Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tata Motors to sell $745 mln bonds in May

India's Tata Motors aims to sell 37.5 billion rupees ($745 million) of bonds in May to close a bridge loan, three banking sources with knowledge of the deal said on Tuesday.

India's top vehicle maker took a $3 billion loan to buy the Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford (F.N) before the credit crunch hit last year. The company, which has $100 million in cash, has to close the residual $2 billion loan in June.

Tata Motors, which began bookings for the world's cheapest car, Nano, this month will sell bonds in the domestic market between mid and late May in maturities of two, four, five and seven years, the sources, who declined to be named, said.

The bonds will be guaranteed by top lender State Bank of India, to help Tata Motors tide over rating downgrades, they said.

"The book is being built and the response has been robust so far," one source said, adding the five-year tenure will carry a coupon of 7.5 to 9 percent, compared with up to 11 percent Tata Motors had offered for one-year paper.

A spokesman for Tata Motors, India's leading truck and bus maker, declined to comment on the plans.

Citigroup, SBI Capital Markets and Tata Capital are the offer managers, the sources said.

The company plans to sell 8 billion rupees of 2-year bonds, 3.5 billion of 4-year, 14 billion of 5-year and 12 billion rupees of 7-year bonds as it looks at long-term funds to replace the bridge loan, the sources said.

The global economic crisis hit the company hard, reducing demand for its mainstay trucks and buses, hurt margins and affected its fund raising plans.

But the worst may be over. Its March sales fell 13 percent on year but rose nearly a quarter from February. The Nano bookings, with buyers having to fork out about 95 percent of the 100,000 rupees ($1,988) base price, would also give the firm easy money.

Tata Motors is expected to disclose the response it got on the Nano bookings on Tuesday.

Shares in Tata Motors, which has a market value of $2.3 billion, were trading 3.6 percent lower at 239.90 rupees at 0635 GMT in a weak Mumbai market that was down 1.6 percent.

The stock has jumped 50.7 percent in 2009, compared with a 16 percent rise in the benchmark index, after tumbling 78 percent last year.

How to find Cheap Cars

How do people find cheap cars? There is several ways to find a nice, reliable vehicle multiple times cheaper than buying from a used car lot. The fact is that used car lots mark up prices to generate profits. Why give them money? If you want to hang on to your money, there is an easy way to find cheap cars.

Surprisingly, cheap cars are easily found if you look in the right place. Abused and used sports cars are very cheap, you can find older model Trans Am, Z-28, Corvette, Mustang, 3000GT, and other sports cars for under $8,000 today. If sports cars aren't your thing, big trucks and SUV's like Excursion, Expedition, F series, Silverado, Escalade and more are all very cheap if you know where to look. If compact economical cars are your interest, these cars can also be found for pennies on the dollar as well.

Where do people find cheap cars? Typically from private sellers. The internet is the best source for finding cheap used cars. Several websites are dedicated to this service alone. The trick to finding a quality, cheap used car is persistence. Don't just look at the internet sites below once, and then pick a car to buy. Look through them and find the specific vehicle that interests you. Once you've found your goal, visit the sites everyday until one with the right mileage and price comes along. It may take one week, or it may take a couple of months. Depending on your situation, this isn't always possible. Try to make accommodations so that you can spend adequate time looking for your next used car.

Great places to find cheap cars online :





Once you have found your car, you'll need to thoroughly inspect it. Most cars are sold for a reason, and when they're cheap it's probably due to mechanical failures the current owner doesn't want to fix. Typically, these are easy repairs but costly to have done. If you can turn a wrench yourself, you can buy cars marginally cheaper. Repair on used vehicles is typically gaskets, electronic components, or paint issues like scratches, dents, etc. With the proper knowledge and research, all of these repairs can be done very cheap as well.

Ask the owner why they are selling the car. Most of them will be honest and tell you what is wrong with it. Some owners will not, and this is where a third party mechanic estimate comes hand. Using CarFax reports gives you a very limited perception of the history of the vehicle. Every creature leaves a trail, and so does every driver.

Further more to identify vehicle history look for signs of neglect such as unusual wear and tear, paint surface missing wax, scratches where keys are used, spilt engine fluids around filling oriphaces, rubber wearing off on brake and gas pedal, clutch shudder or smells, and how clean the vehicle is. If an owner won't take the time to properly insert keys, fluids, or wash their car; it's a good chance they don't have a good vehicle care ethic.

Just because the car hasn't been taken care of, doesn't mean it's a complete waste. In some situations, these are the types of vehicles you'll find cheap because the owner doesn't have "pride" to ask for a higher price. You can take advantage of this on certain makes and models that are renown for reliability and durability of parts like Honda, Subaru, Toyota, and General Motors.

The most important decision when buying a used vehicle should be based on ease of repair when things start to break. Front wheel drive vehicles are the hardest to work on due to the engine being in the car sideways. The important factor to look for on FWD is how much room exists between the drive belt area and the inner fender. Make sure you can fit the tools needed to do repairs in this area, otherwise lowering or raising of the entire engine / drive train assembly may be required for something as routine as belt, water pump, alternator, or AC replacement.

If you want to turn your own wrench, stay away from crossovers like the PT Cruiser and others. They are the worse vehicles to work on yourself. The pinched nose and compact design makes it very hard to work on, resulting in astronomical repair bills when things go wrong. When you buy a used car, make sure it's what you want, the right price, and you can work on it.

2009 Chevy Malibu Hybrid Review

With all the discussions and internet talk surrounding the electric and hybrid vehicles that are still years away from production, what about cars that are available right now? Sure there is the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, not to forget the Ford Fusion and a few others, but what about the 2009 Chevy Malibu Hybrid.

The 2009 Malibu Hybrid is often overlooked in terms of hybrid cars because it is a mild hybrid, meaning incapable of moving under electric power only and only achieving slightly better fuel economy than its gasoline counterpart. However, it is still a solid car is aggressively price.

Staring at only $24,700, the Malibu Hybrid offers a nice package for a small premium over the standard Malibu. The Malibu Hybrid is powered by a 2.4 liter 164 hp gasoline engine. The engine is mated to an electric motor that is powered by a nickel metal hydride battery pack located in the trunk area. The gasoline engine along with the electric motor provides ample acceleration and close to V6 performance, but still manages to return 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway in a relatively large vehicle.

Though the mpg is not sensational it still offers an improvement of the standard 4 cylinder Malibu which returns 22 mpg city and 33 mpg highway but has less power, and the V6 version which offers 17 mpg cit and 26 mpg highway.

The 2009 Malibu Hybrid comes in only a couple thousand over a comparable 4 cylinder model and is lower priced than a comparable V6 model. It offer goes gas mileage, relatively strong engine performance and a solid car overall. The redesigned Malibu is a great product from GM and adding a hybrid power train gives options for domestic car buyers interesting in entering into the hybrid craze.

2009 Ford Flex Review

If you have a family that needs more than 5 seats, the Ford Flex is a worthwhile choice, provided that you like the style. That’s what this car attempts to represent – a vehicle with style and substance that is unique compared to other crossovers.

I call it a long, boxy station wagon. At least it’s unique!

In many ways it apes the strengths of the now defunct Chrysler Pacifica. Although, the Ford Flex is a much more comprehensive package with better road manners. Having a vehicle that caters to seating comfort the way the Ford Flex does is a nice luxury. Isolation abound as a passenger locates their own corner to hide. I dare say; this vehicle has one of the most comfortable passenger areas of any vehicle in its bracket.

If you have a family that needs more than 5 seats, the Ford Flex is a worthwhile choice, provided that you like the style. That’s what this car attempts to represent – a vehicle with style and substance that is unique compared to other crossovers.

I call it a long, boxy station wagon. At least it’s unique!

In many ways it apes the strengths of the now defunct Chrysler Pacifica. Although, the Ford Flex is a much more comprehensive package with better road manners. Having a vehicle that caters to seating comfort the way the Ford Flex does is a nice luxury. Isolation abound as a passenger locates their own corner to hide. I dare say; this vehicle has one of the most comfortable passenger areas of any vehicle in its bracket.

A 262 horsepower, 3.5 liter (248 lbs feet of torque) V6 is the only engine choice. It is fairly competitive, but on the slower side given the approximately 9 second 0-60 times in the AWD trim. These numbers are on par with competitor’s larger, 3-row crossovers. Word has it that a much more powerful 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6 should have a 100 horsepower boost when it debuts in about a year. The current engine averages in the mid to low 20’s mpg on the highway and in the low to mid teens in the city.

There is an option for a 7 seat Flex with a 3 person second row; however, that is at the expense of the adjustable second row captain seats and the optional center rest cooler. The driver’s seat, position, outward view and adjustability are excellent. Road feel is better than any minivan and on par with the General Motor’s big crossovers (Chevy Traverse, Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia, etc).

So Ford, what’s the deal with forgoing a telescoping steering wheel?

The optional 20 inch wheels look nice and do not appear to enhance or sharpen the ride compared to the 17 inch aluminum wheels. In fact, I think the ride suffers a tad with the huge rollers. Either way, given the Ford Flex’s mass, you wont need massive (read: expensive to replace) performance tires anyway. All the same, I dare say this Flex is very competent on the streets.

Once you get used to the long hood (as long as a full size pickup) parking is fairly easy for such a long vehicle. It’s even longer than the aforementioned General Motor’s vehicles. If you have anything in your garage that impedes long cars, you will have to remove it to fit a Ford Flex.

This is an ultimate road trip automobile. Despite very flat body panels and glass, the Flex is slippery enough to slice through highway winds easily. The Flex’s long wheelbase and low center of gravity make for a competent highway cruiser. In many ways, this is a superb vehicle for Denver families – the AWD option should get you home to your suburban domicile even in our nasty, slushy spring snows.

The Ford Flex is a great car, but it could be excellent.

With a cheaper base price (which is a bit under $29,000), a little bit more power, a more adjustable steering wheel and more available options, this Ford Flex hangs on the cusp of excellence.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Electric Car Test Drive Round Up

Electric cars and modular homes are the two applications in my mind that could make the green consumer market finally explode.

Why? They're the only two that really drive lust and envy. Solar panels are fun for about 15 minutes, but once you've seen the meter go backward a couple of times the thrill wears off. Household wind turbines? Your neighbors will come over to see them, and then warn you about their pending lawsuit.

We tried the organic hand cleaner. It's not nearly as addictive as Purell.

So with that in mind, here's the roundup of electric cars I've driven and a quick review. Mostly, they are in order.

1. Tesla Roadster: By far the best of the bunch. Quick acceleration, good handling, lots of style. Strangers stare admirably. And there's a collection of T-shirts and hats to buy. The Tesla Motors dealership in Menlo Park, Calif. is one of the few in the world that seems to get tourists off the street. The downside: I am the cheapest person in North America. I'd probably sell one of my kidneys for cash than buy a $109,000 car.

2. Nissan's prototype EV: The final version of Nissan's prototype EV will look different, which is good. The prototype looks like something you would drive in a gator zoo in Florida. But the car handled well and had the pickup one would expect from a mid-sized economy car. A big plus is the price: $20,000 to $33,000 before the federal tax rebate or any state incentives (see Under the Hood With Nissan's Electric Car). (Side note: I am told that car manufacturers can't knock the price of the car down and take the tax break when it comes in. It's unassignable. Thus, you pay full price and get the rebate on your own.)

The downside: It's a Nissan. The envy factor will be moderate.

3. The Aptera 2e: Technically, they didn't let me drive it. I rode in the passenger seat. But it seemed to handle and accelerate well. Highlights: You're only about two feet off the ground so even motorcycles are higher. Sort of like riding a recumbent bike or a toboggan. The fact that it has three wheels seems freakish, but you get over it quick.

Downside: I like the nostalgic futuristic tone of Aptera's design, but you could see it getting old too. People compared it to the lounge in the former Pan Am section of JFK airport or the car Woody Allen drove in Sleeper. Another ding: It's pretty easy to bonk your head on the gull wing doors getting into the car. Most buyers will likely live in terror that the doors will stick, break or get sheared off by a moving van.

4. The Persu Hybrid: Formerly known as the VentureOne. Persu's hybrid is a three-wheeled car developed originally in the Netherlands that tilts like a motorcycle. Two people can ride in it, but in a row, sort of like a bobsled, which limits conversation. It's small, so you could park it almost anywhere, and because of which it fits into a lot of different parking spots.

The tilt and park-ability factor would give it a slight advantage over the Nissan and Aptera, but there are a few major caveats. First, back in 2007, the company the first cars would hit the U.S. in 2009. Now, it says it will announce a release date when it is confident. Second, it has gone from promising a full electric to a just a hybrid. So who knows if it will every come out.

5. Zero Motorcycles: "It is a bit jumpy. The acceleration is quick," Zero Motorcycles founder Neal Saiki told me. Moments later, I narrowly missed him and almost careened into a dumpster. But once I got used to it, it was great. Motorcycles could become one of the quick growth markets for electric vehicles: They're cheaper than cars and the crash-testing burden is lighter.

The company has been selling a dirtbike for a while and is now doing a street version with a 60-mile range. Downside: The price of lithium-ion batteries affects cycle prices too. The Zero S will sell for just under $10,000. Honorable mention to the electric scooters from Vectrix as well, but I didn't come close to having an accident, so some of the thrill was gone.

6. The X-1 from Wrightspeed: Ian Wright has produced one of the fastest cars on the road with the Wrightspeed X1. It handles great too. He dodged around a couple of guys unloading pallets of appliances on one of our test rides. The Wrightspeed, though, is in beta, so it's tough to rate higher. When it comes to market, the ranking will likely move up.

7. The Zappy 3 EZ: Not the scooter with the seat. This is a plank with three wheels, a handlebar and an electric motor. In other words, a motorized version of my daughter's Hello Kitty scooter. Although Zap's Xebra drives like a mobile bomb, this thing was a blast. I wanted to set up a jump in the driveway. It tops out at around 15 miles per hour but CEO Steve Schneider said he cranked one up close to 30 mph on a downhill.

8. Proterra's EcoRide: It's a city bus. It goes about 10 miles an hour. But Proterra's EcoRide bus is silent and there's plenty of room to place "TAKE ONE FREE" placards for the University of Phoenix. Bus systems and municipal fleets will be some of the first big buyers of electric cars because they don't worry about long driving ranges or an inability to find a charging station. They will own their own stations. The buses right now are expensive but if the price comes down expect to see them in lots of cities (see Too Much! The Electric Bus!).

9. The A2B from Ultramotor: To date, electric bikes have been popular mostly in China. In the U.S., they are probably still less popular than unicycles or cars shaped like giant hot dogs.

The A2B is a definite positive step forward. It weighs 70 pounds, but you can get uphill pretty easy by pedaling and hitting the electric engine. My wife loved it. We tried to put my mother-in-law on it but she toppled over, so it's not for everyone. There are big disadvantages too. it costs $2,700, or more than even a really good road bike, and it is not very attractive. One person thought it came from a medical supply store.

10. The Tango from Commuter Cars: Another toboggan-style two seater. The car even has a built-in roll cage. It's extremely fast and drives well. The downside: It costs over $100,000 and looks like a shoebox. Or something that snapped free from a carnival ride (see Test Driving the All-Electric Mini Car). If you want to impress your neighbors, assuage a midlife crisis or even meet women hanging out in front of a convenience store, the Tesla Roadster is a better value.

11. The Miles EV: Miles currently specializes in low-speed for military bases, retirement communities and college campuses. But it actually drove quite well. We managed to crank it up some steep hills and even got the wheels to squeal once. If you're 75 and living at Rossmoor, it's the car for you. And gives me hope for the freeway legal version of the Miles – a Chinese made car with an electric motor – coming next year

12. GM's Hydrogen Equinox and Mercedes A Class Hydrogen: Actually, these two were the smoothest driving, quietest of all the cars on the list. Too bad about the $1 million price tags.

13. Xebra from Zap: Sort of the opposite end of the three-wheeler spectrum. The Xebra from Zap was the first electric car I ever drove and the bottom of the list. Instead of having two wheels in front and one in the back (like Aptera's 2e) it has one in front and two in the back. As a result, it wobbles. It also looks like something from a Dr. Seuss book. The lead-acid car also accelerates slowly. "I was scared," my cameraman, who filmed the video, told me later.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

2009 Ford Ranger

Ford's new Ranger Wildtrak is acknowledgment of the changing role of utes in our market.

Where they were once simply workhorses seen on the job site and nowhere else they are now seen more and more in an urban setting hauling things like dirt bikes, jet skis or mountain bikes for their owners' leisure time pursuits.

The Ranger has won a following on the basis of its rugged chassis, flexible, fuel-efficient diesel engines and its off-road capability, but that's no longer enough for buyers wanting to use them for personal transport.

A ute, or pickup as the rest of the world calls them, has to be tough enough to cut it on the job, but it also has to look good round town.

Ford's answer is `Tough Style’, which gives its once `Tough Truck’ a more stylish face in order to appeal to this new and growing generation of ute buyers.

In effect it's a facelift of the Ranger released in 2007, with new front and rear styling, and a new highly optioned Wildtrak sports model that's perched atop the range.

A bold new laid-back three-bar grille, flanked by air intake nostrils and new wraparound headlamps, and topped by a bulging new bonnet, with a large lower grille opening to feed plenty of air to the turbo intercooler, make for a stylish new face. Down the sides there are new vents on the front guards and mirrors incorporating turn signal repeater lamps, and new clear tail lamp clusters brighten the Ranger's rear.

New in the face-lifted Ranger, and to one-tonne utes, are 18-inch alloy wheels and 255/60 R18 rubber that are a signature feature on the Wildtrak.

Apart from new trim, an MP3 connector, and cruise on the XLT and Wildtrak the interior is little changed.

Safety is enhanced with side airbags now standard across the range in addition to dual front airbags.

Mechanically there are also few changes to the Ranger.

There are two engines on offer, both flexible and easy driving Duratorq common rail turbo diesels. The smaller 2.5-litre engine boasts peaks of 105 kW at 3500 revs and 330 Nm at 1800 revs, the larger 3.0-litre engine peaks with 115 kW at 3200 revs and 380 Nm at 1800 revs.

Both engines are available with a choice of five-speed manual and five-speed auto transmissions, and the 3.0-litre engine is offered in both 4x2 and 4x4 configurations.

Four-wheel drive engagement on Rangers with the manual gearbox is manual, but electronic when the auto transmission is fitted. Four-wheel drive high can be selected on the move up to 100 km/h on both manuals and autos.

Suspension is a combination of front torsion bars and rear leaf springs across all models, with a blend of front discs and rear drums for retardation.

The safety of anti-lock ABS braking, and electronic brakeforce distribution for optimum braking effect are available on the XL base model, but standard on all other models.

There's also the choice of 4x2, high riding 4x2 and 4x4 models, with single cab, extended super cab or dual cab body styles, in either cab-chassis or ute configurations.

The range opens with the XL base model and includes XLT and the new Wildtrak sports ute.

All have a payload of at least 1000 kg and will tow up to 3-tonne (4WD).

While the changes are mostly cosmetic the main thrust of the update is the new Wildtrak sports model that seeks to break new ground for Ranger.

The Wildtrak is only available as a Dual-cab 4x4 ute, but comes with a raft of features that make it stand out from the crowd.

Most notably the Wildtrak rides on 18x7.5-inch alloy wheels with 255/60 R18 tyres, which is a first for Ranger as well as the Japanese-designed ute class.

But there's much more to it than big wheels. It starts with the chrome three-bar grille embossed with the Ranger name, and continues down the sides with body-coloured side cladding, aluminium side steps and vibrant Wildtrak graphics, to the climax at the rear with a tailgate also featuring body-coloured cladding.

On top there are roof rails, a sportsbar is mounted behind the cab, rails run along the top of the cargo box, and there is a chromed rear step bumper. The package is completed with a lockable roller shutter tonneau providing security and protection.

Inside the Wildtrak features Alcantara leather trim, leather steering wheel and gearshift knob, and extra dials atop the dash in a central cluster.

On the road recently in Thailand, the updated Ranger showed it had lost none of the smoothness and refinement for which the old model was noted.

It rode comfortably and quietly over all sorts of road surfaces, capably handled a testing four-wheel drive course, and both engines showed they had lost none of their impressive easy driving flexibility.

2010 Mazda CX9 set to arrive

The latest Mazda CX9 shows the smiley face is appearing everywhere.

Just a week after the launch of the new MX5, the latest Mazda to get the company's new corporate "five-point" grille is the CX9.

Apart from the CX9 and MX5, the new face is spreading across the Mazda range.

It appears on the next-generation 3, due in local showrooms within days and the CX7 due later this year.

The 2010 CX9 is expected to hit local showrooms later this year, about the same time as the refreshed CX7.

The CX9 will be unveiled at next month's New York motor show.

Mazda is not spilling the beans on exactly what the changes are underneath, saying only that the car will get "added options and reinforced safety features".

However, the seven-seater's existing 3.7-litre V6 and six-speed automatic is expected to carry over.

Unlike the CX7 though, no diesel version is tipped to be added to the range.

CX9 buyers can however expect improvements in the V6's fuel economy and a mildly updated cabin.

Visually, the new corporate grille is prominent, as are the revised foglights and lower air intake.

New larger exterior rear view mirrors and updated tail-lights complete the look.

Locally Mazda is one of the few brands that has had a good sales start this year even though its overall share has slipped almost 9 per cent.

At the launch of the new MX5 last week, Mazda Australia managing director, Doug Dickson, says he remains confident this year in the face of the 20 per cent market downturn.

He expects Mazda to continue to build its market share through the year despite overall sales volumes being down.

The arrival of the next-generation 3 hatch and sedan is expected to be a big driver.

Mazda, like other Japanese importers, has been under pricing pressure because of unfavourable exchange rates with the Japanese yen.

Dickson expects the Australia dollar to rebound against the yen over the next few months.

"The Australian dollar could gain lost ground over the next few months," he says.

"So pricing pressure will disappear over the next six months."

Dickson expects Mazda Cars to sell about 70,000 vehicles this year, 12 per cent down from the 79,826 vehicles sold last year.

2010 BMW Z4 Car Review

While nearly all prize ponies have long since left the barn, BMW has decided to wait for all the pushing and shoving to subside before letting loose its prized Z4 thoroughbred.

Traditional practice dictates that the German-based automaker introduce new or significantly upgraded powertrains in its sedan lineup before installing them in its "Z" sports car. The same holds true again this year, but the Z4, which arrives in May, has also been fitted with revised sheetmetal plus a consolidation of separate coupe and convertible body styles into a single (and convenient) have-it-your-way configuration.

Hardtop-convertibles aren't the latest Big Thing in vehicle design. Among the current crop are the Chrysler Sebring, Volkswagen Eos, Mazda MX-5 and Volvo C70. As well, BMW recently installed its first-ever folding roof when it upgraded the 3-series convertible.

The advantages of a retractable hardtop, such as improved weather/security protection, a quieter cabin and added structural integrity, are important assets when applied to a sports-car platform. The Z4's two-piece aluminum unit can be automatically raised in just 20 seconds by activating a console-mounted switch or an optional remote control button on the key.

To provide sufficient storage for the new cover, more than 12 centimetres of length has been spliced into the back of the car. That also means more room behind the seats where you'll find a removable partition separating the trunk and top stowage zones. Buyers can also select an optional pass-through into the cabin so that skis and other longer items can be brought along for the ride.

Other key dimensions remain fairly steady, although BMW has managed to dial a bit more shoulder and elbow room into the revised cockpit.

Despite the added length, the Z4, which now weighs about 100 kilograms more than a 2008 Z4 ragtop, appears generally similar to its predecessor. Subtle sheetmetal changes include a restyled front and rear end, added character lines in the hood and more streamlined door and fender panels that replace the previous model's somewhat jarring creases. These modest adjustments give the Z4 a thinner and more athletic stance.

The base sDrive30i is equipped with a 255-horsepower 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine, while the sDrive35i runs with a twin-turbocharged version of the 3.0 that puts down 300 horses. That's a significant jump from last year's 215- and 255-horse base and optional engines.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard. A six-speed automatic is available on the sDrive30i, while a seven-speed "double-clutch sport automatic" (essentially an automated manual that lacks a clutch pedal) gearbox is optional on the sDrive35i. Both automatics come with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. BMW claims the twin-turbo Z4 will accelerate to 60 mph (96 km-h) in 5.0 seconds (0.6 seconds quicker than the base car). That compares with the previous Z4 M and its 330-horsepower 3.2-litre non-turbocharged six-cylinder engine.

Along with a wealth of standard equipment, BMW's brand of traction and stability and control is built into the Z4. The latter helps keep the car headed on the intended path when encountering slippery conditions. The system, which keeps the brake linings dry for more consistent performance, will also pre-load the brakes when it senses an impending panic stop.

There are also three driver-selectable settings (Normal, Sport and Sport+) for ride height, suspension firmness, power-steering response and throttle sensitivity. The highest mode, Sport+, limits the Z4's stability- and traction-control interference. It's still there, but it allows slight wheelspin.

In addition, the standard leather seats have been treated with a special material designed to stay cool by reflecting, instead of absorbing, the sun's rays.

On the option sheet is a centre-console controller, called iDrive, that operates the navigation and communication systems.

The newly dressed and enlivened Z4 is suddenly a more practical and responsive roadster that should suit drivers desiring more fun in the sun, or whatever the weather deities throw at them.



Two-door, rear-wheel-drive hardtop convertible roadster.


3.0-litre DOHC I6 (255 hp); 3.0-litre DOHC twin-turbocharged I6 (300 hp)


Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic; seven-speed automated manual (turbo).


With increased size and heft, the Z4 heads up market as more of a touring machine than a sporty runabout.


* Evolutionary design stays true to original Z4, but with added stowage space.

* New engine lineup a step forward in performance * No plans to introduce V8-powered M roadster (yet) * Too bad BMW's AWD system isn't on the menu.

* At 1,150 kilograms, Z4 out-hefts competitors by 80-220 kilograms.

* Who is ever going to remember/use unnecessarily awkward Z4 model names?


Front airbags; side-impact airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.


L/100 km (city/hwy): 11.3/7.1 (base 3.0, est.) Base price: $58,000 (est.)


Mercedes-Benz SLK

Base price: $59,000

Folding hardtop roadster with V6 and 355-hp V8 engine picks..

Porsche Boxster

Base price: $58,400

Revised softtop and Cayman hardtop models have added power.

Audi TT

Base price: $47,700

Restyled roadster and coupe for '09. V6 TTS is new top performer.

Used Car Shipping and Transporting Autos

Many people love to build and rebuild cars. The great American pastime of muscle cars is something that thousands of people take part in each year. There are car clubs, car shows, and rewards for the best and most unique cars in the country. Even these vehicles, however, have to start from somewhere. An old cars is usually where the most prized classic cars come from, but the mechanic must find the car to work on first.

The Advent of the Net

Those looking to save money on that perfect project muscle car are sure to love what the internet has done for them. In the days prior to the net, finding the perfect car meant weeks of reading classified ads to see if someone was selling what was wanted. In most cases, the costs were higher than many wanted to pay, but things have since changed. These days, you can go online and find that perfect model in minutes. Car shipping will play an integral part in getting the vehicle to its new home, for an affordable price as well.

Cost Saving

Because car shipping has opened so many doors to those who need a certain model and type of car to work on, the prices of such vehicles are dropping. There is a lot of competition out there, making it harder to get that extra money out of your old Nova. Instead, people can get on the net and find a car that fits their budget. The seller can then load the vehicle up onto a car carrier and have it sent to its new owner. Even with the service charges, the buyers are saving thousands of dollars on the purchase of their project cars.

How Does it Work?

Car shipping is a simple concept. There are many companies out there that provide this service, and you can choose from a variety of different services. One of the most common choices in the car shipping world is the choice to ship a car with many other cars. This drives the price of the shipping as low as it can go. The car is loaded on a large truck and will be transported and unloaded at the new home, where the new owner can begin renovating it as they wish.

As you can tell, car shipping has changed this great American pastime. It is no longer hard to get the perfect car for your project. Prices are going down as many people see the competition for sales that the internet has provided as well. For the buyers, modern transport options and a worldwide marketplace has made it easy to get just what they want at a great price.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Super Exotic Sports Cars - Should Know Before Spending Any Money

Before we start, let's define the term 'super exotic sports car'. Sports cars, by definition are borderline racing cars; boasting powerful performance and sleek looks. Their prestige makes them expensive, and thus the domain of a select few. With reference to sports cars, the term “exotic” refers to vehicles produced in very limited numbers. This of course increases their exclusivity and by virtue of this, their value. Exotic sports cars will, in all likelihood, be built by smaller manufacturers or perhaps the super high-end vehicles will be created by some of the better-known car companies outside of the United States, as exclusive models.

Many exotic sports cars are the stuff of legend. The world’s fastest car, the McLaren F1, for instance is a well-known exotic. Although only around one hundred F1s were produced and the manufacturer is not a household name (outside of the Grand Prix circuits of course), the McLarens are coveted sports cars. All exotic sports cars are highly sought after and, as status symbols, are second to none in the sports car world.

But, assuming that you can afford it, is an exotic sports car for you?

It is easy to be seduced by the allure of owning an exotic sports car. Owning one can be very tempting. Amongst the purists, the cars themselves are often considered the pinnacle of design. Any enthusiast who has the means will tell you that when an opportunity to invest in an exotic sports car presents itself, resistance can be very difficult.

One should try and be objective about the proposition though.

Before making such a major commitment, there are three factors you should consider.

Exotic Sports Cars Are Very Expense
The cost of owning such a prestigious car, does not end when you part with the initial payment. Even if one can afford the initial asking price of an exotic (and not many can), one needs to be aware of the likely ongoing running expenses , which can be significant. The maintenance and repair of an exotic car is certain to be expensive compared to non-exotic vehicles and a buyer should attempt to discover what kind of costs he or she is likely to experience in order to keep the car in running order. There can be no cost cutting on parts for these high end vehicles.

Parts for prestige cars are likely to be in short supply, if they are available at all. The likelihood that the owners of exotic sports cars will need to have some parts custom made during their ownership of the vehicle is quite high. And the cost will be significant. This is especially true of older exotics, many of which will have been orphaned when their original manufacturer stopped making cars. Not only will this prove extremely expensive, one can also expect it to be time consuming as well. And, as time passes, the necessary investment will only become greater.

Your usual mechanic cannot be expected to be able to repair exotic sports cars. You will need specialised mechanics with specialised tools to be able to ensure that appropriate and professional repairs are carried out. Not only will such individuals be, in all probability much more expensive than your usual mechanics, you would be very fortunate if you found one in your town. You should expect to have to do a lot of traveling in order to find suitable mechanical help.

All too often a sports car buff will purchase an exotic, without though to the ongoing costs, and, as a consequence be completely unprepared to handle additional future expenses. A thorough planning of expected costs and the means to meet those costs would certainly be in order.

Reliability Of High End Vehicles
Even though an exotic sports car may represent the ultimate in performance, One cannot assume that it will also be reliable. This will hold particularly true for the older 'classic' exotic cars. As with any high performance machine, exotic sports cars can be quite delicate (temperamental) which will, in all probability, require that you, or someone close to you be regularly on hand to make the adjustments to ensure that the vehicle stays in operating order. Exotic sports cars are well known for the spectacular side of their performance when they running well. However, the other side of the coin is that they are notorious for being among the most temperamental of vehicles that one may encounter.

If you plan to run an exotic sports car on a regular basis, you should be prepared for the highs and los of motoring. The sublime feeling of driving a top car with top performance can often be forgotten if the same car stops and refuses to start many miles from any assistance.

The Drivability of Exotic Cars
Most owners of high performance cars will tell you that such vehicles take 'some getting used too'. Optimum performance comes at a price, and will depend very largely on the skill of the driver. So, if you are relatively inexperienced, then please do not expect to get the best out of your car straight away. This in itself could prove too frustrating for many potentials owners. One should also take into account the relative risk of driving a high performance cars whilst still inexperienced.

For those to whom the additional cost of time in learning to drive a prestige car optimally and safely is not an issue, an additional, problem arises in the adjustment of seats and pedals for example. Small things that are irrelevant in normal cars take on much greater significance when applied to exotic sports cars.

When considering the purchase of an exotic sports car, one must look past the romance and excitement of owning a legendary vehicle. There are real concerns and obstacles to be overcome before the full enjoyment and benefit of owning such a car can be achieved.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

About Nissan 300ZX

Following notable victories at the 1986 Trans Am competition and the 1994 24 Hours of Daytona, a controversial GTS-1 class win at the 24 Hours of LeMans prompted the International Motor Sports Association to declare the 300 ZX's twin turbo engine illegal for future competition.

The 300ZX holds the E/BMS land speed record of 260.87 mph from the 1991 Bonneville Speed Trial.

The Nissan 300zx started at $33,000, a bargain compared to its competitors at the time. For someone interested in buying a used sports car, the 300zx's largely depreciated pricing can be very tempting with prices ranging from about $1,900 to $9400 for the 1990-1996 model years.

The Nissan 300zx has won numerous awards, including the 1990 Motor Trend's "Imported Car of the Year" as well as "One of the Top Ten Performance Cars." It was also named one of Car and Driver's "Ten Best" for seven consecutive years, and magazines continued to rave and give awards to the 300zx for years after production stopped.

The Nissan 300zx is not known for its reliability. From 1984 to 1989, the ZX was recalled every single year for a wide variety of problems that ranged from the latches to the fuel system to the automatic transmission.

Speedy and agile, the 300ZX has appeared in thrillers like Miami Vice (1984) and classics like Rocky IV (1985).

Equipped with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine with a blazing 300 horsepower and a sophisticated four-wheel drive, the 300ZX has a top speed of 155mph and could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph anywhere between 5 and 6 seconds flat.

The Nissan 300zx has a combined 18-MPG, a thirst premium fuel can best quench. By today's standards, it can be said that the car is not environmentally friendly when it has to compete with hybrids that can go for 60 miles to the gallon.

With renowned American icon Paul Newman at the helm, the ZX scored its only Trans Am win in 1996 at Lime Rock and its 1995 Bonneville Speed Trial record remains unbroken.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reported the 300ZX to be safer than other popular sports cars in the event of a crash like the Pontiac Firebird, Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and the new Nissan 350Z.

Hybrid Cars Evolve in Different Directions

The 2009 North American International Auto Show held in Detroit, the US, January 11 to 25, 2009, featured an exhibition of the 3rd-generation Prius hybrid by Toyota Motor Corp of Japan, and the new Insight hybrid from Honda Motor Co Ltd of Japan. Both automobiles use NiMH rechargeable batteries for the drive power supply, the Prius supplied by Panasonic EV Energy Co Ltd of Japan, and the Insight by Sanyo Electric Co Ltd of Japan.

Both seem to be optimistic about using Li-ion rechargeable batteries, though, and it is likely that both will make the switch in a minor model change in two or three years. Toyota Motor, in fact, has already disclosed that it will sell about 500 new Prius plug-in hybrids to corporate customers in Japan, the US and Europe at the end of 2009, mounted with Li-ion rechargeable batteries.

The displayed models clarified the different development stances taken by Toyota Motor and Honda Motor, with Toyota Motor placing the priority on fuel economy, and Honda Motor on price. The Prius has a 1.8L displacement 4-cylinder inline engine with a 60kW drive motor, combined with a 1.3kWh NiMH rechargeable battery. This represents an upgrade from the current model, increasing engine displacement from 1.5L to 1.8L, and motor output from 40kW to 60kW.

According to Akihiko Otsuka, chief engineer, Product Planning, Toyota Passenger Vehicle Development Center 2 of Toyota Motor, engine displacement was increased because "We wanted to lower the rpms and improve fuel economy.

The goal wasn't just to increase power." Fuel economy was improved by about 10% over the existing model, attaining 50 miles/gallon (about 21.3km/L) in the combined city/highway mode defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the US.

The new Insight, on the other hand, uses a 1.3L displacement 4-cylinder inline engine with a 10kW motor and a 580Wh NiMH rechargeable battery.

This is the same engine as used in the current Honda Civic Hybrid, but motor output and battery capacity have been curtailed.

The motor output was dropped from 15kW to 10kW, and rechargeable battery capacity from 869Wh to 580Wh, by dropping the battery voltage from 158V to 100.8V. EPA combined mode fuel economy is 41 miles/gallon (about 17.4km/L), or about one mile/gallon worse than the Civic Hybrid with its larger engine.

The fuel economy of the Prius is 3.8km/L higher, but the Insight has the advantage in price. The Insight is expected to sell for about Yen1.9 million, while if the new Prius is sold at about the same price as it is now, it will mean a price difference of about Yen500,000. The Insight is slated for release in Japan in February 2009, and the Prius in May.

Honda Launches 8-seater Compact Minivan

Honda Motor Co Ltd launched a new compact minivan "Freed" in Japan May 30, 2008.

The Freed measures 4,215 (L) x 1,695 (W) x 1,715mm (H) (according to the 2WD specification), and the wheelbase is 2,740mm long. Compared with the company's three-row seater compact minivan "Mobilio," the Freed is 145mm longer, 10mm wider and 25mm lower (comparison between 2WD models).

The main goal in the development was the "cabin that is spacious enough to be recognized as a minivan." Based on the lesson learned from the case of Mobilio, which failed to be appropriately recognized as a minivan due to the third-row seats that are slightly narrow for adults, the Freed has a cabin space that allows 185-centimeter tall adults to sit comfortably in all three rows.

For this purpose, the company employed the low floor technology developed for "Stepwagon" and used a compact plastic fuel tank. As a result, the Freed has a floor height of only 390mm (according to the FWD specification) in the second row, which is comparable to that of the Stepwagon.
The Freed uses a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which are also used in the Fit. But its final reduction ratio is approximately 7% greater to handle an increase in vehicle weight.

Compared with the Mobilio, which is equipped with a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine with a fuel efficiency of 16.0km/L (measured in Japan's 10-15 test mode), the fuel efficiency of the Freed has improved by 0.4km/L to 16.4km/L (comparison between 2WD models).

The Honda Freed comes in three trim levels. There is a seven-seat model, which employs captain seats in the second row for the first time in the 1.5-liter class, an eight-seat model, which is also a first in the 1.5-liter class and a five-seat model without the third row.

The monthly sales target in Japan is 4,000 units. The prices range from ¥1,638,000 (US$15,541, price may vary depending on country) to 2,257,500 (including tax).

In city, Nano will be Rs 1.56 lakh

India’s small wonder, the Tata Nano, will drive into Bangalore at an entry price of Rs 1,55,997 (for the standard version).

That’s right. After adding all the charges like insurance, road tax, handling and registration, value-added tax and the logistics costs, the dream car will be 56% more expensive than its perceived price tag of Rs 1 lakh.

But take heart. Even at that price, the standard version of the Tata Nano is 31% cheaper — and the top end version, the Nano LX — is 5% cheaper than the standard version of the Maruti 800, whose on-road price in Bangalore is Rs 2,23,115.

The Nano’s standard version is also 11% cheaper than a two-stroke autorickshaw. According to autorickshaw drivers, an auto when bought comes as a basic chassis, with additional fittings like the meter and soft roof having to be fixed. Some say that the cost of obtaining permits for driving an auto also increases the cost of the vehicle substantially. Hence, the on-road price of a two-stroke autorickshaw is about Rs 1.7 lakh and that of a four-stroke auto is well over Rs 2 lakh.

Given the Nano’s attractive price, over 2,500 registration forms have been collected from various Tata Motor dealerships across Bangalore since the beginning of this month. This is besides the forms that are being collected at showrooms of Tata Group companies like Titan and Croma.

When the Tata Group first showcased the Nano at the 2008 Auto Expo in New Delhi, the company had said that the Nano was “8% smaller than the M800 externally but 21% more spacious internally.” However, unlike the M800, it does not have a boot. A boot space can be created if the back seats are folded down.

Nano Elates The Delhi Enthusiasts

Motor wonder Nano has caused quiet a stir of elation in Delhi enthusiasts for its promise of enabling people to own a car.

A motor gift by Tata to the middle class for whom owning a car was a distant dream owing to the involvement of huge money and is expected bring about changes in the auto market in India.

"It is cheap. If you get a car at the same price of motorcycle, it is good. In a motorbike only two can ride but in Nano, the family of four can travel together," said Pankaj Chaudhary, a resident.

Many people want the other makers also to introduce low budget cars for the benefit of the middle class.

"Nano is good for middle class people. I would want that other car companies also come up with such low price cars, it will benefit the middle class people a lot," said A.P. Sharma, another resident.

There are various ways of how a Tata Nano can be booked. Bookings can be made at over 30,000 locations in 1,000 cities across the country which also includes Tata-owned department and electronics stores apart from booking online with application forms costing 300 rupees each.

Tata can as of now get into production for about 60,000 Nanos a year until it can get into big time production of 250,000-unit plant in Gujarat .

Nano's Effect On Skoda

Just hours after the Nano's launch, Skoda announced its plan to launch its small car a year earlier in 2011. The car which will be the first from the Skoda staple to cost below Rs.4 lakhs is Skoda's first one manufactured completely in India. So far the company has been importing parts from Europe for all its cars. Now it is planning to setup a localized vendor near Aurangabad. Skoda claims that by sourcing suppliers locally, without compromising on quality, the company will be able to deliver more VFM products.

Also in the pipeline is yet another small car product from Volkswagen. This car is expected to be priced below the Golf at about Rs.6 lakhs. Skoda accepts that the Nano has pushed all auto majors to innovate processes and materials to give quality products at a lower price. According to Skoda, the Nano project has given the world a glimpse of Indian engineering capabilities. Apart from the Yeti, a Laura upgrade and the aforementioned small cars, a sedan targeting the C segment is also under progress. By 2012 Skoda aims to have a fully developed portfolio for India.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hyundai to supply Santro for Mumbai's taxi fleet

Hyundai's compact car Santro is set to be launched here as taxis after the state government ordered the phasing-out of nearly 7,500 ageing cabs.

The company Monday shipped 30 Santro cars to the Mumbai taxi union, saying it would supply 1,250 vehicles by the year-end.

'Santro is a proven and low-maintenance vehicle with lots of interior space. We want to make a breakthrough in the Mumbai taxi market and hope to start it with the Santro,' said D.C. Seol, Hyundai India's senior general manager of sales in a statement.

According to a recent state transport department order, taxis that are over 25 years old will have to be phased out, which immediately takes out 7,500 of the 55,000 cabs plying on Mumbai's roads.

The bulk of the city's taxi fleet is made up of Premier Automobile's Padmini model, which is not manufactured any longer.

Hyundai Cars is offering the Santro cab at a discounted price of Rs.242,500 for the non-air conditioned variant, while the same model costs over Rs.270,000 ex-showroom in Mumbai.

The company said the Santro cab would feature the black-and-yellow colour scheme required for taxis.

Maruti decides to stop 800 and Omni finally

Maruti has decided to stop selling its trademark 800 and the ever present Omni in 11 cities from next year. Stating that this was part of the company’s plans to phase out the two models by 2016 when BS IV norms are set. The company maintains that it will not upgrade the cars to the next level. The 800 has been the country’s highest sold car clocking 27 lakh units from its launch in the eighties. The company saw a drop in the sale of the particular car by 29% this year compared to 5750 units sold last year.

Maruti emphasizes that the Nano would only marginally affect the sales of the 800 if it was not phased out. According to the company the Nano caters to a different segment involving two and three wheelers in a transition stage. The company has stated that it has no new products to replace the phased out cars, at least not in the pipeline. The 800 the first car to mass motorize the nation has lasted till the next.

Maruti A-Star - The Latest Hatchback Car

Amidst the depressing scenario of global meltdown, layoffs and credit crunch, comes the great news... Maruti Suzuki has launched its dream car - Maruti A-Star in India recently.

Everything about the Maruti A-Star is simply unique and if you are really keen on buying a family car, then do have a look at the Maruti A-Star hatchback.

Maruti A-Star - True Blue Export Car

The Maruti Suzuki A-Star has been designed to suit the European car standards and is a true blue export car. As per the rating it has been categorized under the A-Segment car. Among the many features of Maruti A-Star that comply with the European market standards are: New KB-Series 998cc engine which is Euro 5-compliant with Co2 emissions. It has a 67 Bhp engine with 90 Nm of torque. It has a bold design language with strong lines and large wheel arches.

The Maruti A-Star is to be made in 200 variants and will be exported to 150 countries across Europe, Middle East, Latin America, Asia, Australia, and Africa. Maruti A-Star will be exported under the name of Suzuki Alto and Suzuki Celerio. Nissan also plans to market the same car under the name Nissan Pixo in Middle East and African markets. Maruti A-Star will also be exported to European countries, where it will replace Alto. The Maruti A-Star will be called Alto in Europe and A-Star in India.

Maruti A-Star - A Driver's Car

The Maruti A-Star is a driver's car. A-Star is very comfortable. The instrument cluster is quite big and all meters are easy to read. It also gets dash mounted tachometer which is first of its kind in this segment. The only drawback is that the height of dashboard is little bit high and may obstruct view of short drivers.

It is loaded with features like power steering, Anti Lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), and fog lamps. The Dash-Mounted Tachometer and Remote Boot & Remote Fuel Filler make the Maruti A-Star all the more driver- friendly car.

Equipped with MacPherson Strut and Coil Spring type of suspension system this car is very efficient in handling the power sequence while on the drive. With front ventilated and rear disc type of brakes Maruti A-Star also offers a minimum turning radius of 4.50 mts. It is also equipped with five gears and manual transmission.

The new compact car offers lightness achieved through downsizing yet provides ample interior roominess and comfort. The Maruti A-Star can seat four people with ease.

Feature Packed Maruti A-Star

Among the power packed features of the Maruti A-Star that makes it a great buy are Power windows, remote central locking, driver & Passenger Airbag. For music lovers the car comes with a CD player with 4 speakers, all for free. Now long drives with your beloved become all the more exciting with music. The air conditioner of Maruti A-Star is considered as fully compact. The car has a petrol engine capable of providing 998 cc displacements. Maruti Suzuki claim that Maruti A-Star will have the highest fuel efficiency at 19.59 (20) km per liter.

This car seems to be very powerful with 3 cylinders and MPFi system and KB series engine. Maximum power delivering capacity of the Maruti A-Star is 67bhp all at the rate of 6200 rpm, as already mentioned above.

For those sitting at the rear, there's a Rear Defogger with Rear Wiper/Washer that makes a ride in the winters easier to spot those lovely views on the road. This is a cool option as the rear passengers get very small windows sideways due to the butterfly wing design of the Maruti A-Star. The Maruti A-Star has been designed with the safety of passengers in mind, as it is provided with 2 rear seat belts.

The Maruti A-Star Variants & Colors

Like the swift Maruti has launched A-Star in 3 variants all run by petrol and they are

Lxi, Vxi & Zxi. The prices of three variants are Maruti A-Star Lxi - Rs. 364500.00, Maruti A-Star Vxi - Rs. 396500.00 and Maruti A-Star Zxi - Rs. 432000.00 as per Ex-showroom Mumbai estimate.

The Maruti A-Star will be available in cool colors like Artic White, Azure Grey, Bright Red, Desert Brown, Healing Green, Midnight Black, Paradise Blue, Silky Silver and Sunlight Copper.

It is for your information that the Maruti A-Star is produced from the Maruti Suzuki Company's Manesar facility in Haryana, India. Designed by Rajesh Kumar Gogu and Saurabh Singh of Maruti Suzuki India, A-Star, which is a five-door hatchback; has been engineered keeping in mind the trends and standards of the European.

Honda to skip 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show

The world economy’s taking a real toll on car makers and customers alike. And autoshows are caught right in the middle of the crunch.

With sales declining and calls to cut costs increasing, Honda has decided to cancel its appearance at september’s Frankfurt auto show. “Due to the unprecedented market downturn, Honda has come to a conclusion that the company will have to skip its participation to the Frankfurt motor show this year,” the company said in a statement.

Honda has also resorted to dropping out of the F1 circuit as it tries to handle the tough economic conditions of today. I hope the cost cutting’s going to be temporary.


Honda’s participation in IAA 2009

About Honda’s participation in IAA 2009

In response to economic climate, Honda cancels participation in IAA 2009, while strengthening environment and customer focused activities.

* New Fuel Cell research in Europe
* More Hybrid vehicles
* New Honda Academy to strengthen Quality and Customer Service

March 31st 2009 - Honda has announced today that it will not participate in IAA, Internationale Automobil Ausstellung, known as Frankfurt motor show, this year. Due to the unprecedented market downturn, Honda has come to a conclusion that the company will have to skip its participation to the Frankfurt motor show this year.

As seen in the withdrawal from Formula One, Honda is trying to reduce every possible cost in various areas including manufacturing, sales and marketing activities to strengthen its business constitution to overcome the tough climate of today.

Whilst the 4 month shutdown to adjust the inventory balance, Honda’s UK car manufacturing facility in Swindon is taking the full advantage of production suspension to refurbish its plants and prepare for smooth introduction of Jazz into Swindon factory planned in autumn this year.

Honda is the world’s biggest engine manufacturer with 24 million engine powered products sold in 2008 in the areas of automobiles, motorcycles and power equipment, and is committed to swiftly respond to unprecedented situation in the global scale. While vigorously taking on every possible cost reduction measure, Honda is also focusing on research and production of environmentally responsible products.

The Insight Hybrid will be on sale in Germany from April 18th, the hybrid car has already had more than 18.000 customer orders in Japan just in one month, More than 3 times larger than its monthly target of 5.000 units in Japan. Besides that Honda will bring to market a sporty Hybrid based on the CR-Z Concept in 2010 which will be followed by a Jazz Hybrid.

Moreover, Honda will begin a new research project of Fuel Cell technologies in Germany as from autumn this year. This involves permanent deployment of FCX Clarity in Europe, Honda’s sophisticated master piece of hydrogen driven vehicle, which already is on lease sales in the USA and Japan. Honda R&D Europe (Deutschland) GmbH in Offenbach will use the FCX Clarity for long term research of Fuel Cell technology and Hydrogen Energy conformity in European conditions.

Honda will divert the resources for environmentally responsible technology to win the race for Zero Emissions. Furthermore Honda will also realign its forces regarding Service Quality and customer orientation. On March 23rd Germany saw the ground breaking ceremony of the new Honda Academy for Europe at Erlensee near Hanau. This 15 Mil EUR invest is dedicated to train Honda and dealer’s staff in a way that they are able to exceed customer’s expectations also in the future.

Tata Nano Showcased in Gujarat

The State government unveiled a mega exhibition, showcasing two of its most significant achievements. Tata Nano car and Bombardier metro train coach projects were the two major highlights.

The exhibition begins on the eve of Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor Summit and will display the Rs 1 lakh car Tata Nano, amidst 227 stalls at the exhibition. The Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi spoke on the occasion and said that it is the promise that Gujarat exudes that gets these mega companies and projects to the state.

He mentioned that Gujarat was once a land of traders. It is evolving into a land of manufacturers and this transformation looks promising for the state of Gujarat.

Tata's Nano Minimum Release

India's automobile giant, Tata Motors has decided to produce Tata Nano Cars in few numbers, from its new Gujarat plant. And its release is expected between the month of January and March 2009.

Ravi Kant Managing Director Tata said "We are looking at something to bring it as fast as possible, kind of an interim arrangement from one of our existing plants. These will be small quantities. Let a few customers at least have a touch and feel of the car,"

He added, "If you think the Tata Nano is going to come out of Gujarat, the answer is no," "This is in the sense that it is already delayed. It will take more than a year (to roll out from Gujarat)," He also said that Nano will roll out from Tata Motors' plant in Pantnagar and Uttarakhand.

The Nano project was hit hard because Tata Motors had to shift its plant from Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujarat in October.

Ravi Kant said India can get over the worst, if the government, industry and banks engage in a collaborative effort but added that the scale of measures should be increased. "The economic package announced is just too small. The government is doing things in a very small manner. In this kind of situation, the government should go for big-bang approach."

Banks should also be lending out the extra liquidity that the government has provided them. "They need to release the money. They have addressed their balance sheet but haven't passed on this money for lending operations. People who want to buy commercial vehicles, are not being able to do so without help," the Tata Motors chief said. More than 50% of Tata Motors' revenues come from medium and heavy commercial vehicle sales.

He also suggested that the implementation of existing laws such as scrapping of old vehicles and law on overloading can put the CV industry on growth path. "We do not need new laws. Even if you were to begin following the laws that are there, it would be equal to doing tremendous set of initiatives. That would take care of the demand," he said.

"Larger quantities of the car will be rolled out from Sanand after a year or so," Kant added further.

The Tata Nano goes for a song

As a rule, I do not like to hear too much about a person before meeting them in the flesh. The same goes for cars. It can leave you open to disappointment.

So it was with some trepidation that I passed beneath the big blue tollgate at the entrance to Tata Motors in Pune, about three hours from Mumbai. I was finally going to meet the Tata Nano – the world’s cheapest car. It goes on sale this month, with a starting price of about Rs113,000 (£1,560), but was first unveiled at the Delhi auto show in January last year, prompting huge interest in the media. Would it live up to the hype?

Developed and engineered over six years by Tata, India’s “People’s Car” has tapped into something in the national psyche left over from the pre-independence Gandhian Swadeshi movement of early last century, which prized economic self-reliance. And like the Swadeshi movement in its time, it has now become almost a national duty to worship the Nano. (Amid the flurry over the car, one major English-language newspaper in India has even relabelled its front page news briefs column “Nano news”. )

I reach the plant’s test-drive track and catch my first glimpse of Nanos whizzing around. With its cheeky bonnet and oversized headlights, which look like the eyes of a Manga cartoon character, the Nano has a cheerful, almost bug-like look. But just as too many bugs can make a plague, there is something faintly menacing about the Nano.

The Obama-inspired marketing slogan is “Now you can”, referring to the millions of Indians who will now be able to afford a car. If this proves correct, one can easily imagine long-suffering commuters on India’s congested roads wishing the Nano were a bug that could be exterminated.

I am eager to get behind the wheel, but first Tata’s proud engineers take us through the wonders of their new vehicle, which until now have been shrouded in secrecy. Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata group, one of India’s largest conglomerates, told the engineers he wanted a car that would convince India’s lower-income families to upgrade their motorcycles to four wheels.

The engineers realised that to create a car that was not only affordable but also cheap to run came down to one basic principle – the Nano would need to be much smaller than the standard car. This would create a virtuous circle. The lighter the car, the smaller the engine required. The smaller the engine, the less oil and fuel it guzzles.

So, the Nano has about one third of the usual number of parts. Wiring is centralised; wheels are mounted with three, rather than four, bolts; the seats are in one single moulded piece. The two-cylinder engine is fixed on a common cradle along with the transmission, rear suspension, exhaust and radiator, reducing the infrastructure required for each part. This sub-assembly also makes it easier to manufacture the Nano.

The result is a 600kg car versus 683kg for its nearest competitor, the Maruti Suzuki 800, which sells for twice the price. The Tata Nano is powered by a 624cc engine compared with the Maruti 800’s 796cc motor. Both deliver similar fuel efficiency in the low to mid-20s kms per litre.

Although it is physically smaller than any other car, the engineers claim the Nano has 20 per cent more room – achieved by putting the engine under the back seat, the battery under the driver’s seat and leaving almost no luggage space.

The briefing ends, and we are unleashed on the Tata Nano. There are seat belts and other very basic safety features, but I notice that standard European features, such as airbags and two side mirrors, are absent, though the engineers say it has been collision and roof-crush tested.

I put the car into gear and it takes off smartly. The Nano can do 0-60kph in eight seconds. Not bad. But when I push the gears at the top of their range, the car sputters and the nose dips. The four-speed gearbox takes its time getting from 60kph to its capped speed limit of 105kph.

Although the engineers tell us they have taken the Nano on a 900km odyssey through India during testing, this is definitely not a highway car. I drive the LX version, which sells ex-showroom for about Rs170,335 (£2,350). Its features are surprisingly civilised, with air-conditioning, electric windows at the front and central locking. The basic model, however, is a hothouse on wheels. With no AC or even air vents, drivers will need to keep the windows down to avoid cooking in India’s 45°C heat.

After I bring the car to a standstill, one of the engineers takes the wheel, and the Nano transforms into something out of The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift. When he throws it, suddenly, into a turn at 80kph, threatening to roll it, it screeches sideways, its pizza-sized wheels holding their grip on the road admirably.

The basic drum brakes seem effective and the minimum turning radius of 4m should be good enough even for people who are used to motorcycles. This is amazing indeed for a car that I had expected to drive like a rickshaw, given that it costs about the same.

But as I leave the plant, whose main purpose is still to make the durable trucks that comprise the biggest part of Tata Motors’ business, I wonder whether the Nano will prove as equal to India’s tough conditions as its heavier cousins.

The engineers say they have given the Nano above average ground clearance of 180mm. For good reason: this diminutive lozenge has much to withstand – moonscape potholes, Himalayan road inclines, monsoon floods, extended families and innumerable other obstacles.

India is still one of the world’s most unforgiving motoring environments, even if it is now among the cheapest.

Tata Nano Launched in Mumbai

Amid camera flashes and the occasional shoving match between photographers, specifications and on-sale dates for the highly anticipated Tata Nano were finally announced at two elaborate media events here on Monday.

“We have made a promise and we have kept that promise,” Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, said during the first press gathering, held in the Taj Hotel.

The promise Mr. Tata was referring to was his ambitious goal to build a car with a starting price of only 100,000 Indian rupees ($2,000). While the Nano does meet its highly aggressive (and what many industry experts once deemed as totally unrealistic) price point, some hurdles remain to be cleared.

The Nano has been nicknamed “The People’s Car” because its starting price will make it accessible to more Indians than any other new car on the market. But the ultra-cheap, ultra-compact Nano comes with no frills. It runs on a 623-cc 2-cylinder engine with about 30 horsepower. Power steering and power brakes are optional on the base model. Airbags, antilock brakes and even a radio aren’t available at all.

The official launch of the tiny four-door car, however, was hardly lacking in pomp and ceremony. And perhaps lost amid the canap├ęs and five-star service of the Taj Hotel (which is owned by the Tata Group and was a target of last year’s terrorist attacks) was the fact that, despite appearances, the Nano isn’t exactly on sale yet.

The first models arrive in dealer showrooms in early April. Application forms to register to buy the car will be accepted from April 9-25. And for the first time in company history, Tata Motors will charge a fee (about $6) to anyone who applies to buy the car.

First deliveries of the Tata Nano to customers will occur in July. This news comes after what has already been more than six months of production delays. Political protests over the company’s land acquisition methods forced Tata to abandon a nearly complete factory built for Nano production in the state of West Bengal. Rather than risk provoking the situation, Tata decided to base Nano production elsewhere.

A new factory is now being built in the western state of Gujarat, though initial demand for the Nano is expected to outstrip supply. The company revealed the Nano “a good nine months before the new plant has come on-stream,” Mr. Tata said. “We have done this to fulfill expectations.”

One of those expectations is that the company would stick to the 100,000 rupee price. The company has done this, sort of. The headline-grabbing price applies to only the base model and is exclusive of all taxes and transportation fees. The cheapest Nano, minus options but with all applicable charges, will cost about $2,230.

Tata Motors has applied for more than three dozen patents relating to the cost-cutting measures it took in producing the Nano. Some of these methods are quickly obvious: there is only one windshield wiper, the dashboard is a single piece of (hard and shiny) plastic, and the tires ride on tiny 12-inch steel rims.

One uncomfortable aspect of the Nano’s cost-cutting regime — and an exceedingly awkward moment during a Q & A session held during the early press event — was the importance of India’s cheap labor. An executive huddle followed a journalist’s query, which lead to another mad scramble among hundreds of photographers eager to capture the situation. Ravi Kant, managing director of Tata Motors, finally stated that the yearly salary of a Nano factory worker is 150,000 rupees – or less than $3,000.

After the elegance of the Taj Hotel’s ballroom, the next stop in the Nano’s Mumbai media launch was a 10 minute drive away, to an even more elaborate outdoor press conference held on the grounds of the Parsi Gymkhana. Journalists, executives, Tata dealers and “financiers” (according to the reserved seating signs) watched as lights flashed, music blared, and three Nanos slowly rolled onto the stage.

The presentation lacked the quiet dignity and humility of Mr. Tata’s earlier speech. Huge video monitors and a 40-foot tall sphere projected images of the Nano, along with a voice-over comparing the car’s introduction to the scaling of Mount Everest, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb. It was an over-the-top send off for a car defined by prudence and economy.

Test Driving the Tata Nano

Before allowing me behind the wheel of a Tata Nano test car at Tata Motors’ engineering research center and high-speed testing center here two hours south of Mumbai, a team of engineers told the story of the car’s gestation.

Before allowing me behind the wheel of a Tata Nano test car at Tata Motors’ engineering research center and high-speed testing center here two hours south of Mumbai, a team of engineers told the story of the car’s gestation.

Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, envisioned a safe, affordable and all-weather form of transport for Indian families that couldn’t afford a car. The vehicle Mr. Tata dreamed of would have a starting price of only 100,000 rupees ($2,000).

The engineering team was never short of ideas, said David Hudson of Tata Motors. For instance, they considered the use of plastic body panels and, in one case, having only one door on the driver’s side, he said.

But the fact is, the Tata Nano is actually frighteningly conventional in its design, Mr. Hudson said. The Nano’s body and chassis are steel, while the bumpers are plastic. Only 122 inches long, the Nano is the shortest four-passenger car on sale in India, though it looks bigger than it is because of its height and wide stance.

The Tata Nano has a 32-horsepower, 624-cc, 2-cylinder engine mounted in the rear. Access is given to the engine via a removable panel underneath the foldable rear seat. Despite being a fraction of the size of most economy-car engines, the all-aluminum engine provides reasonable pep. Engine noise is also far less than one might imagine given the size and simplicity of the Nano.

Acceleration is hardly neck-snapping. An informal timed run from zero to 50 miles an hour took 16.4 seconds; a Tata engineer said the company’s testing time is about one second faster.

The steering lacks power assistance but directs the car nicely. The turning circle of the Nano is undoubtedly one of its best parlor tricks: With a turning radius of only four meters, the Nano is nearly capable of doing a 360-degree turn in its own tiny shadow. Three models are available in India: the base, midlevel CX and the LX.With taxes and fees, the base runs about $2,200; the fully equipped LX is $3,360.

The majority of cars Tata provided for testing purposes were LX models, with features like air-conditioning, power brakes, and fancier seat and door-panel trim. On a 93-degree day,the A/C was much appreciated and had little measurable impact on acceleration.

The Tata Nano car is capable of seating four adults, but five hopped on board for a short run to gauge the performance difference with nearly 700 pounds of people on board. The Nano itself tips the scales at only 1,322 pounds, so acceleration naturally suffered. Yet the ride remained stable and comfortable.

Perhaps the most crucial test of the Nano came when Tata allowed a brief drive through the neighboring town of Pimpri. Weaving the Nano between lumbering trucks, auto rickshaws and pedestrians (not to mention the occasional goat and stray dog), the Nano didn’t miss a beat. Many fellow motorists took notice of India’s “People’s Car” out for a spin. A group of children cheered and waved as the Nano rolled through town.

How Tata Built the Nano for Less

Exactly how does a carmaker build the world’s cheapest car? The answer is as simple as the spartan spec sheet of the Tata Nano, which goes on sale in India next week.

Much has already been said about some of the things that buyers will have to live without, including airbags and other safety items, an automatic transmission (though one is supposedly in the works), a passenger-side mirror and power steering. The engine is a small 624-cc 2-cylinder and the wheels, which are fixed into place by three lug nuts, instead of the usual four or five, are even smaller. And then there’s the much-talked-about single windshield wiper blade.

But there are other compromises that went into the conception and construction of the world’s cheapest car. “The Tata Nano is a refreshing new way of car manufacturing, one which targets the bottom of the pyramid,” said Deepesh Rathore, an auto analyst with Global Insight. “This is going to be the largest market segment in the future, especially in this tough economic climate.”

So here’s a closer look at what else goes into (or is taken out of) a car that costs only $2,000:

• The front seats are connected to a steel bar that runs across the cabin. This bar serves a dual purpose: providing an anchor for the seats, as well as a degree of side-impact protection and chassis stiffening.

• The passenger seat in the base model is fixed into position. Higher-spec Nanos have an adjustable passenger seat.

• Access to the luggage compartment is via the cabin. There is no separate opening for luggage. The rear seat has to be flipped forward and bags stowed behind. A hatchback would have added cost and weight.

• The dashboard is a large single piece of plastic. It has been designed to be adaptable to right- and left-hand-drive markets.

• The base Nano makes do with one stalk on the steering column to control the lights, signals and wiper. Higher-spec Nanos have two control stalks, one mounted on each side of the steering wheel.

• The base Nano does not have map pockets in the doors like higher-spec CX and LX versions. A simpler door panel is used, and a small felt storage bag is on the side of the front seats.

• Although the Nano’s body and chassis are made of steel and use traditional spot-welding, the bumpers are plastic and are unpainted on base models. Contrary to many reports, no glues or adhesives are used to bond structural components or exterior body panels.

• The scoops on both sides of the Nano are functional. The left-side scoop sends air into the engine. The right-side one directs air around the engine, for cooling.

• The roof has ridges for a reason other than just a stylistic flourish. They add rigidity to what would otherwise be a very wide and flat piece of sheet metal.

Application forms to register to buy the Tata Nano will be accepted from April 9 through 25. Sales officially begin in July. Tata has announced plans to sell in Europe and, possibly, even the United States, though those models will most likely be much different from the India-spec car. A larger engine, airbags, and additional convenience features will be added when the Nano makes a scheduled arrival in Europe in 2011. Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, has confirmed that an American version of the Nano is under development. But Tata has not confirmed the price range of these fancier export versions.

Tata Nano arrives in Orissa

The much awaited Tata Nano has finally arrived in the market. The vehicle that was commercially launched on March 23 was unveiled at Swapna Motors here Friday for the first time in the State where it remains for display.

Until the Sanand production plant at Gujarat is fully ramped up the vehicle will be available through booking mode only. Currently being manufactured at the company’s Pantnagar plant in Uttarakhand, the Tata Nano is being produced in limited numbers and hence a pan-India booking process has been announced for the first one lakh units.

The sale of application forms are on at over 30,000 locations in about 1,000 cities through Tata Motor passenger car dealers, State Bank of India branches and outlets of Croma, Westside, World of Titan and Tata Indicom exclusive stores at a price of Rs 300.

Booking begins from April 9 and will continue till April 25. After a computerised random selection within 60 days of closure of bookings the delivery will commence from July.

Tata Motors revs up its Nano plans

The Tata Nano may be small in stature, but it could be a big deal for car buyers in India.

Mumbai-based automaker Tata Motors announced that the time has come for the commercial launch of the Nano, a diminutive design intended to put four-wheeled transportation in the driveways of ever more Indian families. Some analysts also say the Nano signals positive development in the Indian auto industry.

"Nano is good for India. It marks the country's coming of age," Abdul Majeed, auto analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview.

When it unveiled the Nano in January 2008, Tata billed it as "the people's car," a step up from overcrowded, unsheltered scooters.

That remains the driving notion behind the car. "It is to the credit of the team at Tata Motors that a car once thought impossible by the world is now a reality," Ratan Tata, the chairman of Tata Sons and Tata Motors, said in a statement. "I hope it will provide safe, affordable, four-wheel transportation to families who till now have not been able to own a car."

Just 3 meters long by 1.5 meters wide by 1.6 meters high (about 10 feet long by 5 feet wide and tall), the Tata Nano provides what the company says is "an incredibly spacious passenger compartment which can comfortably seat four adults." The company goes on:

The Tata Nano has the smallest exterior footprint for a car in India but is 21 percent more spacious than the smallest car available today. A high seating position makes ingress and egress easy. Its small size coupled with a turning radius of just 4 meters makes it extremely maneuverable in the smallest of parking slots.

Under its wee hood, the 600-kilogram (a little over 1,300-pound), four-speed Nano has a 2-cylinder, 624-cc, rear-mounted gasoline engine that can push it to a top speed of 105 kilometers per hour (about 65 miles per hour) and up inclines with a 30 percent grade. It gets 23.6 kilometers per liter, which translates to roughly 56 miles per gallon.

The car will go on display at dealerships at the start of April, but deliveries won't begin until July. Expected to be priced starting at about $2,000, the Nano comes in three models:

• Tata Nano Standard: three color options, single-tone seats, and fold-down rear seat.

• Tata Nano CX: five color options, with heating and air-conditioning, two-tone seats, parcel shelf, booster-assisted brakes, fold-down rear seat with nap rest.

• Tata Nano LX: the features of CX plus complete fabric seats, central locking, front power windows, body colored exteriors in three premium colors, fog lamps, electronic trip meter, cup holder in front console, mobile charger point, and rear spoiler.

On the matter of safety, the company said:

The Tata Nano's safety performance exceeds current regulatory requirements--it passes the roll-over test and offset impact, which are not regulated in India. It has an all sheet-metal body, reinforced passenger compartment, crumple zones, intrusion-resistant doors, besides mandatory seat belts, and complies fully with existing Indian safety standards. Tubeless tires--among which the rear ones are wider endowing extra stability--enhance safety.

The Nanos will be available "in limited numbers" at first, Tata said, but a new, dedicated factory scheduled to get cranking in 2010 is expected to produce 350,000 Nanos annually.

Protests over a proposed factory location spurred Tata to move its Nano plant to a more business-friendly state, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reports that analysts generally expect Tata to make no more than about 50,000 cars in the coming year.

Even with the work cut out for it in the domestic market, Tata also apparently has its eye on the European and U.S. markets. According to the Indo-Asian News Service, Ratan Tata said that the company hopes to have a version for Europe by 2011 and one for the U.S. perhaps by 2012.

For both those markets, though, Tata Motors would have to boost the safety features of the Nano and meet higher emissions standards, as well.

"It would not be a $2,000 or $3,000 vehicle, but it will encompass all the features required as per European regulations and by the customers like protective airbags," Tata said, according to the IANS. "Given the present indications, we plan to further develop the European model for the U.S. markets, like providing a better crash protection system."

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