Sunday, September 26, 2021


Hitting the spotlight in its home town, BMW revealed a truly innovative attempt to make an EV completely out of recycled materials, and wait, there’s more – the car itself is 100% recyclable!

The BMW i Vision Circular EV may be a bit of a mouthful, but the guiding philosophy is succinct and from the results, also entirely straightforward. The plan is to ensure materials are completely re-used, rather than discarded.


The design for the city car is striking both inside and out, and whilst the concept car is not a ‘runner’, there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t be. Despite the adventurous aims, there’s a lot of current high-tech mixed with sustainable practices.

Many interior components can be printed by 3D printers, because 3D printing results in less wastage. Whatever waste is left, can also be put back into the manufacturing process as raw material.

BMW is also partnering with companies like BASF and ALBA Group to incorporate recycled plastics. The batteries are solid state cells produced by recycling battery materials, and BMW says it uses no rare earth metals in the powertrain.

Despite the ‘new kidney’ grille being lampooned all over the world, the i Vision Circular is daring, good-looking and loaded with new thinking.

Well done BMW, the company is truly showing leadership in a field not currently being talked about by any other car maker.


Friday, September 24, 2021


It’s necessary to divide Lamborghini’s history into the pre-Audi era and the post-Audi era.


In 1998, the same year which VW Group acquired Bentley Motors, the Group also acquired Lamborghini from the Indonesian company, Megatech, for USD$110 million. Up to this point Lamborghini had enjoyed what news journalists refer to as a ‘colourful history’


Its ownership had changed from the founder, Ferruccio Lamborghini, who in 1963, wanted to compete with Ferrari, to a number of owners, but ultimately ended in bankruptcy in 1978. 

Chrysler Corporation took ownership in 1978, but sold it off to Megatech in 1994. 

None of the new owners made any substantial changes to the company, and by 1998 it was barely able to operate, such were its debt levels.


This also ended an era where the company’s cars were designed by a phalanx of illustrious Italian designers including Giugiaro, Gandini, Bertone and Zagato. Whilst the cars which they produced were stupendous design statements – the Marzal, Bravo, Athon, Portofino, Cala and Raptor. All they managed to do was keep the name alive, not contribute the much-needed financial aid necessary to maintain any sort of profitability.


In 2006 designer Walter de Silva delivered the retro-flavoured Lamborghini Miura concept car, but it would never reach production.

Audi appointed Stephan Winkleman as Lamborghini CEO, but even after he joined de Silva at the unveiling he later vowed that Lamborghini was all about the future and that it would create a new design language.


This was the point when Audi put its stamp on, and exerted a level of strict control over the Italian supercar maker. In 1999 Lamborghini sold a total of 265 cars; in 2019 sales topped 8500.


However, the design component of post-Audi Lamborghinis has revealed a level of ‘family values’ which is a quite an interesting study of how VW Group Design works and the cross-pollination of not only design themes, but the people who create the design statements.


It also validates the competence of the designers VW Group has hired to work across its many brands. In no way has it diluted any brand values (from Seat to Bugatti), because each designer appears to have been able to recognize and sustain the various design DNAs, and retain the ‘character’ of each marque. Which in the homogeneous environment of the car industry is no mean feat.

The rebirth of Lamborghini’s image as a supercar maker began with the Murciélago designed by a young Belgian called Luc Donckerwolke. 
He had joined VW Group in 1992, after two years with Peugeot. He moved through Skoda and Audi, before being appointed to Lamborghini in 1998; then a spell at Seat, after which he settled back at Lamborghini producing the Diablo VT 6.0; the Murciélago and then the Gallardo in 2004.

Lamborghini brought the Gallardo to Monterey in 2005, starring at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Lamborghini’s head of marketing at that time was my friend Manfred Fitzgerald (right).

We were representing our brands (Lamborghini and Bentley) at a number of events, and one morning Manfred said: “Could you swap me a Continental GT coupe for a Gallardo for a couple of hours?” Who could say no?


I took the bright yellow Gallardo down the Pacific Coast Highway for an hour, before stopping for coffee, and then returning to Carmel.

What a brilliant car! This was to become known as the ‘baby’ Lamborghini and would ultimately become Lamborghini’s best-selling model.


However, I would not realise for some years the bonds which had been formed between Manfred and Luc. In 2012, Luc was appointed to Head of Design for Bentley Motors, where he produced the production version of the Bentayga SUV.


At Lamborghini, Audi had appointed Fillipo Perini as Head of Design and his first project was the Aventador, then the Huracan, which everyone identified as the replacement for the Gallardo. Perini also developed the original concept for the Urus SUV.

There is no doubt that Huracan has captured the attention of millions of Lamborghini, and sports car enthusiasts worldwide. Its form appears to be a beautiful re-working of the themes and styling cues from the Gallardo, but it has its own personality.

Perini has said he is not only interested in design, but also how the ‘whole car’ comes together, from a performance and driveability perspective. He and the whole Huracan team have achieved a perfect result. From the moment I slipped into the driver’s seat the Huracan revealed an instant appeal to me as a driver, an enthusiast, and (surprisingly) as a pragmatist.

I believe the Lamborghini Huracan is almost the ‘perfect’ supercar. That statement will no doubt invite many detractors, but the car you see here, the Huracan EVO Fluro capsule, in Verde Shock is not just a great car, it’s a fantastic driving experience.

Given my own experiences working for Bentley, within the VW Group, I wholeheartedly applaud the decision to place Lamborghini under Audi’s protective guidance. It has brought discipline to every area – design, creativity, production engineering, build quality, finishes and of course performance.


Lamborghini has not only survived, but thrived with German management and commitment. The 5.0L V10 developed by Audi is a sweet engine, and anyone who drives this car will notice something immediately. It is quiet, comfortable, and so easy to pedal around cities and burbs.


You’ll get around AUD$1300 change out of half a million dollars, to put towards the on-road costs, but I think this is one supercar you’ll have in your garage for quite a while.

Now, about connecting the design dots. A few years ago VW Group acquired Giorgetto Giugiaro’s company ItalDesign, and has placed it under Audi management – Fillipo Perini now runs ItalDesign.


Perini has been replaced at Lamborghini Centro Stile by German designer Mitja Borkert (below). Borkert joined VW Group in 1999, working at Style Porsche (where he contributed to the Panamera Sport Turismo, Porsche Boxster 987 facelift, Cayenne, Macan and Mission e).

Luc Donckerwolke moved from VW Group to Hyundai in 2015 to lead the creation of the Genesis brand. Manfred Fitzgerald followed shortly after, and for a brief time he was Head of Marketing for Genesis, before moving on to his own marketing consultancy.

Luc has recently been appointed Head of Hyundai Design, as well as Chief Commercial Officer for Genesis.

Isn’t it amazing how these guys remain within the tight little community created at Volkswagen? It’s also a tribute to their collective talents that they have each brought wonderful creativity to the brands they were involved in.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021


My personal links to Lamborghini date back to 1976 and I am being led across a quiet courtyard garden to a silver grey Urraco. I am introduced to Stefano Moccelli, a works engineer, who will be my guide, co-pilot and navigator for the next hour or so.

We crank up the 2.4L V8, and slowly wind our way out of the factory to the Via Pedicello and onto the Via Modena. Stefano speaks limited English, but shows me a map of our intended route, from Sant’Agata Bolognese to Ravarino, Camposanto, Carpi, then south on the A22 autostrada, back to the factory on the E45, passing Castelfranco Emilia finishing where we began.


Let’s be clear, this is not a road test. First there are really no suitable roads to let a raging bull off its leash, just a few back roads among farmland and industrial sites, with a couple of quick blasts on the autostrada. Second, this is clearly a favour for the travelling Aussie who telexed the factory PR guy six weeks ago to ask if there was a possibility of driving a (any) Lamborghini press cars?


I’m grateful to be among a truly dedicated bunch of sports car engineers and constructors. We start with a doppio espresso and pastries, a brief tour of the final assembly line and then outside to the car. All that took about 25 minutes. That’s all the PR team could pull together for someone parachuting in from the Antipodes on a specific day.


The Urraco came from the pen of Marcello Gandini when he was chief stylist for Gruppo Bertone and was unveiled at the 1970 Turin Auto Show.

It wasn’t intended as a balls’n’all Lambo. To begin with it was marginally cheaper (let’s say more affordable), and was a 2+2, and over the seven years of production Lamborghini sold 771 cars.


The only notable highlight of my drive occurred on the A22. We were virtually alone on a stretch of the autostrada and Stefano urged me to step on the gas and experience the speed of a real Italian thoroughbred.

We were soon flying along close to 180km/h and suddenly in front of us is an Alfa Romeo Alfetta from the Polizia Stradale, which had pulled over a seriously overloaded farm truck with its tall load teetering on the brink of falling onto the road.


I planned to immediately slow down, but Stefano urged me on at the same speed, and soon we were flashing past the two policemen, who, on hearing the high-speed approach turned, saw the Lambo approaching at speed, and as we drew level they threw up their arms and waved encouragement!


Stefano explained later that such humble local highway patrol cops would never stop a speeding Lambo, because it could be owned by a Magistrato, a Millionaire Magnate, or a member of the Mafia – and after all, aren’t high speed sports cars supposed to go fast!

Despite not having the right roads to really enjoy the Urraco, it was an exhilarating 90 minutes, and Stefano and I got along very well. We had a coffee and panini at the café outside the factory gates, and he drove me to the station in Modena for a train back to Milano.

I was too busy driving to take any photos, so these are lifted from the Lamborghini press kit.

John Crawford

Monday, September 20, 2021


As Jaguar Cars marked the 60th anniversary of the debut of the famous E-type by gathering the three ‘launch cars’ at Wappenbury Hall, the home of Jaguar founder, Sir William Lyons, it's always interesting to look back over Jaguar's long history.

Of all the modern cars, this Jaguar changed the image of the company overnight. Yes, there had been sleek and aerodynamic Jaguar sports cars which preceded it – the C-type, D-type and the XK-120 - but since the world saw the E-type for the first time it has remained in our collective memories as the great new performance car from a company already steeped in legend and racing victories.


Celebrations of various Jaguar milestones, since the E-type in 1961 have included rallies, race meetings and many commemorative events, which have ensured a strong residual affection for Jaguar among ‘car people’ worldwide.


My good friend Roger Putnam, formerly Jaguar’s Director of Sales & Marketing , participated in one such event, which I have asked him to recall:



Almost exactly 20 years ago The Jaguar Trust, which I chaired at the time, held the Sir William Lyons Centenary Rally based in Blackpool and the surrounding area in North-West England.


Jaguar developed from Lyons’ original company which manufactured motorcycle sidecars which he called ’Swallow Sidecars’ (a possible clue to the name of the original saloon cars which were called SS). That name dropped out of favour in the late 30’s for obvious reasons and Jaguar was born. Another suggestion for SS is ’Standard Swallow’, as the first cars were all based on Standard Motors chassis.


The Centennial Rally attracted many Jaguar enthusiasts and was based at an imposing Edwardian edifice on the sea front, which rejoiced in the name of the Imperial Hotel. It had been renovated, but was still a little shabby and I would not have liked to stand next to the huge windows which overlooked the sea during a winter storm!


Blackpool was the place to go for summer holidays between the 30’s through to the 60’s, but is now a shadow of its former self.

It even has an ‘Eiffel’ like tower over the ‘Palace Ballrooms’, which had hosted most of the greatest comedians and vaudeville players in the UK at one time or another. Now the High Street is populated with charity shops and is devoid of the standard chain stores.


We had dinner at ’The Pleasure Gardens’ (the mind boggles) and were taken there by tram. One of our number got rather drunk and obnoxious so we forgot to wake him on the tram ride back and he finished up in Fleetwood further up the coast, an hour later.


We spent two days driving around the North west including Liverpool, the Wirral and Aintree race circuit in a collection of historic Jaguars.

My wife and I were lucky enough to drive one of the three 1961 launch E Types - 77 RW, the Drophead.

I have to admit that driving it without assisted brakes or steering and an extremely heavy clutch for two days was a test of stamina! It was a joy to get back into my XJ V8 when the Rally ended. 


One of the strongest memories of my days at Jaguar was the huge enthusiasm Jaguar owners have for their cars, and the great affection people all over the world had for the marque.



Sunday, September 19, 2021


Aston Martin chairman and F1 team owner, Lawrence Stroll, has announced a brand new facility for the Aston Martin Cognizent F1 team located next door to the Silverstone race circuit.

It will be a brand new headquarters for the team covering 37,000 square feet, and apparently costing 230 million Euros, includes the latest and most innovative technical systems, plus a new wind tunnel.

Given that Aston Martin's fortunes are still in the dumpster, thanks to slow sales and discounting to move old stock, one has to wonder where Lawrence's secret tree is located.

No-one can argue that an investment like this will be needed if the F1 team is to move from the middle of the pack, to challenge the Big Three, but in addition to the financial contributions by Aston Martin's owners, just to keep it going, this is a huge downpayment on the 'possible' improvements in the F1 team's future performance.

John Crawford

Monday, September 13, 2021


It's the first time we've seen 'The Shooey' since 2018, and not just a Daniel Ricciardo victory for McLaren, but a one-two with teammate Lando Norris shadowing Danny across the line.

Of course the BIG news out of Monza was 'that prang'! Martin Brundle's first reaction was that Verstappen had done nothing wrong, but when it comes to pig-headed determination I'd suggest it was probably Verstappen who caused the coming together with Hamilton.

It seems the stewards also saw Max as the man who caused the prang, handing him a three-place grid drop for the Sochi GP.

Starting from the front row, Ricciardo was ideally positioned to do well in Italy, and I think it's a tribute to his consummate skill, determination and patience that he can blend will to win, with excellent strategic decisions to pull off a welcome win.

John Crawford

Wednesday, September 8, 2021


Volkswagen Group, under the direction of Ferdinand Piëch, became the leader in platform sharing and modular vehicle architecture. Today nobody is surprised that so many of all VWAG’s models feature common platforms, common power trains, common electronics and unashamedly have familial relationships.

It doesn’t matter which stable they’re from - VW, Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti - there are bits’n’bobs common to all of these famous brands, and from its position as the world’s second biggest carmaker, it hasn’t hurt the Group, or any members of the family.

When VWAG acquired Skoda, it was close to being an automotive basket case. It lacked vision, infrastructure, a prominent status in the automotive world ‘outside’ the Czech Republic (or, Czechoslovakia, as it was then), and more than anything it didn’t sell enough vehicles to properly fund its future.

Concurrent with taking over Skoda, VW was well into its stride with the whole platform-sharing regime, and Skoda’s future would be assured because of it. Come to think of it, Piëch’s vision ensured the same rosy futures for Seat, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti. VW breathed fresh life into some of the world’s best-known brands, and built its future as a carmaker on making all these marques successful.


However, let’s get to today’s story. The 2021 Octavia RS started life as do all cars - in the design studio, and the first sketches revealed a sharper, less fussy look for the brand's most popular model.

After I’ve pushed the Start/Stop button on the steering column of the 2021 Skoda Octavia RS wagon, and travelled less than 100 metres down the road I’m almost convinced that this car is powered by Subaru’s Boxer engine. The engine note emanating from under the hood is decidedly ‘burbly’, and a strange noise, compared to other Group family members.


When I stop and lift the hood, there’s no giveaway as to what’s under the usual ‘plastic hat’ over the engine.

However, craning my neck to see 'under the hat', I’m sure I can identify a ‘tuned’ branch exhaust manifold which is responsible for delivering a car with an interesting noise from the front, rather than from the exhaust pipe.


If I was driving a Golf GTi, I guess I would be hearing the same sound, because everything at the business end of the Skoda, is lifted straight out of the Golf GTi’s power train specification. A 2.0L turbo four, mated to a very smooth dual-clutch transmission is what you’ll get when you drive a Golf 8 GTi.

So, let’s celebrate Piëch’s imagination. In this instance you get a Golf GTi for (slightly) less money, loads of practicality, sharp external styling, superb materials and interior design and finish, and a car which from my perspective makes much more sense as a family mover than some high-riding, overweight, thirsty and top-heavy SUV.


Okay, you say, it’s got a Golf GTi heart, but is it sporty? Answer, yes, very much so. This is one of the most enjoyable station wagons I’ve ever driven. There are cheaper, more domesticated Octavias, but this RS variant is the car I would choose.

Along with the ‘boxer burble’ you get tenacious grip, predictable and controllable handling when you’re travelling faster than you should be, and on top of all that fun - you get a truly practical family car, hiding under the sporty badges.

I have only one complaint about vehicle dynamics, and it’s a Yin-Yang situation concerning the tyres. They are Bridgestone Potenzas. They’re very grippy, and contribute to the car’s excellent handling, but sadly, when you’re driving on concrete-paved freeways they set up a truly unpleasant harmonic noise at a frequency and pitch that’s destined to have you calling for earplugs. On hot-mix bitumen, the noise disappears completely.


And, just in case you think the guy writing this has got the comparison all wrong, let me throw some numbers at you.


Wheelbase: Golf 2636mm; Octavia 2636mm. Front track: Golf 1535mm; Octavia 1539mm. Rear track: Golf 1512mm; Octavia 1530mm. Overall length: Golf (wagon) 4633mm; Octavia 4689mm. Sorta close, right? The differences in the rear track and overall length accommodate some of the practicality of the Octavia versus the Golf wagon.

Yep, this is automotive conjuring at its best.


For me the Skoda Octavia RS wagon is a skilfully-resolved example of automotive architecture. It’s stylish, beautifully finished, smartly equipped and satisfying to drive. Best of all - it’s not an SUV.


I was really impressed with the design and treatment of the instrument panel. Sure there are a couple of slashes of fake carbon-fibre, but a large part of the sweep in front of you is covered in a tasteful, understated suede-like cloth, with not just red stitching, but a strip of red LED light across the passenger side of the cockpit.

Mind you, as sales have improved, prices have escalated. Not by outrageous amounts, but in the end, you’re getting what you paid for - a quality European vehicle with impeccable breeding, and you won’t have to mortgage the house to buy it.


The current status of Skoda in the Australian market seems to be right where the company expects, given the volatility caused worldwide by COVID. In fact predicting sales  and market share improvements, at this point is futile.

Skoda Australia’s CEO, Michael Irmer says he would like to see sales reach 10,000 units a year, but at this stage it’s a goal, and Skoda has enjoyed a relatively stable market share last year and through most of this year at just below 1% of the market.


The company sold 7000 vehicles in 2019, a number which fell 5.6% in 2020 – but COVID notwithstanding 10,000 vehicles does not seem, to me, to be an unreachable target when both selling conditions and supply chains improve.


Also, whilst a one percent share may not sound like a healthy result, Skoda is attracting a particular type of buyer, according to Irmer. They are buyers who want a European car, with European performance and finish, but, he says, they are not expecting to pay bargain basement prices. This suits the Skoda strategy - to take value from the leverage it gets from using common VW Group platforms, powertrains and parts, but still managing to hold the line on prices.


According to Michael Irmer one of the strongest points of appeal has been the introduction of after sales service packs. He says this is perceived as of greater value by buyers than a low purchase price, and this bodes well for maintaining the ‘European Positioning’ element in the Skoda proposition.

Like all VW Group products there's a big move away from actual switchgear and execution of pretty much all functions is via a touchscreen - and that's bloody dangerous. Every time you need to change something (anything), you must take your eyes off the road. Like I said, this move to touchscreens is life-threatening!

This Skoda Octavia RS may not be (in the opinion of some) the greatest car in the world, but it’s clever, and that’s what Skoda is about these days.

Also, it’s still a very proud export from the Czech Republic, employing thousands, and ensuring the Skoda badge remains on the list of historic automotive names which still survive fads, fashions and the ignominy of failure.


Saturday, September 4, 2021


It’s the morning of March 17, 1961, and a clearly impatient Sir Williams Lyons is restlessly roaming around the Jaguar display at the Salon d’Auto in Geneva. It’s a mere 20 minutes before the auto show will open, and there’s a clearly vacant space on the Jaguar stand awaiting the display of a rumoured new sports car.


Suddenly, at a side door of the palais in the Parc des Eaux-Vives, there was considerable shouting, the shifting of a huge entrance door, and the new Jaguar E-Type coupe was driven slowly through and parked next to the Jaguar stand. A rather hypertense Jaguar PR executive, Bob Berry exited the car, and Sir William Lyons rushed to his side. “Good God Berry, I thought you would never arrive!”

Despite the last-minute arrival, which of course only added to the mystique and hyperbole surrounding the appearance of the E-Type, the Geneva Salon had the honour of introducing one of the automotive world’s truly iconic cars.


When asked by journalists of his estimation of the post-launch popularity of the car, Lyons replied, “Well we have quite a few orders from dealers, sight unseen!”


However, once the E-type broke cover it was an instant hit, worldwide. Following the auto salon, the coupe (Registered 9600HP) was to be used by Jaguar sales executives for test drives, however the appointment lists became clearly overbooked, so Lyons called the factory, instructing test driver Norman Dewis to locate the first roadster (Registered 77 RW), and drive overnight to Geneva to stand alongside the coupe for test drives.


Dewis averaged 68mph for the 11-hour journey, delivering the car to the Jaguar team at the Parc des Eaux Vives an hour before the first test drives. Dewis said he would head off for some sleep, but Lofty England (Jaguar’s race and service manager) said: “No time old boy, have a coffee and get ready for the test drives.”


The rest is ‘great history’. At the end of the Geneva Salon, there were more than 500 orders in the book, and over the next 14 years Jaguar sold more than 72,000 E-Types.


Now, for the first time all three of the original E-Types have been gathered together at Wappenbury Hall, Sir William Lyons’ stately manor house, by an enterprising classic car dealer, Pendine Cars, for a memorable photo session, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the car on what would have been Lyons’ 120th birthday, September 3rd. Once the Geneva Press Day was finished, chassis 005 became the static display car.

Left to right: 9600HP; 77RW; Chassis 005 (Photo Jayson Fong)

Sadly, Norman Dewis died in June 2019, but he was reunited with 77RW before his death.

Norman Dewis with 77RW (Photo: Getty Images)

As one of the ‘Keepers of the Legend’ I am very proud to have served as a PR executive for Jaguar Cars for close to 20 years, telling the stories of this fabled company’s rise to global prominence through the vision and determination of its founder, and the many dedicated chief executives who followed in his footsteps.


Wednesday, September 1, 2021


Merely a few weeks after I reported on Vinfast's plans to establish a large base in Australia - it's all over!

The Vietnamese carmaker had acquired the old GM-Holden proving ground at Lang Lang, Victoria, for $30 million, and had taken over Holden's old engineering offices at Port Melbourne, in order to establish a large engineering centre (supported by the proving ground) with former Australian employees of Holden, Ford and Toyota recruited to drive the car company's ambitious plans forward.

It was a grand plan, and would have meant exciting opportunities for Australian engineers working alongside their Vietnamese counterparts, producing an impressive new range of vehicles.

The plan would have seen Australia retain considerable engineering talents, and Vinfast had even suggested that its Australian operation may eventually subcontract engineering services to other carmakers, who would find it desirable to have access to an all-year proving ground, as well as skilled automotive engineers.

Alas, the COVID lockdowns have prevented Vietnamese staff flying in and out of Australia to regularly work on planned projects. Not knowing how long Australia will be in lockdown, Vinfast has announced that it is closing its Port Melbourne operations, and the Lang Lang proving ground is back on the market.

This same lockdown situation however, is likely to affect any immediate sale of the proving ground, as the same limitations Vinfast has outlined, would affect any other buyers.

Yet another set of unintended consequences of the state governments' ridiculous lockdown plans, stopping a possibly thriving business from employing Australians, and helping maintain Australia's already excellent relations with one of Asia's fastest-growing companies.