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Vol. X No.18 - December 1 - December 31, 2011

Around Town
Arts - Entertainment
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Animal Welfare
Birdwatching Tales
Care for Dogs
Community Happenings
Doctor's Consultation
Eating Out
Heart to Heart with Hillary
Let’s go to the movies
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Update by Saichon Paewsoongnern
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Mitsubishi say the Mirage is reality

The Mirage is real.

A new eco-car is on the horizon for Mitsubishi to join the Nissan March and the Honda Brio as inexpensive new cars.  This new Mirage will be released at the Bangkok International Motor Show in March 2012.

The styling is reminiscent of the Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, Honda Brio, and the interior simple and uncluttered.  Being a sub-500,000 baht vehicle, this is to be expected, but it still looks more attractive than the Nissan March, which stole a march on everyone (sorry about the pun) when it was released and had the marketplace to itself.

The engine, to be in line with the government’s eco-car rules, will be a 1.2 liter and fuel economy is around 20 km/l.  The pundits are suggesting that Mitsubishi will also be offering the Mirage as an electric option with the iMiEV technology (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle); however, this would not be until 2014.

Sadly, the Honda Brio should have been the class leader in the eco-cars, but the flooded Honda plant in November put an end to all that.

Head in the clouds while on the move

Harman, global leading supplier of premium audio and infotainment systems, announced today that its Aha business unit has won new business with five premium car manufacturers to implement consumer services based on its cloud-based computing platform bringing a broad spectrum of rich internet content safely into vehicles.

According to market research company JD Power and Associates, new car sales should reach 17.2 million in the USA and Canada in 2013, and Aha’s five new partners should account for approximately 22 percent of that new car market.  The initial Aha implementations will roll out in 2012, with additional vehicles added in future years.

The Aha platform is being integrated with systems manufactured by Harman as well as multiple other hardware manufacturers.  The first OEM partnerships will be announced during the Consumer Electronics Show, to be held in Las Vegas on 9 January 2012.

Aha is Harman’s Silicon Valley-based business unit powering the Web-connected 'fourth band' of the radio dial, making Web content as easy to access as AM and FM channels.  Owners of Aha-Ready vehicles will have instant access to thousands of free stations of Web-based content including music services, Internet radio, podcasts, live news, audio books, personalized traffic reports, Facebook and Twitter feeds, location-based services and more, through their factory-installed in-car infotainment systems.

The Aha Service is free of charge for customers and always up-to-date, thanks to its cloud-based technology platform which can easily keep up with rapid-changing web and content companies.  Consumers bring Aha into their car and customize their stations and settings through Aha’s smartphone apps.

“Aha represents the next generation of automotive infotainment services,” explained Michael Mauser, Executive vice president and co-president, Infotainment and Lifestyle.  “The Aha Platform enables our automotive OEM partners to offer their customers an unparalleled, ‘future proofed’ infotainment experience”, continued Mauser.  “With its unique radio-based approach, the platform uniquely enables an intuitive experience for consumers and can be seamlessly integrated in the customized HMIs of the OEMs.”

Ducati Riding Experience 2012

Knee down on the Ducati.

Ducati have become much more aggressive with its marketing strategies if late, and with some truly exciting motorcycles, the future looks rosy for the Italian manufacturer.

Ducati has now opened its books for the 2012 Ducati Riding Experience (DRE) events, an excellent riding courses suitable for all levels, from absolute beginner to race track specialist.  Held at some of Italy’s most famous circuits and offering the expertise of highly qualified professional instructors, the courses provide a complete fleet of Ducatis on which to perfect riding skills or simply take the very first steps into motorcycling in complete safety.

2011 saw the introduction of the Troy Bayliss Academy and, by overwhelming demand, the three times World Champion and global racing icon returns for 2012 for his advanced track courses aboard the brand new 1199 Panigale S, Ducati’s new Superbike, which scooped the “Most Beautiful Bike of Show” award when it was unveiled at the Milan show in November 2011, is now awaited around the world and its use in both the DRE Master Racing course and the Troy Bayliss Academy means that DRE is sure to be sold out fast.

The DRE “Basic” course, held in the wide-open space of the circuit paddocks, uses the rider-friendly Monster 796 and is intended for those new to motorcycling, while DRE “Intermediate” courses are designed to improve existing road riding skills and enhance rider safety aboard the Hypermotard 796, Monster 1100 ABS and the Multistrada 1200.

Courses intended for more expert riders and designed to enhance track riding skills are offered in “Racing 1“ and “Racing 2” aboard the Superbike 848EVO, while the “Troy Bayliss Academy” and “Master Racing” course, instructed by riders such as former 500cc World Champion, Marco Lucchinelli, using the new Ducati 1199 Panigale Superbike.

Lucchinelli and Troy Bayliss are supported by an experienced team of instructors working with technical supervisor, Dario Marchetti, while a full support staff ensure seamless and efficient organisation.  DRE’s close collaboration with Federazione Motociclistica Italiana will also continue in 2012, ensuring constant upgrading and improvement of instruction protocols and maintaining Ducati’s high event standards.

Japan still humming and hawing

The Tokyo Motor Show showed that the Japanese motor industry is still caught between the different fuels that are available.  Electric is the most popular alternative energy, but hydrogen is still there, as are hybrids.

The Tokyo models were leaning heavily towards making EVs city cars with models such as the Toyota FT-EV III having a range of only 100 km.  Rather better (but still not enough) was the Honda EV-STER which has a range of 160 km 


Toyota, the leader in the hybrids globally, showed another energy source with its hydrogen vehicle the Toyota FCV-R which has a reputed range of 700 km, though for hydrogen cars there’s a long way between hydrogen filling stations.

Toyota FCV-R

The stumbling blocks for the EV’s remains the range and the charging time.  The biggest EV worry was in terms of driving range (66 percent), followed by convenience to refuel/recharge (60 percent) and purchase price (56 percent).  The range expected by the majority was over 300 km between charges, with the charges expected to take less than two hours.

This recent study in Australia by the consulting firm Deloitte shows that fuel prices need to reach about B. 78 per liter before 71 percent of Australians would consider buying or leasing an EV.

Even more telling was the fact that 54 percent would be much less likely to consider an EV if a conventional internal combustion engined model of their choice averaged 4.7 L/100 km in fuel consumption (the economy expected of our eco-cars), while 76 percent said they would be less interested in EVs if economy from their preferred internal combustion engine vehicle was 3.0 L/100 km.  These are fuel consumption figures that are attainable now.

The findings also showed that consumer expectations of EVs in terms of pricing, driving range and battery recharging times far exceed the first wave of EVs now available such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan Leaf and Renault Fluence ZE.

Deloitte automotive and manufacturing partner Damon Cantwell said “The results highlight that until electric vehicles address issues around charge convenience, range and vehicle cost, consumers will continue to focus more on (conventional) small to mid-size cars.”

New BMW 6 Series, ready to take on CLS, A7

BMW Gran coupe

Using the same name as the concept shown at the 2010 Beijing motor show, the four-door 6 Series Gran Coupe will join the two-door 6 Series Coupe and Convertible 6’s in the third quarter of 2012.

The Gran Coupe will be the Munich car-maker’s new flagship sedan - at least in terms of design and desirability - by offering more practicality than the existing 6 Series cars and sleeker styling than the 7 Series limousine.

To be officially unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March, the Gran Coupe is reported to be based on a stretched 5 Series platform with a 2968 mm wheelbase - 98 mm shorter than the short-wheelbase 7 Series (3070mm) but some 113 mm longer than the other 6 Series models.

The Gran Coupe is 102 mm longer than the 5 Series sedan and just 65 mm shorter than the 7 Series SWB.

Much of the Gran Coupe’s extra length benefits rear-seat passengers, who are presented with vastly more legroom and luxury appointments than those in the rear of either two-door 6 Series models, while all four seats are mounted higher for better visibility.

The 640i’s 3.0 liter straight-six diesel with twin-scroll turbo develops 235 kW of power at 5800 rpm and 450 Nm of torque between 1300 and 4500 rpm, returning EU fuel consumption of 7.7 to 7.9 liters per 100 km, and 0-100 km/h acceleration in 5.4.

All Gran Coupes come with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and a 250 km/h top speed, plus a host of fuel-saving functions including idle-stop, regenerative braking, on-demand ancillary components and an automatic grille shutter.

Like its 6 Series stablemates, the Gran Coupe will be fitted with Servotronic electric power steering, Dynamic Damper Control, Xenon headlights with LED daytime-running lights, LED fog-lights, 18 inch alloy wheels, Dakota leather trim, electric steering wheel adjustment and two-zone climate-control.

Optional BMW ConnectedDrive functions include BMW Parking Assistant, Collision Warning with braking function (in conjunction with Active Cruise Control), Lane Change Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Speed Limit Info, High-Beam Assistant, BMW Night Vision with pedestrian recognition, four-zone climate-control and new-generation BMW Head-Up Display.

Ford shift their Asian production base to Thailand and India

Ford Kuga

Currently, Ford is exporting the Fiesta and Ranger, but that will change during 2012 and 2013, with the Ford Kuga compact SUV and Focus to be produced at Ford’s new Rayong factory. 

Sourcing of the current model Focus sedan and five-door hatchback for Australia is already set to be switched from Germany to the all-new Thai plant at Rayong in about six months.

With the new Focus architecture being used to produce different vehicles, and the Kuga compact SUV being built off the same C-segment platform, it almost certainly will be another export from Rayong.

The current first-generation German-made Kuga is due to be introduced into Australian Ford showrooms in March next year and then the following generation from Thailand in 2013.

Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano said that consumers would not notice any difference in production quality when Focus production was switched to Thailand from Germany in the second half of 2012.

This move will not only generate savings in manufacturing and shipping costs, but also eliminate the five percent import duty, thanks to Australia’s free-trade agreement with Thailand.

Unfortunately, production of the high-performance Focus ST model is expected to remain in Germany.  Powered by a turbocharged 2.0 liter EcoBoost direct-injection four-cylinder engine, the front-drive ST (Sport Technologies) hatchback will be offered exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox, 18 inch alloy wheels and torque vectoring control to get rid of torque steer, always a problem with hot hatches with FWD.

Another Asian-built vehicle almost certainly destined for Australia is the ladder-chassis SUV being developed from the T6 Ranger platform by Ford Australia for Thai production.  Thought to be called Endeavor, this SUV would bring Ford Australia’s showroom fleet of Thai-made Ford nameplates to five - Fiesta, Ranger, Focus, Kuga and Endeavor.

In the meantime, the current 4x4 dual-cab diesel Ford Ranger pick-up is set to be joined by other variants in 2012, including Single Cab, Super Cab, 4x2, 4x2 Hi-Rider and Wildtrak.

The engine line-up will be expanded to three, with a 2.5 liter petrol and 2.2 liter diesel joining the current 3.2 liter five cylinder diesel.

According to media sources in the pipeline for Australia - although not yet officially announced - is a new Indian-made Fiesta-based entry-level compact crossover, reportedly called EcoSport, which is scheduled to be unveiled at the New Delhi motor show in January 2012.

Hot Nissan March coming?

In other markets, our Nissan March is known as the Nissan Micra, and news has broken of a performance version Micra complete with a supercharged engine.  This is still in the planning phase for Asia, but would certainly expand the range for what has been a very successful release for Nissan in Thailand.

The supercharged engine in question is marketed in Europe as a low-emissions hero model, Nissan could add this model as a sporty flagship to the local range.

Fitted overseas to the 1.2 DIG-S model, the HR12DDR direct-injection three-cylinder Miller Cycle unit features a supercharger, idle-stop and the Nissan’s Continuous Variable Valve Timing Control System to deliver 72 kW of power and 143 Nm of torque.

The five-speed manual version returns 4.1 L/100 km and emits just 95 g/km on the Euro cycle, while the equally economical CVT version emits 115 g/km.

In the existing K13 range, the ST’s naturally aspirated version of the 1.2 liter three-cylinder engine has 56 kW, 100 Nm, 5.9 L/100 km and 138g/km with a five-speed manual, while the ST-L and Ti employ a 1.5 liter four cylinder engine with 75 kW, 136 Nm, and 6.5 L/100 km and 153 g/km.

At the Micra/March global launch, Nissan CEO Toshiyuki Shiga announced that the car would be sold in more than 160 countries, with Thailand, China, India and Mexico being the four main manufacturing and export hubs; however, some export models are now to be sourced from Indonesia.

Since the price structure is tightly controlled in this country to remain inside the eco-car tax reduction, it is probably unlikely that we will receive the supercharged version.

Dust off the Ducati

SRossi on Ducati

While many people are of the opinion that Japan rules the two-wheeled world, that is not quite true.  Italy’s Ducati brand has been a driving force in motorcycle technology, and has been a MotoGP winner.  Ducati is now also assembled in Thailand!

To celebrate the branding and its achievements, there is the World Ducati Week (WDW) which will be 21-24 June 2012 at the circuit of Misano in Italy.

First organized in 1998, WDW successfully brought together ‘Ducatisti’ from all over the world to celebrate their shared passion for the legendary Italian-made motorcycles.  The event has since attracted an ever-increasing attendance of people who enjoy the high-powered fun and community spirit of the iconic brand, with a record-breaking attendance of 60,000 fans from five continents and 28 countries recorded at the last event in 2010.

WDW2012 is sure to follow the tried and tested formula of race track events, shows, top riders, competitions and great music all combined with the incredible atmosphere created by thousands of motorcycles arriving from all around the globe.

As the event’s massive attendance is sure to invade the entire Riviera Romagnola, Ducati’s WDW2012 organization has enjoyed the close cooperation and special partnership of authorities such as the Province of Rimini, Municipality of Misano, Municipality of Cattolica, Municipality of Riccione and the Republic of San Marino.  Continued cooperation with the Leardini Group has also underlined the region’s Misano circuit venue as the ‘theatre’ for WDW, an event further supported by APT Emilia Romagna, promoting a region of Italy famously known as ‘Motor Valley’.

Ducati offer further information at

The 10 worst cars of the last 50 years

Ford Zephyr convertible

A few months ago, I started this discussion and got as far as the Austin A40 Devon.  A very, very slow car, which you time over 400 meters with a calendar.

The next car?  One of my university buddies came from a well-heeled family and his mother had a convertible.  Open top motoring no less.  A guaranteed crumpet catcher.  It was a Mk 1 Ford Zephyr, complete with a two speed automatic transmission.  Show the car a photo of a hill and it would immediately hunt up and down the gearbox, looking for the right ratio, which it never did find.  Low was ridiculously low, while high was too high.

It did have a 2,262 cc (138 cu in) six-cylinder engine producing 68 bhp (51 kW).  It also had MacPherson Strut independent front suspension and a live axle with half elliptic springs at the rear.  A Zephyr saloon tested by The Motor magazine in 1951 had a top speed of 79.8 mph (128.4 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in just 20.2 seconds, slashing seven seconds off the A40’s time.  Now we are talking!  20.2 seconds, without additional oxygen!

The next in my list of personal dreadful cars came from Italy, the home of GT motoring, Ferrari, Maserati and later Lamborghini.  Mine was not a GT car, but a Fiat 1100 D I purchased for five British pounds and it was a well-worn example.  So worn that it used more oil than gasoline.  I used to collect oil from my local garage that had been drained from better cars coming in for a grease and oil change.  Remember those days?  In its heyday (the first week after coming out of the factory) the Fiat 1100 D boasted performance figures of: top speed 120 km/h (75 mph) (factory); acceleration 0- 60 mph 27.2 seconds; 0- 100 km/h 30.2 seconds and a standing start 1/4 mile in 23.2 seconds.  My rather more knackered version would go nowhere near those figures.  Another very bad car.  Incidentally, I never sold it.  I parked it on Tilbury docks in London, threw the keys in the water and hopped on to the MV Adelaide Star where I was to be the ship’s surgeon for the voyage to Australia.  It may even still be there?  However, being left in light-fingered London, I doubt it.

Arriving back in Australia, with no money and no credit, I was somehow shoehorned into a 1957 FE Holden, the four door Aussie family transport.  It is difficult to dredge up details on this car.  A single piece windscreen was a sales feature and other improvements included a 12 volt electrical system (replacing the previous 6 volt system), improved steering, a front stabiliser bar and wider wheel rims.  All models used a 2,172 cc in-line six cylinder engine, coupled with a three speed manual gearbox column change, known as “three on the tree”.  Engine improvements over the previous model included the use of bigger valves and the lifting of the compression ratio to 6.8:1, which increased the power output from 45 kW to 53 kW.  In actual fact, the 53 kW were hardly enough to pull the skin off a rice pudding.

Holden FE

I shed no tears for the Holden (the only one I have ever owned) when I replaced it with a Morris Mini 850, which definitely went into my ‘good’ car list.

2012 Formula One calendar released

A proposed 20 race calendar for 2012 which includes Bahrain.  A shameful decision by the FIA, considering the oppression in that country.  My guess is that it will end up being cancelled, just like this year.  For what it is worth, here is the official calendar.

Australia: 18 March
Malaysia: 25 March
China:   15 April
Bahrain:   22 April
Spain: 13 May
Monaco:  27 May
Canada:   10 June
Europe:  24 June
Great Britain:  08 July
Germany:  22 July
Hungary:    29 July
Belgium:     02 September
Italy:   09 September
Singapore:   23 September
Japan:  07 October
Korea:   14 October
India:  28 October
Abu Dhabi:   04 November
United States:   18 November
Brazil:  25 November

The latest Ford Mustang

Shelby GT500 Mustang

The face-lifted Ford Mustang was displayed at the Los Angeles motor show in November.  An ‘evolutionary’ model it has updated styling, more on-board technology and a 320 km/h Shelby GT500 variant.

The front has a more aggressive look and LED signature lighting is joined at the front by fog lights while at the rear restyled smoked tail-light clusters also employ LED technology.

The update has new alloy wheel designs including polished and painted aluminum finishes in sizes ranging from 17 inch to 20 inch.

For those who want to know just how they are doing behind the wheel there is an instrument panel display featuring a ‘track apps’ function that measures G-forces, acceleration and braking times.

The optional six-speed automatic transmission now features a manual mode to make it even more of a performance machine.

However, the real muscle car is the Shelby GT500, with a claimed top speed in excess of 320 km/h.

Ford claims the title of the world’s most powerful production V8 for the 485 kW/812 Nm supercharged 5.8 liter engine.  This features a more efficient supercharger, cross-drilled engine block and cylinder heads, updated camshafts and a new carbon-fiber driveshaft from the upgraded dual-disc clutch and transmission to the revised rear axle.

With cooling obviously a worry for the Ford engineers, a larger cooling fan plus a 36 percent bigger heat exchanger volume and high-flow coolant pump for the supercharger are used.

Braking is provided by six-piston Brembo front brake calipers and larger rotors all round, while 19 inch front and 20 inch rear alloy wheels with Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres.

Ford’s performance division, SVT, revised the electronic stability control and traction control systems, which can be tailored to the conditions and level of driver skill.

SVT chief engineer Jamal Hameedi said a “completely different” approach was taken with the new car.  “Nearly every system the driver interacts with can be tailored to his or her situation, including the Bilstein electronic adjustable suspension, launch control, AdvanceTrac and steering assist levels.”

This new Shelby Mustang is one any performance enthusiast would want in his garage.  I’d even leave the Daihatsu Mira outside if I had a Shelby!

An SUV with attitude

Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG.

The world seems to be heading towards SUV’s (other than Thailand where the pick-up reigns supreme), but the plebeian workhorse variety is being superseded by SUV’s with attitude.  Amongst these are vehicles like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, but now Mercedes-Benz has joined to upscale SUV market with the new ML 63 AMG that goes on sale mid-2012.

The new ML 63 AMG has a twin-turbo V8 with 386 kW of power and 700 Nm of torque and covers 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds.  This new V8 has a more powerful 5.5 liter twin turbocharged unit teamed to a seven-speed auto, instead of the previous 6.2 liter V8.  However, if the performance is not enough, you can specify the optional “Performance Pack”, which boosts the outputs even higher to 410 kW and 760 Nm.

Standard equipment for the all-wheel-drive ML 63 AMG includes performance brakes, 20 inch wheels, adjustable suspension and a new anti-roll system that aims to keep the car level through corners.  Inside are a number of unique AMG items, including sports seats, a sportier leather-wrapped steering wheel with shift-paddles and leather upholstery.

Mercedes-Benz Australia has not yet announced pricing for the ML 63 AMG, but I would expect around 8-10 million in Thailand.

Kimi comes back to F1

Raikkonen is returning to F1 to drive for Lotus Renault, which will be called “Lotus” next year.  Blurb sent out by Renault includes Kimi saying, “I’m delighted to be coming back to Formula 1 after a two-year break, and I’m grateful to Lotus Renault GP for offering me this opportunity,” Raikkonen told the official Renault website.

“My time in the World Rally Championship has been a useful stage in my career as a driver, but I can’t deny the fact that my hunger for F1 has recently become overwhelming.  It was an easy choice to return with Lotus Renault GP as I have been impressed by the scope of the team's ambition.  Now I’m looking forward to playing an important role in pushing the team to the very front of the grid.”

If you believe Kimi Raikkonen said that, you’ll believe anything.  Kimi is practically monosyllabic.  Remember his sparkling repartee in post race press conferences?  You don’t?  That’s because a monotone grunt was about his level of public speaking.  However, it will be interesting to see what he can do with the “Lotus” in 2012 considering how poor the 2011 model performed.

Mercedes-Benz kills off the overly expensive Maybach

Dying Maybach.

An article, published by US news site Autoweek, quotes a “high ranking Mercedes-Benz source” as saying that the brand thinks it better to “cut our losses with Maybach than to continue into an uncertain future with a brand that has failed to live up to original sales expectations”.

And that, it certainly did, but in fairness, the Maybach’s were priced to over the moon figures.  100 million baht was on the ticket in Thailand when they were displayed at the Bangkok International Motor Show in 2004.

The Maybach name was resurrected by Mercedes-Benz in a fit of pique when they failed to get the Rolls-Royce and Bentley marques (BMW and VW outbid them).  However, the Maybach behemoths were quite ugly, as well as being ridiculously expensive, and did not sell.

The unnamed source was quoted by Autoweek as saying, “Plans are already in place to fill the void left by the axing of the Maybach 57 and 62 with the next-generation S-Class, which will be offered in three wheelbase variants and six different body styles, including a top-of-the-range S600 Pullman.”

Top ‘overtakers’ in F1

In an attempt to make F1 more exciting, the FIA introduced KERS (Kinetic energy retrieval system) and DRS (Drag reduction system), to facilitate passing.  Some say that this produced an artificial situation, but others say that these were just two variables that the drivers could use to their advantage when necessary.

Overtakes were classed as follows in 2011:

Normal/DRS/Slow Cars (referring to HRT, Lotus, Virgin, as the strategic value of these overtakes is different)/Team-Mates (one driver can choose to let another pass)/Damage/Lap One.

In 2011 there were 1436 overtaking maneuvers in all categories.

Excluding overtakes categorized as 'Lap One' or because of damage, there have been 1180 maneuvers.  The combined total of 'Normal' and 'DRS-assisted' moves - the indicator of what most observers consider to be 'clean' overtaking - is 804 overtakes.  This gives an average of 45 normal and DRS overtakes per race.

The highest number of clean overtakes were recorded in Turkey (85), Canada (79) and China (67).  The races with the fewest were Monaco (16), Australia (17) and India (18).

So which driver was the top overtaker in 2011?  Buemi made a total of 112 overtakes in 2011 - closely followed by Michael Schumacher (111), Kobayashi (95), Alguersuari (90) and Perez (89).

And who has been the top starter in 2011?

The top starter was Michael Schumacher, who has gained a total of 34 positions; next up come Buemi (29), Kovalainen (28), Liuzzi (20) and Kobayashi (19).

Who has gained most positions on the first lap in 2011?

Michael Schumacher, Buemi and Kovalainen also lead this table, having gained 40, 30 and 26 positions respectively on lap one.

And who has done the most overtaking in the races after lap one?

This is headed by Perez and Buemi, both with 82 overtakes.  They are followed by Button (77), Webber (76), Alguersuari and Michael Schumacher (71).

(Source - Mercedes GP)

The 2013 Ford Escape is looking good

caption 2013 Ford Escape.

There has been much activity at the new Ford assembly plant on the Eastern Seaboard. The main product will be the new Ford Focus, which has been a world-wide success. However, there is more than one car that will be built on the Focus platform, and one of those is the 2013 Ford Escape, which will also be built in Thailand.
This new SUV variant was unveiled at Los Angeles motor show in November 2011 - and is scheduled for release in 2013. The vehicle will also receive many of the Focus features, including the parallel park assist system which steers the vehicle in to a parking spot with the driver just giving accelerator and brake inputs.
The new Escape also has new cornering technology to automatically slow the vehicle if entering a corner too fast (Curve Control) or help accelerate through a turn (Torque Vectoring Control).
The engine line-up starts with a base model 2.5 liter four cylinder but also includes the 1.6 liter and 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder Ecoboost engines - all mated to a six speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels as standard but with an intelligent all-wheel-drive system as an option.
The rear seats fold flat and the load space has an optional two-position floor which can be configured for either maximum luggage capacity or flat floor.
FoMoCo has understood that to survive in the competitive automotive world, it has to build cars that people ‘want’. I believe the 2013 Escape will be one of those vehicles.

Coty20 AutoShow 2011 (Kuala Lumpur)

Our Editor at Large, John Weinthal attended the KL Motor Show and sent up a bundle of photographs. Whilst he went to see the new cars on offer, it was the concourse cars that caught his attention.

Chev Volt.

He describes the Chevy Volt as bland as a car can be, which is a shame as the concept/prototype was a great looking car. He was also unimpressed with the latest Jaguars, saying they were easily confused with latest Volvo or Camry ... Lyons must be squirming.
The Mini duo looked good, back to being what Sir Alex Issigonis designed - very small “mini” cars, as opposed to the oversized BMW versions.

A brace of ‘real’ Minis.

Always a fan of Bentley cars, John included a shot of a magnificently maintained Bentley Continental.

Bentley Continental.

Police investigating the Police?

The cause of Sebastian Vettel's tyre failure during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix remains unknown after Pirelli ruled out a structural damage.
Vettel started in pole position at the Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday but his race lasted just two corners after a right-rear problem sent him spinning off the track. Although he made it back to the pits, the damage to his rear suspension was too severe and he was forced to retire.
Pirelli and Red Bull immediately launched an investigation after the race, but the Italian manufacturer has revealed that a detailed examination of the rubber has shown that there was no structural failure and doubts that debris is to blame. (How they come up with that from a pile of rubber bits, is beyond my comprehension.)
“We can confirm a structural failure was not the cause of Sebastian's deflation in Abu Dhabi,” Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said. “It is a conclusion we have arrived at together with Red Bull Racing following a detailed examination and analysis of the remains of the tyre. We cannot rule out debris on the track causing damage to the tyre, which then provoked a deflation, but having looked at the track closely there is no direct evidence of this.”
So, according to Pirelli it wasn’t their tyre that was at fault. Also according to Red Bull and Pirelli, it wasn’t debris on the track either. So what was it? McLaren had a “deflate” button they used? Come on chaps, there’s only one thing left. Incorrect fitment of the tyre allowing it to roll off the rim. But nobody is putting their hand up for that one.

Gas Guzzlers

Read some interesting figures on fuel consumption, so if you believe all the scaremongering that the world is about to stop spinning when we run out of crude oil, then you’d better not buy a Bugatti Veyron.
Why? The Veyron is the biggest gas guzzler for sale anywhere in the world with official consumption figures of 23.5 liters of fuel for every 100 kilometers it travels. And remember that at full noise you get about 15 minutes out of a full tank in your Veyron.
At the other end of the scale is the Mitsubishi i-MiEV battery-powered city car is effectively rated at just over 2.1 L/100 km worked out by some weird and wonderful formula that says there is an equivalency because it takes fossil fuel to recharge its battery. (EPA mathematics again.)
Next most frugal is the all-electric Nissan Leaf (rated at 2.4 L/100 km) and the electric-with-petrol-generator-backup Chevrolet Volt rated at 3.9 L/100 km.
The Toyota Prius is the most economical hybrid car to run in the US, pegging an average fuel use of 4.7 L/100 km, while the best conventionally engined cars are the Audi A3 and the Volkswagen Jetta, both powered by a 2.0 liter turbo diesel engine, that returns an average of about 6.9 L/100 km.
Of the two hydrogen fuel cell vehicles available in the US - the Honda FCX Clarity and Mercedes-Benz's B-Class-based F-Cell - the Honda betters its German rival by 0.5L/100km to peg an official fuel use rate of 3.9L/100km.
However, since we will not run out of oil in my lifetime I wouldn’t worry too much. If you can afford the duty on a Veyron, you can afford the petrol.

Cars to hang on to - they are going to be classics

The latest news from the UK indicates that the following cars are the classics of the future.
Jaguars - Opportunities abound for left-hand-drive imports from the States where good Series 3 2+2s can still be found for well under 15,000.
First Generation Hot Hatches - The MK 1 VW Golf GTi’s and Peugeot 205 GTi’s are becoming highly sought after by younger collectors.
Interesting Cars from Obscure Marques - The Swallow Doretti, Jensen Interceptor, Peerless GT and Daimler Darts have all seen greater interest and appreciation.
Early Subaru Impreza WRX - This car was the panelists pick as a latter-day affordable car likely to be a sought after collectible.
1978-89 Porsche 911SC and Carrera 3.2 litre - These models are likely to see appreciation as 1970s Porsche 911s become increasingly unaffordable.

What did we learn from the Brazilian GP?

Well, we learned that if the cards drop favorably, Mark Webber (Red Bull) can produce the goods. A very popular win by the (dare I say it) aging Aussie. Forget about his team mate’s finger (certainly dislocated I am sure), that was a race that Webber was going to win. The win, fastest lap, and a great way to finish the 2011 season.

Vettel took his demotion to second on the chin, and I was pleased he didn’t wave two fingers when he came into the parc ferme, which could have been misunderstood. He ended up nursing the car to the finish, but had enough in hand that Button (McLaren) was unable to bridge the gap.

Once again, Jenson Button showed skill and maturity to come in a well deserved third. Attributes that appear to have deserted his team mate, I am afraid. Button drives without flamboyance, without controversy, and just gets the job done. If McLaren can give him a better car in 2012 he could easily score another driver’s championship.

So what has happened to Hamilton (McLaren), the driver who (used to) exhibit more tiger than the Sriracha Tiger Zoo? In his words, “At the start I wanted to avoid any aggro, and that meant I lost a position to Fernando.” Avoiding aggro! When he began to race with Massa, we were all sure this would bring the tiger out of the cage, but no. The tiger turned into a pussy cat. Did the Pussycat Dolls burst his happy bubble? He will have to sparkle up by 2012. His manager should get him a Happy Bubble repair kit and show him how to use it over the Xmas break.

Alonso (Ferrari) has to win the jack rabbit award for his starts. No matter where he starts from, you can guarantee he will be up the front by the first corner. Now if Ferrari can give him a car which can use his skills, they could have a repeat of the Schumacher years. But will they?

And what about the accident between Schumacher (Mercedes) and Bruno Senna (Renault-Lotus and anyone else throwing some cash at the team)? A ‘racing incident’ said the telly talking heads - “naughty boy Senna” said the stewards awarding the youngster a drive-through penalty, while Michael Schumacher dismissed it with, “It was a bit of a shame today with the incident with Bruno, which was caused perhaps due to some lack of experience, but then those things happen.” From where I sat, all it needed was a momentary ‘lift’ by Senna and the initial part of the accident would not have happened; however, the second part of the accident where Senna tagged Schumacher’s tyre was in my view deliberate, and I agree with the stewards decision. For once!

It was not a good day for the Brazilians in the race. Old age pensioner Barichello (Williams) had a dreadful race, and if he were hoping that this drive in front of his home fans would stay his execution, he was mistaken. However, his final words were, “There's been a lot of talk over the weekend, but I believe I will be back again next season.” (Don’t bet on it, Rubens.) Senna got the ire of the stewards, and Massa (Ferrari) showed once more that he does not have the pace, or nous of Alonso.

So that was the final Grand Prix of 2011, and we can now just wait and hope the design engineers can turn out race cars over the break that can challenge the all-conquering Red Bulls. Watch this space!

Godzilla is back and faster than ever


The new Nissan GT-R for 2012 is even more of a rocket ship than the 2011 model.  Try this for acceleration figures: Zero to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds.  The 2011 model was feted for its performance with its 0-100 km/h in 3.0 seconds.  What will the international pundits say now?

There are only two “production” cars quicker and they are the Bugatti Veyron and the Ariel Atom V8 with both capable of returning 0-100 in 2.5 seconds.

I haven’t got the prices for Thailand, but in Australia, as a guide, the Nissan GT-R is $170K.  Now compare that against the next closest performance machine, the Porsche 911 Turbo S which will set the Australian enthusiast back by $423 K.  I will hazard a guess that by the time you import, pay duty, pay Customs, pay, pay, pay you would be looking at 8 million for Godzilla and 18 million for the Porsche.

However, when you open your garage door, nobody says, “Wow!  You’ve got a Nissan!”  But they do say, “Wow!  You’ve got a Porsche!”  Certainly the Porsche has more panache, but the Nissan has the numbers!

Chinese auto manufacturer changing its image

“Original” chrome grille.

Peter Horbury, previously the vice-president of design for Volvo has moved to China with parent company Zhejiang Geely Automobile Holdings, to lead the styling of the Chinese manufacturer’s rapidly expanding Geely range and becoming the senior vice-president of design for the Geely Group.

Geely Holding Group and Volvo Car Corporation chairman Li Shufu said, “I am delighted that Peter Horbury has accepted the offer to lead the design development of the Geely Group brands into the future.

The move will see him oversee the design of all Geely models and sub-brands including Gleagle, Emgrand and Englon (Omygawd) as the Chinese manufacturer embarks on a massive expansion program in its domestic market and pushes further into overseas markets.

Chinese body design has always left a lot to be desired, but adoption of some European design cues can do nothing but good for Geely in the overseas markets.  As far as the Chinese market is concerned, all Horbury will have to do is design bigger chrome grilles.

Mr Horbury joined Volvo as head of design in 1991.  A year later he became responsible for design for all brands in Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, which included Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin, and in 2004 moved to Detroit as executive director of design for Ford, in charge of all North American products.

He was replaced in that role in April 2009 by former Mazda chief designer Moray Callum (from Dumfries in Scotland) when Ford restructured its global design team.

Horbury then returned to Volvo as vice-president of design.  In his time at Volvo, between 1979 and 1986, he worked on interiors for models such as the 480, 440 and 460.  Horbury is also credited with shaping a vast array of Volvo models including the 1995 S40/V40, followed by the S70/V70, S80, S60 and XC70.  Others include the original C70 and its folding hard-top successor, the C30, and the XC90.

FIA goes electric

KleenSpeed EV-XII.

The FIA, that top-heavy guardian of F1 is reported as planning a high profile electric racing championship series beginning in 2013 to be called the FIA Formula E Championship.  It is not known if the series will be run at the same venues as F1 but it can be expected to be held at a range of international venues and will logically serve as the first official championship for electric vehicles, although The Isle of Man TT has held races for electric motorcycles, called the TT Zero race category.  These bikes are no slouches either, with the winner lapping the IOM just under 160 km/h.

Hybrid manufacturers such as Toyota, Peugeot, Audi and Porsche are already mounting efforts to successfully race hybrid cars in sportscar racing over the next few years.

The fastest electric race car in the world at the moment is the KleenSpeed EV-XII, and the company has already indicated it will become involved in the championship.

Other likely ‘works’ entries could come from the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and Nissan's luxury brand Infiniti which will almost certainly produce an EV shortly.  The alliance already has more road going EVs in production than any other manufacturer - the Renault Twizy ZE, Renault Kangoo ZE range of commercial vehicles, the Renault Fluence ZE and Renault Zoe ZE, plus Nissan's LEAF.

Other manufacturers could include Tesla and Toyota, BMW, Mercedes/smart, BMW/MINI, Honda, Audi, Tata, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler/Fiat.

The FIA is finalizing the Technical Terms and Conditions that will form the basis of a new Call for Expressions of Interest which is expected in the first quarter of 2012.  Each manufacturer will be requested to produce a minimum number of cars in order to guarantee a minimum field, and a “balance of performance” system would be put in place in order to guarantee the sporting interest of the Championship.

This Call for Expressions of Interest will be issued to identify and shortlist (at the latest in April 2012) those manufacturers that are in a position to commit to take part in the 2013 FIA Formula E Championship, either directly or/and via teams.

Toyota resumes production, but Honda still in trouble

Toyota should have resumed production in Thailand on November 21, one month after the severe flooding forced it to suspend operations.

Toyota has three plants in Thailand with the ones at Samut Prakan and Chachoengsao provinces unaffected directly by the flooding; however, production was halted on October 10 due to supply chain disruptions after flooding hit industrial estates in Thailand’s central provinces.

The company is confident that parts can be supplied but it has not yet decided whether to resume production at all three plants, which have total production capacity of 650,000 units per year.

Toyota Motor Thailand Co., Ltd. has 13,500 employees with registered capital of Bt7.5 billion.  As of November 12, the floods had cost Toyota 150,000 vehicles in lost production, nearly 90,000 of that in Thailand, and 40,000 in Japan.  The floods were affecting supplies of some 100 items, including resin and electronic parts.

Toyota has already decided to continue the output cut at its Japan-based plants and to downsize production at plants in other countries except Thailand.  Reassuring to the Thai government is the statements from Toyota that it does not foresee downsizing the local production, despite the flooding.

Nissan Motor and Mazda Motor have also decided to resume production of some models in Thailand.  Honda, on the other hand has been the worst hit of all the automakers in Thailand, with two plants submerged for over four weeks.

Honda’s local problems have had a far reaching effect, with shortages in the US and closure of their plant in the Philippines.  The Thai factory that makes nearly five percent of Honda vehicles worldwide was still under 1.5 meters of water after a month.

Honda Motor Co. has been the most affected by the Thai flooding - a disaster that arrived just as Honda was recovering from the production downturn caused by the March 11 tsunami in Japan that wiped out parts suppliers.  The situation being similar to the Thailand problem where not only the assembly plants were under water, but as many as 79 parts manufacturers have also had to cease production from the inundation.

The disaster is another reminder of how vulnerable car makers and other manufacturers are to supply disruptions since their global operations rely on a just-in-time delivery system of sophisticated parts.  Car production as far away as North America has been scaled back as the Thai flood waters put suppliers out of action.  Yet the losses are expected to be noticeably less than those caused by the tsunami, according to the Japanese arm of the company.



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