Saturday, March 8, 2008

Misc Auto News

Starting this weekend, Honda DN-01 automatic motorcycle is officially on sale in Japan. When we first heard about the concept, we wondered how it would perform with its 680 cc V-Twin and new hydraulic transmission design. Since then, we've heard that the engine will make 61 horsepower, so think of this machine as a bridge between large maxi-scooters and entry-level sportbikes like the Ninja 500 or GS500. We expect that the DN-01 will have no problem handling daily commuting chores and the often necessary highway-drones, but don't expect to challenge any sportbikes on long straights. Handling will likely be a strong point, with 17" rims sporting 130/70 front and 190/50 rear tyres combined with ABS for panic-free stops.

Honda ending US motorcycle production

Honda has announced that next year it will cease motorcycle production at its Marysville, OH manufacturing plant. That facility's output, along with that of the Hamamatsu, Japan factory, will be shifted to the company's brand-new bike plant in Kumamoto next year. In 2007, Marysville built 44,000 Gold Wing and VTX models, though Honda notes that there will be no layoffs because of this shift in production. Instead, the Marysville workers will be reassigned to other Honda businesses in the fair state of Ohio.

Ban on used cars

Mexico has ban all imported used cars from US except 1998 models. The only used cars the Mexican government will allow across its borders for resale are those exactly 10 years old. There are two main reasons for Mexico's seemingly arbitrary automotive adjudication. First, its new-car dealers are tired of trying to compete with all manner of relatively inexpensive, recent-model used cars from the US. Second, the government says cars older than 10 years are wreaking havoc on the country's air quality. Until now, it was legal to import cars into Mexico that were between 10 and 15 years old. The Mexican Association of Automobile Distributors fought for the newer, more restrictive law.

BMW diesel hybrid

BMW's X5 Vision EfficientDynamics hybrid has a 2.0-litre twin-turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine mated to a li-ion battery pack. Third-generation common-rail injection and an all-aluminum crankcase to deliver 204hp 400Nm of torque between 2,000-2,250rpm. The relatively small capacity engine delivers nearly the same levels of horsepower as the conventional X5, but offers improvements in its already class-leading consumption and emissions figures. Special aero rims, a solar roof panel to heat up engine fluids before you start the vehicle; it has an 8-speed transmission. The mild hybrid solution in the BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics uses a compact generator that, for the first time, is flange mounted directly on to the gearbox. This motor produces up to 20hp of on-demand power. Innovatively, the alternator is also integrated into the crankcase rather than conventionally driven from the front of the engine.

Lancer Sportback coming to America

Mitsubishi has put out its global business plan for the next few years. The official title of the blueprint for Mitsubishi's future is 'Step Up 2010' and the automaker's overall prognostication look good globally, but more 'bear' than 'bull' for the US market. Mitsubishi figures that worldwide sales will increase from the 1.34 million units sold currently to 1.42 million by March 31, 2011. Most of the boom is expected to come from emerging markets in Brazil, China, India, the Middle East and Russia, with the latter expected to climb by close to 70 per cent and eclipsing the American market by around 63,000 in vehicle sales. On the product front, Mitsubishi is touting the introduction of the Evolution X that's currently on sale, plus a redesigned Eclipse that will be coming to market in the next few years.

No diesel hybrids for Toyota

One company that won't be joining that diesel hybrid party is Toyota. Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said the hybrid pioneer had no plans to introduce any diesel hybrids.

Watanabe announced that Toyota would offer a diesel engine in the Sequoia and Tundra in 2010. Toyota already offers a variety of diesels in the European market. However, according to Watanabe, the combination of diesel and hybrid doesn't yield enough of an incremental improvement in efficiency to justify the combined cost premium of both. At this point, the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system is not suitable for use in the big trucks, which is why Toyota is following just the diesel path for now.

BMW to offer unlimited in-car Internet access

BMW is planning to offer a production version of its Connected Drive system by the end of the year, which will allow for unlimited web browsing while on the go. BMW says that the functioning display model it has in the X6 is a prototype, but that the final consumer version of the system won't look a lot different. Connected Drive will be interfaced with BMW's much-discussed iDrive, with the web pages appearing on a high resolution, dash-mounted display. The engineers have wisely limited front-seat access to the system to when the engine is turned off, but passengers with an optional rear display (and a special iDrive interface) will be able to browse while the car is running.

No Honda Accord Type-R

The all-new European Honda Accord buyers will be disappointed to hear there are apparently no plans to launch a high-performance Type-R version of the car. Honda does not feel the all-new model fits the Type-R brand, adding that the new European Accord is designed to propel the company into competing with the likes of BMW and Audi. Honda does have plans to release Accords with modified suspension and body kits, but with standard engines, much like Audi does with its S-line models.

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