BMW about to release
the latest 6 Series cars
Received some pre-event ‘teaser’ information on
the new 6 Series Beemer. The old 6 Series, like the 635 CSI were
fabulous sporty cars, and according to the reports, the new 6 will
also be performance vehicles.
The new car, to be released at the IAA auto show in
Frankfurt in September (along with the X3 compact SUV) is based on the
platform of the new 5 series (yet to come) but will be much lighter by
use of aluminium front panels and suspension subframes. The engine
will be the same 4.4 litre V8, as used in the BMW 745i. It will also
be available in diesel form, using a 3 litre engine. A 6 Series
cabriolet will be shown at the Geneva Motor show in March next year.
Happy Hundredth, FoMoCo
This year, 2003, marks the centenary of Ford Motor
Corporation, but Henry I was active before 2003, as can be seen in
this photograph of Henry in his original 1896 vehicle. And no, this
was not a Model T.
Ford was working for Thomas Edison when he built
this car. In 1899 Ford drove it the sixty miles from Detroit to
Farmington, then to Pontiac, and back to Detroit without a hitch.
People were impressed and an entrepreneur William Murphy together with
William Maybury, Mayor of Detroit, established the Detroit Motor
Company and put Ford in charge. Unfortunately the company bombed,
probably because Henry Ford I was rarely seen at the factory.
Henry Ford’s next venture was to build a racing
car. This beast had a flat-twin 8.6 litre engine producing 26 bhp.
Much of the ancillaries were not built by Ford, but by his team of
helpers, including a dentist who made the porcelain jacket for the
This car was completed by May 1901 and Ford entered
a challenge race in October at Grosse Pointe, near Detroit, and there
were events for steamers, electric vehicles and those with internal
On the appointed day, the field for the 25 lap
Grosse Point feature race for the internal combustion cars, which were
much faster than the other categories, had only two entries - Henry
Ford and an Alexander Winton from Cleveland, Ohio. Ford was definitely
the underdog as Winton was well experienced. The fastest man in
America versus a Detroit mechanic seemed so one-sided that the
organizers reduced the race from 25 laps to 10!
After a slow start, Ford began to catch the
favourite Winton, and egged on by his riding mechanic, he caught and
passed his adversary, to win the event. And $1000 - a very large
amount of money in those days.
Henry Ford I did not consider that he had just
begun a career in motorsport, reputedly saying after the event,
“Once is enough” and retired as a race driver.
However, Henry’s name was again in lights and the
Henry Ford Company was born. CEO Henry Ford was still in trouble in
the corporate world however, and after only four months he and his
backers had a showdown. Henry left with $900 and the plans for his new
The new cars (he built two of them) were 18 litre
monsters and they were campaigned all over America by professional
cyclists, Tom Cooper and Barney Oldfield. These Ford specials were so
successful that Henry Ford was able to open a new company which he
founded with a wealthy coal merchant, Alex Y. Malcolmson. This new
company was initially called the Ford and Malcolmson Motor Company
but, in 1903, it was renamed the Ford Motor Company.
The Ford dynasty was born and 100 years later
FoMoCo still exists and another Ford (Bill) is at the helm. I think
Henry I would have been proud.
Forget Hydrogen as the fuel
source, says Toyota. Hybrids are the way to go.
The number 3 Automaker in the world is Toyota Motor
Corporation, and we have already looked at the phenomenon which is Toyota.
Reliable and dull, in my books, but they sure sell some cars.
In their defence, Toyota has also embarked on a research and
development programme which has brought it to the forefront in the hybrid
gasoline-electric vehicles. It already has three in production, and according to
Automotive News in the US, is poised to add three more to its American line-up
in two years time. It also is studying the feasibility of a V8 hybrid for its
Lexus Division. This hybrid derived from the Lexus RX 330, will be called the RX
400H when it goes on sale next spring as a 2005 model. However, the redesigned
Prius sedan will go on sale in October this year. The Prius, by the way, has
sold 140,000 units worldwide since its 1997 launch.
In a June interview with Automotive News in Tokyo, Toyota
President Fujio Cho said they were preparing to double its hybrid vehicle
line-up to six by 2006 by adding the SUVs. The other vehicles currently in
production are hybrid versions of the Estima minivan and Crown luxury car sold
only in Japan.
The redesigned Prius is priced at USD20,480, unchanged from
the old model. It is offered as a five-door hatchback that has the interior
space of a mid-sized sedan, and is expected to average combined city and highway
fuel economy of about 55 mpg, up from 48 mpg for the current version (a 15%
increase in economy).
Toyota expects to sell 36,000 Priuses a year in the U.S.
market and 12,000 RX 400Hs. Dave Hermance, executive engineer for environmental
engineering for the Toyota Technical Center, said that the Toyota Camry was also
in line to receive a hybrid engine. This would be a logical step as the Lexus RX
330, and the two SUV’s on sale in America are based on the Camry’s platform.
According to some high executives in Toyota Motor Corp. the
hybrid gasoline-electric engines could eventually be offered in the entire
Toyota line-up, including the Corolla, the world’s biggest seller, and
probably the only really “world” car.
Toyota also is researching the feasibility of mating hybrid
technology with a V8, said Shinichi Matsumoto, project general manager for
Toyota’s electric and hybrid powertrain development group. A hybrid V8
powertrain would give Lexus a powerful alternative to the V12s used by BMW and
Mercedes-Benz without the V12’s fuel consumption problems, said Matsumoto.
This concept was also emphasized by Masao Inoue, chief engineer for the
redesigned Prius. “The direction of hybrid technology is to improve
performance while improving the eco-factor,” he said. “You can apply it to a
compact, a midsize, or a sports car. Any engine can be hooked up.”
The Hybrid Marketplace
Another manufacturer in the hybrid marketplace is Honda, with
the Insight, but with sales of only 790 units in the U.S. up till June, they are
watching Toyota go out of sight! Sales have fallen almost 40%. However, the new
hybrid Civic is said to be selling better in the U.S.
To emphasize the fact that the hybrid engines may be the way
forward (or as an extreme form of ‘insurance’), both Ford and General Motors
plan to launch hybrids next year. Again, according the Automotive News, Ford
will introduce the Escape HEV, which it says will have comparable performance to
the conventional version but return better fuel economy.
GM will launch a hybrid Saturn Vue, which it says has been
engineered for the way Americans drive SUVs. It will not be able to pull heavy
loads and will be available only in front wheel drive. Like most SUV’s, it
will not be bought for its off-road capabilities!
According to a study released in January by J.D. Power and
Associates, the market for gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles in the United
States is expected to hit 500,000 units a year in five years, but while this may
sound a large number, in total vehicle sales this is still only a drop in the
ocean. However, only time will tell as to whether hybrids are the way forward,
or a stop-gap while the world builds some Hydrogen fuel pumping stations, making
for a real gas-stop.
Last week I mentioned that the first year of the World
Championship was 1950 and the leader, going into the final race, was the
legendary Juan Manuel Fangio; however, it was Farina who took the first annual
title. I asked what happened? The answer was that Fangio, on 26 points did not
finish as his gearbox packed it in, handing the very first World Championship
title to Farina who had started on 22 points. But for a gearbox, Fangio could
have won six world titles, instead of the five, a feat currently equalled by
So to this week. A bandy-legged driver called Riva Davia
became very famous later in his career. What championship did he win?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected] chiangmai-mail.com