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.
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
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’
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
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
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
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.
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