Automania

Chinese auto industry and Chicken Chow Mein

The Chinese auto industry is very much like the dish known as chicken chow mein. Both originated in the US, but both have since spread all over the world. If you doubted this, then a few words about the 2006 China Auto show should change your mind.
At the show, there were 572 vehicles on display, of which one third were Chinese origin, not assembled or fully imported cars from the west, the home of the auto industry, if you believe what you were taught in school.
The domestic Chinese market is now the second largest in the world. Both its production and sales of automobiles are expected to surpass seven million this year, according to the latest estimate of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. As a comparison, Thailand is one million.
FAW, which produced China’s first truck and car in the 1950s, brought 29 vehicles, including 19 using brands of its joint venture partners such as Volkswagen and Toyota, and 10 of its own brands. The most eye-catching of these is the new Red Flag (Hongqi HQ3) using a 4.3 liter engine, it reaches 100 kmh in 7.3 seconds. The car is also equipped with a sophisticated infrared night vision system that could detect obstacles from 250 meters away.
Global Auto Index also reported from the show that Dongfeng Motor, another major Chinese carmaker, came with 15 models. Half of these models are using Dongfeng’s own brands. They included a full range of cars, multi-purpose vehicles, small utility vehicles, race cars and hybrid sedans.

Chery Tiggo
Geely, a minor Chinese carmaker which recently entered into agreement with the Manganese Bronze Holdings Plc of the United Kingdom to produce London’s iconic black cabs in China, is displaying over a dozen new models, including their first concept car.
Chery Automobile introduced several new models at the forthcoming Auto Beijing Show. These were the Chery Fengyun II Coupe concept, the Chery V2 8-seater minivan with three rows of seats, powered by an ACTECO 1.3 liter engine, mated to a 5 speed gearbox. Equipment includes front dual airbags, ABS, EBD, CD player, and seat belt pretensioners.
The Chery Tiggo5, a cross-over and the Chery A5 ISG which is the first hybrid model from Chery, based on the A5-family sedan. It is equipped with a self-developed ACTECO 1.3 liter engine and an electric power-train. The gasoline engine only switches on at speeds above 40 km/h.

Hongqi HQ3
However, even though many of the local Chinese models are low end products, the more expensive brands are enjoying burgeoning markets in China. There is a rapidly growing Chinese rich sector, all wishing to show off their new-found wealth.
“We have over 300,000 millionaires in China, so I think it’s a good number for us to go into the market,” said Stephan Winkelmann, president and chief executive officer of Italian luxury sports car maker Lamborghini. In the past two years, 25 Lambos have gone out the door and they expect to be selling 30 a year very shortly.

Dongfeng Sports
Rolls Royce sales are up 50 percent from last year and China has become its third largest market after the United States and Britain, said Ian Robertson, chairman and chief executive. RR’s sales in China, including Hong Kong, were 65 vehicles out of its global total of around 800. On the second day of the show, a Rolls-Royce Phantom on display was bought for 6.6 million yuan (825,000 U.S. dollars) and a Bentley Arnage Mulliner sold for 6.48 million yuan.
Porsche, which entered China in 2001, sold 857 cars in China last year and said it expected that figure to double in 2006. If it is expensive and has the snobbish name, then it will sell well in China, it seems.
At the Beijing Auto Show, organizers set aside 4,000 square meters of space for luxury cars, where top brands, including Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce and Spyker, are showcasing their new models.
The US, Japan and Europe should not turn their backs on China. There will be markets all over the world for cheap Chinese imports, while China itself will become the number one player for expensive imports!


Are the Eco-Cars coming?

After much huffing and puffing over the concept of us having Thailand’s own eco-cars and Thailand being the Detroit of Asia, all promoted by the previous (Thaksin) administration (which then turned into nothing much at all), the new political moves are pouring even more cold water on the concept, I am afraid.
Personally I am all for eco-cars, if nothing else just to lessen the congestion on our roads. If you can fit two eco-cars into the footprint of one large pick-up, you certainly have halved the length of the traffic jam.
Various manufacturers here were interested, but there was a problem in getting the government to lay down fixed guidelines, which could be realistically followed. No world manufacturer was going to commit with a nebulous set of rules to follow, though both Toyota and Nissan expressed interest, and there may have been even more.
It appears that the government’s biggest worry is that a locally produced eco-car would eat into the local pick-up market, we being the second highest user of pick-ups in the world. However, the new government has said that any eco-car projects will not be run by Thailand, but by the individual manufacturers. As a ‘carrot’ they can get certain promotional privileges if the project reaches pre-determined criteria (a free ad on Channel 5 perhaps?). But these won’t be decided till March next year!
So once again, the opportunity has been lost. Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi have eco-cars in Japan that would be suitable for city cars here. India has even more eco-cars that sell for under 400,000 baht (in India). But I’m afraid it looks as if we are stuck with the pick-up.
Shame really. The closest we have to an eco-car right now is probably GeeEmm’s Aveo, which looks like a well balanced little vehicle, and inexpensive. I have not had a run in one yet, but hope to shortly.


Autotrivia Quiz

Quiz cars

Last week it was another set of very old photographs which were sent in by Nick Fennessy. Now these had me scratching my head, apart from the Morgan three wheeler. I asked what was the consensus on these? My guess was a British Ford, a Clyno (or Bean) and the Morgan.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


So you think your lad is ready for racing?

Entries are now open for five Formula BMW Asia Scholarships for the 2007 season. However, before you rush out and get the fireproof undies, there’s a little matter of a little money. It costs USD 2,400 for the test and another 50,000 euros if the boy bends the car. That means you need around B. 200,000 to see if he’s going to be the next Michael Schumacher. And of course there’s the matter of a couple of air tickets and accommodation and some meals!
Qualifying will be held from March 2 at the Bahrain International Circuit in the Middle East. Each of the five scholarships up for grabs include a USD 50,000 cash contribution to the cost of a full season in Formula BMW Asia (with USD 10,000 earmarked for parts), plus free participation in the proven, season-long BMW Education and Coaching Program (E and C).
With the recent announcement by the Formula BMW Asia Teams of a 22-race, six-event, standard 2007 season package for USD 130,000, scholarship recipients will be able to take part in the region’s most prestigious single seater series for less than ever before. But that is still around 5.2 million baht I’m afraid, no matter how ‘cheap’ anyone says it is.
According to the BMW people, the wide-ranging BMW E and C program is the most professional of its kind available in the region, and utilizes the expertise of BMW Motorsport in all areas, including driving instruction, technical knowledge, fitness and nutrition, media training, and sports management. All the tools a young driver needs to reach the very top of the sport. And there is no getting away from it, BMW do it very well.
The Scholarship Qualifying will include both theory and practical sessions, during which drivers will be assessed by a team of BMW Motorsport professionals. Theory includes shifting; braking; the “racing line”; driving physics; an explanation of flags, and an introduction to the Sporting Code.
So how old does the lad have to be? Anyone between the age of 15 (turning 16 during the 2007 racing season) and 21 (as of January 1, 2007), is eligible to take part in the Qualifying providing they have not taken part in any international car race, and in certain single seater series. As Formula BMW is searching for youngsters with the greatest all-round potential, the fastest driver on the track during the course may not necessarily clinch a coveted scholarship. Instructors will be paying particular attention to shifting, racing line, braking, rpm/speed, and improvement during the course. The driver’s age and instructor assessment will be taken into account when evaluating lap times.
Course instructors will not only be on the lookout for a glimpse of future greatness, but also for drivers who display real discipline and good sportsmanship.
All the necessary equipment will be supplied by the BMW Performance Center in Bahrain, but participants are required to bring with them FIA-authorized fireproof undergarments. A crash helmet, racing overalls, balaclava, gloves and racing shoes - and, of course, use of the FB02 race car itself - will be provided.
The maximum number of participants is limited to 32, and eligible applicants will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The latest deadline for receipt of applications is January 12, 2007. Application forms and information may be obtained from Matthijs Hoitink at [email protected] motorsportasia.com
The provisional calendar for 2007 features four races per weekend, plus two rounds held as official support events to the 2007 Formula 1™ Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. The season will get underway in May following an official introductory test the previous month, and will see Formula BMW Asia travel to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, with three meetings in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Zhuhai in Southern China. Five of the six events will be held as part of the Asian Festival of Speed. That is for the FBMW Asia group, but there are other series for these cars held in Germany, the UK, and the USA.
The FB02 race car is propelled by a 140 bhp BMW engine up to 230km/h. The design exceeds the FIA safety requirements for its class, with the BMW Motorsport developed FORS Formula Rescue Race Seat, and the mandatory HANS safety system.