Ford unveils the B-Car
As reported in this column recently, a new line
is being built in the AAT factory on the Eastern Seaboard for the
B-Car of Ford and Mazda. It was known that the Mazda model was going
to be the Mazda2, which had already been released in Japan; however,
the Ford variant was still being kept under wraps, but was rumoured
to be the secret new Fiesta.
Ford has now admitted that their new B-Car will be seen at the
Geneva Motor Show and has released images of the new vehicle. As
expected it follows the concept Verve B-Car which was shown in
Frankfurt last year and Detroit.
Production of the new model gets underway in Ford’s Cologne plant in
Germany around September, and there will be a second assembly plant
in Spain. Ford will also make an announcement about an Asian Fiesta
production facility at the Beijing show in April, and put your money
down on this being Thailand, though another factory in China could
also be on the cards.
The new Fiesta is based on the same platform as the new Mazda2 but
everything from the door sills up is Ford. It will be offered in
Europe with a choice of five petrol and diesel engines.
In Europe it will be offered as a three door, but the car that will
be built here will be in four and five door formats without the
three door variant.
The Fiesta name has been used before in world markets, but was
always a boxy ugly duckling. This is not the case this time around.
Unfortunately, our local Fiesta will not be available until early
2010, while the Mazda2 is scheduled for the end of 2009. Judging by
overseas reports, both these cars are worth waiting for.
Ford says the new model brings a host of big-car features to Fiesta
for the first time, including a driver’s knee airbag and an
integrated “HMI” center stack inspired by mobile phones (I can
hardly wait), housed in the latest iteration of the Blue Oval’s
“Kinetic” design language. Unfortunately, Ford comes up with these
buzz-words, which mean very little to anyone else! Remember the last
major styling cue which was called the “edge”? These seem to come
from the Ford design studio which is headed by a mysterious chap by
the name of J Mays. Nobody gets to know what “J” stands for, as it
appears to be a tightly held Ford secret!
The new Fiesta will be a ‘world car’, designed and developed in
Europe for sale in Europe, Asia, South Africa, Australia and the
Americas between 2008 and 2010. This new Fiesta is the first major
product of Ford’s new global product development process.
“This new car embodies the very essence of Fiesta - fun, vitality
and emotion,” said the president and CEO of Ford of Europe, John
Fleming. “We know there isn’t a better name for the new model, and
we have over 30 years of investment in the Fiesta brand to
consider.” This means that your old Fiesta baseball cap can be
brought out from the back of the cupboard!
“We’re confident that the combination of dynamic new ‘kinetic
design’ exterior, great interior design and craftsmanship, and a
host of new technologies and features will provide compelling
reasons for a new generation of customers around the world to take a
fresh look at the Ford Fiesta,” said Mr Fleming.
Unlike four door sedan versions of the new Fiesta destined for Asian
and US markets, European production of the Fiesta hatch commences
this year at Cologne in Germany. European production will later be
ramped-up with additional capacity to come from Ford’s Valencia
plant in Spain in 2009.
The new Fiesta retains its predecessor’s MacPherson strut front and
twist-beam rear suspension but gets Electric Power Assisted Steering
(E-PAS) for the first time - a move that is claimed to contribute to
a lower overall weight.
The five engines available in Europe include a more powerful 86 kW
version of the Duratec 1.6 liter ti-VCT petrol four and a 50 kW
Duratorq TDCi diesel that produces less than 100g/km of CO2
emissions. A 1.4 diesel and 1.2 and 1.4 liter petrol fours will also
be on offer, also mated to five speed manual or four speed auto
New Fiesta technology includes keyless starting via the ‘Ford Power’
push-button, which is another of the ‘trendy’ ideas that I thought
we had managed to grow out of when they invented key starting. Now
you have to put the key into one slot and then push the button. Ah,
retro engineering, I love it! The Fiesta also will have Ford’s
Easyfuel capless refueling, USB connectivity and ambient interior
lighting (whatever that is).
Ford Australia spokesman said that the Fiesta would be sourced from
Thailand when the next generation model comes on stream in less than
Ford Australia will be able to take full advantage of the free-trade
agreement between Australia and Thailand, and should also benefit
from the two countries being under the same Ford regional umbrella.
The Ford Australia president also spoke on the Ford Motor Co and
Mazda Motor Corp joint venture that will see more than $A560 million
invested in the new production facility in Thailand. This was
reported in this column a couple of weeks ago.
According to a Mazda statement, the facility “will incorporate
Mazda’s production methods into each stage of the production
process,” which should ensure Japanese standards of quality.
It also mentions the assembly of passenger cars rising up to the
midsize CD-segment, opening speculation that small car based
vehicles such as the new Ford Kuga SUV or its derivatives may also
be built at AAT in Thailand.
Production capacity is projected to be 100,000 units per year,
adding to the 175,000 light trucks - chiefly the Ford Ranger and
Mazda BT-50 - the AAT plant currently assembles.
Mazda Australia is also now expected to switch its production source
of the newly released DE-series Mazda2 from Japan to the new Thai
site from 2009, a move made possible because the light car was
co-developed (in Japan and Germany) with the next-generation Fiesta.
Ford Australia’s president said he had absolutely no concerns at all
with quality, as there have been no issues with any Thai-sourced
vehicles to date.
In addition to the range of Japanese one-tonne pick-ups built in
Thailand for Australian consumption, Honda Australia uses it as the
production source for most of its volume-selling passenger cars,
including the Jazz - a key Fiesta and Mazda2 rival.
New Zealand, South Africa and other ASEAN (Association of South East
Asian Nations) destinations are also set to receive the next Fiesta
from Thailand, while plants in Germany and Spain are expected to
continue supplying Europe.
All in all, a great pat on the back for AAT in the Eastern Seaboard,
and it looks as though AAT will be busy for a few years yet!
Last week I wrote that the first Citroen 2CVs came in one
color only. I asked what was it? And it wasn’t black! It was grey!
So to this week. What do the initials AC stand for, in the auto world. (And not
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
RR brings out the Phantom Coupe
The epitome of everything British (but German owned) automaker
Rolls-Royce revealed first details and images of its new Phantom Coupe for
the Geneva motor show next week.
Production of the fourth body style derivative to emerge from the BMW-developed
Phantom model range, which will be one of the world’s most expensive coupes ever
and is claimed to be the most driver-orientated Phantom to date, begins at R-R’s
Goodwood manufacturing facility in England from mid-2008.
As such, the new two-door Roller will feature a number of “subtle but
significant” modifications to differentiate its character from the
short-wheelbase Phantom sedan and convertible Drophead Coupe models with which
it will share many components. Together, they are claimed to make the two-door
fixed-roof Phantom “noticeably more dynamic, whilst still offering incredible
levels of comfort”.
Among the changes will be a 25 percent increase in fuel capacity over the
Drophead Coupe to improve its driving range, notwithstanding the fact
Rolls-Royce claims its carryover 338 kW/720 Nm 6.75 liter V12 offers
class-leading fuel consumption. As if anyone who could afford this thing would
really care; however, they would want to get to the destination without having
to refuel constantly.
The Phantom Coupe’s rear-hinged “coach” doors (please do not call them “suicide”
doors) are designed to improve ease of access to the rear lounge seats, but R-R
claim it also improves the torsional rigidity by allowing for an uninterrupted
Since you will be getting Jeeves to drive you to the country for sandwiches and
champers, there is also what R-R describes as a spacious picnic boot, which
offers a relatively tight 395 liters of luggage space and is accessed via a
split tailgate - the lower section of which “provides a comfortable seating
platform for two adults when lowered”. Just erect the picnic table and bring it
up to the tailgate, and pop the champagne cork.
The chassis is the same hand-made aluminium chassis used in other Phantom
models, including the now five year old sedan, the Extended Wheelbase launched
in 2004 and the Drophead Coupe released in 2006.
“Rolls-Royce has always been about pace, performance and style,” said
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars chief designer, Ian Cameron, attempting to cash in on
Jaguar’s “Grace, Space and Pace”. “For the Coupe design we gave the
quintessential Rolls-Royce design a dynamic twist. This adds a sense of drama to
the outstanding engineering and drivability that are fundamentals of Rolls-Royce
cars.” One wonders if the chaps who dream up this verbal drivel actually get
paid each month! “A sense of drama” - are they kidding me?
However, Rolls-Royce experienced a 25 percent sales increase in 2007 (31 percent
in the Asia-Pacific region), when it sold 1010 Phantoms to easily outsell its
most direct rival Mercedes-Benz’s Maybach, which attracted just 401 customers
last year. The first Phantom Coupe deliveries for Asia-Pacific customers are
slated to begin in the fourth quarter of this year. Price here? Try offering
about 30 million baht, but be prepared to haggle a lot.
Mercedes to crash test C-Class
The news has just come through that Ralf Schumacher has accepted
a position with Mercedes-Benz as chief crash-safety tester for the marque.
After many years in F1, and honing his skills in crash instigation with
Toyota, Ralf resigned from F1 last year to take up the new position in the
DTM series, driving a C-Class Mercedes-Benz racer.
Mercedes boss Norbert Haug has said that initially Ralf will have to get
used to starting in the last third of the grid in the DTM formula,
apparently conveniently forgetting that Ralf has generally been starting on
the back row of the grid with Toyota for the past couple of years. However,
with Toyota having finished their crash testing program, they did not beg
Ralf to stay when he made noises about leaving them at the end of last year.