Friday, December 29, 2006

2008 Peugeot 608 CGI

The next Peugeot 608 is generating interest amongst car enthusiasts. But it’s difficult to see why. It will not feature any major breakthrough; it will still be a FWD top of the range saloon which is a bit strange: how can the top model of a car manufacturer use such simple architecture as FWD? Peugeot really needs to move up a level.

Maybe the interest is because, regardless of the humble architecture, Peugeot can make the best use of it and improve on the already great features of the current 607: comfort, handling, diesel engines. The 607 is probably the best car you can buy today out of the E-class/5 series/Lexus GS/ A6-quattro usual luxury choices. The design will be an evolution of the 607 following several themes presented in recent concept cars. The front design of the next CGI is not accurate but the side profile is representative of a subtle approximation to the 4-door coupe class pioneered by Mercedes in the CLS model.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mazda 6

A new CGI on the replacement for the Mazda 6 has surfaced. It incorporates several current design features of Mazda in a very nice design. However, since Mazda is coming up with a new design language (just check their new concepts for Detroit) we are not sure if this photoshop could already be outdated...

Monday, December 18, 2006

The road to EV future: the series hybrid already arrived

… to fleet vehicles of course. The auto community is highly anticipating the series hybrid concept that GM promised to show in Detroit. Series hybrids are very interesting because these are essentially EVs where the only function of the internal combustion engine (ICE) is to recharge the batteries. A very small generator can thus be used, working in the most efficient conditions and providing significant range extension. Want to know more about series hybrids? Check this link.

However we have just find out that serial hybrids are already available. French company
Cleanova has been testing their own system where a small 40kW engine is mainly used as generator although it can also provide assistance to the electric engine. Used with lithium-ion batteries the system provides up to 200km of autonomy (in full-electric mode) and maximum speed of 130km/h. In the mode “hybride a predominance électrique” the system provides unlimited autonomy as long as you can find fuel for the ICE-generator (BTW, it accepts gasoline or bio-ethanol).

The system is being tested by fleets of French companies (EDF and La Poste) and is expected to be available for public sale in 2008. The current test vehicle is based on the Renault Kangoo although, hopefully, in can be commercialized in the future with more attractive vehicles. Incidentally the Renault Kangoo keeps the same cargo-space as the original ICE version which is indicative of the maturity of Cleanova’s hybrid system.

We wish the best to Cleanova although in reality we would like to see a collaboration with PSA or Renault in order to make available in the future this kind of vehicles from major manufacturers. Until then just check how nice this sounds: hybride a predominance électrique

2008 Ford Fiesta CGI

A new CGI has surfaced showing Autozeitung's interpretation of the next Ford Fiesta. It borrows several styling cues of current Ford vehicles mixed in an unelegant way. Let's hope the final design is different and closer to previous CGIs. Incidentally the magazine also points to a 2009 market introduction which differs from other (usually well informed) sources.

Friday, December 15, 2006

2008 Honda Accord

A new CGI of the next "Euro" Honda Accord surfaced. It looks really nice with some clues from the 4-door coupe current fashion. Expect improved engines, including turbocharged gasoline and the excellent SH-AWD system.

Hopefully Honda will do their homework better this time: the current Euro-Accord is an excellent car but it should have been made wider. The body width is too narrow for European tastes and practice. Also the interiors are not very appealing. The USA version (Acura TSX) has a much nicer instrument panel and materials quality. Same thing for the Acura MDX/RDX vs Honda CR-V. The new CR-V needs better interiors. Don't forget: we Europeans are a bit maniac about quality interiors, so please Honda, deliver that!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The road to EV future: Renault EV in 2010

After the announcement of Nissan Green Program 2010 (NGP2010) that includes the development of an EV it comes without surprise the news of a similar program by Renault (Renault Commitment 2009) that, amongst other measures, will feature the development and commercialization of an EV. Interesting to note the tile of the programs and the slight difference in schedule (2009 vs 2010). It makes really clear who is the leader in “L’Alliance”.

Until 2010 both companies will be riding two curves: one downwards of battery prices and another upwards of robustness and validation of lithium-ion batteries. Hopefully these two curves will follow an expected pattern that will make high-production city EVs available in the beginning of the next decade. It is not known yet if the new EV will use an existing platform of some small vehicle like the new Twingo or if Renault will develop a new platform optimized for EV architecture.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Peugeot 207 SW

The picture presents the next Peugeot 207 SW. Expect everything you can find in a regular 207 plus some space… but not much. This SW is meant for style instead of pure practicality.

The reader might wonder if this is in reality a 308 SW. It wears a lot of camouflage and looks quite big but the top of the instrument panel gives clues to a 207 derivation. But the 207 is well known now so we wonder why so much disguise?

Monday, December 11, 2006

The road to EV future: Nissan's EV after 2010

Today Nissan annouced a series of measures included in a green program. Amongst these, several are EV related: Launch Nissan electric vehicle early in the next decade; Develop Nissan’s original hybrid vehicle (not the Altima hybrid using Toyota technology) targeted for launch in FY2010 and accelerate development of plug-in hybrid technology. Nissan also announced a new company focused on the development, production and marketing of lithium-ion batteries. Are these good news? Well, we have had many good news about EVs recently, but these are great because they mean a solid approach from a big and well-stablished manufacturer.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

2007 Calendar

And no, it's not the one from Pirelli. Autozeitung just presented a calendar with all the new cars for 2007. A nice way to visualize all the juice for next year. Check this link for all the info.

Monday, December 04, 2006

2009 Audi A1

Now that the production of the next Audi A1 was confirmed for Belgium we can expect more photoshops to surface and also spy shots during the next year. The new small Audi will feature typical Audi design cues like the front singleframe and high shoulder line plus the usual high photo-perceived interior quality. All this mated to some small Seat underpinnings for maximum profit. Business as usual for Audi. Let's just hope it has at least a proper rear suspension to fight the MINI's handling behaviour or... well forget about it, with good suspension or not this will appeal mainly for people who like handbags anyway!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

2010 Alfa Romeo small SUV

... or crossover, whatever! There is a new craze in Europe about small compact-based SUVs. We will have the VW Tiguan, the Focus small SUV, the Nissan Qashqai, Mercedes GLK, BMW smaller-than-X3-SAV... and also an Alfa 149-based crossover. It will, for sure, look very good and the mechanical credentials already exist (4-wheel drive with torsen differential is available in the Alfa 159). So why arriving so late? Hurry up Alfa!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The road to EV future: the new TH!NK city

Shall we put a name in this? How about: “The road to EV future”. This means you will be hearing a lot about Electric Vehicles in the future (and mainly the pure stuff not just fuel cells). And since this joint is named Auto-Future then… let’s start something about the electrification of automobile.

The news today is about a near future EV by Norwegian company Think that will present a modern version of the old Ford TH!NK EV with improved styling and internals (range now in excess of 180km). It does look very good for a small city-car and let’s hope it’s for real and available in all Europe

Monday, November 27, 2006

2010 Nissan EV

Another EV expected for 2010. Following the footsteps of, hopefully, Mitsubishi (i-EV); Subaru (R1e); Smart (Fortwo EV?), Nissan announced the introduction of a sub-compact EV using proprietary lithium-ion batteries. We are not sure of what sub-compact means: Yaris-size in the USA or something even smaller in Japan. Anyway, this is great news that can point to a future snowball effect in the EV market. The original news is from a Japanese journal via GreenCarCongress.

...hopefully better looking than this Hypermini thing...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

2007 Renault Laguna III (White Ghost)

Renault has been showing us the fashion-dressed Laguna III. White is not my cup of tea but hey, it’s more original than the usual black tape and plastics. Now AutoExpress has caught it in video which is nice to see more angles of the White Ghost. Check this link for their video and while at it check their video section for more on other cars and raise the volume for that BMW M3 V8 sound. Brilliant stuff!

The exterior final design of the Laguna is not known yet. The illustration below was presented by French magazine
L’Auto Journal and looks very good although it’s not entirely accurate. In a typically French manner the inside information is good but the illustration skills are poor. Although many people still speculate about such trickery as the availability of 4-wheel steering the underpinnings of the Laguna III are already well known and will be much more vulgar…

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New Sniffpetrol issue!

There is a new Sniffpetrol issue. We usually wouldn't bother to spread the news but this one is very good indeed. The piece "BMW M5 in manual mix-up" is brilliant. And also the picture of Pischetsrieder with the Pope that we publish without permission below. We will miss Pischetsrieder... remember when he arrived at VW, he had this ideas of making a small MR roadster like Toyota´s MR2 and a uber-VW using the RWD transaxle platform of the Maserati quattropuorte... he was a funny dude, and the accountants that run the company must have found him funny too.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hyundai Santa Fe

Warning: nothing about the future here! Pictured below is the engine bay of the Hyundai Santa Fe, the V6 version. Have a good look because we will get back to that. We already expressed some good will about Mitsubishi and will do the same about Hyundai or whatever other company that wants a piece of the European market: If you need help about choices for your cars that need to meet the tastes of European consumers just ask auto-future. We will be glad to help and for free! For example, consider the interior design of the Santa Fe. It uses some blue lightning for the instruments. Had Hyundai asked about that and we would approve. It’s a copy of other manufacturers choices but it looks good and suits the brand well. Now consider how they used wood in the interior. Had Hyundai asked about that and we would disaprove. There are some dos and dont’s about the use of wood inside cars and the way Hyundai did it it’s wrong because (assuming it uses real wood) it makes real wood look fake.

So the engine bay then. Doesn’t it look like the engine is off-centre? Well it isn’t, the problem is that Hyundai used the engine cover to make it look like it’s longitudinally mounted when in reality it is transversally mounted. And in the process they dit this illusion in a rather clumsy way. Hyundai is lucky because European consumers will mainly buy the diesel version so this litlle illusion in the V6 will go off notice. But next time please ask advice because consumers over here can be very critical of such moves.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

2009 Ford Mustang

New sketches for a future classic. The original article is from Auto Motor und Sport where they mention the possibility of a 3-door van-hatchback thing. Or in German language, a kombi.That would be a muscle kombi then. Please Ford, bring it to Europe this time!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

2008 Ford Fiesta

Pictured below is an interpretation of the 2008 Ford Fiesta. This is an important car for European Ford since it will replace a very successful model that doesn’t have a very exciting design but is indeed a very good product. This is typical of recent Euro-Fords. Now, with some excitement added in the design (just check the S-Max and the new Mondeo), Ford of Europe is up for a good fight against the native European brands.

This photoshop of the Fiesta is not new, and it is of course based on the Iosis concept. So it didn’t catch our attention at the time… until some spy-shots of the next Mazda 2 surfaced (photos by Lehman and
presented in Worldcarfans). The small Mazda and the Fiesta are evil twins, sharing most of the underpinnings and being manufactured in the same factory in Spain. But the thing that caught our attention in the Mazda spy-shots was the design of the wheelarches (plus a disturbing resemblance to the Yaris in the back and the fact that it will look gazillion times better than the current Mazda 2). This wheelarch design follows the theme presented in the CX-7 crossover and also previewed is a Mazda 6 CGI. And, most important, they are similar to the wheelarches previewed in the Fiesta CGI. Very interesting, indeed… could this Fiesta prediction be more real than we thought initially? Fact is, it looks too good to be true!

When the 2008 Fiesta arrives it will also bring a more youthfull interior with some interesting developments in the HMI. Expect a menu-based control system for some entertainment devices. And can we expect a multilink suspension? The latest reports don’t suggest that, although it would be very nice if Ford would lead the pack in this class like it did with the Focus back in 1998. 10 years since the introduction of the Focus-I could well be cellebrated by giving a multilink suspension to the Fiesta and being again the absolute leader in handling.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Future Human Machine Interfaces

The topic of HMIs has become increasingly important seeking to maximize safety, ease of use and ergonomy in dealing with more and more sophisticated car equipments. Arguably, the biggest technology jump was BMW's I-drive that was (and still is) much criticised although eventually copied by other manufacturers. Much of the future of HMI will use I-drive type controllers, eventually linked to head-up systems for increased safety. The picture below shows a concept for a future vehicle controller (and by the looks of it destined to an American car).
As a funny note we would like to remember an advert for Mercedes back in 2002 when the I-drive was under great fire of flame criticism. Mercedes took the opportunity to gain advantage on that. Of course, the advertising now looks ridiculous because the new S-series uses an I-drive type controller. The marketing people of Mercedes made a fool of themselves but not the engineers. Mercedes engineers are some of the best in the world and they knew when to change to a superior system.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Is Hyundai-Kia on the verge of greatness?…

First, this article is strictly Europe-related. Hyundai has installed a design and development centre in Europe (Russelnheim-Germany), hired people from local car companies and let them loose with a strategy to attack the European market. The most visible part of their work is only now arriving to the market in the shape of the new Kia Ceed, but some concept cars have also been presented. And these concept cars are nothing short of amazing.

The professional (Not!) collage shows a series of Hyundai-Kia concepts, but also some of the production models that resulted. Unfortunately, the production models are rather generic and dull, typical of Korean products. Why oh why?! Sometimes, while approving a final design, product managers need the courage to rely on their judgment (and on the designer´s vision). For example, one of the most noticeable features of the concepts is the high shoulder line (that means a smaller window area). This feature is typical of many European products, but it is bound to attract criticism in consumer clinics. People usually bitch about lower visibility and sense of space, and very often designs get compromised because of that. It just seems to be the case with the Kia Ceed and Hyundai Arnejs. The people at Hyundai-Europe need to be a bit more confident in their capabilities.

And that confidence would be well earned. Because with such designs as the Arnejs and Genus, the new 1.6-litre Common-Rail diesel engine, the respected quality and reliability of Hyundai models and hopefully some Euro-class suspension design, Hyundai would have all what is needed to have a strong position in the European market.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Plateforme 3

It's not often that car companies show you the real meaning of platform sharing. In the link you will be able to see a video showing the "plateforme 3" that is common to the Peugeot 407 coupe and Citroen C6. Although sharing several components, these cars have very different design and some important technical differences, such as the suspension that is a conventional multilink in the Peugeot and hydropneumatic in the Citroen. And yet, the plateforme is shared and the two cars are built in the same factory.
It might be interesting to watch a similar video for the Audi A3 and Seat Leon. One could find more common parts. Of course, Audi would not make such video since it would be a stupid marketing move. However, a comparison of Audi TT and Golf would be interesting because in this case, although sharing platform, the Audi presents really outstanding features such as the aluminium-steel body.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

2007 Skoda Fabia

We are well aware that cars are inanimate things, without feelings or even thoughts. But we can’t help to feel sorry for the new 2007 Skoda Fabia: just look at the poor thing in the picture!

Let’s just start by paying tribute to the current Fabia: a well thought supermini with elegant design (that only suffered a minor facelift), good packaging and technology, and a very elegant and well built interior.

Unfortunately it seems that Seat is not alone in being the tacky brand of VW group. Just check this new Fabia and the Roomster. We don’t really care if Seat designs are tacky, vulgar and complemented with pathetic cheap plastic interiors. The Spanish brand is just in idle mode until it’s sold to the Chinese. And when that happens nobody will care, not even in Spain. But please, not Skoda! Please keep Skoda elegant, purposeful and classy. This new Skoda looks like designers tried to imitate the MINI but ended up with a poor imitation of the Suzuki Swift. The good people that work so hard in Tcheck republic factories deserve better!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Action at the ring

In the last article it is said in the final sentence that the lack of commitment of big manufacturers with EVs does not happen by chance… Just in case the reader is wondering, maybe it’s because those manufacturers are too busy. Just check the video originally presented at site autoholic that shows the Audi R8, next BMW M3, Mercedes CLK DTM “black edition” and the next Porsche GT2. With all these V8s plus the turbocharged boxer-6 of the Porsche, we can’t really blame them for not caring about EVs. But we should blame and they should care. On a side note: so many new high-performance V8 engines: Europe is living its muscle car age, but with high-reving engine concepts.
Link to video

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More good EV news

Last week Mitsubishi announced the production of a small-electric vehicle based on the Mitsubishi i currently sold in Japan. Unfortunately, it will initially serve only as experimental vehicle for testing with component suppliers and technology validation. And when on sale, it will probably be offered only to lease companies.

But the interesting bits of this announcement go beyound last week’s news. Just like the Zytek-developed electric Smart ForTwo (
check previous news on that), the Mitsubishi i has the most interesting architecture for a EV conversion: rear-engine, rear-wheel drive (actually sort of mid-engine and with a 4WD option – and yes, I know this sounds very cool but chill because these are very small underpowered city vehicles not sportscars); elevated driving position with space under-floor. This is all very good to place the electric engine in the back and the batteries under the floor. On top of that, both the Smart and the Mitsubishi are city-oriented vehicles and very light, the ideal field for the beginning of electrification.

It will be interesting to check the handling of these vehicles: the current Smart simply doesn’t handle but the weight of the batteries of the EV version will lower the centre of gravity and hopefully improve things a bit. The Mitsubishi has the advantage of a bigger wheelbase but… yes, chill again with the handling and back to the EV green future. Just look at the i and check how futuristic it looks… just the right shape for a ground-breaking mass-selling EV. In the meantime, while Mitsubishi decides if a future generation of the i-model will be sold in Europe, auto-future announces that will gladly give advice on five or six modifications that need to be done in order to make it more appealing to European tastes. Simple things that can make the difference, and we can give that advice for free, just ask and we will hapilly help. And these are not big changes, probably things that product managers could think about before being distracted with results from consumer clinics.

Other interesting bits. Who are the driving forces of EV research, development and market introduction? People from Tesla, their founders and supporters from Silicon-Valley. Almost completely outside the auto industry. The Smart EV was developed by a British company, Zytek, without input from Daimler-Chrysler until just recently. Mitsubishi is gambling its future on EV because it is now a company abandoned by Daimler-Chrysler, left to its own in a rather cloudy future: a big incentive for thinking (and doing) out of the box. Subaru, another independent company with strong roots in the small-car market in Japan. Their EV R1 model is highly awaited because… yes, because Subaru is no longer independent being associated with Toyota. It will be interesting to watch the outcome of that… So, the big auto companies are not investing a lot in small EV vehicles (or EVs at all). This doesn’t happen by chance…

Thursday, October 12, 2006

2008 Audi Q7 finally manages a 5-star rating in EuroNCAP crashtests

A possible headline for a future car… because the current (brand new) Audi Q7, despite all of the robustness that its design implies, failed to achieve 5 stars in the EuroNCAP crush-tests. Let’s recall what EuroNCAP wrote in the final report:

"Poor welding resulted in rupture of the footwall area. There was separation of the seam connecting the firewall to the footwall and failure of spot-welds in the footwall and its connection to the A-pillar. Audi have informed us that they have now improved control over this part of production but the car lost points for its performance in this area. Structures in the dashboard presented a potential risk to the knees and femurs of the driver."

This event reminded us about the EuroNCAP crash tests. These have become boring simply because almost every new car could achieve a 5-star rating (except the cheaper Korean models). So predictable that people have started discussing the introduction of a sixth star and raise the level a bit. Maybe it’s better to wait a litlle bit until Audi engineers learn this crashworthiness thing.

And yet the most interesting feature about these news is not the result itself. It’s the lack of attention from the media. Make no mistake, had it been the safety leaders Mercedes or Renault having such result and that would be in the front pages with big and bold headlines. But not Audi, they seeem to have invented a sort of reversed-hype for these events. That’s hype, only it works au contraire. Brilliant stuff!

2007 Subaru Impreza

Hatchbacks for Europe! Mitsubishi and Subaru saw the light and finally understood that hatchbacks are needed to have success in Europe. Both the Impreza and Lancer will present such versions in their next iterations. The pictured linked below is a recent spy-photograph of the Subaru model.
Most interesting than the predictable 2.0 turbo versions (of course, rally inspired near 300hp monsters) are the diesel versions that Europeans love. Mitsubishi might use the VW 2.0TDI unit, but the Subaru went right to the top of most-awaited with an expected diesel boxer engine. A diesel 4-cylinder boxer... wonder how that thing will sound...
AutoBild's Impreza spy-shot

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

2008 VW Golf VI

The VW Golf VI is still on schedulle for a 2008 release. German magazine Auto Motor und Sport presents an article and a new CGI of the compact model from VW. They include a comparison with the offer from Opel, a restyled Astra expected for 2007. We don't think the Astra is the most important oponent for the Golf, the Peugeot 308 and Ford Focus have better features, design and suspension technology than the Opel. In any case, the Golf VI is highly awaited bringing a more emotional design, much needed improvements in interior materials and quality, and new common-rail diesel engines.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The real stars of Paris

A different perspective on the “star of the show” election. The Peugeot 908 RC is a fantastic concept car but what about its future? Yes, future, it’s in the title of this joint. It will be present in other car shows, in the wallpaper of many computer screens, will be shot for several magazines but, in 6 months time it will be forgotten and replaced by other concept cars specially made to star in other car shows. But not the Audi R8 or the Alfa Romeo 8C.

These cars were once concept cars but now are real cars. And very important ones. These two cars will be classics in their own time, a very rare feature. In particular, the Audi R8 will be a case study in 10 years time. It will mark another step in the rise of Audi, just as important as the Audi TT once was. A true halo product that will push Audi’s image to the top. The Alfa Romeo could have the same effect but that won’t happen, simply because it will be built in very small numbers: 500 cars. And Alfa Romeo will loose money in every single one. Halo product yes, but too much niche too have a pronounced effect.

The difference with the Audi R8 is that it will be built in big numbers (at least 5000) and sold at an amazing price: near 100K euros. A supercar for the masses? Well, sort off… it certainly is very good value for a Gallardo derived machine, and if you compare with Porsche 911 price the new Audi looks very appealing indeed. So an Audi that is good value then… the result is that, you might find a couple of Alfa Romeo 8C is places like Monaco but that’s it… while you will find Audis R8 in your city, maybe even one in your street (if you live in a nice neighborhood). This kind of proximity is the key for a product to truly have an halo effect.

So both the Audi and the Alfa Romeo are true stars, real cars, future classics and highly influential vehicles. Priska, the other star of the show (see below) is actually quite different from her elegant and sophisticated colleagues at most stands. A bit vulgar then, but place her next to any car in the show and bang, the car disappears.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Star of the Paris show 2006: Peugeot 908 RC

A French car, bien sur! This spectacular concept car presents a truly bold design, a radical architecture and a fabulous luxury interior. Of course, this could only be a concept-car since Peugeot will make sure such thing will never be built. Peugeot takes proud in pissing-off its fans by presenting concepts that are very far from the reality of the cars they can find at dealerships. And with this one they took it to a different level by actually “inviting” its fans to check other cars from the competition. So if you feel attracted by the idea of traveling immersed in a luxury interior and powered by a V12 diesel you can use the 908 RC as wallpaper and, in real-life, buy an Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Brilliant Peugeot, really brilliant!

Besides the impossible character of the car the thing that really stands out is its architecture. The most important feature in a car. The 908 is a 4-door, 4-seat coupe with a mid-engine transversally mounted. So it follows the next big thing in the industry (4-door coupes are definitely the new black) and throws in a mid-engine architecture. However, unlike most mid-engine V12 (or V8 or V10) supercars, they place it transversally! Of course, with 4-seats and a longitudinal mid-engine this thing would be close to 6 meters length… This is very interesting as thinking exercise. How about the idea of a mid-engine saloon? It’s not the most space efficient design but it is cheaper to migrate a transversally 4 or 6 cylinder engine from the front to the middle than engineer from scratch a RWD architecture. Of course, this would be a really bold move, something that one could expect maybe from Citroen.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

2008 Peugeot 308CC

The next Peugeot 308 will be fundamentally a major restyling of the current 307. (Check previous reports on auto-future about this car here or here). And for good reasons since the current car is very good and the possible improvement areas are well known. However, the coupe-cabriolet version will suffer a major improvement by adopting a three-part retractable roof that fits neatly in its storage space without requiring ill-proportioned rear section designs. So the 308cc will have a much better looking design than the current version. Also note the character line running along the side profile. This is now found in several cars (for example, B-class and A-class Mercedes amongst others). And, just like the Peugeot 308, many other cars will feature such detailing. This sculpted profile helps create concave-convex surfaces that convey a dynamic impression. It looks as if these were created by a flame sculpting the surface…Wait! Yes, “flame surfacing”! The design leaders set influences for others to follow…

Friday, September 29, 2006

2008 VW Passat 4-door coupe

Well, just in the last post there was a reference to the 4-door coupe version of the Passat and a new CGI surfaced. Or is it a CGI for a future regular Passat? Either way it looks brilliant. The interested reader can review previous information on this car since there are no new facts. Just check how all these 4-door coupe concepts look good. You can't go wrong with this type of vehicle.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The mainstream midlle-class fights back

Just recently photographs of the undisguised final version of the new Ford Mondeo have surfaced on the internet. And, on the discussion forum where these were leaked (actually, officially leaked), we soon were noticing a very happy bunch of people. None of the usual whining about this and that, just unanimous appraisal of the design. And for good reasons, as expected it doesn’t look like the Iosis concept, but the new Mondeo turned out as a spectacular design. Thumbs up for Ford (that is, the Ford with the German accent). And incidentally thumbs up for Mazda too, because all of the Mazda influences in Ford, whether in design or technical have proven to be good influences.

The new Mondeo joins the troops of mainstream midlle-class, midlle-size cars that are fighting the decadence of this class. Once one of the most important segments in Europe, it has lost sales to SUVs, people-carriers (both large and small), compacts and base versions of the offers from luxury manufacturers. And this looked like a lost batlle but the mainstream midlle-size is fighting back with emotional design and the influence of the 4-door coupe. The Peugeot 407 is a successful car with its emotional design, although it is short on space and practicality. The VW Passat is a strong contender, leader in the mainstream class, very strong in space, and with an elegant design even if a bit dull. But wait for the future 4-door coupe version for added style. And now the Mondeo arrives with the strong kinetic design, lots of space, sophisticated and refined diesels (developed with PSA) as well as a 5-cylinder turbo that sounds fabulously. Now we just need to wait for another promising car in this class, the Renault Laguna. However, strangely, our sources of information that have worked in the new Laguna are not happy with it. Don't worry, it will be a great car, it's just that engineers are not happy. Later, when it is presented you will know why.

Monday, September 25, 2006

2007 Mercedes C-class... and a brave prediction

Photos of barely disguised C-class Mercedes are very common these days, just check one of the latest below. A lot was written about this important car here at auto-future (check it here or here). While we wait for official images (and these could arrive shortly after Paris show) we noticed a very brave prediction of future sales of the new C-class vs the next Audi A4, presented by Auto Motor und Sport magazine. Wow, what a strong Mercedes supremacy, does AMS has some very special inside information on these?... Some questions were asked concerning this, and the experts opinion was: "Europe's economy is finally on a steady climb again". So what!? Well, more money will be available and this translates to a simple conclusion: for those that can afford the Mercedes or BMW, the Audi model simply does not exist...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

2007 Alfa 149

Pictured below is a recent CGI of the Alfa Romeo 149 presented by Italian site Infomotori. Recent computer illustrated images are based on reliable information, notably some high-profile leaks from Alfa Romeo internal presentations. The most recent information brings good news. It was not known if the new “small” Alfa would be based on the bigger brother 159 or on the next Fiat Stilo. We now know that it will use the more sophisticated 159 platform which means AWD will be available in some versions as well as more sophisticated suspension design. It also means that the 149 will be very big. A recent report from someone that attended an internal presentation claims that the new Alfa is bigger than any other compact in this class, although it will not be strong on interior space!… In typical Alfa style, function follows form. The expected range of engines includes everything from the 159 plus a new 1.4 turbo engine. It is not known if the interior will follow the same theme of the Alfa 159 but it is expected to be different, as happened with the previous 156/147 models.

The Alfa 149 will fit in an expanding segment in Europe. The “premium-compact” segment features such cars as the Audi A3, Volvo C30, and Alfa 147/149. All of these cars share most of the underpinnings and parts with much cheaper models but are cleverly marketed and presented to appeal to a more sophisticated audience. Design features and interior presentation are key-areas to excel in this class of cars. The Alfa 149 will face very stiff competition from the Audi A3, Volvo C30 and possibly a future Saab 9-something. But it also competes with the “uber-compacts” from the luxury-compact segment. More cash-filled consumers as well as conaisseurs and enthusiasts tend to spend their money in the BMW 1-series or the Mercedes sportcoupe that feature superior RWD platforms and superior levels of quality and reliability. Still, the Alfa 149 has very good chances if the design is as good as it promises. And Alfa needs to find success with this car since the Alfa 159 is not selling as expected...

Quick note: the interested reader might want to know if the interior photo is real. For starters the nav-screen is placed too low for good visibility, and if you look at the image on it... surprise. Photoshop, of course!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

2007 Peugeot 207 SW

Pictured below is a CGI of the future Peugeot 207 SW version. This one is reliable for two reasons: First, a lot of people have seen the real thing in an international presentation to dealers at the 207 launch. Second, Peugeot design has become very predictable...
The original 206 SW is probably the only sucessfull derivation from cars in this class. There are mini people-carriers derivations (Renault Modus, Peugeot 1007, etc), small saloons (Seat Cordoba, Polo classic) and all of these are hideous and do not sell much. The break versions of such small cars are not that bad, for example the Fabia break but mainly the very sucessfull 206 SW. So the 207 SW should look very good and hopefully have more luggage space than the previous version. Or maybe not, Peugeot is famous for prefering style to practicality.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The future of diesel in America

Some recent news bring promises of a more successful future for diesels in the North-American continent. Of course, the raise of fuel prices is a big contributor for making people looking at alternatives. Amongst these, diesel is a very interesting one, but the lack of quality fuel, public perception and stringent emission laws have prevented its widespread use. Also, some of the available diesel cars were not very good. For example, the VW Jetta, is very noisy and its “pump-deuse” technology is not refined or reliable. Fortunately, that will change in the next three years.

The luxury crowd, namely Mercedes, will be the first to arrive with sophisticated common-rail technology, a newly-developed NOx adsorber in the E320CDI, (a catalytic device that converts NOx to nitrogen) and a urea-based injection system (GL320CDI). Mercedes will have this technology ready for the market in order to meet the next California LEV II LEV and EPA Tier 2 Bin 5 diesel emissions requirements in the US. BMW is also developing these technologies for a 2008 introduction and others will follow. This means a fresh restart for diesel and having as leaders the top manufacturers.

But even more interesting is the promise that Honda will have ready by then a different technology, an electric-powered plasma reactor that can meet future emission standards, place diesels at the same level of gasoline engines for NOx emissions, and doing all this without recurring to urea tanks that need to be refilled. This is the most interesting news about diesel so far. Honda is a very important player in the mainstream market in the USA and the promise of such technology means that competitive, refined cars will be available from a market leader.

Let’s clarify the relevance of these news. The commitment of Mercedes and BMW will bring image, status and credibility to diesel cars, in a way never before achieved in the North-American (NA) markets. And this is important to change public perception about diesels. But also Honda’s developments will make this technology affordable by everyone. The commitment of such a respectable mainstream player and the top luxury manufacturers means that the diesel future is for real. The boom of diesel in NA will happen!

How is this relevant to you? The American readers might consider this information for a car purchase in the next 2 to 3 years. And of course, if you check the top of this page you will notice the words “Auto” and “Future”. That’s what this is all about. This “Future” is particularly relevant for the American manufacturers. Are they preparing for this events? Will Ford, GM and Chrysler have a response ready for this new developments from the competition? This time, they better be ready! Of course, Chrysler is in a good position due to the association with Mercedes. Ford can engineer a good response due to its liaison with diesel-specialist PSA in Europe. And GM is in trouble because of their poor diesel offers, even in Europe - the only good Opel diesels have Fiat sourced engines…

Outline of Honda's system

Mercede's Bluetec technology

Monday, September 04, 2006

2009 Audi A1 roadster

In 2009 Audi will present a new model, the Audi A1. This will use the platform of the next VW Polo, adequately “badgengineered” for the new model. Can’t wait to see what will Audi make out of the VW Fox one day… For now, there is the information that besides a small 3-door hatch Audi can also present a roadster model. This model will have a familiar Audi front shared with the A1 and a rear section with some design clues of the Audi R8 model.

The idea of a small roadster is not new. When Pischetsrieder arrived at the top of VW group one of his ideas for new models was a small roadster with central engine and rear-wheel drive. A sort of VW MR2 using engines and suspensions from the Polo. Making this car as an Audi model makes sense because it fits well into Audi marketing target and it’s easier to justify the premium positioning. However, don’t get too excited because the A1 roadster will probably turn out to be just a 2-seat cabrio with FWD - a sort of Opel Tigra but much more expensive...

Friday, September 01, 2006

2007 VW Golf variant

The two interpretations presented below are similar although from different sources. It’s not difficult to photoshop a variant version of the Golf V once the shape of the C-pillar is known. The variant version is arriving with some delay in the market because VW took the opportunity to introduce some changes in the whole lineup of the Golf model. The variant will present rear lights with diode technology, similar to the ones found in the Golf plus. The front design will be similar to the Jetta and will also be adopted by the 3 and 5-door versions. The interiors will have some (much needed) improvements in quality of materials and presentation. And finally, new diesel engines will be available during 2007 with the adoption of common-rail technology.

The C-pillar design is an interesting departure from the usual norm at VW to have almost vertical pillars to maximize load space up to the rear hatch-door glass (check the old Golf IV and Passat variant versions). But the new design is more sophisticated and gives a more sporty appearance to the car. In VW group cars it was first used with the A6 variant. Although it doesn’t allow so much trunk space up to top level it has another interesting design advantage: it sort of masks or disguises longer rear overhangs. In this way VW can increase the rear overhang and have bigger luggage space without the car looking goofy or with wrong proportions. Just check the current Jetta design for an example of too much rear overhang that looks wrong.

Monday, August 28, 2006

EV future

Recently a couple of good news on electric vehicles have caught the attention of many people. However, the best bits are not readily aparent. Let’s clarify:

The new
Tesla vehicle got everyone excited. The idea of buying an electric car with high performance, a proper sports car, is interesting for many reasons. But the hidden joy is in the people that are backing up the project: guys from the “new economy” like Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin and other entrepeneurs from Silicon Valley. Will the “new money” rescue the auto industry of the future? If one thinks about the major developments needed for the massification of EVs (batteries and their electronic control) one can see where theese developments will be accomplished. And, just as happened with all of the major computer and electronic developments, we can guess what will happen with the price of these new technologies…

EV Smart
More good EV news. Smart will operate a fleet of EV Fortwo vehicles in London. The powertrain technology was developed by the company Zytek and the most evident joy is in the backup and interest by Daimler-Chrysler in this vehicle. However, the hidden joy is really in the prospect of an alternative form of transportation in big cities. The concept of “personal transportation” where one uses small 2-seat vehicles is interesting for the use of electric propulsion because these cars are very light and thus suitable for EV massification. Fingers crossed for the success of the EV Smart, and the interest of other manufacturers in the concept of “personal transportation”. How nice would it be if Toyota would materialize the
PM concept.

Encouraging inside information
The previous paragraphs were “old news” actually, except for the clarification of the hidden benefits. The really good news is that, according to a document from consulting company Frost & Sullivan, there is a projected increase of revenue from batteries manufacturers of 26.3 % for 2007 and a further 37.2% until 2010. These numbers are based on contracts for the next 3-4 years, so they are a reliable indication of expected growth in this business. But note that these are referred to hybrids, not EVs. However, the prospects of such development in this industry means that prices for batteries and control electronics will be lower and research in new developments will greatly increase.