Keeping it Real

Musings on the US automotive landscape.

Image: the author

I am writing this on our flight home from Chicago after spending ten most enjoyable days exploring the city and surrounding areas. Chicago is one of the great American cities and, with so much to see and experience, it is well worth a visit. Over the past thirty-something years, I have had the opportunity to travel to the US many times for both business and pleasure. One of my abiding fascinations is the country’s automotive landscape and how it has evolved over these decades.

When I first arrived on those shores in the late 1980s, the US car market was still dramatically different to its European equivalent, thrillingly so for a car-obsessive like me. Despite the downsizing precipitated by the 1973 fuel crisis, there were still plenty of US-manufactured ‘land yachts’ traversing the streets of the big cities and the country’s broad highways. American cars retained their highly distinctive style amongst a plethora of different marques, each with its own signature design features. Continue reading “Keeping it Real”

Simplify, Then Add Lightness

Trying to understand the Lotus Eletre.

Front elevation. Can you guess what it is yet? Image: Lotus Cars Media

Even I have come to accept that sports car marques can barely survive, and certainly not thrive, without having an SUV or crossover in their portfolio. Indeed, it seems that even developing a saloon car is not worth the R&D these days, given the news that Mazda will not be replacing the Mazda6, although its new FR platform, RWD, straight-sixes and all, looks tailor made for that job.

Not that I am trying to Continue reading “Simplify, Then Add Lightness”

Things Haven’t Worked Out As Expected

The author samples Volvo’s first EV-only model.

All images: The author

Thanks to the deep pockets of its parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Volvo’s transformation from ICE to electric vehicles is moving ahead at pace. The strategy was devised by outgoing Chief Executive, Håkan Samuelsson, and will be picked up by his successor, Jim Rowan, who takes over this month (March 2022). The days of the fossil-fuelled Swedish car are most definitely numbered.

Having been the proud owner of one of Gothenburg’s finest for the past eighteen months or so, I recently received an invitation to attend a (nationwide) event at my local Volvo dealership in order to sample the new C40 Recharge. This is the first Volvo to be powered solely by electricity, and it comes in a new shape as well, the currently uber-fashionable crossover-coupé. Continue reading “Things Haven’t Worked Out As Expected”

Eighties Eco-Concept Marvels: Epilogue – Endgame?

Where next for the Eco-car?


Citroen Ami (Source: Automotive News Europe)

Having enjoyed researching and writing about our three eighties eco-concept marvels, what thoughts now come to mind about the current state of the small car market? After all, the future as predicted by the ECO 2000, for example, has long since passed.

The car as we know it is, without doubt, experiencing something of a fin de siècle. Personally, I have felt a growing sense that car design and development has plateaued, become complacent and intellectually flabby, with form increasingly disconnected from function. I have also realised that this is reflected in my writings for DTW, which recently has been focused very much on the past rather than today or the future.

So, much as I enjoyed writing this short series, it has left me a little flat in terms of thoughts about the status quo and the future. Cue a stream of consciousness … Continue reading “Eighties Eco-Concept Marvels: Epilogue – Endgame?”

In the Full Current of Human Life: European Car of the Year 2022

A coming of age in Geneva.

Image: archyewsy

Now in its 59th year, the earnestly intentioned but often derided European Car of the Year contest has been a hostage to fortune over the past three years. This time pestilence has yet again denied the media attendance at the live announcement on the eve of the Geneva Salon, but minds have been far more concentrated on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rightly described by the ECotY organisation as “this terrible war.”

In a darkened arena in Geneva, ECotY president Frank Janssen stated his organisation’s response to the invasion: no Russian flag on display at the presentation and the two Russian jurors’ votes would be excluded from the count. I’m sure Vadim Ovsiankin and Sergey Znaemsky are decent fellows, but needs must in these times. Their votes won’t count this year, but they retain their jury places. Continue reading “In the Full Current of Human Life: European Car of the Year 2022”

Eighties Eco-Concept Marvels: Number 3 – BL Technologies ECV3

We look at three small eco-concept cars from the 1980s and see what became of them.

BL Technologies ECV3. Can you imagine the shock of BL presenting this in 1982? (Source: AROnline)

The last of the cars featured in this series is the BL Technologies ECV3. This is a classic BL tale of burgeoning promise turning to wracking frustration as funds dried up for the development of a new small car. As might be expected, it is also by some margin the most convoluted and protracted of the three stories.

BL Technology was the R&D arm of the state-owned British car maker. In 1980, it was led by renowned engineer Spen King and given a home at BL’s new testing facility at Gaydon in Warwickshire. BL Technology and its Gaydon site was basically a sand-box environment, enabling King and his colleagues to propose theories about the future design of cars, then turn these into working prototypes to Continue reading “Eighties Eco-Concept Marvels: Number 3 – BL Technologies ECV3”

Eighties Eco-Concept Marvels: Number 2 – Renault VESTA

A short series in which we look at three small eco-concept cars from the 1980s and see what became of them.

Renault VESTA – look through the rear side window, and one can see that it is one of those styling mules where each side elevation has a differing design (Source: All Car Index)

Today, we turn our attention to Renault’s vision for a compact car designed to do 120mpg (2.35l/100km), the 1983 VESTA.

In its February 1984 edition, Car Magazine went into some detail about what it reported would become the new Renault ‘R3’ in an article, entitled ‘Towards 2000’. This edition of the magazine is memorable for having scoop photos of the Kadett E / Astra MkII on the front cover, the car brightly illuminated at night on the road, showing that GM Europe’s compact offering was going to Continue reading “Eighties Eco-Concept Marvels: Number 2 – Renault VESTA”

I Can Explain Everything. Actually, No, I Can’t.

Achieving the impossible?

Image: Mag-Cars

In the recent series on the Nissan Qashqai, I mentioned that the latest generation will have a third powertrain option that is so left-field it deserves its own chapter. We are told that the e-POWER version will arrive sometime in 2022 and that nothing comparable has previously been offered in a mass-produced vehicle sold in Europe. What makes it unique is that the powertrain has true petrol-electric drive, a series hybrid system with no mechanical gearbox and electric-only traction. The internal combustion engine drives a generator which charges a buffer battery. This in turn delivers power to the electric traction motor. Continue reading “I Can Explain Everything. Actually, No, I Can’t.”

Seventh Son

It’s not easy being green – or purple for that matter.  

Credit: Autocar

Purple patches: how the car industry seeks them out, wishing them unending. Barrels of confidence too, a strangely metaphorical catalyst. Combine the two and akin to many chemical reactions, effect closely follows cause. The Koreans have lately been planting purple by the acre, nurturing their allotments with generous amounts of confidence, the result being that the Seventh son has germinated. A concept large enough to rival contemporaries such as the Volvo XC90, another all electric family shifter, or indeed the now perfidious Sonderklasse, Hyundai’s epithet for the brute swells with confidence – this is a ‘Category Bending’ SUV.

Ignoring range (or its antithesis, anxiety) and dimensions, look deeply at this auto show reveal. The Seven may very well make it to production as is. Scoff at leisure, the Ionic 5 and 6 barely altered from their own concepts to lines rolling. The (practically) British Racing Green bio-paint makes a great first impression, highlighting how metal requires little, if any adornment. Flanks of elegance reside. Front wheel arch entasis, brawn to the rear. A counter over arch maybe a detail too far – removed for the facelift version, maybe?

Rear three quarter views reveal the gentle barrel roll to the belt line, eyes seeing strength without force. Whilst doubtful the poignée de porte will make it to job one, maybe Hyundai will Continue reading “Seventh Son”

How To Be a Motoring Enthusiast in the 21st Century – Part 3

Does this story have a happy ending?

Image: Wikimedia

In part one of this little series, I sought to share the thought process arising (inevitably, it seemed to me) from the moral uncertainty surrounding enthusiasm for cars powered by the internal combustion engine in this age of global warming. In part two, we took a trip into a possible future resulting from the current state of affairs. Both articles led to a healthy discussion in the comments and, following part two’s diversion into utopian fiction (that many found to be dystopian), I want to try to provide some sort of conclusion to this story. Can it still end well?

Firstly it is important to note that the day in the life of possible-future-me is an imagining; one of many possible futures, rather than a prediction, though I do think it reasonably plausible. Secondly, when we Continue reading “How To Be a Motoring Enthusiast in the 21st Century – Part 3”

How To Be a Motoring Enthusiast in the 21st Century – Part 2

Allow me, if you will, dear reader, to take you on a brief sojourn into the future.

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

The year is 2051 and, as I approach my mid seventies, I hope to be able to retire in a few years and spend more time on my various hobbies. Today is a prelude to that happy prospect, in the form of a paid day off work as part of the European West Central Union sponsored ExperiencedWorkersKeepVITAL! programme and I have arranged a treat for myself in the form of a morning’s participation in a driving day at the Zandvoort racing circuit on the west coast of the Netherlands (not that you get to Continue reading “How To Be a Motoring Enthusiast in the 21st Century – Part 2”

How To Be a Motoring Enthusiast in the 21st Century – Part 1

Maintaining the faith in a changing world.

Ah, romance… Image: honestjohn

The past several years (broadly coinciding with the discovery and eventual contribution to Driven to Write) have been a period of rediscovering my enthusiasm for cars; their history, engineering, aesthetics and the experience of driving them. More recently, however, I have found myself troubled with doubts as to the potential future of such enthusiasm and increasingly, by questions regarding the moral status of our collective hobby.

If the above sounds a little melodramatic, consider the following: Whilst there are questions to which no definitive answer is possible – the value of which lying more in the discussions they prompt, rather than in finding one true solution – such as what constitutes the good life, free will versus determinism and why my smartphone came with two entirely separate SMS apps installed by default, questions relating to the environmental impact of the internal combustion engine are, to most rational persons, not amongst these.

Given the scientific consensus around the contribution of fossil fuels to climate change, it is clear that we must Continue reading “How To Be a Motoring Enthusiast in the 21st Century – Part 1”

The Appliance Of Science

He’ll never sell any ice-creams going at that speed…

(c) e1group

School was never a favourite period of life for your author, but one aspect of physics lessons in particular remains lodged in the mind – the fact that water and electricity do not mix well. Therefore, as we career toward an electrical vehicular future, how do we go deal with the worst happening – an electrical fire caused by either malfunction or accident?

Today, Britain has over 23 million vehicles road-bound with around 400,000 propelled by some form of electricity. Exponential growth in the coming years will see these figures shift ever-upwards, so one hopes the manufacturers will Continue reading “The Appliance Of Science”

Own-Brand Cassoulet

Volkswagen Group’s mass-market brands are losing their individual identities under the dead hand of corporate conformity.

They don’t make them like this anymore: 2009 Škoda Yeti. Image: autocentrum

The automotive colossus that is the Volkswagen Group includes four mass-market brands that might be rather simplistically defined as follows, in descending hierarchical order:

Audi: premium sporting
Volkswagen: semi-premium luxury
SEAT: mainstream sporting
Škoda: mainstream value

I am conscious that such a bald statement might elicit howls of protest from those who Continue reading “Own-Brand Cassoulet”

Henry Wiggin’s Contribution

“The industrial gas turbine that’s good enough to fly.”

Image: autospeed.com via revivaler.com

Unless you have personal involvement within the industry, Henry Wiggin is unlikely to register upon your radar, for his products are hidden, yet well known. But for a brief time some seventy years ago, the automotive world came knocking at his door; the first customer from nearby, Rover of Lode Lane, Solihull. Wiggin’s business was the carburising of steel – extremely hard and durable nickel plating for items that spin at both high speeds and temperatures – conditions typical gas turbines are routinely subjected to.

Based close to the banks of the Birmingham canal on a street bearing his name, Wiggin produced  Nimonic 90, an alloy consisting of nickel, chromium and cobalt, coating turbine wheels conducive to smaller applications. For Rover, this meant its JET 1 gas turbine programme could now live.

Consider at that time, Britain was still under wartime rationing, yet pushing engineering boundaries. In the smoky wake of Frank Whittle’s jet engined aircraft, Rover, followed by a select handful of other interested parties believed gas turbines to have a promising automotive future. This palpable excitement sadly failed, but today we can at least Continue reading “Henry Wiggin’s Contribution”

Cap 112 (180)

Sitting comfortably? Buckled in safe? Then we’ll begin…

(c) Drivingtorque.com

Since its inception in 1927, Volvo Cars has given the world a lot to think about. At least as safety-focused as Mercedes-Benz (but with added acronyms), 1959 saw the Torslanda-based car firm installing front seat three-point safety belts as standard, allowing free use to any other manufacturer, not that many took up the initiative.

A concerned friend of mine once amassed a comprehensive file of seat belt data, weighing up the pros and cons from dozens of firms back in the early 1960s. After weeks of cogitation, he spent a weekend fitting Irvine belts (initially a parachute manufacturer) to his Morris 1100, which gave sterling service. The file carried weight – influencing one of his employer’s directors to Continue reading “Cap 112 (180)”

The Chinese Are Coming… Or Are They?

Chinese automakers have long been expected to make a concerted assault on overseas markets but, so far at least, have failed to do so in any meaningful way. DTW wonders why.

Coming to Europe? Geeley’s Lynk & Co Model 01 (c) Car

The recent (July 2020) decision by the UK government to ban Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant, from long-term participation in the national rollout of 5G mobile has profound implications for Anglo-Chinese trade relations. In a post-Brexit world, China had been cited as a potentially major trading partner for the newly independent UK, free to make its own bilateral trade deals. Such hopes now look increasingly forlorn.

The government’s decision has undoubtedly been influenced by pressure from the Trump presidency in the escalating trade war between the US and China, but genuine concerns about Huawei’s independence from the Chinese government, President Xi’s increasingly autocratic rule, the Covid-19 pandemic and the suppression of legitimate protest in Hong Kong have all led to a deepening suspicion about China’s political ambitions, benign or otherwise, as a major economic superpower.

The rapidly growing prevalence of the Internet of Things means that a wide range of Internet connected appliances, including automobiles, presents a security risk essentially the same as that feared from Huawei’s telecoms equipment. But while it may sound highly implausible that your Smart TV might Continue reading “The Chinese Are Coming… Or Are They?”

Paradigm Shift

Citroen introduces its first “Non-Conformist Mobility Object“. Well, its first in decades. Is this a glimpse into the future?

(c) noolyo

Despite being embroiled in perhaps the largest and most complicated merger/acquisition in automotive history, Groupe PSA, under the current leadership of Carlos Tavares, appear to be one of the few European automakers who are taking what at least appear to be the decisions that matter. And as the worst of the current C-19 wave recedes for much of Europe at least, it’s becoming increasingly apparent what those are likely to be.

One can of course argue the toss over the value or logic in PSA merging with Fiat-Chrysler (and yes, we all know the basic rationale), there is little doubt that such a move will in the fullness of time, prove either to have been a masterstroke of suitably epic proportions, or the petard upon which Mr. Tavares will eventually Continue reading “Paradigm Shift”

The Flying Nimbus

Not simply keen on filling out streets with their wares, Toyota and Lexus are now about to launch a mobility scheme to the world.

(c) Dakar.com.

Kinto, from their phrase Kinto-un, a fast moving service getting you wherever you need to go, is their mobility solution for every occasion. With life becoming increasingly dependent on internet connections and lives refusing to follow a set pattern, this Japanese idea of motion plans to cover every base, morning, noon and night.

My eyes were first alerted to this service in of all places, the desert. The Dakar Rally was recently held in the extreme dunes and sandy plains of Saudi Arabia where many an off-road bike, quad, car and truck competed in its Empty Quarters. Spaniard, Fernando Alonso who used to Continue reading “The Flying Nimbus”

He’s Behind You!

Great news everyone; it’s pantomime season and who better to kick off this most joyous of entertainments than Tesla?

The Cybertruck desperately seeking the stage exit. (c) Tesla

I’m sorry to sound rather curmudgeonly. I actually like pantomime. It’s as much for the adults as the kids with a little innuendo, some (not so) subtle jokes and plenty of genuine laughs. As for the season, well, the curmudgeon levels within me-rise. As age creeps ever on I see less appeal in Christmas and more irritation.

All through the year, we get dragged into things we don’t wish to deal with yet somehow in December, everything has to be completed before the 25th, as though the world may Continue reading “He’s Behind You!”

Thirty Minutes

Andrew Miles takes the M1 to model nirvana.

(c) thetruthaboutcars.com

Scrubs up well for a forty year old. She’s kept her figure, had her wild years, now slowly gravitating toward middle age with maturity and style. 

As a child I was mesmerised by the BASF colour scheme on the BMW M1. The car screams out speed, aggression, power; language that only red can truly deliver. The white circles emanate a sense of power, creating reflections akin to water ripples or the blast wave of an explosion, placed on the bodywork at jaunty angles.

Maybe on my tenth birthday the model arrived, not to be raced or hurled into the garden with abandon. No, this Red Devil was for cherishing, made centre stage, set apart from all those lesser model cars; pretty well untouched. My memory does not serve me well, did I Continue reading “Thirty Minutes”

I Fancy Her Sister

While undoubtedly both clever and worthy, the Toyota Mirai has up to now singularly failed to ignite automotive lust at ten paces, but this could be about to change. 

The original Mirai. Not in Rotherham. (c) Motortrend.com.

Bypassing me and virtually everyone else it would seem, is the fact that you can now pop into a Toyota showroom and purchase a hydrogen powered car. Well, in theory. Reality always tastes differently, for you’d have to meet many and varied criteria, more of which later.

What began for the company that originally built looms as the Fuel Cell Vehicle experiment, continues with the Mirai (Japanese for The Future), which Toyota brought to the UK market in 2016. Prior to this, you needed to be Californian or Japanese to steer one. Few did. Numbers suggest a little over 5000 sold globally. In Blighty, we’ve scraped into the teens – just. Sales were never meant to Continue reading “I Fancy Her Sister”

Summer Re-issue : Rocket’s Tale

A timeless flight may be drawing to a close as Rocketman, via China’s Great Wall, finally comes home. Well, maybe…

Rocketman. (c) ausmotive

The word icon is often bandied about and for the most part misplaced, but in the case of the original team-Issigonis BMC Mini, it is probaly a justifiable one. Of course, like most people or objects who have this soubriquet thrust upon them, the Mini’s iconography came about over time and in no small part from a combination of factors: motor racing successes, becoming symbolic of an entire epoch and a certain comedy motion picture filmed amid the streets of Turin. Continue reading “Summer Re-issue : Rocket’s Tale”

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

Surprisingly, yet inevitably, the most original interpretation of modern luxury doesn’t come from Germany – but South Korea: The rather stupendous Genesis Mint.

Aspirational flair is not a matter of size. Photo (c) The Verge

Creating a ‘premium’ car brand is no walk in the park. It takes decades, unique flair, racing success (Jaguar), billions and a great many wise product decisions (BMW, Audi) to achieve this. Anything less than boundless commitment to the cause is bound to fail (Infiniti, Acura). It was therefore a brave/reckless choice, courtesy of Hyundai, to try and Continue reading “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”

Auto Shanghai 2019: Misunderestimation

To quite some degree, the western view on Chinese tastes in car design has been informed by awe and condescension. This year’s Shanghai motor show suggests that may have to change sooner, rather than later.

Good enough for China, photo (c) Motor1.com

China, as every donkey knows, is the centre of the automotive world these days. Without it, some of the fundamental changes to the business model of the western world’s car makers that are now on the verge of being addressed would have needed to be tackled a decade ago.

China is the lifeline of the car business as we know it, yet the dramatic dependance upon this market hasn’t resulted in similar levels of respect for it – quite the opposite, in fact. ‘That’s what the Chinese demand’ has been used as an excuse for a great many a dubious product and design decisions in recent years, often spoken with an expression of regret on the face of those so obviously forced by the Middle Kingdom to Continue reading “Auto Shanghai 2019: Misunderestimation”

Fresh Mint

Has Genesis shown us a fresh face in emission-free motoring?

(c) Genesis

Since the advent of the automobile, cars and cities have co-existed in uneasy truce, but as concerns over deteriorating air quality gain traction across the developed world, it seems increasingly likely that our towns are simply not big enough for both. So the mid-term future for the combustion-engined private car, in an urban context at least, is looking bleak.

However, like most behavioural shifts, this is unlikely to occur overnight, but already, as previously reported both here and elsewhere, city legislatures are taking matters upon themselves by limiting or banning outright, vehicles which fail to Continue reading “Fresh Mint”

Fastback To The Future

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. 

The other The Car Of The Future, photo (c) Avengers in Time

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.

The fastback’s reputation as a representative of progressive values was not so much due to it being Continue reading “Fastback To The Future”

Charges Will Apply

Are we never satisfied?

(c) topgear

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”

Path of Least Resistance

Are we witnessing the slow demise of the inexpensive citycar?

(c) focus2move

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.

This week, a report by Automotive News highlighted something we discussed on these pages a few weeks ago – that being the growing inability for European carmakers to Continue reading “Path of Least Resistance”

Kodo Arrigato

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-kai-and-vision-coupe-concepts-reveal-carbon-fiber-in-tokyo_5
The reality is even better,  photo (c) autoevolution

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 Magic of Stones

Today we reflect on the allure of shiny objects…

(c) motor.es

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”

Too Much of a Good Thing?

A couple of experiences recently have got me thinking somewhat more philosophically over the last few days and I wondered what others thought?

z_audi_a8_laser_lights
HD Matrix LED ‘lamps with laser light – clever, but worth the effort? (Source: Car Magazine)

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?”

The Road to Zero

…is paved with good intentions. But where is it leading us?

(c) The Independent

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”

Micropost: One More Model Cycle Left for Some ICE Cars

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…

2015 BMW i3: http://www.bmwedison.com

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).

We have been discussing here how manufacturers can Continue reading “Micropost: One More Model Cycle Left for Some ICE Cars”

End of the Adventure?

Brand-MINI is facing its biggest adventure yet. This one however, may not end well…

(c) orangewheels

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.

As part of its ongoing (and increasingly necessary) catastrophe-planning, BMW’s Cowley plant is set to Continue reading “End of the Adventure?”

Surf’s Up

Sometimes it’s necessary to look back in order to move forward.

Image: (c) Auto-Didakt

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”

Plugged-In Thinking From Lexus

As the motor industry presses towards widespread adaptation of electric vehicles, a notable voice sounds a cautious note.

Image credit: (c) insideevs

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.

Ideally of course, having invested billions, they would much prefer to Continue reading “Plugged-In Thinking From Lexus”

Imagining the ‘After-SUV’

We’ve been here before I know, but somewhat akin to the crossover CUV itself, this one simply refuses to go away.

2017 Peugeot 3008: Image Credit: cars.co.za

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.

This being so, the idea that crossovers could eventually Continue reading “Imagining the ‘After-SUV’”

Quo Vadis, Luxus?

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. 

rolls-royce-vision-next-main
Dr Eldon Tyrell’s personal transport, photo (c) blog.dupontregistry.com

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.

Continue reading “Quo Vadis, Luxus?”

A Terrible Cloud of Unknowing

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.

Image credit: greenfleet

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 savage irony of course is the fact that as predicted on these pages, VW itself has Continue reading “A Terrible Cloud of Unknowing”

Crossed Over

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?

2018-bmw-x4-rear-three-quarter-shot
 Backside design, photo (c) suvauthority.com

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”

No Resistance

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?

Everybody say Ohm. Image credit: Tesla

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”

Quick Drive: Tesla Model S 75D

An opportunity to ‘have a go’ in a friendly colleague’s new Tesla provided me with a first experience of driving an EV.

Tesla Model S
This is not the actual car I drove, in case you were wondering (Source: Getaround)

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”

Geneva Motor Show 2021 Preview: Mercedes-Benz A-class

In an exclusive preview ahead of its unveiling at the 2021 Geneva show, Driven To Write can reveal the significantly refreshed Mercedes A-class.

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Official designer’s sketch of the 2022 A-class, photo (c) Driven To Write

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.”

Styling, incidentally, is the focal point of W177’s overhaul. Since its market introduction in 2018, the current A-class has turned out to Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show 2021 Preview: Mercedes-Benz A-class”

In China They Eat Dogs

Chris Bangle has returned to car design, but isn’t back.

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Yes. This is an Automobile. photo (c) CNET

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”

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Amid a landscape characterised by an unremitting and frankly repugnant aggression within mainstream European car design, thank heavens for the Japanese.

Daihatsu’s 2017 Tokyo concepts. Image: AutoGuide

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”

To Boldly Go…

As JLR moves further into the white space of seemingly infinite possibility, we ask a few awkward questions.

You could put a car in there. Some white space, yesterday. Image: Freedom of Creation

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…”

Diamond Dream, or Ruined Rhombus?

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? 

Source: Borgward AG

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?”

Danger, High Voltage

With the motor industry abuzz with the prospect of electric propulsion, just how confident are we they’ve thought this one through?

Image: clker

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”

Leading the Charge

Electric cars are coming. But when are we going to be presented with one we might actually want to buy?

Coming never to an Audi dealer near you. AiCon. Image: autoblog

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”