How does one define Italy’s relationship to the motor car? One might start by attempting to define the country itself.
[Editor’s note: This piece is a re-run of an article originally published in May 2016, as part of DTW’s Values theme.]
As anyone has read a few books on Italian history will know, it’s a great bunch of countries. Only foreigners lump it all together as one nation. That gives us a bit of a head start in understanding how Italy’s values translate into the broad array of markedly different car companies being stifled under one management.
As recently as the 1950s you could still find people in the deep south of Italy who didn’t know what Italy was. While outsiders consider Italy to have been unified, many Italians still Continue reading “Values – Italy”
A good, quantifiable value is a good selling point. It’s an even better selling point if few people know what it actually means, so they can’t really challenge it or compare it.
If you follow Formula 1 these days, you will hear a lot, an awful lot, about ‘aero’. Assuming the drivers don’t all have a fixation on the bubbly, chocolate snack, we can assume this means that the aerodynamics of the overpriced racing cars are very important. They are important for road cars too but, oddly, nowadays manufacturers don’t make a big deal of it in their marketing, leaving you to guess from the often excessively racetrack mimicked shapes of splitters, spoilers and diffusers we see on so many cars. Continue reading “Theme : Values – So Where Are The Drag Queens Now?”
In my survey of the values of the motoring manufacturing nations, we have touched on Italy, Britain and France. Now it is time to look at the nation that helped invent the motor car.
The present gets in the way of the past. Today Germany stands on an equal footing with Japan and the US as a powerhouse of car engineering, design and manufacturing. If we go back a hundred years the story would not have seemed so clear. Each car-building nation had a deluge of manufacturers and a certain sameness attached to all of them as they ploughed a vast array of technical furrows, hopeful minnows. Germany’s clever engineers and industrious entrepreneurs offered a wide range of types of car in the search to find something that matched German values and German conditions. Things became clearer in the 20s as most of the small makers died off. The Second World War acted as another selector. Mercedes managed to Continue reading “Theme: Values – Germany”
We spend a lot of time here considering certain car brands that are, historically at least, a cerebral choice (Citroen) an emotional choice (Alfa Romeo) or a combination of the two (Lancia).
In fact these are just the adjectives of motoring journalism, a defensibly quick and easy shorthand. Most people use a portion of their intellect to decide which car to acquire, balancing price against consumption against tax.
Likewise they use their emotion in deciding that a particular car suggests the life they’d like to be leading and how they’d like to perceive themselves and be perceived by others – this might be silly, but it’s something most of us can understand, however much we deny it would be the case for us. Continue reading “Theme : Values – Intellect & Emotion”
Values: How can this term can be ascribed to the subject of the motor car, and how much do I place upon my own vehicle?
Most of the time our cars are simply a tool, taken for granted and unconsidered unless we deign to clean them or the blasted thing refuses to start. There are currently two cars in my life. A 2013 Jaguar XF, (which isn’t in fact mine) and a 1996 Saab 900S, which is. The Jag was purchased about six months into its life, and is a low mileage, fairly cosseted luxury consumer durable.
The Saab was purchased in 2014 with about 110,000 miles on its odometer, but with every stamp present in its service book. It’s still in remarkable condition despite not being cosseted at all. The XF cost its owner something in the region of quite a lot of money, while the Saab – well, lets just say my road bike was more expensive. Continue reading “Theme: Values – More Than the Sum of its Parts?”
Ah, this is a tricky one. It´s like trying to understand your family.
I’m not British but the British have loomed large in the culture of the Irish, and “Ireland” is written on the front of my passport. British cars once dominated the Irish car market and now Germans and Japanese predominate. The interplay of convoluted historical strands influenced the character of British cars. In sketching all this can I do so without being too kind or too critical? Continue reading “Theme: Values – Britain”
FCA has been receiving positive responses in the press with the new Alfa Romeo Giulia. But, at present, although it will never be the big seller, a lot of the reviews seem to concentrate, rather disproportionately, on the £56,000 Quadrifoglio.
The other Saturday I had to do a drive I’ve now done several times, diagonally across England from South-West London to the Shropshire / Wales border. Once out of London, it involves a rather dull slog up the M40 and round the south of Birmingham, then an 85 km drive across nice country roads, bendy but with sufficient straight sections to allow overtaking, a couple of towns, a few villages, some moorland, all-in-all excellent driving country. The total distance was 284 km and I did it in 2 hours and 50 minutes, meaning that I averaged exactly 100 km/h (62.5 mph). During this trip I enjoyed my drive and I think about three cars overtook me on the motorway, none on the back roads. Continue reading “Theme : Values – Restraint”
As anyone has read a few books on Italian history will know, it’s a great bunch of countries. Only foreigners lump it all together as one nation.
That gives us a bit of a head start in understanding how Italy’s values translate into the broad array of markedly different car companies being stifled under one management.
As recently as the 1950s you could still find people in the deep south of Italy who didn’t know what Italy was. While outsiders consider Italy to have been unified, many Italians still Continue reading “Theme: Values – Italy”
It’s time for a bit of sweeping generalisation. Let me sweepingly generalise about French cars.
You’ll have to forgive the broad brushstrokes here. That’s how I like to start before thinking about the curlicues and details that put nuances on a rough outline. France’s automotive values emerged from the soup of French culture. That is itself a richly complex thing which has attracted the attention of the rest of the world for as long as wine, olives, cheese and berets have been cultivated in the mosaic of terroirs that make up the nation. Continue reading “Theme: Values – France”
Which is the Best Irish Stout? Well, you could always try looking for the answer in Guinness World Records, the default repository of achievements and natural extremes.
I was as nerdish as any other schoolboy, possibly a fair bit more in fact. In the early to mid 60s, I owned several volumes of the, then, Guinness Book of Records, which was published annually. This contained information on the Longest, Heaviest, Brightest, Furthest …… etc that you could quote, authoritatively, to your friends and relatives, who would look politely impressed whilst stifling their yawns. Continue reading “Theme : Values – The Ultimate”
Values change and with them the shape of that blob known as the car market.
This short discussion begins with news that everyone’s favourite compact, near-luxury car, the Buick Verano is to be dropped from GM’s north American line-up. Buick now sells more CUVs than saloons and sells less of everything compared to their heyday. That is a result of a change in values. What Buick represented no longer fits with the desires of enough paying customers. Those are a predilection for a raised ride height over the lower-seating position of a saloon. Buyers like the hatchback format. American-ness no longer rates as highly among American customers who are happy to buy any brand if it fits in with their pocket and their needs. On the negative side, buyers don’t care for the image Buick used to have and perhaps still does, of conservative mild-luxury. Continue reading “Theme: Values – The Fluctuating Preferences of the New Customer”
For what it’s worth, our Editor attempts to be objective
It is a habit of older generations to convince themselves that they possess certain things that younger people don’t have. Generally, if that makes them feel better about the less positive sides of the ageing process, I suppose it does little harm. One of the re-occurring concepts is that, with age, you acquire a ‘set of values’. This panders to a natural desire to be able to calibrate and quantify everything in life but, at heart, we probably know that this is a foolish conceit. Continue reading “Theme : Values – An Introduction”