Breakfast, Dinner and Lunch All Over Again

According to Automotive News Europe, Opel will reduce the number of models it sells. You won’t be surprised, will you?

2016 Buick Cascada: Buick

Additionally, purchasing activities will be shared alongside PSA platforms. The Ruesselsheim design and engineering centre will be charged with electrification of PSA vehicles and, finally, Opel will expand into territories that were previously taboo under GM.

The first point can be taken to mean more vehicles like the Crossland which already uses a shared platform with PSA. The bundled purchasing operation probably translates into more parts commonality among which will be engines or eventually electric power trains. Engines are typically a clear generator of brand character (or lack thereof); add characterless electric and hybrid powertrains to the mix and one can see a growing hazard for PSA in meaningless differentiation.

This leads us to the last point: new markets for Opel. Currently Opel is stranded in Europe although some of its output found customers in the US as Buicks (the Insignia, the Cascada and the previous Astra.) So, where will Opel head to now it can compete against GM? North America has been a hard market for PSA to crack. One scenario sees Opel as a “German” brand for PSA to push in the US, as a kind of wolf´s clothing for PSA’s platform sheep. Possible models (or their successors) would be the Astra and Crossland cars. In another scenario, Opel might Continue reading “Breakfast, Dinner and Lunch All Over Again”

1973 Peugeot 204 Road Test

“More and more than before!” In what appears to be a period review of the Peugeot 204 by  legendary motoring critic, Archie Vicar, the car is assessed in the course of a drive in Portugal.

1973 Peugeot 204

The article first appeared in the Neath Guardian, January 12, 1973. Douglas Land-Windernere (sic) is credited with the photography.

The French do like these peculiar little cars, the English less so: 130 a month is all Peugeot can sell around here compared to 1300 Renault 12s. One doesn’t have to look hard to see why this might be. The coachwork demands concentration to behold, the price is high and the interior is Spartan. But Peugeot want to  Continue reading “1973 Peugeot 204 Road Test”

Far From The Mainstream: De La Chapelle

One example is for sale here, and it is a scale model: €11,000. It does however, have a 4hp petrol motor. It’s 224 cm long and has never been used. 

2007 De La Chapelle 328 scale replica: Autoscout24.com

None are listed at Mobile.de.

De La Chapelle must be one of the most unusual small-scale constructors. Not content with making five full-size cars in the repro-retro mould, the also make operational cars for children (the BMW roadster shown above). They will also make a car to order, which is what the 328 appears to be, hence the remarkable price.  Continue reading “Far From The Mainstream: De La Chapelle”

Leaving Off The Saws

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.

The demise of Saab, Rover and Lancia

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”

Theme: Aftermarket – They Who Call the Piper Tune The Player

The matter of tuning demands a little diplomacy. 

This photo is as good a representative of tuner culture. You’ll notice the sticker affirming the primacy of self-reliance even if it leads to failure. It says “I’d rather lose by a mile than win by inch if I made didn’t make myself”.

From my own personal experience, tuners seem to be perpetually in search of a new project. They are not alone in this. This is also true of bicycle enthusiasts who are often swapping out parts in the quest to Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – They Who Call the Piper Tune The Player”

Theme: Simca – And All This Is Folly To the World.

Very reluctantly I have decided to try to make sense of Simca’s slow fade from the market. 

History of Chrysler Europe´s demise

I have our monthly theme to thank – my interest has been piqued. Up to now Simca has meant little and I didn’t plan to write a lot on the topic. Simon Kearne insisted slightly too.

My findings are partly just a bit of editorial reworking of the mess that is already publicly available at Wikipedia. My contribution is to put in some bits about Chrysler and Peugeot. And also to make a DTW exclusive “infographic”. It is barely legible, frankly. The main use has been to explain (to me at least) the chronology of Chrysler/Talbot/Simca’s model terminations. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – And All This Is Folly To the World.”

Princess and the Pea

This isn’t about the Opel Insignia though the words came from a review of the car. It’s about what kind of lives automotive journalists lead. It’s about language.

Where does “reasonable comfort” lie on this scale?

“The previous Insignia fulfilled the purpose of getting you from A to B in a well-equipped and reasonably comfortable manner…” wrote Car magazine the other day. What could they possibly mean***?  Continue reading “Princess and the Pea”

The Great Compression

Opel’s slow walk into the history books, to join Panhard and Saab, has begun. It occurred just as I came to understand what Opel was about.

2017 Opel Insignia Sports Tourer: source
2017 Opel Insignia Grand Sport: source

You can read the technical details here. The important and ominous part is this: “Tavares told his board that PSA would redevelop the core Opel lineup with its own technologies to achieve rapid savings, according to people with knowledge of the matter” (from AN Europe).

While I was reviewing the last generation Opel Astra, I noted that the description of the mechanicals differed little from its peers. So, you might say, where is the great loss? Even if you don’t care for Opel, its absorption into the PSA combine will reduce meaningful competition among the most important classes of cars.

Continue reading “The Great Compression”

C what I did

Further to Sean Patrick´s excellent idea about decals to give your boring car a more contemporary, fun and sporting look, I have shown three products in the upcoming range.

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The decals make the car more premium, add a touch of dynamic flair and increase the perceived quality by accentuating the maturity of the style. Graphics and sculpting together produce a greater sense of athleticism while underlining the greater modernity of the cars.

Bottom Up, Top Down Or Whatever

A manufacturer’s range can draw its visual reference from either the smallest car or the largest.

2017 Opel Crossland X: source
Artist´s impression of 2017 Opel Crossland X: source

Peugeot is a famous case of its style being led by a car from the bottom of the range. The 1983 Peugeot 205 ended what was seen at the time as a rough period for the firm. Subsequent models referred to the 205 in the hope that 205 magic might rub off. Top down is the reverse: the big car leads. Yesterday the news wires burned incandescent with discussions and reports of Opel’s new Crossland X, a vehicle dimensionally very similar to the Mokka. Continue reading “Bottom Up, Top Down Or Whatever”

Theme : Compromise – The Crucial Balance

As Mr Editor Kearne said in his introduction to this month’s theme, compromise is inevitable in the motor industry. The trick is knowing where to apply it and where to not.

Coherent : Peugeot 403
Coherent and Cohesive : Peugeot 403

Ask any industry accountant and they will tell you that making cars and making money aren’t natural bedfellows. Margins are often small, the customer base fickle and, with relatively long development and production runs, like an oil tanker, once committed you don’t change direction easily. Of course there are exceptions, companies who through a combination of prudence, intelligence, excellence or maybe just fashion, are able to make a healthy profit, year after year, and even swallow up a few of the lacklustre performers in one or more of the above categories whilst they do. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – The Crucial Balance”

Connect the Dots: Solution

I invited readers to find the links between the 1963 Hillman Imp, the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado and 1995 Peugeot 406 (I showed a coupé). This is my solution: 

1976 Renault Le Car: source
1976 Renault Le Car: source

It’s not the shortest path. Peugeot manufactured the 406 coupé. The 406 replaced the 405 which Peugeot manufactured at Ryton-in-Dunsmore, in England. That factory formed part of the Rootes group which Chrysler bought in 1967, including the Hillman brand. The Imp was part of group’s range. One of the designers of the Imp was Mike Parkes who died while working on development of the Lancia Stratos (not in the car, at the time of). Marcello Gandini designed the Stratos but also cars for Maserati who were once part-owned by Chrysler. He also designed the Renault Super 5 which succeeded the original Renault 5 (or Le Car). The Le Car was sold in the US by AMC for whom Larry Shinoda worked as a consultant. One of Shinoda’s colleagues was Bill Mitchell and he was the chief designer of the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado.

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1996 Lancia Kappa

This is how a decent car ends its days.

Not Lancia Kappa style.
Not Lancia Kappa style.

Whoever last owned this car really should have gone for a Vectra or Mondeo. The original alloys probably corroded and needed to be replaced with something sympathetic. You can put jokey wheels on an old Mondeo as they are blank canvas. These wheels are a custom paint job, I think. One does not customise a Lancia. Perhaps the last owner considered the disjunction of motorsport style colours and the Kappa’s formality amusing, like wearing runners with a suit. Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1996 Lancia Kappa”

What is Today’s 309?

The Peugeot 309 is, I feel, a European equivalent of the kind of anonymous car  GM and Ford made in the 1970sand 1980s What is there like it today?

1983-1993 Peugeot 309 GL Profil
1985-1993 Peugeot 309 GL Profil

What makes the 309 such an oddity is that it should have been a Talbot but had to use Peugeot components and ended as a Peugeot anyway. Its development team had roots in the Rootes group and Simca: British and French. The stylists in Coventry and engineers at the former Simca centre at Poissy were forced to Continue reading “What is Today’s 309?”

Theme : colour – The Lost Competitive Advantage

We’ve moaned about the dull uniformity of the world’s car parks. TTAC has some insight on the fact that opting for the boring colours is not helping you resell that car.

The Lancia Kappa: source
The Lancia Kappa: source

This is the link. “Silver and beige, the go-to colours of the 1990’s and 2000’s, have higher depreciation rates, but nothing is worse than gold. With an average depreciation of 33.9 percent, gold vehicles are dead last. Oddly, it’s the third-fastest-selling colour in the study, behind gray and black,” says the article. As it reports American data it does not say so much about black or mid-grey metallic. I imagine that a similar study would show that these colours aren’t helping protect value at this stage. There can’t be a competitive advantage to having a silver-grey or black Audi or Ford at this point. We must at this point be at peak monochrome.  Continue reading “Theme : colour – The Lost Competitive Advantage”

Something Rotten For Sunday

Remember the Chrysler K-car? It helped save Chrysler until the next crisis. The Fiat Tipo played a similar role, at least in underpinning a lot of models. Here’s one of them.

1991-1996 Fiat Tempra
1991-1996 Fiat Tempra

Another Fiat, a 125 behind glass, made me stop at the location. When I stopped looking at that I wandered further. In the otherwise empty lot nearby this Tempra crouched. Looks good from afar, but it’s far from good. Although the body had galvanising, rust is biting the doors and the handles are seized. It’s not for sale anymore and evidently wasn’t worth taking to the dealer’s new location 10 km away. Continue reading “Something Rotten For Sunday”

Theme: Colour – Flat Blue Is the Colour

Some months ago I photographed a flat blue Nissan QX. Shortly after I deleted the series despite the rarity of the car. Why, Richard, why?

Ford Transit: it wasn't this blue but darker.
Citroen Relay: it wasn’t this blue but darker.

Despite the good lighting I could not get the forms to stand out. Tonal treatment failed as did all the other variables. That says something about that colour which makes you want to ask why Nissan offered such an anonymising shade for an already anonymous vehicle. Continue reading “Theme: Colour – Flat Blue Is the Colour”

DTW Summer Reissue: Unforgetting the 1981 Talbot Tagora

If you’ve ever wondered about this famously forgotten car, this is the place to find out why it has become a footnote in automotive history. [First published July 16, 2014]

1980 Talbot Tagora a car show
Image: Alfaowner

The Tagora doesn’t have much of an afterlife. It’s been out of production since 1983 and if anyone remembers it, they aren’t saying much about it. But what was the view of the car at the time of launch? Did it look like it was going to be the flop it turned out to be? I bought a copy of Autocar from 1981 to find out how this car was viewed by contemporary writers. Other magazines followed in the post. This (below) is how I digested the information for Wikipedia. Alas, it was removed shortly after it was published on the grounds that it was “not balanced”.  I later revised the text with more “balance”and it seems to have survived. Here is what I wrote first: Continue reading “DTW Summer Reissue: Unforgetting the 1981 Talbot Tagora”

Not For Sale Around Here: 2012 Peugeot 301

The interior materials and colours give away the intended market. Surely this exterior would appeal to a fair few buyers?

2012 Peugeot 301
2012 Peugeot 301

What are those interior materials like? Pale, hard plastics on the door casings and velour upholstery. Nothing about the shapes scared me. With more appropriate trim I don’t see why this couldn’t find customers. Continue reading “Not For Sale Around Here: 2012 Peugeot 301”

Theme: Values – France

It’s time for a bit of sweeping generalisation. Let me sweepingly generalise about French cars.

1984 Renault Espace
1984 Renault Espace

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”

What the Papers Say: The New Citroen C6

Before I get to my handy compendium of other people’s opinions, I’ll offer my own.

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It’s not a Citroen C6 but something going by the same name. A proper Citroen C6 would be a vehicle for the French market which shared more than a badge with its illustrious* predecessor. Now that raises a problem relating to Eurocentricity. Quite fairly our Chinese cousins could ask why a car sold in their rather huge market doesn’t count. Would a hydropneumatic study in French elegance that sold one copy in Europe be more properly the bearer of the name even if 215,000 of these rebodied Peugeot 308s found customers.

Continue reading “What the Papers Say: The New Citroen C6”

A photo Series For Sunday: 1982- 1986 Toyota Camry DX

This could well be another item in the Japanese-theme series we’re running. The title would then be so long I’d have no room for the rest of the article.

1982 Toyota Camry DX
1982 Toyota Camry DX

The short story about this car is that it’s Toyota’s first front wheel drive entrant in the mid-size market. The previous Camry had rear-wheel drive. Wikipedia has all the nitty plus all the gritty details of engines (this is probably a 1.8 litre four-cylinder car) and product evolution. They also explain the difference between the cars sold in the two lines of Toyota dealerships (very little). One channel is the Toyota Corolla Store and the other is the Toyota Vista Store. The European models at this time received the Toyota Vista Store grilles, making it more like the Japanese-market Toyota Vista than the Japanese market Toyota Camry or US Camry. I’ll get to the bottom of this dual line of dealerships one day. It’s more confusing than string theory. Continue reading “A photo Series For Sunday: 1982- 1986 Toyota Camry DX”

Making It All Add Up

The challenge of car design is partly about  the harmonious integration of complex forms. What happens when the body-side crease falls into the orbit of the front wheel arch? Nothing good.

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One of the things that catches my eye on the 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLS is the very unsatisfactory way the wheel-arch lip and the body-side crease (one of two) intersect. Underlying that is the problematic way the bodyside crease runs forward and then tries to go parallel to the wheel-arch. Mercedes can’t claim original authorship for this trope. As far as I can tell, that honour goes to the 1988 Nissan Skyline. Continue reading “Making It All Add Up”

Stocking Up On Received Wisdom

Seeking insight, your correspondent gives the BBC a punt. He’s both impressed and unimpressed by what he discovers.

100% Clarkson-free
100% Clarkson-free – the 2016 Top Gear New Car Buyers [sic] Guide. It knows the price of everything…

The car magazine I usually buy has given up on price lists so I had to get the Top Gear 2016 New Car Buyers [sic] Guide. That should be buyer’s guide (the guide of one buyer) or buyers’ guide (the guide of lots of buyers). In no particular order I gleaned some new received wisdom.

Before I launch into that, I am in the position of having to Continue reading “Stocking Up On Received Wisdom”

Reflections On Chrome

Like Now That´s What I Call Music, this has become a series. I find myself peering closely at window trim as I walk about.

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The Peugeot 308 has better window trim than the Bentley Continental, which you wouldn’t expect. Only a brightwork obsessive would note that. Here is an example of the difference colour and trim make to a car. It’s a 2014-onward Peugeot 208. Small black cars aren’t that common, are they? Twenty years ago they were almost entirely unavailable which is why that Citroen Madame (?) we showed here was so unusual. Continue reading “Reflections On Chrome”

Coming Back to America? PSA Looks West : 1

Part one: Recent reports suggest PSA are considering a return to the US market. Are they out of their minds?

Peugeot had modest US success with the 505 model. Image:productioncars
Peugeot had modest US success with the 505 model. Image:productioncars

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”

Understanding Blandness

There is a fine line between the severely rational and the bland. The 1997 Toyota Avensis is bland yet there is a hint of something else there too.

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What little character the car has did come from somewhere. So, what inspired the theme? To try to understand this car is to try to guess at what else Toyota had in mind when developing it. If the car was launched in 1997 then the designers were looking at cars launched or on sale in three years before: 1994. What do we find? The Opel Omega and Renault Laguna had the most impact. The Peugeot 406 and Mazda 626 estates also guided the packaging targets. Continue reading “Understanding Blandness”

Franco-Italian Design Rationalism

Last week we discussed Audi’s sensible approach to design using the 1982 100 as an example. 

1992 (?) Peugeot 405 SRi seen in Kolding, Denmark.
1992 (?) Peugeot 405 SRi seen in Kolding, Denmark.

This late model Peugeot 405 SRi, which is in remarkably good condition shows how Pininfarina had a go at this approach to styling. Like the Audi, it still remains very fresh indeed but has its own distinct character. Thus, even within the framework of neat rationalism one can create shapes with a special identity. Note the very restrained use of brightwork: thin slivers of metal around the door frames.

Pininfarina – An Appreciation

I started this a bit of a joke. Having looked at a very great many of Pininfarina’s cars, I had to work hard to find this selection of duds. 

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Actually, I was reminded of a lot of very good concept cars which look great today and should have been made. Also, while the 1971 Pininfarina Ro80 concept has an odd decorative feature on the side, I am convinced this car served as eventual inspiration for a decade of Cadillacs and other GM cars in the 80s. Continue reading “Pininfarina – An Appreciation”

Refrain: Citroëns To Be Sold On Style Not Price

So reports the team at Autocar. It is true that only one firm can sell the cheapest product in a given market…

Surplus to requirements. Image: politiken.dk
Surplus to requirements. Image: politiken.dk

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”

Peugeots in Thailand : Bangkok Classic Cars

The Thai for Peugeot 505 is เปอร์โย505 and if you want a little taste of the life old Peugeots lead in the far East click here where you can take a look at some of the posts at Bangkok Classic Cars. 

Peugeot 304 (1969-1980). Image: Bangkokclassic.com
Peugeot 304 (1969-1980). Image: Bangkokclassic.com

Their motto is “If you love classic car you are my friend.”

On The Outside Looking In: French Cars In America

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.

Not on sale in the US, the facelifted Peugeot 208.
Not on sale in the US, the facelifted Peugeot 208.

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.

Also not sold in the US. Image from Peugeot UK
Also not sold in the US. Image from Peugeot UK

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.

1989 Citroen CX: from a particularly daft story in Car & Driver. Otherwise a great site though.
1989 Citroen CX: from a particularly daft story in Car & Driver. Otherwise a great site though.

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.

PSA’s Tale of Two Continents

Peugeot/Citroën’s European D-sector sales collapse is not the catastrophe it first appears.

2015 DS5 - image via car24news
2015 DS5 – image via car24news

As we know, the motor industry is riven with contradiction, but nevertheless, some things remain beyond debate. Take the fact that the European mid-sized saloon market has been in serious and (some say) terminal decline since 2007, with sales across the sector falling by half. Yet, with Europe-wide volumes of almost half a million cars last year, there still remains a good deal to play for in what’s left of the segment. This month, PSA Groupe have posted their first profits in three years on the back of vast and painful cost-cutting including the axing of unprofitable models. So today we ask where this hollowing out has left PSA’s mid-sized saloon offerings?  Continue reading “PSA’s Tale of Two Continents”

Lovely, Lovely Numbers

Opinions are fragile things, aren’t they? Left alone and sheltered from the cold gusts of fact, they thrive but a few small bits of data can destroy them in an instant, like hail shredding the most tender of blossoms.

This is the only image of thsi car I could find that was not black-ish or white-ish.
This is the only image of this car I could find that was not black-ish or white-ish.

The ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association) released data for car sales in 2014 recently. Automotive News made a bit of a meal of the matter of who would take next-to-top spot. Would it be Renault, Opel or Ford who will take the number two position in the future? At the moment Ford holds this honour, with just under a million cars sold. GM, perhaps because one or two models are below par, sold a bit less again. But that part of the story, the cars-as-sports story, didn’t really interest me so much as the way the numbers reset my expectation. Continue reading “Lovely, Lovely Numbers”

World Cars: Ford Eco-Sport

Automotive News reports that Ford’s Eco-Sport soft-roader/crossover has not been a success in the European market. Is it an example of world cars only selling in parts of the world?

Too chunky for us. 2014 Ford Eco-sport.
Too chunky for us. 2014 Ford Eco-sport.

The Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and the Opel Mokka all sold remarkably better than the Eco-Sport. How well? For every eco-sporty vehicle Ford sold, Renault sold 13 and a bit Capturs. Additionally, Peugeot sold 11 of their chrome-laden machines and even more additionally, Opel shifted 10 Mokkas for every Ford that drove off the dealer’s yard.

That means for each little Ford softroader sold, 34 of the competitors’ cars found happy customers. How this happened is put down to the Ecosport being designed for the Indian and Brazilian markets where more chunky-looking vehicles are preferred. The biggest sign of this chunkiness is the huge, externally mounted spare wheel.

That will be made a no-cost option in the near future. The interior will Fiesta-ised on the grounds that this is what customers like in this segment (and the Renault and Peugeot use their respective superminis’ interiors pretty much unchanged).

Good colour but not ladylike enough. 2014 Ford Ecosport in export guise.
Good colour but not ladylike enough. 2014 Ford Ecosport in export guise.

This little episode reminds me of the CDW27, or 1992 Mk1 Ford Mondeo which replaced several vehicles in the Ford empire. Most notably in the US it replaced the Mercury Topaz and Ford Tempo. The Mercury Mystique and Ford Contour were rejected by the market for their cramped rear accommodation. Honda’s Accord, until the recent past, was sold in EU, US and Japanese widths but eventually one width won out (the non-Euro version).

I presume I could use some of the finite remaining minutes of my life to determine if there is a correlation between the demise of the EU-only Accord and the introduction of the one-size-is-supposed-to-fit-all architecture of the current car (which I rather like). I guess there is.

1990 Mercury Topaz two-door.
1990 Mercury Topaz two-door.

Is the world car a zero sum game? Is it possible that in gaining sales in the BRIC countries Ford lost Europe and that in winning Europe Ford would lose the BRICs? Some cars seem to “go world” without a bother. The BMW 3 and VW Golf are ubiquitous. The Golf is the most popular car in the Antarctic.

Opel tweak their Astra quite a bit for local conditions and this strategy seems to work. So, for some firms, it pays to be very global and other firms localise their designs a good bit. The answer to the world car question is that there is no single answer. I’d guess the that more niche the product is the more likely it is to be market sensitive.

The Golf is, as we all know, the median car so it can sell in good numbers in most places without much adjustment. The Ecosport (the name is odd, no?) seems to be a vehicle from a segment where local tastes and fashions differ quite a bit. I think we can say that the world car might be a very special segment and it’s a mistake to think it’s the norm.

If you take a look at Wikipedia’s insight on the topic you find examples are not thick on the ground. Most cars that we call world cars are usually adjusted to suit local tastes (what about the 911?). The Corolla springs to mind. And the Toyota Camry has been geared to suit American’s preferences and has disappeared from this beautiful continent due to lack of interest. World car? Illusion.

A Review of the Automotive Year 2014

DTW takes a look back at the motoring year and boils it down to a managable lump. It must be admitted a lot has happened in the US and Asian markets as well, but we´ll look mostly at European happenings.

DTW takes a look back at the motoring year and boils it down to a manageable lump. It must be admitted a lot has happened in the US and Asian markets as well, but we’ll look mostly at European happenings.

2015 Volvo XC90
2015 Volvo XC90

Off the top of my head, this year’s big news events were related to Fiat Chrysler Automotive’s ongoing struggle to revive their business. Part of this has involved spinning off Ferrari and the departure of Luca di Montezemolo. Honda is grappling with a serious problem with failing airbags, a story which is still unfolding. GM has had a cross-brand PR disaster with its ignition switch problem that has been linked to 13 deaths. Continue reading “A Review of the Automotive Year 2014”

Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?

Sales of dropheads have halved. So is the convertible on the skids? 

vauxhall-cascada

Nothing says ‘I’m living the dream’ like driving a convertible. There is no rational or practical reason behind it other than to demonstrate to the world you have reached a point of affluence, crisis or sheer devil-may-care indifference that can only be manifested by driving into a roseate sunset with a piece of inappropriate headwear wedged in place to prevent your hair being ruined. As pointless indulgences go then, convertibles are right up there with chocolate teapots.  Continue reading “Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?”

A glimpse of the future for the DS brand

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

2014 DS6
2014 DS6

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

Theme : Advertising – Who The Fun Do They Think We Are?

Richard’s fine introduction on this topic began with two quotes, both holding a high degree of truth to advertising in general, yet both I’d suggest are not always relevant to that branch of advertising that deals with cars.

VW 2

Edwin Land, who brought us Polaroid, as well as other products of intelligent research, said “Marketing is what you do when your product is no good” but, although Edwin Land was a remarkable inventor, it was easy for him to say that since, for years, his instant film system was the best in a group of one. Car manufacturers don’t have that luxury – if only Karl Benz had employed patent lawyers as good as Land’s we’d all be peering through that silver star on the bonnet. Also the problem is that, essentially, all cars are good these days – it’s a fair time since VW could point to a Korean upstart and state, quantitatively and overtly, that it didn’t make the grade. So you can’t just sell on actual superiority. Continue reading “Theme : Advertising – Who The Fun Do They Think We Are?”

Theme : Engines – A Conclusion

Time to look back on the month of August and see what we have learned.

2014 Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8
2014 Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8

August has drawn to a close and we are now an important amount wiser on the subject of engines. Among the discoveries are that a combination of regulations and fuel prices have made life uncongenial for large capacity engines. Both in Europe and the US, the V6 is increasingly rare. Furthermore, even the staple of mass-market, mid-range motoring, the boring old 2.0 litre 4-cylinder is beginning look much less like the first rung on the ladder to power and prestige.  In a world of buzzy three-cylinders and blown 1.2 litres four-cylinders, the 2.0 litre four has the aura of profligacy once reserved for in-line sixes.  The diminishing technical awareness of drivers means this change remains largely unremarked. What buyers want is Continue reading “Theme : Engines – A Conclusion”

Reflections On Chrome

Only a few puritans and some design dogmatists dislike chrome. However, a bit of tinsel would have made all the difference to emphasize the inherent goodness of some plain-Jane cars of recent years.

1960s Mercedes S-class

Chrome’s application on car exteriors is based on its capacity to resist corrosion, ease cleaning and increase surface hardness. It also has the pleasing ability to draw attention to the outlines of door frames, lamp housings and bumper pressings, among other features. Even at dusk, a chromed window frame shows up clearly and reveals the car’s character which would otherwise be hidden. Continue reading “Reflections On Chrome”

Unforgetting : 1981 Talbot Tagora

If you’ve ever wondered about this famously forgotten car, this is the place to find out why it has become a footnote in automotive history.

1981 Talbot Tagora
1981 Talbot Tagora

The Tagora doesn’t have much of an afterlife. It’s been out of production since 1983 and if anyone remembers it, they aren’t saying much about it. But what was the view of the car at the time of launch? Did it look like it was going to be the flop it turned out to be? I bought a copy of Autocar from 1981 to find out how this car was viewed by contemporary writers. Other magazines followed in the post. This (below) is how I digested the information for Wikipedia. Alas, it was removed shortly after it was published on the grounds that it was “not balanced”. I later revised the text with more “balance”and it seems to have survived. Here is what I wrote first: Continue reading “Unforgetting : 1981 Talbot Tagora”

Social Signifiers

Which cars are for today’s ophthalmologists, vets and professors of Medieval law? 

For Prof. Castiglione
For Prof. Castiglione

About three decades ago certain makers sold cars for easily identifiable groups in society. Saabs were for well-paid university lecturers. Citroen could appeal to the Francophile and arty middle-class man. Lancia sold to intellectuals and business men who probably saw their work as a vocation. Humber appealed to bank managers of the bigger branches. But today, these brands are gone or unrecognisable Continue reading “Social Signifiers”

Transitions : Car Interiors as They Turned Plastic

This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen´s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981.

In this article I examine the change-over from metal and glass to all-plastic interiors that occurred in the mid 70s.

1971 Morris Marina interior. Spacious and simple.
1971 Morris Marina interior. Spacious and simple.

This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen’s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981. Continue reading “Transitions : Car Interiors as They Turned Plastic”

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”

The Three Brothers – Part Deux

panhard24b2I’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.

Continue reading “The Three Brothers – Part Deux”