renault: 2015 Renault Avantime, Sorry, Espace”
What is to be made of the DS Divine concept car? Is it a Good Thing that PSA now has Peugeot, Citroen and the DS brands to manage?
As we know, PSA has decided, in its wisdom, to divide its efforts no longer in two, but three. From hereon in (or, at least until PSA has gone to the hereafter), the Sino-French giant will furnish the market with Peugeots, Citroens and DSs (the latter to be shorn of the Citroen moniker sometime next year, in the UK at least, so it is reported). Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Armchair Motorshow : DS Divine”
Look at the future as it was in 1995 and look at the future circa 2015. Are we going back in time? Sideways?
I was moved to write this when I saw a breathless announcement at French Cars In America that there was a new Renault Laguna on the way. They alleged that the car was going to be shown at the Paris Motor show (happening around now, if you reading this in 2016 sometime) They got their story from Auto Plus. While cross checking it I found that Auto Express had nothing to say on the matter at all. So, I don’t know if the car really will be sold or is just a Photoshop story.
The received wisdom is that the Juke is an odd-looking vehicle with no obvious purpose. Is this true? I drove one in order to find out.
To avoid disappointing people I’ll get the driving stuff out of the way immediately. After three hours on a route that took me from Stansted Airport to almost exactly the dead centre of Britain I had covered every major road type available in England barring gravel and mud. On motorways the Juke in 1.6 litre flavour can keep up with traffic and proceed to license-losing speed and stay at that pace unbothered for as long as you care to Continue reading “2011 Nissan Juke 1.6 Review”
In order to say why I can’t really write about this I had to do some research. It’s amazing what you don’t read in magazines.
The V40 was introduced in 2012 for 2013 and all I noticed about it since then is the daft crease in the bodyside which is supposed to evoque the P1800. The V40 is a hatchback though Volvo describe it as an estate, I suppose. Whilst the designer of the 2004 S40 is probably only named in Auto&Design magazine, the V40 can claim Peter Horbury as its creator (cited at Wikipedia). Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About – 2014 Volvo V40”
The new Ford Mondeo will finally be on sale in 2015, just three long, long years after the launch of the car it was based on.
Above we see the 2000 Ford Mondeo, styled under the reign of Claude Lobo and Chris Bird. Then we have the 2006 version credited to Martin Smith but which is probably mostly a Chris Bird car. And finally, we have the 2015 car which I gather was designed in the US and has been sold as the Ford Fusion. The photos speak for themselves. Continue reading “Three Years Late to Market”
As Luca di Montezemolo’s reign at Ferrari comes to an end, an entire chapter of Italy’s automotive industry – as well as culture – is being closed.
“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change” proclaimed Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina in the seminal Il Gattopardo. He was, of course, referring to Sicily and the impending changes to country, people and his own dynasty. But such a statement could clearly have been made with regards to fellow nobleman, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo’s sacking from the post he had held for more than two decades. Only in this case, it would be untrue.Continue reading “The Leopard Bows Out”
I became the first person at the dealership near to where I work to test drive a Cactus, to the extent that the car itself was in a pre-pre-delivery state and had 1 mile on the clock when we set off in it.
The salesman (like policemen, they all look young to me these days) seemed bemused that the owner of a C6 might be thinking about “downsizing” to a Cactus (which I suppose is understandable), but he humoured me, nevertheless. Seeing the Cactus in the context of the showroom emphasised some things about its size and proportions. Continue reading “2014 Citroen C4 Cactus – Test Drive”
In search of family transport, DTW rents a Korean mid-ranger and exposes it to mud, apples and half a dish of aubergine parmesan gratin.
Welcome back to the dead centre of the car market. The Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI** is a Focus and Golf competitor but may gun most accurately for the likes of the Peugeot 308 and any other mid-market also-rans. This type of car is very hard to write about in isolation as most of what you experience verges on the bland. Only a spread-sheet analysis of the cost and features along with a back-to-back test would reveal the precise differences in the qualitative and quantitative elements between this car and its peers. Nonetheless, even on its own, there are aspects of the car which please and those which irritate. Continue reading “2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI Review”
Bristol Cars’ new owners have announced the launch of the first wholly new vehicle since the Fighter of 2003.
Called the Pinnacle, the new car is to feature a combination of Bristol hallmarks and modern touches. Carried over are the customs of making the bodies by hand (Bristol require a panel beater) and using very high quality materials. New to Bristol will be the use of battery power and range extension technology. There might even be cup-holders.
Also new to Bristol is the notion of merchandising, which to spell it out, is the selling of non-automotive products branded with the Bristol logo. That’s done to promote the brand (something Bristol didn’t try hard to do) and to make money (something Bristol didn’t manage very well towards the end). Continue reading “Bristol Returns: The 2015 Pinnacle”
Okay Saab, we know this is a difficult time for you right now, especially with you being dead and everything. Obviously we’re sorry for your trouble, but if we can be completely candid, this whole thing is starting to get a little unnerving.
This week DTW has the new Toyota Aygo on test. Launched at the 2014 Geneva motor show, it’s only just arrived on the market. So, how did the car fare during a punishing three day investigation involving child-seats, sand and small pebbles?
The engine is the 59 HP 1.0 VVTi in-line three pot. The “VVT” part stands for variable valve timing which has been around since 1996. The bore and stroke are 71 mm and 84 mm respectively. The Aygo comes with stop-start technology and this functioned well enough for me to learn to trust it. It can start the car faster than I could and this eliminated a lot of useless idling while waiting at lights. Continue reading “2014 Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i Review”
This week came more reports of the new Opel Corsa. What have they done, we ask, what have they done?
I didn’t expect two of these articles in one week. Yet here we find Opel having a “what have they done?” moment. Opel describe this as a new vehicle but we’d class this as a very comprehensive facelift. The main architecture of the car remains the same and, in my view, the addition of the black tab on the rear of the 3-door’s sideglass does not distract from this fact, and nor do the new front or rear forms. What else is different? Continue reading “Facelifts: the 2015 Opel Corsa”
After having gone from strength to strength in recent years, Volkswagen AG (VAG) all of a sudden appears to be in an awful lot of trouble. But appearances can be deceiving.
First in a series on the German automotive industry, seen from a German perspective.
In the not-too-distant past, it seemed as though it was just a matter of time before VAG chairman, Ferdinand Piëch – aided by his obliging CEO, Martin Winterkorn – could finally ascend the throne of the global automotive domain. There may have been the odd mumble regarding disappointing performance in the US market, but, by and large, everything seemed to be rosy in Volkswagenland.Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 1)”
Skoda’s Fabia appeared first on the market in 1999. Now it’s into its third generation. What have they done? What have they done?
This is the new Skoda Fabia. The previous two generations have been rather good interpretations of a difficult genre, the conservative but attractive small car. The first version displayed some nice automotive design tropes: the smooth flowing bonnet to a-pillar and neatly shaped vestigial boot. The rear graphics and sculpture worked very harmoniously, very much the work of designers who were unafraid to Continue reading “2015 Skoda Fabia: Oh Dear.”
Here at DTW we like to find out about what’s on sale around the world.
We’ve looked at some Japanese and Chinese market cars. Today we go to South Africa and peer at a Honda Brio, just to see. The Honda Brio is not on sale in Europe, being intended for emerging markets. It comes in two forms, hatchback and saloon. Since tiny saloons are held in almost complete contempt, we Continue reading “2014 Honda Brio saloon”
Who has the most engines to offer customers? DTW takes a close look at the state of play at VW, Opel and Ford.
The operating assumption behind this small study is that engines matter. More precisely, if a manufacturer can offer a decent range of engines for a given class of vehicles then they are very likely to have a better chance of selling something to someone. I’ll restrict my research to Ford, Opel and VW for this particular study.
So far in this intermittent series I have picked on a forgotten supermini, a lavishly expensive sportscar and the VW Passat. Today I feel the need to declare that Chryslers and associated brands are vehicles about which I have nothing to say. Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About: Chryslers etc…”
How do we get from China to Warren, Michigan via Rüsselsheim? By Astra, of course.
Why does Opel matter to GM? How about sales of 500,000 cars a year in China and continued survival of Buick in the US.
In the late 70s the science journalist James Burke had an engaging series of programmes called Connections. It traced the links, innovations and the important contingencies that led from the distant past to the technology that we take for granted around us, such as plastic, for example. Behind the invention of this material lay the story of how the 17th Century Dutch preferred not to Continue reading “Cross-Currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan”
Daihatsu’s Japanese production declines for the first time in 8 months…
…but production overseas increased to compensate. And generally sales are down overall. Daihatsu gave up on Europe a few years back so the news that the Copen sportscar is to be revived may not do so very much to improve the sales picture. Still, it’s nice to imagine. What sort of a range does the Copen fit into? There is the Terios hatchback in five and seven seater guise, the Sirion hatchback and the Gran Max van which also comes as a pick-up. That make the Copen something of an outsider in a range of very practical vehicles, but it is still at least as small as the others. Continue reading “Death Has A Revolving Door 3: 2014 Daihatsu Copen”
Design Footnote: somewhere inside Ford, someone nodded quietly to the firm’s past.
A few months back, while studying the parked cars in my area, I noticed that there was something deeper to the design of late-model Ford Mondeo Mk2s. Not very many cars have a solution that avoids both a horizontal and a vertical wraparound at the front end. The 2005 Mondeo has a design where the strongest line runs down the edge of the wing, down the lights and then goes horizontal under the valence, requiring a twist from forward to sideways mediated by a vertical descent. Continue reading “1965 Ford Taunus Versus 2005 Ford Mondeo”
How much fun do you really get out of driving like you stole it?
Speed is a measurable quantity. One of the characteristics of the modern age is the increasing dominance of quantity over quality. I see the two as dependent parameters, as necessary as the left and right wing of a jet. In the spirit of the times motoring journalism in recent years has tended to Continue reading “Theme : Speed – Quantity and Quality Thereof”
Which cars are for today’s ophthalmologists, vets and professors of Medieval law?
About three decades ago certain makers sold cars for easily identifiable groups in society. Saabs were for well-paid university lecturers. Citroen could appeal to the Francophile and arty middle-class man. Lancia sold to intellectuals and business men who probably saw their work as a vocation. Humber appealed to bank managers of the bigger branches. But today, these brands are gone or unrecognisable Continue reading “Social Signifiers”
Today I had the chance to experience a car I consider to be among the most disappointing of recent years – the successor to the flawed yet glorious Quattroporte V. Gone is the lithe elegance of Ken Okuyama’s styling, making way for considerably more competitive technology, as well as simply gargantuan proportions. Continue reading “Hasty & Superficial: Maserati Quattroporte GTS (2014)”
Has Centro Stile Fiat ever produced a design of lasting significance?
This is the question I found myself asking following a recent Driven to Write piece on Lorenzo Ramaciotti – (which I urge you to read). Because like many, I held firm to the view that Turin’s fabled carrozzerie were responsible for every design worthy of note. On the other hand, memory can sometimes prove a faulty co-driver, so I did what any self-respecting autophile would do at this point and revisited the Fiat group’s styling back catalogue in a quest for answers. So what I offer here is a list of significant Fiats of the last 50 years and who is believed responsible for their styling. Continue reading “A Question of Form”
Driven To Write has some news for anyone who has been reading the UK motoring press.
Far from being “an undiscovered bourne from whom no traveller returns” (copyright W. Shakespeare 1599-1602), it appears death is a place car brands can pop over to and come back from much like an obscure place with an out-of-the-way airport served by Ryanair. I think Saab is dead but it might not be. Or it might be. It died spiritually under GM, it died again physically, was reborn under Spyker but soon expired. National Electric Vehicles revived the firm in 2012.
This being, unofficially, the Fiat/FCA themed month, I feel like shedding some light on Fiat’s current styling policy and the man responsible for it.
And when I say “shedding some light”, I actually mean pointing out all the dark and shadowy areas that currently make up Fiat’s styling. More questions will be asked than answered, inevitably.
Superficially, the reorganisation of Fiat’s different Centri Stile in the wake of the company’s Marchionnisation seems to have been a straightforward example of streamlining. And, unlike the most famous jumper lover’s financial and fiscal shenanigans, this move appears to be both easily graspable and logical. Continue reading “What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?”
The second of a two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them. Part two – There will be blood:
FCA’s presentation made a point of telling the financial and automotive worlds just how much Marchionne is prepared to accept for the sale of Ferrari, suggesting the fabled Marenello concern is for sale; despite firm denials from within FCA itself. Some might say that he would be insane to do so – the ‘Cavallino Rampante’ being probably the most valuable automotive brand in the universe right now.
A two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.
Now that the captives have escaped, the presentations are complete and fruit and vegetables been thrown, perhaps it is germane to take a look behind the figures and statistics at the state of affairs facing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Europe as they painfully inch towards their eventual fate.
Sergio unveils his elaborate masterplan for FCA’s future and it’s a staggering work of fiction.
Last week Sergio Marchionne kept a selection of the world’s auto journalists captive for a ten hour marathon outlining his vision for the next five years at the newly merged FCA. Those who managed to sit through the numbing PowerPoint presentations, the staggering level of detail, the sheer grinding onslaught of facts, statistics, projections, flying unicorns and outright fantasies probably needed more than a few restorative shandies to steady their shattered nerves.
Lovely and wrong: Richard Herriott assesses Lancia’s former flagship.
When the Thesis was launched in 2002, Lancia wanted a flagship to re-position the brand as a maker of convincing luxury cars, an Italian Mercedes if you like. The Thesis’ predecessor, the Kappa, had been less successful than the Thema, despite receiving plaudits for its refinement, packaging and capable chassis. The Thesis was supposed to recover ground lost during the Kappa’s production run and also to re-affirm the company´s tradition of top-drawer refinement and visual elegance. Continue reading “2002 Lancia Thesis 3.0 V6 Review”
After discussing the dead centre of the car market, we take a visit there: the Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic.
This is the third generation Focus that I have tried. The Mk1 is a landmark and indeed a benchmark for many. It casts a long shadow over its successors. The Mk2 added refinement at the expense of driver enjoyment. Compared to the Mk1, the successor felt like being in a fat suit. So, what is the Mk 3 like now I have finally gotten behind the wheel? The main impressions are described below. Continue reading “2014 Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic Review”
What’s it like to wander around the on-line show room of Ferrari?
Recently I´ve felt curious about the customer experience for prospective Ferrari owners. You don’t need to be out of your pyjamas to visit Ferrari’s website so I thought I’d see what happened and what I’d feel like if I did a little virtual tyre kicking. What I found is described below. Continue reading “Window Shopping For A Ferrari”
In line with the theme of the month I will post this eloquent symbol of excessive cost-cutting. The badge symbolises the company. If the firm can´t spend enough so its symbol endures, you have to wonder about their commitment to the rest of the car. Of course, the likelihood is that this is just an unforeseen consequence of a minor change in paint formula. However, many people will feel that this says as much about this brand as needs to be said. For brand managers, this sort of thing is the worst PR, worse even than the message sent out by curling window rubbers and blisters of rust on the rear wheel arch lip. I can only remember seeing one other badge so badly weathered in so short a time, and that was the badge on Alfa Romeo´s 156.
It is always useful to consider a counterfactual. For example, by asking what would have happened if Franz Ferdinand had survived his assassination attempt, we ask about how avoidable the first World War was. Another counterfactual might be to ask what if REM had disbanded after their drummer Bill Berry retired? That is to ask what was the importance of Bill Berry to the band. The answer to that second question is easier than the first. REM should have disbanded. Berry’s drumming was as integral as Michael Stipe’s vocals.
Whilst trying to find a download of a W211 Owners Manual for a friend’s ten year old E Class, I came across the above (full text below). Now, although the US website did finally provide the manual, Mercedes’ UK site appears to provide no such service. Despite the fact that it would only cost them a tiny sum to make electronic manuals for older cars available to owners, it’s telling that MB UK don’t see this as a priority.
The problem with ‘cute’ is that it’s such a nebulous term. It can be an adjective, a noun or an adverb, so its meaning has shifted markedly since its origins in the 18th century. After all, one person’s pretty or dainty is another’s contrived and calculating. So when it comes to cute, which is it? However you view the term, you simply can’t Continue reading “Theme: What’s Cute Got to Do with It?”
I had the opportunity to drive a basic (plastic wheel covers), new shape Fiesta with the “old” (these things are relative these days, I find) 1.25 4 cylinder engine the other week. I’m not going to comment on the styling inside or out, because I’m not a big fan of either and it’s got nothing to do with the point here. Continue reading “Viva Fiesta”
Alfa Romeo’s fight-back continues for its third straight decade.
The image is a screen shot of Alfa Romeo UK’s website. Notice that there is a rather glaring gap to the right. They do actually sell (or try to sell) three cars but only show two. I wondered why this might be. Are they so strapped for cash that they don’t have the resources to insert the third car into the image? Or is there another “third car” coming soon to Continue reading “What are Alfa Romeo Selling? Just Wondered.”
A good question relates to the state of Mitsubishi in the UK car market. I am asking it today.
1984 Mitsubishi Colt: sold out
What do Mitsubishi sell today? Though the Lancer and Colt are still listed in Mitsubishi UK’s website, they are described as sold out. The remaining range consists of an electric car, a sub-B hatch called the Mirage, several flavours of sport utility vehicles and the very specialised Evolution X FQ-440 MR. This oddity fits into the range as well as an adult “toy” in a shop selling golfing equipment. Continue reading “Idle Thoughts: ボディカラー”