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Trump’s tariff threat rattles auto sector

Posted on 13 June 2018 by admin

U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to impose 25-per-cent tariffs on auto imports from Canada would devastate the integrated supply chain that has been built up over decades and also cause job losses on both sides of the border, industry experts warn.

“It’s definitely going to impact the whole supply chain of automobiles in Canada and in the U.S.,” says Laurie Tannous, special adviser for the Cross-Border Institute at the University of Windsor.

The North American auto sector is so highly integrated that parts and components can cross Canada and Mexico’s borders as many as eight times before being installed in a final assembly plant.

Some experts say the tariff would be imposed on completed cars while others say it would be charged each time a part crosses into the U.S.

Shifting tool lines to the United States would be so complicated it could take many months if it can be done at all, Tannous said in an interview.

The U.S. initiated an investigation to determine if automobile imports threaten to impair national security.

Imports of passenger vehicles have grown to 48 per cent from 32 per cent of cars sold two decades ago while employment in auto production has declined 22 per cent, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.

Trump’s strategy appears aimed at returning the auto supply chain back to the U.S.

While Canada and Mexico currently pay no tariffs, manufacturers in Japan and the Europe Union pay 2.5 per cent but charge American products 10 per cent.

“No wonder Germany sells us three cars for every one we export to Germany,” Peter Navarro, assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing policy, wrote in an op-ed piece in the New York Times.

BMW X-series SUVs assembled in the United States contain only 25 to 35 per cent U.S. content while the high-value engines and transmissions come from Germany and Austria, he noted.

Navarro said Canada has dumped lumber into the U.S. and erected high barriers to harm wheat, barley, beer, spirits and dairy at a disadvantage.

“It’s time for our major trading partners — from strategic competitors like China to key members of the Group of 7 — to realize that the era of American complacency in the international marketplace is over.”

The implications of a high auto tariff would be felt by everyone working in the auto sector and beyond, said Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, which represents Canadian auto workers.

“Sixty five per cent of all parts that go into a Canadian assembled vehicle comes from the United States, so there’s no way they can get out of this thing unscathed,” he said in an interview.

Canada’s auto sector, which is the country’s leading export, employs 120,000 workers — 40,000 in assembly and 80,000 in auto parts and delivers $80 billion in economic activity.

Dias said auto industry bosses won’t sit idly by if Trump hurts their bottom lines by choking off the supply of components before American ones are built.

“You’ll end up with bankruptcies before that happens,” he said in an interview.

Besides, the industry is operating at capacity so there’s no room in assembly plants to add models.

While the impact would be devastating, it’s not clear how many Canadians would lose their jobs, Dias said.

The proposed tariffs would cause between 157,000 and 195,000 American workers to lose their jobs over at least one to three years, according to two U.S. reports.

The impact would increase to 624,000 if auto producers such as Canada retaliate with tariffs of their own, says a report from the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said 760,000 jobs would be lost from tariffs on aluminum, steel and autos.

“And if the administration carries out its threat to withdraw from NAFTA, an additional 1.8 million U.S. jobs could be lost in the first year alone,” it stated in a news release.

Some automakers may shift production to the U.S. to avoid tariffs, but the relocation decisions would have to factor in the costs of broken supply chains, investment uncertainties and less demand for products due to higher prices, said the report.

Prices would rise because the current North American supply chain provides the lowest costs, said Sherman Robinson, one of the study’s authors.

“There’s a reason those value chains are scattered around North America. They’re efficient and cheap,” he said from Washington.

“Right now it is competitive internationally because of NAFTA. It would cease to be competitive once you bring all those value chains inside, especially if you put tariffs on aluminum and steel, which will raise the cost even more.”

Tariffs would add about $6,400 (U.S.) to the price of an imported $30,000 (U.S.) car, said a report from Trade Partnership Worldwide.

Price increases would be more than $8,500 (U.S.) per vehicle unless cooler heads prevail, predicts Tannous.

“If we have a couple of weeks of a cooling-off period and maybe get back to the table on NAFTA and see if we can’t resolve that perhaps all of this will go by the wayside.”

 

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Auto workers cut off from labour law improvements

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

A change mandating 10 personal emergency days won’t apply to employees in the automotive industry, leading to outcry.

Auto work‎ers are feeling Scrooged after learning a new law giving most employees across Ontario a minimum of 10 personal emergency leave days annually — two with pay — doesn’t apply to them.

Employees in the automotive industry, including assembly plants and parts suppliers, are entitled to a minimum of seven emergency leave days under a special exemption in Bill 148, the recently passed legislation on workplace changesthat includes a $2.40 rise in the hourly minimum wage to $14 on January 1 and $15 in 2019.

Those seven days can be used for sickness and family emergencies, with another three days for bereavement leave. The requirement has been in place since last January as part of a pilot project with the government.

“For some reason the Ontario auto industry feels that we are not to be treated equal to the rest of the province, like we are lower class,” a Toyota autoworker from the company’s Cambridge assembly plant told the Star.

“Don’t get sick, don’t have family members that get sick and need personal days,” added the worker, who was granted anonymity for his comments. Toyota workers are not unionized.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn downplayed worker concerns, saying the auto sector “has, in many cases, earned a reputation as an employer of choice and often exceeds the minimum requirements of the Employment Standards Act . . . when it comes to leaves, vacation and sick pay.”

Toyota, for example, said full-time employees get more than the legal minimum and workers hired on contract will be able to take two paid sick days once the legislation takes effect.

The union representing workers at Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, has set up a meeting between its president, Jerry Dias, and the labour minister to seek a “clarification” on personal emergency leave.

 “Unifor is concerned over reports of changes to Regulation 502 of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act that may negatively impact workers in the auto sector,” the union said in a statement Thursday.

Flynn said the minimum standard of seven days is lower for the auto industry because it operates in “a particularly competitive global sector.”

“The auto sector is tremendously important to our economy. It employs thousands of people in well-paying jobs across the province,” Flynn added in a statement.

The pilot project was recommended by advisers who conducted a broad government review into workplace changes, and noted any auto sector worker with deaths in their close families are entitled to a minimum of three bereavement days in each case.

The pilot project will be evaluated next year “to make sure we’re achieving fairness for all Ontario workers,” Flynn added.

New Democrat MPP and labour critic Cindy Forster (Welland) said the treatment of auto workers is “incredibly disappointing.”

“It’s time for this unfair regulation to change, immediately. Treating auto workers worse than all other workers is just plain wrong,” added Forster, whose party has promised to mandate five paid days for illness or personal emergencies if it wins next June’s provincial election.

“These people work hard, often in physically demanding roles, and they certainly deserve treatment that’s equal to what everyone else in the province is getting.”

Workers at auto parts plants have also raised concerns about the seven-day limit.

There are about 124,00 auto sector workers in Ontario.

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Encouraging automotive innovation to create more opportunities and promote a healthy environment for Canadians.

Posted on 22 September 2017 by admin

Canada’s Innovation Minister meets with Toyota Chairman to discuss the auto maker’s plans to expand its clean technology markets in Canada

Canada is an ideal market for the development and early adoption of emerging technologies, such as zero-emission vehicles, which have the potential to create opportunities and promote a healthy environment for Canadians.

That message was delivered today by the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, during a private meeting with Takeshi Uchiyamada, Chairman of the Toyota Motor Corporation.

Minister Bains and Mr. Uchiyamada discussed Toyota’s investment in manufacturing operations in Canada. They also discussed potential ways to reduce greenhouse gases through the adoption of zerio-emissions vehicles.

Minister Bains welcomed the opportunity to continue working with Toyota to expand its markets in Canada. He also discussed the government’s Innovation and Skills Plan, a multi-year effort to create well-paying, middle-class jobs for Canadians by positioning this country as a global leader in innovation.

As part of this plan, the government is investing in attracting top talent from around the world, equipping Canadians with the in-demand skills for jobs of the today and tomorrow and attracting global investments to Canada.

Quotes

“I welcome the opportunity to engage with Toyota as the company looks for global opportunities to grow. Our government is committed to making Canada a destination of choice for global companies looking to develop and introduce emerging technologies, such as fuel cell vehicles, which have the potential to create opportunities and promote a healthy environment. Putting Canada at the forefront of innovation and technology adoption will generate new business opportunities and create high-quality, middle-class jobs for Canadians. It will also equip Canadians with the in-demand skills they need for the well-paying jobs of today and into the future.”

– The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

“Toyota has been invested in the Canadian community for over 50 years, and we look forward to building stronger relations with the Government of Canada to help them build infrastructure required for Canadians to adopt new automotive technology, including hydrogen fuel cell vehicles such as the Toyota Mirai. There is still a lot of work to be done, but Toyota will continue supporting the government’s efforts through a collaborative relationship in bringing more greenhouse-gas-friendly technology to Canada.”

– Takeshi Uchiyamada, Chairman, Toyota Motor Corporation

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The shape of SUVs to come – a big departure from SUVs of old

Posted on 13 October 2016 by admin

We’ve come a long way from the slab-sided Hummer, with its barn-door aerodynamics and unrepentant gas-guzzling. The latest crop of SUVs unveiled at the Paris Motor Show are hardly recognizable as members of the same automotive species. And, well, the future’s not pretty.

The Hummer was best suited to invading Panama, but found its way into popular culture and onto public streets thanks in large part to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s affinity for it.

In the 1990s, the Hummer was easily identifiable as an SUV. It was the obvious next step for the genre of vehicles that began with the Willys Jeep in the 1940s. Originally designed for the military, both vehicles were ideal transport for anyone who wanted to look tough or macho parked outside Loblaw’s. Visually, they were defined by flat surfaces and square edges, high ground clearance and big chunky tires.

The new SUVs on display in Paris were exactly the opposite: curvaceous with little ground clearance, big wheels and low-profile tires.

BMW’s X2 concept embodies these trends. It’s remarkably low. It’s barely taller than a sedan, with little additional ground-clearance. You won’t be crawling over rocks or through deep water in this SUV. Its huge, diamond-cut 21-inch alloys are wrapped in low-profile tires better suited to sports cars. If you forget that it’s ostensibly supposed to be an SUV – technically a crossover, but that’s splitting hairs – it actually looks good. It was one of the more successful new designs from the show.

A toned-down version of the X2 will likely go into production as a sportier, pricier version of the compact X1.

The Infiniti QX Sport Inspiration concept is similar in proportion to the X2. It was previously shown in Beijing, but updated for Paris with more blingy bits, including bronzed wheels. It previews the upcoming QX50.

Call it the high-waisted look. The waistline on cars, the line that runs from the edge of the hood under the side windows, has been creeping up steadily. The result is that most new models you see here have narrow side windows. From inside, it’s like looking out of a bunker.

And cladding – so much chunky black plastic around the wheel arches. Why? It’s an easy way to make even the softest of crossovers look rugged. The X2 is guilty, so is the Infiniti QX, the Lexus UX and the Land Rover Discovery.

The Lexus UX concept is a love-it or hate-it thing. It’s over-the-top aggressive, like deep-sea-monster meets origami-gone-wrong. It has a passing resemblance to Lamborghini’s old Urus SUV concept.

“The biggest challenge for any designer is always to create something new and original, yet with relevance to both the customer and the brand,” said Simon Humphries, one of its designers. The UX is certainly original.

The Mitsubishi GT-PHEV concept provides a jarring glimpse of a “high-end next-generation” SUV. It has creases and chrome and lights all over the place. It’s a textbook example of the high-waisted trend. The concept has three electric motors, in addition to a conventional engine. It could run on electric-only power for 120 kilometres, according to the company.

By comparison, the Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ concept is clean and simple. Sure, it has a blue light-up grille, but that’s tame in this company. There are no extraneous lines. The surfaces are soft and rounded. It looks like it could go into production tomorrow, but it will take much longer than that. The production version – Mercedes’ first all-electric vehicle – will have a range of around 500 kilometres and go on sale within three years.

Compared with other SUVs unveiled in Paris, the Audi Q5 is extremely conservative. That’s because it is a production car, not a concept. But it’s also because the Q5 is predictable. It’s nearly identical to the smaller Q3 and larger Q7. In Europe, it will go on sale with a choice of three-diesel and two gasoline-engines with outputs ranging from 143 horsepower to 272. A hybrid will also be on offer.

Mercedes gave the compact GLC Coupe the full AMG treatment, adding a 362 horsepower twin-turbo V-6 under the hood. This SUV is more suited to the race track than it is to an off-piste romp through the desert. It’s the latest in Benz’s growing SUV lineup, which features five different models.

Of all the new SUVs in Paris, the Land Rover Discovery most closely resembles the Hummer and Jeeps of old in style and ethos. The Land Rover is slab-sided and tall, with useful ground-clearance and deep-water wading capability. But any hard edges have been rounded off, and where the Hummer and Jeep had canvas roofs, the Discovery’s is made of huge glass panels. The three-row SUV will be on sale by mid-2017 with a starting price of $61,500.

What would Schwarzenegger think?

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Consumer Reports names its top vehicle picks for 2014

Posted on 19 March 2014 by admin

U.S. electric luxury car Tesla Model S was named by Consumer Reports magazine as its overall top pick for 2014, while Japanese models took five spots in the annual rankings, their worst showing in the 18-year history of the ratings.

The Ram 1500 was named the top pickup truck, the first time a Chrysler model has cracked the top picks list since 1998. South Korean auto maker Hyundai, and German brands BMW and Volkswagen’s Audi also had models topping the 10 Consumer Reports categories.

“The competition in the marketplace has grown fierce. There was a time when a handful of brands dominated our top picks list, but in recent years we’ve seen a more diverse group make the cut,” Rik Paul, Consumer Reports’ automotive editor, said in a statement.

The top picks were chosen from more than 260 vehicles tested by Consumer Reports for reliability, safety and road-test performance.

The battery-powered Tesla Model S was chosen best overall for its “exceptional performance and its many impressive technological innovations,” Consumer Reports said, noting it was “pricey” at $89,650.

California-based Tesla Motors Inc, which was founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2003, said it expects to deliver about 35,000 of the model this year. By comparison, the best-selling car in the United States last year, the Toyota Camry, sold about 408,000 in 2013.

Consumer Reports hasn’t named a best overall since a Lexus model took the top honours in 2010.

Honda and Subaru were the only auto makers with more than one model in this year’s top picks. Honda’s Accord won best mid-size sedan, and its Odyssey was named top minivan. The best compact car went to Subaru’s Impreza, and its Forester model was picked as the top small SUV.

Toyota’s Prius hybrid, with its 44 miles-per-gallon overall fuel efficiency, was named best green car for the 11th consecutive year.

DETROIT BRANDS WORST

The Audi A6 took top honours in the luxury car rankings for the second year in a row, while the BMW 328i was chosen best sports sedan, also for a second straight year.

Japanese auto makers, which historically have taken more than 70 per cent of the top picks, managed to win only five of the 10 categories, the worst showing since Consumer Reports began publishing the list in 1997.

Consumer Reports also released its annual report card on car brands. It rates each manufacturer’s individual brands, with a composite score based on reliability and road testing.

Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, came out on top for the second straight year, with a score of 79. Honda’s Acura was second with 75, followed by Audi with 74.

Consumer Reports said of Lexus: “Its models are usually quiet, comfortable, and fuel efficient, and they’re among the most reliable cars made.”

Subaru and Toyota tied for the fourth spot. Mazda, Honda, Infiniti, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and BMW rounded out the top 10.

Detroit-based manufacturers fared poorly in this ranking, with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep tying Ford for worst of the 23 brands listed. Consumer Reports said both Jeep and Ford models had reliability problems.

Fiat Chrysler’s Dodge and General Motors Co’s Cadillac were also among the four lowest-scoring brands.

GM’s Buick and GMC tied for 12th, the highest rating for Detroit auto makers.

Consumer Reports said it didn’t have brand report cards for Fiat, Tata Motors Ltd’s Jaguar and Land Rover brands, Ford’s Lincoln, BMW’s Mini, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Fiat Chrysler’s Ram, Toyota’s Scion, Daimler’s Smart and Tesla because of a lack of data.

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10 days for Love of Cars…The know-how and future direction of automotive creation…

Posted on 24 February 2010 by .

Valentine’s Day comes with a promise of infecting everyone with love but with no flowers, no chocolates and no candle light dinners, the effect of love seems a little bizarre. Well, I think love has no definition or boundaries and that is why my Valentine’s Day is without promises or candy. It is this boundless love that made me step in to Metro Toronto Convention Center, AGAIN this year, for the 2010 Canadian International Autoshow. I know that mid-February is usually a time for flowers, love and romance and not for car-nuts but this 10 day love for cars is a better definition of love than Valentine’s Day, for any car enthusiast.

The Auto show that ran from Feb 12-21 was a little disappointment this year. Rather than “concept cars flooding the exhibit” or “new model launch ceremonies”, the manufacturers rolled out more compacts and subcompacts in a push for better fuel efficiency and emissions reduction. The venue, this year was also dedicated to global economic recession, I guess. With shrinking floor of Canada’s biggest auto show the organizers said, they have shaved off about 130,000 square feet, or 15 percent of presentation space by confining the auto show to Metro Toronto Convention Center and eliminating the need for Rogers Center for the first time in several years. With absence of brands like Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls-Royce it wasn’t the best exhibit this year.

In a whole day of wandering around Canadian International Auto show at the Convention Center, riding endless escalators and passing and re-passing exhibits, here is a subjective list of top ten without any order, that caught my eye:

AUTOSHOW TOP TEN

·        Chevy Volt: Mark Your Calendar, the first Volt rolls out in November

I saw the volt last year at the Canadian International Autoshow. It is nothing new this year but the launch date is something that will get your attention. The brand that killed electric car is relying on an electric car for its revival, what an irony!

Volt is an electric car that can create its own electricity. Plug it in, let it charge overnight, and it’s ready to run on a pure electric charge for up to 40 miles — gas and emissions free. After that, Volt keeps going, even if you can’t plug it in. Volt uses a range-extending gas generator that produces enough energy to power it for hundreds of miles on a single tank of gas.

Chevy Volt is a true electric hybrid coming to Canadian market by the end of 2010. Some dealer reps have confirmed the launch of the volt at the auto show. One representative at the show said, “ Obviously, this is all preliminary but the great news is that it is in writing which marks a milestone to seeing first road version of Volt.” Well, official GM representatives were hedging GM’s bets and wouldn’t confirm the November 1 date. The exact date may fluctuate in preparation for launch but we will see that soon. There is still no word on price, and it still looks like the car will come in at around $40,000 before the $7,500 federal EV tax credit.

·        Honda CR-Z: The intersection of Sport and Hybrid, REALLY!

CR-Z seems like an impressive little car from Honda. Honda is trying to bring a sporty image to the hybrids, a label that is usually associated with gas guzzling V8 coupes. A hybrid that’s more fun, really! Front end seems in sync with Mazda’s new philosophy of zoom zoom smiley face. I can see where the design is being copied for CR-Z. The estimated mileage of 36 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway is impressive.

One of the CR-Z’s more unique features is its 3-mode drive system: Sport, Normal and ECON. This allows the driver to tailor the driving experience to actual conditions or personal preference. Some drivers may prefer to conserve fuel at all times. Some drivers may prefer to have all of the CR-Z’s power on tap at all times, while other drivers may prefer to have a combination of the two but with the option to pick either, depending on the situation.

The CR-Z’s 1.5-liter i-VTEC® is estimated to generate 122 hp. Which won’t set any land speed records. The point of the CR-Z was never to produce outrageous horsepower numbers. Honda is more interested in squeezing every last ounce of performance out of a vehicle.

The CR-Z strikes a unique balance and will broaden the appeal of hybrids. It’s a hybrid for drivers who enjoy driving and are unwilling to sacrifice handling and exhilaration for mpg and environmental accountability.

·        Lexus LF-Ch Concept: Lexus is in the lead of hybrid’s war

Detroit and Frankfurt auto show caught the first glimpse of this exotic hybrid concept. For Canada, Toronto Autoshow is the first showing of this advance hybrid propulsion technology built in to a premium compact car. Lexus is now a segment leader in the hybrid technology and with luxury manufacturers moving in to subcompacts, Lexus wants to put a reality to the real definition of subcompacts. It is hoped that Lexus will use this concept as the foundation of a new compact hybrid vehicle. I must say Lexus has done an amazing job with this concept, featuring blacked-out B-pillars, an integrated spoiler and rear door handles that blend into the C-pillar’s trim. Of course, the uniqueness of the LF-Ch comes from the latest generation of Lexus Hybrid Drive, which gives the driver full control as well as the choice between Normal, Eco, EV and Sport modes, the latter function improving throttle response. It is rumored that the same hybrid engine that powers the current HS 250h will be found in the Lexus LF-Ch.  Even though this is a model that will most likely go in to production soon but the official title of the LF-Ch is a concept therefore we’ll have to arm ourselves with patience in the meantime and simply admire the vehicle’s spectacular style, reflecting the sportier lines of the more aggressive Lexus models.

·        Infiniti Essence Concept: A hybrid least expected

Again, not a new launch at the Toronto auto show. The first official showing of the Essence in Canada took place at the Montreal Auto show last month. The Infiniti Essense concept served as the blue print for the new M designers and engineers which was also on hand at the show. Infiniti featured this stunning hybrid super car concept at the Toronto auto show in celebration of its 20th anniversary, the concept showcases the brand’s future styling direction and its dedication towards developing hybrid technology beyond its gracefully bizarre styling. The Essence features a powerful hybrid drivetrain, the heart of which is a 3.7-litre direct-injection V6 that develops 434 horsepower. On top of this, an electric motor adds 158 horsepower for a total just shy of 600 HP. Despite its performance credentials, Infiniti predicts that the Essence could achieve an average fuel consumption of about 8L/100 km. For now, there are no plans to produce the Essence, but if the public reacts positively, Infiniti might change its mind.

·        Mini Beachcomber Concept: All about being cute, standing apart and having fun.

When it comes to being cute and glamorous, Mini owns the podium. The Mini Beach comber combines fun and retro styles and it is the ultimate expression of the beach bum’s car. The folks at BMW understand the definition of glamour perfectly fine and had it piloted by a Shark-boy and two bathing suit-clad beauties at the Canadian International Autoshow Launch. The Mini Beachcomber takes us back to the disco era of the original Mini Moke with this four seat, open body concept. Today’s Beachcomber pushes the 60’s Moke to the limits of contemporary design. It is of course equipped with a four-wheel-drive system that allows it to roam off the beaten track with that exhilarating wind-in-your-hair feeling. This is a dream car for Barbie and Ken generation, with the lack of doors and open roof, you sure will get a golden tan while Mini won’t produce an exact copy of the concept, it will be making a toned down road version called the Countryman. The concept’s removable doors and fabric roof won’t make it to the road version design table however the all-wheel-drive and turbocharged four-cylinder is most likely to make the cut.

·        Mercedes SLS AMG: “I will be back……”

The new SLS AMG’s signature design element is its “gullwing” doors, a tribute to the original 1950s 300SL Like the previous SLR, the SLS is a front/mid-engine design, jammed with the latest high-tech goodies AMG could find in its well-stocked cupboard. Following its Canadian debut at the Montreal auto show, the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG replaces the outgoing SLR McLaren (that debuted way back in 2003) as the German automaker’s flagship performance offering. The new SLS will offer AMG’s naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 with 563 hp and 479 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox via a carbon-fiber driveshaft. Performance is SLR-like: 0-100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. Yet compared to the $500,000 SLR, the new SLS AMG looks like a deal at its expected $198,000 price tag when it goes on sale in Canada later this year.

·        Mazda 2: Zoom Zoom Concentrated

Mazda 2 is featured as 2Evil and Mazda 2 Surf concept at the Canadian International Autoshow. The 2011 Mazda 2 which will roll out in to the showrooms somewhere this summer pushed the zoom-zoom philosophy a little bit further.

A more aggressive set of front bumpers sets the Mazda2 Surf apart. It’s also shod in Yokohama Advan tires fitted over 17-inch wheels and equipped with a roof rack (for your surf board) and an H&R suspension kit. It is indeed stunning.

The 2Evil concept is said to be a tribute to Mazda 787B racing car, winner of the 24 Hours of LeMans race back in 1991 (Mazda’s only victory there).

Building on what is essentially a subcompact world car for Mazda, the new Mazda 2 is a “watch out car” when it hits the showroom this summer.

·        Ford Focus: Ford finally learns the compact car segment secret.

Even though the next generation of Focus is almost a year away from hitting the showrooms but it is definitely worth the wait. For 2012, Ford is making the Focus a world car, and what’s more Ford is promising that it will cross the Atlantic intact. Unlike the current model, which is a warmed-up version of the late ’90s original, the 2012 model is entirely new, designed and developed in Europe. The 2012 Focus will be available in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles. This car is definitely worth the wait.

·        Fiat 500: Sex and the City, this is the real deal…..

One of the most sexiest cars at the auto show is the Fiat 500. Chrysler Canada unveiled the Fiat 500 at the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow this year. Featured for the first time in Canada, this vehicle will provide Chrysler Canada with an expressive new entry into the small car segment.

The Fiat 500 offers a unique balance of style, youthfulness, and fun, combined with the outstanding fuel efficiency Canadian consumers demand. Named European Car of the Year in 2008, the Fiat 500 will arrive in Chrysler Canada showrooms within a year.

To tease the senses of the Canadian consumer, Chrysler Canada is displaying two European versions of the 500: a stylish white Fiat 500 model and a powerful black Abarth 500.

·        Ford Fiesta: It’s Fiesta time ….

As the first new car in Ford’s global ‘One Vision’ strategy, the Fiesta has to accommodate the smallest 2.5 percentile female up to the lardiest 97.5 percentile male, everywhere from Beijing to Baton Rouge and all points in between. Displayed at the Canadian International autoshow, this is a must see car. For now the engine pick is the 1.6L Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing (Ti-VCT) I4 engine. This sporty power plant delivers an estimated 119 hp and 109 ft-lbs, mated to a 5-speed manual or an optional 6-speed automatic. I think all the basics are done neatly, it sure is a Fiesta for Ford. It’s a sweet little car. Not sweet in a cute way, but sweet in a crisp and sharp way. I think if good looks could kill then everyone is going to die.

Author:Sohaib Zahid

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Watch out for x`. It’s a fashion statement from Ford with the ‘F’ word.

Posted on 20 January 2010 by .

Nowadays car designers no longer talk in terms of other cars when they’re contextualizing their work, they talk about phones, mp3-players, and portable game consoles. I guess the technology hype is engraving every industry and mobile phones being the biggest inspiration. From music to health everything is revolving around a cell phone. By which reckoning, the new Fiesta isn’t a car at all, more of a big gadget and I’d like to see the handbag this could fit in.

So far, the best-in-class looks, and a centre console modeled, yes, on a mobile phone. I wanted to approach the new Fiesta with a ‘Wow’ face rather like the aging Chuck Norris would approach a ‘Take That’ concert. Is this a small car or a copy of Flare magazine on four wheels? Simply Wow!

This enthusiasm for fun is apparently exactly what Ford has set out to achieve with the new Fiesta. The overall appearance now sits comfortably with that of its futuristic stable mates. I think Ford has managed to get the blue oval back on top – this is a fantastic little car.

Of course, stiff competition is easy to come by in the Fiesta’s market – the new Honda Fit weighs in with a 117hp, and the hottest Mazda 2 coming soon, are arguably much fun. Despite this, the Fiesta is hot, keen to please and a general joy to own, which should keep Ford customers happy.

This is a terrific little car, and the sort of thing the world could do with being terrific right now. Ford is enjoying one of those product booms that car companies periodically seem to go through, has lately given all its cars the same slick, smoothly engineered feel. Now the Fiesta gets the honor.

For now the engine pick is the 1.6L Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing (Ti-VCT) I-4 engine. This sporty power plant delivers an estimated 119 hp and 109 ft-lbs, mated to a 5-speed manual or an optional 6-speed automatic which is a dry clutch technology using an electro-mechanical system to optimize efficiency while eliminating the need for cooler lines thus reducing the potential for oil leaks. Very clever!

Visually, it’s very close to the Verve concept shown at Detroit auto show last year. Crucially, it’s also a small car that still looks like a small car, rather than poking out and migrating into the class above. Yes, it softens Ford’s ‘Kinetic’ design language a little, but there are plenty of clever visual hooks: the extra edge on the head-light, the sharp tailoring of the rear lights and the competing surfaces around the nose and front wings are all smart.

As the first new car in Ford’s global ‘One Vision’ strategy, the Fiesta has to accommodate the smallest 2.5 percentile female up to the lardiest 97.5 percentile male, everywhere from Beijing to Baton Rouge and all points in between. The seats are mounted lower than before, though, and the gear lever and instrument panel higher – so despite this ‘one-size fits all’ strategy, it’s actually surprisingly purposeful.

The hatch looks genuinely brilliant – especially in some of the new bold colors. The sedan doesn’t look half bad either. Just one problem – the Fiesta name just hasn’t got the bar-side pizzazz you might want.

The new central dash arrangement is a bit silver, but not many will complain about the quality at this price point. Ford have worked on that big car feel and the Fiesta does a grand job of not feeling cheap even though it is.

Prices start at $12,999 for the Sedan version, and the hatch is priced from $16,799. Supermini-deniers may once have pointed out that you could get a proper car for that sort of money. Luckily, that’s exactly what the new Fiesta is.

I think all the basics are done neatly, it sure is a Fiesta for Ford. It’s a sweet little car. Not sweet in a cute way, but sweet in a crisp and sharp way. It’s in a fight with Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris where it starts to look really competitive. It’s a tough decision and your heart will probably say Honda or Toyota, but if your wallet overrules your emotions, and you take three major car buying points in to consideration; good looks, good looks and good looks then this new Fiesta will do you proud.

Author: Sohaib Zahid

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2010 Lexus ES 350 A car for very old people to drive very slowly. Why does it have more than two gears?

Posted on 09 December 2009 by .

If kids were to design a car, I’m sure it would look something like a fur-lined bubble-gum dispenser on wheels. You see, they’re on a different agenda. What’s important for them is not reliability or credibility, but whether a car has any novelty features like tray tables, a fridge in the glovebox or a doughnut reheating device. They are more concerned with X-box or PS3 accommodation in the cabin as opposed to car seat anchors and airbags. The Lexus, ES 350 may be a bit thin on the pointless novelty front, but Lexus’s entry level family sedan is both satisfying and silent, in a slightly techy way. Not the prettiest of lumpen beetles for those who consider themselves to have normal eyesight, but the driving experience does makes sure that no bowel moments occur, even if you are the 60 year old grand pa who drives the grand children around town.

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Old Age is by extension, a description or nickname for someone or something that has endured and become comfortable or widely familiar, this phenomenon of old age holds true for ES 350’s sister car which lends the drivetrain and the engine to the big sedan. You guessed it right! Toyota Camry V6 and ES 350 shares the same 3.5L V6 power plant. Both get a brilliant six-speed auto gear box that slurs gears better than a drunk slurs words. You’ll be looking at a 0-100km/h time of 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 238 km/h. The engine is quiet, punchy and economical to run.

So it won’t cream a BMW when it comes to drilling an apex, but it will make you painfully aware that where a 3-series winds you up by encouraging you to go faster, the ES 350 will de-stress you with the gentle sound of silence. Run over pedestrians and you’ll be isolated from their screams by superb insulation and the bump thump of jaywalkers passes under the wheels virtually unnoticed.

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Can’t hold a candle to the handling capabilities of the premium Teutons, but the ES 350 can fling its rather lardy bottom around with surprising alacrity once you’ve got the hang. It’s never particularly encouraging about going fast though, any car this heavy on the servo-assistance isn’t that keen on making you No.1 on the highway.

The new ES 350 is a highly accomplished sedan, blessed with Toyota’s usual bombproof build quality and a little bit more flair than previous models. But, it becomes a lot pricier if you start to equip the car with optional packages. Built with a wonderfully anal attention to detail. Even other premium marques look at Lexus panel gaps and wince. The ES is a car that seems to try very hard at feeling well put together, and then fails slightly for us Canadians by tripping over small cultural differences. For instance, some of the interior color combinations look cheap and the wood is so over-processed, it looks like plastic. No really, quality is what Lexus does best. The ES is mechanically indestructible and its interior, although perhaps not as luxurious as European counterparts, but will age far better than you will.

Lexus has a bit of a retiree reputation in this country, but the ES is a more modern and individual proposition than all those old Cadillac sedans you see doing 20 km/h on a community church parking lot every Sunday. It is the soft rock music in todays world of R&B/Hip-Hop culture. ES is trying hard to be bold and the beautiful, but it lacks the pace of the modern world. It is perhaps old, dull and boring.

There is nothing worse than being boring, apart from being old and boring. So what are you waiting for? Here are some things to do to keep you busy at the weekend, in the holidays or if you just happen to drive a Lexus. So much to do, so little time, so best to start early. Make an origami frog, lie convincingly, operate as a spy or may be try to finish an action movie. Wait! may be you really deserve a Lexus if you think you are the life of the party even when it lasts till 8pm or if you are not grumpy but just don’t like traffic, waiting, animals, children or diversity…

So, you’re a teen then, and you feel the years are already starting to creep up on you. You look at your Lexus loving parents and think, “Wow, were they ever young and interesting?” and you realize that old age and boringness are creeping up on you too. What can you do to defend yourself? Sacrifice the lunch money for a $2.75 bus ride or may be show them a car brand like BMW, Audi or even Mercedes…. ahhhhhh!better. 

Just look at it. Does it excite you? Would you peep between your curtains at night just to watch it sit there on your driveway? You might with a 3-series, C-class or A4, but not with this – the design is frumpy by comparison.

All of the ES is very boring. Very Toyota-ish. It’d be nice to see the company inject a bit more fun into their cars. Remember, these are the people that built the Supra, the MR2, ran Celica WRC cars and still run a Formula One team. If even a tiny bit of that raciness filtered down to cars like the ES, it’d attract buyers who need all the practicality/safety/affordability of a sedan, without settling for an average drive. That’s what Audi and Mercedes are doing, so why can’t Lexus?

To me ES is the chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chips or an Oreo without cream. It does the job, and thats all. Even the excitement, the passion and the love cannot balance the equation for the ES. So to return to my wonderful world of cookies: If only Toyota had added a layer of cream, or some chocolate, this new ES 350 could’ve troubled its opposition. Until a sportier version comes along, we’ll just have to dunk it in tea or a lake.

 

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Author: Sohaib Zahid

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Reveal the New 2010 Mini Cooper….Big on the outside, small on the inside. Did the Germans read the brief upside down?

Posted on 26 November 2009 by .

Here it is, the moment we all have been waiting for. Seven years since BMW revealed the new Mini, I can now reveal the brand spanking 2010 Mini Cooper, Oh wait! I think its the wrong car, I might be looking at the old one. Wait, NO! This definitely is the new Mini Cooper and BMW claims that every panel is different. I personally think, BMW has gone to great lengths to make sure that the new version looks exactly like the old one. Understandably so, because people love the styling.

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Mini is a successful, if aesthetically subtle, evolution of the worldwide phenomenon, supporting the notion that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Mini still looks and feels high end, drives superbly and remains attainable.

 

I think it should not always be about the big expensive tire shredding stuff. In fact, there should be a trend in Canada towards small affordable fun cars, stuff that looks good at 20 km/h in a traffic jam at Hwy 401. I mean, take the Mini as a prime example, its not the fastest car in the world and the roof folding arrangement is a little unfortunate in the convertible version, but it has 4 seats and a white roof top, and look at it, Barbie would definitely love it, I think so. Well, some cars are Rock and Roll, some are hip-hop overjoy but this is definitely a pop video. Because it starts from only $22,800 no one thinks you are a rich kid. It’s the kind of car that makes people go ‘awww’ rather than ‘ahhh’, more like a fashion accessory.

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The thing is though, if fashion accessories have to work, they have to have a real world application. A Swiss watch for example; there is no point of it being extravagant, if it cannot work 200 meters deep in sea. An SUV has to work off road even if you live in downtown Toronto. A training shoe has to work in a gym even if your nickname is Couch Potato. So its no good for the Mini to be all winky dinky and funky. If it’s going to have any street credibility, it has to shine in the trendiest parts of the trendiest postal codes of the trendiest cities in Canada and I must say, ‘this car looks sensational.’

 

The Cooper might make all the right growly noises but it is powered by a 1.6 L, 4 cylinder engine which makes only 118hp and 0-100 km/h takes pain stricken 10.4 seconds. I believe the smaller engine still feels a little gutless in a car that is heavier than its size would lead you to believe. On the other hand, the Mini is now far more comfortable, something that will make a huge difference to people who will use it for long journeys and over bumpy roads. It really is a class act now. I love the way, how dials stick out and scream the speed limit so you refrain from getting any speed tickets. Another area of improvement over the previous generation car, the new Mini feels substantially more sturdy inside and uses less brittle plastic around the dash and doors.

 

Earlier, my claim of BMW making a carbon copy of old Mini is totally wrong. There is a difference. If you knew your old Mini you would remember that the headlights were a part of one big clamshell arrangement which was very expensive for BMW to build and very costly to replace in case of a front end bump. The new lights themselves now pierce around the holes in the hood, and therefore less repair costs.

 

You have to admire the marketing genius. BMW, with its reputation for build quality and dynamic excellence fully in play, reinvents the most brilliantly packaged car in history as the worst packaged car of modern times. Yet still makes it a huge success. Terrific fun, but threatened by Barbie label.

 

Barbie or Ken? Mini does seem to suffer from a split personality disorder, but Mini’s real forte hasn’t been diluted in this slightly softer new version. Although a fraction less sprightly, the overall set up is even more accomplished, meaning you can push it even harder with relative impunity, and this is no job for Barbie. The Mini has got a bad rep in certain parts of the country where it has a girl only label and some companies use them as advertising hoardings, but in isolation the Mini is too good and too much fun to be anything other than cool.

 

Even though the new car looks virtually identical to the old one, this new version of Mini is completely different. It rides better, it handles better, its built better and its more efficient. If I am in the market for a small car and my name is Ken, Mini Cooper has still got my money. But to judge it by these criteria is to miss its point completely. This is a great little car – its outright brio and its zesty vitality are key to its charming appeal, intangibles that transform even routine trips into memorable alfresco journeys despite the limited performance thrills. The Mini Cooper is aimed at its target audience of style-conscious women and metro-sexual men with spot-on accuracy. It’s a winner.

  Author: Sohaib Zahid

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A Zoom Zoom Experience. 2010 Mazda 3, Mission Accomplished: Raging Bull or Civilized Griffin. It could well be the King.

Posted on 22 November 2009 by .

Zoom Zoom, I ask, What is it? I guess something that we refuse to out grow because a 16 year old is still inside us. It is the spark, that a lucky few never lost. For us, driving is expression, exhilaration, liberation. It is the attitude to get noticed. It is Passion. It is heart and soul. It is what matters. It is 2010 Mazda 3.

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Mazda 3, when it came along 5 years ago our first thought was oh dear! Here we go again, replacing a successful Protegė brand and experimenting with a new breed, it is definitely going to disappoint its bank manager. However, the first generation of Mazda 3; the sedan and the hatch was absolutely superb. Now here comes the flamboyant second album. Its a brand new car and amazingly its called the Mazda 3, more like a proud dad to a successful son. For Mazda, new doesn’t mean reheated left overs, its got a new interior, a new body, a new chassis, this really is brand new. Its still got Mazda 3 written all over it. It handles amazing, has a front engine and its a very fast entry level compact car.

This is also the most powerful Mazda 3 ever. With available 169 hp from a new 2.5L 4-cylinder, 0-100km takes only 7.4 seconds. The base 2.0L engine is also very promising with, umm….I guess OK fuel economy. The previous generation of Mazda 3 was a real ‘wam’ ‘bam’ thank you man, punch in the back and the New Generation is business as usual, rather with a more civilized surge. The Zoom Zoom is in the blood and that is not surprising because Mazda 3 is after all a driver’s car.

On the outside the aggressive front bumper and a spoiler in the back keeps the tradition alive, but in the inside instead of track day harnesses and fire extinguishers you get dual zone air conditioning, a hands free module, Satellite navigation and even a display that greets you with “Hello” and says “Good bye” when you turn the ignition on and off respectively; a real polite car Eh!

Basically, Mazda has got ambitions, and when small car companies get ambitious thats usually a big roar. Its easy for a car company to build an everyday compact car. Just get an engine and some hardware and you have got the recipe. But its very hard to build a segment leader, something that you can live with everyday; rain, shine or snow.

Nevertheless Mazda has stepped out on to the tightrope and I am happy to report that they haven’t fallen off. The handling is absolutely superb, you turn it and it just grips and grips and grips, it feels as if it is riding on rails. I am sure, if you put it in the automotive torture chamber at Nürburgring, it sure will survive without any pain.  And yet for all that, the ride is perfectly comfortable. The Mazda 3 really is the sort of compact sedan/hatch that you can use everyday and still have fun. Yes! it is a bit thirsty on gas, it might have a controversial smiley face, but none of that really matters for one very good reason; it’s 14 feet of almost nothing but passion and flare and style makes you happy.

No body gets a job in car industry because they want to make a safe car, so all the time those poor souls of Toyota and Honda have been beavering away with crumple zones and air bags. There’s been this pressure building up for them to go bizarre and to make something thats mad. Whereas Mazda was busy with the secret ingredient, to put a little extra in the recipe, they blew a soul and placed a heart in the car. You can sense the adrenaline and feel the excitement in Mazda 3. Its like a pop song, really short, quick, exhilarating 3 minutes, bish bash boosh, big smile on your face and THE END.

I think the reason Mazda has pulled off such an amazing car is because they have kept everything simple. If I was in a Civic right now the indicators would be on the ceiling and the switches would be made out of kryptonite and the doors would open inward with a hydraulic hinge, to me Civic is just a bucket load of Math and science inside whereas in a Mazda 3 the door is just a door that opens like a door, everything is where it should be and how it should be.

Mazda has made such a simple car so amazing unlike Toyota which has a recipe for a perfect shepherd pie but they made it with dog meat. Corolla, is like buying a ton of manure and saying it doesn’t smell that bad after all. It is old and boring, just like a wall paper which only looks amazing if seams could vanish and rather a modern design is available. All in it is badly made, noisy, bit ungainly, uncomfortable and cheap ‘and’ it handles like a pig. You can be on drugs to make it exciting but that doesn’t work either. Wait! There is one exciting factor, If you have a black and white cat and your name is Pat then Corolla is also available in red.

With every new Mazda 3, Mazda seems to take a step closer to the world’s best. In short Mazda 3 does for other cars in the segment what laptop did for the typewriter, what iPod did for Sony music Walkman. I respect it hugely, the same way I respect the technology in my iPhone. It is now the yard stick for the compact car segment. It is the genesis of fun and perfection. The 2010 Mazda 3 is an evolutionary engineering exercise which kept all the plus of the old generation and perfected the car, therefore keeping the Zoom Zoom spirit alive. 

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 Author: Sohaib Zahid

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