RAC Cars News


The Game Changers

By raccars Published

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Some cars don't just fulfil an empty slot in their manufacturer's line up or make a splash by selling in huge amounts, they have the power to create a whole new image for their parent company or even save it from financial ruin. These days, auto innovation is focused around energy saving, but earlier decades were a more exciting time for the car industry, and the following vehicles achieved a level of excellence that completely changed the game for their manufacturers.

Lotus Elise

By the early Nineties, with a number of failures behind it and only one rather uninspiring model on its books, Lotus needed a saviour. This came in the form of new ownership and a solid business plan. The result, in 1996, was the really rather special Elise, sticking to the British firm's classic lightweight sports car blueprint. Lotus was back in the game, leading the sports car field again, rather than trailing it. The company could do with another such thunderbolt right around now...

Volkswagen Golf

VW wasn't exactly on the verge of failure in the late 60s, but it had become rather complacent about the success of the then ageing Beetle and badly needed something new and different to catch the public's attention. The Golf was released and made history, becoming one of the best selling cars of all time and arguably starting the hatchback craze that has been a staple of car sales ever since. The Beetle started to look like a novelty item in comparison to the Golf's practicality and engaging driving experience, which set VW up to become one of the largest auto makers in the world.

Peugeot 205

The 205's funky personality belied its small size and revolutionised the French firm's previously rather staid image. For once the competition, even the well established Golf, was running to keep up with Peugeot, and the 205 has gone down in history as probably the best of a number of glorious Eighties hatchbacks. Sadly, Peugeot has never quite managed to match its brilliance with anything since.

Range Rover

With its maker Land Rover somewhat pigeonholed as the maker of brilliant but utilitarian work horse off roaders, it seemed the company had little room to broaden its horizons. Along came the Range Rover, the first premium 4x4, setting a trend that has yet to run out of steam. Other manufacturers have been on the run since then, trying to capture the same brand of off roading ability mixed with luxury.

The Aston Martin DB7, Ford Anglia and Alfa Romeo Alfasud could all be considered similarly influential.

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