Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Honda Thailand problems affecting Australian sales

Honda sales have been crimped by stock imbalance in Australia, with base models in short supply.

Honda Jazz

A run on the popular base versions of the Jazz, Civic, four-cylinder Accord VTi and CR-V compact SUV means that stocks have been depleted for much of this year.
Honda’s decision to slash production at its Thailand plant in the wake of the global economic crisis has been at the centre of the stock shortages for Honda Australia.
Honda Australia senior director Lindsay Smalley said the model mix coming from Thailand had to be changed. “Now that we have seen the initial customer response to the financial crisis, our next challenge is to have the right model mix,” he said at last week’s launch of the new-generation Odyssey people-mover (which comes out of Japan, not Thailand).
“We have two issues with stock. The first one is, particularly at the lower grades, we are almost out of stock of Jazz GLi, Civic VTi, base-model CR-V, Accord VTi. As certain areas of the market drop, sales of those types of cars have grown. So we have a model mix issue - healthy stock for the most expensive cars. Production constraints in Thailand (means) that we physically can’t get cars at the moment. In Thailand, they have built a new plant for the Australian market essentially, but that has been mothballed, and the other plant has gone from three shifts down to one shift with no overtime. And that’s most of the production for the Asian region - Jazz, Civic, Accord and CR-V.”
Honda Australia put a positive spin on Honda’s stock crisis, saying that it had managed to move quite a few high-line models during the last month or so, and that the company was now on more secure footing, considering the current economic situation.
“We would like more stock. But when there is less stock in these market conditions, we are in a much better position than if we were overstocked.”
There is no doubt about the fact that this is a global recession, and with Thailand being a manufacturing base for Asia and Australasia, it will be necessary for all parties to work together.
The sales figures for March in Thailand, both domestic consumption and export were quite promising, so hopefully this trend will continue. In the meantime, China is going full steam ahead in the auto business, with the sales figures surpassing those of America.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that in the early days, the spare wheel was usually tacked on to the rear of the car. I asked which car, and when, did the spare wheel become enclosed in the tail? The correct answer was the Austin 20 tourer of 1919.
So to this week. Which three top level motorcycle racers also raced in F1?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Less is more
The financial problems facing the world has also made a difference to the residual values in the secondhand market. With finance for new cars being difficult, people are looking at buying a secondhand model of the car they originally might have bought on finance.
Generally, the small cars are less expensive than full-size vehicles in the new car showrooms, but the savings are not quite as clear cut in the secondhand car lots.
The recession is continuing to have a profound impact on rates of used car depreciation, with the values of small, fuel-efficient city cars now outperforming those of prestige-brand saloons and 4x4s for the first time ever.
Vehicles in the city car segment are now the slowest depreciating in the UK, retaining an average 49.5 percent of their purchase price after three years and 36,000 miles.
“The improvement in values of city cars is all the more remarkable when you take into account the massive growth in the supply of three-year-old examples - annual sales in 2003 were 95,000, and by 2006 they had grown to 162,000,” explained Adrian Rushmore, managing editor at Glass’s Vehicle Guide.
Luxury saloon cars have been the biggest casualty in the Glass’s Top 10, falling four places to number nine since 2006. “These models now represent less than one percent of the total market, and it is difficult to see how they will gain much favor during an economic downturn,” commented Rushmore.
While these comments are on the UK secondhand scene, the same market forces exist in Thailand. Have you noticed just how many used car showrooms have popped up recently? Small cars such as the Toyota Vios will hold their head up pricewise better than the larger vehicles in the long run.

Rotating wheels after balancing
Had the wheels balanced on the ‘new’ Mira the other day. The technician (dare I elevate him that high?) also, without my knowledge, rotated the wheels. Now this is something I never do, the tyres get ‘used’ to one particular corner of the car, front tyres in particular. The concept of getting all four tyres to wear out at the same time also means a larger hit replacing all four at once. However, when I read the bill later, I found I had been charged 15 baht per wheel for putting the wheel in a different spot on the car. I consider this as padding the bill. However, I wonder if I had said put them back in the same spot they would then have charged me 15 baht each wheel for remembering which wheel went where?


Borneo Safari for the Off-Roaders
Whilst for me “off-road” means I got the corner all wrong, there is a strong following of off-road 4WD enthusiasts. Later this year there will be an interesting event for this group. Little known on the international 4x4 calendar, it is the Borneo Safari held every year in the Malaysian State of Sabah.

The event now entering its nineteenth year is organized by the very capable Kota Kinabalu Four Wheel Drive Club, more familiarly known as KFWDC.
I am told that the Borneo Safari is an eight day extreme off road challenge. A combination of pristine jungle and crystal clear rivers makes Sabah the ideal playground for off-road enthusiasts. This year, 2009, the event will be held from 25th October until the 1st November.
The event itself can be likened to the Rainforest Challenge of Peninsular Malaysia with a similar track environment and the opportunity to introduce technical Special Stages along the route.
The Borneo Safari is a competitive expedition with Special Stages, around twenty in number, fought out as the convoy moves along a difficult transportation route. As with any event, the degree of difficulty is governed by the prevailing weather conditions. However, it is not uncommon to encounter landslides, the need to repair or build bridges and cross fast flowing deep rivers. (And that’s why I like to stay on the bitumen!)
Teams from overseas have competed in the past with regular entrants from Sarawak, Peninsular Malaysia and Japan.
It is claimed by the organizers that the Borneo Safari stands alongside the more well known events such as the Rainforest Challenge, the Magam Trophy and the Croatia to name but a few.
For those that consider it is a long distance to bring their own vehicle then do not let that become an obstacle. There are local competition vehicles for rental that are fully prepared to cope with the conditions to be expected on the event. These vehicles are offered at a reasonable rate.
More information about KFWDC and the Borneo Safari can be found at www.

What did we learn from the Bahrain GP?
Well we learned that Toyota does not know winning strategies, but Ross Brawn does. In fact, Ross Brawn has been a winning strategist for many seasons and past world champion Michael Schumacher owes his trophy cabinet to Ross Brawn from his days at Ferrari. A good win for Jenson Button, and can somebody now show him how to shave.
Toyota were 1st and 2nd on the grid and stormed away at the start. Where did it go wrong? The wrong tyre choices at the wrong time. It was known that the softer of the two tyre choices was the quicker, but Toyota chose to put both drivers on the slower tyre for long second stints. However, their day will come and Trulli drove well to bag the third step on the podium.
Vettel in the Red Bull continues as flavor of the month, and with justification with a well driven 2nd place, though he was getting on the ragged edge many times. Webber screwed up qualifying so started around last place, and 11th at the flag was not a bad effort, but well below both his (and the car’s) potential.
Qualifying for Dummies - leaving your ‘ultimate’ lap till right at the end of the time allotted does not make much sense, when one hold-up for any reason ruins your starting position. The reason the quickest times come at the end is not that the track magically gets faster, but that the drivers tune themselves up mentally for that final push. They can do that with five minutes left in the session, and then again at the end. Called a ‘banker’ lap, it would have had Webber starting in a much more favorable position.
There are several drivers who should not be filling a seat in the world’s premier motor racing class. Nakajima in the Williams is one of these. He is fast, but can be reliably expected to spin and hit things. He did not disappoint in both these regards.
BMW are in big trouble. There will be bloodshed in the boardroom over the team’s abysmal performances, especially with German rival Mercedes-Benz currently blitzing the field in the Brawn GP chassis. Team boss Mario Thyssen is promising aerodynamic upgrades for the next GP in Spain. If there is no improvement you can expect withdrawal of funds by the factory. You read it here first!
Ferrari broke their duck with Raikkonen’s 6th placing, but Massa broke his nose and finished out of the points. Massa is reverting to his old erratic self with lots of excuses, and will be replaced at the end of the year. You read it here first.
Force India was shaking hands with themselves after both cars finished. Dear Oh Dear, I’m sorry, Team Vindaloo is still an also-ran. Perhaps owner VJ Mallya might like to try a couple of his IPL cricketers in the seats next time, so that they can hold up even more drivers in Qualifying.
The Sulky Spaniard and the ‘powered by Dad’s money’ Brazilian in the Renaults were nowhere, as were the Williams and the Roaring Tossers. Improvement urgently needed.
Is McLaren on the comeback trail? Hamilton showed a little of the form of last year, but Kovalainen just gets slower and slower. He will be replaced at the end of 2009. You read it here first.
The BBC telecast was very patchy. The director seemingly unable to keep the sequence of the racing, and I don’t need the anchorman to read me the table of runners as it appears on the screen. I can do that myself without difficulty. What we do need is more informed comment from the pits instead of Leggard’s prattle from the press box.