Will the Big 3 be with us in 2009?
There is much doom and gloom in the
popular press about the future of the Big 3 automakers in
the US. GM, Ford and Chrysler have never been at a lower ebb
for over 50 years, with shares in GM and Ford rock bottom,
and even described by some financial experts as “worthless”.
Chrysler, being wholly owned by Cerberus does not have
shares available on the stock exchange, but the way Cerberus
is desperately trying to sell all, or parts of Chrysler is
enough. They are already talking with Hyundai about
splitting off Jeep.
However, I do not feel that the world will see the end of
GM, Ford and Chrysler, despite the US problems. The overseas
branches are doing well and making profits, there are some
world standard new cars coming such as the Ford Fiesta (to
be built at the Auto Alliance factory on the Eastern
Seaboard), and generally the Asian auto sector is strong.
What might happen is that Shanghai Automotive, GM’s partner
in China, could buy the overseas Asian offshoots, giving GM
in the US some capital inflow to stay alive. Even Daewoo,
which currently supplies much to GM, could make an offer to
buy the GM portion of the Daewoo parent.
Ford might be given an offer it would be financial suicide
to ignore by Tata, the company which has already bought
Jaguar and Land Rover from the ailing US giant.
While these are only scenarios, there is certainly some
basis to these proposals. All of this points to further
strengthening of the world’s auto manufacturing base in
Asia, while at the same time allowing the Big 3 to stay
alive to battle on for the next decade.
I believe we need the Big 3, and they should continue,
despite some very foolish decisions based on the ostrich
principle. Let us hope they have finally stopped handing out
large bonuses to senior staff to reward them for bringing
the companies to their knees!
Lexus IS-F challenges
Ferrari and Porsche
The Lexus IS-F has been released, and if you
think that the Lexus brand is for staid stockbrokers, think
again. Some testers have even suggested that the firm ride
and high-revving V8 of the Lexus IS-F are better suited to
the race track than the road.
This new powerhouse Lexus started as an after-hours project
for Lexus engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi and a small band of
co-workers. The result has made it outstanding from the
otherwise somewhat dull offerings, known for quiet luxury.
“Lexus was a smart choice but less emotional before this
model,” said Yaguchi, now IS-F chief engineer. “Now with the
introduction of this model the image of Lexus is changing to
be more enjoyable. This car is aimed at a different
customer, maybe even someone who might buy a Ferrari or
More realistically than true supercars, the IS-F is a
legitimate rival for the likes of the BMW M3, Mercedes-Benz
C63 AMG and the Audi RS4.
Testers in Australia have even ventured that the Lexus was
probably even a little too firm for the open roads, with the
stiff suspension settings, but on the track, it was
However, all enjoyed the sporty, well executed interior,
with four rather than fives seats, and front buckets
beautifully shaped and bolstered to suit most sizes.
Yaguchi acknowledged the harshness of the ride but said it
was not on his list of items to be addressed for IS-F when
it comes time to do an update: “I am satisfied with this
level of ride on the road because it is good on the track.”
The power from the 5 liter 311 kW/505 Nm dual overhead cam
engine red-lined at 6,800 is prodigious when transferred to
the road through the eight speed torque converter gearbox.
Compared to the BMW M3 or the Mercedes AMG he IS-F’s V8
engine feels down on power and absolute neck-snapping grunt;
however, this car is much less expensive anywhere in the
It does have all the usual power-sapping safety
anti-everything electronics, but they can be switched off if
you like driving sideways, though this should only be done
on the track.
This Lexus is an addition to the sports sedan ranks, and if
it is like all other Lexus, it will be well made, reliable,
and with this one - a ‘fun’ Lexus.
Last week I asked what was the first
Egyptian private car? (And it wasn’t the Nefertiti!) It was
the Ramses, named after the famous king Ramses The Great who
was married to Nefertari, who was in turn related to
Nefertiti. So there. The Ramses, which was quite dreadful,
was succeeded by the Nasr, some models being based on the
Zastava, the Yugoslavian company remembered for the equally
as dreadful Yugo. Anyone who has a Trabant, a Ramses and a
Yugo in their garage has serious problems and should consult
a psychiatrist without delay.
So to this week. The engine from an English baby car was
used from 1923 until 1962. What was it? For the Automania
FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
GM-Chrysler merger off
but Hyundai, Nissan-Renault and
Hyundai has emerged as a potential purchaser of Jeep,
Chrysler’s most valuable asset, after General Motors last
week moved to officially cancel its “strategic acquisition”
plans for America’s struggling number-three car-maker. Why a
reportedly almost bankrupt company would want to buy another
car company which was also a loss-maker is beyond my
financial reasoning, I’m afraid.
Now Hyundai is sniffing around the Jeep section of Chrysler,
it seems. It is understood Cerberus, the owner of Chrysler,
would prefer to sell Chrysler intact, but if its is broken
up Automotive News has reported that Nissan-Renault may
consider buying its Ram pick-up truck production while
Volkswagen is a possible buyer for Chrysler’s (Voyager)
Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge sales in the US have plummeted by
26 percent to the end of October this year, and with an 11
percent market share the Chrysler group is in danger of
being overtaken by Honda in the US.
Hyundai holds a three percent share of the US market and
wants to become a full-line car-maker. It is understood
talks between the company and Ford ended after the pair
disputed the value of the Volvo brand it was considering
Hyundai’s US headquarters is located outside Los Angeles and
it also has an engineering centre in Detroit and a new $US
1.1 billion plant in Alabama, where its Kia subsidiary also
plans to open its own plant in 2009.
Though it is alleged to involve only part of Chrysler LLC,
the Hyundai deal appears more likely to attract federal
financial assistance than GM’s Chrysler bid, which failed to
attract a $US 10 billion government loan because of the
massive job losses it would have involved.
As mentioned in the news item above, GM already has its
hands full staying afloat. Buying Chrysler made no sense in
the current economic climate.
How good is your car in
Crash testing has become an important part of new
car engineering and production. Slamming a new whatever into
the immovable concrete block has resulted in safer cars over
the years. When racing sedans can crash into walls at high
speed and the driver walk away uninjured, while the general
public still die in their thousands when domestic motor cars
hit walls, there has to be some value in stronger vehicles.
As a part of that crash testing, new cars are given an up to
five star rating, with the more stars the better. From next
year, all cars tested by the European New Car Assessment
Program (ENCAP) will undergo a tougher and more extensive
From 2009, a new car cannot achieve the maximum five star
rating without having stability control as standard in the
majority of variants sold - a move the Australian arm of the
program implemented from January. The scheme will also see
the introduction of an overall safety rating to replace the
occupant, pedestrian and child star ratings in use since
Euro NCAP began testing car seats in crashes this year to
gauge their performance in rear-impact and whiplash
protection. From next year, this whiplash test will also be
included as part of the occupant-protection rating.
Euro NCAP secretary general Dr Michiel Van Ratingen says,
“There is no doubt that this new overall rating will provide
clear challenges to industry but at the same time it will
create opportunities for manufacturers to be rewarded for
their dedication to safety. Euro NCAP needs to continually
evolve with innovation and ensure that consumers can be
confident that the rating remains updated and a true
reflection of the safety performance of their vehicles.”
If buyers are interested in a particular area of assessment
- such as adult protection or child protection - they will
still be able to compare vehicles as the individual scores
that make up the overall rating will be on Euro NCAP’s
BORPower®: a revolution
in engine lubricants?
News has just come to hand of a new engine oil
additive that it claims will give you a 15 percent
improvement in fuel economy and CO2 emissions by simply
pouring a bottle of liquid into your car’s engine?
On sale in the UK, BORPower® is claimed to be a totally
unique engine lubricant that can benefit every driver. It
has been developed using the chemical element Boron and the
hi-tech science of nano-technology. Put simply, BORPower®
reduces engine friction to very low level, leading to more
efficient operation. That means improved fuel economy and
lower CO2 emissions. It should also improve power, if it can
do everything it says it can do.
The manufacturers indeed claim improved engine power by up
to 9 percent, lower oil temperature by up to 30 percent and
reduced corrosion and friction so there is less engine wear.
Independent testing carried out by the respected TÜV NORD
Technical Inspection Agency in Germany has validated the
claims for BORPower®.
The citation from TÜV NORD states: “After careful analysis
of the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions before and after
applying BORPower®, the TÜV NORD could certify the
effectiveness of BORPower®.”
I have usually found that anything which sounds too good to
be true, is generally just that - too good to be true!
BORPower® is for sale now direct from NanoBoron Ltd via
www.nanoboron. co.uk or by calling 0845 463 5438. The
company is currently in negotiations to secure nationwide
distribution outlets. Is this your chance?