Aston Martin DB7

VW and Tesla – a match made in heaven?

ELON MUSK must be ecstatic. Having already conquered the world with Paypal, taken on NASA at the space exploration game and threatened to revolutionise mass transport with the brilliantly-named The Boring Company, he’s now got a new suitor. The world’s second biggest car company, no less.

That’s right, word on the street is that Volkswagen is interested in buying a stake in Tesla. Admittedly, Volkswagen hasn’t successfully shot one of its own cars into space but it has pulled off a few other tricks of its own – after selling 21 million Beetles and popularising the hot hatchback it’s gone on to snap up Audi, Porsche, SEAT, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini, along with superbike specialist Ducati and truck builder MAN. They’re behind only Toyota in the car-building stakes, and still on an upward trajectory. What’s more, they’re on the cusp of launching their own sub-brand, called ID, which focuses on zero emissions vehicles.

But owning Tesla – or at least, a bit of it – seems like an entirely smart move. Not only does it give VW access to all of the Californian start-up’s battery tech, which for years has been ahead of everyone else in the electric car game, but it also gives it access to all those Tesla-branded smart chargers you see at motorway service stations. The other day I called into Fleet Services on the M3 and saw a line of six of them sitting unused while Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi Outlander owners were practically trading blows over the Ecotricity ones nearby, but if VW and Audi owners were able to use Tesla ones too in a few years’ time, it’d make more sense for everyone.

But I’d like to think the suits at VW are interested in what I think is something even more remarkable that’s potentially on the table; the creation of a brand’s street cred out of nowhere. Think about how long it’s taken Toyota to win over a generation of cynical Brits with Lexus, and yet in half the time there are now car mags urging you to go electric and buy a Model 3 over a 320d. The internet’s even invented its own term for someone prepared to defend Elon Musk’s offerings, even in the face of outright hostility from the rest of the motoring world – the Tesla Fanboy. That such a term – and the people behind it – exists at all just shows you how much currency the cars created by someone I’m still convinced is a real-life Bond villain have with today’s buyers.

Yet here’s the weird thing – Tesla, for all its trick gullwing doors, ability to defeat McLarens in drag races and to make cars that can drive themselves, is still struggling to make long-term profits. It’s moved the motoring game and brought us some very cool cars at the expense of….well, at the expense. So, in other words, it’s where Aston Martin was 30 years ago.

What it needs is the equivalent of the DB7 – a brilliant car that transforms the company, bankrolled by someone else. VW and Tesla, then, are a match made in heaven. Your move, Elon…

The Ford Puma is a 1990s classic, not a boring crossover

FORGET Piers Morgan. Forget endless rolling news about Brexit. In fact, forget all of the Saturday night talent shows, vapid shopping channels and Love Island. The one thing that really, really annoys me on TV are adverts that use rubbish remakes of hit songs I grew up with.

So far, I’ve counted Everybody Wants to Rule The World, The Power of Love and Somewhere Only We Know ruined by slowed-down, breathy-voiced cover versions of the kind popularised by the John Lewis festive ads, but the one that’s really got my goat is the Lloyds ad with all the horses running down the beach. Not because it has over-indulgent amounts of equine-themed feelgood factor, but because it takes Olive’s excellent 1997 dance hit You’re Not Alone, and ruins it. A part of my formative years – and a UK number one, don’t forget – utterly trashed because someone thought a commercially-minded makeover was a cracking idea.

So it goes with the Ford Puma. For the first time in 18 years you’ll be able to buy a brand-new car bearing that name from showrooms across the North West, but don’t for a moment think it’s going to be a small, two-door coupe with various bits borrowed from the Fiesta. Not a chance, because the new Ford Puma is a five-door crossover.

Stuart Rowley, Ford’s top man in Europe, reckons we’ll love it. “Innovatively engineered and seductively styled, we think Puma is going to really resonate with compact-car customers in Europe,” he told car nuts when it was first announced. “If you want a car that can turn heads on Friday night, and swallow your flat-pack furniture with ease on Saturday afternoon, then you’ve found it.”

He’s bang on, of course. If the number of people buying Nissan Jukes is anything to go by, people are going to love it, and unlike its 1997 namesake the new car really will laugh in the face of a trip to IKEA. Chances are it isn’t going to suffer from crusty rear arches or steering wheels with disintegrating trim five years down the line, either – but the telling thing is that Ford’s own press release on the new Puma made precisely zero references to the original.

I’ve no doubt that it will be fun to drive, effortlessly practical and – thanks to its hybrid tech – kind to the environment, but couldn’t they have picked another name? To me, and a lot of other people who really love cars, the Puma is all about zingy, Yamaha-tuned engines, beautifully balanced suspension and cramming your mates into some tiny back seats. It had styling by the same chap who did the Aston Martin DB7, but it was buttons to buy, run and insure. It was, like the song from the Lloyds ad, a timeless classic.

Only now it’s been given the breathy-voiced cover treatment. I’m sure the new car will be a fantastic Ford, but a Puma? I’ll stick with the original, thanks.