Should we all buy economizers?
With the price of crude oil spiraling, partly as a result of
the decreased production from the Iraq oil fields (thanks George), and the rest
by conniving in the cartels, people are beginning to look at fuel efficient
vehicles. This is not being done to save the planet’s natural resources, I
should add, but to save the individual drivers pocket resources! In the past six
months the cost of fuel at my local pumps has gone from around 18 baht/litre to
now around 24 baht/litre. Where is the end? (How long is a piece of string?)
Just for interest, gasoline is now over 33 baht/litre in Australia.
Down-Under, the economizers are certainly seeing a sales
boom, including the gasoline/electric vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and
Honda Civic hybrid, which are initially more expensive, but much cheaper to run.
These vehicles seeing sales up between 17 and 78 percent!
Here are the top fuel misers. Some are not available in this
country, but the economy figures are quite startling.
Toyota Prius hybrid (4.4 litres per 100 km)
Smart Fortwo (4.8)
Peugeot 307 diesel (4.9)
Daihatsu Charade (5.0)
Honda Civic Hybrid (5.2)
Volkswagen Golf diesel (5.5)
Smart Forfour (5.6)
Honda Jazz (5.7)
Hyundai Getz (5.7)
Audi A3 diesel (5.9)
Peugeot 407 diesel (5.9)
Citroen C5 diesel (6.5)
Mercedes-Benz E270 diesel (7.1)
From that list there are a few available in this country, and
it would be worthwhile having a look, if you are in the market for a new car.
The Honda Civic Hybrid is 1.7 million, the Honda Jazz around 600,000, the
Citroen C5 at 2.1 million, Peugeot 407 diesel about 2.6 million and the Mercedes
about 5.6 million baht. At the consumption levels quoted above, you should be
able to drive to Bangkok from Pattaya for around 100 baht.
A brief word about European diesels is called for here. Gone
are the clunking, smelly diesels, remembered without fondness in the ubiquitous
‘song taews’ of Thailand. The European diesels are smartly revving engines,
fuel efficient, powerful, and economical. To be quite frank, with the escalating
gasoline prices at our pumps, the diesel variants make more and more sense every
day. The performance is equivalent to the gasoline powered models, but running
costs are way down by comparison.
The diesel engines are much more fuel efficient, going much
further on a tank than do the gasoline engined cars. Why all the manufacturers
are not offering their Euro-diesels, I do not know.
BMW is a prime example, with a top-notch 2 litre diesel for
their 3-Series, but it does not get released here. However, Volvo have seen the
light, and are now offering a diesel in their S80. It is significant that
diesels are ordered in around 70 percent of the European new vehicles these
I also wonder why the Thai government is not encouraging the
manufacturers to bring in diesels? Seems a logical move, but in the 12 point
economy and energy saving manifesto that was released, the government actually
wants to stop diesel engines in passenger cars. Why? Beats me.
The overseas experience is quite remarkable, the way the
econocars are taking over. According to Toyota Australia spokesman Peter
Griffin, the company was unable to keep up with demand for the Prius hybrid,
which has the electric motor as well as a conventional gasoline engine. “We
sell every Prius that comes into the country and we could sell more if they were
available,” Griffin said in the Australian press.
He continued, “The car is more expensive to buy but the
current petrol price is certainly helping us. We’re sure we’ll see the
number of hybrid cars over time increase. It’s no longer experimental
It is also significant to note that in Australia, the country that has always
gone for the big cars, small car sales are up 16 percent, whilst the larger cars
are down 10 percent. There is a message here for both buyers and manufacturers.
(I think I’ll keep the Daihatsu Mira for another year!)
Chopsticks at the ready? The Chinese invasion
China’s cheery Chery is already being assembled in
Malaysia, and will be here soon. With the Thai government in confab with the
Malaysian one to jointly develop auto industries, it will not be long before we
see them arriving on Thai soil. Last year, Chery exported 6,000 vehicles to
Malaysia and Iran. They also have a contract to supply 250,000 vehicles to
Visonary Vehicles in the US by 2007.
Geely Automotive Holdings, another of the Chinese players, is
also negotiating with the Malaysians to assemble their range of vehicles. It is
projected that Geely will start production (assembly of semi-knocked down units)
by September this year.
Last week, I said that in 1918, there were only two makes of
cars built in America with right hand drive. I asked what were they? They were
Pierce Arrow and the American built Fiats.
So to this week. Which F1 champion started work in a garage
when he was 10, his father was a house painter, and did not start motor racing
until he was 23?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]
A couple of weeks back I asked about the first US Jeeps and
Bobby Joe came back with this very detailed piece with an interesting item at
the end. “Hundreds of companies competed for the original vehicle request.
Three final companies were considered for the “first” Jeep bid by the US
government were the Jim Dunn company, Ford company and Willys company. The first
contract for the Jeep was awarded to Jim Dunn for his Bantam model. The Bantam
proposal was lower than the others and this company received an order to produce
70 Model 60 or MKII. That famous, first, U.S. Army contract was awarded to
American Bantam back in the summer of 1940.
The first Jeep Specs: 45 hp. Continental engine, weight 2050
lbs., wheelbase 79 in., 3 speed syncromesh Warner T84 gearbox with floor mounted
shift lever. A total of 2675 units were built in 1941. The name “Jeep” was
applied to all three of the jeep type vehicles produced in 1940 - 41. Our
favourite vehicle was named after Eugene the Jeep. Eugene was a character out of
the comic strip Popeye. Eugene was a small, impish, cat like character. He could
walk through walls, walk on ceilings, appear out of nowhere. Soldiers were so
impressed with the new vehicle’s go-anywhere, do-anything capabilities, they
were reminded of the character; and so dubbed the new vehicle a Jeep.”
I also mentioned the Bandag Bullet in this column a little while back. Well,
it is still setting records and is the world’s fastest diesel-powered vehicle
when it averaged 186 km/h across the 1 km track in Bundaberg Queensland,
Australia last week, bettering the old mark by more than 30km/h. The eight ton
truck was doing 215 km/h at the end of the measured kilometer.
Now it’s Hybrid motorcycles!
Thailand’s rather progressive (and aggressive) motorcycle
company Tigar Motorsales plans to have its hybrid Tiger motorcycle on sale next
year. A prototype was seen at the Bangkok International Motor Show and according
to company spokesman MD Piti Manomaipaibul the motorcycle, while still in the
development phase, is progressing well and they have begun registering patents
on the designs.
The new motorcycle should come on to the market next year with a projected
cost between 40,000-50,000 baht. Which motorcycle taxi rider will be the first
to take advantage of the fuel sparing technology, I wonder? It certainly won’t
be in Chiang Mai, where they are still trying to get red buses off the road and
municipal buses on them!