Sunday, June 29, 2008

Alfa Romeo Mi.To

Alfa Romeo has released a whole photo gallery of the new Bravo-based Alfa Romeo Mi.To. We’ve already seen most of the Mi.To’s angles in the previously released motion footage of it, but after the jump you will find some nicely done still images including some of the Mi.To posing with its larger sibling, the Alfa 8C Competizione.

The MiTo is 4,060mm long, 1,440mm high and 1,720mm wide. The baseline MiTo is revealed to have a 1.4 liter engine producing 78 horsepower at 6,00rpm and 125Nm of torque at 4,250rpm. A T-JET engine similiar to the one in the Bravo GT produces 155 horsepower and 206Nm of torque from 2,000rpm, with another 24Nm available via a Sports switch labelled Alfa DNA. The only turbodiesel variant for now is a 1.6 liter JTDM engine producing 120hp and a massive 280Nm of torque at 1,500rpm which goes on up to 320Nm at 1,750rpm.

These are the initial launch engines and Alfa Romeo promises more powerful engines later in the product timeline, which will feature technologies like the Multiair electronically controlled variable valve lift system and a twin clutch system that Alfa dubs the DDCT.

The compact car features a rather advanced feature usually found in cars higher up the segments. The feature is part of the Vehicle Dynamic Control system and is called Dynamic Steering Torque, or DST. DST applies slight torque to the steering to suggest the correct manoeuvre to the driver in situations like oversteer, or in situations where grip is different on the two sides of the axle.

MITI: New Open AP applications still frozen, but we gave 20 APs to “test market”

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry has issued a statement saying it has not issued new Open APs to a company, which is most likely the newly formed Premier Hybrid Cars Sdn Bhd manned by Putera UMNO exco member Datuk Shahrin Zahari and son of Mofaz director Nik Iruwan Nik Izani.

It clarified that news reports stating the company had received new Open APs was inaccurate, and that the freezing of issuing new Open APs is still in place. The new company had actually applied for 1,200 Open APs for the distribution of hybrid cars in Malaysia but the ministry had yet to consider the application.

Then the ministry subsequently contradicted itself in saying that it had given 20 Open APs to the company for “market testing” for the introduction of hybrid technology in Malaysia, something that Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd had already done last year complete with full technical backing on how to maintain the hybrid cars.

MITI also added that it is looking into measures and incentives to encourage local and foreign investment to make Malaysia a regional hub for producing hybrid cars. This comes a few weeks after Toyota Motor Corporation announced it would be building the Toyota Camry Hybrid in Thailand.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

RM2.70 What Can You Say ?

It took Pak Lah and the cabinet line-up 4 hours to decide that the price of petrol gotta go up by 78 cents to RM 2.70 at midnight. The new pricing structure will be based on the global market price in such a way that the monthly price will be adjusted accordingly at a 30 cents discounts from global market price prices. The electric tariff for commercial, industrial, retailers and restaurant operators users went up by 18% to 26%. The 40% increase on the price of petrol means that I have to spend an extra RM 60 weekly from the current RM 150. At last we have to resort to using the "mobile death camps" for our commuting needs in which Pak Lah has pledged to improve years ago.

New Petrol and Diesel Prices Effective 5th June 2008

The following are the new prices of petrol effective from midnight tonight:

New Price Old Price
RON97 Petrol RM2.704 per liter RM1.92 per liter
RON92 Petrol RM2.62 per liter RM1.88 per liter
Diesel RM2.581 per liter RM1.58 per liter

UPDATE: Despite the PM’s announcement saying RON97 will be priced at RM2.70, motorists found out today that the actual price at the pump is RM2.704. It looks like the PM’s department could have been overenthusiastic over the whole 5 sen rounding up mechanism that was launched recently, even applying it to their announcements. Diesel price is also not RM2.58 per liter, but RM2.581 per liter.

The new price of RM2.70 includes a 30 sen government subsidy, so it is reduced from what the Prime Minister says is a market price of RM3.00 per liter. The 30 sen subsidy will be a fixed amount of subsidy that will subsidise the market rate.

The market rate will be reviewed every month. This means the market rate is RM4.50 per liter next month, we will be paying RM4.20 per liter for fuel, and if it is RM7.00 per liter, we will be paying RM6.70 per liter.

The government will be giving an additional subsidy of RM625 a year for cars with engine displacements 2000cc and below liters (joy for Mercedes-Benz C200K and E200K owners with their 1.8 liter engines, I suppose), and pick-up trucks with engine capacities up to 2,500cc. Motorcycles under 250cc will get a subsidy of RM150 per year. RM625 is said to be an equivalent of 800 liters a year, which is roughly 78 sen per liter.

Basically for the first 800 liters of fuel used per year, you’ll still be paying the old price of RM1.92 per liter. 66 liters per month is the equivalent of nearly 2 full tanks for a small compact car, or just over 1 full tank for a typical sedan. Payment of the subsidy will be made via postal order to be issued when you renew your car’s road tax annually, and payment processing will begin on the 1st of July 2008.

For those who do not qualify for the subsidy, there is some reduction in road tax prices. For cars with engine displacement of above 2000cc, road tax will be slashed by RM200. Motorcycles above 250cc will have their road tax slashed by RM50.

These changes are only temporary. As mentioned by Datuk Shahrir Samad yesterday, this will only be step one in the final plan in restructuring the way we purchase fuel in our country. These prices are still controlled prices - future prices will be a floating market rate that is not capped by the government.

The government will be moving towards abolishment of the fuel subsidy in the future, so we’d better just get used to these new prices. There is already a hint in the Prime Minister Office’s announcement which states that the cash subsidy will be for vehicles with road tax expiring between the 1st of April 2008 until the 31st of March 2009. What happens after that?

Suzuki SX4 WRC

Suzuki has unveiled a special 500-unit run of the Suzuki SX4 for the German market called the Suzuki SX4 WRC Edition, nevermind that there’s nothing WRC about the special edition other than the stickers on the outside.

The Suzuki SX4 WRC Edition features a bodykit, rally-ish decal stickers, rally-ish 16 inch wheels wrapped with 205/60R16 tyres, and a mesh grille. On the inside you get carbon-lookalike trim, a leather shift knob, and keyless entry and start.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Permanent link to Government to ink deal for free rear seatbelts

Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat says owners of locally-made cars without rear seatbelts will soon be able to get them installed for free, if a deal with local car manufacturers goes through. A Memorandum of Understanding between the parties involved is expected to be signed in the next few days.

“I wanted original manufacturers involved because fitting anchorage points for seat belts must be done properly. It is part of their corporate social responsibility programme. I would like to advise passengers in cars already fitted with seat belts to buckle up when travelling and for car owners without rear seat belts to install them promptly and not wait until the last minute,” said Datuk Ong.

Remember, the rear seat belt rule starts from this month (June 2008) onwards, so start buckling up! Read the previous posts on this issue to find out more about the new rear seat belt rule. There are some exemptions for certain Perodua models that have supposedly no anchorage points for rear seat belts.

New fuel prices and subsidy structure in August!

Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Datuk Shahrir Samad announced today that petrol prices at the pump may most likely increase in August 2008, two months from now. Details on the price hike and fuel subsidy are still sketchy, but here is what we know at the moment.

A new subsidy system will be implemented based on need rather than use.
The keyword of need rather than use indicates that a person with high income, despite choosing to use a very fuel efficient car will still not qualify for subsidies.

Datuk Shahrir seems to indicate that subsidised petrol prices will also increase, so everyone will end up having to pay more than the current RM1.92 per liter price, it is just a matter of how much.

Diesel prices will also go up, and based on previous reports the hike could be higher than the petrol price hike.

If tomorrow’s cabinet meeting goes well, we will be able to know full details on what the new fuel price and subsidy plan is on Wednesday.

These are truly worrying times when even heavily subsidised Brunei is considering reducing subsidies, a move that will increase the price of fuel in Brunei, which currently stands at B$0.53 per liter, or about RM1.22 per liter. But Brunei’s move is more of an energy conversation and environmental issue, as the cheap fuel prices have made most Bruneians wasteful with the usage of the precious commodity.

8:15PM UPDATE: The Prime Minister announced that the new revised fuel subsidy plan will take effect immediately from Wednesday onwards to “avoid any speculation.”

8:20PM UPDATE: Datuk Shahrir Samad was asked by Reuters to comment on the PM’s earlier announcement that the new fuel subsidy structure would take immediate effect. Datuk Shahrir only said that Wednesday’s announcement would be an incremental step towards a total restructure in August and did not elaborate further.