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  • Grab’s ride hailing demand plunges by 90%, but won’t cut back on driver incentives; delivery service surges

    The novel coronavirus outbreak has caused unprecedented damage to the global economy, stifling key sectors around the world and left millions of people unemployed. For Grab Malaysia, its core ride hailing business has suffered a gigantic slump in demand, dropping by over 90% since the movement control order (MCO) came into effect.

    To make matters worse, ride hailing drivers are only allowed to operate from 6 am to 10 pm daily, whereas GrabFood deliveries are limited between 8 am to 8 pm. Grab Malaysia’s country manager, Sean Goh told BFM Radio that the company is going through a “fairly turbulent” period since the MCO started, and he said that ride hailing is as good as “completely gone” for the time being.

    It’s suffering a double whammy – demand for GrabCar, its more established business, has significantly declined, and while its delivery service is on a profitability trajectory, the sudden spike in demand is also causing losses (mainly from operating costs) to widen. “It’s a very challenging time right now,” Sean said, but insisted that the company will not cut back on driver incentive structure despite the lower overall volume.

    Grab currently has over 100,000 ride hailing drivers in Malaysia, and Sean admitted that some of them are facing an existential threat, because there’s simply no demand. To mitigate the problem, Grab launched three initiatives, chief of which is to port its Platinum- and Gold-rated drivers over to its GrabFood platform. Sean said these full-time drivers are more dependable, and doing so would ensure continual income for them.

    The company also introduced two funds for drivers. The first is an insurance called Partner Protection Fund, where Grab would offer a one-time payment of RM300 to drivers who have not contracted the Covid-19 disease, but are required to be quarantined for 14 days. On the other hand, drivers who are infected will get RM1,000, regardless of whether they contracted the disease whilst working or not.

    Lastly, Grab drivers benefit from a series of discounts (up to 50%) when purchasing essential items, which Grab says would help them save up to RM500. This comes on top of the government’s one-time RM500 handout as part of the RM250 billion economic stimulus plan. In fact, some state governments have also given ride hailing drivers an additional RM300. Once this blows over, Sean said he hopes that the ride hailing business will pick up, adding that he’s confident the business will survive in the long term.

    During this MCO period, the stay-at-homes are increasingly more dependent on delivery service, which has caused the demand for GrabFood and GrabMart to spike exponentially. It has now turned into the company’s main source of revenue, but GrabFood is still trying to breakeven. Sean added that some of the company’s Q2 2020 plans, such as the introduction of GrabMart, had to be expedited because there was demand.

    What happens next? “It’s anyone’s guess,” Sean said, adding that “ride hailing acts as sort of a safety net for people who need income. The best thing about this safety net is it’s not one that people go to when they lose their jobs; it’s essentially a platform for people to supplement their income.”

    Sean also admitted that Grab is burning through more cash to keep its gears running, but it’s committed to retain nearly 700 of its staff and won’t be introducing any drastic cost-cutting measures in the near future.

     
  • Toyota outlines Covid-19 relief efforts – production of medical equipment, procurement of essential items

    Among the growing number of automakers repurposing their operations to support care and recovery efforts from the Covid-19 coronavirus is Toyota, which has outlined in a statement a number of its initiatives that it will be putting into place through its operations.

    This is in line with president Akio Toyoda’s policy for the company to be “mindful of the feelings of those in the midst of this pandemic, reach conclusions more swiftly, make prompt decisions, and take immediate action faster than ever focusing on safety and security as the highest priorities,” the automaker said in a statement.

    The Japanese giant is considering support measures from various angles, which include utilising its global supply chain and expertise in manufacturing and logistics for the fight against the virus, it said. Among these are the production of medical face shields, which Toyota will produce at its Teiho plant in Japan from injection-molding and 3D printing methods, at an anticipated initial rate of 500 to 600 units a week.

    Toyota plant in Teiho, Japan

    Toyota is also evaluating the possibility of other companies joining in the production efforts for the protective equipment. Additionally and in response to a request from the Japanese government to Japanese automakers through the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) which called for an increase in production of medical equipment, including ventilators, Toyota is also working with medical equipment makers for the application of the Toyota Production System (TPS) where possible to help improve productivity.

    To that end, Toyota is creating a TPS support team which centres around the Toyota Motor Corporation, and will immediately dispatch the team to companies struggling to sufficiently increase production of required medical equipment. The Japanese automaker is already coordinating with relevant parties, including equipment manufacturers for specific measures, said Toyota.

    Procurement efforts are being set in motion, where Toyota is leveraging the reach of its supply chain for essential items such as face masks, personal protective equipment, thermometers and other required items.

    Automotive supplier Denso will also be producing face masks beginning this month.

    Denso will produce its own face masks at its production sites for its own employees’ consumption, with production scheduled to commence this month at a rate of 100,000 masks a day. Meanwhile, the Kariya plant of Toyota Boshoku has also been scheduled to start producing face masks this month at a rate of 1,500 units a day, with measures in place to gradually increase production.

    Plans are also afoot to gradually move production to the Sanage plant from May, where production will eventually reach 12,000 face masks a day, said Toyota. Additionally, Aisin Seiki, Daihatsu and Hino are also considering production of face masks at the respective brands’ production sites.

    The manufacture of further equipment that can be utilised by medical institutions such as makeshift beds, disinfectant containers and simple partition walls is being considered by Aisin Seiki, while Denso is already taking part in a project to research drug development and infection control; this project is run by Canadian company D-Wave, where access to a quantum computer is provided free of charge.

     
  • Subaru Malaysia launches online booking campaign for MCO period – book an XV or Forester from RM188

    TC Subaru has introduced a online booking campaign that will run from now until the movement control order (MCO) is lifted, allowing customers looking to purchase a brand-new XV or Forester to do some from the comfort of their homes.

    Those interested will need to fill out an online form for the XV or Forester at dedicated pages on the company’s site and secure their booking with a fee of just RM188. From there, a unique booking code will be sent to customers via email.

    A sales advisor will then be in contact within five working days to finalise the booking and to follow up with the next course of action (test drive, car viewing and loan application), which will be done once the MCO ends.

    The XV is offered in three variants – 2.0i, 2.0i-P and XV GT Edition 2.0i-P – with prices starting from RM117,788. Meanwhile, the Forester starts from RM149,788 and comes in three variants as well, including the 2.0i-L, 2.0i-S and 2.0i-S EyeSight.

     
  • SPYSHOTS: 2022 Porsche Macan petrol – first images

    With the next-generation Porsche Macan set to go fully electric in 2022, buyers who want or require a conventional internal combustion engine will be left in the lurch. Happily for those people, however, Zuffenhausen will continue to offer an updated petrol Macan as an option, and these images from our spy photographers show the first development prototype undergoing testing in snowy climes.

    As you’d expect this early in development, the mule looks almost identical to the outgoing Macan on the outside, sharing the same mini-Cayenne body. It’s based on the entry-level 2.0 litre model, judging by the closed-off front corner vents (functional on the Macan S and above) and twin trapezoidal tailpipes.

    Interestingly, the front bumper is unlike anything we’ve seen on both the original and facelifted Macan. With its large intakes underlined by a slim full-width inlet, it looks the most like the facelifted Turbo, but there are also corner fins that go around the bumper-mounted indicators, as well as a second inlet at the bottom.

    The side “blades” that run along the flanks have also been covered up, but it’s at the back where it starts to become evident that this is no mere nip and tuck. The diffuser section of the bumper has been extended significantly rearwards, possibly hinting at an expected increase in size.

    While it will share its name with the “proper” new Macan, which will be based on the Taycan sedan’s Premium Platform Electric (PPE), this petrol model will be a fundamentally different car altogether. Exactly what form it will take remains to be seen, with some reports suggesting that it will be a thoroughly updated version of the now six-year-old current Macan.

    Our spies, on the other hand, say that they expect Porsche to still spend the money to develop an all-new car, based on the second-generation Audi Q5 (the existing Macan is built on the bones of the first-gen Q5). Whichever way it goes, it should largely use the same engines as before, as the greater Volkswagen Group moves away from the development of fossil-fuelled mills.

     
  • Those who record MCO roadblocks face arrest – IGP

    The next time you encounter a police roadblock set up to enforce the movement control order (MCO), think twice before whipping out the phone. Those who snap photos or record videos of police manning roadblocks with the intention of creating a negative perception of the force on social media will face stern action, said inspector-general of police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador.

    The IGP called this an irresponsible action that contravenes the MCO. “I want to stress that the police roadblocks were not being mounted nationwide just for the fun of curbing movement or causing inconvenience to the public. The police are carrying out a noble mission with the objective of breaking the Covid-19 infection chain to save the people,” he told Bernama.

    “Individuals who do that (record roadblocks) are strongly reminded that there are many parties who are keeping their eye on you and waiting to arrest you. If they have gone out to purchase goods, it is not a problem, but if they purposely go out to record the roadblocks, then it is an offence because the police who are performing their duties are not there to be filmed or are on show,” he stressed.

    Now that we’re in the second phase of the MCO, the police has ramped up measures and enforcement, setting up fresh permanent roadblock locations as well as sealing off entry and exit points to areas. Kajang, Subang and Gombak police districts are among those that have seen the cops visibly step up their MCO game to restrict people’s movement.

    As a result, some checkpoints have seen traffic congestion, causing some frustration to motorists. However, one should not blame the police for this, for they are doing what they have to do, ultimately for Malaysia’s own good, the IGP said yesterday.

    “The people should not complain about trivial issues such as traffic congestion of 10 to 15 minutes on highways or in the town centres. They should think about the traffic congestion on highways and in KL before MCO was enforced – don’t blame the roadblocks for the traffic congestion now,” he said, expressing regret over the attitude of some in criticising the force for mounting roadblocks.

    The good news is that the more stringent enforcement is working. Recently, the cops and the court made an example out of some joyriders, and the infamous case of the woman who totally lost it at the Mutiara Damansara to Kota Damansara roadblock has also faced the music.

    As a reminder, in MCO phase two, supermarkets, grocers, restaurants providing takeaways and petrol stations are all limited to 8am-8pm operating hours, and the same goes for food delivery services. Public transport operation hours are now from 6am to 10am and 5pm to 10pm daily, while taxis and ride-hailing vehicles will be permitted to operate from 6am to 10pm.

    You’re getting the hang of it, so continue to heed the call to stay at home, and if you do venture out, be mindful of the 10 km limit for the radius of travel and adhere to the one-person-per-car rule. Also, bring your utility bills as proof of residence.

     
  • Ford’s European production halt extended to May 4

    Ford has confirmed that the temporary suspension of vehicle and engine production at several of its European manufacturing sites will remain that way until May 4, with the exception of company’s operations in Valencia, Spain, which is set to resume on April 27. The company’s North American production facilities remain closed indefinitely until new startup dates are announced later on.

    The latest announcement comes after the Blue Oval initially suspended production at its facilities in Saarlouis and Cologne, Germany; Valencia, Spain; and Craiova, Romania from March 19, with the Bridgend and Dagenham engine plants in the United Kingdom joining suit from March 23.

    “It’s important we give our employees as much clarity as possible on how long the present situation is likely to continue. We are hopeful the situation will improve in the coming month; our plans to restart operations, however, will continue to be informed by prevailing conditions and guidance of national governments,” said Stuart Rowley, Ford of Europe president.

    The company’s production restart plans are subject to change depending on how the Covid-19 pandemic situation develops in the coming weeks, national restrictions, supplier constraints, and the ability of its dealer network to operate. Any plans will incorporate appropriate measures on social distancing and other health and safety protocols to protect its workforce.

    Aside from the suspension of its production sites, several other Ford operations across Europe have been temporarily paused at this time except for a small number of business-critical activities.

     
  • 2020 Toyota Harrier – fourth-generation model leaked!

    The current Toyota Harrier may still be fairly new to the Malaysian market (unless you count the myriad of grey imports that existed before UMW Toyota Motor’s offering), but the truth is third-generation SUV has been around since 2013 and in need of a replacement.

    Well, it looks like the forth-gen model is coming soon, and a promotional video has just surfaced on social media. It shows a car that draws much of its profile a fair bit of inspiration from the outgoing model, but with a couple of touches of its own.

    The characteristic blanked-off upper grille and slim headlights remain, but the latter now sport new LED daytime running lights with dual branches, much like the latest Avalon sedan. The lower grille is also much larger, reaching towards the upper grille and only separated by a full-width chrome strip.

    Along the side, the shoulder line sweeps upwards between the strong front and rear haunches, while the D-pillars have been made slightly narrower. But it’s the rear that’s the biggest departure – the full-width tail lights have been reduced to slits which, together with what appears to be a reverse-rake tail, gives the car more than a hint of the Jaguar F-Pace0 about it.

    According to Japanese automotive portal Best Car, the new Harrier, set to make its debut on June 17, will ride on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) that underpins most of Toyota’s latest models – specifically the K variant (GA-K) that the Camry, RAV4 and aforementioned Avalon are also based on. It will reportedly be significantly larger than before, in part to accommodate an optional third row of seats.

    New features include an electrochromic sunroof that can be dimmed (eliminating the need for blinds) as well as a dash cam integrated in the rear-view mirror. As for powertrains, expect the Harrier to come with an M20A 2.0 litre direct-injected Dynamic Force engine that makes 172 PS and 203 Nm of torque in the RAV4.

    There will also likely be a hybrid model that pairs a 2.5 litre version of that engine to a pair of electric motors, delivering a total of 211 PS in the Camry Hybrid. The 8AR-FTS 2.0 litre turbo mill, introduced in the facelifted third-get model (which we get), will apparently be dropped.

     
  • 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS to get 600-hp AMG model?

    It appears that Mercedes-Benz may be plotting a hotter version of the forthcoming EQS, its fifth and largest pure electric EQ model. According to an Autocar report, the AMG EQS could arrive as early as 2022 and will feature a dual-motor system with over 600 hp.

    What’s more, the AMG EQS will form the foundation of Mercedes’ new range of high-performance zero-emissions model. For the time being, the report name dropped models like the next-generation Jaguar XJ, Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model S, and Lucid Air as the EQS’ key rivals.

    The standard EQS will reportedly be introduced in 2021, with preliminary specifications indicating an output of 470 hp and 760 Nm of torque. This comes from two electric motors that also provide all-wheel drive. The century sprint is said to be done in under 4.5 seconds, while the skateboard-style EVA architecture quotes a driving range of up to 700 km, based on the WLTP cycle.

    For charging, Mercedes claims the lithium-ion pack can be juiced up to 80% SoC in less than 20 minutes via a 350 kW DC fast-charging station. Besides that, the production EQS will reportedly get the concept’s portrait-format touchscreen running a new version of MBUX – something that should also appear in the next-generation S-Class. Both large sedans are set to get Level 3 autonomous driving.

     
  • Royal Enfield Bullet Photon by Electric Classic Cars

    More known for its electric conversions for classic cars, Electric Classic Cars of England has taken the venerable Royal Enfield Bullet 500 and given it a modern charge. Dumping the 500 cc, air-cooled, single cylinder mill with DNA going back to the 1940s, Electric Chassis Cars has retro-fitted a hub-mount electric motor in its place.

    The now out of production, the Royal Enfield Classic 500 now forms the basis of this electric motorcycle (e-bike), dubbed the “Photon”. A liquid-cooled a 13 kW electric motor is mounted directly into the rear wheel, negating the use of a chain or belt in the driveline, reports IndianAutosBlog.com.

    However, no power figures have been released by Electric Classic car but some performance numbers have been revealed. From Electric Classic Cars, the Photon does the 50 km/h to 80km/h roll-on in about six seconds, while the top speed is said to be over 112 km/h.

    While not being numbers to blow up the skirt of the average sports bike rider, the performance figures of the Photon are actually close to the standard Bullet powered by petrol. This includes a range of 128 to 160 km when ridden at between 80 to 96 km/h, quite typical road speeds for a Royal Enfield Bullet.

    Weighing in at about 200 kg, Electric Classic Cars says the 2.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack in the Photon goes to full charge in about 90 minutes using the onboard 7 kW charger. 3D-printed panels shroud the battery pack and a custom rear sub-frame provides additional support.

    Running gear from the Royal Enfield Classic 500 is retained, including the 37 mm diameter telescopic forks in front and twin shock absorbers at the back. Braking is done with a single 280 mm disc on the front wheel with four-piston calliper while the rear uses a 240 mm diameter disc.

    Lighting has been upgraded to LED units throughout, including the multi-element headlight and turn signals. As for pricing, Electric Classic Cars is not a volume manufacturer and builds bespoke electric vehicles to order but a price of 20,000 pounds sterling (RM106,744) has been published

     
  • Honda extends US production suspension to May 1

    Honda has announced that it will extend the production suspension of its automobile, engine and transmission plants in North America, which includes the United States and Canada, until May 1. The carmaker first began its automobile production suspension on March 23.

    According to Honda, the suspension extension is due to the lack of market demand arising from stay-at-home orders being enforced in many cities and states, which has prevented consumers in a number of markets from purchasing new vehicles.

    Based on official data provided by American Honda, sales of Honda and Acura models in March dipped by 48% to just 77,153 units, dragging down the company’s year-to-date Q1 performance by 19.2% to 298,785 units.

    The Covid-19 pandemic has heavily impacted automotive markets worldwide, resulting in temporary closures, poor sales and disruptions to supply chains.

     
 

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