Paris Auto Show 2014: new models, part 1

Fiat 500X

Fiat-500X-Paris-Auto_Show-2014Fiat has taken the covers of its 500X small crossover in Paris. It’s technically identical to its cousin Jeep Renegade, but they are completely different in styling. Whereas the Renegade shows the square and rugged lines of a true Jeep, albeit in a Playmobil size, the 500X is easily recognizable as a member of the Fiat 500-family, with its rounded and huggable looks. Both will compete in the fast-growing small crossover segment, and will stand out from their mostly French competitors thanks to an optional four-wheel drive system, which is expected to make up about 20% of the 500X’s volume. Fiat projects a volume of around 60.000 units in Europe, which would place it in 5th position of the segment. Fiat_500X-Paris-Auto_Show-2014The Renegade will add another 25.000 to that tally. Europe’s most important market for the 500X besides its home market Italy is France, as that’s where small crossovers are the most popular. But the biggest market worldwide will be the USA, which are expected to take about one quarter of 500X sales worldwide.

Ford Mondeo

Ford-Mondeo-Paris-Auto_Show-2014After having already been on display at the Paris Auto Show in 2012, the Ford Mondeo is finally ready to hit the European market. Even though its design is already almost three years old, it still looks fresh and from some bystanders I heard they liked it much better than the new Volkswagen Passat, which has been styled very conservatively. The engine line-up will start with Ford’s already famous 1,0 liter 3-cylinder Ecoboost engine which also powers the Fiesta and Focus. It offers more power and more fuel economy than the 1,6 liter 4-cylinder engine it replaces. This engine should prove especially popular in markets with government subsidies on the most fuel efficient vehicles. Besides the diesel engines, which will take the bulk of sales, Ford will also offer the Mondeo Hybrid. It will be priced similar to the diesel version, giving buyers who’d rather not drive a diesel an alternative powertrain. A plug-in hybrid version, as offered in the USA as the Fusion Energi, is not planned for Europe, but it’s ready to be launched if demand for such a vehicle justifies bringing it to the market. Ford-Mondeo-Wagon-Paris-Auto_Show-2014Ford has not disclosed sales projections, but it won’t be a secret they’re aiming for a number one spot in the midsize segment. But I don’t think the Mondeo will outsell the Passat and I see a potential for 150.000 sales per year in Europe for the Mondeo, the bulk of which will go to the UK and Germany.… Continue Reading …

Spyker B6 Venator ready for production

The small yet ambitious Dutch supercar company Spyker has revealed the production version of its B6 Venator, which is planned to go into production in 2015. A concept version of the Venator, which is Latin for “hunter”, was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show in 2013, and a convertible Spyder version was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Both concept vehicles were based on the German Artega GT. Spyker promised to have the Venator production ready by now, they decided to make some last minute changes to the compact sports coupe, although the delay will undoubtedly also be related to the need for a capital injection into the company.

Spyker-B6-Venator-front

Spyker B6 Venator. Photo credit: Spyker

The past couple of months, Spyker has been working to a new design for its smallest car yet. “After careful research of our potential market we’ve concluded that we could make the Venator appeal to a larger audience with just a few tweaks to the original concept.” according to John Walton, Chief Commercial Officer at Spyker. As a result, the sports car has returned to the drawing board shortly after its initial introduction. The final result is a car that’s been slightly stretched to offer increased interior space and luggage room. “The car will have a longer wheelbase, giving us the possibility to add a rear seat while offering more capacity for baggage. We’ve found that our potential customers appreciate practicality more than we initially thought.” The new layout is either a 2+2 with only room for small children in the rear seat or a 2+0 in which the rear seats are removed to create a larger storage area with leather straps. … Continue Reading …

Book preview: Spada. The long story of a short tail

ercole-spadaBelgian automotive writer Bart Lenaerts and his wife, photographer Lies De Mol, have published a new book. People familiar with their previous work will know that this means something special has been created once again. The creators of the already legendary automotive bible “Waft” and its equally must-read sequel “Waft 2”, always capture the imagination of the reader and don’t follow the beaten track.

“Spada. The long story of a short tail” describes the history and career of the Italian automotive designer Ercole Spada and his son Paolo. Over his 50-year long career, Spada has designed and worked on a number of famous and price-winning designs, like the Aston Martin DB4 Zagato, Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ and Lancia  Flavia. Together they have created the spectacular Spada Codatronca. But knowing Lenaerts, don’t expect a simple recital of Spada’s work, this book will read like an exciting story about passion for automotive design, and the relationship between a father and his son. Lenaerts is always in search of a different perspective, and his wife tops it off visually with exquisite photographic decoration.

The new book is in the same size and layout as their previous books, so 30cm x 30cm hardcover, 304 pages and can be ordered through their website waft.be. Early birds ordering the book before June 6th get a € 10,- discount on the € 90,- purchase price. If you think that’s a lot of money for a book I agree with you, but bear in mind this is not just another biography, more like a passionate narrative of the man behind the design, and features Spada designs that have never been published before. The connoisseurs who have read the limited edition “Waft” books and “Masters of modern car design”, know these are true collector’s items worth every cent.

Regular readers have been personally invited to pick up their copy on the evening of June 5th in the Brussels Automotive museum Autoworld, signed and presented by Ercole Spada himself. The museum will have a special collection on display featuring some of Spada’s designs, like the Aston Martin DB4 Zagato, Alfa TZ1, de Alfa Junior Zagato and the Lancia’s Fulvia and Flaminia Zagato.… Continue Reading …

Geneva Auto Show 2014: details of every new production model, part 1

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

Alfa Romeo’s 4C sports car has been well received, at the Geneva Motor Show Alfa Romeo launched the convertible version, which will have a total weight of less than 1,000 kg. The body of the 4C Spider is made from the same fiberglass and has the same four-cylinder 1750 Turbo petrol engine teamed with the TCT automatic twin clutch transmission. Alfa-Romeo-4C-Spider-Geneva-Autoshow-2014

Audi S1

Audi launched the new flagship models of the A1 range: the S1 and S1 Sportback. The S1, which also previews the upcoming A1 facelift with a new design for headlamps and bumpers, is fitted with a 2.0 TFSI engine, which produces 231 hp. The top speed is 250 km/h, while it accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 5.8-5.9 seconds. The average fuel consumption is 7.0-7.1 l/100 km and the equivalent CO2 emissions 162-166 g/km. … Continue Reading …

Geneva Auto Show 2014: details of every new production model, part 2

Ferrari California T

Ferrari launched the California back in 2008. 5,5 years after its debut, Ferrari refreshes the California with new sheet metal and replaces the normally aspirated 4.3-liter V8 by a 3.8-liter V8 biturbo engine with 560 hp (up from 490 hp), which was launched initially in the Maserati Quattroporte. The CO2 emissions have dropped by 15% to 250 g/km. Ferrari-California-T-Geneva-Autoshow-2014

Fiat Panda Cross

The second generation Fiat Panda Cross is based on the Panda Climbing 4X4. Fiat sold approximately 30,000 units of the previous Panda Cross, mostly in Italy and the Alpine countries. Fiat offers two engines: the 0.9 TwinAir Turbo petrol engine with 90 hp (CO2 emissions 114 g/km) and a 1.3 MultiJet II diesel engine with 80 hp (CO2 emissions 125 g/km). The latter one has a ground clearance of 16 cm, while the TwinAir has 15 cm. The approach and departure angles have improved compared to the first generation Panda Cross. The front end features new light clusters, front and rear bumpers, wheel arch extensions, side mouldings, new roof bars and 15-inch alloy wheels with all-season tyres. The interior features a new dashboard finish with copper fascia. … Continue Reading …

Geneva Auto Show 2014: details of every new production model, part 3

Opel Adam Rocks & Adam S

The Adam Rocks is almost identical to the concept car, which was shown one year ago. Its all-around body cladding and 15 mm raised ride height give the Adam a more rugged appearance. The Rocks is exclusively available with a folding canvas roof called Swing Top and will go on sale in early Summer. Opel will also add new three-cylinder 1.0 Turbo Ecotec engines (90/115 hp) combined with a six-speed manual transmission to the Adam line-up. Moreover, Opel launched a new top-of-the-range Adam S, which features a 1.4 Turbo Ecotec engine with a maximum output of 150 hp. Opel-Adam-Rocks-Geneva-Autoshow-2014

Peugeot 108

The Peugeot 108 was the first of the next generation triplets manufactured in Kolin, Czech Republic to be revealed. The 108 now comes with many styling cues from the 208, 2008 and 308. The overall length has increased by 40 mm to 3,470 mm, while the width decreased by 35 mm to 1,620 mm as compared to the preceding 107 and the wheelbase is unchanged at 2,340 mm. The luggage capacity is similar to the C1, which means 196 liters with a puncture repair kit or 180 liters with a spare wheel. The base weight of 840 kg is remarkably higher than the outgoing 107. Like Citroën, Peugeot offers 3-door and 5-door versions and an open-top body style, the TOP!. There is a choice of two petrol engines: the 1.0 e-VTi and VTi 68 with CO2 emissions of 88 to 95 g/km or 97 g/km for the ETG-version with semi-automatic transmission. While Peugeot uses a 1.0-liter Toyota engine, the 1.2 VTi 82 (82 hp) has an in-house developed engine with CO2 emissions of 99 g/km. … Continue Reading …

Geneva Autoshow Report: more tuners and supercars per m2 than Dubai

The Geneva Auto Show may offer one of the smallest floor areas of the international auto show circuit, it’s all about density. And when it comes to supercars and tuners, there’s no place in the world where you will find more of the most outrageous creations per square meter than here at the Palexpo Convention Center.

Brands like Koenigssegg, Pagani and RUF would stand out of the crowd in any other auto show, but here in Switzerland, their exotic car offerings are almost too ordinary to be worth a second look. No wonder in order to be noticed, the Ferrari stand is larger than Lancia’s, RUF has a floor space almost as large as Porsche, and tuners are going through extremes to be noticed.

Mansory-Bentley-Rolls-Royce-Bugatti-Aventador-Geneva-Auto-Show-2014In that light, Mansory, famous for its ostentatious creations, usually considered “over-the-top” for western likes, keeps things relatively civilized this year. … Continue Reading …

Geneva Autoshow Report: Minicars

The Geneva International Autoshow featured many premieres, and some of the most important product launches  are in the minicar segment. In the coming months, a handful of new A-segment models will hit the European market, and the competition will be fiercer than ever. These cars have made great strides in “growing up”: departing from their budget roots and promising improved handling and comfort.

Renault Twingo

Renault-Twingo-Geneva-Autoshow-frontRenault has just launched the new, third generation Twingo, a car that shares its platform with the upcoming Smart Fortwo and Forfour. That means its engine is placed in the rear, under the luggage compartment, and it is also rear-wheel drive.

According to Renault head of design Laurens Van den Acker, the concept of a rear-engined, rear wheel drive citycar makes sense for a number of reasons: first, it helps create a spacious interior, as they have been able to make the car 10cm (4 inches) shorter than the outgoing model, while adding 22cm (8 inches) of space inside. This does come at the cost of luggage space, as the floor of the boot has been raised. Secondly, because there is no engine between the front wheels, the wheels can be turned in further, thus creating a smaller turning circle, which is ideal for city driving. And finally, the all-rear layout should be a recipe for “fun to drive”.  That is true indeed, if done right (evidence no. 1: Porsche 911, or basically every good sports car), but it could just as well mean absolutely disastrous driving dynamics if done wrong (evidence no. 2: Smart Fortwo). Let’s hope the chassis technicians from Renault Sport have been asked to take care of the handling, so it will drive as good as it looks.… Continue Reading …

ADAC awards returned after fraud, president steps down.

Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes are returning their “Yellow Angel” prizes to the ADAC and the president of the German automobile club is stepping down because of last month’s award scandal.

ADAC-president-Peter-Meyer-steps-downLast month, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung discovered that the results of the “Gelber Engel” award were manipulated by artificially increasing the number of voters, in order to add credibility to the award. For example: the number of votes for the winning Volkswagen Golf was increased tenfold.

Research by consulting firm Deloitte shows that there has been “deliberate manipulation ” and that the data processing was flawed. It became apparent that not only the number of votes was manipulated, but also the order of the results. The Golf would still have been the winner, but while the BMW 3-Series would officially have taken second place, but it wasn’t even in the top 5 of the results published by the ADAC. The Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class were each moved up one spot into second and third position respectively. Deloitte is now investigating whether a similar fraud has been committed with the award surveys from 2005 through 2013.… Continue Reading …

Favorability of hybrids still higher than for full electric vehicles

In a recent survey among 1.084 American consumers, conducted by Navigant Research, favorability ratings for different kinds of clean transportation concepts were measured, among which electric cars, hybrid cars, natural gas vehicles and biofuels.

Electric-Hybrid-Natural-Gas-Biofuel-vehicle-favorabilityConsumers held increasingly favorable opinions of these clean transportation concepts. Hybrid vehicles were considered favorable by two thirds of all respondents, electric cars, and natural gas vehicles were considered favorable by more than half of all respondents, while biofuels were favored by more than two-fifths of respondents (43%).

Interestingly, alternative fuels, natural gas vehicles, and biofuels have significant contrasting opinion ratings between the genders with significantly higher favorability reported by males. In general, favorability for these alternative fuel vehicles also tended to be higher among older and more educated respondents.… Continue Reading …