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Update December 2017

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Saturday, Dec. 9 - Dec. 15, 2017

New-vehicle quality improves to historic high

J.D. Power finds Ford and Toyota receive Initial Quality awards in three segments each; Honda receives one

Ford Ranger.

Bangkok - The number of problems reported per 100 vehicles (PP100) by new-vehicle owners has hit a record low this year, with the decline reported across all vehicle component categories except vehicle interior, according to the J.D. Power 2017 Thailand Initial Quality StudySM (IQS).

Overall initial quality averages 83 PP100 in 2017-down four problems from 87 PP100 in 2016-and is the best performance experienced by the industry since the study was launched in 2000. All problems are summarized as the number of problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), with lower PP100 scores indicating a lower incidence of problems and, therefore, higher initial quality.

Quality is consistent or has improved in all vehicle component categories with the exception of vehicle interior, as new owners report more problems related to the quality of interior materials, as well as squeak or rattle noises from the instrument and door panels and storage compartments. Problems with exterior, however, remain the most frequently reported compared to other problems measured in vehicle component categories.

“As car manufacturers are competing more fiercely to preserve and increase their market share in a stagnating market environment, product quality improvement clearly is an area for focus,” said Siros Satrabhaya, Country Manager at J.D. Power. “It is also gratifying for new buyers to receive better designed and better built vehicles at a similar price. The shift in sources of dissatisfaction toward usability issues is also noteworthy, particularly in relation to vehicle interior, which has become the second-most-influential component category regarding overall satisfaction with initial quality this year, after driving experience.”

Those customers who experience fewer problems with their vehicle have stronger intentions to keep their vehicle for longer - the study finds that owners who expect to keep their vehicle for more than 5 years experience just 79 PP100 on average compared with 103 PP100 among owners who expect to own their vehicle for 5 years or less. Moreover, the former group is more likely to definitely recommend their vehicle model and brand, compared to the latter group (69 percent and 59 percent vs. 57 percent and 46 percent, respectively).

Following are some of the key findings of the study:

Explanation on operation of features: Owners who received detailed explanations on the operation of their vehicle features at delivery report fewer problems than those who do not (83 PP100 vs. 91 PP100, respectively).

Engine performance: The problem most frequently reported in 2017 in comparison to 2016 is the lack of engine power when turned on for the first time on a given day, after a stop or at low speeds (to 2.6 PP100 in 2017 from 1.4 PP100 in 2016). The problem is one of the top five most frequently reported problems in the 2017 study.

Quality affects loyalty: Loyalty and repurchase intentions are proportional to customer satisfaction with overall vehicle quality. Among delighted owners, 77 percent say they “definitely would” recommend their vehicle model and 67 percent say they “definitely would” repurchase their vehicle brand; among disappointed or indifferent owners, only 42 percent would recommend their vehicle model to others and 30 percent would repurchase the same brand of vehicle.

Study Rankings

Ford receives three model-level awards: for the Everest (56 PP100) in the large SUV segment; the Ranger Hi-Rider X-Cab (80 PP100) in the pickup extended cab segment; and the Ranger D-Cab (60 PP100) in the pickup double cab segment.

Toyota also receives awards in three segments: for the Yaris (76 PP100) in the compact car segment; the Vios (54 PP100) in the entry midsize car segment; and the Corolla Altis (46 PP100) in the midsize car segment.

The Honda HR-V (62 PP100) ranks highest in the compact SUV segment.

The 2017 Thailand Initial Quality Study (IQS) is based on responses from 4,866 new-vehicle owners who purchased their vehicle from November 2016 through July 2017. The study covers 12 different brands that include 76 passenger car, pickup truck and utility vehicle models. The study was fielded from May through September 2017.

The study measures problems experienced by new-vehicle owners during the first two to six months of ownership and examines more than 200 problem symptoms in eight component categories (listed in order of frequency of reported problems): vehicle exterior; engine/ transmission; driving experience; vehicle interior; heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC); audio, entertainment and navigation (ACEN); features, controls and displays; and seats.

F1 on holidays for the next three months

Kimi Raikkonen.

The final GP was held in Abu Dhabi at the Yawn Marina circuit (sorry, that was the Yas Marina circuit). Once again, the desert served up the most forgettable Grand Prix of the year. No ‘down to the wire’ stuff as the World Driver’s championship had already been decided. No ‘down to the wire’ stuff as the Constructor’s championship was also out of reach. All that was left, was which Mercedes would win. The monosyllabic glum looking Valtteri Bottas of Finland or England’s favorite rapper Lewis Hamilton, complete with stubble and granny glasses.

Bottas secured pole position over Hamilton and the position at the front stayed the same for however many boring laps it took for the checkered flag to fall.

Third was the cranky German Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari and fourth his team mate, the equally monosyllabic Kimi Raikkonen famous for the rejoinder “Leave me alone, I know what I am doing.”

The only front runner to look at all interesting was Daniel Ricciardo, but his Red Bull ran out of bottles of Red Bull and that was his race run. His team mate Super Cloggie Max Verstappen said afterwards that if he had had a pillow in his car, he would have gone to sleep. So did we, the spectators.

The TV coverage tried to add a little excitement while we watched the 17th and 18th cars battle it out. “After you, no, after you.”

So if you missed the telecast on Kim’s big screen, don’t fret, you missed nothing.

F1 Liberty spicing up F1?

In the meantime the new owner of F1 (Liberty Media) is trying to keep the excitement at fever pitch with release of such nail-biting information that the Sauber Team next year will be called Alfa Romeo. A neat Italian bit of badge engineering as the 2017 engines were out of date Ferrari ones that were past their use-by date anyway, so all that they have to do is grind off the Ferrari name from the rocker covers and stamp Alfa Romeo on them instead.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz will have to sell a few more Mercs to pay for Lewis Hamilton’s new contract - worth around $210 million.

Hamilton, 32, is expected to agree terms on the three-year package that will move him in line with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who has been the best-paid driver on the grid for the past two years.

Hamilton’s current deal expires at the end of 2018 but he wants to renegotiate terms while he is at the top of his game.

Mercedes are desperate to keep hold of their prized asset and do not want to risk losing him to rivals Ferrari or Red Bull.

The huge sum is expected to be worth almost $192,000 a day including bonuses to the Brit. Perhaps I should write to my racing colleague and mate Lewis to see if he could throw some small change my way. Some of the tax dollars he didn’t have to pay for the plane would be a good start!

Natter, nosh and noggin

The Pattaya car club meets at Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR next to Nova Park. The next meeting is on Monday December 11 at Jameson’s at 7 p.m. A totally informal meeting of like-minded souls to discuss their pet motoring (and motorcycling) loves and hates (plus lies and outright exaggerations). Come along and meet the guys who have a common interest in cars and bikes, and enjoy the Jameson’s specials, washed down with a few beers. Always a fun night. The Car Club nights are only on the second Monday of the month (not every second Monday)!

By the way, my racing Escort Mk 1 that I thought I had destroyed in November can be straightened and work has begun on this. I will keep the readers up to date.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked, what car is this? They only made a short run of seven cars, it could top 170 mph and developed 306 BHP at 6,000 RPM. Clue not European. It was the road-going British Ford GT 40 Mk III and the seven were built in 1967.

So to this week. What car is this? 375,000 built over 17 years. Four cylinder with a top speed of 42 mph.

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]  or [email protected] . Good luck!

Update Saturday, Dec. 2 - Dec. 8, 2017

Thank you all

Dirt track Sprinter.

I am deeply touched by the offers of condolences from readers of this column following my rather ungraceful exit from the race at the Bira Circuit three weeks ago.

Ungraceful perhaps, but still rather exciting, and I have to say the biggest crash I’ve ever had in 50 plus years of motor racing. Head on into an unforgiving concrete wall is not to be recommended and the physical insult to my body was quite severe.

The fracture of the tail bone is the most painful and persistent. Homo sapiens did away with our redundant tails several millennia ago, but what was left will take three to four months to heal. This means three to four months of sitting down carefully.

The 15 stitch laceration to the groin area has healed so the morning trip to “Wound Care” for dressings has finished and the concomitant embarrassment likewise. The bruising to Willie the Wonder Wand has settled and it looks the correct color again. Black didn’t suit me.

Having been driving for more than 50 years has brought out well-meaning friends and relatives suggesting I retire. Why? I saw my first motor race when I was 11 and that was all I wanted to do. I’ve just got into my stride. I have been told there’s a guy in Scandinavia just retired aged 84. That’s fine – my ambition is then to be 85.

The car unfortunately does not have a healing process like I do. Mother Nature does not cover mechanical stuff. At this stage I am waiting for quotes to see if we can pull the car straight or build up another body shell. Unfortunately it isn’t a simple swap of parts, the body was reinforced in many places and there is much time needed to do it all again.

The sponsors have also been very solicitous, with Terry Wilson from AVO looking after the turbo and the (very bent) intercooler, for example and Sandy Chapo from The Venue and The Billabong lining up as a major sponsor again.

My friend (and a sponsor) Thomas Raldorf put up a list of the cars he has driven in the past 12 years on Facebook. My list is also very long, covering the time since 1965 till now. Starting with old MG’s (MG TC, MG TD, MG A, MGB) and onwards. Mixed up in the middle of them are motorcycles (including a speedway 500 cc single and a couple of dirt bike racers. Also at the speedway a 6 liter Hi-Bar Gambler Sprinter with giant wings. They travel sideways by just looking at the accelerator pedal.)

The classes include Production Sports (3 of these), Series Production sedans, 1300 Sports, Ford Escort Mk 1 (5 of them), Open wheeler (Formula Vee, Formula Ford (2 of them), Formula 5,000, Formula Gemini (4 of them), Datsun 510 (2 of those), HQ Holden, Toyota Vios, Porsche 911 T and Porsche Carrera. There’s more but I can’t remember them all! Happens when you get older!

To (re)build the Escort will take much money. Doing it on the cheap will still see 300,000 baht swallowed up (the aim is 2x100,000 and 2x50,000 sponsors). If you know of anyone whose company might like to get involved please point them in my direction and give them a push! My little team won’t win world championships, but we’ll have some fun on the way at the ‘picnic’ races at the local Bira Circuit. In between we will show the race car at functions and even take you for a couple of laps.

A 57 year old Super Car – the 1970 Corvette ZR1

Corvette ZR1.

The only motor associated with the ZR1 Corvette option package when it debuted on the C3 Corvette in 1970 was the LT-1.

While GM’s big block engines were churning out huge horsepower by 1970, it was the debut of a small block power plant that would capture the attention of Corvette enthusiasts looking for the pinnacle of street cred. Factory rated at 370 horsepower, the LT-1 was a 350-cube, high-revving small block screamer which boasted a forged steel crankshaft, four-bolt main block, solid lifters, a high-lift camshaft and other requisite go-fast goodies.

Outfitted with 11:1 compression and a 780 CFM Holley four-barrel carburetor mounted atop a unique aluminum intake manifold, the LT-1 was scheduled to debut alongside the LS7 454, the latter of which would represent the ultimate in big block Chevy performance and therefore sit at the top of the Corvette performance list, but production issues would result in the LT-1 being the only engine for 1970.

Externally it’s almost impossible to tell a C3 ZR1 from a standard 1970 Stingray - this package was focused on performance without any consideration for aesthetic upgrades. GM’s expectation was that these cars would be put into competition use, so the ZR1 could not be ordered with creature comforts like power windows, power steering, air conditioning, and a radio, which is likely what kept most customers who planned to daily drive their Corvettes from opting for the package.

It would also be the sole engine choice for the new ZR1. Designed for road racers and road-going enthusiasts looking for uncompromising capability, the package included a host of road racing-spec equipment pulled from the L88 parts bin, including the M22 “Rock Crusher” close-ratio four-speed gearbox, the J56 heavy-duty brake package, the F41 suspension package and an uprated cooling system that consisted of a bigger aluminum radiator and an expansion tank. All very much racing oriented.

As with the L88 and other hardcore performance packages before it, the ZR1 would prove to be rarely chosen on the options sheet, with just 25 examples built in 1970 and even fewer over the next two years after. Still, it left an indelible mark on Corvette fanatics that wasn’t lost on the brass at General Motors.

A ‘fuelish’ tale

An Isuzu Gemini racer in Oz.

Many years ago I was running a standard Isuzu Gemini in a tightly controlled formula. Like everyone else, we would be looking to see what little tricks could be turned to give an advantage. For most teams that meant trying to alter cam timing and compression without being found out by the scrutineers. For me, I began looking at the fuel we used.

The F1 circus came to Australia for the Grand Prix. After the GP weekend, somehow, a drum of the special F1 fuel was left behind by the Williams team, and it made its way to Brisbane, 2000 km away, where I was waiting. This fuel was really special, very much more efficient thermodynamically than 97 octane, or even 115.

Taking Gemini to the rolling road dynamometer we tipped in the F1 fuel and looked at the horsepower numbers. Instant horsepower, and big grins all round. The weekend would be very successful, we predicted.

We rolled out for practice, and I could feel the extra urge immediately. However, the extra urge only lasted three laps. The crew set about working out why it stopped, and it turned out that the fuel was not getting to the engine. But why not? There was plenty in the tank, and so we began to take out each fuel line looking for the blockage.

It was then we found that the F1 fuel was eating the inside of the standard fuel lines, making gummy deposits all the way along the hoses. F1 cars, of course, do not run rubber/neoprene fuel lines, like production Isuzu Gemini’s do!

We had outsmarted ourselves, but at least we did find a good use for the F1 fuel. It was the greatest way to get the BBQ coals burning. After dousing in F1 fuel, you tossed a match at the BBQ from about 20 paces away. Whooompa, and the BBQ was ready! Technology wins again!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that an auto manufacturer was named after a mountain range? It was Tatra.

So to this week. What car is this? They only made a short run of seven cars, it could top 170 mph and developed 306 BHP at 6,000 RPM. Clue not European.

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]  or [email protected] . Good luck!

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

New-vehicle quality improves to historic high

F1 on holidays for the next three months

F1 Liberty spicing up F1?

Natter, nosh and noggin

Autotrivia Quiz

Thank you all

A 57 year old Super Car – the 1970 Corvette ZR1

A ‘fuelish’ tale

Autotrivia Quiz



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