The Good Oil: High-end audio for low-end cars
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Maruti-Suzuki talking to Harman Kardon
If you want proof that carmakers of every stripe are determined to give their models more appeal, news out of India that cut-price Suzuki engineering subsidiary Maruti-Suzuki is looking to fit its billy-basic, emerging market offerings with high-end audio systems must surely be it.
Maruti-Suzuki is apparently in talks with US-based audio wizard Harman Kardon to have as-yet-unspecified models within its range fitted with the sort of stereos we would usually associate with range-toppers from Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, BMW and Jeep.
Should the deal go through, the next generation of lowly Ignis (albeit a pumped-up version with aggressive alloys and a body kit designed to appeal to fashion-conscious youth desperate to shed their disposable income) will reportedly be the first Maruti-Suzuki to get top-class sounds.
The Times of India has reported Maruti-Suzuki has been desperate to join the upmarket brigade for a while, so perhaps high-end audio in appropriately specced models could be the starting point in changing public perception of its wares.
In addition to not-very-successfully-crash-tested models you’ve never heard of, such as the Omni, Ertiga, DZire and Zen, Maruti-Suzuki also manufactures cars with more familiar nameplates — Swift, Celerio, SX4 — but all with a more price-sensitive vibe than Kiwi buyers might traditionally seek out.
So why would Harman Kardon be in talks with this budget manufacturer?
Ah, that would be something to do with the rapidly increasing Indian middle class, which is expected to number 113 million households by 2025.
That’s quite a bit of discretionary spend.
And as for little Maruti-Suzuki? It commands about 47 per cent of the Indian passenger car market. So yes, that’s why. Perhaps Harman Kardon should be cosying up to Maruti-Suzuki, not the other way round.
Alfa Romeo breaks its own embargo
You might expect a rogue motoring journo to break the odd publication embargo from time to time. Sometimes through deliberate devil-may-care-lesness or just plain old time-zone confusion, a car’s carefully guarded news will occasionally make it out into the ether slightly before anticipated.
In this case it’s the car company to blame.
The car company in question is Alfa Romeo. The car? The forthcoming Stelvio SUV, which was spotted by a media outlet in an official Fiat Chrysler Automobile video. Needless to say the video in question has since disappeared, possibly just as quickly as the Christmas bonus of the marketing manager who signed off its release.
The Stelvio apparently made only a fleeting appearance in the corporate clip, shown in its rudimentary form and devoid of panels on an assembly line.
Actually, the car has been seen (and shared) in more complete form already, having been spied testing in Europe, albeit wearing the heavy rubberised disguise of a test mule venturing out into public. It’s only a couple of months shy of its anticipated public reveal too, at this year’s LA Auto Show in November.
In saying that, it could still be a while before we get to sample the SUV; the Stelvio (which looks to be about the same size as a Porsche Macan or Audi Q5) isn’t expected to be offered for sale in the Northern Hemisphere until late 2017, meaning Kiwi Alfa aficionados might not see it here for 18 months.
Godzilla on Red Bull ?
Red Bull’s newest recruit, Max Verstappen, could manage only a sixth place at last week’s Singapore Grand Prix. Rather than anything to do with his open-wheeler’s dynamic performance during the race though, perhaps the sight of an ungodly giant lizard — the stuff of cult Japanese horror films — seen during qualifying put him off his stride.
You what? Giant lizards stalking the Singapore street circuit? Has one too many sugary energy drinks given our imagination wings, you may ask?
No, it’s true; during the third qualifying session, a rather large monitor lizard was seen ambling — then galloping — across the Marina Bay circuit as a clutch of F1 cars barrelled down upon it.
First to come across the carnivorous judder bar was Dutch wunderkind Verstappen, who felt compelled to send what must surely be one of the oddest radio messages an F1 pit wall has ever received: “Woah, there's a giant lizard on the track!”
Perhaps concerned team principal Christian Horner might assume the 18-year-old had been out partying on a race night, he quickly followed up this assertion with “I’m not joking”. The lizard got away unscathed, as did Verstappen's car, the front of which we can only assume would probably come off second best in a collision with Godzilla Junior.
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PRESIDENTIAL OWNER One
President John F. Kennedy owned an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider