The 33rd Bangkok International Motor Show
Our motor show is on again this year
from March 28 to April 8. Once again it is going to be held at the
Challenger Hall, Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani and the organizers are
promising a bigger, better show with plenty of new vehicle launches to whet
This is the second year of running at
the Challenger Halls, and last year it showed that it was more than capable
of holding the largest motor show in Thailand.
The Grand Prix International Group, the
organizers of the Bangkok International Motor Show realizes the significance
of the show to the automotive industry which is trying to recover after
having been badly affected by the tsunami in Japan and the floods in
Last year’s event was an overwhelming
success in the history of the show. This year, exhibition space has been
booked by BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, Kia, Lexus, Lotus,
Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, MINI, Mitsubishi Motors, Mitsuoka, Nissan, Peugeot,
Rolls-Royce, SsangYong, Suzuki, Thairung, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. One
exhibitor from last year which will not be present is Proton, while the
parent company sorts out its financial situation, having been bought into by
DRB in Malaysia. Mitsubishi Motor and Suzuki are expected to launch their
eco-cars at the event, and Hyundai from Korea will launch their latest
model, the Elantra.
The motorcycle ranks will feature Big
Bull, BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, Modern Bike, Stallions,
Suzuki, UDA, Vespa and Yamaha. 2012 is set to be a great year for new bikes
and the BIMS is where you’ll be able to throw a leg over the latest and
greatest. From bling cruisers to the latest hi-tech sportsbikes, there’s
something for everyone here. New are Ducati and Harley-Davidson.
Organizers are also preparing a special
area for visitors who want to do a test drive. Last year’s show featured 20
of the leading automotive brands and between them more than 1,000 test
drives were taken during the event by enthusiastic show visitors. Other
attractions for the general public include a music corner, automotive
auction, photography competition, and a variety of automotive-themed talk
And yes, the
The Bangkok International Motor Show
continues to show signs of healthy growth and popularity with a roster that
promises not only to expand over last years 20 car companies but also to
showcase top models. Concept cars and production cars from Japan, Europe,
America, Korea and China are presenting technology right up to the future,
signifying that the automotive industry of Thailand is still relevant in the
automotive world of SE Asia as well as being important in the world stage.
President of Grand Prix International
and chairman of the organizing committee, Dr Prachin Eamlumnow said, “I’m
confident that this 33rd Bangkok International Motor Show will endeavor to
overturn the fortunes of the Thai automotive industry again and be the gauge
of the Thai economy.”
The BIMS runs from 28 March to 8 April
2012 at the Challenger Hall 1-3, Impact Muang Thong Thani - Thailand’s
biggest automotive showcase.
China attacks Europe
China, the world’s most populous
nation, is not content to just making vehicles for home consumption, but is
now entering the European market as European manufacturers.
For example, the Great Wall company has
just opened a factory in Bulgaria, and like most Chinese cars they are
inexpensive, with models ranging from just over 300,000 THB, drive away.
This company has 10 manufacturing plants in China and is predicting sales of
half a million cars overseas per year.
Chery, the largest producer in China
now has a plant in Italy, having bought a Fiat plant in Sicily. Taking a
leaf from Toyota and Lexus, or Nissan and Infiniti and Honda and Acura,
Geely has its own brand as well, called Qoros.
Geely is another powerful brand in
China, and they already have a foot in Europe, having bought Volvo from Ford
a couple of years back. Geely will also sell under its own brand name in
the UK, with a mid-sized car selling for 500,000 THB.
Beijing Automotive Industry Holding
tried to buy Germany’s Opel, when GM was in the middle of its turmoil and
bankruptcy, but GM hung on. GM also hung on to the now bankrupt SAAB, but
there are signs that GM might relent and let SAAB go over the Great Wall of
Made in der Black Forest by der Elves
Have you noticed the number of old
Beetles on the roads these days, plus a fair smattering of Kombi wagons?
I have also seen one genuine Beetle
cabriolet (I think they were done by Karmann) and a couple of Karmann
Ghia’s. A couple of years ago I spotted a Kubelwagon and Wiki tells me that
the Volkswagen Kübelwagen (short for Kübelsitzwagen, meaning "bucket seat
car") was a military vehicle designed by Ferdinand Porsche and built by
Volkswagen during World War II for use by the German military (both
Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS). Based heavily on the Volkswagen Beetle, it was
prototyped as the Type 62, but eventually became known internally as the
Type 82. It was to the Germans, what the Jeep was to the Allies.
The Kombi was first produced in 1950
and became an instant success with the hippy movement in the 60’s, and for
Australians going to “do Europe” where there were Kombi’s for sale or
exchange in the Earls Court suburb of London. Kombi’s were not known for
performance and zero to 100 kph is quoted as being 1 minute 15 seconds. 100
kph was also its top speed. I’m sure there are lots of Kombi tales out
Ferrari is the hottest brand in China
An almost-new Ferrari FF apparently
burst into flames on a motorway in Shanghai, China. As can be imagined, the
photos of the flaming supercar are all over the internet.
According to Chinese news site Wenzhou
City News, witnesses saw the Italian supercar driving along when smoke
started billowing from under the bonnet. The driver stopped and jumped out
just before the car burst into flames.
Police and fire-fighters were called,
but by the time they arrived the car was a write-off.
In China, the FF costs close to
$850,000 as it attracts import duties and high taxes, so let’s hope he was
In the past 18 months Ferrari has had a
number of its cars spontaneously ignite, particularly with its 458 Italia.
Ferrari issued a recall in September 2010 for the 458, blaming an adhesive
in the wheel arches that could ignite in some circumstance. This is
apparently the first fire involving an FF.
Despite the recent spate of
embarrassing fires, Ferrari buyers have not been deterred. Sales were up by
9.5 percent to 7195 units in 2011, while the company's revenue was up by a
record 17.3 percent. Certainly hot results against the poor financial
situation of Italy.
The new SVT 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 convertible
Shelby GT500 convertible.
This year’s Chicago Auto Show saw the
release of the SVT (Special Vehicle Team) Ford Shelby GT500 convertible for
2013, complete with 650 horses in the Mustang’s corral.
Twenty years ago, the 1993 SVT Mustang
Cobra had a 5 liter V8 engine producing 235 horsepower, but the 2013 Shelby
GT500 convertible has a 5.8 liter supercharged V8 producing 650 horsepower,
which Ford says makes it the most powerful production V8 in the world.
An optional Performance Package, which
includes SVT-designed Bilstein electronic dampers, coupled with all-new
chassis tuning and new Brembo brake system, sees the 2013 model setting
times around the Sebring International Raceway almost 3.5 seconds quicker
than the previous models.
To do this, the powertrain has been
optimized with a new supercharger, new cross-drilled block and heads,
updated camshaft profiles, new carbon fiber driveshaft, and upgraded clutch,
transmission and axle. SVT has also revised nearly every gear to better
manage the torque produced by the 5.8 liter V8.
Ride is adjustable between “normal”
mode and “sports” mode and the new Bilstein dampers are key to the SVT
engineers being able to tune the vehicle more aggressively for the track,
while still maintaining comfort for the road.
Ford has not revealed any further
performance or pricing details for the Shelby GT500 convertible, but it is
due to go on sale later this year. It will be an instant “classic” which
should be put in a time capsule to be opened in 50 years.
Securitas Retro Race Team makes podium in championships
Retro Mk1 Ford Escort battles with the Germans and the Japanese.
The Securitas Retro Race team finished
its first year of competition with two third places in the Thailand
Championship series. The Mk1 Ford Escort ran in both the radial tyre
challenge and the slick tyre challenge.
The driver, Dr. Iain Corness, put the
amazing result down to the reliability of the car and the team’s consistency
in results, beating amongst others a 400 bhp Porsche 944. “In the entire
season, we failed to finish on only two occasions, while the Porsche had a
spate of unreliability, and even had to miss one complete race weekend,” he
Securitas MD Steve Graham said that the
Ford Escort was a very popular car with the spectators, being looked upon as
the underdog, punching way above its weight. It was also a car that many
people related to, with a Mk1 Ford Escort featuring in so many peoples lives
in the 1970’s.
The 2012 season for the highly
competitive Nitto races begins in the first week in May and all competitors
are super-tuning their cars for the 2012 championship. Some of the BMW’s
have been altered to a ‘wide body’ configuration like Frank Teeuwin in the
B-Quik BMW, as well as some drivers fitting V8 engines, such as Gavin
Charlesworth with his EBC E30. Henk Kiks in the B-Quik Porsche 944 has a
new race engine being built in America and if he can get the reliability he
wants he will be a threat to the top step of the podium. Another team to
watch will be the Urs Schonenberger team with an E36 BMW to be driven by US
driver Bobby Brooks, a Holden V8 to be driven by Urs himself and another Mk1
Ford Escort fitted with a two liter engine to be driven by Valentino, of
Valentino’s restaurant fame (next to Foodland, Central Road).
Another set-back for electric vehicles
I spoke with an oil exploration
engineer and asked him directly if we are really running out of oil. “Yes,
definitely!” was his initial response, but later in the conversation
admitted that perhaps the real situation was that we were running out of the
oil that could be extracted at a reasonable price. It seems that new oil
field deposits are too deep or too difficult or too expensive - currently.
In 2010 the “Future of Electric
Vehicles” conference took place in San Jose, California. This was an
all-inclusive look at EVs, incorporating all forms of electric vehicles -
land, water, and air, and covered new emerging technologies.
At the conference it was pointed out
that cars make up only about half the market for EVs, even though Nissan and
Tesla produce the initial mainstream EVs. The rest of the EV market covers
two-wheelers such as scooters and e-bikes constituting a significant portion
of the other half.
It was predicted that about 5 to 18
percent of cars will be pure electric or hybrid by 2020.
It was also admitted that some aspects
of the EV technology were not new, such as Dr. Ferdinand Porsche’s
‘in-wheel’ electric motors (and the battery charge being continually topped
up by an on-board internal combustion engine).
Insight - or out of sight?
The conference agreed that practical
electric cars are going to remain small in size for years to come as the
batteries required to power a larger vehicle will simply be too large and
However, this prediction is not
necessarily shared by everyone, with the battery technology revolution
turning out smaller, lighter and more powerful batteries every day. One
only has to hearken back to the batteries needed for the first mobile phones
which required a suitcase and the carrier to have gone to Thor’s gymnasium,
and then compare them to the iPhone battery of today.
The public’s range fear is a real one,
and the opinion was expressed that electric cars will require some sort of
range-extending capability before they will ever achieve mainstream
acceptance. This is undoubtedly true, with ranges generally under 100 km,
making them city commuters only, other than notable examples such as the
Range and charging time were the
subjects of a research, and of those respondents who were likely to buy an
EV, two thirds expected a range between 500 and 650 km.
Acceptable charge times for 70 percent
of the group likely to buy expected times between four to eight hours, but
almost all would pay a premium to enjoy faster recharging times.
Batteries have high energy density but
they must be greatly oversized in today’s hybrid vehicles to avoid deep
discharges. Battery-only hybrids also require a powerful internal
combustion engine for hill climbing and acceleration.
Despite all the touted advances in the
development of practical electric cars, would you actually buy one? Zpryme
Research and Consulting recently conducted a web-based survey of 1,046 men
and women across the U.S., asking how they felt about various aspects of
buying an EV.
Only 8.5 percent of respondents said
they were very likely to buy an EV within the next two years, although 28.7
percent considered themselves ‘somewhat’ likely. Of the remaining somewhat
or very unlikely respondents, 25.8 percent said they were ‘somewhat’ likely
to buy an EV in the next five years.
The main consideration regarding
purchase of an EV would be the price of the vehicle, according to 66.8
percent of those surveyed, with fuel savings coming in as the number two
reason, at 50.4 percent. Of those who indicated they were likely to
purchase an EV (the 8.5 percent), 64 percent of those (that is around 5
percent of the total) said that environmental concerns were very important
to them. Of those that were very or somewhat unlikely to buy, only 32.4
percent of them were very concerned about the environment.
Whilst this article deals with
road-going transport, there is also research being done to see if electric
power could be used in airplanes. Model aircraft are already flying on
battery power, so the possibility to power small passenger planes will next
be looked at.
NASA’s Ames Research Center, spoke on
the limitations of heavy batteries in electric planes. Smaller aircraft
would be the ones best suited to pure-electric propulsion, as batteries
large enough to power bigger aircraft would simply be too heavy.
However, trying to look at the results
of the future directions and unfolding technology, does show that whilst
EV’s are here, it is still a very small percentage of people who would
actually take the plunge and buy one this year or next. Most appear to
agree that EV’s are the way to go, but are happy to wait and see what ensues
in the next decade.
Would YOU buy an all-electric vehicle?
The last word comes from Car and Driver. This magazine is noted as one of
the better motoring magazines in the world. A C&D report is generally very
factual, and when they reported on their long-term,
64,000 km test of the Honda Insight they wrote,
“Some things get better with age. This is not one of those things,”
you know their testing panel was not impressed.
They went on, “….even with the
additional output of the electric motor the Insight is slow ... and it got
slower in 0-100 km acceleration times with age.” They would obviously not
be clamoring to buy an EV.
Picking a pick-up
account for nearly one in 10 new-car sales in Australia. A staggering
100,000 vehicles last year, of which the majority come from Thailand.
One of the motoring
columnists down-under compared the one tonne pick-ups available in
Australia, with the Toyota HiLux (Vigo), Ford Ranger, Mazda BT 50,
Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara looked at. Also in the mix was the VW
Amarok, a vehicle we do not get in Thailand.
The Toyota has been
one of the best selling vehicles in Australia many times. Last year, the
HiLux Vigo was the third-highest selling vehicle and the highest-selling
pick-up with a lead of 14,449 units.
However, the testers
reported that some aspects of the vehicle were starting to show their age.
“The 3.0 liter turbo diesel engine has not changed for years and is the
least powerful here. Against this competition it feels outdated: it is loud
inside the cabin and feels as though it is struggling most on steep
sections. The simple four-speed auto, however, is honest and shifts well
Triton was marked down as getting long in the tooth as well. Their testers
also felt, “The drive experience also feels behind the times; a bouncy ride
was described by several testers as ‘agricultural’, shuddering over smaller
lumps and bounding loosely over bigger bumps. It feels the least stable of
the six, with heavy, inconsistent steering and some body roll through
So to the Aussie’s
opinion on the Nissan Navara. “On the road, the Navara handles corners
well, its steering direct and nicely weighted. The ride is generally good
but the larger wheels and thinner tyres mean even minor bumps transmit into
the cabin, particularly through the tray. It also has a mammoth 13.3 meter
turning circle, which makes parking and tighter turns a challenge.”
The final two in the
comparison test were the Ford Ranger and the Mazda BT50. Sisters under the
skin and gaining in popularity in Thailand every day. The Australian
opinion was, “As with the Ford, the BT-50's engine and transmission are
strong selling points. It shares the same five-cylinder diesel engine and
six-speed automatic, which work well together. Again, the transmission is
smooth whether laden or empty but, as with the Ranger, it can dither
slightly at times. It matches the Ranger, too, for fuel use at 9.2 L/100
“Driving the two
back-to-back, it is hard to pick the difference, although the Mazda's engine
seems slightly noisier. The steering responds predictably, has good weight
to it and corners with certainty. However, our test car's ride was more
unsettled - fidgeting over small bumps and bucking over bigger ones -
presumably due to chunkier tyres.”
Will the Australian
opinion be reflected in sales here? It will be difficult for the Ford/Mazda
pair to unseat Toyota, but after the public look carefully at the pick-up
offerings at the upcoming Bangkok International Motor Show, the gap could be
Who’s for a FF Ferrari?
Just like the
Ferguson FF or the Jenson FF, Ferrari have come up with their own
all-wheel-drive supercar. Those with a lot of money may apply for one.
The way they get the
AWD unique, patented 4RM all-wheel-drive setup that dispenses with a
transfer case and center differential in favor of distributing drive from
both ends of the engine’s crankshaft. In addition, the FF can carry up to
800 liters of luggage with the rear seats folded or 450 liters with the
seats up and two adults in the back.
Ferrari claim the
AWD really does work, and it is not a gimmick. It usable on dirt roads,
although even with its adaptive suspension with magnetically-controlled
dampers, being primarily a supercar, the FF unlikely to be the most
comfortable way to travel on Thailand’s up-country roads.
The 4RM AWD setup is
claimed to weigh 50 percent less than a conventional AWD system. The FF
sends power to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle
transmission, which helps the car achieve a 53 percent rearwards weight
distribution, despite being front-engined.
The engine is
Ferrari’s first direct-injection V12 engine, of 6262 cc capacity and
develops 485 kW of power at 8000 rpm and 683 Nm of torque at 6000 rpm - with
500 Nm available from 1000rpm.
figures are zero to 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds on the way to a 335 km/h top
speed. Fuel consumption is given as 15.4 liters per 100 kilometers helped
by the introduction of idle-stop and energy-saving intelligent controls for
the fan, fuel pump and air-conditioning compressor. However, if you can
afford the millions this car will cost in this country, does the owner
really care? I doubt it.
With the supercar
niche market fairly full these days, and competitive, the Ferrari FF buyer
in Australia gets an inclusive seven years of free scheduled servicing
program, meaning the first FF customers will not have to pay for a service
Henry Ford really was a man with vision
Can you imagine a
car factory that was 2.5 km wide and 1.6 km long? Henry Ford built one long
before WWII. It had 93 buildings housing almost 200 km of conveyors. This
was Ford’s Rouge River plant.
But that was not
where the ‘vision’ came stopped with size. There were ore docks, steel
furnaces, coke ovens, rolling mills, glass furnaces and plate-glass
rollers. Buildings included a tire-making plant, stamping plant, engine
casting plant, frame and assembly plant, transmission plant, radiator plant,
tool and die plant, and, at one time, even a paper mill. A massive power
plant produced enough electricity to light a city the size of nearby
Detroit, and a soybean conversion plant turned soybeans into plastic auto
This was a plant
that produced its own steel, with iron ore going in one end, and complete
cars out the other. One new car rolled off the line every 49 seconds. Each
day, workers smelted more than 1,500 tons of iron and made 500 tons of
glass. At its peak in the 1930s, it employed more than 100,000 people. The
plant had its own fire department, a police force, a fully staffed hospital
and a maintenance crew of 5,000 people.
The Rouge soon
became the destination of massive Ford lake freighters filled with iron ore,
coal, and limestone. The first coke oven battery went into operation in
1919, while blast furnaces were added in 1920 and 1922. Iron from the
furnaces was transported directly to the foundry where it was poured into
molds to make engine blocks, cylinder heads, intake and exhaust manifolds,
and other automotive parts. The foundry covered 30 acres and was, at its
inception, the largest on earth. In 1926 steelmaking furnaces and rolling
mills were added. Eventually, the Rouge produced virtually every Model T
component, but assembly of the Model T remained at Highland Park.
is a phrase used these days, and Henry Ford’s dream was to own, operate and
control all the resources required in automobile production. True
self-sufficiency. I don’t think anyone has got closer.
New BMW 5 Series with six engines
BMW are going
all-out with their choice of engines in the new 5 Series. Four petrol and
two diesel means the BMW driver has almost unlimited choices.
A couple of new
engines are the TwinPower four-cylinder - also seen in the X1, Z4, 1 Series
and new 3 Series - is now available in two states of tune in the 5 Series
range, with a 135 kW version powering the 520i and a 180 kW version fitted
to the 528i.
The new BMW 520i is
also cheaper than the previous 5 Series petrol price leader, the
six-cylinder 528i. The new re-engined 528i, which replaces the 3.0 liter
normally aspirated inline petrol six is also much more frugal (14 percent
improvement in consumption figures).
BMW also claims that
the new model is 0.4 seconds faster to 100 km/h, at 6.3 seconds. Even the
new 520i hits 100 km/h in a claimed eight seconds.
However, the best
fuel consumption figures in the 5 Series is the upgraded diesel 520d
returning 4.7 L/100 km - very close to eco-car figures in a full size sedan.
Turbocharging is the
way to go, says BMW with both the 520i and 528i engines with a twin-scroll
turbocharger with Valvetronic variable valve control and double VANOS
camshaft control, with the 520i producing 135 kW of power between 5000 and
6250 rpm and 270 Nm of torque from just 1250 rpm to 4000 rpm. The new 520i
comes with an idle-stop function, plus dynamic driving control, EcoPro
economy driving mode, 17 inch alloy wheels, ‘Business’ satellite-navigation,
front and rear parking sensors, cruise control with braking function, USB
audio interface, Bluetooth, climate-control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic
headlights, a through-loading system and anti-dazzle interior mirror. That
is a very well equipped car.
four-cylinder petrol engines come as part of a 2012 refresh for the 5
Series. While the 520d brings better fuel efficiency, the 535d’s
six-cylinder 3.0-liter TwinPower variable-turbo diesel engine delivers an
extra 10 kW of peak power at 230 kW while cutting fuel consumption by eight
With the advent of
Audi A6, the Lexus GS 250 as well as the Mercedes-Benz 250 CGI Avantgarde in
this class, it will be very interesting to see which marque will get the
buyer’s attention in Thailand, though BMW and Mercedes-Benz are the
favorites out of that four.
A special offer for kart racers
The Bira Kart people
have just released their Bira Club Card which has enormous benefits for kart
racers, from Cadet to Pro to VIP. The cost for the card is ridiculously
cheap, and if you are a karter I do suggest you contact the Bira Kart office
directly, or email [email protected].
Offer for Kart racers.
Italy assists Chrysler
While Italy teeters on the brink of
insolvency, it has taken an Italian to get Chrysler back on its feet again.
Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat, and now also the CEO of Chrysler, has
brought the previously failing once big name back into the black.
Chrysler was so far in the red that it
required US government loans to keep going, and had not posted a profit
since 1997. Now it has apparently turned the corner and has shown a healthy
profit of $183 million for the 2011 year.
Marchionne is confident that Chrysler
will increase market share during 2012 and is talking numbers like $1.5
billion profit. That is a very healthy profit.
The turn-around has been effected by
redesigning the Jeep range and adding vehicles with Fiat origins, so that it
will have small and mid-size cars to sell in that market, as well as the
Dodge Ram pick-up, a new Viper and an electric Fiat 500.
2012 has started off very well with the
company showing a 44 percent rise in US sales in January, well above market
Mazda posts a loss
Despite producing a very popular range
of passenger vehicles and the new BT50 pick-up, Mazda (Japan) has posted
almost one billion dollar loss in the three months up to December 2011.
This is in contrast to the positive figures in 2010.
With Mazda’s fortunes dependent upon a
strong export market, the company blamed the strong yen against
international currencies as reducing its sales potential. In Europe the
Mazda sales fell by 14 percent, with Mazda ascribing some of the loss as
being due to the floods in Thailand, as the company suffered from smaller
However, just as Thailand will bounce
back, so will Mazda. The new Mazda3 is a particularly good motor car, and I
believe will bring the company back to positive figures again.
How ‘Green’ will we get?
It appears that every manufacturer is
touting just how ‘green’ they are, with Hybrids on the lot today and EV’s
just around the corner tomorrow. But is that concept one which reflects
reality? Or is it some sort of hype to boost sales of these models, when
their variants with internal combustion engines are cheaper?
The study ‘Drive Green 2020: More Hope
than Reality’ concludes global hybrid and EV demand is likely to account for
only a small proportion of total vehicle sales over the next decade, despite
multi-billion-dollar investments and fast-paced development in the car
industry, according to global marketing information company JD Power and
Associates who commissioned the research.
JD Power’s research postulates that
hybrids and EVs combined will account for just 7.3 percent - or 5.2 million
units - of the 70.9 million passenger vehicles forecast to be sold in 2020.
In other words, 92 percent of new vehicles at the end of the next decade
will still be gasoline/diesel powered. So much for the oil supply
dwindling. JD Power’s study obviously does not feel we will be forced into
Dealing in ‘futures’ is at best a risky
business, and some automakers who have placed their bets on the end of oil
as we know it, have commenced development of EVs. Nissan-Renault, for
example, is expecting EVs alone to account for around 10 percent of total
vehicle sales by the end of the decade - while JD Power estimate only 1.8
percent. But even if we accept Nissan-Renault’s figures, that still leaves
90 percent conventional gasoline/diesel power.
The German manufacturers, who have a
finger in many options including hydrogen power as well as EVs, stand to
benefit from their government’s ‘national electro-mobility plan’ put forward
in August this year that calls for a million electric cars on German roads
by 2020, and more than five million by 2030.
BMW also believes EVs will account for
between five and 15 percent of the new vehicle market by 2020, while
Volkswagen expects electric vehicles will be three percent of its sales by
2020 - which should be well in excess of 300,000 units.
There is another factor which must now
be taken into account - the new internal combustion engines are much more
frugal and in fact are as good as, if not better than, most hybrids.
While past auto shows have been stocked
with petrol-electric hybrids and SUVs, slow hybrid sales have brought a dose
of reality. Automakers are realizing they can give buyers what they want
and avoid the expense of electric motors and batteries by building smaller
cars and getting better fuel economy from traditional petrol engines. In
fact, Hybrid sales slowed last year to 2.2 percent of U.S. sales, from 2.4
percent in 2010. Those figures would not encourage a prospective customer
to go hybrid.
A chief executive of the retail chain
AutoNation Inc., said that 75 percent of customers come into his showrooms
and want to talk about hybrids, but only about 2.5 percent of AutoNation
sales are hybrids.
However, the last word comes from
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat SpA and Chrysler Group LLC, said the
skepticism over electric cars and plug-in hybrids “is well-justified.” He
added, “If anyone thinks they will meet future EPA rules solely with
internal combustion engines, they are smoking an illegal substance.”
Just over a month to go for the start of the 2012 F1 season
First race of the year is in Australia.
March 18. All the pre-season testing means absolutely nothing until the
GP. At the test sessions, you have no idea as to what fuel levels are being
run, and even how many experimental bits are being used (that may not pass
The pre-season also brings all the
commentators out, predicting such wonderful ideas as Kimi Raikkonen winning
for “Lotus” (nee Renault), and Jarno Trulli being replaced at Caterham (nee
Team Lotus). Two big questions are “Will this be Michael Schumacher’s last
stand?” and “Will he win another GP before he retires?” Really, that all
depends upon how good will the car be that Mercedes will give him.
Schumacher still has bags full of talent (look at the way he gets to the
finals of the Race of Champions each year), and if he has the goods will do
However, you have to look back at 2011
and 2010 and you can confidently expect Red Bull to be up there, along with
McLaren and Ferrari. Their drivers are good enough to find the limits of
the machines, and professional enough to deliver all year long.
With 20 races on the calendar, though I
believe we will only see 18 as Bahrain is unlikely, and either Korea or
Valencia will withdraw. All in all, it should be an interesting year.
Who will pick up our youngsters?
A couple of years back, Ferrari
selected an 11 year old Canadian karter to join their driver academy. The
program, which was set up at the end of 2009, was devised by the Italian
team to find and support talented young drivers from around the world, with
the eventual aim of helping them into Formula One racing. Since he was only
11, I think Alonso has to look over his shoulder just yet, but you can see
where all this is heading!
Another youngster who got picked up
very early in his motorsport career was Lewis Hamilton. With McLaren
backing him (and paying much of the bills) Hamilton burst upon the F1 scene,
frightening Alonso who thought that this rookie team mate was just an
upstart and was eventually beaten by the youngster. Hamilton missed the
world championship in his rookie year by one point, and then went on to
claim it on his second season.
How did all this happen? At the age of
ten, Hamilton approached McLaren team principal Ron Dennis at the Autosport
Awards ceremony in December 1995 and told him, “I want to race for you one
day...I want to race for McLaren.” Less than three years later, he was
signed by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz to their Young Driver Support Program.
After winning the British Formula
Renault, Formula Three Euroseries, and GP2 championships on his way up the
racing career ladder, he became a McLaren F1 driver for 2007, making his
Formula 1 debut 12 years after his initial encounter with Dennis. He has
stated he wants to stay with the McLaren team for the rest of his F1
career. I would imagine McLaren has a vice-like grip on his tender bits, as
well as a watertight contract!
BMW have also involved with nurturing
young talent through the Formula BMW series. This was a junior racing
formula for single seater cars. It is positioned at the bottom of the
motorsport career ladder alongside the longer established Formula Ford
category. Like Formula Ford, it is intended to function as the young kart
racing graduate's first experience of car racing.
The new formula was created by BMW
Motorsport in 2001, with the first of its championships being inaugurated in
Germany in 2002. Selected competitors from each series meet in the World
Final at the end of each season, with the promise of a Formula One test for
One notable winner was Nico Rosberg,
now driving alongside Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes GP F1 team.
In Thailand there is a young
Thai/Norwegian Sandy Nicholas Stuvik, now 16 years of age and rapidly
becoming too old if he cannot get sufficient help soon. Like Hamilton, he
has been a winner in karts and won the Formula Renault Asia, but the costs,
even in these lower formulae are very high. He is a proven winner and now
needs someone to pick him up. Ferrari already have their youngster. Who
will take on this young talent? I sincerely hope Thailand will look after
its own. Go to www.sandystuvik.com and meet this talented young lad.
Are you ready for a PIH?
Toyota wants you to
be ready for a PIH, as at the North American
International Auto Show Toyota revealed the NS4 - an advanced plug-in hybrid
(PIH) concept vehicle. The NS4 is Toyota’s vision
for future mobility, with a focus on next generation connectivity and
safety. A big ask to wrap into one vehicle, but you’ve got to hand
it to Toyota, they gave it a go.
Jim Lentz, president
and chief executive officer of Toyota Motor Sales US (Inc.) said, “In this
digital age, cars are becoming another spoke in the wheel of our electronic
connectivity. NS4 demonstrates Toyota’s take on the human connection to the
car with technology that considers both emotional and rational
relationships, person-to-car and car-to-society.”
NS4 has an advanced
power train features a hybrid plug-in system of light weight with improved
overall fuel economy, better acceleration and longer all-electric range,
while maintaining a short charge time. The question is, has Toyota found
the holy grail?
Vehicles have become
another communication hub in the consumer’s lifestyle, and are the
third-fastest growing technological device, behind smartphones and tablets.
(However, I don’t think the Thai government will
be giving us all an NS4.) Toyota has formed special alliances with
technology leaders such as Microsoft, Intel and Salesforce to explore the
creation of seamless vehicle interfaces with emerging technologies.
The NS4 concept’s
human-machine interface (HMI) is centered around a multi-touch screen with
the look and feel of a smartphone. The simple, intuitive operation conveys
information quickly while minimizing distractions and maximizing driver
awareness. The multimedia and vehicle-controls enhancement will also direct
air conditioning, audio, battery-charge and navigation functions. The HMI
system is even capable of “learning” driver preferences to anticipate driver
responses in specific environments and situations. This all worries me a
little. Think BMW iDrive where you go through drop-down menu after menu
looking for some way to turn on the A/C.
The safety side
looks a reasonable approach by Toyota. The NS4 features their latest safety
system developments, the whole alphabet full,
including next generation pre-collision system (PCS), adaptive driving beam
(ADB) headlights, and blind spot monitor (BSM). PCS features lane departure
and pedestrian collision avoidance technologies designed to predict
collisions under certain circumstances and help avoid them. The system uses
millimeter-wave radar and stereo cameras mounted on the front of the vehicle
to detect and react to lane departure, pedestrians, and other vehicles. In
the event of a potential collision, the system seeks to avoid other
vehicles, road-side obstructions, and pedestrians by applying the brakes and
Beam (ADB) headlights help to prevent blinding glare to oncoming drivers and
pedestrians. Using a camera mounted behind the front grille and partial
shielding inside the headlights, this feature allows drivers to maintain
near-high beam illumination to improve night visibility.
wave radar, the Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) detects a vehicle in the adjacent
lane and visually alerts the driver using visual indicators placed in the
Four new glass
technologies are integrated into the windscreen, front and rear windows to
improve driver visibility, fuel economy and electric driving mode mileage
‘hydrophobic’ coating - Fluorine coated glass causes rain drops to form into
semispherical shapes for improved visibility and rain drop elimination.
'Anti-fog' coating - high performance resin material with anti-fogging
characteristics and increased durability. High ultraviolet (UV) absorbing
inner-layer - removes 99 percent of harmful UVA and UVB rays and
Anti-solar film with radio-wave transparency - reduces
the internal vehicle temperature and improves electronic device
Inner and outer rear
view mirrors have been replaced with cameras that provide the driver with a
panoramic view to the rear. The rear-view camera displays images on a
dashboard-mounted screen, and provides the driver with a much wider field of
vision when compared to a traditional rear view mirror.
How much of all this technology will
become commonplace in the next five years is probably anybody’s guess. But
it is coming, Toyota said so!
Volkswagen has unveiled its two-seater
E-Bugster concept also at the North American International Auto Show in
Detroit. Being an “e” (electric vehicle), it has an 85 kW electric motor
which can see the E-Bugster from 0 to 100 km/h in a fairly leisurely 11
seconds. However, the 28.3 kWh battery is good for an impressive range of
at least 177 km while it also claims that the battery can be completely
recharged in a mere 35 minutes.
The kinetic energy recover system
(KERS) charges the battery whenever the driver steps off the accelerator
(provided the car's in motion), and more when under braking.
This fast-charge capability comes
courtesy of the Combined Charging System which makes possible charging from
single-phase AC sources (i.e. your domestic mains), provided an industry
standard for plugs and sockets can be nailed down. "Ultra-fast" charging
would be possible at dedicated DC charging stations.
The E-Bugster is the same length as the
standard Beetle, but with a width of 1,838 mm it is some 30 mm wider. It is
also 90 mm lower than a standard Beetle, standing at 1,400 mm high.
When the driver presses the Start
button the interior is bathed in white light, then blue light. It starts
with a light pulse in the instrument cluster, from where the light emanates
in a millimeter-wide strip, coursing into the doors and around the air
LED running lights surround the central
air intake at the front of the E-Bugster, with reflectors doing the job to
the rear. Twenty inch alloy wheels as opposed to the 18 inch alloys of the
However, remember that this vehicle,
like the Toyota NS4 remains a concept. Will we see an electric Beetle?
Simple answer is “Yes”, but not yet.
Liuzzi looking for loot
Sometime F1 driver Liuzzi, who has been
going steadily backwards, feels that his driving is first class, it is just
that he cannot bring money to a team. “At the moment the team has been
clear to me; it’s a difficult period in terms of money so they are trying
hard to find sponsors to be able to run me as per the contract. But in the
case that they are struggling then they might be forced to look for a driver
that brings money.”
There are a number of drivers currently
on the grid who appear to have secured their places through financial clout
rather than racing talent and the 30 year old Liuzzi admits that this is
cause for frustration.
“If you've got a big sponsor behind you
then you are an F1 driver and that’s not the way it should be from my point
of view,” he said.
“There may be some people that think
differently, but F1 is the top of the sport and should be full of talent
that have got the results during their career and have been kicking ass
since they were kids, not people that just have the money. I’m sick of it
being like this at the moment, but I have to just accept it and hopefully I
will get another chance.”
Unfortunately for Liuzzi, whilst I
agree that F1 should have the top talent, the truth of the matter is that he
himself is not top talent.