Mitsubishi say the Mirage is reality
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Ford shift their Asian production base to Thailand and India
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
The latest Ford 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
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
The optional six-speed automatic
transmission now features a manual mode to make it even more of a
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Always a fan of Bentley cars, John
included a shot of a magnificently maintained 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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.