Monday, May 25, 2009

SsangYong Avoids Liquidation, Restructure Plans Tentatively Approved

CITING A RECENT assessment by Samil PricewaterhouseCoopers that SsangYong Motor would be worth more as a “going concern” than if it were liquidated, a South Korean court has given its approval for SsangYong to submit full restructuring plans by September.

Part of the plan is already in place, with the urgent need to reduce costs seeing SsangYong recently cut 37 percent of its workforce.


TMR reported in February that SsangYong had been granted court receivership to avoid bankruptcy following a 29 percent collapse in sales and a “liquidity crisis” after it failed then to secure new operating capital from its major creditor, the State-owned Korean Development Bank.

Similar to the United States’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy, South Korea’s court receivership gives a company some protection from creditors and breathing space to reorganise and restructure.

Speaking for the company’s UK interests, Paul Williams, Managing Director of distributor Koelliker UK Ltd. said: “This is the news we were hoping for and it means that SsangYong now has the lifeline it needs to implement major changes.

“The future will continue to be difficult, as it is throughout the auto industry, but the result should mean a leaner, much more efficient SsangYong.

“We already know that there will be a broader range of passenger cars using the latest petrol, diesel and hybrid technology, and the first – the C200 – will go into production later this year. Our dealers can now go forward with renewed confidence.”

TMR has contacted SsangYong’s Australian operations for comment on how this latest development will affect the brand in Australia, if at all, as well as whether we’ll see the SsangYong C200 down under. We will update this post when we know more.

Mazda Patents Direct-Injection Rotary Engine, New Motors On The Way?


WHILE OTHER AUTOMAKERS have tried - and ultimately failed - to popularise the rotary engine, Mazda has been the only one to produce a range of workable road vehicles (and the occasional race car) motivated by the unique Wankel powerplant.

But with poor torque production and terrible fuel economy being the main bugbears of the rotary engine, can it survive in an industry that’s being increasingly constrained by emissions laws?

According to US patent application 20090101103, it might. The application, lodged by Mazda earlier this year, details a direct-injected version of the company’s familiar rotary engine - a version that may allow such a motor to remain relevant in a more eco-conscious environment.

Direct injection has been used to great effect in piston engines as an economy-improving and emissions-reducing feature, and it may hold the same benefits for Mazda’s rotary.

mazda_rotary_patent_01The patent likely describes Mazda’s planned 16X rotary engine, which will eventually take over from the 1.3 litre 13B-MSP that powers the current RX-8. The 16X has a longer rotor stroke than the 13B-MSP, as well as 300cc more displacement, but while the 13B uses 80mm thick rotors the patent describes a engine that uses either 76mm or 70mm-wide rotors, suggesting two different engines may be in the pipeline.

As for when we can expect to see a next-gen rotary engine, it’s still too early to tell. Despite its less than ideal reputation as a gas-guzzler, Mazda has stuck by the ol’ spinning triangle and refined it over the past forty years. Given the history it has with the company, we doubt Mazda will be dropping it anytime soon.

If the rotary engine could survive the fuel crisis of the 1970s, we’re willing to bet Mazda will find a way to make it survive anything else. We’ll keep you posted.

GM Recalling 35,000 Pontiac G8 Sedans, Holden Says Commodore Safe


GM HAS ANNOUNCED that some 35,038 Pontiac G8s – the Aussie-built sibling to the Commodore and one of the last models to bear the recently retired Pontiac badge – will be recalled, due to concerns over two electronic functions.

According to the recall notice, the first of the two faults is an incorrectly programmed brake pedal position switch that may result in the brake lights remaining illuminated during regular driving.

2009 Pontiac G8 GXP

The second fault centres on the tyre pressure monitoring system and incorrectly programmed values, resulting in the potential for a driver to not be alerted to low tyre pressure.

The recall is expected to begin June 5, with owners invited to return their vehicles to Pontiac dealerships, where the faults will be corrected free of charge.

TMR contacted Holden to see whether Aussie Commodore owners should expect to receive a similar letter. Holden Communications Manager Kate Lonsdale advised that the faults are specific to US-delivered Pontiac models, the Commodore remaining unaffected.

Manthey Racing Wins Nurburgring 24 Hour Race In Porsche 911 GT3 RSR


MANTHEY RACING HAS secured its fourth successive win at the Nurburgring 24 Hour, its Porsche 911 GT3 RSR team crossing the line ahead of Abt Sportsline’s Audi R8 LMS.

The team of Timo Bernhard, Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Marcel Tiemann profited from the reliability of their Porsche as rivals fell by the wayside, to complete 155 laps of the storied Nordschleife circuit.

Manthey Racing’s sister Porsche came in third, completing a memorable weekend for the German outfit.

For Tiemann, the result marks his sixth win overall, and fifth in succession - a record in the event’s 37 race history.

“I reckon that this one was the toughest of all my five wins because beating the works-Audis is something different indeed,” said Tiemann.

“The Audis kept the pace at a very high level. At the end, we did lap times like we did last year, in spite of the changed regulations. In terms of speed, we had to step up a little bit to catch up with the Audis.”

During the first stint, Manthey Racing’s Marc Lieb found himself locked in a battle with pole sitter Dirk Adorf’s Ford GT before his rival clipped a slower car when attempting to lap it.


The team’s next challenge came from the Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS of Marc Basseng, Marcel Fassler, Mike Rockenfeller and Frank Stippler, trading the lead back and forth around the 20.8 kilometre circuit for much of the race.

However, a drive-shaft failure ended their charge, handing second place on the podium to the sister Audi of Abt Sportsline.

Despite missing on the top spot, second-placed Audi team owner Christian Abt was pleased with the performance, crediting the result to the team’s conservative approach.

“I had been involved in the development of the Audi R8 from the very beginning. Therefore, I knew what this car is up to. I thought that playing it safe would be better, so we backed off, and as it shows, that was the right way,” he said.

2009 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S On Sale In Australia


WE GAVE YOU the rundown on Maserati’s latest heavy-hitting executive express, the Quattroporte Sport GT S, last week, but now the car is in the country, on sale and ready to rock.

Thanks to the ACCC’s new car pricing scheme that came into effect today, Maserati has declined to give the Quattroporte Sport GT S a pricetag, instead directing prospective buyers to contact their nearest dealer. By our reckoning though, don’t expect to get much change out of $350,000.

It’ll no doubt cost a packet, but you’ll be getting a big hunk of car in exchange. With 323kW and 490Nm of torque on tap from its uprated 4.7 litre V8, sportier shift mapping in its six-speed auto and stiffer suspension, the GT S is without doubt the king of the Quattroporte range.

“The Quattroporte is clearly one of the standard setters,” Edward Butler, General Manager of Maserati in Australia and New Zealand said.

“It has captured not just the attention of car buyers, making it the most successful car that Maserati has produced, it has also set a benchmark for an exclusive performance saloon.

“But, as the new Sport GT S demonstrates, Maserati is not prepared to stand still, it is simply not in the company’s DNA, and so the Sport GT S lifts the benchmark – again.”

Hyperbole aside, the 2009 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S is not only the quickest Maserati four-door around, but also the meanest looking. Think your wallet is thick enough to take it on? Give Maserati a call.

Toyota Releases Modellista Aero Kits For 2010 Prius


IT’S ONLY JUST gone on sale in Japan, but already Toyota has wheeled out a few of its own aftermarket parts for the 2010 Prius.

Sold under Toyota’s Modellista brand, the bodykits range from the super-mild Modellista Version 1 and Version 2, to the slightly outrageous Aero Tourer S kit. All three of them do lend the Prius a slightly more dynamic edge, but even with the Aero Tourer’s unique front bumper design and its attendant sideskirts and rear bumper lip the Prius is still, well, a Prius.


There’s also some chrome accents, alloy-look mirror covers, alloy wheels and an interior garnish kit on offer, but for those few individuals looking to improve the performance of their Prius, Toyota does have a set of lowered sports springs in its Modellista catalogue.


Don’t count on the Modellista goodies being on sale Down Under anytime soon, as these are strictly a Japanese market-only thing. Would anyone even want these parts? Well, as with any aesthetic assessments, that’s entirely subjective.


Mazda To Celebrate MX-5’s 20th Birthday At Le Mans


IT’S THE WORLD’S most popular roadster and one of Japan’s most successful exports. It also repopularised the drop-top sports car segment and spawned dozens of hairdresser jokes in the process. It’s the Mazda MX-5, and it turns 20 years old this year.

To celebrate Mazda will be holding a birthday bash at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on July 13 and 14, to which 200 MX-5 fans from across Europe will be invited. Partygoers will be wined, dined and offered a close-up view of the legendary race, which Mazda also lays claim to as the only Japanese manufacturer to ever score an outright Le Mans win.


Attendees will also receive a commemorative plaque, polo shirt and a few other goodies, and a competition will be held to find “the most beautiful MX-5″.

Interested parties should head over to Mazda’s French website or contact their local MX-5 club to sign up for the event, which will cost a not-unreasonable €100 (AU$180).

With Mazda recently updating the third-generation NC MX-5 and an all-new version rumoured to be in the works, It’s probably safe to say the humble MX-5 will continue to notch up those birthdays.


It’s successful formula of low-cost, high-enjoyment motoring has endeared itself to many an enthusiast. And, despite all of the ill-informed stereotyping that seems to follow it around, we can’t help but like it.