Motor Show 2004
Thailand has been in the somewhat strange position
of having two motor shows each year in Bangkok recently. Many
organizations had shown an interest in being involved, either joining
with the longest running show organized by Grand Prix International
(24 years continuously), or by putting on their own. This meant that
some makes and manufacturers had to either spend money at appear both
shows, or favour one or the other. Not a healthy situation at all.
Fortunately this situation has been resolved, with
the three major organizations agreeing to co-organize the 25th Bangkok
International Motor Show next year. Grand Prix International’s
president, Dr. Prachin Eamlumnow announced the historic agreement
between his company, the Royal Automobile Association of Thailand
(RAAT) and the Thai Automotive Institute (TAI) to hold the motor show
next year. It will be on March 26 through to April 4, at the Bangkok
International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC).
Having attended the past six motor shows and seeing
the number of exhibitors rise dramatically in that time, I can foresee
that BITEC will become too small, unless they can expand their under
roof area. Even at present, the auto parts and accessories displays
have been held in de-mountable structures in the grounds.
How well does
Thailand stack up in the manufacturing stakes?
After all the broo-ha-ha of APEC and shipping the
beggars out of Bangkok and giving the pavement vendors new food carts
(which they have to pay for later, by the way), Thailand must have
looked good for the visiting dignitaries. But in the auto
manufacturing business, how good are we in the region?
of the latest to announce a major investment is FoMoCo during Bill
Ford’s recent visit, including a handshake from Dr. Thaksin. Ford is
going to pour USD 500 million into the AAT plant in the Eastern
Seaboard Industrial Estate.
The November edition of ASEAN Autobiz had the
comparison as their leader and it made interesting numbers. The
biggest producer in the ASEAN basin has been Malaysia, with its own
(government backed) Proton and the Perodua. The Malaysian Automotive
Association has admitted there has been a downturn in the auto sales
and the projected figure for 2003 is 420,000 units. Last year they
produced 430,000 units.
Thailand, on the other hand is looking at more than
500,000 units this year, and forecasters say that the pre-crash level
of 590,000 will be topped next year.
Other countries are Indonesia (340,000), Singapore
(93,000) and the Philippines (90,000).
In actual fact, this does not look too good for
Malaysia at all. The country has been stalling on the ASEAN Free Trade
Area (AFTA) agreement, which began this year. Malaysia asked for a
two-year period of grace before reducing import duties on imported
cars, mainly to protect their own manufacturer (Proton), but the time
for stalling is running out. They have announced that next year they
are getting ready, and are, wait for it, replacing import duties on
foreign cars with new excise duties! A horse by another name! The only
difference being that import duties are paid by the importers - and
then passed on to the consumer as higher prices. With excise duties,
the tax is levied directly on the buyer, to be added to the price of
the car, so the government just gets the revenue via a different
With the political situation apparently stable in
this country, auto manufacturing investment is continuing. One of the
latest to announce a major investment is FoMoCo during Bill Ford’s
recent visit, including a handshake from Dr. Thaksin. Ford are going
to pour USD 500 million into the AAT plant in the Eastern Seaboard
Industrial Estate. This will see the plant that produces Ford and
Mazda pick-ups, expanding with new production lines and new vehicles
rolling off the assembly lines.
All in all, it looks like a fairly exciting time in the automakers
territory. However, let us not forget India and China. India will
produce around 900,000 vehicles (that is twice as much as Thailand)
and China will probably top 2.5 million. It certainly is not the time
to rest on our laurels. We must build vehicles and manufacture spare
parts “better” than the others, with higher quality.
APEC and the local auto
If you think that APEC was all about clearing the streets and
making us look good in the eyes of the participating nations, then you’re more
than partially correct. However, it was also used by the local auto industry to
show what they could do. For example, did you know that over 200 new vehicles
were supplied to the Thai government to be used over APEC?
Audi handed over 21 Audi A6’s, BMW provided 19
armour-plated 7 Series, Ford delivered 25 Ford Escapes and 20 Ford Everests, GM
supplied 12 Chevrolet Luminas (imported from Australia where they are badged as
Holdens), Toyota handed over the keys to 39 Camrys and 33 HiAce vans, while VW
gave away 42 VW Caravelles.
Look for some bargains in the next few months. Anyone for a very slightly
used BeeEmm 7 series that can withstand a 15 kg bomb blast and can travel more
than 80 kays with its tyres shot out? I have actually seen a couple of these at
the BMW plant here, and they look fabulous in black. Wonder if they’ll do a
zero deposit, zero interest, payments over 20 years deal? Ah well, you can
Toyota Corolla performance models overseas
With Toyota Motor having won the Thailand Touring Car
Championships with Natavud and ‘Pete’ with the local Corolla Altis, time
might be right for our local Toyota to add a high performance Corolla to the
range. By the way, Toyota list 52 models that you can buy in this country, from
Vios to Crown. That’s how you take over the marketplace - a model for
At the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in
America, Toyota decided to shrug off the middle-aged image for the Corolla and
displayed the Corolla XRS. This was approved last year, said Don Esmond, Toyota
Division general manager, at the show. “We’ve wanted to get into the Honda
Civic Si market,” Esmond said. Three years ago, there were no Toyotas at the
SEMA high performance show. Now they have four. “We’re getting our foot in
the door,” said Esmond.
The Corolla XRS is powered by the same 1.8-liter Yamaha
engine that is in the top model Celica delivering 173 hp and 127 pounds-feet of
torque. However, for the sedan, the engine has been altered to provide more
mid-range torque. The increased power over the standard 1.8 litre (136 hp) is
delivered to the road through a 6 speed gearbox.
In keeping with the performance angle, Toyota uses a
sport-tuned suspension with heavier springs and shocks that lower the vehicle by
half an inch. Sixteen-inch wheels and Michelin performance tires are standard.
Toyota hopes to sell 5,000 Corolla XRS units a year. All will
be built at Toyota’s plant in Cambridge, Ontario. Prices have not been set,
but Esmond said the XRS will cost about $2,500 more than the top end Corolla
model which sells at USD 15,265, including freight. That will make the
performance Corolla (over there) cheaper than the 1.6 litre Bangers taxi model
Bill Ford’s crystal ball sees future of
hybrids and hydrogen
In 25 years, as many as 75 percent of light vehicles produced
could be hybrids with the rest powered by hydrogen, according to FoMoCo number
one, Bill Ford.
DaimlerChrysler looks as if they agree, with their latest
showing at the Tokyo Motor Show. This was a concept vehicle called the F500
Mind, the big four-door fastback being billed as mobile research laboratory
housing technological advancements that are expected to filter though into
standard Mercedes-Benz models in coming years, including an advanced hybrid
drive system that uses both diesel power and yes, electric propulsion. Power
hails from the same 184kW 4.0-litre V8 common rail diesel engine used in the
European market S Class 400 CDI along with a 50kW electric motor. It’s Dr.
Porsche’s Lohner-Porsche all over again.
The way of the future is to use electrical power even more
than just now. Other features in the vehicles of the future can be adapted and
handled better by electricity, and this includes brakes and steering.
“X-by-wire” is certainly here and is being refined. Going back to the F500
Mind, it uses electric operated accelerator and brake pedals to free up valuable
Bill Ford’s other horse in the race (and it looks like he’s backing both
of them) is hydrogen power. “The next big event for this industry is going to
be the creation of a hydrogen economy,” he said. “The transition from where
we are today to a hydrogen economy is going to be a huge national and
international issue that is going to require coordination with governments as
well as fuel providers and ourselves in a scale that we have never seen
DaimlerChrysler cuts the top off the PT
With Chrysler seeing a dwindling market, the parent body in
the US is trying very hard to revitalize the image of their products. The best
way is new ones, and the Chrysler group says fresh products will jump-start its
turnaround plan. There are nine products which will arrive in the US showrooms
by the end of 2004, reports Automotive News.
The first of these is the 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser
convertible. Chrysler expects to sell as many as 20,000 annually. The
convertible will be offered with a standard 2.4 liter four cylinder turbocharged
engine generating 180 hp and a 220 hp version will be optional.
Another wild machine is the Viper engined Ram pickup that
will arrive in showrooms in January. The V10 Viper engine would have enough
torque to pull City Hall through town. An amazing ‘grunty’ power plant.
Jeep is being bolstered by another variant of the Jeep
Wrangler, called the 2005 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. This is a stretched version
of the Wrangler, if you want to take the entire family, and the buffalo into the
bushlands and goes to dealerships next year in the US. Don’t hold your breath
Last week I wrote about “Hybrid” power plants that are
all the rage these days, being put forward as the “new” technology. However,
this idea of petrol/electric vehicles is not at all new. It was first
demonstrated in 1902, and the designer raced a car with it and won. I asked who
was he? It was Dr. Ferdinand Porsche with his Lohner-Porsche in 1902. Electric
motors in the hubs were used, with the power coming from a gasoline driven
So to this week. In 1978 you could buy a couple of diesel
engined Jeeps. Who made them? Clue - it was not an American company, but they
were called “Jeep” and that was embossed along the side of the engine cover.
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