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”

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.”

What the others are saying about the Tesla X

Automotive News did some useful opinion aggregation. We like it so we link it. 

2016 Tesla Model X:
2016 Tesla Model X:

On the downside, this is a critical comment:  “Rather than bringing Tesla closer to the goal of the Model III, the Model X may be a 2.5-ton warning sign that the company is either unwilling or unable to pull it off. The Model X’s prohibitively expensive technology, including its low-volume aluminum construction, batteries and propulsion system, is virtually identical to that of the Model S. In other words: The Model X may Continue reading “What the others are saying about the Tesla X”

2016 Tesla Model X design notes

It´s not easy to find much to say about this vehicle. 

2016 Tesla X design review:
2016 Tesla X design review:

All the features on this car, barring the plastic mouldings around the hem are straight off the saloon. They are all masssaged and tweaked to fit the package and credit is due here for this being a much less forced exercise than the translation of Porsche 911 cues onto the Cayenne. It also says something about the blandness of the saloon. It´s hard to read this as an SUV. The scale is not easy to read from a photo. It has more of the character of a family hatchback and a not-very-exciting one at that. I don´t suppose the customers want their X to look like an SUV but want the high H-point more than anything else.

Putting this aside, the performance figures are astounding as is the actual use of gull-wing doors. Yet again I repeat my wish they´d added a little more spice this is stew. I think Tesla can sustain a bit more visual interest.

2016 Opel Astra reviews review

How has the new Vauxhall Astra been received so far?

2016 Opel Astra:
2016 Opel Astra:

There are two approaches to this. From the US, motoring scribes are asking what the new Astra means for Buick since the Astra-platform is going to be used as a basis for forthcoming Tri-Shield cars. The European view is more direct since we get the Astra without American make-up.  Doubtless the Chinese are also asking about the Astra. It is sold there as the Buick Excelle XT. It´s the platform that matters rather than the dressing on top. The view is that the Astra had outgrown its class (whatever that really means). Continue reading “2016 Opel Astra reviews review”

2015 Citroen C4 1.6 BlueHDi roadtest

The Citroen C4 has been on sale for half a decade. The time is right to put one to the test.

2015 Citroen C4 BlueHDi: it has nice interior lamps.
2015 Citroen C4 BlueHDi: it has nice interior lamps.

During the course of this weekend test I really did struggle to think of something to say that did not over-emphasise my feelings about the car. The thing is that the C4 is a collection of details that don´t hang together. The character of the car is not in the measurable dimensions. It doesn´t actually have any character at all.

Looking at the outside of the vehicle there can be found a collection of modish features that are there to conceal quite flat sides and a less than thrilling profile. You would imagine this is to Continue reading “2015 Citroen C4 1.6 BlueHDi roadtest”

Bringing it all back home

Automotive News reports that expansion in the use of robotics and the increased use of battery packs will drive the repatriation of car production to Europe and the US.

Not many people work in the factory of the future: Reuters.
Not many people work in the factory of the future: Reuters.

The gist of the story is that it will make less sense to have production of vehicles in places such as China (far from the West) when robotics can replace labour, when the parts are costly to ship and when the cost of over-seas labour is rising. The effect will be to make it once more economically sensible to have car production in the US and Europe that might previously have been unprofitable.

Such a development can be judged from a variety of view points. The Chinese won´t like it as they are very keen to have the jobs and the exports. Those employed in new, more automated factories will be happy. And those who see the total amount of labour falling might be unhappy as the question arises who will Continue reading “Bringing it all back home”

2016 VW Tiguan and previous model compared on one page so you can spot the difference.

2016 VW Tiguan and previous model compared on one page so you can spot the differences.

The new and old VW Tiguan. Images: MotorBildAutoEtLoisir
The new and old VW Tiguan. Images: MotorBildAutoEtLoisir

Here they are. The new one is the red one and the old one is not the red one.

How old is Subaru´s range?

This little survey was prompted by SV Robinson. How old is the Subaru range and what does it consist of?

Can you name this car? It is available in three colours: Subaru UK
Can you name this car? It is available in three colours: Subaru UK

The price ranges from £17,500 to £30,000 (rounded up a shade). The average price is £24,700. The Outback and Forester are available with six options;  the XV with four and the others with one or two. What is a Levorg? I have not read any reviews of this and the name is appallingly made up.  You can read Autocar´s view here   (it´s a 4-wheel drive estate). There´s no Legacy, note. When did that happen? Subaru´s range is composed entirely of niche vehicles, barring the Impreza which is a five door, five-seater hatchback. Continue reading “How old is Subaru´s range?”

VW´s TDI engine problems

What were they thinking? VW has been found to have fitted its TDI engines with a device to change emissions during testing. 

Fitted with a cheater device, a 2013 VW TDI engine.
Fitted with a cheater device, a 2013 VW TDI engine.

There is a lot of coverage about this. Automotive News, Jalopnik, Autocar, NY Times, NY Times and NY Times. What has happened? “Volkswagen said on Sunday that it would halt sales of cars in the United States equipped with the kind of diesel motors that had led regulators to accuse the German company of illegally installing software to evade standards for reducing smog.” It gets worse: “Volkswagen, the world’s top-selling automaker, lost a stunning 17.1 percent of its value Monday after admitting that it intentionally rigged nearly half a million cars to defeat U.S. smog tests.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, announced it is expanding its investigation of what it’s calling “defeat devices” in diesel vehicles, to make sure other manufacturers aren’t using similar schemes to thwart federal Clean Air laws.

Volkswagen has now admitted that it intentionally installed software programmed to switch engines to a cleaner mode during official emissions testing. The software then switches off again, enabling cars to drive more powerfully on the road while emitting as much as 40 times the legal pollution limit.”  There are some very good engineers in VW. I am very curious to know how intelligent people even considered trying this trick. Unusually for the car industry the sin is one of commission not omission. For the latter you can claim stupidity or ignorance (which is bad enough). Can someone really claim the defeat device was an error and not something calculated? VW´s position in the US will take a hammering and there will be a lot of corporate bloodshed as responsibility is apportioned. My question right now is did Ferdinand Piech know about this?

What is Mitsubishi offering at the 2015 IAA at Frankfurt this year?

They are showing us the PHEV version of the Outlander. That´s really it. 

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV:
2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV:

This is what MMC say about their car: “The Outlander PHEV was first launched in Japan in January 2013 as the world’s first plug-in hybrid 4WD SUV. Now exported to 48 countries including those in Europe, it is the world’s fastest selling PHEV with cumulative sales of some 70,000 units.” I didn´t know that but also don´t know enough about the Continue reading “What is Mitsubishi offering at the 2015 IAA at Frankfurt this year?”

Lens flare, concrete and CAD data

We return again to contemporary car advertising. What’s with these oil-painting-a-like hyper-real images of impossible perfection?

“Take the car to the Mulvaney Hills and take some photos, Jim.”

Well, they are not so nice as the advert shown above. How about this: Continue reading “Lens flare, concrete and CAD data”

Mazda sent DTW an e-mail today!

In it they explained that they are unveiling a new concept car, the Koeru. What else did they say?

2016 Mazda Koeru unveilled at the IAA: Mazda Press UK
2016 Mazda Koeru unveilled at the IAA: Mazda Press UK

That´s not the only bit of news: “Mazda’s IAA exhibition also features the all-new Mazda MX-5 roadster complete with a range of specially developed accessories. Among these are a space age boot-lid mounted luggage carrier in a solid yet ultra-lightweight carbon construction (to be offered with a matching Moncabas suitcase) and exclusive 17-inch alloy wheels in an asymmetrical diamond-cut look.”

Turning back to the Koeru, Mazda said something about its expression, something about big wheels and the quality of the interior and exterior is very good as well. It´s not very concepty, is it? It looks ready for launch in 2016. “The new crossover SUV concept, which makes its global debut, was conceived to extend a new kind of value in the fast-growing and hard-fought SUV arena,” said Mazda. That makes it a Ford Kuga/Opel Mokka competitor, I would guess.

2016 Renault Megane interior revealed

“The new Megane is an integral part of Renault´s design strategy renewal,” says Renault styling supremo Laurens Van Der Acker.

A bit dark in here, don´t you thingk? 2016 Renault Megane interior: Renault UK
A bit dark in here, don´t you think? 2016 Renault Megane interior: Renault UK

He goes on to say “Its dynamic lines project both sensuality and status, while its assertive proportions provide it with a well-planted stance on the road and its sculpted forms and strong shoulders hint at the brand´s Latin roots. It features a distinctive lighting signature  both front and rear, by day as well as by night, in its elegant interior exudes an unmistakeable cockpit feel.” Thanks, Laurens. It´s just dark. And very 2009.

What does he mean by design strategy renewal? Any guesses?

Borgward´s BX-7 revealed

Just fifty-four years after closing down, Borgward is back with the BX-7. And it just had to be disappointing, didn´t it?

2016 Borgward BX-7:
2016 Borgward BX-7:

I expected a saloon or sports car.

Autobild reports that the car will be shown at the Frankfurt IAA in late September. Autobild politely call the car a classical SUV with a lightly modernised version of the Borgward emblem. The Truth About Cars thinks it looks like a Buick  crossed with a Porsche. The car has a high beltline (Autobild tells us that too) and in case you wondered what the vehicle is when it passes you, it says Borgward in huge individual letter on the bootlid.  It´s 4.7 metres long (which is middle-sized). Powering the car are a 244 PS 2.0-litre turbo petrol and a 410 PS plug-in hybrid system. How much for this? €26,000 reckons Autobild.   Continue reading “Borgward´s BX-7 revealed”

Another set of meaningless alphanumerics, this time from Cadillac

The very informative website GM Authority, reports Cadillac has a new naming scheme. And it´s terrible.

1995 Cadillac Fleetwood, a name that meant something and still
1995 Cadillac Fleetwood, a name that meant something and still

It´s very simple: CT2 through to CT8 designates the cars, coupes and estates. XT2 through to XT8 will be names for CUVs and SUVs. As with Lincoln´s hopeless MK-naming system, a large part of the names are made up of uninformative prefixes. What does CT tell you? The C might mean “Cadillac” in the CT vehicles but what then does the X tell you in the XT vehicles´names? What purpose does the T serve? Perhaps if they had kept it to C and X that might have worked but then you have the problem of Europe where C1 through C5 are already in use. I suggest GM contacts Lexicon Branding who have had some success with OnStar, BlackBerry, Colgate Wisp and Scion.

The Porsche problem: Tesla´s Model X

From September 29th you can buy one of these, a Tesla model X. Would you?

Take the Model T formula and wrap it over a new package. Does that work for you? Image: Automotive
Take the Model T formula and wrap it over a new package. Does that work for you? Image: Automotive

Porsche spent a long time relying on essentially one shape. They tried a few alternatives in the form of the 924, 944 and 928 but none of them gelled or won approval except from design purists and die-hard Porschophiles. When it came time to create the first generation Cayenne they simply stretched the 911 theme over the carcass of an SUV. It still sold because people who like bombastic, gaz-guzzling roadwhales don´t care about how their car looks. Will that work for Tesla who, absent any kind of design history, have decided to Continue reading “The Porsche problem: Tesla´s Model X”

No, seriously, I have a plan: Alfa Romeo’s question marks plotted out in detail

The news today is that after the launch of the new Giulia, Alfa Romeo promises, no really promises – and they mean it this time – to launch a new model every six months.

2016 FCA Product Plan: image from Automotive News
2016 FCA Product Plan: image from Automotive News

The table above holds a lot of question marks as soon as it reaches the dim future time known as 2018. The following year´s plan is hard to read because there is a car pasted into the image. Fiat´s plans are rather flimsy. In 2016 and 2017 Fiat dealers will have “refreshed” versions of the 500 and 500L.  Did you know that by 2016 the 500 will have been on sale since the death of William Gladstone. It is older than the hills.

You can take a look at an old product plan here to see that since 2014 the new Spider and new D-class SUV were supposed to have been on sale. What value this new product plan?

Theme: Shutlines – A review

We really went at this topic with gusto. Did we learn anything?

A shutline, yesterday.
A shutline, yesterday.

Our esteemed editor Simon introduced the topic and noted that panel gaps or shutlines at their best become a positive part of the design and not are merely an interruption. And we spent the best part of the month demonstrating all the ways to get it wrong. Sean noted the problem of getting the wheel arch and door shutlines to relate properly  Should they follow the arch or should they Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – A review”

Revealing the punchline: Kia´s new Sportage

Why do they do this? Yes, everyone has duly reported the story and shown a photo of the new Sportage. But not us.

After five brief years, the current Sportage is leaving us: Kia UK
After five brief years, the current Sportage is leaving us: Kia UK

That´s the current Sportage you see there, courtesy of Kia´s UK website. Continue reading “Revealing the punchline: Kia´s new Sportage”

Into the Magimix goes national style

Renault have not one but two design studios in India. What is the result?

2016 Renult Kwid:
2016 Renult Kwid:

One of way of looking at it is that you get a competitive and competent looking vehicle. As a raise-height hatchback it is what Indian customers want: ” This is because the project was both Indian as well as French. Most of the data collection, however, was done from here, on the ground. It had to be. Renault was keen on an immersive experience for its design team. It wanted the design staff to be drowning in the local culture and local tastes, and there was a special emphasis on what Indian customers disliked too. This is how they discovered what Indian customers really meant when they said they wanted more car for their money.” Continue reading “Into the Magimix goes national style”

Buick risks its credibility

Reuters have reported that in future most Buicks sold in the US may be imported.

1997 Buick Park Avenue Ultra. They don´t make them like this anymore:
1997 Buick Park Avenue Ultra. They don´t make them like this anymore:

Buick sell nearly a million cars a year in  China but only about 230,000 vehicles in the US. The basis of Buick´s credibility in China is that the car represents upper-middle class quality and American values. In the US, Buick appeals or has appealed for similar reasons.  Sources close to GM are quoted as saying that in future only the LaCrosse replacement and the Enclave SUV will Continue reading “Buick risks its credibility”

What´s wrong with VAG?

Not long after losing Luc Donckerwolke from Bentley, SEAT has lost Stefan Lamm who had only been there for seven months.

Stefan Lamm is moving to Mercedes Benz:
Stefan Lamm is moving to Mercedes Benz:

CDN reports that Stefan Lamm has left for Mercedes’ advanced design studio in Carlsbad, California. That will be some bill for MB´s HR department when Lamm packs up from SEAT and I imagine SEAT have only just finished processing the expenses.

Lamm has had a remarkable career at Opel and Ford, with his characteristic manner of treating light and shadow as a design element on cars. Presumably he will be bringing this approach to Mercedes Benz production cars in due course. Quite possibly he will also take Ford´s and GM´s more disciplined approach to shutlines and exterior detailing to his new employer where it is most needed. The other question is why VAG has lost two distinguished designers in a short space of time. While I admire the strength of VAG´s attention to detail, there is a corporate look to their cars which suggests that it might be difficult to impose a more individial design character on their cars. What one notices about the work of Lamm and Donckerwolke is that none of the cars associated with them have a “Lamm” or “Donckerwolke” look but also they were quite clearly different from the cars done by others. Did VAG´s uniformity discourage them?

Honda UK´s hall of fame…

…includes the Stream and the Legend. And it has space for a few more cars too.

Plenty of space there for some better cars. Honda Logo? Image: Honda UK
Plenty of space there for some better cars. Honda Logo? Image: Honda UK

What was supposed to be a bit of sleuthing in search of news that didn´t come courtesy of secondary sources led me to Honda UK´s hall of fame, “Previous Models”.  I will come to the news part eventually.

The image above is Honda UK´s own suggestion of its favourite cars. There is no commentary: I checked that twice to be sure (to be sure).

Some of the entrants make sense. Every Honda fan worships the S2000 and goes to bed placing voodoo curses on the ignorant public who didn´t Continue reading “Honda UK´s hall of fame…”

Cadillac does care who buys its cars. Or it doesn´t .

Various sources today report that Cadillac will continue to seek more autonomy within GM. And of course,  will seek to attract younger buyers. I thought Cadillac didn´t care who bought the cars….

Cadillac CT6 in an unusually antique setting.  Is that  a nod to Fitz and Van. Image:
Cadillac CT6 in an unusually antique setting. Is that a nod to Fitz and Van. Image:

All the sources point back to Automotive News which refers to a press conference with Cadillac´s brand chief Johan de Nysschen. That conferences is not reported at Cadillac´s press page  which does Continue reading “Cadillac does care who buys its cars. Or it doesn´t .”

Old wine in a new bottle? Or old wine in an old bottle?

Our good friends at Automotive News Europe have interviewed Citroen´s CEO, Linda Jackson: expect more Cactussy Citroens.

Design-wise that C-pillar is absurd. The stuff that looks like it might be glass isn´t. Outward visibility is still actually very good and the slim b-pillars are excellent. Those rear windows don´t wind down, however.
Citroen´s template for more Citroens.

Here is the article´s intro: “The C4 Cactus has been a sales winner. Citroen has sold 90,000 C4 Cactus models since its debut last year and the car was awarded the World Car Design of the Year at the New York auto show in April. Citroen CEO Linda Jackson wants to channel the quirky compact hatchback’s success into the rest of the brand’s lineup. Jackson explained how in an interview with Automotive News EuropeCorrespondent Nick Gibbs.” I recommend you Continue reading “Old wine in a new bottle? Or old wine in an old bottle?”

Looking Back: 2001 MG ZT-190

Regular readers of this site know that there are only three natural positions for a product in the car market: luxury, sporting and economy. And?

2001 MG ZT-190:
2001 MG ZT-190:

…and don´t get pushed too far from them. That´s the no-man’s land of not very sporty, not very cheap and not very luxurious. The unmarked graves of Lincoln (unfilled at the moment), Saab, Oldsmobile and Lancia are all in that bourne from which no car maker returns. Apart from Saab and Borgward.

On with the story.

When BMW bought Rover they quickly repositioned Rover so it was less about sportiness and more about comfort (which is physical luxury). They also determined that Rovers would be less expensive than BMWs.  At the same time, Rovers always had to be a cut above. Above all, it´s a Rover – that´s one slogan. And later we had “Relax, it´s a Rover.”  The epitome of the Relax Rovers was the 1999 Rover 75 about which a lot has been written. In brief, it seemed to sell quite well despite the skewed focus of its imagery, design and branding. However, it was in that no-man´s land I mentioned earlier. Time to break for the border.

When MG-Rover gained control of their product destiny the first thing they did was to try to Continue reading “Looking Back: 2001 MG ZT-190”

Looking Back: 2000 Lincoln LS

260,000 examples in a six-year period isn´t bad. And the LS racked up a few awards, namely Motor Trend´s car of the year 2000 and it was nominated as American Car of the Year though it was pipped by Ford´s Focus and Audi TT. The LS was also Lincoln´s first attempt to fight off its reputation as a car for the nearly dead. That battle is reminiscent of Cadillac´s fight for a younger image, a fight Lincoln is still losing 15 years later.

2000 Lincoln LS. It looked questionable when new. Fifteen years later I see Astra wheel arches and crude detailing on the front bumper´s chrome:
2000 Lincoln LS. It looked questionable when new. Fifteen years later I see Astra wheel arches and crude detailing on the front bumper´s chrome:

The LS shared its main elements with the Jaguar S-type and Ford Thunderbird and had a similarly contentious styling. Of the two saloons (while we´re comparing) the Jaguar managed a better job than the Lincoln. The 2000 Car Buyer´s Guide called the design “ho-hum”. I´d call it a derivative mash-up of VW Passat, Misubishi Diamante, Opel Astra, Ford Edge Design details and Lincoln motifs with a hefy dose of Mitsubishi. According to Automotive Industries Magazine the car had to look as if it could Continue reading “Looking Back: 2000 Lincoln LS”

Theme: Hybrids – 2000 Honda Insight

This is also conveniently part of my Looking Back series.

2000 Honda Insight:
2000 Honda Insight:

We can  begin by looking at this little film by Doug deMuro. I have to say I like the chap´s presentation mode. It is very cheerful in a way the Americans do very well indeed. It avoids Hammond´s cheeky chappy style and Clarkson´s tucked in chin.

The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius both went on sale in 2000, showcasing the idea that you could mix an electric and petrol system to Continue reading “Theme: Hybrids – 2000 Honda Insight”

Quick design analysis

Here is this revised or updated Audi A4 for your consideration. I have marked in red all the areas that look identical with the outgoing car.

2016 Audi A4 yellow front marked up

I conclude the glasshouse is the same and the bodysides to halfway down the doors are the same geometry. They have replaced the pronounced upward curving swoosh groove with a scalloped indent and the lower bumpers have been tweaked. There´s nothing wrong with this as such. It is however what looks incredibly like a mild facelift. It is not a new car.

TVR is coming back to life; deposits being taken

Pistonheads, Autocar and The Truth About Cars have reported that TVR, under new management, is taking orders for 2017 delivery.

2017 TVR: image from Autocar (thanks!)
2017 TVR: image from Autocar (thanks!)

I had forgotten about TVR. In the 90s it was a favourite of the motoring press for its outrageous styling, in-house engines and aggressive performance. The two things you noticed about TVRs were that their drivers looked like they were having fun or they were waiting for the AA. Continue reading “TVR is coming back to life; deposits being taken”