Thursday, April 25, 2019


Okay, so Tesla has lost heaps of money in the first quarter of 2019, and the share market has gone into meltdown - which I think is completely unnecessary.

Yes, the Tesla 3 deliveries have been late, inconsistent, and have impacted on cashflow, but as we all know Elon Musk is not a conventional carmaker - he's out of left field.

I still don't think we can write-off Tesla, just because it's different. I think the problem is constraining Musk's tendency to get bored easily and move between projects.

There's no doubt that the Model S and Model X work just fine (albeit with a few glitches), and the Model 3 shows great potential, so in my mind despite Musk's lapses of concentration in his total dedication to car-making, it's become a genuine EV competitor.

I think a lot of the judgements of Musk/Tesla come from institutionalised car people, and analysts who have gotten too used to commenting on the car business as we have known it for 100 years. 

Musk thinks out-of-the-box and we should allow him some leeway to make a few mistakes, but in the end delivering on the Tesla promise - eventually.

The Model 3 being a good example.

I personally don't care if Elon Musk makes his name as a carmaker, but we should give him some recognition for being a 'disrupter' and a game-changer.

Only time will tell.


A panel of 86 prominent motoring journalists from 24 countries, including two from Australia, has just voted Suzuki’s iconic Jimny to be the best urban car in the world.

Suzuki Jimny Chief Engineer Hiroyuki Yonezawa + Trophy

Winning four of the eight judging criteria categories to take out the World Urban Car title, the 2019 Jimny also was one of three highest scorers in the World Car Design of the Year category, and also was rated as one of the best 10 cars in the world outright.

It is the third year in a row that a Suzuki has been judged to be one of the top three in the world in the urban car category that considers a car’s suitability for cities, which are becoming increasingly crowded. 

Last year the Suzuki Swift was a finalist, and the year before that, the Suzuki Ignis.

Now, I happen to think the Jimny IS a superb overall design, combining small size, sensible and practical interior, great interior carrying capacity for its size, and quite amazing off-road capabilities.

However, I’m still a little surprised that World Car of the Year judges saw this little off-roader as an ‘urban car’.

It’s true that its off-road capability challenges some of the legends of all terrain motoring, with its uncanny ability to traverse trackless terrain, but I think its very basic and non-fancy appeal appears to be the right recipe for urban drivers. 

I wouldn’t have thought that was the case, whilst I was driving it, but there you go. A new paradigm for urban motoring!

Well done, Suzuki! Again!

Sunday, April 21, 2019


By Carole Ghosn April 17
(Carole Ghosn is the wife of Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi)

"Shortly before dawn on April 4, my husband, Carlos Ghosn, and I were awakened in our Tokyo apartment by a hard knock on the door. More than a dozen Japanese prosecutors stood waiting on the other side. Then they stormed in. My heart plummeted.

I could never have prepared for what happened next. While we were still in our pajamas, the officials from the prosecutor’s office surrounded my husband and me. They seized my cellphone, laptop, passport, diary and letters I had written to him during his previous 108-day imprisonment that began last year.

I was treated like a criminal even though I am not a suspect, and I have not been charged with anything. A female prosecutor even accompanied me and conducted a pat-down search each time I went to the bathroom. She stayed in the bathroom as I undressed and showered, handing me a towel when I stepped out.

The intent of the pre-dawn raid was clear: This was a deliberate, inhumane attempt to humiliate us, invade our privacy and violate our most basic dignities as human beings. Prosecutors would not allow me to call my lawyer and tried to take me away for question ing, but I refused to go with them.

My husband, the former chairman of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi, was arrested and charged with vague and unsubstantiated counts involving the underreporting of income he never received and “aggravated breach of trust.”

Since the morning of the raid, prosecutors have put him in solitary confinement, with the lights on around the clock, as if he were a violent criminal or had been accused of a capital offense. They have been interrogating him for hours on end — and at all hours of the night and day — without access to his lawyers.

As a U.S. citizen, I was horrified to discover that many of the rights we enjoy in the United States do not exist in Japan. The right to an attorney during questioning, and all the protections that come with it, does not exist in Japan. A person can be held for 23 days on suspicion of misconduct alone, without an indictment or any formal charges. I have come to learn that this treatment, widely known as “hostage justice,” is designed to break the spirit and coerce confessions.

Carlos, who is 65 years old and a French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizen, was first arrested last fall when he arrived in Japan on a business trip. For much of that detention, only diplomatic staff and his Japanese lawyers could visit him. Bail was finally set at $9 million; it bought us 29 days of restricted freedom until the knock came at the door April 4. Now, I am worried for his health.

According to the Journal du Dimanche and the Wall Street Journal, emails reveal the true story behind what’s happening. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry was working with Nissan executives to block the formal merger of Nissan and Renault favored by Carlos and to preserve Nissan’s autonomy at all costs.

What should have been settled in the Nissan boardroom has been turned into a criminal affair.

I won’t try to characterize all the accusations that have been thrown around. My husband is innocent of it all. His love for Japan — where he raised his four children — and for Nissan is well known.

Nearly 20 years ago, Carlos left France and went to Japan to try to turn around a failing company on the brink of bankruptcy. Nissan was in trouble: Sales were down, jobs were in jeopardy, market share was shrinking, and new competitors were aggressively carving into the business.

Carlos and the people at Nissan made difficult choices. They took risks. And they sacrificed to help the company succeed. It certainly wasn’t easy, and it definitely took time. Together, they forged alliances that expanded Nissan’s global reach. They opened new markets and expanded existing markets. And they rebuilt a successful company that could go toe-to-toe with the best automakers in the world.

Before his arrest, Carlos was looking ahead to the future and making difficult decisions to position Nissan for success in the global economy. In his mind, that meant a merger with Renault, the French auto manufacturer. Little did he know that others were conspiring to keep that from happening — even if that meant that Nissan’s future would likely suffer.

In only a matter of days, President Trump will greet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House. Trade will be front and center. It’s hard to imagine that Trump would be indifferent to a Japanese government ministry interfering in the normal give-and-take of private business decisions by one of its automakers.

I hope and pray that our president will urge Mr. Abe to allow my husband to obtain bail so he can prepare for trial.

I know that a fair and honest trial would show that the charges against my husband were nothing more than baseless attacks inspired by corporate ambitions and fear.

Please, President Trump, please ask Mr. Abe to resolve this injustice.” 

Carole Ghosn

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


The greatest pleasure I derive from meeting auto industry people, is when I discover they are also driven by a passion for cars, design, and relevance to need.

May I introduce Andrew Smith, late of the tiny country town of Gilgandra in western New South Wales, Australia. His childhood was cars, cars, cars – as his father was the Holden dealer in the town. So not only was Andrew born and bred into a car family, it was a Holden family.

No surprise to learn he graduated with a Bachelor of Design degree from Sydney College of Arts, and University of Technology Sydney, and he joined Holden as a design intern in 1990.

In 1992 he was hired to join the VT Commodore program. He then moved on to work on the Holden utility and Sandman panel van.

Appointed Holden Chief Designer for Interiors (2000-2005) he led a variety of programs including work on the VE Commodore, and WH Statesman.

In 2005 he moved to Detroit as Director of Design for Small and Midsize truck interiors. In 2010 he became GM North America Director of Advanced Design.

He moved to GM’s vast Technical Centre in Warren, Michigan to head an Advanced Studio, responsible for trends analysis, future vision and show cars.

There was already an advanced design studio in California, under the direction of Frank Saucedo, but while Andrew’s advanced studio was very connected to GM advanced engineering and R&D, the California studio from its inception was intended to have an alternate viewpoint.

Top to bottom: Ciel, El Miraj, Escala
Frank Saucedo and his team in California were responsible for the Ciel and El Miraj.

Together with input from the Advanced Studio, the Cadillac team focused on three new concepts, which informs the Cadillac brand, from a customer perspective.

The Ciel was referred to as ‘the Journey’; the El Miraj ‘the Drive’; and there was always a plan for a third concept, ‘the Arrival’. That became Escala.

At that point Andrew intercepted the design process to stress that the ‘Arrival’ level, was a project, which he wanted to lead personally, along with his team, and this resulted in the truly beautiful Escala concept.

The Escala was revealed at Pebble Beach in 2016, after being fully designed and completed in the Production studio in Warren.

Complete Cadillac Escala Design Team at Pebble Beach

In 2010 he set up an initiative to establish GM’s Global Architecture Studio, a collaboration between Design, Planning and Advanced Engineering, which coordinated input from global markets, and he oversaw all future global vehicle platform development.

In late 2010 he moved to Seoul as GM Korea Managing Director of Architecture and Advanced design, and was involved in the launch of the Chevrolet brand in South Korea, with the Miray concept car (below).

This rather dry chronological assembly of his career is vital to the role he now plays as Executive Director of Global Design for Cadillac, because it’s his wide spread of experience, especially in advanced technologies and engineering, which is vital to re-establishing Cadillac as a pinnacle brand.

An important element of the Escala interior, says Andrew, is to create a light, bright space, with an emphasis on ‘openess’. There was also an intense focus on materials, resulting in a highly unusual woven cloth, with exposed stitching.
However, in amongst all this forward-looking stuff, current business had to be taken care of, as dealers were suffering from a dramatic fall in visits to Cadillac showrooms by potential customers, lower overall sales, and a need to get something on the road as quickly as possible.

This produced the XT 4 crossover (top); a facelifted the CT6 sedan (bottom), introducing a V series, with a new V8 engine (codenamed Blackwing), at this year’s Detroit Auto Show; then the XT 6 (centre), a slightly larger crossover.

Observant readers will notice the replication of many themes which were introduced on Ciel, El Miraj and Escala, which combine to establish a new design signature for Cadillac.

I recently had the chance to enjoy a long conversation about all of the preceding with Andrew and bemoaned the fact that a brand, which I believe deserves the status of being considered America’s Rolls-Royce (given its magnificent early engineering and technology initiatives), was near death, and what could possibly kick-start a renaissance.

Remaining within confidential limits, Andrew was able to outline a number of product ideas and initiatives, which could reignite passion and interest in Cadillac, but more precisely, he assured me that Cadillac’s future development as a ‘pinnacle’ brand was uppermost in the minds of Mary Barra and Mark Reuss. I figure that pretty much guarantees the GM Board is listening.

This is underscored by the launch in New York this Easter, of the Cadillac CT5 sedan (see preceding post); which is a BIG investment in Cadillac by the GM Board.
Cadillac CT5 Sport
I was disappointed to see Cadillac move back to Detroit from New York, fearing it would once again just become of ‘division’ of the giant corporation, but Andrew assures me there is a wealth of talent, ideas and initiatives driving the brand forward.

Whilst the move to New York may have been seen as unnecessary, and a bit of window-dressing, it did have the effect of bringing in a lot of young marketing innovators and brand motivators, not keen to live in Detroit.

However, as I said before, if you want to jump on board the train full of enthusiasm for the future of Cadillac – spend 30 minutes on the phone with Andrew Smith, then you’ll be as optimistic as I am that Cadillac can and will survive.


This week in New York Cadillac launched a new ‘car’ called the CT5, which will come in three versions – a 2.0L in-line 4cyl. with twin-scroll turbocharging; plus Premium and Sport versions which use a twin-turbo 3.0L V6. Transmission is GM’s own 10-speed automatic.

The CT5 will come with all the technology bells-n-whistles, including Super Cruise, which is a world-first for Cadillac providing the first true hands-free driver assistance for limited-access freeways.

Andrew Smith, executive director of global Cadillac design said: “The design is a fastback profile inspired by the Escala concept, the first-ever CT5 charts a new direction for Cadillac sedan design that leverages the natural proportional advantage of the vehicle’s rear-drive platform to communicate power, presence and performance. 

“From every angle, the CT5 exudes athleticism, sophistication and confidence,” said Andrew Smith. “Cadillac’s signature hard-edge cues have evolved to a more sculptural and fluid expression of the brand’s design language.” 

“A long, 116-inch wheelbase (2,947 mm) and lengthened side glass accentuate the car’s long, low proportion and sweeping fastback profile. Body sculpturing, including taut character lines, contributes to the car’s strong stance and speaks to Cadillac’s legacy of craftsmanship and technology.”

Evolutionary enhancements of the front and rear suspensions, including Cadillac’s signature double-pivot MacPherson-type front suspension, are designed to improve road isolation and driver feedback. At the rear, a five-link independent suspension contributes to the car’s excellent feeling of control. 
Additional chassis and driving dynamics features:
·     Standard Bosch premium electric, rack-mounted power steering system. 
·     Capable, confident and precise eBoost brakes.
·     Brembo front brakes are standard on the Sport model.
·     Standard ZF MVS passive dampers.
·     All-wheel drive is available on all models.
The launch of the CT5 is not so much about technology, although it’s not short of features compared to its competitors, but it’s the fact that GM has invested ‘big-time’ in an all-new ‘car’, as opposed to SUVs.

It remains to be seen if GM has the committment, willpower and energy to really ‘push’ the CT5 into the crowded premium car sector, to ensure it remains viably competitive. I think this is a good-looking car, which deserves to succeed.

Sunday, April 14, 2019


This is a story about confidence and confusion, and the star of the story is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV.

Rolls-Royce is super-confident, because the Cullinan confirms that any product built under this historic and iconic brand name would fulfill its intended purpose with reliability and deliver a unique experience.

The confusion element comes with the surprise of finding out just how competent the Cullinan is when off-road. Are you sure THIS is a Rolls-Royce?

After Bentley Motors made the headlines with the breathtakingly beautiful Bentayga SUV, Rolls-Royce moved its SUV program up the priority list.

Okay, so there are now two major players in the highest possible end of the SUV spectrum, and they are both not only competent, but they deliver on all of the brand values for which these two marques are famous.

I’m not sure what Henry Royce would think about his startup company producing an SUV, but after several miles behind the wheel, I think he’d be pretty impressed.

In marketing terms however, Rolls-Royce has gone in a different direction than its former stablemate.

Whilst VWAG demanded Bentley Motors churn out as many Bentaygas as it could, to maximize profits and ROI - Rolls-Royce went in the opposite direction, limiting production numbers to ‘control’ availability and maximize demand.

Its marketing strategy has been to basically sell the Cullinan on a person-to-person basis, cultivating each individual prospect - whilst also suggesting to these well-heeled buyers that they customize their Cullinan with a load of bespoke features – which really does boost profits and ROI.

As you can imagine, there isn’t a fleet of Cullinan press test cars on the ground in Australia.

However, on a recent trip to Britain, my good mate Paul Gover visited the Rolls-Royce factory at Goodwood, and spent sufficient miles behind the wheel to illuminate the Cullinan conundrum for DRIVING & LIFE.

Over to you Paul ….

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is an off-roader in the same way that I’m a marathon runner.

It’s completely possible, but totally unlikely.

The closest I come to off-roading during a day with the Cullinan is while navigating a stoney gravel track and then climbing a couple of greasy grassy slopes in search of photographic locations. It handles both tasks without taking anything approaching a deep breath, totally justifying its SUV tag in the process.

There is a little mud splash down the sides, but not enough to worry the photographer, or the clean-up team at R-R headquarters at Goodwood, just over an hour’s drive south-west of London. “It’s supposed to look like that,” says one of the handover team.

But the Cullinan is not an SUV, or an off-roader, despite what Rolls-Royce says, and what its owners are buying into. It’s a 21st century luxury limousine, for the people who believe that a giant high-riding box is the best way to get their full serving of the upscale lifestyle that comes when you have more than AUD$685,000 to spend on something special.

For now, the only direct rival to the Cullinan is the good-looking and brutally quick Bentley Bentayga.

It's likely to stay that way, too, as the British brands make the best ultra-luxury limousines on the planet, and their SUVs occupy the same space.

The Bentayga (below) is significantly more sporty than the Cullinan, but the Rolls-Royce stands out like Big Ben on British roads.

It’s a full-frontal assault that makes very minor concessions to design, although it’s nicer from the side and effective in the rear.

Like every Rolls-Royce, but especially the Phantom flagship, what you see - and touch - is what you get in the Cullinan. The leather is soft and cosseting, the carpet is deep-pile plush, and everything that looks metal is metal.

Rolls-Royce is owned by BMW Group, and has been since 2001 when the Phantom was the company’s sole model, which means a lot of the operating systems - including iDrive – are from the BMW family and easy to use.

But the difference comes when you waft onto the road.

The Cullinan takes a bit of stirring from rest, but once it’s rolling it feels unstoppably solid and massively refined.

The steering is light and it moves around a bit on the suspension, but that’s exactly what I expect. It’s huge but shrinks around me, like the best cars.

On a free-flowing motorway run it is magnificent, so-so-so quiet and refined. It would crush a Sydney to Melbourne dash, even at our ridiculous and over-enforced speed limits.

When Rolls-Royce decided it needed an SUV there were plenty of people who wondered if it was the right move. But look around Goodwood, where there are temporary workshops to handle the growing demand, or check the order books, and it’s obvious that even the world’s most storied makers have to bow to (ultra-rich) people power.

Even Ferrari has recently confirmed that it will put an SUV into its fast car family.

The Cullinan is like nothing else I have driven, and that’s exactly as it should be. My road test car has a four-seater cabin with a glass panel to the boot - to mute the hounds? - and electric folding picnic tables and twin rear infotainment screens.

Coming soon to the boot, which is comfy enough for an impromptu picnic, are a range of special packages for everyone from champagne enthusiasts to shooters and fans of all the other upper-crust pursuits.

Flemington during Melbourne Cup week?

Why not? What could be better?

Friday, April 12, 2019


After 40 years in the car business I have been very fortunate to drive in different countries, different terrains, and in a wide variety of cars, from humble hatchbacks, to SUVs and Supercars.

At the request of an Australian publisher and encouragement from my close friend, Paul Gover, I have written a book, called ‘BEST DRIVES’ and it will be published this coming October by New Holland Publishing.

I was limited to just 30 BEST DRIVES, but we managed to sneak in one extra story. However, one did not make the cut, so I’m pleased to share it with you now.

It began with a Ryanair flight from London Stansted to the small regional airport at Knock, in Ireland.

Now, a sidenote: Ryanair only allows you to check 16kg of baggage for free, so if you have just stepped off a regular international flight, where your Economy Class baggage allowance is 23kg, then you are going to pay dearly for those extra 7kg.

That’s because, at the time of our flight (2009), it was £5.00 per extra kilogram. We were already pre-warned about this, so we travelled with suitcases weighing exactly 16kg.

The flight from Stansted to Knock takes about 90 minutes on a BA146 jet.

We alighted to meet our ‘mystery’ rental car. It was a mystery because you have to take what the rental company gives you – there are no second choices. In our case it was an Opel Astra.

Our vacation route was very simple. We planned to have lunch in Donegal (113km north of Knock), and then drive circuitously to the airport at Shannon, over four days, to return to London.
Donegal Castle

After lunch, and a wander through the town and the region, we departed Donegal for the 165km drive to Westport, pausing in the village of Enniscrone to take a tour of the well-maintained Enniscrone Castle.

According to Google Maps it should take about 2.25 hours, but we made it last all day.

Lough Conn
The inland and coastal scenery is spectacular. You must stop, and just take it in.

One of the most amazing things about Irish roads, are the number of narrow, bitumen roads assigned a speed limit of 100km/h – believe me, when you meet a local travelling towards you at 100km/h – it’s scary!

Also among the locals are a lot of pedestrian sheep - you have been warned!

Westport has a great range of pubs and restaurants, but we settled for fish’n’chips at Matt Molloys’ pub, which had a jovial and welcoming atmosphere.

Our next overnight was in Galway, a short 100km, and just 1.75 hour’s drive, but once again, with stops for interesting scenery we made it last almost a day. 

The countryside is dotted with Rhododendrons, which is a great contrast against the verdant green hillsides

We had lunch at O’Dowd’s seafood bar in Roundstone, along the way. Our view of the harbour revealed peace and calm, but the locals told us Atlantic storms batter the breakwater, relentessly.

We sidetracked to the magnificent Kylemore Abbey, on the edge of the Connemara National Park.

It is a magnificent edifice, with a great history.

We then took the 75km drive to the coastal town of Lahinch, which has four, fabulous, Grade 1 golf courses, and one of the most famous tidal changes in Ireland, and I present the photographic evidence below.
Lahinch, despite its famous golfing attractions, is a tiny town, so once again we ended up in the pub for dinner, which was a magnificent presentation for a humble corner pub.

Next day we took the short, 20km drive south from Lahinch to the Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most famous spectacles.

The coastline is spectacular – rough, rugged and pounded by the North Atlantic Ocean.

From there we headed for our overnight B’n’B in the village of Ennis. It was a typical village, with more pubs than restaurants, so needless to say we ended up having dinner in Dan O’Connel’s Bar in Abbey Street.

After a lazy start, and a welcome sleep-in, next day was an easy 40-minute drive to Shannon airport to drop off the rental car and catch our flight to Gatwick.

Strangely, no-one checked our passports in Shannon, and no-one checked our passports at Gatwick. I’m sure those border checks are now more stringent.

However, in retrospect, I am sure you could easily take a week or two to really ‘discover’ the Republic of Ireland. It’s beautiful, with a great history, and many more places to visit than we did over just four days. Ireland is the size of a postage stamp, so it’s not hard to capture all of its beauty in two weeks.

The Burren

Not only that, the beer is great, and the fish’n’chips are fabulous.

The people are fun too, although sometimes a bit on the boisterous side when they’ve downed a few too many Guinness’s.

As I've said, the locals are very friendly - this fellow planted his front paw firmly on my wife's foot to ensure she didn't stop patting and leave.

Ireland is a great place to amble and discover its fascinating history. Great scenery, ruined castles and not much traffic.

In fact as vacations go, it's an ambler's paradise.