We carry on our saunter down memory avenue with this look back to the champions of the summer of 1998. Where were you then?
I don’t want to talk about it. It was the second worst time of my life. Times weren’t good at Mercedes either. The A-Class had been moosed and that took some of the attention from its revolutionary cheapening of the Mercedes name and its quite hideous styling.
VW’s staple supermini proves that too much of a good thing is still too much.
The Volkswagen Polo may never have matched its bigger brother, the quintessential Golf, in terms of significance or profit margins. And yet it was the previous generation of this car, the Polo V, that proved how serious VW’s then new management under (now) notorious CEO, Martin Winterkorn, was about redefining the brand.
The summer is here and DTW’s offices become ferociously stuffy, a maelstrom of dandruff, cigar ash and wine-label dust dancing in the shafts of half-light.
Simon Kearne, the editor, moves his collection of sherry and cooking marsala to his summer residence (location: secret) and Myles Gorfe’s padded rally jacket disappears off his swivel chair. We never see him, or him taking it. He has gone, like a swallow in September.
So, this writer is also fleeing DTW’s dusty, cramped, byzantine, magazine-clogged rooms on the ninth floor for a summer pause. However, I am not going to display complete dereliction of duty and so have left a trove of articles on automotive life in 1998. which I have tagged Re-1998. They will appear over the coming weeks.
Sometimes my academic work overlaps with the kind of thing we do here at Driventowrite. At the moment, I am immersed (again) in Gestalt Theory.
This is not the first time I have handled this topic. In January 2015 (happy days!) I used Gestalt theory to discuss why the 1993 Citroen Xantia’s graphics failed to be seen as the designer intended. This time the cases are not examples of failure but show how Gestalt theory can explain what is happening in the world of headlamp fashion trends style stuff.
The concept of fun isn’t one we’d habitually associate with brand-Volkswagen, especially of late. But all that appears set to change.
In matters of crisis management, it is essential to maintain control of the narrative. Lose that, and the organisation becomes untethered, prey to attack from all sides. Inaction, by default, becomes one’s chosen action in both the eyes of critics and the wider public.
When Volkswagen’s systematic and sophisticated emissions gaming came to light in 2015, the carmaker seemed to have frozen in disbelief and denial. Regardless of how matters were being handled internally, the glacial pace of their response was viewed in the Continue reading “Crisis of Identity”
Death’s door revolves once more for VW’s retromobile. Perhaps we’ll miss it this time, but only if it promises to go away.
At the recent Geneva motor show, Volkswagen’s research and development chief, Frank Welsch confirmed the much rumoured demise of the Beetle. Many commenters had speculated since VW’s fortunes (both reputational and financial) took a dive in the wake of the firm’s emissions-revelations, that niche models like the Beetle were on deathwatch, so in many ways this news comes as no surprise.
We have a bit of crystal ball gazing from the chief designer of Toyota, reported in Automotive News. The mainstream car will go extinct. Not that surprising, really. But why do we have a Ford Taunus as the main image?
Starting with the idea that a large proportion of the cars made in the future will be externally controlled (“self-driving”), people’s relationship to cars will change. Simon Humphries’ vision is that most cars will be anonymous containers on wheels and a small remainder will be highly specialised luxury or performance items. He imagines “pure race cars” can be created.
I realise it’s an old and oft-discussed issue, but I have experienced VW shooting itself in the badge.
I was recently loaned a brand new VW Golf Estate for the day whilst my Octavia of similar form was in for its 10k oil-change. I have frequently read over the past few years how the differential between VW Group’s brands has blurred, but this is the first time I was presented with an opportunity to witness the phenomenon so directly. And, although I should not have been, I was a bit taken aback at the experience.
Volkswagen’s new flagship seems to be intent on making up for the lack of outright prestige with pretence and derivativeness – a cause that isn’t aided by its clunky moniker.
Tiguan, Up(!), T-Roc – VW’s recent crop of all-new model names certainly invites unkind comparisons. Renault can get away with a Twingo, nobody minded Opel’s Tigra, but Volkswagen appears to be better served by less
Volkswagen’s T-Roc compact recreational SUV is not some belated attempt at jumping on the bandwagon. It’s worse than that.
Despite decades of commentators claiming the opposite, being a designer at VW never was an easy job. One needs to be within spitting distance to current fashion, but still keep the technocratic aloofness that’s characterised the brand’s best products intact. Which is no mean feat under any circumstances. Continue reading “Getting Down With Da Kidz, Heide Style”
The newest generation of one of VW’s non-Golf evergreens stands for the greater malaise of the German car industry – and acute deficits chez Wolfsburg
To the untrained eye, this newest generation of Polo looks pretty much the same as its predecessor. Alas, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Whereas the Polo V was a small stylistic gem, boasting subtle craftsmanship of the highest order, from its expert surfacing to the delicacy of its detailing, this new car’s styling achieves the feat of managing to Continue reading “Missing The Ball At Polo”
Across the road from the bus-stop, there stood this VW Passat:
Around the C-pillar I saw a lot of what in the olden days we’d call BMW style. I reflect a lot on how BMW once did some of the work involved in epitomising German design, but it’s been a long time since this : Continue reading “A medley for Sunday”
The fourth generation of the series proved to be the quintessence of Golf. Twenty years later, it still is.
In 1974, a teetering VW took a risky punt into the relative unknown by launching a car, which by no means avant garde, (even by the standards of the day), was nonetheless some way left of centre. While it would be facile to suggest it was anything but a commercial success, it wasn’t perhaps until its second permutation that it began to truly dominate the sector it would ultimately define. Continue reading “Car is a Four Letter Word”
As the sector champion shows faint signs of faltering, are ‘prestige’ rivals set to take advantage? We investigate.
For years now, the Volkswagen Golf has been the rocky outcrop its European c-segment rivals have dashed themselves against; largely I might add, to their detriment. The VW hasn’t so much carved a niche, as cut vast swathes through the sector, leaving many observers wondering what anyone can do to provide a counter-narrative. Continue reading “Teeing Up Against the Golf”
You’re engaged in some innocent retail therapy and then this beams down from planet Piëch.
As we’ve pointed out, Driven to Write never sleeps and while we don’t always get about as much as we’d like, our eyes and ears are everywhere. So while some of us are battening down hatches in windswept West Cork, others get to swan around a decidedly more temperate Marbella – a matter for which your correspondent is not bitter. Continue reading “Photo for Sunday – Volkswagen XL1”
A mighty wind from Wolfsburg marked the Passat’s coming of age.
Before we were all persuaded to go and unlearn it, the term ‘Mondeo Man’ was late ’90s media shorthand to describe UK’s Mr. Average. However his German equivalent would have been more likely to have been polishing a Volkswagen Passat ‘of a weekend. Trouble was, outside VW’s home market, comparatively few else were. Volkswagen’s mid-liner sold respectably, but its image remained as studiously underwhelming as its sales figures. Continue reading “Piëch Practice – 1996 Volkswagen (B5) Passat”
Very short this time. While everyone else is wondering if this three-row, seven seat leviathan can crack the US market for VW, I am wondering if…
…VW has a thing about gold metallic paint. Looking past the attractive paint, I notice they have chosen to give it a curious-looking feature line down the side, one paralleling the wheel-arches which are very nearly squarish. The headlamps and grille are styled to look rational – is this what the SUV buyer in the US actually wants? I had argued they want something quite ugly and butch-looking. I mean that buyers of SUVs who use them to cart junk and do heavy work probably don’t care a lot for Bauhaus geometry. The people who do will buy a Q7, I would have thought.
Taking the unveiling of the facelifted Golf as the starting point Autocar thinks all car makers should aspire to evolutionary design. DTW disagrees.
“It’s a ballsy move, though, making a car look like its predecessor. But one that’s starting to spread – Audi’s in on the game too, with its new Q5, and BMW did it with the new 5 Series not long ago” writes Autocar.
The Golf is a text-book example of a product that has evolved gradually over the course of its 40 years on the market. Audi have also cleaved to such a strategy as do BMW (nearly). Mercedes have been less adept at this. Sometimes they’ve adopted quite florid designs such as the fintail cars and most of the current batch. At other times they’ve had the urge to
A while back I alleged that, if nothing else, the mainstream saloon had more visual variety than that found among C-class family hatches.
A recent bit of news concerning Volkswagen’s Phideon saloon led me to put that in with seven other medium sized cars. See how many you can identify. How different are they? And which one stands out? Doesn’t the Phideon look a lot like a BMW 5-series proposal? Can you tell which one is the Phideon?
Why does the VW ID concept have to look more styled than a VW Golf?
The ID concept is claimed to have a 371 mile range (compared to the 248 miles of a Renault Zoe). At present Chevrolet’s Bolt promises around 230 or so (and Car and Driver have confirmed this). I’m more interested in the visual semantics of electric cars though. Tesla have chosen to make their cars look quite conventional (less so with the X). BMW have opted for po-mo design while the Zoe could conceivably be an ordinary modernist car: not Tesla’s classicism and nor either obviously outré. Continue reading “Question of the Day”
Too much bratwurst has our correspondent wishing for a more varied menu.
I would hope that I am fairly knowledgeable about cars. Not in a useful way, obviously; I know so little about how they actually function that I attribute their abilities to modern day alchemy. But from the mid-1990s onwards when my brain began its fruitless journey towards maturity, a large (-ly useless) part of my memory has been dedicated to passively storing and updating a mental catalogue of new cars available in the UK. Imagine my surprise then when a recent advert on TV sparked precisely zero recognition of the make and model being sold. Continue reading “The Imitation Game”
Did you know that VW based the B3 (of which the B4 is a facelift) on the Golf platform?
And yet it’s bigger in all directions. That might explain why there are so many common parts. I took this photo as a contrast to the Mercedes W210 I showed recently. I’d planned to compose some thoughts on the junk charm of the B4 compared to the W210. This car is nicely tatty and the mismatched filler cap sets off the dreary metallic paint very well. I’d prefer if it was the B3 in a rich colour. Maybe that’s a bit contrived.
Not only is Volkswagen riding out the worst of the Dieselgate scandal, they are on track to steal Toyota’s crown as the world’s biggest car maker.
Read anything about Volkswagen in recent months and you would gain the impression that the company was on the ropes. Production numbers from the first third of 2016 paint a different picture, however. So what’s the actual story? Continue reading “Malady’s Echo Chamber”
Between the choice of a Toyota Auris and a VW Golf, I went for the Wolfsburg car.
The Toyota would be too uninteresting, I thought.
It would be simpler if I didn’t write a review at all. Nobody needs to know I drove this and no-one need ever discover what a hard time I’ve had writing something intelligent about Europe’s favourite car.
What will I remember about the Golf? Two or three things. One, the interior door grip is squeeky. It’s made of two shells that don’t fit precisely. In counterpoint, there are two interior rear roof lights that don’t budge when you turn them on. They were well-secured to the roof, not the headliner. And you’re never sure you’ve turned them off. Two, the CD player is in the glovebox. Three, the boot is smaller than I liked. Lots of litres are wasted under the boot floor panel. Continue reading “2016 VW Golf 1.4 TSI BlueMotion – Impressions”
The words may be different, but the tune is the same.
Despite a great many statements to the contrary, the message sent out by VAG management is still one steeped in technocratic arrogance. With the press already on the Volkswagen big guns’ heels, Matthias Müller et al will now have to face their second most powerful opponent: the mighty work council. VAG is a special company, not just because it accommodates such a vast number of car brands (12) or because of the number of people it employs (almost 600.000). Continue reading “Müllering VAG (Part 2): Too Big To Fail?”
Recently I ran a small article on the hard edges of public transport design. Sitting in a VW Touran I noticed that someone in Potsdam had been cutting corners too.
How did they do that? On this b-pillar trim I noticed that the main fillet had a pronounced shadow before it turned the corner (where the orange arrow is). Sure, it’s not a major part of the car interior and I am probably the first person who ever noticed it. What it does is lend this part at coarse and cold look, precisely akin to the hard edges of a Xerox photocopier from 1986 or that Alstom train interior I showed. Continue reading “Cutting Corners the VW Way”
What a year for cars. VW Golf Mk3 replaced the Mk2 in 1991. What made it special?
Car magazine in 1994 deemed the Mk3 (as a VR6) sufficiently poorly made to warrant the re-use of their “Lemon” cover, first used in 1973. It’s interesting that Car would make a long-term test the subject of a whole front cover when they also had the opportunity to put an Aston Martin Vantage and Ferrari 456GT up front. That was then. Continue reading “Theme: Special – Golf Mk3 Special Editions”
The Volkswagen Golf of the van world is also a Volkswagen – The Transporter. For the UK, at least, the Ford Transit might have remained the archetypal white van but social orders have changed and user expectations increased, and there’s now less chance of presenting a driver with the miserly and basic working environment that the old-school van offered. The default layout of shiny, hard, non-height-adjustable seat, semi-horizontal steering wheel and a long, wobbly gearstick, all housed in a tinny, boomy cab, was pretty mean for anyone whose experience of vans stretched beyond the occasional weekend’s hire when moving flats. Continue reading “Van Of The Centuries?”
Ireland’s relationship with Volkswagen is long-standing and robust, but can it weather the emissions storm? Early signs suggest it can.
The relationship between Ireland and Volkswagen dates back to 1950, when local motor industry pioneer, Stephen O’ Flaherty, inaugurated assembly at the Shelbourne Road facility in Dublin, making it the first plant outside Germany to build the Beetle. The very first car assembled at Ballsbridge, an oval-screen Beetle registered ZL 2286 was subsequently acquired by VW and remains on permanent display today in Wolfsburg. Continue reading “More Hot Eire? Irish VW Sales Hold Firm”
The troubles and subsequent changes at Volkswagen AG have led to an unforeseen departure.
Walter de’ Silva, overall head of the entire group’s stylistic development and one of the most powerful men in this line of business, has chosen take early retirement, merely a few weeks after having become appointed president of Italdesign, Audi’s semi-independent design branch. Continue reading “Müllering VAG (Part 1): Walter de’ Silva Retires”
With the particulates still settling over the VW emissions scandal, automakers are under scrutiny like never before. Yet VW may not end up being worst off – not by a long shot.
Almost a month into the VW emissions scandal, repercussions remain within the realm of conjecture and the view ahead no clearer. Everyone wants answers – VW owners who feel cheated and in possession of a tainted product, legislators (complicit or no) who now have to deal with the political fallout, and us – the faceless commentators who dole out harsh judgements from a safe distance, before scuttling back to the safety of our caves. Continue reading “NOxgate – Through a Looking Glass, Darkly”
The renowned motoring journalist LJK Setright was famous for his speedy driving. He could also drive as if every drop of petrol mattered. Here’s how he demonstrated the fuel efficiency of the 1976 VW Polo.
“Unless you have tried it, you can have no idea how acutely embarrassing it is to employ this ultimate economy driving technique on roads bearing normal traffic.” This meant accelerating down hills but not up the hills, keeping throttle openings small and constant. He was borrowing a method known as squirt-and-coast. In this method you Continue reading “Theme: Economy – The 1976 VW Polo”
Have you been a victim of TDI? Our journalists are waiting.
The author writes:
When we founded Driven to Write, we didn’t exactly begin with a set of guiding principles. Our aim was to provide an alternate voice to the mainstream motoring press and perhaps hold their feet to the fire from time to time. Similarly, ‘Big Auto’ and their well remunerated leaders have frequently felt the sting of our pen. However, one thing we never set out to do was to cause a member of the public to feel belittled and hurt, which is what this piece unintentionally achieved. Continue reading “‘I’m Really Rather Cross’ – A VW Owner Speaks Out”
A week is a long time in the motor business and this sh*tstorm just got real.
I sat down today to write something of a Frankfurt IAA overview. A sofa-eye view of the trends, winners, losers and why-botherers. Post-NOxgate however, there’s only one story, no winners and one loser. Well perhaps more than one.
Not long after losing Luc Donckerwolke from Bentley, SEAT has lost Stefan Lamm who had only been there for seven months.
CDN reports that Stefan Lamm has left for Mercedes’ advanced design studio in Carlsbad, California. That will be some bill for MB’s HR department when Lamm packs up from SEAT and I imagine SEAT have only just finished processing the expenses. Continue reading “What’s Wrong With VAG?”
I look at a personal irritation and wonder if I share it with anyone else.
At school, my Technical Drawing teacher once counselled us against mixing straight lines and curved lines in a design. Even at an impressionable age, I could tell that was a crude and general rule, made to be broken. But his words have come back to me now and then over the past decade or more, when I view the shape of the trailing edge of the rear doors of an increasing number of cars.
I am not an expert in graphic design which means the very subtle differences in sans-serif fonts often elude me, especially when the font is a version of Helvetica.
For graphic designers such differences are as clear to them as the difference between an Audi A6 and an Audi A4 is to me. Thus it is with some bemusement I note VW has elected to change their corporate font to something very slightly different. If you look closely you notice the “a” has changed the most and the letters seem slightly different. Continue reading “All Change At VW in the Font Department”
Autocar reported this on the 4th of June but VW’s corporate website is strangely silent on this historic event.
They report the Stefan Sielaff is to become the new head of design at Bentley and that Scania is to test electrically powered trucks in real-life conditions. The UK car industry’s trade body the SMMT reported that 31 Phaetons had been registered in 2014, which if anything means they are rather exclusive. Autocar’s Steve Cropley posted a rueful blog on the topic, noting how Ferdinand Piëch summoned journalists to Finland to compare the four-wheel drive Phaeton with the Mercedes S-class and BMW 7 series. The rear wheel drive cars didn’t cope so well in the icy conditions but the journalists refused to Continue reading “Other VW News: The Phaeton Is Axed From The UK Market”
We have been discussing design rationalism lately. A lot of my visual analyses have focussed on the main linear elements and graphics. This photo taken early in the morning captures a subtle, sculptural element on the VAG city car body.
Notice the shadow on the doors, to the rear of the shutline. This shows that the bodyside is gently curved outwards; it is most curved just under the window line and if you inspect the window sill by looking down the car, parallel to the centre line, it bows outwards. The curve fades away downward. The shape is reminiscent of the hull of a boat.
Phaeton. As a name it never really struck the right note. A little too puffed-up, ever so slightly grandiose for what really is a rather self effacing car. Perhaps in the absence of a suitably important-sounding wind, VW lacked options, or it was just another of Dr. Piëch’s flights of self-aggrandisement. Continue reading “Invincible Defeat: The VW Phaeton”
As the Dark Lord of Wolfsburg loses his grip, is this the twilight of a dictator?
Lately, the mighty VW juggernaught has appeared unassailable. The Golf and Passat dominate their respective classes, while Audi and Porsche reap record profits on the back of a global luxury car boom. Yet serious fissures have appeared at the very top of the management chain which unchecked, could destabilise the entire organisation. Continue reading “Auf Wiedersehen Piëch?”
This bit of research aimed to determine what, if any, variation existed in four major markets in the choice of colours available for the VW Golf.
I looked at the configurators at VW’s websites in Brazil, Australia, the US and Germany. The expectation was that there would be some variation in the number and type of colours. The first part (number) was confirmed by this empirical study but the second expectation (type) was not confirmed. The number of paint colours was counted for a typical variant of the Golf in each market.
The vehicle here could be said to chime with our monthly theme, passengers. Further, the vehicle itself is a place to stay when you get to your destination.
I notice that none of the Transporters that I ever see are well-cared for in a cosmetic sense. Rust is always there somewhere. The passenger saloon with its fold down tables and simple bench seats are almost always littered with debris. I don’t imagine that the owners’ home is similarly strewn with discarded items such as cables, cartons, items of clothes or old boots. Why the difference?
Continuing the theme of colour, here’s a VW Golf from the 1997-2004 series.
It’s the cheerful metallic green I want to draw your attention to. The interior had cloth seats with panels of a similar hue. Presumably this was a special edition but the car had no badges to indicate this. This iteration of the Golf was the most neatly refined, in my view, the one where competitors gasped at the subtle refinements such as the legendary cloth covered a-pillars. Quite why people Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1997 VW Golf Estate”