Friday, March 28, 2008, posted by Auto Rider at 11:26 PM

“Green” tax breaks were introduced in Thailand last year. This is an effort of the nation as the world’s largest manufacturer of light pickups to tuck the title in the years to come. Annually, Thailand churns out 900,000 one-tonne trucks. The figure is three-fourths of global output.

The government is threatened by escalating oil prices and global warming concerns that could result in truck sales doldrums. This scenario could put a dent to Thai economy because shoppers are expected to shift to fuel-efficient compact cars. These reasons prompted the Thai government to offer incentives for the manufacturer of “eco-cars” that meet European emission standards.

"First-time car owners, and especially motorcyclists who want to become car owners, are cost-conscious consumers," said Surapong Paisitpatnapong, spokesman for the Federation of Thai Industries' automotive club. "Investments in eco-car production will help grow this new segment of the country's domestic auto market while increasing exports.”

By far, seven automakers have proposed eco-car projects to Thailand's Board of Investment. The automakers include Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG, and Tata Motors Surapong said four proposals have already been approved.

Also, Honda Motor Co. intends to invest $214 million to assemble eco-cars while manufacturing engines and parts in Thailand. Suzuki Motors, meanwhile, will invest $303.658 million to build a new factory in central Thailand. Approximately 80 percent of cars produces will be for export. Nissan Motors Co. also will invest $177 million to build 120,000 units annually. The output is also mainly allotted for export.

"Eco-cars are going to be hot in Thailand's auto market. The lower prices for these minicars, along with high oil prices, will drive up the demand," said Nongnapat Wilepana, a Nissan dealer in Bangkok.

AFP reported that under the scheme, the companies will not have to pay corporate income taxes on their investments for eight years, and duties on imported machinery will be waived.

“Thailand's main worry is that its auto industry depends entirely on foreign companies, since the kingdom has no national automaker,” Surapong noted. “That means the country will have to keep wooing automakers with attractive offers in the future to deter them from looking for better deals for their factories in other countries.”

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008, posted by Auto Rider at 6:07 PM

At the Geneva International Motor Show, the leanest, greenest automobiles were displayed. And with more stringent vehicle emissions standards, an increasing number of green cars will soon hit the roads.

Among the horde of small cars that made their official debut are Ford Motor Co.'s Fiesta, Toyota Motor Corp.'s iQ, and Fiat’s 500 Aria. The cars flaunt carbon dioxide emissions of under 100 grams per kilometer. As such, they prove that automakers can beat the EU proposal for a fleet average of 130 grams by 2012.

Tata Nano, dubbed the cheapest car worldwide, was also displayed to wow the Europeans. The new People’s car bearing a price sticker of $2,500 plus tax and delivery will be initially available in India, the automaker’s home territory. Nonetheless, Tata is in the process of enhancing the car’s emissions ratio and safety features to compete closely with global automakers in the near future.

General Motors Corp.’s new Chevrolet Aveo, a five-door vehicle from the automaker’s best-selling brand, was also shown at the motor show to pull green aficionados closer.

More and more green cars are produced but one of the loopholes seen on the emission proposal was tackled in Brussels. Discussions reveal that automakers pool their fleets with those of companies manufacturing more efficient automobiles.

Greenpeace, a leading environmental group, said even tighter emissions targets than those in the EU proposal are needed if climate change is to be reigned in. Martin Lloyd of Greenpeace accused automakers of "greenwashing" with a few eco models while continuing to sell heavier, faster and less efficient vehicles. "The industry knows what it has to do and it has the technology to do it," Lloyd concluded.

According to an Associated Press release, about 20 activists protested at the Geneva show demanding that automakers rethink what makes a good car and calling for average fleet emissions to be limited to 120 grams per kilometer by 2012, and 80 grams by 2020.

There is also an impending threat that automakers could pass the cost to auto shoppers. As such, it would increase hundreds of dollars to the sticker price of cars. It won’t be long for automakers to impose much higher prices.

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Monday, March 17, 2008, posted by Auto Rider at 10:21 PM

Mitsubishi plans to expand reach with the i-MiEV, set to arrive at dealerships by 2010.

The i-MiEV comes from the Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle (MiEV) clan, a name given to the automaker’s alternative propulsion technologies. Other watchers in the industry predicted that the cute little electric car with the top speed of about 80 mph and a maximum travel of 100 miles will not make it into the real automotive realm. But the Japanese automaker proved them wrong.

Mitsubishi will also expand mid-sized platform cars and will include an SUV based pickup. The automaker also plans to make the i-MiEV global by reaching Europe and North America not just Japan.

The two-seater i-MiEV, which is designed for urban use, is Mitsubishi’s effort to combat global warming issues. The automaker will zero in on smaller and low impact sport utilities as well as core technologies stressing the development of clean diesel engines and the high-efficiency automated manual transmission Twin Clutch SST (Sport Shift Transmission), according to the Green Car Congress.

In the Western European market, the Japanese automaker will respond to stringent mileage standards by improving environmental awareness and tightening CO2 emissions. This will be done by introducing environmental technologies and compact vehicles. Additionally, to improve sales in the burgeoning Central European market, the automaker will concentrate on sport utilities.

In North America, Mitsubishi said that it will primarily be working on improving the brand image in the mid- to long term and working with its dealers. What’s more, the concentration for its US-based production facility will be continued efforts at overall cost cuts, including fixed costs, and by intensifying export prospects.

In Brazil, Mitsubishi will endeavor to raise sales by satisfying its lineup of full-range flexible fuel vehicles (FFV). FFV range covers 0-100 percent petrol or bioethanol-compatible vehicles.

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, posted by Auto Rider at 7:16 PM

With the global warming uproar, automakers are mandated to fill the roads with fuel efficient cars. But Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday it will take years to make the cars commercially viable.

The fuel-cell hybrid vehicle (FCHV) produces electricity through a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen. Fuel cells emit nothing more than water vapor. This is why the FCHV is deemed one of the cleanest cars that are expected to invade the roads.

In 2007, the Japanese auto giant reported success in a test of a fuel-cell car. During the test, the FCHV was driven about 560 kilometers on a single filling. Remarkably, the car finished with 30 percent of the hydrogen still in the tank.

Beside the fact that the FCHV is pricey, Watanabe noted that motorists would need an infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations if they are to take fuel-cell cars on the road.
"It will probably be a long way ahead until we can start mass production, considering problems linked to difficulties in how to stock hydrogen and where to draw hydrogen from," he said. "It'll take long time to solve these problems, but we will definitely commercialize it as I believe it is a promising power sourceaid.”

Toyota is the pioneer of hybrids. Additionally, the automaker is also expected to become the world’s largest this year by leapfrogging General Motors Corp.

Watanabe in an interview with AFP said he hoped to go further and "make a car that can actually clean the air, so that the longer it runs the cleaner the air becomes." He added work was progressing with Matsushita on loading cars with lithium-ion batteries. The batteries would introduce to the industry the so-called “plug-in hybrids" that can be recharged from domestic outlets. "By 2010 we hope the achievement will see customers," Watanabe said.

"I have no intention of changing our policy that the centre of research and development will be in Japan," he concluded. "Of course, part of technological development already has shifted to satellite centers in the United States, Europe, Thailand, Australia and Taiwan. But the basic and core technologies will be developed in Japan."

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Friday, March 14, 2008, posted by Auto Rider at 10:18 PM

Car designing may be compared with just about any form of art. For Shiro Nakamura, designing cars is like making music.

Nakamura’s work at Nissan, which manufactures premium cars under the Infiniti brand, involves a range of music. Each segment is treated as a different repertoire. It requires different rhythm, different lyrics.
"Luxury cars are like classical music: you have to respect certain rules - otherwise they will not be accepted," he noted, motioning to the models showcased at the Geneva Motor Show’s Infiniti stand. "The Nissan brand is more like jazz, pop or rock: you can ignore the rules."
The greatest challenge facing auto designers is to come up with a unique and captivating car that captures the soft spot of the masses. "Nissan draws hints from contemporary Japan – things like animation, and 'manga' (comics)," Nakamura told Reuters.

One of the most unique vehicles showcased by the Japanese automaker is the egg-shaped Pivo2 electric car concept. "With concept cars, we pull out all the stops - it's very cute and Japanese. You won't see anyone else doing something like this," he said. "But with mass-production cars, you want to tone it down without losing the essence, so they can be accepted by consumers.”

Nissan cars also hint extreme Japanese pop culture. Take the remodeled GT-R sports car. The iconic car is inspired by robot cult-comics like Gundam. "The GT-R is a total muscle car. It's completely unusual in Europe, very manga-like and mechanical, like Gundam," Nakamura said. "It's not traditional in any sense -- not elegant or aerodynamic. And that's okay, because this isn't a volume seller, and shouldn't be."

Infiniti, meanwhile, must have the elegance and universal characteristics that appeal to luxury goods consumers worldwide, Nakamura noted. "Infiniti's design, unlike Nissan's, is global and more inspired by nature," he added. "The reason is simple: customers seeking luxury have a common eye all over the world. It's the same with fashion."

Asked which is more challenging – the structure of classical music or the freedom of the jazz, Nakamura has this to say: "It's a different type of difficulty. In either case, it's a competition."

Any form of art is a form of power. Nissan’s styling epitomizes captivating music – that’s why it is powerful. And behind the power that it creates is a man named Shiro Nakamura.

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