Geneva 2017 – L’Insolite: Mad Swiss Makes an Electric Ghoul Isetta

Van Helsing starter kit in hand, roving reporter, Robertas Parazitas comes face to face with another automotive revenant.

Image: Microlino

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.

Oubouter has something of a track record as a transport innovator, which suggests that this venture is more than vanity or capricious whimsy. Continue reading “Geneva 2017 – L’Insolite: Mad Swiss Makes an Electric Ghoul Isetta”

They Got This One Right

Sino-American Lucid Motors have revealed their Air saloon, a truly good-looking car.

2017 Lucid Air: source

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”

Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part One

Driven to Write meets an industry high flyer.

Image: AeroMobil
The AeroMobil in prototype form. Image: AeroMobil

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”

Then and Now: 2000 Ford 24/7

When I presented the Faction yesterday, I thought I would refresh readers’ memories about some of the other Ingeni-era cars.

2000 Ford 24/7 concept: source
2000 Ford 24/7 concept: source

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.

Continue reading “Then and Now: 2000 Ford 24/7”

Electric Shock – Jaguar I-Pace

Is this the end of history? Well, it’s about time…

Image: Wired
Image: Wired

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”

Micropost: When Will Global Electric Car Sales Exceed Those of the Golf?

Automotive News reports on the future of the electric car here. And the Guardian explains how it is here.

An electric car: automotive news
An electric car: automotive news

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.

The Divorce of Form and Function

This brief post serves to notify readers that at Lexus the designers have finally separated form and function

2016 Lexus UX interior: source
2016 Lexus UX interior: source

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”

Designing the Unfamiliar

What do mock-wood panelled estate cars and electric cars have in common?

2016 Mercedes EQ concept car: source
2016 Mercedes EQ concept car: money.cnn.com

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”

Question of the Day

Why does the VW ID concept have to look more styled than a VW Golf?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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”

The Start of the Next Decade…

…is five or six years from now. 

2006 Citroen C6: carmagazine.co.uk
2006 Citroen C6: carmagazine.co.uk

That’s when Citroen is giving us C5 and C6 replacements. At the rate at which the car industry is changing, that seems to be as useful as H&M announcing which style will be in fashion next spring. Continue reading “The Start of the Next Decade…”

Joining the Dots

This is an odd subject for a site devoted to automobiles. Have we made a bit of mistake? Can we avoid another?

Happy days: wikipedia.org
Happy days: wikipedia.org

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”

Give us a Brake! – Jaguar Jettisons its Baggage.

JLR have hit on a genius plan to secure Jaguar’s future. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to involve making Jaguars. 

Here's what you can have - get 'em while they're hot, they're lovely. Image:designmagazin.cz
Here’s what you can have – get ’em while they’re hot, they’re lovely. Image:designmagazin.cz

Judging by the frequency he is hauled out to expound on matters of product, anyone would think Jaguar’s design chief was solely responsible for product planning. Perhaps it’s got something to do with his mellow Dumfries lilt, but nowadays its difficult to escape the suspicion JLR’s senior management wheel him out when they have unpalatable Jaguar-related news to deliver – and frankly, is there really any other kind? Continue reading “Give us a Brake! – Jaguar Jettisons its Baggage.”

Chasing Three Volumes

Mini may be about to do the seemingly unthinkable by readying a three volume saloon. Heresy or sound commercial thinking we ask?

An Autocar render of what the proposed MINI sedan could look. Image:Autocar
Autocar helpfully supplied this not unattractive render of the proposed MINI saloon. I expect it will look nothing like this, for which rear seat occupants in particular should be grateful. Image:Autocar

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.  Continue reading “Chasing Three Volumes”

Sign of the Cross

It’s been confirmed the next Opel Senator will be a crossover – as indeed it appears will everything else. Are we approaching a tipping point?

Inspiration for the forthcoming Opel CUV? Image via autoblog
The new face of Opel. Image via autoblog

When GM showed the Avenir concept earlier this year, many viewed it as a sign Buick was serious about re-entering the full-sized luxury saloon market with something along more traditional lines. For enthusiasts here in Europe it prompted speculation as to the potential for a similarly proportioned model – a latter day Opel Senator if you will. But while it’s possible such an idea was at least considered, it’s equally likely it wasn’t given a great deal of airtime. Especially given the recent announcement stating GM Europe is preparing three new crossover models over the next couple of years – one of which is set become Opel’s next Euro flagship. Continue reading “Sign of the Cross”

Theme : Economy – The Open Road

London, September 2025 : A Modern Motorist Writes

image from skyscrapercity.com

It’s now 10 years since the revelations regarding the erstwhile car producer, Volkswagen, came to light. Initially, industry experts predicted that it would be a large storm, but one that would soon subside. In the thinking of a previous decade, VW was seen as ‘too big to fail’ and it was assumed that, suitably chastised, the motor industry would soon revert to its established ways.

Voices outside the motor industry differed. Some predicted this would be the chance when the outsiders, the IT based companies who had been applying their version of blue sky thinking to the motor car, would jump in. Prime among these were Tesla, who had developed the most credible long-range electric car, and Google, who had been working on the driverless car. Both companies had, naturally, attracted the scepticism of the establishment but, equally, the enthusiasm of those not so hidebound. Continue reading “Theme : Economy – The Open Road”

NOxgate – Through a Looking Glass, Darkly

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.

VW-TDI-motrolix
Three tainted letters – Image via motrolix

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. Answers, not only to the level of culpability within VW, but also what, if any dishonesty has taken place within the wider industry when it’s now clear the testing regime has been hopelessly rigged in the carmaker’s favour. Today then, we’re peering myopically into the looking glass to discern what could possibly lie ahead for an industry still reeling from the biggest potential threat to its survival since the oil crisis. Continue reading “NOxgate – Through a Looking Glass, Darkly”

It’s the Hard NOx Life – VW in the Dock

I sat down today to write something of a Frankfurt IAA overview; a sofa-eye view of the trends, winners, losers and the why-botherers. Post-NOxgate however, there’s only one story and one loser. Or perhaps there’s several.

I think they call this an open goal. VW launches the 2016 Tiguan at Frankfurt IAA. Image via VW.AG
I think they call this an open goal. VW launches the 2016 Tiguan at Frankfurt IAA. Image via VW.AG

A week is a long time in the motor business. Just seven days ago it was all looking quite jolly for the German auto industry at their home show. New car announcements rubbed shoulders with credibly exciting concepts while the World’s press gathered to listen to the accumulated wisdom of the likes of Zetsche, Winterkorn and Müller; although BMW CEO, Harald Krueger’s collapse prior to his scheduled press conference sounded a decidedly minor note amidst all the chest thumping. Continue reading “It’s the Hard NOx Life – VW in the Dock”

Mercedes’ Movable Feast

Daimler gets aero on everyone’s ass at Frankfurt.

Mercedes Concept IAA. Image via gizmag
Mercedes Concept IAA. Image via gizmag

While this week’s Frankfurt show-stopping Porsche Mission E concept appears to offer a vision of the future where (Porsche) drivers are offered the very latest propulsion technology wrapped up in a reassuringly familiar (if nicely proportioned) package, Mercedes-Benz have taken a sharply divergent approach; Daimler’s brave new world being a starker affair altogether. Continue reading “Mercedes’ Movable Feast”

Electric Dream – Porsche Mission E

Still want to order that Panamera?

Image via Porsche.com
Image via Porsche.com

Today, Porsche’s Mission E concept was shown to the press at the IAA motor show, signalling the beginning of the mainstream industry’s fightback against the groundswell of Musk emanating from Tesla’s Silicon Valley headquarters. Continue reading “Electric Dream – Porsche Mission E”

Forthcoming Fiats Will Be Like IKEA.

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

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

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

There’s Something About Mary

Has FCA’s on-off romance with GM entered a new phase?

'I'm sexy and I know it...' Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter
‘I’m sexy and I know it…’ Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter

Last week two seemingly unrelated news items landed, which taken on face value elicited only mild interest. But to a cut-price Max Warburton such as myself, the two stories add up to something a good deal more intriguing. Continue reading “There’s Something About Mary”

Crossroads for the Four Door Coupé

Is the four-door coupé already out of road, or is it just crossing over?

2436x1552_A7_SB_Rear_light
The shape we’re in now. Image via Audi.co.uk

Automotive niches interest me because they represent the closest thing manufacturers come to risk taking. Take the four-door coupé segment for example. I’ve puzzled over this sector’s viability ever since Mercedes-Benz introduced the CLS-Class a decade ago. After all, it hasn’t necessarily set the automotive world alight, has it? Apart from Mercedes, who have we got? Audi has the A7, BMW the 6-Series Gran coupé, Porsche offers the Panamera and VW the CC. That’s pretty much your lot. Common strand? Yes, they all hail from German manufacturers, which does add up to a somewhat one-dimensional bandwagon. Continue reading “Crossroads for the Four Door Coupé”

Theme: Evolution – Coming Soon…

Next year’s E-Class will be a tech-fest. We lift the lid.

The S-Class' younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top of the range Merc? Image via Autocar
The S-Class’ younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top range Benz? Image via Autocar

Next year’s Mercedes E-Class is primed to evolve ‘in-car connectivity’ and autonomous driving to the next level, says a report in Automotive News Europe this week. Thomas Weber, Daimler’s head of development, told ANE journalists; “Innovations in this area are coming thick and fast,”. Just how thick and how fast Sindelfingen’s 2016 mid-liner will be, DTW can now exclusively reveal. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Coming Soon…”

Twilight of A Champion Part Three – The Next Leap Forward

jaguar_xj.above

Where now for the big Jaguar?

Over the course of this series we’ve made the assertion that when it comes to full-sized Jaguars, the market is at best apathetic. Throughout Jaguar’s history you’ll find the strongest selling and best-loved cars have been compact saloons and sports models. Even the original XJ began life a relatively close coupled machine, coming into being out of the perceived necessity for a larger, four-seater E-Type variant and the commercial failure of the full-sized Mark Ten. Up to the demise of the X308-XJ series in 2002, it remained broadly faithful to this template – low-slung, snug – somewhat decadent. Continue reading “Twilight of A Champion Part Three – The Next Leap Forward”

Retro: yes or no?

During the last decade of the 20th century a wave of retro cars were shown as concept cars or sold as production cars. These vehicles re-used details and characteristics of designs from the 1950s and 1960s or perhaps idea of these times. I will not discuss the reasons for this trend but rather retro design itself, and the two alternatives, modernism and classicism.

1989 Nissan Figaro
1989 Nissan Figaro

I take the view that the best industrial design is impersonal. That is to say, the designer acts as a channel that collects observations about what the user wants and syntheses them with the other demands such as production and marketing. A car is a product which must satisfy the needs of the producer to make a return on investment within the limits of social responsibility (quite broadly defined) and meet the needs of the user. The car is

Continue reading “Retro: yes or no?”

Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In

We ask whether aerodynamics’ post-war, post-aviation beginnings have anything in common with tomorrow’s hydrogen-powered wonders.

The future? Volkswagen-xl1-photo via motortrend
The future? Volkswagen XL-1. Image: Motor Trend

To be fair, car manufacturers have historically enjoyed a rather patchy relationship with the concept of aerodynamic theory. During the post-war period only a handful of motor manufacturers paid more than lip service to the concept and of those, most had their origins in aircraft manufacture. Bristol and Saab, for example both needed to diversify during post-war austerity when demand for their mainstay aircraft businesses collapsed in peacetime. Continue reading “Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In”

Customerless car companies 2

Further to the article about driverless cars, I´d like to draw your attention to Bosch´s path towards driverless cars.

1958 driverless car

According to Automotive News the four main steps are as follows:

• Integrated highway assist: In 2017, the vehicle would travel up to 75 mph on the highway, remaining within its lane, while the motorist keeps his eyes on the road. Continue reading “Customerless car companies 2”

Customerless car companies

Newspapers are interesting. You can pick up a sheaf of pulped wood and read articles about all sorts of fascinating topics. Just the other day I read a small piece about driverless cars. This made me wonder about two things.

2015 Mercedes Benz customerless car concept. Note the horrible melange of anti-urban architecture in the background. Let´s get out of here.
2015 Mercedes Benz customerless car concept. Note the horrible melange of anti-urban architecture in the background. Let´s get out of here.

The article I read (in the International New York Times) reported how last Monday at the International CES, a large trade show themed on technology, Dieter Zetsche showed off Mercedes Benz´s vision of a driverless car. Zetsche described  the car as a sort of Continue reading “Customerless car companies”

Theme: Headlamps – The View Ahead

We’re not still sticking lights on the front of our cars, are we? Time for some fresh thinking perhaps.

2010-RDX-Racedesign-Peugeot-207-Headlight-1024x768
Image: RDX-Racedesign

Modern life isn’t necessarily rubbish, but on balance, it is somewhat disappointing. Not just the gnawing pointlessness of so much of it, but the nagging sense that the brave new world we were promised back in the 70’s has decisively failed to materialise. Because laying aside for a moment the jet-scooters, orgasmatrons and robotised dogs we were all expecting to enjoy, there remain aspects of the motor car which really should have met the rendezvous with the eternal. Take headlamps for example. After more than a hundred years of almost almost constant automotive development, surely we could have come up with something better by now?

Continue reading “Theme: Headlamps – The View Ahead”

What Lies Beneath?

What is the future for Car Manufacturing?

Car BadgesThere have always been cases of re-skins creating ‘different’ vehicles; and indeed VW Group have become masters at doing this in-house. But between independent brands this has usually been discreet and car companies have remained proud of their ability to manufacture the oily bits, as in the example of the Vauxhall salesman who once vehemently denied to me that the diesel in an Omega was manufactured by BMW. You might have thought he’d use that fact as a selling point – but then he’d probably also have denied that the rest of the car was made by Opel. However, this can’t last.

Continue reading “What Lies Beneath?”

A Road to Nowhere?

Does Car Design Have a Future?

S082352

Car design is usually late to the party. This isn’t because designers aren’t up to it – consider the bold output of the Bauhaus in the 1920s and 30s, when run by Walter Gropius, then consider his rather conventional design for an Adler car of the same period. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that critics felt that a car, an Audi, deserved the Bauhaus soubriquet. Compare 50s modernist and brutalist buildings with the florid vehicles produced then. Cars did vaguely get round to embracing minimalism, but by then it was the 70s, and architecture had started fiddling with post-modernism. It was only relatively recently that vehicle design started catching on to that, first in a lukewarm way with retro, then by introducing jokey references such as the half-height Citroen DS3 B-pillar, which seemed to support nothing, and the bug eyed lights and grinning grilles of various recent offerings. Why this conservatism? Well, producing items with a relatively long gestation period and a relatively long production life, designers are understandably anxious not to get it wrong although, of course, they so often do. In contrast, architects only really need to please a handful of people, commissioning clients and planners generally, the rest of us just get to look, gasp and wonder why the roof leaks.

Continue reading “A Road to Nowhere?”