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INFINITI Engineering Academy – Sifting for future tech leaders

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INFINITI Engineering Academy – Sifting for future tech leaders
Tommaso Volpe, Infiniti Global Director of Motorsport and Cyril Abiteboul (FRA) Renault Sport F1 Managing Director - winner's announcement.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of a Formula One weekend, there is a quiet revolution taking place. While most team bosses are scouting out and testing new driver talent, the folks at Renault F1 are taking their partnership with related luxury brand and title sponsor INFINITI to a new level by building on their multi-year effort to scout engineering talent.

And there is no better proof of their commitment to the program than the fact that this multi region competition run under the INFINITI Engineering Academy moniker has resulted in employment contracts to past participants.

Dragster challenge of INIFINITI Engineering Academy
Infiniti dragster challenge.

The year ending race at Abu Dhabi served as the selection platform for participants from the Middle East region, with ten semi-finalists going into a protracted skills and strategy selection process that resulted in three finalists who were put through another set of skills contests after a session where invited media (including us) put various questions to them, with scoring input that added to the judges scores.

Fahim Choudhary, winner INFINITI Engineering Academy, Middle East edition
IEA Students finalists – pit lane challenge.

After this session, the three finalists moved on to the final challenge, which involved assembling a four-cylinder bank header with the series of pipes and splitter of the exhaust assembly. It was here that the region’s winner Fahim Choudhary won his opportunity to join the winners from the six other regions to participate in a year long internship program with the two companies in the United Kingdom, complete with a good salary, company car, travel and accommodation – six months with Renault Formula One’s facilities and a further six months at INFINITI’s European Technical Centre at Cranfield.

Fahim is a student with Lancaster University in Dubai.

Tommaso Volpe, Director, INFINITI Global Motorsport and Performance Projects, said: “The INFINITI Engineering Academy has grown every year, and now in our fifth year, competition for our limited number of slots is intense. Our partners at Renault Sport Formula One™ Team and Harvard University have helped us select the brightest engineering students from around the globe who will contribute to the future of the sport and the automotive industry.”

Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault Sport Racing, also commented: “Attracting top new talent is crucial for success in Formula One™, so we want to make sure that together with INFINITI we select the best engineers to work for this programme. Each one of these young engineers brings fresh perspectives and new ideas to the race team, which are vital.”

INIFINITI Engineering Academy semi-finalists
IEA Middle East students.

Interestingly, this year’s edition of the program saw Harvard University involved with Dr. Julia Minson, an expert in decision science, involved in the process. Dr. Minson is working with the INFINITI Engineering Academy to conduct ground-breaking research into decision making in engineering, and how the very best engineers perform under pressure to make decisions when faced with vast amounts of complex data. The learnings from the research will then be incorporated by both the INFINITI engineering and motorsport teams to optimize their decision-making processes.

Bugatti Centodieci – limited run special to honour EB110

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Bugatti Centodieci – limited run special to honour EB110

Bugatti has revealed its next exclusive run model – the Bugatti Centodieci debuts at Monterey with design language and an 8.0-litre W16 meant to honour the French manufacturer’s rebirth model – the EB110.

“With the Centodieci, we pay homage to the EB110 super sports car which was built in the 1990s and is very much a part of our tradition-steeped history,” says Stephan Winkelmann, President of Bugatti. “With the EB110, Bugatti catapulted itself to the top of the automotive world once again after 1956 with a new model.” It was a crucial interim step for the production facility that was newly founded in Molsheim in 1998, taking Bugatti back to its roots in France, and the first hyper sports car of modern times – the Veyron.

“We are proud of our long Bugatti history, of which the EB110 is very much a part. That’s why we’re celebrating a reinterpretation of this extraordinary vehicle with the Centodieci – Italian for 110,” says Stephan Winkelmann.

The EB110 was built in Campogalliano, Italy, but from the very outset it never denied its French influences. Former owner Romano Artioli opened the factory on Ettore Bugatti’s 109th birthday – 15 September 1990. Artioli made a deliberate choice in opting for Campogalliano, a small town in Emilia Romagna. The location had a key advantage in the 1990s: it was in the catchment area of several Italian sports car brands, so Artioli was easily able to recruit experienced employees for his project. Artioli presented the super sports car EB110 to the public on Ettore Bugatti’s 110th birthday – hence the type designation: EB for Ettore Bugatti, 110 for his 110th birthday. 

Staying on the design inspiration of the two decade old EB110, Achim Anscheidt, Head Designer at Bugatti says, “The challenge was not to allow oneself to be captivated too much by the design of the historic vehicle and work solely in retrospect, but instead to create a modern interpretation of the shape and technology of that time.” The EB110 is a very flat, wedge-shaped and graphically quasi two-dimensional super sports car of the late 1980s. “Transporting this classic look into the new millennium without copying it was technically complex, to say the least. We had to create a new way of combining the complex aerothermal requirements of the underlying Chiron technology with a completely different aesthetic appearance.”

Instead of the V12, the Centodieci features the iconic 8.0-litre W16 engine with 1,176 kW/1,600 hp at 7,000 rpm. An additional air inlet in the area of the oil cooler reliably regulates the temperature of the performance-enhanced engine. The Centodieci sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.4 seconds, to 200 km/h in 6.1 seconds and to 300 km/h in 13.1 seconds; the top speed is electronically cut off at 380 km/h. “It’s not just the top speed that makes a hyper sports car. With the Centodieci, we once again demonstrate that design, quality and performance are just as important,” says Stephan Winkelmann. 

The car is limited to a ten piece run and is pegged at 8 million Euro plus VAT. Yes, it’s all sold out.

 

BMW and MINI target larger Oman market with pre-owned showroom

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BMW and MINI target larger Oman market with pre-owned showroom

BMW group’s Oman importer, Al Jenaibi International Automobiles, has opened an impressive new showroom exclusively for BMW Premium Selection and MINI Used Car Next operations in the Sultanate.

Able to accommodate up to 16 BMW and MINI vehicles, the Muscat showroom, built to the latest CI, offers customers the very best examples of BPS and MUCN models in a premium setting.

Dr. Hamid Haqparwar, Managing Director BMW Group Middle East, said: “The opening of this new BPS and MUCN showroom will help Al Jenaibi International Automobiles meet the demand for pre-owned, low mileage and high-quality BMW and MINI motor cars in Oman.

“Our loyal customers across the region expect more from a luxury brand than just a premium product – they expect a premium experience too. With this new facility, we can focus on customers’ needs in Oman and serve them in a more efficient way.”

Johnny Oommen, Chief Executive Officer of Al Jenaibi International Automobiles, said “Our new BPS and MUCN showroom is a huge boost to the pre-owned car market in Oman and makes buying a BMW or MINI a safe, reliable, and friendly experience.

“Our clients can easily and comfortably view a superb selection of certified and fully approved pre-owned vehicles that have passed extensive technical checks.

“The experience of buying a pre-owned BMW or MINI is now firmly on the same level as new vehicles, with customers able to enjoy the same service, comprehensive warranty and mobility offers and, above all, peace of mind.”  

The move brings a new dimension to the Sultanate’s fragmented used car operations, with the group enjoying first mover status in terms of a corporatised approach to their premium brand operations.

The selection of prospective units is limited to vehicles that have passed a thorough inspection and are no older than seven years, have a maximum mileage of 200,000 km and have a valid warranty of one-year remaining.

Every pre-owned BMW and MINI vehicle comes with 3 years/5,000kms free maintenance (whichever comes first) and 12 months BPS warranty. Customers can also benefit from a great range of finance options that make owning a BPS or MUCN vehicle a safe, attractive, and financially viable option for all.

Behbehani Brothers New Bentley Motors Bahrain Retailer

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Behbehani Brothers New Bentley Motors Bahrain Retailer

Bentley Motors, the British luxury automotive manufacturer, has appointed Behbehani Brothers as its official retail partner in Bahrain to provide sales and after-sales services in the Kingdom. 

The appointment of the retailer marks an exciting new chapter for Bentley in Bahrain as it seeks to strengthen its position in the country, supported by the recent launches of acclaimed models such as the Continental GT Coupe and Convertible, and the Bentayga V8 and Bentayga Speed luxury SUVs.

With Bentley Bahrain coming under the management of Behbehani Brothers, all new and pre-owned sales, service and warranty enquiries will be directed to Behbehani Brothers. Bentley customers will be able to access a dedicated team of sales and after-sales experts who will deliver the highest levels of customer care from Behbehani’s facilities in Sitra. The partnership between Bentley and Behbehani Brothers became active from 1stJuly 2019.

With recognised experience across the automotive field, Behbehani posseses particularly in-depth knowledge of the luxury car market through its existing partnerships with Porsche, Lamborghini and Audi, and is perfectly positioned to take Bentley to new heights in Bahrain.

Commenting, Stephen Reynolds, Regional Director for Bentley Middle East, Africa and India, said: “Bahrain is a very important market for Bentley, and Behbehani Brothers is the natural choice for our new partner, with their experience and expertise in the luxury automotive sector providing the ideal platform for the Bentley brand to open a new and exciting chapter in its history in the Kingdom. Behbehani Brothers are committed to strengthening customer relationships and delivering first class service levels, which will ensure an exceptional buying and ownership experience for our Bahraini customers.”

Meanwhile, Steven Hill, Group General Manager,  Behbehani Brothers commented: “This is a major step for Behbehani Brothers as we expand our automotive offering across the Kingdom. Bentley has a unique line-up that is known the world over for delivering best-in-class performance and levels of fine luxury that set the standards for everyone else to follow. With this partnership, we will enhance the brand’s position in the country and elevate the customer’s experience to the highest levels that Bentley customers expect.”

Bentley recently unveiled the all-new four-door Flying Spur that delivers the ultimate combination of performance, comfort and luxury. The all-new Flying Spur will join the brand’s Bentayga luxury SUV, which has proved particularly popular across the region since its launch three years ago, as well as the all-new Continental GT Coupe and Continental GT Convertibale, which are set to continue the model’s success story across the region.

Porsche Centre Oman welcomes the new 911 to the Sultanate

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Porsche Centre Oman welcomes the new 911 to the Sultanate

The eighth generation of the 911, based on the 992 platform, debuted in the Sultanate at a ceremony hosted by Porsche Centre Oman. The 911 Carrera S and the 911 Carrera 4S were on display. Both cars come in coupé and cabriolet versions.

Speaking during the launch event, Elias Awad, Brand Manager of Porsche Centre Oman, said: “Just like the first generation, the latest 911 is a sports car for the new era. Our icon has once again evolved and is now more powerful, more emotional, and more efficient than its predecessors. It is the best 911 Porsche has ever produced and this eighth generation maintains the 911’s status as a pure driver’s car that also offers everyday usability and unique design. As such, I am delighted to announce that the 911 Carrera S and the 911 Carrera 4S are now available here in Oman.”

More Power available

The turbocharged flat-six engine of both models now produces 450 hp. This corresponds to an increase of 30 hp compared with the previous generation. The two 911 variants beat the four-second mark for acceleration from zero to 100 km/h: the rear-wheel drive 911 Carrera S needs 3.7 seconds and the 911 Carrera 4S, with all-wheel drive, just 3.6 seconds. This makes both models 0.4 seconds faster than their predecessors. The optional Sport Chrono Package reduces the sprint by a further 0.2 seconds. Power in the new models is delivered by a newly developed eight-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch transmission. Top speeds are now measured at 308 km/h for the 911 Carrera S and 306 km/h for the all-wheel drive version. The fuel consumption (NEDC-correlated) of the 911 Carrera S is 8.9 l/100 km, while the 911 Carrera 4S records this figure as 9.0 l/100 km.

Improved driving dynamics
The new 911 advances driving dynamics with the new mixed size tyre configuration, with 20-inch wheels on the front axle and 21-inch wheels on the rear axle. At the same time, the tyres on the rear drive-axle are significantly wider than on the front wheels.
The combination results in increased stability, traction and balance while reduced understeer and oversteer improve safety. The refined chassis design is completed by the next generation of Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which has been extensively developed for the new 911.

Innovative lightweight roof with Coupé characteristics
The Carrera Cabriolet S and 4S use innovative technology to achieve a previously unattainable coupé-like roof curvature of the closed fabric panel bow roof, something that also offers aerodynamic benefits. A new and lighter hydraulic roof drive allows the convertible top to be opened and closed in around 12 seconds in each case – like on the previous model, this is possible at speeds up to 50 km/h. The integrated, electrically operated wind deflector ensures increased comfort in the 911 Carrera Cabriolet at higher speeds.

New assistance systems increase safety and comfort
In a world first, Porsche has developed the Wet mode, included as standard. This function detects water on the road, preconditions the control systems accordingly and warns the driver, who can then set up the vehicle for enhanced safety, by simply pushing a button or using the mode switch on the steering wheel (Sport Chrono Package). 

The new Porsche 911 Carrera S and 911 Carrera 4S are now available at Porsche Centre Oman. 

Basic retail prices are as follows:

911 Carrera S CoupeOMR47,400
911 Carrera S CabrioletOMR51,900
911 Carrera 4S CoupeOMR50,400
911 Carrera 4S CabrioletOMR54,900

Thomas Klein new President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars Middle East

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Thomas Klein new President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars Middle East

Mercedes-Benz Cars Middle East has announced the appointment of Thomas Klein as the incoming President and CEO. He takes over from Mark De Haes.

Klein has extensive international experience in the automotive industry and will be responsible for all Mercedes-Benz Cars Middle East operations in the region. He will continue to work on  growing the sales and services performance across the 13 markets within the Middle East and Levant, and further strengthening the partnerships with all public and private stakeholders in the region, as well as the cooperation between the regional office and the general distributors as priorities of equal importance.

Klein started his career as a Marketing Specialist with DaimlerChrysler at their headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany before he joined the Berlin-based German sales organization as an assistant to the Managing Director Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars. Since then, Klein has held several senior management roles within Daimler including: Head of Sales-Strategies & Methods, Berlin, Germany; Head of Mercedes-Benz Retail, Wuerzburg, Germany; Managing Director Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars, Johannesburg, South Africa; and Senior Manager Cross Function Sales , Stuttgart, Germany.

He obtained his MBA from the Leipzig Graduate School of Management, and holds a BA degree from Berlin University of Cooperative Education in Berlin, Germany.

Speaking on his appointment, Thomas Klein, incoming President & CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars Middle East said, “I am delighted to have joined Mercedes-Benz Cars Middle East at a time where great changes knock on the automotive industry’s doors. Mercedes-Benz has a strong presence in the Middle East, and I look forward to working in a region that has great optimism for the future. In an environment where customer service and impeccable hospitality is paramount, I see my appointment as an incredible opportunity to contribute to the growth of the Mercedes-Benz customer experience for years to come”.

Klein’s appointment is effective July 1, 2019.

Groupe PSA begins new 208 production at Kenitra plant

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Groupe PSA begins new 208 production at Kenitra plant

Groupe PSA has announced the start of production at its new plant at Kenitra, Morocco. The new 208 is the first model off the line, with more models to add on by 2020 when the plant is expected to hit its 200,000 unit target.

The project was launched with the signing of an agreement between Groupe PSA and the Kingdom of Morocco on 19 June 2015. Four years on, this event also celebrates the roll-out of a complete ecosystem for Groupe PSA in Morocco, similar to those in place in other strategic Group regions, with a steering centre based in Casablanca for the Middle East and Africa region, an operational R&D centre and, now, a latest-generation plant in Kenitra meeting the Group’s highest standards.

The start of production at Kenitra was marked by the presence of His Majesty King Mohammed VI.

Jean-Christophe Quémard, Executive Vice-President, Middle East & Africa, and member of the Managing Board of Groupe PSA, said, “At the heart of the Middle East and Africa region, Morocco is an historic and strategic market for our Group and its four brands, Peugeot, Citroën, DS and Opel. We are forging a unique partnership in Morocco’s automotive industry, thanks to the help of all our partners and the support of the Moroccan authorities.”

Groupe PSA is the only carmaker to cover the entire value chain in Africa. This ecosystem includes a network of 62 local suppliers, with 27 new supplier sites set up to meet the needs of the Kenitra plant.

Toyota Oman launches Gen 12 Toyota Corolla and Corolla Hybrid

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Toyota Oman launches Gen 12 Toyota Corolla and Corolla Hybrid

The all new 12th generation Toyota Corolla was launched in Oman by importers Saud Bahwan Automotive, at the Toyota Oman showroom in the Wattayah area of the capital Muscat. The occasion also saw the unprecedented simultaneous launch of the Toyota Corolla Hybrid.

The chief guest of the occasion was Yuichiro Takeda, who had flown in from Toyota’s facilities in Japan. Speaking about the new Corolla, Takedasan said, “Since the launch of the first generation Corolla in 1966, the Corolla has remained symbolic for us. Manufactured in 13 countries, the Corolla has sold more than 46 million units. From the very start until now, the spirit of the Corolla has remained unchanged. As the 1stChief Engineer of the Corolla, Hasegawa San had said, ‘Let’s create a world where everyone can experience the joy of driving’.”

The all new Toyota Corolla follows on a long tradition extending from 1966, which has seen the marque garner cumulative sales of 47 million plus at last count. The 12th generation vehicle in built on Toyota’s new TNGA platform that has brought modularity and efficiency to the development process.

Speaking about what sets the all-new Corolla apart Takedasan added, “The Toyota Corolla is built on the Toyota New Global Architecture, called TNGA platform. The New Corolla has been developed from a driver and passengers’ point of view first. We drove the all-new Corolla all over the world to confirm it achieves our aim to have “fun to drive” experiences.” 

Highlighting the introduction of the first Corolla hybrid in Oman he said, “On top of conventional petrol engine line up, we have introduced the 1.8 hybrid. This hybrid has a confident and natural driving feel with an impressive performance and fuel economy of 27.6 km/l. Toyota’s proven Hybrid technology will also provide smooth, quiet and responsive driving experiences with powerful torque.”

The ceremony also saw Takedasan hand out bouquets to some fortunate early bird buyers of the new car.

The all new Corolla gets an evolutionary treatment of its front grille, using the enlarged central element to anchor a new headlight arrangement that includes twin rising LED elements on either side, and a slightly widened stance courtesy of the vertical bracketing of the foglight. The interiors get Toyota’s new tiered dashboard with a hybrid analogue and digital instrument panel and access to a 7″ color display (4.2″ on lower variant).

The Toyota Corolla launches with three powertrain options: a base 1.6-litre with 121hp and 154Nm of torque paired with a CVT box. The larger and more powerful option gets one a reworked 2.0-litre ‘dynamic force’ 4-cylinder engine that is rated at 158hp and 200Nm of torque. Handling the higher torque and power, the car gets a ‘direct shift’ version of the CVT.

In addition to these, the all new Toyota Corolla Hybrid was also debuted with a 1.8-litre Atkins cycle 4-cylinder engine and an inline motor assist fed by a battery pack placed behind the rear axle. The laid back petrol engine and the motor in combination offer 121hp at the wheels, while bringing a new benchmark in fuel efficiency norms to the Sultanate, with a claimed figure of 27.6 km/litre.

Earlier in the evening, a Representative from Saud Bahwan Automotive said, “In Oman the Corolla has always remained popular. Be it design, engineering, safety or resale value, the Corolla makes a lasting impression. Like all earlier generations, this too will amaze you. And to encourage such amazing experiences, are Saud Bahwan Group’s world-class facilities. Always focused on customer satisfaction. To enhance your ownership experiences with professional care. We thank our valued customers for their continued support. We also take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Toyota Motor Corporation for their constant support, guidance and encouragement.” 

INFINITI Qs Inspiration Concept wows Shanghai with traditional Japanese art forms

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INFINITI Qs Inspiration Concept wows Shanghai with traditional Japanese art forms

INFINITI QS Inspiration Concept took centre stage at the Shanghai Motorshow, with traditional art forms pointing to an interesting direction in design.

INFINITI’s journey has been long and hard. This year’s presence at the Shanghai Motorshow was meant to broadcast a message of achievement, of finally having reached a juncture where the brand could look at smooth sailing ahead. Somehow, the choice of Shanghai as a venue was doubly interesting, for the fact that it represents a market that can make or break the best laid plans of global car manufacturers.

So we were in the city of Shanghai along with the brand to learn of the paths it was treading. From a brand that began life as a luxury version of its Nissan parent, that too focussed on the US market, which at that time was the only volume market worth targeting. But unlike the success that Toyota managed with Lexus in terms of building an independent luxury brand, INFINITI didn’t quite get its act in place. Many people would remember the early 2000’s Q45 as its epitome, oozing power and some fancy headlights, but not quite pushing the luxury argument.

That is something that Shanghai as a city seems to have avoided, largely as an accident of geography. Western Shanghai could be likened to where Nissan now stands, with a wide offering, some heritage and the impression of affordability, while the newly developed Eastern side, just over the Huangpu river is a class apart with its towers, multimillion dollar apartments and a feel of being a couple of decades ahead of the folks across the bridge. And it offers an impressive skyline, made famous through so many Hollywood movies.

We were watching the towering edifices over cocktails at an INFINITI dinner before the motor show, where we met up with a clutch of interesting people from the brand, largely from the design function. Karim Habib, who is now the brand’s executive design director is someone we have interacted with in his previous stints at other car brands. The bonus was we also met up with Alfonso Albaisa, the global design head for Nissan, who spent some time highlighting the new design centre that they had just opened in one of the towers on the skyline.

The importance of the brand’s focus on China is core to the Hong Kong headquartered INFINITI. Fast forward to the actual motor show and we began to see what the intent was.

Here is a look at the highlights of the press conference:

The centre of attention was the unveil of the INFINITI Qs Inspiration Concept. In some ways it can be seen as the sedan version of the QX Inspiration concept that defined a language around future electrified SUVs. Here we could see the platform come to life as a blown out version of a sedan, with a lot of messages added in.

Christian Meunier, Chairman, INFINITI, declared “For 30 years INFINITI has built a reputation for introducing new technology that delights and gives confidence to drivers. The age of electrification presents us with an opportunity to renew our credentials as an innovative challenger brand, ready to move quickly and decisively in this growing and exciting area of the market.” But it wasn’t just the electric credentials that were in the spotlight. The Qs Inspiration also took a different path with the use of materials, fabrics and even manufacturing concepts drawn from traditional Japanese crafts like Origami.

“There is a common design thread that unifies our four most recent concepts, the Q Inspiration, Prototype 10, QX Inspiration and, now, Qs Inspiration,” explains Karim Habib, Executive Design Director. “Each serves to illustrate INFINITI aesthetics for the era of electrification.” The aesthetics Habib alludes to define their current approach and are namely engaging, enriching, enabling and enchanting – what the company calls its ‘4EN’ approach to design. 

Habib adds: “Like the QX Inspiration Concept, this concept builds on the Japanese spatial concept of ‘Ma’, focusing on the open, flowing spaces that sit between the bodywork’s sculpted lines. 

“The result is an incredibly expressive design, with flowing metalwork punctuated by highly structural, contemporary forms. This means expansive, muscular surfaces, with clear, concise lines inspired by origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.”

We were given a personal introduction to the Qs Inspiration by Habib, who extolled the form that had evolved. “These cars have a memorable visual identity,” Habib concludes; “one that we will adapt for our electrified cars in future.”

Gallery of the INFINITI Qs Inspiration:

The Wow factor of the INFINITI Qs Inspiration seems to point to a product line up that could be visually completely diverse from the Nissan roots although the obvious benefits of platform sharing of the electric skateboard underpinnings will nonetheless be there. Here is the differentiator – an ability to sculpt a luxury image for the brand, building on its successes over the years. And then there is the tantalizing portent of the choice of Qs as a moniker. unlike the all bold QX does that mean we are looking at a line-up of sports sedans with the Qs badge instead of being tagged Q50s and so on. There’s room for that approach and we think INFINITI could do with a sportier image overall.

What goes into the making of an Isuzu D-Max?

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What goes into the making of an Isuzu D-Max?

Isuzu’s D-Max is made in Thailand along with some of the brand’s LCVs. We recently had an opportunity to see the plant’s workings from the inside.

It’s not often one gets invited to visit an automotive manufacturing facility given the amount of secrecy that shrouds the process. So, when Isuzu asked us whether we would be interested to visit a manufacturing plant in Thailand, how could we, one of the region’s popular portals pass an opportunity like this?

It’s a two-hour drive (depending on traffic) from Thailand’s capital city Bangkok and the sophisticated plant is located in the Gateway Industrial belt in the province of Chachoengsao.

Spread out in an area of 703,520 sq-m, the layout of the L-shaped plant has been designed with several objectives in mind — operational efficiency, ecological balance and calm working atmosphere for the work force who work in two-shifts.

The Gateway plant is the Japanese brand’s second production unit dedicated to the assembly of D-Max range of pick-up trucks and LCVs. It was set up in 1997 when Isuzu decided to shift global production of the D-Max and LCVs to Thailand and make it the focal point for these two categories of vehicles.

Isuzu invested US$211million in the infrastructure and the plant began operations in 2012. 

With a strong and talented force of 5,600 people and combination of sound technical practices which includes state-of-the-art robotics, the Gateway plant has been able to consistently produce world-class products with best practices in place.

The overall efficiency can be judged by the day-to-day operations that have shown highest productivity levels achieved by an automotive plant in Thailand with minimum down time due to plant failures or other reasons. The plant has received many awards and ISO certifications for its superb performance capability.

The plant was built with a production capacity of 126,000 units (D-Max 91,000, LCVs 35,000) per annum and currently runs at 70 per cent capacity. The Samrong plant on the other hand produces 235,000 units per annum.

While the L-shaped Gateway plant is more of an assembly plant, there are several aspects of manufacturing that are carried out here like some of the sheet metal stampings, dedicated paint-shops for body-in-white components and plastics.

What struck us during the visit was how the processes were laid out and how clean the facility was. Apart from in-house production of parts from both Samrong and Gateway plants, Isuzu has over 211 external suppliers.

While 70 per cent of the assembly at Gateway is robotised like spot or MIG welding jigs, automated dollies, human interface is seen at all levels. There’s a significant focus on quality control that begins at the incoming parts/components areas and is carried out at each station of operation. 

Supplies from each vendor are pre-checked by a dedicated team of experts before they are loaded to the sorting warehouse inside the facility. In general, components for only 30 units are stocked in the facility.

Managers at the production facility told us that batch processing is practiced for the vehicles assembled. Each batch consists of 30 units of the same model and rough count of daily finished product output is 300+ units.

Both Thailand domestic market (right hand drive) and export (left hand drive) models are made here. Roughly, 80 per cent of the D-Max RHD models are locally consumed. The monthly demand for D-Max is pretty good at 10,000 units per month in Thailand and the rest of the production is earmarked for export markets.

In the Gateway facility, it takes about 3 hours to roll out a completely built up (CBU) D-Max. Two parallel lines operate under one roof – one for the D-Max and the other for the LCVs. And in-between the two models, 13 or so variants/trims are produced.

The assembly job for the D-Max begins with the chassis, the backbone for this body-on-frame rugged lifestyle 2-tonne pick-up. At the first assembly point, the bare chassis gets the suspension components fitted. At this stage the chassis frame is set upside down. After the rolling chassis gets the suspension components, then it heads towards the engine section where the powertrain is mounted onto the chassis.

The body section is where the processing time takes a bit longer as either the body-in-white cabs come from vendors for the LCV or individual stamped in-house sheet metal components of the cab are positioned into place with the help of a robotized jig and then spot-welded by robots. The manual element is of the technician gently guiding the components towards the jig and pre and post inspection using specific measuring tools for measuring tolerances as specified in the manual.

Of the various assembly points visited, the stamping section is the noisiest where huge hydraulic presses cut and shape the metal sheets through various operations while the quietest would be the trim assembly near the end of the assembly.

Most of the heavy or risky jobs are done by male technicians, though the Gateway plant also employs women who are given assembly line tasks like fixing finishing components, setting up of electrical components like wiring harness, lamp clusters among others. 

Before the semi-finished vehicle arrives at the final assembly line for trims, the body-in-white heads towards the paint shop where it is dipped into an anti-rust tub followed by several layers of paint and clearcoat for the glossy finish. Isuzu is the only company in the region to adopt the innovative Ro-Dip painting process. In contrast to the dip process, Ro-Dip rotates the vehicle’s body within the paint tank that in turn prevents fluid build-ups and allows air bubbles to escape from potential choke points. Ro-Dip is superior to the standard conventional painting process by improving the paint.

That Isuzu cares for its workers is best evidenced at the paint shop where the ovens are located on the upper floors to help reduce the temperature thereby lowering worker fatigue and stress levels.

At each station, the technician responsible gets a basket of components delivered via automated delivery vehicle that also moves along the moving assembly line. 

The whole assembly process from sorting components to final assembly is done with clockwork precision and this has been made possible due to the four solid process pillars which Isuzu management in Thailand have adopted from the principals in Japan. Internally it is known as DOJO and it’s quite a detailed programme, which involves management and workers and is related to best practices on site and upgrades.  

What DOJO does is that it encapsulates activities that cover the critical aspects of the assembly beginning with thorough inspection of parts and checks during assembly. For instance, if the technician misses a particular step, the built-in system in the assembly process will alert or prevent the assembly move forward till the previous step is not completed.

Then DOJO also ensures that each employee is acquainted with tools, their usage, safety practices and everyone attends a daily quality audit meeting so that all employees are up to speed and that they can be rotated through various functions or departments. Training sessions are carried out quite frequently at all levels for staff members.

There’s a dedicated DOJO section in the factory premises where mock-ups of the vehicles are placed for training purposes.

The D-Max that is in its second generation was introduced in 2011 at this plant. For 2019, it has received modest upgrades. Offered with 6-speed manual transmission sourced from Isuzu Philippines or four-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic function from Japan. The latter is sourced from Aisin.

All finished vehicles are tanked up and engine fired for a series of factory-determined testing procedures before they are shipped out to retailers or exported as CBU units.

Will FCA become part of the Renault Alliance?

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Will FCA become part of the Renault Alliance?

Reports emanating from mainstream business media over the weekend point to the high likelihood of a deal between FCA and Renault over a merger.

Both Financial Times and Wall Street Journal have reported Renault and FCA discussions at advanced stages, with the likelihood that Renault would announce a result before trading hours of the European bourses on Monday, with a Renault board meeting scheduled for 8.00 am locally.

Renault is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance which has come under pressure with the arrest of former chairman and industry icon Carlos Ghosn by Japanese authorities. He is currently facing four separate charges of financial crimes in connection with his position at Nissan in which Renault owns 43%. Nissan in turn owns 15% of Renault, but the French government holds a deciding stake through special arrangement.

It remains to be seen how an enlarged grouping will work out, especially considering the existing differences that are playing out in the FCA Group as well as the politics involved with the existing Alliance.

The Financial Times, quoting multiple people informed on the talks, said: “The agreement may ultimately lead the carmaker (Fiat-Chrysler) to join the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance in the future,” if Nissan could be won over. Such an alliance would become the world’s biggest, a title Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi currently vies for with Germany’s Volkswagen.

– with inputs from Chandan Basu Mallik

MG Motors open new Oman showroom – launch new MG6

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MG Motors open new Oman showroom – launch new MG6

MG Motors Oman distributor MHD LLC inaugurated a brand new showroom for the brand in the bustling motor quarter of Wattayah. In addition to being ideally located, the showroom is claimed to offer best-in-class facilities. In addition to this, the brand used the occasion to debut the new MG 6 sedan.

Spread over 712 sq metres, the new showroom includes a used car section and a dedicated customer lounge.

Speaking about the new showroom, David Aziz, CEO, Automotive Products, MHD LLC says, “We are extremely pleased to open the new MG showroom. The new facility will showcase the best in class MG cars, enhance the brand’s reach, visibility and customer convenience. MG cars blend of reliability, safety and performance has enabled it to emerge as a preferred choice for customers. The new showroom, combined with our future plans, will take MG Motors to new heights in Oman.” MHD LLC will be further opening new facilities for MG Motors at Ibri, Sohar etc, as part of the growth plans for the brand.

MG Motors is currently on a global expansion mode, moving into new markets, while strengthening and reinventing its presence in others. The brand is owned by Chinese auto manufacturing giant SAIC Motor and is already well entrenched in the local market. Now, the brand brings new technologies and products to its offering as part of the expansion.

Tom Lee, Managing Director for SAIC Motor Middle East, said “The new MG showroom in Oman further strengthens our brand presence in the Sultanate. This is an exciting time for MG in the region, in the past 18 months we have launched five new models, including our sporty and stylish MG6 sedan. And there’s more to come, this year we will announce a further three models to bolster our line-up. We are confident that with MHD LLC’s partnership, MG Motors will continue to go from strength to strength in the country.” 

The brand also launched the new MG 6 sedan with its 169bhp turbo engine and 7-speed DCT gearbox and new styling, 8″ infomedia touch screen and features like Apple CarPlay and LED headlights.

Limited Edition Porsche 911 Speedster gets mid-2019 production

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Limited Edition Porsche 911 Speedster gets mid-2019 production

The sleek open-top Porsche 911 Speedster gets a mid-year production launch, bringing the 1,948 unit limited edition neo-classic sportscar closer to reality.

The latest model is a straight lift from the Speedster concept, though unlike the concept the production model sports a minimalistic fabric roof that should prove adequate for most occasions. Powered by a high-revving four-litre naturally aspirated engine that delivers 510hp and comes only with a six-speed manual gearbox.

While the Speedster has been a regular model in the lineup over the years, this model is meant to connect to the granddaddy of them all, the original 356 Speedster. This is shown in the sleeker, lower lines, the choice of 1,948 units as the run (harking to the 1948 origin) and to embellish that further the limited run gets an even smaller exclusive offering of the Heritage Design Package that visually connects the Speedster back to 1948, both inside and out.

However the carbon-fibre composite double bubble streamliners are common throughout, as is the mechanism by which the streamliner slides back to allow the roof to fold away. Other carbon-fibre composite structures include the bonnet, wings and various aero elements. Instead of the Talbot mirrors used on the concept vehicle, the production version of the new Speedster features electrically adjustable Sport Design exterior mirrors.

The engine is derived from the 911 GT3 – a naturally aspirated six-cylinder boxer engine of 4.0-litre volume and with a high power delivery peak of 8,400rpm in the 9,000rpm engine limit. Torque peaks out at 470Nm at 4,250rpm.

With its sporty rear-axle steering and dynamic engine mounts, the chassis is based on the technology of the 911 GT3 and 911 R. Control systems, such as Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and PASM with sports tuning and the ability to lower the vehicle by 25 millimetres, have been precisely adapted to the new requirements. The open-top two-seater runs on 20-inch forged Speedster alloy wheels with central locks. The standard equipment includes Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), with internally vented and perforated ceramic composite brake discs.

New Peugeot 508 debuts in region with UAE event

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New Peugeot 508 debuts in region with UAE event

The new Peugeot 508 Fastback launched in the Middle East, with Peugeot expecting it to be a ‘game changer’ – something the company needs.

The new 508 is seen as the French brand’s attempt to finally offer a better product than its German rivals, at a much more affordable price point. Seen on that single premise, the car should be a hit, but it comes with years of Peugeot’s history in the region.

Samir Cherfan, Groupe PSA Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing in Africa and Middle East, said; “Since the new Peugeot 508 made its global debut at Geneva Motor Show last year, I was excited to introduce it to the Middle East market – this car will shake-up the D segment. With the 508, our designers and engineers raised the bar in terms of refinement and use of premium materials and the very latest technology. We have a radical, differentiated car, which is now a genuine challenger against rival premium brands in the segment. 

Peugeot is making a comeback with a very desirable product line-up and a robust plan to increase our brand’s presence in the Middle East. Globally, we are seeing strong results; in 2018 we saw a 6.8 per cent increase in global PSA brand sales which totaled 3.88 million new vehicle sales across the world – with results like this behind us we can reinforce consumer confidence in our brand. More than ever, the new Peugeot 508 embodies our ambition; to be the best high-end generalist automotive brand in the world.”

Along with a new styling language that incorporates LED DRL’s and taillights in a new Peugeot signature, the car gets bolder lines, a more muscular stance and unmistakeable recall on the road. Inside the car, the new i-Cockpit is engineered to make the 508 ultra-modern, with connectivity, navigation and set up options. The 508 also gets a head-up display and features seen in premium cars like adaptive cruise control with positioning, lane keep, active safety brake, driver attention alert and the ability to read traffic signs that links to speed alert. In addition the car gets parking assist with surround camera view.

The new Peugeot 508 features the PureTech 1.6-litre turbo engine with six-speed EAT6 automatic gearbox has an electric gear-lever with one-touch control and electric power-steering, which offers marginal improvement in power (to 180PS) or the more powerful version on the GT that offers 225PS (in Europe) and substantial torque over the current model.

Peugeot 508 10Peugeot 508 9Peugeot 508 1Peugeot 508 8Peugeot 508 7Peugeot 508 6Peugeot 508 5Peugeot 508 4Peugeot 508 3Peugeot 508 2Peugeot 508 11

The Peugeot 508 comes in three trim levels; the entry level ‘Active’, mid-trim ‘Allure’ and the top-of-the-range ‘GT Line’ model. 

BMW Group gets new marketing head in region

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BMW Group gets new marketing head in region

Lars Nielsen joins the BMW group in the region as Sales and Marketing Director effective April 1. He replaces Dr. Hamid Haqparwar who is now the Managing Director.

Nielsen joins the post from his previous stint as Sales and Marketing Director of BMW Group Thailand, where he has worked since 2015.

Originally from Denmark, he began his career with BMW in January 2008, when he took on the role of Director of Sales at BMW Group Denmark, working out of Copenhagen. He then moved to Munich, Germany, where held the position of Area Manager Europe, Market Group North, from January 2012 to December 2014.

A graduate of Copenhagen Business School, Nielsen has more than 20 years’ experience in the automotive industry having worked in a broad range of functions and markets where he was successful in delivering both sales growth and brand development, as well as business transformation.

Commenting on Nielsen’s appointment, Dr. Hamid Haqparwar, Managing Director BMW Group Middle East, said: “We are delighted to welcome Lars to the Middle East and are confident that his considerable expertise and experience of working at the helm of some of BMW Group’s most important sales and marketing divisions will help to strengthen our position across the region.

Scott Shears joins Mercedes-Benz Oman as GM

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Scott Shears joins Mercedes-Benz Oman as GM

Mercedes-Benz Oman gets a new general manager in Scott Shears, an M-B veteran who moves into his post from Victoria, Canada.

With more than 22 years of experience with the brand, Scott brings with him a unique perspective with experience working for both the manufacturer and in retail.  Throughout this time, he has worked in a variety of roles including sales, after sales, product marketing, network development and as a Regional Manager for Mercedes-Benz.

“We are incredibly excited to be welcoming Scott to the Mercedes-Benz Oman family.  Not only does he have a reputation for delivering results and accomplishing challenging goals, with notable achievements in different parts of the business, but this success has been demonstrated in roles across three international markets,” said Lawrence Good, Mercedes-Benz Oman CEO. “It is this level of excellence that we strive to exhibit as we work to deliver only the best to our customers.” 

An accomplished Management Executive, his experience gained in the premium, luxury automotive business includes the last seven years as General Manager for a Mercedes-Benz retailer in Western Canada.  In this position, the dealership witnessed significant success including winning Mercedes-Benz Star Dealer of the Year for 2015 and 2016. 

“More than just a motto, the concept of ‘the Best or Nothing’ is something I firmly believe in and try to instill in everything I do in order to ensure that I’m helping to deliver a high level of experience for both customers and staff,” said Scott Shears, Mercedes-Benz Oman General Manager for Passenger Cars. 

“I am proud to be joining such a dedicated and experienced team and look forward to the journey ahead as we work to grow the Mercedes-Benz passenger car business.  I am confident that we will achieve great success together in the future.” A business and finance graduate from De Montfort University, Scott further developed his learning with a postgraduate Marketing Diploma in the UK and an MBA from Manchester Business School and the University of Melbourne, Australia.  

Hyundai Motor to use NEXO hydrogen fuel cells to power homes

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Hyundai Motor to use NEXO hydrogen fuel cells to power homes

Hyundai Motor Company has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with two South Korean energy firms to generate electricity from hydrogen, using technology from the company’s NEXO hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to power around 2,200 homes.

The pilot project, conducted under the MOU with Korea East-West Power (EWP) and Deokyang, will deliver a 1-megawatt (MW) hydrogen fuel cell power facility, with Hyundai Motor building the fuel cell system, EWP managing the facility and sale of electricity, and Deokyang supplying the hydrogen.

The agreement was finalized in a signing ceremony attended by Hyundai’s Head of Strategy and Technology Division, President and Chief Innovation Officer Youngcho Chi, along with presidents Il Jun Park and Chi Yoon Lee of EWP and Deokyang, respectively.

The 1 MW power facility, scheduled to break ground later this year in the city of Ulsan, will consist of two container-type 500 kW generator modules, each loaded with multiple power modules from Hyundai’s flagship fuel cell vehicle NEXO. 

The facility will generate an annual supply of 8,000 MWh, enough electricity to power approximately 2,200 households at 300 kWh per month, while emitting zero greenhouse gases or pollution because it is fueled by hydrogen.

The hydrogen used in the facility will be byproduct hydrogen brought from a nearby petrochemical complex through a pipe network, reducing costs and making use of local energy sources.

The pilot project presents an opportunity for Hyundai Motor to take its fuel cell technology beyond the automotive industry to achieve economy of scale, which will subsequently lead to cost competitiveness, job creation, and growth of other related industries.

EWP will be able to secure an increased share of renewables in its energy mix, while Deokyang will be a step closer to bringing down the price of hydrogen through increased trade volume and stable management of supply and demand.

Hyundai Motor will collaborate closely with EWP and Deokyang to expand the scope of the project down the line.

MIDDLE EAST CAR OF THE YEAR AWARDS (MECOTY) 2019 Winners

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MIDDLE EAST CAR OF THE YEAR AWARDS (MECOTY) 2019 Winners

The world’s leading car brands took centre stage at the recently concluded, sixth edition of the Middle East Car of the Year (MECOTY) awards, which was held on 25th March 2019, at ADNEC, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The invite-only ceremony was attended by top executives of major automotive brands from across the region and several dignitaries, including guests all the way from Japan, USA, Korea, UK, and Germany.

The night’s leading winners were Bentley and Renault Middle East winning the prestigious Jury & Public COTY awards respectively, whilst top brands, including; Aston Martin, Audi, Ford, Volkswagen, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes, Honda, Mazda, Toyota, Lincoln, GMC, Lamborghini, Hyundai, KIA and Volkswagen were among the winners announced in an exciting and stunning gala awards night.

The nominees underwent a stringent multi-stage voting process, spanning over 10 months, by a select panel of 19 judges, who are handpicked to represent their respective countries, including; UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Egypt, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan & Saudi Arabia.

Audi, which holds the records for the most number of wins over the past editions, witnessed another successful night, by winning three MECOTYs and being recognised as the leader in its competing classes.

Winning a MECOTY award is a testament for manufacturers that proves that their models are in line with the regional consumer needs and re-affirms their commitment of providing world-class vehicles and services to the Middle East region, one of the largest car markets globally.

Renault’s SUV, Duster, which won the coveted ‘Public COTY’ award, claimed over 20% of the 80,000+ votes received from around the world, further cementing its market position of a brand that resonates with the regional consumer’s expectations.

CategoryModel
Sub-Compact SedanToyota Yaris
Compact SedanKIA Cerato
Compact Premium SedanKIA Stinger
Midsize SedanToyota Camry Grande Sport
Midsize Executive SedanLincoln Continental Presidential
Midsize Executive Sedan CoupeMercedes AMG GT (4DC)
Midsize Executive SportbackAudi A7
Midsize Executive EstateJaguar XF Sportbrake
Midsize Luxury SedanLexus ES 300 HE
Large Luxury SedanAudi A8
Sub-Compact SUVMazda CX-3
Sub-Compact Premium SUVJaguar E-Pace
Compact SUVMazda CX-5
Compact Premium SUVCadillac XT4
Compact Performance SUVMercedes Benz AMG GLC 63
Midsize SUVVW Teramont
Midsize Premium SUVVW Touareg
Midsize Premium SUV CoupeAudi Q8
Midsize Performance SUVRange Rover Sport SVR
Midsize Luxury SUVBentley Bentayga
Large SUVFord Expedition
Large Premium SUVLincoln Navigator
MPVHonda Odyssey
Executive MPVFord Tourneo Custom
TruckFord F-150
HatchbackPeugeot 308
Premium HatchbackMini Cooper
Performance HatchbackRenault Megane RS
Performance CoupeFord Mustang GT
Premium Performance CoupeAudi RS5
Premium Performance Coupe (Convertible)Mercedes Benz E53 Cabrio
Luxury CoupeBentley Continental GT
Luxury Coupe (Convertible)Aston Martin DB11 Volante
SupercarLamborghini Aventador S Roadster
Special Category (EV)Renault Zoe
PUBLIC COTYRenault Duster
JURY COTYBentley Continental GT

AlFaisal Al Zubair celebrates victorious second Porsche GT3 Challenge cup season

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AlFaisal Al Zubair celebrates victorious second Porsche GT3 Challenge cup season

Omani racing prodigy AlFaisal Al Zubair celebrated his second consecutive victory at the region’s Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup. At an event held to mark the win, he was felicitated in the presence of His Highness Sayyid Faher bin Fatik bin Faher Al Said, and HE Mohammad Al Zubair.

He has also become the first driver to hold back to back wins in the 10 year old championship series. The coming season will see Al Zubair more to the main team at Lechner Racing from the secondary one. Also, AlFaisal will be sponsored by BWT, a global manufacturer of water treatment systems, for this season. 

Al Zubair also used the event to announce his participation in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, making it his third outing in the senior series that will take him through Europe and Mexico.

AlFaisal Al Zubair stated during the celebration, “I’m very proud of what I have achieved so far at a personal level and raising the name of Oman in one of the most prominent motorsport events in the world. The tenth season wasn’t easy, but the vast amount of support I received from the audience and the confidence that had been placed in me by the local and regional media had a positive impact on my performance and determination to win the title.”

He added, “On behalf of the AlFaisal Racing Team and myself, I would like to thank everyone who contributed towards making this achievement a reality. I promise that this will be only the beginning, and the next win will be bigger. I’m confident that Oman has a lot of talented individuals who, given the opportunity, are more than capable of winning international championships in motorsport.”

Commenting on AlFaisal being selected to join the main team, Walter Lechner said, “AlFaisal has drawn the attention of everyone since he entered the world of motor racing. We have watched him closely over the course of the previous races and championships. He has an innate talent for being able to keep his focus under even the most stressful of conditions. This is precisely the difference between a crowned champion and the other racers. We are delighted to have AlFaisal join our team. He will be a valuable addition to the team as we gear up to challenge the coming season Porsche Supercup. We wish him and the team all the best in the upcoming races, which will see them tour Europe and Mexico. We really hope to see him on the podium again.”

Schedule for the 2019 season of the Porsche Mobile 1 Supercup:

  • First round: Spain, 10-12 May – Barcelona – Catalunya Circuit.
  • Second round: Monte Carlo, 23- 26 May – Monaco Circuit.
  • Third round: Austria, 28-30 June – Red Bull Ring, Spielberg.
  • Fourth round: Britain, 12-14 June – Silverstone Circuit, Towcester.
  • Fifth round: Germany, 26-28 July – Hockenheimring, Hockenheim.
  • Sixth round:Hungary, 2-4 August – Hungaroring, Budapest.
  • Seventh round: Belgium, 30 August – 1 September– Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps.
  • Eighth round: Italy, 6-8 September – Autodrom Monza, Monza. 
  • Ninth and tenth round: Mexico, 25-27 October – Rodríguez Brothers Racetrack, Mexico City.

2019 Bangkok International Motorshow – wrapup

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2019 Bangkok International Motorshow – wrapup

Some of the models that are available in Thailand are also imported to Oman and this aspect makes sense for us to visit the Bangkok International Motor Show. Commercially, the motor show venue also does brisk business in terms of domestic sales.

In its 40th edition thirty-three international auto brands participated — Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Mazda, Subaru, and Suzuki represent the Japanese automakers. Hyundai and Kia represent Korean manufacturers, while premium European and US brands included Audi, Aston Martin, BMW, Bentley, Chevrolet, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz, MINI, Maserati, McLaren, Porsche, Rolls-Royce and Volvo. 

Over 10 new models were launched during the press days including several alternative energy vehicles like EV, Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid, which conform to the local government policy of developing Thailand as the leader of Electric Vehicle manufacturing in Asia.

Isuzu Motors is better known for pick-up trucks and LCVs and had an impressive display. Isuzu also had some bespoke pick-ups which highlighted the fact that lifestyle trucks can be exciting too. The “safety car concept” of its D-Max pick-up was another example of this thought. 

In the same vein Mitsubishi also launched its new Triton truck and Chevrolet its second generation Captiva SUV which  is actually the  China-designed and developed Baojun 530.

As electrification and hybrids begin to make their presence felt, Hyundai showcased its Kona EV SUV and relatively new player for India, MG Motors had an interesting array of models including the GS (Hector in India) and their electric SUV eZS.

Morris Garages (MG) also launched the V80, an 11-seater van rebadged from the Maxus V80. The V80 was originally developed by LDV (Leyland DAF Vans) and Daewoo Motors. It ended up with SAIC through a series of acquisitions.

In the premium brands section from Europe, Audi is heavily promoting its electric arsenal leading with the bi-motor 408hp e-tron model while BMW’s stand attracted visitors with the unveil of its all-new co-developed with Toyota Z4 sports car. Also on display was the BMW 2 Series, the brand’s first front-wheel model (never mind BMW broke its promise on this).

The Z4 clone — Toyota’s Supra may have hardware borrowed from BMW, but its claims the design is proprietary.

Japanese brands which have interest in India included Suzuki which displayed the new Jimny and the refreshed Ciaz sedan. Honda unveiled its latest in hybrid models — the Accord hybrid. It will be powered by either a 1.5-litre turbo inline-4, similar to the Civic RS or an Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter with a pair of electric motors for the hybrid version.

The list of concepts and prototypes: Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro, Mazda Kai Concept, and the Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept.

The Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro, albeit in a static show car form. The hypercar, which is powered by a 6.5-litre V12 with KERS is virtually an F1 car with a bodyshell and is limited to 25 examples.

Porsche set the stage for the Asian debut of its iconic 911 sports car. The 8th generation 911 was presented in Carrera S form and finished in yellow. Also on display was the GT3.

Mercedes-Benz presented the S 560 e AMG Premium, a plug-in hybrid under their EQ brand. Maserati came out with yet another refresh to the GranTurismo. Lamborghini’s stand was impressive with the presence of the Aventador SVJ, the current ‘King of the Nürburgring.

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This year’s edition saw a third of the total space dedicated to motorcycles.

The 2019 BIMS continues to play a vital role in showcasing South East Asia’s newest motorcycle trends, as well as previewing the newest models to possibly come to the Middle East and other bike-friendly countries like India.

As a two-wheelers’ paradise, Thailand is host to domestic and foreign brands. Even some of the foreign brands like Triumph are now made in that country. Indian brand Royal Enfield has a big following and it had one of the largest displays among other bike or scooter brands. There was also sizable presence of Thailand’s domestic manufacturers as well as customisers.

Ducati

Ducati’s talking point was the new Multistrada 1260 that with the new Ducati Testastretta DVT 1262 cc engine, the new MTS is now even more pleasurable for everyday use, thanks to the increased torque at low and mid-range engine speeds. Max power output is at 160 PS and 129.5 Nm of torque.

Royal Enfield

Chennai, India-based Royal Enfield had strong presence at the show where it showcased its range of models and two bespoke models based on the 650cc Interceptor model crafted by local customisers — Zeus Customs and K-Speed Customs. The whole range of REs on display included the recently launched 650 twins.

The Prime Project by Zeus was made in 45 days after the sketch was approved by Royal Enfield. It sports an aggressive cafe-cum-bobber low rider profile.

The Vayu custom motorcycle continues to be a café racer but with a completely different character compared to the stock bike. Also on display was the KX Concept, an 883cc Bobber that was first showcased to the world at the 2018 EICMA Show in Italy that is inspired by the 1938 Royal Enfield motorcycle that was powered by an 1140 cc V-Twin engine, the largest engine from RE at the time. Designing the KX began in April 2018 in India and some work was also done in the UK. Two independent design ideas — neo-classic and futuristic were blended together to create this final concept.

GPX

GPX Motorcycles, a Thailand-based motorcycle 12-year-old manufacturer initially produced All Terrain Vehicles, then moved to motocross bikes and now has a complete lineup of motorcycles from everyday workhorses to weekend leisure bikes. On display was a customized version of one of their recently released models, the Legend 200. This one-off features a scrambler/race bike combo finished in full chrome.

Triumph

The British brand presented its 2019 Scrambler 1200 in XC and XE trim powered by the Bonneville’s liquid-cooled 1,200cc parallel twin motor. Also on display was the recently introduced Speed Twin.

Yamaha

Yamaha had several motorcycles and scooters. Among the key highlights was the next generation model of its supersport offering, the YZF R3, the TyE electric bike concept and an array of urban mobility scooters like the updated Q-Bix.

Kawasaki

With the nostalgic trend seems to be going strong, Kawasaki has decided to “revive” a retro model with two versions — Street and Café-Racer.  Kawasaki’s usual arsenal of the Z series models in black and green were quite dominating in terms of presence.

Peugeot

Peugeot took the wraps off its Django scooter that will be offered in 3 trims; the Heritage, Evasion, and Sport. Design is said to be inspired by Peugeot sedan cars of circa 1950s. The Heritage trim gets the colour-scheme and body design cues of that era. The Evasion uses a two-tone colours and features a stylish windscreen. The Sport, on the other hand, was inspired by the racing cars of the 50’s, complete with racing numbers and a removable pillion seat for a sportier look.

Royal Alloy

The Thailand-based company Royal Alloy pays homage to erstwhile Italian Lambretta scooters from the 60s. Its USP is period products infused with modern technology. The range of Royal Alloy vintage period inspired scooters come with 150cc or 180cc single-cylinder four-stroke liquid cooled engines, ABS, which the manufacture claims are Euro 4 certified. Royal Alloys claims they comfortable pass London’s new ULEZ emissions rules. Compared to the original Lambrettas, Royal Alloy models are a little larger and benefit from a more solid feel on the road.

Aprillia

The Italian brand used the venue to promote three models with special offers. Included in the deal were RSV4 1100, Touno V4 1100 and NOS RSV4 RR model. Other brands and products from Piaggio Group included Vespa scootrers and Moto Guzzi motocycles. Piaggo has been operating in Thailand premium since 2017.

BMW MOTORRAD

BMW had a lot to show off in Bangkok, with a wide array of models, the smallest being the India-made GS310. They also took the wraps off the C 400 X large scooter and the new F850GS 2019 Adventure model with optional Garmin GPS integration.

The K1600 Grand America, BMW’s 1,649cc luxury touring bike featured at the show has a 6-cylinder in-line engine with a top speed of 162 km/h. The bike been launched by the company in two versions – black storm metallic and Austin Yellow metallic and was quite a crowd puller.

On the custom front, K-Speed customs presented the Iron Racer Mark 1 is their latest creation.

Hanway

China-based Hanway seems to be quite passionate for making quality affordable motorcycles. The company says features like LED lighting, a stainless steel exhaust system, alloy rims, digital speedometer comes standard fitment on all models. Hanway says it emphasises on quality aspects right out of the box and we can wholeheartedly agree with that after seeing them.

The company specialises in small displacement machines. The quality of merchandise seems quite good and the brand is also selling their products in Europe and UK. Most of the designs are neo-retro-influenced, be it cafe racers or street machines or outdoor scramblers and seem to be designed for Europe where there’s no restriction for this particular class of 2-wheelers.

Several models from the line-up that caught our attention in particular was a 125 cc scrambler with trials wheels, dual discs and wider, higher handle bars, the Black Café 125 and Masculine 125. Besides these well-equipped machines, Hanway also offers stripped down RAW 125cc series of motorcycles.

Stallions Motorcycles

Thailand-based mini-bike maker is a regular at the Bangkok show and this year it brought in its latest creation — a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric) cafe racer. According to locals with whom we were able to interact with, in the grand scheme of things the Stallions brand is little known and seldom recognised. But it has also come under criticism for showcasing designs plagiarised from other brands. The brand offers various motorcycles ranging from 125cc to 400cc.

Legend Motorcycles

Another Thailand-based start-up brand which is better known for fabricating motorcycle parts from aircraft-grade billet aluminium. The chromed dual-purpose bike was presented as a concept and is powered by a China-sourced Lifan brand powertrain.

Honda

Honda officially unveiled the 2019 CB150R Streetster in Thailand which will sit below the recently launched CB300R in the line-up.

Honda also had a big display limited edition Monkey bikes for the Thai domestic market. Very much like the Super Cub, the Monkey or the Z series came out in the ‘60s and was loved by one and all. Interestingly, the reason why it came to be known as the Monkey was the way people used to look like while riding these bikes. 

Displayed by Cub House, a boutique Honda custom shop in Thailand, was this very alluring Super Cub 125 Copper limited edition. Cub House has been making very special versions of Cubs and Monkeys for some time, collaborating with several well-known brands. Also on display was facelifted 2019 Honda CBR 150R fully-faired commuter bike.

However, the highlight at Honda stand was the yesteryear’s bike Honda Super Cub’s 2018 edition 125 cc edition. The bike has been in production since 1958 and in 2017 Honda produced about 100-million of these – which says a lot about its popularity even now. On the specs front it has little to offer as it carries its 1958 model’s influences.

Meanwhile, a boutique Honda custom shop in Thailand, Cub House presented the Super Cub 125 Copper limited edition. Cub House has been making very special versions of Cubs and Monkeys for some time, collaborating with several well-known brands.

Al Jenaibi launch the all-new BMW X7 in Oman

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Al Jenaibi launch the all-new BMW X7 in Oman

Al Jenaibi International Automobiles, the importer of BMW cars in Oman, launched the first seven-seater BMW SUV – the BMW X7 in the Sultanate.

As a model that BMW claims as the ultimate combination of on-road presence, agile driving performance, interior luxury, superior technology and exclusive style, the BMW X7 was unveiled to members of the media and invited VIP guests.

The event, which took place at Al Bustan Palace hotel, allowed guests the opportunity to be among the very first people in the region to view and explore the BMW X7.

Johnny Oommen, Chief Executive Officer of Al Jenaibi commented on the occasion: “We were delighted to host members of the region’s motoring press and media along with special VIP guests for the exclusive viewing of the first-ever BMW X7, with its great presence, spacious cabin, and unparalleled driving performance in its category, BMW X7, takes luxury into new levels, to be the most luxurious within BMW’s X line-up. 

The new design language, dominated by precise lines and expansive surfaces, intensifies the car’s authoritative aura.”  

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