Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

New Mazda3 coming

Both the Mazda6 (not available in Thailand) and the Mazda3 have been very popular motorcars. In this last January the 3 became the best selling car in Australia! This popularity can be seen all over the world. For Mazda, the 3 has been a winner.

New Mazda3

However, the Mazda3 is now five years into its model life, and a replacement is on its way here, and from all reports, this new Mazda3 is even better. It had its international launch late last year, and I hope we may see it at the Bangkok International Motor Show at the end of this month.
If there was an area of complaint with the Mazda3, it was noise. Not that it was really overpowering, but it was there. The new model Mazda3 has been improved by between 6-11 percent as regards noise, with the aerodynamics having been refined to reduce wind noise, new tyres have been chosen to cut tyre roar, extra rigidity has been built into the body and vibration dampening material has been optimized. All up the result is a car that is noticeably quieter although it is reported there is still wind noise at high speeds.
Mazda has confirmed that there will three engine choices for the new car; 108 kW 2.0 liter petrol, 122 kW 2.5 liter petrol and the 110 kW 2.2 liter turbodiesel. The old 2.3 liter four cylinder which was the top of the line, is replaced by the 2.5 liter unit. Power is only up by 7 kW but there is 23 Nm more torque. The coarse sound of the old car is replaced with a more desirable note; one that is subtle, too, thanks to the changes to the chassis rigidity and dampening material.
The six-speed manual gearbox will be standard on all models with the five-speed Activematic replacing the four-speed auto on the petrol cars. The biggest change is in the cabin where new wheel-mounted shift paddles replace the previously hidden buttons behind the wheel. It may seem minor but it does help to make the driving experience more enjoyable.
The new look is more futuristic. It follows the same theme as the new Mazda6 with new sharper headlights and heavily stylized wheel arch flares.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which was the first motor car to be offered with a reversing light? The correct answer was the American Wills-Sainte Claire in 1921.
So to this week. Retractable headlights were first offered in 1936. On what car, and how were they actuated?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Bangkok International Motor Show
End of this month is the Bangkok International Motor Show, and with the way the auto industry is world-wide, I would suggest that there will be plenty of sales incentives on offer. If you are thinking about a new car, BITEC (Km 1 Bangna-Trat Road) and the motor show is the place to be. The show runs from March 28 up to April 6.
In addition to the new car salon the show also has classic cars and bikes, the Mustang, VW, Austin-Mini and sports car clubs as well as accessories and off-road shows.

Tesla now building a four door
The Tesla company in the US, the manufacturer of electric performance vehicles has built a four door sedan as well as its roadster. This new vehicle will be released at an invitation-only event to be held at its California design studio on March 26.

Tesla 4 door

Tesla said that confirmation of the imminent receipt of loan payments from the US federal government, as part of the Obama administration’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program, would keep Tesla on target to commence production in 2011.
The Department of Energy has agreed funding for its $US350 million loan application for the Model S, which will join the Tesla Roadster already on sale. Tesla expect a waiting list for the new sedan, but if you already have a roadster, then you go to the top of the list.
Tesla announced at last month’s Detroit motor show a deal with Daimler to co-develop 1000 battery packs and chargers for the Smart cars - an arrangement it now says could both expand to include tens of thousands of batteries annually as well as lead to a series of strategic alliances to build EVs for other car-makers.
Tesla also announced it was taking orders for the Roadster Sport, which the company says is capable of 0-100 km/h under 4 seconds, with first deliveries due in June.
This week it also announced agreements for Tesla sales and service centre leases in Chicago and London’s Knightsbridge district. It says it is close to finalizing locations in Manhattan, Miami, Seattle and Munich, with all six retail outlets due to open this year.
The Tesla battery pack should last about seven years or at least 160,000km “under normal use”. Customers can also pay $US12,000, up front, to receive a replacement battery pack after seven years.

MSN Cars Car of the Year 2009

MSN Cars is a premier automotive website and they have just had a vote for their Car of the Year.  I found the results interesting, and quite surprising.

Nissan GT-R

The top 10 (percentage of the vote in brackets)

1. Nissan GT-R                    29 percent

2. Jaguar XF                         12 percent

3. Ferrari California              11 percent

4. Volkswagen Scirocco     11 percent

5. BMW X6                            9 percent

6. Audi Q5                              8 percent

7. Mitsubishi Evo X              8 percent

8. Ford Fiesta                         6 percent

9. Vauxhall Insignia               3 percent

10. Tesla Roadster                2 percent

From this poll, it is obvious that the new Nissan GT-R has captured the imagination of everyone.  The previous model, now out of production for some years, was sensational.  It seems the new one is as well.  Unfortunately, in this country, many of these vehicles are not available, though the new Scirocco is being brought in by the grey market suppliers.  The Ford Fiesta we should get by this time next year, being a local (Eastern Seaboard) manufacture.  The others in the list just show how starved we are for choices in this country, I am afraid.

One reason for America’s woes
The latest figures from the Consumer Reports organization placed GM second last in reliability. But it doesn’t stop there with just GM. US models accounted for eight of the 10 worst scores in testing and reliability ratings, with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara scoring just 17 out of 100. The Lexus LS 460L scored a 99 out of a 100 as the all-around highest. No wonder Chrysler is in trouble.
In overall reliability, GM fell below Suzuki to score second-last overall with a 57. Ford Motor Co. had a 63 score, compared with Suzuki’s 60.
Honda Motor Co. had the best overall rating with a 78, ahead of Subaru’s 75 and Toyota’s 54.
The magazine recommends 95 percent of Honda’s vehicles tested, 100 percent of Subaru’s and 89 percent of Toyota’s. It only recommends 17 percent of GM’s and none of Chrysler’s.
The Consumer Reports people also looked at ‘Best Value’ and of the 41 vehicles making the list for best value, not one was built by a US automaker. Japanese manufacturers took 35 awards, while Korean automaker Hyundai won three, including Best Value Midsize SUV for the Hyundai Santa Fe. Toyota had 17, Honda Motor Co. had 10 and Nissan had 4.
To compile its report, the Consumers Union, the parent organization for Consumer Reports, spent $2.7 million secretly buying 80 test cars. The vehicles were driven for thousands of miles and put through 50 individual tests and evaluations. It also relied on reports of problems on 1.4 million vehicles from its 7 million online and print subscribers.
However, David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, questioned how reliable the survey is pointing to J.D. Power and other surveys that suggest greater parity between US and foreign automakers.

Top 10 car auction records (US$ prices)

The world may be in a financial mess, but the prices of classic cars keeps on going up.  A new hedge against inflation?  Buy your Ferrari 250 GT and place it in a bank vault and bring it out later for auctions.  On second thoughts, leave it at home, banks are not so safe these days.

Ferrari 250 GT

Here are some the record auction prices, beginning at a shade under 11 million dollars.

1 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Cal Spyder          $10,894,400

2 1931 Bugatti Royale Type 41                       $9,800,000

3 1962 Ferrari 330 TRI/LM                               $9,281,250

4 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K                         $8,252,201

5 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante Coupe       $7,920,000

6 1929 Mercedes-Benz 38/250 SSK                $7,443,070

7 1904 Rolls-Royce 10hp                               $7,254,290

8 1962 Ferrari 250 LM                                     $6,979,000

9 1931 Bugatti Royale Type 41                        $6,500,000

10 1962 Ferrari 330 TRI/LM                                $6,490,000

Pencils out for the F1 calendar

A little over three weeks now to the first Grand Prix for 2009, being held in Melbourne Australia.  Just which team has managed to develop the quickest car over the New Year period?  How many will run the controversial KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System)?  Will the ex-Honda team be there with new owners?  So many imponderables that will finally be answered when the red lights go out to signify the start of the 2009 season.

Here is the 2009 FIA Formula One world championship calendar:

29 March                  Australia (Melbourne)

5 April                       Malaysia (Sepang)

19 April                     China (Shanghai)

26 April                     Bahrain (Sakhir)

10 May                      Spain (Barcelona)

24 May                      Monaco

7 June                        Turkey (Istanbul)

21 June                      Great Britain (Silverstone)

12 July                       Germany (Nurburgring)

26 July                       Hungary (Hungaroring)

23 August                Europe (Valencia)

30 August                Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps)

13 September           Italy (Monza)

27 September           Singapore

4 October                  Japan (Suzuka)

18 October                Brazil (Interlagos)

1 November              Abu Dhabi

No French, Canadian or US GPs this year, but at least Spa is still on.  Abu Dhabi is a new track, and Australia and Malaysia are holding their GPs later in the day to make the races more TV viewer friendly in Europe.

The Australian GP will start at 1 p.m. Thai time.  I watch the action on the big screen at Jameson’s Irish Pub.  Join me for lunch and the discussions afterwards.