European Car Sales Increase for 19th Consecutive Month

European car sales rise 11% on strong demand for VW, Renault and FCA.

Car dealers at Goad Cadillac dealership in the 1960s. Image: blog.hemmings.com
Car dealers at Goad Cadillac dealership in the 1960s. Image: blog.hemmings.com

After what has seemed like most of a decade in the doldrums, European sales are growing again. It doesn’t feel like it but the increase in car sales is a trend almost two years old. 11% is quite a remarkable increase and reflects a number of factors, among which are a weak Euro and consumers eventually deciding to replace worn vehicles. The statistics were published by ACEA today.

Continue reading “European Car Sales Increase for 19th Consecutive Month”

Qoros Show A Drawing

The chief designer of Qoros, Martin Hildebrand, has revealed a drawing showing the style of the brand’s projected next car, the 2. Shades here of Hillman’s Benny Dohar, I feel.

2015 Qoros 2: big on wheels and short on details, small on themes. Image: Qoros
2015 Qoros 2: big on wheels and short on details, small on themes. Image: Qoros

The 2 will Qoros’ fourth model. The other three are the Qoros 3 hatchback, saloon and City (all essentially the same car tweaked). At present the firm is focusing on sales in China but has a small, experimental dealer network in Slovakia where 40 customers have been lured in. Continue reading “Qoros Show A Drawing”

Archive: “More T-Junctions, Vicar?”

DTW presents another look back at the archives of motoring writer Archie Vicar. This item appears to be a transcript from “Motorists and Motorism”, August 1975.

1975 Simca 1301: best car of Vicar´s week.
1975 Simca 1301: best car of Vicar’s week.

What a week and indeed what a summer it has been so far. In May I had a chance to sample Michelin’s tyres at a special “closed track” day at Silverstone. A Mercedes 240D and a Peugeot 504 LD served as test-beds for Michelin’s new all-weather radial tyres. Peugeot have thought to bring these diesel cars over as they have had enough experience selling them on the continent. Also, seems as if they don’t want to Continue reading “Archive: “More T-Junctions, Vicar?””

A Little More On Naming Systems

Yesterday I took Lincoln to task for their model name system. I argued that since all their models bar one had an MK prefix, that part served no purpose. Lincoln are not alone though.

2015 Cadillac line-up. Image: Cadillac.com
2015 Cadillac line-up. Image: Cadillac.com

Automotive News  report that Citroen is thinking of revising their own model nomenclature. Currently Citroen use a C prefix and this too is redundant. Unlike Lincoln’s fairly lame scheme, at least the MK might remind one of the glory days of Lincoln’s Mark-series, the Continentals. The C-system doesn’t even do that as it simply Continue reading “A Little More On Naming Systems”

The Resurrection Won’t Be Televised

Today, we examine rumours in the mainstream car industry that if accurate, could precipitate something quite unusual. Genuine surprise.

Anyone for for a spot of gravedigging? Image via craigqmonreals
Anyone for for a spot of gravedigging? Image via craigqmonreals

In a polarised landscape, the worst place to be is in the centre ground. This is as true of the mainstream motor industry as it is within politics, religion or even retail. Anyone not attempting to create upmarket brand extensions hopes to convince customers to pay more for their existing products. Others see the creation of new brands as the answer.  Continue reading “The Resurrection Won’t Be Televised”

Austerity Drive

Look at all my lovely buttons – so much choice, so little time!

My Head Hurts! Ford Focus ST
My Head Hurts! Ford Focus ST

From The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut : “The only controls available to those on board were two push-buttons on the centre post of the cabin – one labelled ‘ON’ and one labelled ‘OFF’. The ON button simply started a flight from Mars. The OFF button connected to nothing. It was installed at the insistence of the Martian mental health experts, who said that human beings were always happier with machinery they thought they could turn off.”

In a companion piece, I’ll shortly sing the delights of a car that entertains, but there’s another side to this. Cars have become complex, with lots of switches and touch-screen options. If you drive a modern car, do you use every option that is available to you? Do you even know every option?

Continue reading “Austerity Drive”

They Never Learn

Automotive News reports that Renault are going to replace the Laguna and Latitude with a single model. Fine. But they said something we have heard so many times before.

2007 Renault Laguna: the problem is not the styling.
2007 Renault Laguna: the problem is not the styling.

“Renault says the Laguna/Latitude replacement will have a more emotional styling.” The bulk of AN’s report details the statistics of the C-D segment. In brief: fewer sold than ever, Renault selling fewer again, losses. What the article doesn’t address is that the last Laguna lost customers due to its reliability problems and the current car did not get those customers back because it simply wasn’t special enough. Special doesn’t mean emotional.

As I never tire of repeating, Continue reading “They Never Learn”

The Hunt For a Green Car, Continued

Nothing turned up at Renault though their Clio has 13 colours**. Fiat made it impossible to find out what they had in under five minutes though their website looks nice. I could not be bothered….

2015 Citroen Cactus colour palette. Not very green.
2015 Citroen Cactus colour palette. Not very green.

Mazda have six colours for their new 2 but not a green. The red costs a remarkable €750 while the other colours are running at €450. White is the only colour that comes at €0. Citroen is another green-free zone. The DS5 which is a car for individualists comes in a range of colours limited to six, nearly all of which are some form of grey or black. I really believe that if they offered this car in banana, lime, strawberry and mustard it would Continue reading “The Hunt For a Green Car, Continued”

Finally, Something Good From Pininfarina

While The Truth About Cars was informing us on the business model of the Autolib concept, I was thinking about something else. 

Autolib electric per-per-mile rental cars in Paris, France. Image: Wikipedia. Give them some money, please. We all use Wikipedia so cough up. Thanks.
Autolib electric per-per-mile rental cars in Paris, France. Image: Wikipedia. Give them some money, please. We all use Wikipedia so cough up. Thanks.

This is some of what the Truth About Cars wrote: The technology involves lithium metal polymer batteries, developed by Bollore’s Blue Solutions. The batteries, which don’t need liquid electrolytes to store power, are not only lighter in weight than lithium-ion packs, but can be charged up to 3,000 times, and are stable at temps up to 338 F. No one else has gone for the technology thus far, however; Bollore invested €3 billion ($3.2 billion) over three years to develop the EVs and the battery technology now in use by his ventures.” Continue reading “Finally, Something Good From Pininfarina”

Are Things Warming Up? Hyundai’s New Colour Options

Ever since 1978 (Oct 4, 12.34 pm), the dominant colour range used in car interiors has been tending towards the cool: that would be grey, blue, black. 

2015 Hyundai i20 door.
2015 Hyundai i20 door.

Up until that time most manufacturers offered upholstery, carpet and plastic trim in colours such as ivy green, navy blue, light blue, orange-brown, mid-green, red, bordeaux (what the Truth About Cars insists on calling Bordello Red). I have been looking at colour lately and first noticed a more daring use of tans and browns in concept cars (the most concept-y aspect of most of them) and now this trend feeding into production car interiors. Here is my evidence: the new Hyundai i20. Continue reading “Are Things Warming Up? Hyundai’s New Colour Options”

Theme : Benchmarks – Lost In Translation

Let’s re-create a winner. What could go wrong?

Jaguar Presentation

Motoring history has many concepts and show cars that disappointed when they were turned into production models, but equally tantalising are the occasions when a manufacturer has looked back into its own history and tried to re-create one of its own supposed ‘classics’. This is sometimes commercially successful, sometimes critically successful, but those of us in the world of motoring who spend our time considering the automotive equivalent of fitting angels onto pin heads are usually frustrated. Here are some of my own personal disappointments and maybe a success or two.

Mini to MINI : Starting with an obvious one that produces greatly polarised opinions. The styling of Frank Stephenson’s relaunch MINI was a clever update on the original, not too slavish, with its own distinctive detailing and more than a hint of Aston Martin at the front, which made the point that this was not intended as a true successor to Issigonis’s peoples car. Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Lost In Translation”

A New frontier? Aston Martin’s DBX

Every so often, a concept car symbolises the crossing of an invisible line. Here’s one of them.

Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer next to the DBX concept-Geneva 2015 - image via motorauthority
You’d imagine they’d have found a jacket to fit him… Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer announces the DBX concept-Geneva 2015 – image via motorauthority

The Aston Martin DBX represents the best clue yet to the Gaydon-based marque’s future intentions. Aston Martin’s new CEO, Andy Palmer has stated a version of this car will be produced, telling the Telegraph last week; “The DBX is not an SUV, it’s an expression of a GT sports car; a DB crossing over into that usable space… it will be a five-door vehicle, and it won’t grow much bigger than the DBX.”  Continue reading “A New frontier? Aston Martin’s DBX”

The European D-Sector – So Long, Farewell…Sayonara

Having sniffed the exhaust pipes of the French and German marques within Europe’s D-segment, we make one last visit to wave a fond adieu to our friends from Japan. 

Toyota Avensis - get 'em while they're hot - image via infoziare
Toyota Avensis – get ’em while they’re still hot – image via infoziare

A facelifted Toyota Avensis bowed in at Geneva, featuring front-end styling eerily familiar to current Auris and Corolla owners. It probably represents the last opportunity to purchase one of these while they’re still warm because Toyota has broadly hinted that they may not replace the model once it breathes its last in a couple of year’s time. Continue reading “The European D-Sector – So Long, Farewell…Sayonara”

Theme : Benchmarks – A Random Selection From A Random Industry

Some Very Personal Benchmarks

Panhard 24

Since Simon has granted us the discretion to be reasonably subjective, I make no apologies for presenting a set of purely personal benchmarks, which I will make little attempt to defend with any objective data.  Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – A Random Selection From A Random Industry”

The European D-Sector – A German Perspective

The Passat is very much das auto in the European D-segment. We look at how everyone else is doing.

Image via autoblog
Passat 2015-style. Image via autoblog

With the strongest sales of all of the major European producers, German manufacturers remain hugely successful in the mainstream D-segment. Today, we delve below the surface to see if the figures tell the full story.
Continue reading “The European D-Sector – A German Perspective”

Who is the Second Largest Supplier to the Car Industry?

Here’s something interesting. Car and Driver reckon that the Mercedes C-class has the best automotive interior under $40,000. Let’s say that interior is not better than the one fitted to the S-class coupe.

Made by the same people who supply the Peugeot 508. Image: Faurecia.com
Made by the same people who supply the Peugeot 508. Image: Faurecia.com

Then consider the interior of the Citroen DS5 and while it’s nice enough it’s not stellar. Now visualise the interior (or much of it) for the Audi Q7. Audi interiors regularly get called the best in the business. Then sit inside the unremarkable Peugeot 508. What do the S-class, Q7, DS5 and Peugeot 508 have in common?

Continue reading “Who is the Second Largest Supplier to the Car Industry?”

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Laguna?

Last week we poked a stick at PSA’s sector-D saloon offerings to see if there was any life in them. Today we cast a glance towards their domestic rivals and ask how Renault can keep churning out Lagunas at a loss of around €3,500 a pop?

Renault-Laguna-2014.autompv
The 2014 Renault Laguna – image via autompv

Last year, Renault sold 16,019 freshly minted Lagunas across Europe and given it probably isn’t offered in too many markets outside the territory, that’s probably about as good as it got. What keeps Renault shooting themselves in both feet when on the face of things, more successful players are picking up sticks and leaving for good?  Continue reading “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Laguna?”

Production and design: EDAG´s research into additive manufacturing

Recently under the rubric of the Geneva Motor Show 2015, I mentioned the Light Cocoon concept car produced by the consultancy EDAG. This work highlighted the possibilities of additive manufacturing methods. Does it have a meaningful place in the future of car manufacture?

2014 EDAG Genesis
2014 EDAG Genesis

First, let´s find out a bit more about additive manufacturing. In contrast with standard mass production, additive production relies on building up material layer by layer using lasers to activate and bind particles together to the required shape. Lasers follow a path through a mass of granules and cause selected ones to fuse. The path is defined by a mathematical model generated using CAD programmes. Other additive methods use extrusions of hot plastic laid down in layers. Again, the layers are defined by CAD data. The key thing is that material is addded and not removed. (Sculpture using stone is subtractive manufacturing, so is wood turning.) In automotive production the methods used to make thing usually involve stamping where a flat sheet of metal is pressed into the required shape using a specially made one off tool. In moulding processes a liquid is introduced to an empty form and takes up the shape of the tool. In both cases the CAD data is mediated by costly forms or dies which need to be milled slowly from tough materials. These are usually finished (polished) by hand to

Continue reading “Production and design: EDAG´s research into additive manufacturing”

On The Outside Looking In: French Cars In America

The roll of call of great French cars is almost the same as the roll call of French cars that have failed to generate anything but legends of unreliability and weirdness in North America.

Not on sale in the US, the facelifted Peugeot 208.
Not on sale in the US, the facelifted Peugeot 208.

The DS, the SM, the 604, the Renault 5 (known as “Le Car”) and the Peugeot 405. Yes, French cars have not been a great success in North America but a dedicated group of automobile enthusiasts still have a fascination for them.

The leading site for news of cars North Americans can’t buy if they live in North American is French Cars in America. The site carries articles about developments among the French marques plus pages on matters more historical. Ahead of PSA, FCIA gives the DS label Continue reading “On The Outside Looking In: French Cars In America”

Marketing Wisdom From Cadillac

Car and Driver carried an interview  with Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac’s marketing boss. He said a few surprising things.

2007 Cadillac DTS

As an industrial designer by training, I noted that Ellinghaus is tired of what are called “personas”.  These are stereotypical identities that embody the essential character of a vehicle’s target customer. For a Ford Fiesta the persona was probably a female, aged 25-35 with an urban lifestyle and perhaps one or two children.  The designers were told to imagine this person when creating the car’s look and feel. All car companies use these strategies.

Continue reading “Marketing Wisdom From Cadillac”

Danish Car Sales For January 2015

What are the Danes buying? In at number 20 in January is the Kia Rio. What else?

2015 Kia Rio: one of Denmark´s most popular car (20th most popular). It outsold the BMW 3-series anyway.
2015 Kia Rio: one of Denmark´s most popular car (20th most popular). It outsold the BMW 3-series anyway.

First, they are buying small cars. The VW Golf and Peugeot 308 are the largest cars in the top ten and the top spot goes to a sub-B car, as does position 6 and 7. Secondly, Danes are buying the latest thing. The Peugeot 108’s cousin the Aygo has been on sale for six months or so and buyers have Continue reading “Danish Car Sales For January 2015”

How Well is Nissan’s Pulsar Doing?

Not as well as the Qashqai but the Qashqai has outsold the Ford Focus in January 2015.

2015 Nissan Pulsar
2015 Nissan Pulsar

According to Nissan UK, the Qashqai cross-over/softroader has achieved sales of 19,500 units. The Pulsar has shifted 3,322 units in January. By comparison the Focus, (Ford’s evergreen mid-size family hatchback), does much better. Ford claim 14,500 vehicles sold. However, if we do not compare like with like, the Qashqai shows people are willing to Continue reading “How Well is Nissan’s Pulsar Doing?”

Another Niche Within a Niche is Filled: BMW Active Tourer 7-seater

The old shibboleths are invalid. Not only has BMW launched a five-seater, front drive hatchback, they now have revealed a 7-seater as well. Zafira watch out. BMW watch out too.

1983 bmw-733i-06 reworked

I think the doctored photo shows the 7-seater but I am not entirely sure. It probably doesn’t matter a whole lot. It’s very much just a car that was bound to happen. It isn’t hard to turn a five seater MPV into a 7 seater. This is the version of the car that has finally erased my core image of BMW which is a gleaming black 1986 528i (E12) with grey cloth and a manual transmission parked outside an ad agency on Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin. Now my core image of a BMW is

Continue reading “Another Niche Within a Niche is Filled: BMW Active Tourer 7-seater”

Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus? – Part Two

Driven to write concludes its examination of Jean-Marc Gales’ plans to save Lotus

evora tail

Many of Lotus’ apologists incline towards the view that Dany Bahar had the right basic idea, but was thwarted by DRB-HICOM’s lack of imagination. Unsurprisingly then, their view on Jean-Marc Gales appointment is of a similarly reactionary hue. Gales made a mess of PSA they contend, and will do likewise at Hethel. Leaving aside the steaming lake of ordure their spiritual leader left behind at Lotus for a moment, the question is worth considering. Is Gales the right man?

Continue reading “Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus? – Part Two”

Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus?

Part 1: Driven to write fixes its gimlet eye towards Jean-Marc Gales and asks if he has what it takes to transform Lotus’ fortunes in a post-Bahar era.

Lotus-Elise-S-Cup.automotivpress
Don’t mention the Bahar – Jean-Marc Gales with the team behind the Lotus Elise-S Cup. Photo via automotivpress

Four years ago at the Paris Motor show, Lotus attached a rocket to its back and aimed for the stars showing five audacious concepts. Rocketman, Dany Bahar, Lotus’ shamanic leader attained perihelion before learning a valuable, if rather messy lesson in physics. Bahar told The Telegraph recently he in fact never intended making all five concepts, his intention merely being “to make a lot of noise”. It clearly escaped his notice that it’s a lot easier and ultimately less time-consuming to just set fire to huge wads of cash in public. Just ask the KLF.  Continue reading “Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus?”

Death Has a Revolving Door: Here’s Borgward!

The coffin lid groans as the once lifeless corpse reanimates

borgward-geneva-motor-show-003-1

It was revealed earlier this week that Borgward, the long-dead German quality auto marque will announce their first new vehicle in over 50-years at this year’s Geneva Motor show. Borgward, who last produced cars in 1961, join Saab and Bristol amongst deceased marques making belated and in Saab’s case, serial comebacks from the grave.

Although amazingly, neither have as yet Continue reading “Death Has a Revolving Door: Here’s Borgward!”

Lovely, Lovely Numbers

Opinions are fragile things, aren’t they? Left alone and sheltered from the cold gusts of fact, they thrive but a few small bits of data can destroy them in an instant, like hail shredding the most tender of blossoms.

This is the only image of thsi car I could find that was not black-ish or white-ish.
This is the only image of this car I could find that was not black-ish or white-ish.

The ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association) released data for car sales in 2014 recently. Automotive News made a bit of a meal of the matter of who would take next-to-top spot. Would it be Renault, Opel or Ford who will take the number two position in the future? At the moment Ford holds this honour, with just under a million cars sold. GM, perhaps because one or two models are below par, sold a bit less again. But that part of the story, the cars-as-sports story, didn’t really interest me so much as the way the numbers reset my expectation. Continue reading “Lovely, Lovely Numbers”

World Cars: Ford Eco-Sport

Automotive News reports that Ford’s Eco-Sport soft-roader/crossover has not been a success in the European market. Is it an example of world cars only selling in parts of the world?

Too chunky for us. 2014 Ford Eco-sport.
Too chunky for us. 2014 Ford Eco-sport.

The Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and the Opel Mokka all sold remarkably better than the Eco-Sport. How well? For every eco-sporty vehicle Ford sold, Renault sold 13 and a bit Capturs. Additionally, Peugeot sold 11 of their chrome-laden machines and even more additionally, Opel shifted 10 Mokkas for every Ford that drove off the dealer’s yard.

That means for each little Continue reading “World Cars: Ford Eco-Sport”

Customerless Car Companies 2

Further to the article about driverless cars, I’d like to draw your attention to Bosch’s path towards driverless cars.

1958 driverless car

According to Automotive News the four main steps are as follows:

• Integrated highway assist: In 2017, the vehicle would travel up to 75 mph on the highway, remaining within its lane, while the motorist keeps his eyes on the road. Continue reading “Customerless Car Companies 2”

Customerless Car Companies

Newspapers are interesting. You can pick up a sheaf of pulped wood and read articles about all sorts of fascinating topics. Just the other day I read a small piece about driverless cars. This made me wonder about two things.

2015 Mercedes Benz customerless car concept. Note the horrible melange of anti-urban architecture in the background. Let´s get out of here.
2015 Mercedes Benz customerless car concept. Note the horrible melange of anti-urban architecture in the background. Let’s get out of here.

The article I read (in the International New York Times) reported how last Monday at the International CES, a large trade show themed on technology, Dieter Zetsche showed off Mercedes Benz’s vision of a driverless car. Zetsche described the car as a sort of “luxury carriage” that could provide a peaceful and pleasant space for its passengers. Continue reading “Customerless Car Companies”

The Private Buyer Is Dying Off [Exclamation Point]

That’s the tabloid-style scare headline for this topic. The sensible, broadsheet-style headline would be “Fleet buyers to dominate in car market”.

Not enough people want this sort of thing. 1978 Opel Senator's rich ambience.
Not enough people want this sort of thing. 1978 Opel Senator’s rich ambience.

According to Automotive News (who posted this story on Saturday, Jan 10th – do they never rest?) Renault are to bank on fleet sales as the proportion of private customers decreases relative to corporate ones: “Renault hopes its new Espace will appeal to business customers as family buyers increasingly shun minivans”. Furthermore, AN reports that “Jamel Taganza, an analyst for Inovev, said fleet customers now represent the majority of potential buyers of midsize vehicles in Europe: ‘With the exception of Italy, the shift to fleet sales is a European-wide trend,’ he said”. Continue reading “The Private Buyer Is Dying Off [Exclamation Point]”

Renewed Joy for Honda?

Honda has launched a new H-RV, but where’s the joy?

2015 HR-V photo via carsreleased.com
2015 HR-V photo via carsreleased.com

Honda will shortly launch its new compact crossover contender to rival the likes of the Nissan Juke and its all-conquering Renault Captur sibling. It is, as one can reasonably expect, spectacularly unadventurous in appearance and technical specification. In fact, there is a very good chance that the HR-V (as Honda has named it) will prove to be a virtually invisible piece of street furniture when it lands in a town near you later this year.  Continue reading “Renewed Joy for Honda?”

Trompe Le Mondeo

A Mondeo in drag? Driven to write examines Jaguar’s ‘much-loved’ X-Type to establish whether there is more to it than this shopworn pejorative might suggest.

Jaguar X-Type
Image credit: (c) carpixel

It’s probably accurate to say that the X-Type essentially bankrupted Jaguar. Certainly, the Ford-owned carmaker never recovered from the losses incurred by the X400 programme. According to a study carried out by financial analysts, Bernstein Research, Jaguar lost €4600 on every X-Type built – a net loss amounting to over €1.7 billion. Allow that to sink in for a moment.

Given that it remains the best-selling Jaguar to date with 362,000 produced over an 8-year lifespan, the reasons behind the X-Type’s failure and subsequent pariah status remain a matter of Continue reading “Trompe Le Mondeo”

A Review of the Automotive Year 2014

DTW takes a look back at the motoring year and boils it down to a manageable lump. It must be admitted a lot has happened in the US and Asian markets as well, but we’ll look mostly at European happenings.

2015 Volvo XC90
2015 Volvo XC90

Off the top of my head, this year’s big news events were related to Fiat Chrysler Automotive’s ongoing struggle to revive their business. Part of this has involved spinning off Ferrari and the departure of Luca di Montezemolo. Honda is grappling with a serious problem with failing airbags, a story which is still unfolding. GM has had a cross-brand PR disaster with its ignition switch problem that has been linked to 13 deaths. Continue reading “A Review of the Automotive Year 2014”

Trompe Le Mondeo (Part 1)

Driven to write looks back at Jaguar’s ‘much-loved’ X-Type and asks whether it was it simply a Mondeo in drag or something a little more nuanced?

Jaguar-X-type_2794124b
Jaguar X-Type. Image uncredited

It’s probably accurate to say that the X-Type essentially bankrupted Jaguar. Certainly, the Ford-owned carmaker never recovered from the losses incurred by the X400 programme. According to a study carried out by financial analysts, Bernstein Research, Jaguar lost €4600 on every X-Type built – a net loss amounting to over €1.7 billion. Allow that to sink in for a moment.

Given that it remains the best-selling Jaguar to date with 362,000 produced over an 8-year lifespan, the reasons behind the X-Type’s failure and subsequent pariah status remain a matter of Continue reading “Trompe Le Mondeo (Part 1)”

Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class

Mercedes’ new W222 S-Class is decimating its European and Asian rivals. A renaissance for a declining sector or the final gasp? Driven to write investigates.

The All New Mercedes-Benz S-Class (2)

The S-Class is the quintessential Mercedes and the centre of gravity around which the entire Stuttgart-Untertürkheim behemoth pivots. None more so than today’s W222 series; which if current sales are a reliable barometer, is shaping up to be the fastest selling iteration in the model’s history. Continue reading “Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class”

Death’s Revolving Door: More Saab/NEV News

The rumours discussed earlier this month that Mahindra might be about to step in and invest in NEV (“the troubled Swedish car maker” in journalese) are nearing confirmation.

More interior room than a Rolls-Royce, so said the advertising copy. (1986 Saab 9000).
More interior room than a Rolls-Royce, so said the advertising copy. (1986 Saab 9000).

Automotive News reported. Their news came from the Financial Times. The article said that “Mahindra wants to acquire the remnants of Saab to accelerate its expansion into Western markets and into premium and electric cars”. Mahindra is slated to take a controlling stake in National Electric Vehicle. Continue reading “Death’s Revolving Door: More Saab/NEV News”

Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up

Despite well-publicised woes, Fiat is actually doing decent business in the lower reaches of the European market, with 2014 sales figures suggesting a recovery – well, of sorts…

500m

European car sales figures from Jan-September 2014 illustrate an unexpected bright spot at FCA’s beleaguered Fiat division. It’s not much to write home about, but the former Torinese powerhouse is once again dominating the sub-compact car market. Between the top selling 500 and second placed Panda, Fiat have the mini-car sector sown up, with joint recorded sales of over 239,000 in the year to September. The 500 has performed well above expectations this year; especially so given the model’s age, with sales up 16% on 2013. The good news for Sergio continues with a small miracle occurring at Lancia. Continue reading “Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up”

Weekend Number Crunching: Renault

Renault’s November sales figures have been released. Good or bad or what? 

Among the 75% of smaller cars that make up Renault´s UK sales, is the Zoe.
Among the 75% of smaller cars that make up Renault´s UK sales, is the Zoe.

Renault UK released their latest sales figures on Wednesday. The headline, as they present it, is that their sales are still increasing, a 20 month upward trend. They make the point that their percentage change is ahead of the general market trend too. They sold 61,172 vehicles in the year to date, which is almost a 50% improvement on last year. 5,586 of those were sold in November.

The biggest contributor to this increase is probably the popularity of the Continue reading “Weekend Number Crunching: Renault”

Death’s Revolving Door is Now Spinning

They are digging up Saab again.

1980 Saab-Lancia 600
1980 Saab-Lancia 600

Automotive News has reported another turn of the swing door in Trollhattan. Those of you keen on re-gravedigging will have been following the death-rebirth-death-rebirth of Saab. At this point the cycle is akin to an automotive version of Buddhist re-incarnation except Saab keeps coming back as an about-to-die brand. The last news (May) was that some of Saab’s putative investors declined to throw more money into the open grave in Trollhattan and the stake was once again hammered into Saab’s turbo’d heart.  Continue reading “Death’s Revolving Door is Now Spinning”

Theme : Dashboards – Be Careful What You Wish For

Today a certain homogeneity has swept over automotive design, both inside and out.

1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d'Elegance
1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance

For a long time before this it was routine to mock the over-wrought interiors favoured by US luxury makers and here we have an example of what the target of this derision looked like. These days, while recognising that the 1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance is most likeable as an ironic statement, it is true to say one could miss the diversity in automotive design that was available then. For some people this was precisely what they wanted. Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – Be Careful What You Wish For”

The Turning of Tables: European Car Sales Grow in Korea

DTW has often noted that the Koreans, in the form of Kia and Hyundai, have been selling very competitive products in Europe. But what is happening with European cars in the Korean market?

2014 Renault Samsung SM7: not big in Europe.
2014 Renault Samsung SM7: not big in Europe.

The New York Times reported that Koreans will soon be spending more on imported cars than they earn exporting vehicles. The situation is not symmetrical. While mainstream European brands have probably lost most to the Koreans’ competitive edge, in Korean it is the “prestige” brands that have thrived. The main reason for the change in the mix of cars sold in Korea is a trade agreement dating from 2011. Additionally, Koreans are less shy about buying foreign cars. In the past a major disincentive was that foreign cars were often vandalised. Continue reading “The Turning of Tables: European Car Sales Grow in Korea”

Hideous Hides

Now that even modest compact cars can be equipped with stitched leather look for almost every surface imaginable, the upper echelons have to up the cow skin ante – to, in some cases, dubious effect.

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The recent troubles at Aston Martin have almost overshadowed an event that has become a bit of a rarity in recent times: the unveiling of a rather attractive car coming from Gaydon. The automobile in question, the Lagonda Taraf, is – despite its lavish grille – the most restrained and, it could be argued, tasteful design coming from Gaydon’s most prestigious car maker.

The Taraf’s surfacing is uncluttered, its detailing not overwhelming and the overall proportions are spot-on. An unexpected, yet welcome surprise, one might conclude – before setting sights on the Lagonda’s interior. Continue reading “Hideous Hides”

Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?

Sales of dropheads have halved. So is the convertible on the skids? 

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Nothing says ‘I’m living the dream’ like driving a convertible. There is no rational or practical reason behind it other than to demonstrate to the world you have reached a point of affluence, crisis or sheer devil-may-care indifference that can only be manifested by driving into a roseate sunset with a piece of inappropriate headwear wedged in place to prevent your hair being ruined. As pointless indulgences go then, convertibles are right up there with chocolate teapots.  Continue reading “Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?”

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)

Having looked at the issues besetting the mighty Volkswagen AG (VAG) recently in Part 1 – which can be read here – we can now try and shed some light on the depth of the problems and likely solutions. 

Today, the problem is that these cars are all on the verge of being replaced (or have already been replaced, in the Golf VI’s case). The new range taking their place will, even once the glitches related to MQB have been ironed out, not be as lucrative, with profit margins shrinking by as much as two thirds, compared with the Bernhard-era models. This should make future subsidising of models such as the Amarok pick-up (which is said to have a profit margin of -25%) with the Tiguan II’s yields considerably more difficult. Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)”

Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari

How much can a brand be stretched? Should Alfa Romeos carry an ‘engineered by Ferrari’ badge? Or shouldn’t Alfa’s engineering speak for itself?

Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying "Autocar" inside the test car.
Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying “Autocar” inside the test car.

While trawling other news sites, I read at Autocar  that Alfa Romeo’s forthcoming SUV will be based upon the Maserati Ghibli. That bit doesn’t surprise me so much as the remark that “….there have also been unconfirmed rumours that the top of the range Alfa engines will feature ‘developed by Ferrari’ sub-branding.” This has all the hall marks of an idea designed to appeal to Sergio Marchionne. It also reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi’s idea that Fiat could sell more cars by badging them as Maseratis. You might as well Continue reading “Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari”

Trading the Bloodstock – Ferrari’s Shock Sell-Off

But just how shocking is it really?

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The world’s least influential motoring blog we may be, but that doesn’t prevent Driven To Write being ahead of the curve every once in a while. Back in May, we took a detailed look at Sergio Marchionne’s plan for FCA’s turnaround, offering a hypothesis regarding its likely success – or otherwise.

Continue reading “Trading the Bloodstock – Ferrari’s Shock Sell-Off”

BMW’s Front Wheel Drive Hatchback

Just a few days ago I noted that we at DTW had not treated BMW to some of our ire. Here is some ire. Or something passing itself off as such.

2015 BMW hatchback
2015 BMW hatchback

The car above is the 2015 BMW 2-series “active tourer” which is a five-door, front-drive hatchback with a great deal in common with the 2011 Ford C-Max which is five-door, front-drive five seater hatchback (below) that sells for a lot less. And looks better. Continue reading “BMW’s Front Wheel Drive Hatchback”

JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 3

The limping cat: In this third part Driven to Write asks why Jaguar continues to under-perform in its most crucial market? 

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Despite the improvements that took place under Ford ownership and enhanced resources provided by Tata, Jaguar continues to seriously under-perform globally. According to JLR, Jaguar sales rose 13% year-on-year, retailing 49,656 vehicles in the calendar year to date and 6,069 in the month of July alone*. However these figures belie several more troubling factors. Jaguar sales in the once vital American market keep falling. Continue reading “JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 3”

JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 2

In the second part of our examination of JLR, we look at Land-Rover’s market stratification, Ford’s powertrain legacy and their less than stellar reliability record.

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Land Rover’s confused offering
JLR’s strategy with Land Rover is to stratify the brand into three distinct levels. Land Rover at entry level, Discovery as median level and Range Rover as upper level. However, at the time of writing, this distinction remains insufficiently clear. The newly announced 2015 Discovery Sport is a good example of this – appearing a little too akin to its Range Rover derivative, and suggesting there is work to be done to put some discernible distance between the individual marques. Until a new generation Defender is available, this strategy will continue to confuse customers, with the added problem that JLR have nothing to offer buyers trading from the outgoing Freelander model – unless they are prepared to dig considerably deeper into their pockets.  Continue reading “JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 2”