Archive for February, 2009

Weekend entertainment: LEARN to DRIVE!

Friday, February 27th, 2009

 

Your next drive: Lamborghini Gallardo LP-560-4

Your next drive: Lamborghini Gallardo LP-560-4

 

 

So let us say that you are looking for a fun weekend get-away for yourself or a loved one. Why not spend it touring one of Europe’s racetracks in a Lamborghini Gallardo at 160+ miles per hour.

Granted, at $3,900 (not including your flight, of course), the Lamborghini driving program is not what you would call cheap or affordable. But if you have a little cash lying around and want to try something that will get your pulse racing, may we suggest this???

 

From Lamborghini:

20 February 2009
WANT THE CHANCE TO DRIVE A LAMBORGHINI OR IMPROVE YOUR DRIVING SKILLS IN THE ULTIMATE SUPER SPORTS CAR? AUTOMOBILI LAMBORGHINI ANNOUNCES LAMBORGHINI ACADEMY PROGRAMME FOR 2009

SANT’AGATA BOLOGNESE — Lamborghini has announced its new Lamborghini Academy dates for 2009. With courses open to all sports car enthusiasts as well as Lamborghini owners, the track driving schools provide an extraordinary opportunity to experience the full potential of Lamborghini cars, alongside the Italian super sports car manufacturer’s professional instructors.

The Track Academy course provides an entry into the Lamborghini Academy world. Held at various European race tracks from Spring 2009 onwards, participants’ driving skills are improved alongside a professional driver instructor, while exploring the full potential of the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4.

The Advanced Academy is the top level programme, and concentrates on optimum control and performance on the race track, fully supported by a professional invehicle telemetry system. Driving is undertaken in the Gallardo LP 560-4 and the Murciélago LP 640: the fastest and most extreme super sports car in its class.

All classes include technical and safety briefings, followed by handling and performance exercises, with instruction on how to get the ‘ultimate kick’ from race track driving! Participants improve their handling and feel of Lamborghini’s permanent four-wheel drive cars, learn to manage understeer and oversteer; practice manoeuvres with and without ABS and ESP; master ‘controlled drifting’ and, of course, find the ideal ‘racing line’ on track.

As a reminiscence of this experience each individual participant gets his own in-car-video with footage of the whole driving day as well as a photo CD of all the action of the day on the race track.

Lamborghini Academy courses start from 3,900.00 euro, including accommodation, cars at the race track and all driving instruction, but excluding travel. For full details, go to www.lamborghiniacademy.com, or contact your local Lamborghini dealer.

 

Prioritizing in an automotive recession

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

 

The iconic MINI Cooper

The iconic MINI Cooper

 

 

It is quite true that an economic recession hurts. Company after company has laid off millions of workers worldwide over the last 12 months. While one can discuss blame all day long, part of the problem is that consumers and lenders have over-extended themselves. Virtually every company, especially automakers, has seen drastic reductions in expenditures.

The numbers for UK-produced automobiles are dramatic, to say the least.

A total of 61,404 new cars were produced in January 2009, 58.7% lower than January 2008, as plants closed for extended winter shutdowns, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Aston Martin: Extended Christmas shutdown and 600 redundancies. Three-day week

Bentley: Three-day week in October and longer Christmas break. The company is closing its Crewe plant for seven weeks from March. February announced 220 job losses and 10% pay cut.

GM (Vauxhall): Extended Christmas closure and 40-day shutdown

Honda: Four-month shutdown between February and May

Jaguar Land Rover: Series of one-day shutdowns and production cuts late 2008 plus 1,000 redundancies planned

Mini: Christmas shutdown was extended by 10 days. 300 agency staff let go and with a one-week shutdown planned for February. From March, plant will run five days per week, from seven, and a further 850 jobs to go.

Ford: 850 jobs to go by May

 

One of the difficulties that manufacturers have is that they constantly struggle to gauge demand of vehicles. Since the rise of U.S. gas prices to $4/gallon a year ago, the automakers had to make a switch to smaller/lighter less-gas guzzling vehicles such was the case at GM. GM is still paying for the ineptitude in their failing to have these smaller cars ready to be sold when demand took hold. The result of the rising cost of gas was that MINI found itself well positioned to offer good quality, fuel-efficient passenger cars. In the moment, they seemed brilliant strategists. And one day, they may again come off as brilliant will the gas prices in the U.S. rise – it is only a matter of time.

 

In the meantime, the world struggles with a major credit crisis, evolving into a major jobless crisis. Combined, these two factors have meant a major slowdown for all manufacturers, even those who produce fuel-efficient cars. Toyota has seen a major slowdown, even for the once-prized Prius, and MINI, as seen from the above information, is now facing rough times. Does the company deserve it?

 

According to BMW Group, BMW sales fell by 4.3% in 2008, to 1.4 million vehicles, although Mini sales actually rose by 4.3% last year, to 232,425 cars.

 

The end result is that hard-working employees have been let go, despite their successes. In a capitalist system where people are supposed to be rewarded for their work, one can understand the employees’ fury behind the BMW/MINI

Reports the BBC:

Russell Hager told the BBC he had seen the sackings coming, but was still shocked at how the situation had been handled.

“It’s the unfairness of the way people are treated in large corporations such as BMW,” he said. “Why is it allowed to happen that people like myself go to work, give the company fairness, loyalty, commitment, and try to build a better life for [themselves], then half an hour later they can just be told, ‘You haven’t got a job any more’?”

Tony Woodley, joint secretary of the Unite union, said the sacking of the Mini workers was a “national disgrace” and agency staff were being treated as “second class citizens”.

“This kind of action would be illegal in Germany,” Mr Woodley said.

“BMW is guilty of blatant opportunism by sacking workers on the cheap. It has got to be stopped.

“These aren’t just temporary workers – these are workers like you and I who have got families and commitments.

“They’ve been loyal, decent, dedicated and they get called in with an hour’s notice to say that after four or five years they are going to be cast aside like cannon fodder.

“It can’t be right.”

 

Silvia Fernandes worked at the plant for four years; she says she feels betrayed by the suddenness of the news.

She told the BBC: “In this meeting they told us we’d all been sacked because of the credit crunch. But actually we already knew some of us would have to go, that was a fact of course because of the crisis – but what we never expected from BMW was knowing one hour before [our shift].

“I’ve never been sick, I’ve never missed work and they tell me one hour before that I’ve been sacked. That’s not on. That’s why people are angry and so upset with BMW and with the union.”

John Cunningham worked at the factory for over two years. He says he does not yet know what he will do next.

Mr Cunningham told the BBC: “I feel betrayed, they’ve planned this for months and we’ve only just been told – one hour’s notice. We’ve been given a week’s pay for an enforced week off which I suppose is a week’s notice.

“If I have to sign on to benefits that makes that increasingly difficult so I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.”

Yes, it is true that times are tough, but there will come a day when the global recession

True, we should not expect automakers to be rewarded for bad practices. We should not expect the banks to be rewarded either. But everyone must understand that when companies are success, when employees do a commendable job, that the executives at companies make decisions that positively impact their people and their clients, not negatively impact them.

BMW and the dozens of other automakers around the world facing similar problems need to have open and frank discussions about organizational issues. They must prioritize long-term strategic planning over short-term bottom-lines. Transparency and communication must be valued. Companies that intend to bring back workers should let them know when they will be back, and those that fire them permanently should provide them monetary and job training assistance so that they may rejoin the workforce.

We are, after all, in this one together.

Sources: SMMT/ BBC Archives

January sales figures… as slow as our post…

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Yes, it is the end of February, so it is a bit late for all of this, but Beyond the KM will start trying to post sales figures. The move seems timely since every car sale seems to count a lot more than ever. In fact, we just got an advert from one of the 25 largest US Porsche dealers advertising a “first-time ever” special sale program:

 

Even Porsche of North Scottsdale is promoting "Big Sales"

Even Porsche of North Scottsdale is promoting "Big Sales"

 

 

BTKM is also working to compile European auto numbers by company over time. We have been actively cataloging sales figures for the last few months courtesy of Newspress.

 

The ugly
The following manufacturers have reported January 2009 sales figures posted on Leftlane News:

(Note that these seem to be U.S. sales only…December 2008 and overall 2008  sales can be found here.

Audi, down 26.4 percent to 4,722
Mercedes-Benz, down 42.9 percent to 10,433
Saab, down 46.1 percent to 955
Smart, up 177.1 percent to 1,776
Volkswagen, down 11.6 percent to 12,744
Volvo, down 63.8 percent to 2,910

UPDATED: VW Company Overview

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Just added: the 2007/2008 VW environmental sustainability report

Enjoy!

Check it out, Beyond the KM’s new Hydrogen Car List

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

bmw-7-kristin-davis1

We will be keeping this list updated with the latest cars that run on Hydrogen fuel. Check back soon!

NEW Xbox 360 in Ferrari Red for Forza and PGR!!!

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

 

UPDATED!!!

 

Microsoft has released pictures of the Exclusive Red Xbox 360 Resident Evil Limited Edition Console, which was confirmedearlier tonight and mentioned officially by Microsoft earlier this month.

The Xbox 360 Elite console is bundled with a red wireless controller, black Xbox 360 headset, 120GB hard drive, via-LIVE-downloadable-Resident-Evil-theme, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and a copy of Resident Evil 5. All this is priced at US$399.

 

 

The new Xbox 360 Limited Edition Console in Red!!!

The new Xbox 360 Limited Edition Console in Red!!!

 

The new Xbox Resident Evil Edition

The new Xbox Resident Evil Edition

The world rejoices: Chris Bangle leaves BMW Group

Friday, February 20th, 2009
Chris Bangle for BMW Group head of design

Chris Bangle

Well, 2009 brings great changes. First Bush leaves office, then GM and Chrysler, on the verge of collapse, beg for money from the government, and finally the best news of all: Bangle is bye-bye!

Yes, by now it’s not breaking news but BMW Group’s controversial design chief, Chris Bangle, has announced that he is leaving the company to pursue other interests. Thankfully, those interests are not in the auto industry!

There are countless opinions on this design style at BMW. The BMW 7-series of 2002 was perhaps one of the most controversial automotive redesigns ever, especial compared to Porsche’ much more conservative “evolution not revolution” design concepts. Most of the design results were panned widely but when we look at current model Japanese, European, and even American cars we can point to certain designs that were probably based on the “Bangle Butt” and the “flame” surfacing seem in the 2002 BMW 7-series. As of this writing, 15,000 or so people had petitioned to have Bangles 7-series design scrapped.

The New York Times’ Phil Patton caught up with Bangle at the TED conference, and got a few questions answered. 

“It has nothing to do with how the company works inside or with me,” [Bangle] said, adding that he is not going to another car company. “It was a moment I have been planning for a long time.”

Apparently Bangle is starting his own design firm, and is leaving the auto industry behind altogether. Maybe his next project will be flame-surfaced toasters…

Replacing Bangle is BMW brand’s design chief Adrian van Hooydonk, who had previously reported to Bangle. He will be tasked with designing cars which are both forward-looking, respectful of the past, and pleasing to BMW loyalists. Bangle seemed to achieve only the former.

 

BMW 5-series GT concept

BMW 5-series GT concept

A profile picture of Mr. van Hooydonk:

BMW's new Design Chief, Adrian van Hooydonk

BMW's new Design Chief, Adrian van Hooydonk

(more…)

Lotus to blossom in Saudi Arabia

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Despite falling oil revenues as a result of oversupply to the oil markets around the world, Saudi Arabia is still a cash-rich country. Lotus Car Limited of the UK is a bit late to the game, but is now expanding to take advantage of the “free” money in the kingdom. Perhaps Lotus figures there are a few hundred sheiks willing to pony up top dollar for what is a great drive. No word if the Exige and Lotus models will come with extra large tires to make the sand dune travel easier…

Oh, and Lotus seems to confirm in this press release that the Evora, conceptualized last year, will be available in 2010.

From Lotus:

Mr. Michael J. Kimberley, CEO of Group Lotus plc comments “I would like to welcome Al Ghassan Lotus to the Lotus brand. The Saudi Arabian market is extremely important to us and we are most honoured to have teamed up with such a professional and enthusiastic organisation. The Lotus brand is well known in Saudi Arabia through our globally recognised Lotus Cars, our fantastic motorsport heritage and of course our high technology global engineering consultancy and our new brand presence in Saudi Arabia is the first step in our plans to promote the Lotus brand in the Middle East region.” 

Sheik Ghassan A. H. Al Sulaiman, C.E.O. of Al Ghassan Motors, commented: 

“Our strategy for the Lotus brand is to capitalise on its heritage and the unique product offering; we aim to satisfy a niche of customers in the market for whom the Lotus brand will have huge appeal. This market shows strong affinity for sports cars and their performance on and off the race tracks; we believe we will see a positive response to Lotus which not only can trace its roots to the race track but also offer a really exciting and youthful drive on the road. 

Sheik Ghassan A. H. Al Sulaiman, continues, “The business, having grown from strength to strength over the years, has established our company as being a formidable player in the motor industry in Saudi Arabia with which we have developed a valuable network of clients providing an optimum platform to launch the Lotus brand in the Kingdom. 

Our business also has strong ties with motor racing in Saudi Arabia given my involvement with the first FIA approved racing circuit in the Kingdom, the Reem International Circuit, a 3.8 km long, medium speed, technical circuit which will prove ideal to enjoy the performance of Lotus cars.” 

Al Ghassan Lotus is based in Jeddah and will have dealerships and service facilities in Jeddah, Riyadh and Al Khobar. 

The first cars to enter the Saudi Arabian market are the legendary Lotus Elise SC, the dramatic Lotus Exige S and the awesome road and track use Lotus Exige Cup 260. The incredibly quick and ultra-light weight Lotus 2-Eleven will also be available, but for track use only. The all new Lotus Evora, a stunning 2+2 mid engined sportscar, which was unveiled at the British International Motorshow in July 2008, will enter the market in early 2010. 

Lotus has conducted extensive testing of the Elise SC, the Exige S and the Exige Cup 260 in the Middle East and has made significant changes to these models to cope with the high ambient temperatures and humidity, as well as the high levels of atmospheric dust and sand. However, none of the purity of driving experience or overall vehicle performance has been lost following the adaption of these technical changes. 

Mr. Michael J. Kimberley, CEO of Group Lotus plc, explains further about the specific changes to the Elise and Exige for the Saudi Arabian market, “We have spent two summers in the Gulf Region testing the Elise and Exige in this very hot, humid and dusty environment. I am very pleased with the package of region specific changes which include an uprated radiator, enhanced heat management package, heat reflective windscreen, dust filtration for the cockpit ventilation system and an optional auxiliary air-conditioning unit. We have also included exclusive cockpit insulation, boot insulation and leather clad gearknob and handbrake sleeve in the Touring Pack option to supplement the overall occupant comfort in this extreme climate. These changes add very little weight to the Elise and Exige so drivers will still be able to experience the renowned Lotus driving experience.” 

Mr. Michael J. Kimberley, CEO of Group Lotus plc, explains further about the specific changes to the Elise and Exige for the Saudi Arabian market, “We have spent two summers in the Gulf Region testing the Elise and Exige in this very hot, humid and dusty environment. I am very pleased with the package of region specific changes which include an uprated radiator, enhanced heat management package, heat reflective windscreen, dust filtration for the cockpit ventilation system and an optional auxiliary air-conditioning unit. We have also included exclusive cockpit insulation, boot insulation and leather clad gearknob and handbrake sleeve in the Touring Pack option to supplement the overall occupant comfort in this extreme climate. These changes add very little weight to the Elise and Exige so drivers will still be able to experience the renowned Lotus driving experience.” 

Weekend entertainment: Road sign hacking…

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Sure you’re probably familiar with skateboarding or even parkour, but the latest teenage time-killer is road sign hacking.

Jalopnik brings us these:

Other sources:

http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/Road_signs_warn_of_zombies

Traffic camera fraud in Italy: is the U.S. next?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

 

Are cameras proper enforcement?

Are cameras proper enforcement?

 

 

Late last month, the BBC’s Rome correspondent Duncan Kennedy wrote an article outlining what is the most egregious violation of traffic enforcement civil liberties to date. 

The BBC reports that over 100 police and law enforcement officers are being investigated in response to a senior officer’s discovered that traffic ticket issuances were suddenly increased from an average of 15 fines per day to over 1000. 

BBC reports that some US$170,000,000 may have been gained by those involved, include the enforcement company, T-Redspeed, which gained the contracts because it employs a technology that allows 3-dimensional photography of potential traffic violators. At least one person has been arrested in connection with the fraud.

That so many benefited from this fraud should make all of the driving public, law enforcement, and public officials seriously call into question the integrity of the photo traffic enforcement process. If the public in a small country as Italy can be defrauded to the tune of US$170million, imagine the amount German, or Britons, or even Americans could be defrauded.

The first step to gaining public confidence is to provide absolute transparency in the enforcement of traffic cameras. Public scrutiny must be upheld.

 

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7862893.stm

Porsche’s latest creation…

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

 

Germany’s car companies seem to be in love with themselves these days. Travelers rejoice: no longer is it a “day out” to go and tour a manufacturing line, after all that would require some extensive travel (Porsche produces some cars in Finland, and BMW produces some in America and South Africa). Instead both BMW and Porsche have built self-serving shrines to themselves in the form of public museums. And these aren’t just any museums. They feature the cutting edge in modern-day architecture.

Porsche has just opened their facility in Zuffenhausen, have a look…

The $4.5 million needle in the haystack

Monday, February 9th, 2009

The 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante sold by Bonhams earlier this month for a “royale” price of US$4,530,000 wasn’t shocking because it was one of 17 produced and was originally owned by the founder of the British Racing Drivers’ Club. Rather, the shocking bit comes that it sat in a barn, owned by doctor in Newscastle. Imagine the look on the person who first discovered this and actually KNEW its significance!

View Map of Newscastle

 

Francis Richard Henry Penn Curzon was born in Mayfair, London, in May 
1884 into a privileged background and, following family tradition, 
adopted a career with the Royal Navy after leaving school, serving as 
a Battalion Commander of the 2nd Brigade Royal Naval Division in the 
Great War, seeing action at Gallipoli and in Salonica, France and 
Belgium. Upon cessation of hostilities the Rt. Hon. Viscount Curzon 
entered politics, winning the Battersea South seat in London for the 
Conservative Party in 1918, while still retaining his Naval 
connections, taking up the rank of Captain and becoming Commanding 
Officer of the Sussex Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in 
1921. He succeeded to the peerage in 1929 upon the death of his 
father, becoming the 5th Earl Howe. This elevation to the peerage 
ended his Parliamentary career and it was about this time that he 
began his long and distinguished involvement in motor racing. 

Future of cars: from Honda?

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

So BMW has been working on hydrogen cars for 40+ years. Kudos to them, but now Honda is fully in the game. Check this out:

Did you love BMW iDrive?

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

If you “loved” BMW’s iDrive system, now 7 year old, then you are going to continue the “love-fest” with BMW’s latest implementation of bizarro technology courtesy of Microsoft’s “Surface” computer. BMW wants to up the ante using this intriguing table-technology to better sell customized cars to its upscale clientele. Find out how here:

 

For more on surface, see this video:

LOTW: Find the speed traps!

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

trapster_header

If you have been caught in a speed trap, one of the technology solutions might be to use Trapster. Trapster pegs themselves as the “Speed Trap Sharing System”.

The system works pretty well. Just sign up and download the application for your iPhone, BlackBerry, or other smartphone. You can then track the speed traps using the GPS on the phone.

Good luck and beat those tickets!

For more information, go to http://trapster.com.