Opinion: How Holden could have been saved

How Holden could have been saved

Yesterday saw the passing of a totem of Australian car culture. After a century of making cars, and 160 years of industrial activity in Australia and New Zealand, Holden is shutting up shop. The lion will be put to rest in 2021.

While this is sad news, it doesn’t come as a surprise. The marque’s declining sales have been no secret, and many of the Holden faithful were outspoken about their disinterest in the latest, Vauxhall Insignia-based, ZB Commodore.

This followed the VF Commodore, the last Australian-made Holden. It swapped rear-wheel drive, V8 engine options and muscular looks for a smoothed-over, more European style.

SEE ALSO: Ford Puma and other car names back from the dead

Last year, the Commodore was axed, along with the re-badged Astra, following poor sales. At that point, the writing was on the wall. So what, if anything, could have been done to save Holden?

Killing off the halo effect

How Holden could have been saved

As a Holden owner and enthusiast, it’s difficult to detach myself emotionally from this discussion. Still, the book is closed on Holden for now, so here’s my two cents on how the lion could have been kept roaring.

Like many others who weren’t spending money on new rear-driven V8 Commodores, I think that the car should have remained a rear-driven V8. However, there was a ready-and-waiting saloon car platform in the Vauxhall/Opel Insignia – and it was much cheaper to add a Holden badge than engineer a new car. Plus, the Commodore wasn’t selling in sufficient numbers to justify it.

How Holden could have been savedThe last Aussie-built Commo’ ran on the same Zeta platform used since the introduction of the VE in 2006. ‘VE’ in UK-speak is the original VXR8. It was also the first platform not to have, at its heart, a Vauxhall or Opel.

Indeed, the Monaro and VX, VY and VZ Commodores of the late 1990s and early 2000s all trace back to the Vauxhall Omega. Overall, the basics of the GM V rear-drive platform had been in service for decades, first appearing in 1966. 

In short, developmentally, Commodores used to be cheaper (for Holden), when they had rear-driven European cars on which to be based. In fact, the only reason Zeta worked was because the formula was flipped. The Aussie-developed platform went overseas to the USA and UK, underpinning the Pontiac G8, Vauxhall VXR8, Chevrolet Camaro and, eventually, the Chevrolet SS.

Would a ‘proper’ Commodore have saved Holden?

How Holden could have been saved

Here’s my theory. Like the Audi R8, Toyota Supra, Honda NSX, Ford Mustang and many other cool cars from volume manufacturers, the Commodore became a halo model.

It was the car that got people into dealerships, even if they wound up buying something else. In this respect, it no longer mattered how many Commodores were sold, it mattered what they were and whether people wanted them.

Imagine a HSV GTS-R W1, sat next to an Astra in a Holden dealer, and tell me I’m wrong. Like the above examples, the Commodore was also the basis for the marque’s only racer, and has a loyal following and motorsport success in equal measure. Holden and GM either disagreed on this halo effect, or didn’t realise. 

Fast-forward to 2017 and the death of the Aussie-made Commo’. We ended up with a company trying to sell cars made – and styled – by others, to people that were once very proud of what their homegrown company did.

Realistically, at some time or another, the sales phenomenon that is the halo effect has saved almost every car you’ve ever lusted after. Do you think Porsche would sell as many Cayennes and Macans if there wasn’t a 911 in the dealership to dream about? 

Don’t get me wrong, I like the Insignia, as an Insignia. But it’s a different car to what a Commodore has always been. Especially given what people associate with that name. The Insignia is a soap salesman missing a motorway exit, not Peter Brock hitting an apex. Australian buyers just didn’t want one.

So what about the cost?

How Holden could have been saved

I don’t think a rear-driven Commodore would have been expensive to muster up. GM’s Alpha platform, which underpins the current Camaro, last Cadillac CTS and current Cadillac CT4 and CT5, would do the job. In rear- or all-wheel-drive formats, it’s been in service since 2012. 

Was it ever on the table when it came to a new Commodore? It should have been. Especially given the complication created by Vauxhall and Opel leaving General Motors for pastures French.

A last-generation CTS-V with Holden (HSV) styling and that 650hp supercharged V8 would have been just the ticket. GM isn’t about to kill off the small-block V8, either. It’s just debuted the new 6.2-litre LT2 in the Corvette C8, pushing out almost 500hp without a blower to be seen.

How Holden could have been saved

The parts bin was there to be plundered, then. With a bit of Holden-exclusive styling and development, it could have been the tent pole every Holden dealer now wishes it had. Don’t believe me? May I refer you to the Alpha-based Chevrolet Camaro that HSV currently sells in Australia in right-hand drive.

Now, of course, my theory is exactly that: a theory. And Holden could have gone down that same plughole even with a Commodore that could hold its head up high. But it would have gone down roaring and, I think, it would have lasted longer than it eventually did.

GMSV: the future

Chevrolet Corvette C8 loses GM money

It’s not like moneyed Australian car enthusiasts won’t have anything to buy. Look at the success of the globalised Ford Mustang down under, in place of the long-deceased FPV Australian Ford performance brand.

With the announcement of Holden’s demise came the debut of GMSV. General Motors Special Vehicles will replace Holden Special Vehicles, as the proprietor of right-hook Camaros and Corvettes in Australia.

How Holden could have been saved

It’s not the same, though. Plus, I can’t help but wonder about the viability of performance cars on their own, made expensive by significant engineering work to make them right-driven. And that’s without other ‘everyman’ products for them to drive customers towards. Never mind that the C8 is reported to lose GM money without even leaving its homeland.

I just wish they went for a compromise: one that splits the difference between cost-cutting and saving Aussie pride (and jobs). Then again, what do I know? I’m just a Holden fan who hasn’t the heart to tell his Monaro that it’s now an orphan.

Opinion: The rise and fall of Mondeo Man

The rise and fall of the Mondeo Man

Today, if you said the car the latest BMW 3 Series had to beat was the Ford Mondeo, we’d laugh you back to 1998.

Such was the popularity of Ford’s resident repmobile back then, ‘Mondeo Man’ became shorthand for middle-management and middle-of-the-road. Meanwhile, the car proliferated on company car fleets and the driveways of aspirational workers country-wide.

Twenty years ago, annual Mondeo registrations were upwards of 60,000, but already on the decline. Last year, just 5,000 new Ford Mondeos were sold. So what happened?

Attacked from within

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While it’s generally thought that once-premium cars entering the mainstream did most damage, other theories have been posited.

According to research by Glass’s, the Mondeo could have been cannibalised from within. Sales haven’t come within 15,000 of its 100,000 record year since 1998 – the year the revolutionary Ford Focus went on sale. 

The Focus sold 100,000 in its first year, climbing to over 150,000 at its peak in 2002. Before 2018’s low of 50,000 registrations, it hadn’t dipped much below 80,000 since its debut. Mondeo Man, seemingly, looked to downsize.

The rise of the crossoverThe rise and fall of the Mondeo Man

What also cannot be ignored when charting the demise of the Mondeo, and indeed the fall in popularity of the Focus, is the rise of the crossover. The year 2006 saw the introduction of the revolutionary Nissan Qashqai.

Both for the Mondeo and the Focus, 2007 subsequently saw a downturn in sales, in spite of Ford’s introduction of the fresh ‘Kinetic Design’ third-generation Mondeo. Not even putting Bond behind the wheel could save it from the rise of the high-risers. 

The Qashqai sold like hotcakes, offering the high driving position and bulky presence of an SUV for family hatchback prices. The subsequent market saturation all but smothered the Mondeo and its D-segment kin.

The rise and fall of the Mondeo Man

Ford’s got in on the party, too, launching the Kuga in 2008. Today, it sells the Ecosport, Puma and Kuga SUVs. The traditional Mondeo soldiers on, but has been relegated to third-row in Ford dealers.

“Quite simply, a wider variety of models on offer and a more diverse range of body styles has turned the tide for what was a traditional market of hatchback and saloons in the UK,” says Jonathan Brown, car editor at Glass’s.

Honda e

Opinion: Why I’ve bought a new Honda e

Honda e

Eight months ago, almost to the day, I put down an £800 deposit on a Honda e. I admit it was – and still is – a bit of a punt. No one had driven one, few had actually seen one, and the price was supremely vague: maybe in the sub-£30k region.

Yet thanks to some masterful PR, the world’s media had already become terribly excited about Honda’s first electric car. It was small and oh-so-cute. Despite the obvious expense, Honda had instilled the idea that this was the iPhone of electric vehicles, so price wouldn’t be an issue. It had TV CAMERAS FOR DOOR MIRRORS, for heavens sake! Isn’t that what everyone was gagging for?

For me the purchase seemed low-risk. My deposit was fully refundable, but last September that was returned to me after I paid a ‘proper’ deposit with my local dealer, Norton Way Honda. This £500 is more of a commitment, it seems.

Honda e

Only one of the five colours offered, Charge Yellow, doesn’t incur an additional £550 charge, but yellow is way too lurid for my wife, so we’re going for Platinum Pearl White. There wasn’t much more to choose in September, except 17-inch wheels were included with the launch edition spec if we wanted them. I see now that leather and other packs have been added to the list, but we weren’t offered these. Anyway, cloth seats seem more in keeping with the whole electric car ethos.

Will I still be happy with my somewhat impetuous decision? Will the range be enough? Is the car comfortable? And as the first prototypes were shown to the world some two years ago, does the march of progress mean the Honda e has already been overtaken by the competition?

Honda e

The last point is important. I am buying the top Advance model largely because I’d have to wait longer for the standard car, which seems better value at £26,160. For the price of the Honda e Advance, I could instead buy a Volkswagen ID.3, which looks nice, is roomier and goes further. And that’s just one of many electric cars to come.

But I have bought into whole idea of owning a Honda-e, and I am not having second thoughts. Especially not now I’ve read Richard’s generally very enthusiastic review. He concludes by saying ‘It’s an innovative and authentically unique electric car that, yes, only Honda could make. And, to its core audience and far-sighted early adopters, all the better for it.’

I’ve certainly been an early adopter this time. But I have a feeling I won’t regret that decision when my Honda e arrives this summer. I can’t wait.

2021 Jaguar F-Type

Blue Monday 2020: why car buyers have got the blues

Automobili Pininfarina Battista

Today, Blue Monday (20 January), is said to be the day of the year that we’re at our most glum. But does blue have to be tarnished with feelings of sadness? We reckon it’s one of the nicest colours for a car –and it’s experiencing something of a renaissance among buyers.

There’s evidence that 2020 will be the year for blue cars, too. For starters, it was the flavour of the month at the 2019 LA Motor Show, which closed out the last motoring year. From the Mustang Mach-E, to the Jeep Gladiator, it seemed that everything was blue on the show floor in LA.

Outside of sunny California, a number of cars revealed in 2019 wore also blue, including the new comprehensively updated Jaguar F-Type, the Pininfarina Battista electric hypercar, new Renault Clio, and Ferrari F8 Tributo.

Blue’s official seal of approval2021 Jaguar F-Type

Blue is even the critic’s choice for 2020. The Pantone Color Institute has announced that Classic Blue is its colour of the year for 2020.

Classic Blue (19-4052) was commended for its reassuring qualities, being ‘suggestive of a sky at dusk’ and ‘imprinted in our psyches as a restful colour’ bringing ‘a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge’.

The artistic (if not colourful) language doesn’t stop there: “We are living in a time that requires trust and faith,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

“It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Pantone Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on. Imbued with a deep resonance, Classic Blue provides an anchoring foundation. A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky.

“Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking; challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective and open the flow of communication.”

Quite.

Blue by numbers2020 Renault Clio price and specs

It’s more than 20 years since blue was the best-selling car colour in the UK. It slipped to second in 2000, just as Messrs Ryan, Webbe, Costa and James were about to storm the pop charts, sending teenage girls into a frenzy.

For blue (the colour), it was less a case of All Rise, and more one of Curtain Falls. Other Blue hits are available.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) suggest that blue held on to second spot until 2005, when it dropped to third until 2010. In 2011 and 2012 it was fifth, but blue was notable for its absence in 2013. It returned to fourth spot in 2014, where it has remained ever since.

Lotus Evora GT in Cyan Blue

In 2018, 381,591 cars were registered in blue, which represents a 16.1 percent market share. It would take a massive shift for blue to break into the top three. The sombre hues of grey, black and white have been the dominant shades for nearly a decade.

Grey was the dominant colour in 2019 overall, but the signs were already there last year that blue was gearing up for a comeback. In third place, with 21 percent popularity, it wouldn’t take much for it to catch up with grey, at 22.1 percent market share. If it jumps 4.9 percent like it did from 2018 to 2019, it’s on to a winner.

In terms of segments, blue was the leader. It lead with a 24.5 percent market share with small cars, and a 28.6 percent market share with medium cars.

LA BluesLexus LC 500 Convertible

Maybe the car manufacturers were trying to tell us something at LA. Our man Richard’s postcards from Los Angeles paint a very blue picture. Forget Fifty Shades of Grey, LA is more like 25 shades of blue.

Leading the charge in LA was Lexus, with its drop-dead gorgeous LC 500 Convertible. It was painted in a glorious shade of Structural Blue, with a blue top thrown in for good measure.

Without going all M&S about this, Structural Blue is no ordinary paint colour. Good luck getting this one colour-matched at your local DIY store.

Lexus LC Convertible

Lexus says it took 15 years to develop the colour, with its team drawing inspiration from the Morpho butterfly. The production process takes eight months, 12 production steps and 20 quality inspections.

You can read more about the paint here – it’s more interesting than it sounds – but one thing’s for sure: LC 500 drivers are going to fear stone chips like an ice cream seller fears the rain. Following a gritter lorry in a Structural Blue Lexus is a definite no-no.

More evidence of a blue renaissance comes from Alfa Romeo, with the 2020 Stelvio and Giulia showcasing a new Anodised Blue hue. It’s always slightly off-putting to see a Giulia Quadrifoglio in anything other than Alfa Red or Competizione Red, but it certainly wears it well.

Visions in Blue

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Still not convinced that blue is the next big thing? The most eye-catching colour available on the Ford Mustang Mach-E is Grabber Blue Metallic, which just happens to be one of three colours available on the limited-run First Edition cars.

Here’s the thing: blue is a very flattering colour – it can work on cars of all shapes and sizes. From slab-sided SUVs to convertibles that look like they’ve been poured from a bottle, blue is light a little black dress: perfect for any occasion.

If car manufacturers are doing their bit to tempt you away from colours more akin to darkness, drizzle and electrical appliances, the least you can do is take the bait. Let’s make blue the number one hue in 2020…

Blue cars at LA Auto Show 2019

Opinion: New Year’s resolutions for the motor industry

New Year's resolutions for the motor industry

New Year, new you. That’s what many of us told ourselves as we looked in the mirror on New Year’s Day. But never mind fighting the flab, or giving up cigarettes, what can the car industry look to improve upon this year? And, indeed, this decade?

Here we offer some food for thought, aimed at the decision-makers in the automotive world

Fewer SUVsShould SUVs be banned from company car fleets

A well-trodden subject by the motoring media, we admit. It’s not just a question of style or soul, however. It’s about the environment, and shooting ourselves in the foot. What sense is there in selling crossovers and SUVs that, on average, emit 25 percent more CO2 than normal cars, on the same forecourt as EVs?

Recent figures suggest the emissions savings made by the leap in electric car sales have been negated, several times over, by the popularity of crossovers and SUVs. It would be a brave move for any manufacturer to U-turn on high-riders, but you know what they say: if you don’t ask… At the very least, please can they be cleverer, lighter and cleaner?

More affordable and viable EVsVolkswagen electric car production

This will be a transformative decade in the history of the car, and the motor industry. Sooner or later, many drivers will make the jump to electric. For that, we need a number of things.

Regarding the cars, they need to be more affordable, they need to go further on a charge and they need to charge up faster. We’re aware the industry has its foot on the gas here, so to speak. But it also doesn’t hurt to ask, and ask again.

Smaller carbon footprintsBentley carbon neutral factory

Assuming we’ve got our wishes so far, there are fewer crossovers and more affordable SUVs on the market. But that’s all rather superficial if the process of building cars remains polluting. A car’s carbon footprint begins before its engine ever fires.

Happily, this is one area getting much more attention. Towards the end of last year, Bentley celebrated its factory in Crewe reaching carbon neutrality.

Bentley carbon neutral factory

Between 2014 and 2019, despite an 82 percent increase in production, Porsche reduced its carbon output as a company by 75 percent. Production of its Taycan electric car is carbon neutral, while the factory employs a new surface technology that absorbs harmful NOx emissions. 

Then there’s car transport. BMW and Volkswagen are looking at shipping emissions closely and investigating hydrogen power. More of the above, on a larger scale, please.

More affordable sports carsToyota Supra GR New Year Resolution

Here’s one that we’re already well on the way to. The new Toyota Supra is great, the Alpine A110 is a revelation. We just want more of them, and at more accessible prices.

We like the renewed focus on driving dynamics rather than outright power, too. In the case of the Alpine, the entire industry could do with looking at the A110’s attitude to weight. That is, reduce it as much as possible. 

Lighter cars

That leads into our next request. Difficult to achieve, sure, but as Alpine has proved, not impossible. Weight is the enemy. More of it means higher emissions, more wear on parts and more fuel used.

Cut weight, and you improve your car in every metric. Let’s push for lighter cars. 

Prettier carsAston Martin New year's resolution

While we’re at it, let’s make them prettier, too. The trend of over-styling cars is nothing new, but it needs to go. Fake vents, exhaust outlets, angles on angles on angles. Has the value of simplicity, prettiness and simple brand identity and styling language been lost?

If so, let’s find it again, before all cars disappear into over-styled anonymity. 

More honest economy figures

We’ve had hybrid cars for more than 20 years now. And mainstream electric cars for over a decade. So why is there still speculation about whether quoted economy and range figures are accurate?

Why can’t test and ‘real-world’ figures become indistinguishable? It’s unlikely, but it would be nice.

Opinion: The wrong people are buying electric cars

The wrong people are buying electric cars

According to a new report, 87 percent of electric car owners in the UK are men and the overwhelming majority of them are aged 45 to 74.

And that’s a big problem for the electric car industry.

If you’re a middle-aged man and you’re not David Beckham or Paul Rudd, you’re about as relevant as Myspace and as influential as a Corby trouser press salesperson on a nudist beach.

Donning a pair of skinny jeans, shaving your receding hairline and hashtagging the hell out of your Instagram posts just won’t cut it. You’re over the hill and the next stop is retirement.

Of all of which means you’re hardly the hip and happening ambassador the electric car needs. Watching you squint through your reading glasses as you struggle to decipher the instructions for the public charging point isn’t a great advert for the EV.

Anyone below the age of 34 will be returning to the sanctuary of a lengthy PCP deal on an A-Class faster than you can say “optional final balloon payment”.

Camden, locked

Mercedes EQC owner

The same report suggests that fewer than five percent of electric car owners are aged 25 to 34. Predictably, hardly anyone under the age of 24 is driving a zero emission car.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Most young people are either struggling to pay off their student loan or saving hard for a deposit on a new home. Even with the promise of lower running costs, an electric car is an expensive luxury they can do without, especially in the age of Uber.

Electric car brochures, advertisements and promotional videos are filled with images of youngsters who look like they’ve arrived straight outta Camden Market and spend most of the day supping mochachinos in artisan coffee shops.

In adland, electric car owners dress like catwalk models to charge their vehicles in exotic locations and stare longingly into the middle distance as they contemplate their significant role in saving the planet.

Fewer Keiths, more dragons

Smart EQ electric owner

The reality is often a middle-aged man called Keith who arrives at a dimly-lit section of a motorway service station to find the charger is blocked by a sales rep eating a Ginsters in an Insignia.

The problem is that it’s only the likes of Keith who can afford to own an electric car. He has the disposal income, the off-street parking and the office car park to make EV ownership a realistic prospect.

For younger drivers who are struggling to make ends meet, live in a second floor apartment and park in a council car park while at work, an EV is less attractive than a compact crossover on a £200 a month PCP deal.

Some joined-up thinking is required. There’s little point incentivising youngsters via cheap PCP deals if the supply can’t keep up with demand and the infrastructure isn’t in place. But nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd, so seeing fellow young drivers behind the wheel will be more appealing than the sight of Keith and his reading glasses. Sorry, Keith.

Give an electric car to someone like Emilia Clarke to use for a year and punters will be queuing up like White Walkers at The Wall. Present one to Lily James and you’ll have more baby electric car drivers than you can shake a charging cable at.

Until then, the ‘wrong’ people will continue to drive the electric car industry the wrong way.

Opinion: Isn’t this car awards long list a little too long?

What Car awards long list

There are long lists and there are really long lists. Then there’s the What Car? Car of the Year long list.

More than 200 models are up for a gong at the What Car? Car of the Year Awards in January, and each one has been circulated via a press release. Two hundred cars.

Too many? I think so.

If you think that’s bad, wait until the flurry of tweets following the announcement of all 23 category winners on Tuesday 14 January. Mute button at the ready.

I get it. When tables at the awards event cost up to £5,580, it’s important to keep the manufacturers guessing. Everyone could be a winner, as Errol Brown nearly sang.

But the long list is so lengthy, it stretches almost as far as the Mitsubishi Mirage. Almost.

There can be only one (across 23 categories)

Thirteen cars are up for best estate car, while nine are in with a chance of winning coupe of the year. Not bad, considering hardly anyone is buying coupes.

Speaking of which, ‘coupe SUV’ is a new category for 2020, and it contains a thoroughly depressing list of nine cars, none of which are actually coupes. Giving them a category will only encourage manufacturers to build more of them.

There are 15 cars in the running for sports SUV, including four Audis and four BMWs. To paraphrase Connor MacLeod, there can be only one sports SUV of 2020.

I’d list all 200 cars here, but you’d slip into a coma before wearing out your scroll pad. Rest assured, if you think of a car, it’ll be on the list. Unless you’re thinking about the Ford Ecosport, Vauxhall Crossland X or Mitsubishi Mirage.

Perhaps the awards ceremony will be like a school sports day, where everyone from Sporting Sam to Must-Try-Harder Millie are given a certificate for taking part.

Even Must-Try-Harder Mirage.

Are there too many car awards? Are we at the point at which we need to award trophies for the best awards? Probably.

In the meantime, give yourself an award for making it to the end of another opinion piece.

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Concorde

Opinion: Sorry, Aston Martin – only one car measures up to Concorde

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Concorde

From what I can make out, the primary justification for Aston Martin’s Concorde tribute act is that there’s a dealer ‘just a long runway’s length’ from the British home of the supersonic icon.

Two miles, as the crow flies. That’s the distance between Aston Martin Bristol and Filton – where the last Concorde to fly is seeing out its enforced retirement like a former pilot shunted into a care home.

The fact that its launch coincides with the 50th anniversary of Concorde’s maiden flight appears to be of secondary importance to the proximity of the Bristol showroom.

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Concorde

The dealer also happens to be two miles from the Bristol Golf Club, so presumably we can look forward to another Aston Martin special edition to mark 20 years since the club opened in June 2000.

Highlights will include a dashboard swathed in Pringle, a (dis)tasteful bonnet ornament, women barred from the best seats in the car, and a waiting list as long as the bar tab being run up by the club captain.

This may even open the floodgates for other Aston Martin dealers to get in on the act. Aston Martin Wilmslow will be considering the Golden Triangle special edition, complete with perma-tan orange paint, a botox-injected grille surround and a Swarovski-lined cabin.

Maybe Aston Martin Cheltenham will consider the GCHQ edition. It’s like the existing DBS Superleggera OHMSS, but the spec list is a closely guarded secret and the infotainment system is impossible to operate without access to a code-breaking machine. The car will be available exclusively in Russia.

Granted, I’m not the target market for the DBS Superleggera Concorde. I’m not about to furnish Aston Martin Bristol with the £321,350 required for one of the 10 special edition models.

Think about that price for a moment: that’s nearly £100,000 more than the standard car. That seems like an awful lot, even if some of the proceeds are going to charity.

Concorde was a technological marvel. A pioneer. An innovator. I’m not entirely sure the Aston Martin is a fitting tribute, even if the paddle shifters are sourced from actual Concorde engine compressor blades.

Did somebody actually approve the Mach Meter graphic for the sun visor?

Few cars are fit to sit in the shadow of the Anglo-French masterpiece. The Mini, perhaps, although supersonic speeds are light years away from the little car, even in the hands of Paddy Hopkirk.

No, there’s only one car that deserves to share the limelight with Concorde. There are no chintzy decals or naff graphics. No limited edition plaque or Terence Conran floor mats.

Mesdames et messieurs, witness the splendour of when the most innovative car of the 20th century met its aeronautical equivalent. The Citroen DS and Concorde – the ‘Goddess’ and the ‘Queen of the Skies’.

Citroen DS and Concorde

Magnifique.

Opinion: You’re spending too long at the petrol station

parking fines petrol station

You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about a chap getting fined for spending too long at a BP garage.

No, not Alan Partridge. There’s no whiff of Lynx Java about this story.

The fact that a shopper has been fined £100 is crazy, but here’s the thing: if you’re spending half an hour at a petrol station, you’re part of the problem.

Anything longer than 15 minutes at a forecourt is inexcusable. I’ve never timed it, but assuming there’s no queue, the splash and dash should be completed in less than 10 minutes.

Sure, grab a Dairy Milk or a packet of Wine Gums on your way to the till, but taking anything other than the shortest route between the door and the cash deck should be avoided. Pay, get in your car, then go.

How is it even possible to spend 30 minutes at a petrol station?

The guy at the centre of the story spent 47 MINUTES at a site in Croydon. Yep, forty-seven minutes. Most of that time was spent queuing behind SIX vehicles to use the car wash. Seriously, wouldn’t you come back another day?

Another man who received a fine wondered whether an “allowance of 45 minutes would be far more reasonable”, to which I say “NO”. Think about that for a moment, you genuinely see a scenario in which you’d want to spend three-quarters of an hour of your day at a petrol station?

Why? There must be better things you could be doing with your time.

‘Get the hell outta there’

petrol station at night

Almost everything is more expensive at a petrol station, so anything other than a distress purchase should wait for another day. You’re paying for the convenience and the fact that the retailer makes virtually nothing out of the highway robbery you experienced at the pump.

It means that today’s petrol station is less about petrol and more about shopping. Even the petrol element is in doubt, with forecourts adding banks of electric car chargers to prepare for our electrified future.

Quite how these fit into the maximum stay limits is a subject for another day…

I have sympathy for drivers caught unaware by the parking restrictions – I’m not siding with any retailers who have misled motorists. It’s just that I think that spending the equivalent half a football match at a petrol station is time wasted, even if you’re a Man Utd fan.

Casually wandering around a Little Waitrose or M&S Simply Food looking at chilled ready meals, cat food and household cleaning products while your fellow motorists slip into a coma in the queue behind your generic crossover just isn’t cricket.

When you’re back in your car, don’t spend an age checking your smartphone, arranging your shopping or having an in-depth conversation with your passenger. Be like a celebrity and get the hell outta there.

A visit to a petrol station should be like an Olympic event. Time yourself from when you open the filler cap to the moment you’ve fastened your seatbelt and are ready to go. If you beat your personal best, treat yourself to a Dairy Milk Duo the next time you need to fill up.

No parking fines, no waiting, no bother. Better for you, better for the rest of us.

Today’s non-Cybertruck news: Lara Croft, snow sticks and a stuck Skoda

Lara Croft wax model

Where were you when Tesla unveiled the Cybertruck?

It’s not quite the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall or a meal at Pizza Express, but for Tesla fans, it’s another moment in history. A significant date for the memory bank.

Tesla – and more specifically, the Cybertruck – has been trending on Twitter ever since. It’s secured top billing on the BBC homepage, while the Daily Mail has even given it greater prominence than Millie Mackintosh’s ‘bare bump’ and the ‘plunging gown’ of Charli XCX.

When you’re getting more exposure than Charli’s ‘floral tubing around the bosom and asymmetrical hemline’, you know you’ve managed to spin the PR thing to perfection.

Aside from a well-known yeast extract, nothing divides opinion quite like a new Tesla. Everything Elon Musk does appears to usher in an open season for opinions, memes and witty critiques.

This morning, the Tesla Cybertruck was likened to everything from Lara Croft’s ‘enviable assets’ (to use the Mail’s terminology) to a rubber door wedge. Some were witty – a few were even original.

Every day except Wednesday, Motoring Research asks me to write an opinion piece on something topical or newsworthy. I get the day off on Wednesday, presumably because, aside from the bin collection, nothing ever happens on a Wednesday.

As today is Friday, I’m free to write something on the Tesla Cybertruck. But I won’t. Not only has Ethan got there first, but there are literally no opinions left. I’ve shone a torch into the bowels of the opinion-o-generator and there’s nothing there. Zilch. Zero. Nadda.

More news than you can shake a stick at

Toyota Corolla

Instead, allow me to take you on a tour of some of the stories you might have missed. While you were watching the Cybertruck break new ground – and windows – in Los Angeles, here’s what was going on in the real world.

‘Halfords has launched a ONE METRE snow salt stick which quickly removes ice.’ As press release headlines go, this one goes straight to work. Note the emphasis on the size, because in the world of snow salt sticks, size matters.

Forget pointy trucks, what you need is a pointy stick. ‘The monster stick works like shake ‘n’ vac and home-owners and motorists just need to shake their stick and spread the salt over the affected area,’ claims Halfords.

Get out there and shake your stick.

Halfords snow stick

Temperatures aren’t expected to drop below freezing in Keighley over the coming days, but the biggest news in West Yorkshire is the long awaited Keighley News verdict on the new Toyota Corolla.

“Plenty of clever stuff then in arguably the best-looking Corolla so far, that continues to prove that reliable does not have to mean dull,” is the verdict. Rest easy, residents of Keighley.

Meanwhile, shoppers in Milton Keynes are being invited to enter a raffle to win a Volkswagen e-Golf, with all the proceeds going to a local charity.

Dude, where’s my Range Rover?

Literally and metaphorically, MK is a long way from LA, but that’s where we head next for the startling revelation that Hollywood actress Jennifer Garner lost her car.

Garner, who starred in the film Dude, Where’s My Car, was so traumatised by a visit to Build-A-Bear that she spent 25 minutes searching for her Range Rover. Two things: why is this news and how can you lose a Range Rover?

Maybe she needs to order a Ford Mustang Mach-E in Grabber Blue Metallic. Try losing that in a parking lot.

Speaking of parking, the Advertiser & Times reports on a Skoda Karoq driver who, in a blatant attempt to avoid car park charges, headed down to the beach. Either that or it was an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Isle of Wight without paying for a ferry.

Skoda Karoq on the beach

‘Cleans ya window screen’

There’s more. Over in the world of commercial radio, Heart has revealed how a bottle of Dr Beckmann’s carpet stain remover can treat frozen windscreens. “I’m a genius, get ya self one of these bottles, fill it with warm water and ya sorted,” said the ‘inventor’.

“No cold hands scraping anymore and it cleans ya window screen too, the brush bit is ideal.” Still want that Ford Quickclear heated windscreen? “With a salt stick and Dr Beckmann by your side, the winter blues will be a thing of the past,“ said an onlooker. Probably.

Finally, Farmer Tom might not have the social media following of Elon ‘Major Tom’ Musk, but he has come up with a very good way to stem the ‘constant tide of littering’ in the countryside. Printing car registration numbers on takeaway packaging could reduce the amount of litter thrown from car windows.

Discarded McDonald’s wrappers nestled in the roadside verges of Britain is a world away from the glitz, glamour and dry ice of a Tesla launch in Los Angeles, but it’s somehow more authentic and relevant.

More than 800 words later, you’re still here (thank you) and I still don’t have an opinion on the Tesla Cybertruck. I really ought to get my carpet cleaned, mind. Is there a doctor in the house?