Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

An epidemic of product recalls?

Product recalls are the bane of the manufacturer’s bottom lines. Imagine that you have to recall 10,000 cars to install a 5,000 baht part, with labor charges another 1,000 baht. The cost of that little exercise, forgetting stamps and telephone calls, is a staggering 60 million baht!
This year, more than 51,000 cars, light commercials and motorcycles have been voluntarily recalled in Australia in the past three months over safety concerns.
Mitsubishi was hit with the biggest safety recall for the three month period. It has written to owners of Pajeros built between 2000 and 2003 to warn them of a potential brake problem. As many as 13,400 vehicles may need to be checked.
The company also recalled 4400 of its now-defunct 380 sedan (not sold in Thailand), built between 2006 and 2007, which may have a faulty fuel tank retaining strap. In a severe collision the tank may be dislodged and spill fuel.
Mitsubishi is also checking more than 8300 Colts (not sold in Thailand) built this year which may have a problem with door windows which may drop and unlock or open the door while the car is being driven.
Honda has recalled 11,800 of its 2004-05 Jazz to check whether they have a faulty handbrake, while Mazda needs to look at 1,770 of its B4000 pick-ups built from 2005 - 2006 because the bonnet may open unexpectedly.
Subaru has recalled 5380 of its Imprezas, built between 2001 and 2003 because of a faulty rear tailgate strut, though Subaru Australia spokesman, Dave Rowley, said many of the recalls were to check for “minor or niggling” faults.
Land Rover admitted to potential faults that included an electrical short circuit, which in extreme circumstances may start a cabin fire in Land Rover Freelander diesels built since 2007.
Other recalls were to check for short circuits in Fiat’s Grande Punto (not sold here); and a chance that the panoramic glass roof in a small number of Citroen’s Picasso could be dislodged.
Suzuki has warned of potential fire risk in its 3-door Suzuki Grand Vitara (2006-07) because of a possible cracked fuel pipe, while the 2005-08 Vitara diesel has a remote fire risk in a filter because of a problem with the intercooler outlet pipe insulator.
Other problems include faulty rear seat belt D-loop attachments in the current Jaguar XF, and the potential for a loss of steering in Chrysler’s 300C (not sold here) built last year because of a problem with rear axle hub nuts which could see the half shaft disengage from the wheel hub.
Mercedes Benz wants to look at axles, springs and the park brake in its Sprinter or Vito vans.
Of the 1500 motorcycles recalled, safety issues to be fixed include a faulty fuel filler on Kawasaki models, a windshield which may come off Buell bikes if ridden at high speed and a rear view mirror which may fall off on certain Yamaha models.
This is the situation in Australia, which has always erred on the side of caution, but perhaps as consumers we can feel just a little sorry for the manufacturers. It is well nigh impossible for any automaker to test its models to destruction, and it is really only after some years in the hands of the general public that some of these faults come to light.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what was the first Japanese car to be exported? Clue: it was to China. No, it was not Datsun, Toyota or Honda, but it was three Ohtomos shipped to Shanghai in 1925. The first Datsun exports were in 1935.
So to this week. What was the first Egyptian private car? (And it wasn’t the Nefertiti!)
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Drive to Burma?
If you are into exciting activities, consider this. The GMS Rally under the ‘Driving to your Dream’ slogan has scheduled another driving adventure along the unspoiled nature of South East Asia region.
The forthcoming trip is to explore Myanmar by self-drive overland caravan via the border crossing of Mea Sot (Thailand) - Myawaddy (Myanmar) to understand the West coast of Myanmar to visit the Golden Rock of Mt. Kyaikhtiyo - Hpa An - Yangon with its wonderful Shwedagon Pagoda and Bogyoke Aung San Market.
Drive up North to Mandalay where the famous Mahamuni Pagoda, one of the most sacred Buddha Images in Mandalay - Amarapura - U Pain bridge Shwenandaw Monastery and Mandalay hill.
You will also go to Bagan town, with its over 2,000 stupas and temples: Shwezigon Pagoda a prototype of later Myanmar stupa and Wetkyi-in Gubyaukkyi Temple with fine mural paintings of Jataka scenes, the Ananda Temple, an architectural masterpiece resembling a Greek Cross, to lacquerware industry, Manuha Temple with gigantic Buddha images.
The convoy will cross the most beautiful panorama view along the mountain chain to Thazi - Pindaya cave and Kalaw area to Nyaung Shwe.
Your morning excursion in Inle Lake (by boat) visiting the unique leg-rowers and scenic beauty, fishing canoes using special methods for fishing and collecting seaweed, lakebed mud, etc., to make floating gardens. Then you will visit the well known Nga Pe Chaung (Jumping Cat) monastery and silver smith factory.
The drive back via Taungyoo - Bago - Mawlamyine and Myawaddy ends this adventure overland trip of 12 days and 11 nights in Myanmar.
This special program has permission from the Myanmar Government to cross the border; participants will include Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Singaporean nationalities.
The dates will be December 21 through to January 2.
Tour price per person is US$1,450 (twin sharing room)
Single supplement US$520
Vehicle permission fee US$220 (per vehicle)
If you are interested, contact Somsak Burapapipath, GMS Rally, 550/145 Soi Pho - Pan Asoke / Din-Deang Road, Bangkok 10400, Thailand, tel: 00 66 - 81 513 3913 or 00 66 84 - 940 4746, email: [email protected] or somsak_burapapipath,

Porsche not part of the European doom and gloom - yet!
German luxury sports car maker Porsche posted record annual results partly through its holdings in Europe’s biggest car maker Volkswagen, but voiced concern about the outlook as growth slows sharply.

Porsche GT2 2008
Porsche said its year to July 2008 net profit soared nearly 51 percent to 6.39 billion euros through massive gains on its VW shares, as its own sales only rose 1.3 percent to 7.46 billion euros.
Porsche said the contribution from various financial transactions involving stock in VW, in which it has built up a 74 percent stake, rose to 6.83 billion euros from 3.59 billion euros the previous year.
Porsche warned again that 2009 will be a tough year and that it will be forced to reduce production owing to a forecast drop in sales, particularly in the US market.
The Stuttgart-based company said it sold 98,652 of its sports cars and sports utility vehicles, an increase of 1.2 percent. Hardly a healthy increase by any standard.
Porsche plans to increase its direct stake in VW to more than 50 percent before the end of the.

Speedcar Series test proves competitive
Often running with the A1GP events is the sedan-based Speedcar series, which features both old and new talents in motor racing.

Speedcar Series

The new season for this class also starts now, and Jean Alesi set the fastest lap time for the second day in a row at the Speedcar Series test session at the Dubai Autodrome.
Canadian Paul Tracy, former Indycar champion, began the morning with the quickest lap. That was before German driver Uwe Alzen (DTM series racer) and Alesi’s nemesis from Season 1 pushed the Frenchman in a battle to set the pace. They were soon competing against Vitantonio Luizi (ex-F1) and Christian Jones (Porsche Cup Asia) for best lap of the session. Jean’s team HPR took the opportunity to work on the set up and understand the car better.
The afternoon session saw Season 1 Champion Johnny Herbert (ex F1) running a hot lap that got the competition going again. In the last push before the flag came down, running on fresh tyres Alesi, Gianni Morbidelli (ex F1), Heinz Harald Frentzen (ex F1), Chris Buncombe, Christian Jones and Bertrand Baguette dogged each other around the track, most of them setting their best laps on that stretch. Another Asian competing was Alex Yoong (ex F1 and who runs the Malaysian Proton team). Local favourite Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum (the originator of the A1GP series) set the 9th best lap, just a tenth of a second behind Canadian star, Paul Tracy.
World GT Champion, Fabrizio Gollin left the veterans to battle but made good time with the 4th fastest lap. The younger talent group included Sakon Yamamoto, Chris Buncombe, Thailand’s James Grunwell and Laurent Steiger, who spent the day getting accustomed to the Speedcars along with fresh local championship drivers Khalid Al Zarouni and Karim Al Azhari as well as Eric Charles who ran a few laps in the promotional car.