Last week I mentioned that in 1907 you could buy a four cylinder, shaft drive,
continuously variable transmission (CVT) motorcycle. I asked what was it? It was
the FN, long before its time with its technology.
So to this week. I mentioned above the BMW SmartSenior system to stop the car
for you when you are having your heart attack. Which famous racing driver
actually died from a heart attack while driving a BMW M3 in a 1000 km race?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Expansion on the Eastern Seaboard
While the world’s motor industry is still in the doldrums, especially
in the US, Thailand may be turning the corner.
With so much of Thailand’s auto production going for export, when the
destination country stopped ordering because of poor local sales, this had an
enormous backlash on the Eastern Seaboard.
However, Ford in particular has now stated it is looking at expanding its local
production and has even ramped up the release date of the Ford Fiesta. And
Mazda, the other part of the Auto Alliance is still on track with the release of
its Mazda2 Fiesta clone.
Of course this brings in the banks and the requirement for credit facilities to
be able to do this, but the Thai Finance Ministry and local banks such as the
Exim Bank seem to be quite happy to be involved. If so, that is good news all
GM is also looking for credit facilities to finance the new engine plant in
Rayong, but this is complicated by the fact that the parent GM in the US is now
under bankruptcy protection. Figures of 15 billion baht are being touted for
The Board of Investment (BOI) is also offering incentives to the auto
manufacturers to build the next generation hybrids in Thailand. These have to be
new technologies and new assembly lines, not using existing lines as per the
Toyota Camry hybrid, which is being built on the current Camry production line.
Whilst it is still too early to be confident, it does look as if Thailand, at
least, is seeing a resurgence in the auto sector.
Will Fiat-Chrysler be a “Fisler”?
It’s all done and dusted, with Italy’s Fiat buying into the
previously bankrupt Chrysler. I have written before about Chrysler’s
problems, exacerbated by being bought by bean-counters, but now we are led
to believe that with Fiat holding a 20 percent stake in Chrysler, everything
is going to come up rosy.
New Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne has already shown that he is a real
magician, dragging Fiat from the depths, to become now one of the biggest
auto companies in the world. A few years ago, you couldn’t give a Fiat away!
Marchionne is a lawyer and chartered accountant, so for him, Chrysler is
just a business, and he will apply a business model to the combined company.
Will this work? Only time, and the acceptance of Fiat engineered Chryslers
by the American public will tell.
Chrysler has had too many great cars in its past to be allowed to disappear,
so let’s hope Marchionne can pull another rabbit out of the hat.
And now an electric Tata
Chairman of India’s largest conglomerate has confirmed that Tata
Motors will produce its first electric vehicle in just three months.
Tata Group chief Ratan Tata was quoted as saying, “We will have an electric
car in the market in September.”
Tata Motors, which acquired British automotive icons Jaguar and Land Rover
from Ford in March 2008 for 50 billion baht (give or take a satang or two),
had previously said it was developing hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles,
plus an electric vehicle (EV) called the Indica Vista for Europe in 2010.
It was previously reported that Tata would launch its first EV in Norway,
where EV recharging infrastructure already exists, but it is not known if
the September release date refers to the Indian or Norwegian markets.
Meantime, according to a report by Automotive News last week, Tata’s Nano
will be sold in the US within two and a half years, making Tata the second
Indian car-maker to release a vehicle there. Atlanta-based company Global
Vehicles USA Inc plans to import Mahindra pick-ups later this year.
Tata launched the sub-$2500 four-seat hatchback in India on March 23, with
more than 200,000 orders received for the world’s most affordable car during
a two-week booking period in April. First deliveries begin in July after a
“lucky draw” to decide which orders would be filled first.
Europe is expected to receive a larger version of the Nano in 2011, powered
by a more powerful version of the existing 3.1 meter, 580 kg car’s
rear-mounted 623 cc twin-cylinder engine and costing less than about 150,000
I wouldn’t be seen dead in one!
It looks as if BMW took the above to heart and is now making sure
you don’t drop dead in a Beemer, with a system that takes control when the
driver has a health emergency.
BMW is working on an innovative system that will automatically stop a
vehicle at the side of the road when it detects that the driver has a
serious medical problem.
Called Emergency Stop Assistant, it is initially being developed for
motorways and similar roads due to the reduced number of variables with
making a controlled stop in such environments.
The German company’s engineers say the system will have the capacity to safely
bring a car to a halt at the side of the road with the hazard lights flashing in
a health-related emergency with little or no assistance from the driver.
It employs existing driver assistance systems combined with extra sensors
designed to monitor the driver’s vital data.
If a medical emergency is detected, the control system switches on the hazard
warning lights and maneuvers the vehicle to the side of the road, taking into
account the traffic around it, then sends out an emergency call containing the
data required to initiate the necessary medical and traffic-related assistance
The system is being developed by BMW Group’s Research and Technology department
as part of a €125 million German government project called SmartSenior, which
was launched in February this year to help Germany’s growing number of elderly
and chronically ill continue living independently in the future.
Project manager for SmartSenior at BMW, Ralf Decke, said the primary aim of the
new system is to “avoid accidents caused by a health-related loss of control, or
at least to reduce the severity of such accidents.”