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Vol. XIII No.16 - Sunday August 10, 2014 - Saturday August 23, 2014


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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

No Grand Prix, but plenty of action at the Bira Circuit

Bira Circuit grid.

Having had some back to back Grands Prix, it is almost strange not to be sitting in front of the big screen at Jameson’s on Sunday night; however, there still is motor racing at the local Bira International circuit, with the promoter being called the S1R group. This meeting is the 4th in their championship series, and they have been running qualifying on Friday and races on Saturday and Sunday, which is gilding the lilly a bit for what is really a ‘picnic’ race meeting.
Last weekend we took the TBX Escort to Kaeng Krachan, so hopefully it will still be race ready for the S1R meeting. That’s the plan anyway.
We should have our sponsor’s AA Insurances hospitality tent operating at lunchtime on the Sunday, just round from the hairpin at the end of the straight. You have to get there by coming in the pit entrance, which is 50 meters before the main entrance on Highway 36. You go through the tunnel and then turn hard right and go up the hill. The tent is a red gazebo style. Plenty of cold drinks and shade. Just say the magic words TBX Retro Escort.


BMW all-electric i3 picks up a gong as well

Quirky BMW i3

The 2014 World Car Awards were presented at the New York Auto Show and BMW’s all-electric i3 won the World Green Car award and also the World Car Design of the Year.
Despite its awards, the entire BMW I series (i3 and i8) has styling which one either loves or hates (memories of the Chris Bangle bottom on the 7 Series a few years ago)!
“The design ... can be polarizing to people,” head of EV Operations and Strategy for BMW North America Jacob Harb said in an interview at the auto show. “But there are two reasons it looks the way it does: It’s made for electric driving in a city, and it’s meant to bring new customers into the brand.”
“The concept was designed in the beginning to be a megacity vehicle. It seats four people but is small enough to zip through tight traffic and roads, which explains its proportions,” said Ludwig Willisch, President and CEO of BMW North America.
BMW designers could surely have made a car that fit that mandate without looking so unusual, or converted an existing model to run on electricity, but that wasn’t the mission. The i3 is made to appeal to a new set of customers, Willisch said.
“What we know from research is that people that drive a car like that want to make a statement, they want to show that they choose a different way of mobility. It’s not the ordinary steel car with an exhaust pipe.”
Jacob Harb presented the “polarizing” design as a good thing. “The whole point of a new model is conquest and to bring new people into the brand. With i, we know we’re doing that.”
The World Car Awards explained the decision to give the design trophy to BMW: Unlike other BMW cars, the i3 has a boxy shape, which suggests roominess and efficiency. But it still retains BMW’s typical dynamism thanks to the larger diameter wheels and the very short overhangs both on front and rear. Besides that, the i3 expresses the sub-brand’s own character with using unique design features, including the black bonnet and the side window graphics that goes through the rear pillar. The interior is more surprising and attractive. It marks radical leap of car interior design, and it spreads a calm yet rich feeling as a modern living room. (And if you believe that you had better stop reading and take a bowl of soup down to the faeries at the bottom of your garden.)
World Car Awards winners are selected by a jury of 69 automotive journalists, based on recommendations from panels of experts in each category.


Porsche rated as number 1 in quality for second year

Quality winner

The number of problems experienced by new-vehicle owners has increased from the previous year, as automakers continued to be challenged when introducing sophisticated technologies in new vehicles, according to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Study SM (IQS) released in July.
The study, now in its 28th year, examines problems experienced by vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership. Initial quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.
The study finds that overall initial quality averages 116 PP100, a 3 percent increase in problems from 113 PP100 in 2013. This year’s increase in problems follows a similar increase found in the J.D. Power U.S. 2014 Vehicle Dependability study released in February, which measures problems experienced after three years of ownership.
The study identifies two primary causes of the increased problem levels in 2014. First, newly launched vehicles (those that are completely new to the market or have undergone major redesigns) continue to be more problematic than carryover vehicles (those that did not undergo any significant changes). On average, newly launched vehicles experience 128 PP100, compared with 113 PP100 for carryover vehicles. The increase in problems among all-new vehicles is found mainly in the areas of voice recognition, Bluetooth pairing and audio systems.
“Automakers are trying to give consumers the new features and technology they want without introducing additional quality problems into their vehicles,” said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “However, almost all automakers are struggling to do this flawlessly with some consumers indicating that the technology is hard to understand, difficult to use, or simply does not always work as designed.”
Some regions experienced increases in problem types associated with harsh weather. Consumers in the South and West regions of the country (USA) report the same level of problems as in 2013 (114 PP100). In contrast, consumers in the Northeast and Midwest regions report 117 PP100 in 2014, compared with 112 PP100 in 2013. Most of this increase is found in the heating/ventilation/air conditioning, exterior and engine/transmission categories, three areas in which harsh weather conditions have an adverse effect on vehicles.
“Automakers test vehicles in extreme conditions to ensure they function properly,” said Sargent. “However, it is impossible to completely negate the effects of severe weather. Heating and ventilation systems have more work to do, engines and transmissions aren’t as smooth when cold, and exterior moldings and paint all take some punishment. Consumers generally understand this but still report problems when their vehicle does not wholly live up to their expectations.”
The study also finds that the fewer problems owners experience with their vehicle, the greater their loyalty to the brand. Combined data from previous years’ IQS results and the Power Information Network® (PIN) from J.D. Power show that 57 percent of owners who reported no problems stayed with the same brand when they purchased their next new vehicle. Brand loyalty slips to 53 percent among owners who reported just a single problem and to only 48 percent among owners who reported two or more problems.
“Even problems experienced in the first 90 days correlate strongly with ultimate repurchase behavior,” said Sargent. “These early problems can set the tone for the entire ownership period and still have an effect years later when consumers replace their vehicle.”
For a second consecutive year, Porsche ranks highest in initial quality among all nameplates, with a score of 74 PP100, (Porsche 911, Porsche Boxster and Porsche Panamera). Following Porsche in the rankings are Jaguar (87 PP100), Lexus (92 PP100) and Hyundai (94 PP100).
The 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Study was based on responses from more than 86,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2014 model year vehicles surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study is based on a 233 question battery designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate the identification of problems and drive product improvement. The study was fielded between February and May 2014.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

No Grand Prix, but plenty of action at the Bira Circuit

BMW all-electric i3 picks up a gong as well

Porsche rated as number 1 in quality for second year

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