Theme : Benchmarks – The Alfa Romeo Giulia Berlina

Is this really the progenitor of the modern sports saloon?

Alfa Giulia 6

In the early 1960s, the average British driver on an average income would have ended up with a leaf-sprung wheezer, comfortable maybe, but hard-pushed cruising above 70 on expanding and unrestricted motorways, a handful in a panic stop and an entertainment-free and potentially scare-laden prospect on corners. If you had a bit more to spend, and fancied something with sporting pretentions, then pretentions were certainly on offer with bits of real wood, a bigger carburetor, a rev counter and oil pressure gauge, fog and driving lamps and maybe a chrome strip up the side. In the UK, an affordable, mass-produced car, offering five seater bodywork on a coil sprung, rear-drive chassis, a free-revving, light alloy, twin-cam engine, a 5 speed gear box and disc brakes all round would have been a dream template for a future sports saloon, maybe for the 1980s, even the 90s. But not in Italy, where all this was available in the 105 Series Alfa Giulia Berlina. Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – The Alfa Romeo Giulia Berlina”

Last Gasp – Lancia Ypsilon “Elle”

Ah well. From Lancia Aurelia, Florida and Gamma to Trevi, Lybra and the rebadged Chryslers and on to this, the Elle edition Ypsilon. Bravo, FCA.

Ah well. From Lancia Aurelia, Florida and Gamma to Trevi, Lybra and the rebadged Chryslers and on to this, the Elle edition Ypsilon. Bravo, FCA.

2015 Lancia Ypsilon Elle. Image from Autoblog.com
2015 Lancia Ypsilon Elle. Image from Autoblog.com

Lancia describes the Elle as follows: “The ultimate expression of Lancia elegance, and proof of the brand’s continuous pursuit of innovative, contemporary new shapes, the new Ypsilon ELLE proposes exquisite paint colors, materials, fabrics and trims that reflect the model’s passion for fashion.”  Continue reading “Last Gasp – Lancia Ypsilon “Elle””

Alfa Romeo is the new Fiat

Sergio Marchionne has been reported by Automotive News as saying that Fiat will not be a mass market brand. Instead it will focus on its 500-series small cars and let Jeep and Alfa Romeo compete in other sectors. 

2015 Fiat 500L: the future of Fiat?
2015 Fiat 500L: the future of Fiat?

Rather surprisingly, given Alfa Romeo´s very limited and lacklustre range, Marchionne thinks AR will be able to grow and supply cars in the C and C-D class along with a mooted SUV. Given the steady steaming of vapour ware from this brand, and the poor reception of the current cars, this is a very tall order. The other worrying thing is Continue reading “Alfa Romeo is the new Fiat”

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?”

2015 Geneva Motor Show – the colours

DTW has taken a look at a lot of show cars and tried to see if there are any colour trends apparent.

Geneva Motor Show colour palette 2015
Geneva Motor Show colour palette 2015

Most of these are concept cars rather than new launches. What is noticeable is that green is a rarity. Both the greens shown here come from Bentley. The flat orange is distinctive and is from Opel´s Viva car. Notice that it is redder than the 021C orange that has been in use for a decade, made famous by Marc Newson´s Ford concept car of the same name. This orange is more of a 60s racing orange than an industrial design orange. The black or near black is used on Mercedes´ hybrid C-class which is unexpected. It´s a very ordinary shade whereas you might expect Continue reading “2015 Geneva Motor Show – the colours”

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”

Theme: Benchmarks – Personal Luxury Coupés

Benchmarks come and then they go. Personal  luxury coupes (PLC) occupied the hottest sector of the American car market in the late 70s and early 80s. What were they?

1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme: America´s best selling car that year. Isn´t it quite like the Ford Granada we looked at recently?
1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme: America´s best selling car that year. Isn´t it quite like the Mercury Monarch we looked at recently?

A personal luxury coupe is understood as a two door, four seat car with at least a V6 or ideally a V8. Whilst the advertising for these may have suggested sporting capability, the body-on-frame and bench seat reality spoke of cars whose main talent lay in getting quickly up to 65 mph and staying there from Baker, Ca. to Frederick, Md.

The image above is my idea of the archetype of this car. I don´t think European had equivalents of the PLC. Two-door Ford Granadas (such as the 1975 example owned by our stalwart contributor Myles Gorfe) don´t strike the same note. Whether with two doors or four they retain their Granada-ness (the Ghia fastback came a bit closer to the concept). The Opel Monza offered a sporty experience and isn’t Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – Personal Luxury Coupés”

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 its own site subdivision. The question about why French cars aren’t sold in N America is answered here.

Citroen’s withdrawal from the market is put down to the effects of the oil crisis in the 70s and the enactment of laws that illegalised key elements of Citroen’s designs. Renault (entangled with AMC) and Peugeot’s withdrawal in the 80s resulted from severe market conditions, some politics and probably poor product quality. Their more complex case is outlined rather better than I can summarise at FCIA so I suggest you click on the link.

Peugeot’s case is also explained here at Curbside Classics: “By the early ’90s, Peugeot was sinking steadily in the U.S. Despite the 405’s good looks and performance–particularly in the Mi16 version–there just weren’t many takers. In 1990, sales of 405s and 505s totalled a mere 4,261 vehicles. After an even more dismal 1991 output of 2,240 405s and 505 wagons (the 505 sedan was discontinued in the U.S. after 1990), the marque withdrew from North America in July 1991.” What a shame the 406 never made it to the US as that was a robust and comfortable car that could have competed well with the Accord and the Passat.

Also not sold in the US. Image from Peugeot UK
Also not sold in the US. Image from Peugeot UK

These days the technical and styling differences between US and European cars are much smaller than they were in the period when French cars began their withdrawal from the N American market. The essentially conservative German brands have thrived (Volkswagen lags there though) and American cars have always been sold in Europe though fully localised by GM and Ford.

The very American style of Cadillac has not been successful in Europe and the very European style of French car has not gone down well in N America. Part of this is due to form and appearance: Cadillacs are adapted to an environment of wide roads, cheaper fuel and a willingness of the customers to tolerate ostentation. French cars in their essence have majored on lightness and unusual engineering. The lightness (meaning a lack of robustness) has not suited the harsh road conditions of the US. The idiosyncratic engineering has not worn well with Americans who are, at heart, a pragmatic people.

While Ferrari’s cars are fragile and expensive, they have a market that can tolerate this whereas French cars lived at price points where mundane matters of economy mattered to their customers, even if they may have been better educated and better paid than average. Even with a professor’s salary, there are only so many trips to the mechanic that can be accepted.

1989 Citroen CX: from a particularly daft story in Car & Driver. Otherwise a great site though.
1989 Citroen CX: from a particularly daft story in Car & Driver. Otherwise a great site though.

Where are French cars in now in relation to the N American market? There are no firm plans for any of the three to re-enter the US and Canadian market. China and the developing world provide enough business for the firms to allow the tricky N American market to be left untried. Renault Canada is concerned with marketing rental cars for travellers to Europe. Peugeot Canada sells scooters. However, Renault does sell plenty of Nissans in the US so with that brand managing reasonably well, it would make no sense to try and add Renault’s range to the mix.

The best way to deal with the US market is to produce locally and as the French brands have had a rough time in the US, investing in factories as the Germans and Japanese have done is an expensive bet that would be best made with a track record of solid and steady sales. The French lost that foundation in the 60s, 70s and 80s and trying now would be a huge risk lasting decades.

We could also ask what the USP would be of PSA and Renault cars now that the engineering differences are so small between US and European cars. What would Renault bring to the US market that would tempt fickle American buyers?  The same goes for Peugeot. Without a clear answer to this question, French cars will remain a special interest.

Geneva Motor Show Update – A follow up on Zenvo

On Feb 23rd we discussed the enigmatic Danish supercar maker, Zenvo.

2015 Zenvo : image from Automotive News.com. I have to applaud the choice of colour.

2015 Zenvo : image from Automotive News.com. I have to applaud the choice of colour.Automotive News has followed our lead though, to be fair, have produced a lot more copy than I managed. I like think that in a small way we had a little scoop nonetheless.

Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show Update – A follow up on Zenvo”

2010 Living Lab – Danish fabrics meet a BMW interior

What is the link between a Swedish train, a BMW concept car and a fabric firm from Denmark?

2010 Dwelling Lab. Image from www.dailytonic.com
2010 Dwelling Lab. Image from http://www.dailytonic.com

A chance encounter via my day job led me to to discover the link between the Danish fabric firm Kvadrat and the Bavarian automobile manufacturer, BMW.  To my knowledge the two collaborations have not led to Kvadrat supplying fabrics for the production cars. It´s not that it´s not possible. The same firm has supplied material for a Swedish train and if a fabric and survive public transport it can Continue reading “2010 Living Lab – Danish fabrics meet a BMW interior”

Theme : Benchmarks – Introduction

Benchmarking – The Editor ask if it measures up?

FrankensteinBenchmarking has become a common practice in our world. Even estate agents ‘benchmark’ their performance but, of course, the original benchmarks were just what they suggested, marks on a bench for an artisan to use for fast measuring of standard lengths of material. As such, in an industry that has its basis in engineering, the term is used more reasonably in the automotive world than in politics or banking though, this month, we consider automotive Benchmarks in the broader, more modern sense.

Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Introduction”

Our cars: 1975 Ford Granada 2.0 L

Run by: Myles Gorfe. Total Mileage: 299,907. Miles since Feb 2015: 3. Latest costs: £287 for refitting rear axle bushings, gear linkage adjustments, de-greased hinges, re-fitting missing left mirror, installing new washer-fluid tank, relocating oil leak.

1975 Ford Granada 2.0 L
1975 Ford Granada 2.0 L

It´s been a busy month for the Grannie. Gavin Chide at Dorris Motors de-greased the boot hinges which were over-lubricated. I had to buy three wiring harnesses from sellers in Estonia, Belgium and Austria before getting one that worked. Gavin Chide couldn´t fix the oil leak from the right side of the engine and overcharged for the harness work; I had the car transported to Custom Wheels Ltd for further work which seemed Continue reading “Our cars: 1975 Ford Granada 2.0 L”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 15

XJ40 history Phase Four: 1986-1994 – The dream unravels. Once the launch hysteria abated, the press began to appraise Jaguar’s new star more critically.

XJ40brochure-2

Because the press had given (Sir) John Egan the benefit of the doubt, there was bound to be a backlash at some point. Sure enough, words like dated started to appear with increasing frequency in relation to XJ40’s styling, particularly criticism over the headlight and tail lamp treatments. Moreover, the press were of one mind regarding the instrument display and minor controls: they hated them. Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 15”

PSA’s Tale of Two Continents

Peugeot/Citroën’s European D-sector sales collapse is not the catastrophe it first appears.

2015 DS5 - image via car24news
2015 DS5 – image via car24news

As we know, the motor industry is riven with contradiction, but nevertheless, some things remain beyond debate. Take the fact that the European mid-sized saloon market has been in serious and (some say) terminal decline since 2007, with sales across the sector falling by half. Yet, with Europe-wide volumes of almost half a million cars last year, there still remains a good deal to play for in what’s left of the segment. This month, PSA Groupe have posted their first profits in three years on the back of vast and painful cost-cutting including the axing of unprofitable models. So today we ask where this hollowing out has left PSA’s mid-sized saloon offerings?  Continue reading “PSA’s Tale of Two Continents”

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”

Renault : Putting the Sole Back Into Design

Stop looking at your feet, Boy!

Kadjar 1After we discussed Renault’s desperate ‘Dare To Live’ bit of internet marketing a few weeks back, I’d entirely forgotten it related to an new crossover, the Kadjar. I’ve now just reminded myself of it and seen a picture. From front and rear it’s a forgettable enough lump, it only distinctive feature being the side view featuring a kick up from the sills. Continue reading “Renault : Putting the Sole Back Into Design”

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”

Geneva 2015 Motor Show Update: a Danish supercar

The Danish designed and built Zenvo has a 6.8 litre, hand-built V-8, a 69 litre fuel tank and weighs 1688 kilos. They are exhibiting at stand 2040. 

2015 Zenvo ST1: at the Geneva Motor show this year.
2015 Zenvo ST1: at the Geneva Motor show this year.

Right at the end of the list is a Danish firm, Zenvo. I had read a little about this in the Danish press and it was a surprise to see a real car manufacturer among the less recognisably automotive names. Continue reading “Geneva 2015 Motor Show Update: a Danish supercar”

Theme: Passengers – The Non-Existence Thereof

If we can ask what that sportscar is doing on that rough, narrow road or jammed in urban traffic can we also ask where are the passengers for all those lovely saloons?

This is for carrying passengers: 2004 Nissan Cube
This is for carrying passengers: 2004 Nissan Cube

With a sportscar or indeed any performance orientated car one is aware of a contrast between what the vehicle is capable of versus what it is asked to do. When I see a Lamborghini in Ireland, for example, you clearly see that the car’s capability is at odds with the environment it sits in, like seeing a speedboat on a mill pond.

At a less extreme level, the saloon car suffers a similar problem, unless it’s a taxi. The missing passengers in the back make one wonder about the real purpose of the car. Why did the owner buy it? You can see this on any long drive on a motorway as you pass car after car with three empty seats.

You also notice it when you take a look inside of any old car. There will be a worn bolster on the driver’s seat and when you inspect the back seat it will be box-fresh or, at worst, a bit faded. Evidence, then, of under-use. In its own way, the saloon car is as over-engineered as any high performance two-seater.

How often do you see four people get out of a car? It’s rare enough that I notice it. For example, last year I saw two couples emerge from a Peugeot 508 somewhere in NW Denmark. The car had Dutch plates so I concluded this was one of those rare occasions when four adults decided to have a motoring holiday together. I can’t recall the last time I saw what should be an occurrence too banal to remark.

2004 Opel Signum: no one here.
2004 Opel Signum: no one here.

Why then do people buy four seater cars when 98% of the time the extra seats are unused. The ashtrays remain pristine. The armrest is always tucked up in the seat back. Some people even leave the plastic on the rear seats for as long as they can, a conceit I always despised as it’s laughably suburban to want to have furniture that looks like no one ever uses it.

Think of those semis with a “good room” that visitors are shown into now and then. If you contrast that with the opulent tattiness of many stately homes you can see that the rich don’t have “good rooms”. Rich people wreck stuff. Middle class people can only afford to buy it once.

What I am getting at here is that the passenger is a rather mythical creature. They exist on public transport though or in taxis. The passenger compartment is generally an underused area, designed to look nice enough in a showroom when the buyer – for one time – opens the rear door, pats the seat and finds nothing alarming. For the rest of the car’s career the rear footwell is a good place to put a bag of shopping so it won’t fall over. The boot is even further from their thoughts.

2002 Renault Vel Satis rear compartment - as new, never used.
2002 Renault Vel Satis rear compartment – as new, never used.

This is perhaps why in recent decades mainstream saloon cars have developed rather cramped and unwelcoming rear comparments and designers’ time is rarely spent bothering with the rear of the centre console. On my 25 year old car the rear console is a little piece of design excellence: an ashtray and an electric socket nicely styled to look of a piece with its surrounding trim.

These days I see cars with a blank expanse of plastic. There’s £185,000 worth of development cost saved. Pity the person who put all that effort into the rear centre console of the last Saab 9-5. It was lavishly worked-over. Not only would no-one see it if it was used as normal but the car ceased production after a few months.

As a fan of saloon cars I have to admit that my fond notions of travelling four up to somewhere other than the in-laws’ house with kids are probably never going to be realised. And the kids don’t really appreciate the limousine-like space they are perched in.

More often than not the saloon is a statement of aspiration just like the sportscar. It suggests uses to which it is seldom put. I wonder how many times the walnut tray of an Allegro Van Den Plas was ever pulled down in anger. And Opel know to their cost that designing a car that put rear seat passengers as a high priority was not a path to profitability.

The Signum, with its huge rear leg room and unusual packaging didn’t go over as too few people thought “Yes, this is the car I’ll take my friend in on that trip to the Ardennes”. The Renault Vel Satis* is another passenger’s car and again, it fell on stony soil.

You might not think it at first glance but passenger cars are mostly statements of intent or the manifestation of dreams never realised. These days as saloons become more sportscar-like they are getting even further away from a felicitous blend of utility and form.

*This is a super article from The Truth About Cars dealing with the Vel Satis.

 

German Lessons With Claudia Schiffer

Opel blew the budget on Ms. Schiffer, because there’s certainly nothing left for anything else. You know, like production values, creativity, wit …

claudia-schiffer-says-the-opel-astra-never-breaks-down-video-79964_1
Confusing isn’t it Claudia? You are, the Astra isn’t. Got it? Image: autoevolution

I feel for Claudia, I really do. Times must be tough in the Schiffer household, because she really must have needed the money for this. Each time this spot airs, I fight the urge to hurl the nearest available blunt object TV-wards. Surely no advertising agency with a shred of dignity would willingly put their name to drivel of this magnitude, yet someone did. Did they Continue reading “German Lessons With Claudia Schiffer”

A Photo For Sunday – 1996 Alfa Romeo 146 Ti

I like to imagine that if you were going to write a review or article about the Alfa Romeo 146 Ti (or any older Alfa) a suitably Italian background would be appropriate.

1996 Alfa Romeo 146 Ti
1996 Alfa Romeo 146 Ti

Quite by chance it has worked out the other way and the car and background suggest the feature.

The Ti was the highest level in the 146’s engine and trim hierarchy. These models had colour-coordinated side skirts, a boot spoiler and 12-hole alloy wheels (the car above does not). Two-litre cars had stiffer suspension, uprated brakes, ABS, lower-profile tires and a different steering rack that had a small ratio as on the 156 but a worsened turning circle, something to do with an attempt to deploy pure Ackerman steering geometry. Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday – 1996 Alfa Romeo 146 Ti”

More 2015 Geneva Car Show Highlights: Lemon Scented Swiss Washer Fluid

DTW is pleased to present some more information of the exhibitors at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show.

2015 EDAG Light Cocoon conceot car.
2015 EDAG Light Cocoon concept car.

What are Amstutz Produkte showing? Who are “Behind the Wheel”? And at what stand can Borgward be found? Christ Wash Systems seems fairly self-evident so I won’t spend too much time on them. Read on to find out more. Continue reading “More 2015 Geneva Car Show Highlights: Lemon Scented Swiss Washer Fluid”

1953 Ferrari 212 Inter Road Test

“A newcomer from Italy!” Archie Vicar takes a short look at a new motor car from Italy’s Ferrari concern and determines whether or not it cuts the mustard in an increasingly competitive market.

1953 Ferrari 212 Inter
1953 Ferrari 212 Inter: http://www.Ferraristuff.com

From “Sports And Racing Motor Car Gazette” November  1953. Photographs by Noel Rupert Beresford. Due to the poor quality of the original images, stock photos have been used.

Introduction

For those ‘in the know’, Ferrari manufacture road cars that are closely related to their more famous racing cars. Two years ago a car not unlike this won the Carrera Panamericana with Chinetti and Taruffi at the wheel and a second car came second, with two other Italians driving. Not many marques can Continue reading “1953 Ferrari 212 Inter Road Test”

Geneva Motor Show 2015 : Lancia Have a Stand Shock

The last press release for Lancia was December 2014. There is no news of what Lancia is showing at Geneva this year at stand 5139.

2014 Lancia Ypsilon
2014 Lancia Ypsilon

But the fact they are listed among the exhibitors means that Lancia is still not quite dead. Qoros Automotive are also attending, by the way as are SKB Krattinger. They make equipment for garages. Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show 2015 : Lancia Have a Stand Shock”

Theme : Passengers – A Hire Education

Remembering who Hertz put in the passenger’s seat

Dole Queue

In the mid Seventies, living in London, fresh from college, unsure of myself and facing a stagnant economy, I took employment doing something I knew I’d be capable of. I became a Hertz delivery driver. Back then, Hertz were the envy of Avis. All car hire chains end up with too many, or the wrong type of cars in one place, and not enough in another. Avis solved this by loading cars onto a big transporter and dropping them off where needed, imagining that one guy driving 6 cars around would be cheaper than six drivers. Hertz knew differently.

The Hertz scheme was simple and old-fashioned. They employed drivers on a casual basis. You signed on with them, showing a clean licence. There were three shifts, and you could only attend one a day. You turned up at Hertz in Marble Arch and signed in. The dispatcher would start at the top of the list and call out as many names as he had drives for. If your name wasn’t called you could hang about on the off-chance, but you normally went home. If you had a drive, you would normally be part of a team of two or more. One person was appointed Lead Driver – he was the lucky one. If there were, say, four Cortinas to be brought down from Birmingham, Continue reading “Theme : Passengers – A Hire Education”

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 stray out of the obvious categories when shopping for a mid-price, mid-sized car.

Some of those Qashqai buyers may very well have cross-shopped for a standard C-class car (Golf, Astra, Focus) as well as other soft-roader/crossovers. The Nissan costs £16,500 in the UK for a 1.6 litre model. A Focus begins at £16,445 (with a 1.0 litre Ecoboost) according to Car’s recent price list. CarBuyer claims it’s £1500 less and Ford UK says so too: £13,995. The Pulsar starts at £14,995.

With a generalising wave of the hand one can say these prices are not wildly dissimilar and once you’ve begun adding options and comparing non-quantitative elements, the distinction blurs to nearly nothing. Why did Car not list the lowest price Focus? (I looked in the January 2015 edition.)

We look forward to seeing how the Pulsar fares in what is a very competitive market sector. If sales drift along at 3000 units a month you might very well wonder if Nissan did not miscalculate with the Pulsar. I quite like the Pulsar’s no-nonsense “this is a car you can drive” approach but perhaps customers might want something more. A Qashqai, perhaps?

Interestingly, Renault are soon to offer their own entrant in what is Nissan’s most successful segment. Do they think they can add to the total number of cars sold or will they cannibalise sales? Will some people prefer to stay stuck in their meaningless ruts (that would be the Nissan buyers and everyone else) or will they go the Kadjar way and drive into a future of limitless freedom and soul-enriching self-empowerment?

2015-Renault-baptise-son-futur-crossover-Kadjar-343232

Tinseltown in the Rain – Reflections on Jaguar’s XJ

Driven To Write’s resident Jaguariste remembers a more innocent time when life and advertising met, sniffed one another before hurriedly going their separate ways

jaguar-xj-2010

In 2009, I became a little over-excited about a car launch. Following a good 40-years of diminished return styling, to be presented with a 21st century interpretation of the Jaguar XJ saloon was exciting beyond  comprehension.  Continue reading “Tinseltown in the Rain – Reflections on Jaguar’s XJ”

Kimona Over To My Place, Drive Here In Your Rolls

This year Rolls Royce is showcasing the things it is willing to do to its cars for its wealthier customers. A one-off car, the Serenity, will be shown at Geneva this year to this end.

2015 Rolls Royce Serenity interior concept drawing. Thanks to RRMC for the image.
2015 Rolls Royce Serenity interior concept drawing. Thanks to RRMC for the image.

The aqua leather and wooden accents work very well indeed. It might even be that the silk used extensively is fetching. I remain unconvinced by the Kimona-esque detailing in the roof that looks like a strange blood spatter rather than a delicate tree in blossom.

You can read Rolls Royce’s more generous description here:

Continue reading “Kimona Over To My Place, Drive Here In Your Rolls”

Ride Engineered – 1980 Mercury Monarch

The Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch pair are not known to be among Ford’s finest cars. Recently I had a closer look at a 1980 Mercury Monarch to see what it was really like.

1980 Mercury Monarch

Given that reputation, it may come as a surprise to some (it surprised me) that Ford marketed it as a rival to Mercedes’ W-123 in its 280E guise. Ah, that car again. The car shown here is a 2-door Monarch with the “Windsor” 4.9 V8. Ford also made 3.3 and 4.1 straight sixes available along with a 5.8 V8. The Ford version was almost the same barring cosmetic details at the front and back.

Production ran from 1975 to 1980. The intention with the Granada/Monarch was to Continue reading “Ride Engineered – 1980 Mercury Monarch”

An American View of Bristol

Via the Bristol Owner’s website I found this nice American take on Bristol cars. The photo is from the Curbside Classics website which I can’t recommend highly enough.

This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful.
This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful: thanks to Curbside Classics for the image.

The 411 looks like a combination of the proportions of a Jaguar XJ-6 and the surface treatment of a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. We have had some debate about the British ability to style cars. This one shows that a British car need not be heavily ornate to look good.

Recharging Your Electric Car the Danish Way

One of the questions hanging over electric cars is about how inner city residents can recharge them if they don’t have off-street car parking.

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This photo shows the Danish approach: put the recharging stations on the street. I don’t know how this works but will endeavour to find out. At the moment there are no signs to say these parking places are exclusive to electric cars (though this might be implied). There are several dotted around where I live and I have seen them in the middle of Dublin too.

I have also read that the US government is thinking that the best way to Continue reading “Recharging Your Electric Car the Danish Way”

Good To Go?

Following our recent discussions on both Advertising and the Borgward revival, DTW have received an unsubstantiated transcript of a meeting between Borgward’s Head of Marketing and the Creative Director of their London-based Advertising Agency.

Storyboard B

Dieter, Dieter, Mein Herr Geezer. How goes it?

Good morning Miller. Very good to see you. Everything is fine at our end. We’re gearing up for Geneva – very confident, though a bit nervous at the same time, naturally. It is all a big step. But we must discuss the film. I showed your rough edit to the board yesterday.

So they loved it, right?

Not exactly Miller. They did not feel that it projected Borgward values.

And what are they Dieter?

As we told you before. As they always were, so will they be. Solid. Dependable. Discreet. Middle Class.

So what’s the problem? That describes the guy driving the car in the ad perfectly. It took ages to find him you know. What don’t they like? Continue reading “Good To Go?”

Ah, the Romance of a Picnic

The ongoing replacement of the entire American Buick line-up with Opel vehicles has taken a step onward. At the Chicago motor show, the Cascada has been unveiled wearing the Buick Tri-Shield.

Whatever you do, don´t drive quickly with that stuff in the back.
Whatever you do, don´t drive quickly with that stuff in the back.

Much as I like Opel’s current range, and much as I want Buick to succeed, I am beginning to get a little disturbed by how little effort GM is making to translate Opel into Buick. Further, it is important there is at least one car that is uniquely Buick in the way the Regal, Lacrosse and Verano aren’t.

The Park Avenue is gone and perhaps the Avenir concept is a sign of there being a distinctly N American car in the Buick range. That’s a help but it is not enough. It would be nice to have a Senator for Opel’s range. If this is the case with the Avenir, it must be Buick first and Opel second and not the other way around. At bottom, Buick’s credibility rests on there being a car that truly represents Buick and which is not just a rebodied vehicle from another part of GM’s empire.

The Lacrosse seems distinctive enough but it is a model on the way out. The Regal is too much an Insignia to be anything other than a nice car with a Buick badge. I really like the Cascada and it does feel consistent with the Buick image. In isolation it’s a fine machine. And if it were slotted into a range of cars that was more intrinsically Buick, I’d be less alarmed. As it is, the Buick badge is now one model away from losing its believability.

2016 Buick Cascada
2016 Buick Cascada

Here’s some of the official copy from the Chicago Motor Show: “Harkening back to the glory days of the Buick Roadmaster, Skylark and Le Sabre convertibles, a new droptop model from Buick will be on display for the first time at the Chicago Auto Show, Feb. 14-22, 2015.  For the record, the Cascada is the first open air Buick in the U.S. in 25 years. Designed from the outset as a convertible, the distinctive Cascada has a flowing, sculpted profile, Buick’s signature wing-shape light-emitting diode (LED) daytime running lights. Around back, the LED-lit wing-shaped taillights are bridged by a handsome chrome trim accent.

A comprehensively equipped four-passenger interior feature the instrument panel wrapped with soft-touch material featuring authentic stitching, and heated front seats and steering wheel for added comfort. Performance and an engaging driving experience awaits with the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that delivers a total of 200-horsepower. That calculates to more than 100-hp per liter. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment, as is a rigid body structure, HiPer Strut front suspension and responsive Watts Z-link suspension in the rear.

Dropping the insulated soft top takes only 17 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph, and when the roof is up, it provides superior thermal and acoustic insulation.  Unique rollover protection bars are built-in to deploy behind the rear seats when the possibility of a rollover is detected. Other safety features include lane departure warning, rear park assist, rearview camera and Rainsense windshield wipers. Cascada also offers the latest in infotainment technology. The 2016 Buick Cascada provides 13.4 cubic feet of cargo room with the top up and 9.8 cubic feet with the top down. The rear seatbacks fold down electronically to expand cargo capability for longer items.”

Passengers: Testament of Faith

They’re not like us – well, not much like us anyway

Opel Manta 400 - image via showerks
Opel Manta 400 – image via showerks

Sean’s fine piece on Denis Jenkinson earlier this week prompted this clip of rally legend, Ari Vatanen giving his co-driver an education in belief during stage 4 of the 1983 Manx Rally. Vatanen gets his Opel Manta 400’s tail wagging alarmingly on the narrow Isle of Man lanes prompting the now immortal exclamation from normally unflappable co-driver, Terry Harryman. (About 2 mins in, if you don’t want to watch the whole thing)Continue reading “Passengers: Testament of Faith”

1984 Opel Senator 2.5E Road Test

DTW has been taking a look at old, large saloons. Recently a 1984 Opel Senator was been subjected to a small test. Read on to find out what was found out.

1984 Opel Senator 2.5E
1984 Opel Senator 2.5E

Introduction

Every time one has a reason to discuss the large cars from the 70s and 80s, the large cars that aren’t BMW, Mercedes or Audi, one seems obliged to talk about the status and success of these products in comparative terms. It seems incorrect to speak of the Granada, 604 or Senator without mentioning how they fared relative to the BMW 5 et al. I’ll avoid re-treading all that ground again. Continue reading “1984 Opel Senator 2.5E Road Test”

Post For The Day

A Valentine’s Gift

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As you know, Mr Editor Kearne keeps us under a tight rein. His reputation as the Elliott Ness of transport publishing means that the industry knows that he can’t be bought so, unfortunately, this preconception unfairly passes on to his team of writers.

As such, it was rare for this piece of blatant bribery from Vauxhall to pass through the net and, so desperately grateful am I, that it would be wrong of me not to draw your attention to the car it refers to.  Continue reading “Post For The Day”

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

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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”

Anniversary: The Peugeot 604 is 40 This Year.

Large and lovely, the Peugeot 604 was launched amidst an economic crisis and a sharp upward turn in the price of oil. Today, PSA is largely ignoring a car noted for its outstanding ride, superb steering and odd seating position.

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Peugeot are not making a very big deal about the 604 which was launched in 1975. Peugeot’s museum throws the anniversary in with about nine others when they throw a party this summer. If you want to catch a bit of 604 magic, Peugeot might have one on display at Montlhery race track on May 2nd this year. French Cars in America are also silent on the topic. And that’s all a Google search threw up on the matter.  Continue reading “Anniversary: The Peugeot 604 is 40 This Year.”

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?”

Ashtrays: 1984 Opel Senator 2.5E

DTW is known to be a champion of Opel’s magnificent Senator “A”. This post scrutinises the ashtray in the rear passenger door of an 1984 Opel Senator 2.5E. Read on to see if the Opel Senator’s ashtray design was class competitive.

1984 Opel Senator 2.5 E ashtray.
1984 Opel Senator 2.5 E ashtray.

Opel used a top hinged ashtray in this context, setting it in the armrest. This seems to me not to be a very good position. You can’t lean on the armrest while the ashtray is open. So, one can hold the cigar in the other hand and risk dropping it as you move your hand over your legs to the door.

Alternatively, you keep the cigar in the hand near the door and lean on the centre armrest. In that case you need to make an uncomfortable movement to bring your hand near to where your elbow needs to be. You risk dropping ash on the seat just below. The ashtray is not illuminated and remember, the car may be in motion.

Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1984 Opel Senator 2.5E”

Death Has a Revolving Door: Here’s Borgward!

The coffin lid groans as the once lifeless corpse reanimates

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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 produced anything tangible apart from a few blurry photographs and some vaguely muttered promises. Continue reading “Death Has a Revolving Door: Here’s Borgward!”

Theme : Passengers – The Ultimate Passenger

Who was the greatest passenger of all time?

In My Dreams - Jim Clark showing how to drift.
In My Dreams – Jim Clark showing how to drift – source petewindsor.com

I don’t know about you, but I have shameful memories of my motoring youth. The worst was the time when a mother walking her two young children on a country road flung them into a ditch at the sight of me executing what I imagined was a most elegant four wheel drift through a long corner. Her action wasn’t necessary, I wasn’t actually intruding into their space, but she wasn’t to know that and I had a chastening lesson that day. Not that I’d pretend that quelled my driving style entirely, but I became more thoughtful of what other road, and pavement, users might think. I tried to keep a comfort area between them and me.

Continue reading “Theme : Passengers – The Ultimate Passenger”

Ashtrays: the 1980 Mercury Monarch

DTW is in the middle of preparing a consideration of the 1980 Mercury Monarch which was all but identical to the 1980 Ford Granada (the US version).

1980 Mercury Monarch driver´s ashtray cover.
1980 Mercury Monarch driver´s ashtray cover.

It is a legendarily mediocre car, even with a 5.0 litre Windsor V-8. More on that soon. In the meantime, I thought I would fillet some of my findings and present this amuse-gueule or Häppchen: the driver’s ashtray.

I wondered what the very large panel next to the glove compartment was and it turned out to be the aperture for a substantial ashtray and a cigar-lighter. Alas I was not able to gauge the dimensions of the ash receptacle: 100 ml would be an estimate based on my many years of valuable research on this neglected topic. Continue reading “Ashtrays: the 1980 Mercury Monarch”

2015 Fiat 500C Review

DTW takes a Fiat 500C on a road trip. What did we learn? For one, don’t trust the fuel gauge and for another, it’s amazing people buy the Ford Ka. 

2015 Fiat 500C and some close relatives.

DTW is a bit late to the party in the case of the 500 as we aren’t yet on the invitation lists of the major car companies. By now the 500 is getting on a bit, launched as it was in 2007 when George Bush was still president. Nonetheless, we have got a hold of one now and if this isn’t a review of the car, at least it provides a check against the opinions of the motoring journals.

The model in question is the 500C semi-convertible version, on sale since 2009. I drove a 1.2 litre five speed manual without the stop-start technology and without the Twin Air engine. As the weather was dire, I didn’t open the roof except once to Continue reading “2015 Fiat 500C Review”

Unforgetting: Ford GT70

I vaguely recall seeing photos of this car in a magazine somewhere, but never knew much about it. But having watched this short film from 1970, I now know more – if only a little…

GT70 - photo via autowp.ru
GT70 – photo via autowp.ru

During the late 60s, Ford was taking motorsport rather seriously. Ford’s 1970 rally weapon was the newly announced Escort – the sort of no-nonsense rugged warhorse that was perfect for forest stages and Safari’s. But on faster asphalt rallies, they were being humbled by more specialised machinery – notably the all-conquering Alpine A110’s.  Continue reading “Unforgetting: Ford GT70”

A photo for Sunday – 1979-1992 VW Transporter (T2)

The vehicle here could be said to chime with our monthly theme, passengers. Further, the vehicle itself is a place to stay when you get to your destination. 

1979-1992 VW Transporter: air cooled and slow. Best left parked.
1979-1992 VW Transporter: air cooled and slow. Best left parked.

I notice that none of the Transporters that I ever see are well-cared for in a cosmetic sense. Rust is always there somewhere. The passenger saloon with its fold down tables and simple bench seats are almost always littered with debris. I don’t imagine that the owners’ home is similarly strewn with discarded items such as cables, cartons, items of clothes or old boots. Why the difference?

While at one level these machines are vehicles they also seem to ask to be treated like an old rucksack or cycle pannier. Over time these pieces of baggage Continue reading “A photo for Sunday – 1979-1992 VW Transporter (T2)”