A weekly look at all that sucks in the automobile industry and some good bits
Car companies resurrecting past glories because nothing they produce now is as popular leave me in two minds. A case in point is Ford Mustang, propelled to international stardom by Peter Yates film Bullitt. Carnuts drool over the Fastback version of the Mustang driven by sullen Steve McQueen, but once you drive it you discover how old fashioned it is for the demands of modern traffic conditions.
You wish you had little things like better brakes, electric windows, sound proofing, independent suspension, and power steering. To drive a classic car is to make a lot of sacrifices, not least comfort. Recreating cars of yesteryear fit for the modern age means upgrading every part of them, including the quality of the paint, so why not design an all-new car? Fiat decided to give the 500 design cues from the old, but with greater interior space and a bigger engine.
In my view, makers should strive to create the avant-garde, to look ahead. On the other hand, recreations give a new generation an opportunity to experience what I did when young. Fiat, creator of the car for Everyman, the Topolino and then the Fiat 500, has taken that dual policy to the enth degree.
The current 500 is a clever redesign of the original, with lots of character built in. It doesn’t have the innovation of, say, a Smart car, but as a city runabout it does the job. Fiat have radical plans for the next generation. All Fiat 500s will be full-on electric.
Fiat confirms it will launch a next-generation 500 city car in 2020 which will see the brand take its biggest seller all-electric, this time with a luxury focus. The all-electric Fiat 500 will be revealed in production form at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show.
Despite a jiggly ride over cobbles and potholes, the current-generation 500 has been a resounding success for Fiat for well over a decade with over two million produced since introduction in 2005. Being able to boast a million combinations of the extras on offer to individualise your car has to be a huge part of the 500’s success. However, Fiat wants to move with the times and is plotting a bold reinvention of the car.
There will be no internal combustion version of the next 500 – it will be entirely electric, redesigned to appeal to an increasingly wealthy clientele. This decision follows most other manufacturers keen to get more bucks out of our pockets, but an odd decision in that the 500 is predominantly bought by the cash careful client, or as a second car, in a two car family. Perhaps Fiat sees people choosing the tall 500 in comparison to the physically lower MINI, at least for city city driving.
“Premium is the way we will go with the EV 500”, explained head of Fiat and FCA chief marketing officer Olivier Francois.
“A new 500, totally renewed, totally electric, a kind of an urban Tesla, with beautiful style. Italianess, dolce vita in an electric car, the polar opposite of Centoventi. It’s a new platform designed for electrification. It makes the car radically different. It’s still a 500, same size, same proportions, just not the same car. The 500 of the future”.
Fiat’s surprise unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show was the reveal of the boxy-shaped Centoventi concept, previewing a next-generation Panda with affordable, low-range electric powertrain options. Francois could not clarify if the two vehicles would use the same platform, but did confirm that the next-gen all-electric 500 will use a brand new dedicated electric architecture currently under development by FCA.
You can be certain the new 500 EV’s top-end market position is a euphemism for costing a third more than now, which is a great pity. To my mind, government and car maker are removing the greatest form of transportation, a cheap car, from the pockets of the masses. That, and a general clamp-down on immigration, is a worrying trend.
Olivier Francois pointing to the appeal of expensive limited edition versions of the current car, he added “the appeal of the 500 is so strong we may not lose customers” with an expensive all-electric version. He might be correct, but it will mean the rest of us will keep a look out for the pre-owned version.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
Useless Car Locks
I always marvel at the well-heeled able to leave their Ferrari or Porsche parked in the Street. Their insurance premium must be massive. Half of the new cars launched this year have been given a poor security rating after investigators found their keyless entry systems are easily bypassed by thieves who use relay equipment to hijack the car’s entry code from the victim’s home. Thatcham Research, which tests cars on behalf of car insurers, said the 2019 models of Ford Mondeo, Hyundai Nexo, Kia ProCeed, Lexus UX, Porsche Macan and Toyota Corolla had all been rated as poor because they were vulnerable to this type of theft. Thatcham said the Audi e-tron, Jaguar XE, Land Rover Evoque and Mercedes B Class 2019 models were all equipped to resist the relay attack technique, and had been rated as superior. Well, until thieves work out how to get inside those models.
Protecting their ass
One reason I have added the car world to Grouse Beater’s portfolio is they are among the most persistent companies to alter government policy. In addition, the largest five stock market listed oil and gas companies spend nearly $200m (£153m) a year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change. Chevron, BP and Esso (known in the US as ExxonMobil) are the main companies leading the field in direct lobbying to push against a climate policy to tackle global warming. They plan to have us enjoy the end of the world from inside our cars, watching the blast approach from the horizon as if we are sitting in an open-air cinema. I’ll have fries and a Coke with that picture, thanks.
Car Hire Hidden Charges
I don’t know about the experience of readers – but would love to hear of them – but whenever I’ve book a hire car on arrival in foreign parts I never get the one I ordered. And after a long walk to find their pokey wee office in some vast airport complex, I discover there are a whole load of charges loaded on. This happens a lot when visiting any part of Spain. Now I hear of a modicum of revenge. Two large hire firms operating in Spain, Centauro and Record Go, have been ordered by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to change the way they tell customers about charges. The CMA took action against Centauro and Record Go “following concerns that UK holidaymakers were being misled by their practices”. Time to put all charges on car websites so we know exactly what we’re in for before we arrive, tired, and irritable. That might help a lot before we have yet another long walk in a concrete maze to find the car allocated.