Steve Cro­p­ley

Prov­ing the Paris naysay­ers wrong

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - GET IN TOUCH steve.cro­p­ley@hay­mar­ket.com @Stvcr

Is Paris un­der threat? Not ac­cord­ing to your re­sponse

THURS­DAY

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.

MON­DAY

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.

WED­NES­DAY

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.

THURS­DAY

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

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