Thursday, October 29, 2009

New tough law on used cars out

THE Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) will on November 1 launch the pre-export verification conformity-to-standards scheme, targeting the road worthiness of all used vehicles imported into the country.

The inspections will be conducted from the country of origin before the vehicles are imported. The scheme will focus on detailing the condition, accessories, structural, functional and mechanical integrity of used vehicles destined to Uganda prior to importation.

Certification will then be issued to the vehicles that are appraised as road worthy and a report attesting to the inspection and certification will be given to the importer.

The UNBS explained in a statement this week that the country was experiencing an unprecedented influx of imported used vehicles, mostly originating from the Middle East, Japan and Europe.

“Unfortunately, some of these vehicles are substandard and in dangerous mechanical conditions that can endanger the public and the environment,” the statement said.

“In addition, some of the imported cars are obtained illegally in the country of origin and shipped to Uganda without following proper procedures.

“The situation is compounded by the fact that second-hand vehicles in most cases produce impermissible levels of emissions that pollute the environment, thereby adversely contributing to climate change,” the statement added.

The Japan Export Vehicle Centre Company, Jabil Kilimanjaro Auto Elect Mechanic & Paints Company, together with the East Africa Auto-Mobile Services, have been contracted to handle the exercise, expected to further increase the costs of imported used cars.

Richard Ebong, a UNBS senior market surveillance officer, told clearing and forwarding agents at a sensitisation workshop at Hotel Africana in Kampala that used vehicles entering into the country without an inspection certificate will be subjected to a penalty of 15% of the cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value. In addition, they will also be subjected to inspection.

Inspection fees for cars originating from Japan will be $145, Singapore $180, the UK 125 pounds, South Africa 1,685 rands and Dubai $125.

Kassim Omar, the clearing and forwarding national chairman, called for more public sensitisation to avoid the conflicts that may arise during the implementation of the scheme.

According to the standards watchdog statement, the scheme is expected to offer value for money in the purchase of used vehicles, reduced environmental problems, providing importers, especially online/internet buyers, with professional assessment, reducing incidences of importation of stolen vehicles and increasing the lifespan of vehicles.

Hyundai bets big on used car business

NEW DELHI: With its used car business growing faster, Hyundai Motor India has taken a fresh initiative to focus on Hyundai Advantage – the arm dealing with the used car business. Hyundai buys all the cars of any make and any model under the exchange scheme.

With the aim to cater to the needs of exchange customers, Hyundai Advantage was launched in 2006 with six dealers across six prominent locations in India. “Today, Hyundai Advantage boasts of 69 operational dealers across 49 locations in India and the plan is to take the number up to 108 across 59 cities by the end of 2009 and to 200 operational dealers by the end of 2010,” sais Arvind Saxena, Sr V-P, marketing & sales, HMIL.

Saxena said, “The size of the used car business in India is approximately 1.3 million
cars per annum. This number is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years. We want to aggressively focus on Hyundai Advantage, as it will not only help us retain our old customers through exchange and upgrade schemes but will also make an interesting business proposition given the phenomenal market for used cars in India.”

According to him, strict quality standards are maintained to ensure that the used cars sold are of a superior quality and the buyer gets complete peace of mind. “Each used car is put through a rigorous series of checks, which covers every aspect of the car’s functioning. Hence, each customer is assured of a certified used car in very good condition,” he said.

The Sorento goes global

WITH 900,000 UNITS SOLD, Kia didn’t need a celebrity-sport star flying through desert dunes to introduce the Sorento’s new from-the-ground-up replacement. Since 2002, the Sorento established itself with its unique character composed of big torque engines, all terrain toughness of a ladder frame chassis, innovative styling, and refined interiors.

RELIABILITY and the fun factor added: The new Kia Sorento
RELIABILITY and the fun factor added: The new Kia Sorento

This time, Peter Schreyer, Kia’s chief design officer, didn’t miss a chance to align the Sorento with Kia’s new design DNA as seen in the Soul, C’eed and Forte models. To wit; seamless grille and headlamp bezel interface, rising upper belt-line and trapezoid C-pillar. The new, longer bodyshell was a result of repositioned A-pillars and dashboard (moved forward) and extended tailgate (moved rearwards). The stretched cabin is much more spacious than the exiting model, with a 15% increase in luggage space. There’s space for seven passengers, though not as spacious as the one size bigger Kia Mohave/Borrego.

The new uni-body Sorento is longer and lower, losing some 215 kgs in the process. The drag coefficient is now 0.38, down from it’s predecessor’s 0.43. With a body structure composed of 70.4% high-tensile steel, the new Sorento achieves good NVH qualities. This new found stiffness gives the Sorento a EuroNCAP crash rating of five stars. It also makes the interior a better music chamber. Fully independent suspension all around enhance the car like driving feel. Dispensing with the ladder frame chassis allowed engineers to lower the suspension by 10 mm, moving the center of gravity lower by 54 mm.

In keeping with Kia’s new look, the video screen and major switches are outlined in red laser lights. The latest Kia trademarks �” the thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel and the “three-cylinder” instrument cluster with radiating “rays” of red from the center pivot of the gauge needles �” carries Kia’s new design language a step further. Well thought of cruise control buttons are mounted on the steering wheel. The Sorento comes with a rather accurate fuel meter. A welcome trend among Korean cars is the quicker steering ratio which avoids the "boring" feel of steering that is unresponsive around the center.

Kia embraces all the world’s car makers’ best practices. The outline of the greenhouse is similar to the Mitsubishi Outlander seven-seater as sold in the EU market. The Sorento has BMW-like keyless entry and start/stop button. It has a buttressed part-floating console and B-pillar air-con vents like a Volvo. Instruments set into nacelles are either inspired by the latest Mercedes Benz or cars from the ’70s. The clamshell hood used to be unique to SAAB and the BMW 1800Ti of the ’60s. Behind the wheel, one overlooks the hood’s raised fender guides, last seen on ’70s cars. Those raised edges also function as aerodynamic splitters, similar to those aftermarket stick-on appendages that was the go-faster optical tuning kits for the square-cut cars of the ’80s. Part of this globalization meant goodbye to the previous Sorento’s North American characteristics; the floaty ride and finger light steering.

It may look global in detail but it’s still a product of Korea. Translation: for the super smooth highways of Korea where ravines are bridged and mountains are tunnelled. Kia added a bit more weighting to the steering so as not to mislead a spirited driver in expecting Mazda Mx-5 responses as one rarely encounters curves on Korean city streets and country highways. Likewise, the ride of the fully independent suspension is better at high speed superhighways than the rough concrete of Third World countries. The Sorento follows Kia’s corporate move to more supple seats and classy looking black piano-lacquer that is as high quality as the rest of the interior.

The New Sorento is initially available with the 175PS four-cylinder 2.4-liter Theta II petrol engine mated to a six-speed automatic with +/- gated shifter for manual overrides. Being Euro V compliant, it is no point and squirt runabout but it does 10.98 kms/liter on the highway and takes 11.74 seconds to do the 0-100 km/h sprint. Its 185 km/h top speed is achieved at a lazy 3,900 rpm in 6th gear. A high-tech 197PS turbo diesel 2.2-liter CRDi, a 165PS 2.7-liter V-6 powered by LPG, and 277PS 3.8-liter 24-valve V-6 will follow.

Though a bit more homogenized than the uniquely styled previous model, the Sorento is still a handsome SUV which would probably be more fun as a diesel. Seven years hence, the Sorento has added reliability and fun factor to its impressive CV. Not bad for a brand hitherto known only for making small cheap cars.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Japanese supercar to shake Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche

The Lexus LF-A is the most powerful Japanese car ever produced and is designed to cement the luxury brand as a technology leader with genuine supercar performance.

It's rarer than a Rolls-Royce, faster than a Ferrari and more expensive than a waterfront unit - and it's from Japan.

Meet the latest supercar to be conceived as the global financial crisis thaws and car makers regain confidence in building the sorts of vehicles owners love to dream of and beancounters love to sell.

The sleek sports car is designed to catapult Toyota's luxury brand, Lexus, in to a new dimension usually reserved for Italian and German brands with decades of heritage created by Hollywood, celebrities and some of the world's best race tracks.

Lexus has officially joined the supercar club with its two-door, V10-powered LF-A coupe that's designed to take on Ferrari and Lamborghini and position Lexus as a serious performance brand.

After various concept cars, years of speculation and spy photos, the Lexus LF-A has been revealed at the 2009 Tokyo motor show, bringing another Japanese sports car to the unofficial supercar club dominated by Germany and Italy.

The LF-A is the fastest, most expensive and most exclusive Lexus ever built.

It's also the most powerful Japanese car to ever be sold. Only five of the 500 that will be produced will be brought to Australia and each will have a price tag of "anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million".

Lexus says the LF-A has a recommended retail price of "approximately US$375,000", but that's before hefty Australian taxes - including import duty, GST and luxury car tax - are applied.

The exact price is yet to be determined but could swing by tens of thousands of dollars depending on the exchange rate.

The Lexus LF-A has a 4.8-litre V10 producing a supercar-like 412kW of power, which is enough to propel the two-seater to 100km/h to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds.

Top speed of the LF-A is 325km/h. Unlike the eight-speed transmission in Lexus' LS limousine, the LF-A makes do with six forward gear ratios in a dual-clutch set-up similar to those used by Porsche and others.

The LF-A also gets massive carbon ceramic brakes as part of a sophisticated braking package that also relies on tricky electronics.

In keeping with the supercar theme, Lexus has worked on the advanced, lightweight body to ensure a low centre of gravity and weight distribution that puts 48 per cent over the front wheels and the remaining 52 per cent over the rear.

While only a handful of Lexus owners will ever experience the LF-A, it's expected to ensure the brand is mentioned in the same sentence as Ferrari and Porsche.

Rather than adding volume to the brand that trails Germany's dominant luxury brands, the LF-A is about cementing Lexus as a serious performance car contender.

"The LF-A proves to people you don't need to be around for 100 years to produce a supercar," says Lexus Australia boss John Roca.

"A brand that didn't exist in 1990 is building a supercar in 2009 - that's a bold statement.

"We've been accused of being non emotional (as a brand). You'll see emotion is all over it. Roca says the LF-A is all about brand building and putting Lexus on a very European-dominated sports car map.

"The LF-A is the halo over the brand. It has technology that will flow down through the range. It shows that not only can you build the world's best luxury saloon but you can build a supercar."

Roca defends the decision to import just five, when established supercar brands can sell dozens more than that each year.

"The market just isn't there for a supercar at the moment, regardless of the badge," he says.

Toyota’s FT-EV II gives glimpse at electric future

With new battery technology and a fresh ground-up design the radical FT-EV II concept car from the Tokyo motor show is a vision of tomorrow’s electric car.

The 2009 Tokyo motor show has shed more light on Toyota’s electric future with the unveiling of the FT-EV II concept car that highlights the flexibility of electric vehicle design.

The FT-EV II is an evolution of the original FT-EV concept and gives a glimpse of how an electric-powered city car of the future could look.

Smaller than any Toyota on the market – it’s even smaller than the diminutive iQ hatch that’s on sale overseas – the FT-EV II can accommodate four (friendly) people in a three-plus-one layout; like the iQ, the fourth seat can accommodate a child or luggage.

Sliding side doors allow easy access and make it easier to get in or out in tight car parks.

The electric motor can travel around 90km at up to 100km/h, making it most useful in the city.

Rather than a conventional steering wheel, Toyota has fitted the FT-EV II with joystick like controls more reminiscent of some aircraft.

Key to the FT-EV II’s space efficiency is careful placement of the battery and electric motor, freeing up space at the front of the car.

Toyota has also paid attention to improving vision with a large windscreen and airy cabin feel.

Even the LED tail lights form part of the rear vision, allowing the driver to see through them when reversing.

Toyota says the FT-EV II assumes that battery technology will advance significantly beyond the current lithium-ion batteries that are finding their way in to electric cars and hybrids and will be used in an electric car to be sold initially in the United States from 2012.

“We are looking ahead of the lithium-ion battery,” said Akihiro Yanaka, Toyota’s project manager for advanced vehicles.

“This vision [the FT-EV II] is a little bit further out in to the future. It assumes more developed forms of batteries, so that’s why it’s more compact and smaller (than other electric cars, including the original FT-EV)”

As part of the push for improved efficiency Yanaka said Toyota is working on improving the efficiency of all ancillary items, such as air-conditioning, with the view to reducing the load on the power source.

“We are trying to have a more effective way of creating comfort. You don’t have to heat up or cool down the entire compartment, but if the person’s body can be heated then that is sufficient.”

Toyota to launch Prius next year in India, small car by early 2011

Tokyo, Oct. 21 After what seemed to be a lull in its new vehicle plans for India, Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) will launch a slew of new cars during the next 14 months.

The Fortuner sports utility vehicle was launched last month. The new Land Cruiser Prado is also being considered for a possible introduction. But next to hit the roads will be the Prius (pronounced pree-us) — Toyota’s first and most successful hybrid passenger car. Of course, the car that is most keenly awaited will be the small hatchback. It is expected to be launched by the end of 2010 and will, finally, mark the car major’s entry into the mass-market segment in India.

Talking to a section of the Indian media on the sidelines of the 41st Tokyo Motor Show here, Mr Kazuo Okamoto, Vice-Chairman and Member of the Board, Toyota Motor Corporation, said that the company was lagging behind in the Indian market, but that it will catch up soon with the rest of the competition.

As part of the plans to offer more vehicles to buyers in India, Toyota has decided to launch the Prius there by January 2010. After first being showcased at the upcoming Auto Expo in Delhi, the Prius will be available for purchase at Toyota showrooms.

The Prius is a standalone hybrid car, which seamlessly integrates an electric motor that is powered by a Lithium-ion battery pack and a regular gasoline engine using Toyota’s proprietary Hybrid Synergy Drive system.

The car is likely to be imported in the CBU (completely built unit) form from Japan and marketed in India. It is an extremely low emission vehicle and it is expected to help Toyota make a statement regarding its environment-friendly technologies.

TKM sources feel that though the car will be launched in January, its availability will be limited due to heavy demand from buyers in markets such as the US and Japan.

Toyota has carried forward its hybrid technology into its other cars such as the Camry and the Crown. Speaking about the possibility of carrying forward its hybrid technology into the new small car, Mr Okamoto said that at this moment, the company is considering a hybrid in the small car too.

Small car hub

“Technically, the new small car platform is capable of also being used for a hybrid version. But there are no specific plans for it currently,” he said.

Speaking about the importance of the new small car, Mr Okamoto said that depending on the success of the hatch, the Indian operations of TKM could well become the global small car hub for Toyota. “That is the direction we will be taking, but a lot depends on the performance of the new small car in India,” he said.

The small car is currently being developed in Japan with considerable inputs from TKM and will meet all the quality parameters required by Toyota. The domestic market is likely to be the initial focus for the new small car and in the future it is likely to evolve into a global model that can cater to other markets too. With the addition of the small car to its portfolio and the possibility of a sedan also being built on the same platform, Toyota is aiming to corner a 10 per cent share of the Indian market by 2015.

“With the possibility of the Indian market being about 3.5 million units, we want our share to be about 350,000 to 400,000 units by 2015,” Mr Okamoto said. And with Toyota’s global sales being about 9-10 million units by then, the Indian operations will constitute about three-four per cent of the total. If exports from out of India happen by then, the number could be higher.

Mr Okamoto also confirmed that at this moment the new small car being developed by Toyota for emerging markets such as India will be the cheapest-ever made by the Japanese company.

Though efforts will continue to reduce costs of future models, Toyota is unlikely to look at making an ultra low-cost passenger car on the lines of the Tata Nano or the proposed car by the Bajaj-Renault combine.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

MacKinnon’s reaps the benefit of used car price rise

A UTTOXETER car showroom is reaping the benefits of a bumper time for the second-hand car market.

Angus MacKinnon's in Derby Road is shipping cars all over the UK and Europe as buyers look for cheaper alternatives to costly new models.

The firm, which has been a fixture in Uttoxeter for more than 30 years, may now be looking to boost its workforce further to cope with demand.

Sales manager at Angus Mackinnon's, Edwin Ferneyhough, told The Advertiser he has never seen such a buoyant time for used cars.

He said: “We are having a good time right now. We are moving cars to Cyprus and Malta, as well as all over the country.

“I have never seen used cars go up in price like they are. We are going to have to take on more staff to cope.

“Manufacturers are making less new cars so the call for second- hand cars is going through the roof.” Mr Ferneyhough said the bulk of the Uttoxeter garage's sales come through the internet so they can reach a worldwide clientele.

He said: “The overseas sales are a lot to do with Auto Trader and the internet. Internet sales are about 90 per cent of our overall sales.

“We have an Aston Martin in for sale at the moment and we supply anything from those luxury cars right down to Minis.”

Used cars, trucks, cameras for sale at annual Thruway auction

SELKIRK -- Your chance to bid on used items from the New York State Thruway Authority is just days away. More than 100 items will go on the auction block next week -- the usual vehicles and electronics along with items from the “miscellaneous” category like new toilet seats.

The fourth annual auction will kick off at 9 a.m. on Oct. 14 just north of Thruway Interchange 22 on Route 144 (River Road) in Selkirk. The sale will be held outdoors, rain or shine.

Some of the vehicles for sale include the more consumer-friendly 2006 Dodge Durango SUV or a 1998 Ford Taurus Sedan and the more industrial -- like a large, yellow utility truck and a 7-ton dump truck. Most of the cars available have well over 100,000 miles and others might need maintenance.

Other items include used film cameras, used printers, used signal lights, unused tires and used maintenance equipment like auto electric cranes.

Limited inspection times will be held on Oct. 13 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on the day of the sale, Oct. 14, from 8 to 9 a.m.The fourth annual auction will kick off at 9 a.m. on Oct. 14 just north of Thruway Interchange 22 on Route 144 (River Road) in Selkirk. The sale will be held outdoors, rain or shine.