Ash cloud clogs the engines of the European car launch
Right now, I should be in Vienna, blogging to you about how Mini are about to launch an SUV and I might have discussed just how Mini were potentially putting the heritage of the brand at risk by producing something that isn’t really all that ‘Mini’. I might still think that, but I sure am not going to find out how it looks or how it drives. Because I am stuck in Dublin.
The Volcanic ash, which has been making European travel a nightmare over the past few weeks, has struck again and it is causing havoc with car manufacturers, as this is one of their busiest periods for launching new models.
Car firms tend to choose sunny climates, with twisty roads that display the car’s handling prowess, glorious backdrops that make photography a doddle and hotels with big enough beds and generous enough kitchens to facilitate even the most portly of motoring hack.
They all have it down to a fine art now. Sure, the Italians can go on a bit at their press conferences and allocate 10 cars for 1,000 journalists, but this is usually the extent of your worry. But now it is different. Now they can’t get the journalists in, but perhaps more worryingly, can’t get rid of them again.
This was perhaps best illustrated by our drive of the Peugeot RCZ recently. The event had been planned to be short and efficient. We would leave on a Thursday morning; drive the car for the entire day and return, in time for lunch the next day. However, as we left Dublin airport that morning, news was just breaking about this Volcano in Iceland that was suffering from a bit of a cough. By the time we landed, the whole northern European air transport system had ground to a halt.
That meant that Peugeot had 20 guests who were staying longer than anticipated and they were charged with getting rid of them again. There were bosses (of both the industrial and matrimonial sort) who were getting irate back in Ireland and accountants scratching their heads at the escalating costs to all involved. We eventually took a bus from northern Spain up the west coast of France, hopped on a ferry in Cherbourg and took the 18-hour trip to Rosslare. We arrived back in Ireland on Wednesday night, six days after we left.
In the last few weeks alone, we have had a flight to drive the new Mazda6 cancelled (although I have one in my driveway today, funnily enough) as well as this week’s cancellation of our involvement in the Mini Countryman event and the Seat Ibiza ST launch.
It isn’t so bad for our European neighbours, who can drive or take trains to the likes of Seville, Marbella, Barcelona, Paris or Munich, where these events usually take place. But for Irish and UK journalists, set adrift from the rest of Europe, it proves more difficult.
Yes, there are Ferries and tunnels, but this all makes the process of reviewing European models within short deadlines nigh impossible. So, look forward to a lot of domestic reviews in Motors for a little while. How about a look at the ride and comfort of the Luas Red line? Or perhaps the 0-100km/h time of the Dublin to Cork train?
Scientists with multiple letters after their names tell us that this could get even worse. That if there are more eruptions then our problems now, are just the tip of the, eh, volcano. Maybe it is time to start talking about a tunnel from Ireland to the UK or France after all.