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Citroën redefines the large family car with the C5 X

Filed by Jack Yan/April 13, 2021/22.02





William Crozes/Continental Productions

Is this the future of the CD- and D-segment family car? Citroën has unveiled its C5 X, the third generation (if you don’t count the C5 Aircross) of the C5 line, blending saloon, estate and SUV ideas.
   Sales of conventional saloons and estates in this segment have been dropping for some time. Ford has already said it will not replace the Mondeo after 2022, bringing to an end a line that could be traced back to the Consul Cortina of 1962. There have been suggestions that Opel, Citroën’s sister brand, will replace the Insignia with a crossover, possibly a car closely related to this one.
   The lines are certainly more blurred with the C5 X. Traditionally, a crossover would have meant something like a Subaru Forester, a station wagon format more raised than a traditional car, but lower than an SUV. Here Citroën takes influences from numerous genres. It is a sleek, two-box shape, that if viewed without the 19-inch wheels, could be taken to be a shooting brake, an estate car with less loading capacity because of a sloping rear—think Mercedes-Benz CLS or even the Audi Q8. The six-light glasshouse even recalls Robert Opron’s Citroën CX (and specifically the CXperience concept of 2016), which no doubt will please Citroënistas. Up front are thin LED headlights that give a V shape when lit, a Citroën design signature that started with the 2020 C4. The bespoilered rear deck emphasizes that this isn’t a regular estate; curiously, when viewed from some front three-quarter angles, the D-pillar looks upright, and even recalls the outgoing C5 break.
   Happily, the C5 X has an airy glasshouse, doing away with the massive C-pillars that have plagued car design for a decade. This helps with bringing light in, while also aiding visibility. One can only hope that it is the beginning of the end of the cocoon, which may have emerged in times of great uncertainty, where people wanted to feel enveloped and secure. If Citroën’s trend-watchers have it right, we might come to feel more open and embracing of the outside world again.
   Those 19-inch wheels raise the car’s stance, but in an age where the crossover and the SUV are not niche vehicles, but mainstream ones, they do not look oversized. Interestingly, Citroën’s French rival Renault may have contributed to that, with intentionally large wheels for the Scénic and Espace, with a similar philosophy of blending genres with an eye to courting mainstream SUV buyers who want a more commanding driving position. More opportunity, then, for a future designer to claim a successor is ‘lower, wider, longer’, the romance of postwar US design.
   Its sleekness is perhaps only compromised by the transverse front-wheel-drive layout, which necessitates the position of the front wheels, a design compromise evident on the Citroën C6 in China, but better hidden here. One might think that Citroën has gone adventurous here—though not to the level of the DS—because of its recent poor sales in China. When in doubt, design your way out—it worked for Chrysler and its LH sedans in the 1990s.
   Under the skin is active suspension, with Citroën claiming (not for the first time in its history) a “magic carpet” ride. There are what the company calls its Progressive Hydraulic Cushions that relax the suspension more. Handling isn’t the top priority here, having an interior that’s lounge-like and floating is.
   The interior emphasizes width (externally the car measures 1,865 mm in this respect, which is probably typical for a grand routier of this age). Citroën says its Advanced Comfort seats are particularly capacious in the second row, while the boot has a 545 l capacity. There’s more refinement, the company points out, with the plug-in hybrid version running in pure-electric mode, which it can do for 50 km, up to 135 km/h. Acoustic-laminated front and rear windows keep things insulated further.
   There is a head-up display that Citroën says is a step toward augmented reality, driving assistance features, a new infotainment interface powered through a 12-inch central touchscreen, voice recognition, and a customizable display. Safety systems use the radar, cameras and sensors. There is level 2 autonomous driving, with Highway Driver Assist, using the adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go and lane-keep assistance. And as one would expect in 2021, rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-vision display that plots the area around the car on the touchscreen to aid man, and hands-free access.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher





William Crozes/Continental Productions

 


Kia launches flagship Sorento model with plug-in hybrid powertrain in New Zealand

Filed by Jack Yan/April 7, 2021/0.33

It seems to be the trajectory of brands such as Hyundai and Kia: offering ever more stylish, premium models on the basis that even people who indulge in luxury like value for money.
   Kia’s rise has been particularly marked after its appointment of Peter Schreyer as head of design, before being named one of the company’s three presidents. Schreyer worked his magic on the Audi TT, and he has been behind such hits as the original K5 (Optima in New Zealand) and Stinger.
   The latest Sorento benefits from similar design philosophies: whereas Japanese marques often veer toward either a domestic (e.g. Honda Civic) feel or a mid-Atlantic one, Kia looks west and bridges the gap between Korea and the occident. The Sorento is no exception and its latest entry, the Sorento PHEV Premium, blends the luxury appointments of the range’s flagship with a plug-in hybrid powertrain—not to mention all-wheel drive, seven-seat capacity, and 1,988 ℓ load space when the second and third rows are folded down.
   Its all-electric range is 57 km, and carbon emissions are at a low 36 g/km—thanks to its 13·8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack mated to a 1·6-litre turbocharged engine, developing 265 PS (195 kW) and 350 Nm of torque.
   There’s the trade-mark “tiger nose”, 19-inch machine-finished alloys, and a premium cabin that’s marked by two digital displays (12·3 inches ahead of the driver, 10¼ inches for the central infotainment screen), and includes a panoramic sunroof, a wireless smartphone charger and a Bose 12-speaker surround-sound system. The power leather seats are 14-way for the driver, with four-way lumbar support and cushion extension, while the front passenger gets a 10-way. You can expect the usual conveniences for a premium model: lane-keep and lane-follow assist, smart cruise control, sat-nav and life traffic updates, and seven USB charging ports.
   Warranty is for four years’ or 40,000 km scheduled servicing for the hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, complementing a standard five-year warranty and five-year roadside assistance (unlimited kilometres) plan.
   This premium machine retails in New Zealand for NZ$89,990 plus on-road costs.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


Miss Spa launches a new body sculpting line just in time for summer

Filed by Jody Miller/April 2, 2021/22.57



Say sayonara to scars and ciao baby to that double chin. K-beauty brand Miss Spa premières their new line of body skin care products, being released online at Ulta and Walgreen’s this month. Miss Spa Sculpt features full-body serums, medical-grade silicone patches and easy-to-use beauty tools any skin care junkie should have in her arsenal.
   The new line is built on the belief that anyone can achieve professional spa results at home, and that skin care isn’t just for your face any more. The full-body serums are infused with nourishing and brightening ingredients like hyaluronic acid, hibiscus extract, aloe and peptides. The reusable Miss Spa Sculpt medical-grade silicone patches target scars, wrinkles and creases on your neck, décolletage and anywhere on your body. The face and body microneedling set, LED light therapy and germanium rolling tools make spa-quality treatment available at home.
   Miss Spa Sculpt empowers women to create their own personalized skin care routines with high-quality skin care products. Miss Spa Sculpt celebrates inclusion, diversity and embracing the skin you’re in. Bonjour beautiful body!

 


For SAIC’s goodness: MG launches HS plug-in hybrid SUV

Filed by Jack Yan/March 3, 2021/3.29




MG Motor has announced the plug-in hybrid version of the HS for the Australian and New Zealand markets, in a live-streamed launch on March 2.
   The HS plug-in hybrid is the second electrified MG on sale in the region, after the all-electric ZS crossover, the price leader in the segment. The HS range effectively succeeded the GS, which sold in limited numbers in New Zealand. The platform, perhaps predictably, features MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link suspension at the rear.
   Giles Belcher, sales director for MG Motor Australia and New Zealand, hosted the event from Sydney, joined by CEO for the region Peter Ciao. David Hearty, the project general manager for the HS for Australia and New Zealand, and Danny Lenartic, general manager for EVs for Australia and New Zealand, also took the podium to introduce the new vehicle.
   Ciao said that he could not copy the European approach and import it to Australasia, with the different population densities, tastes and needs.
   ‘With the PHEV, we knew 90 per cent of the time we are just driving in the city. The electric vehicle engine is perfect for this. You can enjoy perfect driving and performance and low running costs. Then, when you want to explore and venture in this beautiful country, the petrol engine provides an additional range so you never have to worry about a charge station. It really is the best of both worlds,’ he said.
   He stressed that the aim of MG was to provide the best value for its customers, including making electrified vehicles mainstream.
   Hearty said the HS would be the flagship crossover for the range in the region, which probably means that large Roewe models would not don MG badges in this part of the world.
   Showing confidence and how far MG has come since it returned to the New Zealand market with the 6, the HS plug-in hybrid retails in New Zealand for NZ$52,990 (plus on-road costs), in a single Essence AWD trim, backed by an eight-year, 160,000 km battery warranty, and a five-year unlimited-kilometre vehicle warranty.
   The HS plug-in hybrid is particularly well equipped in this market, with a panoramic sunroof, 360-degree camera, a 12·3-inch digital instrument display complemented by a 10·1-inch HD centre touchscreen, and heated and electrically adjustable leather seats. The MG Pilot driver safety system is standard.
   Externally, the HS has 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, and daytime running lights. The hero colour, called Clipper Blue, is exclusive to the PHEV.
   Claimed range for just the 16·6 kWh lithium-ion electric motor is 52 km (WLTP combined cycle), and an EV-only mode is available. Top speed is 190 km/h, and 100 km/h is reached in 6·9 s. Total output is 284 PS (209 kW) with peak torque at 480 Nm, with fuel consumption at 1·7 ℓ/100 km (combined cycle)—a whopping 166 mpg (Imperial)—and carbon dioxide emissions of just 39 g/km. The powertrain means that emissions are reduced from 50 to 70 per cent.
   The estimated 7·2 kW charging time is five hours.
   Parent company SAIC was formally pronounced ‘sake’ by the company officials, rather than referred to by its initials.
   As with Chinese convention, the electrified models were referred to at the press conference as ‘new energy vehicles’.
   Lenartic says SAIC is ‘focusing on accelerating innovative development … areas of electrification, intelligent connectivity, software-defined motoring, knowledge sharing, and continued globalization of its brands.’
   Lenartic says it sold 320,000 new-energy vehicles globally in 2020, a year-on-year increase of 73·4 per cent, the second-fastest growth rate in the world. Twenty-five thousand of those were exported to Europe.
   He also pointed out that SAIC had its own battery production, part of its own supply chain.
   Lenartic refused to say whether plug-in hybrid versions of the Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander were in MG’s sights, saying that was something the market would decide.
   ‘This is only the beginning of the electric dream,’ said Lenartic. ‘Certainly it’s a sign of bigger things to come.’
   The cars arrive in Australian dealerships in March and in New Zealand dealerships in April.—Jack Yan, Publisher









 


Alexander McQueen, Vestiaire Collective move toward circular economy practices

Filed by Lucire staff/February 16, 2021/9.32

Alexander McQueen and Vestiaire Collective have announced they are collaborating on moving toward circular practices, and a new app makes pieces that have been bought back available through a new online store.
   Vestiaire Collective is using the high-profile collaboration to launch its Brand Approved programme.
   The companies explain, ‘A select group of clients will be contacted by a sales representative at Alexander McQueen. Any pieces the clients wish to sell will be assessed and if eligible assigned a buy-back price. Once the pieces are received and authenticated by Alexander McQueen, the client will be issued with a credit note with which they will immediately be able to purchase new items from specified Alexander McQueen stores. Once processed by Vestiaire Collective the pieces will carry an external NFC tag giving prospective new buyers access to information confirming the authenticity of the piece. The pieces will be available to purchase on a dedicated “Brand Approved” page on the Vestiaire Collective app and site.’
   The app reveals more on the collaboration, as does Vestiaire Collective’s website at vestiairecollective.com.
   Emmanuel Gintzburger, CEO of Alexander McQueen, said, ‘Alexander McQueen is committed to a move towards circular practice, both in the design studio and in the development of new business models. We are delighted to be the first house in the world to collaborate with Vestiaire Collective on its Brand Approved programme and to give beautifully crafted pieces a new story. We are confident that our customers will be equally excited to take part in an initiative that challenges a linear economy and sets a new and more sustainable standard for the future. We hope many houses will follow because to have impact at scale, we need to act collectively.’
   Fanny Moizant, Vestiaire Collective co-founder and president, added, ‘There is an urgent need to address the way we currently produce and consume fashion. Vestiaire Collective’s Brand Approved programme offers a sustainable solution, reinforcing the importance of durability, whilst empowering first-hand fashion players to disrupt their linear business models and embrace circularity. We are incredibly excited to launch the new service in collaboration with the prestigious house of Alexander McQueen, driving a shared mission to embed circularity at the heart of the fashion ecosystem.’

Top photograph: Alexander McQueen spring–summer 2020 show finalé, photographed by Chris Moore/Catwalking.com.

 


After the events of January 6, Emily Ratajkowski and others point to the real dangers

Filed by Jack Yan/January 8, 2021/12.53


Inez & Vinoodh/Kérastase

Above: Emily Ratajkowski (centre) in a new promotion for Kérastase, as promoted on her Instagram. But it’s what she wrote on Twitter that’s far more on point with the events of January 6 in the US.

When you have US friends on all sides of the political spectrum—greens, Democrats, Republicans, libertarians—you tend to get a reasonable idea of who they are, rather be trapped in the bubbles that Big Tech keep you in, to give you a false sense of your own righteousness. It’s never been healthy to be so entrenched in your own viewpoints that you can’t entertain another’s, yet our reliance on technology has done just that, as Big Tech platforms seek to occupy our attention, and to do that, they feed us what will increase it. That means telling us we’re right and the other side is wrong, and feeding extreme versions (including lies) of how the other side is wrong, so we’re more outraged, and spend still more time with them on Facebook, YouTube, and wherever else we might wander.
   So while it’s easy to be up in arms about some of the facts from the Washington, DC insurgency by supporters of President Donald Trump—the flying of a Confederate flag on Capitol Hill, which no one achieved during their civil war; the first time anyone managed to storm the place since the British in 1814; or the tragedy of five deaths—the big story is in Big Tech and how it decides to shut someone down when it feels like it. These companies, who pay little tax in their own countries, who are generally unanswerable to laws and happily pay fines that amount to mere hours of earnings, yield a power that any “side” in a political debate should be wary of.
   In the cases of Facebook and Twitter, both are culpable and moved only to save their own arses: had they applied their own terms and conditions evenly to all users, then President Trump’s use of the platforms would have been moderated through the years; or he may well have found himself on the wrong side of the rules and saw his account terminated long ago. Facebook, in particular, has had a record of not moving till public outcry reaches fever pitch, and its moves to ban Trump from using the platform must be seen in that context. The statements from these platforms struck me as insincere and reactionary, especially as both have taken down accounts for doing absolutely nothing at all, while others have been removed from bucking orthodoxy—for instance, I can think of a grandmother in Finland who was consistently anti-war, who fell foul of Twitter’s whims.
   The web’s original great promise was the even playing field: that we could all benefit equally on there, and that we finally had a truly meritorious medium. Yet that has been steadily eroded over the years by the dominant players seeking to cement their positions. They know they are monopolies, or at best oligopolies. As far as we can tell, Google’s news results favour corporate media over independents. They have each created an uneven culture, where indulging those in power, political or commercial, has become the norm.
   The EU has successfully sued Google over biases in its results. This, teamed with the bubbles, have taken us further away from the promise of the web, as barriers to entry rise, and as it becomes harder to create challengers to the monopolies.
   I have long maintained that people in the US have common enemies, rather than each other. Listen to them and you’ll find the themes are common: stagnant wages, unaffordable health care, the vanishing middle class, corrupt politicians who do the bidding of donors rather than the people, and unbridled corporate power. I touched upon these in my podcast on September 11, 2020; and my blog has a related post dating back to 2014. Even here in Lucire I published an op-ed in 2017.
   Of course one should condemn violence and I admit I felt relieved when Trump was silenced, albeit temporarily, on Twitter, since friends have been banned, suspended or shadow-banned for far less. I thought: finally, they’re enforcing their own rules evenly. What he wrote must be a breach of their terms and conditions. But after some reflection, this isn’t the whole story. Those T&Cs have meant little because they were never applied evenly. These platforms go with the flavour of the month, and while many might cheer on these developments, they may think twice when the sword is pointed their way.
   In 2018, The Anti-Media had their Facebook and Twitter accounts deleted in coordinated fashion. Some of their contributors found their presences gone, without explanation. The Anti-Media Radio account was deleted because of ‘multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter rules’, yet had never Tweeted.
   I seldom criticize Chinese platforms such as Weibo even though they are monitored and censored by the régime in Beijing. But Weibo’s terms say as much when they tell you what legislation will come into play, which is far more honest an approach. Free speech, after all, doesn’t mean platforms must host what we say, or publishers must publish what we write, and as long as I know where the boundaries lie, I’ll aim not to cross them. If I wish to cross them, I will do so in my own spaces.
   Big Tech in the US, however, is different, because the terms don’t marry up with the reality. And when rules are applied unevenly, just as when laws are applied unevenly (US police actions toward whites versus blacks, for instance), we cannot trust what the powers-that-be might do.
   Emily Ratajkowski, who has regularly proved more insightful than many wish to give her credit for, Tweeted along these lines in the wake of the Washington, DC riots yesterday.
   ‘Anyone else feel like proper amount of capital police being absent/letting Trump people in/providing insane visuals of MAGA dudes on the floor of the house was wildly convenient to justifying big tech’s rollout of censorship?’ she wrote. She followed this with: ‘I’m saying it’s very convenient to justify taking away more rights & privacy’ and ‘This gives Facebook/tech/Zuck THE MOST POWER. If he can shut the president up/off he can shut any of us up/off’.
   Her other words: ‘My concern is that this gives big tech the opportunity to shut down “leftist extremists” who are important political organizers.’ And, in one response, ‘And before tech leftists were being blacklisted by other means. People responding to my tweet somehow do not understand what license this gives big tech to continue to do so this time with people cheering. Patriot act 2.0?’
   At no point is she cheering on violence, or agreeing with the MAGA movement, but she paints a chilling picture. Leftists (and a good many on the right) might be delighted at the actions taken by US Big Tech, but would one be as cheerful if a Democratic president or a leftist movement were silenced? All I am advocating for is fairness, and I believe that Ratajkowski is, too. It’s something we’ve not seen.
   Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who unlike so much of the US media plays no favourites, Tweeted a few hours after Ratajkowski: ‘A handful of Silicon Valley oligarchs decide who can and cannot be heard, including the President of the United States. They exert this power unilaterally, with no standards, accountability or appeal.
   ‘Politics now is begging them to silence adversaries or permit allies to speak …
   ‘This is particularly menacing because they’re not just like any other companies with competitors. A Democratic-controlled House sub-committee three months ago definitively concluded that 4 of them – FB, Amazon, Google and Apple – are classic monopolies.
   ‘Demands that Silicon Valley censor more were already rapidly escalating. After yesterday, that tech oligarchs should police our discourse is a virtual consensus. Look for way more.
   ‘As I wrote today, it’s very redolent of post-9/11 calls for censorship.’
   Edward Snowden, meanwhile, Tweeted, ‘For better or worse, this will be remembered as a turning point in the battle for control over digital speech.’
   I have to concur. By all means, have terms and conditions—but have them apply to all. And if you’re going to indulge one to a certain level, you must indulge us all to the same. What happened on January 6 were unilateral exercises by platforms that have allowed one party to violate their own terms and conditions for years, only for them to have a change of heart brought upon by public pressure.
   What’s worse is that the uneven playing field that they have created was motivated by greed. Twitter was at least frank enough to admit that Trump was given a free pass for years, with his newsworthiness their excuse. But they all knew, just as the US media did when all of them—from MSNBC through to the Murdoch Press—that his content was good for their business because it meant attention.
   Fuelling it was in their best interests. An internal Facebook report revealed that 64 per cent of the time someone joins an extremist Facebook group, they have done so because it was recommended to them by the algorithm. This is no accident. Roger McNamee goes one further when he points out in Wired: ‘Facebook has also acknowledged that pages and groups associated with QAnon extremism had at least 3 million members, meaning Facebook helped radicalize 2 million people.’ Remember that the same argument must apply to leftist extremists, too.
   He continues, ‘Congress and law enforcement must decide what to do about the unprecedented insurrection in Washington. President Trump and elements of the right-wing media must pay. So, too, must internet platforms. They have prioritized their own profits and prerogatives over democracy and the public health and safety of the people who use their products.’
   The solutions are numerous, but among them must be the enforcement of antitrust laws as they were originally intended to be used, not what they became over the last three decades. The US Justice Department is pursuing this.
   Secondly, the intentional design of these platforms to bubble, radicalize and incite needs to stop, and individual nations’ legislatures could go some way to enacting laws to force it. Let them serve people and society, which is what technology should do—people should not be bending to the technology. Allow us to find alternative viewpoints with “the other side” if we are truly to understand and engage with one another.
   Thirdly, when these platforms lie, they should be punished, but with penalties that fit the crime. Fining Google four hours’ earnings after hacking a setting on Iphones is hardly a punishment, for instance. Lying has become a regular practice in some US businesses because we all know that Big Tech has done so with impunity.
   These alterations won’t suddenly make Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon and the others poor, either. Their owners will still be worth myriads of millions of dollars, but at least people’s lives won’t be threatened to the same extent. While some are blaming Trump for the five deaths on the Capitol Hill insurrection, Big Tech platforms were the ones that helped bring the mob there, just as YouTube recommended conspiracy videos, or Facebook incited genocide against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The US might still be more a democracy rather than an anocracy if not for Big Tech’s greed over the last 20 or so years.
   There’s no left or right to this. And when those divisions are removed, when the bubbles are popped, we might just see where the real obstacles in society lie—corruption, tax-dodging, monopoly power, environmental harm—rather than each other.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


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