News: Bentley Continental next for knockoff treatment

Bentley copy fq

In the wake of Chinese automaker Geely’s not so subtle Rolls-Royce Phantom knockoff (read news item here) comes the latest Chinese carbon copy. Chinese automaker Hautai is apparently busy working on its own new luxury vehicle, one that would appear to borrow liberally from Bentley. Huatai Automobile Group, based in Beijing, specialises in SUVs, so this model is inconsistent with its current line-up. HAG is a serious manufacturer and reportedly has the capacity to build 200,000 vehicles annually, and they have R&D centers in China, South Korea, and Germany. Last month, the private automaker reported sales up nearly 150 percent from the previous year.

Still unnamed, the four-door detailed in these images offers more than a passing resemblance to Bentley’s Continental. Currently, details are scarce, but we will find out more soon.

In the wake of Chinese automaker Geely's not so subtle Rolls-Royce ...

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News: Military Jeep J8 now available to civilians

Jeep J8 fq

The most hardcore of American Jeeps the J8 has ironically only been available to foreign militaries and governments, and not the American public, until now. A company named American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) thought the situation wasn’t right and have stepped in to supply the Jeep J8 to American civilians who love serious off road vehicles or military equipment.

Unfortunately the stripped-down, beefed-up super-Jeeps have to undertake some steps before they are road-ready. However, these are the real-deal, military-grade Jeep J8s that are being sold overseas. They are available in either three-door or five-door variants, but both are built on the same Wrangler Unlimited platform.

“Hardcore off-road enthusiasts have been asking for a vehicle like this for years, no frills and setup for a choice of diesel or V8 power and built with extra heavy-duty components,” said Dave Harriton, top brass at American Expedition Vehicles. “It’s certainly not for everyone, but that’s all part of the appeal. Being able to offer even limited quantities to the American public is really a dream come true for us. First, it’s a perfect match with our niche manufacturing and distribution channels, and second, the J8 is a unique part of history that we’re proud to be part of.”

The powertrain has to be sourced separately from the chassis package, but AEV does have independent dealers that can supply both the standard 174hp/339lb-ft (130kW/460Nm) 2.8L four-cylinder diesel or a 330hp (246kW/508Nm)) 5.7L HEMI V8 gasoline engine. The chassis itself is assembled in Detroit by AEV, fully finished with paint, upholstery, wheels and tyres, but missing engine and transmission.

The J8 gets some extra muscle over a standard Jeep, including a Dana 44 front and Dana 60 rear axles, plus rear leaf springs and a heavy-duty frame that together boost the J8’s tow capacity to 3,500lb and payload rating to 2,500lb.

AEV is still in the stage of taking orders and being rightous, there is no word yet on final pricing for the big-balls J8 but potential suburban commandos will be looking at around $50k USD.

The most hardcore of American Jeeps the J8 has ironically only bee ...

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News: Kia may bring Koup to NZ

Kia Koup

Kia has confirmed that it is studying the newly unveiled Koup 2-door sports model to potentially sell in the New Zealand market.

The Koup with a ‘k’ had its worldwide debut at the recent New York Motor Show and goes into left-hand-drive production shortly. It is a sport-oriented companion to the four-door Kia Cerato sedan that has just gone on sale in New Zealand.

Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand, says he is currently in discussions with the factory about when the Koup will become available in right-hand-drive.

“The Koup represents another, exciting step in the evolution of Kia as a maker of very desirable, design-led vehicles and we think it would sit nicely alongside the new Cerato,” says Mr McDonald. “Production for countries like New Zealand is still some months away and we are working with the factory on what drive train and specification we would need for our market.”

Based on the design styling of the Koup concept vehicle shown during last year’s show, the production Koup’s lines and proportions closely mirror the design cues of the concept vehicle and offer the same aggressive stance with wrap-around headlamps, aggressive air intakes and a low profile.

Power is derived from a 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine producing 116kW @ 6200rpm peak power and torque of 194Nm @ 4300rpm. A 2.4-litre engine will be optional in some markets.

The Koup will offer solid levels of standard safety equipment, with features such as dual front advanced airbags, front seat-mounted and side curtain airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with an antilock brake system (ABS), electronic stability programme (ESP) and a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

Check back as we bring you more information about the Kia Koups NZ progress.

Kia has confirmed that it is studying the newly unveiled Koup 2-do ...

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News: Novitec Tridente takes to the Maserati GranTurismo S

Novitec Maserati GT fq

Many car enthusiasts think exotic cars should be just left alone and require no further modification. But Novitec doesn’t share this thinking at all. The German tuning house, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, is one of the established names in tuning Italian exotics. The company’s Novitec Rosso line is known for getting mad horsepower out of Ferraris by strapping on superchargers, but a couple of years ago they turned out a sensible modification package for the Maserati Quattroporte. Now the Novitec Tridente line is back at work on the GranTurismo S, producing the supercharged super-coupe shown here.

By adding a supercharger, tinkering with the ECU and replacing the exhaust system, Novitec has managed to extract an extra 165 horsepower from the Ferrari-sourced 4.7-litre V8 for a massive 600hp. Managing all that extra power is a retuned suspension set up sitting on massive 20 and 21 inch wheels front and back. A carbon fibre body kit rounds off the look of one mean-looking GT.

Many car enthusiasts think exotic cars should be just left alone a ...

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News: Toyota records $7.7b loss – biggest ever

toyota logo

Last quarter’s financial news has been fairly brutal for almost all carmakers, but the biggest blow has just come from one of the world’s largest automotive powerhouses. Toyota has posted a last-quarter loss of $7.7 billion USD; the worst loss in the company’s 71-year history and worse than even GM’s recently-reported loss of $6 billion USD. Toyota now expects to lose $5.5 billion USD for the year ending March 2010, surpassing the $4.4 billion USD it lost in the last financial year.

The reasons behind Toyota’s downturn in fortune is a familiar story. Global sales were down 21.9% last year, with the most stark losses occurring in North America and Europe. The Yen also made strengthened against the U.S. Dollar, further hurting the Japanese automaker. While sales took a big dive during the last fiscal year, Toyota expects to lose another one million unit sales globally in the coming year.

Even with Toyota’s tremendous struggles, analysts expect it to emerge from the automotive downturn with far less permanent damage than its domestic competitors. Years of multi-billion dollar profits have fortified Toyota’s balance sheet, giving the Japanese automaker good security even in tough times.

To help weather the downturn, Toyota has already laid off thousands of temporary workers worldwide, and it has also offered buyouts to American workers. The company also postponed construction indefinitely on its Mississippi assembly plant. It’s also continued to reduce manufacturing costs, and will likely accelerate those efforts in the coming year.

Last quarter's financial news has been fairly brutal for almost al ...

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News: BMW considering various vehicles for Project i program

BMW Project i fq

Back in the summer of 2007, BMW and the University of Bath in the UK put their combined heads together and designed a vehicle called the Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transportation, or Clever for short. Using just three wheels and an engine that was designed to run on compressed natural gas, the Clever concept emitted only half the carbon dioxide of normal economy cars.

BMW is looking at revisiting this design for a future production model under its new Project i program, which has the goal of finding new ways to create sustainable models for our transportation needs. The Clever would be just one vehicle in a range that consists of multiple two-, three- and four-wheeled vehicles.

For now, BMW will need to look to it’s motorcycle division to locate a suitable set of powerplants for Project i.

Back in the summer of 2007, BMW and the University of Bath in the ...

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News: Corvette paying its rent for now

Corvette ZR1 2009 fq

According to Fritz Henderson, the newly-appointed CEO of General Motors, the future holds exciting things for Chevrolet’s iconic sportscar. Corvette fans were concerned late last year when GM admitted that development of the next-gen C7 Corvette platform was put on “indefinite hold, with no official or set timetable.”

In a bit of good news for Corvette fans, Henderson stated that the “Corvette pays its rent,” meaning that it’s a money-making operation for The General. Now, the longer the automaker can flog off the current C6 architecture, the more profitable it will ultimately be.

No word yet on when the new Covette platform will be revealed, but Henderson is quick to point out that the current C6 chassis is still an excellent unit to build off and one that’s fully competitive with the best sportscars from around the world.

According to Fritz Henderson, the newly-appointed CEO of General M ...

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News: China interested in Lotus Exige Tri-Fuel

Lotus Exige Tri-fuel s

Lotus got busy showing off its latest toy the Exige 270E Tri-Fuel at the Shanghai Auto Show this year. It was an interesting concept and after seeing the car, Youngman Auto, a Chinese company now wants to partner with Lotus to make the most powerful Exige ever a production reality. With a supercharged 270 horse four-cylinder capable of running on methanol, bioethanol and gas, the Tri-Fuel rockets to 100kph in just 3.8 seconds. Unfortunately, it’s currently just a concept. Still, if anything can push a car into production, the thirst of billions of Chinese drivers can do it. In 2007, China became both the world’s largest producer and consumer of methanol fuel. Last year, nearly one billion gallons of methanol were blended with gasoline in China, and many retail pumps offer various blends of methanol to consumers

Lotus got busy showing off its latest toy the Exige 270E Tri-Fuel ...

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