Posts tagged ‘Japan’


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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Posted in cars, media, UK | No Comments »


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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Posted in branding, business, cars, culture, leadership, marketing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


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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Parts of Japan are decimated, and I think back to my grandfather

11.03.2011

My grandfather, Col. Tung Wan Yan, of the Chinese Constitutional Army, had a very interesting war.
   He was on a Japanese hit-list and was hiding in trees when some soldiers opened fire on him with automatic weapons. By some miracle, he escaped unharmed.
   It’s one of the close calls he had in China and Malaya during World War II.
   Last night, and for a little while this morning, I Tweeted some public notices to help get word out for the Japanese people, which is one of the few things my limited skill set allows for. I translated Tweets via Google Translate to keep people informed, especially those in Japan who might not understand Japanese.
   And my mind turned to him. He’s the one guy in our family who has met a lot more Japanese people than we can claim.
   Not because of any contrast, but because of similar motives.
   Immediately after the surrender, my grandfather created jobs for stranded Japanese soldiers in Malaya, so they could earn their passage back home.
   When you cast aside government orders, people are people—and compassion is a natural trait in most of us. They put down their guns and became brothers.
   If you ask me what part of my grandfather’s war record I am proud of, it was that immediate postwar work. Technically, it’s not part of his war record, though it is part of his military record.
   He had to get back to his family, too, but, as any leader would do, he placed others before himself. More importantly, these others included not only his own men, but those whom, a day before, were called ‘the enemy’.
   He was a few months younger than I am now, and had done way more than I ever could. In this and other respects, he was a better man than me.
   Tweeting public notices isn’t much compared with actual job creation and restoring public services and infrastructure in a foreign country.
   But what he and I have in common is that we believe that, in these times of need, we are all brothers and sisters in unity with the citizens and families of Japan.

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Posted in China, internet, leadership | 3 Comments »


James Bond’s Zinger

15.12.2010

Mitsubishi Zinger promo

Apart from sounding like a burger, the Mitsubishi Zinger—or, to give its full model name these days in Taiwan, the Super Zinger (not kidding)—is one of those oddball vehicles I come across when editing Autocade. It’s a minivan based on a truck chassis—in this case the first-generation Mitsubishi Challenger—and a pretty ugly one at that.
   When double-checking some details in the Autocade entry, I came across the official site. I wonder what the Broccoli family has to say about the gun-barrel and 007 imagery, and would James Bond, Chinese or otherwise, really be seen driving a naff minivan? Unless it was to carry around 007’s illegitimate children, which must number greatly by now? And will the next villain be called Auric K. F. C. Zingerburger?

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Johnny Foreigner might be better at running a car company in Shanghai

12.12.2010

As I made links for the last post, I noticed there were a lot of comments on AROnline about the replacement for the Roewe 750, the Chinese car that is based on the old Rover 75.
   The replacement will be on the Opel Insignia platform, owned by GM. It’s been followed by a lot of cries that are all too familiar to me.
   Most of them are saying that MG is dead, and has been for a long time, underpinned with the sentiment of ‘How dare the Chinese put this car on an American platform?’
   They ignore that some of the design is still done by a British firm and while the physical British input into the next generation of Roewe and MG cars’ production is much more limited than what we see at Jaguar and Land Rover—or, for that matter, Nissan, Toyota, Honda et al—unlike the Japanese brands, the MGs will, at least, continue to bear a brand steeped in British tradition.
   Many brands are not owned by a company incorporated in the country of their founders, and while I often make my choices based on the parent company, the majority of people do not care.
   The comments also seem rather unfair and steeped in some cry of Yellow Peril.
   I wrote on the site, in response to some of them:

   Brands have, for nearly as long as the motoring industry has been around, been acquired by different groups. Are current Vauxhalls “true” British Vauxhalls, because they really haven’t been since GM bought the place in 1925? From the 1930s, Bedfords went on to Chevrolet platforms, yet history does not seem to judge them as harshly as some of us are doing above. They are not the ‘American Bedfords’ or the ‘faux Bedfords’.
   As the world changes, it is only natural that some of these brands will be acquired by countries that do not share the same heritage as Great Britain. As far as I can see, Tata seems to escape the same level of hostility because India was once part of the mighty Empah. As India becomes more confident, and in, say, 2025 when all Jaguar platforms are exclusively engineered there with the help of a non-British car maker (platform-sharing is just as inevitable in the luxury sector), will they be met with the same criticism?
   This is the real world: globalized, with car manufacturers turning to low-cost options where possible. We are connected with internet and intranets. And SAIC is simply leading when it comes to taking an American-owned platform engineered in Germany and putting the ‘Made in China’ stamp on it. Occidental manufacturers have been doing it for years: as Climbsyke points out, Rover did it with Honda platforms …
   Yet we continue to be drawn to these models not because of their Japanese roots, but because they have some connection to the brand, which stirs our emotions. Some of them had the lion’s share of work done in Japan, not Britain, yet that, too, is conveniently overlooked. No one ever mentions the war (which I will now, and China was one of the Allies).
   While some Red Chinese manufacturers are turning out junk that would not get past injunctions waged around intellectual property issues, at least SAIC has some awareness of the history of MG and is willing to acknowledge it. With Roewe, never mind the pastiche-British marketing that it indulges in for the domestic market where these cars are mainly sold; I’m confident that the Shangaiese are more savvy than many of us are giving them credit. An MG is an MG, regardless of the ethnicity of the parent, and regardless of the shouts of the Yellow Peril, as long as its brand values are somehow incorporated.

   What may well happen is that SAIC, MG’s parent, will build up some cash by selling mass-market models, which are, incidentally, doing very well inside Red China.
   Then as the Chinese demand for them takes off (as it is beginning to), it will release a sports car.
   It should rightly concentrate on its domestic market first, and in recessionary times, working on a specialist sports car while the demand is not there just seems foolish.
   When such a sports car arrives, I wonder if the same critics will be there to shout how un-British it is—even if SAIC has to stick it on a Volkswagen platform.
   In my mind, these cars are no more and no less British than the Honda-based models that kept the MG and Rover brands going through the 1980s and 1990s, and it’s inevitable that more unlikely platform- and engine-sharing will happen. Now that the wave of consolidation has ended—Ford and Mazda have announced they are going their separate ways now—you may see very unlikely alliances indeed as the industry deals with supply and margin issues.
   There have already been rumblings about Mercedes-Benz cooperation with Aston Martin; Volvo must look somewhere for a large-car platform if Geely wants to turn it into an even more upscale brand within China; and all sorts of rumours about the platform for the forthcoming Saab 9-2 have been bandied about.
   Given Britain’s own failure in managing its car industry, cries that stick it to Johnny Foreigner have a sour grapes’ tinge to them, but, then, one sees it from the Foreign Office in fact or in fiction:

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Autocade grows to 1,100 models: slowly but surely

22.06.2010

Some weeks ago, as we neared this milestone, I planned to write a small blog post on reaching 1,100 cars at the Autocade site. And to show that these milestones are not rigged, we wound up with a fairly ghastly motor at that 1,100 mark.

Image:Nissan_Cherry_GL.jpg

Nissan Cherry (E10/KPE10). 1970–4 (prod. unknown). 2- and 4-door sedan, 3-door coupé, 3-door wagon. F/F, 988, 1171 cm³ (4 cyl. OHV). Small, front-wheel-drive range from Nissan, slotting beneath Sunny. First Nissan-designed car with front drive. Short front doors on all variants. Sporting model X-1 featured twin carburettors and 80 bhp. Unusually styled coupé (KPE10) from 1971, wagon from 1972. Mid-cycle update 1973. Exported usually as Datsun 100A and 120A. Usual Japanese virtues of quality, hitting Europe and American markets when they faced crises, and establishing Datsun as a leading player.

Yes, the old Cherry. Remember the horrible coupé model that looked like a mix of a regular Nissan Cherry, a SHADO Mobile from UFO, and a potato? It even looked bigger than the sedan—not what you’d usually expect when you consider the etymology of the word coupé.
   Although Autocade hasn’t become a car reference site that slips off the tongue of most enthusiasts, 1,100-plus entries are nothing to be sneezed at. I have even noticed that Wikipedia sometimes references it—supporting my theory that if it exists online, Wikipedia will believe it. Never mind that something might be totally legitimate and be covered in the international print press: if it can’t be found by the editors on Google, it doesn’t exist. So much for meritocratic coverage—because even Google will refuse to list certain things. (On this note, the current Yahoo! Search is more comprehensive.)
   But even then Wikipedia will get the occasional thing wrong. I noticed that its reference to the Camina, produced by Saehan of Korea, comes from Autocade. Yet it’s cited in Wikipedia as the Saehan Camina. Sorry, chaps: the vehicle was the Camina, with no reference to the company, although its successor was the Saehan Gemini.
   I’m not saying Autocade is perfect—I found a few errors myself today—but I spot so many errors on Wikipedia that could be avoided if all netizens—and I include myself—were more responsible. Like email, blogs and YouTube comments, many things on the ’net go into a form of decline once the original purpose is lost. Of course Wikipedia editors need to rely on search engines, because there are probably too many people abusing the site, creating a culture of suspicion. The initial wave of contributors who came on board, hoping to beat the encyclopædias, has gone. Senior editors need to find a final arbiter that is impartial, and a search engine’s robot is freer from bias than a human being.
   Perhaps I am being protective and even slightly hypocritical when I say I prefer the slow growth of Autocade, and its limited number of sysops, to the rapid development of Wikipedia. Of course information should be free, but the limited scope of Autocade helps ensure just a little more accuracy. The main problems I have with Wikipedia reflect less how many of its editors work (though I have cited at least one exception), and more how many of us choose to interact online, especially with the cloak of anonymity.
   You can’t change that without changing the way people work online and take pride in what they do—and that’s just not going to happen when certain governments are quite content to divide us into the information-rich and the information-poor. But that is a point for another discussion.

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