Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

VW does it again

It used to be that the most silly names given to cars were usually Nissan. How many red blooded blokes would buy a car called Cedric, for example (and apologies to all those chaps called Cedric by their parents, nothing personal)! In the past few years, Nissan kept up their silly names with things like a “Queen cab” (what a friend of mine bought because he was gay) and then there was the Tiida, and the best of the unpronounceables, the Quashqai! While still in Japan, Mitsubishi managed to come up with the Canter Guts light truck and the never to be forgotten Mitsubishi Mum 500 Shall We Join Us?

VW Amarok

However, Volkswagen have now applied to join the society for silly names, too. Firstly there was the Touareg, then there was the Tiguan, which VW said was a cross between a tiger and an iguana - I am not making this up - but I would have loved to watch the mating of its parents. But now, VW has released the Amarok, a pick-up, and we are told the name means “wolf” in the Inuit language which is used by the Eskimos at the North Pole when they’re not clubbing the odd seal cub! It will have to end up being called the “Anorak”.
VW believe this will be a direct competitor for the Toyota HiLux, in itself a pretty stupid name as well, when you think about it.

Autotrivia Quiz

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 [email protected]
Good luck


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.

New Ford Fiesta

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 round.
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 this project.
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 baht.

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.

BMW SmartSenior project

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 measures.
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.”