The Chinese are at it again, and even more devious! They
have managed to produce a copy of the DaimlerChrysler Smart
car (by the way, pronounced “Dyemler” as the “Chrysler” is
silent). The more than faintly ridiculous Smart is that
abbreviated runabout that looks as if it was caught in the
middle of a multi-car nose to tail accident.
However, back to China. Shandong Huoyun Electromobile began
production of the Smart lookalike last August, but
DaimlerChrysler have stepped in, complaining that the car
was so similar to theirs that it was a blatant copy. The
Teutonic nose was definitely out of joint. You could even
say it was smarting.
Apparently the Chinese vehicle is identical in length and
shares even the smaller details, such as the shape of the
grille and the rear window design.
It turns out that Shandong Huoyun Electromobile could
honestly say that they had never even seen a DaimlerChrysler
Smart to copy. They did it by buying a toy Smart over the
internet and taking the measurements from it! The toymaker
should be congratulated in making such an accurate kids
However, apart from the shape, that seems to be where the
similarity ends. The Not-So-Smart has electric power, and
can scoot along at up to 55 kph for up to 100 km between
battery charges. It also has an interior styled by Walt
Disney, done in retro-style 1950’s plastic and vinyl, as
opposed to the DaimlerChrysler French couturier up-market
vacuum extracted manganese polycarbonate, Madame Pompadour
velour or suchlike.
DaimlerChrysler, having been in business for over 100 years
and with representation in all countries of the world
considered home to people with deep enough pockets to own
one, has crushed poor little Shandong Huoyun which was
established in 2001, has 150 employees, including 31
engineers and makes a range of golf cars, electric mini-cars
and all-terrain vehicles.
Rather than fight the German giant, the Chinese manufacturer
has not dropped its plans, but instead dropped the toy Smart
on its rear from a height of 20 meters, redrawn the plans
and revised the shape of the Not-So-Smart, making it 20 cm
shorter, with a blunter rear.
So, if you are looking for something even shorter than a
Smart, give Shandong Huoyun a call. Have they got a bargain
By the way, the Shandong Huoyun Electromobile was called the
City Spirit, but with Rolls-Royce now controlled from Der
Faderland and in control of names like the Silver Spirit,
this name could be in doubt too!
Has A1 a tyre message for F1?
From our roving correspondent John
Weinthal: With Formula 1 returning to a single tyre supplier
for 2007 it has been interesting to watch the impact of tyre
changes in A1 GP.
A1’s supplier is America’s Cooper. F1 will rely on
At Malaysia’s monsoon-sodden race three weeks ago local hero
Alex Yoong drove as if laden with lead before his mandatory
tyre change. Then he came alive big-time making up many
places to finish 7th and setting fastest lap.
At Indonesia’s Sentul on December 10 the prime victim of new
tyres was Germany’s hot new star Nico Hulkenberg. As at
Sepang, Sentul started in a downpour with a water-logged
circuit but Hulkenberg had little trouble soaring from third
to first to lead for the first session lapping around two
seconds faster than any others.
After his tyre change the roles were reversed. New Zealand’s
Jonny Read finally regained the lead, pulling away from the
However, with his late change to dry tyres Hulkenberg was
able to charge again. It was not enough to overtake Reid,
but the gap was cut from 19 to 13 seconds in very few laps
before a Safety Car ended any further real racing.
Can Bridgestone ensure that all tyres are truly equal for F1
in 2007? Time will tell.
For the record, both A1 races at Sentul were won by Read
with Hulkenberg third and second. This extends Germany’s
championship lead over Great Britain, Mexico, France, New
Zealand and Malaysia.
The next race is on January 21 at Taupo in New Zealand, home
of the winner of both the Sprint and Feature races in
Indonesia. The remaining races are Australia (Eastern Creek,
Sydney), South Africa (Durban), Brazil, Mexico, China
(Shanghai) and Brands Hatch (UK).
Last week was not an easy one. I printed a picture of a
luxury two-door sports coupe featuring a carbon
fibre/kevlar body, stainless steel for all metal
components, and the latest in safety technology.
It was 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. I asked what is it? It was
So to this week. You’ll have to
work hard for this one. What was the fuel consumption of a
racing Jaguar XJ-S? Hint. It was less than 10 mpg.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email firstname.lastname@example.org
Four Hour Fever growing
The forthcoming Four Hour Endurance race
for sedans at the Bira circuit on January 7, 2007, has
certainly been bringing the drivers out of the woodwork (and
retirement). The interest is also not just national, but
international, with ex-F1 driver Jan Magnusson hoping to
compete in one of the Pizza Company Racing Team Vios cars.
This will depend upon his availability as far as his other
racing commitments in Europe is concerned, but at this stage
he is very hopeful. He will be teamed with Thomas Raldorf,
against whom Magnusson raced in the Danish karting
championships, plus Jack Lemvard who won the Vios series in
2006 and PGA golfer Simon Yates, who was also a front runner
in the 2006 Vios series. This car will have five drivers,
with Martin Stuvic, another Thailand GoKart champion and
front-runner in the Vios 2006 championship, eager to pace
himself against Magnusson.
The second car in the team sees Bill Heinecke (CEO of the
Minor Group) come out of retirement, having raced a Porsche
GT3 a couple of years ago, teamed with Michael Freeman, an
Australian who has been based in Asia for some years, but
has a long background in touring cars competing in the
famous Australian 1,000 km endurance event at Bathurst. The
two other drivers in this car are Paul Kenny, another Aussie
expat who has won a Thailand GoKart championship and myself,
Dr. Iain, who has dusted off the race suit and found the
balaclava and gloves. (I am also doing fitness training at
the Dusit Health Club!) This will be a fun team.
The third car, also in the Pizza Company racing colours,
will be driven by Urs Schonenberger, an ex-bike and kart
racer, and team manager, who wants to get the feel behind
the wheel. He is teamed with John Heinecke (Bill H’s son),
Tony Percy (another GoKarter) and Khun Ae, the team’s
mechanic who wants to show the drivers that a mechanic can
do more than twirl spanners. The photo shows two of the team
cars, with the view we hope the other drivers will get!
To run a three car team does take money, and in addition to
the usual sponsors of the Pizza Company, Sizzler, Swensens,
Jotun, Dacon and DSL, we have added in my own personal
sponsor AA Insurance Brokers, who will be joining the team
for the first time.
Of course there are another 27 teams all vying for this
endurance title. These include that of the Thailand Touring
Car champion Natavude, teamed with his number two driver
“Pete” Thongjua. These are the official Toyota Team Thailand
drivers for the past couple of years, so will have much
factory support for their Toyota Vios. However, endurance
racing is very difficult to predict. Any driver having an
off into a sand trap will have dashed the entire team’s
chances. I believe fast but steady will win. Join me at Bira
Circuit (on the right on Highway 36 before it is crossed by
Highway 331) on the 7th January for a fun day out with the
Nissan going green
Nissan Motor Co. will sell a hybrid car
using its own technology in the United States and Japan
sometime in the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2010, says
their head office in Tokyo, according to the American
The announcement, from an auto manufacturer that has
resisted hybrids, was part of a broad “Nissan Green Program
2010” announced this December.
Among other plans, Nissan said it will develop new clean
diesel engines. A 2.0 liter clean diesel will be available
in Europe soon after April 1, 2007. North America, Japan,
and China will get vehicles with the clean diesel engines
sometime after April 1, 2010. Nissan says its diesels will
meet coming strict U.S. rules that require emissions no
worse than gasoline cars.
The manufacturer also said it will expand the availability
of Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV) within the next three years.
In the United States, a flex-fuel Nissan Armada will debut
next year, joining the flex-fuel Titan, which has been on
sale since 2004. Both will be able to run on so-called E85
They will also launch a “test” Nissan electric vehicle early
in the next decade and accelerate development of plug-in
Other promises are to reduce CO2 emissions from global
manufacturing plants by seven percent compared to 2005 by
2010. Target a 2010 launch for a so-called “three-liter car”
which can go 100 kilometers on three liters of fuel, or the
equivalent of 62 miles on eight-tenths of a gallon of
gasoline. Until now, European automakers have produced a few
diesel-powered 3 liter cars, but Nissan says its car will be
But it doesn’t end there. They will set up a new company to
develop, make and sell lithium-ion batteries, perhaps as a
joint venture with an existing battery maker. In this way
they can guarantee the supply of batteries for the electric
In addition, Nissan said it will study the global rollout of
its “Nissan Green Shop” program, an initiative that aims to
improve the environmental impact of its dealerships. In
Japan, it will introduce CO2 management tools at its
Nissan next year will launch an Altima hybrid in the US
market, using technology licensed from Toyota Motor Corp.
The proposed 2010 hybrid will use technology developed by
Nissan. Hybrid vehicles use gasoline engines as well as
electric motors to turn the wheels.
Starting in April 2010, Nissan also will introduce gasoline
engine technologies that will enhance fuel economy and at
the same time reduce CO2 emissions equivalent to diesel
engine levels. It will combine direct injection gasoline
engines with turbochargers in four-cylinder engines.
For V6 and V8 engines, it will combine direct injection
gasoline engines with Nissan’s Variable Valve Event and Lift
System (VEL). It will begin rolling out VEL, which reduces
CO2 emissions by 10 percent, starting from 2007 in Japan and
For Nissan to give all the other manufacturers four years
prior notice of their intentions means that they are already
well down the road as far as research and development is