The Fate of Empires

“Black Badge is for those who reject conformity and live life on their own terms. It’s for the innovators, trailblazers, rulebreakers – and above all – those who dare.” Rolls Royce Motors.

Be indoors by nightfall… Black Badge Cullinan, recently. (c) Autocar

The highly decorated former British soldier, subsequent historian and writer, Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb published his noted essay, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival in 1978. Having spent over forty years in the British army observing England’s Glorious Empire wither into insignificance, he was probably well placed to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires”

Don’t Look Now

As the World begins to face up to a growing climate emergency, the motor industry illustrates just how tone-deaf it has become.

Decadence: defined as a state of decay; a decline from a superior state, derived from the Latin, décadentia (dé denoting down and cadere, to fall)

The question of social responsibility is one with which carmakers have been (vainly) grappling for some considerable time now. Indeed, what little has been shown up to now appears to have been jettisoned by many in a heedless dash for market dominance.

This decadent spiral has (as we have previously discussed) taken corporeal form in the wholesale embrace of needlessly aggressive visual tropes and ‘to-hell-with-it’ consumption, and nowhere has this state been more vividly illustrated than amongst the three foremost rival German prestige marques; excesses not simply embodied in the vehicles these carmakers serve up, but also in the manner in which they Continue reading “Don’t Look Now”

Confronting Thanatophobia

Could your car be trying to tell you something?

(c) Vancello blog hu

Research has shown that the number one fear for most people is speaking in public. Fear of death (thanatophobia) comes second – or as comedian Jerry Seinfeld once concluded: “That means for most that they would rather be in the casket than reading the eulogy“.

Still, fear of death is pervasive enough to generate superstition in many forms around the world. In some cultures this effect is stronger than in others and it can be so powerful as to force car manufacturers to Continue reading “Confronting Thanatophobia”

Express Yourself!

Just as the choice of car tells a lot about its owner, car advertising can say a great deal about its subject’s sensitivities.

Here we have the BMW 3 series, hitherto known as the Dreier or 3er in its home market – before it was recently rechristened ‘The 3’, because nothing rolls off the German tongue with quite as much aplomb as a ‘TH’.

Like the car’s overstyled appearance, this tv spot tries hard to Continue reading “Express Yourself!”

The New Untouchables (2)

S.V . Robinson concludes his lament for the MPV.

02_renault_espace motor research
The pioneering Espace (in face-lifted form) – love the period wheels (Source: Motor Research)

I have spent 4/5ths of my life growing up with the MPV. Over 40 years, we have seen some memorable cars. In the main, they have stood out for either their styling (the pioneering, TGV-aping Espace, the ovoid Xsara Picasso, the lovably grotesque Multipla, to name a few), or the innovation of their packaging – the latter really being the point and purpose of the genre.

We have had MPVs which have front seats that can turn around to face passengers in the rear to create a mobile meeting space. Rear seats which can fold, tumble, be removed entirely, or disappear into the rear floor. There have been five seaters which enable the middle rear perch to Continue reading “The New Untouchables (2)”

The New Untouchables (1)

On DTW, we have touched upon the slow and largely un-mourned death of the MPV recently, but a small footnote in Autocropley caught my eye and leads me to consider how things got so bad for the ‘people carrier’.

venga auto trader
More red squirrel than guinea pig – the near deceased KIA Venga (Source: Auto Trader)

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I have owned two MPVs in the last 20 years, both of which served me well – in one case, as I have written before, all too well. Both were purchased to carry my family and their stuff around in their day-to-day lives without taking up too much space on the road or on our driveway.

Interestingly, when it finally came to finding a replacement for our Xsara Picasso, I bit the bullet and bought a considerably longer estate car (Octavia). I did this mainly on the basis that I wanted a larger boot, but, if I am honest, I think a narcissistic piece of me couldn’t Continue reading “The New Untouchables (1)”

No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Die

The carmaker synonymous with Ian Fleming’s fictional superspy is in a tight spot. Just how bad does it look for Aston Martin?

Aston Martin DBX at St Athan. Photo: (c) Aston Martin

It really wasn’t supposed to go this way. Following in the footsteps of Ferrari, in the wake of their highly successful floatation on the stock market, Aston Martin’s fortunes, while shining fleetingly, increasingly look like reverting to all too familiar type. But this time the stakes are much higher.

Ever the British second fiddle to the eternally gilded Maranello stallion, Aston’s Martin’s balance sheets can only be viewed as consistent insofar as they inevitably end up drowned in scarlet ink. Last year AML was floated on the stock exchange, its management attempting to Continue reading “No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Die”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 2

In the last instalment we had a short introduction to this neglected car. Today we will take a deeper glance at the car’s inception.

1983 Peugeot 604. Image: http://www.lrm-collection.fr

Of all the material reviewed for this essay, the text quoted at the start of the previous instalment was the most thought-provoking. Clearly the 604 was viewed as a credible car with a bright future ahead of it.

Today the 604 is remembered, if it is remembered, not for its refined solidity, the remarkable ride quality or, as Motor Trend wrote, its reordering of priorities around comfort, quality, roadholding and safety. It’s remembered for rust and listed as one of the world’s worst cars in Craig Cheetham’s 2006 book and its triumphs forgotten.

History is written to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 2”

The Lotus from Pindamonhangaba

A case of borrowed identity from South America.

Emme Lotus 422T

It is said that the lotus flower comes from the murkiest water but grows into the purest thing. The subject of this story certainly ticks the box for the former part of this saying, but it did not exactly grow into anything even remotely pure.

Perhaps the least known Lotus of all, and it is dubious if it rightfully wore the famous badge at all, is the Emme Lotus 422T. Presented to the public by the Brasilian company Megastar, a company up to then known for producing scooters, the Emme Lotus 422T debuted at the 1997 Sao Paulo Motor Show. Megastar’s facilities were based in Pindamonhangaba, near Sao Paulo. Continue reading “The Lotus from Pindamonhangaba”

White Goods, Black Tie

Carmaking is a brutal business, as Renzo Rivolta discovered to his cost. But was Iso’s ultimate failure the consequence of prejudice or simply outrageous fortune?

All images (c) Driven to Write

A humble background, while rarely a barrier to financial success, can often prove an impediment to the doors behind which respectable society resides. In the high-end car business, such things as provenance and exclusivity matter, but the right name and a racebred track record is better still. By consequence, Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A, during their short heyday as purveyors of exclusive, swift and sultry Italian gran turismos, found themselves fighting their Modenese rivals with one hand tied behind their backs.

The company was formed in Genoa during 1939 by flamboyant engineer, Renzo Rivolta to Continue reading “White Goods, Black Tie”

Dyna from Dublin

Panhards, for a brief time at least were built in Ireland. You heard that right.

1963 Panhard PL17. (c) Veloce-Today

As Universal truths go, ‘history is written by the winners’, is up there with the best of them. However history is just as often written by the survivors – although this comes with the obvious and necessary proviso that to do so, one must first Continue reading “Dyna from Dublin”

The Problem With Design Academies

Matteo Licata presents an acerbic critique of how automotive design is being taught. 

Not a car…  (c) BMW Group

Looking back at my ten-year stint as a designer and my various collaborations with academies, I’ve come to realize just how much has gone wrong in how the discipline is taught. Have you tried to Google “Behance Car Design Sketch” lately? Please open a new tab and do it. Look carefully at these sketches: do you see realistic, well-detailed wheels, can you see any suspension clearance? Do you see a usable glass area? I bet you don’t. Continue reading “The Problem With Design Academies”

Full Circle

We profile a local lad who ‘done good’ – both for himself and the industry he served. 

Ello Tom, Gotta New Motor? Tom Purves outside RR’s Goodwood HQ. (c) thisismoney.com

Tom Purves spent forty three years within the car industry; roughly half each for Rolls Royce and BMW, thus, in essence for a German carmaker. From his apprentice years though to management at Crewe, rising to become CEO and Head of the entire American division for BMW from the mid ‘80’s to concluding his career at the very top of Goodwood’s silently slick factory.

Proudly Scottish with twangs of American vernacular; through interviews made nearly twenty years ago, some just before his retirement in 2010, Mr Purves informs us of a world changed beyond recognition. Spoiler alert: there are no mentions of SUV’s. Continue reading “Full Circle”

Sir Michael Edwardes. 1930 – 2019

Sir Michael Edwardes has left us at the age of 88. It should be less of a shock given his advanced years, but the bold colonial boy called to rescue British Leyland at the age of 46 somehow seemed ever-youthful. We reflect on his five years in the hardest job in the motor industry, and his influence on the years which followed.

(c) quazoo

When Michael Edwardes was appointed Chief Executive of British Leyland in October 1977, on a three year secondment from his post at the head of Chloride Group, the company was an industrial disaster zone. Eight years from its formation, it was state-controlled, chronically loss-making and blighted by turbulent industrial relations and product quality failings which were the talk of the nation.

Edwardes was either an enlightened or desperation-led choice. From Southern African business aristocracy, and far from the core of the motor industry, he was an outsider taking on a task which had been beyond those born to the industry. Continue reading “Sir Michael Edwardes. 1930 – 2019”

Aces High

When maestro Giorgetto shuffled the deck in 1973, he certainly got his money’s worth. 

audi
1973 Italdesign Asso di Picche (c) Leblogauto

The Ital Design Asso di Picche (Ace of Spades) concept emerged during what can perhaps be described as Giorgetto Giugiaro’s purple patch, when the maestro could barely put a stylistic foot wrong. An expressive styling study for a close-coupled four seater coupé, in this instance created in conjunction with both Audi and Karmann, it made its public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in 1973. Continue reading “Aces High”

Year Zero

VW ID3 – saviour or harbinger? 

(c) Autocar

At the Frankfurt motor show, those manufacturer-representatives in attendance, have it would appear, spent the obligatory press days smiling through clenched teeth. Boldly proffering their very latest in hybrid combustion and in a few notable cases, pure-EV offerings, the combined European, Far Eastern and in a few cases, North American carmakers are nevertheless casting anxious skywards glances towards a rapidly darkening vista.

Five years ago, at this same Frankfurt hall, Volkswagen senior management attempted to Continue reading “Year Zero”

AUTOpsy: Audi Q2 (2018)

Ingolstadt’s smallest crossover is very much a ‘statement design’ – it just so happens that the statement isn’t very clear. 

All images attributed to the author – unless where otherwise stated.

There’s two angles from which to approach the Audi Q2’s appearance: As the final straw of Wolfgang Egger’s ultimately lacklustre tenure as the brand’s chief designer, or as the first dawn of a new era of ‘assertive’ design from Ingolstadt.

The cabin is quite obviously ‘old school Audi’, in that most of the materials used are of above-average quality, with switchgear, displays et al laid out rather diligently. Or, in other words: There isn’t much wrong with the Q2’s interior.

The exterior, however, is terribly confusing. The graphics manage the rare feat of being bold and convoluted at once. The car’s overall stance aims to be far more imposing than the its dimensions would suggest – yet the meek track widths (incidentally, and most intriguingly, shared with a great many recent German ‘premium’ models) make this attempt appear rather futile. Continue reading “AUTOpsy: Audi Q2 (2018)”

Goodyear? For Some (Part four)

We conclude the Goodyear saga as the World once more lurched into global conflict. 

“Ah, the inflatable Sherman. Pop it over there, chaps, at the double.” (c) Messynessychic.com.

Remaining with purchases and the War, Goodyear’s supply of natural rubber was severely depleted once the Japanese took control of the far-East. Previous to hostilities, experiments were undertaken to ascertain a supply of synthetic rubber. The US government had even constructed a Rubber Reserve should stock become depleted.

Goodyear scientists had in fact succeeded in making a synthetic compound, the delightfully named Chemigum which had a negative effect on natural rubber prices; the research all but stopped. The Germans also had a product called Buna-S which they showed off but were curiously Schtum as to its properties and production.

Chemigum and other synthetics became a priority with war looming. It also proved to be more durable and better performing than the German version. Car tyres would have to Continue reading “Goodyear? For Some (Part four)”

Local Takeaway

It’s the weekend, and you’re tired. Why not skip the cooking tonight and order in something decadent and a little, oily?

Nothing wrong with the MG6’s looks. (c) crazy4cars

There is something terribly poignant about the end of days at Longbridge. Having put its troubled past behind, under new ownership and seemingly looking to the future, it all came crashing down, thanks (in part at least) to the hubris and cynicism of its domestic overlords.

Following the firesale of MG Rover’s assets and intellectual property, the first fruit would be Nanjing Automotive’s Roewe 750, a hastily restyled version of the existing Rover 75 saloon. Also planned was a smaller car based upon the RDX60 programme, which had been in development prior to MG Rover’s demise. Another beneficiary of Longbridge’s assets was fellow-Chinese carmaker, SAIC Motor, who subsequently absorbed Nanjing Auto and quickly brought the Roewe 550 to market, engaging specialists in the UK to speed up the process.

But SAIC had plans to Continue reading “Local Takeaway”

Snakes and Ladders

Half year European car sales data paints a somewhat uneven picture.

(c) Car Magazine

Originating in India, the popular board game of snakes and ladders was for decades a timeless children’s favourite – in the analogue era at least. Based on traditional morality tales and to some extent the concept of karma, the nature of the game was to move from the bottom of the board to the top via rolls of the dice, avoiding potential trapdoors along the way.

With data for the half-year to June now available, it could be stated that the current European car sales situation is of a similar haphazard nature. Last week, we looked at how the EV sector was performing, so today we cast our gaze upon the walking wounded and the not much longer for this world, courtesy of Automotive News, market trackers, JATO Dynamics and figures from Carsalesbase.com.

The first six months of 2019 has witnessed the continued bifurcation of the European auto market, with adoption of crossover and SUV formats reaching a new high of 36.1%, up from 33.2% over the same period last year. Needless to say, this comes at the expense of other sectors, but even within the SUV/CUV segment, a hollowing out of sorts also appears to be under way.

The obvious victims of the ongoing shift in customer behaviour continues to be the MPV, which is entering a new and now likely decisive phase – with both small and compact segments losing a third of their volume over the half-year – (Citroën’s Grand Picasso dropping by 41%). As their declining appeal accelerates, it would be an optimistic carmaker indeed who would Continue reading “Snakes and Ladders”

Ghost Stories

Today we examine the UK motor industry prospects for the 1963 automotive graduate, and ponder what we’ve lost along the way.

All images – the author

Reading and being able to write are a huge staple in life. Do you remember when it all suddenly became clearer? I’m suspecting many of you (including me) out there don’t; though what you will remember is how wonderful it was to pick up a book and start to enjoy those words and pictures.

Sadly, as life in general often delivers at the most opportune moments, someone then told me ‘Don’t believe everything you read.’ Memories of being disappointed, deflated and downright angry spring to mind. But you Continue reading “Ghost Stories”

Amping It Up

European EV sales are on the rise, but the internal combustion hegemony remains for now at least, unassailable. 

(c) Tesla

The electric age is just around the corner, just as it has been for some time now. Despite the fact that it patently is the legislative-default future direction of travel, and that regardless of whether we are early, late, enthusiastic or reluctant adopters (or should that be adaptors?) of the automotive EV, we’re getting them anyway. But not quite yet.

Over the first six months of 2019, sales of dedicated electric cars have been on the rise, as one might expect, illustrating (it is said), greater acceptance from customers than the plug-in hybrid model currently favoured by most of the auto industry, at least until they can place their electrified ducks in a row. (A clumsy and frankly dangerous metaphor, for which I now apologise).

But is not my intent today to Continue reading “Amping It Up”

Goodyear? For Some (Part three)

From dirigibles to snow cruisers – the inter-war years would see a further inflation of the storied tyre maker’s fortunes.

The Snow Cruiser. (c) Pinterest

Initially in poor financial health, Goodyear maintained progress building more factory space as the oil and car industries grew around them. A favoured construction company, Hunking & Conkey of Cleveland had a great deal of empathy with their workforce; a foreman would sit near a pile of rocks, eager to Continue reading “Goodyear? For Some (Part three)”

In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch

A giant of the automotive world has departed. His like will not be seen again.

(c) hvilkenbil.dk

Ferdinand Piëch was not easily satisfied. Anything less than the relentless shedding of blood, sweat and tears he considered insufficient initiative – an approach many found misanthropic, yet from Piëch’s perspective, it was a mere matter of applying a categorical imperative. He would never expect more from anybody else than from himself. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch”

How I would fix FCA

As an Alfista, the recent news about my beloved brand’s sales performances struck me hard, prompting some reflections about how FCA’s European arm could be ‘fixed‘. 

Junked 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 – Picture by Murilee Martin (c. AutoWeek)

The genuinely awful sales numbers posted by Alfa Romeo lately have once again placed the European side of FCA, best known as the one that burns the revenue generated in North America by Jeeps and trucks, under the spotlight. FCA’s current management seem somewhat unwilling to manage the clay-footed automotive giant created a decade ago, thanks to Sergio Marchionne’s opportunism and dealmaking ability.

The focus now seems to be mostly about maintaining the status quo until the sale of the whole shebang: Needless to say, such a non-strategy can last only so long, and mainly hangs upon Jeep and RAM sales in the USA: turmoil there would send the whole construction crashing down in no time.

The heart of the matter lies with the fact that FCA doesn’t generate nearly enough cash to Continue reading “How I would fix FCA”

Pardon The French

Peculiar and of dubious aesthetic merit though its products are, DS Automobiles’ output at least possesses one commendable trait

Citoyen No1, photo (c) autoplus.fr

It’s rather easy to ridicule DS Automobiles. After all, it’s yet another car brand created in vitro, whose main claim to fame is a name that references one of the greatest creations in automotive history, without paying any respects to it whatsoever.

Casting aside this truly overbearing issue though, paying some attention to the brand’s design proves to be rather more worthwhile than a first glance would suggest. Of course, DS’ range of cars has so far mostly set itself apart through a sheer overabundance of stylistic tropes, many of which are rather less than inspiring (shark fin b-pillars, double badges). However, amid all the cacophonous excess, there are some interesting details to be found. Continue reading “Pardon The French”

The Prewar Amlux

Bruno Vijverman looks back at a time when not only were cars objects of wonder, but the buildings that housed them.

(c) Citroën

On my first trip to Tokyo, one of the must-visit locations would probably not have made much sense to the typical tourist, but it did to me, being not only a car lover but in particular a brochure collector: Toyota Amlux.

This huge flagship showroom, housed in an equally impressive building, showcased all Toyota’s cars over six floors. Each one employed a different
theme- for instance there was a floor with only SUV’s and one containing luxury cars.

It was always relatively easy to Continue reading “The Prewar Amlux”

Goodyear? For Some (Part two)

Andrew continues his episodic history of Goodyear

The Brougham carriage with pneumatic tyres by Thompson. (c) nms.ac.uk

After a huge renovation programme and fundraising operation, with a full thirteen employees, November 21st 1898 was the first day of Goodyear production. Bicycle tyres, rubber bands and poker chips were the original products. Goodrich had fire hoses, bottle stoppers and billiard cue-tips. Over in Europe, Michelin had pneumatic tyres fitted to cars in Paris.

Goodrich had managed to Continue reading “Goodyear? For Some (Part two)”

Weekend Reissue : Filigree and Shadow

A tale of the diamond and the chevron.

(C) wikipedia

As automotive aficionados, we accept and embrace the backstories which sit behind the cars we choose immortalise, yet as with most aspects of life, the people behind these vehicles are often themselves at least equally compelling when viewed from a narrative perspective.

Rivalries between carmakers frequently loom large over marque iconographies: General Motors versus Ford, Austin and Morris during the pre-war era in Britain, or indeed, BMW and Mercedes in more recent times. However, for a great many years, an equally compelling battle of wills was said to have played out in France between Louis Renault and André Citroen, with both carmakers seemingly hell-bent to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : Filigree and Shadow”

Goodyear? For Some (Part One)

We rarely notice them, but they’re the only things which keep us in contact with the road surface. In a new series for DTW, Andrew Miles gets up to his neck in the black stuff.

Charles Goodyear offers a rubber napkin. (c) Flickr.com.

Charles Goodyear died in debt. Frank Seiberling did no such thing. What links the two is a story of endeavour, brutality, aggressive tactics and a whole host of honest “Ites”. Oh, and a rather large balloon.

The tyres on all our road vehicles today are, in the main, synthetic rubber * Oil and various chemical compounds are brewed together in order to Continue reading “Goodyear? For Some (Part One)”

Into the Mystic

The Great Contraction is no longer a theoretical construct. It’s here.

First cross my hand with silver… (c) cwallpapersgallery

The era of unfettered expansion and niche-filling is not only over, it would appear to be in the process of being unceremoniously dumped at the hard shoulder. As European carmakers face a deeply uncertain commercial and regulatory future, previously inviolate marque-orthodoxies are being stuffed into hessian sacks and abandoned, as auto executives contemplate an epochal shift.

While this is a phenomenon affecting the entire industry, it is one that appears to be hitting one with particular force. Already somewhat embattled, having rather publicly persuaded its former CEO to step down, Bayerische Moterenwerke, as reported by Automobile magazine recently by veteran German automotive soothsayer, Georg Kacher, appears to either be (a) in worse shape than their compatriot prestige rivals or (b) is taking decisive (if not precipitous) action to Continue reading “Into the Mystic”

Opus di Busso

Further to last week’s dissertation on the 1979 Alfa Six, we examine the contemporary reception to Giuseppe Busso’s Alfa Romeo 2.5 litre V6 unit, through the acerbic eye of LJK Setright.

The Busso V6 as fitted to the 1979 Alfa Six. (c) movitcars

Some engines arrive fully formed, others however, enter the world imperfect, but through a process of development and retrospective correction evolve to defy their early criticism.

A fundamental element of Alfa Romeo’s iconography was intrinsically linked to its engines, especially its pre-war thoroughbreds, those patrician in-line fours, sixes and eights which powered the carmaker into history books, not to mention the hearts and minds of all those with the blood of Portello coursing through their veins. Continue reading “Opus di Busso”

The Beat Goes On

Outside of the Driven To Write bubble, a number of new cars were launched over the past few weeks. Time to do a bit of catching up.

The gentleman in the red jacket points out the part that matters, photo (c) Auto, Motor & Sport

The Audi Q3 Sportback is Ingolstadt’s take on the BMW X4. It features all the overwrought details that can be expected from a Marc Lichte-era Audi, including the token overly accentuated ‘shoulders’ above the wheels. Continue reading “The Beat Goes On”

Commercial Logic

Mercedes-Benz contemplates euthanising the X-Class. Good.

(c) caradvice.com.au

If the current febrile automotive and geopolitical climate is any reliable indicator, there may well after all be limits to growth. Certainly, the premium heyday within the auto sector appears to be hitting the buffers with both BMW and Mercedes recently issuing profit warnings.

The situation at BMW is such that it appears its CEO has been ‘encouraged’ to Continue reading “Commercial Logic”

Bringing Home the Bacon

We’re pleased to welcome another reader turned author. Andrew Miles makes his DTW debut. 

The Hammel car. (c) Wikipedia.com

I love cars. I’m proud to say that they’ve dominated my forty eight years of life. From childhood memories of bashing up Matchbox (c) cars, gaining that hallowed piece of paper allowing me to drive on the queen’s highway and onto only recently discovering this site, it’s been quite a journey and one I’m hopeful of continuing for some time yet.

It is the way my car interest has diversified over time that continues my fascination and finds ever differing avenues to pursue. From motor racing in general to specific drivers. From specific brands such as Jaguar or Rolls Royce for example to focusing on but a handful and delving into their designers, methods, history. That final word is key. Continue reading “Bringing Home the Bacon”

Mr. Warburton Writes a Letter

Analysts Bernstein Research rediscover a lost art, but in doing so have they shifted the paradigm?

(c) grandprix247

Something unprecedented has happened. It’s probably too early to tell whether it will prove to be an isolated occurrence or a sign of a wider shift in the manner in which the industry operates, but the implications could well prove to be far-reaching.

Max Warburton, the senior automotive analyst from Wall Street financial analytics firm, Sandford C Bernstein, and leading soothsayer on matters pertaining to the motor business wrote an open letter last week to Renault Chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, suggesting he Continue reading “Mr. Warburton Writes a Letter”

Exponential Acceleration

Just how resilient is a strong brand? BMW are in the process of finding out. 

Untitled
Photo (c) instagram.com/autodidaktblog

Supposed elitism is one of the car industry’s preferred counter-arguments/excuses. When challenging a particular product, particularly with regards to its design, one is quickly dismissed as a snob, out of touch with what ‘the market’ really wants by those who conceived that product. Any criticism is therefore at best a matter of ‘personal taste’ or, at worst, highly patronising.

The strength of a brand is one of the car industry’s preferred arguments. If the brand is strong, a company should be able to Continue reading “Exponential Acceleration”

Fate Accompli

The lessons of history are fated to be repeated – endlessly.

(c) luxurycarsworld.com

It was all going to plan. In 2002, production of the X308-series XJ ceased at Jaguar’s Browns Lane plant, after all, an all-new replacement was shortly to come on stream to replace it. However, with the decision taken and implemented, a crisis arose. Jaguar engineers hit significant hurdles in the pressing of the X350 XJ’s aluminium bodyshell, necessitating a significant delay in series production.

As it transpired, it would be another year before the XJ was launched and in the interregnum, Jaguar was absent, not only from its core market, but also its most lucrative. When the 2003 XJ did reach buyers, not only did the car itself meet with a less than rapturous reception, but a significant number of former Jaguar customers had taken their business elsewhere. Many failed to Continue reading “Fate Accompli”

A Gran Farewell

As BMW makes plans for Gran’s early demise, we ask what (if any) meaning there is to be derived from it all. 

(c) reviststorque

Holed beneath the waterline for some time now, the European MPV/Minivan market is fast approaching an ‘all hands to the lifeboats’ scenario, as market incumbents seek a means of escape from the cost implications of the sector’s sales implosion.

Until now, it has been the mainstream carmakers who have been for the most part wielding death’s scythe, but as market conditions deteriorate, even the more upmarket brands are starting to Continue reading “A Gran Farewell”

The Art of Departure

Ian Callum is leaving his ‘dream job’. We examine the possible motives.

Change of guard: Ian Callum (left). Julian Thomson (right). (c) leblogauto

There many qualities one requires in public life, but the apprehension of the correct moment to leave the stage is perhaps the trickiest to navigate successfully. Five years ago, Ian Callum told an enthusiast publication that he would stay on in his role at Whitley to “set up the next generation of aesthetics” before stepping down as Jaguar’s Director of Design.

Of course it is neither correct nor entirely fair to Continue reading “The Art of Departure”

Inferior Design

Driven to Write is pleased to welcome a new contributor from the world of automotive design, Matteo Licata. Today, he talks interiors.

Hyundai Intrado Concept sketch (c. Car Body Design)

When interviewed on the subject, most design directors will often say something along these lines: “…Of course Interior Design is very important to us, as the interior is where our Customers spend most of their time…” Yet, inside the design studio walls, the truth can be rather different. I’ll get back there later. I’ve been a car designer for the best part of a decade, and I’ve spent most of that time designing interiors. Not that I wanted to.

Nobody actually does.

Let me explain: Automotive design awareness has never been more widespread, and there never has been as many design academies around the world. Yet to Continue reading “Inferior Design”

Not A Viewpoint So Much As A Pinpoint

How much better are supercars than Astra/Focus/Golf class cars?


A few years back I perused the page of Top Gear’s BBC Top Gear New Car Buyers (sic) Guide and found out that they think supercars are better than other types of cars.

Today I am going to see if TG’s methodology has improved by focusing on whether supercars are better than the Astra/Focus/Golf class. To do this I had to Continue reading “Not A Viewpoint So Much As A Pinpoint”

Romping Home Into Eighth Place

Now the fine powdered debris has settled, I thought I’d gather up some third party opinions on the mooted Renault/FCA merger.

2018 Renualt Espace: Renault Germany

I’ve decided to amalgamate three sources of information. They are the Financial Times, the New York Times and Autocar. My own view is that the merger is a re-run of the value-incinerating union of Chrysler and Mercedes twenty years ago. But what do the other commentators say if Renault and Fiat Continue reading “Romping Home Into Eighth Place”

End Of Line

Ian Callum has left Jaguar design. Time to reflect on his achievements. 

Ian Callum in front of one of his proudest achievements. (c) autodevot

After years of turmoil, suffering from an ill-fated growth strategy and management oblivious to the marque’s inherent qualities and character, Jaguar all of a sudden found itself with a new chief designer, whose main task was to Continue reading “End Of Line”

Darwin’s Estate

What happens when a subspecies falls prey to evolutionary overspecialisation? The 2008 Ford Flex is what happens.

Post-facelift Flex (c) cargurus

When J. Mays took over from Jack Telnack as Dearborn’s styling supremo in 1997, his avowed aim was to re-emphasise Ford’s homegrown product identity, appointing former Volvo design chief, Peter Horbury in 2004 as Executive Director for design with responsibility for FoMoCo’s cache of US brands.

By mid-decade, it had already become apparent that the US market was losing its appetite for minivans, but Ford, like most of its domestic rivals lacked the market foresight to Continue reading “Darwin’s Estate”

What’s It Going To Be Then, Eh?

Unusually for the company, BMW’s large coupés have traditionally been rather fickle creatures. 

BMW 3.0 CS, photo (c) mazda3revolution.com

The success of the German car industry is founded upon consistency and evolution. BMW is no exception, as exemplified by its core 3 and 5 series models, which have rarely deviated from the proven and tested formulae.
While other BMW models haven’t been as consistent and successful what with the 7 series never quite recovering from the after effects of the very disruptive E65 generation, it’s the brand’s large coupés that have been by far the most systematically unsteady. Continue reading “What’s It Going To Be Then, Eh?”

128 vs Maxi Part 4: The Racehorse and the Donkey

We return to our analysis of the 50-year old Austin and Fiat contemporaries with a look at their engines. One was the work of a revered racing engine designer, the other was cobbled together by two capable engineers in the backrooms of Longbridge under the thumb of an unsympathetic boss with his own peculiar agenda.

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On paper a conservative design, the Maxi’s E series engine turns out to be downright odd in its execution. It evolved from a 1300cc prototype with a belt-driven overhead camshaft, one of many experimental designs being developed in the West Works at Longbridge. Long-serving engine designers Eric Bareham and Bill Appleby were handed the task of reworking the inchoate power unit into an engine suitable for BMC’s new mid-range car.

More capacity was needed, so it was bored out to accommodate 3 inch pistons, leaving no space for waterways between bores or any further outward expansion. Issigonis vetoed belt drive for the camshaft in favour of a traditional single-roller chain, on the reasonable grounds that belt technology was new and unproven at the time. Continue reading “128 vs Maxi Part 4: The Racehorse and the Donkey”

Empty Gesture

On the surface of things, the facelifted Audi A4 is an entirely predictable product action, but what it symbolises could be far more momentous.

(c) Autocar

It’s highly probable that the design director role at any prestigious OEM carmaker comes with a reasonably well-remunerated package of monetary benefits. This being so, we can take a wild guess that Audi’s Marc Lichte is not therefore on tuppence ha’penny wages.

The money must be, one supposes, some consolation, because there certainly cannot be much by way of creative satisfaction Mr Lichte could derive from masterminding Ingolstadt’s current design direction. At this point of course, we really ought to Continue reading “Empty Gesture”

Crying Fowl

While we await events or at least someone to quack the story, we speculate upon the probabilities surrounding a possible PSA / JLR marriage. 

(c) Coventry Live

There is a commonly quoted saying which states that if something looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, there is a strong probability that it is in fact an amphibious biped. Apply this reasoning to the speculation currently swirling around Jaguar Land Rover’s Warwickshire headquarters, and to the untrained eye it does appear that its Gerry McGovern designed outdoor water feature must be teeming with waterfowl. Continue reading “Crying Fowl”

Saving Grace – Part Eight

Concluding our profile of the Series III.

(c) Jaguar Cars

It can be stated without a trace of hyperbole that the Series III XJ remains the most commercially significant Jaguar of all time. Not the most successful, mark you; other XJ generations have sold in greater numbers, others still to come may yet again transform its fortunes, but the Series III remains to this day the car that single-handedly saved the company.

Ironic of course, given that it should never have come into being, and had BLMC’s Lords and masters given Browns Lane the creative freedom and the finances to Continue reading “Saving Grace – Part Eight”