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  • Toyota Vellfire is Malaysia’s most frequently stolen car

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    At the annual media briefing by the General Insurance Association of Malaysia (PIAM) yesterday, the umbrella body revealed that the insurance industry saw the lowest growth rates in recent years in 2016, while claims remained high at RM5.02 billion. The latter is attributed to Malaysia’s high accident rate as well as rising medical costs.

    It wasn’t a great year for Malaysia’s insurers, which fortunes are linked to the automotive industry. With 46.2% of the pie, motor insurance is the biggest contributor to the business, way ahead of fire insurance, the second largest class at 18.5%. Auto sales saw a decline for the first time in 2016 after six consecutive years of growth, falling below the 600k mark for the first time since 2009.

    There was a bright spot however, and it’s the decline in vehicle theft. In his presentation, PIAM CEO Mark Lim pointed out that the police and customs have done a good job in crippling car theft gangs and syndicates, working together with the Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (VTREC), a multi-stakeholder organisation set up by PIAM. The number of reported stolen vehicles was down 20% to 19,307 units last year.

    Breaking down the headline 20% figure (19,307 thefts vs 24,154 in 2015), saw reduction in vehicle theft across all classes – private car (-16%), motorcycle (-24%) and commercial vehicles (-9%). The statistics do not take into account recovery of stolen vehicles.

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    What’s interesting is the “most wanted” list. The models you expect to see are high up in the charts, but there are some surprises as well. The chart just above this shows absolute theft figures, which is expectedly dominated by national car models, as the majority of cars on the road are Protons and Peroduas. The Proton Wira is once again the most stolen vehicle in Malaysia, retaining its “crown” from 2015.

    The Toyota Hilux is second, just like in 2015. But unlike the Wira and most other top 10 entries, there was an increase in the number of stolen Hilux trucks in 2016, proving that demand for the Toyota pick-up among thieves is stronger than ever. The Toyota Vios enters the chart in 10th place, replacing the Honda Civic.

    What’s more pertinent is the chart for the most frequently stolen vehicles. This list counts the number of thefts over the total number of that particular car model on the roads, for theft frequency. Here, the highest ratio belongs to the Toyota Vellfire, which saw 114 thefts relative to nearly 55,000 units on the road.

    Besides the luxury MPV, 4×4 vehicles are also in demand. The Hilux is of course on this dubious podium, along with the Mitsubishi Pajero, while the SsangYong Rexton is in eighth place. Rexton aside, these hardy vehicles are also in high demand in neighbouring countries. The desirable Proton Putra’s presence here is understandable, but we’re scratching our heads on the Peugeot 508’s number four spot.

    If you don’t know, now you know. Toyota Hilux and Vellfire owners, be careful.

  • VIDEO: New Top Gear Series 24 trailer is here – Aston DB11, Ferrari FXX K, Bugatti Chiron, cocking about

    Were you a little let down by The Grand Tour? Don’t worry because come March 5, 2017, Top Gear is set to return with a brand new series (now devoid of Chris Evans). While the insurance-themed first look did pique our interest, this extended trailer is getting us properly excited.

    Why? Just devote about a minute of your life to watch it and all becomes clear. There’s no shortage of exotic machinery here, what with the Aston Martin DB11, Bugatti Chiron, Ferrari FXX K, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and Ford GT being featured.

    Of course, there’s also the multiple challenges like a large-scale, real-life game of Pac-Man with cars for example, mixed in with plenty of faffing and cocking about as well as knob-losing.

    Again, Series 24 of the popular motoring programme will air in the United Kingdom on March 5, but if you need to watch something after replaying the trailer a few times, Rory Reid’s got you covered.

  • Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ for 2017 season

    2017 Silver Arrows Launch – First Shots

    Mercedes-AMG Petronas has unveiled its title defender for the 2017 season, the W08 EQ Power+ – the latter suffix to the racer’s name a new tag that will find its way on to future road-going, AMG performance hybrid models, according to Autocar.

    As with the other 2017 cars launched thus far, the W08 is wider, lower and equipped with wider tyres, featuring ultra-slim sidepods atop a larger floor. The most obvious is perhaps the use of a slim strip in place of the shark fin, seen on other 2017 F1 cars such as the Renault R.S.17 and the Sauber C36-Ferrari.

    Similar to the other 2017 contenders and as per the regulations, the W08’s powertrain is stil a 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 engine paired with an electric drive system, and Mercedes will surely be keeping a close watch on the progress of their F1 powertrains. With this year’s upgrades, Mercedes is ever closer to the 1,000 hp mark, reports have suggested.

    Speaking to Malaysian press at a teleconference, Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff said that despite its high performance levels, there is certainly work to be done.

    2017 Silver Arrows Launch – First Shots

    “We are giving ourselves performance targets that are not easy to achieve, but at the same time you have to keep it reliable. Petronas and Mercedes High Performance Powertrains have really worked closely together in improving the reliability of the engines without losing any performance,” he said.

    Has the team changed their approaches or processes to address last year’s reliability issues?

    “Yes, obviously (Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure in Sepang 2016) was a big blow, and it was a blow to his campaign, and we still feel the pain everywhere. It is, again on the engine side, that we are trying to extract the maximum performance from,” Wolff explained.

    “I would still say, (reliability) is a little bit of our Achilles Heel at the moment; performance-wise we’re looking good, but we have to make it last, so at this stage I won’t say that I’m comfortable. But you shouldn’t be, because performance targets should be difficult to reach, so it is not easy sailing,” he added.

    2017 Silver Arrows Launch – Unveil

    Behind the machinery are the minds that put them into motion, and personnel changes are abound in the Mercedes camp as well, with James Allison replacing Paddy Lowe in the overseeing of the technical front. Hamilton’s thoughts on this?

    “I think it’s always exciting. I have full confidence in Toto’s choices of team personnel, and I naturally wish Paddy all the best, I’ve had lots of great years, actually, almost all of my racing years in F1 was with Paddy, and whereever he goes he’ll do fantastic. James has got a great track record, I’m excited to see what he will bring and how he will integrate with the team; I can only imagine he will add to the team,” the three-time F1 driver’s champion said.

    Hamilton’s new teammate, Valtteri Bottas, will have considerable expectations weighing on him, to say the least, heading into the reigning constructors’ champion and driving alongside a decorated teammate.

    2017 Silver Arrows Launch – First Shots

    “Valtteri certainly has the little handicap of having been drafted in very late in January, but he has the talent and he has the experience in Formula 1 to settle in quickly. Today’s the start of the journey, Valtteri and Lewis are going to drive the new car for the first time and we have 8 days of testing, and I think for a driver with his experience, it’s giving him enough time to settle in with the team and find his grip,” said Mercedes motorsport boss Wolff.

    “You know, why we love this sport? The stopwatch never lies, and he has probably the best driver of modern times as his teammate, so straight from the get go we will know where Valtteri stands, and we certainly have high expectations,” Wolff added.

  • Ford GT Competition Series – no air-con but lighter

    The Ford GT Competition Series is the latest model to be unveiled by the Blue Oval, essentially a lightened version of its flagship supercar. How much lighter? Well, the carmaker did not disclose any numbers yet but has provided details on the car’s weight saving diet.

    At first glance, it certainly looks pretty much identical to a regular GT. Look closely, and you’ll notice the gloss-finished carbon-fibre bits on the racing stripes, side mirrors, A-pillar and lower body trim.

    The bulkhead Gorilla Glass behind the driver is also half the thickness (and lighter) than the one fitted on the standard car, and the acrylic engine cover is no longer held up in place with gas struts. Instead, owners get a carbon-fibre prop for the task, another requirement to lower the car’s weight and centre of gravity.

    Optional weight-reducing equipment available for the standard car – carbon-fibre wheels as well as titanium lug nuts and exhaust – are standard fitments on the Competition Series. Buyers get to choose from six exterior body colours – Shadow Black, Frozen White, Ingot Silver, Liquid Blue, Liquid Grey and Triple Yellow.

    Inside, you still get the F1-styled steering wheel, FIA-certified steel roll cage and Alcantara upholstery on the seats, instrument panel and headliner. However, pesky “items not essential to performance” like the air-conditioning system, radio, speakers, stowage bins and cupholders are all omitted because if you want top levels of performance, some sacrifices have to be made.

    The standard car has a dry weight of the GT of about 1,360 kg but it remains to be seen just how much lighter and faster the Competition Series will be. Power will continue to come from a 3.5 litre EcoBoost V6 that outputs 647 hp and 746 Nm of torque in standard guise.

  • 2017 Honda CR-V – Thailand to get 1.6 i-DTEC diesel?

    First details of the Thai-spec 2017 Honda CR-V have surfaced on the forums of automotive website Headlight Magazine. If the information is correct, the fifth-generation of the popular family-oriented SUV – which was spotted testing in Thailand – will debut in the Land of Smiles as early as the end of March, ahead of the 2017 Bangkok International Motor Show.

    What’s more, the new CR-V is rumoured be offered there for the first time with a turbodiesel – a 1.6 litre i-DTEC four-cylinder engine introduced on the previous generation’s facelift, developing 160 PS at 4,000 rpm and 350 Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm. Unlike the CR-V’s other engines, which make use of a CVT, the diesel will likely soldier on with the same nine-speed automatic transmission as before.

    Aside from the diesel, the new CR-V should also be offered in Thailand with the same petrol engines as the United States. These include a 2.4 litre naturally-aspirated mill that churns out 184 hp at 6,400 rpm and 244 Nm of torque at 3,900 rpm, along with a 1.5 litre VTEC Turbo unit producing 190 hp at 5,600 rpm and 243 Nm of torque from 2,000 to 5,000 rpm, slightly higher than the one in the Civic.

    Completely redesigned inside and out, the new CR-V is even more practical than before, with a longer wheelbase – 2,660 mm vs 2,620 mm – providing the car with a more spacious cabin. New features include LED head- and tail lights, an Active Grille Shutter, an optional powered tailgate with handsfree opening and a new seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

    The new CR-V also adds the option of Honda Sensing driver assists, including Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). However, it is unclear if all these features will be offered in ASEAN markets.

    Closer to home, the new Honda CR-V is likely one of the four cars that Honda Malaysia plans to launch this year. Do you think there will be a market for a diesel model over here?

    GALLERY: 2017 Honda CR-V

  • PIAM: Motor insurance growth tapered in 2016, but claims remain high at RM13.8 million per day

    The General Insurance Association of Malaysia (PIAM), the umbrella body representing all insurers in the country, has released figures for 2016 and it does not make for good reading, whether from the insurers’ business point of view or as us motorists. First, the figures.

    Growth in the insurance industry has tapered to just 1.1% in 2016, which is the lowest seen in many years. That’s half the 2.2% growth rate in 2015. Gross written premium income was RM17.67 billion last year.

    At 46.2% of the pie, motor insurance is the biggest contributor to the business, and premiums stood at RM8.17 billion compared to RM8.09 billion in 2015, a growth of 0.8%. It is way ahead of fire insurance, the second largest class at 18.5%. How about medical and health insurance? Just 6.6% of the insurance business, even after a surge last year.

    That tells us that the fortunes of the insurance industry is very much linked to the automotive industry, and flat growth in motor insurance can be directly linked to lacklustre car sales in 2016, which saw a decline in total industry volume for the first time after six consecutive years of growth. Total vehicle sales were 580,124 units last year, 13% lower than in 2015 and below the 600k mark for the first time since 2009.

    Growth is marginal, but claims remain high. Motor insurance claims amounted to RM5.02 billion last year, which works out to RM13.8 million per day. While that’s 5% lower than in 2015 (RM5.29 billion), it remains a key concern for the industry. The claims include those paid out for property damage (own car, the other party’s car), bodily injury and death, and vehicle theft. PIAM bosses point out that medical costs are on the rise.

    According to statistics recently quoted by the Ministry of Transport, the total number of accidents recorded in 2016 was 521,466 cases, a 7% increase fro 489,606 cases in 2015. Total deaths from road accidents also jumped 7% from 6,706 in 2015 to 7,152 last year. Malaysia’s vehicle ownership ratio is among the highest in the world, and so is the accident rate. That’s a worrying trend.

    PIAM says that claims costs have also been impacted by the Customs department’s directive to disallow the claiming of Input Tax Credit on repairs of accident vehicles.

    The association has lodged repeated appeals to Customs on the basis that there’s is double taxation involved, as GST has already been paid on spare parts used for repairs. PIAM says that in addition to the workshop paying GST on parts, insurers have to absorb GST when they pay repairers for their costs of repairs, which includes the price of the parts.

    There’s good news in the form of a big decline in vehicle theft. In his presentation, PIAM CEO Mark Lim pointed out that the police and customs have done a good job in crippling car theft gangs and syndicates, working together with the Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (VTREC), a multi-stakeholder organisation set up by PIAM. The number of reported stolen vehicles was down 20% to 19,307 units last year.

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    The insurance industry is currently working on two initiatives. The first is a Fraud Intelligence System (FIS) to combat insurance fraud, which is estimated to cause RM500 million in losses yearly, or 10% of motor portfolio incurred losses. It uses advanced data analytics to detect unusual patterns and will be deployed in phases, starting in the third quarter of 2017.

    The other is the game changing Phased Liberalisation of the Motor and Fire Tariffs announced by Bank Negara in June last year. Together, the two insurance classes account for 65% of the insurance market, and detariffication will impact almost everyone – motorists, individuals with home loans, households and businesses. PIAM will work with BNM to ensure an orderly transition and the planned National Consumer Education Campaign will be vital. If all goes to plan, full liberalisation will happen in 2019.

    On the industry’s prediction for 2017, PIAM chairman Antony Lee said that it “should be no worse than 2016”.

  • Honda Malaysia now offers airbag inflator replacement at Petronas stations; 75% completion for driver-side

    Honda Malaysia (HM) has announced that customers can now replace their vehicles’ Takata front airbag inflators at selected Petronas stations. With the move, airbag replacements are now available at three main venues, including Mobile Hubs (MH) and all 84 Honda authorised service centres.

    To find out the locations and operating hours of the airbag inflator replacement activities at Mobile Hubs and selected Petronas stations, refer to the table posted below. Additionally, customers can also get their airbag inflators replaced at Honda Family Road Trip (HFRT) locations.

    As a note, replacement activities at authorised service centres or Petronas stations require an appointment to be made prior, but isn’t required for MH and HFRT locations. Should your car require replacements for both sides (driver and front passenger), the whole process will take no more than 45 minutes to complete.

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    In addition to these activities, Honda Malaysia is also working closely with the Road Transport Department (JPJ) to approach current owners who are affected by the Takata airbag inflator issue.

    According to HM, the stock availability for Takata driver front airbag inflators is at 100%, whereas for Takata passenger front airbag inflators, it is now reaching 75%.

    The company also revealed that the replacement of Takata driver front airbag inflators has now reached 75%, and will continue to take additional measures to improve the completion ratio of driver and passenger front airbag inflators replacement.

    Honda Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. continues alerting and informing customers of the importance of replacing the affected vehicle’s Takata airbag inflators, via increased frequency of postings on social media and SMS blast. Owners of Honda vehicles affected by the Takata airbag inflator product recall are advised to immediately get their vehicles checked and parts replaced at any Honda Authorized Service Centres, Shopping Mall Hubs or at PETRONAS Stations as soon as possible.

  • 2017 Kawasaki Z650 ABS price confirmed – RM35,609

    Launched in Malaysia during Kawasaki Motors Malaysia (KMM) annual dealers’ dinner in January, the price for the Kawasaki Z650 ABS is now confirmed at RM35,609, including GST. As announced during the dealers’ dinner, Datuk Jeffrey Lim, general manager and director of KMM said the price of the naked sports Z650 would fall below the RM37,000 mark, and has delivered on the promise.

    This would mean the full-fairing Ninja 650, with an estimated price of RM38,000, would not too far away from the Z650. With the 2017 Kawasaki Z650 ABS coming at RM35,000 and change, this makes this middleweight machine a touch more attractive, specifications wise, than its closest rival, the Yamaha MT-07 – sans ABS – at RM36,795.

    Carrying a 649 cc liquid-cooled, parallel-twin that puts out 67.3 hp at 8,000 rpm and 65.7 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm, Bosch 9.1M ABS is standard for both the Z650 and Ninja 650. A welcome inclusion to the spec-sheet is an assist-and-slipper clutch, which prevents rear-wheel hop and chatter on hard down-shifts.

    Also new for the 2017 Kawasaki Z650 is a monochrome LCD instrument cluster, and fuel is carried in a 15-litre tank. Wet weight is claimed to be 187 kg, and the seat height is a rider-friendly 790 mm.

    The Z650 is Kawasaki’s successor to the best-selling Er-6n, which took the Malaysian market by storm with its affordability and ease of use. There are two-colour schemes available for the Z650 – Lime Green or Titanium – with availability in Kawasaki Authorised Premium Dealer showrooms at the end of February.

  • PSA Group confirms bid for strategic partnership with Proton – targets expansion in Southeast Asia

    According to a report by Automotive News Europe, France’s Groupe PSA confirmed it has submitted a bid for a strategic partnership with Proton. The company, along with China’s Zhejiang Geely are reportedly the leading parties to become Proton’s partner.

    “PSA Group made an offer and is willing to go further. We have no additional comment at this stage,” a PSA spokesman said in an email. Besides the Malaysian carmaker, the automobile manufacturer is also in talks with GM to take over Opel-Vauxhall.

    Analysts say should PSA Group secure the partnership, it would allow for access to Proton’s underutilised facilities to serve as a production and export base. This will help support PSA’s goal of expanding its presence in Southeast Asia (Thailand and Indonesia) as well as other emerging markets.

    Meanwhile, Geely has pitched to DRB-Hicom that it will offer Proton some of the latest vehicle technologies it has developed with Volvo’s input as part of the deal. Entry into the global right-hand drive market is to be gained for Geely from this partnership as well as technology-rich Lotus, which is owned by Proton.

    DRB-Hicom previously stated (again) that Proton’s strategic partner will only be announced by end of 1H 2017, pending detailed negotiations with the bidders to ensure that they meet three key criteria – which are the strategic, operational and cultural fit. It also said that it will maintain a significant equity in Proton as it is the first national and ASEAN’s only car manufacturer.

  • Italdesign unveils new V10 supercar – only five units

    Famed Italian styling house Italdesign has revealed a new mid-engined supercar that will be sold to the public, albeit in a very limited run of just five units. The new car will be sold under the new Italdesign Automobili Speciali brand, established to offer ultra-low-volume production vehicles to select customers.

    Given that the company is now owned by Lamborghini, it should come as no surprise to find that the car looks a little bit like a refugee from Sant’Agata. Even more so when you discover that the head of innovation design is in fact former Lamborghini design director Filippo Perini, who joined Italdesign after its iconic founder Giorgetto Giugiaro left in 2015.

    Believe it or not, there’s a unifying design theme behind this madness. The lines are softer and smoother above the shoulder line, in keeping with Italian gran turismo tradition, while the portion below that line is devoted to aerodynamics. Be that as it may, the bewildering amount of scoops, flics and spoilers that dot every inch is quite a departure from the elegant, minimalist designs that characterised the Giugiaro name.

    Under the rather overwrought skin, the new car is essentially a rebodied Audi R8, using the latter’s aluminium and carbon fibre spaceframe. It also uses Ingolstadt’s 5.2 litre direct-injected, naturally-aspirated V10 that’s also shared with the Lamborghini Huracán.

    While output figures have yet to be released, the car’s quoted zero-to-100 km/h sprint time of 3.2 seconds and its top speed in excess of 330 km/h leads us to believe that the engine is from the uprated R8 Plus model, producing 610 hp and 560 Nm. The Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel drive system should also be retained here.

    Buyers will be able to customise their cars to their liking through finishing and performance packages that will be offered. The company also signed a collaboration with Swiss watchmaker Roger Dubuis to create an exclusive eight-piece collection of the latter’s Excalibur Spider watches.


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