Nissan invests in production to prepare for electric age
Yokohama, Japan (AP) — Nissan is investing 33
billion yen ($303 million) in its flagship auto plant in Japan's Tochigi
prefecture in a first rollout of a production system geared toward electric
Nissan Motor Co. Executive Vice President Hideyuki Sakamoto
said Thursday that manufacturing methods must change because vehicles
increasingly have both hybrid and electric engines and new parts for
connectivity and artificial intelligence services.
Sakamoto said the production changes, set to be completed
next year, use robotics and sensors to decrease physical stress on assembly-line
workers. They are tailored for a workforce increasingly manned by senior workers
Among the innovations for Nissan's so-called "intelligent
factory" is a powertrain mounting system that allows at least 27 configurations
to be installed in one procedure.
The parts, including the battery for electric vehicles, are
put together on one "pallet," or foundation unit, for easier installing into the
Another innovation involves programming a worker's
craftsmanship into robotics. The moves are so finely tuned in the automated
sealing process that the delicate angles and touches of a human worker are
The advantage to such a system is that a robot's work is
consistent and tireless, maintaining the quality of craftsmanship, according to
"The competitiveness of an automaker lies in production, as
well as design and technology development," Sakamoto told reporters.
Auto production methods have remained basically the same
since the early 1900s. But vehicles are becoming more complex, as driver-support
technology, hybrid systems and various kinds of batteries must be fitted in,
depending on the vehicle, Sakamoto said.
The production methods will be later rolled out in Nissan's
plants in Japan and elsewhere around the world but details are undecided.
Yokohama-based Nissan, which makes the Leaf electric car,
March subcompact and Infiniti luxury models, is eager to relay a message of
innovation as it battles a serious risk to its reputation amid plunging profits
Nissan's former Chairman Carlos Ghosn is awaiting trial on
various financial misconduct allegations. Nissan has acknowledged failings in
its corporate governance.
Its new chief executive is taking office next week. Ghosn's
successor Hiroto Saikawa also stepped down, acknowledging financial misconduct.
All other major global automakers are working on smart,
connected and electric vehicles. But Nissan has a head start in many of the
innovations, especially electric vehicles, thanks largely to Ghosn.
Ghosn says he is innocent and accuses others in Nissan of
colluding to get rid of him to block a fuller integration with its alliance
partner Renault SA of France.
Hamilton to Ferrari?
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Six-time
Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton appeared to open the door for a possible
future move to Ferrari when he refused to deny meeting with its chairman John
Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reported Saturday
that the Mercedes driver has met Elkann twice this year, and that they discussed
Hamilton potentially replacing Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari from 2021 onward.
Both four-time champion Vettel and Hamilton have yet to
renew contracts expiring at the end of 2020.
Hamilton was asked after winning Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand
Prix — the 11th win of another dominant season and 84th overall — if he did meet
"Naturally, everything that happens behind closed doors is
always private with whoever it is you end up sitting with," Hamilton said. "For
many years, I've never ever sat down and considered other options, because we
(Mercedes) have been driving straight ahead, on the same path. We're still on
that path, and there's very little that's going to shift it."
Hamilton started to add "But there's no harm in ..." before
saying "I know (Mercedes team principal) Toto (Wolff) is also looking at his
options, in terms of his future, and only he will know what is best for him."
Hamilton's stint at Mercedes has brought the Silver Arrows
Under the stewardship of Wolff, he has won five world
titles to add to his first with former team McLaren in 2008. But Wolff's future
is also undecided, amid reports he could possibly move into another role within
"I love where I am, so it's definitely not a quick decision
to go and do something else," Hamilton said. "But it's only smart and wise for
me to think about what I want, if it is the last stage of my career."
Ferrari's team principal Mattia Binotto called Hamilton "an
outstanding driver" on Friday and tantalizingly added "knowing that he's
available in 2021 can make us only happy."
"I think it's the first compliment I've had from Ferrari in
13 years ... Thank you. I'll take it," Hamilton said Saturday after clinching a
record-extending 88th pole position. "It's taken all these years for them to
recognize me. I'm grateful ... It's positive. I think it's never a waste of time
to ever be nice to someone."
The 34-year-old British driver added: "(Ferrari is) a team
I've always appreciated. To earn the respect from them is obviously very high
Wolff was asked after Sunday's race how he rates Hamilton's
chances of staying.
"I would rate it at 75 percent," he said. "There is a 25
percent chance that we are not in control of. So we'll see how the next months
Wolff has not yet begun talks with Hamilton over a new
contract, although previous negotiations were also kept fairly low-key and
"We haven't given ourselves a date," Wolff said. "Come back
at the end of January, February, define a schedule on when we want to discuss
Wolff experienced uncertainty before when Nico Rosberg
stunned Mercedes by retiring from F1 after beating Hamilton to the 2016 title.
"When Nico decided to quit, my initial reaction was
actually the opportunity provided to us, and I think the choice with Valtteri (Bottas)
proved to be the right choice," Wolff said. "So I still very much hope that our
relationship continues. But I'm not entirely in control of that. If one
important member breaks out, that certainly provides risk and opportunity at the
Hamilton reportedly earns more than $50 million a year at
Mercedes. But Ferrari might be prepared to beat that, especially since the
Italian manufacturer has not won the drivers' title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007
and the constructors' title in 2006.
Wolff said he and Hamilton have "talked very openly" about
Ferrari's grand stature within F1, and he understands the temptation for
Hamilton to end his outstanding career in the famed red of Ferrari.
"There will be components such as financial incentives that
will play a role ... I still think a driver of that level will always know that
he can make an impact on a team," Wolff said. "When he left McLaren to Mercedes,
it was said that it wasn't the right move, and it proved to be right (move). So
I don't think I want to make a mistake of underestimating Ferrari's potential."
Have the American owners made for a
With Americans now owning the once noble sport of F1, we
expected some changes to spice up the Grands Prix. One failure was the MC
introducing the drivers a la boxing at Madison Square Garden, for example
But that is just the start. Liberty Media (AKA the owners)
will be introducing more sizzle, but without the sausages because they can cost
money. The grid girls were scrapped and we didn’t even get a bunch of the
cheerleaders in exchange, with the short skirts and pom-poms as eye candy, all
to provide a better “show” for the spectators. Instead we had grid kids which
hasn’t worked, so let’s try something else. We have to face the fact that F1 is
no longer a sporting competition, it is a “show”, complete with purple pom-poms
(or green ones for British drivers and silver for Germans). And have you
noticed, the grid girls are reappearing because the circuits want them?
Bring back the
As the spectator numbers for F1 have fallen, the bikes are
taking over. MotoGP is on the ascendancy. And it is easy to see why. There are
20 riders putting their life on the line in a harsh environment. People know
them by name and number, Valentino Rossi number 46, Marc Marquez number 93. They
are within the distance for gloves to be thrown, and become treasured keep-sakes
for young boys, the next wave of dedicated spectators.
What does F1 do? Makes the drivers untouchable, imagining
that they are thought of as gods. Sorry, but they have clay feet. The spectators
will go to MotoGP. Sorry, not “will go” – they are already going.
Back in the days when JC played for Bethlehem United, I
signed my first motor racing contract. In that document was the proviso that
after each race, I was to wait with the car in the pits for 30 minutes to answer
questions and sign autographs.
OK, so it wasn’t F1, but it was motor racing such as that
when 40,000 people set off to watch cars competing at Oran Park they were told
on the radio to turn round as the traffic tail back was just too long. Motor
racing was very popular – way back then. Can those days be recreated? I believe
it would be possible, but it won’t happen. The step backward is just too great.
Television and advertising rule the roost. The FIA has let all this happen
(don’t blame Bernie), far too preoccupied with stewards penalties and grid spots
if you change your engine, and avoiding the real problems.
Red Bull’s Verstappen and Ferrari’s Leclerc are very
‘marketable’ items but the environment they race in is too restrictive to hold
the attention of the spectators. We need some more gladiators, and maybe a pride
of lions? Or just bring back the grid girls.
Ferrari’s troubles deepen at Brazilian GP
Sao Paulo (AP) — Ferrari hoped the
Brazilian Grand Prix would bring some relief after poor performances and even
accusations of cheating from opponents.
Instead, the Formula 1 team ended the weekend with a
collision involving its two drivers as they fought for only fourth place at
Sebastian Vettel looked strong starting from second in
Sunday’s race. Charles Leclerc, who began from 14th position because of an
engine penalty, jumped to sixth in only 11 laps in Sao Paulo.
It was too good to last.
The two Ferrari drivers faced off on Lap 66 after a safety
car restart, and contact between the cars gave Vettel a right-rear puncture,
while Leclerc had a broken suspension. Both failed to finish.
“It is very disappointing for the team,” Vettel said after
Leclerc said he wanted to see footage of the crash before
reaching any conclusions. “It was a great race before that. But we can’t draw
anything positive from this race,” he said.
Their exit allowed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, the winner in
Brazil, to jump to third place in the driver’s championship. He is 11 points
ahead of fourth-place Leclerc with only the Abu Dhabi GP on Dec. 1 to go. Vettel
is 30 points behind Verstappen and cannot claim a top three spot any longer.
Ferrari will also finish the season far behind Mercedes in
the constructors championship.
Earlier this month at the United States GP, Leclerc
finished almost a minute behind race winner Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes. Vettel
After that race, Verstappen suggested that Ferrari had been
“cheating”. The Red Bull driver said on Dutch TV that the Italian team’s
performance dipped at Austin because of a FIA directive on fuel flow systems.
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said the directive had no
impact on the team’s engine.
After the Brazilian GP Binotto said "both of them (Vettel
and Leclerc) have got at least a small percentage of responsibility" for the
"At the end, they were free to fight," Binotto said.
Automaker Daimler to save $1.54B by
cutting manager posts
Berlin (AP) — German automaker Daimler says it plans
to slash costs 1.4 billion euros ($1.54 billion) by cutting every tenth
managerial position and other austerity measures.
CEO Ola Kallenius told reporters in London on Thursday that
the EU’s stricter specifications on carbon dioxide emissions and the transition
to more electric vehicles are putting the squeeze on the Stuttgart-based
company’s bottom line.
The cuts at the manufacturer of Mercedes vehicles are to
come over the next three years, the dpa news agency reported.
Kallenius told reporters in a conference call that Daimler
was also being hurt in the trade war between China and the United States, with
new duties being placed on U.S.-built cars that are exported to China.
He says Daimler remains “fully committed” to invest and
grow in both countries.
(At Daimler, an optimist is someone who takes their
sandwiches for lunch.)
Is it time to retire?
Being one of a handful of race drivers who are still racing
in their 70’s, some of my readers may find my exploits interesting. (If not,
just move to the next item.)
My love affair with motor cars began when I was 11 and was
taken to spectate at a race meeting at the Charterhall circuit in Scotland. It
was at that circuit I first saw Jimmy Clark and Jacky Stewart, members of the
Border Revers team. Clark was later killed in a racing accident and Wee Jackie
long retired but willing to express an opinion.
As a schoolboy I saved any information I could find about
the cars of that era. I begged the tobacconist to give me the advertising photo
behind his counter of Mike Hawthorn complete with bow tie, smoking a cigarette
for Craven A.
Scrapbooks with cut-outs of the latest cars, like the Phase
1 Standard Vanguard and the 1953 Morris Oxford (which later became the Hindustan
Ambassador Mk III). Weekends would see me hanging around the motorbike repair
shop and my nose could pick up the heady smell of Castrol R from 59 meters.
But I was not a good spectator. I wanted to race.
By the time I was accepted into medical school the die was
already rolled. Medical student by day and mechanic at night and petrol pump
attendant weekends. Getting the grease off my hands before morning clinics was
always a huge problem.
Doing up tired old cars (like a 1949 Austin A40 and a 1953
Ford V8 Customline and a couple of semi-wrecked MG TC’s) and in 1965 some lucky
deals saw me in the local sports car yard trading in my second 1953 Ford
Customline (the first Cusso tripped one night and we put the good interior of
the first one into the second one) and traded it on a 1955 MGA 1500 with a
slipping clutch. The car yard threw in a new clutch plate in a box in the deal,
and by that evening I had it installed. By the weekend it was at the Lowood race
circuit. That was March 1965. I was still a starving medical student and the
helmet was borrowed, the race suit was a short sleeved shirt with my name
embroidered on it, shorts, long socks and slip-on shoes. The excitement, noise
and fumes were better than any of today’s naughty substances. MGA and I came 3rd
in class and won $5. I was going to frame the cheque, but I cashed it as I
needed the money!
MGA and its
MGA and I entered everything I could but it was shoestring
racing. Tyres? No Dunlop Racing for me, until I scored some very secondhand ones
by chance. The top racer of the day had a Dunlop tyre contract and he would pass
his racing tyres to a friend when they were half worn. From there they went
through another two friends until they were finished and then I scored what was
left. Even 99 percent worn out I was delighted. “Free” tyres.
At one meeting I ran out of my freebies but spotted that
one of the car trailers had the same size tyres. Within five minutes the
required tyre was on the MGA, and the trailer was on blocks. Five minutes after
the race was over the tyre was back and fitted on the trailer.
The circuit at Lowood had a long straight and I was doing
everything I could to get the magic “ton”. Slipping down in the seat to keep my
helmet out of the wind I was reading the instruments as the 100 mph arrived, but
suddenly the engine started to misfire. Backing off suddenly, I found I was
sitting in the middle of a bonfire. Sheets of flame were running up the bonnet
as I looked for a fire marshal in the officials. Spotting one with a large fire
extinguisher I drove off the circuit and headed towards him. Getting closer he
opened his extinguisher and began to spray me! “Not me – the car!” I screamed
and then found my long socks were on fire!
What had happened was that a fuel line fitting at the
carburetor had come loose, spraying petrol all over the exhaust pipe. MGA’s have
wooden floors, and it was alight too!
That evening and into the small hours we cut new floors and
reassembled the fuel lines. I got some new socks and we raced again the next
It was now 1966 and I sat my exams and qualified overseas
and then spent two years between Gibraltar and England. That was worth a book on
its own but one story will be enough. It was right when Gib was having a
referendum to determine whether it would stay British (with London paying the
bills) or revert to being Spanish and having to find the money themselves. You
don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out which way the vote went. 99
percent voted to stay with the UK. Anyway during all the referendum fever, I was
called to the Casualty department to look at the wife of the Gibraltar Minister
for Tourism. “What can I do for you, Madam? I asked. She replied, “You speeky
Spanee. Me no speeky Englee!”
There’s lots more if you are interested.
And the Fugly award goes to …
Spotted this horror in the hospital car park. I have never
seen anything more deserving of the Fugly award than this. It looked Japanese
but what? I wondered if it could be a Kei (under 660 cc) car. Eventually, an old
racing mate from Australia and now living in Japan, identified it as a “Will”
made by Toyota on the Vitz platform. Toyota should be ashamed, and the following
is from the Toyota web.
Fugly front and
The WiLL Vi is a compact car, produced from 2000 to 2001,
with distinctive styling combining elements of many cars. The WiLL Vi was
designed by the then newly formed Virtual Venture Company, headed by Jim
Shimizu. The unique-appearing rear window had earlier appeared on the Mazda
Carol, the Ford Anglia (1959–1968), and the Citroen Ami. The "neo-retro" look
represented a period in Japan where vehicles took on the styling of historic
vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s, such as the Nissan Be-1, Nissan Figaro,
Nissan Pao, the Toyota Origin, the Subaru Vivio, and the Mitsubishi Minica.
The car was equipped with MacPherson struts for the front
wheels and a torsion beam axle for the rear wheels. The car was painted in a
number of pastel colors, and the plastic wheel covers resemble sand dollars. One
of the few options was a canvas sliding roof, and the vehicle was installed with
bench seats for both front and rear passengers, with the gearshift installed on
Sales were disappointing. I wonder why.
Big Brother is watching you
Australia uses new technology to catch drivers on
Australia (AP) — An Australian state is attempting
to persuade people to put down their smartphones while driving by rolling out
cameras to prosecute distracted motorists.
New South Wales Roads Minister Andrew Constance said Monday
that Australia's most populous state is the first jurisdiction in the world to
use such technology to punish drivers distracted by social media, text messages
or phone calls.
Road safety experts are alarmed at the growing prevalence
of accidents involving drivers using smartphones on New South Wales roads.
Experts say drivers who illegally use phones increase their chances of an
"There is no doubt drink-driving as far as I'm concerned is
on a par with mobile phone use, and that's why we want everyone to be aware that
you're going to get busted doing this anytime, anywhere," Constance told
Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The government intends to roll out 45 Mobile Phone
Detection Cameras across the state by December, he said.
In fact, each unit contains two cameras. One camera
photographs a car's registration plate and a second high-set lens looks down
through the windscreen and can see what drivers are doing with their hands.
A six-month trial of two fixed cameras this year checked
8.5 million vehicles and detected more than 100,000 drivers with their hands on
phones, including one driver who was using a phone and iPad simultaneously.
Another driver had a passenger steer while they both held phones, the government
The units use artificial intelligence to exclude drivers
who are not touching their phones. Photos that show suspected illegal behavior
are referred for verification by human eyes before an infringement notice is
sent to the vehicle's registered owner along with a 344 Australian dollar ($232)
fine. Some cameras will be permanently fixed on roadsides and others will be
placed on trailers and moved around the state.
The government wants to expand the program to 135 million
checks a year by 2023. New South Wales has 5.2 million registered vehicles.
National Roads and Motorists' Association spokesman Peter
Khoury, a leading advocate for road users, accused the government of using
stealth to crack down on illegal phone use. While the association supported
tougher action against drivers distracted by phones, it wanted signs warning
motorists that phone detection cameras were operating in an area, as happens
with speed cameras in the state.
Government modeling found that the phone detection cameras
could prevent 100 fatal and serious injuries over five years.
The annual state road toll in New South Wales fell by 35
deaths to 354 last year.
Police said more than 16,500 drivers had been fined for
illegally using phones so far this year.
Drivers are allowed to use phones in hands-free cradles and
through Bluetooth. But it is illegal to touch a phone while driving except to
pass it to a passenger. The ban even applies to drivers who are stationary at
red lights or stuck in traffic jams.
Constance said his government was relaxing the law to allow
drivers to legally pay with their phones at restaurant drive-throughs.
(Comment: Constable Plod can now look through your windows,
hoping to catch a driver scratching his genitals. I’m sure they could make a
case to show that just chatting to one’s passenger is far too dangerous and
safety sealed boxes would be installed in all cars from now on. Particularly
when you read that even touching your phone while stationary at a red light is a
heinous crime. The only problem now is how to convert the crime into baht that
is understood by the BIB.)
The days of the motoring enthusiast are
If you are an enthusiast, and you must be if you read this
column, you will have already looked into what the future has in store for you
Digital technology is lining up to take your car away from
you, and replacing it with a ‘virtual’ car which can ‘talk’ to other cars, and
without a human driver, to take you to your required destination.
The motive power will be electric, with some world
governments already banning the internal combustion engine because it is a
health hazard. Petrol stations will be supplanted by electric battery rechargers.
Switched on entrepreneurs will have coffee stalls to keep you amused while the
20 minute recharge takes place.
What will happen to the petrol cars? Some out of the way
stations will keep a small quantity of petrol, at a price, and you will only be
allowed to drive your Aston Martin on alternate Sundays.
Oh, you wanted diesel fuel? Sorry but they were banned a
decade ago after the Wolfsburg debacle (thank you VW). Something to do with
keeping the planet clean. Mind you, the mounds of spent batteries will be a new
kind of rubbish.
Now for all these digital electronic masterpieces to work,
you will learn to rely on the car’s GPS. How many times has your computer
crashed? There’s one of those inside all the cars of the future, and they will
crash too. Let’s hope it isn’t on the Bangkok highway. Where is the GPS when you
Of course the legal side of digital motoring will spawn a
new style of lawyer. When your driverless car hits another driverless car, who
is to blame? However, when driverless car A hits human being B, protracted legal
cases will ensue as A and B wish to sue each other. Insurance companies will go
close to ruling the world.
Ride sharing is being held up for us, as the way to go.
Cuts down fuel costs, be that battery, hydrogen or nuclear nuggets. But ride
sharing can only work if the other passengers are going the same way too. The
alternative is walking. Make sure you have some sturdy walking shoes.
And motor sport? The FIA has already stacked the F1 deck,
by putting its money on every horse in the race – notably Formula E. As F1
becomes an anachronism, come in Formula E, the FIA is ready to give you top
Lewis Hamilton’s 6th WDC
So Lewis Hamilton is today’s poster boy in the UK. However,
one of Australia’s automotive commentators is Will Hagon who injected some
sanity over all the hype surrounding Lewis Hamilton’s sixth World Drivers
Championship. Will’s words of wisdom are worth reading.
“Poor old Juan Manuel Fangio, his remarkable records and
achievements oft forgotten by those not lucky enough to be across one of the
finest drivers and people ever to adorn grand prix racing.
“The Maestro' was five years older when he started his GP
career than Hamilton is now.
“No one has matched Fangio's start win record, 24 of 51 -
47 percent wins, in an era when around a third of drivers died in crashes.
“He wasn't bad in qualifying either, in an era when drivers
had more in qualifying either, in an era when drivers had more influence on
their cars' speed than with today's electronically assisted cars.
“In days when grids were straight lines, not staggered as
today, and they alternated 3, 2, 3 and helped promote close racing.
“But I digress. Will Hamilton get his 7th WDC?
In the petrol age, yes. In the electric age, no. He is destined to sit at the
top of the tree with Michael Schumacher and listen as the E racers whizz by. No
more fumes like Castrol R or barking exhausts. All will be sacrificed to get the
planet clean. And to that I say, Fat Chance.”
Hypermiling – a forgotten sport?
A dictionary entry for Hypermiling states that it is the
act of driving using techniques that maximize fuel economy. Those who practice
these techniques are referred to as “hypermilers” (or perhaps greenies?)
Hypermiling is defined by the New Oxford American
Dictionary as the attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving
adjustments to one’s vehicle and one’s driving techniques. In fact, in 2008, the
word Hypermiling was selected as the best new word of the year by the New Oxford
Hypermiling, which can be practiced in any vehicle
regardless of its fuel economy, had gained in popularity as a result of the rise
in gasoline prices during the 2000s. While common techniques can be carried out
by average motorists making minor changes in their driving habits, many
Hypermilers use more advanced techniques, some of which are illegal in most if
not all jurisdictions.
Hypermiling has come under fire from several quarters due
to claims of dangerous or unlawful behavior by some Hypermilers. As a result,
the Hypermiling Safety Foundation was formed in August 2008 to promote a safety
and public awareness program, advocating legal fuel-saving techniques.
In some places, Hypermiling contests have been held to see
who can get the highest mpg on a selected course.
A Maximum Fuel Economy contest was held in Elkhart,
Indiana, a few years ago where “world records” for the Honda Insight (213 miles
per US gallon (1.10 L/100 km; 256 mpg-imp) round trip), Toyota Prius (136 miles
per US gallon (1.73 L/100 km; 163 mpg-imp) round trip) and the Ford Escape
Hybrid (76 miles per US gallon (3.1 L/100 km; 91 mpg-imp) mpg round trip) were
achieved, albeit having been achieved while rolling through all stop signs and
having the vehicle tires inflated well beyond recommended specifications! The
record for the most miles achieved out of a single tank of gas, with 2,254 miles
(3,627 km) from the 13.7 US gallons (52 l; 11.4 imp gal) tank of a 2006 Honda
Insight, represents an average of 164.53 miles per US gallon (1.4296 L/100 km;
197.59 mpg-imp) for the entire distance.
Now all that sounds terribly new and “green” and is the
sort of fodder that the global warming people love to seize upon, to show their
commitment to saving the planet. I am afraid I am with GM’s Bob Lutz who stated
that “Global warming is a crock of sh*t.” And have you noticed they now call it
‘Climate Change’ so they are backing both horses in the race – heating or
cooling! And to show my true callous nature, if Bob and I are wrong we’ll both
be dead long before Bangkok disappears beneath the rising seas, so it isn’t our
Chinese auto sales down 6.3 percent in September
Beijing (AP) — China's auto sales
sank 6.3 percent in September from a year earlier and purchases of electric cars
tumbled 34.2 percent at a time when the industry is spending heavily to meet
government sales quotas for the technology, an industry group reported Monday.
The global industry's biggest market is on track to
contract for second year, dragged down by weak consumer demand in the face of a
tariff war with Washington and cooling economic growth.
Sales of sedans, SUVs and minivans in the global industry's
biggest market fell to 1.9 million, according to the China Association of
Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group. Total sales, including trucks and
buses, retreated 5.2 percent to 2.3 million.
Demand has suffered from consumer jitters over a trade war
with Washington and slowing economic growth.
The industry has been reporting negative growth every month
since June 2018.
Sales of electric cars fell to 80,000 units, hurt by a
decline in government subsidies that helped to make China the biggest market for
Brands are spending heavily to meet government sales
quotas. Beijing is shifting the burden to automakers by requiring them to earn
credits for selling electrics without subsidies. That raises the cost to buyers.
For the first nine months of the year, auto sales were off
11.7 percent at 15.2 million.
In the same period, electric car sales were up 20.8 percent
over a year earlier at 872,000. That reflected strong first-half demand before
government subsidies were cut.
Sales of SUVs, previously a bright spot for the industry,
were off 9.3 percent from a year earlier in the first nine months of the year.
It gave no figure for total sales.
Sales by Chinese brands were off 9.8 percent at 727,000.
(There is a world-wide depression, with China, America and
even Thailand’s production figures dipping year on year. All sorts of reasons
have been put forward, but governmental involvement is one of the main ones.
Subsidies stimulate buying, but then by removing the subsidy there will be a
slump in sales. It is only a few years ago that the Thai government promoted the
first car owners deal. A spike in sales figures resulted, repossessions followed
and total manufacturing numbers also nose-dived. There is a lesson here, but
reversing the trend is very difficult.)
F1 McLaren team lining up at the pumps
Rio De Janeiro (AP) — Brazil's government says the
state-controlled oil company has ended a nearly $200 million advertising
agreement with Formula One team McLaren that had been criticized by President
The Economy Ministry announced the cancellation, saying the
five-year deal that took effect this year was "unjustifiable."
Brazil suffered a devastating recession in 2015 and 2016
that sent unemployment surging. Since then, growth has averaged just over 1
percent annually and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects growth below
1 percent this year.
Bolsonaro took office in January and announced in May that
his government was seeking a way to cancel the contract.
"Such matters are commercially confidential and therefore
we are not able to comment further at this time," a McLaren spokesman said.
The Brazilian government said Petrobras has a new focus on
(Whilst McLaren has been doing better on the track than
expected this season, there’s none of the F1 teams that can give $200 million
worth of value. Even if Petrobras were giving away free petrol and a plastic
Physics be damned
I was taught that everything on this earth could be
explained by using simple physics. I was given tommy twaddle.
A few years ago I looked at Lucas fuel pumps and how to get
them going again with a bit of physical abuse. But another bit of engineering
that defies physical laws lies in the universal joints in the propeller shaft. A
kind of metal X with case-hardened caps filled with rollers. Despite all the
greasing in the world, these things would always seize up, and you had to pull
it all apart. Remember those days?
The owners manual made it look easy. (Those were the days
when the manufacturer actually allowed you to touch the car. These days your
warranty would become null and void and you would probably be subjected to some
kind of exquisite electro-torture. Tomorrow you will be shot if you open the
bonnet.) But back to the manual, plus pix of some chap in a dust coat. “Tap the
yoke lightly and the bearing will appear” was what the good book says. Not one
solitary word as what to do when the bearings didn’t appear – and they never
No, the tapping physical law does not exist. You have to
get the biggest cold chisel you can and split the casing, and by the time you
have thoroughly butchered it, then the bearing will appear – in bits. “Tap the
yoke lightly” indeed! Physics be damned!
The Road Toll – again and again and again
I try to shy away from contentious subjects in this column,
as it was designed to be a lighthearted look at things motoring, but sometimes a
lighthearted look may not be appropriate. For the nation’s road toll, this is
one of those times. Try 66 deaths per day for a start. And Thailand having the
second highest road toll in the world.
What prompted me on this line of thought was the fact I was
passed on the freeway by a very young schoolboy motorcycle rider and pillion
passenger, complete with no crash helmet on either of them.
For those who have not been to Pattaya recently, you will
find that Beach Road now has pedestrian traffic lights every 200 meters.
However, unfortunately all these do is to instill a false sense of security for
those on foot.
Now when we look at the road toll, what were prime factors?
1. 75 percent of those killed are between 15-60 years.
2. 75 percent of the people killed are male.
3. 80 percent were riding motorcycles.
4. 85 percent had no crash helmet.
5. More than 50 percent of those injured had blood alcohol
levels above the legal limit of 0.05. (Figures for blood alcohol levels of those
killed are notoriously under-reported to avoid police/insurance problems.)
Count the heads
So what has been done? Even way back in 2001 the BBC
reported that the Thai government was considering cutting short the country’s
main holiday to reduce the number of traffic accidents and discourage Thais from
going abroad. That is like saying they will ban all motorcycles from the road
over holiday weekends. Impractical and would be rejected by the population.
In December 2010, the Thaksin University in Songkhla
published a treatise in their website claiming 12,000 Thai people per year are
killed, or 33 per day and doubling during the Songkran festival and New Year’s
Day. The item went on to say that, “There are three major causes of road
accidents in Thailand they are driver’s behaviors, mechanical failure, and road
This idea that mechanical failures are prime factors has
also been seized upon by governments, with a government spokesman saying that
about 50,000 vocational students were to be sent to checkpoints and car
maintenance spots across the country last year to provide vehicle inspection
services over the New Year break.
It does not need a Mensa IQ score to see that diverting
attention to vehicle maintenance is not going to change the road toll, but
driver behavior and alcohol are related and have a direct effect on the total
number of people killed.
However, the greatest numbers should be attacked as the
first priority. 75 percent of fatalities come from motorcycles. If it were
possible to prevent these, you would have lowered the death toll by 75 percent,
but that is Utopian and not possible. But – if you could get the 85 percent who
were not wearing helmets to wear a helmet of a decent standard then you would
produce an immediate lowering of the annual toll.
This is not Utopian. The legislation regarding the wearing
of helmets is already law – if this was policed properly, and it is not
difficult to spot a motorcycle rider not wearing a helmet, then you would see a
dramatic fall in the numbers.
Of course, I have stated it needs helmets “of a decent
standard”. Again, this is not difficult. Apply US Snell or the British Standard
to all new helmets sold in Thailand. Give the shops six months to clear the old
stock and thereafter only helmets meeting the standards are allowed to be sold.
This is also not difficult to police – a walk down the supermarket shelves will
soon show whether the helmets have the certification.
The salient figures are already there, the legislation is
already there. The members of the Think Tank committees can finish their morning
coffee and go home.
But this is Thailand.
The ideal car for Pattaya?
The WaterCar Panther is probably the coolest amphibian and
it’s surprisingly fast. Billed as the Fastest Amphibious Car in the World and is
available for order so if you need a new car it might just be the ideal car for
you but it costs about USD 135,000 in the US. Now add on freight and duty and
you are probably looking at six million baht (very rough guess). However, you
can drive it across the Pacific Ocean, I suppose, and at least you can put off
getting a boat if you buy a panther.
The Panther website has a caution: The Panther is currently
offered in two states of completion, Turnkey Minus and Complete Custom. Please
note the Complete Custom version may be a challenge or impossible to license and
register for street use in some states (and in Thailand). In those American
states the Panther must be purchased as a Turnkey Minus and licensed as a
specially constructed vehicle if used on the highway. There is federal
legislation for low production vehicle manufacturers that will make the
registration of Complete Custom models much easier. Check your local
registration requirements before you order, and in Thailand, don’t make your
hopes too high.