Peugeot is top UK and European purveyor of low CO2 cars

Peugeot has the highest market share of all brands in Europe and the UK for cars that get CO2 emissions of 120 g/km and 130 g/km or less. Peugeot's emphasis on smaller cars with highly efficient diesel engines has helped it capture 18.6 percent of sales in the sub-120 category in the UK and 15.5 percent of such sales Europe-wide. In the sub 130 category it has 14.3 percent of UK sales and 13.7 percent of European sales.

Toyota only breaks into the top five in the UK sub-120 group thanks to sales in that country of the Prius. In the rest of Europe, Ford, Citroen, Renault and Fiat round out the top five brands. The top selling single model in the class in the UK is the Peugeot 107 which had been rated at 111 g/km but was recently upgraded and is now rated 106 g/km.


Peugeot tops European sales of low CO2 vehicles
* In 2008 one in every six vehicles sold in Europe and in the UK, with CO2 emissions below 121g/km, was a Peugeot
* Peugeot range features 36 vehicles with CO2 emissions below 121g/km

Peugeot's long term commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its vehicles has paid huge dividends with sales figures in 2008 placing Peugeot at the very top as the leading low CO2 car company, both in the UK and across Europe. Peugeot cars, identified to customers through its Blue Lion standards (which includes all sub 131g/km) is the most popular brand for economical and low CO2 vehicles (of sub 121g/km and 131g/km) in the UK and throughout Europe.

In the UK throughout 2008, the best-selling low CO2 vehicle in the sub 111g/km sector was the Peugeot 107 – recently enhanced with even lower CO2 emissions of 106g/km – with 16,701 sold (15,333 in 2007). Impressively, sales of sub 121g/km vehicles also saw the107 joined by the 207 and 308, placed fifth and ninth – three cars in the top ten of all cars - placing Peugeot firmly at the top of this combined category with 38,458 (18.6% of all <121g/km) cars sold. Even in the larger category of sub 131g/km vehicles, Peugeot also leads that category too.

2008 UK SALES OF CARS WITH CO2 <121g/km AND WITH CO2 <131g/km
1 PEUGEOT 38,458 (18.6) 1 PEUGEOT 47,515 (14.3)
2 TOYOTA 30,471 (14.7) 2 FORD 40,909 (12.3)
3 FORD 26,321 (12.7) 3 VAUXHALL 33,266 (10.0)
4 CITROËN 22,178 (10.7) 4 TOYOTA 31,125 (9.4)
5 FIAT 15,974 (7.7) 5 CITROËN 23,591 (7.1)

Across Europe, a similar and equally positive story shows Peugeot comprehensively leading the sectors for sub 121g/km and 131g/km vehicles, where sales of some 315,805 (15.5%) and 441,385 (13.7%) cars were sold – more than any other marque in the lowest CO2 categories. The Peugeot 107 was the best-selling, low CO2 car in the sub 111g/km category, while the Peugeot 207 was the best-selling, low CO2 car in both the sub 121g/km and 131g/km sectors.

1 PEUGEOT 318,805 (15.5) 1 PEUGEOT 441,385 (13.7)
2 RENAULT 275,921 (13.5) 2 FIAT 395,059 (12.2)
3 FIAT 274,068 (13.4) 3 RENAULT 386,210 (11.9)
4 CITROEN 233,579 (11.4) 4 CITROËN 303,536 (9.4)
5 FORD 187,078 (9.2) 5 FIAT 275,797 (8.5)

Due to an extensive range of low CO2 vehicles, Peugeot offers drivers a wide choice when looking to make an environmentally conscious decision. The benefits of choosing a low CO2 car mean that it is correspondingly economical too, be it the 107 city car with emissions of just 106g/km or the five-door 308 family hatchback, which in 1.6-litre HDi 90 guise has CO2 emissions of just 120g/km. Peugeot has some 36 vehicles across its 107, 207 and 308 ranges with CO2 emissions less than 121g/km, and 48 (within its Blue Lion standards) with CO2 emissions less than 131g/km.

Christian Stein, Marketing Director at Peugeot in the UK, said; "Peugeot has long held a commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its vehicles and these sales statistics for 2008 show us to be at the very top as the leading low CO2 car company, both in the UK and across Europe. Peugeot cars, identified to customers through its Blue Lion standards is clearly the most popular brand for economical and low CO2 vehicles throughout Europe. We are delighted to be comprehensively leading the 'green race' with the benefit of lower running costs for our customers."

A steep $9,875 price increase compared to the 2008 model

BMW has announced their newly redesigned 2009 Z4 roadster will start at $46,575 for the entry-level sDrive30i and $52,475 for the high-performance sDrive35i.

Both versions receive a new folding-metal retractable roof and noticeable gains in performance but these enhancements come at steep price as the 2009 Z4 sDrive30i boasts a massive $9,875 price increase compared to the 2008 Z4 3.0i while the 2009 sDrive35i features a $8,400 increase compared to the 2008 Z4 3.0si. While the new pricing strategy might turn off some buyers, it creates room for the 1-series convertible as well as brings the new Z4 in line with rivals such as the $46,825 Mercedes SLK300 and the $46,600 Porsche Boxster.

As with all BMWs a long list of options is available, the $1,000 cold weather package features a heated steering wheel and heated seats while the premium package boasts auto-dimming mirrors, power seats, ambient lighting, and BMW assist. For $2,300 potential owners can equip their new Z4 with a sports package that comes with 18" light alloy wheels, an adaptive M sports suspension, sports seats, and a higher top speed. Another notable option is the $1,525 seven-speed double clutch transmission which is only available on the Z4 sDrive35i.

Power for the sDrive30i comes from a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine which produces 255 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque while the sDrive35i uses a turbocharged 3.0-liter engine that cranks out 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque.

Opel Insignia OPC in Blue

more spy pics of the Opel Insignia OPC. The car has been spotted, mostly uncovered, on several other occasions. However, instead of being captured in black or white, the vehicle was captured in blue.

The Opel Performace Centre (OPC) vehicle will have some unique badging to identify the sporting heritage. Black tape is conveniently used to cover up the identifying characteristics in these pics. The last performance car from the outfit was the 2.8-liter V6 turbo Opel Vectra with 255 hp. Rumor has it the OPC could get power in the low 300 horsepower range.

Opel is alleged to be including Brembo brakes so the driver can handle all the additional muscle. The supposedly four-wheel drive car has circled the Nürburgring in just over eight minutes.

We're hopeful for an unveiling of the new Opel Insignia OPC in the near future.

BYD will show off electric or plug-in car at Buffet's meeting

In September 2008, Warren Buffett's holding company bought a ten percent stake in Chinese automaker BYD. BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, has been moving forward with electric drive vehicle and lithium ion battery development, beating American and Japanese rivals to market with a plug-in hybrid. It's these eco-technologies that attracted Buffett's company in the first place. Now, BYD said it will show off its cars in the U.S. in May at Buffett's general shareholder meeting in Omaha. BYD will display either the F3DM (a plug-in hybrid, seen in the gallery below) or the E6 (an elecric vehicle with a 250-mile range, above) at the event. The F3DM has been on sale in China since December. BYD also displayed its cars at the Detroit Auto Show this past January.

High performance MINI D could get BMW diesel engines

Recently we heard that MINI was likely to develop a John Cooper Works version of its high-mileage MINI D. AutoCar is now reporting that the car is likely to eschew the Peugeot-sourced engine from the standard model in favor of one of BMW's own engines. The 2.0-liter diesel found in the BMW 120d could find its way under the hood of the JCW MINI D with 177 hp. According to AutoCar, MINI engineers have managed to install the normally longitudinally mounted engine into the transverse engine bay of the MINI. When the MINI launches, the engine is likely to be rated at 150 hp but it could eventually get the full 204 hp found in the 123d. In our reviews, the current MINI D averaged 47 mpg and the 123d got 37 mpg. A 2.0-liter MINI D should be able to get mid-40s without difficulty. The latter BMW gets to 60 mph in about 6.7 seconds, a number that the considerably lighter MINI should easily match. Pilot production of the hi-po MINI D should start in May with full production kicking in about this time next year.

Peugeot introduces 48 mpg (US) 407 1.6-litre HDi FAP

Peugeot has launched a new version of its mid-sized 407 sedan and wagon that get a CO2 emissions rating of just 129 g/km. The new 407 is powered by a 1.6-liter four cylinder diesel rated at 110 hp. A variety of efficiency enhancing features like low rolling resistance Michelin tires and electro-hydraulic power steering help bump up the mileage to 48 mpg (U.S.) on the EU combined cycle. The power steering is a blend of traditional hydraulic assist, which provides better feedback, with electric drive of the pump that can be optimized to only provide as much boost as needed.

The New 407: one step ahead of the times

Last July, the 407 Saloon and SW enhanced their powers of attraction. Still incredibly dynamic, the style was subtly updated to give them even greater elegance, robustness and perceived quality.

The specification was improved not only in terms of interior comfort and equipment (front park assistance, new WIP (World in Peugeot) Nav and WIP Com telematics systems, etc.) but also in terms of engines, with the arrival of a 2.0-litre HDi FAP engine immediately compatible with Euro 5 standards and even more economical (5.6 litres/100km (50.4mpg) or 150g/km of CO2) with power increased to 103kW (140bhp).

Benefiting from multiple technical developments (all enhancing overall driving pleasure), the new 407 models, in their 1.6-litre HDi FAP 80kW (110bhp) Saloon and SW versions, now offer a Combined fuel consumption
of only 4.9 litres/100 km (57.6mpg), or 129 g of CO2.

In France, where its price starts at €24,350 for the saloon and €25,350 for the SW, it is eligible for the €200 bonus.
A technical specification that reduces fuel consumption and enhances driving enjoyment

The adoption of electro-hydraulic power steering on the 407 1.6-litre HDi FAP plays a key part in improving its environmental efficiency. Its power steering is controlled by a hydraulic electro-pump unit in which assistance
varies according to the speed of the car, the speed of rotation of the steering wheel and the temperature of the steering fluid.

This steering system, already in place on other models in the 407 range (except for six-cylinder models), optimises fuel consumption compared to traditional hydraulic steering powered by the engine.

In addition, thanks to permanent adaptation of the force to be supplied, it offers the driver maximum steering accuracy as well as excellent feedback, while at the same time facilitating manoeuvres at low speed.

Another key factor: major engine recalibration work has been carried out on this 1.6-litre HDi unit to obtain a significant reduction of emissions.

Lastly, this 407 is now equipped with new Michelin Energy Saver 205/60R16 H tyres which significantly reduces rolling friction through its advanced tyre construction.

And because this adaptation to 129g/km of CO2 was obtained without any change to gear ratios, performance levels and acceleration are unaffected. With this improved specification, the latest 407 strengthens further its appeal to customer. In addition to its elegant and attractive appearance, still distinctive in its segment, the continuity of its residual value, its durability and its competitive overall operating costs, the 407 continues to be acclaimed for its excellent road holding and its undiminished ability to combine active safety, driving enjoyment with a high level of comfort and convenience.

The numerous strong points of the 407 have led to the production of more than 800,000 models, in all three body styles (Saloon, SW and Coupé), since 2004.

B&B Launches 500hp Kit for VW Eos

B&B is making a power statement with the Volkswagen Eos. Normally found sporting a 2.0-litre TFSI engine good for 147kW (200hp), the B&B engineers decided this was light stuff for the Eos. In keeping with this decision they turned the coupe cabriolet into a powerhouse of note with four different levels of power.

At the bottom of the pile is 360hp (265kW) followed by 400hp (294kW) and then 450hp (331kW) and finally 500hp (368kW). The 500hp (368kW) version makes 650Nm of torque and is said to run from 0 - 100km/h in 4.2 seconds. Naught to 200km/h is done in 13.5 seconds and the top speed is about 308km/h (191mph).

Components installed to achieve these supercar levels of performance include special intake and airflow pipes, a newly developed intercooler turbocharger, high-power injection elements and a more precise fuel pump.

Power like this poses certain engineering challenges as far as the daily use of the car is concerned. B&B made provision for this by installing a special slim line oil cooler, new gaskets, ledges and other parts. An adjustable suspension system has been fitted as well as a high-end braking system. The B&B Eos runs on either 18-inch or 19-inch tyres. Pictured here the B&B Eos is wearing a full body kit by Caractere.

Infiniti Planning new SUV, Flagship Sedan and Electric Vehicle in Next 5 Years

Well, it seems Infiniti is intent on making itself a major player in the premium segment with the development of several new models. So, let's see what Autocar has to say about them.

First up, the mag is reporting that Infiniti will be developing a new medium-sized luxury sedan to compete against the likes of the BMW 5-series. The model is slated to make its debut at the 2010 Geneva motor show and will be called the M(number to be announced at a later date). The model is supposed to come with the brand's 3.7 liter V6 gasoline/petrol powerplant, as well as a new 3.0 liter V6 turbocharged diesel.

Also in the works is a new QX flagship SUV to replace the current QX56. It will be very large and aimed at markets such as the US and Russia, with availability in Europe limited to special ordering. By 2015, there may be another 7-seat SUV too, one that sits lower and comes with a sleeker roof-line, but nothing is assured here.

Two new sedans are also in the pipeline for a 2012 release. A new Q-badged full-sized limousine, to be the brand's flagship model, and the next generation G37 which will likely carry a different name.

Lastly, is an electric car set to rival the BMW 1-series. It will likely be a rear or all-wheel drive and Infiniti wants to have it on the market by 2012.

Tesla Model S: $50,000 EV sedan seats seven, 300-mile range, 0-60 in 5.5s

It's been a long and difficult road, but Tesla Motors has made it to unveiling No. 2. After a lot of hype and delivery of 250 Tesla Roadsters, the company's Model S was unveiled today in Hawthorne, California. Tesla was incredibly careful about not leaking a lot of information before today – designing the Model S at a high-security rocket facility helped with that, but we still got a peek a few hours ago – and now that it's here, we love what we see.

car2go, carsharing in the smart fortwo, comes to Austin, Texas this fall

You know what state needs more smart fortwos? Texas. That must have been Daimler's thinking before approving an expansion of the car2go carsharing service there. Daimler started car2go in Ulm, Germany last October and it will be coming to Austin, Texas - that little blueberry in the big red cherry pie of a state - this fall. There are now more than 200 fortwo cdi models that anyone in Ulm, visitor or resident, can rent by the minute, hour or day, 24/7. Costs range from 19 euro cents a minute to 9.90 euros an hour to 49 euros a day. Unlike other car-sharing services, registering for the car2go service is free. Daimler didn't release any information on possible pricing for the U.S. service.

Calling the Austin expansion "the next logical step," Daimler's Thomas Weber said that carsharing in the little fortwos is an "answer to current and future mobility needs in metropolitan areas." The main goal of the Austin service is to figuring how best to export the model to other countries. Basically, Daimler needs to figure out the issues with language, laws and layout. When the service starts this fall, only a small group of Austinites will be given access to the vehicles. Like in Ulm, if things go well, the user base will be expanded. Austin's fleet will start with 200 fortwo mhd (micro-hybrid) models. Hook 'em, smart.

BlueShift Motorcycles promises scary 200 lb ft of monster torque

In the past, when "blue shift" came up in conversations, it was usually a reference to the shortening of an object's wavelength as it moved towards you due to the Doppler effect. These discussions often led to eyes glazing and mouths yawning. No more. If the ambitions of the BlueShift Motorcycle Company are realized, the term may well become synonymous with the blur associated with a certain electric motorbike as it takes advantage of its 200 lb ft of torque. Yes, 200. If you're not sure whether that's a lot, consider that the awesome Mission One gets by with half of that while the EV-0 RR gets a little closer at 170.

Not much else is known about the Michigan company or their future product besides the torque figure. Their website was just updated from a simple static page to one with this teasing bit of info and a drawing of a very interesting looking bike. We have been in touch but can only say that they plan on having the BlueShift bike for sale next year and it will include some tech and features never before implemented on a motorcycle regardless of its source of power. We expect more details to drop soon and we'll inform you when they do.

Unveiled G-POWER X5 Typhoon

Tuning firm G-Power has released a new Typhoon performance package for the BMW X5 which features an aggressive exterior styling kit as well as the addition of a supercharger.

Under the hood, G-power modifies the 4.8-liter V8 engine's mapping software, installs new high flow fuel injectors, and adds a belt driven ASA T1-521 hd supercharger which boosts the engine's output from 355 hp and 475 Nm to 525 hp (386 kW) and 600 Nm of torque. The company also outfits the Typhoon with a two-piece carbon-fiber intake manifold, an aluminum intercooler, and a stainless steel G-Power high-performance exhaust with racing catalysts. Thanks to all these changes, the Typhoon sprints from 0-100 km/h in 5.0 seconds and has a top speed of 275 km/h (171 mph).

In order to give this high-performance model the styling it deserves, G-Power adds an extensive body kit that features an aggressive front apron with massive air intakes and highly stylized fender flares which provide additional clearance for the Silverstone Forged Edition forged wheels which are 11Jx23 front and 12Jx23 rear. Out back, the Typhoon features a diffuser, new rear apron, and two massive center-mounted tailpipes that each measure 114 mm in diameter (about 4.5"). Another interesting feature is the aerodynamic rocker panels which boast five integrated blue LED lights that are activated by the vehicle's keyless fob or by pulling on a door handle.

Japan Toyota Launches Redesigned Crown Majesta

Toyota has announced the redesigned Crown Majesta in Japan. The Crown Majesta rivals vehicles like the Nissan Fuga and the Honda Legend. Its wheelbase is 75mm longer than previously and helps bring the car's total length to just under 5 metres.

Two engines are supplied. One is the 4.3-litre V8 which is fitted to four-wheel-drive models with a 6 Super ECT transmission. The other is a 4.6-litre V8 with an 8-speed electronically-controlled gearbox. Only two-wheel-drive models will get this engine.

The interior has technologies such as an HDD navigation system with multi-media and map on demand features plus a Toyota Premium Sound system with 20 speakers.

The car is loaded with safety features. Included is a camera that detects pedestrians in at the front, a Pre-crash Seatbacks system that adjusts seats to an upright position for better safety if a collision is deemed imminent and an SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) rear-seat centre airbag. A total of ten airbags are included as standard.

By using road-map data the navigation system can assist the driver in merging smoothly with highway traffic from an onramp. It assists with informing of oncoming stop signs and intervenes to help if it detects that the driver will not react and brake quickly enough in an emergency by reducing vehicle speed.

Trim levels available are the Type A, the Type A "L Package", the Type G, the Type G "F Package", the Type C and the i-Four. They range in price from ¥6,100,000 to ¥6,900,000.

Kia to sell Forte hybrid car in Aug.

owerRating -- Kia Motors Corp., South Korea's second-largest automaker, will begin selling its first hybrid car later this year, featuring high-end lithium-ion battery technology, a company executive said Tuesday.

., said Kia will release the hybrid version of the Forte compact car in August for the South Korean market.

Neither Hyundai nor Kia currently sell commercial hybrid models, but have been stepping up their efforts to bring hybrid cars to the market in response to high gas prices and an increasing premium on fuel efficiency in the U.S.

Hyundai also plans to launch its Avante hybrid car later this year in South Korea, Lee said.

"Hyundai and Kia expect to sell about 40,000 units of the Avante and Forte hybrid cars this year," Lee told reporters at a press conference in Seoul.

The Forte hybrid, which runs on both liquid petroleum gas and electricity, is representative of "Kia's new strategy for eco-friendly management," the automaker said in a statement.

Equipped with a 1.6-liter gas-powered engine and a lithium-ion battery, the Forte hybrid can run 17.2 kilometers per liter with 114 horsepower at its peak, Kia said.

Conventional hybrid cars, including Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius, use nickel-metal hydride batteries. Experts say lithium-ion batteries would allow automakers to significantly cut costs in building hybrid cars.

Hyundai plans to start selling its hybrid version of Sonata sedan in the U.S. market as early as 2010, the company said earlier.

Toyota's 2011 Low-Cost Dedicated Hybrid to be Based on the Yaris

A news report has shed light on Toyota's plans to develop a dedicated small hybrid model to take on Honda's Insight hybrid that just went on sale in the USA. Speaking with Japan's Nikkei business newspaper Akihiko Otsuka, chief engineer of the third-generation Toyota Prius, revealed that Toyota's new low-cost dedicated hybrid will be based on the Yaris platform. The reason why Toyota is planning such a model, is because Honda's Insight significantly undercuts the new Prius in price.

"We are developing a low-priced hybrid vehicle like Honda's Insight," Otsuka told the newspaper. "We are going to compete by expanding our hybrid-vehicle lineup to smaller hybrids, in the class of the Vitz and Yaris."

Even though Otsuka did not reveal details on the launch date, reports from Japan suggest that the small hybrid could find its way into international markets as soon as 2011.

Hyundai BLUE-WILL hybrid concept to be unveiled in Seoul

For its home-turf Seoul Motor Show, Hyundai will unveil a new hybrid concept called BLUE-WILL. The car features lithium-Ion batteries paired up with a 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol engine - oh, and some "dye-sensitized solar cells" in the panoramic roof that send a little more power to the batteries - in a parallel hybrid set up. The concept also throws in a 100kw electric motor to move the wheels. The eco-headline-generating machine even features headlamp bezels made from recycled drink bottles and bioplastics on the interior and in the engine cover. Both the fuel tank and the li-ion battery pack are stored under the rear seat. While the press release doesn't mention it, we've seen reports that this is a plug-in concept, which makes sense. We'll learn more when the BLUE-WILL is unveiled April 2.

Hyundai has said that that it's first production hybrid will have a "distinctive look." That vehicle will be the Elantra LPI Hybrid, which is scheduled to go on sale this summer, but the BLUE-WILL certainly has unusual styling, with the lines on the sides that cross on the front door and that giant grin in front.

Amit Thakur

Collective Unveils 'Good To Grow' Online Campaign for UK Launch of Honda Insight

London, United Kingdom, 03/25/2009 - Honda’s digital creative agency Collective, today unveils its environmentally aware ‘Good to Grow’ online campaign, designed to support the UK release of the new Honda Insight car.

The gardening themed campaign, which launches on 2 April, forms the most innovative part of the Insight’s launch campaign and highlights the Eco Driver Assist system of the new Honda Insight – a dashboard display featuring five ‘plants’ that grow the more efficiently you drive.

The online campaign will invite participants to look after five real plants from bulb to full bloom. A live greenhouse webcam will keep entrants updated on how their plants are developing, and the person with the first five plants to bloom fully (as determined by an independent botanist) will win a £10,000 prize to split equally between a ‘good’, environmentally-friendly holiday and a registered charity of their choice.

Players will also be encouraged to complete daily challenges and vote on which plant will receive a special ‘weekly tending’.

Every player will receive a unique combination of five plants allocated from a ‘pool’ of 24 plants, all of which represent a Honda environmental achievement – from the ecologically friendly CVCC engine developed in 1971 to the zero emission FCX Clarity, the world's first production fuel cell vehicle.

The campaign creative will be hosted within Honda’s new full-scale digital platform - also developed by Collective – surrounding the campaign with product information on the new Insight for those who want quick information on the car. Interested users can also easily sign up on the website to test drive the vehicle.

Greg Doone, managing director of Collective, comments: “We were keen to design a campaign that would tell the Insight story in an engaging way, within the context of Honda’s other ground-breaking environmental achievements. The Honda Eco Driver Assist system along with its iconic dashboard display gave us a perfect campaign theme, enabling us to develop a competition based on the actual growing and flowering of plants that we hope will keep users coming back.”

Jonny Freeman, digital marketing manager of Honda UK, adds: “Good to grow is a fantastically optimistic way of having some fun whilst promoting the environmental benefits of the new Insight. We’re hoping people will log on and nurture the plants and maybe even take a test a drive of the new car.”

The new Honda Insight is the world’s most affordable hybrid. It produces only 101g/km of CO2 and its innovative Eco Driver Assist system actually rewards people for good driving.

About Collective
Collective is a London-based digital creative agency that creates remarkable websites and brand-driven campaigns. Renowned for its collaborative approach and innovative use of rich media, Collective’s current clients include Honda UK, Honda Motor Europe, Callaway Golf, Snickers, Doritos, learndirect, Sega and EA Games.

Formed in 2003, Collective’s team is currently 40 strong.

Melkus RS2000 Final Design and Details Released

Melkus has released several new pictures of their upcoming RS 2000 sports car that will go on sale in November with annual production limited to 25 units.

Although information is scarce, the new RS 2000 will have an extremely aerodynamic body which draws inspiration from the classic Melkus RS 1000 which went out of production in 1979. Like the 1000, the new RS 2000 features gullwing doors which have been specially engineered to swing out only a few centimeters to enable entry and exit in tight spaces. In the quest to reduce drag and improve downforce, Melkus outfitted the sports car with a completely closed underbody, a large front lip spoiler, and a rear diffuser.

Designed by Lutz Fügener and Jens Timmich, the new model follows the lightweight philosophy pioneered by company founder Heinz Melkus. To keep weight down the RS 2000 rides on an aluminum chassis which is wrapped in a body constructed from carbon fiber, the end result means that the sports car weighs less than 1,000 pounds (454 kg).

While the company failed to provide information regarding the car's powertrain, they did state that additional details would be released this summer.

Could Jeep introduce new model based on Fiat Panda Cross?

When Chrysler and Fiat announced that they were planning to join forces to better attack the worldwide auto market, the first question on all of our minds was which vehicles from Fiat the American side would import to the States? Much of the attention was focused on the little Fiat 500, and deservedly so. Small cars like the smart fortwo and MINI Cooper have proven that Americans will buy little machines as long as they are stylish, loaded with features and fun to drive.

Another vehicle that many enthusiasts are keenly interested in is the Fiat Panda, especially in its jacked-up off-road Cross trim. The overactive internet rumormill is now working on the idea that there's a possibility that the Panda Cross may make it Stateside wearing a Jeep badge. As long as we're dreaming, how 'bout throwing in the little 1.3L turbocharged diesel engine that powers it in Europe?

Chrysler's viability plan did include the introduction of a new Jeep in 2011, and the timing would be perfect to help the SUV maker meet looming fuel economy requirements. Before any of that can happen, though, the automaker has until the end of the month to prove it can survive as a viable company that's capable of repaying taxpayer-funded loans.

New York auto show: EV Innovations to introduce two electric cars

According to a report on AutoWeek, EV Innovations (which used to be called Hybrid Technologies) has plans to introduce two new electric vehicles at the 2009 New York Auto Show next month. We've been hearing about the Inizio supercar for a while and we're thinking it's the production version of the sportscar prototype that was sold to one lucky Sam's Club member late last year. The quoted specifications are extremely impressive, with the Inizio reportedly able to hit 60 mph in just 4 seconds, a top speed of 170 miles per hour and a range of 200 miles per charge. Price? $139,000. If true, that's a great deal for a vehicle with that kind of performance.

The second EV that's scheduled to be shown is called the Wave. We're not sure if this is a completely new vehicle or if it's based on an existing platform, but it's reportedly able to hit a top speed of 80 mph with a range of 170 miles per charge. Again, the reported asking price of $34,900 sounds too good to be true. Deliveries are scheduled for "sometime in 2010." We'll know more when we get to NY in a few weeks.

Kia Debuts World First LPG-fueled Hybrid Electric Car

Kia has introduced Forte LPI hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), it’s first mass production hybrid car, to the South Korean consumers yesterday. In addition to that, Kia also unveiled its new eco-friendly sub-brand, Eco-Dynamics, an initiative which will bring a host of new eco-friendly technologies and models to the international markets.

The Forte LPI hybrid electric vehicle is powered by an economical mild-hybrid drive system consisting of 1.6L gasoline engine and electric motor. The Liquefied Petroleum Injected (LPI) engine generates 114 horsepower, while electric motor brings additional 20 hp. Equipped with this kind of hybrid system and continuously variable transmission, the Forte achieves a very competitive fuel economy rating of 17.2 kilometers per liter of LPG fuel (41 MPG US), which is equivalent to 21.5 kilometers per liter fuel economy in terms of gasoline, the company said.

To differentiate the Forte hybrid from it’s non-hybrid variants and improve the vehicle’s aerodynamics, some changes have been implemented to the existing exterior design. In front, you will notice a slightly different corporate Kia grille and a restyled front bumper with larger air intake and attractive fog lights design, while at rear, Forte now features a radically redesigned rear bumper and LED equipped taillights. On the inside, Forte LPI hybrid features a Super Vision instrument cluster for hybrid system data and a navigation display.

Kia’s Forte LPI hybrid will also be the world’s first hybrid vehicle to utilize the highly advanced lithium polymer (Li–poly) battery, which is lighter and smaller but has higher output than nickel-metal hydride batteries. Those will be supplied by Korean battery supplier LG Chem, the world’s fourth largest rechargeable battery producer. The LG Chem will also supply similar battery pack to GM’s Chevy Volt.

Following it’s recent announcement that the company will focus on developing of eco-friendly vehicles, Kia also revealed it plans to bring the first full-hybrid car - probably based on the next generation Optima sedan- to the market in late 2010 and it’s first hydrogen fuel cell powered car in 2012. Expected to hit the global markets in the same year is the plug-in hybrid sedan.

Together with it’s parent company Hyundai Motor Co, Kia plans to spend nearly $6 billion on research and development this year, with majority of money pumped into development of new hybrid and fuel cell electric cars such as Kia Forte LPI hybrid and Borrego FCEV.

Volkswagen Golf GTI MkVI in Depth

Perhaps the next best thing after driving a Golf GTI up and down scenic mountain passes is watching a video clip of someone else doing it.

In 1976 the Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI was the budget driver's dream car with its 4-speed gearbox and 81 kW (110 PS) 1.6-litre engine. Today the GTI makes 155kW (210PS) and 280Nm of torque from its 2.0-litre TSI engine. It will go from 0 - 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds and has a top speed of 240 km/h (149 mph). VW says it uses an average of 7.3 litres of fuel per 100km (38.7 mpg UK). Standard issue wheels are 17-inches but there are 18s available as options.

VW is harking back to this icon with the new GTI. Unveiled as a concept to the public for the first time at the 2008 Paris International Motor Show the Mk VI GTI boasts plenty of garb that many bigger more expensive cars cannot match. In styling the car the team kept the original car in mind. The red frame around the outer front grille is typical GTI and sets it apart from "lesser" Golf models. It has single chrome tailpipes on either side, a GTI rear spoiler, a rear air diffuser, an electronic diff lock, smoked taillights and green tinted windows. The brake calipers are painted red.

The GTI moniker appears on the left instead of the right as it was previously done. The car itself is longer and wider, and it looks more muscular as well. The interior features things like stainless steel pedals, radio/ navigation with a touch screen and heated front seats.

In a few days sales of the new 2009 GTI begin in Germany, in Europe within the next couple of weeks, and America and Asia follow towards the end of the summer.

'Will the Nano change India's auto industry?'

It signals a major jump in the global acceptance of India as a hub for small cars, but maintaining this will require a lot more including, for starters, large production volumes.

Jagdish Khattar
Chairman & Managing Director, Carnation Auto

‘India has emerged as an attractive hub for making compact cars - the Nano means the world will now accept India’s expertise in design values and frugal engineering’

The Nano promises to provide a safe and environment-friendly mode of transport to a large segment of the population who, till now, did not have that option. This will give a major fillip to the Indian automobile industry. Despite liberalisation during the last decade, the penetration of automobiles in India has just reached about seven per thousand people, compared to double digits in even Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It was in early 1980s, when the Maruti 800 was launched, that we saw the first major “people’s car”, giving customers an alternative to choose from apart from the Ambassador and Padmini. That car not only exceeded its objective but also brought about a major change in the manufacturing sector as a whole.

With the launch of the Nano we will experience many new important facets. It is now well-accepted that India has emerged as an attractive hub for the manufacturing of compact cars. But with the launch of the Nano, the world will also accept India’s competence in design values and frugal engineering. The world will also accept the capabilities of the component manufacturers who have developed the parts at low prices. India could now start supplying to the automobile plants of the major international car manufacturers abroad.

So what does Nano mean to the economy at large?

* Employment opportunities to millions in this era of recession not only in manufacturing but in sales, service, finance, insurance etc.
* A boost to the rural economy because this car, along with improved roads, will help increase mobility.
* Empowerment and liberation of women in smaller towns.
* In India over 300,000 auto rickshaws are sold in a year for about the same price as the Nano. The Nano is a substitute for public transport which is safer, far more environment-friendly and convenient.

Some argue that the introduction of the Nano may further congest cities further. While this possibility can’t be ignored, one should not favour restricting its sales. The Central and state governments are trying their best to improve the road network and connectivity. What is also required is an efficient and cost-effective option in public transport. As the Nano customer-profile includes current two-wheeler owners, the state agencies should take proactive actions to ensure that they are trained on issues pertaining to proper driving skills and road safety.

The management of Tata Motors, I am sure, would have worked out their strategies to meet the challenges of sales and after-sales. The first is to meet the high demand that is likely to get created. As there would be many first-time customers, the sales force will have to advise them on issues like running and maintenance of the car. A service network with a much bigger spread would also be needed. Since two-wheeler owners are used to getting 60-70 km per litre, as compared to the Nano’s 20+, the cost of ownership of a Nano is likely to be far higher than that of a two-wheeler — two-wheelers also have many neighbourhood workshops. The proposed rural marketing will also require a network that is as near the customer as possible.

Rakesh Batra
Partner, Ernst & Young

This is a big achievement but the auto market has been changing over the years anyway. To sustain this requires production volumes, great after-sales and product-acceptance’

In a sense, Tata Motors has already changed the face of the Indian automobile industry by developing a product that no manufacturer has so far been able to do across the world. This is an achievement of Indian innovation at its best across design, engineering, manufacturing and the supply base. Time magazine has listed the Nano in the dozen most important cars in the world since 1908. The Indian automobile industry has clearly established its place as the ultra-low cost car centre globally and the Nano is likely to spur greater activity in the years to come. Truly, an innovation of this enormity should get the success it deserves.

That said, the face of the Indian automobile market has been changing over the years and will change once again after the Nano. We will have a whole new set of customers, both in urban and rural areas, for whom a car will symbolise a dream that can be realised.

Car-ownership is considered to be a symbol of economic progress and is therefore very high on a consumer’s aspirational list of products. Given the sizeable Indian population and the low cost of owning and using the Nano, the car is likely to attract a large cross-section of potential customers, many of them first-time car-owners.

As the market expands further, prices of small used-cars will fall, a trend we are already witnessing with declines of around 35 per cent, making affordability still higher.

The Nano could also have an impact on vehicles used for passenger transportation, particularly three-wheelers which, in some cases, cost more than the Nano. The latter presents a viable alternative with greater driver- and passenger-comfort, and protection from the vagaries of the weather.

The Tata Ace, which was launched in 2005, managed to change the dynamics of the three-wheeler transportation market.

Vehicle distribution, sales and service may also see changes in the post-Nano world. Keeping in line with its ultra-low-cost positioning, there will be a need to keep marketing and distribution costs significantly lower.

Tata Motors has already begun using internet marketing through social networking websites and is potentially considering online sales. One day, in the not very distant future, you may be able to order the car online and track the progress of your order through manufacturing and delivery to a local dealer or retailer.

While these are some of the changes which will impact the Indian auto market, they will certainly not happen overnight. Beyond the initial buzz and the excitement around the launch, it will take some time for sufficient volumes to be produced and sold — this could take anywhere up to around 2-3 years.

Further, the Indian consumer is very discerning and the product and after-sales service quality will need to live up to the consumers’ expectations for the Nano to be successful.

Tata Nano Prices and booking amount with technical

Tata Motors today announced that the Tata Nano Standard version (BS2) will be priced at Rs.1 lakh ex Factory Pantnagar (excluding transportation charges and VAT) thereby delivering on the promise made at the unveiling of the car at the Auto Expo in New Delhi last year on January 10th 2008.

The Company announced the price at the launch ceremony in Mumbai this evening in the presence of Mr. Ratan N. Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group and Tata Motors.

Prices: Ex-showroom The prices of the three trim levels of the Tata Nano launched today are:
Trim level/ Variant Ex-Showroom Pant Nagar Ex-Showroom Delhi Ex-Showroom Mumbai
Tata Nano Std (BS2 ) Rs. 112735 NA NA
Tata Nano Std (BS3 ) Rs. 120960 Rs. 123360 Rs. 134250
Tata Nano CX Solid Paint (BS2) Rs. 139780 NA NA
Tata Nano CX Metallic Paint (BS2) Rs. 142780 NA NA
Tata Nano CX Solid Paint (BS3) Rs. 145725 Rs. 148360 Rs. 160320
Tata Nano CX Metallic Paint (BS3) Rs. 148725 Rs. 151360 Rs. 163320
Tata Nano LX Metallic Paint (BS3) Rs. 170335 Rs. 172360 Rs. 185375

The booking amount of the three trim levels will be the same across the country as follows:
Trim level /Variant Booking amount
Tata Nano Std. ( BS2 and BS3) Rs. 95000
Tata Nano CX ( BS2 & BS3) Rs. 120000
Tata Nano LX ( BS3) Rs. 140000

The sale of application forms and acceptance of booking will start from April 9th 2009 till the end of day April 25th 2009. The application forms will be available at a price of Rs. 300, with a range of offers from select associate Tata Group companies. The application forms will be available at over 30,000 locations in about 1,000 cities through Tata Motors Passenger Car dealerships, State Bank of India and its branches, its subsidiaries and associates, other preferred financiers, and outlets of Westside, Croma, ‘World of Titan’ and Tata Indicom exclusive stores.

Technical Specification:
Engine Type 624 cc, 2 cylinder, MPFI
Maximum Engine Output 35 PS @ 5250 rpm
Maximum Torque 48 NM @ 3000 +/-500 rpm
Maximum Speed 105 kmph
Transmission Synchromesh on all forward gears, sliding mesh on reverse gear with overdrive on 4th gear
No. of Gears 4 Forward + 1 Reverse
Brake Type Dual Circuit, Vertical Split operated by tandem master cylinder
Nano CX With Vacuum Booster
Nano LX With Vacuum Booster
Front 180 mm dia. drum brake
Rear 180 mm dia. drum brake
Tyre Type Radial & Tubeless
Front Tyre size 135/70 R12
Rear tyre size 155/65 R12
Spare tyre size 135/70 R12
Wheels 4 B x 12
Overall Length 3099 mm
Overall Width 1495 mm (& 1620 mm with ORVM)
Overall Height 1652 mm
Wheelbase 2230 mm
Ground clearance 180 mm
Min. Turning Circle Radius 4 m
Seating Capacity 4 persons
Fuel Tank Capacity 15 Liters
Kerb Weight
Nano 600 kg
Nano CX 615 kg
Nano LX 635 kg
Payload 300 kg

Mercedes advocates three types of power

Mercedes introduces a concept that can integrate all three systems more sustainable use of electricity in a car. Electric lithium-ion batteries, electric autonomy extended by a small gasoline engine and, of course, hydrogen fuel cell. It is a perfect way to be able to address the future without having to choose one way or another.

BlueZero under the name of the German brand introduces a concept very close to reality and their production. A vehicle with sandwich-type structure as the one developed for the Mercedes A Class for mounting at the bottom of some mechanical and interior offer maximum livability.

However, the most important aspect of this concept is its mechanical aspect. Under the name of BlueZero offered three alternatives. On the one hand the E-CELL, which basically consists of a vehicle operated by an electric motor. The energy required for movement is provided by the lithium-ion batteries cooled liquid.

With these batteries, the BlueZero can travel up to 200 kilometers, a range so far not announced any other manufacturer for an electric vehicle only. In addition, these batteries are recharged simply by connecting it to a normal power plug. In a time of one hour is enough to get a surcharge to travel over 50 kilometers.

The second variant of this concept is eco-CELL-F. In this case, it uses a hydrogen fuel cell to supply the electric motor. In this case, a technology already well studied and tested in various units of the Mercedes Class A, self rises up to 400 kilometers.

Finally, to provide power all variants which are currently emerging as more viable, it also offers an option called widespread autonomy. Under the name E-CELL Plus, the E-CELL version of electric motor and lithium-ion batteries is added an auxiliary gasoline engine. This is not used to move the car but merely to generate electricity when the batteries are actually exhausted. This propellant is located in the rear.

The gasoline engine used is a small and very reliable engine, the one-liter turbocharged engines used in the Smart. With its 68 hp at a speed of 3500 rpm produces enough electricity to move the vehicle with ease and independence then increased to 600 kilometers, of which the first 100 are in use only with no electricity, without putting start the gasoline engine.

With this concept very similar to the existing Class A and B, but with a touch of something more modern, Mercedes proves that their solution is ready to launch and market a new model more in line with sustainable development. And besides, what is with all the possibilities today are more viable. The BlueZero has a length of 4.22 meters, which is very similar to the current Class B, which also shares its forms.

Just add a few more details of the new concept: the electric motor has a maximum power of 136 hp and maximum torque is 320 Nm. Thanks to this engine accelerates from 0 to 100 kph in 11 sec. and its top speed is limited electronically to 150 km / h. And its trunk has a capacity of 500 liters. And an electric car viable.

Nissan may sell EVs to U.S. consumers in 2010

Automaker announces partnership with utility for electric hookups

Nissan North America could launch U.S. retail sales of electric vehicles as early as 2010 -- two years sooner than expected.

For the past year, the company has been saying it will start EV fleet sales to utilities and other commercial users in 2010 and consumer retail EV sales through its dealer network two years later.

But Mark Perry, director of product planning and strategy for the automaker in Franklin, Tenn., says some U.S. markets probably will be ready for retail sales sooner than 2012.

"We're keeping ourselves open to the possibility that if a market is ready for it, we'll go ahead earlier," Perry says. "If the demand is already there, there's no need for us to wait until 2012."

Nissan plans to sell a line of new electric vehicles powered by a lithium ion battery created through a partnership with NEC of Japan. The automaker has requested a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to build an EV battery manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tenn.

Perry says Nissan will not try to launch EV sales throughout the entire United States but will launch sales city by city as communities get their vehicle recharging infrastructure in place.

Nissan announced today that it has formed a partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric, the utility company for San Diego, to prepare that city for EV transportation. Nissan will participate in a working group that will make decisions about how to build a recharging infrastructure in the San Diego region. The undertaking also will involve working with city planning and zoning authorities on how to go about installing home recharging systems.

It is the fifth such partnership Nissan has started in recent months. Similar partnerships have been created with Tennessee; Oregon; Sonoma County, Calif.; and Tucson, Ariz.

Tata launches lottery for Nano buyers

Tata Motors will sell the first 100,000 of its ultra-cheap Nano through a lottery, the Indian automaker said today.

Application forms for the 100,000 rupee ($1,980 1,455 euros) minicar will available in 1,000 cities in India starting on April 9. A computerized random selection procedure will decide the owners of the first 100,000 cars, Tata said.

Tata decided to launch a lottery because of the massive interest in the Nano and because of delays in launching volume production of the car.

Since the Nano was unveiled on January 10, 2008, Tata's Web site for the Nano has received 30 million hits.

At the Nano's commercial launch in Mumbai, India, today, Tata Chairman Ratan Tata said the Nano will provide safe, affordable, four-wheel transportation to families who currently cannot afford to own a car.

Nano deliveries will start in July, Tata said. The four-door, five-seat Nano will be sold in India in three trim levels: standard, CX and LX. The top-of-the-range LX will have fabric seats, central door locking, front power windows, a cell phone charger point and a rear spoiler.

Tata also said the Nano would come with a range of accessories and merchandise. The company said accessories will include alloy wheels and body kits will also be available to customize the car.

Among the merchandise planned are a Nano phone and a Nano watch.

The 3100mm long Nano has a 35hp, 624cc two-cylinder rear engine with a top speed of 105kph. It can travel 23.6km on a liter of gasoline.

The Nano is vital to Tata, which is struggling with the global economic downturn. The company declared a loss of 2.63 billion rupees ($37 million) for the October to December quarter.
Tata has been struggling to refinance the remaining $2 billion of a $3 billion loan it took to buy the Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford Motor Co. in June.

In addition, the Nano launch is six months late after large-scale production was delayed by a compensation dispute with West Bengal farmers that shifted production from West Bengal to Gujarat last year.

As a stopgap arrangement, Nanos will be rolled out from Tata's existing car factories in Pune in western India and Pantnagar in Northern India.

A European version called the Nano Europa is planned for 2011.

A new Nano plant, at Sanand in Gujarat, western India, will be ready in 2010 with an annual capacity of 350,000 cars.

Pininfarina picks firm to help sell family's

MILAN (Reuters) -- Italian car design and engineering firm Pininfarina said on Monday that Leonardo & Co. has been hired as adviser to sell the stake held by the group's family holding company, Pincar.

Pininfarina's creditor banks chose Leonardo & Co. as adviser from a number of possibilities, the company said in a statement.

In December, Pininfarina said Pincar had agreed with creditor banks to sell its 50.6 percent stake to help it tackle its debt situation.

Pininfarina, which in 2008 posted a net loss of 204 million euros, said it expects to make an operating loss in 2009 because of the impact of the economic crisis on car sales.

Though the group will not be able to generate operating cash in 2009, existing liquidity will be sufficient to allow it to continue operating, Pininfarina said.

French financier Vincent Bollore said earlier this month that he would consider taking a stake in Italian car designer Pininfarina if it needed an industrial partner.

Bollore is developing an electric car with Pininfarina.

Earlier this year, Pininfarina approved a revised industrial plan that calls for an end to its contract carmaking operations when current production ends in 2011.

The Italian company then will concentrate exclusively on building electric cars with Bollero.

The company, which has designed and produced vehicles for numerous automakers including Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Volvo and Ford, was hit by tragedy last year when its chairman and chief executive, Andrea Pininfarina, died in a car crash.

He was the grandson of company founder, Battista "Pinin" Farina.

Toyota's Urban Cruiser, in diesel or petrol flavor, coming to UK in May

First unveiled at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, Toyota's new Urban Cruiser is coming to UK salesfloors this May with a list of eco-friendly features. Using the Toyota Optimal Drive, Toyota's name for the more-efficient-yet-powerful engine package, that debuted in the Auris last fall, the B-segment hatch has two engine options. First up is the 1.33 Dual VVT-i 2WD model, which comes with Stop & Start technology and emits 129 grams of CO2 per km. Mileage rating is 43 mpg (U.S.) on the UK system. The
1.4 D-4D common rail diesel engine is used on the AWD version of the Urban Cruiser, and just barely
loses out to the other model, with emissions of 130 grams of CO2 per km thanks, in part, to a diesel particulate filter. Toyota says this is the lowest for any four-wheel drive vehicle in the world. Anyone got a counter to that? The diesel also happens to get 48 mpg (U.S.)

Aside from the engines, Toyota has also tweaked the production method to limit the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used in the Urban Cruiser's interior.

F&M Vulca S Launched

Another truly exclusive supercar has just been released to the market. The Vulca S made its debut earlier this month at the Salone Internazionale del Lusso in Vicenza.

Only ten units of the 630 horsepower Vulca S will ever be made. The S-badged Vulca follows up on the "base" version of the supercar, first shown off at last year's Geneva show. That car is priced between €280k and €340,000.

Pisa-based Faralli & Mazzanti's Vulca S is completely handmade in aluminum, with OZ Racing wheels, and Continental Italia tires. The 2+2 coupe also uses a data system from AIM Sportline. Front and rear LEDs and quad exhaust can be seen outside. Inside, you'll find an upmarket stereo, what appears to be a wood trim, power seats, and two center-mounted LCD screens. One of these likely provides speed, RPM, and fuel information, since there are no gauges in front of the driver. Hand stitched quilted leather rounds out the package.

Each Vulca S will carry an individual number. Pricing for the car was not mentioned, but there's a good chance you can't afford it anyway.

Could Toyota base new low-cost hybrid on Auris platform?

There's been lots of internet chatter over the last few weeks surrounding rumors in Japan that Toyota is hard at work developing a new low-cost hybrid model that would use Prius technology but be priced to match the new Honda Insight. It's no secret that the Insight's big claim to fame is its low asking price, and much of that attractive sticker can be attributed to Honda's decision to base most of the car on existing platforms and technologies.

Like the Civic Hybrid, the 2010 Honda Insight uses the automaker's proprietary Integrated Motor Assist technology, but instead of using the rest of the Civic platform, Honda cribbed a large portion of the Insight's chassis on the Fit. This allowed for a substantial cost savings, and Toyota may choose to do the same for its next hybrid passenger car by placing its Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain in a mass-market vehicle platform.

One attractive prospect might be to borrow the architecture used in the Toyota Auris, a hatchback that's sold in Europe and Asia that shares underpinnings with the American Corolla. We can't say that these rumors are true, but it does seem like one logical way to save a huge chunk of money on development costs.

Four-Wheel Dreams for Millions of Drivers in India

NEW DELHI — Six years after the idea was hatched, India’s much-hyped Tata Nano was introduced on Monday.
The supercheap compact car with a base model selling for about $2,230 is aimed at the developing world’s millions of motorcycle owners with four-wheel dreams. It arrives as Tata Motors struggles with production problems and a huge debt load.

But as the global economy withers and automakers bleed cash and cut employees, global warming continues and oil prices creep back up, even rivals say that tiny, wallet-friendly, fuel-efficient cars like the Nano might be where demand grows worldwide.

“We’re quite confident there is going to be huge market for that segment,” said Ashish Sinharoy, a vice president at Renault India. Renault and Nissan have partnered with Bajaj Auto, an Indian scooter maker, to introduce a small, cheap car of their own, due out in 2011.

Automakers and car enthusiasts will be following the Nano closely, looking for flaws and gauging consumer reaction. Projects like the Renault-Bajaj alliance, and plans from manufacturers including Honda and Hyundai might be scrapped if the Nano fails. J. D. Power & Associates predicts that Tata will sell 35,000 Nanos this year, because of production constraints. Tata will begin accepting orders next month, charging a fee of $6 to anyone who applies to buy the car. Delivery is expected in July.

Questions linger about Tata’s ability to keep costs down and get production up and about the safety and reliability of the Nano. Several auto analysts say that Tata, which had its first quarterly loss in seven years at the end of January, has been forced to delay payments to its vendors because of a cash squeeze.

Indian auto suppliers are not in straits as dire as their peers in America and Europe, but any supplier disruption could be devastating to the Nano, because its parts are custom-made.

In an e-mailed response to questions about payment delays, Tata Motors said it was “conducting its business properly, adequately and in full partnership with all its vendors.”

The company said most of its vendor relationships are covered by a “bill marketing” system, where Tata’s bank makes payments to the vendors, and Tata Motors pays the bank. “As sales begin to climb, vendor purchases will also improve, and a positive cycle will once again get created,” Tata said.

If the Nano is successful, it will open the market for others, Mr. Sinharoy predicts. He said a car from Renault-Bajaj would be priced at about 150,000 rupees ($3,000) and be even more fuel-efficient than the Nano.

The four-seater Nano can travel 100 kilometers on 4.2 liters of fuel, getting 55.5 miles per gallon. It has lower emissions than most two-wheelers in India, Tata says.

With its 11.8-inch dinner-plate-size wheels, an engine the size of a small outboard motor generating 33 horsepower, and a single windshield wiper, the Nano has already drawn some unflattering comparisons to kitchen appliances and garden tools. When the design was unveiled last year,, a car lovers’ Web site, asked, “Yes, but will it blend?”

A few people have driven the car, and were only recently given permission by Tata to talk about the experience.

“It feels like a real car,” said Hormazd Sorabjee, editor of Autocar India magazine, who was one of the early drivers. “It does not feel like a golf cart.”

But, he added, it felt like a car that would be used only for city driving. “You’re not going to take this on an intercity highway,” he said.

The Nano’s fans far outweigh its critics so far. It already has a dedicated Facebook group. More important, it seems to have a number of eager would-be buyers. Despite a vicious land-rights battle that forced Tata to relocate the Nano factory from its West Bengal site, the car is viewed with great pride in India.

It is “absolutely critical” that the Nano goes well, Mr. Sorabjee, said. “The success of this will change the rules of carmaking in the world,” he predicted.

Pawan Goyal, a 35-year-old accountant who lives in Noida, a growing town east of Delhi, said he had been planning to buy the Nano since it introduced a prototype at the Delhi auto show in January 2008.

“By spending 50,000 rupees extra, I will move on to a four-wheeler,” Mr. Goyal, who drives a motorcycle, said. The Nano will allow him to take along his whole family, including two children, ages 10 and 12, and it will be “more comfortable and safe” than the motorbike.

The Nano may attract more than the “starter” market because of the economic slowdown. “In times of crisis, there is a lot of trading down that happens,” said Arindam K. Bhattacharya, a partner in the New Delhi office of the Boston Consulting Group.

The Nano is built to safety specifications in India but would not serve all markets. Any additional safety features will mean a increase in costs, and it’s unclear whether Tata’s plans to sell the Nano in the rest of South Asia and Europe will pan out.

But consumers in Europe and the United States may demand a Nano of their own. “Consumer behavior can be stimulated simply by the economic issues we’re facing today,” said Dan Oxyer, a partner with the consulting company A. T. Kearney.

Some car experts are skeptical about whether the Nano will succeed. “It goes without saying a good car at a low price will sell well in global markets,” said John Bonnell, head of Asia forecasting at J. D. Power & Associates.

The fact that the Nano is here at all, though, proves the Big Three American automakers wrong, Mr. Bhattacharya said. When he made presentations on the Nano to Western car manufacturers a few years ago, “they would all laugh and say that it couldn’t be done,” he recalled.

BMW X5 Facelift Spied with X6 Front Bumper

Our spy photographers have managed to catch another round of pictures showing the facelifted 2010 BMW X5 undergoing final testing.

With the current model dating back to 2007, BMW decided to give the facelifted X5 a more aggressive appearance by adopting the X6's front bumper. Other styling changes are expected to include a slightly modified rear bumper, minor interior updates, and a possible switch to LED taillights.

Engine options will most likely mirror that of today's X5, but the new twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 engine with 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque will replace the aging 4.8-liter V8 that produces 350 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Should potential owners fail to be impressed by a sport-ute that can run from 0-60 mph in nearly six seconds flat, BMW will unveil a new X5 M which will boast a twin-turbo V8 that cranks out an monstrous 550 hp.

Nano to hit Europe by 2011 - Mr Ratan Tata

Mr Ratan Tata chairman of TATA group as saying that after launching in India on March 23rd, the TATA Nano will hit the European market by 2011.

Mr Ratan said "We hope to launch the Nano Europa in 2010-11."

He, however, refused to give away the cost of the European version of the car saying a lot of factors needed to be looked at before the price could be decided. He said "But it'll hold to its image of being one of the cheapest cars in the market."

Asked whether he wanted Nano to become the next people's car for Europe, just like Volkswagen had decades back, Mr Tata said his goals were much more modest. We are a relatively new car company in a relatively new car-producing nation. We just want to produce a car in India that's robust and can compete with the rest.

The Nano Europa, being showcased for the very first time has quickly become Curiosity No 1 at the Geneva Auto Show. The show, reputed to be among the world's top four auto exhibitions, opened for the media on Tuesday.

Mr Frank B Meyer an auto journalist from Germany said "We're very excited about the Nano. Though it's not expected to be a big hit in Europe, it would do well in certain European countries. Yes, the finish needs to be improved, but this is not a production car at the moment."

Nano arrival in city to be delayed

Hyderabadis queuing up to take a look at the world’s cheapest car -- Tata Nano -- will have to wait a little longer. While the much-awaited, snubnosed Rs 1 lakh passenger car will be unveiled for public viewing in Mumbai on Monday, the car will be available for display in all other cities only in the first week of April.

``We will be getting only one vehicle, which will be displayed from April 2. We may get more vehicles for test drives later,’’ said Kiran Kumar, branch incharge, Mallik Cars, a Tata Motors dealer.

The long waiting period is not the only disappointment for anxious customers, for, they could be further let down by the fact that not all those booking the vehicle will be allotted one. ``We will be issuing booking applications from the first week of April for the first 15 days. But the company will decide about vehicle allotment,’’ said another dealer in the city.

Tata Motors will collect all bookings from various dealers across the country and then randomly choose the first 50,000 customers. ``Perhaps, we anticipate that every city will be allotted 2,500-3,000 vehicles,’’ said the dealer.

Similarly, those who are allotted their dream-car will, however, get the delivery only by May or June.

Company officials explain that the reason for the delay is two-fold. One, huge demand from customers across the country. Two, shortage of supply as production of vehicles is just a little over 50,000 units in 2009. While this could be disheartening for wannabe car owners, it is good news for competitors such as Maruti Suziki, Huyndai and General Motors. ``If the production delays continue, definitely, other auto makers will reduce prices on existing small cars to match Nano’s price and retain market share,’’ says an industry analyst.

Acura to challenge Audi, Peugeot at 12 Hours of Sebring

Every time he slams the brakes entering the hairpin turn Saturday at Sebring International Raceway, Gil de Ferran will be reminded of two things:

Why drivers have big necks and why Acura is sticking its neck out to enter the premier division of the American Le Mans Series.

"We're pulling 4 Gs in a lot of corners, and that feels like hanging 120 pounds off your helmet," de Ferran says with a laugh. "Some people actually call that fun, and it is because it's challenging.

"That's how I feel about entering LMP1 with Acura. Will it be easy? No! But it's what we do."

Moving up a class to P1 this year with de Ferran Motorsports and Patron Highcroft Racing, Acura will face competition that's as stiff as many competitors will be under the collar at the end of the Mobil 1 Twelves Hours of Sebring.

The 2009 season opener will feature two of the world's most dominant sports-car teams. Audi, which has scored nine consecutive LMP1 victories at Sebring, is rolling out two new R15 turbo-diesels against rival Peugeot's 908 HDi diesel.

he European manufacturers squared off last season at Sebring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Petit Le Mans, and Audi barely swept all three events.

Acura will bring a formidable lineup to Sebring, Fla., in trying to turn P1 into a three-horse race. De Ferran, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2000-01 CART champion, takes the wheel of his team with Simon Pagenaud and defending IndyCar and Indy 500 champ Scott Dixon. For Patron Highcroft, ALMS veterans Scott Sharp and David Brabham will team with Dario Franchitti, winner of the 2007 Indy 500 and IndyCar titles.

But the key to surviving Sebring's abrasive and punishing 3.7-mile layout — teams employ masseuses and trainers to keep drivers loose in a race that de Ferran says is the world's most grueling — is having a car that's durable and lightning-quick.

The diesels of Peugeot and Audi offer better fuel economy and horsepower. Parent company Honda has no diesel-powered cars in its U.S. lineup.

"With limited knowledge of diesels and no marketing tie-in, it'd be harder to justify a new era of those powerplants for us," Honda Performance Development president Erik Berkman says. "We thought if we think outside the box, we can find a way to compete against those guys with gasoline."

The philosophy was to build an ARX-02a that could overcome deficient speed on the straightaways with state-of-the-art handling in the turns.

The revolutionary design maximizes downforce with a lightweight suspension and four tires of identical size, a concept that Berkman says "is unheard of in sports car racing" (rear tires normally are larger).

De Ferran, who estimates the car's corner speeds can hit 160 mph, is fascinated by a power steering system, which reminds him of the title character in the movie Robocop "with all these levers and cables running everywhere.

"If you're a gearhead like me, you look at the car and think, 'My god, it's beautiful,' " he says.

The diesel engine's horsepower was reduced by about 10% (according to Berkman) by offseason rules changes, but Peugeot was fastest in two practices Wednesday with Audi ranked second. Acuras were fourth and fifth.

Allan McNish, whose Audi team won the overall class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, says the diesels retain an edge in torque ("the kick coming off the corners") but that Acura must be respected.

China Uses Green Cars To Bolster Auto Sector

BEIJING -- China announced measures to kick-start domestic automobile demand by encouraging the development of more environmentally friendly cars, the latest move to bolster the Chinese auto industry amid slowing sales growth.

The new package, which is supposed to supplement auto-industry stimulus steps announced in January, is designed to keep overall sales in the world's second-biggest car market growing at an average of 10% annually over the next three years, the government said.
The 10% growth target is considered ambitious by some analysts, but if China succeeds, it would have auto sales of well over 10 million units this year, and could displace the U.S. as the world's biggest auto market by unit sales.

January sales in China exceeded those in the U.S., where demand is shrinking rapidly amid the downturn. Some analysts believe U.S. sales may fall to about 10 million vehicles this year.

The latest measures, which appear to be aimed at restructuring the industry over the long term, include 10 billion yuan, or about $1.5 billion, in research subsidies over the next three years to improve Chinese auto makers' use of safety, alternative-energy and other technologies.

Wolfgang Bernhart, a senior executive at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, said the plans highlight a shift in the country's industrial policy to encourage companies to focus on electric-vehicle technology.

The government wants Chinese auto makers to use the relatively low barrier to entry for electric vehicles to narrow the gap with bigger foreign rivals and guarantee the industry's steady long-term growth, he said.

The Chinese government over the weekend also released details of a similar restructuring and revitalization plan for the steel industry, although most of the contents of that plan had been reported previously.
The new auto-industry plan, announced on the main Web site of China's central government, said China aims to create capacity to produce 500,000 "new energy" vehicles, such as all-electric battery cars and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles. The plan aims to increase sales of such new-energy cars to account for about 5% of China's passenger vehicle sales.

Growth in China's auto sales slowed to 6.7% last year, ending a decade-long run of double-digit sales growth. Many observers expect sales this year to grow at about the same pace as last year.

U.S.-based consulting firm CSM Worldwide forecasts China's overall vehicle sales to grow by 6% to 7% to about 10 million vehicles. Achieving 10% growth in overall vehicles sales this year "will not be so easy" given the slowdown in China's export-led economy, said Yale Zhang, a Shanghai-based senior analyst at CSM.

Other recently announced measures to aid the auto industry include a 50% reduction in the sales-tax rate on smaller cars, a cut in retail prices for gasoline and diesel fuel, and plans for five billion yuan in subsidies to encourage rural residents to replace old vehicles. The government also has said repeatedly that it would encourage auto makers to make more financing available for vehicle purchases by consumers.

The weekend announcement also reiterated Beijing's determination to consolidate the country's fledgling auto sector, which has more than 80 auto makers across the country. The government wants a less-splintered industry with fewer auto companies each generating significantly larger sales volumes.

The Chinese central government wants to consolidate the auto industry through mergers and acquisitions into fewer than 10 groups of manufacturers, down from the current 14, according to the announcement. The announcement said the government would "encourage" FAW Group Corp., Dongfeng Motor Corp., SAIC Motor Corp. and Changan Automobile (Group) Co., among others, to "implement mergers and acquisitions" around the country to form large auto groups.

Facebook, Orkut being used for viral marketing

Ratan Tata has worked out a viral marketing strategy to promote the Nano at the lowest cost. Like Anand Mahindra, who used the online medium to grab consumer mind-share ahead of Xylo’s launch, Tata is using social networking sites Facebook and Orkut to help build up a network of prospective customers to virally market the small car.
While the official Tata Nano Facebook profile counts 3,840 fans as its members — including Vismaya Firodia Bakshi, younger daughter of Kinetic group chairman Arun Firodia, and Vishal Gondal, CEO of Indiagames, the Orkut site lists 4,822 members.
Tata Motors also has a micro-site for Nano on its website. It has been running a contest for customers to correctly guess the price of the three Nano variants. “We have received over 10,000 entries for the contest that has been running for the past 10 days. The contest closed at 5 pm on March 22,” said Debasis Ray, head, corporate communication, Tata Motors. Winners of the contest are being invited to the launch function in Mumbai on Monday.
On the Facebook and Orkut Nano sites, a frequently asked question is how to book the car. Tata Motors plans to post on Monday a list of dealers and other agents. On the Nano micro site, a response form allows potential customers to be alerted once bookings are open. “Most of the enquiries that we have received are mostly from India,” said Ray. But there are several Facebook groups from several countries in the Americas and elsewhere, who are Nano fans.
Since Tatas have decided to use banks such as State Bank of India as booking agents, Ratan Tata has worked out a plan to help keep the dealers pacified. The company is set to launch Nano collectibles that will be sold at dealer outlets. This will allow dealers to offer a unique selling proposition to their customers who walk in to get a first look and feel of the car. The Nano goodies, as they are being called, will be given first to the contest winners, and include Nano watches, caps and T-shirts, among others. Ray refused to comment on the collectibles range which is to be unveiled on Monday.
In addition to attractive packages for financing of the cars to be announced by public sector banks, Tata Capital, a subsidiary of Tata Sons, and Tata Motors Finance too are expected to announce financing schemes for the Nano, Tata group officials told FC.

A century of people's cars

Almost a hundred years 101 to be exact, if you please separate Henry Fords masterpiece, the Model T or Tin Lizzie, with Ratan Tatas baby, the
Nano which will be launched on Monday. Different cultures aside, both stand for freedom from drudgery and beacons for affordable personal mobility. Henry Ford had strived time and again to perfect the horseless carriage and while there were other great American automobile
names then producing even grander and more technologically proficient cars, the basic simplicity of the Model T, its robust build and its durability helped put not just the worlds greatest nation on wheels but also showed the rest of the world the way to go forward with four wheels and mass motoring for its citizens, reports Adil Jal Darukhanawala

FORD MODEL T | 1908-1927

The Model T Ford started out in 1908 at a $850 price point. About 18,257 cars were sold that year which was a great achievement for that period. However, the beauty of the Model T was not just the car but also the process, the moving assembly line was perfected by Henry Ford based on the four principles of accuracy, continuity, system and speed. It sparked a social revolution in Yankeeland. Fords workers were among the best paid because they produced the most, the profits of FoMoCo (popular slang for Ford Motor Company) went through the roof. By 1925, the Model T was uprated and refined but its price had come down to $260. In 1925, Ford sold over two million Model Ts. The Model T remained in production till 1927 when it was finally replaced by the Model A. It wasnt just about the 15 million plus cars which had been built but the fact that it showed the rest of the worlds car makers the way to go ahead.

AUSTIN SEVEN | 1922-1939

What the Model T did for the US, the Austin 7 did for the UK. Made by the Austin Motor Company from 1922 to 1939, the Austin 7 was considerably smaller and more compact than the Ford Model-T. It was lighter, less than half the Model Ts weight to be specific at 360 kg. While giving it adequate performance was a 747cc engine with a modest 10hp. Again like the Nano, the Austin 7 was the bargain of the car industry for being the lowest priced car on the market. Several Sevens made it to India as did the Model Ts and quite a few of them continue to appear in decent numbers in vintage car gatherings all across the land to this day.

FIAT 500 TOPOLINO | 1936-1955

Designed by the great Dante Giacosa, Fiat 500 Topolino (Mickey Mouse in Italian) that was introduced in 1936, seemed a scaled down version of a large car but so finely detailed were its lines and proportions that it went on to attain instant success. The 500 was produced in three different variants until 1955 with minor mechanical and cosmetic changes.


Unveiled in 1938, the Volkswagen Beetle was the outcome of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitlers vision to give the German masses a really affordable and easy-to-run car, in which a family of five could travel easily, even over tough mountainous roads. The job was handed over to Ferdinand Porsche, who developed a small family car in 1936 which went into production in 1938. The Volkswagen Beetles success was largely credited to its cuddly and endearing appeal and the engineering tour de force of Ferdinand Porsche. The chassis was built in a way that allowed for more than one body type to be fitted on it. Americans embraced the Beetle massively and by the time production finally ended in Mexico, over 22 million units had been made.

CITROEN 2CV | 1948-1990

The 2CV was the original Toute Petite Voiture (thats French for Very Small Car) much akin to Nano. The idea for 2CV came from leader-thinker and Citroen-Michelin boss Pierre Boulanger. Within months of its 1949 launch, the waiting list grew to be three years long. At that time, second hand 2CVs demanded a greater premium than new ones, only because they would be delivered sooner. With a 375cc air-cooled opposed-twin cylinder engine and a very pliant and innovative suspension, the car was capable of a true speed of about 60 km/h while delivering a fuel efficiency of 33 kmpl.

This car was very actively being considered for manufacture in India in the early 1980s by none other than Escorts but the government of India did not want to see any competition to Maruti Udyog and denied Escorts the permission to manufacture it.

AUSTIN MINI | 1959-2000

The original Mini is said to be Britains Beetle by many thanks to its mass appeal. Under the fiercely passionate and iron fisted control of its designer, Sir Alec Issigonis, some may even think that the process was similar to Ferdinand Porsches quest for the German peoples car. Under the skin and in terms of design, however, the Mini was a revolution. No wonder then that it was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century. The car had its genesis in the 1956 Suez Canal petroleum crisis, which gave Issigonis the idea to make a small car that was not only fuel efficient, but also packed the maximum interior space in the minimum possible road space.


Europe and America have had their share of peoples cars in the form of the Ford Model T, VW Beetle, Austin Seven, just to name a fewcars which pretty much changed the face of the automobile industry in their day. So it might be difficult for some to understand how the cute little Maruti 800 fits into the same league as these, considering that it was just a rehashed Japanese Kei (ultra-compact) car built for the Indian market. But what the Model T and the Beetle did for the world when they were introduced was just what the 800 did for India when Maruti launched it back in 1983.

In an era of cars like the Premier Padmini and the HM Ambassador, which embodied a socialist approach to making automobiles just as their names would suggest, the Maruti 800 was a revelation. An edgy compact design that was reminiscent of Japanese car making philosophy at the time, it could easily accommodate four adults and was well suited for navigating through congested city streets, making it the perfect car for India. But it wasnt really till the economic reforms of the 90s that the 800 really became a car for the masses.