With Michael Schumacher going further ahead in the
Driverís Championship, just what are McLaren going to do now? This next
event is a high speed one and we should see the Arrows straight line speed
again, with the old Peugeot engines now called AsiaTechs and the BMWís
should also fly in the two Williams cars.
tip for a surprise would be Kimi Raikkonen in the Sauber. This lad is
getting better and better every race and is out-qualifying his more
experienced running mate Heidfeld. Villeneuve will want to do well in
front of his partisan home crowd and can almost be guaranteed to have a go
at anything (and usually win a wall).
About now, Mika Hakkinen should realise he has no hope
and will turn into Mika Hankynen after Erja gives him an earful. Yes, it
will all happen in Canada!
Join me trackside at Shenanigans for the start of the
race, which (I think) should be an unsociable midnight. However, please
check the UBC timetable (not available when I wrote this) or check with
Landlord Kim Fletcher at Shenanigans.
70 Hong Kong drivers storm Bira
of the best international events in Asia is the Macau Grand Prix, however,
it is not a case of getting a car and entering. With so many drivers
wishing to compete there the local Hong Kong drivers have to qualify to
get an entry. With this in mind, 40 Hong Kong National Championship
drivers, plus 20 Mini Cooper drivers and another 20 Macau Touring Car
Championship drivers are descending on the Bira Circuit this weekend. If
you want to see the Hong Kong chaps in action make your way over to Bira.
Itís on Highway 36 to Rayong, around Km marker 14, coming from the
International School of the Regents end and before the intersection with
Finally GeeEmm comes clean!
You certainly read it here first! On the 11th of May I
received a breathless Press Release from the big fellow trumpeting
"Fiat Auto (Thailand) Ltd. and General Motors (Thailand) Ltd announce
Agreement to Manufacture Alfa Romeo 156 in Thailand." Of course, as
any regular reader of this column will recall, I published a piece about
that on the 27th April, so it was hardly "news" by the time the
press release came through - hence my not rushing down to "Stop the
presses" to try and get the "news" in.
The item went on to say that production is expected to
commence by the first quarter of 2002. This fits in with the predicted
face-lift to be given to the 156 in the last quarter of this year, a fact
that was also published by this column on the 27th. The annual output is
expected to reach some 4,000 cars and Fiat Autoís overall industrial
investment will total approximately USD 10 million.
This is a promising thing for Thailand, and it is very
good to see the Generalís facility being diversified in this way. There
are also plans afoot to manufacture some Isuzu models there around 2003.
Getting back to the Alfa Romeo co-operation, the press
release said that Fiat Auto is studying co-operation plans with its
current local importer, Thai Prestige Auto, for the distribution of its
vehicles. You betcha! The Fiat stand at the Bangkok International Motor
Show had Mario Marchisio, chief representative of Fiat International,
Rocco Basta, the regional director of Fiat Auto from Malaysia, John Mack,
president and CEO of Fiat Auto Thailand and Eric Durand from Thai Prestige
Auto Sales all very palsy walsy. The grins were very wide too.
The Alfa Romeos manufactured in Thailand are targeted
for export to Asia Pacific markets such as Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia,
Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
According to William Botwick, president of General
Motors Thailand, "Todayís agreement demonstrates the benefit of GMís
alliance with Fiat in Asia Pacific. Our Rayong facility was designed to be
flexible, to allow us to expand production and build several vehicles on
the same line at the same time." That could be a bit of a worry. If
you see a 7 seat Alfa Romeo pickup youíll know thereís been a goof up
somewhere on the line!
Donít laugh, there was a famous Holden Torana in
Australia about 1972 which had one door on one side and two on the other.
The first "3 door" perhaps? It ended up being a spare parts car
for a mateís racer.
other news from the GM plant is the deal to manufacture "Zubaruís"
on the assembly line as well. These are a badge engineered Zafira with a
Subaru nameplate. Since GM own a good percentage of Subaru, the deal was
struck relatively painlessly.
These Zafiraís are destined for the Japan local
market at this stage, but it is certainly a feather in the cap for the
Eastern Seaboard plant. Subaru are known as a quality manufacturer in the
world markets and the decision to have a Subaru badged vehicle come out of
the GM plant does mean that the Subaru corporate people are happy with the
build quality of our local product.
Well done, the General!
Getting a BeeEmm without the extreme pain
BMW Thailand are certainly becoming aggressive
marketers for their range of 3 series vehicles which are produced here. I
reviewed the 323iA last week, and I for one would be more than happy to
see one in my driveway. The big drawback has to be the big slug, the once
only easy down payment of 100%, which for the 323iA as tested was 2.4
this, BMW have introduced an "ouchless" financing package for
its 3 Series, both 318iA and 323iA, with zero % interest for a period of
up to 3 years. This, says BMW, is part of their constant attempt to
improve customer satisfaction; however, you and I know it is really
another means of attempting to improve customer sales. But it is an
attractive offer too. You can get into your 3 series with a 25% deposit
and pay zero % interest rate for the first 3 years. Those who would rather
put it on the drip for 48 or 60 months will pay 0.99% or 1.49% interest
rates respectively, with the same 25% down payment. Cash buyers will be
offered a choice of either free first class insurance for two years or
free accessories worth 100,000 baht.
To put that in real terms, you can slide into the 323iA
I tested last week for 600,000 deposit and 50,000 baht a month for 36
months. For many corporate buyers, that is a much more realistic approach
to the purchase problem.
BMW has been the market leader in the automobile luxury
segment for the past two years, and the company has been forging ahead
recently. During January to April of this year BMWís sales went up 57%
while 21 independent authorized dealers have been appointed throughout the
By the way if you want to get more info on the HP deals
contact Dr. Wit Sittivaekin, Corporate Communications Director, BMW
(Thailand) Tel (02) 654-3100 or Fax (02) 654-3115.
More about the BeeEmm 323iA
Following on from last weekís overview of the 323iA,
I thought I should give you a little more about this car. It is such a
sophisticated package that the small items tend to be forgotten, even if
they are attributes that make driving the car just that much more
Take for example, the rear vision mirrors. Electrically
adjustable like almost every car these days, but with the Beemer when you
select reverse gear the passenger mirror dips down so that you can see
where your wheels are, relative to the kerb. With the rather nice (and
expensive, no doubt) alloy wheels, you can now make sure you donít
graunch the rims.
The steering wheels these days do a lot more than just
be tillers to change direction and toot the horn. With the 323 you have
the air bag, controls to increase or decrease the volume of the radio/tape
player, adjustable cruise control and a quick volume reduction for use of
mobile phones. I must confess I did not try the cruise control, again
being one of my least preferred options on a car. Call me old fashioned,
but I like to dictate the speed at which I travel at all times, not some
The leather seats were very comfortable with
adjustments in every direction, including up and down and lumbar support
as well. While not race seats, they were hugging and not tiring on longer
trips (and had the inbuilt memory about which I wrote last week).
The test car was also fitted with side impact airbags
in both front doors. The interior was well fitted out with adequate, if
not cavernous, stowage pockets in the doors and a couple of smaller trays
for such things as mobile phones. With a tape player as standard, there
was no dedicated storage for tapes and the locker closest to the player
was not large enough to take more than a couple of tapes.
What was noticeable was the space in the interior. Even
with the driverís seat right back in my long limbed driving position,
there was more than adequate room for the rear seat passengers. The 3
Series has slowly grown in size and the room and comfort make it such that
I wonder where the 5 Series is going to fit in. The 5ís might just find
themselves redundant. It will be interesting to see where all this ends.
Will the next 5 be closer to the 7 Series and where will the 7ís go