Hidden in the shadow of the Sports Utility Vehicle’s claims for world domination, another, hitherto almost extinct category of automobile has gained some new-found relevance.
Forty years ago, the car body shape of now, and presumably the future too, was the fastback. Aerodynamically efficient and avant-garde in its appearance, the fastback acted as the stylistic embodiment of the progressive values of the 1970s. It wasn’t some stuffy estate car (those were only really for craftsmen and catholic families anyway), yet almost as practical. It wasn’t a bourgeois saloon either, finally doing away with that silly remnant of the carriage age – the separate boot, without being, well, a craftsman’s car.
On the face of things, Honda’s Geneva e prototype – a thinly veiled (95% production-ready, we are told) version of the forthcoming production Urban EV, marks not only a refreshing change from the over-decorated norm but also a satisfyingly close approximation of the car Honda showed at Frankfurt 2017 to audible gasps of pleasure from the massed cohort of auto-commentators, this non-attending scribe included.
Because if indeed this broadly represents the form the production version will take (and informed speculation suggests it does), it presents a wildly divergent face to the one Honda currently presents to the world. Continue reading “Charges Will Apply”
Are we witnessing the slow demise of the inexpensive citycar?
Had one been in possession of a crystal ball back in 2009 I’m not sure anyone would have believed predictions for where the motor industry would be placed only a decade later. It would simply beggar belief and yet here we are, still hoping for the best. But the news just keeps on worsening.
In the 21st century, common knowledge dictates that a car brand has to please everyone in order to succeed. Thankfully however, Mazda appear to disagree with this assessment.
Mazda’s most recent concept cars don’t photograph well.
What may sound like a negligible statement has, in fact, significant subtext. For in this day and age, photos are everything. In terms of marketing, appearances have never been of greater importance. In the age of the internet, social media et al, the word has lost most of its value to the image. So when food is judged by its looks rather than taste, car makers could be forgiven for making their cars, and concept cars in particular, not so much eye as phone camera candy. Continue reading “Kodo Arrigato”
The matter to which we turn our attention today is the Chinese car market, which (and I burn with shame to admit this) for the most part has remained a matter of supreme indifference to me. This is a frightful dereliction of duty on my part; I ought, as one of DTW’s editorial team to Continue reading “The Magic of Stones”
A couple of experiences recently have got me thinking somewhat more philosophically over the last few days and I wondered what others thought?
First, I was reading a certain car related website where there was an update from a long term test of the latest Audi A8. It featured thoughts on the latest headlamp technology which had been fitted as an option on that model. It struck me how ‘clever’ the technology actually was, and then also the scale of investment in R&D and production engineering which must have gone into bringing it to market. The cost of the option left me open mouthed, £4,900. I mean, not so long ago, one could Continue reading “Too Much of a Good Thing?”
…is paved with good intentions. But where is it leading us?
Recently, Driven to Write held a metaphorical Bunsen burner to the feet of BMW development supremo, Klaus Fröhlich in the wake of some rather petulant comments he made. On this basis, you might be minded to Continue reading “The Road to Zero”
Denmark announced a few days back that ICE cars would be banned from sale by 2030. That’s 12 years or roughly not enough model cycles…
A car launched in 2018 might be replaced in 2025 leaving a short product cycle to recoup investments. That makes the period around now the last point at which it will be worth bothering to engineer for ICE engines. The UK has, not surprisingly, gone with a cut-off for ICE engines of 2040 but I think that if this change-over happens at the planned speed, the UK will change over faster than 2040. (Whether or not it´s part of the EU, EU policy will affect the UK).
Brand-MINI is facing its biggest adventure yet. This one however, may not end well…
It has been a fairly interesting week for BMW’s Oxfordshire outpost. MINI has been one of many UK-based carmakers predicting doom-laden scenarios should the British government’s hapless negotiating team fail to obtain a workable deal to exit the European Union early next year.
Sometimes it’s necessary to look back in order to move forward.
It’s a slightly forlorn image would you not agree? An elegant, if vaguely unsatisfying looking 1960s Italian GT is parked upon a deserted beachscape. The photo comes courtesy of the estimable Mr. Christopher Butt, he of the influential and painstakingly curated Auto-Didakt. The car? Well, you can read Christopher’s well-chosen words on this carrozzeria unicorn here, should your curiosity get the better of you.
The image serves as something of a visual metaphor – for the demise of the carrozzieri, of course, but also for something more. But first, some background. As our Auto-Didaktic cohort points out, during the post-war period, French and Italian coachbuilders struggled to Continue reading “Surf’s Up”
As the motor industry presses towards widespread adaptation of electric vehicles, a notable voice sounds a cautious note.
As a rule, the motor industry prefers to speak with a unified voice on the wider issues which affect its interests. Certainly, when it comes to the subject of electric vehicles, the direction of current can probably be best described as direct. Or to put it another way, on this subject at least, most automotive CEOs are broadly speaking, on board.
We’ve been here before I know, but somewhat akin to the crossover CUV itself, this one simply refuses to go away.
Everything has a shelf-life, none more so than fashion items. Given their popularity with the buying public and the margins to be made upon their sale, compact crossovers have proliferated to an unsettling degree. So much so, it feels as though we are drowning in a CUV sea, whereas in fact they represent just a quarter of European new car sales.
Defining luxury in an age of conspicuous consumption isn’t easy. Judging by two concepts encapsulating futuristic decadence, this task will not become any less challenging in the years to come.
The fight for luxury supremacy of the future officially started in March 2018, at the Geneva International Motor Show. There, Aston Martin chief designer – pardon: Vice President & Chief Creative Officer – Marek Reichman openly criticised the traditional purveyors of automotive luxury, namely Crewe’s Bentley and Goodwood’s Rolls-Royce, of pandering to an obsolete definition of top-end motoring.
Almost three years on from VW’s monumental lapse of judgement, the only thing that is clear amid the noxious murk is an overwhelming and potentially damaging lack of clarity.
Not simply a colossal failure and a swingeing indictment of VW’s corporate culture as espoused by the management style of former chairman, Ferdinand Piëch, the repercussions of VW’s 2015 betrayal are proving even wider and faster-accelerating than anyone might reasonably have anticipated.
The recent crop of new models coming from Munich inevitably leads to a simple question: What on Earth has been going on at BMW in recent years?
Ever since the Neue Klasse reinvented and saved the brand, BMW could only ever, leaving matters such as personal taste aside, be described as assertive.
Assertively conservative insofar as an adherence to driven rear wheels, straight six engines and the evolution of the themes established by the Neue Klasse were concerned. Assertively daring when it comes to Continue reading “Crossed Over”
As Tesla outsells its German flagship market rivals on home turf, have we reached that much anticipated watershed or are the majors about to nick Elon’s lunch money as he’s about to cash in?
Last week it was reported that European sales of the Tesla Model S outstripped those of the German luxury flagship saloons for the first time, marking an alleged pivot point for the adoption and acceptance of electric vehicles across the region. A watershed moment perhaps or simply sensationalist reporting?
Fair question, because firstly there is some conjecture as to whether the Model S is a direct rival to the S-Class Mercedes and its ilk, especially when Elon Musk himself describes it more as an E-Class and Five Series competitor. Sizewise, Musk is broadly correct, but in terms of price, he most certainly isn’t. But regardless of which segment of the market it’s aimed, for a section of society who have the financial wherewithal to Continue reading “No Resistance”
An opportunity to ‘have a go’ in a friendly colleague’s new Tesla provided me with a first experience of driving an EV.
I fully realise that it’s not that remarkable to have driven one of Elon Musk’s finest, but it’s a landmark in my longish and ever-lengthening motoring life and so I feel driven to write one of my usual streams of consciousness about the experience and the car itself.
One of the guys in my team has a flat black 75D on order and Tesla has lent him a white car to bridge the gap whilst his is being built / delivered, which is a nice touch. Knowing how much of a car nerd I am, he popped in yesterday to offer me a quick go. It turned out I was not the first that day; given he leads an IT department, a load of tech nerds had got there before me. Interesting that, the Tesla appeals to both car and tech enthusiasts … Continue reading “Quick Drive: Tesla Model S 75D”
In an exclusive preview ahead of its unveiling at the 2021 Geneva show, Driven To Write can reveal the significantly refreshed Mercedes A-class.
The current Mercedes A-class, internally dubbed W177, receives an extensive mid-life facelift, to be officially presented at the 91th Geneva International Motor Show. Ahead of the world premiere, Driven To Write can provide exclusive insight into the most significant overhaul the A-class model has ever received.
“It’s time to be bold. It’s time for creases”
Daimler AG’s Chief Creative Officer, Gorden Wagener proclaims that the refreshed A-class is more than the regular nip-&-tuck-job. “The A-class is one of our icons. It is the most premium car in its class, and this new design shows that more than ever.”
Chris Bangle has returned to car design, but isn’t back.
The most influential car designer of the past two decades has returned to the automotive realm. His message is more radical than ever – but his audience is an altogether different one than in the past. We needn’t listen to what he has to say, for we are not his audience anymore. Continue reading “In China They Eat Dogs”
Amid a landscape characterised by an unremitting and frankly repugnant aggression within mainstream European car design, thank heavens for the Japanese.
September’s IAA motor show at Frankfurt was as dispiriting a illustration of an industry adrift as one could realistically hope not to witness. (Thankfully, I didn’t). Whether it was the remote and soulless autonomous concepts, (step forward Audi), the endless parade of evermore vulgar and over-wrought SUVs, or the even more depressingly torpid production offerings, Frankfurt was (with one or two exceptions) something of a bore. Continue reading “Reasons To Be Cheerful”
As JLR moves further into the white space of seemingly infinite possibility, we ask a few awkward questions.
This week, Autocar exclusively reported the prospect that JLR is advanced on developing a more road-biased, Range-Rover-derived vehicle, said by the journal to be dubbed Road-Rover. According to journalist, Hilton Holloway, the forthcoming model, set to debut in about three years time, will be the first of a range of cars aimed at the top end of the luxury market. But one aspect missing from Autocar’s piece is Continue reading “To Boldly Go…”
Chinese-owned, Stuttgart-headquartered Borgward AG presented an all-electric Isabella concept at the Frankfurt IAA. Is it a hubristic Frankenstein fantasy, or a worthy bearer of the revered name?
Die Isabella ist tot, es lebe die Isabella. Ein gute idee is besser als tausend Bedenken.
(The Isabella is dead, long live the Isabella. A good idea is better than a thousand concerns.)
So said Dr. Jochen Schlüter, the fictional chairman of the living and thriving Borgward AG in Andreas B Berse’s 2006 contra-factual novel ‘Borgward Lebt’ on the occasion of the launch of the fourth generation Isabella at the Frankfurt IAA in September 1989. Continue reading “Diamond Dream, or Ruined Rhombus?”
With the motor industry abuzz with the prospect of electric propulsion, just how confident are we they’ve thought this one through?
Earlier in the week we considered the mainstream industry’s lack of leadership when it comes to the design of electric cars. But at the Frankfurt motor show this week, two industry leaders fleshed out some of the challenges they’re facing. Firstly Mercedes’ Dieter Zetsche pointed out to auto journalists the effect the push to electric is likely to have on profitability.
At first glance, this is a case of stating the blindingly obvious, but while the mighty Stuttgart Untertürkheim car giant can weather the loss of 50% of its potential profits, putting aside an alleged €4.0 billion to cover the likely revenue shortfall, it raises questions of how other less financially robust car businesses can possibly Continue reading “Danger, High Voltage”
Electric cars are coming. But when are we going to be presented with one we might actually want to buy?
During a recent conversation with an automotive design commentator and critic I pointed out that motor manufacturers had so far failed to create a truly desirable electric car. He agreed, suggesting they appear stuck at the Blackberry phase and that their i-phone moment has yet to occur. He isn’t wrong, as this week’s deluge of concepts and production cars illustrates. On one extreme we have Audi’s Frankfurt-fodder Aicon, which as implausible flights of conceptual fancy go, is about on point and on the other we have the 2018 Nissan Leaf, which takes retrenchment to new levels of jaded whatever.
One of the advantages of a pure electric car is that by taking the engine and powertrain out of the equation, the entire architecture of the vehicle can Continue reading “Leading the Charge”
The Frankfurt motor show is upon us again. Thoughts?
The official IAA image is frightening, isn’t it?
It seems like only about six months since the last one closed and, dear, oh, dear, here is another one. I went to Autocropley to have a gander at their list of launches and unveilingments. I can’t say much of it tickled my fancy. The Audi A7 is top of the list for alphabetical reasons and, if it is anything like the new A8, it’ll be a bit much on a too small plate.
The A7 is one of the nicest looking cars in production and the new A7 is not going down that path – as with all launches of replacement models and many new ones, the dial is being turned up to 11, especially in the grille department. The A8’s could be from an articulated truck apart from the quite astonishing amount of brightwork. The first A8 set a standard Audi have failed to Continue reading “A Camel Drowns By The Oasis”
I have done some desk-work and put together a few assumptions to see how self-driving transport adds up. What are the problems with self-driving cars or the idea behind them?
Without leaving the kitchen table, I was able to identify some conceptual problems with self-driving cars and ways to improve the efficiency of car use.
If a car drives on average 12,000 miles per year and does an average of 60 miles per hour then that means 200 hours of driving per year. (Cars are spent after just 1400 to 2000 hours of use).
The occupancy rate in relation to hours per year is very low. There are 8760 hours in year. Cars are driven for 200 hours a year, typically. For 8560 hours a year a car is unused. Thus there are 43.8 times more hours of use available than are used each year. If you drove all year, you would still Continue reading “17.5 Billion Hours a Year”
Twin approaches to a modernised ur-Mini, but while one is shamelessly drenched in nostalgia, the other speaks of a possible future.
Nostalgia is big business. Take the music industry where bands reform to play their best-loved material, while record companies re-master and repackage classic albums. So if the running order gets messed with, original tracks deleted and a bunch of questionable out-takes (which didn’t make the original cut for good reason) are added, who cares? Completists, (mostly middle-aged men if we’re honest) will Continue reading “Remake, Remodel, Remaster, Recharge?”
We ask whether aerodynamics’ post-war, post-aviation beginnings have anything in common with tomorrow’s hydrogen-powered wonders.
First published by Eóin Doyle in January 2015.
Car manufacturers have historically enjoyed a somewhat patchy relationship with the concept of aerodynamic theory. During the post-war period only a handful of motor manufacturers paid more than lip service and of those, most had their origins in aircraft manufacture. Bristol and Saab, for example were both forced to diversify during post-war austerity when demand for their mainstay aircraft businesses collapsed in peacetime. Continue reading “Theme Of Themes : Aerodynamics – The Shape We’re In”
Welcome to the EMotion Express. Calling all stations via Unfeasible Promise, Inevitable Reversal, Fervent Denial, and Messy Lawsuit. We regret to inform customers that due to essential (re)engineering works a replacement bus service will be in place before passengers can complete their journey to Humiliating Climbdown. Please mind the doors. Continue reading “We Apologise For the Delay to Your Journey”
Which colours will be catching our eyes soon? This one is about coatings, a topic we have touched upon at DTW a few times before. Here and here and here (but not here. )
BASF have revealed their predictions for the colours of 2018 – something of a self-fulfilling prophecy or else whistling down the wind. By that I mean that the “prediction” could shape preferences, in which case it’s not a prediction but an influence on the market. Alternatively, people will choose their colours regardless and BASF´s prediction will be disproved.
Yes folks, Henrik’s back in business, having learned from past mistakes. Learned how to replicate them exactly, that is.
Name: Fisker Emotion.
Age: It’s brand flipping new. Are you blind?
But it looks like the last one, the what was it called again? Karma thingy. That’s probably because you have dead eyes. The Fisker Emotion looks nothing like the Fisker Karma – or a Karma Revero for that matter. You’re simply imagining it, because, as I’ve already pointed out, your eyes are dead. Continue reading “Oops, I Did It Again”
BMW makes lavish claims for its forthcoming 8-Series, saying it will herald an upward shift in product strategy. But will it be enough?
Last week, BMW displayed a concept previewing a forthcoming 8-Series model line which went on display at the sumptuous annual Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este at Italy’s Lake Como. BMW’s Ian Robertson used the occasion to outline the company’s ambitions, telling Autocar magazine, “We want to bring more cars into the upper luxury segment. We are working on other products as we feel there is a lot of opportunity there. The new 8 series is part of this. In the next couple of years we will see the most comprehensive change in the history of BMW.”Continue reading “Number 8 Dream – BMW Reaches For The Star”
One wonders about these colour consultancies. They have no special access to the future yet are willing to guess (or is it propose) what it might look like. Presumably the consultancy has a lot of software to link economic and social indicators to colours. But it works the other way too. Colour affects our mood, acting to provoke a moment of “wow” or what Kant would call a pure aesthetic moment. So as well as the social mood influencing what colours we want perhaps colours can be selected to affect the social mood or even just to find people who are not in tune with it. Thus, the colour consultancies could push a colour and be pro-active in their predictions. One can review the data from now to say what might happen. One can also head off those trends by taking action. The time is right for yellow, I say. Let’s not give in to boring old trends but shape the future and ask for yellow cars.
For years now, Lexus has stared enviously at Mercedes-Benz, hoping to emulate its success. Tired of second fiddle, is ‘the gentleman’ flinging his values on the fire?
Last year, a former Browns Lane insider described the advent of the 1989 Lexus LS 400 to me as being “chilling in every respect”. One can be equally sure that in Munich, Ingolstadt and Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, the intake of breath was no less sharp and the expletives no less lurid. That Lexus subsequently failed to achieve global cut-through over the intervening decades remains a matter for historians and academics to pick over, because the auguries at the time suggested Toyota would annihilate the opposition. Continue reading “Sexing-Up Lexus”
Van Helsing starter kit in hand, roving reporter, Robertas Parazitas comes face to face with another automotive revenant.
The Geneva Salon is still a place where rich men can show their dreams made metal. Jim Glickenhaus was there with his SCG003S hypercar. Not far away, Felix Eaton, Huddersfield’s answer to Glickenhaus, proudly launched his graceful Black Cuillin. More modest in size, but equally single-minded is the Microlino, the creation of Wim Oubouter.
Sino-American Lucid Motors have revealed their Air saloon, a truly good-looking car.
Take a look at these photos. This is what a modern, elegant and distinctive car looks like. It will be on sale in 2018 though only in Canada and the US. The details can be inspected here. What is interesting is the approach Lucid have taken, managing to give the car a clear identity without recourse to strange detailing and without obviously using a grille-like oblong at the front. Continue reading “They Got This One Right”
Speaking with engineer, Steve Randle these two words crop up a good deal, but if ‘brave and interesting’ describe the vehicles and engineering solutions that inspire him, it’s also a fairly accurate description of the man. With a career encompassing Jaguar, McLaren Cars – where he was responsible for the suspension, engine mounting system and dynamic package for the legendary F1 supercar – through to projects at his own engineering consultancy with clients as diverse as Bentley, JCB, Tata Motors, and the Ministry of Defence, Randle’s bushel has up to now been well hidden, to say nothing of the light therein. Continue reading “Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part One”
When I presented the Faction yesterday, I thought I would refresh readers’ memories about some of the other Ingeni-era cars.
The Ford 24/7 sprang to mind. When I checked up I encountered the fickle and fragile nature of memory: the 24/7 appeared in 2000, quite some time before the Ingeni studio opened. Let’s look at it anyway. It’s a nice coincidence that we are scraping about in the annals of car design just as the LA Motor Show is also on these pages.
Is this the end of history? Well, it’s about time…
It’s the old story. You wait ages and then along comes two positive Jaguar news stories at once. First was the announcement that over the three months to September, global Jaguar sales rose 84%. It’s unclear at this point whether that translates into anything of significance, but yesterday’s announcement of the I-Pace concept at the Los Angeles motor show was a cat of an altogether different stripe. I’ll be honest with you, I-Pace is a shock, but not for the reasons you might imagine. Continue reading “Electric Shock – Jaguar I-Pace”
Automotive News reports on the future of the electric car here. And the Guardian explains how it is here.
In 2016 there will be 2 million electric cars on the roads, says the Guardian. And in 2030 electric cars will predominate in the world’s major cities. If it’s hard finding a petrol station in London now, it will be nigh on impossible in 2030. I wonder will they have special parking places for petrol cars with their own little recharging posts?
Another milestone for electric cars is when their sales exceed the production of the VW Golf. Annual sales of the Golf are 930,000 units. In 2015 annual sales of electric cars was 740,000 units. Those 740,000 units are divided among many manufacturers. Someone is taking a bath on this at the moment.
This image shows the interior of the Lexus UX concept car. There are functions and there are forms and there is no apparent bridge between them. I don’t believe the person who created this image had any idea how these forms would be realised in production. I think it’s okay to do free-form sketching in the initial stages of a design programme. It’s essential, even. Usually then the “feeling” of the first loose sketches get transferred to the structure of the likely interior components with changes made to both as the iterations are iterated. Continue reading “The Divorce of Form and Function”
What do mock-wood panelled estate cars and electric cars have in common?
Design is often about managing incremental change to existing forms and the use of metaphors from existing products to “explain” new features or new technology. Our mobile phones show the icon of a camera to identify the image -capture function even if nearly nobody uses cameras any more. I’d hazard that 75% of the owners of a mobile telephone have never used a camera. By analogy, the wooden panelled estate car existed long after wood was a necessary material in the construction of such vehicles. Designers felt customers expected their estate car to Continue reading “Designing the Unfamiliar”
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”
This is an odd subject for a site devoted to automobiles. Have we made a bit of mistake? Can we avoid another?
Two items appeared on the ghostly, glowing timewaste that is my iPhone. In one article the CEO of Lyft, John Zimmer, observed that Americans were pouring away an average of about $9000 a year owing a car. He estimated the occupancy rate was about one percent given that most cars have four seats and are used less than 5% of the time. The Lyft chap predicts car ownership in cities will decline markedly in the next decade: “Every year, more and more people are concluding that it is simpler and more affordable to live without a car,” he wrote. “And when networked autonomous vehicles come onto the scene, below the cost of car ownership, most city dwellers will stop using a personal car.”Continue reading “Joining the Dots”
Mini may be about to do the seemingly unthinkable by readying a three volume saloon. Heresy or sound commercial thinking we ask?
Over a decade and a half since brand MINI was reinvented under BMW and you’d have thought by now the bulk of enthusiasts and commentators would have got over the fact that the Issigonis’ miracle hasn’t and quite obviously never will stage a rebirth. The bloated looking current MINI range is hardly easy on the eye, but they clearly appeal to an increasingly broad swathe of the market.
But despite impressive sales and a strong image, MINI has never been as profitable, nor sold in the numbers its Munich masters would like. To reverse this state of affairs, MINI-management wants to Continue reading “Chasing (Three) Volumes”
BMW celebrates its century with a blizzard of PR bafflegab
They got a little mixed up with the concepts of ends and means though. BMW has cited four elements that constitute its values and have sketched a new and thrillingly meaningless corporate logo. Continue reading “BMW Is A Hundred Years Old”
Obituaries are probably premature, but has Lancia’s traditional Geneva presence been bulldozed in the Giulia frenzy?
Lancia was not on the Geneva exhibitors list, but I fully expected a few Ypsilons to show their fresh new face on a small, but rather stylish, stand in some enclave of Sergio’s Palexpo empire. It happened at Frankfurt, but not in Geneva – the traditional Lancia space was occupied by Abarth instead, with a rather jolly display of 124 Spiders and a 695 Biposto. Continue reading “Geneva 2016 Posted Missing – Lancia”
Last year Bloomberg and, I suppose everyone else, asked will Tesla ever make money? They lose $4000 on every model S they sell. What else could they have done with the money?
As anyone who reads the financial news knows, the world´s economy is awash with cash and has been for almost a decade. The Bank of Japan is so keen to get people to spend their lucre that they are now charging negative interest rates. The surplus of cash has led to commodity and asset bubbles as far as I can tell. Want to know why a zero-bedroom windowless chamber in London costs £800,000? Continue reading “Efficient Markets And The Tesla Gamble”
It’s a long tradition of at least a year’s standing at Driven To Write to publish the Editor’s and Founder’s aspirations for the coming year. This year we are joined by our other Authors as well as some of our regular Commenters. Continue reading “Maximum Resolutions”