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”

They must be doing something right

Lately I have been wondering about the plight of the mainstream manufacturers, what with their customers being more and more enthusiastic about premium brands´ bargain-basement vehicles.

2015 Ford Transit: source
2015 Ford Transit: source

For a change, it´s lots of big and non-red numbers at Ford. Even in Europe they managed to turn a profit. South America showed less lovely results and Africa is a mess. These are the highlights as copied and pasted from their report:

“Record quarterly pre-tax profit of $3.8B, up $2.1B; net income of $2.5B, up $1.3B; after-tax earnings per share of $0.68, excluding special items, up $0.39 from a year ago

Strong Automotive operating-related cash flow of $2.7B, a first quarter record

Record Automotive pre-tax profit of $3.3B, up $2.0B; Automotive operations outside North America profitable in total.

Record Automotive operating margin of 9.8 percent.” Continue reading “They must be doing something right”

Müllering VAG (Part 2): Too Big To Fail?

The words may be different, but the tune is the same: despite a great many statements to the contrary, the message sent out by VAG management is still one steeped in technocratic arrogance. With the press already on the Volkswagen big guns’ heels, Matthias Müller et al will now have to face their second most powerful opponent: the mighty work council.

Germany Volkswagen
Matthias Müller (CEO) and Bernd Osterloh (VAG shop chairman) having a laugh at anonymous man’s choice of tie, Photo (c)

VAG is a special company, not just because it accommodates such a vast number of car brands (12) or because of the number of people it employs (almost 600.000). The most peculiar element of VAG is its ownership structure. For it is neither semi-state owned nor a family run business – or both at the same time, depending on one’s point of view. There are also ‘normal’ shareholders – what with the AG in VAG standing for Aktiengesellschaft (public limited company) – but it is obvious that one needs to have either the state of Lower Saxony or the mighty Porsche/Piëch clan standing behind oneself (or, ideally, both) if one intends to get things moving in Wolfsburg.

But it’s not just these two parties which are heavily, shall we say, influencing VAG’s management. The state of Lower Saxony’s main aim, at least on par with ensuring VAG’s financial wellbeing, is to Continue reading “Müllering VAG (Part 2): Too Big To Fail?”

Theme: Japan – the structure of their product ranges and an overview of their pricing

Do you think we do this for fun? Here is the result of two evenings of tedious clicking around slow websites, looking at confusingly arranged line-ups. This is what the Japanese brands are selling in the UK and what they charge.

Adieu Accord - image via motorauthority
No more Accords – image: motorauthority

How did I do this? I tried to count the number of distinct models under the category “passenger cars”. I then noted the base price of each. The “Brougham effect” might alter the absolute numbers somewhat but not enough to alter the general, relative nature of the findings. By that I mean if there´s a Nissan Micra Super De Luxe “Montecarlo” model which costs £9,000 more than the base model I won´t have included it. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – the structure of their product ranges and an overview of their pricing”

How objective is Top Gear´s rating system?

As I mentioned recently, I have been leafing through the Top Gear 2016 Car Buyers [sic] Guide. I made an interesting discovery.

2016 Ford S-Max:
2016 Ford S-Max:

Top Gear provides a rating for every car they review, graded as marks out of ten. I crunched the ratings for six classes of car: MPVs, city cars, hatchbacks, executive cars, sports cars and cabriolets. Continue reading “How objective is Top Gear´s rating system?”

How appropriate: Fiestas made in Mexico

Will the Ford Fiesta one day come from Mexico?content_ford-fiesta-frozen-white-styleeco

According to our colleagues over Automotive News, Ford announced plans to build a small-car assembly plant in Mexico. The investment of $1.6 bn will entail 2800 new jobs by 2020. Not everyone is happy. Continue reading “How appropriate: Fiestas made in Mexico”

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”

Understanding the market

  • The world has changed a lot in 20 years. Among those changes are those we have discussed here lately concerning BMW´s astonishing expansion.

BMW-5er-E34-729x486-697f49e2f7154a5dFor this study I have compared the total range and prices of three brands of cars between 1995 and 2014, the last year for which I have the data in one magazine in my living room. (The graph says 2016 though). The prices are inflation adjusted to 2015 values. For example, a 3-series started at £15,000 in 1995 and this is worth £27,000 today. I have selected the base price of the main models and not included options. All of the cheapest cars in standard trim could be specced up and I have omitted this and focused on the lowest standard price.

The figures are remarkable. Continue reading “Understanding the market”

BMW is a hundred years old

BMW celebrates its century with a blizzard of PR bafflegab

2016 BMW Vision 100 is not a CUV: source
2016 BMW Vision 100 is not a CUV. Small dots are the future though: source

They got a little mixed up with the concepts of ends and means though. BMW has cited four elements that constitute its values and have sketched a new and thrillingly meaningless corporate logo. Continue reading “BMW is a hundred years old”

Geneva Bites – Audi Q2

There was a time when I hoped that the premium German carmakers’ foray into SUVs would pass by like a bad dream, but with their sales of products categorised as crossovers sitting at over 50% of production, and sometimes more, we have to accept the current orthodoxy, and take an interest.

Audi Q2 Image autovia-media (4)
2017 Audi Q2 at the 2016 Geneva Motor show.

The Q2 is intriguing on several counts.  It’s scarcely smaller than the Q3, but cheaper and lighter.  Up front there’s a bit of a rethink of Audi’s “big face”, but it’s still strong on Autobahn presence. Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Audi Q2”

2017 Ford Ka Plus

There´s a gap in Ford´s range which the Ka Plus is going to fill. We hoped it wouldn´t happen but it did.

2017 Ford Ka Plus:
2017 Ford Ka Plus:

The Ka Plus is promised to be more than a low-price five-door car, filling a gap in the constellation of price points connecting the Ka to the Fiesta. According to reports  the Ka Plus is built on the Fiesta platform which makes the car really a Fiesta Minus, doesn´t it? The design for the Ka Plus originated in 2013, aimed at conservative buyers in developing countries.

The Ford explanation is that the Fiesta is going to be replaced in 2017 and in so doing will become larger and more upmarket (they always say that). That leaves a space for what the old Fiesta was, a straightforward smallish car. The bloke from Ford says they´ll be “exploring a more emotional Fiesta” as a consequence. Again, reminiscent of Renault´s designer criticising the outgoing Scenic, this is a kick at what is a pretty decent car and one a long way from VW´s glacially cool approach. The Fiesta is a fun car and now Ford is telling us they think it isn´t emotional enough. At the same time they present a new car which is, I suppose, not going to be especially emotional. Or what? The car has to have Ford´s DCDQ character which brings fun-to-drive with it. And that makes it emotional?

I don´t know what to make of this. Made in India, apparently. It´s a fun-to-drive five door car that´s cheap to run and has milquetoast styling or it’s a new version of the existing fun-to-drive car which we´re now told isn´t emotional enough. And the three door Ka will be no more.

2016 Renault Scenic at Geneva

The minivan or MPV has been with us for three decades, defined by images of the Chrysler/Dodge minivans (1984) and Renault Espace (1984). According to Renault who have been market leaders in this category, they have redefined the class.

2016 Renault Scenic: source
2016 Renault Scenic: source

Renault have tried this before in their redesign of the current Espace which is aimed not at very large families but at executive motorists looking for something different. Though not for sale in the UK, it has been a quite successful entrant in its price class. This meant a marked increase in the styling quotient and a much less rectilinear look. They have applied the same thinking to the Scenic, revealed at this year’s Geneva motor show. The Scenic has for a long time been a successful entrant in a market crowded with the likes of the Citroen C4 Picasso, VW Touran, Ford C-Max and the Opel Zafira. BMW entered the fray recently with their front-drive, Mini-based Activity Tourer. It´s quite a serious business this and Renault´s chief of styling, Laurence van den Acker hopes Continue reading “2016 Renault Scenic at Geneva”

2016 Maserati Levante design review

It´s been a while since I did one of these design reviews. It´s the new Maserati SUV which is really a kind of raised pseudo-estate. It still looks good, and far better than I had feared.

2016 Maserati Levante: source
2016 Maserati Levante. It looks like a nice estate from this angle: source

Maserati call this a cross-over, making it somewhere between an estate car, hatchback and SUV. Whatever it is called it looks purposeful and is much the most succesful Maserati design since the second last Quattroporte. Recent cars have been rather busy and fussily detailed. This one is calm with enough subtle touches to explain its purpose without drifting into the realms of cross-over cliché. Continue reading “2016 Maserati Levante design review”

2017 Renault Megane SW has more chrome

It´s press release time and here I am going to regurgitate what Renault spelled out in the document they sent me today.

2017 Renault Sports Tourter: source
2017 Renault Sports Tourter: source

What can I remember from skimming the press release? I remember that the new Megane has a wider track to make it feel more solid on the road. It has the longest load bay in the class and there is brightwork on part of the edge of the sideglass. It runs along the base of the sideglass and stops at the top of the C-pillar. The suspension features a technology called 4Control which is intended to make the car feel agile and sporty “in built-up areas”. I wonder how that works.

Doesn´t the car have a very raked rear screen? It´s not especially estatey though I expect that´s why they don´t call it one.

The Sportstourer will be shown at the Geneva motor show.

Efficient markets and the Tesla gamble

Last year Bloomberg and, I suppose everyone else, asked will Tesla ever make money? They lose $4000 on every model S they sell. What else could they have done with the money?

Solid investment?: source
Solid investment?: source

As anyone who reads the financial news knows, the world´s economy is awash with cash and has been for almost a decade. The Bank of Japan is so keen to get people to spend their lucre that they are now charging negative interest rates. The surplus of cash has led to commodity and asset bubbles as far as I can tell. Want to know why a zero-bedroom windowless chamber in London costs £800,000? Because someone thinks it is a better bet than leaving the money in a bank.  So, if there was ever a time to find loose money and spend it launching a new business this is that time. If you run out of money someone will give you some more. Continue reading “Efficient markets and the Tesla gamble”

Volvo: Scandinavian Without the Drama

Volvo are re-emerging from the Northern wilderness and look set to disrupt the automotive establishment by offering something increasingly novel: a genuine alternative.

Image: speedcarz
The new face of Volvo. Image: speedcarz

Recently I was asked to cite which manufacturer impressed most over the past twelve months and to be honest, I didn’t hesitate. It had to be Volvo. Having been a brand that previously earned my respect but little else, the sole remaining Swedish marque appears to be in the process of reinventing itself as perhaps the most viable alternative to the hegemony of the luxury car establishment, with a style and appeal that stands coolly apart from the self-aggrandizement of the mainstream prestige marques and their acolytes. Continue reading “Volvo: Scandinavian Without the Drama”

Fiat in Ireland: their point of view

A little while back we ran an article about car sales in Ireland in January. We asked Fiat Automobiles Ireland to respond.

2016 Fiat Ireland model range:
2016 Fiat Ireland model range:

In the spirit of balance, we considered it a good idea to see what Fiat had to say about the market position and general outlook for their products. Here is what Gerry Clarke, Country Director, FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Ireland Ltd had to say:

“There are a number of points to consider regarding FIAT in Ireland. FIAT is strongest in segments that are traditionally very small in Ireland. We’re segment leaders across Europe with 500 and Panda but for a number of reasons Irish buyers tend to prefer larger cars and especially three-box saloons, an example of which we currently do not offer in RHD! Our B-segment car is now nearing the end of its product cycle and with the end of Bravo production we’re now missing altogether from C-segment and these still segments represent the majority of sales in Ireland. Continue reading “Fiat in Ireland: their point of view”

What aren´t we writing about?

Driven To Write´s back catalogue is now enormous. There are more than 1000 articles, covering subjects as diverse as Fords, Granadas and Mondeos. But are we missing something?

1980 Lancia Trevi 4

Is there, to be brief, something we are not talking about that you think we should?  A while back I ran a series which aimed to look at what I wasn´t writing about and why. After I exhausted that, I left the matter rest for a while. Things I haven´t written about all that much include the VW diesel fiasco, sales figures and market share and I haven´t reviewed a car for a while. I only briefly discussed the colour palette at the Detroit motor show along with a brief discussion of Lincoln and Buick´s launches. Porsche? Ferrari? No. Audi? Nearly nothing. Infotainment? Little.  Many other websites might Continue reading “What aren´t we writing about?”

Toyota takes over Daihatsu

We all like Daihatsu for their original concept cars and useful small cars. Except the Europeans, of course. Toyota have decided now is the time to pounce

2015 Daihatsu Hinata:
2015 Daihatsu Hinata:

According to Autocar, DaihatsuReuters, Bloomberg, AutoExpress, Japan Times, and the Washington Post, Toyota have raised their stake in the firm by purchasing $3.2 billion of the remaining shares. The argument runs that Toyota needs Daihatsu´s talent at building small cars. Toyota feels it lacks this capacity while Daihatsu could benefit from being smothered inside a large firm. Reuter describes the deal as follows: “Toyota Motor Corp. will aim to transform Daihatsu Motor Co. from a maker of small cars that used to deter their owners from going out on dates into a brand as valued as BMW AG’s Mini.” The difference here is that Daihatu doesn´t Continue reading “Toyota takes over Daihatsu”

Ford posts a profit in Europe

Among the eleven bullet points, the bit about Europe was mid-way down and came with no further elucidation. I went to Ford´s EU news portal and was introduced to Olivier Pla. Then I had the bright idea to

What does this obscure headline mean?

2016 Ford Vignale - is it contributing to Ford´s bottom line? Image:
2016 Ford Vignale – is it contributing to Ford´s bottom line? Image:

It means that Ford posted a profit in Europe. The news emerged as part of a general wash of favourable financial results. ““We promised a breakthrough year in 2015, and we delivered. In 2016, we will continue to build on our strengths and accelerate our pace of progress even further, while transforming Ford into both an auto and a mobility company and creating value for all of our stakeholders,” said Mark Fields, Ford President and CEO. Among the eleven bullet points, the bit about Europe was mid-way down and came with no further elucidation. I went to Ford´s EU news portal and was introduced to Olivier Pla.  Then I had the bright idea to Continue reading “Ford posts a profit in Europe”

Oh no, not again

Everyone else is doing it so why can´t we? That was the plaintive question asked by Irish folk-rock-pop balladeers the Cranberries in 1993.

2016 Cadillac CT6:
2016 Cadillac CT6:

The Cranberry question applies to Ford´s Lincoln division who must be squirming in their corporate seats. The Genesis G90 saloon will be sold with a V8 as we well know and it looks the part. The other day Car & Driver revealed more details of the V8 Cadillac will be fitting to their CT6 which also looks the part. Considering that Genesis is a newish entrant in the upscale V8 market and that Cadillac is selling fewer cars than they were a decade ago (and so short of cash), Ford´s unwillingness to Continue reading “Oh no, not again”

When the dust clears

It´s only with a good bit of hindsight can you see what has really happened. 

1995 Buick LeSabre:
1995 Buick LeSabre:

When I started writing about Opel and Buick my view of the relationship rested on the idea that if Opel could provide some useful platforms to Buick then that would be a good thing. I recently noted that not only are Buicks not wholly designed in America but in future may not be made there. Continue reading “When the dust clears”

Whither Buick and Opel?

At the Detroit Auto show Buick showed off the rather handsome Avista concept car which is based on Chevrolet’s Camaro. 

2016 Buick Avista blue front
Buick Avista:

And at Geneva ’16, Opel is planning to show off a GT inspired by the GT of the 1960s, a car many admired for its pretty styling.

I´ve lumped Buick and Opel together because these days they are interchangeable (for better and for worse). When the Avista was revealed I immediately saw that the Tristar badge could be replaced by an Opel propeller flash if something like the Avista was sold in Europe. This would be a good thing because the Avista would be a Buick first and an Opel second. For too long the traffic has been from Rüsselsheim to Detroit and at this stage Buick is a nameplate lacking its own identity, nice and all as some of those Buickised Opels are.  Continue reading “Whither Buick and Opel?”

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 N American states were planning to be rid of ICE vehicles within forty years. I suggested that this figure was not a real target (40 years is too late) but a way of introducing a radical idea gradually. Every five years ten years would be lopped off the target.  Such is political discourse that the floating of an idea gives rise to developments and responses to the idea. I would guess the 40-year figure was a strategic gambit in a political process to make it possible for suggestions such as the Greens´ proposal. The Greens in Germany indeed have a bolder vision where the same goal is achieved in half the time. Other green and green-sympathetic parties will

Continue reading “More harbingers”

Bentley recreate the magic of formica

But it´s actually a veneer of stone made to look like a cafeteria counter-top.

2016 Rolls Royce stone_veneers
Bentley´s nice formica trim:

Fatuously, the sales pitch makes a point of noting the stone is 200 million years old. Most stone is very old. 200 million years is nothing. You would have to be very ignorant of the age of the earth to feel 200 million years is a special number. I think the reasoning for stressing the age of the stone is derived from the world of vintage wines. Older vintages are indeed rarer. A 1970 is probably rarer than a 1980. A 1930 would be priceless and scarce. Continue reading “Bentley recreate the magic of formica”

Car Noise 2015 Part 2

In our last instalment we burned up 800 words just getting to July. Now we will canter through August to December. 

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia: automotive news
2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia: automotive news


It had to happen. Lotus said they´d produce an SUV. To judge by the images shown it will really be a kind of tall hatchback and not a Jeep Cherokee clone. At this point in the history of the world I am only here to report that Mercedes have yet another model, the GLE coupe  and I don´t know what the hell it is or what it does. I think it might be a competitor for the BMW GT something. I know people look to DTW for guidance on these things and that´s nice. I need to say here that eventually even I have given up on trying to parse the car market as it is seen by Mercedes so I can’t interpret it for you. Thank goodness Hyundai are launching RWD V-8s. I know what they are and what they are for.

Actually, I do know what the GLE is. It is a car with 4WD and a raised H-point which suits older drivers. I think it looks okay but then again I like the BMW GT3 and GT5 too.

While were here talking about niche-filling  cars such as the BMW Active Tourer (an MPV) I can remind you about the launch of the LWB version known as the “Gran Tourer”. And let´s stop talking about it. It´s a FWD BMW minivan. It will Continue reading “Car Noise 2015 Part 2”

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?
2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia – was this the most discussed car of the year?


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.


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

Signal and noise, separated

What a year it has been. With reference to Shannon (1948), we try to sort out signal from noise.

2015 BMW i8 - the future looks a bit like this:
2015 BMW i8 – the future looks a bit like this:

It seems like only eight months and two weeks since I last took out my typewriter from its leather case to write one of these annual reviews. Last year I ironically titled it  A review of the automotive year: VW 1.4 TSi Engine Problems. The airbag problem eventually destroyed Takata. GM is still working with lawyers over faulty ignitions. Like Jarndyce and Jarndyce that case will roll on until lawyers have spent all the money.

This year VW actually did have serious engine problems and that story occupied a lot of news space for the remainder of the autumn months. At the same time two other trends (signal, if you will) kept recurring. One was the steady rise of electric, hybrid and PHEV vehicles. The other involved attempts by the governments of the world to look as if they wanted to Continue reading “Signal and noise, separated”

Think of a number

If big is beautiful, why aren´t there car model names with more than four digits?

1992 Saab 9000000:
1992 Saab 9000000:

People expend a lot of breath on the topic of vehicle names. Until quite recently many held that a name (Silver Shadow, Miura, Astra) presented fewer challenges to the memory than a number. A distinct minority believed numerical model identifiers (518, 911, 75 and 75) represented a cooler style that suggested greater objectivity.  Continue reading “Think of a number”

Saab is back from the dead: official

Well, not Saab as we recognise it and not with the Saab name. So, the headline is a bit misleading.

2008 Saab 9-3:
2008 Saab 9-3:

NEV who own the assets of Saab are going to supply lots and lots of electric cars based on the dead-then-not-dead Saab 9-3 body. You can read the statement here. This is the first paragraph: ” National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs) and the Chinese company Panda New Energy Co., Ltd. have signed a strategic collaboration agreement. According to the agreement, Nevs will provide Panda with 150,000 9-3 sedan electric vehicles until the end of 2020. In addition, the agreement also includes 100 000 other EV products and services from companies associated to Nevs and its owners. The total value of the agreement is 78 billion RMB.” That´s about 37,500 cars a year if sales start in 2016. Panda New Energy specialise in leased, chauffeured cars so that means that these 9-3-based vehicles will be functioning as urban runabouts where the range limitations of an electric battery pack in a palaeolithic chassis will not be such a problem.  Continue reading “Saab is back from the dead: official”

C-pillars, C-pillars, C-pillars

Car and Driver published a spy shot of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt. It has a zany C-pillar. 

2017 Chevrolet Bolt spy shot:
2017 Chevrolet Bolt spy shot:

It´s hard to tell if this is one of the good ones. Plainly, to my eyes, this feature has become a cliché very quickly. You can view the full spy shot image at the Car and Driver website and we recommend you do because it´s a good magazine.

Continue reading “C-pillars, C-pillars, C-pillars”

Future-proofing your business

Mercedes have a channel designed for owners of their older cars. Now Porsche is following suit.

Ripe for restoration:
Ripe for restoration:

But Bristol were there long before, since most of their business revolved around re-selling their cars and keeping them on the road. In the case of Mercedes and Porsche the turn-over will be rather bigger than Bristol´s cottage industry. Is this the start of a trend?

Porsche have opened a centre in Gelderland, Holland to cater for the sales, service and restoration of their discontinued models. This is what they are offering (caution: chunk of cut-and-pasted text): “More than 70 per cent of the vehicles ever produced by Porsche are still running today. To ensure that these classic cars Continue reading “Future-proofing your business”

What Valmet’s success says about Saab’s failure

Valmet and Mercedes have announced that production of the M-B GLC SUV will increase at their Uusikaupunki plant. This is to make room at Benz´s Bremen plant which is already completely busy making GLCs.

2015 Mercedes GLC:
2015 Mercedes GLC:

Production of the A-class at Valmet will move to Germany. Valmet will make as many GLCs as they did A-classes so it´s a production swap rather than an increase. The change will result in an increase in labour requirements at Valmet.

As well as being an endorsement of Mercedes product plans and design (which we here at DTW are rather critical), it also makes one Continue reading “What Valmet’s success says about Saab’s failure”

The coloured Tri-Shield is back

This is the 2017 Buick Lacrosse. There´s more to it than a return of colour to its badge.

2017 Buick Lacross:
2017 Buick Lacross:

The Detroit Free Press and Kelley Blue Book have reported the unveiling of the 2017 Buick Lacrosse. As well as echoing aspects of the Buick Avenir concept last year, the 2017 car also allegedly harks back to the 1954 Buick Wildcat concept car. Personally I can´t see any obvious links.

Missing from the new car are 130 kilos. The chassis, seats and sound-proofing all felt the engineer´s scalper in the quest to Continue reading “The coloured Tri-Shield is back”

What drives Jaguar?

Last year we had a monthly theme on engines. I would like to return to this topic with the aim of understanding Jaguar´s engine line-up. 

2015 Jaguar XJ frolicking in the snows of Warwickshire:
2015 Jaguar XJ frolicking in the snows of Warwickshire:

Jaguar has five basic models. Those are the XE, XF and XJ (saloons), F-Type and F-Pace. Is that a good naming system, I idly wonder. F-Pace seems not to fit in. It makes the F in F-Type somewhat meaningless as there was no E-Pace or D-Pace. I digress.

Starting with the XE, we read here that it has a petrol four, a diesel four and a petrol V6. The petrol four pot engines are available in two flavours, 200 and 240 PS. The diesels come as 163 and 180 PS. A 3.0 litre supercharged petrol V6 offers 340 PS and is only available as an automatic. So, that´s three engines for the XE.  Continue reading “What drives Jaguar?”

Any colour so long as it´s red (except the bottom line)

Mazda brought in more cash than expected so far this year. That means three operating profits in a row. How will they spend all that money?

2015 Mazda MX-5, yours for €22,000:
2015 Mazda MX-5, yours for €22,000:

Three cars helped out Mazda´s bottom line: The Mazda2, the CX3 and the MX-5. The older cars in the Mazda showroom all continue to sell well too. Europe´s part in this to contribute a 21% increase in vehicle turnover. Japan – despite a two decade doldrum of historic dimensions – provided a 33% increase. China did well as well (but for how much longer. Will China be able to Continue reading “Any colour so long as it´s red (except the bottom line)”

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

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.

A little bit of history repeating again

With thanks to Eoin for the use of the song title. Hyundai are going to take this opportunity to turn the Genesis nameplate into a stand-alone brand.

2015 Hyundai Genesis:
2015 Hyundai Genesis:

This is worrying. The last time someone tried this, the bottom fell out of the market for prestige cars. I am thinking here of the time Mazda tried to catch up with Honda and Toyota and launch the Xedos brand in the wake of Acura and Lexus.  Continue reading “A little bit of history repeating again”

Theme: Economy – The Durable Car

Ideally, an article on the theme of economy should contain no words at all – a conceit I did explore briefly, but the results proved unsatisfying. Instead we reprise a piece from DTW’s early days which I’m forced to concede, runs to 1919 words. So while on one hand it does meet the brief, it also misses it by several nautical miles. Sorry.

Image via
Image via

The fact that ‘Durable Car Ownership – a new approach to low cost motoring‘ didn’t knock Jackie Collins off the best seller lists in 1982 is probably due as much to its minority subject matter as a sorry lack of carnal shenanigans. It wasn’t a fashionable subject then and given that it’s been out of print for some years, probably wouldn’t be now.  Continue reading “Theme: Economy – The Durable Car”

Saturn: 5 years dead

One of the 50 best cars ever was the Saturn L200, at least according to our capricious, contradictory and downright random list

1990 Saturn SL: mad4wheels com
1990 Saturn SL: mad4wheels com

As luck would have it, this is a good time to be reflecting on the failure of Saturn. Pending my own careful meditations on the topic I´d like to draw your attention to this very good article at TTAC. In addition to the article, a reader who goes by the name 28-cars-later offers a very good precis of Saturn´s history which I will take the liberty of reprinting here (see under the “Continue Reading” button). I immediately thought the chap writes well enough to deserve to be on the other side of the author/reader divide. Others at TTAC did too.  Continue reading “Saturn: 5 years dead”

Death´s revolving door: more Saab EV news

That revolving door is still swinging. Digital Trends and TTAC have reported that Turkey´s government has purchased the rights to make the Saab 9-3.

2009 Saab 9-3 saloon: (give them some money, please. €5 will do.)
2009 Saab 9-3 saloon: (give them some money, please. €5 will do.)

And it will have a Cadillac BLS front end. Goodness me.

It seems the 9-3 will be made and sold in Turkey with a engines of an unknown provenance which might or might not be electric. At the same time Dongfeng who are the main owners of the remains of Saab will Continue reading “Death´s revolving door: more Saab EV news”

Can Lincoln really do luxury luxuriously enough?

Car and driver headlined an article about Lincoln with wording about the brand’s  focus on luxury over performance. They didn´t really address the point.

2015 Lincoln Continental concept:
2015 Lincoln Continental concept:

I´ve been very busy so it´s taken me eleven days to get around to drawing your attention to this one.  After the boiler-plate text about there not being any chance of European sales (there will never be European sales of Lincolns), the blog from Car and Driver gets down to the point and notes how luxury not performance is the main focus of the new Continental.

This is a theme we like to bang on about at DTW, the by-now tiresome predominance of performance over non-quantitative aspects. You could Continue reading “Can Lincoln really do luxury luxuriously enough?”

Bryon Fitzpatrick, the drawing machine.

Car Design News reported the death of the car designer and educator, Bryon Fitzpatrick.

Bryon Fitzpatrick liked to draw large sketches:
Bryon Fitzpatrick liked to draw large sketches:

Bryon Fitzpatrick might be considered one of the godfathers of car design education. In the absence of a proper industrial design course in Australia. As CDN describes it: “Fitzpatrick studied at Queensland Technical College in Brisbane  where he pioneered the study of Industrial Design: “The subject of Industrial Design wasn’t offered there in the 1950s, so he went to the head of school and said that’s what he wanted to do,” Bryon’s son Leon has shared with [CDN]. “They basically assembled it themselves – drafting, furniture making, visualisation – which also included courses from the US.” Havinf done that, Fitzpatrick set off in search of a work and career, to Australia, Denmark (where he designed for B&O), Germany (for Ford under Uwe Bahnsen) and on to the US. Continue reading “Bryon Fitzpatrick, the drawing machine.”