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No Macan Rival from Maserati

No Macan Rival from Maserati

maserati-kubang-concept

Maserati CEO, Harold Wester,  has categorically stated that there will not be a smaller SUV to slot underneath the soon to be launched Levante SUV.

The Levante is scheduled to be revealed next year at the Detroit Motor Show and go on sale later in the year. While there were rumours that Maserati would consider expanding their SUV line-up to include a smaller, Macan-sized vehicle to fit within their range. However, these rumours have been quashed by Harold Wester, CEO of Maserati. He states that such a car is not on Maserati’s agenda because it would clash with other brands, such as the upcoming Alfa Romeo SUVs and Jeep’s products.

The Levante will provide  huge sales leap for Maserati, as the SUV is a growing segment which no manufacturer can afford to ignore. While purists may not like these sort of vehicles, they do bring in massive profits for manufacturers to use in other, more interesting areas. With this reasoning in mind, I tend to think that Harold Wester could eventually go back on his word and in fact offer a Macan-sized car.

Porschemacan
The Macan is the only sports-orientated mid-size SUV currently on sale. A similarly sized Maserati rival would make this segment a lot more interesting.

 

Time will tell if such a car will hit roads or not. However, the fact that Porsche has opted to enter such a segment of the market is quite telling. While what Wester says is technically true, VW seems to be managing quite well to market the Tiguan, Q5 and Macan in such a way that none is tip-toeing over the other’s customers. I see no reason why the Fiat Chryser Group cannot do the same. The Jeep would be the more utilitarian end of the market, targetting the Tiguan and Land Rover Discovery. The Alfa SUVs would focus more on the BMW X1/X3, Audi Q3/Q5 market and Maserati could tackle the high end, sportier segment of the market, currently only occupied by the Macan.

I am willing to bet that Maserati will change its tune once the Levante hits the market and the sales start climbing. For now, we will just have to make do with waiting for the Levante and the Alfieri.

The Porsche Cayman GT4 is a Sigh of Relief for Petrolheads Everywhere

The Porsche Cayman GT4 is a Sigh of Relief for Petrolheads Everywhere

Geneva-2015-Porsche-911-GT3-RS-018-1024x683

The Porsche stand at Geneva was a bitter-sweet affair this year. In one corner we had the brand new 2015 GT3 RS. The most hardcore, track-focussed 911 to come out of Stuttgart. For years journalists have drooled at the 996 and 997 models of the GT3 RS, for their bare-boned, hairy-chested attitude to driving. It had a straight-six motor at the back, a manual gearbox, and a no-nonsense attitude to corners. It was quite brilliant.

This year, for the 991 911, Porsche opted for something different. The 2015 GT3 RS has no manual gearbox. The disappointment amongst journalists was palpable. It may have a 4.0 litre straight-six with 493 bhp, a carbon fibre bonnet and magnesium roof, but everyone was preoccupied with the lack of a manual gearbox.  It basically seemed like an international injustice.

Cayman-GT4-5

There is, however, a ray of light, in the form of the Cayman GT4. The GT4 does have a manual gearbox. Couple this to a 3.8 litre flat-six, producing 380 bhp and 310 lb/ft of torque, and you have yourself a sportscar for the people. It sits 30 mm lower than the standard Cayman and a 13 mm wider track. The GT4 is also 34 mm longer than the standard Cayman, due to a longer nose. The overall weight is 1340 kg, which is the same as the Cayman GTS.

Porsche-Cayman-GT4-1200x800-e0753c7f6d43dbf1

However, despite all these changes, the main selling point of the GT4 is not the power or the handling, it is that gearbox. What the GT3 lost, the GT4 gained, and while it is not exactly cheap at just over £64,000, it is probably the most accomplished sportscar anyone can ever hope to own.

Expect to see both the GT3 RS and the Cayman GT4 at you local Porsche dealer within the next few months.

What to do with a Company like Lotus?

What to do with a Company like Lotus?

Picture-of-Black-Lotus-Car

Is there even place for this company any more? I am talking about actual viability in today’s market, where it is a genuine competitor to today’s established brands, and not remaining the quirky sportscar of choice for those stuck in the past.

Let’s face it, Lotus cars are not up to the standard of  the established brands. Finding out someone has opted for a Lotus over a Porsche is not only surprising, but also a little silly. Sure, Lotus may be an undiluted driving experience, but look at what you are sacrificing in order to go round a corner half a second faster than everyone else. You’ve got no comfort, no in car technology, not even a proper cup holder!

This would be fine if the cars were relatively cheap, but they aren’t  cheap. You don’t even get bulletproof build quality. It still has the feeling of being built by  a couple of ex-RAF pilots in a shed somewhere in Norfolk.

The problem isn’t even that it is still a cottage industry. If it maintained some sort USP, like Morgan or Ariel, it would be fine, but as it stands the Lotus cars are a little anonymous. I, for the life of me, cannot come up with a reason, either logically or emotionally, to buy a Lotus. They are too behind the market to be considered relevant any more.

The last time we were wowed by Lotus was during the reign of Dany Bahar, when he showed up with five concept cars, proudly proclaiming that he shall be bringing Lotus up to the standard of Ferrari. That was over four years ago, and since then Bahar has been relieved of his duties due to a questionable performance. Then there was a minor crisis involving potential investors, which eventually died down, followed shortly by the appointment of ex-PSA chief, Jean-Marc Gales.

Lotus-Lineup
A Bahar future which never came to fruition.

Now, yet again, there is talk of new cars to go toe-to-toe with Porsche. There are strong hints of an SUV and a saloon a la Cayenne and Panamera. Which would be fine, if it weren’t for the choice of engines they seem to interested in. Basically, they are looking to Toyota for engines. Now there is nothing wrong with Toyota engines, but they are not comparable to Porsche’s engines. For them to be even remotely considered they have to either be backed by a big company willing to provide engines (like BMW does for Morgan), or follow Alfa’s lead, put their heads down and create an engine of their own.

But before they dip their toe into the premium market, they want to milk everything out of the current range, with endless special editions. Will it work? I doubt it. If people aren’t buying Lotus cars now, special paint jobs and automatic gearboxes will not tempt buyers. Their cars are sub-standard. Why spend £50k on a Lotus, when for the same money you can buy something as beautiful as a 4C or as technically perfect as the Cayman. It appears to me, that Lotus do not have a clear direction of where they are, and where they should be going. They are in a state of limbo, unable to progress with the current crop of cars , and unable to progress unless they sell some cars.

So what is the solution? Well a BMW-Morgan relationship would have some serious potential to Lotus.  A company like Mercedes could take Lotus to great heights, providing them with engines, gearboxes and infotainment systems, whilst allowing Lotus to grow and thrive in the sportscar market. As it stands Mercedes hasn’t got a share of the sportscar market, so a potential partnership with Lotus could be  beneficial to both. Mercedes would get a toe in the market,  as well as key knowledge from Lotus on weight saving and chassis development. Lotus would gain a sugar-daddy with enough resources to make them viable.  Then, Lotus may finally become a viable car manufacturer with a future.