Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What sells in Thailand?

Well, if the recent Motor Expo is anything to go by - go buy a Toyota. The figures being quoted are that Toyota snared 25 percent of the 33,000 orders. This was more than twice the sales of second placed Honda.

The rest were (in order) Isuzu 8.8 percent, Nissan 8.7 percent, Mazda 8.2 percent, Mitsubishi 5.8 percent, Chevrolet 5.1 percent, Ford 3.7 percent, Proton 3.5 percent and Hyundai 2.5 percent.

However, Chevrolet was very happy with their slice of the action. Chevrolet’s bookings at the recent Motor Expo 2010 increased by more than 100 percent from last year’s event, due mainly to strong public interest in the recently-launched Chevrolet Cruze, Aveo CNG and Captiva with new gasoline engine.

Antonio Zara, Chevrolet Sales (Thailand)’s Vice President for Marketing, Sales and Aftersales said, “During 12 days of the Motor Expo event, and outside the exhibition halls, we have achieved total bookings of more than a thousand Chevrolet Cruzes nationwide. We expect the booking rate of another 500 or so of the Chevrolet Cruze from showrooms within December. The Chevrolet Aveo CNG was also very well received with a total booking of more than 600 units nationwide.”

Consumer confidence is back, say the pundits, and it would seem they are correct, and of course with end of year run-outs and competitive finance deals, it is a good time to make that purchase. However, it should not be forgotten that you are buying a 2010 vehicle which will be one year old come January 1, 2011. That’s the hidden cost, which you don’t find until trade-in time, and depending upon how long you keep the vehicle is probably around 200,000 baht you end up losing! Worthwhile thinking about before you make the plunge.

Another small car around the corner

The new Mitsubishi Colt will enter production in March 2012 at a new factory in Thailand. This new ‘Global Small’ model is expected to be priced from about 400,000 baht.

Mitsubishi Colt

This new Colt will be built at a new plant, Mitsubishi’s third in Thailand, representing a total investment of 16 million baht and will have an initial annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles, which the company says could be expanded to 200,000.

The Colt replacement, which will be based on a “completely new” platform currently under development by MMC, will be powered by fuel-efficient 1.0 and 1.2 liter engines, with an all-electric variant coming in 2013.

Mitsubishi’s compact and affordable new entry-level model will conform to the Thai government’s Eco-car Project requirements, and follows the Toyota Etios, Ford Figo, Nissan March and Honda Brio.

MMC said the Global Small car was a globally strategic vehicle in response to both the market needs of emerging countries and the trend towards smaller vehicles in established markets, where the economic outlook has been fairly depressed.

The new Colt will join a growing list of light cars built in Thailand, where Eco-car tax incentives and a population of 67 million are attracting a growing number of car-makers.

They include the recently facelifted Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 sedan/hatch, Nissan’s all-new March hatch (which will be followed by a sedan version in 12 months), the Honda Brio, Toyota’s Prius and Etios and Honda’s City sedan and Jazz hatch, which are all exported to Australia and other destinations.

Autotrivia Quiz

Which racing driver hit a dog in practice and crashed into the river and drowned? Hint: pre-war. Good luck!

Autotrivia: I asked which racing driver hit a dog in practice and crashed into the river and drowned? Hint: pre-war. It was Pietro Bordino, rated as one of the best drivers of the 1920’s. He had just taken delivery of a Bugatti in 1928 and was practicing for the Alessandria race when he hit a large dog at full speed, crashed into the River Tanaro and was drowned!

Tiger Rally for Thailand

Tiger Rally XK 120

Received information from David Hardcastle up in Chiang Mai that the month-long Tiger Rally 2011, organized by the very experienced UK-based John Brigden, is accepting starters in Bangkok as well as London.

David suggests that before you do anything else, please look at:

From February 17 to March 17, a rich variety of vintage and classic cars (all with loaned GPS on board to ensure accurate navigation) will cover smooth-and-interesting roads in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, from Bangkok to Hanoi.

The Tiger Rally is open to any vehicle made before 1978, though some later models may be accepted at the discretion of the organisers.

Entrants will enjoy carefully chosen hotels in such fascinating locations as Kanchanaburi (‘Bridge on the River Kwai’), historic Sukothai, the northern Thai capital Chiang Mai, Siem Reap (Angkor Wat), Saigon, the World Heritage town of Luang Prabang and superb Halong Bay.

Third party insurance is included, and the event has its own doctor (not me, even though I hope to be competing), mechanical back-up and luggage van covering the whole route.

Entry fees are as follows:
London Start and Finish (including all shipping): 18,000 pounds.
Bangkok Start and Hanoi Finish: 11,500 pounds.
Thailand-only Route: 500 pounds.

Please see the website for map, itinerary and FAQs. Other inquiries should be addressed via the site to John Brigden, while David Hardcastle ([email protected]) is your local contact point here.

Formula 1 going ‘green’

The FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, also known as “those prats”) has come up with new regulations for 2013, and quoting official sources, “The FIA have confirmed their intention for a greener Formula One with the introduction of radical new engine regulations from 2013.

Renault V8 F1 engine

At the final meeting of the year of the World Motor Sport Council, held in Monaco, the body has rubberstamped plans that will ensure the sport becomes far more environmentally friendly.

Following dialogue with the four engine manufacturers - Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes and Cosworth - the powerplants will be 1.6 liter, four-cylinder units (V4) with high-pressure fuel injection, and with a maximum 12,000 rpm.

The engine manufacturers now have 27 months to deliver the new power plants that will replace the current 2.4 liter V8s.

It is also claimed that VW/Audi may also now come into the reckoning as an engine supplier in light of the FIA’s forward-thinking plans.

According to the FIA the new engines will deliver a 35 percent reduction in fuel consumption and will feature extensive energy management and recovery systems, yet maintaining current levels of performance.

From next year F1 is already due to see the re-introduction of KERS (kinetic energy recovery system), a device that stores energy from braking and converts it into power used to boost acceleration.

According to motor sport’s world governing body, their announcement “underlines the FIA’s commitment to improving sustainability and addressing the needs of the automotive industry.”

In a further move to cut engine costs, from 2013 drivers will only be allowed to use five per season - the limit is currently eight - with that figure cut to four from 2014.

This is really a whole lot of nonsense. Save the planet? Save me from idiocy, please. Does the FIA really believe that a 35 percent reduction in fuel usage by 24 F1 cars for around seven hours every second weekend actually means anything in total world fuel consumption? Far more than 24 cars pass by my village every hour for at least 12 hours per day for 365 days a year.

Martin Whitmarsh of McLaren Mercedes has also leaped into the fray with ‘feel-good’ comments such as, “The good news is that, in conjunction with the FIA’s and FOTA’s (Formula One Teams Association) recent successful efforts to improve efficiencies and restrict resources applied to Formula 1, it has already been possible to reduce Formula 1’s total carbon emissions. Moreover, building on what we have already achieved, and extrapolating what is now being planned, we anticipate that by 2012 Formula 1 will have reduced its total carbon emissions by 12.4 percent compared with 2009.” I remain totally underwhelmed.

Sandy Stuvik sets more records

Fifteen year old Sandy Stuvik is now officially the 2010 Asian Formula Renault Champion even though he could not be beaten to the title last month with one race to go.

(L to R) Thomas Raldorf, Jean Todt and Sandy Stuvik

Sandy went to Zhuhai in China to finish of the season in style and use the two races and test sessions as additional practice for the 2011 season.

Sandy took the lead early in race 2, and controlled the race from start to finish crossing the line 4.4 seconds ahead of the 2nd placed driver Tin Srithai, also from Thailand. Sandy also set the fastest lap of the race, proving that he was the man to beat in 2010.

The record books in the Asian Formula Renault 2.0 Championship have been rewritten by this young driver. He is:

The first Thai Driver to win the Championship.
The Youngest driver (15 years) to win the Championship.
The first driver to finish on the podium for all races in the season.

The largest number of points lead over the second placed driver in the history of the Championship.

And finally, helping his team (ART) to win their first Team Championship in the Series.

Sandy is now on the move, having been to Catalunya to test the new 2011 Formula Renault car he will be driving in the Formula Renault Eurocup Championship in 2011. Sandy tested there for two days before returning home to Thailand, and working on projects to try and raise the necessary sponsorship for a full season in Europe.

Undoubtedly, this young lad has the talent to go far, and is still at the right age to be able to end up in Formula 1, and not be too old. Look at Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, both picked up by F1 teams when they were still young teenagers. Sandy Stuvik has the speed, he just needs the sponsorship now.