Sergio’s Latest Fantasy Franchise

Sergio unveils his elaborate masterplan for FCA’s future and it’s a staggering work of fiction. 

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Dear lord, make it stop!

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.

Continue reading “Sergio’s Latest Fantasy Franchise”

2002 Lancia Thesis 3.0 V6 Review

Lovely and wrong: Richard Herriott assesses Lancia’s former flagship.

2002_1_Lancia Thesis profile

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”

2014 Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic Review

After discussing the dead centre of the car market, we take a visit there: the Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic.

2012 Ford Focus rear 1

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”

Window Shopping For A Ferrari

What’s it like to wander around the on-line show room of Ferrari?

aaa_Ferarri page 1

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”

Theme : Badging – False Economy

What a badge can say.

2005 Ford Galaxy

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. 

If All the World Were Paper and All the Sea Were Ink…

What if the Golf wasn’t the “average” car?

1984 Golf
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.

Continue reading “If All the World Were Paper and All the Sea Were Ink…”

From Stuttgart to Eternity

What happens to old cars when they die, Mummy?

MB Recycling

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.

Continue reading “From Stuttgart to Eternity”

Theme: What’s Cute Got to Do with It?

Adventures in cute car culture…

Cartoon-cars-3
Image: clipart-library

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?”

Viva Fiesta

content_ford-fiesta-frozen-white-styleeco

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”

What are Alfa Romeo Selling? Just Wondered.

Alfa Romeo’s fight-back continues for its third straight decade.

Alfa´s complete UK model-line up
Alfa´s complete UK model-line up

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.”

Idle Thoughts: ボディカラー

A good question relates to the state of Mitsubishi in the UK car market. I am asking it today.

1984 Mitsubishi Colt turbo

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”

Internal Correspondence 3

I decided to avoid that hungry tramping around that one typically endures when looking for food in a foreign town. Thus the Brasserie Lipp became my “cantine” and I just took a taxi there every evening.

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2014 Biofore concept car interior: an important Geneva show car

Dear Simon:

Nice to have you back. I met Eoin (briefly) at the Geneva show. He was very busy and I didn´t want to disturb him. For my part, it was a successful show and I really feel as if I´ve covered the most important vehicles plus the little black and white job above. Great to see Eoin mopping up the details. The Hotel des Bergues was even better than expected (did you get the fax with the bill?) and the room service sublime. Continue reading “Internal Correspondence 3”

Geneva 2014 – The View from the Sofa

2014_Geneva_Motor_Show_4Look, anyone and their dog can get on a plane and physically attend the Geneva Motor Show, but frankly that’s a little passé now. No, by far the more arduous, some might even say, daring approach is to stay at home, in pyjamas, eating toast and allowing someone else do all the legwork. Well that’s my justification anyway and no, you can’t have any more jam until you behave yourself.  Continue reading “Geneva 2014 – The View from the Sofa”

After the Great Leap Forward

Qoros are not selling on looks and they are not selling on price. What then?

2014 Qoros side view

The 2014 Geneva expo had among its new car launches the Qoros 3 hatch, a variant of the Qoros 3 saloon. Founded in 2007, Qoros´ first car was presented at Geneva last year. This time around they have chopped some length off the car to woo customers in a lower price range. The company is a joint venture between Israel Corporation and Chery Automotive; for a while the firm was called Chery Quantum Automotive but a new product demanded a new name, hence the change. Whilst you may have heard of Chery, you might not know so much about Israel Corporation.  Continue reading “After the Great Leap Forward”

Goodbye X150! (2006-2014)

Why you will be missed… 

jaguar-xk8-5022639869956169885

  • Because you were a first glimmer of hope for any creditable Jaguar enthusiast after a great many, very dark years.
  • Because your crisp, Ian Callum style lines – albeit still fairly conservatively executed – were nothing short of a relief after years and years of doughy blobs.
  • Because you always were a decent drive.
  • Because you were the first Jaguar in ages that was more appealing than what the German competition had to offer.
  • Because a competent facelift kept you from appearing like some undignified pensioner (one lesson you learned from your grandfather, the E-type, who was kept on life support far too long).
  • Because you still are more appealing than any modern Mercedes SL.
  • Because your high performance derivatives served so well as testbeds for the F-type.
  • Because you hereby prove that you won’t outstay your welcome.
  • Because you were the car that gave me hope that all was not lost for Jaguar when I saw you for the first time in the aluminium, at the 2005 IAA.

Also Starring : Sideshows at the 2014 Geneva Salon

Some of the less well-known faces at Geneva 2014

2014 XLV front

The Geneva motor show is usually the place for the major manufacturers to display their latest models and concept cars. I decided to see what was being presented by less well-known firms, some of which are tiny and new and some of which are massive but not much in the public eye. And there’s Giugiaro, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of VAG and, I would guess, eventually to share the same fate as Ghia, Ford’s one-time laboratory for innovation. Continue reading “Also Starring : Sideshows at the 2014 Geneva Salon”

Decoding Audi’s TT Press Release…

…so you don’t have to.

audi-tt-2014-front-quarter-static


A wise man once said that you can prove anything with facts. He was right – you can. However, float above the narrow prism of the factual and reality becomes a more nebulous concept. For it is within this white space the automotive press-release copywriter dwells. A land of fairies and elves, where steaming troughs of hyperbole appear as tureens of nourishing broth.

Illustrating that despite the nature of the current motoring landscape, car manufacturers appear to Continue reading “Decoding Audi’s TT Press Release…”

Beyond the Motoring Mainstream

Some recent developments in the Chinese light-vehicle market

2010 Gonow Minivan
If you have a few extra hours to spend at Stansted because flight FU 436 has been indefinitely delayed and you find Departure Gate 199 is becoming your home from home, you might be tempted to Continue reading “Beyond the Motoring Mainstream”

Ripping Yarns

How is FCA’s bejumpered boss managing?

sergio-marchionneI don’t think I’m necessarily alone in finding Sergio Marchionne’s penchant for jumpers a little unsettling. Yes I concede it is lazy of me to expect an Italian captain of industry to cleave to national sartorial stereotype; why shouldn’t he buck the norm, even if the result is somewhat unedifying.

Fine tailoring might be what we expect, but in Marchionne’s case the knitwear appears a little too studied, just a tiny bit artful. The cosy jumpers appear to Continue reading “Ripping Yarns”

大きな開口部だから、横も後ろも積み降ろしラクラク

Honda have a secret life as a maker of a wide variety of vehicles. They are indeed big in Japan.

2014 Fit Shuttle

Honda are more than a manufacturer of Civics and lawnmowers. In Japan, their range shows clear signs of Galapagos syndrome. It is flourishing. Whereas the difficult European environment has forced Honda to sell a comparatively small range of cars, in Japan the range extends to what looks like enough models to fill the carpark of a moderately sized country hotel.

I turned to this website driven by the parochial nature of both British and American websites.There is a lot we hear little about.

Continue reading “大きな開口部だから、横も後ろも積み降ろしラクラク”

Theme : Headlamps – See the Light?

Electricity is magic so I won’t explain the energy that brings the light but headlamps are a rather complex arrangement of lens and reflector. Until the advancement of computer modelling enabled engineers to design differing types of reflectors most headlamps before the 1970’s were fairly similar and simple. In essence they have a bulb which shines light onto a parabolic reflector and then through the lens into the area in front of the car. The parabolic reflector takes the light from the bulb and directs it parallel to the bulb’s axis in straight lines which means that the light is therefore organised (like a torch) and more useful than the scattered light of say a candle flame. The filament of the bulb will be positioned at the focus of the parabola making full use of the reflector to give the greatest light quantity. The parabola has makes all the light waves nice and straight and organised and the lens can do its work to direct the light. The reason why these early cars had round headlamps was that it is the resulting shape for a parabolic reflector. The ribs on these headlamps’ lens’ aren’t for your pleasure they are called flutes, and it is their job to direct the light into the required direction. Nominally downward away from an oncoming driver’s eyes and to the off driver’s side direction.

Headlight_lens_optics_schematic

Continue reading “Theme : Headlamps – See the Light?”

What Lies Beneath?

What is the future for Car Manufacturing?

Car BadgesThere have always been cases of re-skins creating ‘different’ vehicles; and indeed VW Group have become masters at doing this in-house. But between independent brands this has usually been discreet and car companies have remained proud of their ability to manufacture the oily bits, as in the example of the Vauxhall salesman who once vehemently denied to me that the diesel in an Omega was manufactured by BMW. You might have thought he’d Continue reading “What Lies Beneath?”

A Niche Too Far?

Sometimes it pays to be brave, sometimes it doesn’t. Better luck next time, Renault.

Initiale-ParísBy the final decade of the 20th century, motor manufacturers, having established that engineering integrity would only take them so far in the quest for market leadership, began to realise that the answer to their prayers lay within the spreadsheets and focus groups of the product planning departments. In a mature market, largely populated by feckless new money garnered from illusory internet start-ups and awash with cheap credit, the differentiator between the automotive carnivores and their prey would be defined by one word: Segmentation. Entire departments sprang up in such demographically significant hotspots as Miami, London and Southern California, all tasked with seeking that elusive niche that would give the parent company a jump on their rivals.

Continue reading “A Niche Too Far?”