As the 2020 season is coming to an end for my KITT, I thought I’d make a little clip to recap the topics we’ve covered this year, the friends we’ve made and what you can expect for 2021.
The most visually appealing cars of a motor show are obvisously the premium brands. The automotive industry is going through major shifts these days and will continue to do so for the coming five to ten years. So how are the premium brands holding up? After all, they are the ones that show as the latest in technology that will eventually trickle down to the ‘normal’ everyday cars.
1) Bugatti Chiron – Continuity or Dinosaur
Let’s start with Bugatti. The brand new Chiron is finally out, and I think it looks stunning. Sure, it looks similar to its predecessor, the Veyron, but that’s a good thing. I especially love the C-shaped side that forms a sort of frame from the roof around the door down to the side skirt. The Chiron is an evolution of the Veyron. It still has the massive W16, 8 litre gasoline engine in the back delivering 1’500 hp to all four wheels and it can speed up to 420 km/h. The last iteration of the Veyron, the Super Sport, produced 1’200 hp and got up to a top speed of 415 km/h. So you might say that the difference is not that big.
Yes and no. When Volkswagen Group bought the brand rights of Bugatti cars in 1998, they had to start from scratch: W16 engine, clutch that could endure the massive 1’250 Nm torque, paint, interior design and materials, customer experience and service – everything had to be created and everything was super expensive. As a matter of fact, Bugatti, hence Volkswagen Group, lost money on every single of the 450 Veyron they sold. Naturally, over the years, different version were built. A Veyron Super Sport cost about € 1.65 million and Volkswagen. I couldn’t find official numbers on their losses, but it’s estimated that they lost around € 4 to 5 million on each car they made. That’s insane!
Anyway, back to the new Chiron! This time, Bugatti wants to make profit on it. They want to build 500 of it and sell them for € 2.4 million each. That’s more like it! But look at this: The Veyron was made between 2005 and 2015. Many motoring journalist ended up stating that it was the last hurray of the 20th century type gas guzzling supercar. Now the Chiron is here and it’s basically the same thing in a new dress. Don’t get me wrong, the engineers for sure put a lot of effort in it, but it’s still a conventional fuel powered W16 engine – not electric, not hybrid, not autonomous. Let’s say the planned 500 cars will be sold over the coming ten years, so all the way up to 2026. With the car industry trending towards new modes of propulsions, as well as the fast development of connectivity and autonomous driving, the Chiron will still be an engineering marvel, but also obsolete. It’s like keeping developing the best typewriter ever, while everybody is on laptops already.
2) Porsche – Top Marketing
One of Porsche‘s new presentations was the redesigned Boxster. It’s not called the 981 anymore, but the 718 Boxster. Why? Simply because they ditched to flat 6 boxer engine and replaced it with a flat 4 boxer unit. What a scandal, what a disgrace, how dare they do that?!!! That’s what every hardcore Porsche fan must have thought when they got the news. Let’s face the facts: Everyone needs to adapt to continuously stricter emission rules. At the same time, they new engines produce much more power that the ones they replace:
- 718 Boxster: 300 hp (2l) VS 981 Boxster: 265 hp (2.7l)
- 718 Boxster S: 350 hp (2.5l) VS 981 Boxster S: 315 hp (3.4l)
Isn’t that just insane! Porsche are smart. They usually acknowledge the trends of the industry and find a way to connect it to the past, to make it look like they’re getting even closer to the roots of the respective car. That’s why they renamed it the 718 Boxster. The original 718 was a racing version evolution of the 550. And guess what, it had a flat 4 engine in it as well. The point of this is to trigger the right emotions in the heads of the potential buyers. Although the new engines have more power than the outgoing ones, the reduction of cylinders as well as the smaller displacement could have a negative effect on them. Telling you that it has never been as sporty as that and that it’s now linked to a Porsche legend is what changes everything! Good luck keeping up with the demand, Porsche. 🙂
3) Jaguar – Powerful, more powerful, ridiculously powerful
Jaguar didnt’ bring all that many new models to Geneva. All wheel drive (AWD) in now available across the entire range. The oldest model is the XJ, which got a facelift in 2015. All in all, a very fresh and revatelized brand. Models like the XE and XF will probably sell well, especially the AWD diesel versions. The Sportbrake (estate / station wagon) are not yet out, but they will probably generate even more volume.
The only real new model Jaguar brought to Geneva is the F-Type SVR, available as both, coupé and convertible. It’s the first SVR super sports car of many more to come out of Jaguar Land Rover. The same awesome sounding 5.0l V8 engine we have known for a couple of years now is producing 575 hp, accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 3.7s and getting up to a top speed of 322 km/h. As a matter of fact, Jaguar Land Rover is ditching the “R” models and instead is making extra powerful performace cars in their freshly built Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) facility near Coventry. You can look at it like the AMG division of Mercedes-Benz.
I know the F-Pace had its premiere last year in Frankfurt, but because it’s Jaguar’s first ever SUV and because they normally have Land Rover within the same group to focus on SUVs only, this is a big step for Jaguar. No car manufacturer who wants to sell big numbers can afford not to have an SUV in its model range. I’m not a fan of SUVs althogether. Granted, there are a few I’m okay with, like the Range Rover, but only because it started life as a real off road vehicle and it still can. People don’t necessarily want an SUV because they want to drive in the mud, they just want to sit a bit higher than in a sedan and be able to get in and out more easily. Mayby we’ll all drive SUVs only in the near future – or should I say we will let ourselves drive by our autonomous capsules. 🙂
4) Aston Martin – Genesis of a new design language
Aston Martin, a byword for James Bond – British Secret Service, gentlemen, refined GT cars. With the launch of the DB9 in 2004, Aston Martin had finally gotten rid of the old school image of the DB7 and all new, modern era was heralded. Over the years, the entire model range was updated and all of the Aston Martin cars were given the new face. Time moved on and that new face became middle aged itself. Now, with the brand new DB9 successor, the DB11, Aston Martin has found its new design language! I know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I’ll simply let you judge by yourself. Check out the DB11 in the video below.
5) Tesla – Gimme more models
Tesla Motors started its life with the Roadster, which was based on the Lotus Elise S2. Then in 2012, the first 100% Tesla developed car was delivered. Worldwide expansion of Importers, dealers and most importantly, Supercharger stations has grown significantly. And now that all the early adapters have put their hands on a Model S, it is time for Tesla to move up and expand their model range. Now we also have the much anticipated SUV called the Model X. Although retail customers had to wait until late 2015 instead of 2014, the X with its gullwing back doors is now here. The car that will probably make Tesla Motors profitable in the mid term is the hugely anticipated Model 3, which is a 20% smaller sedan than the Model S. It will be unveiled on 31 March 2016 and deliveries are scheduled to start in late 2017.
Tesla is without a doubt the symbol of the car industry of the future, with the exception that they are already here! Electric, connected, autonomous, self updating, almost maintenance free cars. The automobile industry is going through a massive paradigm shift and the small company of Palo Alto California, which ten years ago was almost nowhere, is pushing hard to lead the next evolution of personal transport.
I’ve been going to the Geneva Motor Show for almost as long as I know that I have a passion for cars. This year, though, was special. As mentioned in the first part, the last couple of shows did feel as exciting to me as they used to. This year however, I felt as though many car companies had risen from the ashes like a phoenix. Let’s take a look at a few of them
1) Volvo – Back to Krisprolls
Volvo had a huge, spacious stand, presenting the well known V40, their still very recent and second generation SUV XC90 and finally the much anticipated big S90 (sedan/saloon) and it’s estate version the V90. Never ever in over fifteen years of auto show visiting did I have any desire to explore the Volvo stand. This time, the S90 was the one that took my breath away. Like the XC90, it’s build according to the same clear cut and yet fluent and so typically Volvo design language. The inside, with it’s slim yet comfortable seats is a beautiful thing to be in. I admit, the quality of the interior buttons might not be quite at the top of what the industry has to offer, but it is very good.
Honestly, when the Chinese Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd bought Volvo from Ford in 2009, I didn’t have very much hope for the iconic Swedish car maker. First of all, because the market was already very competitive and second of all, I was afraid that the Chinese wouldn’t keep the essence of what makes a Volvo quentessentially Volvo: their classic simple design combined with the highest safety standards. Strictly speaking, Volvo is pushing very hard to bring their autonomous driving system to the market. In 2017 (yes, that’s very soon!!), they are going to put 100 self driving cars on the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden to test their self driving system in real life conditions. Now that sounds all promising and exciting. I say let’s meet again in a year and check the system out. If the quality of the car and it’s electronic systems prove to be reliable and durable, Volvo just might be at the start of a big roll!
2) PSA – Back in the Race
PSA Peugeot Citroën have come a long way and are now showing clear signs of recovery after the crisis years of the early 2010’s. Carlos Tavares, the Chairman of the Managing Board since March 2014 has been working hard on pushing his “Back in the Race” program to make PSA financially fit again, built up DS as a standalone premium brand and differentiate the brand positioning clearly between Peugeot, Citroën and DS.
I admit, having grown up around Peugeot and Citroën cars, I tend to be a bit subjective about this group and am pleased to see they are showing clear signs of recovery. PSA’s 2015 annual report says that they made a group loss of € 555 mio by the end of 2014. Only one year later they had achieved a profit of € 1’202 mio. This is amazing. Tavares himself announced on an interview in February on the French radio channel RTL that PSA is now completely debt free and that they were giving their French workforce an extra bonus of around € 2’000 per employee.
This is a nice gesture and a sign of relieve for the entire group. However, the hard work isn’t over yet. The crucial thing for them to succeed will be keep the momentum and continue working just as hard on their three brands and invest in future technologies and market trends.
In short, Peugeot has rejuvenated its model range. During the press conference Peugeot’s CEO Maxime Picat announced that they would be presenting four more SUVs for the global market. Connectivity and electrification via hybrid models will be other major investment area for the coming years. I was glad to get the confirmation for a road going version of the 308 R Hybrid concept. It is based on the 308 GTi and enhanced with two electric motors of each 115 hp, producing a total of 500 hp.
When it comes to Citroën’s future model range, they still keep their cards pretty close to their chest. Of course, they presented the all new electric E-Méhari, which they developed together with conglomerate Bolloré. All we know for sure is that they will continue to bring new models that follow the “Créative Technologie” spirit of the successful C4 Cactus; cars who simply make you feel good. The brand new C3 is set to be presented at the Paris Motor Show this september. I’m hoping to see a road going version of the Aircross concept next year and am curious to see what they will come up to replace the aging C4 and C5. Citroën’s hydropneumatic suspension is set to retire together with the C5 but Citroën CEO Linda Jackson has already announced a brand new revolutionary suspension technology for 2017.
Finally, DS is the little and young brand that has yet to prove what it’s made of. They just finished restyling the existing model range: The little hot hatch DS 3 has recently lost its Chevron and adopted the “DS Wings” front, as well as the same interior updates as the DS 4 & 5 regarding touch screen and Mirror Link / Car Play smartphone connectivity. The entire range does however start to show it’s age, although it isn’t really that old. The DS 3 & 4 were launched in 2010, followed by the DS 5 in 2011. The mentioned facelifts have also given them new engines and gearboxes. Nevertheless, I can’t wait what they have planned to bring in the future as DS’ CEO Yves Bonnefont announced during the DS press conference that the range will be made out of six globally sold cars by the end of 2020. The clock is ticking!
I do however have high hopes for the brand. The stunning all electric E-Tense concept car they presented almost looks like it could be mass produced as is. Obviously, they will probably focus on SUVs, hatchbacks and saloons/sedans first, but the important things we have to see here are the technology elements that should be carried over to the production cars. I believe that the early involvement in the young but steadily more popular Formula E with the DS Virgin Racing Team is a statement in the right direction.
3) Opel – Love your car
Opel is a car brand I usually don’t follow with much interest. But as I was walking through their stand I thought that their entire model range looked really good! The Insignia has been with us since 2008 and slightly redesigned in 2013. The brand new generation is bound to hit the roads in late 2017. The current model still looks up to date, though. So does the rest of the range: The Astra, it’s topless sister Cascada, the Adam and it’s even smaller brother Karl – a blend of fresh and colorfol models. Sure, there fit and finish is not best in class but is good and you know what? They present themselves as what they are: A mass producer of cars for the middle class, without pretending to be a Rolls Royce competitor.
Furthermore, the Opel GT concept is probably one of the highlights to remember from this year’s Geneva Motor Show: Small, simple, elegant and desirable!
4) Fiat and Alfa Romeo
After Sergio Marchionne made Fiat and Chrysler merged in 2014 following Chysler’s bankruptcy, the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) concentrated it’s efforts on Jeep and Chrysler. With the exception of the hugely successful Fiat 500 and subsequent 500X, the Fiat model range was basically non existend. Sure, some Chrysler models were garnished with a Fiat badge but that didn’t fool anyone. The same story happened to Alfa Romeo. In recent years, the Guiletta and the MiTo were pretty much all Alfa had to offer. Of course there was and still is the prestigious 4C, but that’s more an image booster than a big seller.
Today I’m glad to see that they have finally brought the Alfa Romeo Giulia and the more sporty Giulia Quadrifoglio. Fiat is getting back to the roots also, with the Tipo and a slightly redesigned Mazda MX-5 named the 124 Spyder.
Swabian rocket science
The second car of Autobau I want to show you is the Porsche 918 Spyder. A supercar like the prancing horse I reported about earlier. Unlike the Ferrari LaFerrari supercar this is a Porsche, a seriously engineered piece of German craftsmanship. The 918 Spyder is taking the reigns of the Carrera GT. After its discontinuation in 2007, Porsche supercar aficionados had to wait six years before the production version of the latest iteration was presented at the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show.
Unsurprisingly, the 918 is instantly recognizable as a Porsche. The front part actually looks very similar to the famous 1970’s 917 race car of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Even though every brand has their own trade marks, their own visual styling queues, the Weissach supercar shares the same type of architecture as the LaFerrari; a carbon fiber monocoque. Yes, there is a front splitter on either side, big air intakes in the front, following air outlets just behind the front wheels. And yes, there is a big rear spoiler and a rear diffusor to keep the massive 21″ Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 wheels on the tarmac, but it doesn’t look as wild as a Pagani or as brutal as a Noble. Long story short, just as in traditional Porsche fashion, the attention to details they have given to it, make the functionality and efficiency look gorgeous.
Under the skin
The 4.6 litre V8 engine mounted between the seats and the rear axle produces 608 hp and 528 Nm of torque. Being a hybrid, it’s completed with a 125 hp electric motor in the front, as well as a 154 hp electric motor in the back. The latter one is coupled to the V8, giving it a total of 887 hp. Porsche claims it can do 0 – 100 km/h in just 2.6 s and reach a top speed of 345 km/h – just a little bit slower than the Ferrari LaFerrari. But than bear in mind that it shows 1’634 kg on the scales. For those of you who are interested in finding out which is faster, why don’t you take a look on what the illustrious Chris Harris has to say about them.
The transmission is a seven speed dual-clutch item, or as Porsche say: PDK, meaning Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (Porsche double clutch transmission). 🙂 The battery that powers the two electric motors is a 6.8 kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery installed behind the cockpit. As you can see in the picture above, it is a plug-in hybrid, but the batteries are also charged by regenerative braking or of course by the V8 engine itself. What makes the 918 Spyder special is the fact that it can run on electric power only. This distinguishes it from the kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) that regenerates just as well but only stores the electricity to assist the gasoline powered engine when it needs that extra boost.
Inside the cockpit
In a supercar I think it’s save to say that the cabin is not just a cabin but a cockpit, a place where every detail has been thought trough to make the driving experience as precise and thrilling as it can be. The 918 Spyder is no exception on that matter. Believe or not, the most important feature of this car is the little switch positioned on the steering wheel, allowing the driver, or shall I say pilot, to switch between four different driving modes that radically transform the car’s personality:
- E-Power: This is the default mode of the car upon firing it up. When fully charged, it can drive up to 31 km on electric power only and reach a top speed of 150 km/h. The gasoline powered V8 only kicks in when needed.
- Hybrid: In this mode the car uses both, gasoline engine and electric motors to drive as fuel efficiently as possible.
- Sport-Hybrid: In the sport mode, the gasoline engine is always on. The electric motors are only punctually used to give the car some extra boost.
- Race-Hybrid: This is basically a more performance oriented mode of the sport-hybrid mode: More boost, the batteries are charged faster and the gear changes are quicker.
That’s the ticket
What about the price? 847’000 $. Sure, a lot of green bills, but still a lot less than the Ferrari LaFerrari (I daren’t use the word cheap^^), but then Porsche also made a total of 918 of them and by December 2014 every single one of them was sold out.
From alcohol to fuel
The brick buildings in which “Autobau” is located today belonged originally to the Federal Alcohol Administration in Romanshorn, Switzerland. In 1996, the Federation lost the exclusive right and a couple of years later the buildings were assigned to the town of Romanshorn. Fredy Lienhard, a Swiss entrepreneur as well as race car driver bought the landmarked buildings in 2007 and transformed them into this huge garage and event facility it has been since 2009. As a matter of fact, the 30’000 m2 area not only offers the exhilarating presence of around 85 cars, there is also a huge repair shop called “Factory” and a small circuit. Private events on the premises can also be booked, given the fact that Autobau offers a complete catering team in order to meet any need.
It cost the creators 12 million Swiss Francs (CHF) to renovate and transform the building to what it is today. The German word “Erlebniswelt” effectively means “a world to experience”. The building itself accentuates to the distinctive character of the whole experience: its history, the shape and materials (bricks and glass). Inside it’s even better; nice clean columns, track road imitations, model cars embedded in display windows in the floor, etc.
An entire team at your service
In total, there are seven guides available to answer any question regarding the museum and the cars. Others take care of the cars when the collection is not open to the public. In addition to them, an event manager makes sure the venue is booked regularly. I was talking to one of the guides, and he said that Autobau is more of a rolling private collection than a museum. All of the cars are in mint condition; running and road legal – with the exception of the race cars, obviously.
A hidden jewel
This collection might not be as big and as prestigious as Jay Leno’s. But that’s like saying the view from the Empire State Building is not as spectucal as from One World Trade Center. The collection is jaw dropping and unique in its whole. Furthermore, the fact that the public can access it on Wednesdays and Sundays from 4 to 8 PM for an entrance fee of 15.- CHF is just amazing. The cars are not protected in anyway. Obviously, there are a few surveillance cameras. But there you have a private collection worth millions of francs or euros or dollars (whichever you prefer) and anyone is allowed to enter, get close to the cars, touch them and even open a few of them! In a time where respect and civic engagement are about as rare as rain in Los Angeles, who else in their right mind would do that these days?! And yet here it is, ready for everybody to enjoy it! Kudos to Autobau for giving the gearheads some food.
The collection is segmented in three areas: European Supercars and Classic Cars (with a strong emphasis on Ferrari and Porsche) in the left wing of the building, Americana and British cars on the lower right wing, as well as race cars on the upper right wing.