Mercedes-Benz contemplates euthanising the X-Class. Good.
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.
We’re pleased to welcome another reader turned author. Andrew Miles makes his DTW debut.
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”
Analysts Bernstein Research rediscover a lost art, but in doing so have they shifted the paradigm?
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”
Just how resilient is a strong brand? BMW are in the process of finding out.
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 lessons of history are fated to be repeated – endlessly.
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”
As BMW makes plans for Gran’s early demise, we ask what (if any) meaning there is to be derived from it all.
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”
Ian Callum is leaving his ‘dream job’. We examine the possible motives.
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.
Driven to Write is pleased to welcome a new contributor from the world of automotive design, Matteo Licata. Today, he talks interiors.
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”
Now the fine powdered debris has settled, I thought I’d gather up some third party opinions on the mooted Renault/FCA merger.
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”
Ian Callum has left Jaguar design. Time to reflect on his achievements.
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”
What happens when a subspecies falls prey to evolutionary overspecialisation? The 2008 Ford Flex is what happens.
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”
Unusually for the company, BMW’s large coupés have traditionally been rather fickle creatures.
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?”
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 backroom boys under the eyes of an unsympathetic boss.
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”
On the surface of things, the facelifted Audi A4 is an entirely predictable product action, but what it symbolises could be far more momentous.
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”
While we await events or at least someone to quack the story, we speculate upon the probabilities surrounding a possible PSA / JLR marriage.
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”
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.
As we await the newest iteration of VW’s bestseller, we examine what opposition it will face.
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.
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.
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.
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”
As reports emerge that Ford is preparing to study KA no more, we try to sound upset.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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”
Understanding the background to Jaguar’s 1979 annus horriblis.
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”
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.
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.
Your faithful reporter ate lots of nibbles and drank plenty of cappuccino so you don’t have to.
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”
Everybody appreciates a grafter, but some people really ought not bother.
Earlier in the week we sampled an array of Palexpo hopefuls, but a hapless confluence of waifs and strays remain for us to consider. These generally fall into distinct categories – once-storied nameplates seeking to demonstrate renewed relevance, reanimated marques exhumed from the grave attempting to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – The Hopeless”
DTW’s Geneva coverage in conjunction with Auto-Didakt continues with a stroll through hypercar valley.
Geneva has traditionally been a shopfront to all manner of low-volume fantasy-merchants, but given the explosion of what journalists are fond of calling high net worth individuals, a growing cohort of dream factories have emerged to cater to their increasingly specific needs, wants and hitherto unrealised desires.
A of course stands for Aston Martin and the storied purveyor of superspy conveyances arrived at Geneva with a brace of hyper-concepts and near-production cars. Perhaps most convincing, if grindingly predictable being the Vanquish concept, having undergone a radical mid-engined makeover. A production version is allegedly being readied to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – The Hopeful”
Today, our Geneva correspondent casts a horrified gaze over some of the more polarising Palexpo fare on offer. [Text amended and additional images added – March 8. 13.40 GMT]
For centuries, monsters and myths have been for the most part, indivisible in our consciousness. We console ourselves that it’s the latter rather than the former which represents the true state of affairs, but in this, as with so many fondly-held assumptions we are mistaken. Ogres truly walk amongst us, and as alarming as that prospect may be to those of us of a more sensitive nature, we are fortunate that our Hamburg correspondent is on hand to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – What’s That Coming Over the Hill?”
Searching for the state of the art amid the vanguard of the EV revolution at the Palexpo with Auto-Didakt’s Christopher Butt.
If there is a leitmotif for Geneva 2019, it is electrification; Audi for instance making much of the fact that they have no combustion engined offerings on show at all, the entirety of their Palexpo fare being in some way (ahem) amplified. Illustrating a notable keenness to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – Watt’s Goin’ On?”
Our man in Geneva reports from Battista’s official reveal.
Pininfarina S.p.A has adopted many alternative identities over its 89-year lifespan. Not simply the World’s most famous and acclaimed Italian coachbuilder and design consultancy, but also contract manufacturer – building cars for the likes of Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Peugeot amongst others, and now it would seem, a carmaker in their own right.
We perambulate the Palexpo press days in the company of Auto-Didakt’s Christopher Butt. [Revised and updated with additional text and images – Friday 8. March 12.50 GMT]
At last year’s Geneva show, our man on the ground lauded Mazda’s Kai concept in lavish terms, suggesting that we would shortly see something very similar in production form. One year on and his claims we can see were not idle ones; the new 3 hatchback (and to a lesser extent, its saloon counterpart, cleaving faithfully to the concept. “It’s one helluva statement car,” our correspondent tells us – “everything the A-Class tries to be but isn’t.”
A new Defender will be announced later this year. But is the case for it already holed beneath the waterline?
Some plans are simply better left in the realm of theory. One means of establishing this is to interrogate the fundamental necessity of the task, not to mention the level of enthusiasm that exists for both it and its likely conclusion – assuming a destination point has first been plotted. But some projects exert such a strong emotional pull that even if they fail the basic due diligence, the urge to Continue reading “England Expects”
Are we witnessing the slow demise of the inexpensive citycar?
Had one been in possession of a crystal ball back in 2009 I’m not sure anyone would have believed predictions for where the motor industry would be placed only a decade later. It would simply beggar belief and yet here we are, still hoping for the best. But the news just keeps on worsening.
As Jaguar’s Wayne Burgess hefts his amp and packs his guitar case, we ask, is his departure part of a broader trend?
Something is afoot within the European motor industry and in particular, amidst the more creative end of the spectrum. What began as a slow drip is becoming a steady flow as more and more senior design staff depart from secure, well remunerated positions at established carmakers in favour of (for the most part), Chinese upstarts or indeed, start-ups.
Amid the blatant insecurity current betrayed by German car design, BMW dares to make a bold statement with the facelifted 7 series.
For quite some time, the German ‘premium’ car makers – and BMW in particular – have attracted criticism for brand dilution, creative brain drain and the overall loss of aesthetic values. One of the overriding points being made was a lack of bold, assured decision making – a lack of ‘vision’, if one chooses to describe it as such.
With the recent unveiling of the significantly overhauled BMW 7 series luxury saloon, the Bavarian brand now dramatically changes course, attacking the naysayers head-on. For what this Siebener unquestionably constitutes is a very bold statement indeed. Continue reading “Fur-Q”
A yellow Cactus in an underground setting sets your correspondent off into futile reveries of austerity motoring.
Towards the latter part of the 1980s, I can recall taking the view that Citroën was missing an opportunity to (in)directly replace the 2CV by introducing a pared-back version of the Visa, powered by the 602cc flat twin and featuring perhaps a full length sunroof. It wouldn’t have been the same as the beloved tin snail of course, but might have extended the life of the concept beyond the point where collision and emissions regulations killed-off the Deuche or any chance of a more sympathetically developed successor.
There is a light festival taking place in Copenhagen right now. That’s a valuable reminder of lighting, among the most uncertain aspects of design.
Last night as I wandered around the vicinity of Christiansborg Castle, a bright green laser beam divided the sky. The beam stopped on the spire of St Nikolai’s church, a shimmering emerald hue, and it made me imagine Dr Evil demonstrating the power of his laser to destroy ancient buildings unless the Danes paid out one…million…kronor. I mention this because I very much want to Continue reading “Do Want Your Liver Back, Clever Man?”
In the 21st century, common knowledge dictates that a car brand has to please everyone in order to succeed. Thankfully however, Mazda appear to disagree with this assessment.
Mazda’s most recent concept cars don’t photograph well.
What may sound like a negligible statement has, in fact, significant subtext. For in this day and age, photos are everything. In terms of marketing, appearances have never been of greater importance. In the age of the internet, social media et al, the word has lost most of its value to the image. So when food is judged by its looks rather than taste, car makers could be forgiven for making their cars, and concept cars in particular, not so much eye as phone camera candy. Continue reading “Kodo Arrigato”
A group of high-profile designers have left BMW’s design studios over the past few years. Time to assess whose loss turned into whose gain.
This photo, taken in about 2006, depicts BMW Group design at the height of its creative powers. Unlike giants such as Ford, GM or VAG, BMW achieved the seemingly impossible in running each of the company’s core brands (BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce) as a creatively self-sufficient unit. For that reason, a Mini didn’t come across like a de-contented BMW, nor did anybody mistake a Rolls-Royce for a tarted-up 7 series. Every BMW brand’s design possessed its own set of stylistic rules and values.
More than a decade later, none of the people depicted in the photo are in charge any more – apart of course from Adrian van Hooydonk, who’s been running BMW Group’s design fortunes for a decade this year.
The last two years of that reign have been somewhat overshadowed by an unprecedented creative drain though – unprecedented not just regarding BMW Group, but within the industry as a whole. With the Bavarians’ stylistic fortunes currently shrouded in controversy, it would appear to be the right time to Continue reading “Life After Munich”
The matter to which we turn our attention today is the Chinese car market, which (and I burn with shame to admit this) for the most part has remained a matter of supreme indifference to me. This is a frightful dereliction of duty on my part; I ought, as one of DTW’s editorial team to Continue reading “The Magic of Stones”
“A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming”. Rounding out the Waltz for 2018.
Tempting as it might be to dwell on the negatives, of which there were many; Vietnam, politically motivated assassinations, student riots, the polarisation of race relations, but 1968 wasn’t entirely the unremitting grimfest it might appear in retrospect.
Directed by Frenchman, Roger Vadim with a knowing screenplay by Terry Southern (Dr Strangelove, Easy Rider), and based on Jean-Claude Forest’s cult comic strip, 1968’s Barberella provided some light relief, melding science fiction, titillation, comedy and high camp on a scale perhaps never previously committed to celluloid. (Although 1980’s fevered Flash Gordon remake potentially runs it close). Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1968 – 41 Century Girl”
More than five decades after the incident, Borgward’s dramatic bankruptcy is retold in dramatic fashion.
Carl F W Borgward is driving his wife in a Hansa 2400 saloon along a deserted stretch of b-road when he hears that the end for the company bearing his name has come over the radio. He immediately stops the car, gets outside and gasps for air, staring into nothingness.
This is the not particularly subtle introduction into Die Affäre Borgward (The Borgward Affair), a tv movie about the downfall of Germany’s then fourth largest car maker, which was first broadcasted in January 2019. The somewhat fragmented narrative is divided into story strands about Carl Borgward himself, Borgward’s Insolvenzverwalter, Dr Johannes Semler, the goings-on inside Bremen’s senate and, because no German tv movie can Continue reading “(Film) Review: The Borgward Affair”
A couple of experiences recently have got me thinking somewhat more philosophically over the last few days and I wondered what others thought?
First, I was reading a certain car related website where there was an update from a long term test of the latest Audi A8. It featured thoughts on the latest headlamp technology which had been fitted as an option on that model. It struck me how ‘clever’ the technology actually was, and then also the scale of investment in R&D and production engineering which must have gone into bringing it to market. The cost of the option left me open mouthed, £4,900. I mean, not so long ago, one could Continue reading “Too Much of a Good Thing?”
As we complete our retrospective of 1998, we ponder air and water.
Not simply one the World’s busiest airports, but amongst the most challenging from a pilot’s perspective, Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport had by the 1990s become something of a liability. Situated in the heavily built-up Kowloon district, the technically difficult approach over mountains and city skyscrapers not only looked and felt alarming, but the abrupt banked descent to the single runway in Victoria Harbour required both nerve and experience.
The World’s largest airport terminal building when it officially opened in 1998, the newly built Hong Kong International airport at Chek Lap Kok put paid to the hair-raising sight of 747’s skirting the tips of the Hong Kong skyline. Built on a reclaimed island in the South China Sea, flights into the Kowloon Peninsula became a good deal less dramatic and a whole lot more frequent.