A squint at the machinations of the car industry and why we’re suckers for it.
Mini marvels and mountain SUVs
The excuse BMW gave for recreating the ground-breaking British Mini, a car designed by a Greek screwed up by his British employers, was overfeeding has inflated the average human arse to a seat-and-a-half’s width.
That’s not quite how the BMW spokesperson put it. He used diplomatic language. If you sit in a pokey aircraft seat between two others you’ll know he is absolutely right. Our big ends have got bigger this century. Our body fat storage units are stuffed to over-flowing, the posterior the last resort for our personal fatbergs.
Today’s modern Mini has models higher and wider than a normal saloon and some SUVs. In fact, you could probably fit an old Mini inside the new. An alert readers points out that the wheel base of the current BMW Mini is as wide as the first Range Rover. How it can still be called ‘mini’ defeats me.
All cars get bigger and heavier. To entice you to trade your current model for the next each succeeding iteration has to proclaim it has more space than the last, hence it must be made bigger. The exception is the modest Mazda MX5 sportscar. The design team spend blearing eyed days and nights shaving centimetres off plastic panels and items, discarding parts heavier than before so that the car’s lightness increases its agility.
Liberty in space saving will come with the advent of electric cars for the masses that have no need for huge transmission tunnels as big as a Dutch sea wall. Currently, the far-sighted Smart4Two micro car is the only vehicle where the driver can park against a wall and slide across seats to exit by the passenger’s door for it has no seat splitting tunnel.
Tiny tots for slimline bots
Along comes Land Rover, makers of some of the largest vehicles on the planet and the most expensive, to tell us they are about to produce mini-me versions.
Call it a revelation on the Road to Damascus. No need for AA or RAC as good Samaritans. Land Rover saw the light all by itself. They want to “revive the spirit of the original Freelander”, whatever the hell that means. I deplore petrolheads who waft on and on about a vehicles spirituality as if it attends church every Sunday, and recites its catechism daily.
The diverse new car range promises tiny SUVs, well, human-sized rather than tanks on wheels, a £250,000 Range Rover coupé, a Defender pick-up truck, and a more car-like Range Rover, all set to cash in on the booming growth of premium 4x4s, with the aim of elevating Land Rover sales and profits to new heights.
Chelsea tractors will rule the Earth – but not actually traverse the stuff. They live on tarmac, a waste of space. Spend a quarter of a million pounds on a snob vehicle that has you sitting like a horse rider higher than the poverty stricken driver in the SUV in front, and nothing can unsettle your belief life is bloody good. Sadly, the last Range Rover I saw approach me at too fast a speed vaulted the motorway metal safety barrier, somersaulted and landed on its back, killing the driver and taking out a van in the process. SUV’s safe? I don’t think so.
The first of these small models, which will be around 4.2 metres in length, could arrive in 2021 – bet you can’t wait – although debate is ongoing about which of Land Rover’s three model strands – leisure (typified by the Discovery Sport), luxury (Range Rover) or utility (the new Defender) – it will derive. The company is considering adding a baby SUV for each of these ranges.
What this announcement means is, Land Rover plan to seduce you away from competing marques by offering an SUV equivalent for any vehicle existing, including a golf buggy.
Never mind the price, feel the width
Will the cars have good interior space if electric or hybrid? Or to accommodate our butt cheeks will they be too wide to park without loss of a wing mirror?
Tesla’s innovative SUV’s are huge when you see them in the metal, really too big for daily one driver drives to work or supermarket . They demand a big floor area to pack in those electric cells for a decent drive range. Whatever Land Rover comes up with they will call ‘compact’, assuredly a misnomer looking back at the original Mini and Mini Countryman. The car industry is as adept as a Westminster politician at airbrushing history, making a word mean anything they want it to mean.
As for diesel versions, we can probably discount their appearance. Diesel is dead, truly buried once we get taxi, trucks, and locomotives suckled off the dreadful stuff.
Ford find folk fickle
Ford UK’s boss felt the need to lie through his teeth this week. He railed at the UK government’s policy on diesel cars as baby killers, and stopping the elderly reaching pensionable age. I’d have thought the latter a typical Tory ploy.
He thinks the policy is a mess leaving diesel owners and buyers confused and uncertain. This tends to be a precursor to an appeal for massive welfare payments to ‘Save the British Car Industry’, as owned by wealthy ‘Mercans, Japanese, Germans and Arabs.
Andy Barratt said consumers were buying fewer diesel cars – no shit, Sherlock – fearing they were polluting and will face new taxes. It’s all our fault we don’t buy diesel cars.
He claims (spoiler alert) new diesels are “every bit as clean” as petrol cars. Playing the modest-aggressive card he added, “Government and industry must do more to reassure consumers. Diesel is vital to the UK industry as it makes almost a million diesel engines a year, most of which are exported.” So, no benefit to UK buyers.
“There has been a lot of chaos in the signalling and in the messaging around diesel and there have been job losses,” Mr Barratt said. “The poor motorist just doesn’t know what to do – we need to clarify where diesel works and where it doesn’t.”
“The poor motorist” – that’s us, often hoodwinked, usually gassed.
Motor industry is innocent
Barratt said the car industry needed to “step up” (as opposed to lying?) to offer a clear message reassuring drivers, but that the government should do more as well. There, told you. It’s a subliminal plea for a government hand-out. Profits down, taxpayer pays. Brexit has got the car industry in a fankle, diesel woes only exacerbating the problem.
What a merry-go-round. Yesterday, emission free diesel cars were a fraud, today you could park your lips over an exhaust pipe and still taste a vegan salad afterwards. Unfortunately for Barratt, Mercedes boss has said the opposite.
Dieter Zetsche avers “Customers are showing more confidence in diesel than politicians by continuing to buy them in significant numbers.” European buyers are happy, British buyers are nervous. If only we were part of Europe.
Near – far
And as a poste script: Small Land Rovers will most likely be made at the firm’s new plant in Slovakia. JLR wants to keep production in Europe, given that this is where most of its baby SUVs would be sold. Slovakia has significantly lower labour rates than the UK, helping to keep costs down. Suck that up Brexiteers.
Having smaller, lighter and more efficient cars in the model range will also contribute to a significant reduction in Land Rover’s overall fleet CO2 emissions, something that is fundamental to meet strict future environmental targets. But we all know the small models will be big, and they’ll blame it on the size of our bums.
NEXT WEEK: The Chinese car show: ‘Auto China’. (China is not cockney speak.)