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  • Isuzu expects Thai exports to be stagnant this year

    Isuzu’s exports from Thailand is expected to remain flat this year as demand from the crucial Middle East market is set remain slow, Bangkok Post reports.

    Last year, Isuzu’s shipments from Thailand slipped 11% to 160,000 units. Toshiaki Maekawa, president of Tri Petch Isuzu Sales, the Thai distributor of Isuzu trucks, said that the company expects export volume to be around 160,000 to 170,000 units this year, combining both CBU and CKD units.

    “Unfavourable circumstances in the Middle East, where economic prospects remain murky and oil prices stay relatively low, will make it tough for Isuzu to grow exports. Isuzu also needs to rely on the Middle Eastern market, particularly for Saudi Arabia where the company controls 80% market share,” he said.

    “There are myriad risks from other countries that may affect the country’s vehicle export such as the new economic policies of US president Donald Trump, the international conflicts between the United States and China, and the US and Israel, and weak economic condition in Japan,” Maekawa added, echoing the sentiment of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) automotive club.

    On the domestic front, the maker of the D-Max pick-up truck and MU-X SUV expects sales to grow by a modest 2% this year, to 146,000 units. Isuzu expects Thailand’s 2017 auto sales to grow 5.5% to 810,000 units. The FTI is forecasting a 2.6% growth in total Thai output this year to two million units, including 800,000 units for domestic consumption.

    Isuzu operates two Thai plants in Samut Prakan and Chachoengsao. Combined, they have an annual production capacity of 366,000 units, and serve domestic sales as well as exports to over 110 countries. The truck and diesel engine specialist is set to roll out a refreshed MU-X in Thailand next month.

     
  • Shell FuelSave Diesel Euro 5 now in Sabah, first in EM

    Shell has become the first petrol retailer to introduce Euro 5 diesel in East Malaysia, with the launch of its FuelSave Diesel Euro 5 in Sabah. The low-sulphur fuel is currently being offered at eight stations along the west coast of the northern state, and will eventually be expanded to 16 stations.

    Aside from the lower sulphur content of 10 parts per million (ppm), compared to 500 ppm for regular Euro 2M diesel, FuelSave Diesel Euro 5 is also formulated with Active Efficiency Ingredients, promising improved engine efficiency and increased mileage. Also included are special detergents to help protect against injector deposit build-up, among others.

    The fuel was initially introduced for the first time outside of Johor in December 2015 with four stations in addition to one at Pasir Gudang Highway 2 in Johor; the list ballooned to 85 by June last year. The company stated then that it planned to expand the network of stations offering Euro 5 diesel to at least 100 nationwide, including on connecting roads from Johor to Penang as well as on the East Coast in Terengganu.

    “With the launch of Shell FuelSave Diesel Euro 5, we are giving drivers travelling along the west coast of Sabah, the opportunity to experience our best, most efficient diesel fuel,” said Shell Timur managing director Shairan Huzani Husain.

    For the full list of stations currently offering Shell FuelSave Diesel Euro 5 across Malaysia, please visit www.shell.com.my/dieseleuro5.

     
  • If a Proton-Geely partnership happens, here’s what Proton may get to share tech with – Geely’s line-up

    Yesterday, it was reported that Zhejiang Geely is expected to bid for a tie-up with Proton, supposedly as early as this week. The national carmaker is currently in the midst of securing a foreign strategic partner (FSP), and reports have placed Geely and France’s Groupe PSA as the potential candidates.

    According to people familiar with the matter, the Chinese automaker has pitched to Proton’s owner DRB-Hicom that it will offer the Malaysian carmaker some of its latest vehicle technologies. These include that used to design Geely models such as the GC9 sedan and Boyue SUV, and will also include small car tech it developed with Volvo, the sources revealed.

    The latter will likely include the new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) that will underpin Volvo’s 40-series models like the XC40 coming this year, along with a string of Geely models. The new platform has been designed with electrification already in mind, with Volvo models getting a T5 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid variant designed exclusively for it.

    The sources added that by offering Proton some of its own technologies, Geely is looking to break into right-hand-drive (RHD) markets, tapping into these via Proton. Such a move would give the Chinese firm entry into the global RHD market, which it has no presence in currently.

    If a Proton-Geely partnership does eventually happen, what would Proton get to share tech with? We take a look at the Chinese automaker’s available vehicle model line-up, which is quite comprehensive, as the gallery below shows.

    Aside from the GC9 and the Boyue that have been bandied as possibilities, new models such as the GL and GS as well as the Emgrand EC7 could well be picks. Still, we’ve thrown in all the available models listed on the English version of its website to offer a better overview of the automaker and its design philosophy.

    Some of the older cars look a tad dated styling-wise, but the Boyue – which arrived on the scene at the end of last year – leads the new charge for the automaker. The SUV offers a fresh take on things, courtesy of former Volvo designer Peter Horbury, who heads Geely’s design studios, of which there are four. The centres are located in Gothenburg, Shanghai, Barcelona and Los Angeles, and employ around 300 designers.

    Based on the photos, the interior looks premium enough, and the specifications being tossed about indicate that the Boyue is pretty loaded too – there’s an eight-inch display screen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto in the mix, and safety kit includes lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control (ACC).

    For the Chinese market, the 4.5 metre-long Boyue gets two engine choices. The first is a 2.0 litre naturally-aspirated unit on the base models. Paired with a six-speed manual, the mill offers 140 hp and 178 Nm. The other is a 1.8 litre direct injection turbo, which can be had in two output tunes, depending on transmission chosen.

    On the manual, the Euro 5-compliant 4G18TD is good for 160 hp and 250 Nm, while for the six-speed dual-clutch automatic version of the SUV, the numbers go up to 181 hp and 285 Nm. The six-speed DCT is built by Geely’s Australian subsidiary, Drivetrain Systems International (DSI).

    In some foreign markets, the Boyue is offered with a 2.4 litre naturally-aspirated unit, in place of the blown 1.8. Both the 1.8 litre turbo and 2.4 NA units are also to be found on the GC9 sedan, which made its debut two years ago. The car is known as the Borui domestically and as the Emgrand GT in some export markets.

    The luxury sedan – which measures in at 4,596 mm long, 1,861 mm wide and 1,513 mm tall – is also available in a flagship 3.5 litre form, and all engine variants feature a six-speed auto transmission as the partnering drivetrain. Again, it all looks quite plush from the photos, and kit on this one includes LED headlamps, a heads-up display, a 13-speaker Infinity audio system, a 360 degree camera and ACC.

    Meanwhile, the GL sedan, GS SUV (which is available in both Elegant and Sport versions) and Emgrand EC7 are equipped with 1.8 litre and 1.5 litre NA units, though the automaker’s new-ish 1.3 litre turbo is also available for all three vehicles.

    Power output for the small blown mill varies from 127 hp to 131 hp in these applications, though torque remains constant at 185 Nm. As for transmission choices, there’s a six-speed manual, six-speed DCT and a CVT on offer.

    Elsewhere, the rest of the automaker’s Emgrand lineup consists of four models, while the standard Geely range is made up of nine vehicles, all working with normally-aspirated 2.0, 1.8 and 1.5 litre mills.

    What do you think of the Geely model line-up? Also, do you think some of these offerings will do well locally and around the region if they are assembled here in right-hand drive form? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

    A mega gallery awaits you after the jump.

     
  • Toyota unveils new exhaust purifying catalyst – 20% less precious metal usage; debuts in Lexus LC 500h

    Toyota has introduced a new exhaust purifying catalyst that is smaller (approximately 20% less volume), and uses 20% less precious metal compared to conventional catalysts. The new technology will gradually make its way into new vehicle models, beginning with the Lexus LC 500h later this year.

    The catalyst features the world’s first integrally-moulded Flow Adjustable Design Cell (FLAD) substrate, which has a different cell cross-sectional area at the inner portion compared to that at the outer portion.

    The new FLAD substrate (developed by Toyota together with Denso) improves the uniformity of exhaust gas flow, allowing for the same exhaust gas purification performance as that of conventional catalysts while requiring less precious metal.

    As the diagrams show, the newly developed FLAD substrate doesn’t result in an unbalanced flow of exhaust gas as compared to a conventional catalyst, where the flow of gas through the inner portion of the catalyst is faster, and at a higher volume than that through the outer portion.

    Therefore, the FLAD substrate catalyst doesn’t require more precious metal at the inner portion of the catalyst, where the flowrate is greater, in order to maintain purification performance. The walls of cells within both substrates are washcoated with catalytic materials, like platinum (Pt), rhodium (Rh), palladium (Pd) and other precious metals.

    This provides a catalytic effect, where harmful gases such as carbon monoxide (CO), unburned hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide (NOx) are purified within the exhaust via oxidation-reduction.

     
  • Mercedes-AMG GT to spawn new four-door concept

    As Mercedes-AMG marks its 50th anniversary this year, the debut of its F1 race car-based, limited-run hypercar will be accompanied by the Mercedes-AMG GT4, a four-door version of the AMG GT sports car. Where the AMG GT was built from a modified SLS AMG platform, the upcoming four-door version is rumoured to adopted the modular, rear-drive MRA architecture instead.

    The AMG GT4 aims to take on the sleeker-roofed, high-performance four-door establishment which includes the likes of the Porsche Panamera, BMW M6 Gran Coupe and the Audi RS7; the new Mercedes is tipped to be the successor to the CLS Shooting Brake, according to an Autocar report.

    Following its expected Geneva debut in March, the production-ready GT4 is rumoured to reach the European market next year, in line with earlier estimates of a 2018 debut. As with the two-seater GT, the GT4 is expected to be available in two variants; a standard model and an ‘S’ version, the latter tipped to surpass the 600 hp of the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S.

    That output advantage could possibly come from an integrated starter generator (ISG), which is tipped to take residence in the GT4’s transmission for temporary boosts of 20 hp, drawing power from a 48V electrical system; the production model could also feature a lithium-ion battery of “moderate size.” AMG’s 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 could also be joined by Mercedes’ new 3.0 litre inline-six, also with ISG assistance.

    GALLERY: Mercedes-AMG GT C Coupe

     
  • Lexus LS 500h to feature Multi Stage Hybrid System

    Lexus has revealed the LS 500h will feature the brand’s Multi Stage Hybrid System in its powertrain, similar to what drives the LC 500h coupe. The hybrid version of the fifth-generation premium sedan is set to make its global debut at the Geneva Motor Show later in March this year.

    On the LC 500h coupe, there are two elements to the powertrain with the first being a 8GR-FXS 3.5 litre V6 Dual VVT-i petrol engine (294 hp/348 Nm) assisted by an electric motor. The motor gets its power from a lithium-ion battery pack (instead of nickel-metal hydride) that is 20% smaller and 20 kg lighter than the one used in the previous LS 600h.

    The second is the Multi Stage Hybrid System, which mates a four-speed automatic to a traditional hybrid continuously variable transmission (CVT). The purpose of the “dual” transmission is to amplify the output from the V6 and electric motor combo, and allows for a progressive access to the electric motor’s torque.

    To do so, there are three virtual gears (CVT) between each of the automatic transmission’s physical gears up to the third ratio, which results in nine ratios. The auto’s fourth gear acts as a final overdrive ratio, and when all is put together, recreates a 10-speed transmission. Complicated? Most definitely, but it does make for some pretty intriguing tech.

    Lexus promises a “linear, direct and continuous acceleration feel, making for a more rewarding driving experience” with its new hybrid powertrain setup, and touts many other additional benefits. These include improved throttle response, lower engine rpm during high-speed cruising, and the ability to cruise at higher speeds, with the petrol engine shut off – up to 140km/h.

    We’ll have to wait for the full reveal of the LS 500h at Geneva to see if the powertrain is identical to the one on the LC 500h coupe. The LS 500h will join its non-hybrid sibling – the LS 500 – which gets a 3.5 litre twin-turbo powerplant that replaces its predecessor’s 5.0 litre naturally-aspirated V8.

    GALLERY: 2018 Lexus LS 500

     
  • VIDEO: Honda City facelift, next to outgoing model

    Honda Malaysia is building hype for the facelifted City, showing the car at its annual media gathering event last week and then bringing the car on a nationwide tour. Now, it has released a new video showing the differences in design compared to the outgoing model, ahead of the car’s launch very soon – the order books having already been opened since the beginning of the month.

    This makes it much easier to spot the differences, which include redesigned headlights – now LED units on the top-spec V variant – with a different shape. The chrome bar, which now extends over the headlights Civic-style, is also slimmer than before, while the grille features a honeycomb mesh and a chrome strip. The front bumper has also been given a more elegant design.

    At the rear, the V model gains LED tail lights as seen on the Japanese-market Grace Hybrid, and there’s also a sportier rear bumper and a ducktail spoiler with an integrated LED third brake light. Finishing it off are new two-tone alloy wheels, measuring 16 inches on the V, as well as the new Lunar Silver hue from the Civic.

    As before, Honda has not shown the interior of the facelifted City, but we should get the darker gunmetal trim, redesigned seat fabric (with the Civic’s centre stripe) and LED map and room lights offered on Thai and Indian models. All models now get keyless entry and push-button start, while the V variant finally receives a multi-angle reverse camera and auto-folding door mirrors.

    All models retain the 1.5 litre i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, mated to an Earth Dreams CVT transmission; although outputs have yet to be announced, expect them to stay the same at 120 PS and 145 Nm. Safety-wise, all models now come with Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), with the V variant adding six airbags as before. The model lineup will also be streamlined from four variants (S, S+, E and V) to three (S, E and V).

     
  • VIDEO: 2017 Honda City stars in new ad for India

    While we did get a preview of the 2017 Honda City recently, the B-segment sedan has already been launched in other markets such as Thailand and India. This new advertisement spot is from the latter, and describes the new City as being “worlds ahead.”

    Seen here is the range-topping ZX variant offered to customers in India, so it gets all the goodies, with LED headlights (with integrated DRLs), LED fog lights, and 16-inch diamond-cut alloys, bootlid spoiler (with integrated LED brake light), LED taillights and an electric sunroof for the exterior.

    With the facelift, the City now gets a Civic-inspired front end, with a new chrome bar grille and honeycomb mesh. Elsewhere, the front and rear bumpers have also been reshaped, where the lower apron is now more aggressive-looking on the former.

    Inside, the big change is a new 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system that comes with 1.5GB of internal media storage capacity, Mirrorlink support, a variety of inputs and navigation. Said system is also linked to four speakers and four tweeters positioned inside the cabin.

    Just below that, there’s a new touch control panel for the car’s automatic climate control, as well as a new engine start/stop button beside it with white and red illumination. For safety, the City in ZX guise gets six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), ABS with EBD and Isofix rear child seat anchors.

    As for what’s under the hood, customers in the republic get to choose from two 1.5 litre engines. The first is a four-cylinder SOHC i-VTEC petrol unit (119 PS at 6,600 rpm/145 Nm at 4,600 rpm), while the other is a four-cylinder DOHC i-DTEC diesel (100 PS at 3,600 rpm/200 Nm at 1,750 rpm). Only those petrol-powered models get the option of a five-speed manual or CVT, while the oil burning version gets a six-speed manual only.

     
  • Sell Proton and jobs will be lost, vendors close shop, Malaysia will remain a third world country – Tun M

    Everyone has an opinion about Proton, whether he or she is a “car person” or not. As a national carmaker, Proton is a subject of national interest, and rightly so, as policies set by the government with Proton in mind impact all car buyers. Of course, the grants and loans from the government to the carmaker are from the taxpayer.

    The Malaysian auto market has never been so open, and Proton has had to fight with not just market leader Perodua but the entry-level models of foreign makes. Without the economies of scale on a global basis, even a leader in a small market will have its hands full fending off the giants, never mind Proton. The carmaker has long lost its status as the default choice of the rakyat, who have turned to Daihatsu-backed Perodua.

    Proton is now at a low ebb. In 2016, the DRB-Hicom-owned company sold just 72,290 units (a 29.2% drop from 2015) to surrender second place in the sales league to on-form Honda. Sales of 70k units will not be enough to sustain the company, which last year received a RM1.5 billion loan from the government to settle debts. That loan came with conditions, and one of it was for Proton to find a foreign partner.

    Two parties are now bidding to be Proton’s “foreign strategic partner” – France’s PSA Group (maker of Peugeot and Citroen) and China’s Geely, owner of Volvo. According to DRB-Hicom, the decision on Proton’s partner will be announced by the end of the first half of 2017, but that has not stopped almost daily speculation and “updates” on the progress, both by the press and government officials.

    There are two ongoing debates. The expected one is whether Proton should be sold to a foreign party, bearing in mind that no suitor would be happy with exchanging tech and funds for a minority stake, with no firm hand on the tiller. Broadly speaking, on one camp is the “national pride” brigade, and on the other side are those calling for an end to the expensive crutch. What’s there to be proud of, they ask, comparing P1 to the likes of Hyundai.

    To add spice to the situation is the sub-debate – if Proton were to be sold, should it go to the French or the Chinese? Never mind that Volvo has thrived under Geely ownership (with solid financial backing and undiminished Swedish R&D/design, the latest models are rather desirable) and Indian ownership of Jaguar Land Rover has propelled the British brands to record sales – Malaysia is a proud nation that does not always view the matter objectively. In today’s climate, Geely’s origins go against it in the matter of public opinion.

    But what does the founder of Proton think of the company’s current situation? Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad typed his thoughts on the matter in his Chedet blog, which is pasted below. It doesn’t surprise anyone that he’s against foreign ownership – we would expect no less from the former PM and Proton chairman. Below are his views, verbatim.

    1. I am sad that Proton is to be sold to foreign companies. Having a strategic partner is ok. But once Proton is sold to foreigners it will cease to be a national car. It will just be producing foreign cars in Malaysia. That is something we have been doing since the 1970s.

    2. Proton may not be profitable now. But it was very profitable before. Admittedly it was because it was protected. But even after protection ceased it was profitable. All countries protect their automotive industry. It may not be through high import duties. But there are other ways of preventing imports from challenging locally made cars. These other ways are actually much more effective and can result in excluding foreign-makes completely. That is why Proton cannot be exported to these countries. We are very generous. Anybody can export their cars to this country. Sub-standard cars too can be imported.

    3. I am out of Proton now. Since then I have not been allowed to even meet or speak or phone Proton staff.

    4. That is alright.

    5. My fear is that if we do not own Proton anymore the Malaysian automotive industry will suffer a great loss.

    6. The vendors and suppliers of components will close shop. Lots of workers will lose their jobs. And Malaysia’s engineering capacity will be reduced. It will not be a developed country in 2020 or later. Malaysia will remain a third world developing country.

    7. Once upon a time Malaysia was called an Asian Tiger. Today Malaysia is not even a pussycat. We have become one of the ten most corrupt countries in the world.

    Syabas! Najib.

    What are your thoughts on the matter? As paultan.org is an automotive website, please keep the talk to Proton and its foreign suitors. Tun M could not resist point number seven and that sarcastic pat on the back, but let’s leave politics out of this – there are plenty of other places for rock throwing of that sort.

     
  • 2017 Triumph M’sia pricing released – from RM58,900

    Pricing for new models in Triumph Malaysia’s range of motorcycles has been announced, and there’s some good news going forward, especially for fans of the 2017 Street Triple 765. Having recently attended the international media ride for the Street Triple 765 RS in Catalunya, Spain, pricing for Triumph’s three-quarter litre naked sportsbike – which comes with Showa BPF front fork and Ohlins rear suspension – is RM66,900.

    Sitting a little down the Street Triple Range is the 765 R LRH which comes at a retail price of RM58,900. LRH stands for low ride height and the 765 R LRH does away with the premium suspension and two themes of the RS’ multi-function LCD, but comes designed for riders short in the inseam department.

    In the pipeline is the entry-level to Triumph’s Street Triple range, the 765 S, which is expected to be priced below the RM50,000 mark. If this indeed happens, then the Yamaha MT-09 will see some stiff competition this year, as will the Ducati Monster 821 and the MV Agusta Brutale, which go up against the 765 R and 765 RS, respectively.

    On the Modern Classics side of things, the 1,200 cc Triumph Bonneville Bobber can be had at a price of RM74,900 for monochrome paintwork and RM75,900 for the two-tone colours. The Bonneville Bobber is an extension of the T120 range of retro-styled machines, and gives the rider a custom motorcycle out-of-the-box.

    Further down the range are the Bonneville T100 and T100 Dark, which retail at RM63,900 for the Jet Black colour scheme to RM65,900 for the dual colour schemes. Mimicking the look of the 1950s Triumph Tiger and Thunderbird, these classic-looking machines come with all mod cons, including ABS and traction control.

    Also in the list of 2017 Triumph models to be released in Malaysia is the Street Cup, a 900 cc cafe racer, at RM65,900. Bookings are now being taken for Triumph Malaysia’s new 2017 models at its Petaling Jaya flagship store, branch in Johor Bharu, Johor, or its dealer branches in Georgetown and Bukit Mertajam in Penang, as well as Kuching, Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

     
 

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