Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Bangkok International Motor Show

It is almost time again for the Bangkok International Motor Show, the only internationally accredited motor show in Thailand. Running from the 26th of March, through to the 6th of April, the theme is “Ecology Driving Save the Earth” and here is the initial list of the new model releases: BMW X1, Mazda 2 (4 doors), Ford Fiesta, Nissan March. This Nissan is also known as the Micra in some markets, and may be advertised as Thailand’s first ‘Eco-car’. And the Hyundai Tucson.

Hyundai Tucson/ix35

In some markets the new Tucson is to be known as the ix35. Following on from its overseas success with the i30 small car, Hyundai is applying the ‘i’ badge to its new compact SUV that replaces the Tucson.

A more street-oriented vehicle with less ground clearance and a street savvy design, the new ix35 introduces a new diesel to the range as well as a revised 2.0 liter petrol four and a new 2.4 liter four cylinder petrol engine that replaces the old 2.7 liter V6.

Fuel consumption is down and power is up in all cases.

The six-speed automatic and manual transmissions are new.

Just like the outgoing Tucson, customers have the choice of a price-leading front-drive ix35 or they can step up to the all-wheel-drive model.

Hyundai has thrown a full suite of safety gear at the ix35 which comes standard with electronic stability control and six airbags, including two roof mounted curtain airbags.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that Ferrari has the name FIAT on their Grand Prix cars because of the association between the two companies. However, this is not the first time the name FIAT has been on Grand Prix cars. I asked when was the last time a FIAT competed under its own name in a car designed and built by FIAT. Hint, after this last race the car was broken up, even though it only raced once.

Quiz car

This must have defied the Googlers … As the ‘last’ FIAT Grand Prix car was the 806. This had a 12 cylinder 1.5 liter supercharged engine (actually a twin six). It only raced once in the 1927 Milan GP at Monza, and won in the hands of Pietro Bordino. It is believed that the factory built one car only, and it was broken up on the orders of the FIAT management after the race. Why? Sorry, I don’t know, but FIAT is not the only car company to be saddled with crazy management decisions!

So to this week. There is a car preserved in the Turin Automobile museum, which was built for the Monaco GP of 1935. It was very radical, featuring an eight cylinder radial two stroke engine, which was mounted ahead of the driven wheels - which meant it was also front wheel drive. It did not race after the early trials were not positive. What was this car?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]

Good luck!


How much money does the manufacturer make per car?

Prospective customers go into dealerships intent on driving the price down on the car they want. For the dealership to give a little, they need a sizable profit margin in which they can negotiate prices.

So how much are they working with? Not much, because the margin the manufacturer gives them is almost as small as the manufacturers’ profits. According to Detroit News, Toyota in 2009 had a global profit margin for $108, so the answer really is “not much”!

Ford did not even do as well globally with a loss of $62 per car, so the dealership did not have anything to play with.

In 2008, GM (on its way to the bankruptcy courts) lost $2738 per car in North America. Frightening! But Chrysler is reported to have lost $3800 per car in the same region in 2008. How long could they keep going like that? No wonder heads had to roll at the top. And they are still rolling.

According to the respected Harbour Results Inc. in the US, Honda Motor Co. has been alone in continuing to make a profit per vehicle over the past two years and increased its margin from $113 in North America in 2008 to $703 in 2009. The report claims this is because Honda maintained an unyielding growth strategy and engineering focus, not launching products before their time or being influenced by outside forces to expand too rapidly the way Toyota had.

Now you can see why the dealerships would rather offer you extras at the same price, rather than discount the bare vehicle.


UN looks at road safety

NGO’s and governments have a particular skill at stating the obvious. Ever since we invented the motor car we have had accidents, injuries and deaths. Mind you, we also had injuries and accidents and deaths from falling off horses. However, Big Brother now wants to get involved.

Through the next decade, Member States, with the support of the international community, have committed to actions in areas such as developing and enforcing legislation on key risk factors including limiting speed, reducing drink-driving, and increasing the use of seatbelts, child restraints and motorcycle helmets. Efforts will also be undertaken to improve emergency trauma care, upgrade road and vehicle safety standards, promote road safety education and enhance road safety management in general.

This recent initiative comes on the heels of the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, hosted by the Government of the Russian Federation in November 2009. The “Moscow Declaration” issued by ministers and senior officials from 150 countries underlines the importance of protecting all road users, in particular those who are most vulnerable such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

The statistics show that around 1.3 million people will be killed on the world’s roads this year. Over 90 percent of these fatalities occur in the world’s poorest countries. The economic cost to developing countries is estimated at up to US $100 billion a year, equivalent to all annual overseas aid from industrialized countries.

Road traffic fatalities are already the single biggest source of death among 15-19 year olds in developing countries and the second leading cause among 5-14 year olds.

Where this all falls down is in the first paragraph which stated “enforcing legislation on key risk factors including limiting speed, reducing drink-driving, and increasing the use of seatbelts, child restraints and motorcycle helmets.”

However, in Thailand we already have the legislation, but we do not have the enforcement, so where do we go from here? Simple answer - nowhere, we will continue to kill 500 people on the roads every Songkran. Ninety percent will be motorcyclists and ninety percent will be alcohol to the eyeballs.

What do we do now, Mr UN? Come down from your ivory tower and see what happens in the real world.


The problems associated with S/H car buying

Many of us buy cars in the secondhand market. There are obvious reasons for this, as you can buy a nearly new car at thousands of baht less than the same model out of the showroom. But there are also disadvantages for the unwary.

The first area the prospective buyer looks at is the mileage (kilometerage?) of the vehicle. Most cars travel 10-15,000 km for one year, so if you find a three year old car with only 12,000 km on the clock - beware. The odometer might have been tampered with.

In the ‘good old’ days of mechanical counters it was relatively easy to wind back the numbers, but it was also relatively easy to see signs of the unit having been tampered with, marks on the screws and misaligned numbers, but now with the electronic odometers, it is even easier for the e-savvy crooks out there. And no tell-tale screwdriver marks either.

On a genuine low kilometer vehicle there will be very little wear on the rubbers of the accelerator, clutch and brake, so check that out. There will also be very little wear on the door strikers and door hinges will not show play.

If you really know your cars, proceed (but still with caution). If you are not an ‘expert’, then take along a mechanic you can trust. It will save you money in the end.