Friday, 5 December 2008


Fans of the blue and white flag (yes, it’s a snapshot of the Bavarian flag, not a blue and white propeller), are flying high after releasing this image of the next BMW Z4. The car appears a little disproportionate in this picture, but that’s because the picture was probably badly scanned from a marketing brochure.

Having replaced the popular Z3, the Z4 suffered a little bit of criticism from some quarters because of its design. However, it later became more popular as people got used to it. It scored very highly too with people who love great-handling cars. The new 2009 car is longer, wider and shows more brawn than its outgoing older brother. And as you can see, it will no longer feature black cloth for a roof, but hard tin, like a 3 Series Convertible and rival Mercedes-Benz SLK.

Engines featured will straddle along familiar lines; 3.0-litre with 195kW, and the 225kW twin turbo 3.0-litre found in 135i/ 335i models (shown in the picture). The M3 will lend its 4.0-litre V8 to the new baby for a spur of 309kW. A surprise could be a new small, 4-cylinder petrol turbo, possibly with two turbos, and likely to be 2.0-litres in size. Probably gearboxes are a 6-speed manual, 6-speed Steptronic and 7-speed double clutch M-DCT.

The cars will lose their i and Si monikers and instead take on sDrive. That means a 225kW version for instance, will be called “BMW Z4 sDrive35i”.

BMW Z4 will make its international public appearance on the 15th December 2008, be shown at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2009, begin sales in Europe mid-2009 and come to Mzansi in 2010.


J.D. Power and Associates, leading independent authority on customer-reported quality in the automotive industry, recently reported that for the first time since the inception of the South African Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) study, Mitsubishi Motors ranked the highest among automotive brands in satisfying new-vehicle buyers.

Mitsubishi ranked highest with a score of 887 on a 1 000-point scale. The Japanese automotive brand received high ratings in four of five factors; dealership facility, salesperson, paperwork/finance process and price negotiations.

The 2008 SA SSI Study is based on a representative sample of more than 8 800 new vehicle owners who purchased their vehicles between December 2007 and April 2008.

Suraiya Naidoo, divisional manager of Mitsubishi Motors in South Africa, says that the company has always been equipped to fulfill the needs of current and prospective customers. “Our products are distributed through a well-positioned Mitsubishi dealer network. The results of the SSI study prove that our customers are not only buying quality vehicles in both the passenger car and bakkie segments, but have an outstanding dealer experience.”

With just a year and a half on the market, the Triton diesel Double Cab, one of Mitsubishi’s bakkie products, put in a stellar performance in the most recent Synovate Competitive Customer Satisfaction PP100 Report emerging as the most trouble-free vehicle in its category. This bakkie also outperformed its competitors in the Euro NCAP’s first tests of bakkies or “pick ups” earlier this year.

“With the number of accolades behind Mitsubishi Motors, we are confident that it will continue to draw new customers in the midst of the global economic downturn,” adds Naidoo.


Honda is pulling out of Formula One, almost immediately. Current market conditions have forced the team to withdraw from the world’s premier motorsport code. Team Honda will be sold, if a buyer comes along. Otherwise they close shop in March 2009. Here’s a statement from Honda CEO Takeo Fukui:

“We, Honda Motor Co., Ltd., have come to the conclusion that we will withdraw from all Formula One activities, making 2008 the last season of participation.

This difficult decision has been made in light of the quickly deteriorating operating environment facing the global auto industry, brought on by the sub-prime problem in the United States, the deepening credit crisis and the sudden contraction of the world economies.

Honda must protect its core business activities and secure the long term as widespread uncertainties in the economies around the globe continue to mount. A recovery is expected to take some time.

Under these circumstances, Honda has taken swift and flexible measures to counter this sudden and expansive weakening of the marketplace in all business areas. However, in recognition of the need to optimize the allocation of management resources, including investment regarding the future, we have decided to withdraw from Formula One participation. We will enter into consultation with the associates of Honda Racing F1 Team and its engine supplier Honda Racing Development regarding the future of the two companies. This will include offering the team for sale.

In its third era of Formula One activities, Honda has been participating in Formula One races from the 2000 season, initially with BAR, by adopting a new format of jointly developing racing machines.

Subsequently, in a move to meet the changing environment surrounding Formula One, we switched to running a 100 percent Honda-owned team commencing with the 2006 season.

Surmounting many challenges, the Honda Team achieved a Grand Prix victory in 2006, enabling Honda to receive overwhelming support from Honda fans around the world that were looking forward to greater success. It, therefore, has been an extremely difficult decision for us to come to this conclusion without having been able to fully meet the expectations of our fans.

By making the best of what we have learned during these times of economic turmoil, coupled with the spirit of challenge gained through active participation in racing, we intend to continue with our commitment in meeting new challenges.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank our fans and all those who have supported Honda’s Formula One efforts, including everyone in the world of Formula One.

Thank you very much.”

Takeo Fukui
President and CEO
Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

Thursday, 4 December 2008


Current economic conditions are forcing every auto maker in the world to rethink how they do business, how they make their vehicles, how they market and sell them, how they treat workers etc. The big three American motor companies General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, are in big financial trouble at the moment. So deep in the soup these three are that two could be out of business by the middle of 2009 if the US government doesn’t lend them money. They are asking for US$34 billion to start with, up from the US$25 billion they had initially asked for a few months ago. Inflation sucks doesn’t it.

Following these revelations they have gone to the US government in Washington with their collection hats in hand, asking for money. Should this not work, options are available, including declaring bankruptcy. The other options are to sell some of their brands for cash.

Ford already went this step a year ago when it sold Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motor of India. They then followed up by selling most of their stake in Mazda Motor Corporation. Recently speculation has been rife that it wants to sell Volvo, and today reports say Ford has put a price of some US$6 billion on Volvo. Ford had bought Volvo for US$6.4 billion in 1999.

Now GM may be on that path as well, and the brands which could go, if buyers are found, are HUMMER, Pontiac, Buick and SAAB. Opel is also feeling the pinch, but may be safe yet. Selling Opel would kick GM out of Europe and leave it with only Chevrolet as its major brand. I don’t see GM getting rid of Cadillac or Isuzu, but then again, these are the strangest of times.

As for the Chrysler group, there is great value in Jeep and the mother brand itself, but Dodge is a bit of a dodgy one, so to speak. With all the major motor manufacturers trying to sell, who is going to buy? It can only be private groups, groups like Cerberus, the owners of Chrysler. Otherwise we can look east for salvation where Indian and Chinese automakers would love to have a well-recognised, western auto brand in their stable, not only for potential profits but for that status attached to it.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


Audi is rejoining the two-door, four-seater topless brigade in 2009 when the German luxury car maker releases the new A5 Cabriolet. In line with its new naming strategy, Audi is getting rid of A4 Cabriolet and instead the A5 will carry future drop-tops. Surprisingly Audi has chosen a canvass top instead of the new trend of tin tops for the A5 range. In fact, indications are that Audi will be on its own in this way; the next Mercedes-Benz CLK Cabriolet will also have a hard roof, just like the current BMW 3 Series Convertible and Volvo C70. Audi says the A5 Cabriolet opens up to the sky in just 15 seconds, and closes in 17 seconds. Both these actions can be activated at up to 50 km/h.

The brand’s music partner Bang & Olufsen has come to the party once again, as an option in some versions. MMI, the system that helps control everything such as climate, music, satellite navigation etc, is still there.

A number of engines will be sold under the A5 Cabriolet, some of which are diesels. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any of these in Mzansi, but who knows. For now three variants could make their way to our borders. The lowest of them is a turbocharged 2.0-litre TFSI producing 155kW and 350Nm of torque, which is the same power as the upcoming Golf 6 GTI. The mid range will be a normally aspirated 3.2-litre V6 with an output of 195kW and 330Nm.

Audi will introduce the new 3.0-litre supercharged engine on the A5 range through the S5 Cabriolet. Replacing the current 4.2-litre V8, the new 3.0-litre makes a swift 245kW and 440Nm. It may be short on the V8’s 260kW but Audi promises it will be just as funky on the go, and probably quicker in the high altitude areas like Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

Gearboxes employed to run the A5/ S5 Cabriolets are a 6-speed manual in the standard cars, then Multitronic and finally a new 7-speed double-clutch gearbox, an evolution of the Volkswagen Group’s brilliant DSG system. Audi calls its version S Tronic.

The Audi A5 and S5 will be seen live at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2009. Hopefully by then Audi would have presented the manic RS4 at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2009.