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.

Re-Appraisal

Note to oneself: be careful of press photographs.

2017 Peugeot 3008: source
2017 Peugeot 3008: source

Admittedly, night had fallen and the surrounding city-centre lights could have been confusing. And the vehicle wore dark paint. These might not be ideal studio conditions. Yet, my experience of the new Peugeot 3008 provided grounds to remember never to Continue reading “Re-Appraisal”

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. Visually, however, the Crossland X takes a notable percentage of its design themes from the lovely little Opel Adam. In some ways the theme has more space to breath. The base of the A-pillar, which is the Adam’s least satisfactory aspect is thematically similar yet can

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 1970’s and 1980’s. 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”

Life After Crossovers – PSA Dares to Dream

Everyone’s crazy about crossovers these days. Well, maybe not everyone…

Peugeot CEO, Maxime Picat. Image:lepoint.fr
Peugeot CEO, Maxime Picat. Image:lepoint.fr

With the motor industry rapidly coalescing towards crossovers and SUV’s, it’s tempting to view this not so much as a trend but more a new ascendancy. Furthermore, it’s also increasingly difficult to envisage it being a fleeting one. So for those amongst us who don’t relish a world filled with the confounded things, even a lone voice of dissent from within the automotive mainstream sounds a thrillingly heretical note. Continue reading “Life After Crossovers – PSA Dares to Dream”

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 very well another of our items in the huge Japanese-theme series we are running. The title would then be so long I would 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. There are not many images of this car on-line so it is with trepidation I have marked up the car, showing a duff-highlight that runs over the rear wheel-arch, tracks along the bodyside crease before coming to grief around the wheel arch. The next time the phenomenon turned up it was on the 2001 Peugeot 307, which we all know about, and also on the little-known Kia Cerato. Continue reading “Making it all add up”

Stocking up on received wisdom

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.

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

Before I launch into that, I am in the position of having to find my own car news. Car and Autocar´s content is not sticking in my mind after I read it. I don´t feel I know the state of the car when I read Car anymore. I feel I know only about driving an expensive car somewhere photogenic.  Automotive News is good for nitty gritty industry news but not car reviews. So this Top Gear New Car Buyer´s Guide was a chance to quickly find out what this pillar of the automotive news world thinks we should think. I view it as a chance to see what the mainstream is thinking. What is it thinking?

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. The Peugeot 308 has better window trim than the Bentley Continental, which you wouldn´t expect. Only a brightwork obsessive would note that.

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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. Sheet metal pressing has got better since 1991 and that´s why it´s easier to paint small cars black. The parts are formed with sufficiently high quality to show good reflections when finished with a dark, shiny coating.

Continue reading “Reflections on chrome”

Coming Back to America? PSA Looks West : 2

Part two: Can PSA really make it in America? Driventowrite continues its investigation.

Image:citroenvie
Image:citroenvie

A widely acknowledged axiom in business crisis management is there are five key steps to corporate recovery. First: change the senior management. Second: rapidly identify and scope the nature of the crisis. 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. Continue reading “Coming Back to America? PSA Looks West : 2”

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. What little character the car has did come from somewhere. So, what inspired the theme?

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This is the 1997 Avensis. 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”

Theme: Special – 1991 Peugeot 205 Colour Line

The year was 1991 and the Peugeot 205 neared the end of production. Time for a special edition. 

1991 Peugeot Color Line
1991 Peugeot Color Line

This is the value end of the special edition spectrum: non-standard upholstery and some stickers. Mechanically, it’s a base model 205 trying to look attractive. Continue reading “Theme: Special – 1991 Peugeot 205 Colour Line”

Photo series for Sunday: Peugeot 406 saloon and coupe

This is how Pininfarina elegantly reworked the two least satisfactory parts of the Peugeot 406 saloon when converting it into a coupe. The same solutions could have been deployed on the saloon

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20 years of the Peugeot 406

Want a car as solid and durable as the Mercedes W-123 but nicer to drive? Look no further than this car and look past the lack of chrome.

1996 Peugeot 406: the press reviews started in July 1995 and the car went on sale in the UK and Ireland the following year. This is an Irish example from the year of launch.
1996 Peugeot 406: the press reviews started in July 1995 and the car went on sale in the UK and Ireland the following year. This is an Irish example from the year of launch.

Forty years ago Peugeot presented the 604 and attempted to gain entrance to the prestigious large car market. That didn´t work out, despite review after review praising the car´s ride quality, steering comfort and commendably huge boot. In 1995 the 406, a class down from the 604 but similarly dimensioned, replaced the well-respected and successful 405. As in the cases of the 604 and 405 journalists wrote highly of the Pininfarina-designed 406 which carried on the best aspects of the 405 and improved on it in many areas. It was well-built, reliable and did very well in many comparisons and single-car tests. Even the V6 version garnered compliments, with Car magazine´s John Simister judging the engine and chassis to be a very good combination and declaring it the best version Peugeot sold. In a long-term test, Car asked how long manufacturers such as BMW could Continue reading “20 years of the Peugeot 406”

Franco-Italian Design Rationalism II

Our debate on design rationalism has burst out of its container. I present here the Peugeot 405 and Citroen BX together with some highlighted lines marking out their main features. I have extended the lines to see how they relate at a hypothetical level. For convenience I am putting the two unaltered images up together. The annotated ones come after the “read more” break.

An Iranian-built Peugeot 405 Pars: www.ranwhenparked.com.
An Iranian-built Peugeot 405 Pars: http://www.ranwhenparked.com.
1985 Citroen BX: www.productioncars.com
1985 Citroen BX: http://www.productioncars.com

Continue reading “Franco-Italian Design Rationalism II”

Franco-Italian design rationalism

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

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

Theme: Roads – Across Ireland as the crow drives

On two occasions I drove diagonally across Ireland using local roads. It was rewarding though tiring.

1960 AA Road Atlas of Ireland. Invaluable if you don´t want to use sat nav.
1960 AA Road Book of Ireland. Invaluable if you don´t want to use sat nav.

The first trip went from the south east, Wexford, to the north-west, Sligo. We drove in the middle of winter in my much-missed base-model 1990 Peugeot 205. What could have been a four-hour trip via Dublin on the main roads took about eight but we got to see corners of Ireland by-passed by the 20 th century. It was rather a long time ago now (1993) so I can´t provide a great deal of detail. What stands out though was Continue reading “Theme: Roads – Across Ireland as the crow drives”

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. 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.

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Take a look at this fascinating article from Drive, with a lot more insight on the 1969 Pininfarina Mercedes.

The Peugeot 604 is 40 this year, Part II

In the name of cultural exchange between our two great continents, I have contributed to the blog French Cars In America. I had to compress to 700 words my thoughts on a car dear to my heart. 

1983 Peugeot 604. Image: www.lrm-collection.fr
1983 Peugeot 604. Image: http://www.lrm-collection.fr

You can read more of my scintillating prose here.

A copy of Car, Nov. 1975 turned up on my floormat last week. I ordered it so as to read a Giant Test involving the Peugeot 604, the Jaguar XJ 3.4 and the BMW 528. The Peugeot and Jaguar trounced the 528 which lost points for its shabby handling, confined interior and wind-noise. Car concluded that in several areas including ride, roominess and comfort, the Peugeot had bested the Jaguar. Continue reading “The Peugeot 604 is 40 this year, Part II”

Benchmarks: Peugeot 306 to 307 = Immediate Loss of Status

In these days, it is usually described as a loss of “mojo”, although I’ve never been certain of what that word actually means. In terms of the launch of the 307, I’d prefer to describe it as a fall from grace. I suppose I could also have picked the transition from 205 to 206 from the same stable, but I think it less obvious and memorable for me.

Peugeot 307 - image from caroftheyear.org
Peugeot 307 – image from caroftheyear.org

I think I need to become instantly more specific. The 306 was the chassis benchmark in its class. It was also one of the more lovely looking mid-range hatches of its time, but I think aesthetics are much harder to benchmark, and I am certainly less comfortable opining on the way a car looks under such a heading. As a chassis benchmark, in UK tests at least, the 306 was praised – lauded, even – time and time again. Obviously, this was most prominent for the GTi and S-16 versions of the car, but even lowly 1.4 litre, basic versions were blessed with a deft balance between fun handling and a supple ride. Then, when the more contemporary (but less lithe) looking 307 turned up, something went amiss.

Peugeot-306
I feel able to comment on this transition as I was a regular renter of hire cars at the time this occurred. More precisely, the company I worked for was prepared to Continue reading “Benchmarks: Peugeot 306 to 307 = Immediate Loss of Status”

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. 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.  

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

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 focus on style you are focusing on something that is much 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 in the far East click here where you can take a look at some of the posts at Bangkok Classic Cars. Their motto is “If you love classic car you are my friend.”

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

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: 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.

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

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 Continue reading “On the outside looking in: French Cars In America”

PSA’s Tale of Two Continents

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

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

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”

1984 Opel Senator 2.5E road test

DTW has been taking a look at old, large saloons. Recently a 1984 Opel Senator was been subjected to a small test. Read on to find out what was found out.

1984 Opel Senator 2.5E
1984 Opel Senator 2.5E

Introduction

Every time one has a reason to discuss the large cars from the 70s and 80s, the large cars that aren´t BMW, Mercedes or Audi, one seems obliged to talk about the status and success of these products in comparative terms. It seems incorrect to speak of the Granada, 604 or Senator without mentioning how they fared relative to the BMW 5 et al. I´ll avoid re-treading all that ground again. By now even I admit that you would need to be very determinedly prejudiced to deny that the W-123 Mercedes Benz is the clear winner of that long term battle.  The W-123 is the definition of a high quality passenger saloon, the saloon car to end all saloon cars. I´ve seen these machines up close – we all have – and every visible element is made of some class of entropy resistant material, from the dwarf star chrome on to the NASA-class door seals and then to the cloth with an infinite Martindale value. That´s why they are still on the road and that´s why they are still worth money.

So, yes, noted. The W-123 is great and that´s that. Is there any reason to look beyond Stuttgart?  Continue reading “1984 Opel Senator 2.5E road test”

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 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 Continue reading “World Cars: Ford Eco-Sport”

A review of the automotive year 2014: VW 1.4 TSI engine problems

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 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.

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. That too is ongoing and is part of a long run of product failures in recent years. Both the Honda and GM stories show the hazards of using common parts in as many models as possible.  We have been reporting on Saab/NEV´s death-rebirth story for a while now and the latest step along the path to stability for NEV is that Tata are now confirmed as a buyer for the former Saab assets. Lotus are still in the wilderness but Hillman´s planned resurgence is coming along if rumours from Chipping Campden are to believed (see page 45 for more – Simon).

Continue reading “A review of the automotive year 2014: VW 1.4 TSI engine problems”

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?”

Theme: Concepts – 2013 Honda Gear

It seems Honda didn´t think too much of this little concept car. They showed it at the Montreal Motor Show in 2013, at the same time the Detroit Motor Show was being held.

2013 Honda Gear concept car
2013 Honda Gear concept car

To be honest, I found this by accident. In 1992 or 1993 Honda showed a small concept car with a feature that has become a very common, the false reverse-raked c-pillar.  I wanted to see the originator of this idea and then show a few of the cars that have used it these last 20 years: Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2013 Honda Gear”

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 Continue reading “A glimpse of the future for the DS brand”

Armchair Motorshow – Concept: DS Divine

What is to be made of the DS Divine concept car? Is it a Good Thing that PSA now has Peugeot, Citroen and the DS brands to manage?

2014 DS Divine concept front three quarterAs we know, PSA has decided, in its wisdom, to divide its efforts no longer in two, but three. From hereonin (or, at least until PSA has gone to the hereafter), the Sino-French giant will furnish the market with Peugeots, Citroens and DSs (the latter to be shorn of the Citroen moniker sometime next year, in the UK at least, so it is reported). One can assume that the thinking here is that: a) it gives the opportunity to spread capital investment in new platforms across three brands and, therefore, potentially, more cars sold; and, b) that PSA can charge a premium for those sold under the DS badge. To be fair, it seems that Continue reading “Armchair Motorshow – Concept: DS Divine”

Theme: Advertising – radio

It´s been said of radio that its advantage over other media is that the pictures are better.

2014 retro radio

This is generally true but when it comes to car advertising it is not. Radio ads can´t hope to convey the visual impression of a car, its most important attribute. Instead they are left to handle other aspects which can be presented verbally. These might include news of special offers and to point customers in the direction of dealers. They might serve to tell listeners of the arrival of a new model but other media must handle the rest. One advantage they do have is Continue reading “Theme: Advertising – radio”

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

VW 2

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.

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 Continue reading “Theme : Advertising – Who The Fun Do They Think We Are?”

Theme of the month – 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 of the month – engines: a conclusion”

Reflections on Chrome

For French modernists this elimination of wasteful, heavy and expensive chrome was a vindication. Cars such as the Peugeot 505 (1979) and Peugeot 405 (1987) did without, as did all the smaller French vehicles. The 1982 Ford Sierra was chromeless but it seemed very correct in this regard. Mercedes had given its imprimatur to a look associated with thrift, perhaps troubled by the political mood of the mid-80s (or perhaps late 70s when the W-124 was being planned).

Only a few puritans and some design dogmatists dislike chrome. However, a bit of tinsel would have made all the difference and 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. A chrome strip applied to the side of a car emphasizes the horizontal aspect of a form. Ideally, chrome has some crown or curvature so that it catches the light and reflects it. Since it is highly reflective chrome does not require the bright lighting conditions that would be needed to bring out the sculpting of a piece of pressed, painted bodywork. Handled with some restraint, chrome is Continue reading “Reflections on Chrome”