Editor’s note. This piece was originally published on DTW in May 2015.
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 is believed to have used as a reference point when developing their own engine.
Having a decent and attractive range, with innovative yet sensible specifications, Borgward’s pricing was keen, undercutting similar Mercedes models. The only problems were a reputation for introducing under-developed cars too early and, crucially, Carl Borgward’s attitude that the best way to Continue reading “Alternative Paths In An Unpredictable Industry”
Some envelopes with car show photos that were elusive when the first four instalments of this series were being written in 2020 have now resurfaced.
Quite late into its life, the Jaguar XJ-S was finally offered as a true convertible(1). Although the conversion might at first glance seem to be relatively straightforward, no less than 108 new panels and 48 modified pressings were needed to make the car a production reality. Also required were reinforcements to the transmission tunnel, rear floor and both bulkheads. The car was available in V12 form only, making it the most expensive vehicle in Jaguar’s model range apart from the very limited production Daimler DS420. Continue reading “Show and Tell (Part Five)”
Uncovering some stillborn concepts of German origin, now largely obscured by the mists of time.
Steyr-Puch / BMW AM2, 1981
BMW’s 1999 X5 claim to fame is being the Bavarian car firm’s first SUV, but BMW passed on an opportunity to introduce one almost two decades earlier. In August of 1981 Steyr-Puch unveiled a 1:10 scale model of what was at that time an almost unknown quantity: what we now call a Sport Utility Vehicle. Steyr claimed they had developed a new type of passenger car – a multipurpose family vehicle with four-wheel drive, a car-like body with an elevated roofline, room for five to seven, and a moveable rear bench seat to Continue reading “Vier Bleierne Luftballons*”
There it goes. The year that wasn’t. Worst year ever. One which has at times felt something more akin to a grim combination of Groundhog Day and Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. A painful year for most, a life changing one for many others. But still as they’d say round these parts, mad for road. But at this brief period of reflection before we wend further onward, there remains as much to Continue reading “Adieu 2020”
It might seem like a lifetime ago, but it was only last September when Volkswagen unveiled its new logo at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The logo was launched in conjunction with the ID.3 EV and was intended to herald a new era for the company, where the wholesale electrification of its model range would take centre stage. Unspoken, but undoubtedly the case, was the hope that it would Continue reading “Flattening the Curve”
The Great Contraction is no longer a theoretical construct. It’s here.
The era of unfettered expansion and niche-filling is not only over, it would appear to be in the process of being unceremoniously dumped at the hard shoulder. As European carmakers face a deeply uncertain commercial and regulatory future, previously inviolate marque-orthodoxies are being stuffed into hessian sacks and abandoned, as auto executives contemplate an epochal shift.
While this is a phenomenon affecting the entire industry, it is one that appears to be hitting one with particular force. Already somewhat embattled, having rather publicly persuaded its former CEO to step down, Bayerische Moterenwerke, as reported by Automobile magazine recently by veteran German automotive soothsayer, Georg Kacher, appears to either be (a) in worse shape than their compatriot prestige rivals or (b) is taking decisive (if not precipitous) action to Continue reading “Into the Mystic”
Just how resilient is a strong brand? BMW are in the process of finding out.
Supposed elitism is one of the car industry’s preferred counter-arguments/excuses. When challenging a particular product, particularly with regards to its design, one is quickly dismissed as a snob, out of touch with what ‘the market’ really wants by those who conceived that product. Any criticism is therefore at best a matter of ‘personal taste’ or, at worst, highly patronising.
A group of high-profile designers have left BMW’s design studios over the past few years. Time to assess whose loss turned into whose gain.
This photo, taken in about 2006, depicts BMW Group design at the height of its creative powers. Unlike giants such as Ford, GM or VAG, BMW achieved the seemingly impossible in running each of the company’s core brands (BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce) as a creatively self-sufficient unit. For that reason, a Mini didn’t come across like a de-contented BMW, nor did anybody mistake a Rolls-Royce for a tarted-up 7 series. Every BMW brand’s design possessed its own set of stylistic rules and values.
More than a decade later, none of the people depicted in the photo are in charge any more – apart of course from Adrian van Hooydonk, who’s been running BMW Group’s design fortunes for a decade this year.
The last two years of that reign have been somewhat overshadowed by an unprecedented creative drain though – unprecedented not just regarding BMW Group, but within the industry as a whole. With the Bavarians’ stylistic fortunes currently shrouded in controversy, it would appear to be the right time to Continue reading “Life After Munich”
Denmark announced a few days back that ICE cars would be banned from sale by 2030. That’s 12 years or roughly not enough model cycles…
A car launched in 2018 might be replaced in 2025 leaving a short product cycle to recoup investments. That makes the period around now the last point at which it will be worth bothering to engineer for ICE engines. The UK has, not surprisingly, gone with a cut-off for ICE engines of 2040 but I think that if this change-over happens at the planned speed, the UK will change over faster than 2040. (Whether or not it´s part of the EU, EU policy will affect the UK).
Some years ago, a German poultry giant tried to add a whiff of luxury to cold cuts. Today, BMW is attempting something eerily similar.
The German word for turkey is Pute (poo-tuh).
This needs to be kept in mind when envisaging a tv commercial playing to the tunes of Ram Jam’s Black Betty, advertising turkey cold cuts by the name of Black Puty. If this sounds utterly absurd, it is not due to cultural misunderstandings – for Black Puty is an utterly daft monicker, regardless of whether one’s mother tongue is German or English.
The company behind Black Puty is Wiesenhof, a German meat industry giant. And a company that, in 2010, when Black Puty was introduced, had even more of an image problem than it does eight years later. First of all, turkey meat never Continue reading “Black Puty”
Here we go again. Another week, another dispiriting announcement from the Vierzylinder. The new 8-Series however represents a new low.
At least it isn’t an SAV: It’s doubtful BMW’s all-powerful marketers will employ this line in their advertising for the new 8-Series, yet it just might be the sales pitch it deserves.
A curious car to consider in terms of BMW’s stylistic nadir, you might argue, after all what could be bad about a suave, low-slung GT? However, it does not require much study to realise the full extent of BMW’s current styling malaise which is embodied here. Because quite frankly, if this is the best Adrian van Hooydonk’s design team can muster, the crisis at the Vierzylinder is indeed far worse than feared.
The recent crop of new models coming from Munich inevitably leads to a simple question: What on Earth has been going on at BMW in recent years?
Ever since the Neue Klasse reinvented and saved the brand, BMW could only ever, leaving matters such as personal taste aside, be described as assertive.
Assertively conservative insofar as an adherence to driven rear wheels, straight six engines and the evolution of the themes established by the Neue Klasse were concerned. Assertively daring when it comes to Continue reading “Crossed Over”
Among the numerous small obsessions nurtured, nay, incubated at DTW is a concern for brightwork. Here’s another example of the art:
The car is a BMW 425d, complete with the rather supernumerary, superfluous and unnecessary label in the rearmost sideglass. Isn’t that the kind of thing you’d expect of a lesser marque in the 1980s? (Prizes for finding the kind of thing I have in mind). We’ve reflected on brightwork here (very good) and here (interesting) here (shocking, frankly) and here (a bit technical but ultimately rewarding) but not here (more people need to read that one). At this point, readers might be wonder when we are going to Continue reading “Combing The Hair Underwater Again, Are We?”
Despite this particular group of people hardly being renowned connoisseurs of the finer things in life, manufacturers try their utmost to make the Frankfurt Motor Show a palatable experience for the press. Do they succeed?
The IAA press days are all about hustle and bustle. Most attendees have appointments to make or deadlines to meet, which – coupled with the distances that need to be covered at Messe Frankfurt, not to mention the above average levels of dehydration, (courtesy of the halls’ air conditioning) one is afflicted with – can render grabbing a bite to eat a difficult necessity. Continue reading “IAA 2017: A Culinary Perspective”
It’s now autumn, a time to reflect. Recently, DTW has been driving Lancias and we have discussed the decline of this once noble marque. It is not the only brand to have faded away.
In the diagram I have marked the timelines of two other defunct brands: Rover and Saab. Rover closed in 2005 and Saab shut up shop in 2011. You’ll notice that while Rover had no new models in the Phoenix years (I don’t count the MG versions), Saab had new product in the pipeline right until the last minute. Lancia’s demise is more muddled.
Despite arguably being the most gifted automotive engineer and manager of his generation, Prof Dr Wolfgang Reitzle would only ever enter the captain’s chair once he left the car industry for good.
It is one of automotive history’s more baffling paradoxes that a man of such undisputed talents as Wolfgang Reitzle never reached the post of chief executive at an automotive business. But as with a great many other high achievers, it actually was the same traits that had brought Reitzle so close to the apex that ultimately prevented him from arriving there.
In 1964 the Skoda 1000MB went on sale, replacing the first Octavia of 1959 (which stayed in production anyway). It had a 1.0 litre four-cylinder engine.
And it started a long series of rear-engined Skodas. It’s not a car I know a lot about. The Wikipedia web-page reeks of fandom: “Apart from the use of cooling vents in the rear wings and rear panel, everything else about the 1000 MB’s styling was normal, which was undoubtedly in an attempt to appeal to all the conservative-minded buyers in export countries like the UK. This car was highly successful both for Škoda and the Czech economy”.
This isn’t much of a Photo for Saturday** more of blue car by the side of the road. What is it?
It’s a very Was Then sort of car. From 2006 to 2008 BMW made this car in Regensburg. It’s a variant of the E85 Z4 which had a longer life. The Z4M had one engine, a 3.2 litre six cylinder unit and a six speed ‘box. In some ways you could call it an M3 wearing Z4 clothes. If you want a historical reference, it has the same relation to the Z4 as the Triumph GT6 to the mainstream Spitfire. It’s the kind of car that used to be quite common, a pure sports car which is now rather a freak. Continue reading “Automotive Mayfly”
The keys to the executive lounge are hard-won. Sometimes you’ve got to force your way in…
The 1986 E32 BMW 7-Series may not have been as polarising a styling statement as its E65 descendant, but if anything, it was to prove a more significant car. Bayerische Motoren Werke’s “Here’s Johnny” moment; it represented a point where BMW took a metaphorical axe to the boardroom door and gave their Swabian rivals the fright of their lives. Its style also inspired an entire generation of BMW saloons, introducing the distinctive (and patented) L-shaped tail-lamp motif.
Up to that point, BMW’s success had pivoted around more compact offerings, their upscale models proving a more difficult sell against the eternal benchmark Sindelfingen flagship. The 1977 (E23) 7-Series marked the Bavarian carmaker’s first serious attempt to Continue reading “Benz Buster -1986 BMW (E32) 7-Series”
While it might be culturally, and indeed physically a long way from the rest of South-America, the Falklands are part of the continent. What do they drive?
Outside of Port Stanley, the capital, most of the roads are gravelled and are described as tracks. Furthermore, there is not a very large road network (900 km) due to the island’s low population density: 3000 people reside there. It is tempting to say that the most popular vehicles thereabouts are boats since the Falklands are made up of two large islands and about 700 smaller ones. The road network is being upgraded to Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – +(500) Land of Bikes, Quads and Boats”
The Guangzhou Motor Show has just ended. BMW are hinting at their front-drive future.
And if you can click here you can see it’s one of a few cars revealed that are not cross-overs so be thankful for small mercies. As a matter of comparative interest I have also posted the BMW 1 and 2 series coupés. They are very alike, aren’t they? Continue reading “Guangzhou Revelations”
A while back I alleged that, if nothing else, the mainstream saloon had more visual variety than that found among C-class family hatches.
A recent bit of news concerning Volkswagen’s Phideon saloon led me to put that in with seven other medium sized cars. See how many you can identify. How different are they? And which one stands out? Doesn’t the Phideon look a lot like a BMW 5-series proposal? Can you tell which one is the Phideon?
Driventowrite is pleased to present an exclusive examination of the colours used on concept cars at the 2016 Paris Motor show.
You’ll notice green is still missing from the palette. Renault’s yellow was really a pearlescent gold. Honda’s Civic had a stainless-steel character to it. Renault’s Trezor’s surface appeared to be textured with a honey-comb effect. Mitsubishi went for white on the Ground Tourer but a vibrant yellow on the (very similar) EX. Mercedes used black paint for the EQ bonnet which disrupted the graphic effect of the fancy grille decoration. Continue reading “2016 Paris Motor Show Colour Palette”
These usually mean big numbers. In Volvo’s case that means only 20,000 annual sales for the S90.
Automotive News mentioned this figure yesterday. There are another 40,000 units annually for the V90. Still, that’s quite modest really. The reviews so far have been good and my static inspection revealed a pleasingly high quality product. Is a figure of 60,000 enough for a firm without multiple brands to
Last month’s news of head of MINI design Anders Warming’s precipitate and unexplained departure from BMW as was a shock to the industry comparable to Chris Bangle’s exit in 2009.
That may be as nothing compared with the news of his new appointment as Borgward AG’s Board of Management member responsible for Design, to begin on 1 January 2017. He is belatedly reversing the trend begun by Wilhelm Heinrich Gieschen, Karl Monz, and numerous others who took the one-way journey south from Bremen in the early 1960’s to create the new BMW in Borgward’s image. Except of course, neue Borgward is headquartered in Stuttgart, and answers to Beijing. Continue reading “What Anders Did Next”
We could easily be excused for missing the first official pictures of the BMW 1 Series four-door. It’s reported to be strictly China-only, and a built in the BMW-Brilliance Auto joint venture factory in Shenyang. The design isn’t wholly unfamiliar, having broken cover as the ‘Concept Compact Sedan’ at the Auto Guangzhou salon last November. Continue reading “Not for Sale Around Here: BMW 1-Series Sedan”
My casual analysis of the Italian fleet leads me to conclude Fiat, GM, Toyota and VW dominate the low to middle market and thereafter it’s Audi and Mercedes. The losers are Renault and Citroen at one end, Ford in the middle and Lexus and BMW at the top. Subaru, Mazda, Honda and Mitsubishi have no strong presence. Alfa aren’t even all that common. Continue reading “Micropost: The Italian Car Park”
In my survey of the values of the motoring manufacturing nations, we have touched on Italy, Britain and France. Now it is time to look at the nation that helped invent the motor car.
The present gets in the way of the past. Today Germany stands on an equal footing with Japan and the US as a powerhouse of car engineering, design and manufacturing. If we go back a hundred years the story would not have seemed so clear. Each car-building nation had a deluge of manufacturers and a certain sameness attached to all of them as they ploughed a vast array of technical furrows, hopeful minnows. Germany’s clever engineers and industrious entrepreneurs offered a wide range of types of car in the search to find something that matched German values and German conditions. Things became clearer in the 20s as most of the small makers died off. The Second World War acted as another selector. Mercedes managed to Continue reading “Theme: Values – Germany”
DTW likes to present itself as a dogma-free zone and, in general, we think that this is so. We cover four wheels without prejudice of value or social status. But once we step outside that, things change. When I was at school, with youth’s preference for factions, it seemed to be that you were either a car person or a motorbike person. I suppose there were people who were neither, but contempt or, at best, pity for them was the only thing that united car and bike lobbies. I was firmly in the car camp, and remained there until my late twenties, when I discovered bikes as well. But many car folk really have no interest in bikes, which makes writing about bikes on these pages a minority pastime. Continue reading “Two Wheels Good. Three Wheels Better?”
The world has changed a lot in 20 years. Among those changes are those we have discussed here lately concerning BMW’s astonishing expansion.
For this study I have compared the total range and prices of three brands of cars between 1995 and 2014, the last year for which I have the data in one magazine in my living room. (The graph says 2016 though). The prices are inflation adjusted to 2015 values. For example, a 3-series started at £15,000 in 1995 and this is worth £27,000 today. I have selected the base price of the main models and not included options. All of the cheapest cars in standard trim could be specced up and I have omitted this and focused on the lowest standard price.
David and Goliath? This question springs to mind in this report of life with a RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup.
I once shared a university house with a man who studied Physics. He was tremendously good at it. As a lazy English student, I envied the clarity of his thought processes, of his ability to harness complex mathematics to make sense of the forces that shape our world. Meanwhile, I struggled to marshal the energy to make a toasted cheese sandwich. (And this despite me keeping a Breville sandwich toaster on my bedside table. And my bedside table being a mini fridge liberated from a caravan, filled with cheese and booze.) Continue reading “Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup”
In December 2014 we ran an item about the changing styles of luxury car interiors.
A year or so later we find someone answering our calls.
In an article about how Lincoln do not want to copy the Germans, there is also discussion of the Lincoln Continental’s blue interior option. Here is a chance then to see if blue interiors are something that appeal to anyone other than automotive design commentators. My impression is that this is a welcome bit of bravery on the part of Lincoln. The all-blue colourway creates a very pleasant atmosphere that manages to Continue reading “Be Careful What You Wish For II”
In a revised piece from the earliest days of DTW we look at the UK’s first true economy car. But we make an even grander claim for it.
My French teacher at grammar school, Mr Roberts, had a small collection of Austin 7s from the 1920s, which he alternated using as transport to work – back then, that sort of car collection was practical, even on a teacher’s starter salary. I think that he considered me a bit of a prat (and history has certainly vindicated him on some levels) so, sensing this, I reciprocated with contempt for his collection of little, old and, at the time, very cheap cars. In hindsight, I might have had a more rewarding time discussing the niceties of the Ulster, Ruby, etc with him and he might have decided that I had some redeeming features. I deeply regret my glib teenage contempt, though it was entirely my loss. He was right, I was wrong. Continue reading “Theme : Economy – 7 Degrees of Separation”
After all the other things happening in the last few weeks it has been easy to miss less notable news stories. Among them is the 2016 BMW 7 series has been unveiled (June 11, for goodness’ sake).
Dimensionally the car is not much larger than the existing car so owners won’t have to build a new garage. It is a bit lighter (130kg) and a lot fussier. We are a long way from Ercole Spada’s interpretation which is virtually definitive or the Michelotti-influenced first version.
The new BMW 7-Series is awash with colour and tech. Oh joy.
According to Autocar, who seemingly troubled the press pack – (something I’ll admit to not being bothered doing) – the newly announced BMW 7-Series will be available in a dazzling array of cheerful colours. Or to put it another way, it won’t. On the surface of things, the new 7’s colour palette looks even more drearily monochrome than its uninspired styling. Continue reading “The Future’s Bright – (oh, hang on a second…)”
In the repository of automotive facelifts, this example is something of an aberrant one. BMW’s E65 7-Series is commonly and perhaps justifiably regarded as BMW’s ‘they’ve gone stark raving bonkers’ moment. Adrian Van Hoydoonk’s styling was on one hand a genuine breath of fresh air, yet at the same time, a visual challenge of epic proportions.