Will the Chinese buy out their JV partners?
The Chinese auto industry has been involved with
major players from the West in joint ventures (JVs) to produce cars
from the ranges of major manufacturers such as GM, Volkswagen,
Mercedes and BMW. Some of these JVs are now 10 years old, and have
been advantageous for what was China’s fledgling auto manufacturing
industry. The deal was simple - we give you access to the burgeoning
Chinese market, and you give us access to your technology. In
theory, a win-win situation. But like in all things in life, some
are more winning than others!
Rover - Roewe 750
The hard pill for the western automakers to swallow is that their
Chinese JV partners are now strong enough to challenge cars made
under license with their own Chinese brands. An example is the
Chinese Buick LaCrosse which is assembled by Shanghai Auto
Industrial Corporation (SAIC), which just also happens to produce
its own vehicle called the Roewe 750, made after SAIC acquired the
plans from the UK MG Rover group. Similar sized cars coming out of
the same factory, but the Chinese Roewe is US$7,000 cheaper than its
The reason that China has become so important is the rate of growth
in the auto industry in that country. The marketplace grew 35
percent last year, making it the fastest growth in major countries.
Some pundits are predicting that by 2010, China will pass the US as
the top market for cars and trucks in the world.
The Chinese are coming. And by the time they are ready to hit the
world automotive market, their cars will be not just good value,
they will be inherently good cars. This will still take a few years,
as the Chinese products will have to be engineered to pass all the
European/US design rules. But it will happen, and you will see
Chinese car dealerships in Thailand by 2010.
Last week I mentioned that hill climbing is a very
specialized sport, in which one cannot make any mistakes, as you are racing
against the clock, rather than other competitors. The first driver to be killed
in practice for a hill climb was in 1900. The first driver to be killed during a
hill climb was in 1903, and both were at the same venue. I asked what was this
course? The clue was Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs! The course was La Turbie and
Wilhelm Bauer was killed there in practice in 1900. Three years later, Count
Eliot Zborowski, father of the creator of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs was
killed during the hill climb when he crashed his Mercedes on the first of April
(and it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke either).
So to this week. Cars in movies. Everyone remembers The Saint and Roger Moore’s
Volvo P 1800, and the string of Aston Martins run by a succession of James
Bonds. However, Toyota also built a car for a James Bond movie released in 1967.
What was it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] Good luck!
Another Thai 24 hour in August
The third running of the Thailand 24 Hour Race will be held at the Birakart
Speedway, just outside Pattaya, from 16-19 August 2007. Following the popularity
of the previous 24 hour events, organizer Christian Gilles has already received
over 20 entries for the one this coming August.
The race is based on the “Arrive and Drive” concept and has attracted Karting
aficionados from all around the world. Not having to arrange freight for karts
is a boon, as well as there being no hassles with scrutineering, with the
organizers supplying 30 identical karts for the event and you draw a lucky
number to get your particular kart. All the overseas teams have to do is to get
their drivers here. Even Karting licenses are arranged for the entrants at
Birakart, on the spot, for 100 baht.
Christian Gilles has indicated there are only nine entries left to be filled, at
the time of going to press, but spaces were filling rapidly. The “Arrive and
Drive” entry fee covers the use of one of the 30 identical karts, all the
fluids, petrol, oil, etc., and spare parts, kart repairs and maintenance.
There is one official practice day of four hours for all teams (Thursday August
16). The package also includes medical assistance during the race, trophies for
the winning teams and numerous cash and other prizes, adjustable foam seat set
(adaptable on the standard one), and one private pit area for each team, with 3
Each team shall have a minimum of four drivers and a maximum of eight. Each
driver must do at least 90 minutes. The drivers should be at least 15 years old
on August 16, 2007, but drivers between 13-15 years old may be allowed to start
after a driving test is undertaken. A duly signed parental authorization to
participate is also required for the youngsters.
It is a case of first in - first served, and entries close on July 31, 2007.
Entry fees are 209,000 baht per team, but early booking (deadline June 30, 2007)
is 189,000 baht per team.
Further information can be obtained from the website www.thailand24h.com or
email [email protected]
I just wonder if there would be enough interest to field a ‘masters’ team?
Suggested age 45 and up. If there are enough of us ‘masters’, I’ll contact
Christian and book us a kart!
The full 99.99 percent
Received an interesting fax from local enthusiast Peter Wehrli the other day.
Full of snippets like Adrian Newey left school when he was 16, and is now a
highly respected aerodynamic specialist. To me, this shows that talent will out,
just like Dr Porsche in the 1930’s, who was another who did not complete formal
schooling as a teenager.
Peter also said that the modern F1 car has around 80,000 parts and even assuming
that 99.99 percent of these parts work perfectly, that still leaves eight parts
that can fail and make the car a non-finisher. When you think about it, it’s
amazing they finish at all!
Bikes in Bangkok Part 2
Last week I featured Alan Coates’ report on some of the bikes on show at
the Bangkok International Motor Show. This is the second half.
CBR 1000RR Fireblade. The popular Fireblade has been uprated in capacity in the
last year to 1000 cc. Power is now 170 bhp at 11,250 rpm with a compression
ratio of 11.9:1. Front and rear suspensions are both fully adjustable. Layout is
conventional 4 cylinders across the frame with six speed gearbox and fuel
injection. The ‘blade’ is marketed as having not only established a new standard
for competitive performance, but also for day-in and day-out riding. This
‘useability’ is intended to give riders greater confidence to go faster on track
and makes for an element of ease and comfort on roads or even the daily commute
Fusion 250 Scooter. Definitely the most comfortable scooter on show. 250 cc
4-stroke engine with continuously variable transmission. At more than 2.25
metres overall length it won’t cope with Pattaya or Chiang Mai traffic as easy
as a step through, but can accommodate all of the family in comfort.
650 Xmoto - Urban. Agile handling thanks to compact geometry and 17-inch wheels,
zero surplus weight giving faster acceleration out of the bend, drifting is not
a problem: if you want to explore the limits of this bike, make sure you know
your own first! There is a quality finish to this machine, from the cockpit to
the rear - featuring premium components such as the upside-down forks or the
eye-catching - and very light - cast wheels. The single cylinder engine is quick
yet economical, with 53 bhp and 60 Nm of torque and a catalytic converter
ensuring the engine meets the stringent EU-3 emissions laws. Optional extras
K1200 S - Sport. The hottest machine BMW Motorrad engineers have ever produced
for the road. The highly-tuned 4-cylinder 16V engine impressively demonstrates
the state of the art in engine technology producing167 bhp to give a zero to 100
km/h in 2.8 seconds and 130 Nm for 60 to140 km/h in 7.1 seconds. A low center of
gravity gives excellent cornering ability. Performance is supported by a chassis
which is unique in series production motorcycle design, with the BMW Motorrad
Duolever at the front and BMW Motorrad Paralever at the rear. Optional extras
include ABS and ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment at the handlebar);
motorcycles are entering the high tech’ world enjoyed by some ‘cars.
K1200 GT - Tourer. The K 1200 GT has a state-of-the-art motorcycle engine for
the touring bike market with 155 bhp and 130 Nm. The unique chassis features
BMW’s Duolever suspension and ESA (optional) with ABS and electronic brake wear
indicator as standard. Also fitted as original equipment is anti-theft
protection and heated seats. Such features as automatic cruise control and an
on-board computer with oil level display or xenon lights are available as
optional extras. There is considerable storage space and excellent wind and
weather protection. This BMW gives the rider and passenger comfortable
This Chinese company is due to start manufacturing their small capacity (60cc)
hybrids in Thailand before the end of the year. The unique construction of this
little step-through has a 350 watt electric motor driving the front wheel and a
60 cc petrol engine driving the rear wheel. There are three modes of operation,
switchable on the handlebar. Mode one is an electric only start, power to the
front from three 12v batteries under the foot well. Mode two is petrol only
driving the rear, start is by electric starter or manual kick. The third mode is
electric start switching seamlessly, automatically to petrol drive at about 22
kph. This is a very interesting and promising development in motorcycle
technology. The young lady looked fairly interesting too. And remember, this
motorcycle is Chinese!