In a few weeks time, Alfa Romeo will reveal to the world a car which will unite the massed ranks of automotive press in labelling it ‘make or break‘. Like Alfa Romeo’s reincarnation plans over the years, the tally of make or break Alfa Romeos has been depressingly numerous, but what unites them is a single stark characteristic: none has delivered upon its promise. The latest of these dates from 2015, when the current Giulia was announced, but given that crushing disappointment is a feeling all too familiar to those who admire the Milanese car brand and wish it success, the betting appears to be only for the brave.
Because, by the looks of things, the Giulia is on the ropes. Now, as we all know, saloons of all stripes are in retreat, even those of a more specialised, rear-wheel drive, sporting bent. Customers, we are reliably informed no longer Continue reading “The Serpent’s Egg”
The 2005 Alfa Romeo 159 had a tough act to follow in the delightful 156. We examine how it fared.
The 1997 Alfa 156 was the first Alfa Romeo for many years that was greeted with near-universal praise for its styling. The company’s designers had spent the previous couple of decades playing with their geometry sets and producing rectilinear designs that were, to say the least, rather challenging in their appearance.
Under the styling leadership of Walter de Silva at Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, the designers of the 156 looked further back into the company’s past and produced a shape that was organic, lithe and sinuous, one that was regarded by many Alfisti as the most authentic expression of the marque’s qualities in years.
Those alluring looks did not come without some penalty, in this case limited accommodation for passengers and their luggage(1) and that old Alfa Romeo bugbear, poor reliability. Premature cambelt and tensioner failures were common on the Twin-Spark engines, forcing the company to Continue reading “An Alfa Less Loved”
Can Fiat-Chrysler’s new CEO deal with FCA’s lopsided business or is it time to bring out the bonesaw?
FCA’s late CEO, Sergio Marchionne was at various times hailed as something of a visionary, and without doubt, he achieved the seemingly impossible once he orchestrated Fiat Auto’s audacious takeover of the embattled Chrysler business in 2009. Nevertheless, an equally cogent argument could be posited that should Marchionne’s legacy simply be that of FCA’s continued existence, then it is built largely upon failure.
Fiat’s geomorphic car crash hits another boulder with the axing of the Punto from UK shores.
There is a certain grim irony in the fact that Sergio Marchionne’s death was so abrupt and shocking, yet for so many former Fiat Group model lines for which he was responsible, the reaper’s approach continues at a glacial creep. Amidst the halls of Melfi, Mirafiori and Cassino, unconsolidated glacial debris have been noted for some time, but with this week’s announcement of the Punto’s withdrawal from the UK market, the terminal moraine edges closer.
The automotive universe reels as a giant leaves the stage.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. The plan had been to anoint a successor in 2019, perhaps even bow out having secured the deal to end all deals. For almost a decade and a half, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne has been the master of the unexpected, but the sudden news regarding his deteriorating medical condition has brought a controversial reign to a premature, troubling and somewhat ambivalent end.
From his appointment as Fiat CEO in 2004, Marchionne appeared not to have bothered to read, never mind adopt the auto-business-CEO handbook. Arguably the first post-factual auto boss, Marchionne’s stock in trade has been to Continue reading “End Too Soon”
Not content with having laid out their stall for the next five years, FCA has further surprises in store.
Lancia is back! Driven to Write can reveal FCA’s secret plans to return the revered car brand to European and Chinese markets with five new models set to beat the established luxury elite at their own game.
While the mainstream press focused upon the Alfa Romeo and Jeep portions of FCA’s highly anticipated presentation last week, anonymous sources within the carmaker have revealed to us FCA’s bold plans for Lancia, encompassing as many as five new models to be introduced between now and 2022.
Amid reports suggesting Fiat will shortly abandon Italian car production, Driven to Write posits a requiem.
So it has come to this. After almost 120 years of car production, Fiat cars, for so long synonymous with the place of their birth will no longer be produced there. Yesterday, we examined Automotive News’ report outlining FCA’s plans to shift Fiat’s entire production output to low-cost outposts outside of Italy. Instead, Fiat’s domestic plants will be refitted to produce upmarket models as FCA transitions towards high-return product.
There is a certain inevitability to this of course, given both the pattern of FCA’s fortunes and the path the wider motor industry is taking, but regardless of Continue reading “L’Estrema Unzione”
The Arese merry-go-round has a fresh face in new CEO, Tim Kuniskis. Will he enjoy better fortune than his predecessors, or will it simply be more of the same?
Who’d take on a basket-case like Alfa Romeo? A marque with almost boundless potential for greatness, yet equally one with an unimpeachable aptitude for tragi-comic reversals of fortune. A state of affairs which is rooted in successive management failures – from those amid the semi-state Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale who oversaw Alfa’s affairs until 1987 and subsequently, the individuals Fiat Auto appointed to Continue reading “The Circle Game”
Reports have surfaced of Alfa Romeo readying a two-door version of their Giulia saloon later this year. As aficionados of the coupé, we should be delighted, so why is Driven to Write more troubled than pleased?
While not entirely immune from hyperbole’s more strident notes, Autocar can normally be relied upon to swerve outright speculation. However, last week, Richard Bremner – a respected journalist who these days seems reduced to penning listicles for their online edition – reported (citing ‘sources’), that FCA are at work on a Giulia-based coupé, said to employ the Sprint nameplate. “The Giulia coupé could appear towards the end of this year and go on sale in 2019”, his Autocar piece suggested.
Fiat didn’t hold an official “Exhibitors Conference” on the first media day at this year’s Geneva Salon, but that didn’t prevent FCA’s CEO pronouncing on the future of Fiat’s European activities.
Sergio Marchionne declared that “for the 500, 500X and Panda it is worth pursuing, I am less in love with the Tipo, despite its sales success. We have to be careful how we distribute large amounts of capital. The Tipo is less encouraged, because that sector of the market is very crowded and not very profitable. It was a part of the market where Fiat traditionally was, but maybe we need to Continue reading “Geneva Fallout 2018 – The Things Bosses Say”
The history of the motor industry is littered with lost causes and alternative realities. Today, we look at one of the more poignant examples.
Even in automotive terms, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell is not a household name, although perhaps he ought to be. The late German engineer and product supremo enjoyed a stellar career at BMW and in 2004, landed what appeared to be not only a dream job, but one which promised truly great things.
Another year, another Maserati sales crisis. But just how tarnished are the Trident’s prongs?
It does appear at times that the only Maserati news is bad news. When we last reported on the Tridente’s fortunes in 2015, a woebegone tale was unfolding, with FCA’s Harald Wester revising his forecasts downwards in the wake of disappointing sales.
Last Autumn it was widely reported that production at the Mirafiori plant which builds the Levante crossover (and Alfa MiTo incidentally) was temporarily halted, owing to changes in Chinese regulations regarding the manner in which manufacturers and dealers should Continue reading “Hammer Time”
No sticklers for current affairs are we, (spin cycles etc…) but given that it’s my first dedicated 2018 post, I thought I’d confound expectations. Mine, as much as yours.
Earlier this week, Autocar’s reverse-cassandra, [this analogy doesn’t entirely hold water, but bear with me] spoke to Ford Motor Company CEO, Jim Hackett, obtaining assurances that the American car giant has no intention of following General Motors out of the European car market. “I have in my hand a piece of paper…”, Steve Cropley didn’t quite say.
Today, Driven to Write gets its barnet in curlers over the latest offering from Maranello. Time for a haircut?
Even hairdressers must have off days. After all, imagine if you will the ceaseless drudgery of it all. The incessant banality of polite conversation, the helicopter view of thinning scalps and receding hairlines, the clippings that get everywhere, the disappointment of customers who Continue reading “Hair, By Sergio”
FCA’s Sergio Marchionne appears to be saying no to a new-generation Ferrari ‘Dino’. Well he was last week anyway…
Much like the current resident of the American White House, FCA’s Chief Knitwear Officer appears to think nothing of holding entirely bipolar positions on policy, seemingly at will. Over the years, the Turin binman has led us a merry polka and yet here we are, akin to the beleaguered Washington press corps, Pavlovian to our slavering chops. Because one thing of which we can be certain is that whatever either the leader of the free World or the Italian-Canadian yarnmiester pronounces upon will be slavishly reported upon, disseminated and pored over, which is of course the point of the exercise. Continue reading “Dino Denied”
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.
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 Continue reading “Non-News”
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?
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; although the International Astronomical Union’s planetary downgrade of Pluto could only realistically be described as a one-off, although the astronomical entity itself was said to be absolutely gutted by the decision.
It’s another round of musical chairs at the Italo-American car maker, with particularly resonant changes being brought to the company’s sartorial department.
In yet another surprising move, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO, Sergio Marchionne, has promoted Wichita-born Tripp Hardcrotch as Chief Knitwear Officer. Mr Hardcrotch will be in charge of organising clothing supply for all global subsidiaries, as well as devising a new sartorial structure for the company.
A former doubter takes a thimbleful of humble pie as the Giulia lands…
In the eleven months since Alfa Romeo revealed the Giulia to the world, I’ll admit to being more than a little dubious about the car and its prospects, and with some justification. Not only did it look faintly ridiculous in its early-reveal Quadrifoglio Verde warpaint, also the on again, off again nature of its gestation and introduction did little to lend confidence or succour to those who had waited so long for a competitive, mid-sized Alfa saloon following the demise of the pretty, if portly 159. But now that it’s finally here, perhaps it’s an opportune moment to view it with less cynical eyes. Continue reading “Giulia Shock!”
2016 wasn’t a classic Geneva, but a good social occasion. The big surprise this year was how well dressed everyone was. Everybody looked like they were somebody important, fashion victims abounded. Previously the norm was casual to the point of being unkempt, particularly those with ‘design’ or ‘styling’ in their job titles. I think there was a secret plot to Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Where’s Me Jumper?”
Marchionne’s Merger Mania Examined – Again. Where Driven to Write leads, the mainstream press follow: Autocar finally gets around to examining the Marchionne plan.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. Recently, one of our readers took us to task over our coverage of FCA’s latest product plans, suggesting we were being unduly negative about them and about FCA’s knitwear enthusiast-in-chief. It’s easy to see why, but at least we have been applying our critical faculties to the subject – something that has (up to now) been conspicuously absent in the mainstream automotive media. Continue reading “Mega-Size Me”
Has FCA’s on-off romance with GM entered a new phase?
Last week two seemingly unrelated news items landed, which taken on face value elicited only mild interest. But to a cut-price Max Warburton such as myself, the two stories add up to something a good deal more intriguing. Continue reading “There’s Something About Mary”
Its own to be exact. This week Alfa Romeo announced a new visual identity. The signs are not good.
It’s invariably worrying when auto manufacturers fiddle with their visual identity. Even if you’re a 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.
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? Continue reading “Alfa Romeo’s News”
Don’t look down Sergio, because the analysts are revolting!
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 “FCA Didn’t Launch the 2016 Giulia Today”
We’ve all had to cope with rejection at some point in our lives – smiling grimly through the tears, as we peel our shattered egos off the floor. But no stoic is our Serge. 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 lost his mind? Continue reading “Bridesmaid Revisited”
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…
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”
Maserati’s 2014 sales gain is astonishing, but is it a false dawn?
One of the reasons the motor industry continues to be such compelling subject matter is its almost limitless capacity to surprise. Last week, we looked at FCA’s decision to float off Ferrari as a stand-alone business – a move that surprised many – (if not ourselves). Now however, we are compelled to eat a portion of humble pie on the back of sales figures for Maserati that appear to demonstrate the storied brand’s continued growth to be no mirage, despite strong misgivings we expressed on the subject back in May. Continue reading “The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs”
The world’s least influential motoring blog we may be, but that doesn’t prevent Driven To Write being ahead of the curve every once in a while. Back in May, we took a detailed look at Sergio Marchionne’s plan for FCA’s turnaround, offering a hypothesis regarding its likely success – or otherwise.
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.
Signore Marchionne undoubtedly knows his stuff when it comes to numbers and figures like few others in the business. Which is why nobody was surprised when he – somewhat proudly, it has to be said – explained that the series production Alfa Romeo 4C’s extremely ungainly headlights were his very own responsibility, as their decidedly cheap appearance helped lowering production costs by a few millions. Car buyers, he seemed to believe, don’t really care about details, even particularly blatant ones. Continue reading “Reasoning à la Marchionne”
As Luca di Montezemolo’s reign at Ferrari comes to an end, an entire chapter of Italy’s automotive industry – as well as culture – is being closed.
“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change” proclaimed Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina in the seminal Il Gattopardo. He was, of course, referring to Sicily and the impending changes to country, people and his own dynasty. But such a statement could clearly have been made with regards to fellow nobleman, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo’s sacking from the post he had held for more than two decades. Only in this case, it would be untrue.Continue reading “The Leopard Bows Out”
The sudden departure of Luca di Montezemolo as Ferrari MD has shocked tifosi and surprised analysts. But one key question remains unanswered – what happened?
Ever the truth-seekers, Drive to Write appear to have accidentally stumbled upon the answer, gleaned from (admittedly dubious) sources close to FCA itself, revealing the unspoken reason for his departure – the mysterious disappearance of Sergio’s favourite jumper – (A particularly fine blue angora number). Continue reading “Luca’s Woolly Nemesis”
Today 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. Continue reading “Hasty & Superficial: Maserati Quattroporte GTS (2014)”
This being, unofficially, the Fiat/FCA themed month, I feel like shedding some light on Fiat’s current styling policy and the man responsible for it.
And when I say “shedding some light”, I actually mean pointing out all the dark and shadowy areas that currently make up Fiat’s styling. More questions will be asked than answered, inevitably.
Superficially, the reorganisation of Fiat’s different Centri Stile in the wake of the company’s Marchionnisation seems to have been a straightforward example of streamlining. And, unlike the most famous jumper lover’s financial and fiscal shenanigans, this move appears to be both easily graspable and logical. Continue reading “What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?”
The second of a two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them. Part two – There will be blood:
FCA’s presentation made a point of telling the financial and automotive worlds just how much Marchionne is prepared to accept for the sale of Ferrari, suggesting the fabled Marenello concern is for sale; despite firm denials from within FCA itself. Some might say that he would be insane to do so – the ‘Cavallino Rampante’ being probably the most valuable automotive brand in the universe right now.
A two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.
Now that the captives have escaped, the presentations are complete and fruit and vegetables been thrown, perhaps it is germane to take a look behind the figures and statistics at the state of affairs facing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Europe as they painfully inch towards their eventual fate.
I don’t think I’m necessarily alone in finding Sergio Marchionne’s penchant for jumpers a little unsettling. Yes I concede it is lazy of me to expect an Italian captain of industry to cleave to national sartorial stereotype; why shouldn’t he buck the norm, even if the result is somewhat unedifying.
Fine tailoring might be what we expect, but in Marchionne’s case the knitwear appears a little too studied, just a tiny bit artful. The cosy jumpers appear to Continue reading “Ripping Yarns”