Although not matching the hard fought world No.1 carmaker status of either Toyota, or the VW Group, states Iain Robertson, racing up hard on the rails is the astrally-named Stellantis Group, about which you might not know much but you can rest assured that it is desperate, thanks to Sino funding, to become a world-beater sooner, rather than later.
Major corporations often deploy a Harry Potter-like ‘Cape of Invisibility’, hiding behind a marketing constructed brand name that can distance them from economic, social, political and environmental pressures that might lead to unwanted trade shaking implications that also hike them above more mundane industry issues. While some of them, due to familial or more durable enterprise connections remain stoically faithful to their origins, such as Ford, or Volkswagen for that matter, you can rest assured that other divisions do their utmost to hide from public view, a factor that may have taxation benefits but, without wishing to cast aspertions, may also have evasion at their core and, judging by the large number of corporate castigations that have occurred in recent times, it is an easy route to follow.
French carmakers Peugeot, Citroen and, more recently, DS, were governed by the little-known and umbrella PSA Group for several decades. While a Peugeot family member held a long-standing senior managerial role within the Group, until around ten years ago it was a modest organisation earning a fairly honest crust with its two main brands. DS arrived later, with dim witted aspirations to be a sort of Gallic Audi…but not really succeeding. However, despite promoting its French products as equals to the dominating German brands, they continued to struggle, which led to Bernard Peugeot taking a most telling trip to the Group’s Chinese partner, Dongfeng, with cap in hand.
Almost mysteriously, PSA in cahoots with Dongfeng changed from struggling business to one capable of buying Vauxhall-Opel from its American General Motors parent company…not a strategic partnership, like Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, but a comprehensive takeover. Within just a couple of years, the equally struggling Italian Fiat Group found itself being lined up for similar measures. The irony with both of these acquisitions lies in the stated facts that neither was earning enough profitability to maintain market headway. Vauxhall-Opel looked to be the one with greater potential but Fiat, which included the troubled American Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep organisation in its complex brand offering, also incorporated Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari, Autobianchi and part of the Iveco commercial manufacturer in its fold. Fiat had lost its long-standing, autocratic and well-connected head, Gianni Agnelli, when he passed away a few years earlier and had never recovered from the subsequent period during which General Motors had acquired a majority stake in the firm. It was ripe for takeover and a new umbrella Group, Stellantis, was introduced to the world…not that it took much notice.
I felt it important that you know these snippets, because we live in a era of dramatic automotive change, where a notional switch-on date of 1st January 2030 means that EVs and BEVs will become our primary modes of new transport and it will no longer be possible to buy a new fossil-fuelled motorcar. Unsurprisingly, Stellantis Group weighs into the market heavily with its administration pleasing and wide range of electrified models, as if electrification is the only available option. However, in moves inherent to the evangelistic electric vehicle sector, which is promoting a cause that suggests that battery-electrics will reduce their list prices, as production numbers are ramped up, I wish to urge serious caution. Do NOT believe the claims!
In a ‘smoke and mirrors’ manoeuvre, the reality is that fossil-fuelled list prices are increasing steadily to close the gap with sorely over-priced BEVs. Therefore, the marketing inept departments in firms like Stellantis are seeking to reduce the sting by rationalising their product offerings but still charging inordinately steep rates for new models. While the latest entry-level Vauxhall Corsa (£17,340, with the Corsa-based crossover Mokka model starting at £24,640) promises a significantly improved specification (more for your money!) than before, the electric alternative costs almost £10k more, for less costly, fewer working parts. Personally, I do not get it, not least because the base Corsa is not that much car for the steep price tag, even with a deeper parts bin dig. Yet, the Corsa is not even a true Vauxhall, apart from via its styling, as its entire running gear belongs to another high volume Peugeot platform, which ought to have (thanks to sheer numbers) many inherent savings and not just lines of extra manufacturer profits that are sure to please Dongfeng immensely.
To those hapless, ill-informed idiots conned into buying into fallaciously overpriced BEV technology that is still not at the more advanced level it needs to be, I suggest that they look very judiciously at their purchases. Buying an EV today means buying into obsolete technology. There are still almost 7.5 years to go before ‘switch-on’ day and even the latest ADAS safety technology and driver aids are being overtaken by fiscal and developmental requirements…and very few of them are upgradable, unless you invest a king’s ransom in a Tesla. It is little wonder that early BEV adopters have experienced plummeting residual values on their aging motorcars, with their aging battery and electric motor packs. I am not stupid, I recognise that, with change in the air, buying into what the future may hold can be important but do buy wisely. Hybrid technology offers the perfect bridge, whether by self-charging, or plug-in aided means, to a future fuelled by ridiculously expensive electricity and driving a hybrid will not lead to demonisation by some quarters of society.
Remember also that BEVs need special, high-wear and high-cost tyres and regular maintenance, albeit at a different level to that of fossil-fuelled transport but essential all the same. While petrol and diesel engines age, so do batteries and electric motors. The electric market evangelists have been pulling the wool over consumers’ eyes since the outset and, for those publications and media outlets carrying and reliant on EV manufacturer advertising to keep their titles buoyant, it is a bit specious to talk of ‘best value’, when the unit costs are senselessly high.
Conclusion: It is easy to think that electricity is significantly less expensive as a fuel than petrol, or diesel but, whether you are a large company, or just a private individual, do not be conned into converting, when the market is simply not mature or elevated enough. Technology is advancing. It is improving. It will get better. However, as long as buying into the BEV scene remains prohibitive for some people, avoid sinking yourself into debt for somebody else’s gratification.