Latest Stories

  • Renault to cut 15,000 jobs, save RM9.7 billion by 2024

    Lots of movement in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance lately, what with the reveal of a new business strategy and Nissan both posting severe losses and releasing a teaser of 12 forthcoming models.

    Now it’s Renault’s turn to unveil a transformation plan, as it looks to navigate its way out of a perfect storm of a coronavirus pandemic and a steepening global recession. The French carmaker is hoping that this €1.2 billion (RM6.3 billion) plan will help it save more than €2 billion (RM9.7 billion) in fixed costs over the next three years, in order to make it a more competitive player in the industry.

    The austerity measures aren’t pretty – during this same period, the company is looking to cut nearly 4,600 jobs in France alone, and over 10,000 in the rest of the world. This “workforce adjustment project” would involve retraining measures, internal mobility and voluntary departures, with a promise of dialogue with social partners and local authorities to carry this out.

    Renault will place greater emphasis on electric and commercial vehicles

    Renault says it wants to strengthen cash flow while keeping the customer at the centre of its priorities, through more efficient operations and strict resource management. In France, this means it is focusing on “promising” aspects of its business for long-term development, namely electric vehicles, light commercial vehicles (LCV), the circular economy and high value-added innovation.

    The company also estimates it will save €800 million (RM3.9 billion) though cheaper and more efficient product engineering alone, with a more streamlined development process that reduces component diversity and uses the leader-follower concept already outlined in the wider alliance strategy. Resources will also be optimised by concentrating on strategic technologies with high added value, using overseas research and development centres more efficiently and making greater use of subcontracting and digital validation.

    A further €650 million (RM3.1 billion) will be saved in production, through the upgrading of its plants and increased digitalisation. Renault also plans to slash global production capacity from four million vehicles last year to 3.3 million by 2024, with the aforementioned job cuts and the suspension of planned capacity increases at the Moroccan and Romanian plants pinching further pennies. It will also study the adaptation of production capacity at its Russian facilities and the rationalisation of gearbox production worldwide.

    While Alpine’s rumoured demise was not mentioned, its future remains unclear

    Rumours in recent months suggested that the Alpine sports car brand would be getting the axe, and while the new plan makes no mention of it, its future remains unclear – especially since Renault says it is open to converting the Dieppe plant, which now makes the A110, once production of that car ends.

    Elsewhere in France, the Douai and Maubeuge plants are being considered for the creation of a centre of excellence (no, not the Proton kind) for EVs and LCVs, while the Flins factory will receive a circular economy ecosystem, including the transfer of activities from the Choisy-le-Roi site. The Fonderie de Bretagne plant will also be subjected to a strategic review.

    Finally, increased digital marketing and general cost rationalisation, including support functions, will put €700 million (RM3.4 billion) back into Renault’s coffers. The company will also refocus its core business by scaling down its Renault Retail Group (RRG) integrated distribution network in Europe and by ceasing the sale of combustion engine-powered passenger cars in China – a move it announced back in April.

     
  • Nissan unveils four-year transformation plan – to cut production by 20%, reduce model range, focus on EVs

    Nissan, which yesterday announced a net loss of 671 billion yen (RM27.1 billion) for the year that ended in March, has revealed a four-year restructuring plan in which it hopes to achieve a return to profitability by the end of fiscal 2023.

    The plan will involve a series of cost-rationalisation and business optimisation measures, which will include streamlining unprofitable operations and surplus facilities. With the previously announced shuttering of its manufacturing operations in Indonesia, the company says it will now focus on Thailand as its production base for the ASEAN region.

    It has also announced its intention to close its Spanish assembly plant in Barcelona, which if it goes through will result in the loss of 2,800 jobs. Elsewhere, the automaker will be exiting the South Korean market and will end the Datsun brand presence in Russia. It was also mentioned that there are plans to streamline operations in some ASEAN markets, but no specifics were indicated.

    The plant closures will also see global production being reduced by 20% to around 5.4 million units a year, and the product line-up will also be streamlined by 20%, being trimmed from 69 to less than 55 models. The global workforce is also expected to be reduced, with the most recent report indicating that there could be up to 20,000 job cuts, making for a 15% reduction of its 139,000 global workforce.

    This doesn’t mean that there won’t be new models – plans are afoot to introduce 12 models in the next 18 months. Some of these were teased by the company yesterday, and models inclued the 400Z, Navara facelift, X-Trail, Ariya, Qashqai, Note, Frontier and Terra.

    Nissan said that it will be focusing on global core model segments including C and D segment vehicles, EVs as well as sport cars. Electrification will continue to be a core component of its strategy, the company stating it plans to expand its presence on this front and sell more than a million electrified vehicles by end of 2023.

    In Japan, the company is aiming to launch two more EVs and four more e-Power vehicles, increasing its electrification ratio to 60% of sales. Other tech will also get a push – its ProPilot advanced driver assistance system is set to be introduced in more than 20 models in 20 markets, the aim being to equip more than 1.5 million vehicles with the system annually by the end of 2023.

    The automaker will also work closely with its partners in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to share resources, including production, models, and technologies, and will be the reference for the alliance in Japan, China and North America.

     

  • June 2020 week one fuel price – RON 95 goes up to RM1.43, RON 97 to RM1.73, diesel up 10 sen to RM1.61

    Another Friday, which means its time for the regular weekly fuel price update. Not so pleasant news yet again for motorists as fuel prices continue on an upward climb for coming May 30 to June 5 week.

    The ministry of finance has announced that Euro 4M RON 95 petrol will be priced at RM1.43 per litre, up five sen from the RM1.38 it was last week. Likewise, there’s a five sen increase for RON 97, which will now be priced at RM1.73 per litre in the coming week (RM1.68 last week).

    As for Euro 2M diesel, that sees a 10 sen increase to RM1.61 per litre (RM1.51 last week), so this means that Euro 5 diesel, which costs 10 sen more than Euro 2M diesel, will now be priced at RM1.71 per litre in the coming week.

    The ministry says that the increase is influenced by the climbing price of the refined product, in line with the increase in global crude prices.

    These prices will remain in effect until June 5, when the next fuel price update is announced. This is the 21st edition of the weekly fuel pricing format for 2020 and the 73rd edition in total for the format, which runs from Saturday until the following Friday.

     
  • VIDEO: 2020 Kawasaki ZX-25R does the dyno run

    With the previous video in the series from Kawasaki Indonesia showing the 2020 Kawasaki ZX-25R being started and warmed up, the next video in the series shows Kawasaki’s quarter-litre, four-cylinder sports bike doing the dyno. The sound of the ZX-25R, fitted with a Yoshimura exhaust and anodised aluminium rear sets, is fit to stir the soul.

    The technician winds the the ZX-25R through the gears with a redline shift everytime till it reaches peak power. The anti-climax is no power numbers are shown, which means waiting till the official launch of the ZX-25R in Indonesia.

    The inline-four of the ZX-25R does mimic the sound of a much larger machine, much like its predecessor, the ZX-2, despite displacing only 250 cc. As in the previous video in the series, the blue flame emanating from the exhaust on the overrun when the shows the ZX-25R’s engine has the potential to be modded for some serious power.

    Coming with an inline, four-cylinder, 250 cc in a sports bike chassis and spinning up to 17,000 rpm, the ZX-25R is capable of speeds above 160 km/h. This was shown during testing at Jerez, Spain with Kawasaki World Superbike riders Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes taking it out on the track.

    Standard equipment on the ZX-25R includes 37 mm diameter Showa SFF-BP (Separate Function Fork – Big Piston) upside forks and horizontal Back-Link monoshock at the back. Also part of the ZX-25R’s performance package is a quickshifter, riding modes and traction control.

     
  • VinFast’s first EV seen testing – November 2020 debut

    It was previously reported that VinFast has plans to export electric vehicles to the United States in 2021, and we’re finally getting our first look at one of those offering, as several images of a camouflaged prototype were recently posted on the public OTO+ Facebook group.

    The vehicle in question appears to take the form of crossover that is said to be smaller than a C-segment SUV, with styling done by Pininfarina, which was also responsible for existing VinFast models like the LUX A2.0 sedan and LUX SA2.0 SUV.

    As such, it gets cues like the company’s signature slim headlamps and V-shaped grille, although the latter has lesser inlets as the car lacks a conventional internal combustion engine, although a petrol-powered version is said to be on the cards as well.

    The company has yet to provide detailed information about the electric powertrain used, but reports indicate the crossover will come with 402 hp (300 kW) in its most powerful configuration. A range of 500 km is also expected, with battery cells made by South Korea’s LG Chem, Reuters reports.

    In a statement to the international news organisation, VinFast says it plans to officially debut the crossover at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show in November. This will be followed by a test programme in January next year and mass production will begin by July 2021.

     
  • VIDEO: KTM 1290 Super Adventure R and Chris Birch

    12 Hours with the 1290 Super Adventure R

    12 Hours with the 1290 Super Adventure R. This bike really is a beast, 160hp in a super capable chassis. The roads are open once more and exploring from home couldn't be more fun!#SayNotoSlow

    Posted by Chris Birch – Off Road Coach on Khamis, 28 Mei 2020

    With the conditional movement control order (CMCO) still putting a damper on riding motorcycles casually, many Malaysian riders are awaiting the lifting of movement restrictions. Meanwhile, while we’re all practicing social distancing and staying home, avoiding going outdoors unless necessary – you are doing that aren’t you? – here’s a video of off-road coach Chris Birch putting the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R, priced at RM119,800, through the paces.

    The 1290 Super Adventure R and Birch are almost synonymous, with Birch’s “Say No To Slow” off-road riding clinics being ever popular. A session with Birch was held by KTM Malaysia in 2018 and it was enlightening to see Birch hustle the almost 245 kg beast up and down the slopes at the Sungai Ular, Selangor, track.

    In this video, the New Zealand countryside features prominently and Birch tackles the varied terrain on the 1290 Super Adventure R with aplomb. Coming with a liquid-cooled, 1,301 cc, 75-degree V-twin, the Super Adventure R puts out 160 hp or power and 140 Nm of torque.

    Power gets to the ground via a six-speed gearbox and PASC slipper clutch to prevent engine power overwhelming the rear tyre during hard downshifts. Designed for long stints in the saddle with its 23-litre fuel tank, the Super Adventure R also feature two-position adjustable handlebars, manually adjustable windshield, five lever reach positions and two-position footpegs.

    Inside the cockpit, a 6.5-inch TFT-LCD display with anti-glare glass displays all the necessary information the rider needs. A full suite of rider aids – when riding KTM motorcycles, this is something very necessary as when the author reviewed the KTM Super Duke R – is standard, including traction control and four ride modes, with a fifth “off” mode for those riders who like their fun going sideways.

     
  • Volkswagen invests two billion euros in China – new acquisitions are part of its electrification strategy

    Volkswagen has announced some big moves in China as part of its electrification strategy in the world’s largest auto market. The German giant plans to increase its share in JAC Volkswagen, its joint venture for e-mobility. Around one billion euros is to be invested for this purpose.

    The amount includes the acquisition of 50% of the Anhui government-owned entity JAG, the parent company of Volkswagen’s JV partner JAC, and an increase of its stake in JAC Volkswagen (the JV company) from 50 to 75%. By gaining management control of the latter, VW is paving the way for more electric models and infrastructure. The parties intend to close the deal by the end of the year, subject to customary regulatory approvals.

    Founded in 2017, the JAC Volkswagen joint venture is an all-electric company which develops, produces and sells new energy vehicles (NEVs). A portfolio expansion of up to five additional full EV models by 2025 is planned, as well as building a full-scale e-model factory and finishing the R&D centre in Hefei.

    Separately, Volkswagen will acquire a 26% stake in battery manufacturer Gotion High-Tech for around 1.1 billion euros, becoming the company’s largest shareholder.

    An important part of an EV is the battery, and VW acknowledges that securing future battery supply to meet demand will require increased localisation. With the stake in Gotion, VW is the first global automaker to invest directly in a Chinese battery supplier. The deal will not affect ongoing contracts with other battery suppliers, VW says.

    According to Wolfsburg, the partnership is an opportunity for it to achieve deeper know-how in the field of batteries. Gotion maintains various current and future projects over the entire battery value chain from sourcing, development and production to recycling. The company is in the process of becoming a certified VW Group battery supplier in China, including supplies for local Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB) vehicles.

    “I am delighted with this strategic milestone in our mutual and trusted relations as Volkswagen takes a strategic role in a state-owned company for the first time, as well as investing direct in a Chinese battery supplier. These investments shape the character of Volkswagen in China, making it a more localised, more sustainability-focused mobility company. By opening up the market, China is giving Volkswagen new business opportunities,” said Stephan Wöllenstein, CEO of Volkswagen Group China.

    Volkswagen Group China has already outlined its route to becoming a net carbon-neutral company. In 2025, around 1.5 million NEVs are planned for delivery to customers across the country, which is also the world’s biggest market for e-mobility.

     
  • 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe teased – not just a facelift, SUV gets a new platform and hybrid, PHEV options

    Click to enlarge

    Hyundai has released teaser images of the new 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe. They show an even bolder front end than the current fourth-generation TM, which sports three tiers of lighting.

    Like today’s car, the super slim top tier houses LED daytime running lights, but the light signatures are now T-shaped, and are visually connected to the lower tier. There, the stem of the T bisects what looks like twin projector main lamps, which are now visually part of the grille. The effect is a full width grille.

    Speaking of the grille, Hyundai released images of two grille patterns – one’s a chain link style that’s rather similar to today’s grille, while the other appears like cascading scales. It’s a very bold and aggressive look.

    Click to enlarge

    But what’s more interesting is under the skin. There’s a new “Integrated Architecture” with hybrid and plug-in hybrid options for the first time in the Santa Fe. This may be perceived as just a “midlife facelift” (today’s car first surfaced in February 2018), but there’s a new platform under there.

    The Korean carmaker says that the new Santa Fe will be the first Hyundai model in Europe and first Hyundai SUV globally based on the all-new third-generation vehicle platform. It allows for significant improvements in performance, handling and safety, as well as facilitating electrified powertrains, it’s claimed. The underpinnings in question here should be similar to that in the fourth-generation 2021 Kia Sorento that was revealed in March.

    Besides a “dignified and charismatic exterior design”, the upcoming Santa Fe’s interior design updates will “provide premium sensibility and comfort”. Set to reach European showrooms from September, more information will be revealed in the coming weeks. The new Kia Sorento is a very handsome SUV, and the Santa Fe should fare well in looks department as well. Stay tuned.

    GALLERY: 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe in Malaysia

     
  • 2020 Fuller Moto 2029 is a rolling work of 3D art

    Custom motorcycles cover a very wide range of definitions, not limited to the traditional metalworking techniques giving rise to a cookie cutter series of cruisers and bobbers carrying V-twin engines. Applying modern production techniques such as 3D printing and CAD/CAM design has given rise to the 2020 Fuller Moto 1929 custom motorcycle.

    Taking inspiration from a French motorcycle of the 1920s, the 1929 Majestic, the Fuller Moto 1929 follows a streamlined, Art Deco style that embodies an era of stylised design and curving shapes. Built to debut at the Handbuilt Show in November, 2020, the 1929 is a one-off custom motorcycle commissioned by the Haas Collection in Dallas, Texas.

    The basis of the 1929 is a Zero Motorcycles FXS electric bike, with a peak power delivery of 20 kW and peak torque of 106 Nm. Fuller Moto faced issues during the build of 1929, with the FXS’ battery pack being too tall, so the location of the batteries and motor was flipped, giving the 1929 its sleek shape.

    Clad in 3003 aluminium, the 1929 features hub-centre steering, taken off a Bimota Tesi. Tying things together are components and parts made from 3D-printed titanium, allowing the 1929 to have an organic, grown from metal look like the bio-mechanical designs of H R Giger.

    The front swingarm is a 3D-printed piece, as is the handlebars. Designed by Bryan Heidt, lead metal fabricator at Fuller Moto, movie concept artist Nick Pugh, who had previously worked on Star Wars, an Oerlikon 3D-printer was used to fabricate the components.

    Of note are the 23-inch wheels, which feature transparent polycarbonate discs to connect wheel rims to the hubs. Bobby Haas, owner of the Haas Moto Museum and Sculpture Gallery, says, “We know we are doing something that has never been done before. There is no actual blueprint. We are not doing a production cycle. We are doing a piece of work that is rolling art. It is unique.”


     
  • 2021 Acura TLX revealed – bespoke platform, front double wishbones, turbo engines, return of Type S

    The Acura TLX is ripe for a renewal, and this time Honda’s luxury division is pulling out all the stops with its core sedan model. After decades of utilising off-the-shelf Honda chassis, Acura has finally treated itself to a bespoke sports sedan platform to give the car a more premium look and a distinguished driving experience.

    Yes, the new TLX is still front-wheel drive as standard and has a transversely-mounted engine, but the company says the body structure is the most rigid ever found on a regular Acura, bested only by the NSX sports car. Better yet, this new model heralds the return of front double wishbone suspension, a staple of past performance Acuras (and Hondas) like the Integra and both generations of the NSX.

    The new platform has also enabled a massive remodelling of the car’s proportions. The TLX is 56 mm wider and 15 mm lower and has a 94 mm longer wheelbase than before, but the important dimension to note is the dash-to-axle length, which has grown by a staggering 198 mm. The resultant longer bonnet gives the car a sportier, more imposing appearance, on top of its wider stance.

    In terms of design, the TLX closely resembles the Type S Concept, borrowing its strong front and rear haunches, steeply-raked shoulder line and upswept window line. Acura’s signature “diamond pentagon” grille continues to be found up front, flanked by slim LED headlights with “Chicane” daytime running lights. Accent lines at the corners of the bumper frame the large air intakes.

    The sloping glasshouse is positioned further rearward and has an increased tumblehome to further emphasise the car’s broad stance; the roof also features twin grooves for a more dynamic look. The rear overhang is also shorter than before, and this pert rump is nicely finished with inverted L-shaped tail lights – which also carry the “Chicane” graphic – and a visible pair of rectangular tailpipes.

    The sportier-looking A-Spec trim level continues to be offered, adding darkened head- and tail lights, gloss black accents front and rear and a prominent bootlid lip spoiler, along with unique 19-inch Shark Grey alloy wheels. The wider TLX range will be fitted with 18-inch wheels as standard, one inch larger than before.

    The far-reaching makeover continues inside, with a wraparound dashboard design and a tall, wide centre console that clearly demarcates the driver and passenger sides of the cabin. Acura says the TLX’s interior can be finished in authentic materials, such as open-pore wood, aluminium and full-grain Milano leather.

    Comfort at the front of the cabin is enhanced by the 16-way power-adjustable sports seats and the wider body, which is claimed to offer segment-leading hip and shoulder room – although we can’t imagine the longer bonnet doing rear legroom any favours. Acura is also touting increased forward visibility and, for the A-Spec, a thick flat-bottomed steering wheel with metal paddle shifters.

    The TLX also comes with the RDX‘s True Touchpad Interface which, as the name suggests, uses a touchpad to control the freestanding 10.2-inch centre display. Aside from the new wrist rest, the latest version features more accurate swipe zones and handwriting recognition, along with other performance enhancements. A seven-inch multi-info display and AcuraLink connected features are also standard-fit, while a 10.5-inch head-up display and an ELS Premium 3D sound system with roof-mounted speakers are available as options.

    Under the skin, the TLX’s structure – 56% of which is made from lightweight materials like aluminium and press-hardened steel, more than any other Acura sedan – is said to deliver a 50% increase in overall torsional stiffness, going up to 100% where the suspension meets the body.

    This is due to the new central tunnel, triangulated strut tower bars, front and rear underfloor bracing, a one-piece rear bulkhead stiffener and cast aluminium strut tower mounts. Weight distribution has been improved thanks to extensive aluminium usage at the front and the repositioning of the battery to the rear.

    The use of double wishbones at the front is said to offer more precise handling, increased grip and greater mechanical compliance for improved ride quality, while the rear continues to utilise a multilink setup. The car also features variable ratio steering, the NSX’s brake-by-wire electric servo and optional adaptive dampers, all controlled using the Integrated Dynamics System dial with Comfort, Normal and Sport drive modes (plus a new, customisable Individual setting, just like the Germans). The tyres also offer 20% more lateral grip.

    Engine options have been overhauled with a pair of turbocharged powertrains, replacing the previous naturally-aspirated units. The base 2.0 litre four-cylinder makes 272 hp and 380 Nm of torque – increases of 66 hp and 133 Nm over the old 2.4 litre unit – and is paired to a new 10-speed automatic gearbox, offering a wider ratio range, more discrete gears, direct downshifts that can skip up to four gears and a lower first gear.

    For the first time, all variants of the TLX can be specified with Acura’s torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), a rear-biased system that can send up to 70% of torque to the rear wheels under normal conditions, and then shuffle 100% of that torque side-to-side.

    The new TLX also marks the revival of the high-performance Type S variant, this time powered by a 3.0 litre V6 and featuring standard SH-AWD, a specially-tuned transmission and larger brake discs clamped by four-piston Brembo front callipers. Differentiating it from its more pedestrian brethren are a more open grille, larger side air intakes, a rear diffuser, quad round exhausts and 20-inch split-spoke alloy wheels. An NSX-style Y-spoke lightweight option is available, shod with high-performance tyres.

    Whichever model you pick, the TLX comes as standard with the full AcuraWatch suite of driver assistance technologies. New features include traffic sign recognition, a driver awareness monitor and Traffic Jam Assist, which works with the adaptive cruise control system to keep the car centred in its lane at low speeds.

    The body structure also provides additional protection in a wider range of collision scenarios, while a new three-chamber front passenger airbag cradles the head like a baseball catcher’s mitt for more effective protection, mitigating potential injury in more steeply-angled frontal collisions.

     
 

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Latest Fuel Prices

PETROL
RON 95 RM1.38 (+0.07)
RON 97 RM1.68 (+0.07)
RON 100 RM2.13
VPR RM2.41
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Last Updated 23 May 2020



 

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