Manchester, various hiding places in

2019 might seem so very far away now. Who knows what the world will be like then. One thing we do know now is that Ford won’t be present at the 2019 Geneva motor show.

Ideal for the streets of London, Berlin and Dublin! Source

“Ford said the decision was made because the show’s timing didn’t fit its launch schedule and therefore wouldn’t represent good value,” wrote Automotive News Europe. Not launching enough cars, then Ford, eh? Furthermore, we need double quote marks for this next bit: “‘It costs a sizeable amount of money,’ a Ford of Europe spokesman said. ‘If you’re not going make a return on the investment in terms of media attention or people on the stand, why do it?’”.

Sizeable is relative. It costs lots of money in relation to my annual salary, yes, but a few million euros for some wooden stands and pretty ladies in Lycra is a rounding error in Ford’s turn-over, no?

In 2017 the car world rocked a bit when it was announced PSA would Continue reading “Manchester, various hiding places in”

L’Estrema Unzione

Amid reports suggesting Fiat will shortly abandon Italian car production, Driven to Write posits a requiem.

Fiat’s Mirafiori car plant. Image credit: kollectium

So it has come to this. After almost 120 years of car production, Fiat cars, for so long synonymous with the place of their birth will no longer be produced there. Yesterday, we examined Automotive News’ report outlining FCA’s plans to shift Fiat’s entire production output to low-cost outposts outside of Italy. Instead, Fiat’s domestic plants will be refitted to produce upmarket models as FCA transitions towards high-return product.

There is a certain inevitability to this of course, given both the pattern of FCA’s fortunes and the path the wider motor industry is taking, but regardless of Continue reading “L’Estrema Unzione”

Under The Moon’s Burning Glare

Good old Automotive News reported some juicy gossip regarding Fiat Chrysler Automotive. 

2002 Fiat Stilo, decent seller with with 3 doors: Parkers.co.uk

The gist of it is that FCA’s CEO Sergio Marchionne thinks making smaller cars in Italy is a waste of time and money. He is concerned that smaller cars are going to be commoditised and that the real margins lie in making larger cars. Resulting from this set of assumptions, stalwarts of the Fiat range will be axed and anything small and plausibly profitable shifted to outside Europe. The Punto – once a European top-ten car – and the MiTo (never a European top ten car) will be discontinued.

With the production lines thus freed up it will be possible to Continue reading “Under The Moon’s Burning Glare”

Hammer Time

Another year, another Maserati sales crisis. But just how tarnished are the Trident’s prongs?

Image credit: motor16

It does appear at times that the only Maserati news is bad news. When we last reported on the Tridente’s fortunes in 2015, a woebegone tale was unfolding, with FCA’s Harald Wester revising his forecasts downwards in the wake of disappointing sales.

Last Autumn it was widely reported that production at the Mirafiori plant which builds the Levante crossover (and Alfa MiTo incidentally) was temporarily halted, owing to changes in Chinese regulations regarding the manner in which manufacturers and dealers should Continue reading “Hammer Time”

Three Lions

You wait decades and three motoring ‘big beasts’ relaunch at once.

Hot and Cool. Nu-Gee. Image: daily express

Every movement has its icons and given where we are now I think we can probably describe the current SUV contagion as a movement. In terms of icons, the holy trinity of sports utility vehicular worship appears to consist of the Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender and Toyota Landcruiser. Just outside, but banging rather conspicuously at the door is Mercedes with its interloper G-Wagen.

The original Willys MB Jeep is known to all – man, woman and small dog. Created as a military vehicle during the second World war, it entered full-scale production in 1941, going on to Continue reading “Three Lions”

A Photo For Monday

Sometimes there are cars that seem not to merit a whole day to themselves, especially not a Sunday. This is one of them: the 2011 Lancia Thema nee Chrysler 300.

2011-2014 Lancia Thema

It featured recently as one of my lame “guess the car” teasers. Did you know that this vehicle (as a Chrysler) has been in production since 2011? Or more, honestly, since 2004**? That makes this quite a coelacanth. The Thema left Lancia’s catalogues in 2014 though. The Chrysler version still soldiers on somewhereContinue reading “A Photo For Monday”

Those are the Headlines – Happy Now?

No sticklers for current affairs are we, (spin cycles etc…) but given that it’s my first dedicated 2018 post, I thought I’d confound expectations. Mine, as much as yours.

Ford CEO, Jim Hackett. Image: CNBC

Earlier this week, Autocar’s reverse-cassandra, [this analogy doesn’t entirely hold water, but bear with me] spoke to Ford Motor Company CEO, Jim Hackett, obtaining assurances that the American car giant has no intention of following General Motors out of the European car market. “I have in my hand a piece of paper…”, Steve Cropley didn’t quite say.

What he did however was to Continue reading “Those are the Headlines – Happy Now?”

A Photo for Sunday: The Italian Paint Job

Was it not Grahame Greene who said “If I can’t have the bream I’ll have a salad instead”? 

2017 Fiat 500 Anniversario

The Fiat 500 has entered a new phase in life. Having initially been very fashionable, it came to be seen as a rather tired old product (not by the many who bought them). Now, ten years on, it has eased its way into a small pantheon of long-lived steady sellers. The Suzuki Jimny has managed this as well, albeit after 20 years (for Autocar). Another example, at the other end of the scale might be Toyota’s CenturyContinue reading “A Photo for Sunday: The Italian Paint Job”

The Cormorant Rethinks

Much was made by Lancia of the Delta’s symbolism: change and continuity at the same time. Before it came the Lybra. Read on to see what that was like.

DTW has had a chance to rewind the years and test a 2002 Lybra SW, the Delta’s predecessor. This puts in perspective the step-backward that was the Delta and reveals a car that probably deserves a wider audience.  Continue reading “The Cormorant Rethinks”

Infamia, By Lancia

Always first with the news that matters, this just in…

In a surprise move today, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne announced during an earnings call that the beleaguered Lancia brand could be set to make a comeback. During his conference call with analysts he left strong hints that a new Lancia model, (tipped to be a compact crossover), is being planned – a vehicle type increasingly popular across European markets.

Insiders familiar with the matter suggest Continue reading “Infamia, By Lancia”

Swimming in the Bight

So, Lancia Delta, what are you like to drive? Driven To Write continues its quest to test every Lancia available. 

2008 Lancia Delta 1.6 Oro

The Lancia Delta appeared under the banner of spearheading a rebirth at Lancia. The background to the Delta looked like this: a replacement for the Lybra saloon and estate and also a vehicle to cover a market the Bravo didn’t reach. As such, the Delta had to be luxury and estatey-wagony. Thus Lancia based it on the Fiat Bravo but with a longer floor-pan and a half-hatch, half-estate profile. Lancia sold the car with a quite broad engine range.

One could Continue reading “Swimming in the Bight”

Spirito di Punto

Rumours of the Punto’s demise might well be exaggerated, but a successor could finally be in sight.

The 2017 Fiat Punto. “Dynamic, attractive and timeless”, say Fiat. I think they simply mean old. Image: autotoday.it

It’s somewhat mortifying when you realise that someone you innocently assumed was deceased remains defiantly above ground. Take the Fiat Punto for example. I had blithely assumed it was already pushing up daisies, but quite the contrary. In its current iteration, with us now since 2005, the Punto’s age is underlined by the realisation that its genesis dates back to Fiat’s post-millennial dalliance with General Motors, sharing an Opel-developed understructure from the contemporary Corsa model. I say contemporary, but it seems the current Corsa and Adam still use a variant of this platform, and they remain, if not exactly class-leading, at least broadly competitive. Continue reading “Spirito di Punto”

Mega-Size Me

Marchionne’s Merger Mania Examined – Again. Where Driven to Write leads, the mainstream press follow: Autocar finally gets around to examining the Marchionne plan. 

Don't panic, there's a high percentage wool mix in this jersey. After all, a man's got to have standards.
Don’t panic, there’s a high percentage wool mix in this jersey. After all, a man’s got to have standards. Image credit: (c) motorionline

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. Recently, one of our readers took us to task over our coverage of FCA’s latest product plans, suggesting we were being unduly negative about them and about FCA’s knitwear enthusiast-in-chief. It’s easy to see why, but at least we have been applying our critical faculties to the subject – something that has (up to now) been conspicuously absent in the mainstream automotive media. Continue reading “Mega-Size Me”

No, Seriously, I Have A Plan: Alfa Romeo’s Question Marks Plotted Out In Detail

The news today is that after the launch of the new Giulia, Alfa Romeo promises, no really promises – and they mean it this time – to launch a new model every six months.

2016 FCA Product Plan: image from Automotive News
2016 FCA Product Plan: image from Automotive News

The table above holds a lot of question marks as soon as it reaches the dim future time known as 2018. The following year’s plan is hard to read because there is a car pasted into the image. Fiat’s plans are rather flimsy. In 2016 and 2017 Fiat dealers will have ‘refreshed’ versions of the 500 and 500L. Did you know that by 2016 the 500 will have been on sale since the death of William Gladstone. It is older than the hills.

You can take a look at an old product plan here to see that since 2014 the new Spider and new D-class SUV were supposed to have been on sale. What value this new product plan?

Forthcoming Fiats Will Be Like IKEA.

FCA’s Olivier François outlines Fiat’s flat-pack future. 

Fiat brand CEO, Olivier Francois. Image via thedetroitbureau
Fiat brand CEO, Olivier Francois. Image via thedetroitbureau

On the basis of his recent outpourings, I rather doubt whether FCA’s Olivier François has ever been to an IKEA retail outlet. After all, visiting one of their stores is a little like dentistry. Numbingly unpleasant but occasionally necessary. At such times I’m compelled to go, I try to plan my expeditions in military fashion. Go when its quiet, get in, get the target and get the hell out.
Continue reading “Forthcoming Fiats Will Be Like IKEA.”

That Ain’t No Way to Say Goodbye

FCA cooks up another unicorn – this one’s Delta-shaped.

Not the new Delta Integrale. Image via zougla.gr
How the proposed new Delta Integrale won’t look. Image: zougla.gr

A short while ago, Autocar’s Hilton Holloway posited a future for the Lancia brand. His wasn’t the first or even the best – (that honour lies elsewhere) – in fact his suggestions struck me as being lamentably short-termist in scope. Basically, he proposed that FCA revive Lancia with a series of retro-inspired cars based upon past icons. A revived Stratos, spun off the Alfa 4C platform and a Delta Integrale, based on the Giulietta. Low volume, high margin products, aimed at enthusiasts with a view to re-establishing Lancia’s credentials with a marketplace that now only recognises the brand on the basis of their presence in online gaming. Continue reading “That Ain’t No Way to Say Goodbye”

Rearview: Alfa Romeo Alfetta Berlina

FCA could learn something from the 1972 Alfetta, but it’s probably a bit late for that now.

Alfetta-1

While FCA’s Italian engineers have undoubtedly being imbibing industrial quantities of Alfa lore as they develop their forthcoming saloon, they’re unlikely to have this print ad posted up on their mood board. Perhaps they should, because journalistic hyperbole aside, it illustrates as eloquently as anything I can say not only how far Alfa Romeo has fallen since the early 1970’s, but how steep a climb FCA’s engineers now face. Continue reading “Rearview: Alfa Romeo Alfetta Berlina”

Bridesmaid Revisited

FCA’s perennial wallflower lashes out.

Why won't anybody dance with me, wails Sergio? Image via Bloomberg
Why won’t anybody dance with me? Image via Bloomberg

We’ve all had to cope with rejection at some point in our lives – smiling grimly through the tears, as we peel our shattered egos off the floor. But no stoic is our Serge. Far from taking it on the chin, he’s gone on the offensive, raging to industry analysts this week at the unfairness of it all. Has he lost his mind? Continue reading “Bridesmaid Revisited”

Chrysler Follows Lancia’s Footsteps Out of the UK

Our good friends at Autocar have reported that Chrysler is going to give up and flee the UK market. This will disappoint only those Lancia fans who had a brief chance to buy the Delta and Ypsilon.

A modern family hatchback designed to provide an unrivalled blend of style, space, technology and luxury. "With a host of impressive details, the Delta delivers on every level."
“A modern family hatchback designed to provide an unrivalled blend of style, space, technology and luxury. With a host of impressive details, the Delta delivers on every level.”

I was entirely unaware or had forgotten that Chrysler were selling the Delta in the UK and Ireland. There is one used Delta in stock in the UK, by the way. Sales of Chryslers were never impressive, 3000 in a good year. The cost of preparing these cars for RHD production must have meant they lost money on each of these unless they had huge success in some RHD market of which I was not aware… Japan? New Zealand? Continue reading “Chrysler Follows Lancia’s Footsteps Out of the UK”

Alfa Romeo is the new Fiat

Sergio Marchionne has been reported by Automotive News as saying that Fiat will not be a mass market brand. Instead it will focus on its 500-series small cars and let Jeep and Alfa Romeo compete in other sectors. 

2015 Fiat 500L: the future of Fiat?
2015 Fiat 500L: the future of Fiat?

Rather surprisingly, given Alfa Romeo´s very limited and lacklustre range, Marchionne thinks AR will be able to grow and supply cars in the C and C-D class along with a mooted SUV. Given the steady steaming of vapour ware from this brand, and the poor reception of the current cars, this is a very tall order. The other worrying thing is Continue reading “Alfa Romeo is the new Fiat”