Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

More Bangkok International Motor Show

Hyundai Veloster


Hyundai is showing a resurgence of this marque. Hyundai has been scoring very well in the quality stakes overseas and the ‘Veloster’ concept car looked every bit the part of a boy racer’s dream. The twin tail pipe treatment coming through the rear bumper was particularly appealing.
Nobody could leave the motor show without almost puking at the Mitsuoka stand. This Japanese company makes ‘copy Bentleys’ on a Nissan platform, complete with upright radiator grille and it is hideous.
However, nobody (not even Ssanyong) could come up with something as ugly as the Mitsuoka Orochi. Wild swooping lines leading down to a bonnet with portholes on each side and a smiling lips grille. I am told that ‘Orochi’ in Japanese means “I am about to vomit”. More motor show next week plus Thomas the Tank engine. No joke!


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked who was the first to construct and race a Grand Prix car bearing his own name? And it was not Jack Brabham! The correct answer was Felice Nazzaro in the 1914 French Grand Prix.
So to this week. One driver attempted to qualify for the 1949 Indy 500 in a car that was 35 years old. What was the car?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Car of the year – here and there
The Thailand Car of the Year awards were given out during the motor show, and it seemed a case of every player wins a prize. Toyota got five gongs, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Chevrolet three each and a couple for Mitsubishi, Volvo, BMW, Nissan and Ford and just one for Honda. With so many “winners” I believe it gets confusing, and some of the classes take a bit of imagination to believe they are ‘different’. For example, there was the 2WD pick-up under 3,200 cc, the Raised 2WD pickup under 2,500 cc, the 4WD pickup under 3,200 cc, the 2WD pickup under 2,500 cc and the 4WD pickup under 2,500 cc. See what I mean? However, of interest was the fact that diesels featured strongly, with the BMW 520d, the Volvo XC 90 D5 and the Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi winning their respective classes.

WCOTY winner Mazda2

The World Car of the Year awards were also given out at the end of March. These awards began in 2005 when the Audi A6 triumphed, followed by the BMW 3-Series in 2006 and the Lexus LS460 last year. This year the top three contenders for 2008 World Car of the Year title were the Ford Mondeo, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Mazda2, which became the first compact car to win the award. Remarkably, the Audi R8 took out two of the main gongs, Car Design of the Year and Performance Car of the Year, but didn’t make the main event. The 2008 World Green Car of the Year was the BMW 118d
The Mazda2 was chosen from an initial entry list of 39 entries nominated by 47 World Car jurors from 24 countries throughout the world appointed on the basis of his or her expertise, experience, credibility, and influence.
WCOTY jurors observed that, “This fresh Mazda compact is completely new; particularly on the outside. The two-door sportier look was recently unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show and reviews around the world have been primarily one big ‘thumbs up’. Consumers will be drawn to the new Mazda compact because of its very appealing looks and high levels of standard equipment for the price.”
“The all-new Mazda2 is exceeding our highest expectations, demonstrating it can compete and win against the best compact cars in any market in the world and is earning glowing praise at home and globally, having also won a number Car of the Year awards around the globe, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, New Zealand, and the RJC Car of the Year award in Japan,” said Dan Morris, Mazda’s senior managing executive officer in charge of Marketing, Sales and Customer Service. “This is wonderful recognition which Mazda2 car owners and Mazda employees alike can celebrate worldwide.”
Unfortunately, we will not be getting the two door hatch, as the new assembly line out at the AAT plant is for the five door variant. It is still a car worth waiting for. I know I am, though the Ford Fiesta on the same platform must also be looked at. Scheduled date for release of the Mazda2 is end of 2009, and the Ford Fiesta beginning of 2010.

Another electrifying concept
Another electrifying concept has been released in America, following on from the Chevrolet Volt. This time it is the Dodge Zeo, which is even better looking than the Chevrolet.

Volvo C30 plug-in

The Dodge Zeo concept is an all-American non-polluting muscle car. The Zeo produces 268 horsepower for a 0-100 kph time just under 6 seconds, and its lithium-based battery pack gets a range of up to 400 km. Despite the influx of hybrids, it looks as if the big car makers are catching on to battery-electric cars as the way of the future.
Oil companies have a vested interest in pushing hydrogen fuel cells as the next generation auto fuel, due to the fact that hydrogen, like petrol, requires a distribution and dealership network that the oil companies are excellently positioned to provide. However, electric battery cars do not need a fuel reticulation system, as you have the electricity already in your own home.
As development continues, it is becoming clear that plug-in battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) are far more efficient energy users than fuel cell cars - and that the latest generations of lithium battery technology are delivering excellent range, greatly improved safety and even very quick charging times - breaking down the last few remaining barriers to their commercialization. Of course, the cost barrier is still a problem, with cutting-edge batteries still doubling the price of even the most high-end car designs, but once they are being produced in any serious numbers, that will change.
Chrysler’s Dodge Zeo concept uses a single electric engine to power the rear wheels, and it’s built to satisfy the demanding sports car lover as much as the greenie tree-hugger.
This use of one engine bucks the current trend of two or four in-wheel electric motors, such as the plug-in C30 Volvo at the Bangkok International Motor Show, but single engine propulsion has been the norm for many decades.
Unfortunately, the Zeo is unlikely to go into production in its current form; while the nice curved windscreen/sunroof looks fantastic on the prototype, it’s far from a practical design for a road car. The final look of the concept is quite stunning – the front guards look a little Mazda RX8, but the rear view is fabulous.
With Chrysler having gone through a fairly rough period, after Mercedes-Benz cut the apron strings, and now owned by a venture capital company, I hope that cars like the Dodge Zeo can be brought to the marketplace quickly. It was one of the stars of the Detroit Auto Show, and the market is more than ready for electric commuters, and a muscle car would fill a huge marketplace gap.

Dodge Zeo