In this week’s automotive adventures, Steve ponders the sad news of Williams’ and Lotus’ disagreement, talks highs and lows with outgoing JLR CEO Ralf Speth, discusses the merits of the BMW M235i Gran Coupé and more.
What a bombshell! Williams Advanced Engineering, under-the-skin engineer of the Lotus Evija, is suing Lotus for non-payment of bills following the shock termination of a technical partnership that was due to run many months yet. Lotus reckons WAE was working too slowly and now intends to complete the project at a new Warwick technology centre for which it has been busily hiring engineers – 300 at last count.
I can’t help thinking this must be a deeply unwelcome blow to the reputation of Geely, Lotus’s Chinese owner, whose sure-footed moves into European manufacturers, such as Volvo, LEVC and Smart, have so far been impressive and productive. It will be a tragedy for all but the lawyers (and arguably a blight on the Evija project itself) if this thing gets to court, but it does sound as if it might.
Last meeting with outgoing Jaguar Land Rover CEO Sir Ralf Speth before he officially leaves the building this week, chatting about his JLR highs and lows. I’ve got an enormously soft spot for Speth, whose humility and normality have been perfectly maintained even as his power and achievements have rapidly grown across his 10 years in charge. The company – and country – have much to thank him for.
Despite all the corporate trappings, Speth has always remained a proper car lover. What will be your priority for the classic cars you own, I asked. Mend them and drive them, he said. However, I couldn’t let him depart without attempting to tease out one last news fragment. I asked Speth, who is famously adept at not spilling secrets, whether we would see new Defender models. “The previous Defender had 64 variants,” he replied, carefully not taking my point. “Given you’ve seen just one new model so far, I think you can look forward to a few more…”
We’ve been out and about at a local National Trust garden for a family gathering with our sons and their girlfriends, so six of us. We keep praising the day we bought our Volkswagen California campervan, now rising two years old, although I have to admit we did it without realising it would become such a passport to relaxation and near-normal holidays in such ridiculous surrounding circumstances. Friends keep admiring our foresight, and there are strong indicators that dealers love these more than ever as trade-ins. It’s quite a long time since we made a car purchase decision as sensible as this one, although that won’t protect us from botching the next one…