May 31, 2008

Reva earns 2008 Frost & Sullivan European Automotive Powertrain of the Year Award

LONDON - The 2008 Frost & Sullivan European Automotive Powertrain Company of the Year Award is presented to Reva Electric Car Company (RECC) for demonstrating excellence in sales volumes, superior market penetration and high levels of customer satisfaction within the electric vehicle (EV) industry. In 2007, on average one REVA electric car was sold per day in the United Kingdom.

RECC is the world's best selling developer and manufacturer of electric cars and a pioneer of EV technologies. It is the first company to break through the price-performance barrier with an EV, the first to successfully commercialise EVs and, the first to volume sell EVs with AC motor drives.

“Technology leadership has enabled RECC to break the price-performance barrier and consistently develop and commercialise new mobility solutions,” notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Anjan Hemanth Kumar. “In 2007, RECC achieved milestones in terms of battery and electric motor technology.”

Research and development on lithium ion batteries reached new heights when RECC successfully tested and evaluated lithium ion batteries for the REVA quadricycle. The newly developed lithium ion batteries provide a driving range of more than 140 kilometers compared to 60-80 km from the existing lead acid battery pack.

The company’s current model – REVAi – has been designed to facilitate upgrades to li-ion packs when they are made available for sale in 2008. With the incorporation of the new AC electric motor, the REVAi increases the mid-range torque by 40 per cent and offers a boost mode for short term acceleration.

“RECC has demonstrated technology leadership in European markets with its ability to deliver an EV at a competitive price with sufficient performance for its intended purpose as a city commuter vehicle,” remarks Anjan Hemanth Kumar. “Priced at less than nine thousand pounds, compared to the twelve to seventeen thousand pounds charged by its competitors, the Reva car, known as G-Wiz in the United Kingdom, offers customers exceptional value for money.”

Reva has been diligently striving to achieve high levels of customer choice and satisfaction. For instance, its offer of unlimited body colours and the introduction of extended warranties and finance schemes have resulted in repeat purchase levels of up to 30 per cent when model variants have been introduced.

Looking ahead, RECC is building a new and ultra low energy manufacturing plant to LEEDS guidelines that will expand production capacity to thirty thousand vehicles per year by the end of 2008. This will enable the company to increase penetration within existing and new markets as the emission free sector expands rapidly over the next five years. The company has announced that it will launch one new vehicle and one new variant every year in order to build upon its position as the pioneer of the European EV market.

The Frost & Sullivan Award for Company of the Year is presented each year to the company that has demonstrated excellence within its industry. The Award is based on numerous factors including the company's business development, competitive strategy, and leadership within a particular industry. This company is perceived to exhibit outstanding management, consistent growth, high quality products and/or services and positive social and economic impact on local and national communities. The company is also recognised for its exceptional customer service, high calibre performance, ability to combine technology and successful strategic initiatives, and should have proven expertise in taking advantage of market changes by capturing and solidifying market presence, or through execution of innovative strategies within the existing competitive landscape.

Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development. Industry analysts compare market participants and measure performance through in-depth interviews, analysis, and extensive secondary research in order to identify best practices in the industry.

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Perfect premiere for new Scirocco GT24

The racing version of the new Scirocco, the Scirocco GT24, has got off to a great start: in the legendary 24-hour race at the Nürburgring, the 325 hp Sport-Coupé claimed first and second places in the well-represented class for cars with two-litre turbo engines. In the overall classification, comprising 219 teams, the new Scirocco finished 11th and 15th, with the third vehicle entered completing the results with a 32nd placing overall. This is an impressive first sporting success for the new Scirocco!

The Volkswagen Group with its headquarter in Wolfsburg is one of the world’s leading automobile manufacturers and the largest car producer in Europe. In 2006, the Group increased the number of vehicles delivered to customers to 5.734 million (2005: 5.243 million), corresponding to a 9.7 percent share of the world passenger car market. In Western Europe, the largest car market in the world, nearly every fifth new car (19.9 percent) comes from the Volkswagen Group. The turnover increased in 2006 to 104.9 billion Euro (2005: 95.3 billion). The result according to taxes amounted to 2.75 billion Euro in the last financial year (2005: 1.12 billion). The Group consists of eight brands: Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, SEAT, Skoda and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

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Ronn Motor Company becomes publicly traded entity

AUSTIN, Texas - Ronn Motor Company, Inc announced today that its common shares are available on the OTC Exchange under stock ticker symbol RNNM.

Ronn Motor Company, Inc was founded by automotive entrepreneur and visionary Ronn Maxwell, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Company, and former Dell, Inc. executive Adrian Pylypec, who will serve as Vice President.

Ronn Motor Company will unveil one of the first premium eco-exotic sports car prototypes with “on demand” hydrogen fuel assist on June 3, 2008, at the Four Seasons Hotel, 98 San Jacinto Blvd, in Austin, Texas. The onboard, computer-controlled “on demand” system will produce revolutionary hydrogen assistance in real time, capturing the emissions-reducing benefits of hydrogen fuel without the safety hazards, expense, and filling station requirements of hydrogen storage tank systems.

“We have partnered with automotive industry elite to design and produce eco-exotic sports cars with exclusive styling and uncompromised performance. Our cars will possess cutting edge engineering and deliver a supreme driving and ownership experience,” says Maxwell. “Our first mild hybrid combines world class performance with an eco-friendly hydrogen fuel injection system resulting in reduced CO2 emissions and better fuel economy.”

Pylypec says, “Ronn Motor Company will be an innovator in this burgeoning market by providing consumers with the country’s first on demand hydrogen powered eco-exotic sports cars that are technically advanced, environmentally friendly and visually stunning.”

Ronn Maxwell first met Adrian Pylypec in Johnson City, Texas, at the Silver K Café to discuss the possibility of building an American exotic sports car in August, 2007. For the next 3 months, they created a business plan and laid a foundation for their fledgling company. In November 2007, Ronn registered and created the first entity, Ronn Performance Engineering, in order to raise private funds and begin the prototyping process.

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Volkswagen join forces with Sanyo

Wolfsburg - Agreement has been reached on a co-operation which sees Volkswagen joining forces with Sanyo, one of the world’s leading developers of rechargeable batteries, to work on new and extremely efficient high-performance storage systems based on lithium-ion technology.

"Our focus in future," says Prof Martin Winterkorn, CEO of the Volkswagen Group, "will be directed more strongly at making electrically powered automobiles alongside ones driven by more efficient combustion engines. Drivetrain electrification is the way forward if we wish to secure mobility in tomorrow’s world. This will involve energy recovery. The whole idea will be to no avail, however, as long as we do not have powerful energy storage systems at our disposal and as long as vehicle operations are not in tune with customer demands. This cooperation is an important step for us," Winterkorn adds.

Emissions-free travel in an all-electric operating modus is already possible today, though only at limited speeds and over short distances. That makes it all the more important to develop new accumulators with the capacity, size, weight and cost attributes which will enable them to be used more efficiently in tomorrow’s automobiles. Lithium-ion technology, already very successfully used in communications electronics and portable computers, has the potential to satisfy even the particularly exacting demands placed on electro-traction systems in motor vehicles.

Back in March, at the Geneva Motor Show, Volkswagen showcased its Golf TDI Hybrid design study, which demonstrated just how much potential for energy reduction there is when you combine high-tech-diesel, electric-drive and 7-speed-DSG technology. Conceived as a powerful full-hybrid vehicle, the Golf TDI Hybrid can be operated using combustion-engine power only or using a combination of combustion and electric drive or using E-drive – i.e. the powerful and energy-efficient combination of TDI technology and an electric motor. The A1 project quattro presented by Audi at the most recent Tokyo Motor Show features a powertrain already designed to cover a distance of 100 km using this innovative storage method. The Group hopes to be able to employ lithium-ion technology in its first vehicles by 2010.

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May 30, 2008

ACMA & CII jointly organize 4th ‘Partmart & Autocare’

The Indian automotive industry has emerged as one of India’s fastest growing, specialized manufacturing sector, and truly a globally competitive one. After sales service has a significant role in this growth, as India is price sensitive market where vehicle life expectancy is much higher than developed nations. Despite a global slowdown, the Indian car market has grown by 12.2% per cent in 2007-08.

Keeping the tremendous potential of Indian Automotive aftermarket and services industry in mind, Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA) jointly with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) will be organizing 4th “Partmart & Autocare” – The Automotive Aftermarket and Services Exposition. It will be the concurrent show with 18th International Engineering & Technology Fair (IETF-2009) from 23-26 February 2009 at BIEC, Bangalore. The Fair provides an excellent opportunity to the automotive aftermarket players in the country as well as in the Asian Region for accessing the rapidly growing Indian automotive aftermarket space.

Exhibitor Profile

Companies/firms dealing in:
• Auto electronics
• Accessories
• Alternate fuel conversion kits
• Audio and infotainment equipment
• Auto garage and service equipment
• Auto insurance and finance
• Automotive component / parts
• Batteries and auto electrical
• Car care products
• Fuel & Lubricants
• Logistics
• Paints
• Tubes
• Tyre
• Upholstery

Visitor Profile
Vehicle Manufacturing companies, Dealers, Distributors, Exporters, Importers, Individual Buyers & delegations from overseas, etc.


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Renault koleos '4x4 outside, Renault inside'

“4x4 outside, Renault inside”, the baseline for both ad campaigns, underlines the vehicle’s genuine off-road qualities while enhancing the customer purchase, be it rational (choosing Renault for its ingeniousness and renowned minivan expertise) or emotional (choosing the brand for the values it represents: friendliness and open-mindedness).

The first campaign, “Super 8”, is intended mainly for Western Europe, where cars reflect lifestyle. Designed as a “Brand” story, the campaign pays homage to famous Renaults from the past, retracing a half-century of automotive innovation. Since the legendary AG type “Taxis de la Marne”, Renaults’ popular and emblematic cars have made a lasting impression that people recall with fond memories of shared times.

From the 4L to Twingo via the Renault 5 and Espace, models of the Renault range have always transported their occupants with conviviality on all types of terrain. The “Renault Spirit” is also suggested in the music of the ad, “I’m Free” by the Rolling Stones, which alludes to the “revolutions” of the 20th century as seen from behind the wheel of Renault cars.

The second campaign, “Himalaya”, targets countries where cars tend to express the social status of their owners. With a firm focus on the essence of the Koleos product qualities – real off-road capabilities but without any compromise on comfort for passengers – the ad features experienced mountain climbers who climb to the top of a mountain only to find a family and its Koleos.

The “Himalaya” ad will be aired from May 26, followed by the “Super 8” campaign from June 1 in Europe.

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DFL announces sales target of 1 million vehicles by 2012

BEIJING - Dongfeng Motor Co., Ltd. (DFL), Nissan’s local partner in China, today announced it’s 2008 to 2012 mid-term business plan for China focused on building a stronger market position and increased global competitiveness.

The ambitious five-year plan, named Plan 13 ("one cubed"), expands on the company’s previous business blueprint, Plan 23 ("two cubed"), under which the company doubled sales volume between 2003 and 2007.

Plan 13 has the following objectives represented by three “1”s:

1. Significant Growth

· Further business expansion targeting sales of 1 million vehicles and revenue of RMB 100 billion (USD: 14.5 billion) by 2012

2. Operational Enrichment

· 1st Class in quality at all levels of product, sales & service and cost competitiveness

3. Trusted Company

· Creating 1 company through the formation of a single DFL corporate culture that combines the best of the Dongfeng Group and Nissan

Details of these three objectives are:

Significant Growth:
DFL sales have grown rapidly in China, reaching 610,000 vehicles in 2007. Based on this growth trend, DFL will target vehicle sales of more than one million units and revenue of RMB 100 billion by 2012. DFL will launch more than 10 new passenger vehicles under the Nissan brand and more than five new light commercial vehicles (LCVs) under both the Nissan and Dongfeng brand names.

Part of the sales growth will be supported by local production at a new LCV plant built by DFL at Zhengzhou in Henan province. Production will start in 2010. DFL, Dongfeng Automobile Co., Ltd. (DFAC) and Nissan (China) Investment Co., Ltd. (NCIC) will invest RMB 1 billion (USD: 145 million), for an installed capacity of more than 120,000 vehicles per year.

In further support of growth, DFL will expand its sales network for both passenger vehicles and LCVs. The number of dealerships will increase from 300 to 420 for passenger vehicles, from 420 to 630 for LCVs and from 250 to 380 for heavy & medium commercial vehicles (H&MCVs) from 2007 by 2012.

Another key element for DFL’s growth strategy will be strengthening of the company’s overseas business to meet commercial vehicle demand in growing markets by doubling the export ratio from 5% in 2007 to more than 10% by 2012 in total sales of LCVs and H&MCVs. Both the number of models and destinations for export will be increased to achieve this objective.

“From combined sales for passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles of 298,000 units in 2003, in line with our business plan, we doubled sales to 610,000 units in 2007,” said Kimiyasu Nakamura, president of DFL. “PLAN 13 aims to accelerate our growth in China based on the foundation of Plan 23. Our goal is to build and maintain a strong position in the Chinese markets.”

Operational Enrichment:
DFL’s continued commitment to competitiveness will be achieved through high quality R&D capability, products and sales & service operations. To enhance cost competitiveness, DFL will work towards increasing localization of the passenger vehicles for transmissions, engines and other parts from 70 percent in 2007 to 90 percent in 2012.

Dongfeng Nissan Technical Center will address more engineering functions in addition to current testing and parts localization. And in support of a thoroughly trained dealer body, the Huadu training center will provide product and sales & service education to dealerships focused on customer-oriented management.

Trusted Company:
A new objective for PLAN 13 is for DFL to become identified and recognized as a “Trusted Company.” A significant element of this will come from the robust DFL corporate culture that will evolve as a unified blend of the working cultures of Dongfeng Group and Nissan. DFL aims to be a trusted company by delivering valuable products and services that meet the needs of stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders, while meeting the needs of the larger society by meeting environmental and social expectations.

DFL will bring environmental friendly technology to market through all business activities including products and services. The company aims to boost the number of passenger vehicle sold with continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) to 50 percent of sales by 2012.

DFL also will be exploring alternative fuel trucks, such as liquid natural gas (LNG).

DFL will continue work on STAR WINGS, the new navigation system that will be available with the new Nissan Teana. STAR WINGS is a cooperative project between Nissan and the Beijing Transportation Information Center (BTIC) which enables city drivers to shorten driving times by using real-time traffic information, leading to reduced travel time up to 20 percent based on market trial conducted by Nissan.

Through the elements set forth in PLAN 13, DFL has set a sales target of 680,000 vehicles for 2008.

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Fan Pier Boston Confirmed as Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 US Stopover Venue

The Volvo Ocean Race has confirmed Fan Pier in Boston as the sole North American stopover when the race visits the US East Coast port city in April-May 2009.

Spanning some 37,000 nautical miles, stopping in 11 ports around the world and taking nine months to complete, the Volvo Ocean Race is the world's premier global race for professional racing crews.

Agreement between race organisers to bring the race to Fan Pier has been backed by the city of Boston and has been made possible by the efforts of the local developer Joe Fallon, who is working closely with city officials to ensure a successful, world-class event at the coveted waterfront location - Fan Pier.

The entire stopover facility including berthing for the seven-boat fleet, race village, entertainment complex and haul-out area will be accommodated on a five-acre Volvo Ocean Race zone within the development site.

Two weeks of festivals and local events are planned for the beginning of May 2009, to celebrate the arrival and departure of the Volvo Ocean Race, Boston's maritime history and the sport of sailing.

The Fallon Company is owner and developer of the large-scale, 21-acre Fan Pier site. Fallon's plans for the area include a five-star hotel, offices, designer boutiques, restaurants and luxury condominiums with 360-degree views of the Boston skyline and harbour.

Fan Pier also brings to life new public parks, a Harbour Walk, a state-of-the-art marina and the internationally acclaimed Institute of Contemporary Art. It is a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly area, and as the newest neighbourhood in the city of Boston is the ideal spot to welcome the Volvo Ocean Race to Boston.

The visit of the Volvo race, Fallon says, will bring heightened awareness to Boston's waterfront, Fan Pier, extreme ocean racing and the sport of sailing in general. "I'm extremely proud and excited that Fan Pier and the city of Boston will join world-class ports like Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Singapore and Stockholm as hosts of the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race," Fallon said.

"Fan Pier represents the best of Boston's ability to bring new global events with international audiences to historic Boston Harbour," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "We believe this race will showcase Boston and the waterfront as a global destination to residents and tourists alike."

Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, said: "Fan Pier is an excellent fit for us. The Fan Pier site, overlooking Boston Harbour, is ideal and will allow us to accommodate all of our facilities for the Boston Stopover in one prime waterfront location.

"Having visited Fan Pier myself and met with Joe Fallon and his team, I have been struck by their enthusiasm and have no doubt they will put on a fantastic show when the race comes to town."

During the stopover, race organizers will stage a point-scoring In-Port Race in Boston's Outer Harbour, while the Pro-Am Race will be held just off Fan Pier.

Boston is the only North American port stopover for the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race. PUMA, which headquarters its North American operations in the greater Boston area, has entered the race with their boat il mostro representing the U.S. The boat is skippered by Ken Read who has strong ties to the greater Boston area.

At the completion of its stopover at Fan Pier, the re-start of the race continues onto its next port stopover, Galway, Ireland.

The Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 will be the 10th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain, on 4 October 2008, it will, for the first time, take in Kochi, India, Singapore and Qingdao, China before finishing in St Petersburg, Russia.

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Honda begins sales of new compact minivan 'Freed'

TOKYO, Japan– Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced that it will begin sales of a new compact minivan, named the Freed, in Japan on May 30, 2008. This new model fuses an easy-to-use and spacious cabin with stylish design. Special mobility assistive versions—Freed with side lift-up seat and Freed with passenger lift-up seat, also go on sale May 30, 2008—while a Freed wheelchair-accessible model will go on sale June 20, 2008.

Developed under the concept of “Freedom to create the perfect lifestyle,” the Freed features Honda’s original low-floor and low-center-of-gravity technology, to achieve a compact body size that makes it easy to maneuver through city streets as well as a spacious cabin that enables adults to sit comfortably in all three rows. Honda developed this vehicle with the goal of creating a minivan that is comfortable and easy-to-use for every passenger and that offers new value by enabling customers to fully and freely utilize this vehicle in activities that meet individual lifestyles ranging from daily transportation to leisure time trips.

Three different versions are offered: the first seven-passenger vehicle in its class featuring captain’s seats in the second row; the first eight-passenger vehicle in its class; and a five-passenger type which offers a large, best-in-class cargo space. Moreover, for the first time in a registration-class Honda vehicle, wheelchair-accessible models are offered in addition to versions with a side lift-up seat and passenger lift-up seat. With the addition of these mobility assistive models, Honda positions Freed as a vehicle which fulfills the diverse needs of a wide range of customers.

Space creates freedom – Selecting the best space for each lifestyle

- A compact body with cabin space that allows adults to sit comfortably in all three rows

- A flat-floor, newly designed from the frame up, maximizes usable space from end to end

- The one-step low- and flat-floor and walk-through layout provideease of access for children and seniors

Space creates freedom – Selecting the best space for each lifestyle

- Seven-, eight- and five-passenger seat configurations to respond to various lifestyle needs

- Spacious and well-lighted interior achieves liberated feeling with two-layer instrument panel design

- Large cargo space accommodate shopping and leisure activities

- Three mobility assistive versions share the freedom and fun of mobility

Style and performance create freedom - smart design and driving performance for everyday use

- Dynamic and stylish form creates eye-catching urban look

- Compact, easy-to-maneuver body and excellent field of vision provide driver with confidence

- Powerful and smooth performance together with economical high fuel efficiency

With the goal of making multi-passenger traveling more comfortable and to enhance the joy of driving, Honda has been adopting its low-floor and low-center-of-gravity technology as the foundation of its minivan technologies. With the addition of the Freed, Honda is further enhancing its low-floor, low-center-of-gravity minivan lineup.

Key Features of the Freed


- A spacious interior and three rows of seats provide comfortable seating for up to eight adults.

- Compact dimensions: 4,215 mm L × 1,695 mm W × 1,715 mm H (FF vehicles) or 1,720 mm H for vehicles equipped with the Skyroof.

- Compact fuel tank and ingenious under-floor structure result in a low, flat floor.

- Unique hip-point layout that rises from front to back provides passengers a sense of spaciousness.

- Seven-passenger variation features captain’s seats in the second row and a walk-through layout that allows passengers to access any row from any door without having to operate a seat adjuster.

- One-step, low, flat floor layout with second-row floor height of 390 mm*2(standard on FF vehicles) provides easy access for children and seniors.

- Sliding rear doors on either side of the vehicle achieve a large (600 mm*2) door opening for easy ingress and egress even in cramped spaces. Also available with each variation are power sliding doors that open and close easily for added convenience.

- Owing to its 2,740 mm wheelbase and compact mechanical devices, the Freed has ample interior space while offering a minimum turning radius of only 5.2 meters.


- The Freed comes in seven-, eight- and five-passenger configurations.

- Seven-passenger: Captain’s seats in the second row ensure that your passengers are treated to same comfort they’d have if they were in the front. The walk-through layout allows passengers to access any row from any door without having to operate a seat adjuster.

- Eight-passenger: A 60:40-split tumble seat in the second row creates a bench seat that comfortably seats three adults and makes the Freed the only minivan in the 1.5-liter class to offer eight-passenger capacity.

- Five-passenger: Seating for five passengers in two rows with ample cargo space, thanks to its low- and flat-floor layout.

- The third row features 50:50-split seats that can be easily flipped up to make room for extra cargo.

- The Freed has enough space to easily stow a 27-inch bicycle*3 without removing tires or handlebars.

- An easily wipeable plastic mat that won’t attract pet hair or other debris is also available.

Interior styling

- Layered-design instrument panel highlights bright and spacious interior styling.

- Meter placement above the steering wheel enhances visibility and minimizes eye movement.

- The Freed features relaxing and comfortable seats not usually found in compact-class vehicles.

- Tilt and telescope steering wheel provides optimal driving position.

- With front pillars designed to maximize visibility, side window sills that descend as they move forward and oversized quarter windows, the Freed offers confidence-building, unobstructed field of vision.

Exterior styling

- A wedge-shaped fascia melds into the rectangular cabin section to create the distinctive “triangle & square form” that embodies the concepts of thrilling dynamic performance and ample interior space.

- The front view is characterized by the rich curvature of the hood and the chrome finish of the oversized grille, giving the vehicle a strong sense of presence. Combined with the elongated and angular shape of the headlights, this conveys the impression of chiseled strength.

- Seen from the side, the character lines that sweep toward the rear and relaxed surfaces of the side windows convey movement, while the sculpted surfaces of the body panels give viewers the feeling that the car could break into a sprint at any time.

- From the rear, the protruding fenders fuse with the rich curvature of the body panels, emphasizing the vehicle’s low center of gravity and providing a feeling of stability.

- The finely sculpted three-lens rear combination lamps create a sense of depth.

- The addition of Premium Night Blue Pearl body color brings the number of available color schemes to seven.


- The 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine provides full-range power and fuel efficiency of 16.4km per liter. (Results for front-wheel-drive vehicle in 10-15 mode during fuel efficiency testing by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport andTourism.)

- The torque converter and continuously variable transmission provide powerful, smooth acceleration and exhilarating yet comfortable performance under a wide variety of driving conditions.

Body structure

- Optimal balance between forward and rear body rigidity as well as localized reinforcement of connecting members has resulted in greater dynamic rigidity. A light yet highly rigid body structure was achieved using lightweight but strong high-tension steel and larger cross-sectional areas in structural members, which reduced material thickness and provided the strength necessary to design large openings for the sliding doors and tailgate.

- Quiet operation during idling and acceleration has been achieved by enhancing structural rigidity throughout the body and chassis, which reduces noise-producing vibrations in the cabin’s interior. Also, noise-dampening/absorbing treatments are applied to key areas.


- A MacPherson strut suspension on the front end provides firm yet responsive contact with the road.

- In the rear, an H-shaped torsion beam suspension provides stability and comfort.

- Honda’s Electric Power Steering enables easy maneuverability when parking or cornering, while on the highway the steering feels solid.

Safety performance

- Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering Body not only helps protect occupants, but also mitigates the damage incurred by other vehicles in the event of an accident.

- Pedestrian-injury mitigation technology helps protect pedestrians from injury in case of collision.

- To help protect against head injuries during side collisions, a side curtain air bag system is standard on some models and available on all.

- Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system is a standard feature on 4WD, Gi Aero and Flex i Aero models and available on all others. In addition, engine torque control and DBW throttle control allow for precise control of the vehicle while driving.

- In addition to ISO FIX child seat bars, tether anchors are provided in both the left and right seats of the second row as standard equipment.

Environmental performance

- The Freed has been certified by the Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport andTourism as having emission levels 75% lower than those required by 2005 standards.

- All front-wheel-drive Freed variations exceed Japanese fuel economy standards for 2010 by 25%. All 4-wheel-drive Freed variations exceed Japanese fuel economy standards for 2010 by 5%.

Special - needs vehicles

- The Freed features a spacious interior with a low floor as well as oversized door and tailgate openings, which makes it particularly well suited for persons with special needs.

- Available in a wheelchair-accessible model as well as side lift-up seat and passenger lift-up seat models, the Freed provides caregivers and care-recipients outstanding utility. Special-needs Freed vehicles are produced on the same assembly line as the standard production vehicles, which ensures a steady supply.

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May 29, 2008

Pep Boys offers consumers simple vehicle maintenance tips for saving

PHILADELPHIA – As motorists across the nation face more and more pain at the pump and with a busy summer travel season ahead, The Pep Boys – Manny, Moe & Jack, the nation’s leading automotive aftermarket retail and service chain, offers families information on how to improve fuel efficiency and prepare for safe summer travel.

“Pep Boys recommends that motorists seek preventive maintenance inspections and services to make sure their vehicle’s mechanical, electrical, brake systems and fuel systems are able to perform optimally in hot summer driving conditions,” said Assistant Vice President of Service Greg Russ. “In addition to preventive maintenance services, there are several simple things that motorists can do to improve fuel efficiency, including ensuring that their tires are properly inflated and that their air filters are clean.”

An estimated 37.87 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend. An ill-prepared vehicle, or one that is not fuel efficient, could stall road trip plans.

Here are five easy steps to maximize gas mileage this summer (all estimates are based on a fuel price of $3.72 per gallon):

Step 1: Check Your Tire Pressure
Under- or over-inflation of tires can lead to decreased fuel mileage, as well as shorten the life of the tires. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency (DOE/EPA) jointly report that properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage up to 3 percent, saving up to 11 cents a gallon. Consumers should consult their owner’s manuals for the recommended tire pressure and check their tires monthly with a good quality tire pressure gauge. Also check the tread for uneven or irregular wear and cuts or bruises along the sidewalls. It only takes five minutes.

Step 2: Change Your Air Filter
Dirty air filters can cause engines to run at less than peak efficiency. Regular visual checks of the air filter can show if it needs replacing, and the owner’s manual will suggest appropriate replacement intervals – usually every 12,000 miles. The DOE/EPA report that replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, saving up to 37 cents a gallon.

Step 3: Change Your Oil
For maximum engine life, change your oil and filter every three months or 3,000 miles or as directed in your owner’s manual. Use the correct oil viscosity because high viscosity oils have greater resistance to an engine’s moving parts, which uses more gas. According to the DOE/EPA, motorists can increase fuel efficiency by 1-2 percent, saving 4-7 cents a gallon, by using the proper grade of motor oil.

Step 4: Clean Your Fuel System
There are a number of good reasons to maintain the fuel system of your engine. Your fuel system may need cleaning if you experience stalling, rough idling hesitation or hard starts. Removing the build-up of dirt and particles will not only help restore and improve your vehicle's performance and reduce emissions, it will also help improve your gas mileage-an important factor considering today’s gas prices.

Step 5: Get a Tune Up
A properly tuned engine can increase fuel efficiency by an average of 4 percent, saving 15 cents a gallon, notes the DOE. Have your spark plugs, ignition wires, fuel filter and oxygen sensors inspected by a reputable automotive service provider like Pep Boys before hitting the road this summer.

Fuel Factoid: According to the Car Care Council, a vehicle’s spark plugs fire as many as 3 million times every 1,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat and electrical and chemical erosion. A dirty spark plug causes misfiring, which wastes fuel. Spark plugs need to be replaced regularly.

Pep Boys has over 560 stores and approximately 6,000 service bays in 35 states and Puerto Rico. Along with its vehicle repair and maintenance capabilities, the company also serves the commercial auto parts delivery market and is one of the leading sellers of replacement tires in the United States.


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Nissan forklift concept to debut at CeMAT 2008

Nissan Forklift will debut its first Li-ION powered forklift concept model at the CeMAT 2008 logistics exhibition, to be held at Hannover from May 27 -31.

The electric-powered forklift employs advanced Li-ION battery technology developed by Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC), a joint-venture between Nissan Motor Co. and NEC Corporation and NEC TOKIN Corporation. This technology was presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in the Nissan concept car “Mixim”. The technology is also featured in the PIVO 2 concept car.

The Nissan GT 2012 mid-term business plan reflects the company’s determination to play a major role in the development of a sustainable mobile society. Under the plan, Nissan has committed to introduce a pure electric vehicle in the U.S. and Japan in 2010 and then to mass-market electric vehicles to consumers globally in 2012.

Breakthrough technology:
The development of Li-ION technology started in 1992 and the development of laminated Li-ION battery technology started in 2000 in collaboration with NEC which lead to:

1. Battery pack and module structures using compact laminated cells developed by Nissan from its long experience in vehicle application.

2. The use of manganese with special additive for positive electrodes in order to achieve a longer life and higher power. This technology is a NEC development.

3. Technology of packaging battery cells. Optimum cooling performance has been achieved by using the better characteristics of a laminated structure as much as possible.

Major Li-ION characteristics:

· Compared to conventional lead-acid batteries, Li-ION power offers a number of beneficial characteristics for the environmental as well as operational advantages - superior performance, reliability, safety, versatility and cost competitiveness.

Environmental advantages:

· Zero emission and no harmful materials used in the battery.

· Li-ION technology does not use restricted pollutants such as cadmium, lead, mercury or sulfuric acid. As there are no gas emissions during charging, there is no need for dedicated charging bays.

· Less energy consumption (less CO2).

Operational advantages (Comparison with conventional lead-acid type battery)

Quick Charge

· Charging a Li-ION battery is quicker and allows for longer operational hours. It makes operations more flexible and reduces the need for additional batteries.

Maintenance Free

· Maintenance is virtually zero as there is no need for refilling of the battery cells with water as normally required for lead-acid batteries.

High Power

· Li-ION batteries offer significant more power and energy, resulting in better performance and higher uptimes.

Long Life:

· After some time the polar plates of a conventional lead-acid battery become sulphated. It causes high resistance and extreme difficulty to recharge again. The almost perfect reversible reaction process between electrons and Li-ion does not cause this type of “waste”. It results in a longer battery life which reduces replacement investments considerably.


· Size of Li-ION batteries can be reduced dramatically against conventional lead-acid batteries of the same capacity, allowing for flexible design and arrangement in the forklift truck.

Excellent (Dis)charge Performance

· During charging and discharging there is less energy loss and less energy is needed to fully charge the Li-ION battery. Extended working time also results from larger recovering energy from regenerative braking.

Time to market:
As the laminated Li-ION technology is still in the research and development phase, an exact introduction date is not clear yet. Nissan Forklift expects to introduce this technology by 2009.

The AESC joint-venture, will invest 12.0 billion yen (US $114.6 million) over a three-year period in a manufacturing facility to be located at Nissan's Zama facility in Kanagawa Prefecture and operational by 2009.

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Audi uses Aluminium Space Frame principle for Car production

Audi is the only automobile manufacturer in the world that uses the Aluminium Space Frame principle for volume production. In 1993, when it introduced an all-aluminium car body concept for the first time, the manufacturer with the four-ring emblem set a new standard in the large-car class. This was the Audi A8, which even in its current form remains a unique model with its aluminium body and all-wheel drive.

When the new Audi Space Frame (ASF) concept was first shown to the public in 1993 at the German International Motor Show in Frankfurt, it was a world first, and ushered in a new era in car making. A year later, the series-production version of the Audi A8 had its world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show. Jürgen Lunemann, Manager of the Audi plant in Neckarsulm, recalls: “This new large saloon model started a revolution in automobile engineering, and led to the development of a number of alternative lightweight body concepts, not only using aluminium as a new material but also in pressed-steel bodywork.” Alternative grades of steel, for instance, became available increasingly often. At 222 kilograms, the current A8 body structure is about 43 percent lighter than an equivalent steel body.

Advantages of the aluminium body
Weight-saving body construction yields a significant reduction in fuel consumption and therefore helps to keep CO2 emissions to a minimum. In the words of Albrecht Reimold, Head of Planning in Neckarsulm and, as the former A8 Body Construction Manager, one of the pioneers of aluminium body construction: “Cars being sold today incorporate more equipment than before, which increases their weight. An aluminium body helps to counteract this trend. Systematic weight-saving is a firm feature of modern car making.” Compared with the previous model, the torsional rigidity of the current Audi A8 bodyshell is 61 percent higher, which makes the car distinctly more agile and improves its ride quality, so that it qualifies as the most sporty luxury saloon on the international market.

Aluminium body construction
For the new material, Audi also developed new manufacturing techniques. While becoming familiar with these, Audi used manual construction methods to a large extent on the first A8 model, but the number of robots has now risen from 25 on the first generation to 150 on the current A8. The degree of automation reached in A8 aluminium body construction is 85 percent, matching the level achieved on conventional steel car bodies. When the new-generation model appeared, daily output rose from a maximum of 80 to 120 cars, with two-shift operation. 400 people are employed on A8 body construction.

After the A8 came further models using the ASF aluminium body construction principle, for example the Audi A2, Audi TT, Lamborghini Gallardo and R8 sports car. Volume production of aluminium bodies in Neckarsulm is acknowledged throughout the automobile industry as an impressive achievement.

More than 400,000 cars with an aluminium body have so far been built in Neckarsulm, including 105,136 of the first-generation A8 and more than 120,000 of the second generation. Audi remains the only carmaker to undertake high-volume car production using the Space Frame technique. The Audi A8, as technological leader in the premium segment, is also the only car in the large luxury class to combine the advantages of an aluminium body and all-wheel drive.

Audi Space Frame
The Audi Space Frame is a high-strength aluminium structure that combines sheet metal, extruded sections and pressure-cast elements. For their Space Frames, the specialists in Neckarsulm have developed special light alloys and process techniques; these have been brought even closer to perfection for the second model generation. In addition to welding and adhesive bonding, the punch riveting joining technique was adopted for the first time in automobile manufacturing.

The second-generation Audi A8 was introduced in 2002, and once again had the lightest body in its class. A year later this luxury saloon received the “European Car Body Award”, the top European prize for innovation in vehicle body construction. Manufacturing techniques were optimised still further, to permit the use of large multifunctional pressure cast elements and complex, topologically optimised extruded sections. In this way the number of parts needed was significantly reduced, production was speeded up, and thanks to the large optimised cast aluminium ‘nodes’ and extruded sections, the body became more rigid, with an even higher standard of safety.

Aluminium and Lightweight Construction Centre: the name for a vision
In 1994 Audi opened its Aluminium Centre in Neckarsulm, at which it grouped together under one roof all its experience in weight-saving vehicle construction, and combined the know-how available from its development, production planning and quality assurance areas. Today, Neckarsulm is not only a competence centre in weight-saving design but also a benchmark for the automobile industry all over the world.

In March 2003 the name was changed to ‘Aluminium- und Leichtbau-Zentrum’ (‘Aluminium and Lightweight Construction Centre’). Heinrich Timm, the Centre’s Manager, is one of the pioneers who developed the ‘aluminium-intensive car’ back in 1983. He explains: “The name was chosen to confirm that other materials as well as aluminium are becoming increasingly important in lightweight body construction, and that ‘intelligent mixed construction’ is the path we must pursue in the future.

When the Audi V8 was being designed, the first idea was to substitute aluminium for steel while retaining the traditional type of bodyshell, but we soon realised that this was not the answer.” In 1997 Timm, together with the current Head of Planning in Neckarsulm, Albrecht Reimold, received Vienna University’s Professor Ferdinand Porsche Prize as the principal inventor and developer of the Audi Space Frame. The Space Frame is essential if the characteristics of aluminium as a construction material are to be fully exploited.

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Audi celebrates 20th years in top car class

150 invited guests from politics, the media, industry and commerce applauded as the Prime Minister of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, Günther Oettinger, and Audi’s Chief Executive Officer Rupert Stadler drove the 250,000th large luxury saloon produced by the company, a silver-painted Audi A8 L 2.8 FSI e, from the assembly line.

“The Audi A8 is the flagship of the Audi model range. More than any other model it represents top quality, leadership in innovation and emotive appeal,” said Rupert Stadler in his speech. He reminded listeners that the company’s top model was a true success story and had made a major contribution toward penetration of the luxury-class market segment by the cars bearing the four-ring emblem.

“The Audi A8 stands for technological competence and for the performance potential of the highly trained people who build it in Neckarsulm. The A8 is thus a success story ‘made in Baden-Württemberg’,” said Prime Minister Oettinger, who also pointed out that accessing the top car category had made Audi a force to be reckoned with in this market segment, where it is enjoying such success.

Audi has been building luxury saloons in Neckarsulm, its location in the state of Baden-Württemberg, for the past 20 years, starting with the Audi V8, which was followed by the Audi A8 and this model’s top versions, the Audi S8 and A8 L. “The simple model name ‘V8’ communicated the fact that this car was powered by an eight-cylinder engine, and was intended to give Audi access to the top segment of the car market,” said Board Member for Production Frank Dreves in a summary of the factory’s earlier years. He pointed out that combining this engine with all-wheel drive yielded a car with outstanding dynamic performance allied to road safety.

The model that followed, the Audi A8, was of entirely new, attractive design, and revolutionised the car construction principle with its innovative, lightweight aluminium body. Even now the Audi A8 is the only top class car with an all-aluminium body and quattro all-wheel drive. Stadler: “With this ambitious project, Audi demonstrated its technological lead and its visionary commercial spirit.”

The A8, of which the second generation is now in production, is the sportiest saloon in the large luxury class, and popular with customers all over the world. It combines sporty, elegant design with supreme comfort, a high level of dynamic performance and outstanding efficiency. The Audi A8 2.8 FSI, for instance, has CO2 emissions of only 199 grams per kilometre – easily the best value in its class.

‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ – this long-standing claim to technological leadership applies equally in the development and production areas. As well as setting standards as a pioneer in aluminium body construction, the Audi location in Neckarsulm has specialised in top-class saloons and high-performance models. More than 900 highly qualified employees work together to produce the Audi A8.

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May 28, 2008

Nissan's Canton plant celebrates 5th anniversary

CANTON, Miss. - Nissan North America's (NNA) vehicle manufacturing plant in Canton, Miss., celebrated its fifth year of production today. Since the plant's opening on May 27, 2003, more than 1.3 million vehicles have rolled off the assembly line.

"Nissan's Canton Plant is an impressive story of growth," said Dan Bednarzyk, vice president- Canton. "Over the past five years, this facility has consistently produced award-winning product. The Canton team has every reason to be proud of its accomplishments and excited about its future."

Nissan was the first automaker to bring assembly operations to the state of Mississippi. Within its first year of operation, the Nissan Canton plant launched five vehicle models. Since beginning production, the plant has gone from Job One to producing approximately 1,000 vehicles a day for both the Nissan and Infiniti lineup.

Today, approximately 3,700 employees build five vehicles:
- Nissan Quest minivan
- Nissan Titan King Cab & Crew Cab full-size trucks
- Nissan Armada full-size sport utility vehicle
- Infiniti QX56 full-size sport utility vehicle
- Nissan Altima midsize sedan

"Nissan has taken advantage of Mississippi's favorable business climate and high quality workforce to build one of the Southeast's most successful automotive plants," said Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. "I congratulate Nissan for their partnership with the state; they've truly been an exemplary corporate citizen during these past five years." The Canton Plant was a key contributor in helping Nissan establish sustainable, profitable growth. Canton will once again play a major role as Nissan begins its new five-year plan - Nissan GT 2012. The Canton plant will become the manufacturing center for a range of new Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV) aimed at the significant North American commercial vehicle market. The first of three products to be produced at the plant will launch in 2010.

"LCVs will become a major contributor to the future success of Nissan in North America," said Bill Krueger, senior vice president, Manufacturing, Purchasing & Supply Chain Management and Total Customer Satisfaction, Nissan North America. "It is a tribute to our employees in Canton that it will be the manufacturing hub for these important new products, key to our sustainable growth in the U.S."

Nissan announced plans on Nov. 9, 2000, to build a $930 million manufacturing plant in Canton, Miss., to build a full-size pickup truck, a full-size sport utility vehicle, and the next-generation Nissan minivan.

Construction started in April of 2001 and less than a year later in February 2002 the first Mississippi residents reported to work as production technicians.

Before the plant started production, Nissan officials announced they would add one million square feet to the plant to make way for production of the Nissan Altima in 2004.

The plant celebrated its grand opening on May 27, 2003, with the launch of the Quest minivan. In that same year, it launched the Nissan Armada SUV, the brands first full-size sport utility vehicle and the Nissan Titan King Cab and Crew Cab trucks, the brands first full-size pickup trucks. In 2004, it would start production on the first U.S. built Infiniti, the full-size QX56. Later in 2004, the Altima began production - the fifth model to be launched in Canton.

In 2006, the Canton Plant earned the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star recognition, which acknowledges energy-efficient operations that have cut pollution, lowered energy consumption and reduced costs.

The plant celebrated a milestone in February of 2007 by producing its one millionth vehicle, a red Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE full-size truck. The 3.5 million-square-foot facility is located on 1,400 acres in Canton and represents a capital investment of $1.94 billion. The Canton Plant has the capacity to produce 400,000 vehicles annually. A small number of Canton-built vehicles are exported to Persian Gulf Coast Countries, Puerto Rico, American Somoa, Guam, Canada, Taiwan, Russia, and Ukraine.


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Toyota launches first national APR program for TCUV

TORRANCE, Calif. - Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., today announced its first-ever national Annual Percentage Rate (APR) program for select Toyota Certified Used Vehicles (TCUV). The national APR program offers eligible customers a 2.9 percent interest rate up to 66 months, and applies to certified used Tundra and Sequoia vehicles.

"We're excited to offer this special program for our customers and dealers alike," said Norm Olson, sales operations manager of Toyota Certified Used Vehicles. "With this program, consumers, on average, will see a $50 to $60 improvement on their monthly payments for a used Tundra or Sequoia -- a significant savings in today's economic climate."

Effective from May 23 through July 31, 2008, the program was developed in order to bolster sales of full-size pickup trucks and SUVs.

The TCUV program combines the confidence of purchasing a new vehicle with the value of a used vehicle to provide a "like new" ownership experience. Certified used vehicles offer consumers a smart alternative to traditional used car options and give them the peace of mind they seek in a used vehicle. TCUV posted sales of 95,260 vehicles this year through April, an increase of 7.3 percent over the same period last year. Calendar year through April 2008, Sequoia posted certified used sales of 2,464 units while Tundra recorded certified used sales of 6,728 units.

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc. is the marketing, sales, distribution and customer service arm of Toyota, Lexus and Scion. Established in 1957, TMS markets products and services through a network of more than 1,400 Toyota, Lexus and Scion dealers. Toyota directly employs over 36,000 people in the U.S. and sold more than 2.6 million vehicles in 2007.

Launched in 1996, the Toyota Certified Used Vehicles (TCUV) program offers the next best thing to the purchase of a new Toyota. TCUV provides peace of mind in the purchase of a used vehicle that only a Toyota factory-backed certification program can offer. Since its inception, TCUV has sold over 2.2 million certified vehicles. Under TCUV, all vehicles undergo a 160-point quality assurance inspection, including mechanical and appearance reconditioning.

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ZAP names new Chairman, Mr. Eqbal Al Yousuf of Dubai

SANTA ROSA, Calif. & DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Electric car pioneer ZAP today named Mr. Eqbal Al Yousuf Chairman of the 13-year public Company. The effective date of his appointment will be June 2, the day of the next scheduled meeting for the board of directors.

Mr. Eqbal Al Yousuf is President of Dubai's Al Yousuf Group. He was appointed as the President of Al Yousuf Group in 2005. The Al Yousuf Group is a company that over the past 55 years has grown into a leading business conglomerate with operations ranging from Motor Vehicles, Boat Manufacturing, Auto Rental, Real Estate Development, Home Electrical Appliances, Computer Operating Systems, Electronics, Transportation and more. The Al Yousuf Group has proved to be one of the most reputed business groups in the UAE and is now working to become ISO certified in accordance with international standards of quality.

Chairman Emeritus and founder Gary Starr will continue his role with the Company and will remain on its board of directors. Starr co-founded the Company in 1994 and has been instrumental in its overall business development, R&D and product development.

"I feel the timing is right for this," said Starr, a 34-year veteran in electric transportation. "Mr. Eqbal told me that the most important technologies to invest in for the future were electric transportation and water purification. His vision and business experience are welcome just as ZAP begins its next growth phase."

Mr. Al Yousuf has been taking a greater interest in ZAP over the past year. In November, the Al Yousuf Group purchased US$5 million worth of ZAP shares. In December, he also joined ZAP's Board of Directors.

"My staff and I have researched the EV industry and have concluded that ZAP is one of the only pure-play public companies with viable electric vehicles in the marketplace at a time of record gas prices," said Mr. Al Yousuf. "I intend to use all my relationships and resources to ensure the Company will be successful and grow."

"Mr. Al Yousuf is a strong believer in alternative energy and conservation and really wants to make the world a better place," said ZAP CEO Steve Schneider. "He is taking a much stronger interest in the direction of the Company to ensure its ability to deliver vehicles on a global basis. With his relationships throughout the world, Mr. Al Yousuf believes he can make this dream become a reality."

Mr. Al Yousuf is actively involved with numerous social and environmental causes, both at a personal and business level. Mr. Al Yousuf has two Bachelors Degree, one in Computer Science and the other in Economics. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in May 1983. After he graduated he joined his father’s firm as Managing Director and in 1988 he was appointed as Deputy Chairman, Vice Chairman in 2001, and Chief Executive Officer in 2004. Eqbal Al Yousuf is married with four children and his interests include reading, travel and sea sports.

The Al Yousuf Group is involved in a multitude of industries under various subsidiaries. Al Yousuf Group has 18 subsidiaries with branch offices in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Cairo, Fujairah, Jeddah, Ras Al Khaimah, Riyadh, and Sharjah, according to The Middle East information resource Zawya.

Al-Yousuf Motors, a member of the Al-Yousuf family, is one of the leading distributors of automobiles and automotive related equipment in the Middle East. The Al Yousuf Group has developed partnerships with many of the world's renowned brand names in Asia, Europe and the USA. A number of these ventures have grown into long-term business relationships. Al Yousuf Motors' portfolio includes Daihatsu vehicles, Daewoo buses, Suzuki motorcycles and outboard engines, Yamaha motorcycles, outboard and marine engines, water vehicles, generators, boats etc.


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May 27, 2008

Lucky boot boy gets keys to Mercedes-Benz

A lucky boot boy at Birmingham City football club received an end of season treat when Olivier Kapo handed him the keys to a Mercedes-Benz.

James McPike has polished the boots of the first-team player all season and will now be polishing a new Mercedes-Benz after the generous gesture from his team mate.

Tthe Frenchman had already taken his boots home and instead gave him the keys to his Mercedes-Benz as a reward for a hard season’s work.

According to the Sun, the youngster "perked up" when Kapo handed over the keys and the log book and offered to pay for the first year of insurance.

"It was a magnificent gesture and one that’s entirely in keeping with Kapo’s character," said Birmingham’s manager Alex McLeish.

Youngsters clean the boots of first-team players throughout the season and are there to learn their trade from the professionals.

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Car designer Revenge Designs retains communications firm

DECATUR, IN - Revenge Designs, Inc announced that it has retained Equiti-trend Advisors LLC to help develop and implement a comprehensive, long-term investor communications and market awareness program for the Company. A San Diego-based firm, Equiti-trend performs a variety of communications support activities for public companies seeking results-oriented services.

Peter Collorafi, President and CEO of Revenge Designs, stated, "Equiti-trend brings with them the complete communications package. We are confident that their team will perform diligently and that their program is fundamentally designed to meet our needs."

Equiti-trend's program has been designed to replace the investor relations services formerly provided by Chad Sykes of New Market Solutions, Inc. "We would like to wish Mr. Chad Sykes well," added CEO Collorafi. "We do appreciate his hard work and professionalism, and we thank him for assisting in the growth of Revenge Designs."

Current shareholders of Revenge Designs, as well as interested investors, are encouraged to call Equiti-trend Advisors' toll-free investor line for information and updates on the Company. Equiti-trend has a call center in-house that it has staffed to handle telephone communications for Revenge Designs.

"We are looking forward to a long-term relationship with Peter and the team at Revenge Designs," said Tom Mahoney, Managing Partner of Equiti-trend. "We have been preparing diligently for this program, and feel that the timing is ideal for our type of approach. By all accounts, Revenge Designs is at the threshold of significant growth."

Revenge Designs, Inc. is involved in specialty car design and production assembly. The Company's primary facilities are located outside of Decatur, Indiana. The President and CEO of Revenge Designs, Mr. Peter Collorafi, is from Queensland, Australia, and has been involved in the design and installation of custom modifications for factory produced vehicles for nearly three decades.

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Diamonds decorate Vodafone McLaren Mercedes helmets

Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen will be wearing helmets decorated with diamonds when they compete at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix.

The creators of the helmets, Steinmetz, have made personalised designs for both drivers with a line of diamonds next to the signature of both.

Steinmetz has also created its own logo using Forevermark diamonds, the world’s most prestigious variety.

"As some people might know I am very particular about my helmet but it looks great and will add some extra sparkle to the event," Lewis Hamilton said.

Kovalainen said he was looking forward to the Grand Prix and said it was the one that all the drivers "really want to win".

"To be able to race at this prestigious event with Steinmetz diamonds on my helmet will bring something special to the occasion," he explained.

Hamilton received his helmet at the McLaren Technology Centre last week and Kovalainen is set to receive his own on Wednesday.

The Forevermark diamonds come from mines with the highest safety standards and are only available in a selection of jewellers worldwide and only one per cent of the world’s diamonds are eligible for this status.

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Mercedes-Benz celebrates Mannheim's 100th birthday

Mercedes-Benz is celebrating the 100th anniversary since the opening of the Mannheim plant.

The official opening of the plant took place on October 12th 1908 and since then the plant has been producing generations of Mercedes-Benz cars.

Located on the slopes of the Luzenburg in the suburbs on Mannheim-Waldhof, the plant took two years to build after the land was purchased by Benz and Cie.

Albert Speer was the architect behind the 35,000 square metre plant that produced the first ever Benz passenger cars and the later Mercedes-Benz models.

Mannheim has historically been the home of many Mercedes-Benz innovations and the town goes back even further than the building of the iconic plant.

In 1879 Mannheim was where Carl Benz developed his two-stroke gas engine.

This important piece of engineering was to provide the inspirations to the development of the modern automobile in 1886.

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May 26, 2008

Volkswagen brand continues nonstop growth on world market in April

Wolfsburg - The Volkswagen brand continued its sustained growth on the world market in April with yet another sales record. In an increasingly difficult market environment the brand delivered 335,000 passenger cars to customers. This represents an increase of 10.3 percent compared with the same month in 2007 and at the same time means that the Volkswagen brand exceeded its own expectations of 5.9 percent growth announced in April.

Volkswagen delivered 1.25 million vehicles worldwide from January to April. This corresponds to an increase of 8.8 percent and is yet another record. The three strongest single markets for Volkswagen during this period were China with 305,100 vehicles delivered (plus 21.4 percent), Germany with deliveries of 172,000 (plus 12.8 percent) and Brazil with 168,400 units (plus 22.4 percent). This means that every second Volkswagen model was delivered to customers in these three countries.

"Our model initiative is proving extremely effective and we are moving ahead well. The Passat CC, already available to order, will make its market debut in early June and the new Scirocco comes to market at the end of August. The rollout will be in Germany with other markets to follow. As Europe's largest automaker our strategy is to offer an unrivalled broad-based and innovative model range of high quality and stable value", commented Detlef Wittig, Executive Vice President, Group Sales and Marketing.

Europe remains the continent with the strongest sales for the Volkswagen brand, with a total of 541,700 vehicles delivered in this region from January to April – an increase of 4.2 percent. While customers in Western Europe took delivery of 488,700 Volkswagen passenger cars, representing an increase of 2.6 percent, deliveries to customers in Central and Eastern Europe rose by 22.8 percent to 53,000 units.

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2008 AlixPartners global automotive review reports

DETROIT - Three factors — dramatically rising raw-materials costs, the weakened U.S. dollar and a slowdown in auto sales — are conspiring to turn 2008 into “one of the toughest years yet” in the auto industry, unless dramatic counter-measures are undertaken promptly. That’s according to a new study released today by AlixPartners LLP, the global business-advisory firm.

Steel Costs Up 100% in 5 Months
On the raw-materials front, the study, the 2008 AlixPartners Global Automotive Review, shows that all manufacturers doing business in North America face as much as a $13 billion raw-inputs risk in 2008. About $7.5 billion of that risk falls at the feet of U.S. automakers and suppliers alone—an amount greater than their combined yearly operating income. Chief among the causes, about 60-70% of the total, is the doubling in steel prices in just the last five months, fed in part by industry consolidation and bottlenecks at key locations in various parts of the world for iron ore, coking coal and scrap recycling.

“The overall spike in raw-materials costs equals $600-$900 finished per vehicle sold,” said John Hoffecker, a managing director of AlixPartners and co-head of the firm’s Performance Improvement Practice globally, “and, without counter-measures, that will either need to be passed onto consumers or taken out of the profits of suppliers and automakers alike.”

BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes Among Victims of the Weak Dollar
Meantime, the study finds, while the weakened U.S. dollar may be good news for U.S. automotive exports, those exports are unlikely to come fast or strong enough to offset the added costs to OEMs and suppliers of goods they are presently importing—from raw materials to components to entire vehicles. The study finds that, driven by the weak dollar, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz are today suffering up to a 40%, or up to $20,000, hit to per-vehicle profitability for certain vehicles when imported into the U.S. versus sold in Europe. At the same time, it notes that some other foreign nameplates, while assembled in America, still have so little domestic content that they are now experiencing profitability shortcomings of similar proportions.

“Foreign imports,” said Hoffecker, “that are suddenly forfeiting up to $20,000 a car in profitability in the U.S. market face two choices: either cut their allocations to the U.S., and thereby sacrifice hard-won market share, or rethink their sourcing and investment strategies and move faster toward more ‘natural hedging’—more local parts purchases and investments. Clearly, some are not moving fast enough.”

1 million Fewer Vehicle Sales Predicted
Noting that the North American auto industry has not experienced a significant downturn in unit sales since 1991 (thanks in part to incentives keeping the market propped up), the study predicts a 1-million-unit drop-off this year. It also predicts that the profitability aspect of this fall will be magnified by more and more consumers switching from trucks and SUVs to smaller, lower-margin vehicles. Both this switch and lower overall industry volumes, it notes, will affect suppliers as well as automakers. The study predicts that although North American suppliers improved overall performance between 2006 and 2007, this year they are at great risk, absent dramatic actions, of seeing those gains wiped out.

“We all thought times were already pretty difficult in this industry,” said Hoffecker, “but 2008 is shaping up to be one of the toughest years yet. The combination of unprecedented raw-materials spikes, the weak dollar and slowing economies around the world is going to make this a year that separates the strong from the weak. The impact can already be seen in Toyota’s first-quarter results and their downward forecast for the remainder of the year.”

Mexico Now Cheaper than China for Many Components
Another sobering finding in the study is that China is no longer quite the low-cost country it once was. With labor costs in China up 65% since 2004 and with a rapidly appreciated currency (especially against the U.S. dollar), the study shows that for many components manufacturing in Mexico is now more cost effective than manufacturing in China. The study notes too that there has been as much as a 16% swing in total export costs in less than a year for some components from China.

“China remains, of course, a great market to be in, for many reasons,” said Hoffecker. “But if your company hasn’t already set up shop there, the decision to go is now much more difficult. At the very least, before ‘defaulting’ to China, companies today should be taking a very hard look at the other options out there in terms of low-cost sourcing.”

Private Equity Must Drive Even Larger Improvements
According to the study, private-equity firms, which invested a record $18.6 billion in the industry last year, are now facing dramatically higher carrying costs, longer holding times and fewer exit opportunities. The study shows that trading multiples (defined as enterprise value divided by EBITDA) of automakers peaked at 5.6x in the first quarter of 2007, before declining to 3.9x in the fourth quarter. Similarly, trading multiples for automotive suppliers dropped from 8.1x in the first quarter of 2007, to 7.4x in the fourth quarter—while debt-servicing costs for private equity have gone up approximately 250 basis points since mid-2007.

“Because of these higher costs,” said Hoffecker, “private equity needs to drive even larger improvements throughout their portfolio-company operations than do other companies.”

The study finds that today’s new landscape actually presents some opportunities for private equity, which finished 2007 with unprecedented fund-raising and unplaced capital at a record $820 billion. It finds that the average auto-industry transaction multiple last year was just 5x, down from 6x the year before and compared to a multiple of 8.4x for deals of all kinds in U.S. industry.

“If today’s harsh environment has a silver lining,” said Hoffecker, “it’s that automotive companies and their owners alike now have the opportunity to make bold decisions that might have been previously unthinkable. They must unsentimentally review products, customers, programs, footprint and strategy for revenue and cost opportunities. They need to challenge their business structure and operating model, and move quickly.”

Considered one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind, the AlixPartners analysis looked worldwide at 45 automakers, 22 heavy-truck producers, 273 auto suppliers and several conglomerates with significant automotive holdings, and measured and compared them across a wide range of operating as well as financial metrics.

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GM Holden submission to review of Australia's Automotive Industry 2008

GM Holden has recently made a submission to the Review of Australia’s Automotive Industry, discussing the challenges facing the industry, and appropriate policy mechanisms that GM Holden believes should be considered to maintain and possibly expand the required levels of investment for the future. In the view of GM Holden, the critical issue for this Review must be the consideration of policy mechanisms to make Australia an attractive location for future automotive investment.

GM Holden in 2008:
2008 is a diamond year for GM Holden which will be recognising a number of key anniversaries. These include: the 60th anniversary of Australia’s Own Car – the 48-215; the 50th anniversary of the founding of Holden Vehicle Operations at Elizabeth; 40 years since the introduction of Monaro; 30 years of the Commodore nameplate; and the General Motors centennial.

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Ducati Motor increase in net profit to 14,9 million eruro

Bologna – The Board of Directors of Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A. approved today the results of the first quarter 2008 which show a general improvement of all the financial indicators.

Registrations increased by 9.0% compared to last year, going from 8,751 bikes to 9,537, in line with the Industrial Plan forecast and compared to a reference market declining by 9.3% . 11,948 bikes were sold in the first quarter compared to 8,922 in 2007, an increase of 33.9%. Revenues for the first quarter are €140.8 Million (€147.0 Million at constant Forex) compared to €95.4 Million during the first quarter of 2007 (+47.6% at current Forex and +54.1% at constant Forex), increasing thanks to the sales of the new Superbike 848, 1098R and Desmosedici RR, as well as the Hypermotard, which was not yet on the market in the first quarter 2007.

Gross Margin for the First Quarter amounted to €40.5 Million, or 28.8% of revenues, versus €25.9 Million or 27.1% of revenues in 2007. The growth in percentage margin is due mainly to better mix which amply counterbalances the negative impact of Forex and depreciation.

EBITDA was €28.7 Million (€34.4 Million at constant Forex), or 20.4% of revenues at current Forex (23.4% at constant Forex), compared to an EBITDA of €14.5 Million in 2007 or 15.2% of revenues.

The operating result (EBIT) was positive at €19.6 Million versus €9.3 Million (+110.7%) previous year, thanks to the improved EBITDA and despite higher depreciations and writeoffs.

EBT was €21.6 Million versus €9.0 Million (+139.5%) the previous year, thanks to the improved operating result and Net Income.

Net result was positive at €14.9 Million compared to €5.6 Million the previous year. Debt was reduced to €15.2 Million from the €52.8 Million in March 2007, mainly thanks to the significant improvement of operating cash flow.

Gabriele Del Torchio, Ducati’s CEO commented on the first quarter results: “We are satisfied with this year’s opening results, even though there are some elements of uncertainty that make us wary of predicting the 2008 outlook.

The generally positive market conditions at the beginning of the year deteriorated progressively in March and April, with particularly negative prospects in the USA due to the macroeconomic situations and credit restrictions.

The delta between registrations and sales in the first quarter has created stock for the network in preparation for sales during the summer season, as planned in the Industrial Plan. During the year we will keep registrations tightly controlled in order to guarantee the alignment of dealer and retail sales in the event that the negative market trend of March and April continues.

The CFO, Enrico D’Onofrio, added: “the first quarter of 2008 closed above our targets and above last year’s results. However the signs of the slowing market and the further weakening of the dollar mean we remain prudent. For this reason we confirm the targets set for the year with revenues increasing by 15% and EBITDA at 15% of revenues”.

Furthermore, the Board of Directors has today resolved the merger by absorption of the wholly-owned subsidiaries Ducati Consulting S.r.l. and Ducati Retail S.r.l., pursuant to article 2502 and article 2505 of the Italian Civil Code.

Founded in 1926, Ducati builds racing-inspired motorcycles characterized by unique engine features, innovative design, advanced engineering and overall technical excellence. The company produces motorcycles in six market segments which vary in their technical and design features and intended customers: Superbike, Desmosedici RR, Monster, Multistrada, SportClassic and Hypermotard. The company’s motorcycles are sold in more than 60 countries worldwide, with a primary focus in the Western European, Japan and North American markets.

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May 24, 2008

Hendrik von Kuenheim becomes president of IMMA

Munich - Hendrik von Kuenheim, general director of BMW Motorrad since the beginning of this year, has been elected President of the International Motorcycle Manufacturers Association (IMMA) by its members. He succeeds Minoru Harada, Honda, who had held the office since May 2006. The members of the IMMA comprise all of the world's most prominent motorcycle manufacturers, serving as a platform upon which they can come together to jointly define technical standards and to present their interests from a common front. Amongst its activities, the association works together with the UN World Forum, with whom it is aiming to effect the harmonisation of technical vehicle regulations (UNECE WP29). It is for this reason that Hendrik von Kuenheim stated that one of the goals of his presidency would be to take on "an enthusiastic role in the current international discussion on increased road safety." BMW was the first company in the world to sell an anti-lock braking system for motorcycles, and to this day, it remains the market leader in this particular form of safety equipment. In 1947, BMW also became one of the founder members of the Bureau Permanent International des Constructeurs de Motocycles, as the IMMA was known until 1987


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