Vol. XIII No. 23
Friday June 10 - june 16, 2005

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Updated every Friday
by Saichon Paewsoongnern



by Dr. Iain Corness

Canadian GP this weekend

The eighth Grand Prix of the 2005 season crosses the Atlantic to be run in Montreal at the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit, constructed on a man-made island which had been used in the 1967 Expo. Originally named the Ile Notre Dame circuit the circuit was renamed in Villeneuve’s memory after his death in 1982. The location is one of the loveliest in Formula One since the narrow track threads its way through lakes and parkland. It is a narrow, medium-fast, 2.75 mile circuit with 13 corners. Some corners were eased for 1979, a new corner before the pits was added in 1991 and a chicane was added in 1994.

Whilst Alonso appears to have a good lead in the championship, there are many rounds to come, and he was extremely lucky at the European GP, to have Raikkonen’s McLaren Mercedes break down on the final lap. In testing so far since then, the McLarens have been very, very competitive. I would not put my money on Alonso for this weekend.

While Villeneuve in the Sauber will be the darling of the Canadian set, he is certainly not the darling of Sauber team owner Peter Sauber. Taking your team member off and ending up with no points for either car is one of the worst ‘crimes’ a driver can commit. Currently Villeneuve seems to be just a mobile chicane, and patience with him is running thin. I would not be surprised to see him dropped before the year end. There are better drivers out there standing on the sidelines.

The current points scores are:
Drivers’ Standings
1 F Alonso (Spa) 59
2= K Raikkonen (Fin) 27
2= J Trulli (Ita) 27
4 N Heidfeld (Ger) 25
5 M Webber (Aus) 18
6= R Schumacher (Ger) 17
6= G Fisichella (Ita) 17
8= JP Montoya (Col) 16
8= M Schumacher (Ger) 16
10= D Coulthard (GB) 15
10= R Barrichello (Bra) 15
12 A Wurz (Aut) 6
13 J Villeneuve (Can) 5
14 P de la Rosa (Spa) 4
15 C Klien (Aut) 3
16 F Massa (Bra) 2
17 V Liuzzi (Ita) 1
Constructor Standings
1 Renault 76
2 McLaren 53
3 Toyota 44
4 BMW-Williams 43
5 Ferrari 31
6 Red Bull 19
7 Sauber 7

Now since this GP comes from the other side of the world, the telecasting here will begin (I think) at midnight, but I will be getting to Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR well before. Join me for a beer and a natter beforehand.

How long does it take to build a car?

Well, it takes under 2 hours to build the engines, and your car can be ready around 16 hours after that! Obviously, the faster you can screw one together, the more efficient your plant, and the more profit per vehicle. So which company is most efficient? Do you have to ask? Toyota, scores again.

Nissan Frontier

According to the annual Harbour Report released last week, Toyota has passed Nissan as the most efficient producer of vehicles in North America. Auto News also reported that the General Motors Oshawa, Ontario, No. 1 plant passed Nissan’s Altima line in Smyrna, Tennessee, as the most efficient assembly plant in North America, using 15.85 labor hours per vehicle. The Oshawa No. 1 plant produces the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo cars.

Harbour Consulting of Troy, Mich., measures the productivity of North America’s automobile factories. Toyota Motor Corp. cut its total labor hours per vehicle 5.5 percent from last year’s study to 27.90 hours, according to the report. Total hours are calculated using production at stamping, power-train and assembly operations.

“Toyota’s labor productivity lead equates to a $350 to $500 per vehicle cost advantage relative to domestic manufacturers,” said Harbour President Ron Harbour. He noted that Toyota has placed more emphasis on the Toyota Production System and the automaker is aggressively spreading standardized manufacturing processes throughout its plants.

Nissan, traditionally the leader in assembly plant productivity, saw its overall labor hours per vehicle climb 4.8 percent to 29.43 hours. The reason: The automaker introduced several redesigned products in 2004, including the Maxima sedan, Pathfinder SUV and the Frontier pickup at its Smyrna plant.

Also, the Altima line at the Smyrna plant, which last year ranked No. 1 at 15.33 labor hours per vehicle, scored 16.10 hours per vehicle in this year’s report. Yet the Altima, Maxima and Xterra SUV lines at Smyrna placed among the top 10 assembly plants in hours per vehicle.

In the overall labor measurement, the Big 3 scored within 2.6 labor hours per vehicle of each other - ranging from 34.33 hours for GM to 36.9 hours for Ford Motor Co. Both Ford and DaimlerChrysler improved their total hours-per-vehicle score 4.2 percent from last year, while GM’s score improved 2.5 percent.

Over the past three years, DaimlerChrysler’s total hours score on the report has improved 19 percent. And the automaker’s Belvedere, Illinois, plant broke into the list of top 10 vehicle assembly plants. The plant, which builds the Dodge Neon car and is preparing to convert to a five-door vehicle that will replace the Neon, ranked No. 7 on the list. “Unlike its past recoveries, Chrysler is making broad improvements that permeate beyond manufacturing,” Harbour said. “This will provide more consistency in future market fluctuations.”

Among average assembly plant productivity, the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont, Calif., was the top-ranked company at 21.78 hours per vehicle, down 0.6 percent from last year’s report. The plant is a joint venture between GM and Toyota. (Amazing just who is in bed with whom, at any one time, in the auto industry!)

GM ranked second in average assembly plant productivity at 23.09 hours per vehicle. In fact, four of the top 10 assembly plants were GM plants.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s (world-wide) decline in sales hurt the productivity score of its plant in Normal, Illinois, which ranked last among company averages. The plant saw its labor hours per vehicle jump 17.5 percent from last year’s report to 29.89 hours per vehicle. The Harbour Report also measures productivity at stamping and engine building operations. Toyota shines in both areas. Toyota led in stamping productivity at 1.37 hours per vehicle, a 28.3 percent gain from last year’s report. Harbour noted that Toyota got a report-record 775 average parts per hour from its stamping operations.

Toyota’s four-cylinder engine plant in Buffalo, W. Vancouver, was top-ranked in the report, needing only 1.88 labor hours per engine. But GM had four engine plants ranked in the report’s top 10, with the Tonawanda, N.Y., plant ranked No. 3, and the Spring Hill, Tennessee, plant at No. 4.

AFOS meeting at Bira this weekend too

What a race-fest for the motor racing enthusiasts this weekend! A GP (even though fairly late in the evening) plus a big race meeting at Bira, with Formula BMW, the Asian Touring Car series and the Porsche Cup Asia on the same bill.

All of these categories are hotly contested, and have Thai representation at the pointy end, so it would be worthwhile coming along to cheer on the locals. In the Formula BMW’s, Robert T. Boughey (Team Meritus) is the sole Thai driver in the Formula BMW Asia field. The 22 year old was runner up in the Rookie Cup last year, and began the season determined to clinch the championship proper this time around. His victory, and his maiden one was in Bahrain in April and his second place finish in Sepang last month, puts him fourth on the points score going into Rounds 5 and 6.

Although Boughey is confident of a good showing in his upcoming home races - current championship leader Salman Al Khalifa (BAH/Team E-Rain) will be difficult to topple. However, the truly pan-Asian field is packed to the gills this year with talent. Another sensation is 15 year old Armaan Ebrahim (Team E-Rain), who scored his maiden victory last month in just his fourth outing in the car to put him second on the points, closely followed by 19 year old fellow Rookie Charlie-Ro Charlez (MAS/Team Meritus).

In the Porsche Cup there is the ever-youthful Natavude, who is one of the most polished drivers in Thailand, and always my pick for honours, though in this very hotly contested series too, there are a number of drivers all trying to get on the top step, including reigning British Touring Car champion 18 year old Jonathan Cocker, last year’s Porsche Cup winner Matthew Marsh and Malaysia’s Rizal Ramli. On the tight Bira circuit, expect some paint exchanges in this group. Natavud has a narrow points lead from Cocker and Vuthikorn (Thailand).

In the Asian Touring Cars, Franz Engler currently leads from Mod Farique Hairuman and experienced local Thai, Prutirat Seriroengrith.

Natter Nosh and Noggin

The monthly car enthusiasts meeting has changed venue, and will be at Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR next to the Nova Park development. The car (and bike) enthusiasts meet on the second Monday of the month, so this time it is Monday (13th) at Jameson’s at 7 p.m. This is a totally informal meeting of like minded souls which meets on the second Monday of each month to discuss their pet motoring (and motorcycling) loves and hates. Just ask any of the lovely Jameson’s girls where the group is and they will point us out and give you a push.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, I asked what was the name of the concept car that Ford engineers took to Watkins Glen in 1962. The clue was that it was a two seater and mid engined. This concept car was called the “Mustang”, even though the final Mustang which was introduced a year later was front engined and a 5 seater. Quiz regular MacAlan Thompson was first in (again). He now has racked up so many beers I have to make sure I’m out of town if he calls!

So to this week. The YCC Volvo, the concept car designed by women for women has what was described as a unique feature. This was the ability to park itself, and you can just picture the lady driver telling her car to “go park yourself” can’t you! However, there was a vehicle produced around 20 years previously, that did wriggle itself into parking spaces, complete with four-wheel steer. What was this car?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email au [email protected]

Good luck!

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