This is also conveniently part of my Looking Back series.
We can begin by looking at this little film by Doug deMuro. I have to say I like the chap’s presentation mode. It is very cheerful in a way the Americans do very well. It avoids Hammond’s cheeky chappy style and Clarkson’s tucked in chin. The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius both went on sale in 2000, showcasing the idea that you could mix an electric and petrol system to Continue reading “Theme: Hybrids – 2000 Honda Insight”
Is the four-door coupé already out of road, or is it just crossing over?
Automotive niches interest me because they represent the closest thing manufacturers come to risk taking. Take the four-door coupé segment for example. I’ve puzzled over this sector’s viability ever since Mercedes-Benz introduced the CLS-Class a decade ago. After all, it hasn’t necessarily set the automotive world alight, has it? Apart from Mercedes, who have we got? Audi has the A7, BMW the 6-Series Gran coupé, Porsche offers the Panamera and VW the CC. That’s pretty much your lot. Common strand? Yes, they all hail from German manufacturers, which does add up to a somewhat one-dimensional bandwagon. Continue reading “Crossroads for the Four Door Coupé”
This is the only car in this series still in production. Why might that be?
Well, progress at this level is slow. Or maybe you believe Rolls Royce who say customers don’t want change to be too frequent. When the coachwork was revised in 2012 R-R said: “Our customers don’t want a new car coming to market too often,” said Richard Carter , Rolls-Royce’s communications director. Or rather, after stumping up more than a third of a million pounds, they don’t want their cars looking out of date when the Mark II version is launched” (wrote the Telegraph in 2012). A quarter of a million pounds sterling. Almost six metres long. So tall you can’t Continue reading “Looking back: 2003 Rolls Royce Phantom”
As Porsche’s 2016 Panamera gets beach body ready, will edition 2.0 secure Michael Mauer’s legacy?
Auto Industry Management 101 states all car bosses must speak only in soundbites, remain resolutely on-message and above all, never badmouth the product. Especially product customers can still purchase new at their local dealer. All of which appears to have escaped Porsche MD, Matthias Muller’s notice at last September’s Paris motor show. With Porsche’s hunchbacked Panamera saloon a good 18 months shy of being taken to a quiet piece of woodland and whacked over the head with a shovel, Continue reading “Madness into Method”
As we get news of another relaunch, we ask who buys sportcars any more?
Although TVR ceased production of cars nine years ago, under then owner Nikolay Smolensky, it never really died, it just seemed to be asleep. Someone, somewhere was always hinting at its imminent awakening. This year’s announcement, with Gordon Murray and Cosworth involved, seems the most credible and substantial to date. But, however good the product, if most of its targeted customers live in Europe, as with previous TVRs, will it succeed, or has the world changed too much whilst it slept? Continue reading “Is The Everyday Sportscar Dead?”
Pistonheads, Autocar and The Truth About Cars have reported that TVR, under new management, is taking orders for 2017 delivery.
I had forgotten about TVR. In the 90s it was a favourite of the motoring press for its outrageous styling, in-house engines and aggressive performance. The two things you noticed about TVRs were that their drivers looked like they were having fun or they were waiting for the AA. Continue reading “TVR Is Coming Back To Life; Deposits Being Taken”
Here is the new (or revised?) Audi A4. Audi stresses the car’s athletic proportions which you’ll need a measuring tape to determine for yourselves.
The Avant is keeping its raked D-pillars to deter Volvo customers (or Skoda Superb customers). The vehicle is 4.73 metres long and has a 2.82 metre wheelbase. I will have to do a comparison later. The vehicle is a modest 15 kilos lighter, or about as much as a person can carry home by hand from the supermarket. Not much at all. Audi claim a cd of 0.23 which is the best in the class, with knock on benefits for interior peace. Continue reading “The 2016 Audi A4 Revealed”
My intention was to ask readers which extinct car brand they would like to see back in production. My preference is for Alvis. Interestingly, Alvis is not as dead as I thought.
My one caveat was that it ought to be a brand dead for more than 20 years so we can avoid regretting Rover, Pontiac, Austin, Morris and Oldsmobile, Citroen**, Lincoln**, Saab and Saturn. For example. Alvis are back in the business of car production. They have hit upon the wheeze of completing an unfinished run of cars from 1940. “There is evidence from the 1938 Alvis Board Minutes that 77 of the 4.3 Litre chassis that were officially sanctioned for production were never completed because car manufacturing had to be suspended in 1940. As a result the new 4.3 Litre “Continuation Series” will be limited to the production of these remaining 77 chassis, thereby fulfilling the original intention of the Alvis Board,” write Alvis at their nice website. Continue reading “The Alvis Continuation Series”
For a decade and a bit, Lancia’s principal cars evolved, if you want to be generous about it.
The midsized Flavia saloon debuted in 1961 and soldiered on until 1975 (though renamed 2000 in 1971). The compact Fulvia saloon appeared 1963 and hung about until 1972. Fiat took over Lancia in 1969 and by 1972 the Beta had appeared. There was a quiet interregnum after which the old guard were put out to pasture and shot with silencers. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Lancia and Others”
Most of these photos for Sunday are taken outside my front door, somewhere along my street.
It’s not that I don’t go anywhere else. I do but I seldom, if ever, see an unusual or interesting car to photograph. I even stop into look at old garages to see if there are rusting treasures hidden from plain view. There aren’t. All the interesting cars in Denmark are either on my street or in a suburb of Copenhagen. This specimen appeared last week. The car is a Morris Marina 1.3 coupe. Continue reading “A photo for Sunday: 1971-1979 Morris Marina 1.3 Super Coupe”
Its own to be exact. This week Alfa Romeo announced a new visual identity. The signs are not good.
It’s invariably worrying when auto manufacturers fiddle with their visual identity. Even if you’re a VW, the fact that you see fit to mess about with your trademark suggests the wrong business decisions are being prioritised and at the very least, the marketing people have run amok.
Honda’s styling has gone off the rails in a big way, to judge by the interior and exterior appearance of this MPV which is on sale in India.
The rear view is especially confused, with a modish and rather useless faux semi-glazed D-pillar. What more is there to the car? The Mobilio is short, just 4.3 metres and is judged to be well packaged. Two engines, a 1.5 litre petrol unit (119 PS) and a 1.5 litre diesel (100 PS) are the only power plant available. It is based on the Brio platform from 2010 and competes with a swarm of small MPVs in the Asian and sub-Continental market. Continue reading “Not On Sale Around Here: 2015 Honda Mobilio”
Here it is, the long-awaited 2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia, nice and official.
It has the overall proportions of a BMW 3 from back in the day when these were proper compact sport saloons. The bonnet bulges for pedestrian-safety reasons. This is the Quadrifoglio version; it could look more appealing if there are versions with some more brightwork. What do you think?
Some news from Volvoprompts some DTW crystal ball gazing.
Volvo will be getting together with Chalmers University to research driverless cars and sustainable mobility. The ‘Drive Me’ project – a unique public pilot with ordinary drivers behind the steering wheels of 100 self-driving Volvos – has been joined by a new prominent Swedish partner: Chalmers University of Technology,” writes Volvo at their PR portal. Continue reading “More About Driverless Cars”
According to ANE, the Giulia’s launch date is next year at the earliest.
Some allege the car is derived from the Fiat Viaggio and not the Maserati Ghibli. The anticipated annnual sales are under 50,000 units say some analysts. Over 6 years that’s 300,000 which is not enough for a car in this sector. It seems to me that projections seem to be based on the idea that sales will be gained left right and centre from other brands in the market. Has this ever happened? Continue reading “Alfa Romeo’s News”
Don’t look down Sergio, because the analysts are revolting!
This afternoon’s reveal of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia will undoubtedly be the day’s big automotive story with the car’s styling and likely chance of success being foremost in commentator’s minds. But it’s worth pointing out this is not an announcement of a production-ready car; more a piece of theatre, aimed at a far more rarefied audience. But don’t take my word for it. Continue reading “FCA Didn’t Launch the 2016 Giulia Today”
The French like Citroen above all other French brands, reports the Posternak-Ifop brand image survey. Appropriately, only Michelin scored equally well.
How Citroen style this result so as to mean they are first among equals was not made clear in their report. Add to this the fact that the Citroen Cactus is so popular that production is being increased then to some extent I have to eat a small amount of humble pie.Continue reading “Well What Do I know?”
“New Leyland small car spied”, writes Archie Vicar, in the 1978 edition of Contemporary Driving News Magazine. This transcript of what appears to be a commentary on the much-discussed new ‘Mini’ shows Vicar’s analytical journalism at its best.
“Spy photographers have caught the replacement for the much-loved but geriatric, cramped and unreliable Mini on test. The planned car is an advance on the very modern ADO88 design which the engineers at Leyland have been working on since the early 70s. The wheelbase is now longer than ADO88 in response to developments in the market since the project’s inception just after the second World War. Continue reading “Spyshots 1978: How the New Mini Emerged Into Daylight”
The body copy here attempts to challenge the contemporary perception that BMW was essentially a niche manufacturer with a tiny range of specialist cars by highlighting the broad scope of BMW’s 1975 UK range: 14 cars. Today there are as many variations of the current 3-door 1-Series available upon these shores. So while the 40-year old range could fit on an single A4 sheet, BMW’s entire 2015 range would now require a good 38 pages – and most likely a glossary of terms. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Proliferation”
It’s Linda Jackson again, CEO of Citroën. More half-baked ideas.
In March we learned from Jackson that Citroëns are to be sold on style not price. Today’s news is that while planning to cut Citroën’s model ranges down to seven most important body-styles by 2020, one of them will be inspired by the Mehari, a less than practical 2CV variant with plastic cladding. Why? To make Citroën “fun”, says Jackson. So now we can add this to “style” as the main attractions of Citroën . Continue reading “Is This News Then?”
Before penning this I consulted Simon about this story on the demise of the Citroën oleopneumatic suspension system.
He reminded me that the matter had come up a year ago and indeed I had myself imagined that the current Citroën C5 would be the last hydraulic Citroën. What prompted me to think it was news was that TTAC reported it yesterday. And they got the story from… Continue reading “Is This News?”
Chile is south America’s most stable nation, well-ranked for lack of corruption and sustainability.
Historically, it was also one of South America’s most Europeanised countries with its track record blown off course by the 1973 coup that ousted Salvador Allende, a coup helped by the US. Pinochet’s dictatorship ended following a plebiscite, and since then it has renormalized. There are 18 million Chilean living in this famously long and tassled country. What do they drive? Continue reading “What Are They Buying In Chile?”
I am not an expert in graphic design which means the very subtle differences in sans-serif fonts often elude me, especially when the font is a version of Helvetica.
For graphic designers such differences are as clear to them as the difference between an Audi A6 and an Audi A4 is to me. Thus it is with some bemusement I note VW has elected to change their corporate font to something very slightly different. If you look closely you notice the “a” has changed the most and the letters seem slightly different. Continue reading “All Change At VW in the Font Department”
The ACEA calls on the EU to ‘rebalance’ its attitude to carbon dioxide emissions.
It’s not hard to guess the rebalancing is not in the direction of an even more stringent approach to reducing carbon emissions. Carlos Ghosn said “As Paris and the world gear up for the COP21 global climate change conference, we must make sure that ambitious climate change policies do not conflict with the need to protect jobs and growth in Europe.” The next interesting bit is this “By 2020 average emissions of new passenger cars will need to Continue reading “You’re Bothering Us With This Carbon Dioxide Business, You Know.”
VW Media Services reports that Stefan Sielaff is to take over as design chief following the departure of Luc Donckerwolke.
Sielaff will be a busy chap as he as also responsible for VW group’s interior design strategy. Of the two jobs, perhaps that is the most challenging as requires finding imaginative ways to justify the price differentials between VW’s many brands. Sielaff starts at Bentley in July. Donckerwolke was only at Bentley for three years meaning that for much of his tenure he was watching the work of his predecessor being released while his own efforts will be launched with Sielaff occupying his former post. Donckerwolke Continue reading “Bentley Has A New Design Chief; Luc Donckerwolke Leaves”
The Hyundai Genesis is coming to the UK market and Car magazine has phoned in a review in the June edition.
“It has the handling properties of a marshmallow,” they write. I ask why Car troubled itself with taking up half of page 49 with the test-drive. I can’t fault Car for having its own agenda which these days is focused on performance cars. The Genesis, a 3.8 litre V6 rear-wheel drive saloon is miles away from Car’s core area of interest which is high-revving sports cars so it will fall at every hurdle. On the other hand, the Genesis is a welcome alternative and the question is does it Continue reading “Why Did They Bother?”
USA Today reported that a Mercedes Benz executive, Ulrich Walker, will oversee the return of Borgward to production after a bit of a gap.
The article reported that Walker’s vision for the car is affordable luxury, which is rather intriguing as this translates as that class of car where there has been the most fatalities in the last few decades: Triumph, Lancia, Rover, Saab, Oldsmobile, for example. Further, mainstream brands that have had products that reached into the affordable luxury sector have been less and less successful. Continue reading “More Borgward News”
At the end of the 1950s, there was a sizeable group of home-owned players in the German industry, but we shall concentrate initially on three of them – Borgward, NSU and Glas. Only the first few paragraphs of this piece are fact, the rest is entirely speculation as to how things could have worked out quite differently, yet might have ended up much the same.
Borgward had been making cars since the 1920s. They were fast to restart manufacture after the War, being the first German company to put an all new car into production, the Hansa 1500. This was replaced in 1954 by the mid-sized Isabella and that was joined in 1959 by both the larger six-cylinder P100 and the smaller Arabella, featuring a flat 4 boxer that Subaru used as a reference point when developing their own engine. Continue reading “Alternative Paths In An Unpredictable Industry”
I had quite a lot of those bits of received wisdom until recent years.
Some of those shopworn gems include the idea that steering should be heavy, Opel make bad/dull/boring cars, Ferrari is interesting but Japanese cars are not; small saloon cars are drab, six speed gearboxes are a good thing, low profile tyres and big wheels are visually worth it, bright colour is wrong inside and out. Those are some of the bits of second hand wisdom I have accumulated and sloughed off.
It’s faint praise time for Ford again. Autocar have tested the Vignale version and came to a predictable conclusion. Yes, they like it but they still think you should buy a BMW 5 instead. Auto Express take an even harder line.
You can read the entire Autocar article yourself by clicking on the link above. What struck me was that the Vignale is clearly the Ghia X for our times. The key mistake they have made with this car is that it is lacking a distinctive, mechanical difference from the Titanium spec models that sit below it in the model hierarchy. I would dearly have liked this car to Continue reading “2015 Ford Mondeo Vignale – What Autocar Says”
Car advertising (like almost all advertising) commonly emphasises the new and the improved. There is not a single advert drawing attention to the subtle and not-so-subtle second lives of components intended for one car but which lived on in another…and another…and another…
Last week we discussed the afterlife of the Buick aluminium 215 engine. Such a re-use is not what I have in mind in terms of rooting around the parts bins. Rover had the decency to rework the engine –endlessly – to make it work so that by the time they had stopped fiddling in 2004 there was little a Buick engineer from 1957 might recognise other than the porosity problems and flagrant thirst. Continue reading “Theme: Secondhand – Rooting in the Parts Bins”
Looking at European sales of the 7 Series, A8, XJ and S Class since 1997 (figures courtesy Left-Lane.com) in chart form is revealing. Of course, each brand’s sales pick up when a new model is released, but the S Class jump with its last three model launches is proportionally huge compared with the others. But as the model becomes established, it sinks to quite similar levels as the A8 and 7 Series. Why is this? One explanation may be the private hire trade. In this a Mercedes is the default choice and, as I heard from one guy who runs his own car, clients don’t like being picked up in a previous model – as soon as the new model becomes available he puts in his order for a car that lasts him 7 years. Continue reading “You’re Not Alone, Jaguar”
This is one of a bewildering variety of French microcars. I assume it is one owner since it has covered just 11,887 km. That seems modest until you realise that the Chatenet is powered by a 5.4 hp 523cc twin cylinder diesel giving it a maximum speed of 45 kph. Someone therefore has sat in this car and driven it for at least 264 hours. Continue reading “Theme : Secondhand – Forecourt Temptations 4”
A recent announcement by Aston Martin that it will go off road soon confirms that the ranks of aristo SUV’s are now filled, just about. Anything is now possible.
The Cadillac Escalade arrived first in 1999, an SUV from a marque known for limousines and stately sedans. Because Cadillac’s brand value lay in the ditch by then, nobody minded much: more kitsch, they said. However, it was an inspirational move from a brand that has often – though unintentionally – led the way. Lincoln dressed up a Ford pick-up to make it into the Blackwood in 2001 and got a three year run before really piling on the trim for the 2005 Mark LT. Continue reading “They’re All At It Now (nearly)”
We’ve all had to cope with rejection at some point in our lives – smiling grimly through the tears, as we peel our shattered egos off the floor. But no stoic is our Serge. Far from taking it on the chin, he’s gone on the offensive, raging to industry analysts this week at the unfairness of it all. Has he lost his mind? Continue reading “Bridesmaid Revisited”
Phaeton. As a name it never really struck the right note. A little too puffed-up, ever so slightly grandiose for what really is a rather self effacing car. Perhaps in the absence of a suitably important-sounding wind, VW lacked options, or it was just another of Dr. Piëch’s flights of self-aggrandisement. Continue reading “Invincible Defeat: The VW Phaeton”
Ferdi wasn’t always a household name. Here’s where he came in…
With reports earlier this week suggesting Ferdinand Piëch has threatened to resign over his failed attempt to oust VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, it’s as good a time as any to look at possibly his earliest appearance in the UK press. Continue reading “Rearview: An early Piëch at an Audi”
“Renault group revenue increased 13.7% in the first quarter,” they announced here. They are very diligent about sending me this kind of news.
Offsetting the deteriorating market conditions in Russia and Brazil, Renault group registrations increased 0.8% during the first quarter of 2015, reaching 641,588 vehicles in a worldwide automotive market up 1.7%. Furthermore, during the first quarter of 2015, Renault group registered 641,588 units (+0.8%), posting a stable worldwide market share at 3.0%.
As the Dark Lord of Wolfsburg loses his grip, is this the twilight of a dictator?
Lately, the mighty VW juggernaught has appeared unassailable. The Golf and Passat dominate their respective classes, while Audi and Porsche reap record profits on the back of a global luxury car boom. Yet serious fissures have appeared at the very top of the management chain which unchecked, could destabilise the entire organisation. Continue reading “Auf Wiedersehen Piëch?”
For those of us who grew up in the 1970’s, it doesn’t necessarily always feel that long ago. Revisiting this print ad, I realise it was. Advertisements like this were not all that unusual then, especially when it came to advertising more ‘masculine’ cars. Like so many things we can now look back in astonishment over, this form of casual and gleeful sexism not only portrays women as emasculating killjoys, but also as quite incapable of appreciating a nice car – let alone being capable of driving one. Continue reading “Rearview: Try Justifying This…”
European car sales rise 11% on strong demand for VW, Renault and FCA.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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?””
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.
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”
Today, we examine rumours in the mainstream car industry that if accurate, could precipitate something quite unusual. Genuine surprise.
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”
Look at all my lovely buttons – so much choice, so little time!
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?
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.
“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.
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….
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”