Monday, December 29, 2008

Auto-Future 2008: the year in review

Now that this year is ending I decided to put a series of links of auto-future articles since January 2008. This was an interesting year (but not in a good way) and it appears 2009 will be worse... but hey, I'm not complaining so let's revisit one year in blog articles.

In January, amongst several car news, there was an article on how Shell was kind of acknowledging peak-oil. A nice introduction to the year of big mess in oil prices.

Later something related to the next BMW 5-series. Actually just these days received info on this car confirming those previsions from February.

March was the month of the Car of the Year: it was the Toyota iQ. Yes, we don't wait until the end of the year to give awards cuz we know the future.

The first of April presented my favourite article, the fake story on Ford of Europe declaring independence. This was great fun writing and it become even more interesting when some weeks later Ford decided to choose is european division to design most of the future global platforms.

Correcting other folks news. Sometimes it happens!

June brought several novelties about the Ford Focus III. And I took the opportunity to ask Ford for a few things about this car.

Something interesting in July: back in 2007 I decided not to show some very revealing shots of the Megane III because these would do harm to Renault's business. These images were criminally stolen inside Renault's development center. Some journalists from Auto-Plus were later accused of espionage because of that.

A favourite of auto-future: the Chevrolet Volt. I hope it makes to production. But if it don't, others will. The future of automobile is electric.

Peugeot: you need help, lot's of it. Offering help to Peugeot, they will have a couple of rough years ahead. But now everyone will.

November was the month of the "New Crossover". There are several articles on the subject, and I will be presenting much more in the future.

In December, amonst several interesting features, there was this more sentimental article related to the Detroit bailout.

Ending with the image of the year: the Ford badge with the European stars. The future success of Ford depends on the implementation of global platforms, some of these designed outside of the USA. This will be a key strategy for several players: leveraging on global platforms for cost reduction. Part of the reason Ford is in better shape now is because of its European division. So in the future Ford will be a bit more European. And in general, all big car manufacturers will become more global in their operations.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Auto-Future 2008: The awards edition

Car of the Year: Toyota iQ
As usual, writing about the future makes one give awards in advance. For example, in 2007 the Concept Car of the Year was chosen in January. And the Car of the Year 2010 is already decided as long as the people that will build it are still in business by then… This year the Car of the Year award was chosen in March and it was the Toyota iQ. You can go back and read about it

The diminutive Toyota is usually compared with the Smart, but the 2-seater from Mercedes looks like a plastic toy in this comparison. Whether is space, build quality, passive safety but mainly active safety, the Toyota is a far superior machine. Just go test-drive the two cars in the same day and you will see a huge difference. But then the Toyota is quite a pricey thing… actually this is one of the interesting bits of the iQ: in the small car class it’s a premium product… will Toyota make good sales at this price (about 13000€ in Europe)?...

But the main interesting features of the iQ are technical: it presents the biggest evolution in FWD platforms since the sandwich architecture of the Mercedes A-class. Several technical advances make for a radically efficient use of space and some of these features will migrate to future cars from Toyota. And there is more: this car is being rumoured as candidate for electrification in the future. It’s all good things about this Toyota.

There is also a small but important thing about this car. It has something that is important to achieve success in Europe but that Toyota usually fails to have in its cars. Since it is Christmas time here is a little gift for Toyota: if you drop me an email asking I will tell you what it is.

Concept Car of the Year: Citroen Hypnos
The Citroen Hypnos was frequently referred in the articles about the “New Crossover” and for good reasons: it’s the best design interpretation of the New Crossover philosophy and it also presents a rather elegant technical implementation of a AWD plug-in hybrid architecture.

But will Citroen make it?... or at least something similar?

Pathetic Joke of the Year: Seat Exeo
Surprise, it’s not a Chrysler! I remember writing a couple of articles on this car more than a year ago when it was rumoured to be in development based on the Audi A4 B8 platform. At the time it looked like a good idea for “platform recycling” and it could provide for a Seat with Quattro AWD system and possibly reborn the great RS4. But it didn’t quite turn out like that…

I lost interest when started to hear that it was just a nose-job/butt-job. And for now there is nothing of the good stuff from the old A4 whether it was the AWD system or at least some V6 engines. And even the photo-perceived quality of the interiors is damaged with the Seat symbol in the steering wheel and some small details like the rubber in the doors.

But the worst thing about the car is the design and the sort of recycled look of it. Who will buy this car? It’s so poor-looking, as in really un-wealthy poor besides being ugly. What is the motivation for people to buy this thing? Do they realize this is a 4-star car in the EuroNCAP crash tests? But a weak 4-star. And the space inside is actually worse than in a Seat Altea XL.

There is also a twisted feature about this car: it actually devalues the Audi brand. People in this industry are well aware of what Audis really are underneath the sporty sheetmetal and those interiors made to look really good in the images. But it has never been so obvious for the general public the sharing of parts with other cheaper brands like Seat or Skoda.

In the end this car brings an innovation and it will be famous for it. The interested reader must be familiar with the expression “badge engineering”. Well, this car introduces “badge engineering” only without the “engineering” part.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Who are you?... I hope you will be ok.

Who’s the lady in the image below? I don’t know but I hope she will be ok. I “stole” this image from a video of the “Bold moves” series of Ford from two years ago. It was the video on the build of the Shelby GT500 and you can find it here. I remember watching the video at the time and getting surprised with the spontaneous reaction of the line worker hugging the new powertrain of the Mustang GT500 and saying “wonderful”. It’s easy to forget how people can get passionate about their work and how they are not just numbers ready to be discarded.

I’m writing this today with a bitter feeling because in the last attempt to approve the car bailout the major problem with the senators that voted against was the wages of line workers. And this is not a new trend: in Europe or in the United States it seems whenever restructuring is needed the first thing to sacrifice is workers benefits and jobs. We have had many years now of management specialized in downsizing at the expense of the workforce (and adding management bonuses in the process…). And we are also getting used, at least in Europe, to the progressive loss of health benefits and pensions value. At this point one asks: do we have to accept living worse than the previous generation? This is not progress, it’s quite the opposite, and people should simply not accept it.

University students in Greece have reached the limit point. The can no longer support the prospect of living with 600 Euros per month after college education and they realized that the current democracy status will not change that. So they went for action. I hope this event does not escalate. And I hope something new comes out of the new American administration that really triggers changes in the way things operate globally. On the lady in the image, she will probably be ok: she works in a Ford factory, the American manufacturer in best shape, building a best-selling car that is the Mustang. I hope she keeps hugging powertrains whenever something new arrives in the assembly line.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Auto-Future revisited: Chrysler 100C

This gigantic mess with the American car manufacturers has raised my interest for the American car market. Other than the usual perplexity of Europeans (why all the trucks?... what’s with the gigantic SUVs?... can’t they live with smaller cars?...), tempered with some moments of adoration (usually Corvette and Mustang related), I don’t usually pay much attention to American cars and their local market.

So last week I was checking a TV show at channel France 24 about the Detroit trio with great interest. They made a nice review on the current problems of Detroit, interviewed local people, car dealers and customers… all very unbiased and informative. Then they had this debate with a moderator and three commentators, one of which was a previous Peugeot-Citroen CEO. They added some good points to the discussion, but the whole thing was verging on hilarious and surrealism: because France 24 is a French news channel but they all speak in English… so we had four guys speaking in English, with a very strong French accent, in a French TV show and about the American car market. On top of that one of them was not very fluent in English so every now and then the other three had to help him in finding words… that made for some good laughs.

In that debate the Peugeot-Citroen guy was very bullish about the current shape of European manufacturers saying that we have fuel efficient cars so we won’t have the same problems of Detroit. Now I’m not so sure about that because car sales in November dropped 26% in the European market, in Spain alone it was a dramatic 50% loss… if this trend continues everyone will be in great trouble here. The credit freeze is a problem born outside the car market but it has a huge influence in the purchasing decisions on cars.

Other than the current economy status the manufacturers have to be blamed for not running their business properly, but one of the Detroit 3 had a little help from the notorious inability of Daimler in handling Chrysler. This made me think about a very old article (March 2006) here in auto-future in which I was requesting for a new Chrysler car… you can find the link here or read the whole thing below:

"This is future car request. I ask for vehicles to the manufacturers. But only cars that can be made… with success and profit. This time the Chrysler 100C (I also get to name it). The concept: a scaled down 300C using the platform of the current Mercedes C-class, and using the same engines, particularly diesel engines. Of course the design should be massive and “in your face” as is the case with the 300C, only smaller, because the 300C is just too big for European roads. Ah…European roads, that’s right a car made thinking of Europeans hence the diesel engines.Of course, cheaper than a C-class because it uses an “old” platform. You see (by you I mean you people at Mercedes),I would like to be able to drive a gangster look American saloon with tinted windows and huge wheels. Only I can’t drive that 300C thing in our roads. Scale it down please. It will do well in the USA, and in Europe too."

One can try to imagine if things would have been different had Daimler made such car instead of the Chrysler Sebring, or embraced a concept that I also written about later: the concept of “platform recycling”. It means that every “previous generation” RWD or SUV platform from Mercedes could be recycled as a new Chrysler car with very low development and tooling costs and the benefits of delivering RWD for the masses. Now it doesn’t really matter, I haven’t been following Chrysler much since that article and it seems I won’t be following Chrysler in the future.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Buy American!

Here is a view on the difficulties of American car manufacturers, as seen from Europe, cuz that’s where I’m from. I notice Americans are very patriotic. Noticed that because of the flags everywhere (cars, houses, clothes…), the recent presidential campaign, the distorted opinion that folks that were against the Iraq war were not patriotic, etc. Here in Europe, Germans don’t seem so patriotic, no flags in every corner, but check how they show their love for the country: best selling car in Germany… VW Golf, actually, in the first 10 one does not usually find a single non-German car. But they do make very good cars… So let’s check France… their best selling car is either a Renault Clio or a Peugeot 207, so a French car then. And in Italy, the best selling car is usually a Fiat GrandePunto, a pure Italian machine. Do you notice the trend?... If the United Kingdom had a mainstream car manufacturer it would probably be their best selling car (and it would be a piece of crap for sure).

Back to America here is some advice for the future: buy some American cars, particularly now that they are very good, or at least one is. The Ford Fusion pictured below is emerging as an alternative to the Camry that is as good or better in recent quality ratings, is gaining some good reviews, solid safety ratings, competitive engines and mileage… Ford is back at making cars so maybe it’s time for less patriotic talk and more action! I’m not familiar with the Chevrolet Malibu but it seems it’s also a competitive offer. And here in Europe we can buy the Chrysler Sebring that is a solid errr… sorry, bad example. Mind you, I do know that the Fusion is actually made in Mexico but German folks also know that not all of the VW Golfs are made in Germany. It doesn’t really matter much because the profit comes back home anyway

Friday, December 12, 2008

Future trends: weight reduction strategies

One of the main improvements in future cars and associated global platforms is weight reduction. This trend has already started, or at least, new cars have stopped to gain significantly on weight. Weight reduction has not been more actively pursued because it’s expensive and people didn’t really care a lot. Reduction of emissions and fuel consumption is now mandatory so manufacturers are finding cost effective ways to reduce weight. Several strategies are being adopted and we can expect more than 100kg of weight reduction in future generations of the European compact class (Focus III, Golf VII, for example).

Body structure…
The increased use of high strength steels is one of the ways of achieving weight reduction, allowing the use of thinner sheet-metal, although this poses other issues in stiffness, vibration modes and welding processes, for example. The key factor is that one can not just replace steel grades but an holistic approach must be used including changes in manufacturing process as well: expect more hydroformed parts and hot stamping of Ultra high strength steel grades.

Other (more expensive) trend in the body structure is the use of both aluminium and steel in panels and other parts. BMW will make use of this strategy in future cars (it already does so in the current 5-series). Other more advanced mix of materials can be expected in two car generations: a recent joint-research project of several European manufacturers previews an aggressive mix of different materials (see figure below) although this still poses many challenges in cost and robustness of manufacturing.

… and everything else
Of those 100kg referred previously one can expect about 30kg reduction in the body structure and the rest from basically everything else. And car manufacturers are finding an easy way of achieving this. They are saying to suppliers that they must make new parts that are both cheaper and lighter than the old ones. And that can be achieved with careful design and the cost-leverage of global platforms. That’s how the new Ford Fiesta achieves part of its weight reduction.

The virtuous cycle
One of the interesting bits of weight reduction is that once it is started we can enter a virtuous cycle that allows further weight reduction. For example if the overall structure and components are lighter the suspension parts can be made even lighter because these are not so stressed anymore. And in the end one can even effectively do engine downsizing while keeping the same performance, or better yet, make it more fun with the same engine size and some turbocharging…

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


This is downsizing in Europe: going from Golf to Polo, from 1.6 to 1.4 turbo... Auto-motor und sport presented an article with several new cars for 2009. The VW Polo looks very Golf-like in this CGI, the main difference other than size is the third window in the C-pillar.

The most recent design language from VW is maturing nicely, Walter da Silva really is a true master. Expect also some very restrained interior design-wise and the typical photo-perceived quality of VWs.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

EV Future: SEAT Terranova Electric Concept Car

A designer's vision of an all-road electric Seat. It looks really nice, actually it looks too good to be a real Seat!

Friday, December 05, 2008

BMW PAC: another New Crossover

Remember what I wrote in the New Crossover article?: "Recent history has told us that if BMW is working on something new then other manufacturers should prepare to react really fast. Their work on the future PAS signals that consumers might be ready to adopt a new type of crossover, one that meets several expectations: it should be lower than a SUV, more car-like, with better mileage than a SUV and less guilt factor, more eco-friendly… but still, it should provide a seating position higher than in a regular car or station and it should provide an aggressive design, an imposing stance. This last feature is important to note because it’s not the sort of thing people admit in consumer clinics."

What if BMW is going not with one, but two "New crossover" cars? That means other manufacturers must react now and fast, really fast, because BMW is usually spot on about new types of cars. So the other crossover is a 3-series based car with a higher seating position than a 3er Touring, but still lower than a X3. It looks amazing in this CGI by Auto-Bild, although it's still early for a confirmation because the final design is not yet frozen.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Update on possible BMW, Opel liasion

Tomorrow's Auto-Bild magazine presents an article on a possible holding including BMW, Opel and assets from... Daimler. This will not be a surprise for frquent readers of auto-future because it was discussed in this space last week... just to let you know. Interested readers will find the article here.
The strategy previewed includes BMW forming an holding in order to acquire positions in other companies, including a percentage of Daimler that allows a position in the board, and possible a Opel buy either alone or with Daimler and German government colaboration.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

EV Future: Michelin's Active Wheel

Electric motor, brake, active suspension, all inside the wheel. And Michelin is serious about putting it to market...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Opel management and German politics read auto-future

This auto-future blog, more precisely. And why? Because our 1st April joke of 2008 was an article about Ford of Europe (FoE) declaring independence. Writing that was great fun and little I knew that some weeks later the smart CEO of global Ford would decide that FoE would be in charge of the development of some future global cars from the Blue Oval, including the next generation Focus and Mondeo/Fusion. So FoE did not declare independence but instead it kind of made a takeover at global Ford.

Back to Opel it was surprising and amusing (NOT) to see that the management of the European branch of GM and some German politics are considering the separation of Opel from GM, just in case some giant collapse of GM occurs… just in case! So they must have had this idea from reading auto-future, the idea that a profitable European branch would declare independence from its giant and aching American owner. Things are not that simple because someone would actually have to buy the company from GM, either the government or some manufacturer or other company. And the money its worth could really help GM… for about 2 to 3 months.

Anyway, who could buy Opel? Other than the German government I think BMW could gain a lot from buying Opel for cheap. Everyone knows that BMW is very worried about its new giant neighbour that is Porsche with its new toys (VW-Audi-Seat-etc.). And that BMW is actively searching for volume through cooperation with other manufacturers, including Daimler. Opel would provide the right amount of mainstream volume with plenty of opportunities for future synergies, if properly executed. Of course, BMW should be afraid of such adventure because of the Rover fiasco. But I assure you, Opel it’s much different from Rover. It has actual development and technical muscle, and it is today a profitable company. At the time BMW acquired Rover the main cars of the British company were already developed by Honda. But Opel has technical merits on its own and fits nicely in BMW’s German culture.

But then this is just speculation. After all, the recent cancellation of the luxurious 4-seat coupe previewed by the concept CS shows that the current BMW management are acting, how should I say it,… like a bunch of pussies.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

2010 Lincoln MKT

Another New Crossover that shows Ford is alert about this new segment. Largely related to the Ford Flex and Ford Edge it will have a much more emotional design than the 7-seater Flex. It’s expected to have the new turbo engines from Ford NA and the highly accomplished layered and clean interior design of recent Lincolns like the MKS.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

EV Future: Subaru R-1e

Another highly expected electric car. But this Subaru is very narrow. Hopefully on sale sometime in 2010.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

2011 BMW 3-series

The CGI below shows a possible interpretation of the next BMW 3-series. It's not very reliable because the future model will show a design language closer to the CS concept, and the car will be sleeker and longer than the current version. As the next 5-series and new 7-series, BMW sedans will be on a more sleeker/elegant theme. Also of interest is that a V3/F3 crossover version is rumoured to have been given the green-light, further extendind BMW's bet on the "New Crossover" idea.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

EV Future: TH!NK OX Video

This is still just a concept. But a very good looking car. But I'm bored at all of these electric car concepts. I want to see something real.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The New Crossover: related concepts and technology

The latest series of articles on the “New Crossover” were initiated from news that Volvo might be upgrading their classic stations to something higher, closer to a SUV. The next BMW PAS is also related to the New Crossover concept, actually it might turn out to be the reference for future cars in this new segment.

The previous article on this series focused on related existing vehicles. This article discusses recent concept cars and CGIs of future cars that point directions on how the New Crossover should look like.

Opel Flex
The concept pictured below is a fine example on how an attractive minivan should look like. If you think of the New Crossover as a cross between SUVs, stations and minivans (or MPVs), the evolution from the minivan concept should be much more sportive than most of the existing cars. The Ford S-Max is a good example of such concept: it’s bolder and much more sportive that other cars in its class and mainly because of that it owns the segment in Europe. The Opel Flex concept is also interesting because of the Volt underpinnings although we are not sure if it will exist in the future, or even Opel for that matter.

Ford C-Max
The photoshop below previews the next generation Ford C-Max. The current one also fits in the “very sporty” MPV category: it’s lower than other MPVs like the Scénic or Picasso, has fabulous handling (well above everything in its class) and the latest restyling brought a very aggressive front end. The rest of the car is still very square, as in most minivans, but if the next generation is close to the photoshop image it could be the kind of New Crossover that is on discussion here. It might even have AWD available (not confirmed yet) and is also an interesting vehicle because it’s being developed for both European and American markets.

Citroen C-sportlounge
The sportlounge was a concept from 2005 that previewed the current generation Citroen Picasso. As expected, the Picasso didn’t turn out to be so stylish, but still we notice that the overall proportions of this concept car are close to what one might expect for the New Crossover. There have been rumours that Citroen might be serious about making a related vehicle in the future and certainly one of their last concepts at the Paris car show points in that direction. That concept car is our last vehicle in this article and it’s also the closest interpretation to the ideal New Crossover

Citroen Hypnos
The right proportions, the right concept and technology. This could be the New Crossover. Minus some excessive detailing and spaceship interior, the Hypnos concept is just the best example of the New Crossover idea. It’s higher than a station, but lower than a traditional SUV and much more sportive than both. It could have space and utility features from most MPVs but packed in a much more attractive and aspirational design. As a bonus it also has the right technology: a simple hybrid approach that allows for an elegant AWD implementation, very similar to what is currently found in the Lexus RX400h. And more: full EV-mode and plug-in availability. If Citroen is brave enough to make it this could be a true 21st century car.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

EV future: Volvo C30 Plug-in hybrid

A nice video about this concept car. Ford should give a bit more freedom (and cash) for Volvo to bring something similar to market asap! And of course, scale down to other vehicles from Ford and Mazda.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The New Crossover: the dos and don'ts, related vehicles

A previous blog entry on possible Volvo stations has developed into a rational thinking about a New Crossover segment. This article exploits current visions that are close (or intend to be) to that concept. Let's look at what is wrong and what is right in several current vehicles, establishing cues to a future successful New Crossover.

Toyota Venza
Not surprisingly Toyota is alert about a future cross between a SUV, a station and a MPV. The Venza, pictured below, is a typical Toyota interpretation, adequately competent and boring. The car is on sale in the USA and its lacklustre design is the major don't feature: in order to succeed the New Crossover needs a really special and inspirational design. And what about that Ford Edge front rip-off?... speaking of Ford...

Ford Flex
Ford is alert too, here is their attempt at a new crossover segment. The Flex sure has space and utility but again, the design is wrong: too boxy and reminiscent of a station. It just looks like a pumped up station. Certainly it's not boring as the Venza but then it also doesn't hit the spot.

Yes, I know this is a sort of SUV, but it's the most car-like and a very emotional design. A New Crossover could be born out of such move from SUV to car but having more space and utility. It sounds difficult to match those features with an atractive design but if our insiders are right the new BMW PAS will indeed be very X6-related although looking more like a big hatchback. That just reminded me of big-tall-failed hatchbacks...

Renault VelSatis and Opel Signum
Some years ago Renault and Opel thought that a big hatchback might be a premium vehicle. So they made the VelSatis and the Signum. That didn't work very well. Actually, it Renault's case it was disastrous although understandable looking at the hideous thing below. A cross between a SUV, station and MPV can indeed end up looking like a big hatchback but in order to achieve success it can not end up looking like these two loosers below.

This is it for recent vehicles that might serve as inspiration (good and bad) for a New Crossover concept. Probably forgot about some more but hopefully you got the idea. The next article will look at recent concept cars that point directions for a desirable New Crossover. We will end up with the right design and technology although, unfortunately, the car brand that presented it will not probably make it real.

Friday, November 07, 2008

EV Future: Citroën Hypnos Concept

The Citroen Hypnos is actually a good example of a great New Crossover design. With some conventional doors and a less weird interior it would do just fine as production vehicle.

But it also shows a very european approach to hybrids that's being followed by several manufacturers such as PSA and VW. The Hypnos all-new HYmotion4 diesel hybrid drivetrain is a 4-wheel drive system combining a 200bhp 2.0 HDi DPFS engine and an intelligent 6-speed EGS (Electronic Gearbox System). With the engine driving the front wheels and an axle-mounted electric motor driving the rear wheels it as AWD possibility as well as EV-only mode. Throw in plug-in possibility and we would have the perfect New Crossover.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The New Crossover: concept

This article follows a recent one on Volvo and the prospect that the Swedish brand will be evolving its stations to something closer to a crossover concept. Something like the future BMW PAS or F5 or V5 or whatever. The future BMW PAS (which means Progress Activity Sedan, seriously) might be the first successful vehicle of a new breed of crossovers. And I believe it will be successful because: a) it’s a BMW; b) BMW’s CEO said in an interview that this will be a volume model, not a niche like the X6; c) if properly executed it has the potential to meet several consumer needs (see more below), and d) it’s a BMW.

Recent history has told us that if BMW is working on something new then other manufacturers should prepare to react really fast. Their work on the future PAS signals that consumers might be ready to adopt a new type of crossover, one that meets several expectations: it should be lower than a SUV, more car-like, with better mileage than a SUV and less guilt factor, more eco-friendly… but still, it should provide a seating position higher than in a regular car or station and it should provide an aggressive design, an imposing stance. This last feature is important to note because it’s not the sort of thing people admit in consumer clinics.

Those features are related to a move-from-SUV consumer. But one should also cater for the move-from-station and move-from-minivan consumers. So the New Crossover should offer some utility, versatility and space, while still being frugal and adding a high seating position, a commanding view of the road, and again, the more aggressive stance. In short, all the space and utility of stations and MPVs, but with a more special design, one that moves away from a “soccer-mom” image into something a bit more distinctive.

I could analysis some technical requirements of the New Crossover now, but the most important is the availability (as an option) of AWD. This is needed to add some credibility to the move-from-SUV crowd and it could spawn more SUV-ish versions with body protections and whatnot: think the New Crossover version of an Audi allroad. Of course, many folks would not choose AWD versions since these offer less mileage and cost more, but it’s very important that the AWD is optionally available.

The most critical feature of the New Crossover is then the design. How to wrap all the features described previously in an attractive body that people WANT to buy. It’s then business as usual for the automotive industry... "Zooropa…better by design”. In following articles we will try to analyze how this concept could look like (or better yet, how it should not look like).

The BMW PAS (CGI below) will actually ressemble a bit the X6, which is a good thing.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Warning: unreliable CGI of next Focus III

Although a Huckfeldt job, the image below is an unreliable CGI of the next Ford Focus. As usual, photoshop images of Ford models by the CGI-master Huckfeldt are ugly and unrealistic. So why is he the master?...

The CGI is presented at German magazine Auto-Bild where Huckfeldt jobs are presented in first hand. Usually CGIs related to other brands, mainly from VW-Audi-owned-by-Porsche-group, are reliable but not this one. So we assume that the master does not have good sources at Ford, right?

The CGI is presented by Auto-Bild just a couple of weeks after the new Golf VI is on sale. The CGI shows a very ugly front-design for the next Ford Focus. So we assume that the master does not have good sources at Ford, right?

Is my writing sounding strange? No it's not.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Future crossovers/stations from Volvo

A recent article from Autocar discusses a change of design language at Volvo, focusing less on traditional stations and more on soft-crossovers: something like future BMW PAS; Mercedes R-class, that sort of things. There’s a distinct smell of public relations/marketing spin in the article but anyway, what do we know, right?

The new higher-stations are still a couple of years away so we wonder if this effort is too late. Actually, there is plenty of stuff to criticise in the recent strategy of Volvo. But it is worth pointing those mistakes and establishing ideas for the future because if Ford can keep this brand it has a lot of potential. Much more than Jaguar or Land Rover or Aston Martin. The great thing about Volvo is that you can make Volvos out of Fords without too much hassle or investment. Jaguar needed dedicated RWD platforms, Aston Martin means exotic jewellery and Range Rover also needed huge investments in luxury platforms. It’s much easier with Volvo, the brand is not quite luxury like BMW or Mercedes but it’s closer to smart premium like Audi. Most high volume Audis are simply VWs (and that includes Skoda and Seat), sharing most of the engines and bits. Ford can do the same with Volvo, easily, without much hassle and with adequate marketing investment. But it needs to be properly done and planed within the brands demographics.

Starting with an important mistake that is the size of Volvo cars. Check the S40, it uses the Focus platform but it was meant to fight the 3-series. It’s too small. Just like the S60 is too big to fight the 3-series and the S80 is too small to fight the S-class. You see, Volvo cars are in the middle of size classes. So Volvo needs to adjust sizes: the C30/V50 fights the Audi A3, a new Mondeo-based should fight the Audi A4 (although it could be a bit smaller than the Mondeo and use some Haldex system for AWD versions), and so on. Volvo cars should be of the same size of their competitors, not sit in the middle of size classes.

On SUVs and crossovers: Volvo had a great hit with the XC90. But then it took ages to make a smaller competitor to the X3. Only now the XC60 is arriving to the market, with lots of competition and a questionable front-end design. Next year BMW will have this SUV range: X6, X5, X3, X1, plus MINI-SUV…

The new higher-stations can be related to people-carrier platforms. Which bring us to the following: the major Volvo keywords are safety and family. Safety and family… so why is it that we never had a Volvo version of the C-Mar or S-Max Fords? We understand that this type of vehicles is not very important in the American market and/or associated to premium image but still… they can be easily transformed to sophisticated people-carriers with adequate design and marketing… just like the next BMW PAS and the R-class Mercedes. Volvo has available platforms to do this type of vehicles fast and cheap, so do it fast, cleverly designed and with the adequate marketing investment.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How about an European Mustang?

This gorgeous thing in this wonderfull video is the Giugiaro designed Mustang concept. We know of future Ford models that will travel from Europe to the USA (Fiesta, Focus III). That is, being developed here for the global markets. Why not ford giving us, europeans, a new Mustang?

The car in the video is just the perfect design: notice how the proportions make it look more compact, just how we like those coupes in Europe. Ford could also make it with a diesel (shock!) besides the V8 and V6. Just check the Audi TT TDI: 2.0liter and 170hp. The 2.2 diesel from PSA would the the job fine and its ready for lenghtwise positioning in the engine bay. Please Ford, Europe will give you great cars in the future... give something back to us.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Peugeot 408 update

The image below shows one of the CGI presented by French magazine L'Autojournal for the next Peugeot 408. Please check their site for more info. The rear design is much better than the front but still... it doesn't change our previous post!

The front end and design identity are the second most important feature that manufacturers should look after in design (after overall proportions). The front design of recent and near-future Peugeots is wrong. Please Peugeot, look at Renault for what might happen with a damaged front identity...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Peugeot: you need help, lots of it!

I love Peugeots, had one for 5 or 6 years. But lately I think Peugeot is loosing the plot on the design of its cars. Let's clarify what's wrong: detailing. Namely the identity of the front design. It's wrong in the current 407, passable in the 308, and completely wrong in the Peugeot 408 preview below and the 3008 that follows. By the way, the 408 image is from Autojournal and it's credible and it signals that the final design might be frozen by now.

There are also a couple of things wrong in the technical department: the huge front overhang in most recent Peugeots, and the lack of multilink in the Peugeot 308 range: remember when the 306 was clearly superior to the Golf III in handling?... Oh, and about that 3008 Prologue thing below, is that some sort of SUV-thing?... cuz Peugeot lacks AWD in that range of cars. Just don't try pulling a FWD-SUV, ok?

There are many things done right in recent Peugeots too: interior design and perceived quality, diesels, diesels, diesel engines, diesel engine technology...

So not everything is wrong, the overall design proportions are ok, the detailing and front end is really the worst part... but it's a very important one. But I can help you. For free, just cuz I like you people and the cars you made for so many years. Don't be afraid of sending an email, I won't share your secrets in the blog since I respect your work and the work from other manufacturers. I can help you make it work in the future.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Toyota's future AE86

Toyota is working on a new AE86, you know, the classic affordable RWD coupe from the late 80s, made famous in drifting movies and Japanese manga. This is great news. With all this crisis going on manufacturers are droping plans for affordable RWD platforms. Of course, I love RWD cars, the more the better and preferably from mainstream manufacturers. BMWs are nice but are expensive...

The new car will share bits with Subaru since both brands (Toyota owns part of Subaru) are collaborating on the new platform and engines. This includes a new 2.0 boxer engine and that is even sweeter: RWD+boxer equals love!
Reportedly Nissan is also working on a compact mainstream RWD coupe. So more choice other than Subaru and Toyota. Brilliant stuff.

Monday, October 20, 2008

2009 Alfa 149

The (great) photoshop below is from AutoExpress magazine and shows how the new Alfa 149 will look like. It's gorgeous and it seems that spreading design cues from the Alfa Romeo 8C across the range is a good idea.

The car itself is not really new since it borrows everyhing that is out of sight from the Fiat Bravo. Apart from the cheap rear suspension that is not a bad proposition. But then, this new Alfa is supposed to go against the BMW 1-series and Audi A3 so it looks to me that fighting those cars without a multilink at the rear is not a good thing... Anyway, the A3 fights the 1-series without having RWD so maybe with great design and marketing Alfa manages to improve its sales performance.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Focus RS in blue

The other day I was looking for a photo of the uber-Focus to illustrate the revoknuckle article but could only find hideous green units. But thanks to found this one of a blue car. Looks massive, a true predator!

We can't wait for it to arrive and check how the numbers translate in real-world performance. Will it be much heavier than a ST? Anyway, for now it looks ready to destroy the competition (and its own front tyres too).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Toyota Prius leak

Some images of generation 3 Prius leaked today. Shock!... the car looks like the new Honda Insight...

The design looks safe and unsurprising but the real interest point of this car is plug-in availability: when and how?

Monday, October 13, 2008

EV Future: Pininfarina B-zero

One of several electric concepts shown at Paris auto-show, the Pininfarina B-zero hints at a close market availability.

Not sure if we believe in that, the cooperation with Bolloré for the batteries is a plus point, but bringing a new car to market is a huge investment.

Monday, October 06, 2008

2009 VW Polo

Now that the Ford Fiesta is arriving to market it should be time for VW to remind us about their new Polo that will be on sale next year. Hence some night shots of the Polo appeared in Autobild magazine.

The new car is closely related to the new Seat Ibiza except that it will not look like crap. One can expect a modern and mature design, pretty much a small-Golf look with the new VW face, a much better design proposition than the chromed atrocity of some recent VW designs. Some very upscale rear light cluster is apparent in the images and we can also expect a very good photo-perceived quality inside. VW recently went back to what it knows best in the new Golf VI: simple interiors dressed in black with touches of chrome. Simple and effective in providing a quality appearance.

Not much technical novelties will differ from what is currently available in the Ibiza and Fabia. The biggest new arrival is a new 1.6 common rail diesel engine and maybe some gadgets like park assistance to differentiate a bit from the cheaper brothers.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Meet the Revoknuckle

We are not used to pure mechanical advances lately but this one is interesting and promising. The revoknuckle concept is used in the new Ford Focus RS in order to deal with the small problem of delivering 300hp to the front wheels. Now an image of the Focus RS could be illustrating this entry but I could only find pictures of some hideous-green coloured unit with lots of wing on it. So let’s keep this more technical hence the revoknuckle bits below.

The problem with all that power in a FWD car is wheelspin and understeer. Those effects can be overcome greatly with the use of limited-slip differential coupled with some good coding of the traction control software. The problem is that the use of the limited-slip differential does not solve the torque steer effect, that is, the influence of the engine torque on the steering on front-wheel drive vehicles. For example, during full acceleration the steering may pull to one side, which may be disturbing to the driver. Ford says it addresses that with geometry changes, new bearings and parts keeping the simplicity of a traditional McPherson strut arrangement, but minimizing steering disturbances and torque steer, mainly due to a reduction in steering offset.

Minimizing is a key word here. Ford does not claim to completely eliminate torque steer so I wonder what effect they have managed. The first test drives should be an interesting read.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

New Skoda Octavia for Chinese market

We just got this image of a new skoda Octavia modified for the tastes of the Chinese market. Oh wait, breaking news, it's actually a restyling of the current Octavia for the European market. Well then, what a pathetic joke! The current Octavia doesn't even need a restyling.

It's funny how VW group has been changing Skoda away from mainstream design. Skodas used to be slightly more conservative and cheaper VWs. Now each new model is more polarized and moving away from the "mainstream centre". Want to know why? Because folks in most eastern Europe countries can now afford VWs... and even Audis. And VW wants them to buy more VWs and even Audis... cuz they want more profit. So there it is, carefull and clever brand management!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The picture below shows a reliable interpretation of the new BMW X1. The car should be presented as a concept car in the next few days and should have a mini-X5 overall design theme. That is good, actually, it looks great.

The new small-SUV is actually almost the size of the X3 (the next X3 will grow a bit) and will bring family credentials to the einser lineup with a base price cheaper than the X3 (but not much).
This is not good news for the good people at Ford, Renault or VW that lately brought new mini-SUVs to the market (Kuga, Koleos and Tiguan). Those new car are not selling very well because of oil prices and the new X1 will not help their cause.

Update: concept car images arrived. Here's the rear, not that similar after all. And I'm not showing the front of the car...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ford Taurus

The Taurus name is an important one in American automobile landscape. A name that is currently associated to a failed car that started as the Ford five-hundred and later changed to Taurus seeking more success. Anyway, the impression below shows a reliable interpretation of the future Taurus. It doesn't look very exciting, but it doesn't need to be.

This is not the car that will save Ford of North-America. It doesn't neet to be. This car needs to look big but inoffensive, like a bigger Camry with interiors like a Camry or Accord. Just that, keeping it simple and adopting tried and tested tactics from Toyota and Honda. And that is what Ford will deliver, and with some new more fuel-efficient engines. It might not be the sales leader but it will improve sales greatly from the current model. And if every new model from NA-Ford delivers just that a safe path for the future will follow. We know this new Taurus is an improvement in the right direction, as well as the future Fusion, and the new Fiesta and the next Euro-Focus...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

VW Robust

The image below shows a VW Robust prototype doing its thing, being a VW it probably had some electric malfunction.

I don't remember bothering too much about this new pick-up. But it does have some interesting points. First is the timing. Maybe VW knows something we don't but in a period where pick-up sales are going downhill it seems strange to make all this effort to enter a declining market. Hopefully VW knows that very soon oil prices will fall, ... hopefully.

Then there's the name, a VW Robust? If I well remember last time VW models had some kind of robustness was in the 80s. Maybe they are in for some comic attibutes when the new pick-up arrives in the market and starts displaying the behaviour shown below.

Monday, September 22, 2008

2010 Audi A8

There's some photoshop job in the image below but still, we have reliable sources indicating that it's very close to the final version. It's that a Bangle-butt?... well it sure looks like one but it will arrive 8 years late... Will the new A8 finally end Mercedes S-Class/BMW 7-series dominance?... We can all claim that possibility and for sure Audi will bullish a lot when the A8 arrives but.... folks that can actually buy such cars will probably shrug their shoulders at these claims.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Renault Megane break

This is a good-looking CGI predicting the future Megane station. The new Megane is a nice design if only a bit inofensive. Still, much better that the previous one.

The only problem with the new Megane is the same as the Astra (if the Astra indeed gets the Chevrolet Cruze platform): no multilink at the rear! It has been 10 years since Ford introduced it at first generation Focus. Since then the Ford family got it (Mazda 3, volvo S40) as well as the Golf family (Golf, Audi A3, several Seat and Skodas) and even Hyundai/Kia have a multilink at the rear.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

EV Future: Chevrolet Volt Design Inspirations and Designers

A great video on the volt. Several more are available at GMnext channel on youtube.

I have such a good feeling about this car, maybe it's because of the music in the video. Enjoy it, you can see many details of the new car in these videos.

Inside the Chevrolet Volt

I'm not a big fan of the ipod white. But probably that can be customized. Like the instrument display that can be personalized and show the information a particular driver wants. The design really touches important points: it is different from other cars to suit the green image and associated individuality. But still manages to look different from the Prius. You know, the Prius will change but the exterior of the Volt will still look more sporty.

Of course, the important bits are related to the electric drivetrain and onboard generator. But still it's good that it doesn't look like crap right?

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Finally it's here. It looks great. Our concept car of the year 2007 will arrive in 2010, hopefully. The picture below shows a really nice design, clearly individual to reflect a new powertrain paradigm but still different from the Priusinsights.

I really hope that this is for real, it must be or else GM wouldn't make this the most important presentation of the Centennial party. Anyway, if this is not for real, other cars from Nissan, toyota or BMW will be. The EV future starts in the next decade.

This car is also a giant middle finger to some folks around globe. Right Mr. Chavez?

Monday, September 15, 2008

2009 Opel Astra

Opel is on our radar! We don't usually follow Opel future cars a lot because we don't care about the brand. But lately Opel presented some cool stuff: mainly the new Insignia that is a great effort. Very good design, wonderfull station version and availability of 4WD are strong points of the Insignia. So maybe we should care more about Opel.
The new Astra could be an interesting vehicle, it seems to get some cool headlights with leds and the design in the CGI below looks ok. The car needs to have more road presence than the current version, particularly it needs to look wider than the Focus or the Golf. We are interested! Of course, we can quickly loose interest if the new car doesn't have a multilink in the rear...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mini crossover: a future mega hit

Sometimes is fun to make predictions. Will a new car be a hit or a flop? We could bet on that... Sometimes it's easy, the new Renault Laguna is a flop and just looking at the front of the car we can see why, but the new Citroen C5 doesn't help Renault either...

The new Mini crossover, small-SAV or SUV or whatever, looks like a safe bet. Of course, it's easy to forecast succes since it's a Mini, but remember the new Clubman sort of van thing is not doing really well.

The key feature for this new Mini-SUV is the proportions, there is something about the Infiniti FX there that screams mega-hit. On top of that this could be a proper practical car with some luggage space. Maybe BMW can even achieve sub-120g/km in the 1.6 diesel version. Looking beyond the concept-car detailing this is a great car in the making.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

EV Future: another Prius CGI

This one doesn't look really good, as many recent Toyotas. Just check how boring the new Avensis design is. But the next Volt doesn't look very special either. However, it doesn't matter, the real joy in the new Prius is when it arrives plug-in enabled ant what is the range in full electric mode.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Renault Megane sedan

This is just a CGI of a possible design for the sedan version. This type of car does not sell a lot in Europe so this is more interesting for other markets like Brasil.

Monday, September 01, 2008

EV Future: VW Golf Twin Drive

Got to love the first sentence: "The future is electric".

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

EV Future: Nissan prototype

Testing for the future Electric Nissan Note introduction.

Friday, August 15, 2008

EV Future: Volvo series hybrid concept

Just a concept, it seems Ford is way behind GM in the development of Plug-in hybrids for series production.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ford Fusion

A much needed update to the American Fusion will arrive at the end of the year. The image below shows a notable improvement of the front design while at the rear the modified car is set to loose the "rice" lights. Interior will be even more mature with some subtle chrome detailing added. Great emphasis will be placed in engines also: a new inline-4 is expected to have class-leading mpg numbers and the hybrid version will finally arrive. Ford really needed this car, now!... Anyway, looking at the image below I prefer the new American Fusion to the European Mondeo...

Friday, July 25, 2008

2009 Mazda 3

A new CGI shows a wonderfull design for the next Mazda 3. Too good to be true? Probably!