With the usual fanfares of trumpets and an
exhibition hall full of crumpets, the 23rd annual Bangkok
International Motor Show kicked off this last week. Promoted
by the Grand Prix International Group, our local motor show is
classified as a true “international” event by the world
authority that grants the status of these motor shows, and we
have just cause to be proud of it.
theme this year at the BITEC venue was “Never-ending
Energy” and many of the concept cars were using alternative
fuel sources and hybrid technology.
With the auto-market being a global
enterprise, we cannot think of just the Thai market as being
all important. This country has a place in the world. This was
brought out by people such as Mike Pease, the boss of Ford in
this country, who announced that Thailand has been selected as
the manufacturing hub for pick-ups in the SE Asian region,
while Ford will make their small cars in the Philippines.
Toyota is another company which has
selected Thailand as the SE Asian manufacturing base, as has
the General with its Zafira and the newcomer Alfa Romeo which
is manufacturing the new 156 through the GeeEmm plant on the
While the total number of vehicles may
still not be quite at the pre-1997 (economic crash) levels, it
is rapidly reaching that level of production and will soon
surpass it. The world may have gone through a recent downturn,
but the local industry is more than holding its own.
I will give more detailed summaries over
the next few weeks, but here are some of the highlights of the
Press Day. For me, the stand which impressed most was Mercedes
Benz. It was not the brightest or biggest, but had a wonderful
range of very impressive (and pretty) cars. The CLK coupe
which made its world debut in RHD at the Bangkok Show is a
beautiful looking vehicle, only edged out in the styling
stakes by the new SL 500 roadster. This will set you back
about 12 and a bit million, that’s all! For a cool 30
million baht you could also have the AMG S 63 version. A large
saloon which knocks over 0-100 kays in a shade over 6 seconds.
There was also a “David Coulthard” F1 McLaren Mercedes on
display, which is stretching the longbow somewhat, since the
engines are designed and built by Ilmor Engineering, but ah
well, it’s Benz bucks that have made it possible.
BMW, on the other hand had a huge stand,
but apart from the new 745 long wheelbase 7 series on a
turntable (which I think has an “awkward” rear end), the
rest of the BMW range, albeit with some very good cars, were
left as static exhibits, even if there was a real live dolly
bird dressed in black evening dress standing beside each one.
BeeEmm even chose to show the motorcycles the same way.
The aforementioned Alfa Romeo
manufacturer’s stand had Michael Schumacher’s F1 Ferrari
and a couple of 156’s on mirror turntables, complete with
ladies in gold evening dresses as human decoration. I had the
opportunity to drive the new 156’s around Bira Circuit last
weekend and will be doing a full test on these shortly. Well,
I’ve been promised a car, so we’ll see!
Even the humble tuk-tuk was at the show,
with various body styles as well as the usual people carrier.
The tipper was probably the most novel. I wonder if we’ll
ever see them on Beach Road?
There was the usual problem in getting
English language Press Kits, and I must say I was not
impressed with the Citroen stand, who when I asked if they had
any English Press Kits, replied in Thai that they didn’t. I
then asked if they had any in French, but I think the irony
went over their heads. The manufacturers should understand
that sine it is an “international” show, they should have
information available in the “international” motoring
language. After all, why do all F1 drivers have to speak
English? I will give Volvo their due, however. They confessed
they did not, but emailed the information to me, which got to
the office even before I did. Thank you Volvo.
One of the most impressive cars, visually,
was the CLK Benz. Bangkok was its release in RHD form and it
has reputedly a Cd of only 0.28 to make it one of the most
slippery coupe’s in history.
The one on display at our motor show is
considered the “entry level” CLK 240 while we do not look
like getting the hot CLK 55 AMG. More’s the pity.
The CLK styling is evolutionary rather than
revolutionary, and comes complete with frameless and fully
retractable side windows and twin bi-xenon headlights.
The new cars are 71mm longer, 18mm wider
and 42mm higher than their predecessor. The wheelbase has been
increased by 25mm to 2715mm, with Benz claiming this will
deliver improved distance between the seats, headroom, knee
room, elbow room and shoulder width.
The CLK 240 is actually a 2.6 litre V6 that
generates 125kW, but if we ever get it, the CLK 55 AMG
produces 270kW from its 5.5 litre engine and accelerates from
rest to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds. The CLK500 is also
impressive, with 220 kW and a 0-100 kph figure of 6.0 seconds.
Inside the cabin, the instrument panel,
centre console, door panels and seats are all new, while
standard equipment includes adaptive airbags for the driver
and front passenger, side bags, window bags, as well as belt
tensioners. The CLK also benefits from high-tech systems first
seen in the S-class luxury limousine including Distronic
proximity cruise control, keyless go entry, bi-xenon headlamps
and Linguatronic voice control for the telephone and radio
should all be included in the locally offered car.