Reverting to Type

A harmless trip to the shops leads to a rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Tipo.

Tipo Berlina. Image: Car Suggest

A walk 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 for the uninfluential auto-blogger to 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”

LA Motor Show Shorts 3

Space is infinitely divisible, marketing space doubly so.

2017 Jeep Compass: source
2017 Jeep Compass: source

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”

Alfa Romeo Promises Delays and Fewer Models

Autocar, Gearheads and Carscoops reports today that Alfa Romeo promises “up to” nine new cars by 2021. The numbers don’t add up.

A good decade late to market. Alfa Romeo's Kamal concept. Image:digitaltrends
Still waiting. Image:digitaltrends.

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”

Theme: Sudamerica – Ecuador

Before we go any further, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind readers that genuine Panama hats are made in Ecuador.

Big in Ecuador: source
Big in Ecuador: source

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.

What do they drive? Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – Ecuador”

White Convertible Thing, Not Sure What it Was…

… because I couldn’t see the badge.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The badge is placed on the upper surface of the boot. It probably really ought to 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 misalignment of the outline of the bodywork around the rear lamps. The car is made in Japan alongside the Mazda MX-5. How did that happen then?

As for the rest of the showroom, there are 500s, 500Ls and Pandas and no Puntos and no Qubos. They do sell some nice paint colours though. To be fair, the 500 is probably covering the work of what was once known as a Regatta or even the Tempra, even if it’s not a saloon. The absence of the Punto in the region’s biggest showroom shows they have pretty much given up on this one though it is shown at their website. And there’s are no Tipos around. Like Honda, the Fiat range is rather unbalanced.

A photoseries for Sunday: 2002-2009 Lancia Thesis

When the Thesis debuted, Lancia was at pains to present it as a sophisticated choice.

All images: The author
All images: The author

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”

A photo for Sunday: 2001-2007 Fiat Stilo

Driven To Write comes face to face with the car that (arguably) sank FIAT.

svvsvc
2001-2007 Fiat Stilo

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”

Polish Snapshots

The differences between Poland and Germany take many forms.

FSO Polonez, Gubin, Poland.
FSO Polonez, Gubin, Poland.

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”

FCA name Tripp Hardcrotch as new CKO

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. 

david_batista__by_gonzo99
Tripp Hardcrotch, photo (c) deviantart.net

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.

Continue reading “FCA name Tripp Hardcrotch as new CKO”

Giulia Shock!

A former doubter takes a thimbleful of humble pie as the Giulia lands…

Image via carscoops
Image: carscoops

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!”

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Spied

Automotive News revealed spy shots of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio yesterday.

Stelvio Pass: source
Stelvio Pass: source

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”

Geneva Bites – Nuova Tipo

Missing the Marea? Still smitten by the Stilo? Sergio’s got something for you.

Image:ansa.it
Image:ansa.it

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?

Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Nuova Tipo”

Suspension – (Of Disbelief)

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.

A good decade late to market. Alfa Romeo's Kamal concept. Image:digitaltrends
Alfa Romeo’s 2003 Kamal concept – 13 years later we’ll finally see a production version. Image:digitaltrends

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)”

Geneva Bites -The Abarth Garage

Lancia don’t live here any more…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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”

Parallel Universe Levante

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.

2003 Maserati Kubang concept. Image:Topspeed
2003 Maserati Kubang concept. Image: Topspeed

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”

Reflections On Chrome II

This could have been a Picture for Sunday. Instead it’s more about materials and form. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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”

Agus Anois an Aimsir – January’s Car Sales

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…

Image via the journal.ie
The outlook is for breezes: strong ones. Image via the journal.ie

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”

Alfa’s Product Plans For 2018 Or Whenever

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. 

1995 Alfa Romeo Spider: wikipedia.org
1995 Alfa Romeo Spider: wikipedia.org

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”

Bereft in Deathly Bloom: Not Bloody Likely

As Lancia posts another respectable sales performance, where’s an automotive van Helsing when you need one?

 Image via southernwinesblog
Image via southernwinesblog

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”

Late and Never – Jaguar and Alfa Romeo Face the Hard Road

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 new kids and the big boys they have to beat. Image via fiatgroupworld
The new kids and the big boys they have to beat. Image: fiatgroupworld

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”

Mega-Size Me: Marchionne’s Merger Mania Examined – Again

Where Driven to Write leads, the mainstream press follow: Autocar finally gets around to examining the Marchionne plan. 

Don't panic, there's a high percentage wool mix in this jersey. After all, a man's got to have standards.
Don’t panic, there’s a high percentage wool mix in this jersey. After all, a man’s got to have standards…

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: Marchionne’s Merger Mania Examined – Again”

Forthcoming Fiats Will Be Like IKEA.

FCA’s Olivier François outlines Fiat’s flat-pack future. 

Fiat brand CEO, Olivier Francois. Image via thedetroitbureau
Fiat brand CEO, Olivier Francois. Image via thedetroitbureau

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.”

There’s Something About Mary

Has FCA’s on-off romance with GM entered a new phase?

'I'm sexy and I know it...' Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter
‘I’m sexy and I know it…’ Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter

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”

Rearview: Alfa Romeo Alfetta Berlina

FCA could learn something from the 1972 Alfetta, but it’s probably a bit late for that now.

Alfetta-1

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”

A small quiz

What Lancia shares parts with a Volkswagen?

1985 Saab 600
1985 Saab 600

You might know immediately. I for one had a little stab of fascination to discover there is a VW with which Lancia badges and trim could be swapped over with little effort. Any ideas?

To get you in the mood, think of the Nissan sold as an Alfa Romeo, the Arna. There´s the Lancia Ypsilon sold as a Chrysler Ypsilon. At one point a thing related to the Renault 21 had an Eagle badge and went under the name Medallion. Then we have the Fiats sold as Yugos and Ladas…. Does the Aston Martin Cygnet come in here?  There….now have a guess.

Last Gasp – Lancia Ypsilon “Elle”

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

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

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

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

Alfa Romeo is the new Fiat

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

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

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

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”

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”

Luca’s Woolly Nemesis

The sudden departure of Luca di Montezemolo as Ferrari MD has shocked tifosi and surprised analysts. But one key question remains unanswered – what happened? 

marchionne-montezemolo-640

Ever the truth-seekers, Drive To Write appear to have accidentally stumbled upon the answer, gleaned from (admittedly dubious) sources close to the FCA chief himself; revealing the unspoken reason for his departure – the mysterious disappearance of Sergio’s favourite jumper – (A particularly nice angora number). Continue reading “Luca’s Woolly Nemesis”

Cars I can´t write about: Chryslers etc

Chrysler: so what?

Don´t look any closer. There´s nothing to see.
Don´t look any closer. There´s nothing to see.

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.

Or almost. I might feel a certain morbid fascination with the K-cars of the Iacocca era, which period also includes the Chrysler-Maserati. Apart from that, Chrysler is a nullity. While Fords and GM vehicles from pretty much anytime after 1960 are in some way interesting to me, Chryslers aren´t. They seem to be nothing more than a spear-carrier in the grand drama of the American car industry. Continue reading “Cars I can´t write about: Chryslers etc”

A Question of Form

Has Centro Stile Fiat ever produced a design of lasting significance?

centro stile alfa romeo

This is the question I found myself asking having read a recent driventowrite 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 everything worthy of note. On the other hand, memory can sometimes prove a faulty co-driver, so I did what any self-respecting auto-nerd would at this point and revisited the Fiat group’s styling back catalogue in a quest for answers. So what we have here is a list of significant Fiats of the last 50 years and who was responsible for their styling*Continue reading “A Question of Form”

What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?

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. 

lorenzo-ramaciotti

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?”

Theme : Badging – False Economies 2

Where not to save money

01c

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.

Continue reading “Theme : Badging – False Economies 2”

FCA – State of the Empire – Part One

A two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.

A_Pantone_VersionNow 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.

Continue reading “FCA – State of the Empire – Part One”