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Update March, 2015


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Automania - Update March 27, 2015

Malaysian GP this weekend

Sepang GP

Sepang is the host for the second round of the 2015 F1 calendar. Will we have a repeat of the awful Australian Grand Prix, or will this be another year of different winners, such as we had in 2012?
The Malaysian Grand Prix is being held once again at the Sepang circuit. Hopefully we will miss the late afternoon monsoons which are so prevalent in Malaysia this time of year. But will we miss the FIA’s next attempt at heavy-handed knee jerk reactions?
Qualifying is on the Saturday at 2 p.m. and there will have been some feverish work for a couple of the teams to get ready for Malaysia, with only a few days break since Melbourne two weeks ago. Red Bull will be fitting new engines and gearboxes! Will Sauber have three seats again? Can anybody get even close to the Mercedes cars?
It should be noted that Williams are running Mercedes engines, supposedly equal power units, but nowhere near as quick as the factory team. Why? If the engines are the same, what demon tweak has Mercedes found in the chassis or aero?
The race begins at 2 p.m. (Thai time) on the Sunday and we will be watching as usual in front of the big screen at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR, next to Nova Park. Join us for lunch and a couple of beers before the GP starts. The easiest way to find us if you haven’t been to Jameson’s is to turn right into Soi 4 from Pattaya Second Road and follow it up and around for 200 meters and Jameson’s is on your left hand side. You can’t miss it.
The next Grand Prix is at Bahrain on April 19. Don’t miss it!


Fuel cells is the way to go, says Lexus

Lexus chief backs fuel cells, not hybrid technology, as the propulsion of the future. The head of Lexus’s international division has taken a shot at plug-in hybrids as the company’s rivals go more towards that technology.

BMW i8

Lexus executive vice-president international Mark Templin says the company is not rushing to adopt plug-in technologies, despite parent company Toyota selling a plug-in version of the Prius in the US.
“I believe that plug-in hybrid is just a stepping stone to the next technology, which is fuel cell,” he says. “Most consumers don’t use them the way they’re designed to be used. Most people don’t plug them in all the time.
“Governments give tax breaks, or regulations are pushing people, to do that but the reality is that in markets where they are being sold today, most people don’t plug them in all the time. They just drive them like a normal car.”
Templin says people continue to fill their cars with petrol and the benefits of reducing CO2 emissions - the reason for governments subsidizing the technology - are not being realized.
Lexus is believed to be working on a fuel-cell version of its LS limousine that could break cover in the next couple of years.
Its approach contrasts with that of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, which are pushing ahead with plug-in variants, despite the fact that BMW is also flirting with hydrogen cars.
Audi plans to launch at least one plug-in hybrid model a year.
Benz will roll out 10 new plug-in hybrids by 2017.
Daimler board member Dr Thomas Weber says, “The plug-in hybrid is an investment in the future of Mercedes-Benz and we believe it will become established as the successful technology for maximum efficiency coupled with powerful dynamic performance.”
Rival Audi plans to launch at least one plug-in hybrid model a year, while BMW has launched the i3 and i8 plug-ins already.
Porsche has plug-in versions of the Cayenne hybrid and Panamera sedan and its 918 sports car is also a plug-in. Research and development head Wolfgang Hatz is a fan of the technology.
Where does the hydrogen come from?
“I believe that plug-in is a very nice technology. You can drive locally emissions-free,” Hatz says. “We have the SUV, the sedan and the sports car. So in each market we are present we have a concept.”
He says fuel-cell vehicles aren’t on the company’s radar. “I don’t think a 911 hydrogen fuel-cell car is the right answer. My doubt is, where does the hydrogen come from?”
Critics of fuel-cell vehicles point out that the most affordable way to produce hydrogen is through fracking, which creates questions about environmental friendliness. On the other hand, many argue electric cars plugged in to a grid powered by coal are no better than petrol cars.
So is the proposed Lexus the first hydrogen car? No, it should also be remembered that Honda released its FCV some years ago called the FCX Clarity. Production began in June 2008. It was introduced in Japan in November 2008. The FCX Clarity was available for lease in the U.S., Japan and Europe. In the U.S., it is only available to customers who live in Southern California where several hydrogen fuel stations are available. As of 2010, 20 FCX Clarity cars were leased for US$600 a month, which included collision coverage, maintenance, roadside assistance and hydrogen fuel. In 2014 Honda announced the end of production of the FCX Clarity for the 2015 model. From 2008 to 2014, Honda leased a total of 45 FCX units in the US. There are around 10 others on lease in Japan and another 10 in Europe. In 2010, it was reported that there are a total of 50 FCX Clarity available for lease in the U.S.
However, before that, there was the BMW Hydrogen 7. The BMW Hydrogen 7 was a limited production hydrogen vehicle built from 2005-2007 by BMW. The car was based on BMW’s traditional gasoline powered BMW 7 Series (E65) line of vehicles, and more specifically the 760Li. It uses the same 6 liter V-12 motor as does the 760i and 760Li; however, it has been modified to also allow for the combustion of hydrogen as well as gasoline, making it a biofuel engine. Unlike many other current hydrogen powered vehicles like those being produced by Honda, General Motors, and Daimler AG - which use fuel cell technology and hydrogen to produce electricity to power the vehicle - the BMW Hydrogen 7 burns the hydrogen in an internal combustion engine.
Once again, further development has been stymied through a lack of infrastructure. There are more “top up” stations for battery cars than for hydrogen cars, so the plug-in is much more viable than pure hydrogen cars.


More madness

Koenigsegg Regera tops 1119 kW and 2000 Nm and accelerates to 400 km/h in 20sec.
The new Regera hybrid hypercar boasts a combined petrol-electric output of more than 1119 kW of power and 2000 Nm of torque, making it the “fastest accelerating, most powerful production car ever”.

Krazy Koenigsegg Regera

The new car was displayed at the Geneva Motor Show, and just 80 examples of the Regera will be hand-built at the company’s Angelholm production facility in Sweden, but Koenigsegg said in a release that the number 80 also represents “the principle of domination, control and achievement in Pythagorean Numerology”. (These PR jocks leave me speechless at times!)
Koenigsegg’s twin-turbo aluminium 5.0 liter V8 powers the 1628 kg two-seater, pumping out 821kW and 1250 Nm.
Three YASA-developed electric motors - one 180 kW/260 Nm on each rear wheel and another 160 kW/300 Nm motor on the crankshaft - supplement the energy from the internal combustion engine and allows for torque vectoring, regenerative braking and “extreme” driver response.
According to Koenigsegg, the electric motors make up the “most powerful electrical motor set-up in production car history”.
A hybrid-specific transmission, invented by the founder and dubbed the Koenigsegg Direct Drive transmission (KDD), directs drive to the rear axle without the need for multiple gears, reducing drivetrain losses by up to 50 percent when compared with a regular automatic or continuously variable transmission (CVT).
A 9.27 kWh liquid-cooled battery pack feeds the motors that produce 520 kW/820 Nm. When paired with the internal combustion engine, the power tops out at more than 1119 kW and 2000 Nm.
The performance is staggering. Zero to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds, 150-250 km/h takes 3.2 seconds, while 0-400 km/h is covered in less than 20 seconds. Top speed is said to be more than 450 km/h, making the Bugatti Veyron quite pedestrian by comparison.
The coupe can also be charged via a Type 2, mode 3 charging point, with the plug hiding behind the registration plate at the rear. It also offers 50 km of electric-only driving.
All body closures - including the doors, boot and bonnet and more - are automatic, a feat the company says is a world first.
Wheels and tyres are 19 inch front and 20 inch rear, and other standard gear includes power windows, adjustable pedals and steering column, leather interior, six-way electronically adjustable carbon sports seats, carbon ceramic brakes, tyre pressure monitoring system, leather interior, power folding wing mirrors and a titanium exhaust system.
No need to rush, there’s not too many in this market!


Tesla introduce the ‘Buy Back’ program

Tesla has introduced a finance plan for its Model S luxury sedan, which guarantees the resale value of its high-performance electric vehicles after three years.
The American car-maker is offering to buy back any Model S purchased under the Tesla Resale Value Guarantee program for at least half the price of a 60 kWh variant after 36 months. That is equivalent to leasing with a 50 percent residual after three years.
There are some catches (there always are) as the full guarantee value is only offered for vehicles that have covered fewer than 60,000 km and the Model S must have been financed for a repayment term of between 36 and 60 months.
In Australia, the guarantee is the result of a deal struck between Tesla and Australian finance provider Macquarie Leasing and offers a resale price “among the highest of any premium sedan made in volume.”
Tesla Australia spokesperson Heath Walker said the finance and guaranteed value package gives further peace of mind to Model S owners.
“Every car owner wants a fair and transparent financing program and an assurance that their car will retain its value,” he said. “Only Model S gives us the ability to combine that for them. I am proud that Tesla can offer Model S owners increased confidence in the value of their purchase.”


Autotrivia

Last week I noted that there was a very simple device stopping vehicles from running backwards, seen in vintage cars. The same principle is used today in automatic gearboxes. What was it called? It was called a “sprag”. Now that was more difficult for the googlers!
So to this week. An easy one, what did Lt. Zebulon Pike do when he got to the top of Pike’s Peak?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


Automania - Update March 21, 2015

124 Spider from Maziat (or perhaps Fizda?)

Artist’s rendering of the Fiat 124 Spider 2015.

The long awaited sports car from Alfa Romeo, built on the Mazda MX-5 platform, has gone through another name change. Now FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has revealed that the new sports car will be sold as a Fiat and called the 124 Spider, resurrecting the name after 30 years. This was confirmed by FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne at the Geneva Motor Show.
Three years ago the company confirmed that the fourth-generation MX-5 would form the basis for a new European convertible, which at the time was expected to be badged as an Alfa Romeo. However, it is now known the Mazda-based car will be a Fiat.
Whilst the platform is derived from the new MX-5, the engines will be very different between the Fiat version and the Mazda donor.
For its MX-5, Mazda will offer two engines with a choice of 1.5 liter or 2.0 liter SkyActiv naturally aspirated four-cylinders, but it is expected that power for the new Fiat roadster will be sourced from within FCA powertrain ranks.
This includes the 1.4 liter T-Jet turbocharged four-cylinder (found in the Abarth 595) and the 179 kW 1.7 liter in the Alfa Romeo 4C and Giulietta QV.
The chassis of both vehicles will share a majority of design features, but the skin will look very distinct, with the Fiat including nostalgic echoes of the 124 roadster of the 1960s.
The last Fiat to sport the 124 Spider badge was only available in Europe and the United States from the mid 60s to mid 80s and had the simple front-engine, rear-wheel drive roadster recipe - the formula Fiat is expected to return to for the new 124 Spider.
Little else is known about the new European roadster, but with the Mazda MX-5 launching later in the year, Fiat’s 124 Spider could be revealed some time in 2016, although a 'concept' could precede it.


More rubbish from the FIA

The Federation International de l’Automobile (FIA) is re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic yet again. This time bringing in legislation that the drivers cannot change their helmet design during the course of the 2015 season.
It must be wonderful knowing that everything else is hunky-dory, so they can now look at the final major problems like helmet design. Very shortly I expect a bulletin detailing what color socks may be worn on GP weekends.
A good friend (who can remain nameless just in case the FIA starts a witch hunt) gave me a copy of Scrutineer Technical Documents. Just simply amazing! There is even a formula to show how high the sides of the racing boot must be to remain legal. And for those of you waiting with bated breath, it is 0.15 x length + 7.5 in centimeters.
And if you ever wondered at the number of officials in the pits, they are made up of the following:
Tyre allocation team 2
Initial scrutineering team 6
Garage scrutineers 6
Tyre checkers 10
Weighing platform scrutineers 5
Pushing car marshals 6
Fire Marshals 2
Chief scrutineer 1
I’ll add them up for you - that’s 38!
Now what the scrutineers check for includes seeing the car number on the driver’s helmet and that leg padding is 25 mm thick. Wow!


Technology or styling the way forward

Bentley SuperSports.

In 1993, energy technologist Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute suggested that major automakers could use existing materials and technologies to produce an ultra-lightweight, highly fuel-efficient vehicle. The ‘supercar’ he envisioned would incorporate lightweight plastics, computerized controls, and a hybrid powerplant. It would weigh roughly 500 kg and achieve well over 150 miles per gallon. Lovins felt it would, however, need a revolution in the industry to change the engineering concepts of ‘power’, rather than ‘weight’.
But as lightweight materials have become cheaper to manufacture and use, their adoption in production cars has become more widespread. Magnesium and aluminium alloys created car parts that were cost-competitive with conventional components. An example is that BMW uses a magnesium block and they took 10 kg off the weight of the engine alone, obviously a major gain and also lowered the car's centre of gravity by 25 mm so it improved handling.
BMW are not alone in the weight loss department. Bentley have produced the new Supersports, which boasts a zero to 100 km/h time of 3.9 seconds, despite its weight of 2240 kg. However, this all-up weight is over 110 kg lighter than the base model Bentley (if there ever is such a thing as a “base model” Bentley)!
It was the late Colin Chapman who really applied the light weight concept to F1 cars many decades ago, and the Bentley exercise shed weight by firstly tossing out the rear seats (26 kg saved), then another 45 kg was saved by replacing the sumptuous leather front seats with new carbon fiber bucket seats (sourced from the Bugatti Veyron). Carbon fiber disc brakes saved another 39 kg.
The Supersports features the same twin turbo 6.0 liter W12 (ex-VW) engine to other Continental models, but the boost pressure has been increased to produce 463 kW at 6000 rpm and 800 Nm of torque at 1700-5600 rpm. Look back at the BMW concept which has 265 kW and 800 Nm of torque in total and, since it weighs only 1395 kg, as opposed to the 2240 kg of the Bentley, which one will you put your money on for a standing start 400 meters? Well, I hope you did put your money on the Bentley which covers zero to 100 kph in 3.9 seconds, but the BMW is no slouch either having a 0-100 kph times of 4.8 seconds, despite giving away 200 kW to the Bentley.
Amory Lovins’ concept was made public over 20 years ago, but the technology direction he proposed has now been shown to be on the right track (and that’s not racing track, but the everyday highways). Hybrids are definitely here, and Toyota and Honda are expanding this technology throughout the range of their vehicles (take a look at the tail end of the next Camry you see - it just might say “Hybrid”).
Fuel economy is becoming increasingly important in a world that is afraid of crude oil shortages and increasing prices as the world’s economic crisis hopefully passes. For example, BMW’s Vision ED will return 3.8 litres per 100 km. The production BlueZero vehicles from Mercedes-Benz are also under 5 litres per 100 km, as are VW’s Blue Motion range.
The winds of change are upon us. Stylists are less important. Engineers are more important, and technology will reign supreme.


What did we learn from the Australian Grand Prix?

Well, in the days before the race weekend we found we had the incredible situation in the Sauber garage with three drivers and two seats playing musical chairs. By Friday and the first practice session the music was still playing as the drivers ran around the available chairs. Then, Sauber having lost the court case, the third driver was threatening to press contempt of court charges which would see the Down-Under heavies confiscate the whole Sauber shooting match and the imprisonment of Monisha Kaltenborn, the person at the top of the Sauber Grand Prix package. At the last minute on the Friday, the aggrieved driver, who had won the case in both Switzerland and Australia, backed down from his threats and Sauber could finally race, using the two pay drivers. How much did that cost Bernie?
Meanwhile, in the “Manor” garage, the mechanics were still trying to get their (last year’s) car started, as someone had forgotten the electronic ignition keys! This team was called Marussia last year and raced at most of the Grands Prix till it ran out of folding green. Saved by a white knight at the start of this year, it was told by the FIA they could run last year’s cars until they were able to build a new one (which would have been last year’s anyway, with a new color scheme). So there they were, transporters, race cars, two drivers (as opposed to Sauber’s team of three), spares, stop watches and everything else, and they didn’t have the software needed to start the engines. So this team, which was already down to its bootstraps, wasted all that money and never turned a wheel in anger!
But the farce didn’t end there. Two of the race cars did not manage to complete the warm-up lap from the pits to the grid.
Kevin Magnussen, driving the McLaren Honda (in place of the recuperating Fernando Alonso) popped his multi-million dollar engine after half a lap, so was a non-starter for the race. Someone at Honda will be committing ritual Hara-kiri over this, using a bent con-rod as the implement of destruction. However, Engineer-San will have some explaining to do first!
Joining Magnussen on the sidelines was the Russian Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat who lost fifth gear on his way to the grid. “It was there, when we gave him the car, asserted the mechanics.” Team Boss Christian Horner will need a shed load of Christian charity over that one.
And I don’t need to remind you that this is the pinnacle of world motor sport, and not the five lap dash for old bangers at Bira.
For the cars that actually made it to the start, the race began with the two Ferraris hitting each other and cannoning into Pastor Maldonado in the “Lotus”, who promptly ended his race at the second corner. Pastor never needs encouragement to park his car in the wall. At last count that is the third time he has done that in four races in Australia. But it is amazing just how much forgiveness $50 million buys you!
Other interesting items included Kimi Raikkonen ‘s retirement on lap 30 with his loose left rear wheel. This came after the crew had trouble screwing on the wheel nut at the pit stop.
Oh yes, I almost forgot with all the excitement - the two Mercedes cars were first and second, Lewis Hamilton from Nico Rosberg, and the remaining nine finishers were nowhere. Third placed Vettel (remember him? The Finger) was 35 seconds behind the winner and 11th (and last) was Jenson Button in the McLaren Honda two laps behind.
Let us hope that next week’s Malaysian GP is better.


When are the GP’s being telecast?

Unsure of the telecast time? Here is the Formula 1 Calendar 2015, with local Thai time, to make it easy for you to arrange your Sundays.

Mar-29 Malaysia Grand Prix 2:00 PM
Apr-12 Chinese Grand Prix 1:00 PM
Apr-19 Bahrain Grand Prix 10:00 PM
May-10 Spanish Grand Prix 7:00 PM
May-24 Monaco Grand Prix 7:00 PM
Jun-08 Canadian Grand Prix 1:00 AM
Jun-21 Austrian Grand Prix 7:00 PM
Jul-05 British Grand Prix 7:00 PM
Jul-19 German Grand Prix 7:00 PM
Jul-26 Hungarian Grand Prix 7:00 PM
Aug-23 Belgian Grand Prix 7:00 PM
Sep-06 Italian Grand Prix 7:00 PM
Sep-20 Singapore Grand Prix 7:00 PM
Sep-27 Japanese Grand Prix 12:00 PM
Oct-11 Russian Grand Prix 6:00 PM
Oct-26 United States GP 2:00 AM
Nov-02 Mexican Grand Prix 2:00 AM
Nov-15 Brazilian Grand Prix 11:00 PM
Nov-29 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 8:00 PM
 


Autotrivia

Last week I noted that Daimler (1946) and Packard (1948) had something in common. What was it? Daimler was the first to use them, and Packard was the first large-scale user of them. It was electric windows!
So to this week. There was a very simple device stopping vehicles from running backwards, seen in vintage cars. The same principle is used today in automatic gearboxes. What was it called?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


Automania - Update March 14, 2015

F1 season kicks off this weekend

The first race of the season begins in Melbourne Australia this weekend. Only now will we see just how good or otherwise the teams really are.
McLaren have had a dreadful official testing over the last couple of months, and the following statistics table may surprise some of you.

Date Driver Team Tyres Time Gap
27-Feb Rosberg Mercedes S 01:22.8 125.776 mph
28-Feb Hamilton Mercedes S 01:23.0 0.23
1-Mar Bottas Williams SS 01:23.1 0.271
28-Feb Massa Williams SS 01:23.3 0.47
28-Feb Raikkonen Ferrari SS 01:23.3 0.484
1-Mar Vettel Ferrari SS 01:23.5 0.677
1-Mar Nasr Sauber SS 01:24.0 1.231
22-Feb Grosjean Lotus SS 01:24.1 1.275
28-Feb Sainz Toro Rosso SS 01:24.2 1.399
26-Feb Ericsson Sauber SS 01:24.3 1.484
21-Feb Maldonado Lotus SS 01:24.3 1.556
1-Mar Verstappen Toro Rosso SS 01:24.5 1.735
20-Feb Ricciardo Red Bull S 01:24.6 1.782
28-Feb Hulkenberg Force India SS 01:24.9 2.147
22-Feb Kvyat Red Bull S 01:24.9 2.149
1-Mar Perez Force India SS 01:25.1 2.321
28-Feb Magnussen McLaren S 01:25.2 2.433
1-Mar Button McLaren SS 01:25.3 2.535
20-Feb Alonso McLaren S 01:26.0 3.169
20-Feb Palmer Lotus S 01:26.3 3.488
21-Feb Wehrlein Force India M 01:27.3 4.541
19-Feb Wehrlein Mercedes H 01:28.5 5.697
19-Feb Wolff Williams M 01:28.9 6.114

Last time I checked the race time in Melbourne, the organizers were still saying the starting time was to be confirmed. However, I believe it should be noon our time.


Bangkok International Motor Show

Our Motor Show.

It’s that time of year again, when Bangkok is in the spotlight with our own International Motor Show. This motor show is the one accredited by the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles (OICA) for Thailand, and is for the manufacturers to display their models, more than the dealers. It is being held at the Challenger Halls 1-3, Impact Muang Thong Thani. Public dates are March 25 to April 5.
I will be present for the Press Day (March 24) and will be featuring some of the more interesting vehicles over the next few weeks in this column.


No longer a hairdresser’s car!

Great R8.

Audi's new second-generation R8 supercar has received an online unveiling ahead of the car's official debut at the Geneva motor show next month.
The new model is lighter, faster and sharper than before and unlike the original R8 will only be available with a V10 engine from launch.
Powering the new R8 is a mid-mounted, dry-sumped and naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V10 that is carried over from the outgoing model but boosted from 386 kW/530 Nm to 397 kW/540 Nm in standard form, resulting in a claimed 0-100 km/h time of 3.5 seconds.
The quicker V10 Plus model uses the same 449 kW/560 Nm unit as the Lamborghini Huracan, and matches the Lambo's 3.2 second 0-100 km/h time.
The engine isn't the only part of the R8 shared with the new Huracan either. The new multi-material space-frame platform is also derived from the V10 Lamborghini.
The R8's passenger cell is a hybrid structure made from a combination of lightweight aluminium and carbon fiber which weighs just 200 kg, allowing for a bodyshell that's 15 percent lighter than before.
The B-pillar, transmission tunnel and rear bulkhead are all made from carbon fiber reinforced plastics, while the roof and structural framework are made from aluminium.
The result is a body structure that is 40 per cent torsionally stronger than before in the previous R8.
Like the outgoing model, the new R8 uses an S-Tronic 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox and Quattro all-wheel drive system which can now send up to 100 percent of the V10's torque to either end.
The new model looks essentially the same as the old model with the exception of width - it is now around 11 mm wider.
The overall shape hasn't changed dramatically either, but sharper lines give it a significantly more muscular appearance.
The first-generation R8 coupe's trademark contrasting ‘sideblades’ have been included but are now much smaller and only cover the side air intakes.
The new model also features a more significant aerodynamic package with an aggressive rear diffuser, and fixed carbon fiber wing on V10 Plus models.
As standard the new R8 rides on 19 inch alloys with 245/35 front and 295/35 rear tyres which hide unique weight-saving wave-shaped steel brake discs while carbon ceramic discs are fitted to the V10 Plus.
The interior has also received a thorough makeover, featuring a new Audi TT-style wing-shaped dashboard and fully digital instrument display with integrated multimedia.
There is also a new sports steering wheel with engine start/stop and drive mode select buttons. The V10 Plus model gets a further two buttons, one for controlling the sports exhaust system and another rotary dial for selecting dry, wet and snow programs for the stability control system.
Like other Audi Quattro models, the R8 features four different driving modes which vary the throttle response, gear shift speed, steering weight and damper stiffness if adaptive suspension is specified.
Modes include comfort, auto, dynamic and individual, which allows drivers to select their ideal combination.


GM to restructure in Thailand, seeks worker separations

General Motors intends to restructure in Thailand, as it will phase out production and sales of the Chevrolet Sonic vehicle and sales of the Chevrolet Spin and will launch a voluntary separation program for all salaried and hourly employees.
GM has already announced it will stop producing vehicles in Indonesia, shutter its Bekasi plant and cut 500 jobs by the end of June, and said the restructuring in Thailand includes its corporate office in Bangkok and manufacturing plants in Rayong. GM did not immediately say how many employees it hopes to see voluntarily leave. It has 3,200 at its Rayong plant.
“We must accelerate the transformation of our operations in Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand given the sluggish domestic market demand, by implementing changes to increase customer satisfaction and our competitiveness, speed up all processes and put us in a better position to achieve future growth,” Tim Zimmerman, president of GM Southeast Asia Operations, said.
GM said it responding to market trends and customer demand for the Chevrolet Colorado truck, Trail Blazer and Captiva SUVs and Cruze compact car. Those vehicles total more than 75 percent of Chevy sales in Thailand and 95 percent of GM Thailand exports. GM has also said it is withdrawing participation in Thailand’s Eco Car Phase 2 program.
Stefan Jacoby, president of GM International said, “We are focusing our investments where the opportunity for GM’s growth is the greatest. We have made solid progress in our region, and this decision is an important part of this strategy.”
(It would appear, on the surface, that an optimist will be someone who brings his lunch to work!)


Lamborghini announces Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce

Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce.

Another stratospheric supercar was announced at the Geneva motor show in March. Called the Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce, it is a special edition of the existing Aventador. The 750 in the name comes from the 750 horsepower thumping out of its V12 engine, while the Superveloce simply means “high-speed”. It is fitting, as Lamborghini only gives that label to its most extreme, track focused cars as a swan song for a model at the end of its production run.
On top of its increased power, the Aventador Superveloce is lighter and has better aerodynamics which results in the ability to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 2.8 seconds, with a top speed of more than 350km/h. Or as its maker puts it: “The fastest and most emotional series production Lamborghini ever.”
To reduce weight, carbon fiber has been used extensively throughout, with the car seats and door panels now made from carbon. To further reduce weight, the infotainment system has been thrown out, so has the carpets and certain noise insulation parts.
This is another pseudo-road car, which is really only for the race track.


Wait for the Daihatfeng

Japanese carmaker Daihatsu Motor is to supply fuel-efficient engines to Dongfeng Motor. China's second-largest state-run carmaker apparently wants to use the engines to capture demand for subcompacts that meet coming exhaust regulations.
This will be the first time for Daihatsu, a Toyota Group company, to supply engines to a carmaker outside the Toyota family. Under the plan, Daihatsu will supply about 50,000 engines from its Indonesian plant to the Chinese automaker, based in Hubei Province, sometime this year.
Daihatsu and Dongfeng are in final negotiations, the sources said. Daihatsu is expected to provide 1,000 cc or so engines for Dongfeng's DFSK subcompact, according to the sources. The cars are expected to get more than 20 km to a liter of gasoline.
The Chinese government plans to raise fuel-efficiency standards for passenger cars to the same levels as in Japan and European countries by 2020. As such, major Chinese carmakers are moving to buy fuel-efficient engines from more technologically advanced foreign automakers.
This will be the second time for Daihatsu to send engines from its Indonesian plant to a Chinese automaker. It already has a contract to supply about 100,000 engines a year to the FAW Group, China's largest state-owned automaker, based in Jilin Province. FAW is a Toyota partner.
Daihatsu also supplies subcompacts to Toyota in Indonesia. Even though Dongfeng competes against Toyota, Daihatsu wants to boost output at its Indonesian plant, which Daihatsu thinks will benefit the Toyota Group as a whole.
In addition, Daihatsu is negotiating to supply engines to Beijing-based carmaker BAIC Group, according to the sources. BAIC has a close relationship with German automaker Daimler AG.
Since I own both a Dongfeng and a Daihatsu, I think I should be eligible for some sort of an award!


Autotrivia

Last week I noted that the name “Mercedes” came from the daughter of Monsieur Jellinek, the distributor of Daimler-Benz cars. There was another woman who lent her name to a new line of sports cars in the early 1950’s. What was the sports car? It was the Doretti, Italianizing the lady whose name was Dorothy.
So to this week. Daimler (1946) and Packard (1948) had something in common. What was it? Daimler was the first to use them, and Packard was the first large-scale user of them.
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


Automania - Update March 7, 2015

2015 Nitto 3K season kicks off at Bira

Close company in the Retro class.

The local promoters are well into the organization of the 2015 meetings. This weekend is the first Nitto 3K meeting and we will be running in the Retro class in the TBX Mk 1 Ford Escort.
This class has been dominated by the BMW E30s, with a couple of very quick BeeEmms from Urs Schonenberger’s stable. Representing the Japanese manufacturers, Mark Titterington has an indecently fast Toyota DX and will be the man to watch.
Our Escort is basically as it was when we raced at the new F1 circuit in Buriram in December, but we did have to replace the clutch and flywheel. As a bit of a Chinese New Year present we have repainted the Escort with white over blue, similar to the colors we used in 1981 when my friend John English and I raced Mk1 Escorts for the biggest Ford dealership in the Southern hemisphere at that time. If you are into nostalgia follow this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEyl9En9oFE. The Escorts were up against the best V8s that were the top cars in the category at that time, and we were the first “little” cars home in 5th and 6th places.
Come and visit us in the pits on the Sunday afternoon. Our races are scheduled for 3 p.m. and 3.45 p.m. but they never seem to be able to run to time!


Tesla scores best in the US again!

Tesla S.

The American Consumer Reports magazine has been going in the USA for around 80 years. Each year they poll their readers as to the reliability and satisfaction from the various cars on sale in the US. In 2013 it was the new Tesla S that topped the poll, and it was the Tesla S that topped the poll again in 2014.
Consumer Reports had this to say about the Tesla. “For all of the impressive new vehicles released in 2014, none was able to eclipse the innovation, magnificence, and sheer technological arrogance of the Tesla. That’s why it’s our best overall pick for the second consecutive year. Through the course of their life cycles, cars become obsolete quickly as newer models appear with updated gizmos. But with Tesla’s over-the-air software updates, a Model S that came off the line in 2013 has many of the same new features as one built today. Despite the Tesla’s teething problems at launch, our subscriber reports showed average reliability. The Model S is a technological tour de force, a high-performance electric vehicle with usable real-world range, wrapped in a luxury package.”


The Vulcan - a triumph of technology and absolute failure of reason

Aston Martin Vulcan.

At the Geneva motor show Aston Martin revealed its latest offering, the Vulcan. This is an 800 BHP supercar which defies all reason. You can use it at the track - but you can’t drive it there. Yes, that is correct - you cannot road-register this exclusive car. It is an expensive toy for rich boys. Very rich boys.
Uniquely for Aston Martin the new supercar - limited to just 24 examples worldwide - will allow owners the opportunity to precisely tailor their track day experience through a graduating scale of detailed power and dynamic performance adjustments.
CEO, Dr Andy Palmer, said, “Aston Martin Vulcan is, by its very nature, a rare and thrilling supercar. Designed and engineered to deliver a genuinely bespoke driving experience that draws on our rich heritage, this car tailors its power and handling to both the capabilities of the driver and the characteristics of the track.
“A sports car for true sports car lovers, I believe the Aston Martin Vulcan - and the unique ownership program that sits behind it - sets a whole new standard in the ultra-high luxury supercar class.”
Styled entirely in-house by the Aston Martin design team led by Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman, and with a design language hinting at the next generation of Aston Martin sports cars, this supercar is powered by the most potent iteration yet of the company’s naturally-aspirated, 7.0 liter V12 petrol engine.
Utilising the techniques of world-class motorsport engineering, the supercar sees its power-to-weight ratio exceed those of the GTE cars which compete in the FIA’s annual World Endurance Championship.
Comprising cutting edge engineering including that sourced from the brand’s successful GT racing campaign, the car features a carbon fibre monocoque and body constructed by Aston Martin’s long-term specialist body engineering and manufacturing partner Multimatic, integral limited-slip differential, magnesium torque tube with carbon fiber propeller shaft and Brembo racing calipers acting on carbon ceramic racing disc brakes which measure 380mm in diameter at the front and 360mm at the rear.
Drive is channeled to the 345/30 x19 rear wheels and Michelin race specification tyres through a race-bred rear mid-mounted Xtrac six-speed sequential shift gearbox.
Track-derived pushrod suspension with anti-dive geometry is complemented by Multimatic’s Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve (DSSV) adjustable dampers and anti-roll bars front and rear, driver-adjustable anti-lock braking, and variable traction control.
This new track car will comply with all relevant FIA race safety requirements.
Aston Martin’s Director of Special Projects and Motorsport, David King, said: “Taking the extensive learning from our various successful racing programs and applying it to this exceptional track car for customers has been an exciting and sometimes challenging task for the team here at Gaydon.
“Our deep and broad motorsport experience, allied to our renowned road car expertise, has allowed us to make the Aston Martin Vulcan the absolutely compelling proposition it is today.”
Prior to taking delivery of their cars, the 24 new owners will be offered the opportunity to take part in an extensive and detailed program of intensive track driver training.
Experienced racers including Aston Martin Racing’s Le Mans-winning Darren Turner will support owners on their learning journey, offering them the chance to refine their track driving technique and increase their ability through a carefully-constructed series of practical and theoretical driver training events.
Using a number of exciting high performance Aston Martins including the V12 Vantage S and One-77 road cars and the Vantage GT4 race car, customers will gradually build experience and develop their track technique, before beginning their thrilling personal journeys into the immense performance potential of their Aston Martin Vulcan.
David King said, “We will be running a series of exclusive track day events commencing in 2016 that will offer the opportunity for these customers to explore their driving capabilities, and the car’s performance potential, on some of the world’s most famous and glamorous race circuits.”
There will also be the option of time in the virtual race car world of Darren Turner’s Base Performance Simulators, where buyers will have ample opportunity to further refine their driving style in the safety of the digital race track.
No longer the exclusive preserve of Formula 1, it is widely acknowledged that using a simulator can help prepare a driver for any race; improving technique and consistency as well as, ultimately, lap times.
Almost infinitely flexible in terms of color and trim options, the exclusive new sports car will be offered to buyers through Aston Martin’s VIP sales program, using the expertise and luxury customer service that is now a hallmark of the brand’s ‘Q by Aston Martin’ bespoke personalization service.
Dr Palmer added, “We have already received strong interest from the customers we have spoken to about Aston Martin Vulcan.
“The cars will blend our traditional Aston Martin values of Power, Beauty and Soul with an unrivalled ownership experience; a unique combination that will guarantee their place in the brand’s rich and charismatic history.”
Performance data, together with further technical details about the ultra-exclusive track-only supercar, will be released closer to its track debut later this year.
So when you look at this whole thing dispassionately, it is obvious that this is a marketing exercise to appeal to the very rich. A car to have to say, “Look at me.” A car that most of the 24 owners will not be able to drive properly, and at least one will end up deserted in a desert somewhere.
There is nothing “pure” about this car. Aston Martin and all the DB models are being cheapened by this car they have called the Vulcan. And a car, despite Dr. Palmers assertion that it has “traditional Aston Martin values of Power, Beauty and Soul”, I would beg to differ. It is an example of failure of reason. It has no soul.


Autotrivia

Last week I noted that there was a sports car which was a hit, but was canned by the group which had just bought out the entire company because the engine came from another manufacturer. What was it? Clue: 1964-1967. It was the Sunbeam Tiger, something like a British Ford Cobra with its UK chassis and a Ford V8 engine shoehorned into the engine bay. Unfortunately, the Sunbeam name was part of the Rootes Group, and when this was sold to Chrysler, they did not want a Ford product powering one of their cars.
So to this week. The name “Mercedes” came from the daughter of Monsieur Jellinek, the distributor of Daimler-Benz cars. There was another woman who lent her name to a new line of sports cars in the early 1950s. What was the sports car?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


Automania - Update March 1, 2015

New Ford GT to be built in Canada

New Ford GT.

The born-again Ford supercar, to be built in small numbers in Canada; could be headed for Le Mans.
The Blue Oval's new-generation Ford GT will be built in smaller numbers than expected in Canada by the company’s long-standing motor racing partner Multimatic Motorsports.
The announcement was made at the Toronto motor show, where Ford said the new GT will enter low-volume production at Multimatic in Ontario next year, increasing speculation the company intends to return to the Le Mans 24 Hour in 2016.
Ford said it reinvented the GT to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its 1966 LeMans win. Those cars were known as Ford GT 40, but at some stage Ford let the GT 40 name go, and was unwilling to buy it back at the high price asked for it. Boardroom decision was then to call the new iteration, the Ford GT. Multimatic has worked with Ford since 1992 and was part of the team that won the LMP675 class in the 2000 LeMans race.
US reports say only a few hundred examples of the Ford GT, a ‘liquid silver’ version of which was also shown overnight at the Chicago show, will be built annually in Canada, priced well over $US200,000 apiece.
Multimatic has 12 manufacturing facilities in five countries, including the US, UK, China, Mexico and Canada.
Based around a carbon-fibre tub and wrapped in carbon-fiber bodywork, the new Ford GT made its surprise world debut at the Detroit motor show last month.
Powered by a circa 450 kW twin-turbo 3.5 liter V6, it was designed by Ford Australia design chief Todd Willing and features aluminium pushrod suspension, active aerodynamics and dihedral doors.
The new GT super-coupe is one of 12 Ford Performance models the Blue Oval has promised to deliver, starting with the new Focus RS, F-150 Raptor and Mustang GT 350R.
I spoke with a senior Ford executive last week, who has seen the new GT and who said it was just stunning. It certainly looks fantastic in the photographs, but is even better in the flesh.
Ford produced just over 4000 examples of its last GT between 2005 and 2006.


Volvo tries on a new face

Volvo XC90

Volvo has had the global launch of the new XC90 SUV - a model the company describes as its most important since the debut of the original version 13 years ago.
Volvo these days is owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group who acquired the Swedish car maker in 2010.
The redesigned seven-seat wagon is an all-new model, being the first to use Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform, its Sensus advanced connectivity system, various new active safety features and additions to its Drive-E powertrain family including a new ‘twin engine’ plug-in hybrid.
Volvo Car Group product manager Lars Lagstrom said the new model builds on the reputation of the well-received original with significant improvements to ride, handling and safety technology. “The first XC90 was a revolution and we had a totally new approach to SUVs,” he said. “We have kept that heritage and gone one step further with a more ‘unicentric’ approach.”
“We have all the safety features in, even more than we have ever had, and much more strength and refinement. We have done a completely new platform, and had the opportunity to have the most modern front and rear suspension to get the optimal ride and handling agility that everyone is looking for in this segment.”
Lagstrom claims the XC90 is the first genuine seven-seat - as opposed to five-plus-two-seat - SUV in the world to offer a plug-in hybrid powertrain, and added that it was benchmarked against the Mercedes ML-Class, BMW X5 and Audi Q7.
The XC90 line-up will consist of seven variants made up of three new specification grades and three four-cylinder powertrain choices from Volvo’s Drive-E engine family.
The all-new four-cylinder lineup starts with the 2.0 liter D5 twin-turbo-diesel, producing 165 kW at 4250 rpm and 470 Nm between 1750-2500 rpm, resulting in 0-100 km/h in 7.8 seconds.
The T6 petrol is also a 2.0 liter, but it is supercharged as well as turbocharged and delivers 235 kW at 5700 rpm and 400 Nm from 2200-5400 rpm for a 0-100 km/h time of 6.5 seconds.
Volvo’s T8 plug-in hybrid combines the T6 petrol engine with a 60 kW/240 Nm electric motor and a 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery for a combined output of 294 kW and 640 Nm.
The hybrid can cover 0-100 km/h acceleration of 5.9 seconds, and it is naturally the lowest consumption of the three powertrains, with a combined fuel consumption figure of 2.5 liters per 100 kilometers.
The other options offer strong economy figures of 7.7 L/100 km for the T6 petrol and 5.7 L/100 km for the diesel.
Every variant offers an all-wheel drive layout and is matched with a new Aisin-Warner eight-speed automatic transmission.
The electric motor is located over the rear axle while the battery is positioned in the central tunnel, which Volvo claims has not impacted cabin space.
A new double-wishbone set-up is used at the front, with two transverse links to attach the wheel to the car, which Volvo says helps improve cornering, as well as reducing bodyroll, understeer and torque steer.
At the rear end the XC90 uses an integral link axle with new lightweight transverse leaf springs replacing the outgoing model’s coil springs.
T8 variants gain a few features unique to the hybrid, including a ‘pre- conditioning’ system that allows drivers to cool the drivetrain, battery or cabin from within the car or via a smartphone app.
Standard equipment includes keyless start, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, daytime running lights, LED headlights with active high-beam and ‘active bending’, power tailgate, roof rails, cruise control, sat-nav and 19 inch alloy wheels.
In terms of safety, the XC90 gets a parking assist camera, front and rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning, collision mitigation system, hill-start assist and a road-sign recognition system.
Volvo is certainly attempting to win back some of the drivers of previous Volvo’s, but for me, the XC90 looks very staid, but then so did older Volvo’s.


Scrappage - is this the way to go?

Many years ago, to buy a new vehicle in Singapore, you had to hand in another vehicle for scrap. This was done to keep the motor car population at sensible levels in the small island state. Of course, the question was ‘what do you do if you haven’t got a car to scrap’? The simple answer was that the dealer would supply it, to comply with the regulations, and you drove away in your new (first) car.
A similar incentive scheme has being offered in Europe for vehicles more than nine years old, but not to keep the number of cars down, but to stimulate new car sales, with an additional spin-off that the new cars have to be ‘greener’ than their ten year old forebears.
Sales in Germany rebounded in response to the $100 billion government program offering a scrappage bonus of about $5000 for cars over nine years old and this has also been followed by some other countries which are offering similar subsidies to boost sales of new cars. However, like many government ideas, I am told the scrappage system just died a quiet death!
Thailand’s answer to boost new car sales was the rebate scheme for first cars and in the eco-car category. This looked as if it were a winner, but like so many things here, nobody quite thought it through. A mad scramble at the dealers and cars driven away, to be repossessed later as the new owner could not afford the monthly payments. What this did was artificially boost new car production, which then went flat in the following years. It also killed the secondhand market, to the stage that secondhand vehicles can be bought for next to nothing, and the used car yards are still hurting.
No, government intervention has rarely assisted the common man.


Autotrivia

Last week I asked what car was going to be called “Goat Poo” in Italian? (They did change the name which was Caprino, before mass production!) It was then released as the Ford Cortina.
So to this week. There was a sports car which was a hit, but was canned by the group which had just bought out the entire company because the engine came from another manufacturer. What was it? Clue: 1964-1967.
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Malaysian GP this weekend

Fuel cells is the way to go, says Lexus

More madness

Tesla introduce the ‘Buy Back’ program

Autotrivia


124 Spider from Maziat (or perhaps Fizda?)

More rubbish from the FIA

Technology or styling the way forward

What did we learn from the Australian Grand Prix?

When are the GP’s being telecast?

Autotrivia


F1 season kicks off this weekend

Bangkok International Motor Show

No longer a hairdresser’s car!

GM to restructure in Thailand, seeks worker separations

Lamborghini announces Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce

Wait for the Daihatfeng

Autotrivia


2015 Nitto 3K season kicks off at Bira

Tesla scores best in the US again!

The Vulcan - a triumph of technology and absolute failure of reason

Autotrivia


New Ford GT to be built in Canada

Volvo tries on a new face

Scrappage - is this the way to go?

Autotrivia

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