Tuesday, August 22, 2017

MERCEDES-BENZ MAYBACH 6 CABRIOLET. HUH?

I have no words to adequately describe this concept car, revealed for the first time in Monterey, California during the week of automotive events, dominated by the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
So I'll just reprint part of the press kit.






The glamorous cabriolet reinterprets classic, emotional design principles in an extravagant way and combines intelligent beauty with classic, aesthetic proportions and a reduced, technoid appearance – a perfect embodiment of the design philosophy of Sensual Purity.

The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet is designed as an electric car. The drive system has an output of 550 kW (750 hp). The shallow underfloor battery allows a range of over 500 kilometres according to the NEDC (over 200 miles according to EPA). 

Measuring almost six metres in length, the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet incorporates the classic proportions of art deco design with its extremely long bonnet and puristic, flowing lines, and at the same time completely reinterprets these aesthetic principles.

The extended, round "boat tail" format of the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet's rear recalls a luxury yacht, and narrow tail lights which emphasise the width of the vehicle are integrated in its outer edges. Further distinctive features at the rear include the diffuser with aluminium frame and the air outlets behind the wheel arches.

BUYING A CAR IN A MALL? SUDDENLY, EVERYTHING NEW IS OLD

The online challenge to bricks and mortar retail stores, represented by Amazon and eBay, is also impacting bricks and mortar car dealer showrooms in Australia in the form of CarSales.com and Gumtree Cars.
Infiniti in Queensland, Subaru in Victoria

The car makers are dipping their collective toes into the ‘live retail’ space by creating pop-up car displays in both high traffic, and high-end mall spaces in Australia, like the Subaru store Chadstone in Victoria; and an Infiniti outlet at Pacific Fair on the Queensland Gold Coast.

Mall pop-ups in the USA
It’s catching on globally, with companies from the top end of the luxury sector like Mercedes-Benz AMG, as well as more accessible brands like Suzuki and Hyundai, as well as the obvious electric mover and shaker, Tesla.

But, like all good ideas these new players are late to the game, it’s been done before – and I’m proud to say I was part of the company which started it all, and here I pay tribute to my friend, Ric Hull, the CEO who launched Daewoo cars onto the Australian market back in 1994.

Always an original thinker, Ric decided back in 1997 that investing millions of dollars in motor shows around the country was wasted money. It may have been nothing more than an expensive branding exercise, and could have been better spent on a process that would actually 'sell' cars.

Ric (extreme left) decided to scrap the motor show circuit, and in 1998 Daewoo Auto Australia rented floor space at five key shopping malls in the east coast cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The only sunk cost was the newly-created point-of-sale signage. The floor space was rented, furniture was rented, getting the Daewoo cars to the mall was just another transport charge.

It was slow to catch on, because consumers did not expect to see cars on display at their local Mall, but gradually it enticed both new prospects, and the people who hated going into a dealer showroom, where they felt intimidated and out of their comfort zone.

Over the next two years though the idea grabbed attention, and the sales gradually trickled in. The pop-up car shows in the Malls were matched by an innovative service program called Daewoo FreeCare – where the scheduled service was free for the life of the warranty. Another Ric Hull initiative, it was an innovative program which helped Daewoo Auto Australia sell 25,000 cars in its first three years of operation.


Daewoo Chairman
Kim Woo Choong
Sadly, the Daewoo parent corporation became mired in controversy and failed attempts to service its enormous borrowings, leading to the company’s eventual failure, and being absorbed by General Motors.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

THE 'REALLY' BIG NEWS

Okay, so BMW has taken a leaf out of Mazda’s playbook and the Z4 concept it unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was, in the words of Chief Designer Adrian van Hooydonk “stripped back to bare essentials so that the driver enjoys a more pure driving experience”.


Thanks goodness for that.

I’m relieved someone in the BMW management team recognizes that the roots of the company’s image are inextricably linked to ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’  – and not the nonsense trotted out by the current Chairman, about how BMW wants be become ‘your electronic buddy’.


However, the REALLY BIG news from Monterey is not the Z4 concept by itself. It was the news that the car forms the basis of a joint venture between BMW and Toyota, and the Z4 will be just like the Mazda MX-5 and the FIAT 124 Spyder JV – because the BMW concept will also underpin a new Toyota Supra.

Hey, you’ve got to say there’s been a real Viagra injection at Toyota HQ, with the 86/BRZ project and now the BMW-Toyota JV – next thing we may see is Toyota linking with Bentley to produce a Toyota version of the sexy Mulsanne!


Hey, sillier things have happened.

Friday, August 18, 2017

SURPRISE ON THE BIG SUR

Once again, a story initiated by a single photo. My sons, now aged 47 and 45, asked me to find some photos from our first family trip to the USA in June 1982.

Among the collection, a single photo taken after the boys (aged 12 and 10) discovered a De Lorean DMC-12 in the car park of the Ventana restaurant, overlooking the Big Sur coastline.

The owner came up and asked them if they knew what it was; and was blown away when two kids from Australia told him, “It’s a De Lorean, of course.”

This got me thinking about my friend Mike Knepper, who at one time, successively, was the editor of all FOUR American monthly car magazines.

He joined the fledgling De Lorean Motor Company as its PR VP.

However, he left after a few years when money was tight and De Lorean didn’t pay him for six months!

Despite the obvious production problems for a low volume, under-financed project, Mike said the DMC-12 was a pretty good machine. The gullwing doors were simple, non-power-assisted and worked perfectly. The handling was near neutral, but many commented that the power shortcomings with competitors shaded the DMC-12.

The powertrain was the PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) alloy V6, and although down on power, it was a very smooth combination with either the manual or auto gearboxes.

Mike told me over dinner in Paris one night of the adventures he enjoyed (endured?) during his couple of years working with the mercurial De Lorean.

Yes, John flew close to the sun, and crashed and burned, after being convicted of a drug deal to save his company in October 1982.

De Lorean, a real star within General Motors, having conceived the Pontiac GTO and the Firebird, left GM and started the De Lorean Motor Company in 1978.

Investors like Sammy Davis Jnr and Johnny Carson helped finance the deal to build his DMC-12 gullwing sports car.

De Lorean was a promotional genius, and although a canny operator, in the end it was lack of money which stymied a great concept.




Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Ital Design designed the prototype in Turin. De Lorean and Giugiaro discuss the first mock-up (above).

Also, here are Giugiaro's original sketches.

The car was produced in a purpose-built factory in Northern Ireland. The location was chosen, simply because the government gave him the land.

And now, we take a swerve. Once you’ve taken a close look at the DMC-12, you can witness something I’ve often written about on Driving & Life – how car designers recycle their designs to a range of customers.

Take a look at this collection of disparate projects.

We start with the Porsche Tapiro (left) in 1970 which was the first time we saw the wedge-shaped front, and gullwing doors.






Then along came the BMW Asso di Quadri in 1976; a lime-green Maserati concept in 1974; the Isuzu Piazza in 1979; the BMW M1 in 1981; the Lotus Etna and the Ford Maya in 1984.

Amazing how you can see threads of the DMC-12 in all these cars.


There’s no doubt Giugiaro is a brilliant designer, but I think he’s an even better salesman for being able to flog the same basic wedge shape to so many different car companies.