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”

Everything That Rises Must Converge

As we await the newest iteration of VW’s bestseller, we examine what opposition it will face. 

Outgoing. (c) netcarshow

It’s no good. Despite repeated efforts, no European carmaker has successfully unseated the Volkswagen Golf from its lofty promontory; a position unique insofar that not only does it occupy a sub-segment of its own, but also in that its name can be expressed as both noun and adjective.

In fact, one senses that VW’s rivals have largely given up, corralling their efforts for a distant second or third place. Do I Continue reading “Everything That Rises Must Converge”

128 v. Maxi Part 1 : Last Tango of the Titans

A little over 50 years ago, two of Europe’s leading automotive businesses introduced a pair of rather utilitarian cars to the world. One was hugely successful and influential, the other turned out to be a prophet with little honour in its own time.

In bombastic terms, there’s a ‘clash of giants’ story to be told. Issigonis v. Giacosa. BLMC v. Fiat SpA. Maxi v. 128. It’s not quite ‘rumble in the jungle’, but a comparison tells a lot about the way things were done at Lingotto and Longbridge.

In a curious coincidence, the Austin Maxi and Fiat 128 were the last cars developed by their lead designers which reached production, although Issigonis’ input to the Maxi project was sporadic and remote.

In Dante Giacosa’s words, “On 3rd January 1970, the chequered flag signalled my arrival at the finish of my career”. He had reached the age of 65, and resigned in compliance with company rules. Continue reading “128 v. Maxi Part 1 : Last Tango of the Titans”

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”

Tea Leaf Prophecy

As reports emerge that Ford is preparing to study KA no more, we try to sound upset.

It’s been emotional. (c) bilmagasinet.dk

As your correspondent is perhaps over-fond of observing, the Henry Ford Motor Company does quite a line in unlearning nowadays. So much so in fact that it’s been getting rather difficult to keep up. Unlearn : Saloons. Unlearn : Minivans. Unlearn : Up to 5000 jobs in Europe this year.

Reaping the rewards of its failure to Continue reading “Tea Leaf Prophecy”

Putting Out The Fire, Scattering The Ashes

Audi’s concept car for this year’s Shanghai motor show is an autonomous, electric homage to the brand’s legendary A2 model. Or so we’re told. 

A194137_overfull.jpg
Audi AI:ME, photo (c) Audi AG

On the surface at least, there doesn’t appear to be much terribly wrong with Audi’s AI:ME concept car. It’s not an SUV for a start; its autonomous functions aren’t reflected by the lamest concept car trope of the past few years (swivelling seats), and it – supposedly – pays homage to no less than Audi’s bravest failure, the misunderstood A2.

However, as always, a surface is but a thin layer, whereas what lies beneath is an altogether more meaty matter. And the meat of this AI:ME is hardly scrumptious.

Take its overall appearance: It’s a rather generic EV compact concept car fare, to such an extent that nobody would bat an eyelid if it didn’t Continue reading “Putting Out The Fire, Scattering The Ashes”

Dramatic Licence

As Transport for London enacts its Ultra-Low Emission Zone, the case for DTW’s 1996 Saab 900S (and others like it) becomes scalpel-thin.

(c) Driven to Write

When it comes to motor cars there is absolutely nothing dull about metronomic reliability. I therefore hesitate to employ the adjective ‘boring’ when it comes to the dependability of my Saab, despite the undeniable fact that, in the almost six years I have been its steward, it has been an almost entirely trouble-free experience.

From a purely narrative perspective of course, a writer such as myself, for the sake of dramatic exposition might feel the necessity to Continue reading “Dramatic Licence”

This Aggression Will Not Stand

As Ford shuffles its CUV deck on both sides of the Atlantic, do we detect a certain softening in the Blue Oval’s visual palette?

(c) Top Gear

It has been, as DTW’s curiously silent Ford-obsessive, Myles Gorfe might have said, a very busy week in Ford circles, with not one, but three new CUV model lines being revealed. Although, in the interests of accurate reporting that statement might want to be revised downwards, given that the new-generation K U G A and E S C A P E models are broadly one and the same.

But to be even more factually rigorous, one really ought to refine this statement further, given that Ford did not at the time of writing get around to fully revealing the forthcoming Puma – (or should that read P U M A?) badged model, electing instead to Continue reading “This Aggression Will Not Stand”

Saving Grace – Part Four

Understanding the background to Jaguar’s 1979 annus horriblis.

(c) Jaguar Cars

The Castle Bromwich paint debacle crystallised the manner in which the relationship between Jaguar and its adoptive parent broke down in the years following its absorption into British Leyland; one characterised by unwarranted interference and lack of meaningful communication on one hand and distrust, insubordination and outright defiance on the other.

The roots of this go back to the creation of the car giant in 1968 – a piece of well-meaning, government-led commercial engineering. Much like a certain latterday piece of political engineering currently paralysing Britain’s political establishment, the BLMC experiment was undeliverable, but more fundamentally still, should probably never have been attempted in the first place. Continue reading “Saving Grace – Part Four”

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

The BMW brand has a new chief designer. Again. 

jozef-kaban-bmw
Jozef Kabaň, photo (c) BMW Group

Two years and one month isn’t a long time by the standards of the automotive industry. Creating a car from scratch within such a period of time would be extremely difficult. Truly changing a marque’s design ethos would be utterly impossible.

Two years and one month is exactly how long the tenure of Jozef Kabaň as BMW chief designer turned out to last. During that period, the Bavarians unveiled an onslaught of new models, which left more than one commentator baffled (new 3 series) or even shocked (X7, 7 series facelift). Obviously, none of these cars were designed under Kabaň’s watch. Continue reading “The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same”

Just Be Yourself In Front Of The Camera!

Even marketing isn’t as one-dimensional a domain as some would like to believe – as proven by two very different promotional videos marketing two supposedly very similar products, albeit more than two decades apart.

Don’t be simply any person – be the person. By driving the car. The 8.

This largely sums up the essence of what the promo video for BMW’s all-new (for 2019) Achter is telling the viewer. Don’t drive anywhere – only LA and some salt river will do. Don’t live somewhere – a minimalist industrial chic loft will just about do. But only if your car can access it too. Then, and only then, are you smart, cool, cosmopolitan enough to understand that The 8 is just what you need in your life.

Go on then: Definite articleify your life! After all, even if you are in a position to Continue reading “Just Be Yourself In Front Of The Camera!”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – Eclectic and Electric

As the halls of Palexpo return to their quiescent state, one DTW reporter reflects on an engaging Estonian, a divisive dreamer, and new masters at Pickersleigh Road.

Image: autovia-media

So how was Geneva? “Very electric” has become my customary reply, when I choose not to elaborate. In Europe at least, the internal combustion is likely to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – Eclectic and Electric”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – A Culinary Perspective

Your faithful reporter ate lots of nibbles and drank plenty of cappuccino so you don’t have to. 

Geneva’s favourite drink, served appropriately. (c) Christopher Butt

One could get seriously drunk at the Geneva Motor Show.

Whereas coffee enthusiasts would constantly remain on the hunt for a decent cup during the duration of the show out of sheer necessity, alcohol enthusiasts had it much easier. For champagne – and not just any champagne, but the most definitely above-average Perrier-Jouët – were free-flowing to the extent of ubiquity. And not just during the show, but under peripheral circumstances as well. Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – A Culinary Perspective”