The Chinese are coming. Really!
The Americans and the Europeans are bracing themselves for
the onslaught of cars which are going to be coming from
China. Auto News reports that although most automakers in
China are small, and currently their vehicles cannot meet US
and European safety and emission standards, they are backed
by ambitious provincial governments with deep pockets.
Right now, the world’s manufacturers are either fooling
themselves by burying their heads in the sand, or madly
trying to forge partnerships with the Chinese. Ford Motor
Co. chairman Bill Ford said to reporters in Beijing a few
weeks ago, “It is easy to build a car; it is harder to build
a brand.” I honestly feel Bill Ford might regret that remark
one day. It is only a few years ago that the world had never
heard of Kia, Daiwoo and Hyundai. They are all now household
Here are next ones, thanks to China Inc. The top contenders
include Chery Automobile Co.: Industry rumors to the
contrary, Chery still aims to export to the United States.
But it has slowed its U.S. export plans so it can produce
Meanwhile, state-owned Chery will boost exports to
developing markets such as Iran, Egypt, Indonesia and
Russia. Chery is based in the city of Wuhu in the central
China province of Anhui. In 2005, it sold 189,158 light
vehicles, the most of any domestic Chinese automaker. Chery
will start exporting vehicles to the United States and
Europe, most likely in 2009 or 2010.
Chery will export 50,000 cars this year out of a total
production of 300,000 units. A Chery executive said the
original plan to begin exports to the United States in 2007
was “not practical.” He said, “It’s our dream to sell
vehicles in the U.S. and Europe.” Chery’s plan is to export
its own brand of cars to the United States and Europe and is
separate from negotiations with DaimlerChrysler about
building a small car for export, Chery managers and industry
The next is the Geely Automobile Holdings Group: In January,
Geely founder Li Shufu predicted his company would export
cars to the United States in 2008. Geely is designing and
building a car just for export to Western countries, working
with Magna Steyr AG, a design and engineering company owned
by Magna International, of Toronto. In 2005, Geely sold
The Great Wall Motor Co.: Great Wall has started exporting
to Europe. In September, about 500 Hover small vans arrived
in Italy. Great Wall will export Hovers and pickups to nine
European countries by the second half of 2007. In 2005, it
sold 29,027 units.
Brilliance China Automotive Holdings: Brilliance partners
with BMW AG in China. It has been trying to export a version
of its own Italian-designed, full-sized sedan to Europe.
Sales at Brilliance’s venture with BMW, which assembles 3-
and 5-series sedans in China, more than doubled in 2005, to
17,582 units, according to Automotive Resources Asia, a
Shanghai consulting firm.
Nanjing Automobile Group: In Oklahoma and England,
commercial truckmaker Nanjing Automobile Group aims to
assemble cars based on technology it purchased from the MG
Rover Group. Nanjing also makes cars and vans in joint
ventures with Fiat. The company says production of the MG TF
Coupe in Longbridge, the site of the former MG Rover plant
in England, is scheduled to begin in 2007. U.S. production
of the MG TF Coupe is scheduled for 2008. Nanjing Auto
suppliers say the TF will be assembled from kits shipped
Changfeng Group: As the only Chinese automaker to book space
so far at the Detroit auto show in January, Changfeng is an
unlikely exporter. In 2005, this state-owned company sold
only 24,170 units. But Changfeng, which is based in
Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province, has strong
support from its local government. That includes cheap
SAIC Motor Corp.: SAIC Motor plans to build its brand in
China before it exports. But suppliers say SAIC Motor, which
is owned by Shanghai’s municipal government, may have the
best long-term prospects in the West. Europe is the first
export target, because SAIC Motor models are based on
technology purchased from MG Rover. Last year, SAIC Motor’s
partnerships with General Motors and Volkswagen produced
870,000 vehicles. The company has learned much from its
We will all be driving a Chinese vehicle by 2016. Mark my
Age, experience and animal cunning
I am a great believer in age, experience
and animal cunning. Those three attributes got me through
all my races after the time I turned 50. It’s why older race
drivers can still perform on the track. They’re probably not
as ultimately fast as they were as bushy-tailed youngsters,
but they have the experience to stay out of trouble, to be
able to see tell-tale oil slicks on the surface of the
track, and see where other drivers are driving above their
heads and sit back, as you know they won’t make it to the
The upcoming Four Hour race at Bira on January 7 will see a
great mix of youth and enthusiasm, and the aforementioned
age and experience (and animal cunning). The Pizza Company
Racing Team’s second car is certainly one to follow the age
and experience route, with three of their drivers able to
boast 179 years of experience (but not all of it racing)
between them. The three are the Pizza Company owner, the
very well known Bill Heinecke, regular Pizza Company race
team driver Paul Kenny and Dr. Iain of the Pattaya Mail’s
Bill began racing as an 18 year old and has been racing in
the Porsche Cup Asia for a few seasons, Paul is a former
Thailand Go-Kart champion and has raced in many categories
and Dr. Iain is a former Australian champion in Sports
Sedans, Formula Ford Hill Climb and Gemini one make races,
so they have all racked up plenty of racing miles as well.
The three intend to enjoy themselves and still be there at
the end of the day. “To finish first, first you have to
finish,” is a well known motor racing saying, which they
understand very well.
More about the Four Hour and the Pizza Company Racing Team
as we get closer to the race day.
Last week was an easy one. I asked which five cylinder
diesel engined experimental record breaking car was
originally built with a four chamber Wankel style rotary
engine? It was the Mercedes C111.
So to this week. This luxury two-door sports coupe features
a carbon fibre/kevlar body, stainless steel for all metal
components, and the latest in safety technology. It is
mid-engined, up to a supercharged 370 bhp output. Its first
service is scheduled for 100,000 km and it has a three year
unlimited distance warranty. What is it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]
Lexus joins the performance group
Automotive News in the US claim that Lexus will launch a
performance brand in late 2007 to compete with Mercedes’ AMG
and BMW’s M divisions.
Lexus will start with an IS sedan equipped with a 425 hp,
5.0 liter V8. The sedan will be called the IS-F. It will
debut at the Detroit auto show in January. The engine is a
retuned version of the LS 600h L hybrid’s engine, dealer
It is also expected that Lexus likely will carry the “F”
nomenclature into other high-performance Lexus vehicles, a
dealer said. He said a GS-F sedan and IS-F coupe likely will
The IS-F - “F” as in “fast” - will go on sale in December
2007 Lexus told dealers at a recent national meeting.
Toyota Motor Corp. filed for a trademark for “IS-F” on
November 8 with the U. Patent and Trademark Office. It also
filed for a trademark for a stylized “F” logo on Oct. 9.
A dealer source said Yamaha is tuning the IS-F engine’s
heads for more power and Brembo will be the brake supplier.
Lexus declined to comment, but you can take it that there
will be a performance Lexus division as well as the luxury
side. And knowing Toyota/Lexus, it will be a top challenger
for AMG and the M series vehicles.
Are Jaguar and Land Rover for sale?
Break out your chequebooks, there is an
opportunity to buy both Jaguar and Land Rover marques, while
Ford is undergoing “restructuring”, to use a loose turn of
With the financial statement of FoMoCo being a blaze of
scarlet, Ford has been looking to see where they can raise
some finances. Initially the sum of USD 17 billion was
needed, but within a week they were talking USD 22 billion.
To cover this, they were mortgaging everything from Henry
Ford’s original model T to 10 of its 33 U.S. plants as
collateral. It doesn’t make sense to mortgage a plant that
might close or go on the auction block, insiders say, which
means that there’s 23 of them on shaky ground.
Financial analysts have noted that Volvo assets were fully
pledged as collateral too, signaling that Ford is likely to
keep it. However, Jaguar and Land Rover have not gone into
the mortgage basket, so they are unencumbered and potential
assets that can be sold. The only Land Rover asset pledged
is its North American distribution center.
As I have always said, if you want to read about the real
situation in the automotive world, then do not miss your
paper’s financial pages. They always make for interesting
reading and even more juicy speculation.
Renault says no to
McLaren then relents
There are certainly some naïve people around,
even in the dog eat dog world of Formula 1. There we have
the World Champion Alonso (Renault) who announced at the
beginning of 2006 that he was defecting to McLaren for 2007.
Renault was not amused!
Now we hear that McLaren was keen to get Alonso out on track
and testing at Jerez during December and had said that they
would approach Briatore to ask for the Spaniard’s early
release from his contract with them which is current up till
December 31, 2006.
“We’d like him in the car as quickly as we can,” McLaren CEO
Martin Whitmarsh said. “After this week there’s one more
test and we’d like Renault to recognize everything that he’s
done for them and release him to come and test for us.”
However, Renault’s Briatore did not immediately say yes. “I
think McLaren got the wrong address,” the Italian told the
Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. “If they wanted Alonso they
should have spoken with Renault, not with the journalists.
In any case I haven’t yet thought about this possibility, I
don’t think it’s so important for the fate of the world.”
Just in case both McLaren and Alonso think Briatore was
joking, he added, “I send my wishes to Fernando to spend a
merry Christmas and a relaxing winter, because when spring
comes we’ll beat him soundly!”
However, at the last minute, Renault relented and Alonso got
to have his first try in a McLaren, though Briatore insisted
that the car carry no advertising and Alonso was in a plain
white helmet. Much ado about nothing, if you ask me!