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.