Essay : Europe’s premium carmakers – where did they go?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Ian Nicholls

Today, the roads of Europe are dominated by the German premium carmakers, who it seems, can do no wrong as far as their customers are concerned. The only real challenge seems to come from Jaguar Land Rover, but they still have a lot to do to catch up in terms of sales volume.

However, back in 1945, as the dust settled after six years of war, Europe seemed awash with luxury car manufacturers, each with something to offer in terms of style, engineering and innovation. Where did they all go to? In this article I seek to produce a timeline that reveals how Europe’s premium car manufacturers fell by the wayside, leaving the field clear for Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz to dominate the sector for upmarket cars. The main focus is on producers of upmarket saloon cars as opposed to manufacturers solely focused on sports car production.

1945

In July 1945, the British electorate voted by a landslide for the Labour Party led by Clement Atlee. Nationalisation of major industries and the formation of the National Health Service is what the Atlee-led Government is remembered for, less so the decision to develop nuclear weapons and the policy of encouraging the British motor industry to export vehicles in order to earn much needed foreign currency, particularly from the United States. The USA had actually emerged economically stronger from the Second World War and now had the buying power to suck in European premium cars.

This would result in Britain exporting vast quantities of sports cars and luxury saloons.

Although the road ahead would be rocky, with the British motor industry staring extinction in the face by 1980, Britain is still a major vehicle exporter today, with its surviving premium brands proving to be particularly successful. In France, home of some of the most highly-regarded automotive brands, a different philosophy towards its indigenous motor industry prevailed. The French Government commissioned Paul-Marie Pons, a former Naval Engineer turned senior Civil Servant, to come up with a post-war plan for the country’s motor industry.

The Pons Plan was influenced by the Economist Jean Monnet, who was a firm believer in the benefits of government economic planning. The Pons Plan was for a government-devised and directed rationalisation of the French vehicle industry. The plan identified in France twenty-two manufacturers of passenger cars and twenty-eight manufacturers of trucks. This was regarded as too many. The plan, applied in a way that some thought authoritarian and arbitrary, defined complementary roles for seven of the larger manufacturers: Berliet, Citroen, Ford SAF, Panhard, Peugeot, Renault and Simca.

The upshot of all this was that the French Government presided over shotgun marriages of several major vehicle producers. Although I have no intention of going into greater detail of the Pons Plan, when reading about it one can see how Tony Benn and Harold Wilson must have been influenced by it during the formation of British Leyland in 1968 and its subsequent nationalisation in 1975. During the late 1960s French car production surged ahead of Britain as Common Market car sales expanded rapidly, something a Britain locked outside by the veto of President Charles de Gaulle was unable to exploit.

The Pons Plan worked well for France for a long time. However, the downside was the introduction of a punitive fiscal horsepower tax on larger engines of 2-litres and above leading to the demise of most of the Grand Routiers such as Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye, Hotchkiss et Cie, Salmson and Talbot-Lago by the mid-1950s.

1947

Tractor manufacturer David Brown Limited bought Aston Martin under the leadership of Managing Director Sir David Brown.

1948

At the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show the newly re-christened Jaguar unveiled the sensational XK120 sports car. Then the fastest production car in the world, it established Jaguar Cars as an exporter to the lucrative US market.

1949

Swedish industrial concern Saab began car manufacturing with its 92 model.

1953

French manufacturer Salmson went bankrupt. The same year, Delage, now controlled by Delahaye, ceased production.

1954

Facel, a French manufacturer of car bodies, among other things, launched its own range of luxury cars powered by imported engines. Their most famous car, the Vega, used Chrysler V8’s of 4.5-, 5.4- and 5.8-litre capacities. Despite celebrity endorsement from many of the shakers and movers of the era, it was to all end in tears for Facel. The same year an ailing Delahaye was purchased by rival Hotchkiss to become Société Hotchkiss-Delahaye. The new combine soon shut down Delahaye car production.

1955

Citroen unveiled the technically advanced DS saloon in October 1955. Ultimately available with 1.9, 2.2 and 2.3 litre engines, punitive horsepower taxes meant that the DS was about as good as it got for a mass-produced French premium car.

Société Hotchkiss-Delahaye ceased all luxury car manufacture to focus on military vehicles. The last Lanchester car was produced by its Daimler parent company.

1956

Société Hotchkiss-Delahaye was in turn purchased by Brandt, a household appliance manufacturer.

1957

Renault bought the Salmson factory at Billancourt. Frazer-Nash, perhaps better known for making aircraft gun turrets, ceased car manufacture.

1958

Allard, a London-based, low-volume car manufacturer ceased trading. An Allard P1 had won the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally, but this had not been enough to generate enough sales to make the company viable. Daimler Benz bought 87 per cent of Auto Union, increasing their share to 100 per cent the following year.

1959

Talbot-Lago ceased trading, ownership of the name was transferred to Simca. Jensen Motors Limited of West Bromwich, founded in 1934, was bought by Norcross Limited. The Quandt family bought around 45 per cent of BMW’s shares, only a year after the car division had been on the verge of liquidation.

1960

In the same year as Jaguar bought Daimler, Armstrong Siddeley ceased car manufacturing.

1962

After stumbling along in the post-war years Bugatti finally pulled out of motor manufacturing.

1963

Rover and Triumph both announced 2.0-litre executive cars, which re-defined their respective market sectors.

1964

In October 1964 French luxury car manufacturer Facel ceased trading. The use of an Aston Martin in the third James Bond film, Goldfinger, proved to be an enormously successful example of product association as the world was gripped by Bond-mania. Just how crucial was this link to the worlds most famous secret agent in securing the future of Aston Martin?

Volkswagen bought 50 per cent of Auto Union. Eighteen months later it took total control. The intention was to use the Ingolstadt factory to ramp up Beetle production.

1965

Volkswagen launched a revised DKW using the defunct Auto Union brand Audi, last seen on a car in 1939.

1966

Jensen Motors Limited announced the Jensen Interceptor, using a series of large capacity Chrysler V8s, the largest of which was a mighty 7.2 litres. Founders Alan and Richard Jensen left the company in 1966. Like other luxury car manufacturers, the use of imported American V8 units enabled Jensen to circumvent their own lack of a bespoke engine.

As well as manufacturing its own cars, Jensen had built various BMC, Rootes and Volvo models as a sub-contractor. The end of these contracts resulted in the company re-focusing on its own products. Jaguar merged with BMC to form British Motor Holdings.

1967

Alvis, now owned by Rover, ceased car production to concentrate on military vehicles. Rover was, in turn, bought out by the Leyland Motor Corporation. The Wilks family, which had effectively controlled Rover since pre-war days, finally relinquished control.

1968

Jaguar, Rover and Triumph all became part of the British Leyland Motor Corporation. Jaguar unveiled the outstanding XJ6 saloon, which redefined the refinement available in a luxury car. The same year Citroen bought out Italian car maker Maserati.

Norcross Limited decided to sell Jensen Motors Limited. The Audi 100 was launched, a completely new Auto Union design.

1969

Fiat bought out the loss making Lancia concern, which had been founded in 1906. Although the company excelled in motorsport, a reputation for corrosion was to harm sales leading to the eclipse of the Lancia brand as a premium manufacturer of executive and luxury cars.

Fiat also bought a 50 per cent stake in Ferrari, safeguarding the company’s future. British Leyland pulled the plug on the Riley marque. Auto Union was merged with NSU. Audi was now being marketed as a separate brand from Volkswagen.

1970

Citroen unveiled the SM, the best GT car ever made. It was fitted with a Maserati engine of 2.7 and 3.0 litres. With a 140 mph top speed, there were high hopes of selling large numbers in the USA.

British Leyland announced the Range Rover. Gradually, the Range Rover was moved upmarket to become a luxury car, a successful newcomer in the premium sector. Norwegian-American Kjell Qvale was now the majority shareholder in Jensen Motors Limited and he appointed Donald Healey as Chairman. The result of this partnership was the Jensen Healey sportscar of 1972.

1971

Rolls Royce Limited went bankrupt and was nationalised.

1972

Aston Martin was sold to Company Developments, a Birmingham-based consortium chaired by William Wilson. BMW launched its first 5 Series. Mercedes-Benz launched the first S-Class, its range topping model.

1973

The cars business of Rolls Royce was separated from the aero engine division and sold off by the British Government. The October 1973 energy crisis was to have a catastrophic effect on many of the lower-volume luxury car manufacturers.

1974

Both British Leyland and Citroen ran out of money in this year.

1975

Following Citroen’s bankruptcy in 1974 production of the SM ceased. Some observers cited the Energy Crisis as a contributing factor. Maserati went into liquidation. Although primarily a sports car manufacturer like rivals Ferrari, Maserati had produced some saloon cars. A workforce sit-in resulted in a deal being brokered with Alejandro De Tomaso to take over Maserati. Around the same time the Argentine businessman took Innocenti off British Leyland’s hands.

Also bankrupt was Aston Martin. The receiver sold it to North American businessmen Peter Sprague and George Minden. This year also marked the end of the road for the Wolseley marque.

Jensen Motors Limited went into receivership, with Kjell Qvale, now both Chairman and Chief Executive blaming his unionised workforce. Under the jurisdiction of the Receivers, Interceptor production limped on into 1976. British Leyland was nationalised. BMW launched the first of its 3 Series cars.

1976

Leyland Cars unveiled the Rover SD1, intended to replace both the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000/2500. The SD1 was the last Rover created by the old Rover company’s design team. With engine capacities of 2.3, 2.6 and 3.5 litres it was designed to slot below Jaguar in the Leyland Cars range.

1977

Amid industrial turmoil, British Leyland produced the last Triumph 2000/2500 saloons. Although the Triumph marque would survive until 1984, this was the end of Triumph as a manufacturer of executive cars. BMW introduced the 7 Series saloons.

1980

Rolls Royce cars was bought by Vickers. BL Cars closed the Abingdon MG factory. Not only did it mark the end of the long-serving MGB, it was also the end of MG in the North American market.

1981

Maserati launched the Biturbo, which as the name suggests, was a twin turbocharged luxury saloon. The architecture of the saloon would serve as the basis of all Maserati’s until 1997. CH Industrials and Pace Petroleum became the new joint owners of Aston Martin.

The last Triumph TR7 was produced, and this really was the end of British Leyland sports cars in the USA.

1986

Production of the Rover SD1 ceased, to be replaced by the Anglo-Japanese Rover 800. Ultimately, serious quality issues had blighted the SD1’s career to the extent that the rival, German-built Ford Granada had usurped it as Britain’s best-selling executive car despite it having a less prestigious badge. The new 800 seemed to be more focused as a Granada beater than as a major European premium brand to rival the fast rising German makes.

This was reflected in its choice of engines, 2.0 and 2.5 litres. There was no place for the Rover V8 in the new range. By the time the 800 reached the showrooms, Jaguar had been privatised, and the conditions for avoiding market overlap no longer existed.

The same year Fiat bought Alfa Romeo, founded in 1910, merging it with its Lancia subsidiary.

1987

After more complex ownership changes, Ford took a shareholding in Aston Martin.

1988

The Audi V8 was launched. With a 3.6 litre V8 engine, later upgraded to 4.2 litres, it marked a move upmarket for the Audi brand. In hindsight this was probably just as significant as the appearance of the Lexus LS the following year.

1989

Toyota launched its own premium car brand, Lexus. The first model was the Lexus LS featuring a 4-litre V8 engine. The news that the Japanese had entered the luxury car market sent shock waves through the motor industry. Not only was there now a contender manufactured to Japanese build quality standards, the Lexus LS also impressed in other areas. The Lexus V8 was considerably more refined than the engines of some of its more prestigious rivals.

The Saab car manufacturing division was re-structured as an independent concern, separate from the Saab parent company. The arrival of Lexus sent some of the motor industries behemoths scrambling to acquire smaller premium manufacturers.

General Motors bought 50 per cent of Saab shares. Ford took over Jaguar with an ambitious plan to expand the brand’s appeal.

1991

Ford took full control of Aston Martin, securing its long term future.

1993

Fiat bought Maserati.

1994

BMW bought the Rover Group. Any notion of developing a luxury Rover saloon, a latter day P4 or P5, to rival the German brands disappeared with this event. Audi replaced the V8 with the first of its A8 series. By sharing platforms with its mass produced Volkswagen cousins, Audi was able to reduce costs and without attracting the stigma that Jaguar later gained when it used Ford Mondeo underpinnings with the X-Type.

1997

In a bizarre move, Fiat sold Maserati to Ferrari, which itself was owned by Fiat! While Ferrari continued to focus on sports cars, the acquisition of Maserati at last resulted in a financially viable Italian luxury saloon car for the 21st century. However, hopes that Alfa Romeo and Lancia could compete in the executive car market were fading away by this point as the German brands became omnipotent.

1998

The Rover 75 was announced. This car crystallised BMW’s vision of the Rover brand, a sub-2.5 litre car priced below the 3 Series. Jaguar announced the S-Type, a BMW 5 Series rival.

Volkswagen acquired the Bugatti brand from Italian businessman Romano Artioli, who had owned it since 1987. Vickers sold Rolls Royce cars. A complicated series of events resulted in BMW gaining control of the Rolls Royce brand, while Volkswagen purchased Bentley, which had been part of Rolls Royce cars since 1931 – all this came into effect from 2003 and, as a consequence, Bentley once again became a standalone marque instead of a badge-engineered Rolls Royce.

2000

General Motors bought out the remaining shares of Saab to gain total control, the same year BMW offloaded the Rover Group to various parties. BMW retained Cowley for its new MINI, Ford bought Land Rover and the Longbridge plant was given to the new MG Rover organisation. By now any aspirations that the Rover marque was a premium brand had evaporated.

2001

Jaguar launched the X-Type, a BMW 3 Series rival.

2002

Porsche introduced the Cayenne, its first non-sports car vehicle. A luxury SUV, it widened the appeal of the Porsche brand into the premium family car sector.

2005

MG Rover at Longbridge ceased trading, marking the final demise of the Rover brand. The Bugatti Veyron was announced, perhaps the ultimate supercar.

2007

Ford sold Aston Martin to a consortium led by David Richards of Prodrive.

2008

Ford sold Jaguar and Land Rover to TATA of India after its expansion plans for Jaguar had spectacularly and publicly failed.

2009

General Motors put Saab up for sale. It was bought by Spyker Cars, which like MG Rover in 2005, eventually ran out of money in 2011. Is the Saab brand dead or merely in hibernation? Only time will tell…

So what do we learn from all this?

When Ford took over Jaguar in 1990 they were appalled by what they found. Antiquated plants, outdated working practices and a management whose greatest attribute was its impressive public relations skills in effectively duping Ford into paying five times the net value of the company’s actual assets.

Yet the parsimony of Jaguar’s founder, Sir William Lyons, was not without reason. This policy had one tangible result, survival at a time when other premium car manufacturers were dropping like flies in the post-war era.

The post-war history of the British motor industry might look like a grim catalogue of misfortune, but one thing that did go right was the survival of many of its premium brands. Indeed, of the major European motor manufacturing countries, the only serious competition is Germany.

Germany winning, who is fighting back?

In Italy, Alfa Romeo and Lancia seem to be gradually fading away, although Maserati is now resurgent thanks to Ferrari. Italy is still justly famous for its sports cars. Perhaps the most tragic loss of premium car brands occurred in France, one of the pace setters in the early development of the automobile.

The loss of brand names like Delage, Delahaye, Hotchkiss and Salmson was, in hindsight, a big mistake, when perhaps they could have been used as premium badges on upmarket cars from the major French manufacturers. Moreover, although Bugatti survives as a supercar, it is perhaps a waste of a brand name that belongs on a French luxury saloon car.

Hopes for a successful French premium car now reside with the DS brand. The effective wiping out of an entire automotive sector because of Government intervention now looks like gigantic blunder of epic proportions.

Ian Nicholls

Born in Bedfordshire but now residing in Norfolk, Ian Nicholls is an ardent BL enthusiast. Currently he owns a Jaguar and two classic Minis. A stalwart of the Norfolk Mini Owners Club for nearly a decade he is an enthusiast for all things Issigonis. A stickler for historical accuracy he has recently performed the marathon task of mining the online newspaper articles for all BMC>MG related stories. Ian is unable to help with technical queries – he pays other people to fix his cars!

115 Comments

  1. Trouble is there’s so many Audi/BMW & Mercedes on the road I’d argue that neither of these ranges of vehicles ( I don’t use the word brands) are no longer exclusive or prestige cars. Going back forty years or so back if you think about it the smallest BMW was the 2002,for Mercedes it was the 200 saloon (now E-class) both of these cars were more expensive than Ford’s Granada which was the flagship of Ford’s European range. Nowadays all the German makers have models(A1,1 series & A-Class) that share the same price range as the Astra & Focus, which to me has rather devalued the exclusivity of all the German cars. naturally to compete with mass manufacturers such as Fiat,Ford,GM & PSA economies have to be made like er not building in Germany,if punters knew that an Audi A1 was built in Belgium,the BMW X3 in the USA and the A-Class in Hungary would they still be so keen to pay premium prices them? Perhaps the truth of the German auto industry is due more to successful advertising and marketing rather than any engineering excellence of the cars

  2. Really good piece, that.
    Crucially though the mass customers, those with no real car interest or knowledge, do consider Mercedes, BMW and Audi ‘premium’ compared to VW, Vauxhall, Peugeot or Ford, even if the volumes, and in some cases prices, make a mockery of that. As much a question for sociologists and brand marketing experts as it is for car enthusiasts maybe, but its a remarkably good trick which both Triumph and Rover almost pulled off at different points in history.

  3. An interesting survey . Like Ian Parker , I think the German Triumvirate are in fact now manufacturers whose major concern is the volume market ( in the case of Daimler Benz that really has always been the case, with the cars merely being a sideline to the commercial vehicle operation ) . Incidentally, can anyone tell me what the aeroplane is in the Citroen DS picture ? It looks too big for a Dassault Flamant

  4. Going back the early eighties, owning a Mercedes in Britain, even a basic 200, was a sign you were very well off, wanted an executive car that was different to the Granadas and Rovers that predominated then, and knew you’d be buying a car that would easily last 15 years with no rust and no mechanical problems. Also BMW appealed to well off drivers who wanted a sporting alternative to a Mercedes with the same quality. Nowadays, I think, there’s nothing really exclusive about these brands and they’re not as German as people think, Audi, BMW and Mercedes import many of their models from outside Germany.

  5. I think the plane is a Sud=Ouest S.O.30 Bretagne it flew just after WW2 and was used by Air France and the French Air Force

  6. I’ve felt for a number of years that there really isn’t any such thing as a “premium” car any more. When PCP payments make an Audi, BMW or Merc cheaper and therefore more commonplace on the driveways of suburban Britain they are just another mass-market car.

    Personally, I lay a lot of the blame for this at the door of Graham Day. 30 years ago, it was his idea to ditch Austin and Morris and call “the company” Rover Group; and, for a while, it worked with R8 200 and 400s being truly aspirational cars, 600 and 800 also.

    Unfortunately, long term, this had the same effect on Rover products as it will inevitably have on the German aspirational brands (they aren’t premium any more). Aspiration and volume don’t sit well together. In the end they are just commonplace cars that everyone drives and will be treated as such.

    As I see it, in 2016 the market is split in to 3 sectors. For example:

    Budget – Dacia, SsangYong etc.

    Mainstream – GM, Ford, VAG (excluding Bentley / Bugatti), BMW (excluding RR), Merc, JLR (up to XF/RR Sport)

    Luxury – Maserati/Ferrari, Bentley, Bugatti, RR, JLR (from Range Rover & XJ)

  7. Just a point of information in response to Ian Nicholls’ question about whether the Saab brand is dead or merely in hibernation – as Automotive News Europe’s David Jolley reports in the article at the link below, “Saab AB, the Swedish aerospace company which owns the Saab brand, will not allow its name or logo to be used on future models produced by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS).” See:

    Saab name won’t be revived under Chinese owners, David Jolley, Automotive News Europe, 30th January, 2016

    Meanwhile, in response to a question on the FAQs page of National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB’s new website, the company states: “The NEVS business plan is fundamentally different from Saab Automobile. We are moving from a traditional car company, producing combustion engines, to a mobility service provider focusing solely on electric vehicles. A change of this magnitude means that a change of trademark is both appropriate and very timely. By doing so, we can carry the Saab cars brand legacy with us into the future, while also adding something new and contemporary. Our new trademark builds on this legacy, with its Swedish roots synonymous with innovation, quality, smart design and fun-to-drive vehicles. These traits are what define the brand, not the trademark itself, and so they are also the building blocks of NEVS.”

    Incidentally, the new trademark referred to is NEVS – see the video of the internal reveal event in Trollhättan, Sweden on the 21st June, 2016 here:

    Behind the scenes at the internal launch of NEVS, 15th July, 2016

  8. Back in the early eighties I was one of the many that aspired to a Mercedes-Benz. The brand seemed to possess a cachet beyond that of other manufacturers of the time; the peerless build quality and engineering integrity made all the more appealing by virtue of their relative rarity on British roads back then.

    Now that I finally own a Mercedes-Benz – fine car though it is – I’m more likely to notice a pristine Rover 75 soldiering on with its proud owner behind the wheel than the myriad of beautifully crafted Audi/BMW/Mercedes’ thronging the nation’s roads. The German brands have somehow become a victim of their own success in the exclusivity stakes; quite simply the vast numbers on the roads making them seem less special. Sadly, many are now purchased just because they are deemed highly fashionable and ‘good to be seen in’ rather than out of any real appreciation for their intrinsic qualities and that is a shame. One thing is certain however, they are by definition no longer exclusive brands.

  9. Very interesting article, thank you.

    The nearest I’ve ever come to owning a “prestige German brand” is buying 2 MINI’s! Other than that, I would buy just about anything to avoid cluttering up the streets with another one! Buying one of the big three from Germany seems a little like putting a McDonalds in every high street – we need regional identity and variation.

    • That’s true enough the 240 & 260 series were definitely seen as a cut above the average also Saab was also viewed in a similar light. The takeover of both companies by Ford & GM didn’t really help, GM’s stewardship of Saab was extremely poor neglecting the range in Sweden and then peddling GMC & Subaru products as Saab’s ,just before the General disposed of Saab they were about to introduce the 9-4X a Vauxhall Antara derived SUV built in Mexico but GM’s bankruptcy this came to naught.

  10. Interesting article, thanks. I will look up the Pons Plan – never hear of it before. I really hope that Tata’s billions will turn JLR into a global rival for the three German car makers. I wonder if the Jaguar brand is strong enough yet?

  11. Ian Parker : thank you for that reply about the Bretagne – an aeroplane I had forgotten about, and certainly never seen !

  12. Some good points raised here. Premium marques have a long history of appearing and disappearing in the UK and it’s still happening. In the 60s and 70s the UK marques Singer, Humber, Sunbeam and Vanden Plas disappeared with some of them re-appearing for a short period as model names or trim levels. Plus Triumph left the market in 1984. In the former eastern bloc there was also Tatra to a limited extent.

    For a short time in the 80s GM tried to push Opel as a premium brand in the UK but the public saw through it. In the early 2000s GM tried again, this time with Cadillac as top-of-the-range in the UK and Europe but the product wasn’t good enough and GM’s financial troubles in 2007/8 got in the way. Infiniti was introduced by Nissan in the USA in 1989 and in the UK in the late 2000s but the product mostly wasn’t suitable for the UK market. It’s only now with the Mercedes alliance and European production that relevant cars are being introduced. Honda have their Acura brand in the USA but don’t sell it in Europe. Mazda started to introduce Xedos in the UK initially as a range of models rather than a separate marque but gave up. Perhaps when the European green lobby succeeds in reducing the tax breaks for diesel cars the sales for petrol models will take off allowing the introduction of many models currently aimed at the US market.

    • I sometimes think that if Honda had taken over Rover, they would’ve used that marque to sell Acura products in Europe.

      As it is, the European Accord was sold elsewhere as an Acura, now axed, as was the Legend about a decade ago, you can’t buy a traditional ‘big’ Honda. Though the Civic has grown somewhat, is more mk1 Mondeo size now.

  13. In the seventies the Opel Commodore,Monza & Senator were certainly aimed at the premium sector,the cars were also badged as the Vauxhall Viceroy & Royale saloon/coupe never sold as well as their Opel equivalents.Cadillac’s foray into the European market in the mid 2000’s was not in the UK at least sold by GM but an independent concessionaire based I believe in the Netherlands who went bust in the late 2000’s,which was a pity as some of the cars like the CTS were pretty good while the Saab built BLS designed for Europe passed over unnoticed. Personally I’d like to see the Marque back in the UK as some of the performance V series models are quite impressive and it would be a change from all the stodgy German offerings

  14. If France’s Pons Plan was scrapped or less restrictive towards large-engined lower-volume luxury carmakers, which French luxury marques would have had the best chance of surviving out of Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye, Hotchkiss et Cie, Salmson and Talbot-Lago, etc?

    Is there even a certainty that France’s luxury carmakers would have survived the post-war era and thrived up to the present day without the Pons Plan?

    • An interesting thought that.
      With Renault, Peugeot and Citroen all having disastrous experiences with their top end cars over the last two or three decades (and I’m saying that as a lover of XM’s), the French haven’t been able to build a successful, latter day, competitor to the ubiquitous German dullards for a generation.
      All of this happened after the Pons Plan; would the other manufacturer’s have faired any better?
      Probably not. With European trade barriers down (for the minute), there’s something almost universally appealing to many in a conventional and unremarkable RWD saloon from one of the German mass market manufacturers.

      • Still it must have been possible for some pre-war French Luxury carmaker or few to be successful via a lenient or scrapped Pons Plan (along the lines of Jaguar, Aston Martin, Morgan, etc), whether as an independent concern or as part of a larger French carmaker such as Renault and Peugeot.

        The likes of Facel Vega and Monica are a few post-war examples, albeit largely reliant on foreign engines (the under-developed Facel Vega Facellia notwithstanding).

    • Last I heard, one thing Mr Bugatti wasn’t, was French! Personally I’d love one of his Rootes supercharged autocycle attachments.
      I don’t know enough about the Delahaye etc but expecting the average American motorist to deal with an SM, talk about hiding to nothing, although Chrysler did make their version of the Renault 25, but more a saloon than hatchback.
      The two problems French large/luxury cars have had in the last 25 years are dubious electronics and the fact that no one outside France knows they exist. BMW bombard us with adverts, and even when they build unmitigated cack like the 1 series, it still sells.
      Citroen is seen as boy racer small cars, despite the XM, C5 (probably the best estate in the world ever) and C6. Renault 5 is the turbo, no one even noticed the Monaco! Ditto the Clio Baccara. Because if people don’t know about it, they won’t buy it!
      It doesn’t matter now anyway, everything is clones, this is a copy of that which is a copy of something else yet people still buy VW when an almost identical Skoda is 3k cheaper..
      If we survive Trump the only thing that’ll be different in a few years is the badges, and it’ll cost as much to develop those as a full size car!

      • My point exactly the German motor industry is largely a creation of advertising & marketing aided and abetted by a motoring press whose “reviews” seem more like promotional material rather that serious analysis.

  15. No one has mentioned Humber. In the fifties, the Snipe, Super Snipe and Hawk were large, luxurious( for the time) cars aimed at the Rover and Jaguar market and sold well. However, Chrysler took over Rootes in 1967 and reduced Humber to producing an upmarket Hillman Hunter and the brand fell away, Chrysler’s attempts to replace the big Humber with a Chrysler badged car made in France was a sales flop as well.
    Apart from Humber, since the fifties, there has been quite a cull of upmarket British car marques if you remember Armstrong Siddeley, Alvis, Vanden Plas, Daimler, Triumph, Rover, Sunbeam and Lagonda.

    • Didn’t Chrysler try to sell the Valiant over here to replace the big Humber?, not sure if it was sourced in Australia or the US.

      • Chrysler sourced those Valiants from Australia. But a traditional Humber buyer was never going to accept a Valiant as a substitute so of course that plan failed.

        On the subject of luxury marques not mentioned, Borgward seems to have been omitted too.

        • Borgward were really good cars the Isabella was built in several forms saloon, convertible, coupe,estate and even a pick up version another German marque from about the same time was Glas which started out building very small cars then ending up with a V8. Unlike Borgward who went bankrupt Glas were taken over by BMW in the mid sixties I believe that the final cars built by Glas had BMW badging and that the tooling was sent off to South Africa. Borgward had a sort of life after bankruptcy,the tooling for the Isabella and the big P100 saloon were shipped of to Mexico and production continued until the end of the sixties, I do remember a couple of years ago a plan to revive the Borgward name but I’m not sure if anything came of it.

          • The big difference between Borgward and Glas were the respective finanancial situations.
            Borgward was heavily indebted and very dependent from his bankers’s goodwill. Mr. Borgward lost this because of his personal behaviour and as a result the company went bankrupt. The factory survived as a Mercedes plant – the SLK is one of the cars made there.
            Glas never used money from a bank. Hans Glas, the company’s founder and a very successful manufacturer of agricultural machinery was very proud that he was able to pay cash for everything he needed. His company was very innovative, designing the first engine to use a toothed cambelt, even going so far to design and manufacture their own painting equipment for the factory because they couldn’t afford to buy this in. Hans Glas gave us several Frua-styled cars like the Glas GT Coupé and the large V8 that looked like a Maserati Quattroporte, thereby earning the nickname Glaserati.
            In the end, Glas saw that he could no longer run his company on the available shoestring budget and sold it to BMW. BMW built the Glas GT as the BMW GT with kidney grille and BMW engine and transported the 1800 saloon’s manufacturing facilities to South Africa where the car was built as the BMW 1800 with BMW mechanicals in its Glas body. The old Glas factory survives as the BMW plant manufacturing the 5 series BMW.

          • Borgward were actually not bankrupt – the bankers and the regional government that financially loaned to Borgward stated that the company was too heavily indebted to carry on and brought in the administrators. Once the administrators sold everything off it turned out the company was actually solvent. There is an argument that this was a conspiracy to keep BMW afloat – see the Wikipedia page for a short version of the story

    • You forgot the Audax Sceptres. 6 speed manual and 35mpg. Put the H120 engine in its fast (but please tell the next owner, the difference between 3000rpm in top is 60mph normal, 80mph H120, and my Speedo didn’t work on that one).
      Mark 2 even had reclining seats for £1000.

      • The small Humbers had really good interiors as well even the final Mk 3 the interior of which was a real cut above it’s similar bodied stablemates in the Chrysler/Rootes range,and the final Sceptre estate looked very smart indeed

        • Agreed. I do remember that HUMBER Sceptre in a Group Test with a Rover 2000, and a Triumph 2000. With only a 1725cc engine, and “live” rear axle, it was probably a little ambitious – but did at least confirm the then (still) perceived position of the HUMBER make/brand/marque.

  16. Yet again more bashing of BMW and Mercedes Benz. How many people on this forum have actually driven a recent “premium” German car, Sorry its not just clever PR but the result of a manufacturer producing a premium product.
    After 87k miles in 24 months in a 5 series and no faults not even a blown bulb, still on same pads discs I so wanted to move to a Jag. My previous 3 series had done 105k in 28 months again no issues. After being seriously disappointed by size of cabin and boot in XE and XF and in places the airfix quality of plastics I’ve just ordered another BMW.

    • Oh, I am sorry to hear that, better luck next time!
      Seriously, the last one I test drove was a new 2011 5 Series Touring, in comparison to a new Freelander 2 TD4. The Freelander 2 was the better car and I ran it for 2 1/2 years and 90,000 miles.
      A colleague bought it at the end of the lease agreement, to replace his 320d. He still has the Freelander (complete with 142,000 miles now) and has no plans to replace it yet and he’s looking to achieve 200,000 miles. When he does replace it, he now tells me it will be with the newest used FL2 he can get his hands on at the time!

      • I’d forgotten one; I did take out a new E Class in 2011 as well. Avoiding the taxi spec one with the vinyl (sorry “artificial leather”) seats, it was busting the budget but, despite having previously always wanted to like a Mercedes, it just left us cold. Kathy was really concerned that I was going to buy one and pushed the idea of taking out the Freelander – which got the vote.

        5 Land Rovers later, I’m on my 2nd D4 and loving it. As far as I’m concerned, The spirit of pre-BL Rover is alive and well, they just happen to be building 4×4’s and SUV’s now, though I’m struggling to forgive them for discontinuing the Discovery!

    • …and my dads merc ate its intake manifold within 3000 miles from brand new.. 3k of warranty work and 11 years later it’s great. Mercedes build quality went down the pan for quite a while around then.. And the new cars aren’t even as good, there’s a dealer waiting list for his C diesel estate if he ever sells it. They all want it for their own car. And it still goes like a missile.

  17. You’d probably get the same result if you’d have bought an Infinitti or Lexus the thing about them or a Jaguar is that at least you’re pretty sure of where it came from. Many RHD BMW’s & Mercs are built in South Africa. To me you’re paying over the odds for a product,it’s rather like putting sparkling wine into a bottle and labelling it champagne,really the blue propellor or three pointed star are just marketing devices for cars built anywhere in the world and passed of as German

    • Ian, I don’t understand why you suggest the country of manufacture dictates the quality of the vehicle. Would you apply the same argument to a Nissan, Toyota or Honda built in Britain ?

      • My rationiale is simple if I pay the extra premium for a German badged vehicle I expect at the very least a German built vehicle. It may sound obstinate but if you take for instance the vehicles built in the UK by Honda,Nissan & Toyota are they of the same spec and quality of those built in Japan. It’s always crossed my mind that are cars built in say for instance South Africa the same as the ones built in Germany? What made me think of this was looking at a Z4 which has never been built in Germany but to look at the standards of build quality don’t seem to be up to European standards. But as ever it’s a matter of personal opinion isn’t it? whether you think that the provinance of a vehicle where it was built is more important than having the supposed kudos of having the badge.

        • Where a car is made interests me in terms of what’s the relationship between the asking price and the assy workers wages. I don’t mind paying the asking price of a German car if its made in Germany as I am aware German car industry workers are on ” pop stars ” wages. (Fair play to them). However paying BMW money for a car built in China by workers being paid peanuts in comparison to their Bavarian counterparts is IMHO taking the mickey somewhat. Just for the record I bought a brand new MG6 last yr. As I see it I got a Mondeo sized car for Focus money and no rear wiper aside well kitted out too. One yr in I have had one warranty claim ( failed thermostat), other than that, still more than happy with it.

          • I agree with you, perhaps as bad or if not worse in the VAG group sourcing some of it vehicles from Mexico (it’s not alone on this)precisely because of low labour costs in Mexico

          • VW Jetta is sourced from Mexico, looks like a mini Passat .

            Then we have the likes of the SEAT Toledo, a Spanish car built by Skoda in the Czech republic based on a Chinese VW design, being marketed in Mexico as a taxi.

      • I worked for Honda UK from the late ’80s to the late ’90s. In that time we moved from a quota-limited volume to cars from Japan but then Swindon, Rover and the USA. All badged Honda.

        Most customers just expected a car to Honda quality and didn’t care where it came from, but some did and always implied the best ones were made in Japan. Honda engineers didn’t agree.

        So, we looked at warranty claims, all models, all plants. The cars with the least and lowest value claims were for cars built in the USA. The most claims per unit and of the highest value were, wait for it… from Japan! Yes, we were surprised too. Evidence that folklore was just that.

        Later in my career I was with Toyota Europe and precisely the same thing happened with the first Yaris, or B-Zero as we knew it, which was firstly built in Japan then Valenciennes. After a build-up period, the French car was indistinguishable and then better.

        It’s nothing really about where they’re built though, all these cars were far better than industry averages. It’s about the regime and practices of the company building them. After all, Aygo, C1 and Pug 107 all roll down the same line in Poland. Are they different?

        • Well yes the Aygo for instance isn’t sold outside Europe and as many 108 & C1’s roll down the line as the do Toyota version. But then the 108/Aygo/C1 isn’t presented as a high end product,one of it’s “core brand values” is that it’s a German product and sold on that premise. I return to my champagne vs sparkling wine argument,yes they are
          both the same thing but champagne is the premium product it’s identity protected b y law rather than advertising hype

          • You’re being obtuse. We got different versions of the same generation Civic from three sources; Coupe (USA), five door (Swindon/ Rover) and Japan (three door, CRX). Customers couldn’t tell or didn’t care where they were built but they knew Honda was a Japanese company. They weren’t British, US or Japanese, they were just Hondas.

            Same applies to German or any other brand. Chinese-built JV Audis match German for quality…

            It’s a mental, not a physical perception.

          • But (Ian P) Champagne will probably remain the premium product so long as it truly delivers something better than other sparkling wine. Wine like cars can be marketed as ‘premium’, but the public soon see through the marketing it if the product isn’t up to scratch.

            People used to buying ‘premium’ aren’t easily fooled.

  18. What confuses myself is that the fact that people are such suckers for the cars from BMW/Audi/Merc but fail realise that the so called ‘premium’ manufacturers of Germany are simply a creation of the motoring press, which carry car reviews which seem to simply be press releases from their own companies PR departments. When you look at the JD Power reliability surveys, they’re no more and in some cases less reliable than other marks which the same motoring press state aren’t so good.

    I drive a Mondeo. Not the current model but the preceding one. Now as a car it’s brilliant. It’s large, roomy, comfortable, rides well, it’s efficient and as a car it’s perfect for my needs. Indeed every time I see someone driving a 3-Series I question why they’re not driving the Ford. Yet it is perceived as a mass-market car. Common even. Yet the 3-Series out-sells it as its perceived as more exclusive – not better, just more exclusive. But it’s the 3-series that’s actually more common now… It’s madness.

    An example of this surrounded the recent launch of Vignale version of the Mondeo. Now I’m not going to debate the merits of Ford’s decision to launch Vignale but I can understand the logic behind it. Yet the reviews of it were scathing…comments like ‘who’d pay 30k for a Mondeo etc’ but at the same time praising cars like the A3 or the 3-series which cost the same but are half the cars for the money.

    The only real new entrant into the premium market with a chance of challenging the big three from Germany – if you exclude Infiniti and let’s be honest most folk do – is probably DS. Alfa seems, sadly, to be very much an afterthought in FIAT’s quest to sell versions of the 500 to America and Lancia is very much on life support, even in Italy. DS offers something very different, very French and has something the German cars lack in spades – style. I had the opportunity to have a ride in a DS5 recently and was very pleasantly surprised at how classy it felt inside – certainly a lot more premium than a friends brand new A3 I tried.

    Indeed DS seems to have taken on the mantle of the very much missed SAAB, offering something very much different and left field. Something not German. If only GM had held its nerve and invested in SAAB, it could have had a real challenger to the German three.

    • Hi Scott I agree with your comments on the Mondeo – a brilliant vehicle. One thing that does not seem to have been explored in the article about why consumers go for the German premium manufacturers are the dealers. Mike Humble has discussed dealer dervice in the past and I feel it is relevant here. As someone who currently owns a a 1 series and has owned PSA (both Citroen and Pugs) plus Ford vehicles in the past the level of service I have received from the BMW dealers knocks spots off the other two manufacturers. Ford and PSA dealers are the pits. Once they have your money you are seen an as inconvenience (I’m not pigeon holing one dealer, I’m talking about multiple dealers in various parts of the country) and anecdotally friends’ experience would infer the same about VAG. My experience with BMW is that they will go out of their way to help – when my current lease is up in 18 months time BMW will be the first port of call.

      • Agreed. I have (had) ambitions to own various models from the Audi, BMW, Merc, stables . . although never having the financial resources to fulfil those ambitions. However, this has never stopped me visiting the respective showrooms to ask for brochures, “kick-tyres”, and try the vehicles’ various seats. As a complete stranger, I have – ALWAYS – immediately been greeted as a family member/close friend!!

        This is something both the Jaguar dealer network, and the Land Rover dealer network, have yet to learn and inculcate.

        F.F.S. . . . they have even stopped producing brochures!!

    • Owning a Ford is a great case in point.
      I last bought a new Ford, a Focus RS, in 2010, but I did so in the full and certain knowledge that the service from Ford dealers would be terrible and I can confirm that they lived up to my low expectations!
      It’s interesting to see that Ford are promising that Vignale customers will have their own service provision because, otherwise, you’re forever reminded that you’re treated with equal contempt to the long suffering Transit or Ka driver that you’re sharing the service queue with. I would not trust Ford dealers to maintain this premium service promise.
      BMW dealers may sell more of the 2016 equivalent to the Vauxhall Chevette, in the 3 Series, than Ford do with the excellent Mondeo, but the service is “experience” is usually much more polished with BMW, although no more polished than it’s been at the 3 JLR dealers that I’ve used recently.

      • Arnold Clark are the local Ford main dealers, this usually means rubbish customer care, disinterested staff, work being invented to make money, and cars being returned late and sometimes in a worse condition. Go along to the local BMW Mini dealer and it’s completely the opposite: knowledgable and enthusiastic staff, a professional attitude, work done correctly and on time, and customers who keep returning.

        • It’s funny you should say that; the RS was a replacement for a Cooper S, that I’d owned for 3 1/2 years and a Cooper for 2 1/2 years before that. The local dealer’s service department, near Falmouth, was absolutely brilliant. Unfortunately, we just outgrew the MINI’s and we needed something a fair bit bigger.
          I did go back to try a 520d touring (for work), just on the strength of how good their service was, but it too was horrible.

    • “It’s large, roomy, comfortable, rides well, it’s efficient and as a car it’s perfect for my needs. Indeed every time I see someone driving a 3-Series I question why they’re not driving the Ford.”

      The Mondeo is an excellent car, and it may well be perfect for YOUR needs, but everyone’s tastes are different.

      Some people might want:
      * Six cylinder engines (not as prevalent in BMWs these days, but still available if you want them)
      * Rear wheel drive
      * Nice interiors
      * Powerful diesels – if you want a manual, the most powerful Mondeo diesel is 180 bhp. The bog standard 320d has 190bhp, and the six cylinder diesels are in a performance league of their own.

      I don’t own any German cars any more, but have had BMWs and Audis in the past and can understand why people choose them. It is unfair to say people just buy them for the badge. Even a lowly 320d is a good car that stands up on its own merits.

      • Throughout my automotive life I owned more than twenty cars. Amongst these were a Citroen DS, a Lancia Gamma Coupé and a string of all types Alfas.
        I would absolutely agree that a German car from the Sixties or Seventies mostly is no better than its French or Italian competitors and in most cases it is vastly less innovative. Look at a VW Beetle next to a Fiat 128, an Alfasud or a Peugeot 204 to see what I mean. Early Alfettas didn’t regularly win tests against early 5series BMWs for nothing.
        It all went pear shaped when Italian and French manufacturers felt the effects of the fuel crisis, which harmed Alfa particularly badly, effectively destroying their plans to keep the products in level terms with BMW.
        Another factor was the different approach to handling the perceived Japanese invasion of the early Eighties. German manufacturers decided to fight back by building better products when the French tried to keep the competitors out by import quota. This resulted in a whole new generation of attractive products like the “aero” Audi 80 and 100, the BMW E32, E34 and E36, the Benz W124 and W126 (often considered to be the best car ever made) that pushed the standards for executive cars and still do so. Just get inside a current A4 and compare it to what you see in a Pug 508, an Alfa Giulia and even a Jag XE. You immediately see why the Pug has no chance in the company car market, where more than sixty percent of all Audis or BMWs go.
        My sister bought a Nissan Qashqai a couple of months ago. The fit and finish of the interior is not a gap but a gulf between this car and a current Golf VII. In the Nissan there are innumerable glitches that show a general lack of attention to detail and sum up to an utterly nasty impression of quality. And that is before you see that the Nissan has a ridiculously sized engine that’s barely capable of moving that car.
        This all comes before you take into account the perfectly organised service Audi, BMW and Mercedes deliver to their customers at least in their home country. The service quality is light years ahead of what you get from Alfa or Peugeot dealers, who mostly are far more used to deal with Fiat Panda or Pug 108 owners and simply do not understand what it means to offer professional service to corporate leasing contract customers. This is something Alfa is currently learning the very hard way. With the new Giulia they finally have an almost competitive car with a high emotional value but the quality of their dealer network is effectively killing the product in the market.

  19. Completely take on board what you say about the Mondeo if they screwed a three pointed star on it jacked up the price by fifty percent showrooms would be filled to bursting with punters. Not so sure about the revival of Vignale though,Ford bought the name along with Ghia when they bought the De Tomaso organization, but after initially putting the Ghia badge to the Grenada saloon and coupe within a few years the Ghia name was used on the Fiesta as well. GM did spend money on Saab but it was mainly for the US market and the vehicles sold under the Saab moniker there added nothing to the image of the marque and by the time the 9-5 reached the market the company had been sold by GM to Spyker and that collapsed a couple of years later.

    • 2 very good points there. We Brits are suckers for badge and label snobbery. Anybody born from 1970 onwards( 72 for myself) will have grown up in the environment of : At school it was all about if you had the Addidas, trainers , Sergio Tachini tracksuit, Puma sports bag and even the Helix pencil case and matching stationary you were seen to be cool, popular and doing rather better than if your parents bought all your stuff from the local jumble sale. Now those of us are in our 30’s and 40 ‘s that attitude has carried on with our cars. A Vauxhall Astra estate (sorry Sports Tourer) would no doubt be a perfectly adequate and suitable family car for most people, but it doesn’t have that ” It would appear from our cars that I am considerably richer than yow” perception that having a Audi Q5 on the drive would. It really does bring home just how bad we British are willing to pay more than everybody else ( and more than we need to) for everything just to ” show off” how much money we have to set fire to and pretend not to notice. No wonder we get financially fleeced by the ROW.

      • True enough just console yourself with the thought that the next Q5 is being built exclusively in Mexico, but at least the Astra is likely to be built in Ellesmere Port

      • To be fair, the UK is General Motor’s biggest market in Europe, so that doesn’t suggest that we are unique in buying products from premium brands! Indeed I bet we buy far more Astra tourers than Germany does…

      • So true, my sister in law laughed at my dad recently for buying a S-Max Titanium to transport the grandsprogs. She would only buy an Audi Q7!!!!
        We have got a country obsessed with brands to show status, yet really rich do not do this. I remember coaching to owner of a squash club, who happened to own a vintage Ferrari and a helicopter, but he just wore any old kit on the court, it didn’t matter to him if he wasn’t wearing the latest gear. He also made me buy the drinks afterwards!!!

        • And the point of spending over £48k on an entry level Slovakian built Audi is?,could have bought a seven seat Skoda Kodiaq 4×4 for about half that and believe it or not it’s built in the Czech Republic which for cars produced by the VAG group is rather unusual

          • Kodiaq is based on the compact MQB platform, the same as the VW Tiguan.

            It’s significantly smaller than the Q7 and the boot space and third row seat space will be smaller. The two are not really comparable.

  20. No one has mentioned Mazda, whose 6 resembles a Jaguar XF and is an extremely pleasant car to drive and own with very good reliability and build quality. These really are worth a look as they’re priced similar to Ford, with whom they once had an alliance, yet look far more expensive. Also from the far East, I’m amazed how Audi like the Hyundai i 40 looks and from all accounts is a good car, even if the badge scares away badge snobs.

    • Mazda vehicles are excellent there’s no doubt about that,at one time the company were considering having a prestige marque to be known as Amati Cars, this would compete with Acura,Infinitti and Lexus. In this range both the Xedos 6 and 9 plus at the top of the range a 12 cylinder car, however Mazda pulled the scheme and the top of the range car became the Mazda Sentia with a V6 engine and the 12 cylinder engine which could have been a V12 or W12 never saw the light of day.

      • I remember Mazda’s Eunos brand as I had a Cosmo Type S and my wife had the Roadster (AKA MX-5). Mazda’s branding was getting a little confusing. Perhaps why the Amati badge was pulled.

        • I believe that Japanese manufacturers have several sub-brands that they sell through different chains,Mazda created three new ranges aimed at three different markets. First there was Autozam which sold small kei cars,elini were luxury cars and Eunos was the fun sporty range, somewhere in the mix were some imported Citroen models as well.This arrangement didn’t last for more than a few years, but Amati was aimed at the US market competing with Acura,Infiniti & Lexus and was abandoned before launch

    • Just to add my two bobs worth, I actually do drive a Mazda 6 175 Sport, and I have to say it is simply superb…..I have driven all sorts of cars over the years, loving Lancias and Alfas especially…but I have to say that the Mazda 6 is the exactly the car Alfa should produce, it looks gorgeous in Soul Red and drives brilliantly, it really reminds me of what I love about Italian cars, but sadly it isn’t. I’m thinking of buying and Abarth 124 next, that way I can get a Mazda with an Italian badge !!
      Maybe the Giulia will return Alfa to glory, but to be honest the Mazda 6 is a lot better styled.

    • A very good point regarding the i40 Glenn. A colleague of mine has an i40 tourer and it is a cracking bit of metal. It feels solid and well built plus the amount of standard kit it has is incredible. When I bought the 1 series I took a serious look at the Kia Cee’d and there was no doubting it was well put together but I was put off by the lacklustre diesel engine and I could not get comfortable in the driver’s seat.

  21. Some of the comments suggest we might be confusing ‘Premium’ with ‘Exclusive’.

    Premium means simply being prepared to pay extra to receive something extra. It’s a straightforward trade between the purchaser and the seller. If both are satisfied who are we to judge ?

    Manufacturers who’ve come unstuck on the Premium ticket ( Rover anyone ? ) are those that have sold at a Premium price without actually supplying a Premium product in return for the purchaser’s cash.

    BMW and Merc are truly Premium as the purchasers are prepared to pay extra for them and receive added satisfaction of ownership in return.

  22. So to define the difference between exclusive and premium,is my Subaru BRZ of which there are about 550 on the road in the UK is certainly exclusive but it’s not seen as a premium product

  23. I find it interesting that the Audi name was dormant for 3 decades, revived and has become ,to many, a so-called premium brand.

    Perhaps there is hope for Triumph, Riley and even Rover in a few decades…

    • Wasn’t the Audi first sold in the UK as the Auto-Union Audi?, in the seventies,VAG considered reviving the Horch name for the Audi 200

      • I remember my parents having a couple of DKWs. One IIRC, was pre-war. It was a running board car and had been stuck in a corner of the garage for years when I was very young. They also had a DKW Junior; a car with a more than passing resemblance to the Trabant, right down to its 3 cylinder 2 stroke engine. I’m going back to the early / mid ’60s.The Junior was certainly sold under the Auto-Union banner, I remember the workshop manual kicking around for years after the car was long gone.

  24. Audi seemed to take over from where DKW / Auto Union left off, not long after the 2 stroke engines were dropped IIRC.

  25. And NSU was enveloped by VW as well, I suppose that production of the Ro80 drained the company, NSU’s last design the K70 later became VW’s first non air cooled car,later in the early seventies when sales of the traditional rear engined VW’s had dropped the Audi 50 and 80 became the Polo & Passat, at least the Passat had new sheet metal to differ from it’s Audi sibling but aprt from a cheaper interior the Polo just swapped the four rings badge to a VW one.

  26. It’s hard to define a premium car, but easy to say whether a car is premium or not. Both the Range Rover and SD1 3500 were V8 powered luxury cars, but only the first was premium.

    The Range Rover Evoque has been wildly successful, sells for a very high price, is considered highly desirable and is a premium product. The Mondeo isn’t a premium product, despite being related.

    Volvo have to be considered a premium manufacturer as well, especially in SUVs, as the XC90 is highly regarded while the XC90 competes well against the other premium marques.

  27. Volvo WAS a premium manufacturer, but hasn’t been for some years. We’ve had Volvo’s in the family since the early 70’s and the last premium products that they built were the V70 (the one that went out of production in 2007) and the original XC90 that was based on it.
    Everything designed under Ford and Geely ownership? Nasty!

  28. Very good description of the Jensen Interceptor by Jay Leno..

    “It’s like a Dodge Coronet that was educated at Oxford…”

    There’s one turns up in the car park sometimes – even confirmed car-o-phobes stop to drool. Best of all there are shed loads of tuning parts for those engines.

    “And for the particularly suicidal, sir, may I suggest the “Hellcat” transplant on 14″ crossplys, with 11″ drums all round – guaranteed to have you wrapped around a tree within 5 miles”

    Maybe we could all club together and have a pair built for Theresa May & Donald Trump.. I can’t think of more deserving people.

    Although shipping in 35 or so hungry Komodo Dragons into the houses of parliament would be fun to watch and an ecological way of recycling unwanted tat to boot. Even the babies are dangerous, kind of like a bearded dragon crossed with a chainsaw.

    • Like it if someone said the same about Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, IRA loving, anti semitic, IS apologists that they are. This pair are vastly worse and I reckon Trump will be hemmed in by Congress anyway.

      • Trying to go back to the subject of cars,it fifty years since the Interceptor was unveiled to the world, today Touring’s beautiful design still looks modern and while the convertible & coupe added little to the design, I think it’s fair to say the Dodge Coronet isn’t quite in that league and any of it’s incarnations have rather dated.compared to the peerless Jensen.

        • The Jensen Interceptor was, and is, an amazing car. It had the performance of a supercar, but was far more practical and quieter on long journeys. I reckon it inspired Jaguar to bring out the XJS, which used the same concept of a luxurious grand tourer.
          As regards premium brands, I notice Cadillac and Lincoln are still going strong in America and have diversified into SUVs to stay contemporary. Also, does anyone know if the Chrysler Imperial brand is still in existence as this was the third American premium brand?

          • Chrysler dropped Imperial in the eighties during the Lee Iaccoca era, it wasn’t that much of a stand alone range and was always in the shadow of Cadillac & Lincoln

  29. @ Ian Parker, the Imperial was a brand in its own right for a time in the sixties, but maybe Iacocca saw the Imperial as too much of an on cost and decided to concentrate on K car based designs.

    • True Glenn,Iaccoca inherited massive problems with Chrysler when he took over after leaving Ford,the last thing he needed was a poor selling line like Imperial. He left Chrysler via a bailout from Uncle Sam in a lot better position than it was before,his best investment was probably buying AMC from Renault which gave the company the Jeep range, whose success has been repaid many times over

      • In the pecking order at Chrysler, Chrysler was considered more upmarket than Dodge and Plymouth. A Chrysler Le Baron was a much nicer place to be than a Plymouth Reliant( effectively badge engineering) and also with downsizing, the K car series was the base for most Chrysler models, I believe the New Yorker became the most prestigious model after the Imperial was cancelled.

        • True enough but the Chrysler vehicles never had the market range of GM cars,starting with Chevrolet and winding up via Pontiac,Saturn Oldsmobile,Buick at Cadillac. Wisely GM kept the ranges quite distinct,look what happened when they screwed a Cadillac badge on the J car to produce the Cadillac Cimarron, no one was fooled, a similar thing happened at Ford with the Lincoln Versailles out of the Mercury Monarch both cars did nothing for their makers reputation

          • The Cimarron, a case of a luxury car on the cheap, effectively a Cavalier wearing a Cadillac badge and sales bombed. However, one producer of luxury versions of BMC cars I always admired was Vanden Plas. Using their own factory, they would turn an Austin 1300 into a miniature limousine with walnut and leather, high quality chrome on the radiator grille and more sound deadening and improved ride quality to make the owner feel special. Also with a top speed of 95 mph, these cars were powerful for their size.

          • The Vanden 1100/1300 was a thing of beauty no doubt of that, but so it should have been as it cost a lot more than the Riley Kestrel or Wolesley versions, I don’t think the Allegro based 1500 was quite the same lacking the elegance of it’s predecessor. I think that BMC should have sold the Austin 3 litre as a Vanden Plas,it might have given this car more distinction than the Austin badge and could have replaced the Princess R as well.

        • I had thought Dodge was above Chrysler in the Mopar scheme of things.

          Until the early 1960s they had De Soto as an upmarket brand.

          • Dodge was originally higher than Chrysler, but in the 30s reshuffle after its purchase it slipped down the pecking order.

    • The Mercedes-Benz W118 and W119 prototypes look fantastic, shame Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen never worked a deal to produce both Mercedes and DKW / Audi versions of the same car when the latter was selling off DKW to Volkswagen in 1964.

      • Interesting that you say they look fantastic. In my view they definitely have a bit of the look of the Land Crab to them. Not a bad think in my opinion, but to a lot of people not good!

        • While it is subjective for some, mainly like the clean appearance of the W118/W119 prototypes as well as the fact that other carmakers were interested in the emergent 1960s Compact Executive class beyond the BMW 02, Lancia Fulvia and Alfa Romeo Giulia.

          Even Volvo at one point was interested in producing a similar car known as the 1955 Wooden Rocket project to replace the outdated Volvo PV444, which in terms of appearance foreshadowed much of the look of the BMW 02 over a decade later.

  30. I think we have to distinguish what premium means? Premium means you pay extra – does it mean that this is better?

    You can buy a pair of Acer trainers in your local market for about £15, but the same style trainer probably made in the same Chinese factory with Adidas on it sells for £40 in Sports Direct. The difference is the brand and its perceived quality and image.

    When people pay the extra for a BMW, Mercedes or Audi they are buying a perceived view that the quality is better and shows off wealth.

    However as many on here have commented on the product is not exactly that. A perfect example is my friend. In the 1980s he bought a 190E – a fabulous car that he adored. In the 1990s he decided that he wanted a change and went for the unbiq 4×4 – a Vauxhall Frontera. He had it for 2 years with a huge amount of probs so replaced it with another Mercedes – a C Class. In comparison to his 190E it was horrendous and the quality was no better than the Fords he was servicing at the time. He eventually replaced it with a Bentley Mulsanne which he still loves and cherishes (though don’t drive much cos of the fuel).

    That my friend went for a luxury product shows where Premium has gone – mainstream and in doing so larger production numbers mean cut backs in quality.

    Unfortunately it now seems the same in all walks of British Life – the silly oversized latest tv is just another example. How many houses do you see with TVS that cover most of a wall in the front room?

    Also Alfa Romeo are making a stunning comeback with the new Giulia. Lets hope its built properly.

  31. The Frontera was another Vauxhall/Opel triumph how they managed to turn the Isuzu MU into into the Frontera and make in generally unreliable, they even managed to export some to Australia badged as Holden’s but you’d have to pretty brave to attempt to use a Frontera in the outback. However things got worse when Vauxhall/Opel decided to put their badge on the imported Isuzu Trooper as the Monterrey, they had such problems selling them that after a couple of years the idea of selling them as GM products was abandoned in Europe and the vehicle reverted to being sold as an Isuzu

    • Don’t forget too the Vauxhall Brava pickup which was a rebadged Isuzu. Only time I ever seemed to see them was either as an AA breakdown vehicle or as a forestry service pickup.

      The worst GM captive import of the 90s I reckon was the Sintra. A behemoth of a US ‘minivan’ MPV with big 2.2 petrol/diesel I4 or 3 litre V6 engines, thirsty and unreliable, killed off by a poor showing at the EuroNCAP.

      GM Europe did seem to get their act together with the smaller Astra-based Zafira, back when compact MPVs were popular (Scenic, Picasso etc.).

      GM seemed to be clueless when marketing luxury cars – Cadillac in Europe failed with the Seville – a big V8 when fuel prices were increasing, and later the Saab 9-3 based BLS. In the US they offered the Omega as the Catera, where it was criticised for being comparatively small against competitor vehicles.

  32. No question about the Sintra it was a turkey, it only lasted three model years but the Catera sold over 90000 examples in five years which isn’t bad going, the Carlton/Omega/Senator were good vehicles and it certainly was good enough to wear the Caddy badge much more than the dreadful Cimarron

  33. “Ford sold Jaguar and Land Rover to TATA of India after its expansion plans for Jaguar had spectacularly and publicly failed”, or..

    Ford sold Jaguar and Land Rover to TATA of India after its expansion plans for Jaguar had been put in place, but it had run out of money to execute them. It had to save itself first unfortunately.

    • Good point there ,you can sum up why Jaguar was bought by Ford in three words,Acura,Infinitti & Lexus. These new Japanese cars had everything that neither Cadillac or Lincoln had which was style luxury and build quality,they’d already taken a battering from BMW & Mercedes and to a lesser extent Audi so the rationale of buying into Jaguar was really the only option apart from letting Lincoln wither on the vine. As it was they seriously overpaid for the company and when they found out what they’d bought,they were aghast at the state and under investment in the plant. It’s unfair to say that Ford’s expansion plans failed,the introduction of the S & X Types gave the company three lines of saloon cars plus the XK gave Jaguar a depth in it’s product line that it never had under BL ownership and would have been extremely unlikely to happen when the company was spun off from BL either. Yes for Ford’s profitability that it probably didn’t make any money from Jaguar during it’s stewardship of the company, but at least it laid the foundations for TATA to complete what Ford just didn’t have the time to finish.

  34. I know the title of the article is “Europe’s premium carmakers”, but the Lexus LS really deserves more credit than it has been given here.

    Toyota spent a billion dollars (a lot of money back then) creating a car that equaled or bettered the Merc S-class in just about every way, with no previous experience of building or selling a car in the top-end luxury sector. They gave Merc, BMW, Jag and Audi a kick up the backside and made all of them up their game.

    • Nissan & Toyota certainly had experience in producing luxury cars, check out the Nissan President & Toyota Century,two vehicles that were certainly top of the range,but never sold outside of Japan.

  35. “Hopes for a successful French premium car now reside with the DS brand. The effective wiping out of an entire automotive sector because of Government intervention now looks like gigantic blunder of epic proportions.”

    No hopes from me. I wouldn’t shed a tear if Peugeot, Citroen, and Renault all went bankrupt and ceased production tomorrow. The glory days of plush big Citroens like the CX and XM and brilliant lightweight hot hatches like the 205, 106, R5 and Clio are long gone.

    What do the big three French manufacturers contribute to the automotive landscape in 2017? Apart from a couple of decent Renaultsport hot hatches, what else do they offer that is truly unique and class leading?

    • Well the Renault Zoe is pretty impressive for an electric car,the Twingo (built jointly with Smart) is quite original for a city car and the Twizy is the answer to a question no sane person would ask, I agree that PSA products are dull but worthy, but if the French manufacturers go what would be the next domino to fall,Fiat folding would be a disaster for the Italian economy. If that happened then all we’d have would be German or Japanese products which isn’t in anyone’s interest

      • No chance of Renault disappearing, the Renault/Nissan combination is very powerful.

        If FIAT was to get into trouble, someone would want the “500” as a sub range, while I imagine someone would want the Alfa Romeo and Maserati badges

        • Has the “500” moniker been over used,the 500L & 500X don’t have the same cachet as their smaller sibling. If anything the L & X cover the same segment of the market,maybe FIAT with it’s current use of heritage names the 500L should have been the Multipla & the 500X the 600 perhaps this would have divided the two cars in a better way

        • A couple of years ago when Fiat was in serious trouble before the FCA Chrysler merger, Ferdinand Piech made a purchase offer for Alfa.

  36. Seeing a Mercedes or a BMW in the mid seventies, when German cars were increasing in popularity, was a sign you were seriously well off, wanted a car that was very well built and very good to drive, and wanted something different to a Granada or a Rover. I can remember my first ride in a Mercedes 280 in the seventies and was amazed at the comfort, the complete lack of noise and how everything felt so solid. Also unlike now, they were rare sights and drew plenty of interested glances from other motorists.
    However, times change and German premium brands, possibly due to leasing and attractive finance deals, are far more common. While not knocking the Ford Focus, I’d much rather buy a Mercedes A Class as the resale is better and customer care light years ahead of Arnold Clark.

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