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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

LaFerrari - pardon?

Hybrid LaFerrari.

Finally the new (and for the time being) ultimate Ferrari has been unveiled at the Geneva show, and as predicted it is a hybrid with performance that will blow everything away this side of F1.
However, what was not predicted, was that Ferrari would outsource and go to Nissan’s famous Department of Silly Names to get the name for this new supercar. “LaFerrari”. Just what sort of name is that? Oh well, it could have been worse like “Cecil” I suppose.
This is Ferrari’s most extreme road car to date featuring technologies drawn from Formula 1, including a petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain with KERS-style kinetic energy recovery.
The LaFerrari will be built in a strictly limited production run of just 499 cars - 100 more than the Enzo - all of which will find their way into the eager hands of Ferrari collectors the world over. Read Ferrari collectors with bags of cash. At least 1.3 million euro which comes out at around 50 million baht, and then add on customs, excise and tax for just being rich. And they won’t take my Mira as a trade.
Because an electric motor provides maximum torque from minimal revs, Ferrari’s engine development team was able to optimize the V12 petrol engine’s performance at higher revs, resulting in a more constant supply of power and torque throughout the wide rev band.
The 590 kW/700 Nm 6.3 liter V12 internal combustion engine has a very high 13.5:1 compression ratio and revs to 9250 rpm. This is paired to a 120 kW electric motor, for a combined system potential of 708 kW and 900 Nm, which is enough torque to drag City Hall down to Beach Road. Power is sent to the wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Actually, the LaFerrari has two electric motors, one powering the driven wheels and the second the ancillaries - and a battery pack attached to the floor of the chassis, consisting of cells assembled in the Scuderia Ferrari department alongside the KERS for the F138 Formula 1 car.
The battery pack weighs 60 kg and is recharged by both brake and engine regeneration - the latter feeds excess torque energy straight to the cells.
Ferrari claims it to be its fastest road car to date, with a zero to 100 km/h in less than three seconds and a 0-200 km/h time of under seven seconds.
You do not move the driving seat to get comfortable, as it is fixed. You move the pedal box, a feature that Ferrari say was developed in consultation with Ferrari F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who played an “active role” throughout the entire development process. Since Massa in particular, is about 1 cm off being called a dwarf, I wonder how 6 footers will go?
The styling team was led by Flavio Manzoni, with the need to pair aerodynamic lessons learned from Formula 1 with the requisite sex appeal of a Ferrari.
According the Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, this new car gives, “Excellence in terms of technological innovation, performance, visionary styling and the sheer thrill of driving. Aimed at our collectors, this is a truly extraordinary car which encompasses advanced solutions that, in the future, will find their way onto the rest of the range, and it represents the benchmark for the entire automotive industry. LaFerrari is the finest expression of our company’s unique, unparalleled engineering and design know-how, including that acquired in Formula 1.”
That may be so, Luca, but it still is a silly name!


A Lekky Landy

Lekky Landy.

Word coming through from the UK is that Land Rover has been playing with all-electric Land Rover Defenders.
“This project is acting as a rolling laboratory for Land Rover to assess electric vehicles, even in the most arduous all-terrain conditions,” said Antony Harper, Jaguar Land Rover’s head of research. “It gives us a chance to evolve and test some of the technologies that may one day be introduced into future Land Rover models.”
Land Rover has built seven of these all-electric variants, with lithium-ion batteries and Land Rover states that the lithium-ion battery pack gives the Defender a range of just 80 km between recharges, but Land Rover says the car can go up to eight hours between charging if doing low speed off-road driving. That is quite ludicrous, and I have no idea why Land Rover would even bother writing press releases about this. 80 kays! Come on!
Land Rover has ruled out putting the EV Defender into production, but says the seven cars are part of the company’s long-term plans for hybrid and electrification. The new Range Rover will be the first Land Rover hybrid, when the diesel-electric variant of the Vogue goes on sale later this year.
That makes a little more sense, but you will never sell expensive SUV’s that can only go 80 km before running out of volt juice.


Is Indonesia a threat?

The Automotive Focus Group (AFG) reports that Indonesia is looking to knock Thailand from its perch as the top vehicle sales country for SE Asia.
Some sources in Australia are suggesting Indonesia could pass Thailand to become the largest vehicle market, by unit sales, in Southeast Asia.
When looking at vehicle producers, however, Thailand is in the world top 10, while Indonesia is lagging seven years behind Thailand.
According to official figures, Indonesia and Thailand produced more than a million vehicles for their domestic markets for the first time last year but the Thais are still far ahead in quality, quantity and value to the national economy.
The Indonesian vehicle sector had a break-out 2012, but Thailand domestic sales grew to 1.44 million units, propelled by the government’s rebate to first car buyers. Including exports, the Thailand gross figures for production were 2.45 million vehicles.
Indonesia’s figures were 1.2 million vehicles in the domestic market, but only 250,000 for export, well behind Thailand’s numbers, though up 40 percent mainly through the mini-MPV built in Indonesia.
GM is returning to Indonesian manufacturing, after an eight year break, with a Chevrolet mini-MPV, manufactured in Brazil but designed, the company says, for Indonesian conditions.
The Indonesian government is trying to capitalize on the potential through the Low Cost Green Cars program, which would remove or partly rebate the luxury tax applying to all new private vehicles.
The scheme was announced last year with Toyota (which has 36 percent of the domestic market), Daihatsu, Suzuki and Honda all immediately committing to the plan, and now joined by Nissan (using the Datsun nameplate for low cost vehicles). However, the government has not set the guidelines for the manufacturers, but there is much potential when they do, looking at the population of Indonesia.


Is the MINI a disco on wheels?

At the international motor show in Geneva, Harman, the premium global audio and infotainment group, announced two new additions to the line-up of MINI models featuring Harman/Kardon sound.
The latest members of the MINI family to be equipped with the distinct Harman/Kardon audio experience are the brand new R61 Paceman - available since December 2012 - and the MINI Clubman Bond Street Edition, which made its debut appearance at Geneva.
To maximize the fun factor and complement the character of this classic car, the MINI models feature a high-performance Class-D 480-watt DSP amplifier which delivers richly layered audio to the ten vehicle speakers, and weighs in at just 1.3 kilograms. Loudspeaker positions are optimized in each MINI model, providing listening pleasure to all vehicle occupants in both front and rear seats: with crystal-clear treble tones and rich bass sounds, driver and passengers can enjoy an unforgettable sound experience, with all the realism that characterizes a live performance, says Harman.
The fidelity comes from special metal matrix diaphragms that have a sandwich structure made from an aluminum core with a ceramic surface to produce a top-class, high-fidelity music experience. Two 26 mm metal matrix tweeters in the A-pillars are supported by two 100 mm midrange speakers in the door panels.
The innovative ALumaprene diaphragms have excellent damping characteristics for a fine-tuned frequency response, and are designed to deliver the optimum balance between stiffness and weight.
Harman Kardon acoustic specialists have also integrated two bass speakers in the front door panels. With a diameter of 150 mm, these door woofers ensure high fidelity sound reproduction and excellent dynamics of even the deepest bass rhythms. The rear side panels feature two more 26 mm metal matrix tweeters and two powerful 150 mm 230 mm midbass speakers (woofers).
There’s enough sound pressure there to blow your doors off! But pity about the price in Thailand.


Season’s opener for the Retro racers

The Retro Ford Escort.

It has only just been a little over two months of a layoff, but the racing season 2013 has started up again for many of the classes running in Thailand, including the Retro race cars.
The season’s opener is running this weekend at the new Bonanza circuit in Khao Yai. In fact, we will be running at meetings promoted by the Nitto 3K people and others by the GPI Pro Series covering Bonanza, Kaeng Krachan (out near Cha Am) as well as Bira.
The calendar then looks like this:
March 8-10 Bonanza
May 3-5 Bira
June 29-30 Bira
July 5-7 Kaeng Krachan
July 27-28 Bira
September 6-8 Bira
September 28-29 Kaeng Krachan
October 26-27 Kaeng Krachan
November 1-3 Bonanza
December 6-8 Bira.
Pencil those dates into your calendar.
So you can see we will be doing a fair bit of traveling during the year. Highly developed race cars like our Escort cannot be driven on the road for long distances, even though it is road registered (and in livery will attract the unwelcome attention of the BiB as well)!
For us, however, the layoff was very busy, mainly with sponsors, but the mechanical side saw us remove the entire rear axle system and sending it to Bangkok to get the Limited Slip Differential worked on. This had given up at the last meeting (December 2012) and requires expert hands to get the limiting factor worked out. The other item was electrical (always a ‘black art’ in my opinion) with its second alternator giving up charging. The World Championship winning Red Bull F1 team also did their alternators in, so we are in good company! We are having an experienced auto electrician look at the entire wiring system, as well as replacing the offending alternator.
The sponsor line-up looks good, with most of last year’s sponsors remaining with us including CES, B-Quik, the Pattaya Mail, Hemaraj, EBC Brakes, AA Insurance Brokers and the Sausage King. However, the big news for us is the fact that BBX/Acorn Distribution has come on board as naming sponsor for 2013. In addition we have landed Stonefish Wines (a lovely drop from Australia) as another new sponsor. There will be more who are currently yet to make the decision.


Safer vehicles - or just more things to go wrong?

Alphabet soup?

What is in store for the motorists in the next decade? These examples are not “concepts”, but the technology is here now. For many OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturer), the integration of the new technologies is the only item slowing its adoption. That and the price, of course. In the competitive marketplace of today, the base cost is always a dilemma. The answer, however, is to make all the new technological applications ‘delete options’. And since the new car buyer is not really aware of what is coming, this makes it easier for the automaker.
One such example is emergency brake assist. The technology is simple. It is easily programmed into the vehicle for it to appreciate how much traction it has, as well as how many meters it is going to take to brake in time to avoid an accident. However, if you are still too fast, further braking is too late. But this is where Emergency Steer Assist (ESA) comes in. Yes, saved by the alphabet again!
Designed to complement emergency braking systems, ESA works with your electric steering rack to vary the torque by direction, thus very convincingly “suggesting” the proper steering wheel motion. Suppose you need to swerve left - the torque in the clockwise motion is greatly increased (resistance), but it is very easy to turn the wheel counterclockwise. Similarly, during the maneuver recovery phase (you may know this as a tank slapper), the inverse is true, the steering working in tandem with ESC (electronic stability control, mandatory on all cars in Europe since 2011) to control the after effects of the swerve.
A new type of tyre sensor, called Intelligent Tyre System/Fill Assist, mounted on the inner tyre tread (as opposed to the wheel), measures tyre pressure, temperature, g-force and load. It weighs only a few grams. When a heavy load is detected, for example, the system can notify the driver that more air pressure is needed to optimize gas mileage, handling and safety. The sensors also communicate with ABS and ESC, so that these systems can optimize for a given tyre pressure or vehicle load. Very much F1 technology brought to the daily traffic situations.
According to market research company JD Power and Associates, new car sales should reach 17.2 million in the USA and Canada in 2013. How many of these will have the new “fail-proof” technology, I wonder? Adoption of these technologies has never been Thailand’s forte.


And just when you thought there was a “pure” manufacturer

GM and PSA Peugeot Citroen will jointly develop people-movers, a compact SUV and a new platform for the next generation of Opel/Vauxhall, Peugeot and Citroen light cars under a strategic partnership formed almost a year ago.
PSA’s Peugeot brand will get a new compact SUV as part of the deal, which is likely to replace the Mitsubishi ASX-based 4008, although there was no mention of Citroen getting a replacement for its similar C4 Aircross.
Development of new B-Segment (light) people-movers will be led by GM but developed on PSA platforms to replace Opel’s Meriva, and could become the next Citroen C3 Picasso while providing Peugeot with a product to sit below its 3008 crossover.
The current Opel/Vauxhall Corsa light car is based on a platform shared with Fiat’s Punto and is overdue for replacement.
GM and PSA also intend to co-develop a new generation of high performance, efficient three-cylinder petrol engines based on PSA’s three-pot engine that is already doing service in the 208 light car. (Giddy yet?)
The strategic alliance between GM’s loss-making European operation and the struggling French conglomerate, announced in February last year, aims to cut costs and boost economies of scale.
At the vehicle development announcement in Brussels, GM vice chairman Steve Girsky and PSA chairman Philippe Varin also outlined their intentions to further expand their alliance to make the most of opportunities in growing markets such as Latin America and Russia.
PSA is no stranger to vehicle sharing, having partnerships with Toyota, Mitsubishi and BMW. In some societies she would be considered a ‘tart’.
Mitsubishi has a deal with PSA enabling Peugeot and Citroen to sell rebadged i-MiEV electric cars and the BMW Group has a long-standing four-cylinder engine sharing arrangement with PSA.
Apart from Corsa sharing Fiat Punto underpinnings, GM Europe’s partnerships are largely in the commercial vehicle sector, sharing mid-sized and large vans with Renault-Nissan and its compact Combo van based on Fiat’s Doblo - which is also sold in the US under Chrysler’s commercial brand, Ram.
And after all that, the cars will probably be made in Thailand anyway!


GM putting some Spin on it.

GM in a Spin.

The Thai Auto Book reports that General Motors Indonesia has completed its USD 150 million refurbishment of its car plant in Bekasi, a satellite city east of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta.
The plant, with a 550-strong workforce, is set to begin commercial production of the Spin seven-seater compact MPV for sale locally and for export to other markets in the ASEAN region. A further 250 workers will be added by year-end.
The Spin is based on the similarly-named model produced by GM in Brazil but will get a smaller 1.5 liter engine instead of the 1.8 engine fitted to the Brazilian model. It will also have locally-made components, including some trim parts.
The plant will have the capacity to produce 40,000 vehicles a year once a second shift is introduced. The company expects sales to increase significantly in Indonesia with the new model from last year’s 5,643 units.
This puts the Chevrolet Spin directly against the now aging Avanza from Toyota, and for my money looks a lot better.


Toyota and Subaru produced a sporty, now Toyota and BMW for another

Toyota and BMW had previously signed MOU’s to build a sports car and work together on hybrids and fuel cell technology.
This year, the heads of the two companies signed further agreements in Toyota’s home city of Nagoya, Japan, to work on four projects at the cutting edge of automotive development.
The result of all this is that BMW and Toyota have agreed to formally work together on lithium-air batteries - seen as the next big thing to replace current lithium-ion batteries - along with a new sports car platform, a new generation fuel cell vehicle system and lightweight construction methods.
This deal follows other agreements signed over the past year to share technology and engines, including small BMW-built petrol and diesel engines in Europe from 2014.
A joint statement released after the event said, “The companies agreed to set-up a feasibility study to define a joint platform concept for a mid-size sports vehicle that is to be completed by the end of 2013.
“The two companies aim to combine each other’s technology and knowledge at a high level to maximize customer satisfaction.
On hand to sign the agreement with Toyota president Akio Toyoda, BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer said Toyota and BMW shared the same strategic vision of future sustainable mobility.
“In light of the technological changes ahead, the entire automotive industry faces tremendous challenges, which we also regard as an opportunity,” he said.
“This collaboration is an important building block in keeping both companies on a successful course in the future.”
The partners’ agreement to work on developing lithium-air batteries now has their goal to produce “a lithium-air battery with energy density greatly exceeding that of current lithium-ion batteries.
“BMW Group and Toyota Motor Corporation are to share their technologies and to jointly develop a fundamental fuel-cell vehicle system, including not only a fuel cell stack and system, but also a hydrogen tank, motor and battery, aiming for completion in 2020,” the statement said.
The BMW-Toyota tie up follows technology and manufacturing sharing agreements between Mercedes-Benz and Renault-Nissan and General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen last year.
And after all that, the cars will probably be made in Thailand anyway!


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

LaFerrari - pardon?

A Lekky Landy

Is Indonesia a threat?

Is the MINI a disco on wheels?

Season’s opener for the Retro racers

Safer vehicles - or just more things to go wrong?

And just when you thought there was a “pure” manufacturer

GM putting some Spin on it.

Toyota and Subaru produced a sporty, now Toyota and BMW for another