People buy cars they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like. That’s why hardly anybody in Europe is buying the Chevrolet Cruze, which has been on sale over here since last summer. It’s an affordable car that you might need but you won’t want, and which won’t impress anybody […]
Posts By: Martin Schwoerer
The Toyota Aygo, which is the (in-all-but-styling) identical twin of the Citroen C1, is a fine little car, and when I tested it in 2007, I found most everything about it likeable. Packaging, finish, styling, handling, pleasure of driving: the Aygo/C1 turned out to be a thoroughly modern and enjoyable car for a bare-bones price. […]
I’m anything but a Trekkie, but a recent drive in the Tesla Roadster made me think of the Starship Enterprise. To be more precise, the Enterprise a second after warp speed has been deployed. Imagine for a moment that your brain is Captain Kirk and the “gas” pedal is Scotty. When Scotty receives the warp […]
Even frugal cars need to be desirable. Most electric vehicles are anything but. Right now, EVs are slow, ugly, cheap, and not good to drive. In contrast, the Tazzari Zero from Imola, Italy, wants to be a “wanna have”: great to drive, good to sit in and easy on the eyes. Here’s the data: cast-aluminum, glued frame, central motor, RWD, low center of gravity, Li-Ion Fe batteries. A two-seater that is a bit longer, but lower than a Smart. Weighing just 545 kg (1202 lb), 150 N·m of torque and 15 kW engine power would seem to go a long way. The top speed is 56 mph and it has a range of 88 miles. Gorgeous looks (if you ask me), with a dose of NSU TT attain the right balance of aggressive and cute.
Car manufacturers are toast! At least, that’s what members of the Electric Vehicle (EV) religion believe. A car maker’s core business is engines—but engines are over, they say. It’s 1910 all over again, and internal-combustion cars are going the way of the horse-drawn carriage. But I say: Wrong! The electric Twingo I drove proves that there is more to making a good drive than just getting the propulsion stuff right.
As previously reported, the Th!ink EV was a disappointment: feckless, lightweight-feeling, stiff-legged, wobbly. A real let-down when you consider that it was specifically designed for the requirements of electric power. So it was with some skepticism that I took the helm of a Renault Twingo that MES-DEA (a Swiss company) had turned into an EV.
What’s the deal with these small cars and their self-righteous names? I’m talking about the Smart, the iQ, and the Think. Does anybody really believe that making a car diminutive turns it into some kind of Einstein? If anything, I’d be happy if car makers showed they understand they have some really stupid machines out there. The Fiat Cretino, the Ford Fiasco, the Opel Idiot, the Mercury Moron: now that’d be Truth in Naming.
After a few seconds in the Mindset, I was thinking: Whoa, this thing is fast. And Goddamn, it feels good. And then I remembered a movie I hadn’t thought of in a decade, and it struck me: this doesn’t seem like 2009, this is more like Gattaca. You know: the sci-fi movie starring the Studebaker Avanti, Rover P6 and Citroen DS Décapotable—all running with electric motors. They are breathtakingly, inimitably beautiful cars. In the movie, they only make a whirring noise. It’s all very 2030, and somehow, it works. Of course, if you had an electric droptop DS at your disposal, then why would you drive a Swiss-made, electric Mindset? But I’m getting ahead of myself. So, what is this car about?
Hydrogen-fueled propulsion has been the Next Big Thing since the 1970s. Recently, it has also been assigned to the past, at least by US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who said, “We’re going to be moving away from hydrogen-fuel cells for vehicles.” Thus, hydrogen propulsion seems to be one of those things that are everywhere in the time-space continuum except in the present. Some hydrofans are refusing to give up, though. VW’s evil genius boss of bosses, Ferdinand Piëch, has a nephew, Sebastian Piëch, who is a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche. Seb seems to be a smart, rich guy who speaks four languages, has an engineering and marketing background and lives in Shanghai and Tokyo. He’s a big name among big names at Riversimple, an alternative-car company which recently presented its first car in London. If Piëch had a monkey-man slogan, it’d be “ideas, ideas, ideas.”
My first car was a 1970s–era Opel Rekord. It was one of the most beautiful cars GM ever made. It was also roomy, reliable, as well as cheap to own and service. Those typical brand values made Opel a star player in Europe, and demoted Ford and many others to the status of also-rans. Later, Opel lost the reliability and beauty part of the plot. Is today’s Rekord – the Opel Insignia – good enough to lead an almost-dead company to the future?
The New York Times introduces 31-year-old Brian Deese, a near graduate of Yale Law School, as President Obama’s pick to re-shape General Motors—and American capitalism along the way. As a special assistant to the president for economic policy, he was pretty much the only full-time member of the Presidential Task Force on Automobiles from November 4 through mid-February. He comes to the job with no automotive experience, or business experience, or much experience at all, if you put his resume up against the insanely vast and critical task before him. Making him perfect for the job. Maybe a real outsider is just what the General needs. Deese seems to have earned the president’s ear with competence. By all reports, he sees the challenges of GM’s tumble holistically, in terms of the effect on the economy in general, Medicaid and unemployment insurances in the specific, and understands the political ramifications of every thing he eats, reads or wears from here on out. No one older than 31 would want this job. And you’d be hard pressed to find anyone younger. So he’s perfect.