Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Volvo Announces Plug-In Partnership, Mains-Charged Volvos To Debut In 2012


LATE LAST YEAR Volvo announced that it would be launching its first diesel-electric hybrid model in 2012, which will spearhead a range of fuel-sipping Volvos.

Now the Swedish automaker has upped the ante, announcing a partnership with Swedish power company Vattenfall and pledging to have its first plug-in hybrid on the road in 2012.


The industrial joint venture will see Volvo designing and manufacturing the car itself while Vattenfall develops a wall-mounted charging station.

The joint venture is an extension of an existing partership between the two companies that was brokered in 2007, which yielded the C30-based Volvo ReCharge concept. It’s not clear at this stage what type of car will be the first product of Volvo’s and Vattenfall’s alliance, but it most definitely will utilise a diesel engine and aim for a combined fuel consumption figure of 2.0l/100km.

“We want to reinforce electricity’s importance in society and its key role in solving climate issues. Through this cooperation we hope to be able to speed up the introduction of electric cars,” Lars G Josefsson, President and CEO of Vattenfall, said.


Emissions are expected to be a scant 50 grams of carbon per kilometre, and regenerative braking will extend the EV-only range of the car. Volvo is aiming for a charging time of 5 hours from a standard wall outlet, while higher-voltage charging stations may drop that figure markedly.

Volvo’s move to plug-in hybrids certainly makes sense in a world market that’s almost perpetually at the mercy of rising oil prices, but it also makes sound environmental sense too. The majority of Sweden’s electrical power is generated through non-fossil fuels, and running cars on electricity should help cut the country’s emissions even further.

volvo_v70_hybridmule_01As yet there’s no specs on the plug-in Volvo’s electric-only range, or about how powerful, how expensive and how large it’ll be. Three V70 test mules (above) will be used to develop the technology in preparation for series production, but that’s no guarantee that the first production hybrids will use the same platform.

With a projected launch date of “sometime in 2012″, it’s still far too early to speculate, but we’ll be among the first to bring you that info when it arrives. We’ll be keeping our eye on this one.

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate, Cabriolet Still On Track


RUMOURS CIRCULATING the internet last week said Mercedes-Benz was holding off on the estate and cabriolet versions of the all-new E-Class; but according to the German automaker that’s not so.

The original reports from German car magazine Auto Motor Und Sport had the E-Class drop-top debuting at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show and the wagon being put on the backburner until 2012. However, it appears both are still very much confirmed for production and scheduled to go on sale locally early next year.

“They’re still on track for production,” Peter Fadeyev, Manager of Corporate Communications at Mercedes-Benz Australia told TMR.

“We’re targeting for a first quarter launch next year and the estate will come in alongside the cabriolet probably between late February and early March. That’s what we’re working towards.”

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan and coupe will launch in Australia in the third quarter of this year, with pricing and precise specifications to be announced then.

We’ll keep pushing for more info on the cabriolet and estate, but you can ignore the rumours, gossip and scuttlebutt and consider both to be locked in for 2010.

2009 Honda Accord Euro Gets Modulo Treatment


FIRST SEEN in Australia at the 2009 Melbourne International Motor Show, Honda’s Modulo brand is available for the City, Odyssey and now the Honda Accord Euro.

The race-inspired Modulo range of accessories, already available in Japan, Thailand and Malaysia for some time, has been designed in parallel with each new Honda model to ensure an integrated, ‘factory’ look with a high quality fit and finish.

The Modulo Sports Pack for the Honda Accord Euro includes front and rear aero bumpers, side skirts, a sports grille, rear boot spoiler and a fog light set.

Being designed and approved directly by Honda rather than a third-party outfit, the Modulo kit gives Honda owners the opportunity to add some flair to their car without compromising on reliability or the quality of materials used.

Ticking the “Modulo” box on the options list will add $3580 to the price of a base Accord Euro, while the same kit will cost $3330 when applied to Luxury and Luxury Navigation models. The cost excludes fitting, which may vary from dealer to dealer.

Modulo parts can be purchased individually too, so contact your local Honda dealer for more details.


V8 Supercars: Whincup Ends Brief Holden Revival With Victory


TRIPLE EIGHT RACING’S Jamie Whincup proved Holden’s Saturday revival was nothing but an aberration after securing victory in race two at Symmons Plains.

After securing pole position in the morning qualifying session, Whincup raced away from the line, taking advantage of the sprint tyres to establish an early advantage.

However, a succession of safety cars soon eroded Whincup’s lead, placing him under significant pressure as he exited pit lane following his final stop and in a scrap for race victory with the ever-consistent Will Davison.


Whincup though was able to withstand the Holden driver’s charge to secure victory in the 200 kilometre 84-lap event, 0.4 seconds ahead of Davison with Kiwi Fabian Coulthard finishing third, his first podium appearance.

After the race, Whincup said: “I feel like I lost momentum a little bit but we’re back now. Today was a much better day, yesterday was tough. We knew we had good speed but just couldn’t get everything together, so we regrouped overnight and were great in qualifying this morning.

“Our engineers were keeping us up-to-date on what’s going on, but it must be so hard for the fans — they must just see 30 cars going around.”

Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom was unlucky to finish fourth, twice making contact with rivals which ultimately cost him crucial seconds, track position and perhaps most importantly race victory.


During Saturday’s 42-lap sprint race, Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander ended the manufacturer’s miserable start to the season with a lights to flag victory.

Tander narrowly held off veteran Russell Ingall for the win around the tight Tasmanian circuit, with Ford’s Steven Johnson finishing third.

2009 Kia Soul Officially Vandalised By Kia And Adult Swim TV Network


DESPITE WHAT its name might suggest, Adult Swim isn’t a porn channel (sorry to disappoint). Adult Swim is a TV network in the United States that shares its channel space with Cartoon Network, and like its partner, it focuses on cartoons but with an edgier, more teen and adult-oriented style.

Kia Motors in America recently teamed up with the hip network and Atlanta-based graffiti artist Hense to create a special one-off graffiti-covered Kia Soul, featuring characters from the popular (and bizarre) Aqua Teen Hunger Force cartoon.


The Soul will be given away in a contest run at Adult Swim’s website from the first of June – that’s today, you hipsters – though the contest is only open to US residents.

Subaru To Launch Diesel Models In Japan, Starting In Aus With Outback Diesel In December


SUBARU LAUNCHED its first diesel engine in Europe back in 2008, starting with the Legacy (Liberty in Australia) before expanding to the Impreza and Forester lines. The diesel version of the Legacy has proven especially popular, accounting for over 50 percent of Legacy sales in Europe.

Japanese business daily Nikkei has reported that Subaru will now launch an updated version of its diesel range in Japan in 2011 as part of its plan to meet Japan’s strict new emissions regulations.


subaru_boxer_diesel_engine_tmr TMR spoke with Subaru Australia National Corporate Affairs Manager, David Rowley, who confirmed that Subaru will launch its first diesel in Australia this year in the form of the Outback, with a likely market debut in early December.

Rowley said that an expanded diesel range in Australia will hinge on the success of the diesel Outback.

“We are expecting to announce the diesel Outback early in December, and depending on consumer interest, we will look at bringing in diesel versions of the Liberty, Impreza and Forester,” he said.

2011 BMX X1 Crossover: Official Teaser Images


THE BMW X1 crossover concept was revealed back in October last year, but there hasn’t been a great deal of official word on the smallest Bimmer SUV/CUV since then.

Now, though, BMW has revealed four new teaser images to keep us going.

While most of the key design elements remain hidden under BMW’s signature surreal camouflage, the shape and overall style of the final production X1 is clear for all to see. Even the close-up shot of the covered headlights gives you a strong idea of what to expect of their final shape.


One thing’s for certain; despite the X1 moniker, BMW’s new CUV would appear from these images to share very little with its entry-level stablemate, the BMW 1 Series. The grille is reminiscent of the new 7 Series or the 5 Series GT, while the headlights and tail lights appear to bear similarities to the X5 and 3 Series respectively.

Rather than the 1 Series, the X1 crossover shares its full-time all-wheel-drive platform with the upcoming MINI Crossman, and is believed to be comparable in size to the Toyota Rav4.

The X1 is expected to debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show this September before hitting the European market in time for the 2010 model range, with Australian deliveries slated to begin early next year.

“We’re looking at the first quarter of 2010,” said Tim James, Product Communications Manager at BMW Australia.

“Engine configurations aren’t confirmed for our market yet, but it is likely that we’ll go with a 2 litre diesel and then a new four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel as well.

“Auto and manual should be available, but we haven’t knocked out the final details.”

Ken Block Gymkhana


The word ‘extravagant’ has found a new home, and it’s in DC Shoes founder Ken Block’s playbook.

Block’s first Gymkhana video, which we showed you in November last year, was enough to make even a Buckingham Palace guard guffaw, but this second video, revealed today, is a whole new animal.


Where the first video focused almost entirely on the maniacal drifting and powerslides Block executed in his GD WRX STI, this new video, featuring the all-new 2009 Subaru WRX STI, brings a new level of theatrics to the game.

Mazda Sets Up Electric Car Development Division


MITSUBISHI’S DOING IT, Subaru’s doing it and so is Daimler. Now Mazda has joined the ranks of automakers who’ve chosen to back all-electric power as the way of the future.

The Japanese company announced yesterday that it has established the Electric Drive System Development Office, which will be tasked with creating a new generation of electric powertrains for Mazda’s future eco-friendly lineup.

No word has been given as to when we’ll see the first Mazda EV hit the market, but the announcement demonstrates that Mazda is at least taking a serious look at electron-powered cars.


Back in April Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi said that the company would offer both hybrid and all-electric vehicles by 2015, while the efficiency of existing fossil-fueled powerplants would also be improved in the interim. Precise details of what sort of cars will be the first to get the hybrid/EV treatment have yet to be released, but Yamanouchi did say that its new green lineup would be able to serve the needs of 90 percent of the car-buying public.

It’s unclear at this stage whether the automaker will continue to persevere with its hydrogen-fueled rotary powerplants, however with internal combustion hydrogen engines being much less efficient than hydrogen fuel cells, odds are electric power will take over as the new darling of Mazda’s green initiatives.

Forza Motorsport 3 Revealed


EITHER THE DEVELOPERS of Gran Turismo, Polyphony Digital, are perfectionists to a fault, or they’re outright lazy. Because, in the gap between Gran Turismo 4 and the upcoming Gran Turismo 5, Forza Motorsport 2 and 3 will both have seen the light of a XBOX 360 disc drive.

Arriving on shelves in October with over 400 fully customisable cars, 100 tracks, a 60fps frame rate, and the ability to roll your car (how many races you’ll devote to that single goal…), Forza 3 promises to be the perfect holdover until GT5 arrives.

What am I saying, who needs GT5? Forza 3 looks more than mental enough for the most hardcore racing gamer, and that’s good enough for this casual gamer.


Forza’s previous tracks are there, such as Suzuka and Nurburgring Nordschleife, and Forza Motorsport 3 adds a bunch of road courses such as the Montserrat region of Spain, the Amalfi Coast in Italy and the American Southwest. Time to run your own Gumball Rally 3000.


Forza 3 brings a range of new game modes as well, with the single-player season putting you through a personalised racing calendar featuring over 200 different events. The online multiplayer mode gets a new games rules editor, giving you a new ways to play online.

GM Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy; Plants To Close, Dealerships Cut, Holden ‘Unaffected’


THE INEVITABLE for General Motors - America’s 101 year-old vehicle manufacturing colossus, a symbol for generations of Americans and once the world’s largest car company - has now occurred.

Last night, Australian time, GM filed for bankruptcy. But while 11 plants will close, and three will be mothballed until at least the end of 2010, an additional 21,000 of its employees will lose their jobs and its dealership network will be cut from 6000 to 3600, GM’s filing will not affect the operations of GM Holden.

Speaking on ABC radio this morning, Holden Managing Director Mark Reuss told breakfast presenter Fran Kelly that Holden was “part of the new GM” and had taken “the hard actions to restructure (Holden’s) production operations” to align with the market.


According to Mr Reuss, this had put Holden in a good position, with good revenue streams and with the expectation of returning a profit.

In achieving this, “we have not taken one dollar from the Australian Government,” Mr Reuss said.

For GM US, now in majority tax-payer ownership, the path ahead will be a painful one, and perhaps even more painful for the thousands of components suppliers who will be affected by this action.

There will be a string of bankruptcies among component manufacturers and materials suppliers following GM’s announcement this morning.

The new GM however will be leaner and a much smaller company. It’s output, and return to profitability, will be predicated upon a production capacity of just 10 million vehicles annually, little more than half the 16 million it has produced in the past, and barely more than the 8.5 million it is currently selling.

Holden To Be Part Of New GM; Normal Operations To Continue


HOLDEN ANNOUNCED late last night that it is to continue normal operations in Australia and New Zealand, and will not be adversely impacted by General Motors’ filing for bankruptcy protection in the US.

In news certain to be welcomed by the Rudd Government and Holden’s employees and suppliers, Holden said there will be no direct impact on its Australian design, engineering and manufacturing operations, nor will there be changes to Holden employees and supplier payment arrangements.

Holden’s 6000 employees, who may have been watching developments in the US nervously over the past six months, can now breathe a little easier.

“Operations at Holden are unchanged in Australia and New Zealand and we expect it to remain that way,” Holden Chairman and Managing Director, Mark Reuss, said.

“GM has clearly stated that all of its businesses in the Asia Pacific region, and that includes Holden, (will) continue normal operations and are not directly impacted by this process in the US.

“Beyond that, GM has indicated that Holden will be an important part of the New GM,” he said.


Having last December made a $6.2 billion commitment to the local industry under the New Car Plan For a Greener Future, the Rudd Government and Industry Minister Senator Kim Carr might be thankful that the investment would appear to be paying an early dividend.

Holden, who spent $420 million on research and development last financial year – more than any other private company in Australia – has Australia’s largest and longest running automotive export program, having delivered more than 775,000 vehicles to overseas markets.

Importantly, neither Holden nor any operations outside the US are included in the Bankruptcy Court filing, nor will it be included in the Court-supervised restructuring process.

“Holden is a subsidiary of GM but we are a corporate entity in our own right – an independent company under Australian law,” Mr Reuss said.

Certainly, while facing challenges of its own for profitability in the current market, Holden’s cause is certain to be assisted by the performance of the Commodore which has been Australia’s top-selling vehicle since 1996.

Neither Holden’s operations at Elizabeth in SA nor Port Melbourne in Victoria will be affected by the filing. Local production of the Cruze is to go ahead as planned.

There will also be no changes to dealer and warranty arrangements.

With a media conference scheduled for 9:00am AEST this morning (June 2nd); we will keep you posted of any developments.

Buyer Found For Hummer, Brand To Live On Outside Of GM Empire


GENERAL MOTORS announced today that it has secured a buyer for its struggling Hummer brand, with the sale of the marque is expected to be completed sometime in the third quarter of this year.

The buyer is unknown at the moment, and the terms of the memorandum of understanding between it and GM prevents its identity from being released.

Previous rumours have posited buyers from China, the Middle East and India, however GM assures dealers, suppliers and the Hummer faithful that the brand’s distinctively boxy SUVs will continue to be manufactured in the USA.


GM will build the outsize off-roaders under contract, and Hummer’s purchase will effectively secure the jobs of around 3000 people involved with the company.

Hummer’s manufacturing, engineering and dealership operations will stay in the United States for the time being, while GM’s Shreveport assembly plant will keep building the H3 and H3T through to at least 2010.

The deal also obligates Hummer’s buyer to “aggressively fund” future products, meaning the polarising brand won’t be standing still and resting on its blinged-out, oversized laurels.

“The proposed agreement will enable us to continue that growth and maximize the brand’s potential through new, innovative off-road vehicles with improved efficiency and alternative fuel powertrains,” Hummer CEO James Taylor said in a statement.

Does that mean hybrid Hummers are imminent? Perhaps a fuel-cell four-wheel-drive? It’s early days yet, but with a new owner and a new lease on life, it’s clear that this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing of Hummer.

First Thai-Built Toyota Camry Hybrids Roll Off The Line


AUSTRALIAN PRODUCTION of the Camry Hybrid isn’t scheduled to begin until early next year, but petrol-electric Camrys are already being churned out at Toyota’s Chachoengsao plant in Thailand.

Destined to be sold throughout the South-East Asia region, the Thai-built Camry Hybrids wear the same headlights, tailights and sheetmetal used by the Aurion, although under the skin they’re virtually identical to the Aussie-market Camry.


Power is supplied by the same 109kW 2.4 litre Atkinson-cycle inline four and 30kW electric motor that powers the Japanese and US-market Camry Hybrids, which is the same powertrain that will be offered in the Australian-built cars.


Our Camry Hybrids will carry the distinction of being the first locally-built hybrid vehicles, and should offer a sound alternative to the soon-to-be-launched 2010 Prius.