Thursday, 15 January 2009


TOYOTA SAYS: In line with Toyota’s philosophy of Kaizen, or continuous improvement, the company has announced a minor styling upgrade for its popular Avanza compact wagon.

When it was introduced, the Avanza created a new market by offering a 5+2 seating configuration in a B-segment size vehicle. It therefore offers flexibility that allows it to be tailored to a range of family transport needs, be they biased towards passenger or luggage carrying requirements, as all the rear seats can be folded and tumbled in various layouts to achieve this.

This compact MPV caters for buyers, mainly in the younger family market, who are faced with a change in their transport needs as the family increases in number, or grows up and transitions into the school going phase.

The Avanza offers a number of items that many would expect on high-level specification models. For instance all the models in the range have power windows on all four passenger doors, power steering, remote central locking and an immobiliser.

All, excluding the base model, are fitted with air conditioning, ABS brakes and driver and passenger front airbags. The TX grade is also equipped with 15’’ Alloy wheels.

The Avanza has achieved top-ten sales status in the passenger vehicle market in South Africa since its introduction – 6 062 of these compact MPVs were delivered to customers in 2008.

Interior revisions for the 2009 version of the Avanza include the introduction of a new dark grey trim, improving the vehicle’s practicality even more. On the top-of-the-range Avanza 1.5TX silver plating are added to the door arm rests for enhanced aesthetic appeal.

The exterior changes feature a ribbed roof design. Outside door handles are now painted in body colour on all SX models, while chrome handles have been added to the TX model. Further additions to the SX models include side protection mouldings and window frame black out. Green tinted laminated windscreen glass is now standard on all models, while the 1.5 TX still has shaded privacy glass fitted to the side and rear hatch window areas.

The four model range remains unchanged with its choice of 1.3 or 1.5 litre double overhead camshaft, 16-valve engines with VVT-i variable valve timing technology and ‘S’, ‘SX’ or ‘TX’ specification levels. The 1.3 litre engine produces 67kW @ 6000 rpm with maximum torque of 120Nm @ 4400 rpm. The 1.5 litre engine offers maximum power of 80kW @ 6000 rpm and torque of 141Nm @ 4400 rpm. A 5-speed manual transmission is fitted to all models.

Recommended retail prices (including VAT):

Avanza 1.3 S R123 300

Avanza 1.3 SX R138 500

Avanza 1.5 SX R146 200

Avanza 1.5 TX R165 500

All Avanza models come with a 4yr/60 000km service plan and 3yr/100 000 warranty.


Drilling contractor Percusso-Bor is a family-run operation based on the southern shores of the Vaal dam, just outside Oranjeville in the Free State province. Established in 1969 by Pieter Pretorius, Percusso-Bor is now a leading, multi-million-rand exploration drilling business employing over 200 people, servicing several major South African mining concerns across four provinces as well as in Mozambique.

“It is a capital-intensive industry with some drilling rigs costing as much as R15 million,” explains Pretorius. “These rigs, along with the industrial air compressors that power them are transported to drilling sites by truck. At present, we have a fleet of 17 heavy trucks, all of them from Mercedes-Benz.”

The Percusso-Bor fleet comprises a mix of long wheel-base rigid trucks and truck-tractor/semi-trailer combinations, all mounted with drilling rigs to conduct both percussion and diamond-tip drilling tasks reaching depths of up to 2300 metres. “Our trucks are an integral part of our business,” says Pretorius, “and reliability is the most important factor when it comes to choosing a new truck. Our drivers can travel as far as 1 000 km in a single trip for certain projects, so ride comfort, good fuel consumption and safety are also strong purchasing factors.”

Constantly designing more efficient ways to conduct business, Pretorius and his colleagues, son Johan Pretorius and operations manager, Jaco van der Heever, recently purchased an ‘abnormal load’ truck-tractor/low-bed trailer combination to optimise Percusso-Bor’s transport of drilling rigs to and from client sites.

Choosing the prime mover for the new truck-trailer combination was a fait accompli for Pretorius. “There was no question it had to be a Mercedes-Benz, our truck of choice for over 35 years,” he says.

Pretorius opted for the Actros 2650 premium cab. “Our drivers need to transport drilling rigs over hundreds of kilometres both on and off highway and therefore we were looking for a 6x4 with plenty of horse-power,” continues Pretorius. “The Actros 2650 with its V8 engine was a natural choice, not only for its technical specifications but simply because it’s a top-class vehicle, worthy of carrying equipment that costs millions of rands to customers who think in terms of billions of dollars! At the end of the day, image is everything and the 500hp (378kW) V8 Actros is the best truck money can buy.”

- Mercedes-Benz


When the 44th US President Barack Obama takes a ride he’ll be doing it in this new Cadillac limousine provided to him by General Motors. Mr Obama has previously been driving a Ford Escape Hybrid (not available in South Africa), and before that he had a Chrysler 300C. Now as President he’ll be rolling in a Caddy.

Not much has come through in details suffice to say the car has very thick bulletproof windows measuring about 12.7cm (5 inches) in thickness, a 10-CD changer (he did say Ludacris was a good but lyrically misguided artist), a leather interior with handcrafted bits and a rear seat that mimics a mobile office so we can work while in transit.

Unfortunately again, we don’t have any information at all on the engine but it’s been speculated that it has a big diesel motor. About 25 of these limos will be built and they will do official duty for about ten years each. Not all of them are for Obama of course; some are used to ferry visiting heads of state.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009


Mercedes-Benz introduced the smart for-two Electric Drive in Detroit. The car is a prototype of the final product which runs on lithium-ion batteries. Tesla Motors, a company known for its electric vehicles, is supplying smart cars with 1,000 of these batteries. Production will begin at the end of 2009.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION SAYS: Toyota is displaying the Toyota FT-EV concept at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), and confirmed its plan to launch an urban commuter battery-electric vehicle (BEV) by 2012.

The FT-EV concept, as well as the compressed natural gas powered Camry Hybrid concept display at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show, signal Toyota’s intention to broaden the scope of its advanced alternative-fuel vehicle development.

The concept shares its platform with the revolutionary-new iQ urban commuter vehicle. Already a huge hit in Japan, the iQ is lightweight and seats four passengers in comfort and security, while delivering exceptional mileage, sporty performance, unique refinements and a fun, youthful image.

Toyota’s FT-EV concept imagines an urban dweller, driving up to 80 km between home, work and other forms of public transportation, such as high-speed rail. Although, for now, the FT-EV remains a pure concept, it represents a natural pairing of product strategies.

Although BEVs and new smaller vehicles like the iQ will be a key component of Toyota’s sustainable mobility strategy, the conventional petrol-electric hybrid, like the all new third-generation Prius, is considered Toyota’s long-term core powertrain technology.

Last year, Toyota announced that it planned to sell one million petrol-electric hybrids per year sometime during the early 2010s. To accomplish this, Toyota will launch as many as 10 new hybrid models by the early 2010s, in various global markets. The new third-generation Toyota Prius and all new Lexus HS250h, both debuting in Detroit, are the first two examples of that effort.

Also, last year, Toyota announced that it would roll-out a large number of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHVs) to global lease-fleet customers in 2010. That schedule has been moved up. Beginning late this year, Toyota will start global delivery of 500 Prius PHVs powered by lithium-ion batteries. Of these initial vehicles, 150 will be placed with lease-fleet customers in the USA.

The first-generation lithium-ion batteries powering these PHVs will be built on an assembly line at Toyota’s PEVE (Panasonic EV Energy Company, Ltd) battery plant, a joint-venture production facility in which Toyota owns 60 percent equity. During its development, the new Prius was designed and engineered to package either the lithium-ion battery pack with plug-in capability, or the nickel-metal hydride battery for the conventional petrol-electric system.

The 500 PHVs arriving globally in late 2009 will be used for market and engineering analysis. Lease–fleet customers will monitor the performance and durability of the first-generation lithium-ion battery, while offering real world feedback on how future customers might respond to the plug-in process. This Prius PHV fleet programme is a key first step in confirming how and when Toyota might bring large numbers of plug-in hybrids to global markets.