Non-News

As I roved about the internet, I found this odd non-news-as-news. Despite mentioning a merger with VW, Sergio Marchionne has no interest in a merger with VW.

Sergio Marchionne and friend: Reuters

The story features a very entertaining photo of Mr Marchionne with President Trump.

It’s a rather baffling snippet. Marchionne floats an idea and then says he is not interested in it and, in so doing, explains all the reasons why it would be a good idea anyway. But he’s not doing it. He’s a puzzling chap. As I see it, VW has nothing at all to gain from taking over FCA with its army of problems and horde of underperforming models. VAG makes more money selling alloy wheels and trim options on the Seat Leon than Alfa Romeo makes on its entire line-up (infinitely more). FCA will disintegrate in due course, leaving VW to mop up any sales left over.  Continue reading “Non-News”

2006 is Ten Years Old This Year!

The past they say is a foreign country. I wouldn’t know about that, but a lot has happened in ten years. Hasn’t it?

1996 GM EV1. Itself a decade old in 2006. Image: oldcarbrochures
1996 GM EV1. Itself a decade old in 2006. Image: oldcarbrochures

It doesn’t seem all that long ago, but through mathematical deduction I can deduce that 2006 is in fact a decade old this year. To further the so much, yet so little has changed analogy, looking at geopolitical events of the year, the big issues at the time remain front page news now. The Middle East, North Korean’s nuclear ambitions, Oil prices, extreme weather events – although the International Astronomical Union’s planetary downgrade of Pluto could only realistically be described as a one-off. [Nevertheless, the astronomical entity itself was said to be absolutely gutted by the decision].

Earthbound, the automotive industry was enjoying a last fling before the meltdown of Autumn 2008, but events were unfolding nevertheless.  Continue reading “2006 is Ten Years Old This Year!”

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. 

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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!”

Car Noise 2015? Part 1

A few days ago we took a general overview of the year past and reviewed the big trends.  In this article we will look at the pointless details, the stuff you´ll have forgotten by the time you swipe the screen and return to your mince pies.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia - was this the most discussed car of the year? www.autoexpress.com
2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia – was this the most discussed car of the year? http://www.autoexpress.com

January

Land Rover´s Discovery Sport made the front pages of the magazines and as far as I recall I didn´t read another word about this life-style accessory for the rest of the year. Jean Marc-Gales discussed his plans to save Lotus which reminds me of the perennial stories about [insert name of manager]´s attempts to save Alfa Romeo.  Among his promises: a four-door Lotus, an SUV. At present, the only hybrid they have is a concept Evora  and that was from 2012.

In the same month we got to read reviews of the Audi RSQ3, the new Suzuki Vitara, the Fiat 500X and Mazda 2. Maserati celebrated a 100 years by carrying on making their cars less and less attractive.

The Bentley SUV’s name emerged into the world and customers soon snapped up the cars by placing orders. At the other end of the year road tests declared it to be a) big, b) fast and c) thirsty. Job done.

February

The world rocked on its axis as Jaguar decided to Continue reading “Car Noise 2015? Part 1”

Right. Yes. Indeed. Those product plans…well…

Sometime back we expressed a degree of scepticism about Alfa Romeo´s product plans. What did the good people at Automotive News report on November 4th?

1992-1998 Alfa Romeo 155. Mediocre as this might have been, they were relatively happy times: motorstown.com
1992-1998 Alfa Romeo 155. Mediocre as this might have been, they were relatively happy times: motorstown.com

You can read the rest of the report at Automotive News which saves me a fair amount of cut and paste-work. However, I will find strength to paste this for your comfort and convenience: “FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said on Oct. 28 that the company is re-examining Alfa’s global expansion because of the slowdown in the Chinese market. He reaffirmed a planned 5 billion euro investment announced in May 2014 to boost Alfa’s annual global sales to 400,000 units with eight new models but said the investment will be completed in 2019 or 2020.” The Quadrifoglio version of the Giulia will be “delayed” as will the proposed SUV which will supposedly appear in 2017. I´m not sure what six and nine month delays really do for anyone. At this point most of the work has been done. Further hold-ups will only shorten the cars´ lifesspan in the market. Every half-year you lose at one end is a half-year less competitiveness at the other end of the product´s life-cycle.

Earlier today I expressed worries about the broader state of the world economy in the light of that harbinger of doom, the new upscale brand from a middle market manufacturer. And the construction machine industry is showing signs of contraction. Now we have FCA sweating about the state of the Chinese economy.

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

Where DTW 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 after all.
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”

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”

Alfa Romeo Erases History

Its own to be exact. This week Alfa Romeo announced a new visual identity. The signs are not good.

badge
Alfa Romeo’s new more ‘now’ emblem

It’s invariably worrying when auto manufacturers fiddle with their marque emblem. Even if you’re VW, the fact that you see fit to mess about with your trademark suggests the wrong business decisions are being prioritised and at the very least, the marketing people have run amok.

Continue reading “Alfa Romeo Erases History”

Alfa Romeo´s news

According to ANE, the Giulia’s launch date is next year at the earliest. Some allege the car is derived from the Fiat Viaggio and not the Maserati Ghibli. The anticipated annnual sales are under 50,000 units say some analysts.  Over 6 years that´s 300,000 which is not enough for a car in this sector. It seems to me that projections seem to be based on the idea that sales will be gained left right and centre from other brands in the market. Has this ever happened?

Almost forty years ago, the 1977 Alfa Giulietta was already showing AR´s key traits of frailty and lack of overall competence. Still a lovely car, if you like rust and iffy plastics.
Almost forty years ago, the 1977 Alfa Giulietta was already showing AR´s key traits of frailty and lack of overall competence. Still a lovely car, if you like rust and iffy plastics.

This really hasn´t happened in years. What usually happens is that a market sector fades away with sales going in various directions. Has anyone in recent times launched a category killier that wasn´t a new niche? I mean, a new vehicle of an existing type that ruined the previous champ in that class? A hypothetical example would be if somoene was to launch a new 5-door family hatchback that reduced the sales of the Golf by 50% and took a quarter or Astra, Megane and Focus sales each. Whoever “owns” a category now seems to stay the boss of that category until the category declines due to outside factors. By this analysis, the Giulia has no chance of being a top dog and Alfa Romeo ought to have found another category in which to compete.

Don’t Look Down Sergio!

FCA didn’t launch the 2016 Giulia today and the analysts are revolting.

The wait is over. Well, maybe not over exactly... Image via carscoops
Anybody seen my unicorn? Image via carscoops

This afternoon’s reveal of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia will undoubtedly be the day’s big automotive story with the car’s styling and likely chance of success being foremost in commentator’s minds. But it’s worth pointing out this is not an announcement of a production-ready car; more a piece of theatre, aimed at a far more rarefied audience. But don’t take my word for it.

Continue reading “Don’t Look Down Sergio!”

Bridesmaid Revisited – Marchionne Hits the Panic Button

FCA’s perennial wallflower lashes out.

Why won't anybody dance with me, wails Sergio? Image via Bloomberg
Why won’t anybody dance with me? Image via Bloomberg

We’ve all had to cope with rejection at some point in our lives – smiling through the tears, as we peel our shattered egos off the floor. But no stoic is our Sergio. Far from taking it on the chin, he’s gone on the offensive, raging to industry analysts this week at the unfairness of it all. Has he gone mad? Continue reading “Bridesmaid Revisited – Marchionne Hits the Panic Button”

Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up

Despite well-publicised woes, Fiat is actually doing decent business in the lower reaches of the European market, with 2014 sales figures suggesting a recovery – well, of sorts…

500m

European car sales figures from Jan-September 2014 illustrate an unexpected bright spot at FCA’s beleaguered Fiat division. It’s not much to write home about, but the former Torinese powerhouse is once again dominating the sub-compact car market. Between the top selling 500 and second placed Panda, Fiat have the mini-car sector sown up, with joint recorded sales of over 239,000 in the year to September. The 500 has performed well above expectations this year; especially so given the model’s age, with sales up 16% on 2013. The good news for Sergio continues with a small miracle occurring at Lancia. Continue reading “Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up”

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 Driventowrite 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”

Reasoning à la Marchionne

Not just since Luca di Montezemolo’s dismissal have arguments about the merits and demerits of FCA CEO, Sergio Marchionne’s style of conducting business been rather heated. And now we are being presented with a particularly poignant case in point.

Continue reading “Reasoning à la Marchionne”

Hasty & Superficial: Maserati Quattroporte GTS (2014)

A quick drive in Maserati’s ultimate saloon.

photoToday I had the chance to experience a car I consider to be among the most disappointing of recent years – the successor to the flawed yet glorious Quattroporte V. Gone is the lithe elegance of Ken Okuyama’s styling, making way for considerably more competitive technology, as well as simply gargantuan proportions.

It really is an ungainly-looking barge, trying to marry its enormous size with some stylistic nods to its predecessor. The result I’d consider something akin to Jaguar’s unfortunate X350 XJ – an ill-advised pastiche, borne by the misconception that certain cues are independent of scale and proportions. If I want a giant Maserati, I’d personally go for Giugiaro’s Mk III version instead, in all its Passat-on-steroids glory.

Continue reading “Hasty & Superficial: Maserati Quattroporte GTS (2014)”

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?”

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”