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!