A weekly look at all that sucks in the car industry, plus some good bits
The Geneva motor Show is upon us again, or rather it is on those pesky foreigners who live in Eeyouland. We don’t have to attend it, though we have no all-encompassing motor show of our own to fall back on, car makers twigging Gross Britannia is a dead loss when it comes to organising costly car shows and getting a decent rate of return, worse now with Brexit on the bleak horizon. ‘British’ made cars are shown abroad, China and the USA better shop windows than London.
The show is what you’d suppose it to be, very expensive to visit, held in the second most populace city in watch-silent Switzerland where a single room without breakfast can cost the equivalent of a deposit on a luxury Merc saloon. Expensive glitzy executive models aimed at expensive executive types, grace the exhibition hall, with little if any innovation to make those of us keen on a brave new automotive world leap in the air with joy. On display was the odd new lightweight engine, but nothing visitors could call staggering invention to set the motoring world on fire – excuse the inept environmental pun – pace for this millennium.
One oddity, Skoda premiered its electric bicycle with lights and indicators built into the handbars, a smart idea.
In my role as humble messenger here are a few of the highlights, none we will buy new, I’d wager. [Wager: pretentious 18th century parlance for a bet.]
Alfa Romeo’s next crossover is called the A plug-in hybrid power-train is in the cards. I love its looks, the slinky headlights, the telephone dial wheels, the good proportions, the absence of weird angles and slashes, but I refuse to buy an Alfa forced to stick the front registration plate to one side of its nose, a loopy conceit from the maker to remind us of its racing heritage. Buy one, cut an inverted V wedge out the registration plate’s centre, fix it on the car’s nose under the grille.funnily enough.
If the new Morgan Six looks identical to the old Morgan Plus Six you’d be mistaken. It’s wider, and every panel is new, though made of the same stuff as the old, aluminium clothing an ash wood frame. The new chassis provides around 20cm more cockpit length to accommodate fat arsed drivers, bigger doors and decent luggage space. The improvements are welcome, but as anybody who’s driven a Morgan will tell you, the real improvement needed is in the suspension. A Morgan is a bone shaker. What goes quietly under the radar is – Morgan, the British icon of car makers, is now foreign owned. The venerable classic sports car maker Morgan is sold to an Italian conglomerate of investors after 110 years as a British concern. So much for buying British – eh? Let’s hope the Italians insist on integrated side windows!
BMW’s electric Mini is guaranteed to be in a showroom this autumn, but perhaps not your local one, because the chat around the car stand was all about BMW’s threat to take it out of UK production in Oxford because of the Tory party’s xenophobia. Peter Swartzenbauer said, “Brexit is a huge burden on us. We must consider what it exactly means for us in the long run. And for Mini this is really a danger, no doubt about it.”
The fun funster from yesteryear, the delight of Californian surfers is back, only now it’s electric, so one hopes the designers have made the electrics super sealed from sea water when it’s fun loving owners slash it across low tide and into the sunset on Zuma Beach. The seats are waterproof, and there’s holes in the floor to allow the salt water, sand and jelly fish to slurp though. Hey dude! Those wheels sure hit the sweet spot. It’s bitchin.
The Bugatti is shown for two reasons, a modern interpretation of the aesthetically superior original Type 57, and also it’s the most expensive car ever sold at a motor show, around £10 million pounds sterling. You are looking at evidence of why car companies have so much power lobbying governments. They sell massively expensive cars to multi-millionaires with money to burn and egos the size of Ayres Rock. They live off the taxes they never need pay because Britain offers them the greatest number of legal off-shore tax havens to exploit. And by buying big they make money. Those vehicle accrue value.
Mitsubishi used its Geneva reveal to show off the Engelburg Tourer, a plug-in hybrid concept crossover four wheel whatever that serves as a preview to the four-wheel drive power-train likely to replace the one currently used in the Outlander PHEV. I don’t know why the company didn’t go all the way and call it the Engelbert Humperdink and enter it for the Eurovision Song Contest, but it doesn’t matter for I’ve never thought a single Mitsubishi worth a second look, or could win a prize at a turkey shoot, not after their boss hid thousands of customer complaints in his office cupboard so he could tell the world Mitsubishi cars are fault-free.
The SEAT Minimo was the main item on a recent Car News but no apology for showing it again. When you think about it, SEAT’s cute electric micro bug is arguably the Geneva show’s most realistic vehicle for this age. If the authoritarian cycle lobby do not get their way claiming even a legless man can ride a bicycle, then this is the vehicle for those unable to walk too far, or want protection from Scotland’s winters, autumns, and wet spring months, or who just want the cheapest transport possible – and yes, some electric bicycles and many motor bikes are more expensive than the Minimo.
One of the few genuinely clever, thought through concepts at the show for our daily transport, The Fiat Centoventi – one hundred and twenty. The neat, complete, compact styling cues come from the Panda. The firm says it represents “electromobility as only Fiat can”. I’ll forgive the boast because Fiat produced the ‘Mouse’, the 7.5 hp Topolino, just after the war. The car is designed to be highly customised and upgraded – rather like the Fiat 500 is now to the company’s great financial profit. Offered in base form with a single battery that gives 62 miles of range, you can buy three extra underfloor batteries, along with one that slides under the driver’s seat, to extend the range to up to 310 miles. As I said, clever.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
Cool Hand Luke lives
Gangs of raiders armed with drills, sledgehammers and vacuum cleaners are stealing cash from parking meters. The gangs use vehicles or heavy-duty hammers to smash the meters open or drill holes in them before sucking out the cash with a vacuum cleaner. London is the target where the cleverest crooks live. The gangs have taken £120,000 from machines in Kensington and Chelsea, west London. In Leicester the council has reinforced machines after the theft of £32,000 over three years, plus repairs costing £23,000. Thefts have been reported in Wales; Wimbledon, southwest London; Luton, Bedfordshire; and Sedgley, Staffordshire. In some cases thieves have made off with the ticket machines each worth thousands of pounds in their own right. Cool Hand Luke only cut off the heads of meters; things have progressed.
My eyes! My eyes!
Have you been blinded lately while driving? Forgotten how a low Scottish sun bouncing off wet tarmac can fry eyeballs and bleach retina? Tried dropping your sun visor, slowing down, or not chancing it out of the side street into a line of traffic hoping the main street is empty? The Chokie Embra tried that one and look where it got him- people injured, his car upside down, a new car and no fine or endorsement on his licence.
Old to new
Noticing the radio in my elderly 3-door RAV was on the blink, and counting my pennies, I took it to my Toyota dealer in Newbridge, edge of Edinburgh for a fix. They pointed out, not for a great amount more than the cost of a new radio, the aperture it sat in exactly mirrors that for a modern computer screen offering sat-nav, hands free Bluetooth phone, radio, USB ports, and CD player, with illumination to match the same colour as the instrument panel. They traded the units in a day, my old car now in the 21st century. They then took photographs of it, proud of the car and their work. You don’t have to own a Porsche or a Bentley to be treated with respect. Try owning a Toyota instead.