Theme : Books – The Cars of Ian Fleming

My credentials to write about the cars of Ian Fleming are mixed.

Casino

In my favour, I had read the entire canon of 14 James Bond books by the time I was 14 and I am, more or less, the same age as the very first Bond book. Against that I’ve never read them since, and that was a long time ago, though it’s a sad reflection on the state of my mind how much I still remember. Ian Fleming was an accomplished writer of children’s stories. Some people forget that he wrote Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, but his best kid’s stories were the ones featuring Commander James Bond of the Secret Intelligence Service. At 14, I was so seduced that I anticipated a life of breakfasting on scrambled eggs, ham and plenty of strong, black coffee following on with a day’s light indulgence in cold-blooded violence, rounding off with lobster thermidor, a ‘49 Montrachet chilled to 37 degrees, fresh alpine strawberries and, later on …….

Continue reading “Theme : Books – The Cars of Ian Fleming”

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”

2014 Renault Twingo Review (Resumed)

Following on from DTW’s earlier impressions, we finally drive the Renault Twingo SCe70

2015-Renault-Twingo-10-520x346

The first thought on driving the Twingo is Why? Had I never read about the car, and had you sat me in it, I might have driven for hours before I finally twigged that something was, mechanically speaking, different from its competitors. The engine starts and a quiet burble appears in the cabin. It is unobtrusive, for a small car, and comes from no particular direction. Continue reading “2014 Renault Twingo Review (Resumed)”

Theme: Books – Iain Banks

Can you use a car brand convincingly in a novel without merely leaching off its existing image? Iain Banks shows the answer is yes and no.

1993 Complicity by Iain Banks
1993 Complicity by Iain Banks

Placing cars in books is a specialised version of the use of brands generally. Iain Banks often referred to or even used specific cars as elements of his plots (Bristol is name-checked in his novel The Bridge). In this Banks shares something with Ian Fleming, another story-teller in the traditional mould. There are two specific instances where Banks did this which I would like to discuss. One case succeeded very well, since the reference resonated with the character and story involved. The other instance seemed to me to definitively indicate the entire novel in question had not itself worked. Continue reading “Theme: Books – Iain Banks”

After the Great Leap Forward 2: Qoros Cars News Update

So, I presume you are all wondering how Qoros Automotive is doing? I was so I went and found out.

2015 Qoros screen shot

In March I wrote an article about the Israeli-Chinese firm Qoros. The latest news is that Qoros is running into difficulty, leading to reports of a split between the Israeli investors and the Chinese side of things. The Wall Street Journal reported it another way, saying major shareholder, Israel Corp have reiterated their support for the firm. This is as reassuring as saying out of the blue, “I won’t chop off your arm”, I think.

In a letter released to the Wall Street Journal, Israel Corp said they were “looking forward to Continue reading “After the Great Leap Forward 2: Qoros Cars News Update”

1968 Saab 99: Review

“The new Saab 99 tested”. In this transcript Archie Vicar samples what is now viewed as one of the top-ten great Saabs. Is it more than the anti-Volvo? 

1968_Saab_99_006_4822

From “Mass Motorist” Dec. 1968. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

Introduction

When people think of Sweden and Swedish cars, they often think of Volvo who make sturdy machines capable of withstanding the horrors of the Scandinavian climate. But it’s worth remembering that Sweden has a second car maker, Saab, who also make fighter jets. Like our friends at Bristol, Saab use the experience they have gained in aerospace to Continue reading “1968 Saab 99: Review”

Theme: Books – The Art of American Car Design

The Art of American Car Design: The Profession and Personalities by C. Edson Armi.

GM designer Chuck Jordan
GM designer Chuck Jordan

Armi’s book (now out of print) rewards repeated reading. Few books seem to be able to find a language to discuss the process of car design. This one does. In giving a vocabulary to the process it becomes instantly more comprehensible and concrete. The interviews with GM designers such as Bill Mitchell and Bill Porter are encrusted with Continue reading “Theme: Books – The Art of American Car Design”

In Emergency Dial ‘F’

Sports models have kept Jaguar in business in the US market for decades, so what’s the matter with their saloons?

RANGEPAGE_4CARS_JNA_14MY_V2-device_desktop-1366x460_tcm97-32524_desktop_1366x460_tcm97-44272_desktop_1366x460
Photo: Jaguar Cars USA

At Driven to Write, we are constantly at pains to point out the repetitive nature of Jaguar’s history, much of which has to do with the marque’s frequent lapses into commercial and financial abysses. For example, during the mid-1960’s Jaguar’s sales in the US slumped dramatically on the back of the commercial failure of the MK 10 and S-Type saloons. Continue reading “In Emergency Dial ‘F’”

Theme : Books – My Father’s Peugeot 604 by Dominique Pagnaux

“My Fathers’s Peugeot 604” (2000) by Dominique Pagnaux. Why would someone whose main interest lies in other areas want to read this book?

2000 Peugeot 604 book cover

Assuming one has a general interest in motor cars, then the Peugeot 604 represents an alternative interpretation of the large saloon. These days the German and Japanese models are the accepted norm. To better understand them one must also Continue reading “Theme : Books – My Father’s Peugeot 604 by Dominique Pagnaux”

Death of a Carrozzeria

We bid a tearful adieu to one of the greats.

bertone504

This year, Bertone has joined the doleful list of recently deceased Italian styling houses, having held out against the inevitable longer than most. The quantity and quality of Bertone’s output had been in decline, particularly as commissions from major manufacturers began to dry up. The era of the great Italian styling houses is over and the centre of gravity has moved away from its traditional Italian heartland. Continue reading “Death of a Carrozzeria”

Theme: Books – Drive On!

Not very many books on cars demand as much as LJK Setright’s social history of the motor car. It offers a lot in return though.

2004: Drive On! by LJK Setright.
2004: Drive On! by LJK Setright.

To be very honest there are very few motoring writers who can write well. And there seems only to have been one who could writing outstandingly well. LJK Setright was that one. This fine book is quite probably unique because it’s a towering monument to a rich understanding of motor vehicles showing most clearly why an intelligent, cultured person might find them a worthy object of contemplation. Continue reading “Theme: Books – Drive On!”

The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs

Maserati’s 2014 sales gain is astonishing, but is it a false dawn?

Maserati-range-2014

One of the reasons the motor industry continues to be such compelling subject matter is its almost limitless capacity to surprise. Last week, we looked at FCA’s decision to float off Ferrari as a stand-alone business – a move that surprised many – (if not ourselves). Now however, we are compelled to eat a portion of humble pie on the back of sales figures for Maserati that appear to demonstrate the storied brand’s continued growth to be no mirage, despite strong misgivings we expressed on the subject back in May.  Continue reading “The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs”

1966 BMW 1602: Review

“BM-double-who?” In this transcription from a 1966 article, Archibald Vicar takes a close look at a questionable product from a struggling motor manufacturer from Bavaria. Can the 1602 really compete, asks a sceptical Vicar.

BMW_1602_page1

From “The Modern Motorist”, June 1966. Photographic Plates by Chester of Shipton-On-Stour, M. Phil (Oxon)

When Bayerische Motoren Werke invited us to a test drive near Munich we didn’t know what to expect. This obscure firm is still better known for their bubble cars than for ordinary family vehicles. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, BMW had a reputation for making fine motor cars before the second world war. Since then they have mostly made do with the manufacturing of Isettas under license. Continue reading “1966 BMW 1602: Review”

Renault 1998-2009: A short history of missed opportunities

Créateur d’Automobiles: that’s how Renault styled themselves for a while. And indeed some of the concept cars have been very good. But, we can’t help noticing a gap between the promise and reality.

Renault-Concept-Ve_1940644i
Vel Satis concept 1998

Just before the turn of the 21st century, Renault had successfully re-invented itself as a maker of one-box or ‘monospace’ cars of various sizes, from the Espace that started it all in 1984 to the Scenic of 1995, through Patrick Le Quement’s masterpiece: the Twingo Mark I of 1992.

Continue reading “Renault 1998-2009: A short history of missed opportunities”

1965 Porsche 911: review

Air-cooled Tomfoolery: Archibald Vicar on the new Porsche Nine-Hundred And Eleven

1964 Porsche 911
1964 Porsche 911

From “Advanced Motorism” October, 1964. Photographs by Douglas Land-Windermere, Esq.

The “Volk” who make Porsche sportscars (a firm called Porsche, oddly) invited “Advanced Motorism” to drive their new machine, the Nine-Hundred-and-Eleven. I hadn’t been abroad for a while so I accepted forthwith, chiefly so I could Continue reading “1965 Porsche 911: review”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 10

Phase Three – 1981-1986: Not so Fast Mr. Egan. Was Jaguar really going to launch XJ40 in Autumn 1984?

XJ40pilot
The first pilot-build XJ40 is completed, but are celebrations a little premature? Image: unknown

With Jaguar heading for privatisation, internal BL politics once again reared their head. Sir Micheal Edwardes’ successor, Ray Horrocks was opposed to Jaguar’s independence, lobbying to prevent Egan successfully manoeuvring towards BLexit. With BL at work on an executive saloon to be launched in 1986, Horrocks also moved to ensure there would be no encroachment into Rover’s market. Unsurprisingly, Jaguar’s Chairman had other ideas.
Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 10”

Unforgetting: 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4 Three-Door

Walking around the other day I noticed this little vehicle. Tucked away on the tailgate was the clue that this was no ordinary bland, three door hatch. This was a candidate for Unforgetting. The 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4.

1995 Suzuki Baleno: it´s neat and tidy, you have to hand it that. And these days neat and tidy is rare. So, we like the Baleno.
1995 Suzuki Baleno: it´s neat and tidy, you have to hand it that. And these days neat and tidy is rare. So, we like the Baleno.

The car we all know as the Baleno enjoyed life under several different names, depending on the large number of markets Suzuki offered it in. In Europe, the Baleno name is the one we recognise. For those who appreciate dull and forgotten cars, the Baleno saloon (or estate) has an impressive reputation as a car so ordinary and unremarkable it stands out.

There are only a few vehicles in this class of Continue reading “Unforgetting: 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4 Three-Door”

Theme : Books – Introduction

The Editor Consults His Library

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In a previous time, before an age where any jaded old hack and a few opinionated dilettantes could open a website at the flick of a keyboard, a knowledge of motoring history relied on the prodigious memory of chaps like Bill Boddy, piles of magazines in the attic and, of course, lots of books. Once, should I wish to know more about the ill-conceived Lotus 30 (147,000,000 results in Google) it would have meant, at least, a phone call to Motor Books or one of the other specialist shops or mail-order suppliers who dealt with motoring matters. Then, if there wasn’t actually a volume helpfully entitled ‘The Lotus 30′, one would hope that the person on the other end of the phone was knowledgeable enough, as was often the case, to say “there’s a couple of paragraphs in the 1965 publication The World Compendium Of Lethal Racing Cars, which unfortunately is out of print, and I think Denis Jenkinson might be writing something on the subject”. Then would follow a lengthy spell of phone calls and letter writing until, at last, a dog-eared third-hand volume of The World Compendium, etc was in your hands. I can’t begin to tell you what an enormously satisfying procedure that was.

Continue reading “Theme : Books – Introduction”

How to shape the future : 2

We ask a new-fledged car designer a few questions.

Byungyoon Min and the 2063 Porsche concept design
Byungyoon Min and the 2063 Porsche concept design

As I was interested to find out what was on the mind of some of the designers from Pforzheim University´s MA automotive course, I asked Byungyoon Min, a recent graduate, some questions. Min’s design was for a Porsche 911 for the year 2063. As of this month, Byungyoon Min is an exterior designer at Mercedes-Benz, Sindelfingen. Continue reading “How to shape the future : 2”

Trading the Bloodstock – Ferrari’s Shock Sell-Off

But just how shocking is it really?

f1-ferrari-f2007-launch-maranello-italy-2007-ferrari-logo

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”

1976 Volkswagen “Golf”: Review

In this transcript of a period review, the legendary motoring writer Archie Vicar casts a critical eye over the new “Golf”, successor to the much-loved Beetle.

1976 VW Golf

“Fore! Can the new ‘Golf’ possibly succeed in a crowded and increasingly competitive market?” Asks Archie Vicar.

From “The London Illustrated News” February, 1976. Photography by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the poor quality of the originals, stock photos have been used

No matter how severely Jack Frost bites, a Volkswagen Beetle always starts. Even a royal Rolls-Royce can succumb to the effects of freezing whereas the humble Beetle’s ingenious design is cooled by air, making the engine as tough as old nails and as reliable as the Queen’s Grenadier Guards. I am reminding you, readers, of this as an introduction to a new car from Volkswagen. Continue reading “1976 Volkswagen “Golf”: Review”

Electric Dreams – Farewell Ampera

Was GM’s EV ever a contender?

Ampera Tunnel

Various things have recently caused me to think of things electric, though I admit that none of them involves me saving this or other planets. I had a mail the other week announcing a blanket 20mph limit in much of the area where I live, a process that is happening in many boroughs of London. Much of my driving in London is carried out in an old Audi S6, that burns both rubber and fuel with abandon, but gets me there no faster than anyone else. I dislike tube journeys. I can’t ride a pedal bike long distances without hurting my back. If I ride my motorcycle in wet weather I drip over people’s floors. I like silence. I want a new motoring experience. All these and more reasons make me think it would be nice to drive an electric car, or at least a part electric car.

Continue reading “Electric Dreams – Farewell Ampera”

1977 Cadillac Fleetwood: Review

Short trips: we revisit Archie Vicar on Cadillac’s new for ’77 Fleetwood Brougham which was briefly offered in Europe.

1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham
1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

From “Driving Weekly Magazine” Nov 1977. Photos by Gary Purvis. Owing to the unfortunate loss of Mr. Purvis’ wide-angle lens, stock images have been used.

Drivers interested in something a little different might like to think about Cadillac’s new Fleetwood Brougham. Thanks to the fuel crisis (merely four years ago) Cadillac have taken the cleaver to their leviathans. They have shrunk their enormous aircraft carrier down to the size of a mere naval destroyer. The car is now 750 lbs lighter which is nearly half the weight of Volkswagen’s horrid little Golf. Smaller doesn’t mean more frugal though. The fuel consumption is still prodigious, thanks to the 7 litre V8 engine: 12 mpg is easily achieved. Cadillac say this smaller Fleetwood is “more European” in its appearance Continue reading “1977 Cadillac Fleetwood: Review”

Theme: Concepts – 2012 Lada X-Ray by Steve Mattin

The 43rd Most Influential Briton in the Car Industry 2004 was Steve Mattin.

2012 Lada X-Ray concept
2012 Lada X-Ray concept

Formerly the senior design manager at Mercedes Benz until 2004, he moved to Volvo when it was under Ford’s management. I happen not to care a great deal for the Mercedes cars designed while Mattin was in Sindelfingen. And it surprises me very little that while at Volvo Mattin oversaw the creation of the Volvo S60, V60, and XC60 concept cars.

Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2012 Lada X-Ray by Steve Mattin”

Theme: Concepts – Jaguar’s Lost Gamechanger

Driven to Write takes the Sir William test with Jaguar’s 2003 R-D6 concept and asks, could it have been Coventry’s TT?

Jaguar_RD6_large

Most concept cars are created to invite a dialogue with the customer about the future, or at the very least, nudge them towards one the manufacturer has already committed to. However, in the case of the concept cars prepared under the design leadership of Ian Callum, it was a bit more like forensic research. With Jaguar’s styling atrophied under the weight of over two decades of introspection, it was a case of asking; ‘what would Sir William Lyons have done?’ Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – Jaguar’s Lost Gamechanger”

Theme: Concepts – 1980 Ferrari Pinin

In some ways, the 1980 Ferrari Pinin is a mess. But some of its details inspired later cars, none of which were Ferraris.

1980 Ferrari Pinin
1980 Ferrari Pinin

The proportions work quite well but one gets the impression Pininfarina had a hard time with the details and with marrying a form language that wanted to Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 1980 Ferrari Pinin”

2014 Renault Twingo Review (Interrupted)

DTW fails to test drive the New Twingo.

Twingo Front

Following our disappointment with the Citroen Cactus, a viewing of the Renault Twingo has yielded a pleasant surprise. Importantly, unlike other recent Renaults, the styling is not inspired by something from one of Mr van den Acker’s collection of sports shoes. The fact that it reminds me of a Fiat 500 is made more excusable if you consider that it, and not Fiat’s current version, is a truer spiritual updating of the original 500. Continue reading “2014 Renault Twingo Review (Interrupted)”

Reasoning à la Marchionne

Not just since Luca di Montezemolo’s dismissal have arguments about the merits and demerits of FCA CEO, Sergio Marchionne’s style of conducting business been rather heated. And now we are being presented with a particularly poignant case in point.

Signore Marchionne undoubtedly knows his stuff when it comes to numbers and figures like few others in the business. Which is why nobody was surprised when he – somewhat proudly, it has to be said – explained that the series production Alfa Romeo 4C’s extremely ungainly headlights were his very own responsibility, as their decidedly cheap appearance helped lowering production costs by a few millions. Car buyers, he seemed to believe, don’t really care about details, even particularly blatant ones. Continue reading “Reasoning à la Marchionne”

Theme : Concepts – Little Wonder

The 1983 Opel Junior concept personified the adage, small is beautiful.

opel-junior-05

The 1983 (is it really that old?) Opel Junior was one of the stars of that year’s IAA at Frankfurt, where it debuted. Small and really rather perfectly formed, the little Opel was the work of a team of designers at Opel’s Rüsselsheim styling centre, under the direction of Hideo Kodama. Alongside Kodama was Gert Hildebrand and neophyte, Chris Bangle, who it’s said, was responsible for the concept’s modular interior.  Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Little Wonder”

Theme: Concepts – 2013 Honda Gear

It seems Honda didn’t think too much of this little concept car. They showed it at the Montreal Motor Show in 2013, at the same time the Detroit Motor Show was being held.

2013 Honda Gear concept car
2013 Honda Gear concept car

To be honest, I found this by accident. In 1992 or 1993 Honda showed a small concept car with a feature that has become a very common, the false reverse-raked c-pillar. I wanted to see the originator of this idea and then show a few of the cars that have used it these last 20 years: Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2013 Honda Gear”

Concepts: From Dialogue to Thesis

The 1998 Dialogos concept previewed the full-sized Lancia’s final fling.

proto_dialogos_51

During 1996, Lancia began work on a new large car concept. Lancia design director, Mike Robinson was briefed to create a car that would honour marque traditions, while also being a showcase for upcoming in-car technology being developed by Fiat at the time. The concept was also intended to preview the next generation full-sized Lancia saloon style.  Continue reading “Concepts: From Dialogue to Thesis”

2014 Toyota Aygo 1.1 VVTi Review – Part 3

This has turned into something of a long-term test. With a third chance to drive the car, DTW has some extra insight on living with Toyota’s second smallest car.

2014 Toyota Agyo 1.1 VVTi
2014 Toyota Agyo 1.1 VVTi

Perhaps the most illuminating aspect of adding another four days to the tally of six, is that a few important details have turned up, all of them bad. DTW conducted most of the original testing when the days were longer. This time, night driving in humid weather has shown up two details that might irritate or perhaps prove too grating to live with. Continue reading “2014 Toyota Aygo 1.1 VVTi Review – Part 3”

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”

Theme : Concepts – Essence of Alfieri

Déjà vu on the show circuit 

maserati-alfieri-concept-show-floor-rear-side-view-2

At this year’s Geneva show, Maserati announced the Alfieri concept; a preview for a new Grand Turismo, aimed at the sort of affluent customer who might otherwise choose a Porsche 911, Aston Martin or heaven help us – one of those vulgar new Mercedes-AMG things.

Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Essence of Alfieri”

Theme : Concepts – Ride A Rocket

Mini raised every enthusiast’s hopes to the heavens with their 2011 Rocketman Concept, only to have them burn up on re-entry. Thanks for that…

mini-rocketman-concept-0

At the 2011 Geneva Motor show, MINI debuted the Rocketman concept and from Palexpo to Peterborough, Mini enthusiasts wept with relief, because here at last was a proper Mini-sized MINI, rather than the lumbering behemoths that were actually available for purchase.

Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Ride A Rocket”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 9

Phase Three – 1981-1986: Trouble at ‘Mill. As John Egan begins extricating Jaguar from BL’s grasp, XJ40’s development programme hits some early setbacks.

outback
XJ40 SDV testing in the Australian outback – image: Car Magazine

As quality improved, Jaguar customers could appreciate the cars’ elegant lines and refined character anew, and sales rose sharply. Despite a continuing sales depression in the US market, 21,632 cars were sold worldwide in 1982 – up from 15,640 the previous year. For Egan however, exit from the BL straitjacket became his primary focus. Amongst discussions held was the serious prospect of a tie-up with BMW. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 9”

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”

A glimpse of the future for the DS brand

Automotive News Europe has reported that PSA have launched a China-only vehicle, their second. It is the DS6 crossover.

2014 DS6
2014 DS6

The appearance is generic SUV while the grille and lights show China´s DS styling. From there back, it´s file under “Forget”.For a brand allegedly majoring in style this is a major puzzle. For a firm as indifferent to the meaning of DS, this entirely to be expected. And we can see this as sign of the future developments for DS, along with the possibility of the brand having its own dealerships, as it does in China. Continue reading “A glimpse of the future for the DS brand”

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”

Theme : Concepts – Yet Another DS Stunner!

Steaming Hot News From Paris!

DSuperficiale

Following on the heels of the Divine, the Paris Salon was today stunned by another offering from PSA’s ambitious DS brand, its latest concept the DSupérficiâle. Originally thought by diehard enthusiasts to be a homage to the D Super, itself the successor to the classic ‘no-frills’ ID19, PSA was anxious to dispel such misconceptions. At the press launch, DS spokesman Jean Conneries, standing in front of a still-shrouded shape, explained the philosophy behind the car.

We are foremost a French brand. We must build on that as the 21st Century progresses. However, in the past we have mistakenly concentrated too much on those aspects of heritage that are specifically Citroën. France has a huge heritage that it has bequeathed the World and foremost in that is philosophy. The philosophy of this car is ….. philosophy itself! Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Yet Another DS Stunner!”

1997 Isuzu Vehicross reconsidered

Spare a thought for the Isuzu Vehicross. Isuzu revealed the Vehicross as a concept at the 1993 Tokyo Motor show and the production car went on sale in 1997. Who thinks about it today?

1999 Isuzu Vehicross

1999 Isuzu Vehicross

The Vehicross survived for four years until 2001 and has sunk without leaving very much of a trace. However, it merits a second look. In 2013, Michael George at Jalopnik wrote : “Let’s check off all the ways the Vehicross is a unique snowflake in the most boring automotive landscape of all. A design that still seems futuristic today? Check. It comes from a much-beloved dead brand? Check. Sophisticated all-wheel-drive technology that makes it a highly-competent off roader? Check. General mechanical toughness? Check. Rarity? Check. Always designed to be a one-run niche vehicle? Check.” For this reason he sees it as future classic. If you want one, look here  where a 1998 with an absurd 3.2 litre engine is for sale for £6500. That´s not a lot of money for a rather interesting motor car. Continue reading “1997 Isuzu Vehicross reconsidered”

Theme: Concepts – 2000 GM Precept

This was inspired by Sean’s post about Tatra’s retirement from making road-going automobiles and what might have been.

2000 GM Precept concept car in motion
2000 GM Precept concept car in motion

In the last few years of the Clinton administration a sizeable grant was made to the US car builders to help them develop fuel efficient large cars. Among the goals, the companies were to aim for was to reduce fuel use to 80 mpg. We seem to be slowly getting to this although with smaller cars. GM’s response to this grant was the Precept, the appearance of which seems to me to not too unlike a Tatra. Whether this is a case of convergent evolution or actual direct inspiration, I can’t say. Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2000 GM Precept”

JLR – The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand

Driven to Write examines the JLR success story.

f-type___rr_-_skyline_DesktopHero

Jaguar Land Rover’s commercial renaissance over the past five years has prompted a deluge of scepticism in some quarters, because on the surface of things at least, its rapid turnaround has stretched belief. When the Ford Motor Company sold the Jaguar and Land Rover brands to Indian industrial giant, Tata Group for £1.2bn in 2008, both businesses were loss makers – Jaguar in characteristically epic fashion. Continue reading “JLR – The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand”

More Renault: 2015 Renault Avantime, Sorry, Espace

Renault have decided to abandon yet another category of car. This time they have given up on space-focused people movers.

2014 Renault Espace
2014 Renault Espace

The Renault Espace was a trend setter and for two decades ruled the roost in the MPV class. The original version is now three decades old and still has a tidy, neat appearance of purest industrial design. This sat well with Renault’s custom of quite rational cars. The last generation did not get out of the show room fast enough. It was luxurious, large, complex and not really the kind of car you really wanted babies to be sick in. Continue reading “More Renault: 2015 Renault Avantime, Sorry, Espace”

History, as Written by Both Winners and Losers

Museums of the Alternative Motoring Universes of Both Porsche and Tatra

Porsche Gmund 04

A recent visit to Austria was intended to lead to a return by way of Prague and, en route, a further diversion would be made to the Technical Museum Tatra in Kopřivnice. The Tatra company has a long and fine pedigree, and the streamlined 30s Tatras of Hans Ledwinka and his team, as well as their post-War successors, have long fascinated me and, to someone frustrated by cordons, the museum tantalisingly offers that “some of our exhibits and models are available for you to touch”. In the event, time conspired to make the zig-zag trip north impractical, though I strongly hope that I will have another chance.

Continue reading “History, as Written by Both Winners and Losers”

Theme : Concepts – Armchair Motorshow : DS Divine

What is to be made of the DS Divine concept car? Is it a Good Thing that PSA now has Peugeot, Citroen and the DS brands to manage?

2014 DS Divine concept front three quarter

As we know, PSA has decided, in its wisdom, to divide its efforts no longer in two, but three. From hereon in (or, at least until PSA has gone to the hereafter), the Sino-French giant will furnish the market with Peugeots, Citroens and DSs (the latter to be shorn of the Citroen moniker sometime next year, in the UK at least, so it is reported). Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Armchair Motorshow : DS Divine”

Theme: Concepts – Renault’s Mixed Message

Look at the future as it was in 1995 and look at the future circa 2015. Are we going back in time? Sideways?

2015 Renault Laguna or Initiale or Safrane or something
2015 Renault Laguna or Initiale or Safrane or something

I was moved to write this when I saw a breathless announcement at French Cars In America that there was a new Renault Laguna on the way. They alleged that the car was going to be shown at the Paris Motor show (happening around now, if you reading this in 2016 sometime) They got their story from Auto Plus. While cross checking it I found that Auto Express had nothing to say on the matter at all. So, I don’t know if the car really will be sold or is just a Photoshop story.

Assuming the car looks a little like the one shown above we have another big, grey bloater with a high waistline and a busy front end. Renault have not really grasped what they might need to do to Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – Renault’s Mixed Message”

Concepts: Saab 9X BioHybrid

Getting it right at precisely the wrong time.

Saab biohybrid
Stunning. Saab 9X biohybrid

At the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, Saab presented a concept that perfectly encapsulated the future direction the marque needed to take. Given the multitude of factors massed against it, its non-adoption was perhaps inevitable, but that didn’t stop enthusiasts howling in frustration and thwarted desire. Derived from earlier 9X concepts, the C-sector 9X BioHybrid concept not only looked fantastic, but also successfully imagined Saab’s entry into a sector that should have proven both lucrative and sustainable – hybrid technology or no. Continue reading “Concepts: Saab 9X BioHybrid”

2011 Nissan Juke 1.6 Review

The received wisdom is that the Juke is an odd-looking vehicle with no obvious purpose. Is this true? I drove one in order to find out.

2011 Nissan Juke
2011 Nissan Juke

To avoid disappointing people I’ll get the driving stuff out of the way immediately. After three hours on a route that took me from Stansted Airport to almost exactly the dead centre of Britain I had covered every major road type available in England barring gravel and mud. On motorways the Juke in 1.6 litre flavour can keep up with traffic and proceed to license-losing speed and stay at that pace unbothered for as long as you care to Continue reading “2011 Nissan Juke 1.6 Review”

Theme: Concepts – 2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo

One of the last Lancias had a five year gestation from concept car to production. In this case there were two concepts, a real one and a pre-production model. One of them was not helpful.

2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo
2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo

Lancia showed the 2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo at the Barcelona motor show as a genuine kite-flying concept car, one of quite a few they showed around this time. Three years later these ideas were translated into the production ready 2006 Lancia Delta HPE concept revealed at the Venice International Film Festival which then took a remarkable 2 years to get to an official launch by which time the styling had staled somewhat.

You have to Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo”