Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Bangkok International Motor Show 2008

This year’s motor show had some interesting developments in car technology, some new (and old) concept cars and whole range of motor cars which can be seen just as easily in your local petrol station. It costs money for the manufacturers to exhibit, so I find it amazing that many do not try and capitalize on their investment.

Ford Verve/Fiesta

For example, somebody in GM needs a shake-up. A large display area with Optras, Captivas, Colorados and Aveos, but nothing to excite the senses of the motoring public. Goodness me, GM has concept cars all over the globe, including the Chevrolet Volt, which Bob Lutz (GM’s car guru) says will be in production by 2010, and we got a handful of ‘ordinary’ motor cars. No inspiration at all.
GM were not the only ones. Mazda has just won the World Car of the Year award with the Mazda2. They are spending large amounts of money to get the assembly line up and running to produce these cars in Thailand in 2009 and will be exporting from here. This is a momentous occasion. Did they have a Mazda2 here for us to see? No. They did have some tricked up Mazda3’s from Australia and a CX9 which you cannot buy here and a solitary MX5.

Citroen C6

Ford at least did have a Ford Verve concept from the New York motor show, this being the car which will also be built on the Eastern Seaboard and exported as the Ford Fiesta. You could also get your nails polished. I didn’t bother, but they did have the Verve, so I forgave them.
Yontrakit had a rather gorgeous (and expensive) Citroen C6 on their totally cluttered stand, and nobody to tell the press any details. This car has a definite resemblance with the CX series of many years ago, and when you opened the door, you were met with that wonderful smell of tanned leather, and a herd of cows must have been sacrificed in its production. Nice car, but the press should not have to resort to the internet to get information at an international motor show.

Forza Naza
The stand that did attract attention was the Tata Motors exhibit. Their cheap pick-up Xenon range, which will be produced in Bangkok, was exhibited well, and the Indians did try. I am sure you would have been able to get a suit within 24 hours if you ordered a Xenon! The Indica sedan looked interesting too, but I believe it is not destined for this country. At the release of the Xenon, their GM for Thailand also indicated that Tata Motors will be in the eco-car race as well, with what is most likely going to be their el-cheapo Tata Nano. With Tata also having bought Jaguar and Land-Rover, Tata will have the top and bottom of the marketplace. As General Custer found out to his chagrin, the Indians are coming!
Another country on the move is Malaysia, with Naza displaying their Forza, though “Forza Naza” does not have the melodious ring of “Forza Ferrari”. The Forza comes from China and is assembled by Malaysia’s Naza. It was being displayed at the Bangkok show with a price tag of 349,000 baht and you could finance it over 72 months for 4,453 baht per month, about the equivalent of bus fares. It was certainly getting interested potential buyers. But where was Proton? This other Malaysian company is (reputedly) doing market penetration exercises with appointment of dealers throughout the Kingdom, but chose to stay away. Are they loose a couple of screws in the ECU, or what?
More on the Motor Show next week.

A Tat Xenon covered in spectators

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what was the first motor car to be designed and built as a complete engineering entity, rather than cobbled together with odd bits and pieces. Clue, it was built by two brothers in 1895, though production models were not made until 1900. The answer was Lanchester, and it was one of the first cars where a part could be fitted to all the cars of that model. This was a technique that came from gun production!
So to this week. Which F1 world champion began his racing career in a DKW in 1956?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Motor Shows and “Pretties”
The day I go to motor shows to see the “pretties”, those inane presenters in ridiculous costumes, I will turn in my driving boots and helmet. I go to motor shows to look at motor cars. For goodness sake, I can walk across the road to the shopping center and see as many sexy girls as I like. With a stroll down any of the naughty streets in any major city in Thailand, I can get even closer.
I am not going to buy a Mercedes because they pay their “pretties” B. 3,500 a day and an allowance of B. 1,500. They had nine such creatures I am told, costing Mercedes-Benz just short of half a million baht for the duration of the motor show. I’d be more impressed if they had auto engineers on the stand showing me the technical reasons why I should buy a Benz rather than a Beemer.
But no, it seems that “pretties” are considered an integral part of the motor shows these days, and it is a dangerous job too, as the poor dears are subjected to groping. My heart bleeds for them.

Mercedes “Pretties”