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Update April  2019

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

BIMS sales show promise for 2019


How many cars were sold at the Bangkok International Motor Show? There was no surprise on the Toyota stand, with 6110 orders taken during the 40th Bangkok International Motor Show (BIMS), with only Mazda (5211 orders) and Honda (4910) getting close.

MG continues to grow in Thailand. Now well entrenched in this country, MG continued to become a major player with 2225 orders. Compare that to Nissan with 2255 and Suzuki at 2319 or Mitsubishi at 3019 orders.

One manufacturer which I expected to do better was Ford with only 1836 orders. However, compare that to Chevrolet with only 532, but both well beaten by Mitsubishi at 3019.

As in previous years, Mercedes outsold BMW, with 2405 orders taken versus 1569. Neither of these two German manufacturers have cars at the lower end of the sales spectrum, and Mercedes does look more up-market than the BMW.

At the stratospheric end of the market, there were 22 people with deep enough pockets to order a Maserati, 10 bought a Lamborghini, 9 ordered an Aston Martin, 6 (yes, six) ordered a Rolls-Royce, 5 wanted a Bentley, but McLaren were out for a duck despite offering test drives to the well-heeled.


Minimizing risk in ride hailing

Tammy Webber

Chicago (AP) - Whenever Rachel Orden calls for an Uber, the 20-year-old Michigan State University sophomore immediately walks to the back of the vehicle to check the license plate number, then opens the door and waits for the driver to say her name before getting in.

Even then, she devises a backup plan in case she feels uncomfortable. "How could I get out? Could I unlock the door? Who do I have on speed dial? Could I jump out safely if I needed to? All that goes through my mind," said Orden, of Naples, Florida, who uses the ride-hailing service about once a week, usually when going out at night. She said the March 29 slaying of University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson, who mistakenly got into a vehicle she thought was her Uber ride, has made her even more cautious.

It also has prompted law enforcement agencies and ride-hailing companies to intensify efforts to warn passengers against getting in without checking to ensure both the vehicle and driver are legitimate. Although no official tallies exist, there have been several high-profile cases involving would-be robbers and assailants posing as ride-hailing drivers — often at bars.

Lyft said it also provides photos of the driver and information about the vehicle, and some Lyft vehicles have a display on dashboards that changes color to match the passengers' app to help them identify their ride. "We ... are always exploring new, innovative ways to improve the experience for all users, and most importantly, to keep our community safe," the company said.


Are today’s cars too good?

I have a 10 year old car I drive to work. I have a 20 year old car I keep for sentimental reasons. I have a 40 year old car that I have modified for racing and put a “new” 20 year old engine in it.

Compare those cars with 10, 20, 40 year old cars of the 1960’s. Rust was the biggest problem with the cars four decades ago. Engines didn’t last either. The power wasn’t there. Climbing some hills was a heart in the mouth exercise. Brakes? Not all models had hydraulic brakes, but many were still cable actuated. I can remember lying in the dirt, clicking over the adjustment in the drum to try and get the rear brakes to act together.

Even windscreen wipers were exciting. The mid-50’s Ford Customlines had vacuum operated wipers. Lift the accelerator and the wipers went mad, but put the foot on the accelerator and the wipers stopped! Going up hills in the rain was quite a task.

Steering was ‘vague’ at best as very few cars had rack and pinion back then. Worm and peg was common. Did you push the peg out, turn it 90 degrees to take the slop out of the steering which had gone from 6 turns lock to lock to 8 turns? Power steering? How strong were you?

Headlights? Remember the early VW’s with the 6 volt system. At anything over 50 kph you tripped over your own headlights. Now we have car headlights that can illuminate the other side of the moon.

An old Morry Minor.

In the rain we used to go out to enjoy sliding around the roundabouts – now the on-board computer reduces the power to the driven wheels to stop the slide.

The new cars may be very comfortable and smooth, but they are dull to drive.


What did we learn from China?

I hope the Chinese enjoyed their Grand Prix, as from my chair in Fletcher’s Folly, it was rather boring. It was the same old script, be first into the first corner and you just leave the others behind.

Even though Bottas (Mercedes) had pole (again), he fluffed the start (again) and trailed Hamilton (Mercedes) to complete another 1-2 for the three pointed star (again). Bottas gave the reason he could not keep up as “dirty air” (again).

Ferrari’s star Sebastian Vettel came third, but a long way off the Mercedes silver arrows. Vettel was another who fluffed the start, allowing the young rookie Charles Leclerc to climb into 4th behind Verstappen (Red Bull). Unfortunately for the young lad, Vettel convinced the Ferrari pit was that he was quicker than his team mate, resulting in Leclerc being told to let Vettel through. After the pit stops, Leclerc then found himself behind Verstappen and remained in that position to the flag.

Further back, Pierre Gasly (Red Bull) took sixth place behind LeClerc while Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) took a lonely seventh ahead of Sergio Perez (Force India now renamed Racing Point).

The final F1 points positions were wrapped up by Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) and in 10th, Thai/Brit Alexander Albon (Torro Rosso).

The bottom half of the field saw some action in the opening laps, with “Torpedo” Kvyat (Toro Rosso) managing to hit both McLarens at the same time, something we haven’t seen for some time. For his lack of judgment, the stewards awarded a 10 second penalty on his race time, however he didn’t finish so it didn’t matter.

George Russell and Robert Kubica in the Williams were the final two running.

This was the 1,000th F1 Grand Prix since the first which was held at Silverstone in 1950. Liberty Media, the owners of the F1 series missed a publicity opportunity to slot the Silverstone GP last weekend in place of the Chinese, combining the 1st and the 1,000th. One reason may be the fact that Liberty Media is a financial operation, not racing enthusiasts.

Hamilton’s victory at the Shanghai International Circuit is the 75th of Hamilton's career, his second of the 2019 season and sees him now clear at the top of the driver standings for the first time this year.

The man of the meeting award went to Thai “luk kreung’ Alexander Albon who started from pit lane in the repaired Toro Rosso and finished 10th.

The extra point for the fastest lap went to Gasly (Red Bull) who slapped on a set of soft tyres two laps from the end to get the point. All fairly pointless.


Nissan shareholders OK ouster of ex-chair Ghosn

Yuri Kageyama

Tokyo (AP) — Nissan shareholders approved the ouster from the Japanese automaker's board of its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, who is facing allegations of financial misconduct.

The approval, which was expected, was indicated by applause from the more than 4,000 people gathered at a Tokyo hotel for a three-hour extraordinary shareholders' meeting. Other votes had been submitted in advance.

An internal investigation, revealed payments of a consultation fee to Ghosn's sister for 13 years. The investigation has also found too much power had been focused in one person, he said. Ghosn’s salary was USD 16 million.

Ken Miyamoto, 65, a Nissan shareholder, said he was disappointed. "It is really such a pity as he was a brilliant manager," Miyamoto said of Ghosn before heading into the meeting. "I guess he became complacent as people kept praising him too much."

Ghosn says he is innocent of all allegations and has suggested the accusations were made by some people at Nissan hoping to remove him from power.

He has been charged with under-reporting his compensation in financial documents, and with breach of trust in having Nissan shoulder investment losses and making suspect payments to a Saudi businessman. Ghosn says the compensation was never decided on or paid, no investment losses were suffered by Nissan, and the payments were for legitimate services.

Ghosn was arrested in November, released on bail in early March and then re-arrested for a fourth time last week. The latest arrest was in connection with fresh allegations that $5 million sent by a Nissan Motor Co. subsidiary and meant for an Oman dealership was diverted to a company effectively controlled by Ghosn.

Yokohama-based Nissan, which makes the Leaf electric car, March subcompact and Infiniti luxury models, was on the brink of bankruptcy when Renault sent Ghosn to turn it around two decades ago.

How the mighty have fallen. It is only a few years ago that Ghosn was considered the white knight to save Nissan (and Renault) and was lauded for the turn-around he had managed. Now he is being pilloried and he hasn’t even been given his time in court.

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance now rivals auto giants Volkswagen AG of Germany and Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp. in global sales.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked some MG history. The letters XPAG and XPEG do have a connection with the pre-Chinese MG’s. What was it? The XPAG was a 1200 cc engine (as used in the MGTC) and the XPEG was 1500 cc (as used in the MGTF 1500).


So to this week. Why did Rolls-Royce change the color of the two R’s?

For the Automania dehydrated beer this week (just add hops and water and store in a dark cupboard), be the first correct answer to email [email protected] or [email protected] Good luck!

Tesla Heaven

Oslo (AP) - In a symbolic first, electric cars outsold fossil fuel-powered ones in Norway last month.

Christina Bu, the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association's general secretary, said Monday that 58.4 percent of new cars sold in the country in March were battery-powered, calling it "historically high."

Bu added that electric cars' share of the market in the first three months of 2019 was 48.4 percent and is expected to hover around 50 percent for the whole year.

"Norway shows the whole world that the electric car can replace cars powered by gasoline and diesel and be an important contribution in the fight to reduce C02 emissions," Bu said in a statement.

Norway, a wealthy European nation of 5.3 million, has provided big incentives to boost electric car sales. It waived hefty vehicle import duties and registration and sales taxes for buyers of electric cars to boost sales. Owners don't pay road tolls and use bus lanes in congested city centers.

The perks, however, are to be phased out in 2021.

Norway's Parliament has voted to require that all new cars sold in the Scandinavian country be electric by 2025.

Countries around the world are trying to encourage more people to buy electric cars as part of the effort to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. China, the world's biggest auto market, has also provided big incentives as it tries to clean up the country's air pollution problem and gain a lead in new technologies.

(Should we all stock up on gasoline? Not really, there’s plenty of oil to be sucked out yet.)


Chinese GP this weekend

The Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai is this weekend. After an interesting race two weeks ago in Bahrain, with Ferrari obviously the better car and youngster Leclerc the better driver, we sincerely hope that close competition will continue. On a circuit where passing is possible, it will be interesting to see just how the passers Ricciardo in the Renault and Max Verstappen will go with his Red Bull.

The race will start at 1 p.m. Thai time on Sunday, and we watch in Fletcher’s Folly, Siam Country Club Road. Get there at noon for lunch and an ale or three.

The history of the Grand Prix is interesting, where the GP has had problems from day 1. The race debuted on 26 September 2004, and was won by Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello. The following year, it hosted the final round of the Formula One championship, in which the newly crowned world champion Fernando Alonso won and claimed the constructor's title for Renault. In 2006, the Chinese Grand Prix was won by Michael Schumacher - his last victory in Formula One.

In November 2008 the BBC reported a senior race official, Qiu Weichang, as suggesting that the loss-making race might be cancelled (as Singapore and Malaysia at present). Following a similar announcement about the French Grand Prix, Qiu Weichang said that the race's future was under consideration, and a decision would be made in 2009.

2010 came and went with no formal announcement of an extension to the initial seven race deal struck in 2004. However, immediately after the 2010 Shanghai race Bernie Ecclestone, who managed the contracts with the various circuits, said of the 2011 calendar, “We are not dropping anything. [It's] 20 races - getting ready for 25”.

It was only in February 2011 that a deal was agreed between F1 and the organizers of the Chinese round of the world championship. Reasons for the delay appear to have been over the fee paid to F1 to host the race. After racking up losses year after year, the organizers of the race refused to pay the fee required, reported to be amongst the highest paid to host an F1 race. F1 bosses appear to have reduced the fee and the new agreement to host an F1 race ran to 2017. What happens now with Bernie out of the equation and the new owners of F1 in charge? Watch this space.


My car of the show

During motor shows you walk for kilometers, hoping that something leaps out at you. For me it was the Ford Mustang, all mean and yellow. This was closely followed by the new Nissan Teana (which just gets better and better with each iteration).

Ford Mustang.

 Whilst I am a fan of Aston Martin, the Valkyrie is a joke. 300 million baht and it is a track car only.

No, it is the Mustang for the weekends and the Teana as the drive car during the week.

Nissan Teana.


Hyundai finds new engine problem, prompting another recall

Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer

Detroit (AP) - Hyundai has found a new problem that can cause its car engines to fail or catch fire, issuing yet another recall to fix problems that have affected more than 6 million vehicles during the past 3 years.

The Korean automaker, under pressure from safety regulators, is recalling about 20,000 Veloster cars in the U.S. and Canada because fuel can prematurely ignite in the cylinders around the pistons. That can cause excessive pressure and damage the engine, causing vehicles to stall and in some cases catch fire, according to Hyundai documents posted Friday by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It's a different problem from what has caused the rest of the recalls since 2015 from Hyundai and its affiliated automaker Kia, which have been plagued by engine failures and fires across the U.S.

The recall, which covers only the 2013 Veloster with 1.6-liter engines, is due to a software problem that has been found only in that model year and not in other Hyundai engines, company spokesman Michael Stewart said. Kia spokesman James Bell said in a statement that the automaker didn't use any engines from the plant that made Veloster engines.

Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer group that has petitioned the government seeking more Hyundai and Kia recalls, said the fire and engine problems keep spreading to more vehicles.

"This recall raises the question of whether we are even beyond the tip of the iceberg with these non-crash fires with both of these manufacturers," Levine said. "How many times are we going to hear from either Hyundai or Kia that these circumstances are unique to a particular model and then have another recall or fire situation announced weeks or months later?"

Hyundai said in documents that it has been analyzing fire claims from owners and reporting the findings to NHTSA, which in December raised questions about the Veloster. The company traced the problem to engine control software in vehicles made at the Ulsan plant in South Korea from April 26, 2012 to Oct. 16, 2013, according to documents.

While claims were high for the 2013 model, they decreased starting in 2014, the company wrote. Software was updated on vehicles at the factory in October of 2013, the company said. Hyundai wrote that it's not aware of any crashes or injuries.

Dealers will install updated software on the recalled cars. Owners will be notified starting May 13.

In February, Kia announced that it would recall the Soul small SUV with the same-size engine due to fire and engine failure problems, but Stewart said that was for a problem that was different from the Veloster.

The Soul recall covered nearly 379,000 vehicles from 2012 through 2016. Documents showed that high exhaust gas temperatures can damage the catalytic converters, which control pollution. That can cause abnormal combustion and damage pistons and connecting rods. A failed connecting rod can pierce the engine block and cause oil leaks that can cause fires.

So far Hyundai and Kia have recalled about 2.4 million vehicles to fix problems that can cause fires and engine failures since 2015. In addition, the automakers are doing a "product improvement campaign" covering another 3.7 million vehicles to install software that will alert drivers of possible engine failures and send the cars into a reduced-speed "limp" mode if problems are detected.

Both automakers are under investigation by NHTSA for potentially being slow to fix faulty vehicles.

The Center for Auto Safety says it has found more than 300 Hyundai-Kia fire complaints in a government database, which is high compared with similar vehicles. Levine has said fire complaints to NHTSA have come from across the country, including a death in Ohio in April of 2017.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked some Porsche history. What was the difference between the 72 Porsche 911 and the 73 911 horn grilles? An easy one, especially if you owned a ‘long bonnet’ Porsche. The 72 had chromed horn grilles, while the 73 were black.

So to this week. MG’s seem to be everywhere these days, but have zero connection with Cecil Kimber and the MG’s of old, no matter how the current owners try and make out. However, the letters XPAG and XPEG do have a connection with the pre-British MG’s. What was it?

K3 MG. A real MG.

For the Automania dehydrated beer this week (just add hops and water and store in a dark cupboard), be the first correct answer to email [email protected] or [email protected] Good luck!

BIMS – the healthy program

R-R Cullinan.

Did your doctor tell you to get more exercise? Jogging didn’t appeal? Too cold for swimming? Then try going to motor shows.

At our Bangkok Motor Show (incidentally the 40th such show) I had walked from the hotel to the Challenger Hall twice before the event was officially open. Of course, this was mainly due to poor preparation on my part, in forgetting to take the thumb drive with me. Returning to my room in the Novotel I then found I had brought the wrong set of keys from my office, the set with no thumb drive attached. Turning back to the Press Room I did the usual begging thing and a spare thumb drive was found.

It was a promotional USB drive and after the euphoria of thinking I was now able to proceed, I found it wouldn’t play on the Challenger Hall computer. It did however tell me to scan the thumb drive. With my digital age ability, this was an impossibility. Normally I get my 13 year old son to do these tasks, but he was in school. More begging and a computer savvy chappy got it all up and running.

And so it was into the show and more walking. I was informed by someone a lot younger than me that the exhibition hall was 600 meters in length, so up and back was one km. This meant that by lunchtime I had already covered 4 km, and I hadn’t even got to the car accessories section.


Returning after a quick coffee and a sandwich I entered the exposition hall again and was waylaid by the Rolls-Royce stand. There it was, in all its obese grandeur, the SUV to eclipse all other SUV’s - the huge R-R Cullinan. Like a middle-aged matron, displaying her necklaces willed to her many years before. A Toyota Fortuna with bling and steroids. But it does have dinky hub caps that always stop the correct way with R-R the right way up. That’s worth another million baht over the Fortuna.

SUV’s are the current fad, especially expensive ones. SUV’s that are used to pick up children weekdays and groceries at the weekend. Off-road? Only mis-judging and driving over the kerb in the supermarket car park.

You can of course go the cheapie road and get a Porsche Cayenne or a Bentley Bentayga or Maserati Levante. By comparison, the Isuzu MU 10’s of the plebian SUV set.

While on the automotive weight watchers, it is interesting to see that cars follow people. Obesity is the name of the game. One of my favorite cars of a few years back was the Mazda MX-5. A true sportscar for the masses. Small, light, perfectly balanced, with just enough power to make driving fun. It has become so fat that it is now more of a sedan.

One concept group which took the interest of the local motoring press was the MINe City EV. This is an all-Thai project, using an electric motor generating 160 BHP and giving a maximum speed of 120 kilometers per hour. The battery is Lithium-ion 30 kWh which can power the MINe for up to 200 km.

Motor Show MINe.

The charging time is 1 hour per 1 charge or DC Quick Charger mode takes 15 minutes to charge to 80 percent. Standard service charges are 50 baht for one hour, 80 baht for two hours, 110 baht for three hours and 150 baht for four hours.

The car has a length of 3.3 meters, width 1.7 meters, height 1.6 meters, and weight 900 kg.

What else was there at the Bangkok International Motor Show, which caught my attention? The best looking cars were definitely on the Aston Martin stand, other than their jewel, the Valkyrie. Designed by Adrian Newey, this had a nominal value of 300 million baht and only 25 examples will be built. Don’t believe it. Especially the one on the stand which did not have an engine at all (supposedly a 6.5 liter V12 developing 1,100 BHP) using F1 technology in the suspension and brakes.

When the car does have an engine, it can (reputedly) cover zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds and has a top speed of 402 km/h. Well past take-off speed for your average Boeing.

One car that did arouse much interest was the new (10th generation) Honda Accord which, for my money at least, is the top affordable limousine style vehicle at the show, outshining the Toyota Camry or the Nissan Teana. Styling is today, whilst Camry and Teana are looking dated.

Honda Accord.

Honda gives you two engine choices, the first being a 1.5 liter V-Tec Turbo developing 190 BHP and torque of 243 Nm while the second engine choice is 2 liters with two electric motors developing 215 BHP with switchable modes being electric battery, hybrid or engine power alone.

If you are in the market for luxury and style, have a good look at the Accord.

Hamilton lucks the win in Bahrain

Bahrain saw new Ferrari signing Charles Leclerc dominant, setting pole position and streaking away from team mate Sebastian Vettel. He was so close to his maiden F1 podium he would have won easily but with 12 laps to go, an engine malfunction resulted in a loss of 160 BHP, slowing him so much that Hamilton and Bottas (Mercedes) were able to reel him in.

Ferrari team boss Binotto expects the fault will have a straightforward fix and is not related to how the team runs its engine. He showed confusion reigning supreme, saying after the race, “I think what happened, even if we have not a clear understanding now and we are still looking into it, it is a single problem that will be easily addressed. So it’s not related to the way we’re using the engine mapping or whatever. It has to be, let me say, a single component failure. We’ll find out.” Ferrari has two weeks to fix it! Not as much as Leclerc wants it fixed.

Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul described the team’s double failure in the Bahrain Grand Prix as “frustrating and unacceptable”.

Abiteboul admitted the team has made “a very bad start” to the season. (That was putting it mildly!) “Similar to Melbourne, our qualifying in Bahrain was massively compromised by minor electronics issues, which impacted both cars.

“Our race today came to a sudden stop so close to the finish. These are issues we have previously encountered but something we were unable to rectify in Bahrain. These problems are increasingly frustrating and unacceptable as both cars have shown very good competitiveness both over one-lap and race runs,” said Abiteboul, who added the team must “react and shift our focus on reliability.”

Renault also managed automotive synchronized racing, with both cars expiring with three laps to go, while in a points finish.

Back to the front runners and Vettel (Ferrari) had another race to forget. Taking the lead at the start over his team mate, he was hunted down and passed by Leclerc, to then fall into the clutches of Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), and then spin unaided, damaging his tyres so much that the vibrations shook the front wing off!

A much better race in Bahrain with scrapping (and scraping) all the way down the field. The usual first lap suspects in trouble were Lance Stroll (Racing Point Indian Takeaway) and Romain Grosjean (Hasn’t got it right yet). Surprises were McLaren being in the points for most of the race, while Ricciardo’s strategist got it all wrong dropping the Australian out of the points before the Renault imploded.

Songkran death days coming up

Bangkok – The cabinet has acknowledged an integrated plan for road accident prevention and reduction during the Songkran festival this year.

The Assistant Government Spokeswoman, Col. Taksada Sangkhachan, said the plan was proposed by the Road Safety Administration Center.

Col. Taksada said the plan will be carried out from April 11th to 17th, 2019, to ensure the safety of travelers throughout the country during the long holiday of the traditional Thai New Year.

She said the authorities will launch awareness campaigns about drink driving and how to drive safely.

(That plan is nowhere near enough. Once again the powers that be are ignoring the 80 percent of road fatalities caused by motorcycle riders with no helmets.)

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked for knowledge on the Jaguar Mk7. British Jaguars used Grace, Space and Pace as their motto. This was very much so in the early 50’s when Jaguar added the Mk7 saloon to the XK 120 in the showrooms. There was another called the Mk7 M. What was the difference between the two Mk7’s, and why? This was relatively easy. Manufacturing in the early days of Browns Lane was somewhat haphazard. The Mk 5 chassis was used on the Mk7 and 7M so the underpinnings were the same. Mk 8 was a 7M with uprated body (no central divider on the windscreen, for example). The horn grilles are different and the fog lamps are in a different position on the bumper bar. The electrics were also different between the two Mk7’s with the M getting Mk8 wiring.

So to this week. Let’s look at some Porsche history. What was the difference between the 72 Porsche 911 and the 73 911 horn grilles?

For the Automania dehydrated beer this week (just add hops and water), be the first correct answer to email [email protected]  or [email protected] . Good luck!

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

BIMS sales show promise for 2019

Tesla Heaven

BIMS – the healthy program

Hamilton lucks the win in Bahrain

Songkran death days coming up

Autotrivia Quiz