Proving the Paris naysayers wrong
Is Paris under threat? Not according to your response
Whenever there’s an interesting but not necessarily mainstream BMW model on the horizon – such as the Z4 roadster we’ve seen but only driven as a prototype – the GB company has taken to staging afternoon meetings outside London to “raise awareness” among hacks. The latest of these, near Henley, featured roadsters from a mid-1930s 328 to the latest and quickest drop-top i8 – all for driving – plus a static new Z4 with designer Calvin Luk on hand to explain it.
The driving excitement was getting my hands on an i8, for which I’ll always venerate BMW for its ingenuity and bravery in making such a novel yet effective car. As expected, the ease of driving did nothing to harm this fine car’s grip or keen responses, but I do wish it played a bit better with the people who can afford cars in this bracket.
By the time we all made it to the Paris motor show, people were already killing it. It had been well known for weeks that Ford, VW, Nissan, Bentley, Rolls, Mclaren and half a dozen others weren’t going to be there, and reporters started taking the Daily Mail’s lead and talking disaster. Which it wasn’t. We were presented with a new BMW 3 Series. We saw the crucial electric models from Audi and Mercedes that will very soon battle Tesla and the Jaguar I-pace. We saw the DS 3 Crossback, the first car to use PSA’S brand-new small car platform, soon to go under the new-gen Vauxhall Corsa. And we saw a battery concept of the same car, also bound for production.
Is Paris under threat? Not according to you, our loyal readers. Our web traffic, which always takes a boost at show times, was 30% higher than for last year’s huge and successful Frankfurt show, with which Paris alternates. Which rather spikes the guns of the pessimists.
A late flight from Paris got me back to Blighty to join Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer at the London Stock Exchange near St Paul’s, in time for the 8am debut of his company’s shares on the public lists (see page 68). Aston people were jubilant about this, and enjoyed a happy breakfast event, but by the end of the trading day the shares has slipped from their initial £19 to £18.25, which prompted financial-page experts to use words like ‘skid’ and ‘crash’.
Suddenly, I understood why company people get impatient with financial analysts. It is as plain as the nose on your face that Aston is a medium to long-term investment. Buy now to gamble that this 6500-cars-a-year company will hit its promise to double that figure over the next five to seven years – opening a new factory, and launching SUVS, a mid-engined sports car range and some luxurious electric saloons on the way. That’s a tall order. But then, what Palmer and his henchpeople have already achieved over their past four years was seen as a tall order too.
CAR SALES FALL 20% SHOCK! Here’s another chance for doomsayers and hand-wringers to talk catastrophe, egged on by the ever-present seekers of cheap stories on our side of the fence. The drop has occurred, as we’ve known for a long time, because of the decline in diesel, the difficulty of selling PRE-WLTP cars and Brexit uncertainty. Things have played out much as we expected, and there’s little to be done except to live through it. So couldn’t we just get on with finding happy homes for all these spare cars (at appropriate prices) and resolve to learn from experience? Whingeing is boring.
Financial analysts should by now be wary of doubting Aston
BMW i8 Roadster: deserves to be more than a niche car