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.
First, the badge engineering of Fiat cars increased and then swapped around 2011 to the relabelling of Chryslers. The Lybra (1998) and Thesis (2002) count as the last proper Lancias. The Delta (2008) is a superficially restyled Bravo but nowhere near the quality of the 1998 Lybra. The latest Ypsilon is a reworked Fiat 500. As of 2014 FCA gave up rebadging Chrysler (I left one out – which?). And perhaps Alfa Romeo could be added to this chart… Continue reading “Leaving Off The Saws”
Old Concept Cars is a fine resource for people looking back at forgotten designs. This one is the 1998 Lada Rapan.
Not a lot of information exists on this one. What I can gather is that it is under 4 metres long and is powered by a 25 kW electric motor. It´s a concept and no series production occurred. The car could manage 90 kmph and got to 60 kmph in 14 seconds. Presumably modern battery packs could dramatically improve those figures. AutoVaz showed the car at the 1998 Paris motor show. Continue reading “As Athos Confounded Xerxes”
Quite a few brands have cottoned on to ‘personalisation’ after MINI: Fiat, Opel and Citroen/DS, for example. Now it’s Audi’s turn.
It’s not a bad idea, giving customers some more possibilities in how their joy and pride is finished. What is the paint, wheel and upholstery choice but a chance for the producer to find customers with money to match their preferences? Mini make a fine penny with their mirror trim and Union Flag lids. Opel offer the delightful Adam with a range of roof colours as do DS. And the DS also goes in for body strips and mirror trim. What these models have in common is that that they Continue reading “Snap-On Quality And Self-Adhesive Style”
In what very much resembles a transcript of a period road test, the celebrated motoring scribe, Archie Vicar, takes a critical gander at Simca’s 1967 rear-engined saloon. Has it been improved since 1966?
This article may have appeared in the Carlisle Evening Reporter, 16 March 1967. Original photos by Douglas Land-Windermere; due to their poor condition, stock images have been used.
It’s all change at Simca which for good reason is one of France’s most successful manufacturers of motor cars. In these increasingly competitive times, every car producer must ceaselessly revise, update and otherwise improve their products and Simca have made some changes to their evergreen 1000 saloon so as to keep it in the race for customers which means that in order to appraise the new version, I have subjected it to a road test and present now my findings that readers may Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Road To Success!”
Sino-American Lucid Motors have revealed their Air saloon, a truly good-looking car.
Take a look at these photos. This is what a modern, elegant and distinctive car looks like. It will be on sale in 2018 though only in Canada and the US. The details can be inspected here. What is interesting is the approach Lucid have taken, managing to give the car a clear identity without recourse to strange detailing and without obviously using a grille-like oblong at the front. Continue reading “They Got This One Right”
What you say isn’t always necessarily what you mean.
As Europe’s leading car design consultancy, Ital Design has always been in the business of ideas, and while they could to some extent predict the future in styling terms, they couldn’t necessarily convince the industry to follow their lead, which saw many promising styling studies on the cutting room floor. But in the industry’s defence, the price of failure has always been high. Continue reading “Cars That Could have Been Citroëns – 1980 Ital Design Medusa”
Veteran motoring correspondent Archie Vicar offers his driving impressions of the 1971 De Tomaso Deauville.
This may be a transcription of an article that first appeared in the Hartlepool Afternoon Post. Original photos by Dean Suarez but owing to the poor quality of the source, stock images have been used.
Consider luxury cars from Mercedes, Rolls Royce and Aston Martin and one must undeniably concede they suggest a degree of similarity which borders on the insipid. Manufacturers are being forced by the nanny state and ever-more-cautious customers to present cars which differ from each other in only the smallest ways. So, in these increasingly competitive times, originality is even more important (and rarer!) than ever before. Luckily, the De Tomaso Deauville has it in large quantities and the car is on sale now to the lucky few. Continue reading “1971 De Tomaso Deauville Roadtest”
This is a micropost. Chevrolet have a huge range in Uruguay. This is what is looks like when seen from space:
The Chevrolet Celta Mk1 (see below) was based on the Corsa B, on sale from 2000. It seems to have stopped production. In 2006 Chevrolet revised the car but it still seems to have its roots in the Corsa B. The Onix is a partial replacement. The giveaway is the split A-pillar: the front window frame is half of the A-pillar, just like the Corsa B (1993-2000). GM have done really well out of the Corsa and indeed Opel. I notice a lot of what they sell around the world has its roots in Rüsselsheim. There is no way they are shutting down Opel and there is no way Opel actually makes a loss. Its an accounting wheeze. Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – Chevrolet in Uruguay”
Is there a “car film” car enthusiasts can all agree to like?
Those of us who love cars belong to a broad church. The 1997 Glanza driver is unlikely to enjoy the same movies as the pootler in his perfectly restored 1932 Ford 8. Some of us worship at the altar of pistons and power while others genuflect at the shrine of good looks. My holy grail has always been big coupes, but surely there is room for us all (well maybe I’ll draw the line at modified cars). There’s never going to be a film or even a genre to suit everyone. My tuppence worth (you’re probably going to get about 48p if you keep reading) says I would have put Bullitt in a notchback and I really don’t like movies where the car is the star. What really works for me is a movie with well cast cars that are credible and complement the story being told. Perhaps comedy is where we might find some agreement amongst ourselves. Continue reading “Theme: Film – Comic Relief”
Or rather Suzuki showed the 2017 Ignis. Or rather they presented same car the Japanese public saw at the Tokyo motor show in 2015.
The new Suzuki Ignis has two marketing points. One is the possibility of 4wd and the other is the robust and chunky styling. The 4wd option sets it apart from the Renault Captur. The sensible and tough look sets its apart from the Nissan Juke. The Ignis won’t replace the Jimny which has quietly become one of those reliable, steady sellers that won’t die. We wondered here about a Renault 4 for our times. Is the Jimny really that car? It’s cheap, efficient, useful and simple. Maybe the Ignis also meets the brief. Continue reading “2017 Renault 4 Revealed at Paris”
We are very proud of our focus on this aspect of car design: ashtrays.
This one serves in a Renault 4. The quattrelle had a three decade production run; it’s not fanciful to wonder if it could have endured as long as the Defender had it been marketed as slightly separate to Renault’s modern range. Continue reading “Ashtrays: Renault 4”
This is a short round-up of items that aren’t worth a whole article: news from Ford, Hyundai and Citroen.
First, Ford have announced a V6 version of the US version of the Mondeo. The Fusion boasts 325 hp and all-wheel drive. The car has adaptive damping and, as usual with Ford, disappointing seats. Will Ford Europe make this motor available? This academic study indicates what matters to customers, regarding seating. And this item from TTAC also shows the value of good seats. The one thing I remember from my time in a Citroen Xsara: the excellent seats. Continue reading “And Now For Some News”
Sufficient time has elapsed now for Citroen to admit to making the CX.
Make that 25 years in the dog house before they could bear to put the name, or something like it, on their latest concept car, the Cxperience. Thancx, Citroen. Extrapolating from this we may have the Xmination concept car in 2026. The car is showcasing the drivetrain and not the appearance. We’ll see what others have to say about the oily/electrical bits first. Continue reading “2016 Citroen Cxperience Concept”
The genepool of the Monovolume is littered with evolutionary cul-de-sacs. Today, we present two examples from a highly likely source.
It should surprise nobody to discover that Citroën were at the forefront of monospace research. Indeed, studies into such a vehicle began under the supervision of André Lefèbvre as far back as the early 1950’s. A series of mono-volume prototypes were built under the Prototype-C nomenclature, culminating in the 1956 C 10 seen above. Continue reading “Morphologie du Monospace”
It’s nice to think that Giovanni Michelotti spent some of his creative time trying to think of a suitable ashtray for this car.
He might have sat at his desk with samples from suppliers or he might have drawn some simple sketches and asked the artisans to run up a few prototypes. At some point Adolfo Orsi, the firm’s president, could have been invited to review the shortlist of possibilities. Perhaps he sat in the car and had a smoke Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1972 Maserati Indy 4700”
Originally carpenters made horsedrawn carriages with wooden bodies. They carried this technology over to the horseless carriage.
Then it became clear that for large scale production, a saw, hammer and some nails would not be up to the task. Design involves choosing a balance between what the material needs to do and how it can be formed. The appearance emerges from this compromise – the required look can drive material selection and vice versa. Often the balance is not even something at the forefront of the designer’s mind if they are working out of habit or tradition. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Body Building”
Or parts of one. The photos were taken by our Dublin correspondent, Mick, who has a new post at his blog. You may want to take a gander…
It’s a small world and in Dublin you can get to know the fleet of older classics. I am pretty sure I have seen this car driving around. I believe it might belong to a member of the Citroen Car Club and was once owned by a mining and energy magnate whose name eludes me. He had a Citroen dealership hence the car. Continue reading “Some Photos For Sunday: 1986 Citroen CX Prestige”
A quick game of word association around the kitchen table with select members of my tribe provided a 100% consistent response: I say, ‘values’ – tribe members respond, ‘family’. Looks like I’ll be writing about our family car, then.
Ladies (out of interest, does DTW have any female readers?) and gentlemen, I give you the Citroen Xsara Picasso. By the end of this September, we will have owned our Xsara Picasso for 10 years. This is a record for me. It’s almost certainly down to the fact that my wife uses it more than I and she’s perfectly happy with it. My wife appreciates my passion for automobiles, but does not really share in it, so the Picasso is a utility which causes little or no grief and performs its function without fuss – ergo, why get rid? Continue reading “Theme of Last Month: Values – Head over heart?”
It’s time for a bit of sweeping generalisation. Let me sweepingly generalise about French cars.
You’ll have to forgive the broad brushstrokes here. That’s how I like to start before thinking about the curlicues and details that put nuances on a rough outline. France’s automotive values emerged from the soup of French culture. That is itself a richly complex thing which has attracted the attention of the rest of the world for as long as wine, olives, cheese and berets have been cultivated in the mosaic of terroirs that make up the nation. Continue reading “Theme: Values – France”
Part two: Can PSA really make it in America? Driven to Write continues its investigation.
It is a truth widely acknowledged in crisis management that there are five key steps to corporate recovery. First: change the senior management. Second: rapidly identify and scope the nature of the problem. Third: take action to arrest losses by cutting the cost base. Four: Stabilise the business and five: return to growth. Up to now, PSA’s Carlos Tavares has stuck rigidly to this playbook, ruthlessly extracting cost from the business, yielding financial results that have had the industry’s top analysts patting his head in approval. Not only in regards to profit, but with financial metrics reputedly the envy of its rivals, PSA’s turnaround looks impressive. But stabilising the business is only stage four of the turnaround gameplan, finding growth in a stagnating market is a horse of an entirely different stripe. Continue reading “Coming Back to America? PSA Looks West : 2”
Part one: Recent reports suggest PSA are considering a return to the US market. Are they out of their minds?
If it isn’t chiseled in stone somewhere, it probably should be. Because if you want to make a success of the auto business, you really do need a viable (and profitable) presence in the United States – it’s simply too big, too diverse and too lucrative a market to ignore. Conversely, it’s also amongst the toughest to break into. Casualties are inevitable, even for the more successful entrants; an unintended acceleration issue here, a diesel scandal there, but you only have to track the fortunes of the auto-absentees to understand the price of retrenchment. Continue reading “Coming Back to America? PSA Looks West : 1”
A long time ago the Midlands of Britain were at the cutting edge of suspension design.
In 1955 Citroen presented their DS which had a suspension system markedly different from the ones with which drivers were familiar. The British Motor Corporation picked up Citroen’s fragrant gauntlet. Their attempt to improve ride and handling went under the name hydrolastic and they offered it first on the period’s equivalent of a bog-standard family car, the 1100-series (born as ADO16). Continue reading “Theme : Suspension – Hydrolastic Rubbery Goodness”
The latest Superb is a very nice thing, but I’m concerned that it lacks the essence of Skoda.
The other morning I had the pleasure of parking up at Milton Keynes Central Station car park early, and was struck by the profile and form of the two cars between which I had inserted my C6 (I still can’t drive a manual, which is no significant hardship really, but now I’m threatened once again with immobility as the Citroen’s power steering is definitely on the blink – there always seems to be something …) Continue reading “The Superb Skoda – a Mixed Blessing”
Recently we had a bit of a discussion about the DS brand. I suggested the DS5 could do with being lower and having a different front fascia.
Squint and consider the roughly-made changes wrought on this image. It’s squashed by perhaps 7% and I deleted the busy stuff under the lamps. The foglamp moved rearwards. Out of curiosity I fixed the C-pillar. It’s crude work but gives at least a feel for what else this car might have been.
You’ll have to ignore the odd glitch in the A-pillar. That happened while I was compressing the image and I noticed it too late to change it.
Perhaps we might be coming to the end of this particular strand. Here are three concepts from Ford/Ghia and GM that show the gestation of the glazed C-pillar.
The last vehicle, the GM, is the most convincing as it shows the floating roof though more importantly, the glazing carrying from the side-glass around the C-pillar. The Fords show a will to glaze the C-pillar yet retaining a small radius from the side to the rear. GM’s stylist had the insight to make the radii from side to front and side to back bigger. It had a dramatic effect on the shape of the wing-to-bonnet as well. Notice Continue reading “The Origin of the SpeCies – Aeroglazing”
FCA’s Olivier François outlines Fiat’s flat-pack future.
On the basis of his recent outpourings, I rather doubt whether FCA’s Olivier François has ever been to an IKEA retail outlet. After all, visiting one of their stores is a little like dentistry. Numbingly unpleasant but occasionally necessary. At such times I’m compelled to go, I try to plan my expeditions in military fashion. Go when its quiet, get in, get the target and get the hell out. Continue reading “Forthcoming Fiats Will Be Like IKEA.”
Cars no longer differ from country to country, but once they had definite national characteristics. What happened when two nations met – collaboration, collision or confusion?
We now seem to have reached a consensus that the type of car most should be is ‘Germanic’, being lazy shorthand for something efficient, hard riding, fast enough and, usually, a bit clinical. Some sports cars remain, possibly, more traditionally ‘Italianate’ in spirit, being nervy, noisy and involving to drive. Nowadays, though, car making is truly a global industry where an Italian car maker might produce a model exclusively in Poland, and where the designers and engineers come from scores of different nations. Nearly fifty years ago this wasn’t the case. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids : The French-Italian Connection”
A micropost on the reverberations of certain design themes across decades and between brands and a reflection on their meaning.
One of our readers has asked for further clarification on the meaning of the “CX line” with respect to the 2008 Renault Laguna. The first photo shows the 1976 Citroen CX, designed by Robert Opron. The second photo shows a Series 1 Renault Laguna from 2009. The CX line is partially obscured by the cut-out of the headlamps and, of course, is set within a more complex environment than the corresponding line on the 1976 car.
Car advertising (like almost all advertising) commonly emphasises the new and the improved. There is not a single advert drawing attention to the subtle and not-so-subtle second lives of components intended for one car but which lived on in another…and another…and another…
Last week we discussed the afterlife of the Buick aluminium 215 engine. Such a re-use is not what I have in mind in terms of rooting around the parts bins. Rover had the decency to rework the engine –endlessly – to make it work so that by the time they had stopped fiddling in 2004 there was little a Buick engineer from 1957 might recognise other than the porosity problems and flagrant thirst. Continue reading “Theme: Secondhand – Rooting in the Parts Bins”
So reports the team at Autocar. It is true that only one firm can sell the cheapest product in a given market…
Citroën has noticed that being the next cheapest or quite cheap or cheap-ish is not really getting them very far. Time to try something else. But can they move away from the corner they are painted into? Price is nicely measurable. You add up the numbers and you get a figure you can compare easily to every one else’s figures. Style on the other hand is a qualitative thing. Once you decide to Continue reading “Refrain: Citroëns To Be Sold On Style Not Price”
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.
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.
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.
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.
That’s the tabloid-style scare headline for this topic. The sensible, broadsheet-style headline would be “Fleet buyers to dominate in car market”.
According to Automotive News (who posted this story on Saturday, Jan 10th – do they never rest?) Renault are to bank on fleet sales as the proportion of private customers decreases relative to corporate ones: “Renault hopes its new Espace will appeal to business customers as family buyers increasingly shun minivans”. Furthermore, AN reports that “Jamel Taganza, an analyst for Inovev, said fleet customers now represent the majority of potential buyers of midsize vehicles in Europe: ‘With the exception of Italy, the shift to fleet sales is a European-wide trend,’ he said”. Continue reading “The Private Buyer Is Dying Off [Exclamation Point]”
When Citroën showed the way but the industry was too dull to follow.
For all-out minimalism, the TPV prototype of the Citroën 2CV is hard to beat but, since then, Citroën have produced some of the most adventurous dashboards.
Throughout its twenty year life, the DS dashboard went through various iterations but, in its first instance, it was as modern as the outside. The least successful DS dash was the length of plywood fitted to the fascia of some of the upper range Slough built UK cars, on the assumption that Brits must have wood, however cack-handed it looks. Generally however Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – Citroën, a Dash of Style”
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!”
For much of my motoring life, the hierarchy of car engines was clear, constant and relatively simple. The reciprocating internal combustion engine reigned supreme and the greater the number of cylinders, the more important it often was. The true enthusiast’s choice of fuel was petrol, with diesel an unfortunate option for the miser who had no ear for beauty and even less care for the health of their fellows. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The Final Stroke?”
A few years ago, brand consultants Landor redesigned the Citroën logo to be more rounded and, in their words, ‘liquid’. That is a strange adjective, since the chevrons famously represented the helical gear teeth that André Citroën patented and whose success he built his company on. In their current form the chevrons no longer seem to suggest precise technology and, therefore, it could be argued that Landor has done its job well in capturing the essence of 21st Century Citroën.
I’ve just spent a few days and 2,500 km driving around Eastern France. In that time, I saw two Citroën CXs, a Renault Dauphine, a Renault 12, a Simca 1100 and a Peugeot 504. And I also saw an Onze Legere Traction, but that was UK registered. Those staple cliches for the location director setting an episode of a popular UK TV series in France, the DS and the 2CV, were nowhere to be seen, save for a battered Snail sitting on the roof of a scrapyard. Of course a French person visiting the UK would notice the dearth of Morris Minors and Rover 2000s but, somehow, the homogeneity of the modern French industry is so much more depressing. Even a Peugeot 406 and a Renault 21 were almost cheering sights, being pretty Gallic compared with today’s eurocars.