Under The Moon’s Burning Glare

Good old Automotive News reported some juicy gossip regarding Fiat Chrysler Automotive. 

2002 Fiat Stilo, decent seller with with 3 doors: Parkers.co.uk

The gist of it is that FCA’s CEO Sergio Marchionne thinks making smaller cars in Italy is a waste of time and money. He is concerned that smaller cars are going to be commoditised and that the real margins lie in making larger cars. Resulting from this set of assumptions, stalwarts of the Fiat range will be axed and anything small and plausibly profitable shifted to outside Europe. The Punto – once a European top-ten car – and the MiTo (never a European top ten car) will be discontinued.

With the production lines thus freed up it will be possible to Continue reading “Under The Moon’s Burning Glare”

Boys of Summer

The turn of the century saw the Blue Oval vainly attempting to revisit its late ’50s heyday. But the past steadfastly remains a foreign country.

Ford Thunderbird. Image credit: (c) youtube

The 1984 Grammy-winning Don Henley single, Boys of Summer is a meditation on reminiscence and regret. It plays on the slick US West Coast values of the author’s Eagles heyday, subverting its MOR sheen to underline the more mature themes of ageing and loss.

Looking back to the past can be instructive, indeed for some of us, it’s a virtual necessity. However, true folly lies in attempts to Continue reading “Boys of Summer”

Eating the Endocrinologist’s Lunch

Yesterday evening I noticed two cars, a fourth generation 3-door Seat Ibiza and a DS DS 3. One was a bit of a holdover and the DS was, I imagined, the shape of three door cars today.

2011 Citroen DS3: Citroen UK

They haven’t really gone away (though they are a much diminished presence) these three door cars but have changed form a bit. Some have anyway. The Corsa and Fiesta are pretty much the same as they ever were.

Before proceeding, I should note that the 3-door Ibiza went the way of the ear trumpet in 2017 with the introduction of the fifth generation model. That is such a subliminal model-change that I had to cross-check photos.

So, who makes a smallish three door car today?  Continue reading “Eating the Endocrinologist’s Lunch”

Iceberg Right Ahead

Rolls Royce’s Cullinan SUV has landed. Is this the price of luxury?

The sheer face of ultimate luxury. Image credit: (c) BMW Blog

Flawed diamond

In 1971, the unthinkable occurred. The once impregnable Rolls Royce entered receivership, owing to costs incurred developing the RB211 turbojet engine programme. Many viewed it as a watershed – after all, if RR could go under, who was safe? In the years that followed, Rolls Royce Motors stayed afloat, if only by the skin of their teeth. By the time Vickers bailed in 1988, it was clear the Silver Lady had lost more than her spirit.

Today, there are no such dangers. Not only is Rolls Royce well-funded and protected within the BMW mothership, but the market for ultra-luxury vehicles has never Continue reading “Iceberg Right Ahead”

Ritmo Della Strada

Fiat’s Seventies C-segment style statement is largely a neglected footnote today, but there’s more to the Ritmo than a bunch of robots and some confusion over its name.

Style statement. Image credit: cargurus

Was any decade as truly modern as the 1970s? One retrospectively characterised in a roseate glow of giddy colours and lurid sartorial fashions; of long hair, beards, beads and ABBA songs, what chroniclers choose to ignore was how genuinely, thrillingly new it all appeared at the time and after an interval of four decades, seems even more so now.

In terms of product design, little that occurred in the decade that followed came even close to Continue reading “Ritmo Della Strada”

All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands

To the accompaniment of grinding metal, Driven to Write takes a decidedly Eurocentric view of Ford’s recent retrenchment on domestic saloons. 

A visual metaphor. Image credit: autoevolution

Last week’s announcement by Ford to discontinue their entire US market saloon lineup, while a shock to some, was not without some fairly broad hints being laid. In movie parlance, we’ve been hearing the ominous cellos in the background for some time, because the US market mood music on sedans has long been of a less than upbeat tempo.

The American car market has been gravitating to high riding vehicles for decades, for reasons that are as manifold as they are nuanced. Of course it’s massively simplistic to Continue reading “All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands”

Wright or Wrong

Clandestinely, a minor piece of both automotive and architecture history has been destroyed. And not in Italy either. 

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Photo (c) Pinterest.com

Austrian-American car importer, Max Hoffman, is best known for his crucial role in establishing European (mostly West German) car makers in the US market after the Second World War. What is less well known is the fact that Hoffman, was a bonafide connoisseur of architecture.

As such, Hoffman was particularly fond of the seminal work of Frank Lloyd Wright. For this reason, Hoffman commissioned the architect to Continue reading “Wright or Wrong”

Laughing Stock

For every alleged innovation there is always a precedent. Come now, you hardly imagine the Gorden comes up with this stuff on his own, do you?

AMC Eagle Sedan: Image credit: favcars

When Daimler’s Chief Design Officer, Gorden Wagener turned up in his immaculate sport-casual attire for the debut of the Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept, he told assembled journalists it represented “a totally new archetype of kind never seen before.” Of course even the most empty phrases contain a grain of truth because in the manner of a stopped clock, he’s half right.

It’s entirely possible that Daimler’s CDO neither knows nor cares that his verbiage-laden uttering lacked much by way of substance. After all, Mercedes’ resident believer in beauty and intelligence is unlikely to Continue reading “Laughing Stock”

Listen Out For The Samidova’s Song

We were pondering high-end luxury the other day and there was some debate about the Maybach’s interior. What is it up against?

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It is up against almost everyone selling a car for more than 50,000 euros. Almost any car firm can produce a very impressive interior if they put their mind to it**.  Take a look at the two images in the slide show and have a guess which one is the most recent. Then we’ll take a little look at what you can sit in for less than the kind of money Maybach/Mercedes might ask for.

Should one really want to Continue reading “Listen Out For The Samidova’s Song”

Vive la France … Vive la Différence!

As well as sampling a 308 SW, our correspondent’s spring break in France also presented a chance to get the local perspective on how the indigenous competition measures up.

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Yes, I did just take a photo of the cover of the magazine lying on the carpet in our spare room.

When in France, I always take the chance to go to a Maison de la Presse and search through the car magazines. In recent years, this has allowed me to discover publications dedicated to ‘classic’ Citroëns, Panhards and other wonders, proving to myself and sceptical family members that there are others out there with a passion for the quirky and yet banal.

I usually also buy a more mainstream monthly, and more often than not it’s L’Automobile; on this occasion, I bought the March 2018 issue.

L’Automobile is, to my mind, the closest that France has to Continue reading “Vive la France … Vive la Différence!”

That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

Last week’s Beijing takeaway has led to an unpleasant case of indigestion, courtesy of our friends at Baden-Wüttermberg. 

Paint a vulgar picture. Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept. Image credit: Hypebeast

“We have a social responsibility. Somebody has to stop this nonsense.” These were the words of BMW’s Hans-Peter Weisbarth, spoken in 1989 in the context of the horsepower race that was consuming the German car industry at the time. One I might add, which shows no sign of abatement some thirty years later.

But today, they also lend themselves to a different race to the bottom which seems to hold the motor industry in a deathly grip. Much has already been said Continue reading “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”

Anticipation Creeps Headstrong Towards Us

We ought to rename this site Le DTW. After yesterday’s Peugeot review we now have a whole slew of early 90s French cars under the spotlight.

L’Automobile, Sept 1991

In 1991 L’Automobile ran an article assessing the comparative strengths of the main three French brands, Renault, Citroën and Peugeot. It was a huge group test: 24 cars.  The magazine passed judgement on the main classes and in this article I will pass judgement on the 1991 verdict. Were  L’Automobile’s assessments in line with mine? Or indeed yours? Continue reading “Anticipation Creeps Headstrong Towards Us”

Culture Club

Alfa Romeo stared success in the face with 2003’s Kamal crossover concept, but opted to pursue MINI instead. Was this Fiat Auto’s worst product planning decision ever?

2003 Alfa Romeo Kamal. Image credit: carttraction

Product will only get you so far in the auto business, but it certainly does help. It helps a great deal more when it is the right product, preferably at an opportune time. Successful product planning is a subtle art and a rock many a car company have stumbled messily upon, for exact science it is not.

In the immediate post-Millennium period, Alfa Romeo was in serious financial trouble, losing millions of Euros a day, despite having Continue reading “Culture Club”

Crisis of Identity

The concept of fun isn’t one we’d habitually associate with brand-Volkswagen, especially of late. But all that appears set to change. 

Not fun. VW’s Autostadt. Image credit: Irish Times

In matters of crisis management, it is essential to maintain control of the narrative. Lose that, and the organisation becomes untethered, prey to attack from all sides. Inaction, by default, becomes one’s chosen action in both the eyes of critics and the wider public.

When Volkswagen’s systematic and sophisticated emissions gaming came to light in 2015, the carmaker seemed to have frozen in disbelief and denial. Regardless of how matters were being handled internally, the glacial pace of their response was viewed in the Continue reading “Crisis of Identity”

The Circle Game

The Arese merry-go-round has a fresh face in new CEO, Tim Kuniskis. Will he enjoy better fortune than his predecessors, or will it simply be more of the same?

Tim Kuniskis. Image credit: thenewswheel

Who’d take on a basket-case like Alfa Romeo? A marque with almost boundless potential for greatness, yet equally one with an unimpeachable aptitude for tragi-comic reversals of fortune. A state of affairs which is rooted in successive management failures – from those amid the semi-state Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale who oversaw Alfa’s affairs until 1987 and subsequently, the individuals Fiat Auto appointed to Continue reading “The Circle Game”

Javelin at 70 – Part 1: Fortunes of War

DTW takes a look at the advanced and stylish Jowett Javelin on the seventieth anniversary of the delivery of the first car, with some reflections on the machine and its creators. 

The psalmist’s full three score years and ten have passed since the happy owner of Jowett Javelin serial number D8 PA 1 received his or her keys on 16th. April 1948.  It is therefore appropriate to do a little scene-setting before considering the labour and sorrow which led to this remarkable car’s production, and followed it to the end of its days.

What do we think of when we think of Jowett? A family firm? A provincial carmaker? A worthy but vainglorious enterprise inevitably doomed to Continue reading “Javelin at 70 – Part 1: Fortunes of War”

Drowned Out

Every car design enthusiast and their dog lament the downfall of the Torinese carrozzieri. Yet a recent example illustrates that it’s not simply the industry that’s at fault.

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Tasteful, restrained – barely noticed, photo (c) CAR magazine

With Bertone gone (despite a company of that name still in existence) and ItalDesign churning out the crassest, most tasteless, un-Giugiaro-like concoctions, it’s now up to Pininfarina to wave the flag of Italian automotive design excellence.

Among the carrozzieri, Pininfarina traditionally played the purveyor of good taste. Bertone tended to Continue reading “Drowned Out”

No Sleep Till Arese

Reports have surfaced of Alfa Romeo readying a two-door version of their Giulia saloon later this year. As aficionados of the coupé, we should be delighted, so why is Driven to Write more troubled than pleased?

Image credit: Autocar

While not entirely immune from hyperbole’s more strident notes, Autocar can normally be relied upon to swerve outright speculation. However, last week, Richard Bremner – a respected journalist who these days seems reduced to penning listicles for their online edition – reported (citing ‘sources’), that FCA are at work on a Giulia-based coupé, said to employ the Sprint nameplate. “The Giulia coupé could appear towards the end of this year and go on sale in 2019”, his Autocar piece suggested.

While sharing some external panelwork with the Guilia berlina, mostly ahead of the bulkhead, the coupé will according to Bremner, Continue reading “No Sleep Till Arese”

Victim of Stars

With Ford’s Taurus the latest sedan nameplate set for a date with the eternal, what does this growing convergence mean for the large blue-collar American saloon?

Kingdom of rain. 2018 Ford Taurus. Image credit: Tamiami Ford

Cadillac’s recently announced plans to remove a number of sedan model lines in response to shifting commercial realities appears not to have occurred in a vacuum. Last week it was Ford’s turn, first with reports of the Mexican-built Fiesta being phased out, but more dramatically, that executives have elected not to Continue reading “Victim of Stars”

Geneva Fallout 2018 – The Things Bosses Say

Fiat didn’t hold an official “Exhibitors Conference” on the first media day at this year’s Geneva Salon, but that didn’t prevent FCA’s CEO pronouncing on the future of Fiat’s European activities.

Source: R Parazitas

Sergio Marchionne declared that “for the 500, 500X and Panda it is worth pursuing, I am less in love with the Tipo, despite its sales success. We have to be careful how we distribute large amounts of capital. The Tipo is less encouraged, because that sector of the market is very crowded and not very profitable. It was a part of the market where Fiat traditionally was, but maybe we need to Continue reading “Geneva Fallout 2018 – The Things Bosses Say”

Five in Time

Cometh the hour, cometh the car. 1988’s E34 BMW 5-Series arrived at just the right moment, redefining the model line and clarifying a template that arguably hasn’t been bettered.

Image credit: bmwguide

If 1961’s Neue Klasse saloons served to define Bayerische Motoren Werke’s style template and 1966’s 1600-2 popularised it, the Paul Bracq-inspired E12 5-Series of 1972 would take the design principles of Wilhelm Hofmiester and recast them in a modish, yet still highly disciplined context.

A design which married a sharply pared and engineered steeliness with an almost Latin softness, the E12 became BMW’s visual touchstone for almost two generations. So much so that its replacement, 1981’s E28 was essentially a reskin of the outgoing car. Continue reading “Five in Time”

Two Fevered Decades – Taking the Temperature of the European Car Market.

Robertas Parazitas looks at the changing shape of the European car market over the last twenty years.  The numbers tell several stories; some are manifestly obvious, others may surprise you.

Source: Opel Media

The right-hand column lists European sales in 2017, highest to lowest.  The numbers to the left tell several stories, many of them unhappy. Continue reading “Two Fevered Decades – Taking the Temperature of the European Car Market.”

DTW’s Top Twenty Three Great European Cars – Part 3

This is the third instalment of this series which definitively ranks the very best European cars of all time.

An old Audi 100 Image: Simon Stahel

To make cut the cars have been rigorously assessed for engineering merit, technical competence and design quality. Each parameter was subvivided into its essential elements and assigned a number of points. The total number of points possible is 100. The minumum grade was 79. Today we assay an Alvis, evaluate an Audi, weigh up a Wolseley, over-view an Opel and muse about an MG.

If you wish to find out which models made it to the ranks of 15-10, then you only have to Continue reading “DTW’s Top Twenty Three Great European Cars – Part 3”

Building On Daring

GM’s plans for Cadillac sound ambitious, but the gulf in product and perception terms facing the US luxury car brand appear to echo that of another, more familiar luxury marque.

2018 Cadillac XT4 crossover. Image credit: autoblog

When General Motors sold their European outpost to Groupe PSA last year, many believed the US car giant had upped sticks and left the Old World for good. But this week there was some fairly solid grounds for reviewing that assessment.

Speaking at the NADA-JD Power Automotive Forum at the eve of the New York auto show, Cadillac President, Johan de Nysschen announced to delegates, “Ladies and gentlemen, I can assure you that things are about to Continue reading “Building On Daring”

Geneva 2018 Reflections – Minor Distractions

As always, there’s more than just cars to the Geneva International Motor Show. 

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The glamour of Geneva, photo (c) DrivenToWrite

Geneva: Hotbed of glamorous wealth, elegant refuge of the well-off elite amidst the mountains and Lac Léman. London Mayfair with a Franco-Swiss twist and more of a Continental sense of style.

In truth, the impression the average visitor, let alone motoring correspondent on a budget, gets of Genève is a decidedly different one. First of all, Geneva is far more French in feel. The streets and public transport are far dirtier, the average encounters with locals far less courteous than in German-speaking Switzerland. In large parts, Geneva also feels rather stuck in the 1980s, if it wasn’t for the plethora of oh-so-2018 Bentley Bentaygas and Mercedes-Maybach in the streets. Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – Minor Distractions”

A Concept for Sunday: 1978 Pininfarina Ecos

In 1978, Fiat and Pininfarina displayed both their environmental credentials alongside the Ecos styling study. Twenty years later, were its themes reprised for of all things, an SUV?

Pininfarina / Fiat Ecos. Image credit: classic car catalogue

As we’re fond of pointing out round here, the storied Italian design houses were not exactly above rehashing and repurposing design concepts for rival clients should the need arise (And it frequently did). After all, there are only so many ideas out there at a given time and if the intended client isn’t biting, why not Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday: 1978 Pininfarina Ecos”

The Muse of Melpomene

Lancia’s 2004 B-sector monospace was that rare thing – a commercial success. But was it a better Idea than its Fiat sibling?

Image credit: car-info

It has been suggested that the Lancia Musa died prematurely, production ceasing when Fiat Auto’s Stabilimento Mirafiori car plant was idled in 2012; victim of the catastrophic fall in Italian new car sales in the wake of the financial crash, sovereign debt crisis, not to mention the legacy of Fiat Auto’s inability to Continue reading “The Muse of Melpomene”

Geneva 2018 Reflections – Are Objects in the Mirror Closer Than They Appear?

For Robertas Parazitas it’s been a strange Salon. Great for star-spotting and social interaction, but none of the new crop of premieres and concepts lit the flame of his desire, or the warm feeling that the future of motordom is going to be all right, after all. 

Image: R Parazitas

Last year my personal favourites were the Alpine A110 and the Jaguar I-Pace, both machines I could aspire to owning in the right set of circumstances. Wim Oubouter’s Microlino, an electric Isetta hommage also appealed – it was back this year, with sales reported to Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – Are Objects in the Mirror Closer Than They Appear?”

Great European Cars: Help Driven To Write Decide

Over the Easter period there will be a series of articles on the best European cars. I have my own ideas of what these might be.

Reassuringly British inside and out: the 1976 Talbot 1510

However, I would like to ask the DTW readership if they have some suggestions. You can propose attributes of a great European car or you can suggest actual candidates for the list. I would probably prefer discussion on the attributes though: is it engineering, style, quality, handling or performance? It is about aristocratic manners or it is about democratic good taste? Is it about the ability to Continue reading “Great European Cars: Help Driven To Write Decide”

The Tri-Arrow Takes Aim

Two impressive Geneva concepts from India’s largest carmaker suggests a growing maturity and ambition. We investigate.

Tata 45X concept. Image credit: burlappcar

It may surprise you to learn that Tata Motors have been part of the Indian automotive landscape for over 70 years. For most of that time, Ratan Tata’s motor business concentrated on the commercial field, before becoming famous for the Nano, billed as the World’s cheapest car. But they are probably best known for their surprising (and lucrative) 2008 acquisition of what became Jaguar Land Rover.

In its two and a half decades in the passenger car business, Tata have been predominantly a domestic player, but as the Indian car market has grown both in size and relative sophistication, Tata, in conjunction with its design and engineering satellites (not to mention independent partners) in both the UK and Italy, has reshaped its domestic offerings to compete with the big names.

The commercial failure of the entry-level Nano illustrated how difficult it is to Continue reading “The Tri-Arrow Takes Aim”

Geneva 2018 Reflections – The Lion the Cross and the Curve

Two significant saloon cars debuted at Palexpo this week, but according to our man pounding the show floor, only one makes the grade.

Auto-Didakt

As any traveller will tell you, getting upgraded from economy is much easier said than done. Indeed, the more habituated one is to travel economy, the key to that threshold appears even more arbitrary and capricious. PSA knows all about this. Having squandered brand-Peugeot’s upmarket credentials during the 1980s and having got their creepy ‘drive-sexy’ phase out of the way latterly, the Lion of Belfort has been painfully clawing its way back to some semblance of stylistic and reputational credibility.

Last year’s EcotY-winning 3008 crossover marked a turning point for Peugeot, being perhaps the first Sochaux product to Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – The Lion the Cross and the Curve”

Geneva 2018 Reflections – Above and Beyond

Reporting from the 88th Geneva motor show, Driven to Write, in conjunction with Auto-Didakt searches in vain for signs of progress amid the weaponised SUV landscape.

Image credit: new atlas

Having launched what is quite likely the star of the Geneva motor show in the comely form of the Jaguar I-Pace, JLR are quite understandably basking in peer-group approbation and the warm glow of being on-zeitgeist. But meanwhile, there is more conventional fare to be made and sold – and a bottom line to be protected. After all, introducing a BEV is a witheringly expensive business, especially one whose sales potential still remains a relative unknown.

So offering what is arguably the yang to the I-Pace’s ying, JLR also debuted the limited-run Range Rover SV Coupé – all £220,000 (before options) of it. To be constructed at JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations atelier in Coventry, only 999 examples will Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – Above and Beyond”

Geneva 2018 Reflections – Song to the Sybil

Continuing his review of the 88th Geneva motor show press days, Kris Kubrick consults with the oracles at GFG Style.

Auto-Didakt

Last week, we presented the CAD-rendered images of GFG Style’s newest concept. GFG is the latest business venture of perhaps the World’s most famous (certainly most influential) car designer following his surprise departure from the VW-owned Ital Design, a carrozzeria now rendered doubly irrelevant.

The Sybilla concept was reviewed here in less than eulogistic fashion and to be fair, the official images were Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – Song to the Sybil”

Geneva 2018 – Reflections in a Golden-I

Our Auto-Didaktic Geneva correspondent casts his eye over Jaguar’s I-Pace and comes away impressed.

Auto-Didakt

Last week we discussed the advent of JLR’s EV pathfinder and pondered how many brave pills Dr. Speth and Jaguar’s Ian Callum had ingested prior to the car’s reveal last thusday. The answer? Continue reading “Geneva 2018 – Reflections in a Golden-I”

Geneva 2018 Reflections

Not content with one, DTW has two embedded correspondents roaming the fleshpots of the 88th Geneva show press days. Today, Kris Kubrick casts an Auto-Didaktic eye on Palexpo’s highlights.

Aston Martin’s “daft” Lagonda EV concept. All Images: Auto-Didakt

First up is the Mercedes i30, sorry – A-Class. (It gets so confusing these days) So having taken lines and creases out of everything, one is left with… well, this one supposes. Best Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections”

Free Ideas, Playful Minds

Far from simply purveyors of amusing retro-curiosities, Japan’s 10th most significant car maker is in fact at the forefront of modern luxury.

Image credit: kingautos

You’ve got to hand it to the Japanese. For a country which is often characterised by rigid social conformity and deep-rooted behavioural reserve, they do seem to have an interesting sense of humour, albeit one that doesn’t always translate that well.

While one wouldn’t necessarily Continue reading “Free Ideas, Playful Minds”

European Car of the Year 2018 – The Winner Is…

Never mind the Oscars, today is ECotY time.

As is now a Driven to Write tradition, roving reporter Robertas Parazitas reports live from Geneva at the 2018 Car of the Year awards. Continue reading “European Car of the Year 2018 – The Winner Is…”

Mainly Found Wanting – The European CotY prospects

It’s amazing what you’ll find washed up on beaches these days…

Source: European Car of the Year

Is it only for me that the first two months of 2018 have flown by? On Monday it will be time to gather in the rather gloomy hall in the backlands of Palexpo to hear the results of European Car of the Year 2018, along with the grandees of the world’s automotive media, and a few captains of the motor industry feigning insouciance, in the face of the reality that a CotY win still has real sales and profits value.

The Salon des Refusés is often more interesting than short list nominees. We should not be surprised that Continue reading “Mainly Found Wanting – The European CotY prospects”

A Tale of Two Towers

Two of the more storied automotive marques happen to have owned representative headquarter buildings at some point. The respective fates of these edifices has proven somewhat poignant.  

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photo (c) pinterest.com

High-rise buildings inevitable lend themselves to illustrate human hubris. As the building of a monument to oneself is among the least humble of acts imaginable, skyscrapers typically invite less-than-kind comparisons: From the bible’s Tower of Babel to JG Ballard’s High-Rise, architecture aiming for the skies regularly acts as a metaphor for an aloof state of mind.

The automotive industry, whose core business of selling a commodity finds itself in constant battle with that product’s simultaneous role of a social entity, is even more prone than others to Continue reading “A Tale of Two Towers”

Stroke of Fortune

Another future postponed. Today we look at an engine technology from the early 1990’s which, for a short time at least, looked like a certainty.

Posterchild for Orbital, the 1993 Pininfarina Ethos. Image credit: hooniverse

Where do ideas go to die? Are blueprints simply rolled up and secreted away, to be dusted off by historians in decades hence or are there engineers in a quiet workshop somewhere in Australia (or Toyota City) still burning with religious fervour for what now appears to have been something of a lost cause?

Founded by engineer, Ralph Sarich, the Orbital Engine Corporation was based in Perth and during the early 1990’s attracted the interest of a number of big name manufacturers for a clever reworking of the time-honoured but somewhat flawed two-stroke engine design. For a short period of time, it sounded tantalisingly like Continue reading “Stroke of Fortune”

A Terrible Cloud of Unknowing

Almost three years on from VW’s monumental lapse of judgement, the only thing that is clear amid the noxious murk is an overwhelming and potentially damaging lack of clarity.

Image credit: greenfleet

Not simply a colossal failure and a swingeing indictment of VW’s corporate culture as espoused by the management style of former chairman, Ferdinand Piëch, the repercussions of VW’s 2015 betrayal are proving even wider and faster-accelerating than anyone might reasonably have anticipated.

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

Crossed Over

The recent crop of new models coming from Munich inevitably leads to a simple question: What on Earth has been going on at BMW in recent years?

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 Backside design, photo (c) suvauthority.com

Ever since the Neue Klasse reinvented and saved the brand, BMW could only ever, leaving matters such as personal taste aside, be described as assertive.

Assertively conservative insofar as an adherence to driven rear wheels, straight six engines and the evolution of the themes established by the Neue Klasse were concerned. Assertively daring when it comes to Continue reading “Crossed Over”

No Resistance

As Tesla outsells its German flagship market rivals on home turf, have we reached that much anticipated watershed or are the majors about to nick Elon’s lunch money as he’s about to cash in?

Everybody say Ohm. Image credit: Tesla

Last week it was reported that European sales of the Tesla Model S outstripped those of the German luxury flagship saloons for the first time, marking an alleged pivot point for the adoption and acceptance of electric vehicles across the region. A watershed moment perhaps or simply sensationalist reporting?

Fair question, because firstly there is some conjecture as to whether the Model S is a direct rival to the S-Class Mercedes and its ilk, especially when Elon Musk himself describes it more as an E-Class and Five Series competitor. Sizewise, Musk is broadly correct, but in terms of price, he most certainly isn’t. But regardless of which segment of the market it’s aimed, for a section of society who have the financial wherewithal to Continue reading “No Resistance”

Plentiful Phlogiston, an Ample Ether and a Strong Vital Force

Saloon or hatchback? Which is it? Why?

We are not interested in the front of this car: iMDB.org

From 1972 to 1984 the VW sold the Passat with the option of a 5-door as well as 2-door and five doors. Today it’s only sold as a saloon and estate. The Citroen XM came as a five-door hatchback and as a fabulously useful estate. Its predecessors and successors could only be had as saloons or estates.

All generations of the Seat Toledo, barring one have been hatchbacks. For 1999, the second generation Toledo Continue reading “Plentiful Phlogiston, an Ample Ether and a Strong Vital Force”

A Proton Saga

At Driven to Write, we believe all marques have a story to tell and today’s subject, from a half-forgotten outlier is no exception. But before we get to the subject at hand, it’s probably worth a little recap.

Okay, not a Saga, but a Savvy. Image credit: Parkers

The Proton motor company was founded in 1983 and until the advent of rival, Perodua a decade later, was the sole indigenous Malaysian carmaker. Initially partnered with Mitsubishi, who for a time owned a minority stake in the business, Proton cars were mildly reheated Mitsubishi models, like the unfortunately named Saga, which was Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional’s earliest offering in the United Kingdom – first introduced in 1989.

But despite its senior citizen connotations, the Saga proved a successful model line, with over 30,000 sold in the first three years. Indeed, Proton was for a time at least, viewed as Continue reading “A Proton Saga”

Two Cities, One Car

A clumsy name for a rather clumsy car. Ten years ago, Alfa Romeo took aim at the MINI (and its ilk) and missed. We plot the MiTo’s wobbly trajectory.

Image credit: autokult

Alfa Romeo has throughout its long history enjoyed a distinctly patchy relationship with small cars. Pre-War, such a notion would probably have been laughable but even in the latter half of the 20th century, despite the occasional prototype, the smallest car Portello actually got round to Continue reading “Two Cities, One Car”

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

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

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

The current Mercedes A-class, internally dubbed W177, receives an extensive mid-life facelift, to be officially presented at the 91th Geneva International Motor Show. Ahead of the world premiere, Driven To Write can provide exclusive insight into the most significant overhaul the A-class model has ever received.

“It’s time to be bold. It’s time for creases”

Daimler AG’s Chief Creative Officer, Gorden Wagener proclaims that the refreshed A-class is more than the regular nip-&-tuck-job. “The A-class is one of our icons. It is the most premium car in its class, and this new design shows that more than ever.”

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

German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell

The history of the motor industry is littered with lost causes and alternative realities. Today, we look at one of the more poignant examples.

Karl-Heinz Kalbfell. Image credit: speedweek

Even in automotive terms, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell is not a household name, although perhaps he ought to be. The late German engineer and product supremo enjoyed a stellar career at BMW and in 2004, landed what appeared to be not only a dream job, but one which promised truly great things.

Kalbfell, an engineering and marketing graduate, joined BMW AG in 1977, gaining responsibility for such programmes as Continue reading “German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell”

Hammer Time

Another year, another Maserati sales crisis. But just how tarnished are the Trident’s prongs?

Image credit: motor16

It does appear at times that the only Maserati news is bad news. When we last reported on the Tridente’s fortunes in 2015, a woebegone tale was unfolding, with FCA’s Harald Wester revising his forecasts downwards in the wake of disappointing sales.

Last Autumn it was widely reported that production at the Mirafiori plant which builds the Levante crossover (and Alfa MiTo incidentally) was temporarily halted, owing to changes in Chinese regulations regarding the manner in which manufacturers and dealers should Continue reading “Hammer Time”

The Company You Keep

Alfa Romeo’s choice of ‘brand ambassador’ is inspired – and telling, maybe in more ways than intended.

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The new face of Alfa Romeo, in front of a non-Alfa Romeo, photo (c) Kinja

Unlike so many ‘brand testimonials’, Giovanni Giorgio (or Hansjörg, as his mother referred to him) Moroder isn’t the kind of person who caught the public eye for all the wrong reasons. He never had his own reality TV show or featured in a programme of this kind as a guest. He didn’t enjoy a very public, tabloid-filling affair of the romantic or some other variety.

Giorgio Moroder is merely a pop music giant. Which makes his appointment as ‘brand ambassador’ for Alfa Romeo’s still relatively new Stelvio SUV appear Continue reading “The Company You Keep”