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”

Alfa Romeo Promises Delays and Fewer Models

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

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

As a check on this let’s look back: in February we reported that the plan was for eight cars by 2020. This is what I got out of the last report: – the promises included a mid-size SUV on sale by 2017 (one), by 2017-2020 there would be a ‘full-size’ SUV (two), then come two more UVs (for ‘utility vehicles’ (four).  And by 2021 there would be two more ‘speciality’ models in the vein of the Alfa 4C (making six) Also confirmed by Alfa was a new hatchback (seven). I can’t find reference to car number eight.  Continue reading “Alfa Romeo Promises Delays and Fewer Models”

2016 Citroen Cxperience Concept

Sufficient time has elapsed now for Citroen to admit to making the CX. 

2016 Citroen Cxperience concept car: source
The bonnet is too high. 2016 Citroen Cxperience concept car: source

Make that 25 years in the dog house before they could bear to put the name, or something like it, on their latest concept car, the Cxperience. Thancx, Citroen. Extrapolating from this we may have the Xmination concept car in 2026. The car is showcasing the drivetrain and not the appearance. We’ll see what others have to say about the oily/electrical bits first. Continue reading “2016 Citroen Cxperience Concept”

DTW Summer Reissue: Matching Designer Luggage

When confronted by a question of taste, I always ask myself, what would Bryan Ferry do? 

1979 Cadiilac Seville Gucci edition
1979 Cadiilac Seville Gucci edition

[First published Oct 10, 2014]

My extensive research has thrown up a nice example of a sub-set of a subset, designer accessories for designer editions of mass produced cars. It’s Gucci fitted luggage for the 1979 Cadillac Seville. Would Bryan Ferry go for this or not? The Big Two and a Half in the US have been more prone to tie-ins and designer editions of their cars than we have here in the social-democratic paradise of Western Europe. Cartier have been associated with Lincoln; Bill Blass added his magical touch to the understated elegance of the 1979 Lincoln Continental Mk V; there was the 1984 Fila-edition Ford Thunderbird; AMC asked Oleg Cassini – yes, that Oleg Cassini – to trim the 1974 Matador, for example. Just recently I have become aware of the Gucci fitted luggage that came with the Gucci-edition Cadillac Seville, truly a part of this very fine tradition. Continue reading “DTW Summer Reissue: Matching Designer Luggage”

1967-1972 Fiat 125

From 1967 to 1972 Fiat sold the 125 and, according to Wikipedia, it combined saloon car space with sports car performance.

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This formula could also be found in the 1966 BMW 1602/2002 and 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia. What might distinguish the 125 from these might be that it offered these characteristics in a cheaper package than Alfa or BMW. It certainly had more doors than the 2002 and it had more space than the Alfa Romeo. Continue reading “1967-1972 Fiat 125”

Micropost: Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Coupe

Autocar announced yesterday without any sense of embarrassment that the AMVZC shown as “a concept” last month will go into production largely unchanged.

2016 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Coupe, the same as it was last month: source
2016 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Coupe, the same as it was last month: source

What a remarkable sleight of hand, I feel. What has happened is that Aston Martin have shown a production car as a concept car, at the Villa d’Este concours. That has yielded a press-release and lots of coverage. A month later they are showing effectively the exact same car as a production car, with yet more coverage.

In this way AM have been able to avoid producing unconvincing and unfeasible trim as a disguise for a production car and get two bursts of coverage by the showing the same thing with two labels. If anyone can tell me where the difference lies between the “show car” and the production car then I’d be grateful. The entire exercise is quite cynical because, with one month between the “show car” and the “production car” it is clear that production was inevitable and there are no serious differences, no time need to evaluate demand or assess the reaction. Thus what has happened is that a production car has been presented as a show car, and I ask is this a first?

Since the Zagato is very striking and the sales are guaranteed, one wonders if this tricksy behavior is really necessary.

Trends in Doorcasings

The car market is segmented into several slices. How are these distinguished?

Johnson Controls´idea of differentiation in doors skins: source
Johnson Controls´idea of differentiation in doors skins: source

When it comes to door skins, the supplier Johnson Controls has a good idea of what constitutes the appropriate level of luxury for each price level. They also have an eye on how these levels will change in the future. The image shows what you might expect to see in four classes of car in the near future. Continue reading “Trends in Doorcasings”

More Harbingers

In the not too distant past DTW covered the matter of the slow end of the internal-combustion engine era. The matter comes up again… It’s not so bad really. In fact, it’s great.

Pedestrian street in the Nordrheinwestfalen: source
Pedestrian street in the Nordrheinwestfalen: source

This time the prompt for this article is a proposal by the German Green party to essentially do away with petrol and diesel engines by 2036. Their proposal is reported by Der Speigel. The alternative is to use electric cars and more buses and trains. In my earlier article I mentioned that certain north European and North American states were planning to be rid of ICE vehicles within forty years. I suggested that Continue reading “More Harbingers”

You’re Bothering Us With This Carbon Dioxide Business, You Know.

The ACEA calls on the EU to ‘rebalance’ its attitude to carbon dioxide emissions.

Carlos Ghosn asking for an easier time of it: ACEA.be
Carlos Ghosn asking for an easier time of it: ACEA.be

It’s not hard to guess the rebalancing is not in the direction of an even more stringent approach to reducing carbon emissions. Carlos Ghosn said “As Paris and the world gear up for the COP21 global climate change conference, we must make sure that ambitious climate change policies do not conflict with the need to protect jobs and growth in Europe.” The next interesting bit is this “By 2020 average emissions of new passenger cars will need to Continue reading “You’re Bothering Us With This Carbon Dioxide Business, You Know.”

The Next Astra is Already Being Tested

The 11th generation of the Astra on its way. Autocar were allowed to test a disguised prototype and reported on the apparent changes in comparison with the outgoing car.

2015 Opel Astra estate: www.opel.de
2015 Opel Astra estate: http://www.opel.de

The next Astra is going to be smaller and lighter but roomier inside. I am a little anxious that the next car is going to be less pleasant to look at than the current car which I regard fondly, especially in bechromed estate guise. However, one compensation is that Opel intend the new Astra to dispel the lingering criticism that they are duller to drive than its arch enemy, the Ford Focus. How will they do this? Continue reading “The Next Astra is Already Being Tested”

This One Is Really About Car Advertising

….and not the Renault Espace. To launch the new Espace, the actor Kevin Spacey is being used in the advertising campaign. And so is the Guggenheim in Bilbao. And a lot of clichés.

2016 Renualt Espace with Kevin Spacey pasted in. I assume that´s the Guggenheim and not just a pastiche.
2016 Renault Espace with Kevin Spacey pasted in.
I assume that´s the Guggenheim and not just a pastiche. The shadow is wrong, isn´t it? If the lens flare was real, the shadow should be angled from his feet in the direction 7 or 8 o´clock.

A few things arise from this. I’ll start with the background. It is another one of those sterile and highly unrealistic images where every pixel of the original photography has seemingly been removed, polished and improved so that the final image is utterly divorced from reality. I don’t believe in this picture. I don’t believe an Espace went to Bilbao and I don’t believe Spacey, the car and building were ever in sight of each other. Continue reading “This One Is Really About Car Advertising”

Some More Highlights of the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show

I did some more rooting around for oddities from the Shanghai Auto Show. 

Is that Photoshop? That background looks decidedly British but I doubt an Emgrand GE was shipped to the UK and shown just to make this photo possible. Image: autoblog.it
Is that Photoshop? That background looks decidedly British but I doubt an Emgrand GE was shipped to the UK and shown just to make this photo possible. Image: autoblog.it

This is the Geely Emgrand GE, a rather shameless Rolls-Royce copy with a grille inspired by Buick. The headlamps curved shapes are not sitting happily there, are they? This car is reported to be based on the Volvo S80 platform. It has one seat in the back. When shown as a concept in 2008 it had a rather more obvious Rolls-Royce grille. That has changed to a less, slightly less, flagrant emulation of another brand’s grille. Continue reading “Some More Highlights of the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show”

Some Highlights from the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show

The team at Australia’s Drive have put together an interesting listicle of some cars they consider worth our attention. 

2015 Chery A5 concept: www.drive.au
2015 Chery A5 concept: http://www.drive.au. That’s quite neat, is’t it? And the colour is good.

I picked two to show here. One is the Haval Concept R which has some rather wobbly highlights down the side but has a quite pleasing graphical arrangement at the front. Similarly, the Chery A5 looks orderly and distinctive. What we see here is a move away from the ornate look favoured by Chinese cars, specifically negative lines that meet at sharp points.

2015 Haval Concept R. Image: http://oglobo.globo.com/
2015 Haval Concept R. Image: http://oglobo.globo.com/

Renault are Doing Quite Well

“Renault group revenue increased 13.7% in the first quarter,” they announced here. They are very diligent about sending me this kind of news.

2015 Renault Captur: Renault, Denmark.
2015 Renault Captur: Renault, Denmark.

Offsetting the deteriorating market conditions in Russia and Brazil, Renault group registrations increased 0.8% during the first quarter of 2015, reaching 641,588 vehicles in a worldwide automotive market up 1.7%. Furthermore, during the first quarter of 2015, Renault group registered 641,588 units (+0.8%), posting a stable worldwide market share at 3.0%.

In Europe, where the market increased by 8.9%, Group registrations were up 9.9%, driven by Continue reading “Renault are Doing Quite Well”

Porsche: Tuning and Badges

Nothing but pure curiosity drove me to this. What sort of engine range does Porsche have?

2015 Porsche Boxster GTS.
2015 Porsche Boxster GTS.

We had an interesting theme on engines some months back. We covered a lot of ground such as the engines of the mainstream makers and a special focus on quints, small V6s, rough American fours and French ones generally. What we didn’t do was look at sports cars like Porsche for whom the engine is essential to their credibility. Sorting this out sorts out their baffling range of cars too.

Porsche have seven models now, goodness me. If you’d have asked I’d have Continue reading “Porsche: Tuning and Badges”

Is This the Next Opel Senator? (Part 2)

Automotive NewsAutoblogInautonewsArchy-news.com  all report that the upcoming Cadillac CT6 could provide the underpinnings for a future large Buick.

2016 Cadillac CT6 - another distinctive Cadillac name. Image: automotivenews.om
2016 Cadillac CT6 – another distinctive Cadillac name. Image: automotivenews.om

This is excellent news for Buick who sell very well in China (outselling Cadillac thirteen to one) and also gives Buick USA a more appropriate flagship than the Enclave (an SUV) or Lacrosse (a saloon). What is more interesting for Europeans is that this news also makes it seem likely that something similar or nearly identical could Continue reading “Is This the Next Opel Senator? (Part 2)”

European Car Sales Increase for 19th Consecutive Month

European car sales rise 11% on strong demand for VW, Renault and FCA.

Car dealers at Goad Cadillac dealership in the 1960s. Image: blog.hemmings.com
Car dealers at Goad Cadillac dealership in the 1960s. Image: blog.hemmings.com

After what has seemed like most of a decade in the doldrums, European sales are growing again. It doesn’t feel like it but the increase in car sales is a trend almost two years old. 11% is quite a remarkable increase and reflects a number of factors, among which are a weak Euro and consumers eventually deciding to replace worn vehicles. The statistics were published by ACEA today.

Continue reading “European Car Sales Increase for 19th Consecutive Month”

Variation in Colour Palettes for the VW Golf in Four Major Markets

This bit of research aimed to determine what, if any, variation existed in four major markets in the choice of colours available for the VW Golf.

VW Golf colour palettes in four major markets. Images: VW
VW Golf colour palettes in four major markets. Images: VW

I looked at the configurators at VW’s websites in Brazil, Australia, the US and Germany. The expectation was that there would be some variation in the number and type of colours. The first part (number) was confirmed by this empirical study but the second expectation (type) was not confirmed. The number of paint colours was counted for a typical variant of the Golf in each market.

The author selected the model Continue reading “Variation in Colour Palettes for the VW Golf in Four Major Markets”

Learn What Lincoln’s Line-Up Looks Like

Today I will turn my attention to Lincoln. How good does it look for Ford’s premium brand? What are they selling? Read on to find out what the main UK-based websites** aren’t telling you.  

Lincoln MKC. It´s a Kuga underneath.Image: Lincoln.
Lincoln MKC. It´s a Kuga underneath.Image: Lincoln.

Lincoln’s range of vehicles has changed dramatically in the last decade. For nearly the entirety of its history the brand sold luxury cars in varying flavours of large. Not all of these have been particularly well-regarded but Lincoln has also managed to avoid overt product disasters. It has no equivalent to the Cadillac Cimarron, for example.

Lincoln’s high points involve Continue reading “Learn What Lincoln’s Line-Up Looks Like”

All new? How New Is Ford’s 2016 Galaxy Really?

DTW has prepared this side-by-side comparison of the 2007 Ford Galaxy and the “all-new” Ford Galaxy with its “latest global design language”.

Image: paultan.org
Image: paultan.org

You can read Ford’s lengthy description of the revised Galaxy here. Among the extensive field of words Ford composed is nothing about major dimensional changes or structural changes. Even the improvement in rear head-room was probably achievable by revising the seats.

The current Galaxy is a very fine vehicle. What is not very fine is Ford’s compulsion to pass off what seems to be a nearly comprehensive re-styling as “all new”.  Here is their summary: Continue reading “All new? How New Is Ford’s 2016 Galaxy Really?”

Jaguar’s XF Is Not Alone

Or Ford’s 2015 Mondeo is not alone. They are both guilty of the same crime. That crime is to offer a new model that differs very little from the predecessor.

2015 Ford Mondeo
2015 Ford Mondeo

Here’s the new 2015 Mondeo (above). Granted, it’s black and the lighting is terrible. It does look incredibly like the last one though. Ford does not usually do this. Usually they make it really clear that a new model has superceded the old one, for better and for worse. This time they Continue reading “Jaguar’s XF Is Not Alone”

The Hunt for a Green Car: 2015 Ford Tourneo Connect

No, it’s not green but a very excellent yellow called Solar Yellow Metallic.

It more than compensates for Ford´s lack of verdant colours.
It more than compensates for Ford´s lack of verdant colours.

Here is the Ford Ka colour palette. The blue is greenish but not a pure green. Continue reading “The Hunt for a Green Car: 2015 Ford Tourneo Connect”

A Little More Colour From Hyundai: i10 Colour Names

As regular readers know, I have been keeping a close eye on colour. On the way out of the car dealer last Sunday I grabbed a colour and trim brochure for the Hyundai i10. What did I find?

2015 Hyundai i10 in Sweet Orange or New Orange garb.
2015 Hyundai i10 in Sweet Orange or New Orange garb.

I find British buyers are being deprived of choice. To their credit, Hyundai are making their i10 available in ten different colours. Not a single one of them is green and nor will you find yellow. This is not a surprise. On the plus side, there are two deep reds and an orange called “New Orange” in Denmark or “Sweet Orange” in Sweden. They also offer the car in a very regal blue called Continue reading “A Little More Colour From Hyundai: i10 Colour Names”

Finally, Something Good From Pininfarina

While The Truth About Cars was informing us on the business model of the Autolib concept, I was thinking about something else. 

Autolib electric per-per-mile rental cars in Paris, France. Image: Wikipedia. Give them some money, please. We all use Wikipedia so cough up. Thanks.
Autolib electric per-per-mile rental cars in Paris, France. Image: Wikipedia. Give them some money, please. We all use Wikipedia so cough up. Thanks.

This is some of what the Truth About Cars wrote: The technology involves lithium metal polymer batteries, developed by Bollore’s Blue Solutions. The batteries, which don’t need liquid electrolytes to store power, are not only lighter in weight than lithium-ion packs, but can be charged up to 3,000 times, and are stable at temps up to 338 F. No one else has gone for the technology thus far, however; Bollore invested €3 billion ($3.2 billion) over three years to develop the EVs and the battery technology now in use by his ventures.” Continue reading “Finally, Something Good From Pininfarina”

Innovation In Classic Car Sales

Classic car sales is not a line of business known for its propensity to change. Thus I am impressed by the efforts made by RK Motors of Charlotte, North Carolina, to invest in their presentation methods.

1982 Toyota Supra at RK Motors, NC, USA.
1982 Toyota Supra at RK Motors, NC, USA.

I chose this film at random and was very taken with the slick visuals to to display the features and quality of the vehicle. While most of the visual moves are directly from the play-book of television automotive advertising, it is noteworthy to see them applied to a single car. Continue reading “Innovation In Classic Car Sales”

Are Things Warming Up? Hyundai’s New Colour Options

Ever since 1978 (Oct 4, 12.34 pm), the dominant colour range used in car interiors has been tending towards the cool: that would be grey, blue, black. 

2015 Hyundai i20 door.
2015 Hyundai i20 door.

Up until that time most manufacturers offered upholstery, carpet and plastic trim in colours such as ivy green, navy blue, light blue, orange-brown, mid-green, red, bordeaux (what the Truth About Cars insists on calling Bordello Red). I have been looking at colour lately and first noticed a more daring use of tans and browns in concept cars (the most concept-y aspect of most of them) and now this trend feeding into production car interiors. Here is my evidence: the new Hyundai i20. Continue reading “Are Things Warming Up? Hyundai’s New Colour Options”

Japanese Car of the Day: 2015 Honda N/

「N」シリーズ5機種の累計販売が100万台を突破, is what it says at the Honda website.

2015 Honda N box (Image from Honda Japan)
2015 Honda N/ (Image from Honda Japan)

You can find a nice review here. And there is a more general description of the Kei-car phenomenon here along with some more thoughts on the N/. Autoblog writes: “Technical details remain scarce, but power likely comes from the same 600cc three-cylinder engine – turbocharged or not, driving the front wheels or all four – as the rest of the N series, which already includes the N-One, N-Box, N-Box+ and N-WGN. Feel free to read the original Japanese or Google-translated press releases below, just don’t expect it or any of its stablemates to Continue reading “Japanese Car of the Day: 2015 Honda N/”

Theme: Benchmarks – From Standard to Acclaim

The only constant is change.

1960 Standard Vanguard Vignale
1960 Standard Vanguard Vignale

What once passed for normal, becomes a rarity (think: Renault 12). Usage debases the value of language so while our words remain set on the page, the meanings attached to them drift off and new meanings, hunting for home, attach themselves. So it is that the world outside our head is unstable and shifting and the words inside our heads lose value like sweating gold coin in a sack or drachmas, lire and roubles in wallets.

This is getting very post-modern, isn´t it? The word for a fixed reference changes its meaning and the thing it refers to changes as well. It´s all relative now, kids.

Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – From Standard to Acclaim”

Last Gasp – Lancia Ypsilon “Elle”

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

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

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

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

Alfa Romeo is the new Fiat

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

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

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

2015 Geneva Motor Show – the colours

DTW has taken a look at a lot of show cars and tried to see if there are any colour trends apparent.

Geneva Motor Show colour palette 2015
Geneva Motor Show colour palette 2015

Most of these are concept cars rather than new launches. What is noticeable is that green is a rarity. Both the greens shown here come from Bentley. The flat orange is distinctive and is from Opel´s Viva car. Notice that it is redder than the 021C orange that has been in use for a decade, made famous by Marc Newson´s Ford concept car of the same name. This orange is more of a 60s racing orange than an industrial design orange. The black or near black is used on Mercedes´ hybrid C-class which is unexpected. It´s a very ordinary shade whereas you might expect Continue reading “2015 Geneva Motor Show – the colours”

Production and design: EDAG´s research into additive manufacturing

Recently under the rubric of the Geneva Motor Show 2015, I mentioned the Light Cocoon concept car produced by the consultancy EDAG. This work highlighted the possibilities of additive manufacturing methods. Does it have a meaningful place in the future of car manufacture?

2014 EDAG Genesis
2014 EDAG Genesis

First, let´s find out a bit more about additive manufacturing. In contrast with standard mass production, additive production relies on building up material layer by layer using lasers to activate and bind particles together to the required shape. Lasers follow a path through a mass of granules and cause selected ones to fuse. The path is defined by a mathematical model generated using CAD programmes. Other additive methods use extrusions of hot plastic laid down in layers. Again, the layers are defined by CAD data. The key thing is that material is addded and not removed. (Sculpture using stone is subtractive manufacturing, so is wood turning.) In automotive production the methods used to make thing usually involve stamping where a flat sheet of metal is pressed into the required shape using a specially made one off tool. In moulding processes a liquid is introduced to an empty form and takes up the shape of the tool. In both cases the CAD data is mediated by costly forms or dies which need to be milled slowly from tough materials. These are usually finished (polished) by hand to

Continue reading “Production and design: EDAG´s research into additive manufacturing”

Theme: Benchmarks – Personal Luxury Coupés

Benchmarks come and then they go. Personal  luxury coupes (PLC) occupied the hottest sector of the American car market in the late 70s and early 80s. What were they?

1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme: America´s best selling car that year. Isn´t it quite like the Ford Granada we looked at recently?
1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme: America´s best selling car that year. Isn´t it quite like the Mercury Monarch we looked at recently?

A personal luxury coupe is understood as a two door, four seat car with at least a V6 or ideally a V8. Whilst the advertising for these may have suggested sporting capability, the body-on-frame and bench seat reality spoke of cars whose main talent lay in getting quickly up to 65 mph and staying there from Baker, Ca. to Frederick, Md.

The image above is my idea of the archetype of this car. I don´t think European had equivalents of the PLC. Two-door Ford Granadas (such as the 1975 example owned by our stalwart contributor Myles Gorfe) don´t strike the same note. Whether with two doors or four they retain their Granada-ness (the Ghia fastback came a bit closer to the concept). The Opel Monza offered a sporty experience and isn’t Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – Personal Luxury Coupés”

Geneva Motor Show Update – A follow up on Zenvo

On Feb 23rd we discussed the enigmatic Danish supercar maker, Zenvo.

2015 Zenvo : image from Automotive News.com. I have to applaud the choice of colour.

2015 Zenvo : image from Automotive News.com. I have to applaud the choice of colour.Automotive News has followed our lead though, to be fair, have produced a lot more copy than I managed. I like think that in a small way we had a little scoop nonetheless.

Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show Update – A follow up on Zenvo”

The Private Buyer Is Dying Off [Exclamation Point]

That’s the tabloid-style scare headline for this topic. The sensible, broadsheet-style headline would be “Fleet buyers to dominate in car market”.

Not enough people want this sort of thing. 1978 Opel Senator's rich ambience.
Not enough people want this sort of thing. 1978 Opel Senator’s rich ambience.

According to Automotive News (who posted this story on Saturday, Jan 10th – do they never rest?) Renault are to bank on fleet sales as the proportion of private customers decreases relative to corporate ones: “Renault hopes its new Espace will appeal to business customers as family buyers increasingly shun minivans”. Furthermore, AN reports that “Jamel Taganza, an analyst for Inovev, said fleet customers now represent the majority of potential buyers of midsize vehicles in Europe: ‘With the exception of Italy, the shift to fleet sales is a European-wide trend,’ he said”. Continue reading “The Private Buyer Is Dying Off [Exclamation Point]”

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)

Having looked at the issues besetting the mighty Volkswagen AG (VAG) recently in Part 1 – which can be read here – we can now try and shed some light on the depth of the problems and likely solutions. 

Today, the problem is that these cars are all on the verge of being replaced (or have already been replaced, in the Golf VI’s case). The new range taking their place will, even once the glitches related to MQB have been ironed out, not be as lucrative, with profit margins shrinking by as much as two thirds, compared with the Bernhard-era models. This should make future subsidising of models such as the Amarok pick-up (which is said to have a profit margin of -25%) with the Tiguan II’s yields considerably more difficult. Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)”

Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari

How much can a brand be stretched? Should Alfa Romeos carry an ‘engineered by Ferrari’ badge? Or shouldn’t Alfa’s engineering speak for itself?

Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying "Autocar" inside the test car.
Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying “Autocar” inside the test car.

While trawling other news sites, I read at Autocar  that Alfa Romeo’s forthcoming SUV will be based upon the Maserati Ghibli. That bit doesn’t surprise me so much as the remark that “….there have also been unconfirmed rumours that the top of the range Alfa engines will feature ‘developed by Ferrari’ sub-branding.” This has all the hall marks of an idea designed to appeal to Sergio Marchionne. It also reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi’s idea that Fiat could sell more cars by badging them as Maseratis. You might as well Continue reading “Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari”

After the Great Leap Forward 2: Qoros Cars News Update

So, I presume you are all wondering how Qoros Automotive is doing? I was so I went and found out.

2015 Qoros screen shot

In March I wrote an article about the Israeli-Chinese firm Qoros. The latest news is that Qoros is running into difficulty, leading to reports of a split between the Israeli investors and the Chinese side of things. The Wall Street Journal reported it another way, saying major shareholder, Israel Corp have reiterated their support for the firm. This is as reassuring as saying out of the blue, “I won’t chop off your arm”, I think.

In a letter released to the Wall Street Journal, Israel Corp said they were “looking forward to Continue reading “After the Great Leap Forward 2: Qoros Cars News Update”

Theme: Books – The Art of American Car Design

The Art of American Car Design: The Profession and Personalities by C. Edson Armi.

GM designer Chuck Jordan
GM designer Chuck Jordan

Armi’s book (now out of print) rewards repeated reading. Few books seem to be able to find a language to discuss the process of car design. This one does. In giving a vocabulary to the process it becomes instantly more comprehensible and concrete. The interviews with GM designers such as Bill Mitchell and Bill Porter are encrusted with Continue reading “Theme: Books – The Art of American Car Design”

JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 3

The limping cat: In this third part Driven to Write asks why Jaguar continues to under-perform in its most crucial market? 

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Despite the improvements that took place under Ford ownership and enhanced resources provided by Tata, Jaguar continues to seriously under-perform globally. According to JLR, Jaguar sales rose 13% year-on-year, retailing 49,656 vehicles in the calendar year to date and 6,069 in the month of July alone*. However these figures belie several more troubling factors. Jaguar sales in the once vital American market keep falling. Continue reading “JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 3”

JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 2

In the second part of our examination of JLR, we look at Land-Rover’s market stratification, Ford’s powertrain legacy and their less than stellar reliability record.

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Land Rover’s confused offering
JLR’s strategy with Land Rover is to stratify the brand into three distinct levels. Land Rover at entry level, Discovery as median level and Range Rover as upper level. However, at the time of writing, this distinction remains insufficiently clear. The newly announced 2015 Discovery Sport is a good example of this – appearing a little too akin to its Range Rover derivative, and suggesting there is work to be done to put some discernible distance between the individual marques. Until a new generation Defender is available, this strategy will continue to confuse customers, with the added problem that JLR have nothing to offer buyers trading from the outgoing Freelander model – unless they are prepared to dig considerably deeper into their pockets.  Continue reading “JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 2”

JLR – The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand

Driven to Write examines the JLR success story.

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Jaguar Land Rover’s commercial renaissance over the past five years has prompted a deluge of scepticism in some quarters, because on the surface of things at least, its rapid turnaround has stretched belief. When the Ford Motor Company sold the Jaguar and Land Rover brands to Indian industrial giant, Tata Group for £1.2bn in 2008, both businesses were loss makers – Jaguar in characteristically epic fashion. Continue reading “JLR – The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand”

Theme: Advertising – Smitten by a Griffin

Vauxhall, ‘Once Driven Forever Smitten’.

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As an ad-slogan, it never really sounded right to me, carrying within it a sense of deadlines unmet and frantic solutions cobbled together. It also suggested not so much an ad-agency creative team out of ideas, more a client without a clue.

Continue reading “Theme: Advertising – Smitten by a Griffin”

Luca’s Woolly Nemesis

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

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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”

Theme : Engines – A Conclusion

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

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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”

Theme : Engines – The Final Stroke?

The Editor ponders the future

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For much of my motoring life, the hierarchy of car engines was clear, constant and relatively simple. The reciprocating internal combustion engine reigned supreme and the greater the number of cylinders, the more important it often was. The true enthusiast’s choice of fuel was petrol, with diesel an unfortunate option for the miser who had no ear for beauty and even less care for the health of their fellows. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The Final Stroke?”

Theme : Facelifts – Fiat’s Facelift Fiascos

Just a selection from a back catalogue of errors

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It’s been going on for so long now, it almost seems a tradition. Fiat’s styling has always been variable. They have produced some great designs and some disappointingly dumpy ones, often in the same generation. But what is constant is that, when it comes to facelift time, however good or bad the original was, the facelift is always worse.

There are various theories I can offer and, not being a Fiat insider, that is all I can do.

Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Fiat’s Facelift Fiascos”

Audi – Always the Pretender?

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Audi are in danger of becoming the Phil Collins of the petrolhead world, an act that even people who know little about music like to cite as being a bit off. Speaking as someone who can, hand on heart, swear that he has no murky Genesis related skeletons in his youthful musical vinyl rack and hopes he’ll never hear Against All Odds on the radio again, I’d judge that Mr Collins is no worse than many, and better than scores. Changing fashion means that he has just become a lazy symbol for bad comedians and the generally undiscerning to latch on to in order to suggest, quite undeservedly, their musical connoisseurship. Likewise Audi. In bars and on motoring websites everywhere, you will hear the drone of “overrated and overpriced …. style over content …. they’re all designed on a photocopier …. no driver involvement ….. they’ll never really be premier league until they go rear drive”. Is any of this justified?

Continue reading “Audi – Always the Pretender?”