Monday, December 30, 2013

Volkswagen Becoming More Popular Amid Record Profits

This first quarter of 2012 Volkswagen has seen its profits jump massively with them nearly doubling to 3.2bn Euros ($4.2bn; £2.6bn) compared with a year ago. This can be put down to many external factors however with brands such as Audi, Skoda, Seat and Bentley under their belt it is hard not to see why Volkswagen cars appeal to the masses.

On the profit announcements Volkswagen also said that they were performing incredibly well in all markets, and outperforming the competition in all regions much to the dismay of brands such as BMW, Citroen and Peugeot.

Why the sudden rise in popularity?

Volkswagen's record profits for Q1 2012 are quite surprising amid the economic outlook however as a brand Volkswagen has always been extremely popular in Germany its native country, the UK and other countries within the EU alike.

When shopping for a car whether on the lookout for a sporty hot hatch, economic diesel for business or even a supercar, Volkswagen is now a leading brand within the car market and the reason for this is simple; Volkswagen has a history behind it and also a great product portfolio.

Volkswagen has always been seen as a premium brand and some of their cars are seen as iconic. On the premium front, Volkswagen's are priced at the higher end of the scale in all markets they attack which has led to a brand awareness which attracts those with a higher disposable income and businesses alike. In the case of their Audi brand, cars sporting the four ring branding are seen as luxury and are highly sought after by many purely because of the persona that they carry.

It isn't all premium brands and high price tags, though.

Volkswagen owns Seat and Skoda, two car brands which appeal to completely different markets compared to Volkswagen and Audi.

Seat is the sporty youthful brand and Skoda is the underdog brand which carries a super low price tag. When you combine four car badges (VW, Audi, Seat Skoda) which appeal to those with a high income, those who are younger and want something cool and those looking for a genuine bargain, it is easy to see why Volkswagen cars are so popular and it is also easy to see why Volkswagen's quote above of outperforming the competition in all regions is feasible.

Aside from history, heritage, brand awareness and a large vehicle portfolio though, there are other reasons that Volkswagen is so popular within the markets they operate.

Resell value

Volkswagen cars hold their value notoriously well and in cases it is not rare to see a 4 year olf Volkswagen Golf GT 140 TDI with 100,000 miles on the clock sell for upwards of 8K, practically half the cost of when new whilst other competitors in the same segment (Renault Megane, Toyota Auris) drop like a stone above a certain mileage.

Reliability

VAG group cars have always scored well in reliability tests and this can be put down to a) lots of practice and years worth of experience and b) German engineering.

Throughout car history the saying 'German engineering' has been used a lot for a lot of different car brands to portray a sense of skill and craftsmanship, however it is hard to argue with that saying when all German manufacturers create extremely reliable cars.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Future Visions of the Auto Industry and Automotive Advertising Based on What Was and What Is

Auto industry social networks all have different rules and protocols to create their unique identities in the auto industry and the inter-dependent automotive advertising industry. While there are differences in format, content and contributors they share the common goal to educate their community members by sharing best practices and insights with the concept that a rising tide floats all boats. To provide clarity and share my vision of the future of the retail auto industry and automotive advertising it must be framed it in the context of our changing geo-political and economic environment. Once the foundation of today is built on the broad picture of our world economy and politic, then the role of the Internet and related technologies can be applied to the one constant that we can all depend on -- human nature -- to help define tomorrow as I see it.

Any competitive business model must be built to accommodate tomorrow as well as today. Today is obvious. Sales volume, profit margins and inventory are down across all brands. Consumer confidence is falling as unemployment is rising even in the face of the expected temporary increase when the million plus census workers and various government employees -- such as the sixteen thousand IRS agents to police our new health care system -- are artificially added to the equation. Wholesale and retail credit lines are restricted by both natural business cycles and government intervention. Our economy is directly linked to the world economy along both monetary and political lines and the United States as well as our European trading partners are faced with excessive debt and unstable monetary systems. Our monetization of our debt -- basically the fact that we loaned ourselves the money we needed to fund our growing debt by printing more money, since no one else would lend it to us -- has insured the inevitable inflation of our dollar or some similar correction to our monetary system. This anticipated correction is already supported when observing the situation maturing in Greece, Portugal, Spain and other European Countries tied to the Euro and the International Monetary Fund, (IMF). No one has a crystal ball, so the only way to plan for tomorrow is to recap today's critical issues that didn't exist yesterday. It is these changes in -- what was -- vs. -- what is -- that will likely define -- what will be and the actions that auto dealers and automotive advertising agencies must take to remain profitable and competitive in unchartered waters.

The current administration was voted in on a platform of hope and change with the expectation that the promised transformation of America would take place within the confines of our constitution and in consideration of our established belief in a free marketplace. The redistribution of wealth was understood by most to reflect the giving nature of the American people as a moral and sharing society. Unfortunately, the transformation began in ways that could not have been imagined by the majority that voted for it with an agenda that is only now coming to light. The inherited financial burdens on our banking system that justified the need for change were matured across Republican and Democratic party lines -- as evidenced by the contributions of Fannie May and Freddie Mac to our mortgage crisis and the preferred treatment enjoyed by the unions, Goldman Sachs, AIG and other entities on Wall Street supported by the progressive political movement that is represented within both parties.

By way of disclaimer, I recognize that approximately 30% of our population believes in the collective -- We the people -- and the associated movement for the -- workers of the world to unite -- vs. the framers of the constitution that defined it as the individual -- We The People -- and the rights of the individual as a contributing member of the whole. That said, as the President has clearly stated, elections have consequences and I will attempt to limit my comments and future visions to only those actions that have or will have a direct impact on the auto industry and the automotive advertising agencies that are engaged to serve it.

The empowerment of the unions in the formation of Government Motors is already impacting the marketplace even while it is being challenged in the courts. The mandated consolidation of the retail distribution channels for General Motors and Chrysler preserved the interest of the unions over the guaranteed bond holders and independent dealers contrary to established rules of law. This precedence diluted expectations of both investors and corporations to rely on binding contracts and individual rights in favor of the collective we that our evolving society is expected to serve. Recent adjustments to the language in a variety of Federal powers have impacted previously accepted State and individual rights which must also be considered when projecting the future of the auto industry and automotive advertising -- if not our country as a whole.

For example, the change in the definition of eminent domain from taking personal property -- for public use -- to the new definition -- for public good -- has already resulted in private and commercial property being taken at distressed market values and given to other individuals that promised a higher tax base to the governing authority based on their position that the additional tax revenue was for the public good. Similarly, the ownership of water rights in the United States has been changed from the previous Federal ownership of all -- navigable waterways -- to include -- all waterways -- such as ponds, surface streams and basically any water that the government determines can be used for the public good. The potential impact on the farming industry and our food supplies evidence a shift in government control of society that must be considered when projecting the future of any industry -- including our beloved auto industry.

Given the government takeover of the banking industry, General Motors, Chrysler, Health Care and Student Loans that are now part of our history, the point becomes self evident. These single word changes and government takeover of entire industries for the public good dilute individual and corporate rights in favor of the rights of the collective. This is a basic step in the process of redistributing the wealth in accordance with Socialistic and Marxist principles. I am not judging the validity of any of these differing political philosophies since it would risk my ability to remain unbiased in my evaluation of present and pending opportunities in the auto industry. My intent is not to defend our previous constitutional republic over the shift to a Socialistic or Marxist democratic society, but rather to apply them when preparing a business model moving forward for my auto dealer / vendor clients and affiliated automotive advertising agencies.

For example, the recess appointment of Craig Becker as member of the five seat body of the National Labor Relations Board, (NLRB), suggests the intent of the administration to resume its push for the Card Check Regulation that is designed to facilitate unionizing all businesses in the United States. Recess appointments are an accepted practice used by previous administrations to bypass the Congress and the Senate to fill cabinet positions with individuals that are often blocked by partisan agendas. However, Mr. Becker was challenged in a bi-partisan manner based on his role as a senior attorney for the Unions including the CIO and the Service Employees International Union, (S.E.I.U), just before his appointment. The NLRB decides cases involving workers' rights which directly impacts larger issues between Democrats and their labor allies vs. stated Republican party interests and those of the corporate world When coupled with the intent of Card Check regulation to eliminate the right of workers to a private vote to determine if a business can be unionized, the likelihood that retail auto dealerships will be forced to become union shops becomes a real possibility. The regulation also allows the government to intervene in the event that an employer challenges a union take over with a Federal administrator enforcing the union proposals as to wage and other terms and conditions of employment pending a final determination. Based on reduced sales volume, profit margins and increased costs of doing business the inevitability of these privately held dealerships collapsing under the financial weight of union demands is painfully obvious to any auto dealer that understands his cost of sales line items and their impact on his shrinking bottom line.

Similarly, the administration's success in manipulating the processes in the Congress to pass its version of Health Care reform will increase expenses to auto dealers regarding insurance costs for their employees either in the form of forced coverage or penalties which must now be factored into projected operational expenses. These expenses may pale in comparison to other increases in the cost of doing business if the administrations' next stated goal to enforce Cap and Trade regulations are passed. This legislation promises to raise the cost of electricity and other costs of goods in America on many energy related fronts.

For those not familiar with Cap and Trade regulations, think of it as a tax on carbon emissions that would be collected by yet another government controlled body to pay restitution to third world countries who have been breathing our pollution and suffering from its impact on global warming. Of course the same scientists that collected the evidence that global warming exists which supported this legislation have since reversed their position while confessing that they manipulated the data. However, that revelation has not slowed the administrations' desire to move forward. In fact, they have empowered the Environment Protection Agency, (E.P.A.), to intercede and impose carbon taxes by claiming that carbon is a poisonous gas which they are authorized to restrict. Either way, the taxes will be imposed on American industry while other industrialized countries have already reversed their positions on imposing these same fees. This inequity in manufacturing costs will further reduce the ability for American manufacturers to compete in the world economy and will likely force the exit of many carbon producing industries to countries that do not impose these additional costs while taking their jobs with them.

Itemizing -- what is -- vs. -- what was -- has little value other than to cause panic when people realize that there is little that they can do to reverse the changes that they voted in. However, if properly framed in a problem solution format it can provide an opportunity for those that accept -- what is, forget -- what was, and work towards -- what can be. Now comes the good news!

The solution to surviving the promised redistribution of wealth from the perspective of auto dealers and automotive advertising agencies lies in their use of technology to reduce and even eliminate certain fixed and semi-variable expenses. Brick and mortar facilities are often financed with mortgage terms and/or rent factors that were based on now dated real estate values and anticipated sales volume and profit margins to carry the debt service. The commercial real estate bubble of over one trillion dollars coming due over the next eighteen months with no current resource of funds to replace maturing commercial mortgages promise to exasperate already reduced equity positions for auto dealers. The related unsustainable debt service demands a change in the ways that vehicles are sold in the United States; can you say Internet!

Similarly, current staffing needs are often related to processes that are labor intensive. The associated human resource expense and exposure is based on a business model that is antiquated in the face of potential union intervention and government controls; can you say Technology!

Tax consequences resulting from LIFO credits that impacted auto dealerships who could not maintain inventory levels projected in their annual computations due to issues beyond their control are eliminating annual profits. As a direct result of all of these cumulative issues, even captive lenders are balking on maintaining floor plan credit lines or real estate mortgages. Minimum working capital requirements for auto dealers faced with reduced sales, profits and equity to present as collateral for much needed financing has severely limited dealer options to acquire funds to maintain operations.

As already hinted, the solution lies in shifting the focus form brick and mortar facilities to new online virtual showrooms and other Internet based applications that provide more efficient selling processes. Of course real world facilities for sales and service are still part of the projected solution as are the people that will be required to staff them. All processes start and end with people and human nature has and will survive on the Internet. However, the allocation of these resources and the associated expenses must be reduced in the face of the changes already in place as well as those being contemplated to accommodate our new role in a world economy.

Today's car sales person must be educated to use new technologies and Internet based selling systems much like previous generations needed to be trained with the skills of a mechanized society versus an agricultural one. Computers are already an integral part of our culture so the transition shouldn't be as hard as some may perceive. Similarly, large central distribution channels that used to provide efficiencies for manufacturing and retail outlets have been replaced by more cost effective online linked resources across the World Wide Web that reduce fixed and semi-variable expenses in a shared manner that didn't exist before the Internet Super Highway.

Consumers have already been empowered by the Internet to bypass the auto dealer in both the real and the virtual world as the source for the information that they need to purchase a vehicle. Seeking the path of least resistance to satisfy a need is an established element in human nature. An auto dealers ability to accommodate their customers preference to be in charge of their vehicle purchase will be the key to their survival now and in the future. Online customer interaction platforms already allow a dealer to accommodate a two way video communication with real time interaction with the online shopper/buyer sourced from data on the auto dealer's DMS and linked to their CRM. The transparency of this negotiation process allows the dealer to crash through the glass wall of the Internet with the ability to push and pull the same material that they can at their dealership. The result is the opportunity to accommodate an online transaction with the inevitable ability to reduce staff and facility needs in the real world along with the associated expenses and increased profits.

Social networking is another technology based solution that capitalizes on human nature which promises to change the face of the auto industry and the resources available to automotive advertising agencies to help their auto dealers sell more for less in the future. Consumer centric inventory based marketing platforms fueled by social networking communities that provide word of mouth advertising to virally extend the auto dealer's branding and marketing messages represent the next generation of applied social media. C2C marketing messaging to social networking communities from the inside out vs. the now dated attempts to market to online communities with B2C messages from the outside in builds on established protocols in social media. Next generation platforms promise to monetize social media for automotive advertising agencies with integrated Ask-A-Friend / Tell-A-Friend features that allow online shoppers to solicit opinions from friends and family. Customer driven posts on their Face Book page drags the dealership and their vehicle into the conversation with the obvious advantage of the increased exposure and the associated viral coefficient to extend their message and online footprint for potential customers linked to the initial online shopper. Google agrees as evidenced by their weighted consideration of real time social media which quantifies the R.O.I. for the dealer with improved S.E.O. for the sourcing dealer's expanding virtual showroom.

Other technology based solutions that improve online marketing processes converts the pictures on an auto dealer's web site to professional quality videos with human voice placed on the auto dealer's site, all third party marketing sites and even the search engines through a dedicated API with You Tube -- further evidence the ability of auto dealers to expand beyond the limitations of their brick and mortar facilities and in-house support staff. Extended social networking platforms which allow an auto dealer to empower their sales staff to develop their own websites to market to their spheres of influence with management controls to moderate content and monitor use to prevent employee abuse exist today with the promise to be more widely used tomorrow to build the vision of what will be in the face of a challenging economy.

To extend my vision for the auto industry beyond the technologies that exist today requires a similar understanding that expenses and staff need to be consolidated beyond current expectations. Limited resources for consumers to purchase, finance and/or lease their vehicles won't eliminate their need for transportation. Future financial instruments that are a hybrid of a lease and a rental agreement could allow consumers access to a pool of vehicles in a convenient central location where their Drivers License could act as a key and a charge card to apply charges against pre-paid transportation credits deducted by their employers and controlled by the government to track personal activities and location along with socially accepted consumption of our limited resources. I recognize that the big brother flavor of that vision may seem foreign in the context of what was and is, but we are talking about what will be based on the new collective society that our country has moved towards.

As for the role of the OEM and the auto dealer in the future, it would be reasonable to accept that the government's existing control of the auto and banking industry will extend into the energy industry which will set the stage for the government determining which vehicles could be manufactured and/or imported and placed into the transportation pools with the locations determined by public transportation hubs that link to local distribution centers. The government currently owns 51 % of all real estate in the country through their mortgage interests in Fannie May and Freddie Mack and the pending commercial real estate bubble promises to shift a great deal more to public control. In addition. the government has recently changed the funding available to both organizations to be considered unlimited with the full faith and backing of the United States Treasury. That action coupled with the previously stated changes in eminent domain and the fact that millions of acres of resource rich land was recently acquired by the government to build additional -- national monuments -- suggests that land will be made available as needed to accomplish this community transportation system for the public good. Of course government employees will be needed to manage and staff these transportation hubs which would likely represent the auto dealer of the future.

Simply put, my future visions of the auto industry and automotive advertising is built on the past and the present with a recognition of what will be if we continue on the path that we have already chosen. I assume the constant of human nature and the role of technology in our evolution to date with the expectation that neither will change. Of course, there are consequences to elections so I suppose that I should update my projections after November, 2010 and the presidential election in 2012. In any case, the movement from the real to the virtual world has already started and will surely continue so that part of the vision should remain clear.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Volkswagen to Bring Back the Phaeton to the US

The VW Phaeton, which is the current flagship model of Volkswagen's full size luxury sedan lineup has not sold well since it entered the United States market in 2004. This is because of the expensive sticker price for the vehicle and the strong competition with other luxury sedans sold in the US market like the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. As a result of the VW Phaeton's poor performance in terms of sales, the Wolfsburg Germany-based car maker announced that it would discontinue the production of the luxury sedan in North American market after the launch of the 2006 model year.

But according to several reports from various sources including Blommberg News, Andreas Meurer, spokesperson of Volkswagen of America said that the company is considering to bring back the VW Phaeton to roll out in US dealer showrooms once again.

Moreover, in an interview with Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn in Financial Times Deutschland, he said the VW Phaeton needs to be sold worldwide in order for the vehicle to become successful. But Martin Winterkorn said he is not referring to the current Phaeton model. He said the luxury sedan will have its successor that is scheduled to arrive anytime soon and will to roll out in worldwide automotive markets. Maybe Volkswagen will include luxury coupes with elegant VW cabriolet part inside and out.

Meanwhile, in the recent 77e Salon International de l'Auto Geneve (77th annual Geneva International Motor Show), Volkswagen AG launched a redesigned version of the VW Phaeton featuring numerous new technical features and modified equipments inside and out. These include the new V6 TDI turbo-diesel engine that complies with the most stringent European emissions standard, the EURO 5 standard that goes into effect in 2009. A wide range of petrol engines are also offered. The luxury sedan received new exterior additions like chrome accent strips, bi-xenon headlamps, dynamic and static cornering headlamps, automatically activated LED daytime running lamps, and 19-inch alloy wheels.

In addition to the new exterior components, the Phaeton's interior also gets new enhancements including voice-controlled Bluetooth telephone system, DVD based navigation system, as well as new advanced safety equipments that provides superior driving safety aside from the elegant and luxurious driving feel. These include tire pressure control system, low-beam lamp, and the new Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). The Adaptive Cruise Control system features different options to further increase ACC's functionality. The Front Assist function utilizes a radar sensor to monitor the distance to vehicles in traffic in front of the Phaeton, while the Side Assist lane change assistant manages the area at the back and next to the vehicle via radar sensors in the rear bumper.

This revamped VW Phaeton model will roll out in European market later in May 2007. As for the issue about Phaeton's return in the US market, car enthusiast should watch out for upcoming Volkswagen press releases to have an update.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Basic Car Repair and Maintenance Tips

The last thing a new car owner is worried about is costly repairs. If you keep up with basic maintenance, you can considerably stay safe from both minor upkeep and major repairs. Failing to maintain the car and taking care of routine issues will not keep the vehicle reliable. Prescott car repair services can provide all the maintenance needs of your car ensuring a hassle free vehicle.

To keep your car running and performing, here are basic maintenance 10 tips:

Regularly inspect your tires.

Make sure the tires are properly filled and inspect the treads on a regular basis. To avoid imbalance get the tires aligned after every 3000 miles.

Regular belt inspection.

The engine belt system supports your alternator and air conditioner to function properly. If these belts are damaged or break they can be very costly and can also damage other parts of the engine. Inspect the belts regularly for wear & tear if they do show signs of decadence replace them without a doubt before they become an issue.

Check fluids on a regular basis.

Keeping oil, water, power steering fluid, battery water and other fluids under constant observation is necessary. Check them regularly and refilled as needed. Oil is the most important of these liquids make sure you check the oil every 3 months since used oil can cause engine seizure.

Consume the right gasoline.

Use the correct gasoline recommended by the car company or dealer. Using regular or HOBC super gasoline can have significant effects on the engine, fuel consumption and economy per mile. Using super when the engine is prone to regular gasoline can not give you better performance.

Have regular maintenance and check-ups.

You should have regular check-ups and maintenance of the vehicle. Tasks such as wheel alignment, oil changes, tire cleaning, fuse box and wiring should be checked on a regular basis. Even if your car is in top shape its better to make these checks so there is no room for a major error.

Protect & maintain the electrical wiring.

When performing repairs or cleaning your electrical system and wiring, protect yourself and especially the car by disconnecting the battery. When changing the car radio system or installing a security alarm make sure the battery is not plugged in.

Protect the body and paint job.

Keep up with basic cleaning and waxing of the exterior. Washing the car properly and waxing the body regularly prevents rust from setting n and helps keep scratches down to a minimum.

Be aware of warning lights.

Dashboard lights are installed and blink for a reason. When engine, oil, battery or any other light is on in the dashboard meter, you should probably take it very seriously and get a checkup to find the source of the issue.

Regularly service or change the air filter.

The air filter is a very basic yet very critical component for air conditioning & the engine. The air conditioning fan uses the filter to block out dust, and, so does the engine. So its necessary to clean the air filter or replace it accordingly when the need arises.

External lights.

Exterior lights are a very common reason people get pulled over by the traffic police. Take your time to check signaling, brake lights and head lights on a regular basis. Driving without these lights is dangerous, so make sure you inspect them at least every 45 days.

Monday, December 23, 2013

2010 Suzuki Kizashi Full Test Review

We spent a week driving a 6-speed manual AWD Kizashi GTS locally and beyond and came away impressed. We have found Suzuki's small cars and SUVs lively in spirit, especially the sporty AWD SX4s, and good in most ways;but we had no idea what to expect from their first foray into midsize sedan territory.

Aggressively styled and pleasingly proportioned, it previewed a semi-upscale "D-segment" sport sedan. In the global auto business, the C-segment is compact cars, and the size-up D class is what we know as midsize-the incredibly competitive field of both family and sporty sedans. And, with a powerful, aero-slick design theme characterized as "a dynamic athlete in motion," this concept clearly showed that Suzuki's coming flagship sedan would be aimed at the emotional end of the scale. Japanese automaker Suzuki chose the mid-2007 Frankfurt (Germany) Motor Show to unveil a most interesting new concept car called Kizashi. They said its name was Japanese for "prelude" or "foretaste" and that it foretold of something coming from a company known better here for its motorcycles, ATVs and outboard motors than for its small cars and SUVs.

An even more aggressive Concept Kizashi 2 followed at the October Tokyo Motor Show then a third variation debuted at the March, 2008 New York Auto Show. This one, Concept Kizashi 3, was much tamer and more production-realistic. It looked, in fact, a lot like the real thing is now hitting the market and demonstrated Suzuki was serious about taking on the well-established entries in the U.S. market's most competitive car class. Inside, the fits and materials are generally good, though not up to typical Euro-sedan standards, and the seats are handsome and nicely supportive with available leather trim. The instrument panel's major gauges have a precision look: Its faux brushed-aluminum-rimmed center stack mirrors the front grille's rounded-V shape, and its controls are intuitively easy to see, reach and operate. We especially appreciated the nicely padded three-spoke steering wheel with handy spoke-mounted audio and other controls.

The only engine residing beneath that power-dome hood for now is a willing 2.4-liter aluminum four good for 185 horses with a standard 6-speed manual transaxle, or five ponies fewer with the available continuously variable transmission (CVT). Rare in this size and price class, the option of Suzuki's latest "intelligent" all-wheel drive (i-AWD) can improve both bad-weather traction and cornering capability. The systems constantly variable front-to-rear torque split is a function of a number of factors, including wheel slippage, throttle and steering input.

Standard on the sub-$20K base Kizashi S are push-button start, steering wheel audio controls, dual-zone climate control and a split-folding rear seat with a pass-through for long objects such as skis. Standard safety features include Electronic Stability Program (ESP), anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and a class-leading set of eight airbags.

The next-level SE adds the CVT automatic transmission, 17-inch tires on alloy wheels, a 10-way power driver?s seat with three-position memory, cruise control and leather wrapping on the steering wheel, shifter and parking brake lever. The sport-oriented GTS offers 18-inch wheels and tires, power moonroof, fog lamps, a 425-watt Rockford-Fosgate audio system with integrated Bluetooth hands-free phone capability and a choice of manual or CVT transmission, the latter with paddle shifters for manual gear selection. The top-of-the-line SLS features leather seating, three-stage heated seats, a four-way power passenger seat, heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors and automatic on/off headlamps.

We spent 7 days driving a 6-speed manual AWD Kizashi GTS locally and beyond and came away impressed. We have found Suzuki's small cars and SUVs lively in spirit, especially the sporty AWD SX4s, and good in most ways-but we had no idea what to expect from their first foray into midsize sedan territory.

We found it less than plush yet surprisingly comfy and quiet, well put together and fun to drive. The manual gearbox shifted surely and crisply, and the 4-cylinder engine performed well at lower RPMs but tended to run out of breath at higher engine speeds. On-road handling was good, steering precise, and braking strong and stable as needed. A bit smaller inside and out than typical midsize sedans, it?s no limo but sufficient in back for full-size adults.

We later enjoyed an opportunity to put a group of Kizashis (manual and CVT, FWD and AWD) and key competitors through a series of handling tests and a handful of laps at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), near Danville, VA. They performed impressively and (not surprisingly, since the tests were designed by enthusiastic Suzuki engineers) better overall than the selected high-volume competitors on hand. The highlight was a couple of fast track laps in a prototype V-6 powered Kizashi that likely foretells of future availability.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Successful Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion

The Polo BlueMotion which is Europe's most economical five-seater automobile is gaining success across the continent. A growing number of importers are very excited to introduce the Polo BlueMotion to their markets, with even a right-hand-drive version in the pipeline for British buyers.

The Polo BlueMotion concept combines driving pleasure and fuel economy with minimum margin vehicle pricing. This vehicle has successfully survived even in these times of constantly rising fuel prices in Europe. In order to suffice the increasing demand for this vehicle the production at the Pamplona plant in Spain had been tripled to allow fast delivery.

The Polo BlueMotion is not only economical and environment friendly but a lot of fun to drive. It is equipped with a 59-kW/80-PS direct-injection turbo-diesel engine which includes a particulate filter. It delivers a powerful 195 Newton meters of torque at only 1800 rpm which provide it with its sharp performance. Its full dynamic potential of the three-cylinder TDI engine enables the 1,084kg lightweight Polo to reach 0 to 100km/h in just a matter of 12.8 seconds and achieves top speed of 176km/h. The remarkable balance of agility and economy is the product of modified aerodynamics coupled with the high efficiency functionality of the drive unit.

The vehicle is offered at a starting price of 16,157.33 euro and provided with an exceptionally good value retention that the Polo series of models has always offered. The BlueMotion stands for an economically well-balanced buyer choice. Set to compete against the comparable Trendline version, the Polo is a thrifty speeder equipped with standard features such as 14-inch alloy wheel rims, attachment parts is finished completely in the vehicle color, an aerodynamically optimized front section, rear spoiler, sporty seats in the new Popcorn or Select designs and a multi-functional display which provides access to an array of vehicle information which includes average fuel consumption. The other attractive aspect of the Polo is its financing terms.

The Polo BlueMotion is the most compelling model in its range in terms of economy. The Polo was launched by Volkswagen as part of its BlueMotion initiative on sustainability which is a descriptor that refers not only to a vehicle, the level of fuel consumption and emission levels but also describes Volkswagen organization in its entirety. "Blue" is Volkswagen's color and represents the elements of air and water which are important to protect and preserve. The "Motion" pertains to the future-oriented forward mobility that Volkswagen vehicles exude. The main objective of the BlueMotion is to conserve the Earth's resources for future generations.

Volkswagen is planning to develop further its BlueMotion label as a product descriptor to identify those products or model version with the most exceptional economic quality in each series. The Polo BlueMotion is the first model to be launched under this initiative. TDI and BlueMotion are registered trademarks of Volkswagen AG or other companies of Volkswagen Group in Germany and additional countries.

Volkswagen, the Company
It was in 1934 when Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned to build a small, inexpensive car at the request of Adolph Hitler. The Beetle was his very owned masterpiece. The beetle-shaped sedan was called a Volkswagen which is German for people's car and made its debut two years later. The production of the Beetle was delayed caused by the war until 1949. It was only during the 50's that the car became popular and was known as the VW Beetle. It later earned the title best-selling car of all time.

The Beetle was Volkswagen's Type 1 or also known as Fusca, Coccinelle or Cox, Vocho (Spanish), Bug, Volky or Käfer (German), and Escarabajo (beetle in Spanish). The Beetle although widely look down on due to its unusual styling, weak power, rough ride, and high noise levels but was among the longest and most produced automobiles for a single design. It has remained a top seller even when offered as a rear-wheel-drive.

Despite the increasing fondness for the Beetle or Bug around the world Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen has still chosen to manufacture more contemporary cars. But of course Volkswagen has never failed to take care of its Beetle lines as a fact their 1998 new Beetle became a huge hit in North America. Aside from the Beetle, the German automaker is also doing good in terms of sales of its other models specifically the Jetta and Passat.

Volkswagen AG or VW for short is an automobile manufacturer and brand of high quality auto parts like Volkswagen belts, based in Wolfsburg, Germany. It forms the core of the Volkswagen Group and at present ranked as the fourth largest producer in the world after GM, Toyota and Ford. The name Volkswagen means people's car in German. Its tagline is "Aus Liebe zum Automobil", which is translated as "For the love of the car" - or, "For Love of the People's Cars", as translated by VW in other languages.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Honda Motorcycle Repair Manual

Due to the rising concerns over the environmental quality as well as the imposition of emission laws, Honda decided to focus more on producing greener motorcycles. In the field of producing motorcycles which have lesser emissions or in compliance to environmental laws, the Honda Company simply surfaces to be the one who cares most about preserving nature. In order to make cleaner motorcycle models possible, Honda branches around the world added more units in their production of 4-stroke motorcycles with lower displacements. You should start re-educating yourself if you are used to riding big bikes with displacements exceeding 400cc because now is not about speed and power, it's all about economy and practicality.

If we are to check the motorcycle repair manuals of the recent Honda motorcycle models, we will find out that their features are indeed intended to comply with environmental safety standards. Some of the popular Honda green motorcycles that are being manufactured around the globe today are Honda XRM from the Philippine branches which have 125cc and comply with the Euro 2 gas emission standard. This model is under the category of underbone motorcycles whose engine is being held under a single metal frame only. Honda actually has a wide range of underbone models varying from 100cc-150cc. Other recognized motorcycle units are the Honda dash 110, Honda nice 110, and Honda sonic 125cc-15-cc from Thailand. In the Philippines, Honda XRM is the most popular. No underbone motorcycle brand was able to surpass the market sales of the Honda XRM in the said country since the time it went into full production. There are also the Honda wave 110cc-125cc, and Honda dash 110cc.

Moreover, Honda is known to have the most affordable price range and for motorcycles and the most durable among the big 4. The big 4 is composed of top Japanese motorcycle brands including Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha. In addition, the instructions from the Honda motorcycle repair manuals are more user-friendly and even non motorcycle enthusiast can easily understand. Simple and understandable Honda motorcycle repair manuals are not the end of it. Honda also offers very affordable aftermarket parts for their green underbone motorcycles. The units are designed in such a way that the owners can still choose on a wide variety of modifications to make their models more unique.

It is also very important to know the importance of checking the Honda motorcycle repair manual every time you purchase a new unit. There are actually some people who do not care about looking at the manual because they are always more concerned on bringing their newly bought motorcycles to race on the street. This should not be the case. It is highly advised to take the instructions and specifications found in Honda motorcycle repair manuals into consideration because troubles and accidents may arise if you fail to do so. For instance, there are specific types of oils and gasoline to be used to specific units. The usage of other brands and specification outside what is written in the Honda motorcycle repair manual can seriously damage the engine or other parts.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Shop Around the Corner

This week's numbers on retail sales make it clear, despite gains over the past three quarters; recovery suffers an anemia that stifles consumer confidence. People are testing the water but not committing to swim. This is the case for retailers at all levels, but especially at big box stores that posted lackluster sales in May, and below expectations according to The International Council of Shopping Centers. May's results follow 9 and.08 percent gains in March and April, respectively.

The question on everyone's mind-analyst and shopper alike-is why? The stimulus program and other recovery efforts have driven unemployment down, however slightly, state and local governments are reporting increased revenues from cost containments and rising tax collections, and the auto industry reported a 19.1 percent gain last month. The stock market has regained a good portion of its 14,000 to 8,000 DJI free fall since late '07, but remains the puerile bell weather of old; given to emotional bloodletting that (much like consumers) forms consensus around confidence in the future.

The US economic engine may be as secure as any the world knows; even bets against it over the years have failed to alter the view. Recent concerns over the Euro's stability and potential to replace the dollar as the world's trading currency make that clear, as Greece buckles under the weight of fiscal mismanagement and they with other Euro nations openly consider a return to national currencies. The global war against terrorism, open wars and occupations that Americans must accept while struggling to survive the worst national and global recession in history, and the draining effect of a failed immigration policy and natural disasters over the past few years, the Louisiana Gulf oil debacle notwithstanding, have shaken consumer and market confidence to the core.

The shuddering reality of it all may be the sign of hope that we are searching for. The question may be "why are consumers not spending," the answers less clear than quick; but the solutions may be within the same core. That is, how did we build (in the first place) what is now broken?

What to do about it

The American economy takes its sustenance from every individual in the land. Whether by the educational process to better equip knowledge workers, even conversations with neighbors, friends, and co-workers, or the political process that excites action, Americans are actualizers at their root. The American economy has an amphibian nature; it can breathe above the water and hold its breath when under it. But unlike its littoral brethren the American economy can breathe while underwater as well. And it does so, one breath at a time.

We are a nation of small businesses and the enterprise ethic to make "something from nothing." This is who we are and how we are. To get back on track we need to reignite that core. We must spend less than we make, join with others in cooperative living arrangements, and shed our attachment to what's ours alone. And we must return to local doings for the majority of our needs. This economy will not be rebuilt by increasing government jobs and transfer payments to non-workers, or stimulus to state and local governments and businesses, unless they learn the practice of prudent money management. But more than anything else we must see the opportunity in everything local. Rebuilding our economy means starting with the foundation of it, and that means going local, especially buying local. Here's why:

Local shops are:

  • Nearby, less expensive to get to.
  • Convenient to our daily outside needs. We seldom travel 8-10 miles to a market for food.
  • Community based, and they return virtually all their revenue to the community you live in. They pay local taxes, support local charities, schools, and sports teams. And they shop locally for most all their business and personal needs. When did you last attend a COC meeting at Wal-Mart or Pet Smart?
  • More abundant than chain stores and accommodating of customer needs.
  • Service minded with real people in place to direct your shopping experience and answer questions. Try finding things in KMART or Home Depot, which are notoriously short-staffed.
  • Able to give shoppers more for their money for all the reasons above.

The American economy is given license by the opportunity in individual enterprise. Our confidence grows most when we see that same opportunity in "the shop around the corner."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Driving Report Nissan Note 1.6 Acenta - Intelligent Box

Practical cars do not have to be beautiful. That applied in former times once. Nowadays humans cars buy over the Design - and there the opinions go apart with note. “From the rear somehow amusingly”, a voice read, “sees really successfully out” another. Undisputed are however the practical qualities of the Japanese. A journey with large luggage too third mastered the note without detunings.

In the test moved forward the compact Van with from other series already admitted 1,6-Liter-Benziner, which carries 81 kW/110 out HP. More spritziger associated without acoustic remarkablenesses, which besides despite the surcharge-requiring four-stage mechanism (850 euro) no momentum miss let and also with the Spritkonsum negatively was not noticeable. 8.0 litres were it on average. The mechanism is pleasant, it switches softly and without jerking. Only with the kickdown a full of seeds sound comes from the engine compartment. The maximum speed of 175 km/h reached the note easy. Much place close together is the basic concept for a Van - this task settles the note properly.

The Fünftürer with a length of 4.08 meters and a wheel base of 2.60 meters aims particularly at young families and leisure sportsmen. Inside it offers place and and divided a hinged back bank adjustable around 16 centimeters despite the shortness plentifully. Also the seat-back of the passenger seat can be surrounded, creates place for articles of up to 2.40 m. If the rear seats are completely to the rear pushed, still 280 litres remain trunk volume, which rises up to 437 litres, if the passengers move the seat forward. If the backrests turned down, the transportation volume rises on up to 1332 litres. A Flexi board system in such a way specified (series starting from equipment “Acenta”) consists of two covers embodied in different height, which lock under normal conditions with the remaining load bay floor and shield among them lying reservoir forwards curious views. If the plates loadable with 50 Kilos are dismantled, the 437 litres of pilot volume already mentioned are available. On the back they are coated with a genoppten rubber mat, which facilitate the transport of wet or dirty articles.

In addition, a nearly compelling reason the Flexibord is the fact that when surrounding the seats the seat-backs fold and not the seat faces. Thus no even loading area, but a stage develops when surrounding. The fiber boards must fill then the gap. Others can do that better, which let all obstacles disappear with the turning of the seats down also. Folding tables to the rear seats, six Cupholder, a large glove subject and various files make the note the flexible and family-fair transporter. Who pushes the rear seats completely back, place has as in a luxury sedan. The seat faces were criticized however of a 1,90-Mter-Mann as too short. Against it travel-suited Gestühl with tidy side stop is blocked in front in sufficient size. The steering wheel is not only in the height adjustably, nevertheless is a tidy seating position a problem.

Under the passenger seat is a hidden stowage box. Switches and levers are platziert handy, optics and Haptik tune. The rain sensor developed an active independent existence, but that is not unusually and-came already in other vehicles forwards. In the test car the “Comfort package” versüsste with climatic mechanism, sixfold CD change-over switch and evenly light and rain sensor the driver life just like the Style package with darkened disks in the back and 15.Zoll-Leichtmetallfelgen for 500 euro each. ESP is by the way in series of the Top version “Tekna” reserved, otherwise it costs 350 euro specially. In this Fahrzeugklasse incomprehensibly. Even if the note in our test with good comfort and unproblematic handling convinced, certified it technical periodicals a poisonous tail with changes of load. We do not have it on public roads ausprobiert.19 290 euro cost the test car with really sumptuous equipment, the basic price in the equipment “Acenta” amount to with the recommendable 1,6-Liter-Motorisierung 17,040 euro. A navigation system is ex factory intended, but in the trade for 399 euro (TomTom) or 449 euro (VDO Dayton) available. Thus does not only erweisst itself the note as practically and optically independent, but also as good calculates in the price. (ar/sb)

Automotive blog [http://automotive24.blogspot.com]

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2010 Top 10 Best Dating Cars for Guys

There is a saying: "You have to dress to impress on your first date". It is certainly true, but we all have to admit that for guys the most important thing on the first date should be their ride. Just picture this scene: you're at her door in tuxedo with a bouquet of 25 roses (her favorites). She opens the door, takes you by the arm and you slowly walk her towards your Baby Blue color 1998 Toyota Corolla with multiple dings, scratches and a bumper sticker that says "Nirvana". If she is a smart and beautiful girl she will fake faint right there on the spot or will bolt and run away like Usain Bolt. Women don't really care that much about your attire, flowers or manners. Your ride on the opposite will speak volumes to them and in most cases will make them totally blind to everything else. Now picture another scene: you're at her door with one hand holding your falling down pants and in your other hand a 24 ounce can of "Milwaukee's Best" wrapped in a brown paper bag. She opens the door and since she is a smart girl she is about to fake faint or almost ready to bolt like Mr. Bolt but she peeks over your right shoulder and sees your 2010 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder Convertible parked in her driveway. And because she is a smart and beautiful girl she takes you by the arm and walks you down to your car. The rest of the story is up to your imagination.

It's very simple my friends - your future and your wife to be is determined by Your Ride. Cruel but true, that's why Date My Ride website came up with a list of 2010 Top 10 Best Dating Cars for Guys. Rides are not listed in any particular order or sequence. Those are simply the Top 10 must haves.

  1. 2010 Chevrolet Hurst/Camaro. This one is the perfect ride for the first date. The new 2010 Camaro will sure knock your date off her feet. Stylish body flow, aggressive grill, 20 inch rims (bling, bling) and 420-hp 6.2L V-8 powerful engine will absolutely close the deal on your first date. Plus this sweet ride is a huge ego booster - no girl will ever care of your looks or clothing when you are pulling into her driveway with this sweet new ride.
  2. 2010 Rolls -Royce Ghost. This one right of the bat makes a statement - I am over 60, I am filthy rich, I could die pretty soon and leave you fighting with my heirs over the money. With ride like this one - 212.6 inches long, price tag of over $300K, 536-hp 6.6L V-12 engine you will attract the hottest gold diggers from all over the world. The news flash for gramps - no gold digger will care about your looks, jaw implants, hearing aids or Alzheimer's when you are proudly drooling behind the steering wheel of this bad ass coffin!
  3. 2010 Nissan GT-R. When chicks are going to see you in the ride such as 2010 Nissan GT-R two things will come to their minds - "Fast and Furious and Vin Diesel." This ride will create an impression of you that you are as buff and tough like Mr. Diesel. Put few stripes or flames on the hood; throw in some monstrous speakers and this 485-hp 3.8L V-6 Turbo engine tow seater will become a love ride. No coed will ever say "No" to you when she sees you in this ride flying down the street or doing smoky wheelies. Plus you will be able to smoke every Civic or Corolla at the traffic light. The only bad news is that this ride isn't cheap - $84K, so your part-time job at Chuck E Cheese's won't cut it.
  4. 2010 Audi R8. Even James Bond- Agent 007 wouldn't be ashamed to ride in this baby. 2010 Audi R8 should be every man's dream. If this is your ride you can be well assured that Miley Cyrus would be fighting Sarah Palin about who gets to go out on the date with you. With this ride even if you are resembling George Costanza from Seinfeld - short, bold, no job, living with parents you absolutely will be dating the most gorgeous women! 525-hp 5.2L V-10 humming engine will make any kitty purr in this powerful ride.
  5. 2011 Jaguar XJ - Series.You want to impress Desperate Housewives from LA, NY, NJ, and OC? Get this kitty cat - 510-hp 5.0L V-8 engines wouldn't be bad for David Beckham either. The look of this car just says: "I am in it to win it" and "Of course I am a Gentleman". Somehow this ride asks you to dress nicely so you become part of the car. And because of all that Euro/British hype ladies would be expecting you to be at the par with this car. Two words to describe this ride: "Gentlemen's Choice".
  6. 2010 Ferrari California.The name says it all - "Ferrari California". To have this ride you must a) live in LA, b) be one of those want to be A list or at least B list celebrities c) "have your dealer on a speed dial" and oh, almost forgot d) you must be skinny. If you meet all of the above this 460-hp 4.3L V-8 engine convertible is Your ride. Just keep in mind you will be attracting certain types of women with those common elements: a) she lives in LA, b) she is one of those want to be A list celebrities, c) "she will have her dealer on a speed dial" d) she will probably be a D size and oh, almost forgot e) she will be skinny.
  7. 2010 Ford F - 250 Super Duty.Smell of beer, wood, gun powder, dogs and fish mixed with other women's perfume that is the smell of a real man driving this Bad Boy! Who cares that his ride is bigger than his 1966 modular home sitting on stilts. A real woman needs a real man and real men drive real bad as trucks such as 385-hp 6.2L V-8 engine Ford F-250 Super Duty! And the best thing about this ride is that you can literally hoard loads of women in its bed.
  8. 2010 Toyota Prius.You get this ride and every girl with "Green Peace" t-shirt will fall for you. Being "green" is fashionable these days. Even some actual A list Hollywood celebrities drive Priuses. But be forewarned that this 134-hp 1.8L engine bucket looking ride won't score you any point with hot gold diggers, desperate housewives or girls from The Hills. Most likely you and your date will end up hugging the trees on a first date.
  9. 2010 BMW M3 Convertible.This ride is an ultimate must have date car for guys. It is amazing how the sound of three simple letters Be-eM-double U will sweep your date of her feet. You won't even need to buy any alcohol, just give her a ride in this 414-hp 4.0L V-8 convertible and she will feel absolutely drunk. Any man becomes a superhero when he drops those three simple letters to the woman....Be, eM, double U....
  10. 2010 Mercedes -Benz CL65 AMG. No Top 10 car list is complete without the Benz. Women in all age groups, demographics and social levels will pay attention to you if you come to pick her up on a first date in this ride. We have to stress this again that you looks are not important if you are cruising down the street in this $200K plus, 604-hp 6.0L V-12 symbol of wealth. Get your date in a car, relax, adjust your hearing aid or pick piece of spinach from your braces and let this ride do its job.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Nissan Livina Unveiled At Auto Shanghai 2007

The Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. has unveiled its new pride called the Livina at the 12th International Automobile & Manufacturing Technology Exhibition April 20. The 'anytime versatile' sedan from Dongfeng Nissan is now available for orders.

Ren Yong, the Vice President of Dongfeng Motor Co., Ltd. and the Deputy Managing Director of Dongfeng Nissan Passenger Vehicle Company, earlier announced the price range of the Livina starting from RMB 79,800 to RMB 103,800.

Yong noted, "Livina, as a strategically important model, has redefined the concept of family car and business car. We believe it will become a part of Chinese customers' lifestyles." Livina bears strategic implication as it endeavors to expand the price range of models offered by Dongfeng Nissan and to expand its customer base.

The Nissan Livina is especially designed to cater to the needs and demands of the young generation drivers and urban professionals who are burdened with business responsibilities but wanted to enjoy their private lives. The Livina sedan responds to a wide variety of demands for the urban professionals who work hard on weekdays and enjoy life with their families on weekends. The vehicle defines new standards within the passenger car sedan segment and marks a milestone in the Japanese automaker's strategy to improve and diversify product lines.

The Nissan Livina is also engineered to play a key role in the automaker's global performance. It features cutting-edge Nissan parts to boost performance, appearance and ergonomics. The term "anytime versatile" is used to depict a perfect hybrid of family car and versatile business car. Nissan's pool of engineers has incorporated the essential merits of family cars like functionality and comfort into the virtues of multipurpose vehicles consist of safety and space.

The Livina is 4178 mm-long, 1690 mm-wide, and 1565 mm-high and sits on a 2600 mm wheelbase. As such, the vehicle is made surprisingly distinct compared with most family cars that measure approximately less than 4000 mm in length. Also, its wheelbases are shorter than 2500 mm.

The Tokyo-based automaker also equipped its new pride with an extra-spacious luggage compartment, a roomy interior space, headroom, and seat height to make it convenient for passengers to get in and out of the vehicle. The higher back door opening angles further increase the effortlessness of using the spacious cargo area. To bolster its performance, the Livina is given the HR16 all-aluminum-alloy DOHC engine that is mated to either a 5MT or 4AT transmission. The engine is capable of producing a maximum torque of 150N/m. The car is also made more economical with low fuel consumption at 6.3L for 100km while running at 90km/h. Aside from this, the engine is manufactured to comply with the Euro IV Exhaust Emission Regulation standards.

The Livina does not fit into the usual auto segment as it combines different vehicle functions into one outstanding car. Livina does not fit into either the three-compartment or two-compartment auto categories, nor can it be defined as a "business-use" or "family-use" type of vehicle. It is one vehicle that blends the superb features that purchasers look for a car. The Livina's critical value is its versatility at any time. The new vehicle represents a spirited edge for Dongfeng Nissan and its recognized leadership.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tata Nano - Car for the Commons

Ratan Tata has finally made it. The man, who dreamed big to make a small car has achieved it and gave the cynics a halt that predicted doom on the project. Major competitors wondered in awe, a feat they thought would remain in paper. However, as the expectations from the Indian middle classes soared, the opinions resonated with global sentiments on the need for an affordable car that would carry the common people. The light has ultimately shone with Tata Motors realizing the dream into reality.

Tata Motors unveiled the Tata 'Nano', the cheapest car in the world at the Delhi Auto Expo, which was held recently in the Indian Capital city. There were mixed reactions among the global manufacturers with some looking at it with envy and some dismissing it to be yet another gimmick only to say, "Let's see how long it lasts". International Automobile giant Volkswagen was all praises for the car. All emotions taken into account, it was a red-letter day for Tata Motors, which entered the annals of history for having released the world's cheapest car.

Ratan Tata drove the car to the podium amidst cheers and got down with a sense of satisfaction in his face. "A promise is a promise." Ratan Tata spoke these words, when reporters quizzed him how he could accomplish this task in the specified time with many price fluctuations in the meanwhile. Well, the Nano has been priced at US $2500, which by any means appeals to the masses and this is evident from the thronging of the public at Tata's marketing outlets. Despite many hurdles right from the politicization of the manufacturing facility at Singur, the car made its way to the public domain and was the cynosure of all eyes in the exhibition.

Technical Parameters

Nano is a two-cylinder driven car with an Engine capacity of 625 CC and a power of 33 BHP. The little wonder can travel up to 20 to 25 km per liter of petrol. The maximum speed it can cruise is 90 Km. The car is slated for release in Oct 2008 and comes in three colors viz. Red, Yellow and Silver.
Small it may look albeit; it has not compromised on road safety. Nano has passed the necessary rigors of testing such as the 'Full Frontal Crash', a test that determines the impact strength of a car. It has complied with Euro-4 emission norms for environmental qualification tests, which establishes that the car has undergone conventional checks required to ensure a smooth and safe plying on the roads.

People's sentiments

People in India have already started bee lining in the showrooms to book the Nano. The reasons are more than encouraging, as the difference in price between Nano and other cars is wide. It also has struck a good balance in pricing when compared to motor bikes. What else would people require, when a small family of four can travel with comfort in a car, which offers them luxury and a status that was once considered the choice of the privileged.

The adage 'Small is beautiful' fits very well for Tata Nano. The efforts by the 500-member team, which developed the Nano is by no means a nano effort, but certainly a mega one. Now the challenge rests with the government to widen the roads and provide proper infrastructure facilities for an efficient and safe plying of cars in general. This issue comes to the fore, since the fleet of cars will suddenly increase on roads due to advent of cheaper cars.

There will be stiff competition among car manufacturers and one would vie with the other by slashing prices to keep pace with the market needs and competitive pricing for customers. The game has started. Now it is up to the government to keep the roads as fit as a fiddle and for the manufacturers to bring down the prices for a sustained share of their market.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Test - Chevrolet Captiva

Even if Chevrolet stands drauf, puts under the durable sheet metal dress everything else as a genuine American. The Captiva in with Daewoo in Korea is built, is conceived it for the European market. We tested the multi-cultural SUV.

„Badge tightness Institution of Electrical Engineers ring “is called the magic word, if it concerns to lower development and production costs of an automobile. For the Chevrolet Captiva means: He is not only the twin brother of the OPEL Antara, no, he also still divides the underbody with Chevrolet Equinox, Saturn Vue and Pontiac Torrent - all three SUVs for the US market.

Obligingly/pleasingly

The high front of the Captiva makes properly which ago, the large radiator grille and air intakes in the front apron symbolizes Kraft. A Unterfahrschutz from silver plastic and the roof railing provide for Offroad feelings, the simple tail against it work rather good and inconspicuously.
The Captiva is offered alternatively with a four or a six cylinder Benziner as well as a four-cylinder diesel engine. While OPEL shifted the market start of the Antara Selbstzünders because of its striking starting weakness on February 2007, Chevrolet already delivers the Dieselmodel.

No weakness

Coupled with a gently switching five-course mechanism however much is not to be felt by the starting weakness of the 150-PS-Aggregats. With 2.000 routes the Captiva gets 320 Newtonmeters from its two litres combustion chamber.

One distributes Kraft fully automatic to all four wheels - under standard conditions 100 per cent of the torque go to the front axle. Only if the system states the fact that emergency does more traction is sent up to 50 per cent to the rear wheels.

Good twelve seconds gönnt itself the Chevy for reaching the 100 km/h mark. The handswitched models create the Sprint in only 10.6 seconds. Starting from speed 140' s in the interior, with 180 km/h becomes clearly louder ends certainly, after some approach, the forward urge. During moderate travel the Captiva is content with approximately nine litres of Diesel, goes one more quickly to the work, may it already times twelve litres be.

Cosiness

During the chassis tuning engineers measured highest priority to the comfort out. The soft suspension irons unevenness well out, also short impacts fits itself with springs the Captiva cleanly for off completely like it for a SUV belonged. Sporty driving is not taken into account against it, but also the long translated steering element is too inaccurate.
While on highways rather the curves stop order (ESP is standard with all models), are it to the Chevrolet on the motorway the Spurrillen and the cross-wind. From both the Captiva can be enticed only too gladly to leaving the given course.

In the hand turning

When desired the Captiva with seven seats is available. If the third row is not needed, the seats disappear concisely in the baggage compartment floor. For setting up both the armchair is sufficient a handle. The Hinterbänkler enjoys comfort only conditionally, but it sits itself in the second row the better.
A reason for the good space offer in the rear are the short seat tracks of the first row. Some large driver would continue to push his armchair surely gladly to the rear. Apart from the fact it can be borne on the comfortably padded seats even on longer distances.

Strongly

The cockpit of the Captiva is arranged solid, which works green instrument lights however old-bakes. The steering wheel keys at the handy Volant must get along completely without lighting. The operation of radio and ventilation, which are on board computer with compass and other Schnickschnack against it hopelessly overloaded, is simple.
Whose overflow bags before mobile phones, purses and keys, open and closed fan can be pleased about a multiplicity. The actual Gepäckabteil offers litres of volume up to 930 (with turned down back bank). Deficiency: The low-friction rear flap opens not very far. But the disk can be opened unfold separately.

For each taste

Three equipments are for the Diesel Captiva in the offer: LS, LT and LT exclusive one. Always also on board are six Airbags, electrical window lifters, rain sensor, air conditioning system and a CD radio. Also the all-wheel drive is included with the self fuzes in the price. The Toplinie supplemental by 18-Zöller, a MP3-fähiges radio with CD change-over switch, the electrically adjustable driver's seat and leather equipment.
However also 34,890 euro become due for the high-quality LT exclusive equipment. As extras only the mechanism for 1.200 euro remains, a glass sun roof for 850 euro as well as the 490 euro expensive metal IC lacquer finish. The basis Captiva 2,0 LS (only as Fünfsitzer available) stands starting from 29.390 euro in the price lists.

Result

Compared to the brother Antara receive Chevy buyer more car for fewer moneys - the OPEL is available only as Fünfsitzer. Whom do not disturb the soft tuning and the indirect steering element, a solid SUV gets. Its play the trump card plays the Captiva as comfortable travelmobilely out, during moderate travel recompences it his driver with moderate consumption.

auto

Automotive Talks Blog [http://automotivetalks.blogspot.com]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jet-Set Extravagance Courtesy Lamborghini Reventon

Few car makers (if any) have the reputation of Lamborghini. Since the early sixties, Lamborghini has produced exotic vehicles that inspire drool and envy - including the Miura, the Countach (which helped popularize sharp-angled sports cars) and the Diablo. And, yet, the latest Lamborghini model still manages to top its maker's reputation.

With a sleek, dark-gray (or "matte gray" as it is called) exterior, gazing at the Lamborghini Reventón is like staring into the future. Everything about the vehicle screams cool. That statement can be taken both figuratively or literally since the Reventón includes a number of unique external features designed to keep components from overheating at high speeds. Extraction fans positioned below its rear LED brake lights pull hot air from the engine, and opaque fins attached to the aluminum rims help cool the ceramic brake rotors. Other than the roof and doors (which are constructed of steel), all the body panels (and even the rim fins) are made of a carbon-fiber composite. The interior of the vehicle is no less impressive, with comfortable suede and shiny carbon fiber everywhere. But that's not the interior's most impressive component - that would be the dashboard display. Featuring three LCD screens, the driver can choose among various modes for the gauges - including a jet mode with a G-force meter.

If the jet connection seems appropriate, it goes deeper - the Reventón was intentionally designed with a jet feel in mind. Inspired by the stealth F-22 Raptor, one of the world's most effective fighter planes, Lamborghini's director of brand and design, Manfred Fitzgerald had each of his designers create a vision for the Reventón based on the jet. Fitzgerald then chose the design he liked best and sent the team to work refining it. Still, despite all the bells and whistles on the design end, in terms of performance, the Reventón actually doesn't do much more than the Lamborghini Murciélago LP640. Like the Murciélago, the Reventón has a V-12 engine, is controlled via a six-speed manual transmission and tops out at a similar speed of 211 mph. While the Reventón has a slight edge over the Murciélago in horsepower (650 instead of 640), the Murciélago has a slightly quicker pick up time (0 to 62 mph in 3.3 seconds compared to the Reventón's 3.4 seconds).

Certainly, though, no one will confuse the tag on the Reventón with the Murciélago's $300,000 ballpark price. The limited-edition piece of automotive artwork costs nearly $1.4 million (or 1 million euros). And don't get your hopes up, millionaires - only 21 Reventóns will be built and all of them have already been sold (with the exception of one car which will be stowed away in the Lamborghini vault). So, if not to make money (the costs of producing the vehicles doesn't leave room for much profit), what's the point? More than anything, the Reventón is a reassertion of Lamborghini's high-end position in the car industry. While it may not necessarily be practical to produce a wildly expensive car simply for visual appeal in a world of economic woes and debilitating gas prices, there is something to be said for the awe of excess. And nobody does awe or excess quite like Lamborghini.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Car of Love and Hate

It was the people's car but the people supposedly hated it. It smelled awful, emitted blue smoke and made horrible noises. It was listed in Time as one of the worst cars of all time. Time also called it the car that gave communism a bad name, although one wonders if communism had a good name to begin with, especially during the Stalinist era when it was developed. The car in question was the Trabant, nicknamed the Trabi.

First designed to be a motorcycle, the Trabant was converted to a car in the final stages of incubation. It would fulfill the Stalinist dream of a "people's car" and be the Communist response to the Volkswagen.

The Trabant body was a masterpiece of recycling. It was constructed of Duroplast, a type of plastic manufactured from various recycled materials such as wool, cotton waste, and phenol resins from the dye industry. The manufacturing process however, was always labor intensive and East Germany had to import guest workers from Vietnam to staff their production facility.

The first Trabant manufactured, the P50, was equipped with a small, lightweight, two-cylinder, two-stroke engine with a maximum speed of 65 mph. The P-50 was followed by the P-60, which had a 25 hp engine.

Then in 1964, the engine was upgraded again. Some modifications were also made to the electrical system and the interior. The result was the Trabant 601, which continued in production until 1991 when the company ceased operations.

The blue smoke, which streamed out of the exhaust pipe, was loaded with air pollutants. And due to the fact it was a two-stroke engine, the exhaust had a most unpleasant odor that resembled burnt oil. The engine was also extremely noisy. And like Ford's famous Model T, customers had no choice of color.

In spite of its faults, however, the Trabant did appeal to certain people, especially the film and music industry.

It was a car star in the German film "Go, Trabi, Go" in which an East German family tours Europe in a Trabant. It appeared once again in "Goodbye, Lenin," a film about the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Another film, "Driving Me Crazy" was about the development and theft of a Trabant that could be fueled by turnips, instead of gasoline. And the 1996 Czech film, Kolja, stars a protagonist who is overjoyed at receiving a Trabant.

The Trabant also made its mark in the music world. The Serbian rock group, Atheist Rap, recorded a song entitled, "Blue Trabant." U2, another rock group, used Trabants for props on their Zoo IV Tour. These now hang from the ceiling in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Almost four million Trabants were produced before the company folded. Today, there are about 52,000 registered Trabants in Germany where it has acquired the status of a cult car. A well-restored Trabant might sell for the Euro equivalent of almost $21,000. On the net, there are 130 Trabant fan clubs, scattered throughout Germany, Europe and the United States.

Moreover, it has now been scheduled for a comeback. The German company, IndiKar is developing a new version of the GDR economy car. However, there will be a vast difference between the new and the old. Although retro styled with a sky blue body and white roof, the "New Trabi" will comply with European safety and emission standards. The "New Trabi" is scheduled for introduction to the public at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Journeys End!

We began our life changing journey to Andalucia in southern Spain on the last day of January 2005. After an uneventful and hitch-free sale of our property in the UK, we were feeling excited and optimistic about the long trip ahead of us. Just to add to the mix, we were travelling in an old Bedford TK horsebox in which we were transporting our two Shetland ponies, Amos & Gracie and our Border collie dog, Billy. Our pre travel preparations had all gone well. The animals were all micro chipped, inoculated and passported according to the relevant regulations, and we had in our possession their medical health certificates issued by our local vet just the day before.

I thought as we drove away from our smallholding in Lincolnshire where we had lived for six years that I would feel sad or upset, but I was surprisingly cheery and just looking forward to our new life ahead. We had planned our journey with military precision, and spent a fortune on a state of the art laptop PC, with the latest edition of 'Auto route' installed on it, so at least the responsibility for the navigation wouldn't fall onto me. Part of our master plan was not to hit Paris during the rush hour, not to have to take any mountain routes, and to stick to motorways as much as possible.

After spending some time saying our goodbyes to our son and daughter and their partners, we checked that the ponies were warm, and had food and water for at least the first leg of the trip to Dover where we were getting onto the ferry for Calais. The horsebox seemed to travel very slowly, but of course on top of the weight of the ponies, several bales of hay, and containers full of water, we had many of our own personal possessions with us, although all of our furniture had gone into storage. The plan was that when we reached our destination, we would then spend a good deal of time looking for the ideal property for our future. We had booked into a rural apartment which had land where we could graze the ponies' long term whilst we searched.

The weather was typical for the end of January and as we travelled further south, into the early evening it began to drizzle with rain. We were by this time on the M20 motorway at Maidstone in Kent and making good progress when all of a sudden, there was an almighty bang and we were shunted forward. At first we thought it was a tyre blowout at the rear, and we both looked in our side mirrors but could see nothing. Alan indicated and pulled over onto the hard shoulder, put on our four way hazard flashers and got out of the cab. Within a second or two, he pulled the door open, and shouted for me to phone for an ambulance, police and fire brigade. As I started to dial 999, I also jumped out of the cab to see what had happened so I could tell the emergency services. I walked round to the back of the horsebox, and froze in horror to see Alan with his fluorescent jacket out on the motorway waving it around his head, trying to alert oncoming traffic that there was an obstruction on the inside lane. At the same time, the operator was asking me what had happened. It was hard to describe, as everything happened so quick. She told me that the services were all on their way, and to my relief I could already hear sirens in the distance. Another car had pulled over to assist, and a man came up to me and asked if I was OK, but all I could do was nod and ask him to go and help Alan.

There was a small car, with the front end so badly smashed up that Alan was climbing through the back to try to get to the driver. He wasn't able to do anything as the driver was so badly trapped and he was obviously unconscious, so he couldn't be moved anyway. Luckily the fire brigade arrived at this point and took over, and told Alan to go and sit down in the horse box with me. We were both quite shaken up, and I felt a bit sick. Alan said he thought the driver was in a very bad way, and might even have been dead. It seems the car was going so fast that he slammed into the back of our horsebox. The hardest thing to believe was that the car was not a small hatchback as I thought, but a Vauxhall Vectra which is a big and powerful vehicle. After about an hour, the driver was cut out of the car, and was taken away by ambulance. During this time, we were concerned about how the ponies were, and realised that we both had very slight whiplash. We got out onto the inside of the hard shoulder, and tried to unlock the side door so we could get in and see how things were, but the door wouldn't open. It had been creased when the car ran into us, and the only other way in was through the ramp at the back. But we wondered how damaged that would be because of the impact. The police then came to talk to us, and said we couldn't drive the horsebox as there were now no rear lights and our number plate had been ripped off. We expressed our concern about the ponies, but were told that we couldn't try the rear door on the motorway, in case the ponies escaped, even thought they were in partitions. Of course we didn't know if they were still secure. The police told Alan to just pull forward a bit to see if the horse box could be driven, and then they would escort us to a breakdown recovery yard where the damage could be inspected. One police patrol car got in front and the other behind us with their hazard lights on and we were escorted off the motorway at the next junction, where a recovery vehicle was waiting to take us to their yard. By this time the shock of what had happened suddenly hit me and I had to go and throw up behind a tree! We thought about the driver, and asked the policeman how he was, and was told he really wasn't good and they didn't give much for his chances of survival.

We were taken to a local breakdown yard, which was behind locked gates, so we took the opportunity of trying to get to the ponies. Eventually with a lot of help from the police and the breakdown guys we managed to get the ramp down, and to our immense relief, both ponies seemed unhurt, just a little hot! We got them out and walked them around and let them have a good long drink, then tethered them to a couple of trees.

We had a very welcome cup of tea in the office and then sat down with the police to make statements about what had happened. The police view was that the driver was travelling at great speed, and had fallen asleep at the wheel and slammed into us. The car bonnet had actually gone under the rear of the horsebox with the impact, but as we were still moving at the time it had dislodged it, leaving it lying on the inside lane of the motorway once we had pulled onto the hard shoulder.

We weren't sure what was going to happen next - could we continue with our journey, or would we have to temporarily abandon our plans? About three hours later at 1am, the breakdown guy said he had managed to get the tailgate up and down, had attached some lights and made a new number plate for the rear. He had also had to change a rear tyre as it had been slightly damaged, and we would need to come back tomorrow after lunch to collect a spare. During our wait we had telephoned the local Holiday Inn and booked a room for at least one night as it was obvious we weren't able to continue at the present time. We loaded the ponies back in and drove round to the hotel, parked up and went to have some very much needed sleep. When we awoke, we showered and then while I ordered us both breakfast, Alan went to check on the ponies and take Billy for a walk around. We both felt better, and were optimistic that we could continue to the ferry after lunch, but whilst driving the horsebox back to the breakdown yard, a warning light started to flash on the dashboard. We continued as we only had to go around the corner, and the brakes appeared to be working fine. When the mechanic inspected the light coming on, he tried the brakes, found no fault, and suggested he disconnect the light, which he did and then after attaching the spare wheel, we drove off, thanking everyone for their help.

We were both so relieved to get to the ferry without any further problems, and actually the process of getting on the ferry was quite straight forward even though we were carrying livestock. No one asked to see their pet passports, or any other documentation, and we were waved onto the weigh bridge, given a receipt which confirmed we were well under our 7.5 tons at 6.9 tons. Once aboard the ferry, we had some lunch and sat and relaxed for the remainder of the short journey, and at Calais we drove off the ferry, out of the port, and at last I felt we were really on our way!

We eventually reached Paris - at a time when we didn't want to be there, with heavy traffic, and the main A1 route through diverted, but with no signs to where! We found ourselves going around in circles a couple of times, and then just took any old junction off to somewhere to try and get our bearings. Eventually we got back on track, taking the long way round, and found ourselves heading into Orleans on the motorway. There was a toll road ahead of us, and the Gendarme French police were making routine stops. We went towards a lane which looked like they were waving the traffic through - and got pulled over! We were having enough trouble learning Spanish en route, without having to try and understand any French! All I knew was what I learned at school over forty years ago, so I could probably say my name, ask how you are and what is the time? A female officer indicated us towards the weight bridge and of course we knew we were fine - after all we had the receipt from the ferry to prove it. She asked to see our vehicle documents, and seemed to be having great trouble working out the axle weight of the horsebox. She started to tell that the vehicle was too heavy, and was getting agitated when we kept pointing to the figures on the documents. She then wanted to see all the passports for the animals, our passports and any other documents we had, like the vehicle insurance green card. By this time we had been there for over half an hour and other vehicles were being waved through, until eventually a male officer took her to one side, and gestured at various bits of information on the documents. The female officer then came back, thrust all our papers at us, and waved us through. Without waiting to be told twice, we drove off, not looking back. It was only when we had been driving for some time further on and I was putting all the paperwork back into some order that I realised she hadn't given us back Billy the dogs pet passport! There was no way we were going back!

Sleeping in the cab of the horsebox proved to be another challenge. It was cramped, freezing cold and uncomfortable, but luckily we didn't have to do it too often!

We made slow progress down through France, mainly due to the fact that Auto route had decided to ignore all it's programming and seemed intent on taking us up every incline and mountain in France. As we approached Claremont Ferrand, I could tell Alan was getting tense, but assumed the long fraught journey was beginning to take its toll as he was doing all of the driving. The weather was getting colder the further south we travelled, but that was due to the fact that we were also travelling at a higher altitude. We stopped and rested for a short time, and then continued, wondering if we would ever get to Spain. It was dark and we started to go downhill, which was a relief for the poor horsebox which was struggling every time we came to an incline, when suddenly in the distance was a huge expanse of bright lights all in a row in the far distance. We didn't realise it at the time, but we were actually at Millau, where the world's longest suspension bridge had not long been constructed and opened. It was amazing to drive over it, and there was no other traffic in sight. Had we been in better spirits, we would have wanted to get out and photograph this wonderful sight. It's a shame it was at night, although that in itself was still a sight to behold.

It was after driving through Toulouse that things went seriously wrong as we approached the mountains at Carcassonne. At the time I was asleep, so what I am going to tell you next is from Alan's perspective. We were travelling southward, and climbing again. It was night time, pitch black and raining lightly. As we started to come downwards again, Alan depressed the brakes, and his foot went to the floor - nothing happened! He desperately pumped at the brake pedal, and managed to get a little pressure. So to gain more braking, he was revving the engine, to get the air pressure up in the air brake, whilst using the handbrake to slow down. We were hurtling downwards when the road started to narrow, and there was more traffic about. The road started to become more winding, so Alan had the added problem of trying to steer around sharper bends as well as everything else, which was impossible to do one handed. Suddenly as we came round a left hand bend, there were road works in front of us, with a chicane and a crossover onto the other carriageway. How Alan negotiated all of this whilst still trying to keep the brakes going with some kind of pressure is amazing! At several points he said it felt like the horsebox was just going to tip over on its side it was leaning so much. As he said later, it was a good job I was asleep when this all happened as he definitely wouldn't have been able to cope with my screaming as well! We were out through the worst of all this when I woke up to the smell of burning rubber, and couldn't believe what Alan told me had just happened. I soon realised what he meant when he showed me that we still had no brakes. He said he thought they were getting a bit spongy as we were travelling, but then thought maybe they were just getting a bit worn. We pulled over into a derelict petrol station forecourt, and just slept. Poor Alan's nerves were in shreds not unsurprisingly. We woke early in the morning freezing cold, and hungry, so Alan tried the brakes, but although there was a little pressure, it wouldn't be possible to continue far until they had some attention. We limped along the road very slowly, and came to Perpignan. There was a large industrial estate and we thought that maybe we could find a workshop or garage that would be able to help us. We found a couple, but of course the people we managed to communicate with wouldn't touch it, because not only was it British and they didn't have any spares, but also because of its age. We had to find someone who would be able to help, because it was dangerous to drive for any distance as things were. Despondently, we went across the other side of the road to the other part of the estate, to find another garage using only the handbrake to slow us, when this car overtook us, and then pulled in front and stopped. I don't know how we didn't run into it!

A lady got out and came round to my side window and I was just about to give her a mouthful, when an English voice said 'Do you need some help?' I could have kissed her!!

She said her and her husband had seen us limping around the industrial estate and guessed maybe we couldn't speak French, and very soon her husband (who was actually German) managed to ascertain that there was no hope for us. We explained that we were on our way to Spain, but now obviously not in our vehicle in its present state. Now, I don't believe in a God, but I do believe in fate. We must have done something right in our lives, because without these people rescuing us, I don't know what we would have done. Bless these lovely people - they took us back to their home which luckily was only about 5kms from where we were, and they had horses too. Their daughter is an international eventer and our little ponies thought they were in heaven when they were eventually let out into a magnificent fenced paddock full of fresh grass. They rolled around and jumped about like they had been locked away for years - it must have seemed that way to them, even though we had let them out regularly during the journey.

Later on that morning, Franz & Alan had a look to see what the problem was, and were astonished to find that the brake pipes on each side had been split. Not too much, but each time the brake was depressed, the brake fluid was leaking out, and because it was slow, that is why we were able to travel as far as we did! On hindsight, the car that ran into the back of us must have severed the pipes. That was also probably what the warning light on the dashboard was warning us of.

After hours of searching for someone who would repair or replace the pipes, it was obvious that this wasn't possible. We spent hours and hundreds of Euros on the phone trying to get in touch with our UK insurance company to sort something out. Needless to say, that was a waste of time, even after spending extra money for green card European cover and specific horse transport cover; we ended up with absolutely nothing from them. We looked at all other possibilities, such as hiring a vehicle from France to Spain, or getting a transport company to do it for us, but none of those options were viable. It would be cheaper to just buy another vehicle, but then what would we do with the Bedford? Eventually after a lot of haggling, Franz sold us one of his horseboxes, and kept our old one as a chicken house for his hens! The Merc was so luxurious compared to the Bedford, and I was actually looking forward to travelling in it. It was in good mechanical condition and well looked after, and had only had a new clutch fitted about six months previously. We spent a very enjoyable rest of the afternoon and evening with our new friends, and spent the night in their guest accommodation after going out for a meal in a local bistro.

The next morning, we were up early, unloaded the Bedford's contents into the Mercedes, loaded up the ponies (who were understandably reluctant) and set off on the rest of our journey.

Perpignan is about 60kms from the Spanish border, and as we crossed it, we were giving thanks that at last we were going to make it. We came through yet another toll booth, and as Alan started to pull away, we realised there was a problem. The clutch was slipping very badly, and only just engaging, so we pulled into a turning just off the road. As we did so, a uniformed man came to us and spoke a tiny bit of English, and we explained what happened and asked if it was alright for us to park up until we could sort something. He was very helpful, and even phoned the Mercedes dealer for us to come out. He suggested we get the ponies out and tether them to a tree where they could graze whilst waiting. We called Franz and told him what happened, and he assured us he had the receipt for the clutch and that it was guaranteed for a year. He arranged to come out with the pony trailer and collect the ponies and me and take us back to France. As we finished the call, a plain white mini bus pulled alongside us, and out got several uniformed and armed police officers. We then realised we were parked at the entrance to the HQ of the national terrorist police! What happened next was quite surreal. Several of the officers had mobile phones with cameras, and they took it in turns to pose next to these little Shetland ponies, standing upright with their arms crossed and smirking into the camera. They were even picking handfuls of grass to feed them! One of them was a female officer and she looked like something out of a Sly Stallone movie - blonde long hair, tied back in a ponytail, dark wrap around sunglasses and chewing gum. I wouldn't want to argue with her! After a short time, they all got back in their mini bus and drove into the compound. It must have been about twenty minutes later that an alarm sounded, and the same mini bus speeded back out past us, parked crossways in front of the toll booth, and threw stingers down onto the road. They then all drew their weapons and stood facing the now closed down toll booths. All I could think of was that if they started shooting, the ponies could get hurt, and I was urging Alan to put them back into the horsebox, when this car came through and was escorted through the toll. There were four men of Moroccan persuasion in the vehicle and they were dragged out by four of the armed officers, and thrown onto the ground. While all this was going on, I was searching for the video camera to film it all. Then I thought maybe not such a good idea!

The men all had their hands tied behind their backs with plastic cable ties and stood up in a row. Their car was ripped apart - everything came out, including the seats, but obviously what they were looking for wasn't found. One of the men made a comment to the female police officer in front of him. She pulled back her rifle and used the butt of it to hit him full in the face. At this point I was convinced we were all going to be killed! I got further behind the horsebox, all the while still trying to see what was going on. After a few more minutes the police untied all of the men, and let them go without another word. After relaying this story to a Spanish friend some time later, he said that is normal practice with the terrorist police - and no one argues with them!

We were just getting over the excitement of the entire goings on, when the same mini bus again pulled alongside us, and the same officers got out again having another play with the ponies!

Franz and the Mercedes breakdown people arrived at the same time, and we departed our temporary parking spot. I was so relieved!

Alan went with the horsebox, and I went back to Perpignan, and then Franz came back and collected Alan and brought him back too. All of this happened on a Friday, so we weren't expecting to get the vehicle back until Monday or possible Tuesday. We had an enjoyable weekend relaxing and chilling out. A bit of retail therapy always works for me. On the Monday morning, we got a call to say the horsebox was ready for collection - along with a bill for close to a thousand Euros. We explained that it was under warranty, only to be told that that was in France. We could recover the money, but would have to pay it initially - and we never did get it back!

Well, that's almost concludes our story - except that...Our trip had taken so long, that the accommodation we had booked months earlier had been given to someone else!

Update Four years on. Alan & I are now happily settled in our little homestead just outside of the Village of Fuente Vera. Amos and Gracie have been joined by seven other horses and Alan runs a riding club and a Horse riding holiday centre, using our three bed roomed cave home as accommodation for our guests. We live in a small bungalow we had built on the site.

We also use the Cave home for self catering family holidays. After our eventful start to our lives in Spain we have now settled into life here and have many friends in our little village. The children of the village come and ride our horses when we don't have guests and we also let them use the small swimming pool as the village doesn't have its own. Alan had a little scare when he had to go into hospital for a triple heart by pass operation, but the treatment and the hospitals here were fantastic and looked after him very well. He is now fully recovered and has been taking rides out from five weeks after the op, much to his consultant's horror.