Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Service centers - or DIY?

Have you noticed the expansion of non-dealer service centers springing up around us? Two new ground up centers within two km of my house cannot be ignored.
With the downturn in new vehicle sales, people have been hanging on to their current vehicles, which are now more than two years old. And more likely to need minor repairs.
Even though the costs involved in repair centers are still much lower than overseas (the UK is now at 4,000 baht per hour) there will be those who realize they can do much themselves, including regular 10,000 km services, with just a little help.
Well, help is at hand if you have the Haynes Manual for your particular model. And if Haynes have a manual for your particular vehicle. They do have manuals for the Toyota Yaris, for example, but not for the Fortuner. Honda has the Jazz included, but the Civic is not the same as the Civic which was sold here. However, there are traps for the unwary!
The more common repairs/replacements can be done by the average driver with some sense and a few hand tools. As cars age and accumulate more miles, components inevitably need replacing. In many cases, these are items such as bulbs, windscreen wipers and brake pads which can be replaced by someone competent in DIY.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which car company was still offering wooden wheels as factory equipment in 1939. The answer was Mercedes Benz!
So to this week. What was the world’s first successful radial tyre? Hint - it was 1953.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Scrappage - is this the way to go?
Many years ago, to buy a new vehicle in Singapore you had to hand in another vehicle for scrap. This was done to keep the motor car population at sensible levels in the small island state. Of course, the question was ‘what do you do if you haven’t got a car to scrap’? The simple answer was that the dealer would supply it, to comply with the regulations, and you drove away in your new (first) car.
A similar incentive scheme is being offered in Europe today for vehicles more than nine years old, but not to keep the number of cars down, but to stimulate new car sales, with an additional spin-off that the new cars have to be ‘greener’ than their ten year old forebears.
Sales in Germany rebounded in February in response to the $100 billion government program offering a scrappage bonus of about $5000 for cars over nine years old and this has also been followed by some other countries which are offering similar subsidies to boost sales of new cars.

Just when you thought you had it sussed
The FIA has done it again! Just when it looked as if the teams and the FIA had come to some agreement on the F1 rules, the World Motor Sports Council (WMSC), a branch of the FIA, comes in and turns everything upside down again, with some questionable (at best) and confusing (at worst) rules for 2010.
Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari president and chairman of the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) has said his members are stunned by the new developments, in particular, the primary proposal from the World Motor Sport Council for a voluntary budget cap for next year, primarily in the hope of attracting new teams.
Teams will then have a choice between freedom to spend, but forced to adhere to the existing technical constraints, or enjoy a degree of freedom to innovate technically, but within the $42 million cap.
The $42 million will cover all expenditure of any kind, including drivers’ salaries. In addition, anything subsidized or supplied free will be deemed to have cost its full commercial value, with rigorous auditing procedures to be applied. So don’t send vouchers for free dinners to anyone in the teams, or it will come off the budget!
“It has been carefully costed,” insists Max Mosley, the boss of the FIA. “The cars will be much less refined in detail, because the teams will not be able to spend huge sums on minute advantages. But from the grandstand or on television they won’t look or sound any less Formula One than the current, ultra-expensive cars. They will also be more interesting to the technically-minded because of the special features which will allow them to compete against teams with much bigger budgets.”
The thinking is that you can opt for the budget cap, but get some engineering freedoms, or you can spend what you like, but have far tougher mechanical limitations.
This might have sounded fine around the table, but to exploit the allowed freedoms will cost big bucks - but the $42 million cap will effectively stop this happening.
The other rule is that the World Championship will be decided on which driver has the most wins in the season, not the most points. This can mean that the driver who comes second can have more points than the championship winner! With a win being 10 points, any driver who scores nine wins from the 17 races will be the world champion, even though he may have only scored 90 points. If, for example, another driver comes second for 17 races, he will have scored 152 points. Brilliant thinking FIA.

The Bangkok International Motor Show
The 30th Bangkok International Motor Show is open to the public until Monday April 6. Next week I will have a full section on the show, but as a preview, I can let you know that there will be the new RHD version of the new Mercedes E Class, the Mini Cooper S convertible, the new Mazda MX5, the new Nissan Teana, and the new BMW 7-Series.

BMW M1 Hommage

Concept cars include the Lexus IS 250C and the BMW M1 Hommage released on the 30th anniversary of the iconic M1, while the exotics are headed by the 30 million baht Aston Martin DBS (as used by James Bond, and has only been shaken and not stirred).
The Chinese invasion has begun with Geely, Naza, Polarsun and Chery all represented. This low end of the market will generate much interest in the depressed market economy.
The organizers report 130 companies are exhibiting this year in the show which has the theme “Green life on wheels”. Personally I don’t care what color they paint the Aston Martin DBS, I’ll take it as it is!

It’s not all downhill
The world’s two fastest-growing car markets bounced back last month, with total vehicle sales up 24.7 percent in China and 12 percent in India over the same period last year.
Too soon to be called a global recovery, the figures are the first sign of an upturn and will gladden the hearts of embattled car-makers around the world.

Chevrolet Spark

India’s passenger car sales grew for the first time in five months (rising 22 percent) in response to a cut in lending rates, but commercial vehicle sales declined by 32 percent. Businesses are hurting in the Indian sub-continent.
Ten of India’s 13 car-markers posted gains, and two - Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai - set records, according to figures released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.
China surpassed the US as the biggest car market in the world almost by default last month, but the China Passenger Car Association reported on Monday sales of 607,984 passenger cars in February, up from 456,901 in February 2008.
Official market figures released last night by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show total vehicle sales of more than 800,000 units for the first time in eight months.
As well as selling 827,600 units in February, vehicle production in China also rose in February - by 23.1 percent to 807,900 units.
These figures point to a significant response to government sales incentives, including halving the purchase tax on cars with engines smaller than 1.6 liters, from 10 percent to 5 percent. Is there a message here for the Thai regulators?
GM China, which will launch 10 new models in the next two years, had previously predicted the Chinese market would grow by only three percent. GM, despite being on a US government cash lifeline, had reason to celebrate with Indian sales of its Chevrolet Spark and U-VA hatchbacks rising by 19 percent in February.
Ford expects to exceed the industry growth rate in China after exceeding sales expectations for its recently launched Fiesta light car by 17 percent in January and February.
Last year, the Chinese market recorded single-digit growth after a decade of double-digit growth, but the market appears to have responded to government incentives aimed at encouraging buyers to trade polluting vehicles for more fuel-efficient ones.