Blogs: Let the auto-worker layoffs begin

A recession is partly a media-driven event. People start feeling the pinch because of some factor (e.g. high interest rates, high oil prices), then the papers start reporting the doom, or should I say, over-reporting the doom because journalists need easy sensationalist stories to write about. Apart from the Great Depression, it’s never usually as bad as is made out.

But what happens is that the sheep of the world that read the newspaper stop spending, and the first things to go are the toys and luxuries. Consequently Mercedes is cutting its production in the USA by about 40,000 units over the next 4 months. This will be predominantly the SUV range. General Motors (which is already in deep financial doo-doo) is laying off another 5,000 workers (big trucks just ain’t selling). Last week Chrysler announced 1000 lay-offs, and Nissan’s aiming for 1,200 over the next couple of months with a buyout package.

Sounds like it’s tough out there then! If you can’t make money in cars, what do you do? Well, in times like these it’s always good to remember three evergreen staples: fast food, beer and cigarettes. McDonald’s is now just about the cheapest place to eat, so people go there instead of restaurants (and McDonald’s sells highly addictive coffee to stressed commuters); beer and ciggies are also addictive and people are weak. So they spend their money on that, and save some for the bus (if they can’t afford the car). Of course, working in those industries may require you to sell your soul to the devil, depending on your ethics.

The world has a way of balancing everything out. People driving less and buying more economical cars will reduce the demand for oil. Less demand equals falling prices. Eventually the price of petrol won’t be talked about so negatively and people will begin buying luxuries again. The auto workers will hire staff, but the newspapers won’t report that. They only really report the bad news.

And ultimately, people once again buy cars like the enormous Land Cruiser I’m driving at the moment.

News: Suzuki launches the Jimny Sierra in New Zealand

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A new flagship version of the popular Suzuki Jimny has been added to the New Zealand line-up.

The Jimny Sierra replaces the JLX model and has a higher level of standard specification and increased safety equipment which includes Five-spoke, 15-inch diameter aluminium alloy wheels, shod with 205/70R tyres, anti-lock brakes, new seat upholstery fabrics and two new body colours.

While the Jimny can play the off-road game quite well, the small size of the car makes it easy to use in the city also.

Unlike most Sport Utility Vehicles, the Jimny has a strong, separate full-frame chassis and selectable four-wheel-drive with high and low gear ratios. This provides ten forward gear ratios and two reverse ratios for optimum use off road.

A Drive Select transmission allows the driver to shift from two wheel drive to four wheel drive on the move at speeds up to 100 km/h. All wheel drive is selected by the simple touch of a button on the dashboard.

There is 190mm of ground clearance for versatile use in difficult conditions, and a relatively short 2,250mm wheelbase enables the Suzuki to reach places inaccessible by larger four-wheel-drives.

The legendary go-anywhere ability of this smallest Suzuki vehicle has long proved a Jimny asset. The vehicle has a maximum approach angle of 42 degrees, departure angle of 46 degrees and ramp-over angle of 31 degrees.

Powering the Jimny is an efficient M13A 1,328cm3 four-cylinder motor, producing 63 kW of power and 110 Nm of torque.

The engine incorporates variable valve technology and has four valves per cylinder, twin overhead camshafts and multi-point fuel injection.

In the official combined fuel test cycle the manual 5-speed Jimny Sierra returns 7.2 litres/100 km while the automatic averages 7.6 litres/100km.

Dual front air bags, air conditioning, electrically operated windows and power assisted steering are standard.

Height adjustable front seat belt anchorages, front seat belt pre-tensioners, a collapsible steering column, side impact protection beams and steering lock are included in the standard safety equipment.

The Jimny Sierra SN413V manual launches in New Zealand with a recommended retail price of $20,500, with the automatic priced at $21,990.
A manual only entry-level Jimny retailing at a budget-beating $16,990 is still part of the local Suzuki line-up.

The Sierra nameplate has been used by Suzuki in selected export markets for several years, but this is the first time it has been marketed in New Zealand.

News: Wald release wild Mercedes-Benz C-class Black Bison edition

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Wald has released its latest Mercedes-Benz creation, the Black Bison, into the wild.

The Bison is based on the C-class sedan and features heavily reworked fenders which incorporate a healthy set of vents and a body kit that includes a huge rear spoiler reminiscent of the German Touring Series E190 2.3s.

The general online consensus is that the Wald revisions make an ugly car worse but here at Car and SUV we like it a lot.

News: New engine for Audi A5 coupe

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The power base at Audi is changing as a 180PS version of the all-new 2.0-litre TFSI unit takes over from the 1.8 TFSI in the A5 coupe — the latest step in an exhaustive engine development programme bringing average CO2 reductions of as much as 10 per cent for core Audi models within the past 12 months.

Derived from the 211PS version of the turbo charged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder FSI engine introduced earlier this month in the A5, and sharing its new, economy enhancing Audi valvelift technology, the new 180PS unit holds a 10PS power advantage over the 1.8 TFSI, and delivers its peak output 800rpm earlier. Torque also increases by 70Nm to 320Nm, which is available from 1,500rpm to 3,900rpm, ensuring that the A5 2.0 TFSI can out-accelerate its predecessor to 62mph by 0.6 seconds, taking 7.8 seconds to go the distance, and can continue to 240km/h

All-important fuel economy and emissions control have naturally taken a step forward compared with the outgoing model as well, the A5 2.0 TFSI registering 6.6L/100km in the combined cycle test — a 7.5 per cent improvement over the 1.8 TFSI — and emitting 154g/km of CO2, down from the 1.8 TFSI’s 169g/km — a 9 per cent reduction.

As pledged by Audi Board of Management Chairman Rupert Stadler this enhancement to the A5 engine range is evidence of the pursuit by Audi of a 20 per cent decrease in fleet-wide CO2 emissions by 2012.

Standard specification for the new A5 2.0 TFSI 180PS includes 17-inch seven-spoke alloy wheels, 3-zone electronic climate control, a 10-speaker Concert CD audio system, full Milano leather upholstery and rear acoustic parking. Sport models with sports suspension ride 20mm lower on larger 18-inch 10-spoke V design alloy wheels, and inside upgrade to sports seats.

Information on New Zealand sales is as yet unavailable.

News: Catalytic converter theft on the rise in the UK

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Criminal gangs across the UK are stealing catalytic converters from vehicles at an increasing rate.  The precious metal content (usually platinum) fetches around £100 (NZ$270) for just a few minutes’ work.  Previously there was no way of identifying one converter from another, so thieves ran a low risk of being charged, even if caught.

Retainagroup, the car security marking and registration systems specialist, is working with Ford to provide a simple yet effective method of permanently marking catalytic converters to give them a unique identity.

Each mark, applied to the casing of the catalytic converter, comprises a logo (the manufacturer’s or Retainagroup’s International Security Register), a unique seven-digit code and a 24-hour telephone number.  Once the mark has been applied, the unique code is recorded with vehicle and owner details on the register and can be verified immediately at any time, day or night, 365 days per year.  The service is free except for the cost of the call and means that thieves stealing a marked and registered converter will put themselves at risk of being apprehended and charged.

Paul Lambotte, Head of Unit for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (AVCIS) said: “The theft of catalytic converters has become an increasing problem for vehicle owners. This crime disables the vehicle and has an environmental impact. AVCIS welcomes initiatives, such as catalytic converter marking, that enable the identification of stolen goods that are found in criminals’ possession.”

Blogs: Paradigm shift – Fiat 500 to Toyota Land Cruiser

We’ve gone from one of the smallest cars to one of the biggest. The Fiat 500 has been replaced with a Toyota Land Cruiser. It’s like replacing a hamster with an elephant. Sure, they’re both mammals, but one of them hits a bit heavier (and consumes more food).

The Land Cruiser is bound to receive some unwanted attention from cyclists who will bemoan its gargantuan size. (I’m not even going to try to fit it in the garage.) What I will do, though, is explain that it’s far better than cycling because a) it’s comfortable and warm; and b) I don’t have to breathe the fumes of other people in big diesel V8 SUVs.

Oh yeah, it’s also got this wicked satellite navigation so I don’t have to pull over to the side of the road, get a map out of my backpack and stand there shivering in the winter’s air like I would if I was on a bike. Today was a day of more stormy weather, a landslide in Torbay, a tornado down-country. So, I may be driving an ‘elephant’, but compared to all those people walking and cycling, who’s the Dumbo?

News: New Ford Ka to share Fiat 500 underpinnings

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Ford has the new Ka coming soon and some people just can’t wait to see it. The new Ka is set to be produced alongside the Fiat 500 and Panda (which is unavailable in NZ) in Poland and will also have a cameo in the new Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’.

Engine line-ups will include 1.4 and 1.6 litre petrol engines and 1.6 litre diesel with the possibility of the turbo 1.4 from the 500 Abarth added at a latter date.

Interesting to see the wheels are carrying the Focus/Mondeo ‘XR’ styling theme. Ford Sport Ka anyone?

News: AC Schnitzer rocks the BMW X6

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AC Schnitzer has been a BMW fiddler for a long time now with subtle mods on most models over the years.

This AC modified X6 is something else though with huge 22-inch wheels and a flared body-kit coupled with a lower ride height thanks to a set of Nurburgring spec AC springs.

With the X6 it is a matter of taste, but if this goes as good as it looks, we will be very happy.