Noisy Rhino Sex

Droll. I laughed for almost an entire second. I know I haven’t been around for a while. I’d apologise but I wouldn’t mean it so instead I’ll just pretend it’s only been a couple of days since my last post.

I’ve been thinking about what a rhino would sound like if you put it in a suit of armour and then had another rhino in a suit of armour give it a thorough and a very vocal seeing to. If you heard a Vauxhall Mokka diesel start on a cold morning then you’d be thinking about pachyderm sex too.

I’m picking my next company car and I like the way the Mokka looks. The Tech-line version is full rep spec. It has sat nav, Bluetooth, cruise control and dual-zone climate control. Not that any rep has anyone ever in the passenger seat but it’s a nice touch. There are parking sensors front and rear so that you don’t have to explain unfortunate little dings and scrapes to your boss. There’s an iPod controller which I couldn’t get to work properly with my iPhone all the time. It has automatic stop-start which I kept forgetting about so that when the engine cut out at lights I was taken by surprise only to be surprised again when the engine restarted on its own. I have one of those goldfish memories. Some of the controls are only intuitive if you think like an Opel engineer. On which subject, the sat nav couldn’t identify the Sanger Institute but found the European Bioinformatics Institute which is on the same campus in Hinxton. I swear it’s only because the EBI is German and so is the Opel Mokka. My trip to Luton in it today is probably the first time it’s even seen the place.

It has no storage pace for rep snacks. There is a cubby between the seats, a lower glovebox full of manuals and who-knows-what and a completely pointless little lidded compartment above it which in days gone by would probably have been full of airbag and in days gone by even further might have provided somewhere to stash a half bottle of whisky, the thing every old-style rep needed to get through the day in his Cavalier.

I thought it rode nicely and once I got used to the idea that I wasn’t going to go round corners quickly, I began to enjoy what passed for handling. You just calm down, slow down, enjoy the view and everything becomes slightly less stressed. I know that it’s basically a Corsa in a fat suit, a faux-by-four – although you can have it with four wheel drive – but it does look good, is very well equipped for the price and the trip computer claims I got 58 mpg out of it today. I can’t believe that’s correct but I haven’t had time to empty the tank and I didn’t brim it to start off with. I’m no road tester.  The gear lever is in a slightly awkward position for me; it feels just an inch or so too far back. I ended the day with tight neck and shoulder muscles. The seats feel flat but I don’t think I’ll be able to persuade my boss to let me have an SE with its sports seats.

Nor could I have the Yeti which would probably be a better long-term bet. It’s slightly larger but is more expensive than the Mokka, at least now that the Yeti Urban is no longer available. The SE Plus with roughly comparable equipment retails at about a thousand pounds more than the Mokka Tech-line but we need to see what leasing deals are available.

Whatever, I’ve enjoyed my day in the Mokka. Whether I can cope with the flat seats, the slightly awkward gear change and the noisy engine for three years and the best part of 80,000 miles is another question.

Silly name. Could be less Americano.

Silly Little Cars Doing Damage To The Industry?

I read this article on the All Cars Electric site this evening. It’s about some of the more embarrassing electric cars seen at the Geneva show last week. Electric cars can be fun. There is no need whatsoever for them to be poorly designed and shoddily built sheds with plugs attached. Okay, there are a couple of reasons. First that the manufacturers are naive and second that they’re venal. I don’t know which are which and I’m not inclined to find out.

The link drawn in the article between the kit car world and the car industry is good but I disagree. EVs are still very much a niche product, just one in which the major manufacturers are beginning to take an interest. Nissan has recently built its millionth Qashqai. It did that in just over four years. It’s going to build only 50,000 Leafs this year. Production will increase when its US and UK plants come on stream but that’s not going to be for some time yet. I don’t think that Volts will outsell Tahoes in Chevrolet dealers or Amperas do more business for Vauxhall than Astras or Insignias any time soon. It’s not because they’re bad cars but because in spite of the money they’ve invested in developing EVs, they and their dealers would rather sell cars they know to customers who just want to buy a car.

EV customers, or at least the early adopters, are going to know more about EVs than the dealers and will care about them more than the people who build and sell them. It’s an odd situation. The time will come when the enthusiasts have all bought their vehicles, assuming that they can afford them. It’s what will happen then which intrigues me.

Nissan in particular has a problem. A Leaf is an expensive piece of kit. It’s the same price in the UK as a 370Z roadster but it’s not going to attract the same customers at all. Nobody is going to wander into its dealers to buy a Micra, Juke or Qashqai and walk out with a Leaf unless the salesperson is an absolute superstar. The Leaf is a stand-alone product and one which has to establish its own infrastructure of customers and fans. Nissan is working hard to do that with an interesting social media marketing campaign but it can’t call on a body of existing customers.

Ford, GM, Toyota and Renault will all bring cars with plugs to market during 2011 and 2012. In a sense, Nissan will find it easier to sell Leafs to the wider public when it has more competitors. The manufacturers will have to sell the idea of cars you can plug into the wall. When there are more of them doing that, the message will be spread to more people more of the time. When that happens, any damage done by the likes of the execrable G-Wiz will be forgotten.