MONDAY - Wonderful week for new cars. Started with a day trip to Paris to watch Renault chief Carlos Ghosn unveil the new Kadjar crossover, which follows the familiar modern pattern of being an appealing model with a funny name, because all decent ‘handles’ have been taken.
In a quick one-to-one, I found Ghosn surprisingly cagey about the car’s sales potential – more cagey than I would be on his behalf, because the model looks great and its underbits are not only well proven, but proven desirable by record-breaking sales of the Qashqai, the Kadjar’s Nissan twin.
Interviewing someone like Ghosn is nerve-wracking, because his answers are so fact-packed and precisely edited that you need all your concentration either to pick up on what he’s just said or to move to a new subject and make best use of your time available.
Up close, Ghosn seems so focused that he makes a magnifying glass look like the bottom of a Coke bottle. But I can’t help wondering how this extraordinary bloke, around whom an industry revolves, will cope with retirement, only a handful of years away.
TUESDAY AM - Quick sojourn on favourite roads in a 3.6-metre surprise package called the Hyundai i10, my favourite of the current tinies.
One minute it feels big (cruising motorways), the next it feels small (when you’re sticking it down country lanes at speeds that would daunt anything bigger and wider). Fully loaded, an i10 costs a paltry £10,800, yet you could drive it around the world in ease and comfort, enjoying every mile.
TUESDAY PM - Uplifting hacks’ dinner with Honda UK boss Philip Crossman and his management team, who laid out an impressive UK recovery strategy that involves launching six new cars in the next six months: CR-V, Civic, Civic Type R, HR-V, Jazz and NSX. That’s quite a line-up.
Crossman’s concern is that Honda, which makes 4.4 million cars a year and spends a cool £3.5 billion on R&D, is unfairly seen in the UK as a failing enterprise, because in recent years it has been hit by a catastrophic decline in the yen plus a couple of huge natural disasters that decimated key factories and delayed vital products.
Business abruptly halved from the halcyon, 100,000-a-year days of 2007-2008. Better times are coming, though, and for this closet Honda fan (11 Honda motorbikes and counting) that’s exciting.
WEDNESDAY - Morning pow-wow to put the finishing touches to Autocar’s bigger, better motorsport coverage, which is about to begin. Rather than running a sport column, we’ve decided to dedicate the space (and more) to features and track tests that will embrace both F1 and other fascinating codes and characters.
We’re well stocked with ideas, but if you have a suggestion burning a hole in your pocket, as it were, our head of content, Matt Burt (firstname.lastname@example.org), would love to hear it.
High-achieving Lotus boss Jean-Marc Gales (who is about to deliver the first stage of his promised expansion by hiking his first year’s sales by 63% to 2000-plus units) reckons the model could add as much as 40% to Exige volume, because Far Eastern demand for self-shifters is so strong.
I found the car perfect for beating up the ancient, skinny roads of Norfolk; in a car weighing not much more than a tonne and with 345bhp, it helps to be able to keep two hands on the wheel.