Despite arguably being the most gifted automotive engineer and manager of his generation, Prof Dr Wolfgang Reitzle would only ever enter the captain’s chair once he left the car industry for good.
It is one of automotive history’s more baffling paradoxes that a man of such undisputed talents as Wolfgang Reitzle never reached the post of chief executive at an automotive business. But as with a great many other high achievers, it actually was the same traits that had brought Reitzle so close to the apex that ultimately prevented him from arriving there.
Vélizy’s 1994 riposte to Renault was no masterpiece, but perhaps the best of a bad bunch. It’s not saying much, is it?
It’s relatively difficult to imagine now, but in the early 1990’s, the future was looking decidedly MPV-shaped. Particularly amongst European manufacturers, who were falling over themselves to get something vaguely monospace to market, following the creative and commercial success of the innovative Renault Espace. The MPV concept appeared to especially chime with the French motorist, who was generally characterised by preferring pragmatism over pretension. In 1991, Renault once again set the pace with the Scenic concept, but it wasn’t until 1994 that Art Blakeslee’s Citroën studio presented Xanae. Continue reading “In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Man Is King – 1994 Citroën Xanae”
Does the Golf have ten engines because VW believes it leads to increased sales (twice as many as the next most popular car)? Or does such huge sales volume mean VW can pamper its clientele like no clientele has been pampered before?
To answer this I needed to crunch some numbers. Statistical research of the most basic kind is very dull indeed. It does reveal some interesting things in return however. Such work is the reverse of golf, I think, which sport some say is fun to do but which is clearly boring to look at. In that spirit (“ah, look, the tassles are flying”) I decided to get stuck in and see what it takes to be in the top ten, engineswise. There was no point in hand-waving. Some maths had to be involved.
The opposing polarities of the double chevron are unlikely ever to be satisfactorily reconciled, but was this any way to go about trying?
There are those content to view Citroën’s role as being that of the pre-Traction Avant era: fundamentally a purveyor of pragmatic, rather ordinary cars. The earthbound Goddess of course (temporarily) put paid to such notions and forms the boundary for an opposing camp who view Citroën’s descent from those Olympian heights as being somewhere between tragedy and outright crime. So if the car we’re gathered here to commemorate today falls into the former category, how should we view it, twenty years later? Continue reading “Opposite of Avant – 1997 Citroën Xsara”
This week has seen the unveiling of Mercedes’ latest concept car, previewing the styling direction to be taken by the next generation of A-Class-series Mercedes models. Concept A was previewed earlier in the year with a conceptual sculpture and a toe-curling lecture by the blessed Gorden (sic) on how his signature design theme was evolving. Since then, he’s completed a glossy coffee table book in conjunction with Conde Nast, called “Sensual Purity: Gorden Wagener on Design” and is rumoured to be working with Eyna on a concept album to accompany it. Continue reading “Crease Is The Word – Vision A Unmasked”
As promised… a closer look at the new Suzuki Ignis.
These photos are very grey and very dank and really only serve to prove I did go to take a look at an Ignis with its wrapping still on. Curiously, all of the cars at the dealer had darkened rear windows so I could not see the interior properly.
Genesis have shown this concept car at the New York Auto show.
Some of the images are too smooth and bland to be anything but CGI so perhaps the car will look more substantial in the metal.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about articulation and ways designers show depth and substance on a form. Mercedes used to insist on big radii to express the thickness of the metal (you can’t bend thick sheet steel as tightly as thin stuff). Flushness suggest flimsiness as do sharp edges. I notice architects often bevel concrete and wood to make it look and be robust. The headlamps, tail-lamps and brightwork seem to lack this material thickness, especially the flush lamps. Continue reading “Genesis GV80 Design Notes”
Searching for your inner hero? This 1996 Peugeot concept had the key.
The same year the Pininfarina bodied 406 Coupe was first shown, Peugeot also displayed this, the Toscana concept. What the Sochaux-based motor company’s intentions were remains unclear, but whatever the intent, it cannot have been all that serious. With a bespoke body marrying key styling elements of the 406 saloon – nose treatment, rear lamps, body swage line – to a distinctly sci-fi canopy section, the Toscana was as frivolous a concept could be while still loosely based on a production model. If anything, it puts one in mind of some of GM’s Motorama concepts from the 1950’s – or indeed Adam West’s Batmobile. Continue reading “To the Batcave! – Peugeot 406 Toscana”
Hailed by Pininfarina as a celebration, Nautilus marked the final act in an unravelling relationship dating back to 1951.
The same year as 406 Coupe’s began leaving Pininfarina’s San Giorgio Canavese facility, the carrozzeria displayed Nautilus at Geneva; a concept for a full-size four-door luxury saloon, said by the coachbuilder to be “an exciting stylistic exploration of the high class sporty saloon, created as a tribute to our partnership with Peugeot.” But behind the scenes, this already souring relationship was entering its death throes. With Murat Günak appointed as Peugeot styling director in 1994, one of his first acts was to enlarge the styling team to bolster both numbers and influence; the aim being to further eclipse the Italian coachbuilder and favour the in-house team. Continue reading “Depth Charge – 1997 Pininfarina Nautilus”
A Suave Swansong. The 406 Coupé embodied values which had seen a Franco-Italian marriage survive and prosper for a generation. Sadly, it wasn’t to last.
At some unspecified point during the 1990’s something quite seismic took hold within Automobiles Peugeot. A profound cultural shift which saw a gradual jettisoning of not only the marque’s highly regarded engineering principles but also its reputation for dignified styling. Their long-standing association with carrozzeria Pininfarina was unravelling. PSA President, Jacques Calvet, believed to have been irked by the attention Patrick le Quément’s Billancourt studios were receiving, pressed Peugeot Style Centre chief, Gérard Welter for more visual excitement; a move which saw Welter poach rising star Murat Günak from Mercedes-Benz in 1994. Continue reading “Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé”
Alfa Giulia is available to own and steeling to give Gaydon’s finest a lash of its tongue. We look at how it’s faring against its sternest rival.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to spend a day around FCA towers? If only to truly discern the degree of reality evinced by the likes of Big Reidland et al. Because even the big fella must now realise the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are conclusively beyond reach. Last year, luxury sector leader, Mercedes-Benz shipped 176,038 C-Class badged vehicles to waiting customers across the European market alone. What hope for Alfa Romeo’s ambitions against those kind of numbers? Continue reading “Theme: Rivals – The Serpent and the Cat”
Made in Germany, this is the 2018 Buick Regal saloon.
We know this car already. It will be a curiosity in years to come, the Buick made by PSA but designed by GM. Of most immediate interest is that it will be sold as hatchback (is this Buick’s first since the Skyhawk?) and as an estate, the first Buick long-roof since the Roadmaster of 1995. Given that large, agile station wagons have something of a cult appeal (brown, with manual transmission is best) this is a good move. The question is whether the buyers of Volvo, Mercedes and Subaru estates want a Buick estate?
As promised here is a small snippet on a special edition you may have missed.
Quite coincidentally, Jimi Beckwith at Autocropley has been musing about the subject. Dreamcar.dk reported the momentous news of the Nissan Micra Elle as follows (in Nov 2012): “Nissan and the world’s most popular fashion magazine, Elle, have joined forces to develop a special edition of the popular city car, the Micra. The goal for both partners is to
Honda, Honda, Honda. The 2016 Honda Civic has only started to appear on the streets of my ‘hood. Goodness.
This is not that, if that is a clean-surfaced, reserved and neat hatchback. This is a vehicle inspired by science-fiction films and military chic. And maybe Lamborghini.
If you were weaned on received wisdom, as I was, Alfa Romeo was making a come back any minute now and Honda had pensioners propping up the customer base. As of 2005´s model, the eighth generation, Honda showed they did not want coffin dodgers in their showrooms. I liked that car – it did mad with a bit of restraint and had a Citroen-loony interior. Thereafter Honda has kept on pouring more and more Red Bull and LSD in the designers’ cappucinos so that they would Continue reading “Beyond Butch”
This diagram is a timeline of the Suzuki Cultus, Ignis and Swift.
The period of confusion is 2000 to 2008 when the Ignis appeared and was sold as the Swift, in Japan, replacing the Cultus. Suzuki produced two generations of Ignis: 2000 to 2004 and 2003 to 2008. In Europe the Swift appeared in 1988, the same as the car known in Japan as the Cultus. I don’t think we got the first generation. In Europe the Ignis and Swift overlapped from 2004 to 2008. Continue reading “As Promised”
For years now, Lexus has stared enviously at Mercedes-Benz, hoping to emulate its success. Tired of second fiddle, is ‘the gentleman’ flinging his values on the fire?
Last year, a former Browns Lane insider described the advent of the 1989 Lexus LS 400 to me as being “chilling in every respect”. One can be equally sure that in Munich, Ingolstadt and Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, the intake of breath was no less sharp and the expletives no less lurid. That Lexus subsequently failed to achieve global cut-through over the intervening decades remains a matter for historians and academics to pick over, because the auguries at the time suggested Toyota would annihilate the opposition. Continue reading “Sexing-Up Lexus”
I mentioned recently that futile pushing movement a driver makes in their seat as they try to coax an underpowered car to gain, or even maintain, speed. What they really need is a magic switch.
When I was a kid, many Jaguars had a small switch, set high up on the dashboard, between the steering wheel and the driver’s door. Depending on the model, this might either be labelled ‘Overdrive’ (in my memory a transparent toggle) or an ‘Intermediate Speed Hold’ (a black toggle). As a child I didn’t differentiate, or even question what the difference was, it just seemed like a magic go-faster button that the drivers could flick at will. Continue reading “BOOOOOST!”
It’s happening now: the Mk2 Mondeo is slipping away.
Ever since I showed a Mitsubishi Galant (last version) I have wanted a good, clear photo of a Mk2 Mondeo for comparison. They’ve been thin on the ground and most have been hatchbacks or estates. This can be interpretted as the fact they are being taken out of circulation. This banal photo shows a rarity in the making. The last ones are reaching 160,000 miles and ending their planned service life. Continue reading “Public Service”
Carrying on our look at the exhibits in the Louwman Museum, we consider a rarity, a car manufactured by a city.
China’s first production car was built by the Shanghai City Power Machinery Manufacturing Company. Supposedly a copy of the 1954 ‘Ponton’ Mercedes 220, on actual viewing the Shanghai SH760 seems to have been copied through the wrong end of a telescope. Its introduction in 1958 as the Fenghuang (Phoenix) coincided with the start of the odious Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and this was the car that lower ranking officials might have toured the country in whilst implementing the Chairman’s ill-informed industrial and agricultural schemes. Later on, as long as they weren’t too ‘intellectual’, these same officials might have monitored progress of the Cultural Revolution from the seats of a Shanghai. A probably conservative 40 million deaths from starvation, murder and suicide later, the SH760 was still in production. Continue reading “Louwman Museum II : 5 Year Plan / 35 Year Production”
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 “Taking 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