Alfa ensures top quality for their new all electric Tonale SUV…

Alfa Romeo wants to build a top quality gem: the beautiful and striking Tonale, which will be Alfa’s first all electric vehicle. Beautiful it is, we sat personally behind the wheel of the clay model at the Centro Stile under the watchful eye of head of design Klaus Busse, and now Alfa also wants its finish and quality also to be legendary.

So the Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato and Alfa Romeo senior management met up recently with not less than 150 Italian and international suppliers at the G.B. Vico plant in Pomigliano d’Arco.

Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato seen here above

Quality was on the agenda, and virtually only that.

Having specifically focused on this goal ever since his appointment, new CEO Imparato has taken part in monthly meetings at the Pomigliano and Cassino plants.

And Again at the meeting – with about 60 suppliers in attendance and others linked up by a livestream – he strongly reiterated that quality is a major priority. The goal is excellence.

“To achieve it, Imparato told, the starting point is the selection of materials. Our suppliers, the companions on a journey the destination of which is the brand’s first electrified car, embodying Alfa Romeo’s DNA with the highest quality standards.

Plant manager Alessio Leonardi adressing the audience of suppliers at the plant...

Joining the CEO at the meeting were the Stellantis Chief Customer Experience Officer, Richard Schwartzwald, and the plant manager, Alessio Leonardi.

During the meeting, the project targets were shared with the suppliers, considered fundamental stakeholders in the achievement of the qualitative objectives set.

If you are eager to see, drive and make this car your own, we tell you here that the Tonale will be marketed in Europe from June 2022 onwards… we will keep you posted on the further developments concerning this masterful Alfa, stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Fiat Panda Sport: your agile and stylish City Car…

The stylish Panda in its proper place: before the premises of the Royal Golf Club du Zoute…

If there is a type of car where the know how of car builder Fiat truly excels, then it is the compact city car. Indeed, both the iconic 500 and the endearing Panda are undisputed leaders in the segment A. Deservedly so. This Panda Sport with its 1 litre three cylinder FireFly engine coupled to a Belt Generator Starter motor is a very clever hybrid, which, driven with intelligence, puts down some pretty astonishing consumption figures.

It is also masterfully equipped, comfortable both in city driving as well as on long stretches, being a very entertaining and pleasing all-rounder which we were sorry to part with, and that alone says a lot…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The most interesting part of this good looking Sport version of the in 2020 revamped Panda is its style and equipment. Our test car was sprayed in a very elegant matte grey, actually called unsurprisingly “Matte Grey.“ It is shod with elegant 16 inch “Sport” alloys with black and red accents.

If that was not enough, our test car came with the Pandemonio Pack, an hommage to the 100 HP Panda which saw the light of day in 2006. Red brake calipers, dark tinted rear windows, a technoleather steering wheel with red stitching are the most important hallmarks of this Pack.

In the interior, the stylish approach continues. The dashboard has a titanium finish, the door panels are executed in so-called eco leather, one finds a black roof lining and new grey coloured seats, which are surprisingly comfortable for hours on end.

Infotainment is also well cared for. The 7” touchscreen with digital DAB is configured for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and you can place your smartphone in a handy slot right behind the touchscreen so the integration is also very practical indeed.

A drivetrain built for intelligent drivers

The Panda harbours some very intelligent technology. First of all there is the state-of-the-art 1 litre 7O HP three cylinder engine of the FireFly family, which is vibrationless, flexible and will – if called for – rev with beautiful staccato to its 6500 rpm redline. But this is not how this Panda should be driven of course when you want to achieve those wonderful consumption figures.

The engine works in pair with a BSG electric motor (Belt Integrated Starter Generator), which recuperates the kinetic energy when you lift the throttle or brake, and charges the 11 Ah lithium battery. The motor has a power of 3,7 Kw, and uses the available battery power to restart the engine in the start-stop system and assist the engine when accelerating.

The fact that the engine is assisted when picking up speed allows also the selection of higher gears at slow urban speeds, and that is where the cleverness of the system really comes into play. You can potter along at the legal 30 km/h in third gear, and when you drive on boulevards at a constant speeds of 50 km/h, fifth gear is suggested by the eco assistant. When more pulling power is required, the engine is helped by the electric motor to climb in revs and speed. Soon you learn to estimate correctly the deceleration caused by the generator when lifting the throttle and you recuperate the kinetic energy fully, hardly braking at all. The six speed manual gearbox is also a delight to use.

The instrument cmuster between rev counter and speedometer indicates consumption (averaging still the results of previous testers) and the state of charge of the battery as well as the petrol gauge…

You understand that this results in some astonishing consumption figures. In urban driving, we managed to stay around 5 litres/100 km, in all smoothness and comfort. The manufacturer quotes 5,5 litres/100 km as average consumption. CO2 emissions according to the WLTP cycle are quoted as 121 g/km. As said, 70 HP is developed at 6000 rpm, and when you rev the engine fully in the gears, the sprint from 0 to 100 is absolved in 14,4 seconds. Top speed is a very creditable 164 km/h.

Comfortable and practical

Where else: the Panda at the Place m’as tu vu in Knokke…

The suspension of the Panda is very comfortable indeed, and urban pavés and tram ridges are taken are taken very well. Also on the open road, the Panda remains very comfortable with excellent straight line stability. Roadholding is everything it should be, and you can steer the Panda with confidence through the worst weather and slippery roads.

The four doors prove immensely practical and take the pain out of having a compact car. There is even adequate luggage space, 225 litres of it, and of course the rear seats can be folded back for more room, up to 870 litres.

Conclusion

A very endearing, compact all rounder, which showed during this test all its very good qualities. The hybrid system makes a lot of sense when you approach and use it cleverly, providing also the smoothness and comfort in urban driving, besides chalking up these impressive consumption figures.

The Panda is also surprisingly comfortable, making it also a car fit for long trips on Europe’s motorways. It is also surefooted and stable.

Add the four doors, the adequate head- and legroom as well as boot space, and you understand that the Panda scores very high in the A segment, and will continue to do so for years to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru Outback: a refined go anywhere companion…

If we have to summarize our driving impressions of the new Subaru Outback after our test, the terms mechanical refinement, capability and space and comfort come first to our mind.

Well honed and refined, the latest version of the Outback certainly is. Technically extensively revamped and rolling on the Subaru Global Platform (SGP) for increased safety, driving performance and ride comfort, is has a super smooth engine and transmission, perfectly geared to glide around town in vibrationless silence, that is what this Subaru offers the urban dweller daily. But he or she can take the Outback elsewhere when nature calls. The legendary Subaru symmetrical AWD sees to that.

The new Outback is also on top of all that also more stylish and its interior has had a thorough makeover. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel


The Subaru Outback has a quite pleasing exterior, with fluent, stretched lines, with an excellent choice of paint colors too, as the photos amply show. When you step in, a posh cabin awaits you, certainly in the premium version we tested here for you. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the large centrally placed touch screen, which is a delight to use, with all the controls well placed and self explaining. Infotainment and connectivity is well cared for, as you will read further.

Seats are supportive and excellent, and soon a good position behind the wheel is found.


Drive train brought to perfection…

Pushing the starting knob one hears the trusted boxer engine coming to life. We said trusted, but it is good to know that the direct-injection 2.5-liter NA horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, has about 90% of its engine parts redesigned and boasts a higher compression ratio. Idling at 2000 rpm or thereabouts when cold, it soon drops to 1000 rpm when you shift the smooth CVT transmission in D or R. The Lineartronic CVT has been renewed with the gear ratio coverage expanded to a wide range equivalent to 8-AT. The hydraulic system has been revised and the oil viscosity lowered, which reduces horsepower loss by 22% compared to the previous model.  

So the result is that when you then are cautious with the throttle, this Subaru will smoothly pick up speed keeping revs down to just above idling speed, say 1200 rpm or so. The engine is inaudible and perfectly vibration free here, giving the impression one drives on E power. This enables you to drive at the now usual 30 km/h urban speed limit with utmost ease, also with very little fuel coming out if the injection ports. Driving in slow urban traffic in this relaxed manner cost us merely 7,3 to 7,8 liters/100 km, and this is no small feat.


The Subaru engineers did a very good job here, and it amply shows also what a good internal combustion engine coupled to a state of the art transmission can do nowadays. In our opinion, it again proves the point that a good petrol engined car has certainly not said its last word. Indeed, with the presently still abysmal state of the charging infrastructure in our country and also many other European countries too by the way, it is still a very attractive practical proposition indeed.

As said, we can only applaud the Subaru engineers here. Of course, hybrid and plug-in hybrid and full electric solutions will be on the cards in the coming years, as many (mega) cities will be imposing exclusively E-powered mobility in their inner city centers within not even a decade. Subaru wil soon have also a full EV vehicle, named the SOLTERRA.

This excellent economy is of course only reached when you adopt a relaxed and anticipative driving style. Putting the throttle deeper will result in higher revs, more power and more fuel consumed. The 169 HP/124 kW boxer engine guarantees zesty performance: 0 to 100 km/h is reached in 10,2 seconds, top speed is a good 189 km/h.
The manufacturer quotes 7,3 l/100 km as average consumption, with CO2 emissions being 166 g/km. The CVT transmission is very responsive as well as smooth, and will let run the engine in the ideal rev zones under full load, resulting in very brisk accelerations.

Predictable handling, with excellent comfort

The Outback with its symmetrical AWD is your ideal companion on wet and muddy roads, and the suspension is well laid out to cope with potholes and rough country roads. This means that well ridden urban pavés are also very well negotiated, and the Subaru is under every road condition a very comfortable car indeed. The Outback does not necessarily invite you to throw it around corners, but this said it responds well to spirited driving, and its handling is precise and predictable.

The standard S-AWD provides all-weather capability paired with a standard active torque vectoring for improved handling and cornering performance.

We mention here too that the Subaru is an excellent towing car, up to two Tonnes (!). It can then also throw in its excellent traction capacity, and is the preferred mount for horse owners who want to ferry their horses off and on the grounds at jumping events and the like.


When going off road or when negotiating slippery surfaces, the Outback driver has life made quite easy with a new X-Mode with dual functions of “snow/dirt” mode and “Snow/mud” mode for additional off-road capability.

It offers good road clearance for a wider range of activities, with an increased ground clearance of now 213mm, and an approach of 19.7° and of 22.6° departure angles (JIS) and ramp break over angle of 21.0°.

The new SGP platform brings significant enhancement to the body and chassis rigidity (front lateral flexural rigidity +90%, torsional rigidity +70%, front suspension rigidity +70%, rear sub frame rigidity +100%).

A rear view camera washer has been added so that the camera lens is always clear of dirt, mud and grime…

Practical



The Outback is a roomy station wagon, seating five with comfort. Luggage space is of course also leaving nothing to be desired. The cargo space opening width has been enlarged by almost 30mm, the space floor length is longer by 23.9mm, and the cargo capacity is increased with 10L, of now 522L (with the seats up). The Outback also offers standard roof rails with integrated and retractable cross bars, now enhanced with tie-down holes so ropes can be tied directly on the roof rails.

There is also plenty of stowage room in the door bins for large bottles and sundry. There are also several USB points, up to even 2,1 Amp charging power.

Safety first…

Indeed, safety is written very big at Subaru. We all now have become very familiar with Subaru’s safety vision, i.e. featuring the next generation EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, Subaru’s stereo camera prevention collision system, now with an expanded angle of view, nearly doubled, and new image recognition software, available with 11 safety functions, among which new ones were added:

Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering Function, Emergency Lane Keep Assist, Speed Sign Recognition with Intelligent Speed Limiter, Lane Departure Warning with steering wheel vibration, Lane Departure Prevention, recognizing also dividing line like grass or road edge and Pre-Collision Braking System with expanded support for collision avoidance at intersections.


The Subaru tells you also for instance to keep your eyes on the road as it is able to notice that you are looking sideways for a moment.
It also reminds you to take a look in the back seat just in case you would forget your (sleeping) toddler there…

Conclusion


This Subaru certainly merits your attention. It is refined, roomy, comfortable, at home on and off the beaten track, a reliable companion for work and pleasure, taking the whole family or your friends wherever they want to go.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Experiencing E-mobility for all: we drove the new Citroën AMI in the streets of the Capital of Europe…

Citroën has always been THE brand for breakthrough mobility solutions. It responded this time to today’s challenges by offering 100 % electric mobility literally for all: a cute, roomy two seater with an 8 HP (6 kW) electric motor which can be charged in 3 hours on your home socket and which offers up to 75 km electric range in town or country/village roads. What’s more, since it is only 45 km fast, you don’t even need a drivers’ license for it. In France, 14 year old’s can drive it, in most European countries this is possible from 16 years onwards. But it is also excellent news for the (very) elderly, they have the ideal, roomy two seater which protects them from the elements, it is easy to step in and out of, has two wide opening doors and is the proverbial breeze to drive.

Citroën has done it, and we were delighted thanks to the dynamic PR team to experience the first kilometers behind its cute steering wheel in the streets, squares and boulevards of Brussels. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Light and roomy

Like the iconic 2 CV, this AMI is designed with nothing but practicality in mind. Its symmetrical body shape is unique, with a long roof and cabin, offering a sea of space for its two happy occupants. Only the driver’s seat can be moved fore and aft, the passenger’s seat is fixed, and therefore one sits normally a bit further back than the driver.

Room for a cabin space suitcase, and an elegant hook to hang your bag…

But she/he enjoys formidable legroom, and can actually stretch its legs fully. This means that seating with your legs in a normal position, there is even room for a cabin size suitcase in front of your feet! So there is always enough room for your errands, as besides in the cabin, the AMI has still an extra luggage space in the back.

Citroën has decided to make this long cabin as light and airy as possible. Therefore, a glass panoramic roof is fitted standard. So it is la Vie en Rose in your AMI. One gets in through the wide opening doors, which are identical and because of that opening in different directions. The driver’s door sways out in the front, making getting in and out super easy.

You can throw your pocket camera, bottle and sundry in one of the three customizable bins just behind the window, hang your city/handbag on the elegant hook provided on the passenger’s side, and get behind the wheel. The dashboard just reveals speed and battery charge level, indicating also the remaining range in km. Further, there is a switch for heating and fan. Next to it is a smartphone holder, so your phone can provide for navigation and music.

The row of knobs for “Drive”, “Reverse”, “Neutral” and “Park” sits on the left side of the driver’s seat. Just push “D” and off you go. Acceleration is lively, but don’t expect miracles from 8 HP moving a cute car with a total weight with battery of 485 kg, where one still has to add the weight of one or two passengers. But it is certainly enough to move along with the flow of urban traffic, and with some restraint one soon notices that a cruising speed of around 40 km/h needs just a push of 1 or 2 centimeters on the throttle. You don’t get any deceleration from the E-motor when you lift the throttle at speed, so adapt your driving style and drive with more anticipation as the distances to make good use the kinetic energy are longer. But it can be done, and soon you get the hang of it…

Driving in Brussels one soon notices that the indicated range is absolutely realistic, and that’s a big plus. Also remember, three hours is enough to fully (re)charge the AMI.

Brussels paves are ridden with potholes and ridges, but the AMI took it very well in its stride with a surprisingly comfortable suspension.

Make it your very personal AMI…

As said, life is good in this AMI. Typical and reminiscent of the 2CV are the side windows, which open by manually tilting upwards.

Citroën offers, in a “Do It Yourself” fashion, the possibility of creating the object that suits each customer’ tastes through a kit of accessories that can easily be installed yourself. This kit incorporates functional decorative items: a central separation net, a door storage net, mat, storage tray on the top of the dashboard, small hook for a handbag, smartphone clip, DAT@MI box (dongle device) connected to the My Citroën app to retrieve essential information from your Ami on the smartphone.

4 main shades are available for these accessory kits, costing 400 Euros: MY AMI GREY, MY AMI BLUE, MY AMI ORANGE, and MY AMI KHAKI.

2 characterful packs are available on AMI for even more customization. These 2 packs contain all the above decorative elements and large format stickers that cover the outside and thus give AMI its very own style.

– My Ami POP with Orange personalization and a fun, young and sporty look, with a rear spoiler, is available for €8,190 incl. VAT.

– My Ami VIBE in gray with a more upscale, chic and graphic design that integrates roof coverings in addition to the stickers, is available for € 8,690 incl. VAT.

The installation of these 2 personalization packs is entrusted to professionals before delivery.

The specific exterior body colour is neither too feminine nor too masculine and works with the different colour packs Citroën has developed (blue, white, khaki and orange).

So the Ami is a base that can become a completely customised object with exterior and interior accessories that are either pure style or offer real extra functionality, as well as stickers that give it a completely different characters, tells us Pierre Leclercq, Head of Citroën Style.

Prices…

AMI AMI: 7.290€ incl. VAT

MY AMI ORANGE, KHAKI, GREY, BLUE: 7.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI POP: 8.190€ incl. VAT

MY AMI VIBE: 8.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI CARGO : 7.690€ incl. VAT.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We spoke with Antonella Bruno: “we are electrifying Jeep for Europe and the world, whilst keeping its unique DNA..”

In our interview series of remarkable women and men in the automotive world, we had an interview with the first woman to lead Stellantis’ historic American brand in the old continent: Antonella Bruno, now Head of Jeep Brand for the Enlarged Europe region.

She has not less than 20 years experience in the automotive industry, and started her career at the company in 2007. Since then, she has held increasingly prestigious roles in the sales and marketing divisions, becoming Market Director Italy for the Lancia Brand in 2012, followed by a position as Head of Lancia Brand in 2013.  

From 2017, in addition to her role at Lancia, she served as Head of Network Development and Customer Experience, an interesting position which together with her new challenge at Jeep, were reasons enough for having this interview…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Antonella Bruno posing in front of the impressive Rubicon at the recent Jeep Media Drive…

Q1 My first question is, you had a long career in the automotive world, I think it has to do with what your father did, but could you tell me why you find the automotive sector so fascinating?

AB: As you rightly said, I grew up close to the automotive world, my father was leading one of the SKF plants, one of the subsidiaries, so after my degree it was natural to step into this sector. I got an opportunity to start working in MSF, and then on further, so it was a kind of natural path for me.

Q2: Why do you think the industry is so unique? What do you think about its future, about the energy transition… and the many mobility and environmental revolutions it is going through, like electrification among others. Do you have any comments on that?

AB:  Let’s say that the automotive industry is very magnetic because it is especially now evolving very rapidly, and electrification is one of the main topics in the future, so at Jeep we started last year with the launch of the Renegade and Compass 4Xe, our first two electrified models, and we are carrying on with that strategy, this will represent our future. We are also working to let the customer understand that buying or considering an electrified car is rather easy, and that the technology is user friendly.

At the recent Jeep 4Xe presentation, you see here the Jeep Wrangler 4Xe in the picture…

We also make clear that being electrified does not mean that they lose the core of Jeep. So for us electrification means catching new customers, with a less aggressive and more sustainable stance, but at the same time – and this is really crucial – it means also to stay true to our values and not really dilute our DNA.

Q3: It is indeed a balancing act for you, you have the customers who appreciate the authenticity of Jeep and go for the Wrangler Unlimited so to speak and at the other end of the spectrum you have new urban Jeep buyers who chose the Renegade and possibly opted for hybrid electrification. Indeed, you have to keep your DNA…

The Renegade has urban qualities…

AB: You are right in saying that we have a more urban clientele opting for the Renegade back in 2018 when it was launched, but also the whole current range of 4Xe models are a perfect example of what we mean in terms of balancing the sustainability and capability because the Wrangler (4Xe and plug-in hybrid) is now a car which you can use daily. If you drive the car, you will notice it performs even better off road thanks to the electrification and this balance I mentioned between sustainability and capability is crucial for a brand like Jeep.  

Q4: With the venue of the Renegade in the mass compact SUV segment, the market presence of the brand has widened considerably…

AB: Yes, as I was saying, before the Renegade the brand was rather more a kind of niche brand in Europe, but when the car was launched, we really grew in terms of volumes and we opened a new segment of (potential) customers.

But equally feels at home in the mountain snow…

Q5: My next question brings us a bit more to the personal side, focusing on the woman in the corporate world. I would like to ask you which skills, which talents did you hone and perfect during your long career and at the same time what would you advise young people and/or young women specifically when they enter the corporate world. What should they watch for, what should they study in terms of human relations, management?

AB As a woman I had the possibility of starting at Ford when I started the first part of my career, and let’s say I had to opportunity to grow a lot, and in terms of skills, I think that it is related to the way I am behaving outside work.

I am an ex-volleyball player so I am used to be very determined, passionate. But I have to be honest, I studied a lot, because when I was young, my first passion was reading, automotive magazines among others. I was very curious, and I used to listen to people who were more experienced than me. Because I think you need also at the beginning to be humble, indeed to be very curious but at the same time humble enough to listen to people who have more experience than you.

I did not experience any kind of difference between men and women, so I was very lucky, and for me it is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of being a professional, being skilled, and you need to keep studying along your career. You grow during your career, but you cannot ever consider that you have arrived, because each new role (re)defines your profile, and therefore at the same time requires you to keep studying. It is important to be a strong, skilled manager, and this goes for both men and women.

Q6: Do you think Corona has affected the position of women in the workplace?

AB: Corona has changed the way we are working in this sense that that now we are spending a lot of time working from home, and this requires a different kind of organization. It requires a kind of cooperation between men and women, let’s say within the family, because it is a new way of working. It depends therefore on the single situation whether this is to the disadvantage of women. It requires an important ability to organize your time.

Q7: If we come back to your new and first rather to your previous function, I was very intrigued that you were Head of Network Development and Customer Experience. Can you tell me more about it?  

AB: AB: As head of customer experience, I can tell you that it was a cross-brand function, and with Corona the digital experience became very relevant and even more so after the sanitary crisis.

So by making the digital experience more efficient, we provide our customer with the ability to order the car online, this is very relevant and it is the future. You have to provide additional content and the digital experience has to be very easy, because you know that 90% of the first research when you are interested in a car starts on the web. So this was the main activity before Corona.

Go anywhere with a Jeep… now also electrified…

Coming back to the network, I had the privilege of leading the network development, which is also very related to the customer experience. To reach the customer is the first mission, but in the final stage we need to explain and pass all the information on the product to the end customer, especially now that we are going through the electrification (of our range). Having said that, we need to offer the best professionalism from our sales staff and we also need to offer a real customer experience in line with our brands. We also need to help the customer to overcome anxiety when it comes to electrification. “

Q8 Can you tell a bit more about the markets in the Enlarged Europe region?

AB: In Europe, the most important market is Italy, representing almost 50 pct of volumes, and we need to keep growing in markets like Germany, which is the most important market in Europe when we talk about electrification. Also France is of key importance for our future.

Retaining Jeep’s unique DNA is our mission…

The high penetration in Italy is explained by the strong legacy with our network, and since June last year we are producing both Renegade and Compass at our factory in Melfi, so Italy is performing very well. I am sure that we will keep growing thanks to the electrification in the markets outside Italy.

HK: We thank you for this interview.

We put the whole range of Jaguars and Land/Range Rovers through their paces…

Today we were invited by the people of Jaguar Land Rover Belux for a Jaguar Land Rover Media Drive at the magnificent establishment La Noiseraie , and it proved a wonderful experience. The whole range of Jaguars were driven on the scenic winding roads and motorways around Namur…with the exquisitely sporting SV R being the icing on the cake, although the hybrid and full electric Jaguars proved very impressive indeed.

The Land/Range Rovers were put to the ultimate off-road test at the Land Rover Experience Center at Suarlée.

We were also able of course to have a thorough go in our former test car we drove earlier, the New Defender, see also our test on these pages…

More on all this soon, we just show you here a few images, which say more than thousand words… just stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Land Rover New Defender 90 P400: an icon reborn…

It is always tricky to restyle and re-engineer a classic icon. But the people of Land Rover have succeeded. And how: a thoroughly modern looking car that nevertheless retains all the iconic elements of the original Defender. Its tall, upright stance, its purposeful short overhangs, to name but a few. Technically, the New Defender truly belongs to a new era. Painstaking efforts have been made to retain and even improve the legendary terrain capabilities of the Defender, while vastly improving the on-road driving qualities. The level of handling, comfort and road manners have nothing to do any more with the original. This makes this New Defender again fit for another few decades, enough time to grow into another icon. We were already convinced after this test. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Inspired by its past, but not harnessed by it…

These words were said by Gerry McGovern, Chief Design Officer, Land Rover, and it all sums it up just right. This is a new Defender for a New Age, he says, and we agree. The lines are clean, well proportioned. Besides the short wheelbased 90 and its hardtop version, there is also the 110, which offers five, six or 5+2 seating configurations, with a load space behind the second-row seats of up to 1,075-litres, and as much as 2,380-litres when the second row is folded. The Defender 90 is capable of accommodating six occupants in a vehicle the length of a compact family hatchback. It is aerodynamic too: it even has a flat underbody which both optimizes aerodynamic performance (as low as 0.38Cd).   

The stripped-back personality of the original Defender has also been embraced inside, where structural elements and fixings usually hidden from view have been exposed, with the emphasis on simplicity and practicality. New features include a dash-mounted gear shifter to accommodate an optional centre front ‘jump’ seat, which provides three-abreast seating across the front like early Land Rovers. The back of this ‘jump’ seat folds neatly forward, offering an immense centre console/armrest, and we just loved it.

Our test car came with the optional full-length Folding Fabric Roof – available on both 90 and 110 – for that open-top feel. There is even more: it also allows passengers in the second-row seats to stand up when parked to provide the full safari experience…

Strong and durable

Bystanders admiring the new Defender usually comment “we still like the old one for its robustness”. Well, they are wrong. Chassis engineering is now living in modern times. And the new Defender is the rolling proof of it.

Its new D7x (for extreme) architecture is based on a lightweight aluminium monocoque construction to create the stiffest body structure Land Rover has ever produced. It is three times stiffer than traditional body-on-frame designs, providing perfect foundations for the fully independent air or coil sprung suspension and supports the latest electrified powertrains.

Our test car had the air sprung suspension, and it is a superb experience, both on- and off road.

Outstanding both on- and off road…

This New Defender drives truly top notch on the road. Our test car proved with its air suspension superbly comfortable, and even spirited driving on winding roads delivered predictable handling with little body roll. Straight line motorway driving at high speeds is also what the New Defender is built for.

 In urban traffic and on terrain,  Land Rover’s advanced ClearSight Ground View technology helps drivers  by showing the area usually hidden by the bonnet, directly ahead of the front wheels, on the central touchscreen.

But also off road the Defender has what it takes to excel. Permanent all-wheel drive and a twin-speed automatic gearbox, centre differential and optional Active Locking Rear Differential ensure it has all the hardware required to feel at home in desert sand or (arctic) tundra.

“Configurable Terrain Response” debuts on New Defender, allowing experienced off-roaders to fine-tune individual vehicle settings to perfectly suit the conditions, while inexperienced drivers can let the system detect the most appropriate vehicle settings for the terrain, using the intelligent “Auto” function.

The new body architecture provides ground clearance of 291mm and world-class off-road geometry, giving the 110 approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees (Off-Road height) respectively. Its maximum wading depth of 900mm is supported by a new Wade programme in the Terrain Response 2 system, which ensures drivers can ford deep water with complete confidence.

Up-to-date power…

The New Defender offers a choice of advanced petrol and cleaner diesel engines,  while a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) powertrain provides silent EV-only progress of up to some 43 km.

The petrol line-up comprises a four-cylinder P300 and a powerful six-cylinder P400, featuring efficient Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) technology.

Our test car came with the P400, and indeed powerful it is.

This in-line six-cylinder Ingenium petrol, as said with MHEV technology, features both a conventional twin-scroll turbocharger and an advanced 48-volt electric supercharger, with a belt-integrated starter motor in place of the alternator to assist the petrol engine. Indeed, this starter motor ensures more responsive and refined operation of the Stop/Start system and provides extra assistance to the engine when accelerating.

The MHEV system also has a 48-volt lithium-ion battery to store energy captured as the vehicle slows down.

Driven with restraint, coupled with an ultra smooth 8 speed auto box, this six cylinder (how do we love the sound of straight sixes…) just hums along at anything between 1200 and 2000 rpm, letting you enjoy its impressive torque. It develops not less than 550 Nm over a wide rev range of 2000 to 5000 rpm. Push the throttle deeper and the Defender lifts its heels. Indeed, 400 PS or 295 kW between 5500 and 6500 rpm really make you move. The Defender storms from 0 to 100 km/h in 6 seconds, and its top speed is 191 km/h. This New Defender counts therefore among the fast cars on our roads, a truly outstanding feat.

Fuel consumption depends heavily on how you drive your Defender. Anything between 14,2 and 9 liters/100 km and even slightly less when you concentrate yourself on adopting a smooth and anticipative driving style, is what you can expect, even when driving in town. (!). The MHEV system helps here of course. The manufacturer quotes 9,6 l/100 km for the NEDC cycle, with CO2 emissions being 219 g.

We also note that your new Defender can tow up to 3500 kg (!).

State-of-the art infotainment…

The New Defender introduces Land Rover’s new “Pivi Pro” infotainment system. The touchscreen is intuitive and user-friendly, requiring few inputs to perform frequently used tasks, while its always-on design guarantees almost instant responses.

In addition, the New Defender takes Software-Over-The-Air (SOTA) technology to a new level, with 14 individual modules capable of receiving remote updates.

…and you can personalize your Defender

Like on our test car, a Satin Protective Film can be specified to make the exterior paintwork even more durable. The wrap helps protect against everything from car park scratches to bramble rash and is available as a factory-fit option in Gondwana Stone, Pangea Green and Eiger Grey, providing a unique contemporary finish as it protects the Defender’s paintwork.

In addition to the Accessory Packs, the New Defender is available with the widest choice of individual accessories ever assembled for a new Land Rover, with everything from a Remote Control Electric Winch, Rooftop Tent and Inflatable Waterproof Awnings to more conventional tow bar systems and roof racks.

Conclusion

This New Defender oozes with panache, with its clean body to its impressive, well styled interior, breathing uniquely the aura of our modern times, combining it with a reductionist styling language.

Technically, from chassis, suspension, drivetrain and engine(s), this new Defender is truly top notch. The result is formidable comfort and very good handling on the road, and masterful behavior and capabilities once you leave the beaten track.

The 400P provides excellent performance, and offers reasonable economy when you drive relaxed. A car for all seasons, for any road or place in the world. You will feel at home in it, everywhere you go.

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Rewriting the future of our cities: the CEO of Fiat and a world class architect shared their vision…

From left to right: Stefano Boeri, Silvia Boccardi and Olivier François

On World Environment Day, Olivier François, CEO of the Fiat brand and CMO at Stellantis, and the architect Stefano Boeri, whose firm is engaged in urban forestation projects all over the world, featured in a conversation for World Environment Day 2021 on the cities of the future.

They addressed the themes of urban mobility and sustainable architecture to make cities healthier and more livable, by improving air quality and therefore quality of life.

This focus on the future city, and more specifically this sharing of values of sustainability both for urban life and mobility started began over a year ago: in its vision of a utopian city, demonstrated and hinted at by Leonardo DiCaprio in the launch advert for the New 500, Fiat drew inspiration from the green architecture created by Boeri in several locations around the world.

Read all about it further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A new renaissance for (mega)cities…

At their meeting, François and Boeri analyzed the opportunities for a “New Renaissance”: they looked at photographs of the current situation in cities and even more so to the images of the ongoing changes. They also took a long hard look at the societal trends and the increasing interest of urban dwellers all over the world for environmental issues. Then they discussed the urgency of taking action, and the major opportunity of inspiring change.

That inspiration for change must be rooted in attention to aesthetics, in architectural beauty, but also inspired by the certainty of the need to improve the quality of the air we breathe and to reduce pollution levels in the cities we live in.

Boeri’s vertical forest in Milano.

Both men came to the conclusion that the combination of architecture like Boeri’s Vertical Forest – its 27,000 plants and millions of leaves contributing to clean the air by absorbing CO2 – and cars like the New 500 offering zero-emissions mobility can no doubt contribute to improving air quality in our cities.

The all electric 500 steps already in the new era…

In the words of Olivier François, Fiat CEO and Stellantis CMO: “The decision to launch the New 500 – electric and electric alone – was actually taken before Covid-19. Even then, we were already aware that the world could not take any more “compromises”.

In fact, lockdown was only the latest of the warnings we have received. At that time, we witnessed situations that would have been unimaginable until then, for example wild animals roaming the cities, proving nature was taking back what was rightfully hers. Plus, as if it had still been necessary, we were reminded of the urgency of taking action, of doing something for the planet Earth.

We have an icon, the 500. An icon always has its cause and the 500 is no exception: in the 1950s, it opened access to mobility for all. Nowadays, in this new scenario, it has a new mission – our mission – to create sustainable mobility for all.

It is our duty to bring to market electric cars that cost no more than vehicles with an internal combustion engine, as soon as we can in line with the falling costs of their batteries. We are exploring the territory of sustainable mobility for all: this is our greatest project.

Between 2025 and 2030, our product line-up will gradually become electric-only. This will be a radical change for Fiat.  Meanwhile, in the near future, only a few months from now, I am proud that we will see the conversion of the legendary track on the roof of the former Lingotto factory in Turin into the largest hanging gardens in Europe, hosting over 28,000 plants. A major, meaningful – and once again sustainable – project, due to revitalize the city of Turin, our home.”

Urban planning for the future…with more plants and trees.

Then Stefano Boeri, architect, urban planner and founder of the Stefano Boeri Architetti practice, gave also his views: If we consider that cities are responsible not only for the emission of over 70% of CO2, a phenomenon at the origin of global warming, but also for the emission of pollutants which are the main cause of diseases and mortality from respiratory problems, it is clear that cities are the first places to intervene with a profound change.

The Covid pandemic has shown us how fragile our lives and our bodies can be and highlighted the importance of improving the environment and above all the air of the cities in which we live.

“La Pista” 500, soon a reality on the rooftop of Lignotto, in place of the iconic oval track.

In addition to absorbing CO2, reducing energy consumption and urban heat, increasing the biodiversity of living species and making cities more attractive, trees drastically reduce fine dust pollution.

Let’s not forget: plants and trees are the only way we have to absorb the pollutants already emitted. I believe that the time has come to promote, with all our strength and resources, a great campaign to clean the polluted air of our cities, that microparticulate of substances harmful to the health of our lungs that has certainly accentuated in some particularly polluted urban areas the intensity of spread of the COVID 19 infection.

We already have several solutions available that can help us: protect and increase the permeable and green surfaces by creating new parks and gardens, in and around our cities; transform city roofs into lawns and vegetable gardens; promote community gardens and urban agriculture; use tree roots to decontaminate polluted soils; create a network of green corridors to connect parks, forests and green buildings. “

More electric mobility in the urban environment is imminent…

In Fiat’s vision, the penetration of electric mobility will rise, as more and more barriers are overcome. The topics under discussion in the talk included the need to improve access to electric cars, by means of innovation and new financial products that can lower the bar of entry; the need to increase the number of private charge points at apartment buildings, requiring a rethink of the infrastructure of the apartment buildings of the future, but most of all by adapting existing buildings; the need to raise visibility of charge points in cities and increase the penetration of fast charging stations.

That will entail a rethink of urban planning, a challenge that requires the involvement of a wider range of stakeholders. This is the stimulus and message Olivier François and Stefano Boeri wish to put out as their contribution to World Environment Day – held by the United Nations every June 5th, the message of which this year is “TOGETHER WE CAN BE #GENERATIONRESTORATION”.

Question time…

At the question time after the presentation, your servant asked CEO Olivier François to elaborate a bit more about the dialogue which existed between Fiat and these stakeholders in shaping the city of the future and its mobility.

Besides public bodies and municipalities, I was also keenly interested in how the dialogue unfolded with Fiat’s supplier firms like Bosch, Siemens, etc, who also perform extensive research in these fields. CEO Olivier François then trusted the answer to his colleague who maintains this dialogue with these external firms.

In his answer, he focused here mainly on the oil firms, which propose also future-oriented solutions, ranging from alternative “clean” fuel to renewables, and he saw the big oil companies also gradually transform themselves into suppliers of energy in all its forms, i.e. becoming “energy” supplying firms in the widest sense of the word. He pointed out that the boundaries between electricity suppliers and the oil firms will become increasingly blurred. The dialogue is indeed active and is indeed widened to all forms of energy. Energy supply and CO2 reduction remain the crux of the matter for all, he concluded his answer.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Renault Captur E-Tech Plug-in Hybrid: the compact SUV which has it all…

Renault has now also introduced its clever E-Tech Hybrid system in its Captur range, showing clearly that besides full electric propulsion, the hybrid solution has certainly its firm place in the Renault drivetrain strategy.

Having driven also the Mégane GrandTour with the same E-Tech technology, we were again very pleased with the refined qualities of the system, which also makes very efficient use of both electric and classic combustion engined propulsion. Indeed, provided you adopt a relaxed driving style, this Captur will spoil you with a close to 50 km range on its batteries, and an average fuel consumption in hybrid mode with (almost) depleted batteries still well below 6 liters/100 km. Add to this the “Zen” feeling of electric driving – the Captur will always drive away on E-power – and you will understand that we loved testing this good looking SUV. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Elegant

The Captur is well styled and proportioned, and pleases to the eye from any angle. A strong selling point, and now the Captur is further enhanced by the equally well designed led head- and rear lamps.

The cabin is also vastly improved, the level of finish and the quality of the materials used is now top notch. We just loved again the tall upright 10,25 inch touchscreen, the easy to manipulate round knobs for heating and ventilation, the Renault typical audio control, the quality of infotainment, the easy and self-explaining choice of the different driving modes. Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity are also to be had. The Captur is practical too, with large doorbins to stow away the things you take along on a car ride and an adequate luggage space with split floor to accomodate the charging cables. (Indeed, there is one for domestic plugs and one type 2 charging cable.) The Captur will also seat five without too many problems.

The E-Tech drivetrain convinces…

After the Mégane, the E-Tech system in the Captur convinced us again. It transforms the Captur in a comfortable, smooth, relaxed performer. As said, the fact that you will always drive away on the 67 HP electric motor adds greatly to the premium feeling this Captur gives you. The acceleration in those first meters is not only smooth, it is also quite powerful, and be sure that the Captur is a quite lively car at traffic lights.

At the beginning of our test, we managed to drive 44,5 km on battery power, with the rest of the distance, 60,6 km, driven in “My Sense” mode, using both engine and battery power. Average fuel consumption was 1,1 liter/100 km, E-consumption 14,4 kW/100 km.

The E-Tech system has three engines: one 1,6 litre Atkinson cycle 91 HP combustion engine, the 67 HP electric motor and then a smaller second electric motor which serves as starter motor for the combustion engine and generator. Acceleration is especially good at lower speeds, but the 0 to 100 km/h sprint is still quite creditable with a time of 10,1 seconds.

With batteries (almost empty, we drove a stretch of 95 km on the open road, using mostly the combustion engine, staying in the “my sense” mode. Fuel consumption was a very creditable 5,3 l/100 km.

Top speed is also a very satisfactory 174 km/h, which makes this Captur a quite potent motorway cruiser.

When asking full performance, the combustion engine will step in verve and will of course be pushed to high revs, but soon one learns to be sensitive with the right foot: a slight lift off of the throttle will induce the gearbox to choose a higher gear, and the engine revs will immediately drop. The E-Tech drivetrain, as well as the Captur, are built for comfort and a relaxed driving style, rewarding you, as we pointed out in our introduction, with very good efficiency, both in liters and KWh /100 km.

Choice between driving modes…

One can opt for the “Sports” mode which makes a performance oriented choice between the electric motors and engine, but most will choose the “My Sense” mode, as we did during most of our test, and the inboard computers will make the smooth and efficient choices for you. We also drove the Captur with the stylish gear lever put in “B” position, which increases the regenerative function when you lift the throttle, and soon enough you will be able to drive the Captur as a “one pedal” E-car in urban traffic. Then you can choose the “Pure” function, which lets the Captur run solely on E-power, and select the “E-Save” function or mode when you want to save battery power for later.

Needless to say that this Captur is very much fun to drive in town, but thanks to the 158 HP hybrid drivetrain it is also well at home on the open road, and this over long distances.

The Captur has a 9,8 kWh battery pack, which is housed under the rear seat, but the interior space is hardly impaired at all, and the rear seat bench can even be shifted back and forth to gain either legroom or luggage space.

The stylish gear selector sits on a “floating” console…

The extra weight of the batteries made a somewhat stiffer suspension necessary, but this did not make the Captur uncomfortable. Handling is also still quite pleasing, the car  can be driven spiritedly over winding roads, but this being said, it will not invite you to throw it around corners. As we said before, the true vocation of this Captur is relaxed and comfortable touring, and to enjoy the “Zen” panache of electrified motoring.

Conclusion

Renault stepped into the hybrid arena, and convincingly so. With the plug-in facility, you have literally the best of both worlds. In our country though, one needs a home charger. But then again, if no charging points are available, you have the pleasant possibility of running on fuel, and the Captur proves here to be quite frugal too. So this go anywhere anytime electrified pleasant looking compact SUV has many cards upon its sleeve…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A woman tailoring the Fiat E-Ducato to your needs: Angelica Carapezza

Her vast experience, very good knowledge of the company and a well established large and well honed network were the keys for Angelica Carapezza to bring the complex E-Ducato pilot project towards customers to a succesful end.

At the first presentation of the E-Ducato in mid- 2019 we met up with some very remarkable people of Fiat Professional, notably with Angelica Carapezza, now responsible for managing and coordinating the implementation of the Ducato’s electrification programs at full scale.

Now with the E-Ducato “coming of age” as it were with its commercial launch, after having went through a very thorough process of profiling the customer and their needs, we were very intrigued how this process exactly went about. All the more reasons for a second interview. The first interview, where we told you more about Angelica Carapezza’s multi-faceted career, can of course also be read in our columns, by following the link https://autoprova.be/2019/09/15/women-behind-cars-angelica-carapezza/.

Just read our second interview with Mme Carapezza here below…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

HK: The Ducato has built up an enviable reputation of commercial success, so launching a fully electric version is quite a challenge, as the expectations of the market are high. What was your business philosophy here in positioning the E-Ducato into the market?

AC: We have a long 120-year history in the LCV market, and Fiat Professional has always been a Brand that “lets the facts speak for themselves”. It is down to earth, so to say, producing vehicles that are first and foremost an ideal tool for the small or big entrepreneur who wants to grow his business. With this approach throughout the years, we achieved an undisputed leadership position in the world of light commercial vehicles, as shown by the figures for the Ducato: over 5 million units produced since 1981 in the biggest plant in the world, having also conquered over 75% of volumes in the Caravan bases sector and, finally, having achieved the European Best Seller status in 2020.

HK: Being close to the customer, responding to its needs, how did this translate in the actual approach?

AC: We wanted the E-Ducato to be absolutely “tailor made”. I can refer here to the Press Statement recently released by Stellantis about our “Pilot Project” to tune the E-Ducato to the needs of our customers, but let me explain it also a bit more for you here how we went about.

We first started with gathering data. With a solid database, you know where you’re going. So we collected data for a whole year from 4,000 thermal Ducato vehicles, whose control units, connected in real time, allowed the different individual mission profiles of our customers to be identified in their real application on the road.

E-Ducato’s were delivered to corporate customers like Arcese to further fine tune them to their needs…and collect their experiences.

Then we started analyzing the collected data, and aggregated them. Now, and this is of course crucial, we had established ourselves a very good idea about the profile of daily missions which could be accomplished by an electric instead of a thermal vehicle without causing any business interruption for the customer: in this way we identified the market segment which is “ready to divert” from thermal to electric, based on their specific mission(s) or activity and the size of their fleet.

This analysis which well founded, as it was carried out after not less than 50 million km being traveled by connected vehicles. This confirms again how deep knowledge about customers and their needs is fundamental and conditio sine qua non for the successful sale of commercial vehicles.

HK: Based on your findings, you could now further develop and fine-tune the engineering of the E-Ducato…

AC: Indeed, but we wanted our customers also to test out right from the beginning our pre-production vehicles, and communicate to us their findings during further development of the E-Ducato. We wanted them to have “their” driving experience in the field, based on real life conditions. To achieve this, we launched a “Pilot Project” so complete and complex that it was unprecedented in the history of Fiat Professional. During this engineering development phase of the electric version of the Ducato, we produced a mini fleet of pre-series vehicles and then assigned them to strategic customers. This time it allowed us to sample further data in purely electric mode.

Briefly, each user is assigned a vehicle on free loan for a period of 4-6 weeks, depending on mission/s tested, geography, type of paths chosen, allowing each customer effectively and empirically to start “his” Ducato experience.

The final target is to identify “his” vehicle, which is the result of the combination of two key and indivisible elements: offer and demand. Fiat Ducato’s commercial offer covers more than 18.000 different versions of the same vehicle, available with either thermic or electric propulsion, so you may imagine how important is for us to provide always the right and the best solution to our customers. In other words, we find the right match between on one hand the customer’s specific needs (type of route, daily km, delivery times/shifts, working days, type of goods transported and charging profile) and on the other hand the “right” Ducato with its wide range of product combinations (battery size, body configuration, options).  

This allowed a “real life” customer profile to be established, and so we could tailor the E-Ducato not only ideally to its specific delivery tasks and missions, but also to the individual market-specific requirements and local conditions, with indeed the geography being another important key factor in the choice of the vehicles.  

HK: Very remarkable, this close cooperation with customers. Does it have a following?

AC: Right indeed, the collaboration with selected customers for the “Pilot Project” continues today and covers various communication channels: press, web, social, co-marketing, joint participation in events and promotion of new experimental business lines.

Furthermore, in terms of identification and visibility, it is worth emphasizing that the E-Ducato fleet bears the distinctive livery of the model, combined with that of the international partners who took part in the project, including Arcese, GLS, Lyreco, Mercitalia, EDF, Fraikin, CSB, Nippon Express and BT Fleet, and last but not least DHL: all leading companies in the market and devoted to innovation, which have shown that they want to combine the commercial side of their business with respect for the environment.

HK: Indeed, I understand, customers and manufacturers are working together towards eco-sustainable mobility…

AC: Absolutely. Respective expectations have the same target: to give a consistent contribution in achieving truly eco-sustainable mobility from the beginning, throughout the value chain, and this new mobility is now the result of two companies sharing a single major strategic goal. OEMs cannot any longer sell just vehicles; they have to sell a full mobility solution in a world that is constantly evolving and where customers need easy solutions to continue their daily mission. LCV customers make a purchase choice based on tangible elements: payload, volume, range; here there is no room for emotion like for passenger cars; our customers have a clear idea about what they want and need, they are very demanding, the vehicle is the business for them. With E-Ducato we are proud to state that we “emotionally sell product contents”.  

HK: The car industry is now on the threshold of major eco-conscious changes… with its customers changing too…

AC: The entry of Electric Mobility happens not only in the Automotive market per se, but especially also in the culture and education of the people, which is leading to an epochal change that will impact heavily on the customer’s commercial approach, making her/his choice a «choice of full Mobility»: the customer is a pro-active stakeholder of this process of a new behavior and approach to Mobility.

For the car industry this means not only making the switch from thermal to electric, but also and above all fostering the evolution from the simple sale of a vehicle to the sale of a complete sustainable mobility service, in which the customer’s knowledge and needs become essential elements of the sale itself. Once again, Fiat Professional becomes the protagonist of a cultural change through a concrete approach to the issue of sustainability, with our “tailor-made” E-Ducato.

HK: What were your personal experiences, findings and satisfactions in setting up and bringing to a good end this complex project, amid Corona times? Do you have a message here – as a woman with a career– to our readers?

Well, good question Hans! If you ask me to summarize all my experiences with only one adjective, I would tell you “complicated”, but let me add a second one: “satisfying”. However, as satisfying as all complicated and challenging tasks are, it was not a “promenade”, notwithstanding my 35 years of experience in the Automotive Sector and having clear idea how the “machine” runs.

The Corona virus played its part too in complicating easy things like meeting the customers, feed commercial relations, being on the field, have internal meetings with the team and speed up developments. In one stroke, all these tools were taken away by the Corona pandemic, and we had to cope with delays and only virtual experiences at all levels. But I would mention Einstein here, “in the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity”, and the Corona virus gave us the opportunity to deal with in a new – and unpredictable – scenario, in finding new ways to establish the collaboration in each part of the long chain of automotive processes, where everybody gave her/his strong contribution to deliver the project.

To those people, my colleagues, go my special thanks for having supported me for each time I asked for something that was “never done before”. Whether you are a man or a woman, if you commit yourself first and you strongly believe in what you are asking for, the results come in.

HK: In more general terms, do you think that the Corona Pandemic has affected the position of women in the working place? What challenges in your opinion lie ahead for them?

AC: Well… a question which is not so easy to answer. Once more, statistical data show us that most of the women have lost their job. We can state generally that women belong indeed still to a weak professional category: they are always the first to pay any change.

I can consider my self – as all women in multinational companies- as a privileged person, since I had immediately the chance to continue my daily job. To avoid any disruption, the Company had made work from home immediately available to all its staff, but of course, everything became virtual. I did not lose my job, but I had to change the way of doing it.

Angelica Carapezza, second from left, seamlessly adapting her dress code to the occasion, delivering the E-Ducato to customer Lyreco…

HK: Did your function in the Company pose specific personal challenges for you?

AC: I’m a Senior Marketing Manager, I’m responsible of the E-Ducato Pilot Project: this job is based on relationships, both within the company as well as externally.  

This meant that, at the outbreak of the pandemic, we all had to rely on and capitalize as much as we could on the network we had build up so far. I can say that without a deep knowledge of the organization at all levels, If I would not have already known the thousands of people that work here and what they do, if I would not have built personal relations in the past, I would never have been able to deliver the Pilot Project as it is today.

Along with the network I built up, my professional experience also played an important role in this pandemic situation.

I think it must have been very difficult for young people who had just entered the organization prior to the pandemic. I keep asking myself, how have they worked from their homes without knowing the processes, the people, the organization flows, the fundamentals when you have to deal with an enormous organization? How could they develop that special feeling of “belonging to” the company if they could not experience it hands on and feel it on their skins?

HK: And to return to our first question, what were the extra challenges for women in general with this pandemic?  

If you ask me about the challenge… well the challenge was just even bigger now with the pandemic, if you consider a full working day for a woman.

From a personal point of view, I think we have to see both sides of the so-called “remote working opportunity”: what it appears to be and the everyday reality. At first sight it seems that from home you can better manage and organize your daily workload, which  – apparently –, leaves you more room to organize your life. But the truth is quite another matter.  

The reality is that from home, as women, we tripled our daily tasks and got more and more efficient being at  same time managers, mothers, housekeepers with no time limits!  

We, like our children who paid the most expensive cost of this pandemic, lost the human contact, everything is done behind the screen, everything is happening inside your house, and most of times you don’t perceive that it’s time to switch off the PC.

HK: The pandemic has affected us all…

The pandemic has affected us as human beings. We are not born to become home robots. As a woman, I want to go back to work, I need to put on a nice dress, have make-up, wear shoes and go out, before we all forget what is so fundamental for a human being: the interaction among us, the fact that we need to see each other into the eyes, to talk face to face, directly, to shake hands, to re-establish relationships. Human relationships: this makes us live.

HK: I thank you for this interview.

Hans Knol ten Bensel