Photo for Sunday – Volkswagen XL1

You’re engaged in some innocent retail therapy and then this beams down from planet Piëch.

Starship XL1. All images: Driven to Write
The car that fell to earth. XL1 amid the hatchbacks. All images: Driven to Write

As we’ve pointed out, Driven to Write never sleeps and while we don’t always get about as much as we’d like, our eyes and ears are everywhere. So while some of us are battening down hatches in windswept West Cork, others get to swan around a decidedly more temperate Marbella – a matter for which your correspondent is not bitter. Continue reading “Photo for Sunday – Volkswagen XL1”

Theme : Sudamerica – Nothing Is Quite What It Seems

The various manufacturers involved in the South American market over the years can cause some confusion to casual car spotters.

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Willys / Renault Dauphine

The US maker Willys had set up in Brazil in 1953. Seeking to diversify from its US based cars, it built a version of the Renault Dauphine under licence ….

Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Nothing Is Quite What It Seems”

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.

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

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?”

The Superb Skoda – a Mixed Blessing

The latest Superb from Skoda is a very nice thing, but I’m concerned that it lacks the essence of … Skoda

It looks rather nice from afar but is it a car to ever really love, asks SV Robinson.

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20105 Skoda Suberb: newdaypost

The other morning I had the pleasure of parking up at Milton Keynes Central Station car park early, and was struck by the profile and form of the two cars between which I had inserted my C6 (I still can’t drive a manual, which is no significant hardship really, but now I’m threatened once again with immobility as the Citroen’s power steering is definitely on the blink – there always seems to Continue reading “The Superb Skoda – a Mixed Blessing”

Müllering VAG (Part 1): Walter de’ Silva retires

The troubles and subsequent changes at Volkswagen AG have led to an unforeseen departure. Walter de’ Silva, overall head of the entire group’s stylistic development and one of the most powerful men in this line of business, has chosen take early retirement, merely a few weeks after having become appointed president of Italdesign, Audi’s semi-independent design branch. 

Walter de' Silva, to whom the German media liked to refer to as 'Walter Maria de' Silva' in a case of ill-advised pedantry, Photo (c) http://carplace.uol.com.br
Walter de’ Silva, to whom the German media liked to refer to as ‘Walter Maria de’ Silva’ in a case of ill-advised pedantry, Photo (c) http://carplace.uol.com.br

Continue reading “Müllering VAG (Part 1): Walter de’ Silva retires”

Alternative Paths In An Unpredictable Industry

DTW Considers The Alternative German Big Three

At the end of the 1950s, there was a sizeable group of home-owned players in the German industry, but we shall concentrate initially on three of them – Borgward, NSU and Glas. Only the first three paragraphs of this piece are fact, the rest is entirely speculation as to how things could have worked out quite differently, yet might have ended up much the same.

Borgward had been making cars since the 1920s. They were fast to restart manufacture after the War, being the first German company to put an all new car into production, the Hansa 1500. This was replaced in 1954 by the mid-sized Isabella and that was joined in 1959 by both the larger six-cylinder P100 and the smaller Arabella, featuring a flat 4 boxer that Subaru used as a reference point when developing their own engine. Having a decent and attractive range, with innovative yet sensible specifications, Borgward’s pricing was keen, undercutting similar Mercedes models. The only problems were a reputation for introducing under-developed cars too early and, crucially, Carl Borward’s attitude that the best way to improve cashflow was not through expensive borrowing, but by stalling payment to suppliers. Needless to say this didn’t make him many friends. Continue reading “Alternative Paths In An Unpredictable Industry”

Invincible Defeat: The VW Phaeton

Peak Piëch?

Image via carspecsreview
Image: carspecsreview

Phaeton. As a name it never really struck the right note. A little too puffed-up, ever so slightly grandiose for what really is a rather self effacing car. Perhaps in the absence of a suitably important-sounding wind, VW lacked options, or it was just another of Dr. Piëch’s flights of self-aggrandisement.  Continue reading “Invincible Defeat: The VW Phaeton”

Auf Wiedersehen Piëch?

As the Dark Lord of Wolfsburg loses his grip, is this the twilight of a dictator?

VW's puppetmaster-in-chief - Dr Ferdinand Piech
VW’s puppetmaster-in-chief – Dr Ferdinand Piëch . Photo via spiegel.de

Lately, the mighty VW juggernaught has appeared unassailable. The Golf and Passat dominate their respective classes, while Audi and Porsche reap record profits on the back of a global luxury car boom. Yet serious fissures have appeared at the very top of the management chain which unchecked, could destabilise the entire organisation.  Continue reading “Auf Wiedersehen Piëch?”

Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?

Sales of dropheads have halved. So is the convertible on the skids? 

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Nothing says ‘I’m living the dream’ like driving a convertible. There is no rational or practical reason behind it other than to demonstrate to the world you have reached a point of affluence, crisis or sheer devil-may-care indifference that can only be manifested by driving into a roseate sunset with a piece of inappropriate headwear wedged in place to prevent your hair being ruined. As pointless indulgences go then, convertibles are right up there with chocolate teapots.  Continue reading “Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?”

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. 

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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)”

Advertising: Speak My Language

Vorsprung durch… advertising.

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When Sir John Hegarty; doyen of UK advertising (and co-founder of renowned ad-agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty) took on the Audi creative account back in 1982 the Ingolstadt marque’s image was somewhat woolly.

Continue reading “Advertising: Speak My Language”

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 1)

After having gone from strength to strength in recent years, Volkswagen AG (VAG) all of a sudden appears to be in an awful lot of trouble. But appearances can be deceiving.

First in a series on the German automotive industry, seen from a German perspective.

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Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 1)”

Crushed by a German Faux-SUV

SV on an SUV.

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I seem to have had a few opportunities recently to drive different cars for shortish periods, enabling some rare insight into them as ownership opportunities.  Previously I commented on the pleasant surprise that was a lowly latest gen Fiesta; now it’s the turn of a 2WD VW Tiguan that I hired whilst on holiday in France.  Continue reading “Crushed by a German Faux-SUV”