Volkswagen of America isn’t what you’d suggest as a company that’s “on the up”. In the wake of last year’s diesel emissions scandal, the US branch of the German carmaker has been on the defence.
It has consumed platefuls of humble strudel, wrung its collective hands in front of lawmakers and consumers alike, banished top-ranking offenders back at HQ and has even placed a self-imposed moratorium on selling its diesel-powered models in the American market for now.
So here at The Good Oil we suppose we should forgive it the odd self-aggrandised attempt at bucking up its spirits, especially where appealing to the yoof market is concerned (i.e. the millennial buyers of tomorrow who will, the company hopes, return to the brand in the next few years when all this emissions nastiness has been forgotten about).
We tested a Volkswagen model that featured a prominent bumper sticker (one we can only presume was placed on the vehicle by the local distributor) proclaiming “I *heart* my VW”. The urgent hopefulness in this statement caused our shoulders to sag slightly. But Volkswagen of America’s latest marketing push caused us to sigh deeply. The distributor there has just launched a new pink Beetle. It’s called the #pinkbeetle. And no, we’re not copying and pasting a report from Twitter; it really is called the #pinkbeetle, hashtag and all.
The social media-focused model is apparently based on a concept Beetle the company showcased at the New York Auto Show last year and — as the cringe-worthy nameplate suggests — is only available in a lurid shade of paint called Fresh Fuchsia Metallic (or metallic pink as it’s known outside Volkswagen’s marketing department).
Inside, the car has seats covered in tartan fabric; pink rather than traditional red.
The #pinkbeetle goes on sale in the US this month, available as a hardtop or convertible. Mercifully it’s a limited-edition model, although its short run didn’t stop the carmaker from quipping: “It’s poised to become an immediate automotive trending topic”.
Land Rover takes copycat to court
For years now, outliers among the rapidly developing Chinese automotive manufacturing industry have gotten away with incredibly blatant and audacious design copies of existing mainstream models.
It would seem that at every Chinese car show, the Western motoring media laughs up its collective sleeve after discovering a domestic model on a plinth in the back halls of an anonymous exhibition centre, bearing exterior looks and dimensions suspiciously similar to something more familiar. We’ve seen copies of all manner of motors, from Rolls-Royce Phantoms to Jeep Renegades.
Despite this, the carmakers holding the intellectual property choose to do nothing. Why? It’s generally felt that the odds of winning cases against domestic companies in China are unlikely. But perhaps the stronger urge to turn a blind eye stems from not wanting to be tarnished as a big foreign bullyboy corporate in the eyes of all those moneyed-up Chinese middle-class consumers.
Things might be about to change, however. In a rare move by a mainstream manufacturer, Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is taking Chinese manufacturer Jiangling Motors to court over the latter’s alleged copy of the design of the Range Rover Evoque crossover SUV.
A spokesperson for JLR has stated that a court in Beijing's eastern Chaoyang district “served Jiangling with newly filed actions surrounding copyright and unfair competition”. The suit reportedly relates to Jiangling's Landwind X7 crossover SUV, which appears to copy the exterior design of the Evoque. The Evoque has been in production since 2011 and went on sale in China last year. Landwind’s X7 SUV was launched in November 2014.
Jiangling Motors has declined to comment, although it will be interesting to find out what its defence will be; the Landwind X7 is so clearly a facsimile of the Evoque that it would probably fool even Land Rover “design consultant” Victoria Beckham.
What wonders of the automotive world does American comedian and ex-talk show host Jay Leno not have in his colossal collection?
He’s well-known as a hoarder of pristine cars from every era; as likely to buy some race-winning monster from the dawn of the 20th century as he would a diminutive BMW bubble car. But as a recent episode of Leno’s YouTube-based car show proves, his well-known collection is still capable of dishing out the odd surprise.
Leno owns one of the famed “Blue Wonder“ Mercedes-Benz racecar transporter trucks from the 1950s. Okay, it isn’t one of the originals; in fact there was only one initially, which was rather shockingly sent to the scrapyard in 1967. The German manufacturer realised the error of its ways though and commissioned a US$2m reconstruction, which took seven years to complete and which you can see displayed in its Stuttgart museum.
Leno’s transporter is a replica built by a Swedish enthusiast who died before completing it. Leno bought it and continued the build.
It’s not a perfect replica; it’s powered by a Mercedes-Benz commercial van engine rather than the 3.0-litre, six-cylinder that featured in the original truck (the same 140kW engine that powered the 300SL sports car) and there are numerous concessions to modern-day usage, such as extra storage cubbies and a bonnet which allows access to the radiator. But it’s pretty spot-on otherwise and remains as arrestingly ugly and beautiful all at once as the original.
If you’re not familiar with this extremely-cab-forward machine, it was used by Mercedes-Benz during the 1950s as a high-speed transporter between the race track and factory, ensuring important race development work could be completed on their competitive cars “at home” rather than in the pits in front of rival teams.
To make each race, the transporter had to be fast; the 300SL sports car engine gave it a jaw-dropping top speed of 171km/h (this was in the 1950s remember). Both the original and Leno’s re-creation feature the same dashboard as the original SL.
169 CARS Machines in Jay Leno’s collection (not including motorbikes)
50m US DOLLARS Estimated value of Leno’s collection of cars, trucks and motorbikes
3 DAYS Time between Leno getting his licence and his first car accident
17 YEARS Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show from 1992 to 2009