Contributor, Chris Elvin returns to our pages to establish whether his Panda really eats shoots and leaves.
In the Spring of 2018, Driven to Write published the article ‘Small Is Beautiful… and Why Modern Cars Are (usually) Better’ describing my experience running a Rover 75 and its eventual replacement by a Fiat Panda TwinAir Turbo. A number of readers were kind enough to comment that they would like to read more about my experiences with the Panda so, now that I have been running it daily for over a year, I thought I would Continue reading “Little Monster”
This fine concept from Maserati’s coachbuilt days illustrates how far from home the Tridente has drifted.
Maserati, at the height of their gilded age as an exclusive automotive atelier, produced a bewildering array of suave gran turismos and more overt sporting machinery, along with the occasional one-off for their more discerning clients. At the 1965 Salone di Torino, Carrozzeria Vignale, who carried out a sizeable proportion of Maserati’s styling duties displayed an elegant four-seater concept.
Today automotive News posted an item headlined “VW says next generation of cars with combustion engines will be the last”. The next sentence is “Volkswagen Group expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026.” Hey sister, that’s 8 years away. Bloomberg has much the same story, by the way.
In my October 6th article I wrote “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.” I did not expect that. It means that VW will Continue reading “Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?”
The Alfa Romeo MiTo dies next year and to be frank, Driven to Write is neither happy nor sad.
So the dominoes continue to fall. A little over a week since FCA announced the UK withdrawal of the Grande Punto (as a prelude to its ultimate demise), there comes the latest slaughter of the innocents.
Speaking to Autocar earlier this week, Alfa Romeo Head of Brand (EMEA), Roberta Zerbi confirmed the MiTo’s imminent appointment with the eternal, telling the Haymarket weekly’s Rachel Burgess; “Mito is a three-door and people are choosing more and more five-door cars,” which is a nice line in marketing spin, albeit one which Continue reading “This Night Has Opened My Eyes”
Fiat’s geomorphic car crash hits another boulder with the axing of the Punto from UK shores.
There is a certain grim irony in the fact that Sergio Marchionne’s death was so abrupt and shocking, yet for so many former Fiat Group model lines for which he was responsible, the reaper’s approach continues at a glacial creep. Amidst the halls of Melfi, Mirafiori and Cassino, unconsolidated glacial debris have been noted for some time, but with this week’s announcement of the Punto’s withdrawal from the UK market, the terminal moraine edges closer.
The Arese merry-go-round has a fresh face in new CEO, Tim Kuniskis. Will he enjoy better fortune than his predecessors, or will it simply be more of the same?
Who’d take on a basket-case like Alfa Romeo? A marque with almost boundless potential for greatness, yet equally one with an unimpeachable aptitude for tragi-comic reversals of fortune. A state of affairs which is rooted in successive management failures – from those amid the semi-state Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale who oversaw Alfa’s affairs until 1987 and subsequently, the individuals Fiat Auto appointed to Continue reading “The Circle Game”
Fiat didn’t hold an official “Exhibitors Conference” on the first media day at this year’s Geneva Salon, but that didn’t prevent FCA’s CEO pronouncing on the future of Fiat’s European activities.
Sergio Marchionne declared that “for the 500, 500X and Panda it is worth pursuing, I am less in love with the Tipo, despite its sales success. We have to be careful how we distribute large amounts of capital. The Tipo is less encouraged, because that sector of the market is very crowded and not very profitable. It was a part of the market where Fiat traditionally was, but maybe we need to Continue reading “Geneva Fallout 2018 – The Things Bosses Say”
Lancia’s 2004 B-sector monospace was that rare thing – a commercial success. But was it a better Idea than its Fiat sibling?
It has been suggested that the Lancia Musa died prematurely, production ceasing when Fiat Auto’s Stabilimento Mirafiori car plant was idled in 2012; victim of the catastrophic fall in Italian new car sales in the wake of the financial crash, sovereign debt crisis, not to mention the legacy of Fiat Auto’s inability to Continue reading “The Muse of Melpomene”
A seemingly harmless trip to the shops leads to a rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Tipo.
A stroll around my local retail car park in suburban Cork is a dispiriting experience at any time, even when the rain isn’t horizontal. Filled with the usual drear parade of monochrome conveyances, there is little for the eye to linger upon, or indeed from which the uninfluential auto-blogger can spin an article. However, earlier in the week, I was stopped in my tracks by, of all things, a 2017-registered Fiat Tipo Sedan – the first I’ve witnessed in the wild. Continue reading “Reverting to Type”
Space is infinitely divisible, marketing space doubly so.
The 2017 Jeep Compass sits between the sub-compact Renegade and compact Cherokee. This sector is boiling, steaming hot and people will buy pretty much anything that does not burst into flames upon ignition. Continue reading “LA Motor Show Shorts 3”
Autocar, Gearheads and Carscoops reports today that Alfa Romeo promises “up to” nine new cars by 2021. The numbers don’t add up.
As a check on this let’s look back: in February we reported that the plan was for eight cars by 2020. This is what I got out of the last report: – the promises included a mid-size SUV on sale by 2017 (one), by 2017-2020 there would be a ‘full-size’ SUV (two), then come two more UVs (for ‘utility vehicles’ (four). And by 2021 there would be two more ‘speciality’ models in the vein of the Alfa 4C (making six) Also confirmed by Alfa was a new hatchback (seven). I can’t find reference to car number eight. Continue reading “Alfa Romeo Promises Delays and Fewer Models”
Before we go any further, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind readers that genuine Panama hats are made in Ecuador.
And that country is the topic of today’s investigation. The Republic of Ecuador lies on the north-west coast of South-America. Its capital is Quito but the largest city is Guayaquil. About 16 million people live in the country. They drive on the right (where possible) and the economy is dependent on commodities. Vehicle sales were down 30% last year (2015). That’s a big blow for Chevrolet who hold about 50% of the market.
The badge is placed on the upper surface of the boot. It probably really ought to sit on a vertical surface so people can read it with less trouble. You can get all the glorious details on the car here. I notice it’s a fairly light car (just over 1000 kg) so I suppose the 1.4 litre engine is able to haul it about. The other thing I noticed is what looks like Continue reading “White Convertible Thing, Not Sure What it Was…”
When the Thesis debuted, Lancia was at pains to present it as a sophisticated choice.
The PR offensive included a presence at a symphony music festival in St Moritz, and a range of accessories produced by Zegna and Longines amongst others. Fourteen years on, this example stands as a stark reminder that depreciation is no respecter of brand strategies or PR bumf. Continue reading “A photoseries for Sunday: 2002-2009 Lancia Thesis”
Driven To Write comes face to face with the car that (arguably) sank FIAT.
Three or four themes entwine here. We’ve had a Fiat Tempra on sale and here is its semi-successor. We’ve been doing colour and this car is white. This car lacks chamfers on the lamps. And finally, we’ve discussed in a tangential way the demise of the three door car. This is a three door Fiat Stilo. The first one of these I saw in the metal lurked in a corner of Cambridge in 2001. Isn’t odd that I still remember that with such burning intensity? Continue reading “A photo for Sunday: 2001-2007 Fiat Stilo”
The differences between Poland and Germany take many forms.
Fighting in 1945 meant Guben (Germany) and Gubin (Poland) both experienced near total devastation. They stand on the Niesse river that divides the two countries. Today Guben has a city centre and Gubin has some apartment blocks, a ruined church and a lot of trees. Essentially, the Poles didn’t rebuild. Among this lot I found a lovely FSO Polonez in what looks like late-model trim. Continue reading “Polish Snapshots”
It’s another round of musical chairs at the Italo-American car maker, with particularly resonant changes being brought to the company’s sartorial department.
In yet another surprising move, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO, Sergio Marchionne, has promoted Wichita-born Tripp Hardcrotch as Chief Knitwear Officer. Mr Hardcrotch will be in charge of organising clothing supply for all global subsidiaries, as well as devising a new sartorial structure for the company.
A former doubter takes a thimbleful of humble pie as the Giulia lands…
In the eleven months since Alfa Romeo revealed the Giulia to the world, I’ll admit to being more than a little dubious about the car and its prospects, and with some justification. Not only did it look faintly ridiculous in its early-reveal Quadrifoglio Verde warpaint, also the on again, off again nature of its gestation and introduction did little to lend confidence or succour to those who had waited so long for a competitive, mid-sized Alfa saloon following the demise of the pretty, if portly 159. But now that it’s finally here, perhaps it’s an opportune moment to view it with less cynical eyes. Continue reading “Giulia Shock!”
The image shows a car well-clad in black vinyl sheeting and foam packing that somewhat disguises the vehicle’s finer features. What they don’t hide is the grille or front bumper themes, the rising waistline or silhouette. By and large I’d be surprised if I was surprised by the final form of the Stelvio. I would not be surprised at all if the Stelvio sells in greater numbers than the Giulia saloon. Continue reading “Alfa Romeo Stelvio Spied”
Missing the Marea? Still smitten by the Stilo? Sergio’s got something for you.
Is Sergio Marchionne still shaking flak out of his bulk-knit cardigan? His demeanour on the first media day may have suggested otherwise, and FCA’s workrate can’t be faulted, notwithstanding more than a little help from their Japanese and Turkish friends. The recently launched, Turkish-built Tipo saloon, was joined at Geneva by a five door hatchback and a useful looking estate car. The saloon and hatch could be dead ringers for the – wholly unrelated – Qoros 3, even down to the chrome doorhandles. Some also saw echoes of the Brava and Marea. Can it really be twenty years since these hire fleet heroes first appeared?
Our editor will be cross with me for appropriating this month’s theme in such an arbitrary manner, but the title did rather suggest itself.
Last year Alfa Romeo revealed the Giulia berlina well before it was ready, allowing damaging rumours of engineering issues and rushed development to take hold. FCA management launched the Giulia early to reassure potential investors of the robustness of Alfa Romeo’s expansion plans and to strengthen their negotiating hand in talks with General Motors. So while the reasons for its botched launch are understandable, I’m sure it’s one Marchionne regrets, given the ensuing damage to both his own and Alfa Romeo’s credibility. Continue reading “Suspension – (Of Disbelief)”
I stood in the north west corner of Palexpo’s Hall 5 which has been the traditional home of Lancia for many years, and my fears were confirmed. Turin’s second most successful carmaker had left the building – hold on, wasn’t that Alvis? Did I walk through the empty house, tears in my eyes? Not really. Continue reading “Geneva Bites -The Abarth Garage”
Wind of change: As Maserati finally reveals its commercially critical SUV in production spec, we take another look at a distant ancestor: 2003’s Kubang concept.
The Levante has been a long time coming. How long? Well, it’s been thirteen years since Maserati first dipped a hand-tooled loafer in the crossover stream. In the intervening period that’s become a raging torrent, possibly explaining the tougher-looking, higher-riding vehicle we can see and purchase, subject to the mercurial whim of FCA’s masters.
In that time, there’s been two concepts named Kubang to speculate over, the first of which is this 2003 effort, created at a period when Maserati was being reinvented under the auspices of Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo; the prancing horse having assumed full control of the Tridente in 1999. Continue reading “Parallel Universe Levante”
This could have been a Picture for Sunday. Instead it’s more about materials and form.
Background: the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee (which is what I think this is) appeared on the world stage as a derivative of the Mercedes W-166 platform which also made its way to showrooms in 2011. That’s news to me. Did Mercedes license this? The whole of the Grand Cherokee Wikipedia entry reads like it has been airbrushed by someone with corporate interests so I have my doubts. Continue reading “Reflections On Chrome II”
We ran a piece earlier this week on VW’s sales in the Republic of Ireland which was such a resounding success we decided to run another today on some of the wider trends in the Irish market for 2016. It’s no trouble…
January car sales for the Republic of Ireland have been announced and as predicted show significant gains with 39,812 registrations; up 33.6% over the same period last year. Firmly in the lead is Hyundai, followed closely by Toyota and Ford. Last year’s sales winner, VW has slipped back; an Irish Times report suggesting this may be a consequence of the ongoing emissions revelations, although given VW’s sales have also risen, that’s just conjecture. Continue reading “Agus Anois an Aimsir – January’s Car Sales”
Autocar reported on the 27th of January that Alfa Romeo’s product plans have been set back by two years. All their eight cars arrive by 2020.
You can read the full text at Autocar if you are interested. I think at this point the whole Alfa Romeo thing has become a kind of extended joke. In comedy there have been two examples of the joke involving something overly prolonged and the tension of the joke running on too long. In Dead Men Don´t Wear Plaid (1982) Steve Martin’s character pours the last grains of coffee out a bag and the grains never quite Continue reading “Alfa’s Product Plans For 2018 Or Whenever”
As Lancia posts another respectable sales performance, where’s an automotive van Helsing when you need one?
I don’t know about you people but I’ve had just about enough of Lancia. I’m worn out from the serial indignities foisted upon this proud marque, sick to the eyeteeth of Sergio Marchionne’s platitudes and inaction. I just want the pain to end. But for those of us who’d prefer to see Lancia’s drooling remains smothered with its own pillow, the past two years have offered little by way of consolation. Continue reading “Bereft in Deathly Bloom: Not Bloody Likely”
With recent reports suggesting the sector is stagnating, have Alfa Romeo and Jaguar left it too late to prosper in a compact premium market now utterly dominated by the German big three?
The German premium trio’s stranglehold on the European compact saloon segment is virtually complete, with car sales data for Jan-Sept revealing just how dominant Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have become. This is an exclusive club comprising eight models – seven if you combine Volvo’s saloon and estate offerings. The combined sector posted January-September sales of 397,134, of which a sobering 341,339 consisted of either Audi, BMW or Mercedes. That’s 86% of the market, since you asked. Continue reading “Late and Never – Jaguar and Alfa Romeo Face the Hard Road”
Marchionne’s Merger Mania Examined – Again. Where Driven to Write leads, the mainstream press follow: Autocar finally gets around to examining the Marchionne plan.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. Recently, one of our readers took us to task over our coverage of FCA’s latest product plans, suggesting we were being unduly negative about them and about FCA’s knitwear enthusiast-in-chief. It’s easy to see why, but at least we have been applying our critical faculties to the subject – something that has (up to now) been conspicuously absent in the mainstream automotive media. Continue reading “Mega-Size Me”
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.”
Has FCA’s on-off romance with GM entered a new phase?
Last week two seemingly unrelated news items landed, which taken on face value elicited only mild interest. But to a cut-price Max Warburton such as myself, the two stories add up to something a good deal more intriguing. Continue reading “There’s Something About Mary”
FCA could learn something from the 1972 Alfetta, but it’s probably a bit late for that now.
While FCA’s Italian engineers have undoubtedly being imbibing industrial quantities of Alfa lore as they develop their forthcoming saloon, they’re unlikely to have this print ad posted up on their mood board. Perhaps they should, because journalistic hyperbole aside, it illustrates as eloquently as anything I can say not only how far Alfa Romeo has fallen since the early 1970’s, but how steep a climb FCA’s engineers now face. Continue reading “Rearview: Alfa Romeo Alfetta Berlina”
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.
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””
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.
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”
Maserati’s 2014 sales gain is astonishing, but is it a false dawn?
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”
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.
The sudden departure of Luca di Montezemolo as Ferrari MD has shocked tifosi and surprised analysts. But one key question remains unanswered – what happened?
Ever the truth-seekers, Drive to Write appear to have accidentally stumbled upon the answer, gleaned from (admittedly dubious) sources close to FCA itself, revealing the unspoken reason for his departure – the mysterious disappearance of Sergio’s favourite jumper – (A particularly fine blue angora number). Continue reading “Luca’s Woolly Nemesis”
So far in this intermittent series I have picked on a forgotten supermini, a lavishly expensive sportscar and the VW Passat. Today I feel the need to declare that Chryslers and associated brands are vehicles about which I have nothing to say. Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About: Chryslers etc…”
Has Centro Stile Fiat ever produced a design of lasting significance?
This is the question I found myself asking following a recent Driven to Write piece on Lorenzo Ramaciotti – (which I urge you to read). Because like many, I held firm to the view that Turin’s fabled carrozzerie were responsible for every design worthy of note. On the other hand, memory can sometimes prove a faulty co-driver, so I did what any self-respecting autophile would do at this point and revisited the Fiat group’s styling back catalogue in a quest for answers. So what I offer here is a list of significant Fiats of the last 50 years and who is believed responsible for their styling. Continue reading “A Question of Form”
This being, unofficially, the Fiat/FCA themed month, I feel like shedding some light on Fiat’s current styling policy and the man responsible for it.
And when I say “shedding some light”, I actually mean pointing out all the dark and shadowy areas that currently make up Fiat’s styling. More questions will be asked than answered, inevitably.
Superficially, the reorganisation of Fiat’s different Centri Stile in the wake of the company’s Marchionnisation seems to have been a straightforward example of streamlining. And, unlike the most famous jumper lover’s financial and fiscal shenanigans, this move appears to be both easily graspable and logical. Continue reading “What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?”
I’ll begin this badge-themed item with a nod to Eoin’s sterling work on the future of FCA. Can I ask people to note the rather cheap ugliness of the FCA logo? The letters seem not to be aligned. But more relevant is the flaked badge of an Alfa Romeo 156, a rich metaphor if ever one was needed.
A two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.
Now that the captives have escaped, the presentations are complete and fruit and vegetables been thrown, perhaps it is germane to take a look behind the figures and statistics at the state of affairs facing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Europe as they painfully inch towards their eventual fate.