News: Suzuki NZ releases high-spec Swift 1

Suzuki Swift1

Suzuki NZ has just released a new plusher version of its popular Swift model. For a limited period, Suzuki New Zealand is offering a specially equipped Swift five door hatchback model as part of the celebrations of 100 years of Suzuki.

Designated Swift1, the new variant adds more luxury and convenience items plus unique alloy wheels and a distinctive grille. Sitting between the entry level Swift XE and the high spec Ltd Swift; the specially equipped Swift1 is priced at $21,800 in manual transmission form and $23,300 with automatic transmission.  These prices include on-road costs.

Swift1 is easily distinguished by a special edition grille with two horizontal chrome bars and eight-spoke 17″ aluminum alloy wheels. Low profile tyres enhance the car’s handling and road holding.

New to this latest version of Suzuki’s best-selling car are turn indicators integrated into the electrically operated door mirrors. A new colour – Maroon Brown – is offered in this special edition model. Swift1 drivers also receive Suzuki’s keyless door entry and engine starting. Alcantarar suede finish upholstery is standard, along with a leather-bound steering wheel with remote steering wheel controls for the Swift’s six-speaker radio/CD and MP3 audio system.

The specification also includes climate air conditioning, front fog lights, anti-lock brakes with EBD and brake assist, and a fuel consumption/outside air temperature display. Dual front, airbags with pretension front seatbelts are part of the car’s safety package.

Last year Swift sales in New Zealand reached record levels, scooping almost one quarter of the light car class. In the process, the car finished ahead of its rivals, and was the third best selling new car.

“It’s entirely appropriate we should launch this up-market Swift which is still the one to buy, according to market demand,” said Tom Peck, General Manager of Marketing for Suzuki New Zealand Ltd. “As one of the most significant cars ever conceived by the company, it is also a fine recognition of Suzuki’s celebration of 100 years since the company was formed.”

“Swift is the first product of Suzuki’s radical innovation programme and the car’s style and substance has given it universal appeal,” said Tom Peck.

“Like the other versions, the new Swift1 captures the essence of Suzuki’s philosophy of providing quality products at outstanding value for money.”With its low emissions and frugal fuel consumption, the Swift is totally in tune with our times.”

The car’s variable valve engine emits a modest CO2 emissions level of 150 grams/km in manual form and averages 6.3 litres/100 km (44.8 miles per gallon) in the combined fuel cycle.

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News: Fiat to make more acquisitions including Opel and Saab

Fiat logo

Fiat’s new alliance with Chrysler may only be the beginning for the Italian automaker. According recent reports coming out of the UK and Germany, the Fiat’s expansion plans aren’t limited to its 20% stake in Chrysler — Fiat is also considering acquiring General Motors’ European operations, including Opel, Vauxhall and Saab.

A new super-company would be formed that includes Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, along with Chrysler and GM Europe, into one corporate entity worth around $106 billion USD and would rival Volkswagen in being the world’s second largest automaker behind Toyota.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne spoke about the potential union, “From an engineering and industrial point of view, this is a marriage made in heaven” and with the full support of the automaker’s board, Marchionne hopes to have the deal completed this month, with shares of the new company temporarily dubbed Fiat/Opel — available in the coming months.

Marchionne believes that the alliance would make Fiat a stronger player in the global marketplace during the economic downturn and through merging Fiat and Opel’s B- and C-segment platforms, along with absorbing Opel’s larger D-platform and Fiat’s sub-compact A-segment offerings, could save around 1 billion euros each year.

German trade unions are throwing a spanner, citing concerns about job losses and factory closures, and according to the German magazine WirtschaftWoche, Fiat’s initial offer of $1.33 billion to acquire GM’s European operations was rejected.

Marchionne is scheduled to present Fiat’s plan to an assortment of German leaders this week. Check back for further updates.

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News: Mercedes Benz E-Class hybrid in development

Mercedes E Class hybrid fq

Mercedes Benz is set up to launch its first hybrid vehicle, the new S400 Hybrid later this year, but the new saloon will be the first of many hybrids as Mercedes is planning to sell petrol-electric versions of its three major model lines. Joining the S-Class hybrid will be ultra-efficient versions of the ML-Class SUV and possibly an E-Class Hybrid.

Mercedes expects hybrid vehicles, rather than diesel options, to play a major role in its strategy to match rising fuel economy standards and carbon dioxide emissions regulations, but it hasn’t given up completely on diesel technology. Other recent initiatives include the development of a new-generation of ultra-efficient forced-induction engines.

As for the upcoming S400 Hybrid, it combines a 205kW 3.5L V6 engine and a 15kW electric motor, resulting in a fuel consumption rating of 7.9L/100km with emissions of 190g/km CO2. Equipped with the 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission adjusted for the hybrid model, the car is capable of the 0-100km sprint in 7.2 seconds.

An E-Class with the same drivetrain should offer better performance with lower fuel consumption due to its smaller kerb weight. However a cheaper and more fuel efficient E-Class Hybrid would likely draw away sales from the S-Class version, which is a much more profitable model for Mercedes, and this is the reason it’s launch would be delayed for at least a couple of years.

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News: VW launches Eos GT Sport

VW Eos GT Sport fq

VW has launched this week a new special edition of its Eos titled the Volkswagen Eos GT Sport. Only for the German domestic market at this stage the Eos GT Sport features unique 18-inch wheels, a lowered sport chassis and a black painted roof. In addition, the GT Sport comes with chrome grille slats, bright red LED taillights, darkened headlights and rear windows.

The suspension is sport tuned and has been dropped 15 mm, aluminum pedals, heated front leather seats and a new three-spoke leather steering wheel have also been added. The equipment list nowincludes Climatronic and an RCD 510 multimedia system.

The Volkswagen Eos GT Sport is available with two engines a 191 kW petrol and 103 kW diesel unit.

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Blogs: Will the world end if Ferrari leaves F1?

After the FIA’s proposal that team budgets would be capped to an unthinkably low GBP40million (about 20 trillion NZ$), Ferrari has seen red and is making some not-very-thinly veiled threats to withdraw from the series (the latest being an entry into Le Mans). If Ferrari doesn’t comply, it will be subject to much more restrictive technical regulations than teams that do.

Will F1 without Ferrari be empty, though? The answer is no. OK, Ferrari has been around since the start of F1 in 1950. It’s also the de facto Italian national team. But, F1 is bigger than Italy, and it’s certainly bigger than Ferrari. Many teams have come and gone, and I’m sure the same question was posed when Lotus bowed out in 1994 after being in the sport since 1958, and Brabham after its 30-year stint from 1962-1992, and Tyrell (1968-1998) and BRM (1951-1977).

The Tifosi will be distraught for a while, but the rest of the world will get on with it while the new players (Red Bull, et al) look to the future and endeavour to provide spectacular racing, as always.

Here’s the full statement from the FIA:

2010 FIA Formula One World Championship

Applications to compete in the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship are to be submitted to the FIA during the period 22-29 May 2009. Teams must state in their application whether they wish to compete under cost-cap regulations.

The maximum number of cars permitted to enter the Championship has been increased to 26, two being entered by each competitor.

The FIA will publish the list of cars and drivers accepted on 12 June 2009, having first notified unsuccessful applicants.

Cost Cap Regulations

From 2010, all teams will have the option to compete with cars built and operated within a stringent cost cap.

The cost cap for 2010 will be £40m per annum*. This figure will cover all team expenditure except:

Marketing and hospitality;
Remuneration for test or race drivers, including any young driver programmes;
Fines or penalties imposed by the FIA;
Engine costs (for 2010 only);
Any expenditure which the team can demonstrate has no influence on its performance in the Championship;
Dividends (including any tax thereon) paid from profits relating to participation in the Championship.
* For the purposes of these Regulations, the financial year is 1 January to 31 December.

A new Costs Commission is being set up to monitor and enforce these cost-cap financial regulations. The Costs Commission will consist of a Chairman and two other Commissioners, appointed by the WMSC for terms of three years.

One Commissioner should be a finance expert and the other should have high level experience in motor sport. The Chairman should have appropriate experience and standing in motor sport or sports governance. All members of the Costs Commission shall be independent of all teams.

In addition to the payments which it already makes to the top ten teams in the Championship, Formula One Management, the commercial rights holder, has agreed to offer participation fees and expenses to the new teams. This includes an annual payment of US$10 million to each team plus free transportation of two chassis and freight up to 10,000 kg in weight (not including the two chassis) as well as 20 air tickets (economy class) for each round trip for events held outside Europe.

To be eligible for this, each new team must qualify as a “Constructor” and demonstrate that it has the necessary facilities, financial resources and technical competence to compete effectively in Formula One.

To enable these cars to compete with those from teams which are not subject to cost constraints, the cost-capped cars will be allowed greater technical freedom.

The principal technical freedoms allowed are:

1. Movable wings, front and rear.
2. An engine which is not subject to a rev limit.

The teams will also be allowed unlimited out-of-season track testing with no restrictions on the scale and speed of wind tunnel testing.

Changes applicable to all teams

It was confirmed that from 2010, refuelling during a race will be forbidden in order to save the costs of transporting refuelling equipment and increase the incentive for engine builders to improve fuel economy (to save weight).

It was also confirmed that tyre blankets will be banned and that the ban on other tyre-heating devices will be maintained.

Full details plus information on further amendments to the 2010 Sporting and Technical Regulations will be available shortly on

By exception, if supported by the Safety Commission, the FIA WMSC may approve the issue of the Formula One Super Licence to persons judged by the Council to have met the intent of the qualification process.

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News: GTA Spano – Spanish supercar unveiled

GTA Spano fq

The Spanish auto industry is going from strength to strength and now has it’s very own Supercar the GTA Spano. Spanish racing team GTA has been hard at work developing its own supercar to rival the best from Ferrari and Lamborghini for some time now. After months of preparation the GTA Spano has finally made its debut in Valencia, the same Mediterranean coastal city that hosts the European Grand Prix. Lmited details have been revealed at the Spano’s launch.

Styling is attractive if rather generic but laying benath is the beating heart of the beast: an 8.3-litre V10, lifted from the Dodge Viper, and tuned to deliver 780 horsepower. That’s apparently good enough to take the carbon, kevlar and titanium supercar to 100 km/h in just 2.9 seconds. The engine is mated to a choice of seven-speed paddle-shifter, automatic or floor manual transmission, 19″ wheels wrapped in ultra-low-profile rubber grip the road at all fours. Production will be limited to just 99 examples, each available at a price of around $1.16 million NZD. Given GTA’s racing background, a competition version is also expected to be in the works, so check back.

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News: UK team develops bonnet-mounted airbag for pedestrian safety

bonnet airbag

Almost all new cars now come equipped with a full compliment of airbags to keep the driver and passengers safe in the event of an crash. Pedestrian safety has also become very important as carmakers strive to get a high safety rating and stretch out equipment lists so far this has only extended to special pop up bonnets, but that is set to change.

A team in the U.K., led by Roger Hardy of Cranfield University, has developed a new bonnet-mounted airbag system that would theoretically improve the safety of pedestrians that get personal with the windscreen of a car. When not in use, the U-shaped airbag hides away underneath the car’s bonnet at the base of the windshield and won’t restrict the driver’s view.

Just prior to impact, the airbag would deploy to protect the unfortunate pedestrian from making contact with the car’s windscreen or A-pillars. At the same time, the car’s bonnet would rise to provide added crumple room over the engine bay. The team believes its system could be put into production within five years without a substantial increase to new vehicle cost while smashing pedestrian injuries in half.

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News: Holden can still win in the American market

Pontiac G8 ST fq

With Pontiac’s death official, Holden could lose around $1 billion annually with the demise of the Pontiac G8. However, Holden has a never-say-die attitude that has it busy looking for other stateside options. The Aussie automaker has drawn up plans to offer the rear-wheel drive Commodore platform to Cadillac and GMC.

Although GM’s CEO, Fritz Henderson, has confirmed that the G8 won’t live on, there’s still a chance it could be used by law enforcement in the States (read news item), and with American brand Cadillac’s recent attempts to inject more RWD models into the mix, the Zeta architecture that underpins the Commodore could be used for a new line of Caddies.

With GMC safe — for now — from sharing a grave with Pontiac, Holden could easily make a case for importing the Commodore ute to the U.S. as a fuel-efficient alternative to GMC’s otherwise big and thirsty pick-ups. Where there’s a niche, GM normally likes to fill it, and the Zeta-based Cadillacs may look likely soon as GM seeks to downsize some larger vehicles to aid its survival.

With Pontiac's death official, Holden could lose around $1 billion ...

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