Monday, June 15, 2009

Hyundai ‘Blue’ Range And Kia ‘Fuel-Economy Package’ For US, Not Likely For Aus


WHILE HYUNDAI AND KIA already boast a range of models with impressive fuel economy, the Korean manufacturers are not resting on their laurels in the pursuit of fuel economy gains.

The Hyundai Elantra and Accent, along with the Kia Cerato (badged as the Forte) are about to be tweaked in the US with a series of subtle revisions to eek out a few extra miles per gallon. The new models will be dubbed as the ‘Blue’ series for Hyundai, while Kia will offer a ‘fuel economy package’ on its options list.


To go on sale later this year, revisions will include lower rolling resistance tyres, electric power steering taking the place of the hydraulic setup, smart alternators to reduce drag on the engine and a five-speed auto in place of the four-speed unit.

On the outside, the aero package will be revised slightly to allow the cars to slice through the air more cleanly.

Kia claims fuel consumption will drop from 9.4 l/100km in the city and 6.9 l/100 km (25/34 mpg) to 9.1 l/100km on the city cycle and 6.5 l/100km (27/36 mpg) for the highway test. Hyundai hasn’t released any figures yet, but should return similar gains.


The two companies will also take a different approach to marketing their respective fuel misers. Hyundai will offer the Blue models as entry-level specification cars, which means some luxury items may get the flick in the interest of offering a low price point.

Kia, however, believes that buyers are prepared to pay for fuel economy gains, with the fuel economy package retailing for around US$600 (AU$740).

TMR spoke Hyundai and Kia to about these new features appearing on models in the Australian lineup for both companies.

“We’re always interested in any new means of improving the efficiency and appeal of our vehicles, and if these new features are made available for the ‘general’ market - which Australia is a part of - we would certainly be looking at offering them locally,” Kia National Public Relations Manager, Jonathan Fletcher, said.

Stephen Howard, National Media Manager for Hyundai, was less optimistic: “Not in the foreseeable future. Obviously every vehicle in the global Hyundai range is reviewed for its potential sale in Australia, but at this point it’s unlikely the Blue series will be offered.”

Hyundai showed its i10 Blue and i30 Blue models at the 2009 Melbourne Motor Show, and while it may have seemed that these models were shown as previews of what was to come for the Australian market, that no longer appears to be the case.

Audi Q5 Hybrid Tipped For 2011


PROVIDING GREEN POWERTRAIN options is fast becoming a key strategy for the world’s automakers. Not every solution fits every market though which is why Audi is preparing a petrol-electric hybrid version of its Q5 SUV, targeted principally at North American ‘green’ buyers.

Set to launch in 2011, the Q5 Hybrid is aimed squarely at markets that favour hybrid systems over the likes of clean diesels, the powertrain of choice in Europe.


For now, the specifics on which engine might be teamed with the hybrid system are being kept under wraps. With the Q5 sharing much of its mechanical package with the A4 and A5, it’s not too much of a stretch to envisage the hybrid system spreading into other Audi models with time.

Audi first hinted at the hybrid option at the Detroit Motor Show in January.

Wolfgang Hatz, head of powertrain development for Audi, although conceding the practical benefits and cost-effectiveness of clean diesel engines, said that due to differences in fuel prices and positioning between Europe and the US, a hybrid system would enjoy greater acceptance in North America and similar markets.

The investment in a petrol-electric system won’t just be for the benefit of the American market though, with the Q5 hybrid to be offered in various markets globally. Watch this space for news of an Australian release.

Chrysler Model-Makeover With Fiat And Alfa Platforms And Engines


WITH CHRYSLER US having now emerged from bankruptcy following US Federal Court approval of Fiat taking the reins, details are now surfacing as to the model plans for the merged, and now freshly-capitalised, corporate giant.

The viability plan presented by Chrysler to the US Administration in February outlined not only the company’s future plans for its operations, but also its model plans under the merged entity. Some of those models we will no doubt see here in the Australian market.

Very close to the US action is The Detroit Free Press who has, quite clearly, managed to cast more than an eye over the documents prepared by Chrysler in making its restructuring case and given details of the company’s future model plans.


What is clear is that the Chrysler of old will become a distant memory. It is to come in for the mother of all makeovers as Fiat and Alfa Romeo platforms and small car-technologies are incorporated into its model line-up.

That won’t mean the Dodge Ram will disappear, just that it will be crowded for elbow-room in Chrysler/Dodge showrooms by a brace of new fuel-efficient, and dynamically interesting, smaller cars.

Reportedly, the revitalised Chrysler brand will carry seven new Fiat and Alfa Romeo models including the up-coming replacements for the Alfa 147 and 159 models (which Alfa will reportedly be badging in Europe under the venerable names Giulia and Milano).

The platform under the 147 is shared by Fiat Grande Punto and Lancia Delta and will reportedly figure strongly in Chrysler’s new model plans.


The tiny Fiat 500 will be produced for the North American market in Chrysler’s Toluca plant in Mexico. The 500’s platform may also come in for duty under a unique Chrysler or Dodge-branded model.

Chrysler will also get a subcompact based on the underpinnings of the Alfa Mito. This will enable the company to go head-to-head with the likes of Yaris, Jazz (Fit in the US), and Ford’s rampant Fiesta. This car will likely also carry the Dodge and, possibly, Jeep brands.

Interestingly, Alfa Romeo is expected to get Chrysler’s next-gen 300C platform as the basis for a larger sporting Alfa for the Euro market. (For Alfa fans, the prospect of a return to a rear-drive model under an Alfa badge will have them misty-eyed with expectation.)

As for technologies, Chrylser will gain access to Fiat’s Multiair variable valve-timing system to boost fuel economy and performance of Chrysler engines, as well as Fiat’s new dual-clutch transmissions. Fiat, in return, will pick up Chrysler’s Pentastar V6.

It is also expected that Fiat four-cylinder engines will begin production at Chrysler’s Dundee engine plant in Michigan.

What this will mean for Australia and the model line-up in Chrysler/Jeep showrooms here, is uncertain.

Jerry Stamoulis Public Relations Manager for the Chrysler Group Australia is not yet able to shed any light on model changes we might expect to see here.

“It’s early days, we’re just waiting to see what may happen, but there is no information just yet,” Jerry told TMR.

F1: FIA To Announce 2010 Entry List Tonight


THE FORMULA ONE TEAMS ASSOCIATION has held last-ditch talks with FIA President Max Mosley in an attempt to reach a compromise agreement ahead of the 2010 entry list announcement tonight.

Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo, along with Toyota boss John Howett, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Brawn GP owner Ross Brawn were reportedly engaged in talks with Mosley for over four hours, seeking to diffuse the situation which has left Formula 1 potentially at breaking point.

Mosley is believed to have warmed to the prospect of reaching a deal with FOTA which would see the teams operate under a £100 million cap next year before reaching £40 million in 2011.


However, the Briton isn’t prepared to finalise any arrangements unless the eight FOTA aligned teams submit unconditional entries.

The situation has been further muddied by the revelation Ferrari, Renault, BMW, Toyota and McLaren signed a contract compelling each other to remain united or face the prospect of a £50 million fine, although the FIA doubts the legitimacy of the agreement, claiming it isn’t valid under EU law.

Regardless, Formula 1 is set for potentially the most explosive day in its history, with teams still unclear on the FIA’s intentions until it releases the 2010 entry list at 8pm (Australian EST) tonight.

A potential scenario that has been bandied about within the F1 media would see the FIA name Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso along with unconditional entrants Williams, Force India and a further eight new entries.

The FIA believes Ferrari and the Red Bull duo are contractually obliged to compete next year after signing a contract in 2005 pledging their future to the sport. The Scuderia outfit meanwhile says that deal is no longer valid as the FIA altered the regulations without consulting the Maranello-based team.


If Mosley decides to take this route, it would likely accelerate preparations for a breakaway championship next season, featuring a FOTA-filled 24 car grid.

Ross Brawn believes the release of an entry list without FOTA teams could prove disastrous.

“If 10 (non-FOTA) teams are given an entry, there’s a major problem,” the former Ferrari Technical Director said. “So I hope, even if it’s a holding position until we can sort this out, that there’s a solution.”

Another scenario would see the FIA confirm the admittance of only five teams – Williams, Force India and an additional three new entries – while leaving eight spots empty pending the result of negotiations.

The ongoing saga however does seem to have claimed a casualty, with Renault Sport rumoured to have contacted suppliers advising of their intention to withdraw from Formula 1 pending the result of negotiations between FOTA and the FIA.

A letter sent to suppliers was obtained by, saying: “There is the possibility that we will no longer be in Formula 1 in 2010. The far-reaching changes to the technical and sporting regulations have the consequence that Renault Sport can no longer be certain of its future in Formula 1. It is possible that we will no longer participate in the Formula 1 World Championship in 2010.”

Nissan Renault Carlos Ghosn

Renault Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn has long been critical of governance in Formula 1, recently declaring that teams deserve a greater share of the financial rewards currently reaped by Bernie Ecclestone.

According to AFP, he told the French National Assembly: “We are the ones putting on the show, who bring in the technology, who bring in the engines, who hire the driver. Today we pay to be in Formula 1; that is not normal. Intermediaries have made enough money out of this. We want to take back control of Formula 1.”

Ecclestone however believes the teams would not be able to replicate the glamour and financial clout of the current Formula 1 series without his input.

He told the Daily Express; “It costs a lot of money to set up a series. Right now, we supply the venues at no cost to the teams, they roll up with all their sponsors’ names and money and race in front of a huge television audience which I supply through the contracts we win.

“That money flows back to the teams and they spend it. It would be different when they have to provide all the venues, hire their own race people, find their own television companies – and we have the best – and promote it.”

2010 Rolls Royce Ghost Takes Waftability To New Heights With Intelligent Suspension System


ROLLS ROYCE HAS high hopes for its soon-to-be-released ‘entry level’ model, the Ghost. Due to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September with sales commencing not long after, Rolls Royce is confident that the all-new model is capable of nearly doubling sales for the Goodwood-based manufacturer.

But while it may become the volume seller (albeit in small volumes), Rolls Royce isn’t skimping on the Ghost’s technological appointments.

The marque yesterday revealed details of the Ghost’s clever new chassis technology, which is designed to endow the Ghost with Rolls’ classic quality of “waftability” while still providing impressive handling dynamics.

“A Rolls-Royce should be effortless in every way: the way it accelerates, brakes and handles,” Rolls-Royce Engineering Director Helmut Riedl said.

“It should do all of these functions with apparent ease regardless of the complex mechanicals that are working out of sight of the driver and passengers. The driver simply has to point the car in the preferred direction of travel and press the accelerator.”


To accomplish this, Rolls Royce has fitted the Ghost with multi-link independent suspension both front and rear, with aluminium links reducing unsprung weight and improving suspension response.

Rather than conventional coiled steel springs, the Ghost rides atop four electronically-controlled airbags, with variable damping and adjustable ride height also thrown in.

The Ghost’s onboard sensors can detect the slightest change in weight distribution, and will adjust the car’s attitude and damping to suit. The system is so sensitive, in fact, that it can determine whether a passenger has moved from one side of the car to the other.


Ride height can also be raised or lowered by up to 25mm in order to aid entry or egress, or to prevent the Ghost’s expensive underbelly from getting scraped when travelling over rough ground.

Active Roll Stabilisation keeps the hefty limousine’s body in check through the corners, while the air suspension provides a soft, supple ride.

“The individual technologies determining handling and safety work together controlled by dual Integrated Chassis Management systems meaning that even under vigorous testing the Ghost remains perfectly poised,” Mr Riedl said.

“We are very proud of our engineering team’s achievements with [the] Ghost. The balance of refinement and dynamic ability is astonishing.”

BMW Confirms ‘Megacity’ Electric Models For 2015


BMW’S CHAIRMAN of the Board of Management, Dr. Norbert Reithofer, has confirmed the German marque is working on a line of new battery-powered electric vehicles, dubbed ‘Megacity’, to be launched by 2015.

Despite recent talks that BMW and Fiat would form a joint project to develop a range of electric vehicles, Reithofer said the company has no plans to work with another manufacturer on the project.

“Electric engines are a key part of our technology which we want to develop ourselves,” project leader Ulrich Kranz told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

A handful of details were revealed during the BMW Annual Accounts Press Conference in March, noting that the Megacity would be a part of BMW’s “i project” range of near-zero emission city cars.


The Megacity car would become the second from BMW’s “i project” program, with the MINI E having been the first.

BMW is expected to announce by the end of the year whether the Megacity range will feature among the existing BMW lineup, or whether the company will launch a new subsidiary to sit under the company umbrella with Rolls Royce and MINI.

Customers will have the choice between a fully electric powertrain or an ultra-high-efficiency combustion engine. However, BMW has aspirations for the Megacity that stretch beyond mere fuel efficiency.

“With the Megacity Vehicle, we are also pursuing a radical approach toward establishing a truly sustainable value chain, from development to production and sales,” Reithofer said.

2010 Mazda Axela With i-stop Launched In Japan


MAZDA HAS RELEASED its first start-stop equipped model in its Japanese home market, debuting its i-stop technology in the all-new 2010 Mazda Axela (or Mazda3, as it’s known in the rest of the world) today.

Start-stop systems such as Mazda’s i-stop conserve fuel by automatically shutting down the engine during times when it would normally be idling, like when standing still at traffic lights. Because the car doesn’t need to move, the engine doesn’t need to run, therefore significant savings in fuel economy can be made during urban driving.

Mazda reckons its i-stop system can reduce fuel consumption by up to 15 percent over the previous model, and says the i-stop equipped Axela sips just 6.09l/100km on the Japanese 10-15 mode combined cycle.


Many automakers are adopting the fuel-saving start-stop principle in their new products, with Lamborghini even considering such a system for its next-generation supercars.

But what marks Mazda’s i-stop system as being different from most others already on the market is in the way it re-starts the engine after shutting it down.

Rather than engaging the starter motor or using a belt-driven motor to get the engine spinning again, Mazda’s i-stop instead halts the engine so that one cylinder is primed with a full charge of air and fuel and the valves closed.

When the ECU detects that the engine needs to be started again the sparkplug fires, igniting the captive fuel-air mixture and thus re-starting the engine.


The genius of the i-stop system is that it inflicts no additional wear and tear on the flywheel’s ring gear, doesn’t require a beefed-up starter motor and weighs no more than the standard 2.0 litre direct-injected four-cylinder upon which its based. It’s also lightning-quick, restarting the engine in just 0.35 seconds.

So when will we see i-stop on locally-delivered Mazda3s? Unfortunately, cost is the one barrier to the technology being applied to Australian-spec 3s.

“It’s something we are looking at, but at the moment we just can’t get it to work in terms of a business case. It’s just too expensive for us to introduce here at this stage,” Mazda Australia spokesman Steve Maciver said to TMR.

“i-stop is something that we will continue to look at. Obviously with changes in exchange rates its going to be an on-going study for us, but at this stage it’s a ‘no’.”

Mercedes-Benz ESF 2009 Safety Prototype: Full Details Revealed


AFTER OFFERING A sneak peak earlier in the week, Mercedes-Benz has now revealed the full details of its ESF 2009 S400 Hybrid Experimental Safety Vehicle, due for unveiling late June.

Powered by the German prestige car manufacturer’s S400 Hybrid powertrain, the ESF 2009 is a safety tour de force, featuring thirteen of the manufacturer’s current and experimental safety technologies, including the company’s Pre-Safe crash-detection system and centre seat airbags, as well as airbag brakes and inflatable metal bracing structures.


The ESF 2009 Safety prototype’s under-car airbag braking system - which Mercedes-Benz has dubbed the Braking Bag - is every bit as odd as it sounds, with a high-pressure air system that inflates and presses the airbag brakes directly against the road, increasing surface friction area and enhancing the car’s braking ability in an emergency.

The Braking Bag is designed to deploy only once the car’s Pre-Safe system has determined that a collision is unavoidable.

The inflatable metal crash structures use a similar high-pressure air system, loading air into the area of the body about to impact, stiffening the area and minimising damage. This allows Mercedes to use lighter materials for efficiency and performance, without hindering the car’s ability to absorb an impact.


“Even in economically difficult times, we refuse to make any cuts where innovation is concerned, as shown by the highly complex ESF2009 project, where we have chosen this particular time to clearly demonstrate the innovative strength of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz.

Anybody examining the ESF2009 in detail will recognize that more safety and less fuel consumption are not necessarily a contradiction in terms. We want to make progress in both fields with new, trailblazing ideas,” said Daimler Chairman and Mercedes-Benz CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche.

Mercedes-Benz’ Pre-Safe Pulse technology works by gently pushing occupants toward the centre of the car, away from the crush zone in a side-impact collision.

The front airbags of the ESF 2009 also have the ability to detect the size, weight and seating position of the car’s occupants, allowing the bags to discharge at a volume optimised for those parameters.


Other technologies featured in the ESF 2009 include an advanced version of the company’s car-to-car communications system that keeps track of other vehicles around it, as well as adaptive always-on high beam headlights, which focuses light on specific areas or objects on the road the car’s computer identifies as hazardous.

The last time Mercedes-Benz offered an ESF (the German acronym for Experimental Safety Vehicle) was in 1974, and this new safety extravaganza will be unveiled later this month as part of the company’s Fascination of Technology exhibit at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.

Infiniti: Does It Have A Place In Australia?


LUXURY CARMAKER INFINITI is spreading its wings, with Europe and Russia having recently been added to the growing list of regions selling its multi-award winning vehicles.

The upmarket vehicle division of Nissan boasts fifteen countries where it now has a dealership presence, including the North American, Middle-East and Chinese markets.

The US was the first market (way back in 1989) for Infiniti; with Nissan then deciding it needed a premium brand to compete with Toyota’s Lexus and Honda’s Acura.


Surprisingly, Australia was early in the queue for the Infiniti brand, with the 207kW/400Nm 4.5-litre V8 Q45 sedan launched into showrooms here in 1993, before fading from dealerships in 1996.

The last Q45s retailed for over $150,000, making it the most expensive Nissan vehicle ever sold in this country.

Thirteen years have now passed, and Nissan has decided not to venture back to these shores with the Infiniti badge.

But it’s a big brand overseas, especially in the US, and has some very appealing cars in its stable. Is it time for a return?

To whet your appetite just a little, following is a run-down on some of Infiniti’s recent models and the vehicles they would likely muscle up to in this market.

2009 Infiniti G37 Sedan

  • Price range: US$33,250 - $38,700 (AU$41,376 – $48,155)
  • Fuel Economy: 9.0 l/100km hwy, 13.0 l/100km city
  • 0-100 km/h - 5.5 secs

The Infiniti G37 sedan is once again ensconced in the 2009 Car and Drivers ‘10 Best List’. It is the fourth time the Infiniti sedan or coupe has made the coveted list since 2003.

The sedan scored a significant upgrade in 2009, with the addition of a new 3.7-litre V6 rated at 241kW and 365Nm of torque.


The power cube (Americanism for engine) is now mated to a new seven-speed automatic transmission or close-ratio six-speed manual transmission. The 2008 versions had five-speed auto boxes.

Options include magnesium paddle shifters for the seven-speed automatic, along with intelligent cruise control with preview braking (which identifies sudden braking, pre-pressurizing the brake assist system).

It is available in four models: the base G37 model; the Journey which adds dual zone automatic temperature control and auto on/off headlights; then the 37S Sport 6MT which scores a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission with short-throw shifter, viscous limited slip differential and sport brakes with opposed-piston brake calipers; and, lastly, the AWD which adds intelligent all-wheel drive and heated front seats and outside mirrors.


Its local competition here would be the BMW 335i Sedan, Mercedes C320, Honda Legend, and Lexus IS 250.

2009 Infiniti G37 Coupe

Late last year, TMR’s Tonester drove and reviewed an imported five-speed auto 2008 Nissan Skyline Coupe 370GT (also known as the 2008 Infiniti G37 Coupe).

He hopped out of the driver’s seat wondering why it wasn’t released here, feeling that Aussie buyers would be clamouring to get into one. (This model figures highly among private and ‘grey’ imports to these shores.)


Adding to the 2008 Coupe’s considerable allure, the 2009 version has more power, the brand-spanking-new seven-speed auto, in addition to a host of other goodies also found in the latest G37 sedan.

Local Competition for the Coupe would include the BMW 335i Coupe, Mercedes CLC-Class Sports Coupe, Peugeot 407 Coupe and Audi TT 3.2 V6 Quattro.

2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible

The curvy convertible is the first-ever open-air ‘G’, and will hit US dealerships on June 19, promising seductive styling and G-worthy dynamic performance.

Based on the current G37 Coupe, it comes standard with traction and stability control and has the same powertrain as the sedan and coupe.

Style: "g coupe"

The drop-top features a three-piece automatic retracting hardtop, to keep a coupe-like roofline, and is optioned with exotic African rosewood veneers on the dash, door, and console.

Handy features are the audio and climate-control systems that automatically adjust to topless driving, the audio volume and air-con adjusting according to the road speed.

Among the local up-market competition, if we were to see the G37 Convertible here, would be the BMW 335i Convertible, Volvo C70 T5 Convertible, Saab 9-3 Aero V6 Convertible, and Mercedes SLK350.

2009 Infiniti FX35 and FX50

  • Price range: £42,600-£53,800 (AU$86,100- $108,700)
  • FX35 Fuel Economy: 10L/100km Hwy, 14L/100km City
  • FX50 Fuel Economy: 11L/100km Hwy, 16L/100km City
  • FX35 0-100km/h - 6.1 secs
  • FX50 0-100km/h - 5.0 secs

The 2009 Infiniti FX is a premium mid-size crossover SUV available with V6 or V8 power that claims to exhilarate on-road, while holding its own off-road.

The FX35 teams a 3.5-litre V6 engine - good for 222kW and 354Nm of torque - with either rear or all-wheel drive.

Or, for a bit more grunt, the FX50 models come with AWD as standard and a high-output 286kW and 500Nm 5.0-litre V8.


The FX35 gains 20kW over the previous model while the FX50 gets a boost of 51kW over the 2008 FX45.

Both use the new seven-speed automatic transmission that is also available in the G37 and M series.

The FX35 rides on standard 18-inch wheels, while the FX50 secures the more imposing 21-inch tread.

Standard safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front side airbags.

There are some nifty optional safety features available on the FX series: like Infiniti’s Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), that sounds a warning and activates the vehicle’s stability control system if straying across lanes.


Also available is Around View Monitoring (AVM), using four cameras to display the entire circumference of the exterior on the navigation screen and Intelligent Brake Assist, deploying lights and warning tones if a forward collision is imminent and automatically applies braking power.

Leather upholstery, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, keyless entry and starting, and a rearview camera are all standard inclusions. Sport suspension with continuous damping control is also available on the FX50.

A premium SUV, the Infiniti FX35 and FX50 would go head to head with Volvo’s XC90, BMW X5, Lexus RX350, and the Mercedes ML350 in this market.

2009 Infiniti M35 and M45 Sedans

  • Price range: US$45,800 - $54,650 (AU$ 57,072 - $68,075)
  • FX35 Fuel Economy: 9L/100km Hwy, 14L/100km City
  • FX50 Fuel Economy: 11L/100km Hwy, 17L/100km City
  • M35 0-100km/h - 6.2 secs
  • M45 0-100km/h - 5.6 secs

The 2009 Infiniti M35 and M45 Sedans are the largest in the Infiniti range, and “teched” to the hilt.

This year, the M received more V6 power, with the rear-drive M35 models sporting the silky smooth seven-speed automatic transmission. All other versions use a five-speed automatic.

The 2009 M35 has a 3..5-litre V6 engine with 222kW on tap, an increase of 20kW over the 2008 V6 versions.


The M45 has a 239kW/362NM 4.5-litre V8, which, of course, proves to be the thirstier power train, but provides more power.

Each is available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. AWD versions are dubbed M35x or M45x.

In this market, the M35 and M45 Sedans would line up against the BMW 530i Touring, Lexus GS 300 Sports Luxury, Mercedes E-Class 350 and Audi A6 3.2 FSI.

According to Car & Driver: “The Infiniti M35 is a car for connoisseurs, an assemblage of finely tuned parts that deliver a sublime driving experience.”


So, a strong performer in similar markets, should we see the Infiniti brand here? Or is the Australian market too small to sustain yet another brand and its associated national marketing and dealership costs?

What advice would you give Nissan Australia?

Lamborghini Expecting No Market Recovery Until 2011


WHILE THE LIKES of Fiat, Honda and Toyota Australia are anticipating an upswing in the global car market, supercar manufacturer Lamborghini does not share those sentiments.

With sales figures dropping off by 30 percent in the first five months of 2009, Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann believes that the company will remain profitable even at current sales levels, but does not expect the market to show any genuine recovery until 2011.

“We could stay profitable with sales that are dropping at 40 percent (in 2009). We are foreseeing a scenario that is staying on the same level next year and coming back in 2011,” he said. “I’m prepared to face another tough year in 2010,” Winkelmann told Reuters.


The Italian supercar manufacturer increased its pre-tax profit by 27 percent in 2008 to 60 million euros ($103.3 million) on revenue up 2.5 percent to 479 million as it cut costs.

Lamborghini posted a solid sales figure of 2430 cars in 2008, but on current numbers, that figure could drop to 1500 for 2010.

To prepare for the drop in sales, Lamborghini has cut production by 30 percent for 2010, but despite this, the waiting time for delivery has dropped from a year to just six months.

Top Gear Test Track Under Threat From Housing Development


THE HAMMERHEAD, Gambon Corner, the Follow-Through. To many armchair enthusiasts those names describe hallowed ground, Top Gear’s test track at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, England.

The TG test track has become the unofficial arbiter of supercar performance, so much so that while Nurburgring lap times continue to be viewed with skepticism (the Nissan GT-R’s in particular), Top Gear’s ‘Power Laps’ are seen as being the ultimate yardstick for sports cars.

But the TG test track may soon be no more. A housing development planned for the site by its owner, the Rutland Group, may see the entire airfield levelled and replaced with 2600 homes, destroying Top Gear’s circuit in the process.


The proposed development, above, was denied approval by the local council late last year, however residents in the area surrounding the former military airfield fear that the British Government may actively seek to push the Dunsfold Park project through.

The government holds a 70 percent stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which it bailed out during last year’s financial crisis. The bank has extended a £44 million line of credit to the Rutland Group, and the concern is that the government may be tempted to give preferential treatment to Rutland in order to ensure a return on the RBS loan.

Top Gear’s home won’t be bulldozed just yet, though. Rutland has appealed against the local council’s decision to can the Dunsfold Park development and the final judgement on the company’s appeal will be made in September.

Whether that decision works in favour of Top Gear or not, we’re willing to bet that the likes of Hammond, May and Clarkson will be busy laying down as much rubber on the Cold War-era airfield as they possibly can - while they still can.