Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from the Hungarian GP?

Well, we learned that perhaps Lewis Hamilton isn’t the one season wonder that many claimed he was. He put in an exemplary race, did not take unnecessary chances, made no mistakes, and was in control of the race from the minute pole-sitter Fernando Alonso (Renault) came in for his first, and very early, pit stop.
Massa’s accident - a brief note - it is almost impossible to recreate accidents such as these - an object flying through the air and a car coming towards it and the trajectories intersecting. Millions to one chances. Methods of protecting the driver needs some careful engineering thought and not knee-jerk reactions. While crash helmets have become much stronger over the years, the polycarbonate visor probably has not. A starting point for improvement?
We also saw that fact that the wheels seem to have fallen off the Brawn GP wagon. Championship leader Jenson Button saying, “What’s wrong with this car?” during the race. But neither Button, nor Barichello were anywhere near the front all weekend. The (unpleasant) fact that Brawn GP has to face is that the others have caught up (especially McLaren and Ferrari), and probably have more facilities at their disposal than the smaller Brawn GP team. Button is going to be lucky to hang on to his World Championship hopes. Barichello is sliding into obscurity, but will keep complaining for a while yet.
And while mentioning wheels falling off - the Renault pit crew really cocked up Alonso’s race, incorrectly fitting the right front wheel (and more on that later). You can’t get away with that and the wheel deserted, finishing the Spaniard’s race (even though Renault is saying it was a fuel pump issue)! It was particularly telling to see team boss Flavio Briatore, briefcase in hand, leaving before the Grand Prix had ended. You cannot blame him, it isn’t worthwhile waiting around for Piquet Junior to come home, well out of the points as usual.
Ferrari is back, with Raikkonen doing a sterling job, though nowhere near Hamilton. Who will Ferrari have in Valencia? Quite frankly, neither of their test drivers (Marc Gene and Luca Badoer) have race pace. Perhaps this is the time to put Alonso in the seat?
Red Bull were unlucky to lose Vettel, but deserving of Webber’s third place. The energy drinks team has now got the energy to really challenge Brawn GP.
The new recruit, Jaime Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso did well, even finishing in front of team mate Buemi, but said, “I have learned a lot but I have to say there are some aspects of F1 which made me think, ‘sh*t this is tough’.” It is, Jaime, it is!
Now then FIA, what earthly good does excluding Renault and its Spanish lead driver from the next race in Valencia (that’s in Spain, FIA stewards) do for anyone? They have, with the stroke of a pen, ensured that Spanish spectator numbers will be even less than they might have been. And does the exclusion ensure that mistakes cannot be made by pit crews in the future? Of course it doesn’t. Having your car retiring from an important race is punishment enough. If they want to make sure that there can be no danger, then exclude the entire field. Does Renault’s exclusion fix the Henry Surtees and Massa incidents? Of course not. Hearken back to Ferrari releasing their car with the fuel hose attached, would an exclusion have fixed that problem? Of course not. Just another example of knee-jerk reactions and inconsistent stewarding.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that in the UK, a new car from a major manufacturer was going to be called the Caprino, until some research unearthed that this was Italian for goat poo! Instead they named the car after the winter Olympics. I asked what was this car? Easy, it was the Ford Cortina named after the venue for the 1956 winter Olympics, the Cortina di Ampezzo!
So to this week. Aerodynamics has become very important in today’s racing cars. In what year did the first aerodynamic racer compete? Clue: “twins”.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

 


How to sell motor cars
In this financially depressed time, it must be hard to sell cars. However, you can’t sell anything sitting behind a desk and not talking to potential customers. That lesson is yet to be learned by car sales ‘executives’ here.
Needing another car we began visiting dealerships. After getting nowhere, other than a reluctantly handed out brochure in one, I even ended up accosting one manager saying, “Excuse me, do you sell cars here?” I wonder if these people really understand what a precarious state the car sales industry is in world-wide?
Of course, I had to take time off work for these trips, as Sunday, my day off, is the dealerships day off as well. These people are failing to understand ‘Marketing 101’ every week.
It was on one of these fruitless trips to the new car dealerships where all we accomplished was to leave greasy nose prints on the showroom glass, that we spotted one of the cars on our short list in a second hand yard. And, guess what? It was open for business.
Our next few Sundays were taken up with going around the second hand car yards in the local area, and most of them were manned (or more usually young lady-d) and we were well looked after, and found the model we wanted, which was also well looked after. They arranged for the finance (at competitive rates too), took the vehicle to the dealership to be serviced, cleaned up any minor scratches and even allowed my wife to drive it for a couple of hours to make sure she was happy with it.
The upshot of all this is really the fact that we bought a car from an outlet that gave us service. The manufacturer lost a new car sale because we didn’t get service. The price was not the deciding factor as we were going to finance the new acquisition anyway.
So is there any hope for the Thai auto sales figures for 2009? I would sincerely hope so, but it is obvious that the major players in this competitive business have to be more proactive. The sales people have to do what they were hired for - and that is to “sell”. That is something they are not doing right now.


Electric Benz Supercar
Following on from the tie-up between Mercedes-Benz and Tesla, the American electric car maker, comes the news that Mercedes-Benz is developing a zero emission, electric SLS AMG Gullwing supercar with AWD. This in addition to the new gasoline SLS AMG Gullwing.
There are four in-wheel electric motors and sources at Mercedes-Benz have said that with a combined total of 392 kW of power and a stump-pulling 880 Nm of torque, the electric version of the AMG will be almost as fast as the 6.2 liter V8 version and will cover the zero to 100 kph in approximately 4 seconds, making it a true supercar. The gasoline V8 version covers the zero-100 kph in 3.8 seconds.
Volker Mornhinweg, the CEO of Mercedes-AMG GmbH, had to say the following about the first all-electric Mercedes production car: “With the SLS AMG with electric drive, we wanted to redefine the super sports car. For us, it is not just about responsibility. We attach just as much importance to excitement and classic AMG performance.”
Interestingly, the gullwing doors and other external aspects of the car’s design did not require modifications to accommodate the four electric motors and extensive battery packs. The German car maker says that safety levels have also been retained.
The computer controlled all-wheel-drive can channel the torque to any wheel combination at all times, giving very exact road holding and grip.
According to Mercedes, the SLS AMG’s initial pilot phase will use a liquid-cooled high-voltage lithium-ion battery that has an energy content of 48 kWh and a capacity of 40 Ah.
It was not stated whether this vehicle will be a plug-in electric vehicle, as Mercedes states the 400 volt battery is charged by regenerative braking (KERS) which might be a little difficult if the batteries are flat and the car is stationary. I don’t think standard jumper leads would help here!

SLS AMG Gullwing


Toyota looking very critically at North America
Having fought to get itself up to Number 1 in the world, Toyota is back pedaling as many of its manufacturing bases are not profitable during this economic crisis. Yoshimi Inaba, president and CEO of Toyota Motor America and chairman and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales USA said the company was reviewing its entire operation in the US, including whether to close a factory in California and whether it should open a factory in Mississippi.
Inaba said Toyota is not profitable in North America despite cost cutting in the organization, but he said he hopes the company could be profitable in its next fiscal year in North America.

American Toyota Avalon

Toyota’s sales have fallen 38 percent in the first six months of this year - down to 770,000 cars and trucks from nearly 1.25 million vehicles in the first six months of 2008, a fall even greater than the U.S. industry average auto sales that fell 35 percent in the first half of the year.
California is one of the best states for Toyota sales in the US, and Toyota has had a factory there which employs 4,700 people, and is a joint venture with General Motors, but during its stay in bankruptcy court, GM have pulled out.
Consequently, Toyota is looking at whether to keep open the 25 year old New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (known as NUMMI) assembly plant in Fremont, California, but is hoping for an incentive package from the California state to assist in keeping the plant open.
Examining the downturn in sales, Inaba acknowledged that Toyota vehicles had often lacked “passion” and that the company’s vehicles must be “more exciting, more nimble.” In fact, many people, me included, have always described Toyota vehicles as being “dull”, but that has not stopped me buying two in the past four years.