Posts tagged ‘Japan’


Too many white cars make fake news

17.09.2017


A photo taken in Wellington with a test car I had for Lucire. White cars aren’t the over-represented colour in New Zealand: guess from this photo what is.

A friend of mine put me on to this Fairfax Press Stuff article, entitled ‘Silly Car Question #16: Why are there so many white cars?’. It’s a silly question all right, because I haven’t noticed this phenomenon in New Zealand at all, and if any colour is over-represented, it’s the silver–grey tones. It seems like “fake news”, and if you read on, then there’s more to support that assertion.
   ‘It’s because every second car imported from Asia is white – literally. Latest research tells us that 48 per cent of all vehicles manufactured in Asia, particularly Japan, are painted white.’ (My friend, of Chinese descent, summarized jokingly, ‘It’s our fault,’ and my thought was, ‘Not again.’)
   Let’s break this one sentence down. The author says that we source a lot of our used cars from Japan, hence this 48 per cent figure is reflected in the New Zealand fleet. But you only need to ask yourself a simple question here: how many of those white cars made in Japan (or Korea, or India, or Thailand) stay in those countries to become used imports to New Zealand? These nations are net exporters of cars, so whatever trickles on to the Japanese home market will be a smaller percentage of that 48. How many are white—we don’t have that statistic, but, as I noted, it’s certainly not reflected in the cars on our roads. Now, if we’re talking Tahiti, where there are a lot of white cars, then that’s another story—and that is likely to do with white reflecting light in a hot climate. As this is a foreign-owned newspaper group, then perhaps the author does not live in New Zealand, or if he does, maybe he hangs around taxi ranks a lot.
   Let’s go a bit further: ‘Statistics gathered by Axalta Coating Sytems, a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, showed that worldwide 37 per cent of all new vehicles built during 2016 were painted white, which was up two percentage points on 2015’ and ‘All this leads to the next obvious question: why are all these cars painted white? / It may be because that’s what the manufacturers want.’
   From what I can tell, this article was cobbled together from two sets of statistics. A bit of research wouldn’t have been remiss. However, it is a sign of the times, and even we’re guilty of taking a release at face value to get news out. But the result on Stuff just doesn’t make much sense.
   James Newburrie, a car enthusiast and IT security specialist, has a far more reasonable answer to the high number of silver (and dull-coloured, which includes white) cars, which he gave me permission to quote in May 2016:

Car colours are fairly well correlated with consumer confidence. In an environment where consumer confidence is high, regular cars are likely to be available in all sorts of bright and lurid colours (purple, green, yellow, etc). As consumer confidence tanks, people start to think more about resale value and they chose more “universal” colours (the kind of colours no one hates: Silver, conservative blues, etc).
   Cars directed at young people tend to be cheaper and maintain strong colours throughout the cycle – but to keep costs down they tend to stay around red, black, white, blue and silver, perhaps with one “girly” colour if it is a small car. Cars directed to financially secure people as second cars, like sports cars for instance, tend to be more vibrantly coloured, because your buying into the dream.
   So, in the 1950s while the economy was good, people bought cars in bright colours with lots of colours, the oil crisis comes along and they go to white and beige, the 80s come along and we all vomit from car colours, the recession we had to have leads to boredom, then everything is awesome again and you can buy a metallic purple Falcon, or a metallic orange commodore – then the great recession and we’re all bored to death again.
   Consumer confidence probably is just starting to recover now. If history is any indication, there will be a point where people just go “oh screw worrying” and then they will see that other people aren’t worried anymore and they’ll say “screw worrying” etc … and we will snap back.

   Follow that up with what car dealers are now selling, and bingo, you might have a serviceable article.

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Posted in business, cars, media, New Zealand | No Comments »


Where did all the manual transmissions go?

08.05.2016


Above: The gear selector in the BMW i3, as tested in Lucire. See here for the full road test.

When I was searching for a car to buy after my previous one was written off in an accident, one no-brainer was that it had to be a manual. It can’t be that hard, right? After all, when I bought my earlier Renault Mégane in 2004, about 70 per cent of the market was manual.
   It turns out that in 11 years, things changed a lot in New Zealand. Somewhere along the line we became the United States or Japan, places where you get the impression people are afraid of manual gearboxes. We also changed our laws so that someone who is licensed to drive an automatic is permitted to drive a manual, so unlike the UK, manuals no longer became the default option for someone who wanted the freedom to drive both.
   I had the sense that New Zealand had become 80 per cent automatic, based on scanning car sales’ periodicals and websites. A quick scan of Auto Trader NZ last week, where there were 27,925 cars for sale, gave this break-down:

Automatic: 21,380 (76·6%)
CVT: 546 (2·0%)
Manual: 3,036 (10·9%)
Tiptronic: 2,963 (10·6%)

In fact, a traditional manual, one with gears you change with a clutch, comprises considerably less than 20 per cent.
   One friend, like me, specifically sought a manual in 2015, and asked me to scan through websites. In the greater Wellington region, cars matching his other criteria on engine size and price numbered a grand total of two, one in Eastbourne and the other in Upper Hutt. He eventually had to go outside his criteria to buy a manual.
   I visited one dealership in Lower Hutt where one of the senior salespeople told me that was what the market demanded, so they followed suit, as he tried to sell me an automatic, Turkish-made car. This claim was, based on my own research, bollocks.
   Granted, this research was of a sample of my 2,300 Facebook friends, but of those who responded, it appeared to be evenly divided. Some of the comments were along the lines of, ‘I wanted a manual, but I had no choice, so I bought an automatic.’
   If I didn’t have a second car (since sold to a friend who also preferred manuals), I could have found myself looking at doing the same—just because I needed wheels in a hurry. Or I could have bought a car that did not meet all my needs, one that was “near enough”. But if you are spending a five-figure sum, and you intend to hold on to the car for the next decade, is this such a wise thing to do? A car is an investment for me, not a fashion item.
   That earlier Renault took me four months to find in a market that wasn’t so heavily biased against manuals in the mid-2000s, and this time out, I wound up searching for eight. Most people don’t have that luxury.
   The most evident explanation for the overwhelming numbers of automatics is that so many used cars are sourced from Japan, but it’s really not what all people want.
   I’ve nothing against the half of the population who prefer automatics, but they are just not my sort of thing. These days, the most advanced automatics are more economical than manuals, but generally, you still get a few more mpg from a car you shift yourself. I enjoy driving, and automatics blunt that enjoyment for me, but I’m sure others don’t mind them as much.
   In future blog posts I’ll touch on this subject again, and I’ll be penning a story for Classic Car Weekly in the UK on the whole saga of buying a new car. Who knew that, despite being armed with money, it would be such an uphill task to find someone to give it to?
   It also suggests that if someone wishes to specialize in manuals, they would be tapping in to a large, unserved chunk of the New Zealand market.

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Posted in business, cars, culture, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


My first day with Windows 10

17.11.2015

I never expected that the Windows 10 download would ever begin. I had registered for it, but the Windows 10 notification window kept coming up with various excuses, talking about my drivers being out of date, then claiming that because of the automatic log-in, the download would not start. Clicking ‘Tell me more’ never did a thing: that took you to Microsoft’s home page. This went on for months.
   But on a day when I upgraded a new office Mac to El Capitán (and migrated the old data on to it), and reinstalled Lubuntu on another PC which threw a wobbly after being asked to adopt the Cinnamon desktop (which took many hours), Windows 10 decided it was ready after all on my main Windows 7 machine, via Windows Update.
   First signs were promising, with the 2½ Gbyte download coming in five minutes, although the computer stayed on ‘Preparing for the upgrade’ overnight. I had heard that the upgrade process would take an hour or so, not overnight, so something was wrong. Typically I had this trouble with one of the Macs on OS upgrades—one took 18 hours while another took 30 minutes once—but this was new territory for Windows.
   One thing I will say for Windows is that when things go wrong, there is help. One piece of advice, which proved right, was to crash out of the process (using the process manager), and to start it all over again.
   Windows just need a second stab at it, and recommenced the download. This time the ‘Preparing’ window flashed up and was gone, and the hard yards then began. It did wind up taking just over an hour. Getting it on a second attempt isn’t bad, considering I’ve had Mac OS upgrades fail far more times than that.
   First impressions are pretty good though most Windows 7 initiés will tell you that things are a bit harder to find. Don’t believe a soul when they tell you it’s faster to boot up: it isn’t. I’m sure it takes an extra minute compared to 7. Doing some basic things in the File Manager takes more movements of the mouse, to open menus and to click, and the menus aren’t as streamlined once you open the panel to find the functions you used to see at a glance. Little annoying things included Windows 10 forgetting that I had set Cyberfox as my default browser—it really loves Edge, and admittedly, it is a nice, fast program—and the time zone changing without you noticing (I prefer GMT, but Windows kept altering it to NZDT). You have to dig a bit deeper into the menus to make these things stick, such as going through the default programs’ dialogue box, and turning off Windows’ ability to check the time. Having opted for UK English, Cortana refused to work—curiously, it claimed that the installed US English pack was an unsupported language, until I downloaded the same for UK English.


Cortana gives completely the wrong address for me. I wonder if the resident of 39A Aparima Avenue is getting identified as the home of a lot of Windows 10 users.

   There’s not an awful lot that Cortana can tell you. Most enquiries wind up on Bing, and she’s only really good for the weather and exchange rates (as I have discovered so far). There are a few fun questions you can throw at her, asking if she’s better than Siri, or whether if she’s met Bill Gates, but generally, but we’re far from Knight Rider or replicant technology here. A New Zealand accent presents no problems. One thing she gets very wrong is my location, which is allegedly 39A Aparima Avenue in Miramar. I’m not sure how she arrived at that address, as I don’t live there and I don’t believe I know the person who does.
   It’s not too unpleasant to look at although the mobile-specific features can get a bit annoying. The menus feel too large overall, because it’s all designed from a mobile-first standpoint, while the biggest gripe from me comes with the typography.
   Microsoft has ruined ClearType here in its attempt to make something for mobile first, and most type looks very poor on screen. Fortunately, a Japanese website still hosts the MacType plug-in, which brings the font display closer to what we experience on Mac OS X. It even goes beyond what we were used to in Windows 7, which had been Microsoft’s best use of its ClearType technology to date.


After installing MacType, ITC Legacy Serif looks far more like it does in print.

   You can alter the fonts through the Registry Editor, and I set about getting rid of Arial as always. Windows 10 doesn’t like you removing a system font, so the trick is to replace it with something else called Arial, then remove the original from HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Fonts.
   Windows 10 removes your ability to change the icon and menu fonts, and they now have to be changed in the registry, too, at HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics, and very carefully.
   After tinkering with those, the display began looking like what I was familiar with, otherwise there was a bit too much Segoe on screen.
   There have so far been no program incompatibilities. As upgrades go, it hasn’t been too bad, and I haven’t been stuck here forever downloading updates. Apple still gets higher marks for its OS upgrade processes (when they work) but given how much data I have on my main Windows machine, and how different each PC is, Microsoft has done a good job. I’m glad the system waited till now, and delivered me a relatively bug-free transition. Software upgrading is one area where I don’t mind not being first.

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Posted in design, technology, typography, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


All the Geelys on Autocade

01.12.2014

The Geely King Kong Hatchback, one of the new entries on the Autocade website.

Not that I blogged it at the time, but Geely’s multi-brand strategy in 2009 felt doomed. Earlier this year, the company retreated, and brought everything from Englon, Gleagle and Emgrand back under its parent brand again.
   It wasn’t unlike Mazda’s attempt to do the same in the early 1990s, when it began selling cars under marques such as Efini, Autozam and Eunos, as well as its own brand. The bursting of Japan’s bubble economy didn’t help things, but the problems went deeper than that. Those who were used to buying a Mazda Capella from a certain outlet were surprised to find that it had become one of these new channels, and there was no Capella or equivalent to be seen. In fact, for those years, there was no Capella—a nameplate Japanese buyers had become accustomed to for decades—as Mazda decided to offer cars such as the Cronos, which went over the 1,700 mm width that landed it in a higher tax bracket.
   We never noticed much of these issues outside Japan, as these cars were simply sold as Mazda 626, and there were fewer signs of the company’s ambitious plans that landed it in such trouble then-shareholder Ford installed a Scot in charge. It was the first time a Caucasian wound up running a car maker there. Mazda felt embarrassed it wasn’t one of their own.
   Geely might not have had the Chinese economy collapse on it, and it may have been buoyed through the 2000s as it went from being a manufacturer of recycled Daihatsus to a major Chinese automotive force, but there was the obvious problem of increasing its marketing costs dramatically. Could it also develop lines for four marques all of a sudden? Remember, too, it would swallow Volvo around this time, giving it a fifth marque.
   The answer was no: Geely wound up shifting various models to different marques, badge-engineering others, and generally confusing the state of affairs for Chinese consumers. There’s a solid argument to be made for Geely at the time though: the automotive market was clearly segmenting, and there was a need to have budget and luxury brands. But it didn’t seem organic, but dramatically forced. I take my hat off to Geely for carrying it out, nevertheless, even if some of the models were lacking: the Emgrand EC7, for instance, had rear torsion beam suspension, and it was supposedly a premium product for the well-to-do upper-middle-class Chinese buyer.
   It all came crashing down earlier this year, when Geely realized that it lost economies of scale in marketing, and the most important player in all of this—the consumer—really couldn’t follow what was what. To top it off, these new brands had no goodwill, just as Mazda’s didn’t 20 years before. Unless you’re willing to push these brands like crazy, it’s a hard battle to win, especially in the most competitive market on earth. China, too, has had a downturn in car sales this year, and the heady days of thinking one can adopt multi-brand strategies without the numbers to support them are over.
   Why has it come up? Today, Autocade has successfully recorded the entire current line of Geelys, and there are quite a few historical models in there, too. It was incredibly confusing, too, tracking the new identities of a lot of the models—did the Englon SC5 get renamed? Which lines were dropped because there was a badge-engineered equivalent? And, as is particularly common among Chinese models we put on Autocade, how on earth shall we translate some of these model names? (The practice is to use the Chinese company’s own translations, where available, and not succumb to using the export names to index them.)
   While some pages had the new Geely names appended to the old Englon, Emgrand and Gleagle model pages, there were new entries for the Geely New Emgrand, the old King Kong line along with the Englon SC5-based King Kong hatchback, the two generations of Geely Vision, and the historical Geely Haoqing (an old car based around a 1980s Daihatsu Charade: to think, at the turn of the century, this described pretty much every car in the Geely range) as well as the new flagship SUV that now bears the name.
   The reason for being a bit obsessive over the Geelys, as well as some other models (we added nearly all the current Cadillacs and a few more Chang’ans), is that with the demise of Auto Katalog, I believe more will go online. If we can present a credible new-car site—although we have a long way to go before we get every current model line up—we may go some way to filling the void with Autocade.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, China, publishing | No Comments »


John Cleese is wrong about humour

26.06.2014

Has John Cleese become embittered?
   He suggests that the Bond films after Die Another Day (his second and final) were humourless because the producers wanted to pursue Asian audiences. Humour, he says, was out.
   ‘Also the big money was coming from Asia, from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, where the audiences go to watch the action sequences, and that’s why in my opinion the action sequences go on for too long, and it’s a fundamental flaw.’ And, ‘The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humour or the class jokes.’
   I say bollocks.
   It’s well known that with Casino Royale, the producers went back to Fleming, and rebooted the series. Quite rightly, too, when the films had drifted into science fiction, with an invisible car and, Lee Tamahori’s nadir, a CGI sequence where Pierce Brosnan kite-surfed a tsunami.



   As to Asia—always a curious word, since we are talking 3·7 milliard people who cannot be generalized—does no one remember the groundswell of interest around the filming of You Only Live Twice? Bond was big in Asia long before 2006.
   If Cleese specifically means China, all the Bonds were well received in Chinese-populated places before the Bamboo Curtain came down: Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, etc. So it’s a cinch that mainland Chinese would like it, too. And they have embraced Bond and its Britishness.
   Or, as most Britons, he meant south Asia. I’ve only been to India, but there’s such a lasting legacy of the colonial days that many in the region get British humour. Again, too, Octopussy’s Indian location filming saw a huge love for all things Bond.
   The structure of Chinese humour is very similar to that of British humour, though you would have to be bilingual to appreciate this. But even monolinguists should be able to pick up the timing and pacing of Chinese humour to know that British humour would be appreciated.
   They may not be marketed as such in the occident, but a lot of the Jackie Chan films are comedies. Police Story is littered, in the original dialogue, with comedic lines.
   Class humour? Again present in a lot of Asia.
   So he’s well off in his estimation. If anything, it’s the casting of Americans to appease that market that seems dreadfully forced (Halle Berry, Denise Richards, Teri Hatcher).
   Hands up all those who would have preferred to see Monica Bellucci as Paris Carver instead of Teri.
   And now we have some in the media, no doubt having forgotten the humorous moments in the three Daniel Craig-era Bonds, writing to agree with, or to appease, Cleese.
   After all, who knows more about humour than one of the Monty Python creators? We must agree if we are to show that we, too, understand humour.
   Maybe others don’t have that same British sensibility or enjoy the subtlety. Skyfall’s quips were more evident than in the earlier Craig outings, though they were still fun lines, ‘A gun and a radio, not exactly Christmas’; ‘Health and safety, carry on.’ Not quite Roger Moore then.
   Nevertheless, in the Craig era, M gets frustrated that Bond kills all the leads in Quantum of Solace; Bond takes a hotel patron’s Range Rover Sport in the Bahamas, crashes it against a fence, and is recognized later in the bar by the owner in Casino Royale. Good humour is so often between the lines, things where you have to process them briefly, or communicated sometimes through an expression.
   British humour need not always be Benny Hill or Carry on.
   Humour, particularly in the southern parts of China, tends to give the reaction of: did I just get complimented or insulted?
   Yet few seemed to mind that the humour in most of Brosnan’s era to be very Americanized, with the exception of Goldeneye. And the stories themselves, where Bond became a caricature, and, frankly, a waste of a decent leading man, were two-dimensional: Brosnan with two machine guns in the finalé of Tomorrow Never Dies! Just like in a John Woo film! And we are to believe that was more “British”, in an interminable action sequence? If it weren’t for Jonathan Pryce and Toby Stephens camping up their roles, those outings would be far less Bondian.
   Once again, it demonstrates the short memories of the cinemagoing public—or, for that matter, that of a very remarkable and talented actor and writer.
   And having hit their stride now, the Bond producers are laughing all the way to the bank.

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Posted in China, culture, humour, India, interests, media, UK | No Comments »


How can the Yamaha Motiv make it into the top 10 British cars in Autocar?

07.05.2014

Anyone notice the anomaly in Autocar’s top British cars? Let’s not debate what is British—let’s simply consider what is and has been on the market. Antony Ingram spotted this:

Firefox_Screenshot_2014-05-07T08-51-20.660Z

Apparently this is a reader survey but I agree with Antony: how on earth can a car that is not even produced, the Yamaha Motiv, wind up in the top 10? There are 100 in the full list—in other words, there are many more likely candidates of cars that readers have, well, seen and heard about. How strange that something previewed once at last year’s Tokyo Show can make it.
   On Twitter, Autocar deputy digital editor Lewis Kingston tells me, ‘We’ve run a few big stories on it before’.
   While I don’t know the methodology, I still find the odds of the Yamaha getting there very, very slim.
   Incidentally, the Austin Metro didn’t make it.

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Calculating 2012’s top selling car: Focus or Corolla?

20.04.2013

I see that Toyota is upset that R. L. Polk named the Ford Focus the top-selling car in the world for 2012. Motor Trend has since reported the story as Polk naming the Focus as the top selling ‘nameplate’, but that hasn’t stopped Toyota from throwing a wobbly.
   I can’t locate the Polk report on its website, but maybe it’s a fair call for Toyota. Bloomberg Businessweek says that the Matrix and Auris could be counted, bumping Toyota’s numbers, since they are all Corolla-based.
   Ford fans, however, can say that the C-Max and Grand C-Max should form part of the total.
   I’m certain that Polk would have counted the current Japanese Corollas, the E160 model, into its total, but these have a different platform altogether—they are, in fact, on the Vitz (Yaris) platform, but they were released in 2012. If we’re to take Toyota’s argument about cars on the same platform, then we need to subtract all its E160 Japanese sales from Polk’s total and they should be grouped with the Vitz.
   Since I can’t find the methodology, then the jury is still out, but Toyota, of all companies, should know the nameplate argument well. It has, after all, sold very different Corollas in different parts of the world, even when we look at the previous generation. Many Asian markets had a narrower model, 1,700 mm wide, while countries like the US, Australia and New Zealand received a much wider one. However, calling them all Corolla beefs up the total. Surely it can’t get upset at Ford actually selling a single car these days as the Focus, unlike the situation in the 2000s when the US and Canada had an older-platform one compared to the rest of the world?
   Perhaps the people at the Best Selling Cars Blog have it right instead. I’ve talked to these guys about their methodology, and they typically group identical cars together (e.g. the Buick Excelle XT is counted in the Opel Astra J total, since they are the same car). There, Toyota is top dog, and the publication acknowledges that it counts Auris and Matrix (and Rumion, but at Autocade, we catalogue that as Corolla Rumion). It also counts older Corollas still being built in places such as China (BSCB notes that it includes ‘Corolla IX, X, XI and Altis’), which I think should be allowed, since they were developed as Corollas. All Corolla variants total 1,097,132 versus 1,036,683 for the Ford Focus. They do, however, count the C-Max separately (130,036), but at least that’s clear from their stats.
   So, if we were to use comparable methodologies and allow the minivan spinoffs to be counted for both ranges, then that should show the following:

Ford Focus, plus C-Max: 1,166,719
Toyota Corolla, including Auris, Matrix and Rumion, the E160 variants based on the smaller Vitz, and all older generations still in production: 1,097,132

   My impression, based only on these online data, is that Ford is on top, and the only way for Toyota to get a higher number is to count the clones in China that it officially disapproves of: the BYD F3, the BYD Surui, and the Geely Vision.
   Another spot of news today, closer to home for me: Autocade has crossed the 3,000,000 views’ mark. My thanks to all netizens for their browsing and for making it part of their online automotive resources. Good to know many of you come to a Kiwi site—indeed, a Wellington one—to get your global car info.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, media, USA | 1 Comment »


Fifty-three years of the Nissan Bluebird: a long-lived model line comes to an end

24.12.2012

I’m not the biggest fan of the Nissan Bluebird, but a milestone happened earlier this month that a lot of the motoring press seems to have missed: the demise of this 53-year-old nameplate.
   Starting in 1959, Bluebird has been a mainstay of the Nissan line-up, and even when the traditional Bluebird line finished in its home country in 2001, Nissan kept the name going with the Bluebird Sylphy, a car based around the Pulsar.
   This month, with the third-generation Sylphy launching in Japan, after its release in China and Thailand, the Bluebird name disappeared—which had been expected, if you examine the evolution of Japanese (and many American) model names. Celica Camry gave way to Camry; Corona Premio gave way to Premio; Chevelle Malibu gave way to Malibu.
   So as a tribute to the Bluebird, here are all the ones that are on Autocade. Diehard Nissan fans, of course, know that the lineage continues in a way—the Altima line is directly derived from the Bluebird’s, and is its spiritual successor.

Image:Datsun_Bluebird_(310).jpgDatsun Bluebird/YLN 704 (310/311/312/DP311/DP312). 1959–63 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/R, 988, 1189 cm³ (4 cyl. OHV). Akiro Sato-styled range, giving Datsun a more contemporary-looking entrant, but still with Anglo influences. More competitive than upright 210, and the first Datsun notching up some decent numbers in export markets. Hugely improved ride and handling. Semi-monocoque body. Larger 1·2 (48 hp) still similar to BMC B-series, which had powered Austins that Nissan built under licence, created to head off Volkswagen Käfer, which was doing well in the US. Wagon from 1960, automatic from 1961.

Image:Nissan_Bluebird_(410).jpgNissan Bluebird/YLN 705B (410/411). 1963–7 (prod. n/a). 2- and 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/R, 988, 1189, 1299 cm³ (4 cyl. OHV), 1595 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC). If the 310 saw export success, then the 410 broke those records convincingly. Pininfarina styling was more globally appealing, especially in the US, and, at home, Bluebird overtook its arch-rival, the Toyopet Corona (T40), in sales. Lighter than predecessor, monocoque construction, longer wheelbase, shorter front and rear overhangs. Carryover engines initially. SS sport sedan in 1964, similar to Deluxe but with two 38 mm Hitachi side-draught carburettors, taking power to 65 hp, and four-speed gearbox. Two-door models in 1964; facelift later that year. In 1965, 411 series, with minor cosmetic changes. SSS (twin SU carbs, 90 hp, 1·6 from Fairlady) from 1965, starting a Bluebird tradition that would last till the line’s demise. Further minor changes in 1966. Range included a Fancy Deluxe model, supposedly targeted at women. Built in Taiwan by Yue Loong as YLN 705B.

Image:1969_Nissan_Bluebird_1600_Deluxe.jpgNissan Bluebird/YLN 706 (510). 1967–72 (prod. unknown). 2- and 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon, 2-door coupé. F/R, 1296, 1428, 1595, 1770 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC). Most famous of all the Bluebirds, thanks to modern OHC engines, excellent performance, and competition history. Four-wheel independent suspension—the first for a Nissan. Moved upmarket to accommodate introduction of Sunny in 1966. Seen as more advanced than rival Toyopet Corona (T40). Minor changes to grille in October 1968, coupé added the following month. Largest 1·8 added in 1970 for Bluebird SSS. Remained in production even after launch of larger Bluebird in 1971, after which the Nissan Violet filled the role of a smaller mid-size car. Exported as Datsun 510 or Datsun 1600.

Image:Nissan_Bluebird_U_1600_GL.jpgNissan Bluebird U (610). 1971–6 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan, 2-door coupé, 5-door wagon. F/R, 1595, 1770, 1952 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC). Bluebird U replaced successful 510 series, which ran alongside for the first year. Not as well loved, with performance emphasis gone, in favour of interior equipment and mid-Atlantic styling. Performance 1800 SSS model from May 1972, with five-speed gearbox; mid-term changes 1973. Two-litre from August 1973, with longer front end. Usually exported as Datsun 160B, 180B and 200B depending on engine size; South Africa called this the Datsun 180U.

Image:Nissan_Bluebird_1800_GL.jpgNissan Bluebird/Datsun 200B (810). 1976–81 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon, 2-door coupé. F/R, 1595, 1770, 1952 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC), 2143, 2393 cm³ (6 cyl. OHC). Bloated replacement for U series, evolving its predecessor’s styling, mixing sharp angles with a slight coke-bottle. Marketed in 1976 as a heavy-duty car in Japan, and the concept stuck. Not that successful in the home market with the second fuel crisis looming and its mixture of fours and sixes, though sold relatively well abroad. Built also in Australia (from 1978) as Datsun 200B, and exported from Japan to most countries as 160B, 180B and 200B, but called 810 in the US. Long-nose G6 versions housed straight sixes, while the sheetmetal was later used on long-nose G4s with the four-cylinder units after the mid-term facelift in 1978. Twentieth anniversary of the Bluebird nameplate 1979, with special commemorative edition. Production ceased in Japan in 1979, making it the shortest-lived Bluebird there, though continued in Australia to 1981.

Image:1980_Datsun_Bluebird.jpgNissan Bluebird (910). 1979–86 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon, 2-door coupé. F/R, 1595, 1598, 1770, 1809, 1952 cm³ petrol, 1952 cm³ diesel (4 cyl. OHC), 2393 cm³ (6 cyl. OHC). Squared-off Bluebird began Nissan’s 1980s’ rise, dropping its alphanumeric model codes in many markets. Badged Datsun for export initially, with Nissan badges appearing in 1981. Sold in US as 810, 810 Maxima, and then Maxima from 1982. Conventional, despite sharp, boxy styling. End of Japanese production 1983. Facelift in Australia in 1985.

Image:Nissan_Maxima_(U11).jpgNissan Bluebird (U11). 1983–90 (prod. unknown). F/F, 1595, 1809, 1960, 1974 cm³ petrol, 1952 cm³ diesel (4 cyl. OHC), 1998, 2960 cm³ (V6 OHC). 4-door sedan, 4-door hardtop sedan, 5-door wagon. Boxy front-drive Bluebird, resembling its predecessor. Stylistically out of step with the rounded styling of the 1980s, yet it was Nissan’s mainstay in the mid-sized sector in many markets. Called Maxima in US, with 3-litre V6 and longer nose similar to home-market hardtops’ and considered sportier than Toyota rivals; other markets made do with smaller engines. Europe received this model for two years until the Nissan Auster (T12) was sold there as the Bluebird from 1985, though the station wagon—lasting into the U12 era—continued there.

Nissan Bluebird (T72). 1987–90 (prod. unknown). 4- and 5-door sedan. F/F, 1598, 1809, 1973 cm³ petrol, 1952 cm³ diesel (4 cyl. OHC). Facelift for British version of Auster, now fully built in the UK. Front slightly smoother than Japanese version, with some concessions to 1980s’ trends, though regarded as a dull, domestic-appliance range. Incredibly reliable, earning it adherents.

Image:1988_Nissan_Bluebird_Hardtop.jpgNissan Bluebird (U12). 1987–91 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan, 4-door hardtop sedan. F/F, F/A, 1598, 1809, 1973 cm³ petrol, 1952 cm³ diesel (4 cyl. OHC), 1809, 1998 cm³ (4 cyl. DOHC). Nissan concedes that 1980s’ design was more curvy than it insisted upon for U11. Range included four-wheel-drive and turbocharged (1·8 and 2·0) models, as well as ATTESA four-wheel-steering option. SR20DET two-litre turbo engine first appeared on ATTESA SSS model. Australian version, Nissan Pintara, had 2·4-litre option and some were exported to Japan. Sold as Nissan Stanza in US, though unrelated to Stanzas sold in Japan during the 1980s.

Nissan Pintara (U12). 1989–92 (prod. unknown). 4- and 5-door sedan. F/F, 1974, 2389 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC). Huge hype leading up to ‘Project Matilda’ Pintara launch—only to discover it was just an Australianized U12 Bluebird. Dull, and not a unique car that could take on Mitsubishi Magna. Twinned with Ford Corsair (1989–92). One bonus was a Superhatch (Bluebird Aussie in Japan, Bluebird Sporthatch in New Zealand), designed by Nissan Australia, which made the range look appealing. Quality down from Japanese models and relatively few survive. Last Australian Nissan as company exited local production in 1992.

Image:1992_Nissan_Bluebird.jpgNissan Bluebird (U13). 1991–5 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan, 4-door hardtop. F/F, F/A, 1597, 1839, 1998, 2388 cm³ (4 cyl. DOHC), 1974 cm³ diesel (4 cyl. OHC). Most curvaceous Bluebird, looking smaller than predecessor, complemented by more formal ARX hardtop. Sedan sold in US (where it was designed) as Nissan Altima. Rounded shape previewed direction of the larger Nissan Leopard J. Ferie. Range included, as before, ATTESA four-wheel-drive models. No wagon. Not that successful in Japan due to rounded styling; fared better on export. Independent rear suspension, with improvements in handling compared with U12. Centre of this model was used for Chinese EQ7200 series.

Image:Nissan_Bluebird_SSS.jpgNissan Bluebird (U14). 1996–2001 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan. F/F, F/A, 1769, 1838, 1998 cm³ petrol (4 cyl. DOHC), 1973 cm³ diesel (4 cyl. OHC). Dullest Bluebird, the end of a long-running line. No hardtop this time, only a single boxy sedan that was deemed to be the popular, conservative style—but was out of step again with consumer tastes. Shared platform with Nissan Primera (P11), hence a shorter wheelbase and overall length compared with U13. Minor changes in 1997 and 1998, with engine improvements. Fortieth anniversary of Bluebird nameplate in 1999 with limited-edition model. Pulsar-based Sylphy introduced in 2000 as final Bluebirds deleted the following year.

Image:2005_Nissan_Bluebird.jpgNissan Bluebird (EQ7200). 2000–5 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/F, 1998 cm³ (4 cyl. DOHC). Chinese version of U13 Bluebird but with formal front and rear ends, lengthening car considerably. Built by both Dongfeng Motor Co. (東風 or 东风) and Yulon Motor (YLN, 裕隆). Usual Nissan virtues of a good engine and reliability; less inspiring to drive as model geared toward comfort. Updated to EQ7200-II in 2001, EQ7200-III in 2003 and EQ7200-IV in 2004. Last model to wear the Bluebird name without the Sylphy tag. Electric hybrid version (dubbed HEV) without Nissan or Bluebird names, still being trialled as of 2009.

Image:2005_Nissan_Bluebird_Sylphy.jpgNissan Bluebird Sylphy/Nissan Sunny/Nissan Sunny Neo/Nissan Sentra (G10). 2000 to date (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan. F/F, 1497, 1769, 1998 cm³ (4 cyl. DOHC). Typical Japanese sedan, well engineered but not that inspiring. Effectively a four-door Nissan Pulsar (N16) with luxury appointments and a formal grille, appealing to traditional Japanese buyers. Long-running Bluebird name kept alive, but since it was not part of the same lineage, the Sylphy word was attached. Successful, even selling in modified form in Korea as Samsung SM3 (N17), and exported as Nissan Pulsar to some markets. Japanese production to 2005. Called Sentra in Malaysia, where it was facelifted in 2005 and continued in to the 2010s; Egypt assembled this model as Sunny, later Sunny EX.

Image:2006_Nissan_Bluebird_Sylphy.jpgNissan Bluebird Sylphy (G11). 2005–12 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan. F/F, 1498, 1997 cm³ (4 cyl. DOHC). Second-generation Sylphy, keeping the Bluebird nameplate, dating from the late 1950s, alive (though in Singapore, the Bluebird tag is missing). Although related to the US-market Nissan Sentra (B16), marketed as a rival to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord in Taiwan. Very roomy and longer than Sentra—4,610 mm length. As with the Sentra, the Sylphy is on a Renault Mégane II platform. Cast off to China in 2011 as the Dongfeng Fengsheng A60.

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The new Honda goes at over 400 mph

07.04.2011

I have to hand it to Honda. The next new model from the Japanese firm is faster than the NSX and its old Formula 1 cars. It goes at Mach 0·72.

HondaJet

   The simplified version of Honda’s history goes something like this.
   Once upon a time, Mr Honda wanted to make cars. He wasn’t sure how, but he did know how to build a motor-scooter, so he did.
   After a while, he figured out how he could build a motorcycle, so he did.
   After a while, he figured out how he could build a small car, so he did.
   After a while, he figured out how he could build a big car, so he did.
   After a while, he figured out how he could build a luxury car, so he did.
   After a while, he figured out how he could build a sports car, so he did.
   Even after Mr Honda died, his company progressed along the same lines.
   After a while, they figured out how he could build a mid-sized truck, so they did.
   Now, it looks like they’ve figured out how to build a jet plane.
   If you read Soichiro Honda’s biography, even a summary of it, you’ll find that this man had a great sense of adventure about him—something that is now interwoven into the company. When it comes to brands, Honda has done remarkably well—as has Acura.
   As Jeremy Clarkson once put it, the difference between Toyota and Honda is: Mr Toyoda wanted to make money. Mr Honda wanted to make cars.
   The Honda brand can easily extend to aircraft, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this side of the business followed a similar trajectory to earlier Honda ventures.
   It transcended land-based vehicles a long time ago, and it has such goodwill when it comes to engineering excellence and next-generation technology, that the idea of HondaJet should be easy to grasp.

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Some positive news a month on from the Christchurch ’quake

21.03.2011

Tomorrow, it will be one month since the Christchurch ’quake.
   It’s tempting to argue scale—the Japanese earthquake and tsunami versus our own—but at the end of the day, people are people, and our nations have both been hurting. We have become united, through disasters that emphasized that we live in an emerging global community.
   I’m glad that our government saw fit to send some of our rescue personnel over to help with the Japanese recovery effort, because they have a grave need for international help. It was the least we could have done with Japan’s fast offer of aid and personnel on February 22 itself.
   There is still a lot to do in Christchurch, especially for those families here and overseas rebuilding their lives after losing loved ones. However, I had a glimmer of hope from running our first positive piece from post-’quake Christchurch on Lucire.
   Kip Brook of Word of Mouth Media wrote a lovely piece about a B&B, Hope Villa, in the Canterbury region, as Christchurch begins reaching out and people begin returning.
   I hope this will be the first of many positive articles to emerge from the region as it gets back on its feet, as we know it can.
   While I haven’t heard of any plans to commemorate the ’quake with a moment’s silence tomorrow, I intend to have a wee break at the office at 12.51 p.m. I hope many of us will take the time to remember the events of the 22nd, and remind ourselves of the solidarity we have with all Cantabrians.

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