Thursday, March 29, 2007

2009 Seat Bolero...

... or maybe Toledo, the name is not 100% sure although highly probable. And it makes sense, because the 4-door saloon disappeared from Seat's catalogue being replaced by the pathetic thing that the Toledo currently is. A new name will signal a new car, different from the current Toledo in design and architecture because, surprise... the new Bolero will use the platform of the current Audi A4. This means longitudinal engines and optional torsen AWD. More, not only the platform is used but also the design is highly inspired in the A4 model with only changes in front and rear to respect current Seat design language. Incidentally, the Bolero name was already used in a concept car from 1998 that is a sort of 4-door coupe. Google for it and the reader will notice how beautifull that concept was and wonder with Seat did not build it!

So what about the picture below?... we had to illustrate this with something so don't worry it will look much better than that. The important news bit is that the new car is for real (that means approved by VW group management). It might also mean that VW group still cares about Seat... maybe they won't sell the brand to the Chinese after all. Oh dear, nasty rumour this last one!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Opel Agila

Pictured below are a recent spyshot of a future Opel small car and a CGI. Let’s call it Agila since it’s the name of the equivalent vehicle in current Opel’s lineup. Note that Opel is trying to establish their own fashion in car dressing with the use of black net in the lateral windows… most prototypes use black plastic or tape, sometimes Peugeot-Citroen use a sort of plastic bags to disguise the cars, Toyota uses some ridiculous things that look like cardboard bits and recently Renault started dressing their cars in white. Not sure if black net in the windows is the new black of prototype-disguising fashion but I think the test-driver must feel very sad in that thing.

The new small-Opel is a tall vehicle obviously engineered to maximize space. Other followers of this trend include the Renault Modus, Honda Jazz or Peugeot 1007. None of these cars is a great sales success… actually the most popular small and cheap cars in Europe are the triplets 107/C1/Aygo that are of the small and cute type. The new Twingo is also small and cute as well as the next Ka and Fiat 500 that is small and super-cute. And it makes sense that young people buying their first car search for a cool design instead the practicality of a bigger luggage space. This means that the next Agila will not be a sales success. Probably product planners didn’t research properly or had the necessary vision when they chosen this type of design but I’m sure they have figured out by now that their next small car will not do well. And they must feel sad because of that.

Of course they could have asked Auto-Future for advice and we would give it for a nice chunk of money (because it’s Opel, for most of other brands we would do it for free). But when the design of the car was frozen (probably about one and a half year ago) this joint didn’t exist yet. This blog made its first anniversary in March 6th. Actually I forgot about it and didn’t signal or commemorate the event. I feel a bit sad because of that. So today we have a sad test-driver, some sad product planners and designers and a sad blog writer. Why not having a look at sniffpetrol site for some fun?... but guess what, the bloke that writes in that joint did the February issue and promised the next month issue for March 9th… and until today nothing! I hope he’s ok!

Monday, March 26, 2007

2007 Mazda 6

The next Mazda 6 is very close to public presentation. It will be greatly improved over the current (and important) version. We wonder if Mazda should take more risks with the new car… what was once fresh when the original 6 was launched could now become boring and predictable… specially since so many competitors in this class are taking a very emotional approach in design. Well, that was just a thought, because the next 6 will start from a basis of very happy customers of the current model so probably the more strong design evolution can wait for another generation.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

2008 TSX/Euro-Accord

Expect news on the next Euro Accord/Acura TSX very soon, maybe on New York Auto Show. Interestingly it is not sure yet if the European model will be the same as the Acura TSX or the American Accord. The design of the coupe concept of the next American Accord could very well fit European tastes... and the later concept cars from Acura have been very strange... Just hope Honda gets the proportions right this time: the current Euro Accord is too narrow for the common practice in European cars which hurts its road presence.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

2009 BMW 4dr. coupe

A very nice interpretation has surfaced on the future CLS from BMW. Noticed how these 4-door coupes look so good?... it seems designers just can't ruin this type of car. The future BMW will use the platform of the next 5-series so it might arrive later than 2009. It just seems the CLS caught everyone off-guard, even BMW.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The road to EV future: battery manufacturers make it to mainstream press

The keywords here are mainstream press. But going back a while, when did auto-future realized the great prospects for electric vehicles. I guess it was when rumours of a future Toyota Prius with Li-ion batteries surfaced. And when were we sure about it? Just a few days ago when Toyota’s boss confirmed the new battery pack for the next Prius. This is the main reason for this EV week: now we know for sure that EVs are for real and will arrive sooner than later.

Of course, now the mainstream press is giving attention to the subject so we were happy to find an article on The New York Times about A123Systems, one of the key battery manufacturers for the next EV revolution. They are now an important company because they signed a contract with GM for the development of automotive batteries and also, in a business full of illusionary claims, because their battery chemistry delivers their promises and is already being used (and abused) in electric tools (Black and Decker/Walt). Now we just need to wait for manufacturers to ride that “robustness improvement” curve and we will have real-life EVs available (and plug in hybrids) to dramatically change future transportation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The road to EV future: Mitsubishi i MiEV prototypes

Mitsubishi and Subaru seem to have engaged in a race to deliver the first real-car-series-production-EV. A few days after Subaru showing the R1e in Geneve, Mitsubishi announced the delivery of prototypes to electric companies in Japan. In this case Mitsubishi also commited to sell a production version in 2010 for about 17000 US dollars, a rather interesting price. Well, the race is on, and now that we are sure the EV future is going to happen we anxiously wait for other competitors.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The road to EV future: the big picture of battery development

The graphics below represent the best form of visualization of why we are hearing so much about Li-ion batteries; development of plug-in technology; series hybrids and electric cars. And why we give so much attention to these issues here at auto-future. Because we will the technology available for all those developments in a close future: we will have Li-ion batteries available with adequate power density at affordable cost. Arguably we might have it today but in reality we have two curves to ride. One of cost reduction that is closely linked to the graphics below. The other is concerned with the increase of robustness of the technology and this is where more effort is being spent and why we will have to wait for the beginning of the next decade for the real growth of EV offers. Meanwhile please take note of the following: Toyota just confirmed that the next Prius (expected for 2008) will have a Li-ion battery pack. This means a simple thing for the future of automobile: electric cars… series hybrids… Li-ion technology?...It will happen!

Friday, March 09, 2007

The road to EV future: Subaru R1e

We were delighted to see the Subaru R1e in the list of novelties for Geneve auto show. Unfortunately Subaru was only displaying the car and hinting at a possible future commercialization. So nothing solid and official yet. This (or other small Subaru) are one of the best bets for a future large scale production of a proper electric car. Subaru says it’s testing a fleet of Li-ion R1e with Japan’s electric company.

There was some disappointment regarding the EV field on this year’s Geneve show. Not many new hybrid models or concepts and the biggest novelty, the Toyota Hybrid-X, is not only very ugly but also Toyota did not give many details about technical details. The only thing we know for sure is that Li-ion batteries are in the program for a 2008-2009 model and that the next Prius will be able to run for about 9 mile on electric-only mode. Nothing was confirmed about it having plug-in ability.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

2007 Audi A4

The new Audi A4 is expected at Frankfurt for immediate commercialization in Europe. Pictured below are a couple of recent CGIs, the left one from Autozeitung and the other from Auto Motor und Sport. Mind you, the one on the right is more reliable.

Much has been said about this new car, the main reason for this contribution is related to the technique and platform. The new Audi A5 confirms some of the rumoured improvements in the new platform (common to both the A5 and next A4) that were referred in previous Auto-Future reports (here and here). The reader can go back to those references but simply stated that means: smaller front overhang and more power to the rear-wheels: good. Bigger front overhang and FWD: bad. The new Audi A5 confirms the improvements and these mean good news for Audi customers. In the drawings below one can compare the new A5 vs the current A4. Although not as good as the current luxury references from BMW and Mercedes (the new C-class has a front overhang of only 765mmm), the next A4 should be a major improvement over the current car.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Peugeot 308 as seen by some crappy mobile phone

We love our cultural differences in Europe. Noticed how we never get this kind of scoops from German manufacturers?... because Germans don’t let folks walk around in their factories with mobile phones. But in the case of Skoda, manufactured in Tchek republic, we had a few weeks ago a major scoop with photos of a new car being published. And the PSA factory in Spain has been a major source of scoops, again with folks photographing and even getting videos with mobile phones of the Picasso. And what about Italians? Well the new Bravo had so many events of this kind that Fiat gave up and stopped bothering about hiding the car. The official presentation of the Bravo was a simple pro-forma since everyone knew how the car would look like.

Unfortunately people are still using crap mobile phones for this so the images you see below don’t do justice to the car design. It will look much better in catalogue photos (well, of course!) and believe me, it will look much much better in the streets!

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Humm... not much left to hide! What do we have here?... a F1-inspired rear extractor born in the wind tunnel or some freakish thing?