Bangkok International Motor Show

The 24th annual Bangkok Motor Show kicks off on the 28th of March. I have watched this event, over the past five years, go from strength to strength, parallel with the recovery in the auto industry. Held at BITEC (Km marker 1 on the Bang Na - Trat Road close to Central Bang Na and on the other side of the highway) it is now a world class event and as Thailand begins to import a wider range of cars, you can expect to see the same at the Bangkok International Motor Show. Amongst these will be the new Porsche Cayenne and the Citroen C8 and Jumper.

Porsche Cayenne

Does Advertising work?

Does advertising work? You betcha! I came across some very interesting statistics in the latest Thai Autobiz magazine, Vol. 2, Number 12. They had compared the advertising done by the various auto manufacturers in this country and concluded that the advertising revenues were up 34% in 2002 from the previous year. This was to show the vibrant state of the auto-economy, and undoubtedly the auto industry is certainly on the way back up again, after the 1997 fiasco.

However, later on in the magazine there were also the statistics covering the number of cars and pick-ups sold in Thailand, and it was possible to compare the two sets of figures. The results were interesting.

Top spenders advertising their pick-ups were in order, Isuzu and Toyota. Top sales of pick-ups were also Isuzu and Toyota! Top spenders advertising their passenger cars were Toyota and then Honda. Top sales of passenger cars were (you guessed it) Toyota and then Honda.

Also of interest was where the car companies spent their advertising baht. And they did spend too. The total in Thailand for the first 11 months of 2002 was 1.67 billion baht! And here’s who got it. TV got 45%, newspapers 39%, radio 10%, magazines 4%, billboards 1%, movie theatres 1% and the internet percentage was so small it was an infinitesimal 0.0000000005%! So much for the push to make us an “e-economy”!

Now to really (ab)use the statistical references, Toyota spent 185.768 million baht, to sell 44,448 vehicles, which represents a cost of 4,180 baht per car. On the other hand, Honda spent 115.546 million baht to get 29,595 Hondas out the door. That is equivalent to 3,900 baht per vehicle. That to me, looks very similar!

So it would seem, that if you want to be top of the heap, you have to be prepared to spend more than your competitors. For Honda to get the top passenger car will cost another 280 baht per vehicle. Well, that’s what the figures would indicate.

As they say, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics!

Racing to a script

Much brouhaha erupted when the Ferrari team scripted a couple of races last year, even having the temerity to try and engineer a dead-heat. This, the world was told by many sporting journalists, had brought motor racing into disrepute. I did not join the baying throng because I have a very long memory. While doing some other research I came across another example of race fixing, but nobody appeared to remember this one - it was the Le Mans 24 hour race of 1966, with the Ford Team GT40’s very comfortably leading. Ken Miles and Denny Hulme had led for hours and Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren were second. To maximise the effect of this crushing defeat of Ferrari, the FoMoCo executives decided that a dead heat was the answer. The organizers agreed too, so the drivers were called in and told to stage a dead heat across the line.

While they were out on the track for the final few laps (remember this is before pit to car radio) the French organizers changed their minds and said that if the cars were side by side across the finish line, the Amon/McLaren car which started further down the grid than the Miles/Hulme car, would have actually travelled a few metres further in the 24 hours, so it would be declared the winner.

So what did the Ford race team do? They decided not to tell Ken Miles, as he was not their most popular driver, and so the planned ‘dead heat” ended up with the EnZedders Amon and McLaren winning the 1966 Le Mans. Was there an outcry? Was there thump!

So why is there such an outcry today, with the FIA apparently “banning” stage managed finishes this year? Let me assure you it has nothing to do with motor “sport”. The answer is called ‘off track betting’, where much money is wagered on who will win the different Grands Prix. So it has nothing to do with race team managers deciding who will win the race, but has everything to do with who will win the money in the sweepstake!

What kind of a man is Michael Schumacher?

As regular readers will know, whilst I have always been impressed with the talent of Michael Schumacher, I have always been less than impressed with the man himself. I felt that he was arrogant and was not beneath doing a few dirty tricks to stay on the top of the heap - his efforts in crashing with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve a few years back are not forgotten.

However, I recently met an FIA official (who was here to do the track inspection of the Bira Circuit - it passed, by the way) who had sat in a few committee meetings with Schumacher, and who had high regard for the Ferrari star and 5 times world champion. Like me he had been initially unimpressed, but after being with him he had changed his opinion. Apparently Schumacher definitely has mellowed and was clear headed in his thinking and of much value to the committee meetings relating to the sport and safety. He did not come over as a big-head, but was a humble man.

In a recent interview in the Observer in the UK, the journalist wrote that Schumacher is incorrectly described as ice-cool and unemotional. In the article, Schumacher spoke about the early days when his family struggled to finance his career. When Schumacher was 21, he earned his first major bonus of over 1 million baht and apparently gave it to his father, in cash. “My family were really in debt,” he said, “so I gave my father this suitcase full of money. He couldn’t believe it. That was something very special.”

Schumacher went on, discussing some of the uncomplimentary articles that have been written about him. “I’m not very comfortable with what people sometimes say or think about me,” he said, “things I don’t feel responsible for. They write stories about me, often to justify themselves, without looking at how I got to win the race.”

He continued with, “I’m a pretty relaxed person, and this makes me the way I am. People try to look for more than there is. A simple explanation sometimes doesn’t justify the success you have. It all depends what you feel you are. I know what I am, and what I have to do in my profession, so I can handle the pressure. It’s the way I think.”

One factor which is probably not remembered when listening to Schumacher respond to questions, is that English is not his native language. Stilted expressions may even be partly explained in that way. Just how many of us are able to reply to a press grilling in a foreign language?

The interview ended with Schumacher being asked just who he considered to be his greatest rivals, with the journalist suggesting that it would be Montoya, but Schumacher did not agree. “I would not focus on that single person. My team-mate Rubens Barrichello has picked up his game quite a lot. Then there is my brother Ralf, and Kimi Raikkonen. I would mention all of these in the same bracket as Montoya. But the media seems to have picked out one over the others.”

Most interesting, perhaps I will have to change my ideas too.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that we are all used to being offered multi disk CD players in cars these days, but quite some time ago record players were offered as factory options. In fact it was 1956. What I wanted to know, is what car company offered this? The answer was Chrysler.

So to this week. A couple of weeks back I mentioned the Indy 500 - a classic race of enormous proportions. It has also been a race that was dominated for many years by the front engined “roadsters” but eventually they were eclipsed by the rear engined “funny cars” as the American drivers called them. One American driver believed that the funny cars would win the Indy and paid for a famous British F1 designer to come to Indy to watch and then come back to Indy following year with cars to contest the race. After that long-winded introduction, who was the American driver and what was the name and model of the funny car?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email automania

Good luck!

Suzuki builds a hybrid

With the world’s stocks of oils hanging in the balance, thanks to George Dubya and company, hybrid gasoline/petrol engined cars may become the flavour of the month. Honda has been selling their hybrid, the Honda Insight, for three years and it has a strong band of followers world-wide. They have now been followed by Suzuki who have released their hybrid version, called the Twin, on the Japanese market.

Suzuki Twin

This little jigger features a 660cc petrol engine mated to a very small (8cm thick) electric motor. Fuel economy is being given as 32-34 kays per litre, which is around 80 mpg in the old money, if my maths have not failed me. It is automatic and the engine has an automatic cut-out feature to stop the engine as soon as the car comes to a stop.

It certainly is a ‘mini’ car, being 2.7 metres long and is reported to be very light. With the amount of neddies available to propel it along the flat, it would have to weigh almost nothing as the lekky motor develops a thundering 5 kW output with 32 Nm of torque, which would be just about enough to pull the skin off a rice pudding, provided it hasn’t been left in the fridge too long.