"Despite the tragedy of 2020 so far, several intriguing developments emerged in the final week of June"

Mike Rutherford recounts some significant stories that may have passed you by in recent weeks

Goodbye and good riddance to the hellish first half of 2020. For many it was by far the worst and most worrying six-month chunk of their lives. But despite all the obvious tragedy, pain and injustice, several intriguing, significant, sad or amusing developments emerged in the final week of June.

The maddest story I stumbled across concerned Hollywood superstar Mark Wahlberg. Too much sex and drugs and rock and roll? Hardly. The dear chap simply liked his Buick so much that he bought a franchised dealership to accompany it. That’s in addition to the Chevrolet franchise he bought to go with his Chevy. And if hardman Marky gets bored with them, he’s also got his Airstream business to occupy his time. Would you buy a new or used car or caravan from him? Apparently, his fans and others stand in line to do just that. Vinnie Jones, please note.  

Closer to home, SUVs have lately taken over as the No. 1 sellers. And, in the final days of the month, makers launched even more all-new or heavily updated versions. These included the sub-£15,000 LPG-powered Duster, whose maker, Dacia, is asking if LPG might be a wiser successor to petrol and diesel than electricity. It’s a good question.

Meanwhile, Suzuki weighed in with its strangely appealing Across, and Land Rover launched its Defender Hard Top commercial vehicle at circa £40,000 (ouch - £40k for a van!), and looked for a pandemic-free window to properly launch its range of Defenders costing up to £80,000, and possibly a tad more. Very deliberately, a spanner was thrown into the works by Ineos, unleashing its old-school Defender-lookalike vehicle built in Wales, badged Grenadier and, some had hoped, starting in the low £30,000s – although £40,000 is more likely, and that’s before VAT.

A cheaper option could be the all-new version of another important SUV: Bronco. With the help of the Disney organisation (honest), Ford is just about to launch it. And if the manufacturer decides, as in the past, not to officially export this iconic 4X4 to the UK,  you can always buy one when on holiday in the US, before shipping it back home as a personal import. Still with Ford, more intrigue and controversy in recent days came when the firm decided to kill off the Lincoln Continental, just before its 82nd birthday.

Volkswagen spent the last week scratching its head asking why and how it allowed its traditionally best-selling car in Europe – the Golf – to lose its No.1 slot in the sales chart. One reason is that the new model is too pricey and unnecessarily complicated. The Renault Clio that’s taken over from the Golf isn’t so laden with gizmos, and feels more like a small/mid-size family hatch than the supermini it’s supposed to be. More importantly, the least expensive Clio is around eight grand cheaper than the bog-standard Golf. I rest my case.

One of the final acts on one of the final days of June? The organisers of Geneva killed off the greatest annual motor show on earth for 2021. And it’s RIP Frankfurt, Paris (plus some other big shows) in the coming years, too.

Still, all that money saved on the eye-wateringly expensive global motor-show circuit should result in cheaper cars, right? We’ll see. 

See why an electric future can appeal to driving enthusiasts...

Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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