Despite the impending economic doom of Brexit, London Taxis are pressing ahead with a major new factory to produce their zero-emissions cab.
It’s gratifying that the factory, opened the other day, is in Coventry, a city with a long tradition of motor car production. It was never very pleasant to see how the sites of Triumph, Peugeot and Humber were transformed into shopping centres, piles of rubble and housing estates respectively. Continue reading “Come Forth Into the Light of Things”
Robertas Parazitas looks back on a memorable Geneva Salon, and can’t quite decide whether to praise the Cadillac Escala, or rant against the sustained assault on the English language.
The concept is not new, having had its premiere at Pebble Beach in August 2016. It is intriguing on several levels. The design language is a departure from the distinct vocabulary of present Cadillac offerings. Like the Pininfarina H600, the Escala could fit into a number of manufacturers’ ranges: Jaguar, Lexus, DS.
In the halls of Geneva, resurrection man Robertas Parazitas meets two more restless souls.
Death, it has been observed here before, has a revolving door in the automotive world. In recent years we have observed the return of Singer, Borgward and Alpine. (In the case of the first I can’t see much of the spirit of the plucky Coventry firm, but the workmanship puts the last Chamoises and Gazelles to shame) Continue reading “Geneva 2017 – Artega Scala Superelletra”
Pininfarina stayed true to form with the H600 concept. Nothing wrong with that we say.
At the 2012 Geneva motor show, carrozzeria Pininfarina showed Cambiano, a concept, said by the Italian styling house to be in effect, a homage to the legendary Florida II. But while that pivotal 1957 concept became a stylistic monument, siring an entire generation of cars, Cambiano, while commendably elegant of line and refreshingly free of frippery, disappeared pretty much as soon as it arrived – overshadowed by more brash contemporaries. Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – Dignified Silence”
This isn’t about the Opel Insignia though the words came from a review of the car. It’s about what kind of lives automotive journalists lead. It’s about language.
“The previous Insignia fulfilled the purpose of getting you from A to B in a well-equipped and reasonably comfortable manner…” wrote Car magazine the other day. What could they possibly mean***? Continue reading “Princess and the Pea”
As I roved about the internet, I found this odd non-news-as-news. Despite mentioning a merger with VW, Sergio Marchionne has no interest in a merger with VW.
The story features a very entertaining photo of Mr Marchionne with President Trump.
It’s a rather baffling snippet. Marchionne floats an idea and then says he is not interested in it and, in so doing, explains all the reasons why it would be a good idea anyway. But he’s not doing it. He’s a puzzling chap. As I see it, VW has nothing at all to gain from taking over FCA with its army of problems and horde of underperforming models. VAG makes more money selling alloy wheels and trim options on the Seat Leon than Alfa Romeo makes on its entire line-up (infinitely more). FCA will disintegrate in due course, leaving VW to mop up any sales left over. Continue reading “Non-News”
Sino-American Lucid Motors have revealed their Air saloon, a truly good-looking car.
Take a look at these photos. This is what a modern, elegant and distinctive car looks like. It will be on sale in 2018 though only in Canada and the US. The details can be inspected here. What is interesting is the approach Lucid have taken, managing to give the car a clear identity without recourse to strange detailing and without obviously using a grille-like oblong at the front. Continue reading “They Got This One Right”
Not so much Geneva bites, more nibbles from a show which wasn’t short of substantial fare.
There was a Vauxhall at Geneva!
And rightly so. The one-nation marque, which few people outside the UK even realise exists, outdid Jeep, MINI, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Honda, Suzuki and Mitsubishi for sales across the entire EU zone in 2016. Continue reading “Geneva 2017 – l’Insolite Part 1”
First, an apology. This sequel to our piece on the Mohs Ostentatienne was originally promised to coincide with the 20 January 2017 Presidential Inauguration. In the event we missed it. Blame the crowds.
The Mohs Safarikar was Bruce Mohs’ next motoring project after the Ostentatienne. Obviously sharing what, back then, was certainly never referred to as DNA, this was a companion to the Opera Sedan, the clue to its function being in the name. As with the Ostentatienne, the Safarikar is an easy target for the smartarse motoring writer wanting to get a few cheap laughs with little intellectual outlay, and forgive me if I don’t manage to rise above my peers. Continue reading “A Larger Car for a Larger Continent”
Driven to Write continues its Geneva walk of shame, and finds some cause for optimism amidst the mainstream behemoths.
The boys at Zuffenhausen have been diligently erasing their previous work in creating a more svelte version 2.0 Panamera, debuting the Sport Turismo, which features a vast 20-litres of additional stowage space. Interesting to see how well judged the business case is with this one. Given that Mercedes’ CLS equivalent has hardly set sales charts alight (and is not being replaced), Porsche management are clearly crossing their fingers and toes here. Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – And the Band Plays On : 2”
Are we going anywhere fast, or are the major players merely spinning wheels? Driven to Write looks at Geneva’s latest fancies, and finds little to celebrate.
We’re on the cusp of possibly the biggest re-alignment since the advent of the motor car. The costs of change and its survival are daunting. Behind the scenes the industry is frantically making best-guess preparations for the coming avalanche, while trying to second-guess which direction an increasingly mercurial political class are leaning. Rising protectionism in the US and impending Brexit in the UK: who’d be an automotive CEO now? Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – And the Band Plays On”
Driven to Write’s embedded correspondent, Robertas Parazitas continues his dispatches from the 87th Geneva International Motor Show.
Wednesday 8th March
Today I tried to catch some of the stuff decent folk would walk by – all the sub-Mansories, for Arabs with goût. Some absolute crackers. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. As LJKS once wrote “If you want to know how G*d regards money, you only have to look at those to whom he gives it”. (I think he may have been quoting someone else.)
Did I mention that Dieter was having a right good look at the I-Pace. I have some photos, will need to check to see if Gorden (sic) was in his entourage…
Last week, JLR unveiled Velar, the most ambitious Range Rover variant yet. But Driven to Write asks, is there a cuckoo in the nest?
As the dust sheets were lifted off their new mid-liner, Land Rover CCO Gerry (IGMG) McGovern informed journalists, Velar is “the most car-like Range Rover we’ve done so far”. It also seems likely to become the crossover SUV that will convert customers who have so far proven immune to the crossover SUV contagion. Continue reading “Lifting the Veil”
How much does the 2017 BMW 5-series differ from its predecessor? Read on to find out.
Yesterday I moaned about the 2017 BMW 5 (G30) series’ lack of presence. It is, as many have pointed out, quite similar to the 2011 BMW 5-series (F10). How similar? How different?
The image above summarises the main findings. The process of redesigning a car has means and it has ends. The means are the physical forms and the ends are what those forms are intended to achieve. If I had been really rigorous I would have simply noted the physical nature (the means) of the change and left the commentary (about the ends) to this part, that is comments about what I think the changes are for.
Opel’s slow walk into the history books, to join Panhard and Saab, has begun. It occurred just as I came to understand what Opel was about.
You can read the technical details here. The important and ominous part is this: “Tavares told his board that PSA would redevelop the core Opel lineup with its own technologies to achieve rapid savings, according to people with knowledge of the matter” (from AN Europe).
While I was reviewing the last generation Opel Astra, I noted that the description of the mechanicals differed little from its peers. So, you might say, where is the great loss? Even if you don’t care for Opel, its absorption into the PSA combine will reduce meaningful competition among the most important classes of cars.
PSA may purchase Opel. This story has been bubbling for a while and it has bubbled some more, like the sinister upwellings on the surface of a lava pool.
The Guardian has reported that PSA would expect rapid savings were they to buy Opel. “Carlos Tavares, the chief executive of PSA, which owns Peugeot, Citroën and DS, said on Thursday morning that adding GM’s German Opel and British Vauxhall brands would attract new customers and generate substantial cost savings. An outline agreement is expected to be announced as soon as next week, before the Geneva motor show starts on 6 March”, wrote the formerly Mancunian paper.
In this concluding part of DTW’s interview with the National Motor Museum’s Jeff Coope, he outlines his vision for the museum’s future.
A former motor engineer, Jeff Coope is perhaps unique amongst senior colleagues at Gaydon in that he doesn’t have an old car of his own to tinker with at weekends; a matter of some amusement and no little embarrassment for someone in his position. This probably explains why the previous day he’d been out test driving a variety of Triumph TR6’s with a view to purchase. “It’s interesting, he tells me, you put you hand on the injector fuel rails for the PI injection system on a TR6 and it’s alive! What else do we make that has a pulse? Effectively, we’re lighting little fires under bonnets aren’t we? Controlled fires at a huge rate and we’ve refined that to great art, although we’ve probably taken it as far it can go now, relatively speaking.”Continue reading “Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part two)”
When two of the most prominent car designers recently left their posts, each left a ‘legacy’ awkward SUV model behind. Coincidence?
Most commentators were astonished when Luc Donckerwolke, one of the most high-profile design directors at Volkswagen Group, decided to leave the German giant behind and join Hyundai’s nascent Genesis brand. Was it the allure of receiving the call of his former boss, Peter Schreyer, that made him leave his post as Bentley’s chief designer and depart for South Korea? Or was it simply a matter of giant paycheques changing hands?
It’s mid-February and the ACEA numbers for 2016 still have ‘provisional’ status.
My interest here is in the brands which fell short of 100,000 registrations last year across the EU and EFTA countries. The audit is something of a blunt instrument. The supercar and ultra-premium marques do not even feature. Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti are counted in the 4,561 “other VW Group” registrations. Likewise FCA’s 8,211 others comprise mainly Dodge and Maserati. And yet, the 2,589 Chevrolets registered get their own billing. Continue reading “Industry Bites: The Five-Figure Club”
Driven to Write speaks to the man helping ensure the British Motor Museum in Gaydon is future-proofed for future generations – Director of Operations, Jeff Coope.
Ensuring the past continues to address the future is a challenge all museums face. To stay relevant they must evolve – or die. Jeff Coope is the man at the sharp end. Having overseen the transformation of what was known as the ‘Heritage Motor Centre’ into today’s British Motor Museum, his ambitions for the facility go much further. The current purpose built Gaydon museum was formally opened in 1993, but despite being supported by industry donations and from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust itself, it struggled to sustain itself financially. Continue reading “Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part one)”
In three weeks’ time (6 March) the cream of the world’s automotive media, and some rather anxious captains of the motor industry will crowd into a stuffy hall in Geneva to hear the results of European Car of the Year 2017. It’s much like the Eurovision Song Contest, but far more camp and partisan. Continue reading “Weighed in the Balance – ECOTY prospects”
As Jaguar 2016 sales hit unprecedented heights, we take an unflinching look at XE’s school report. History appears to be a particularly weak subject.
On the face of things, JLR’s once troubled Jaguar brand appears to be be on the rise at last. Following massive investments in new product lines, underpinned by an all-new aluminium intensive modular platform and new diesel engines, the marque has posted global sales of 148,730 vehicles last year, up 77% on 2015 figures. And while brand Jaguar accounts for only 25.4% of JLR’s total volume, it represents the bulk of the overall percentage gain for the business as a whole for 2016. This growth has been driven by new offerings in sectors of the market previously unrepresented by the brand and offer an encouraging picture not only for a nameplate that has consistently underperformed but also for JLR management’s policies. But once you begin to drill below the headline figures, some troubling questions arise. Continue reading “We Need to Talk About XE”
Not so very long ago I presented half of a study on what GMC actually sold. Today I have decided to present my Chevrolet vs. GMC comparison as an infographic.
Not all of GMC’s range is on the infographic. I left out the Denali versions. Denali means adding about circa roughly $10,oooo to the cost of each base vehicle. Every GMC has a Denali line. As it stands, the price differences of the base Chevrolet and base GMCs are small. What might happen is that all the base GMC trucks get deleted and the “Denali line” becomes standard but with more options, to keep the price range the same. Or maybe all the Denali cars get their own sheet metal and the Denali brand is born. GMC could be shuttered or left to
And now this. FCA boss Marchionne is going to wring some profits from the investment in the Giulia platform known as Giorgio. Future Maseratis, Jeeps and Dodges will use the Giorgio platform. Did they design it to be so flexible?This was reported in Automotive News: “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will offset the high costs of relaunching Alfa Romeo by sharing the brand’s Giorgio platform with Maserati, Dodge and Jeep, CEO Sergio Marchionne said.”Continue reading “AD0 16, K-car, J-car, Jags from Mondeos…”
And finally, another tale of compromise, recounted by M. Seidler.
Once work on the Almusafes plant was underway, Ford negotiated with the Spanish tax authorities to import some cars for use by their staff and management. Presumably the notion of using Chrysler 180’s or Seat 132’s would be too much to countenance. The sticking point was a rigidly enforced annual limit of 250 imported cars for the entire country. Continue reading “Compromise Redux – The Generous Generalissimo”
Mercedes-Benz’s recent Aesthetics A concept appears to signal a new dimension in Sensual Purity®. Is this the end of the Line? We hold our noses and investigate.
For some time now we’ve been pretty unequivocal as regards our impressions of Mercedes-Benz’s latter-day form language. Because, at the risk of labouring the point, it’s been pretty dismal. But for those of us who bewail the three pointed star’s descent from its automotive Mount Olympus, is salvation at hand? Continue reading “Aesthetics A – Visibly Reduces the Appearance of Lines”
So you thought there was only one Fiesta Mk.1? In fact there nearly were two, and the one we never saw almost tore Ford apart.
From its inception in 1969, Ford’s small car project had always had inter-continental ambitions. An early project structure saw engines manufactured in Brazil being used in cars made first in Europe, with a production base in Brazil following on, which would not only serve the home market, but would also export to the USA. US and Asia-Pacific production sites would follow. Other visions included a simplified low-powered variant adapted for production in developing countries, a third world car maximum speed of 55-60mph, a 0-50 time of 25-30 seconds, capable of being sold at 50-60% of the price of the cheapest Ford Escort. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Blood on the Boardroom Floor”
Let us consider the conventional wisdom about the first generation Fiesta.
It arrived some time after the revolutions in small car design which raged through Europe in the fifties and sixties, and continued to bear fruit into the early seventies. It was thus a rationalised ‘best practice’ car, standing on the narrow but solid shoulders of at least four influential and successful rivals which arrived early enough in the 1970s to influence and inform Ford’s designers. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Almost Revolutionary”
A missed opportunity or a masterpiece of compromise? We look at the unassuming little engine that drove the Fiesta’s success.
CAR March 1974 was confident in its prediction about the Fiesta’s engine; “it is a completely new water-cooled, in-line four with single overhead cam and Heron head. It will come in two sizes – a little over 900cc and 1090cc for the top of the range model.” As we now know, the “scoop report” could scarcely have been more wrong, but it is easy to understand the reasons for their conjecture. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – Ford’s Valencia engine. A Curious Orange?”
Renault’s latest Megane Saloon is grand all right, but a coupé? We investigate.
The automotive landscape in the Republic of Ireland is broadly similar to that of the UK but there are, as one might expect, some exceptions. One of the notable ones, is a long-standing, if diminishing (according to my sources) preference for three volume saloons over hatchbacks. Of course, as Irish motorists increasingly follow their UK and European neighbours into crossover CUV’s, they’re discovering they’re being sold hatchbacks by stealth. Continue reading “Well isn’t it Grand for Some?”
A little while back I mentioned I’d take a look at the GMC brand to see what it was all about.
So, I threw some coal into the furnace and got my computer (an Osborne portable) up and running.
The GMC range is divided into two groups: trucks in one groups and cross-overs and SUVs in the other. The truck range has two basic models dressed up to appear like eight. The Canyon and the Sierra form the core truck range, starting at $21,000 for the Canyon, and $28,000 for the Sierra. Three sub-models form the Sierra range: 1500, 2500 and 3500 at $28,000 to $34,000 for the base models. To
Driven to Write looks in depth at the Fiesta’s development.
Lest it should pass un-noticed, January 2017 is the fortieth anniversary of the Ford Fiesta’s launch in the UK. Production at Ford Germany’s Saarlouis factory began in July 1976, with the core Almusafes plant coming on stream in October 1976, so the lucky continentals were introduced to the car a few months earlier. Continue reading “Compromise: On the road to Fiesta – Part 1”
From Panhard toBMW’s i-Series, Steve Randle talks cars – and bikes.
For a motor engineer constantly in pursuit of the next innovation, Steve Randle’s interest in older machinery proves a little disarming. These include a frankly enormous collection of road cycles. “Bicycles are about as close to perfect as it gets, they’re such delightful, elegant things. You can get help for drugs and alcohol but for cycling, nothing can be done.”Continue reading “Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part Two”
It’s not a Mondeo, I realised after 0.45 seconds. That someone sat in it may explain why I didn’t get any closer.
Aston Martin must choke when they see the Astony Mondeos that still ply the roads in moderate numbers. Aston Martin owners may feel there is no comparison – only an idiot of the first order would mistake a house-priced car for a nice-kitchen priced car. They delude themselves.
Aston planned to make the Rapide at Steyr in Graz, Austria but sales never met expectations. Ford knows why.
It might look like a stretched Peugeot 308 to you, but this was the finest PSA concept in years.
I’m somewhat amazed I’ve made it so far with this series. I’d expected hoards of irate Citroënistes burning effigies of me for having the nerve to make these (admittedly loose) connections, so either I’m on the right track or I should spend more time looking skywards for falling anvils.
Alfa Romeo have revealed the standard edition Stelvio soft-roader CUV raised hatch product.
Based purely on a careful glance of the publicity photos, the car radiates much less of a displeasing character than the full-on range-toppers that have been shown so far.
Much the same applies to the Alfa Romeo Giulia which, in its top-spec, looks slightly grotesque. In its standard form it’s nice enough. Turning to other brands, the AMG versions of Mercedes cars all overcook it. I would wager that if the AMG running gear was transferred to the body-shell of a base model the vehicle would even perform slightly better.
Over 100 years ago the inventor of the compression ignition engine died under mysterious circumstances. Too late however – his monster had been unleashed.
It’s recently been Christmas in the UK and round about that time, with the traditional Christmas dinner imminent, an inevitable jokey question is “does anyone really like brussel sprouts?”. Actually, I live with someone who does, so the answer is inexplicably “yes”. But far harder for me to accept is that there are people who actually like diesel engines – who prefer them to petrol ones. You could force feed me sprouts for a month and I could never even pretend to have any affection for the clattery, stinking, slippery product of Rudolf Diesel’s over-fertile mind. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – Playing the Fuel”
The Detroit Auto show is over for another year. What caught our eye? What hurt our eye?
Audi showed the 3.0 TFSI SQ5: a CUV. They also showed the Q8 concept, some kind of crossover but sized extra-large. It’ll be ideal for bringing 17 kg children to kindergarten in Chelmsford. Notably the grille has burst out of its frame and now the silhouette of the lamps is involved in the party, as if the engine and lights are expanding out from under the bonnet like a weird blossoming mechanical monster. At the back the lamps stretch the full width across the car. Note the A-pillar to wing which is a decisively retrograde step. It’s not flush as on Audis of old. There’s a hint of a stump of a boot at the back and the wheel arches feature another little articulation in case you didn’t notice the massive wheels. Continue reading “Armchair Guide to the 2017 Detroit Auto Show”
Speaking with engineer, Steve Randle these two words crop up a good deal, but if ‘brave and interesting’ describe the vehicles and engineering solutions that inspire him, it’s also a fairly accurate description of the man. With a career encompassing Jaguar, McLaren Cars – where he was responsible for the suspension, engine mounting system and dynamic package for the legendary F1 supercar – through to projects at his own engineering consultancy with clients as diverse as Bentley, JCB, Tata Motors, and the Ministry of Defence, Randle’s bushel has up to now been well hidden, to say nothing of the light therein. Continue reading “Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part One”
As Mr Editor Kearne said in his introduction to this month’s theme, compromise is inevitable in the motor industry. The trick is knowing where to apply it and where to not.
Ask any industry accountant and they will tell you that making cars and making money aren’t natural bedfellows. Margins are often small, the customer base fickle and, with relatively long development and production runs, like an oil tanker, once committed you don’t change direction easily. Of course there are exceptions, companies who through a combination of prudence, intelligence, excellence or maybe just fashion, are able to make a healthy profit, year after year, and even swallow up a few of the lacklustre performers in one or more of the above categories whilst they do. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – The Crucial Balance”
Almost twenty nine years ago, Toyota unveiled the Lexus LS 400 saloon, giving the European and US luxury car establishment the shock of their lives. That car, lovingly created by a skunkworks of Toyota’s brightest and best was beyond doubt the Honda NSX of luxury saloon cars; a gamechanger for the industry, a new benchmark.
Reading the tea leaves from Ireland’s 2016 car sales figures.
As some of you might have gathered by now, I find motor statistics quite absorbing. Okay, it’s often a little like tea leaf prophecy, but car sales figures can be revealing. However, since full-year European data is still pending, we’ll have to contain ourselves and make do with the Society of the Irish Motor Industry who’ve released statistics for January-December 2016. The Republic of Ireland market is small, but even so, 146, 672 new car sales is not to be sneezed at, especially as it shows a rise of 17.5% over that of the previous year. Continue reading “And Here Are the Results of the Irish Jury.”
About 15 years ago design rationalism enjoyed one of its occasional bouts of popularity. In a few cases the appliance of simple rules to simple shapes led to similar conclusions.
What we should be noticing in this slide show is the relation of the wing to the bumper and the treatment of the grille and bonnet. I noticed this originally because around about that time I occupied myself with a lamp design and without noticing how others did it arrived at something that looked very like the Fusion’s lamp. Continue reading “Convergences”
In 1847, a young man by the name of William Ford travelled with his parents and siblings from the tiny village of Ballinascarthy to the port of Queenstown (now Cobh) before making the perilous crossing to America as famine decimated their homeland of West Cork. The émigrés purchased a farm in Dearborn, Michigan and sixteen years later, a son, Henry was born. The rest as they say… Continue reading “Home Thoughts From Abroad – Ford 100 in Cork”
Looking for all the world like an enraged toddler, the 2017 Kia Picanto has this week shown its livid face to the world before the model’s World début at Geneva this March. Pictured here in range-topping GT-Line trim, the new car aims to underline the Korean brand’s latest, more aggressive mien. Continue reading “Wot You Lookin’ At?”