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Automotive

Fractional ownership goes lifestyle

May 24, 2006 Back in 1987 a group of 30 Swiss neighbours formed a co-operative to buy two cars, and car sharing was born. The concept has spread and mutated and now operates in 600 cities across the world with a 150,000 members and growing fast. No doubt many informal car sharing arrangements predated the Swiss formalisation of the concept, but when an idea’s time has come, there seems no stopping it. Partial ownership works best for people requiring a car only some of the time and is much more efficient financially than keeping one’s own car. With just a few members, any club can offer the convenience of a car when you need really need it, with a reduced cost for the miles that you do when you take account of the purchase price, depreciation and insurance. Then there’s the added inconvenience and upkeep costs – paying to park it, getting it serviced and keeping it running in fine fettle. If you’re cash rich and time poor, these aspects can be ultimately of greater personal cost as you only get 24 hours in a day no matter how wealthy you are. Nearly all car sharing clubs are focussed on reducing the group environmental impact, but a more recent variant has seen luxury car sharing clubs appear such as Club Ascari, Exotic Carshare, Classic Car Club (and the American franchisee, Classic Car Club Manhattan), Luxshare Auto Club, Club Sportiva, and (bigger list inside). Ex-F1-Champ Damon Hill started his own P1 club and F1 newbie Scott Smart has a similar club. Business models and fees vary but usually involve a ritzy clubhouse, access to an array of fine automobilia and a fixed fee that compares well to the cost of ownership of just one of the beauties, let alone an entire harem. Now a group of Australian entrepreneurs has taken the fractional ownership model one step further by combining holiday homes, luxury boats and luxury cars into one package. AUD$18,000 gets you enough points to spend 45 peak days in the car of your choice, or the boat of your choice, or the holidays home of your choice – going off-peak might squeeze 75 days a year and corporates can join to use the points as employee rewards, team-building weekends, as venues for lavish parties with a difference.  Read More

Mater the trusty tow truck

May 23, 2006 We’ve written previously about some of the real automobiles created by Eddie Paul for Pixar/Disney’s latest animated blockbuster movie Cars. First there was the incredibly cute Sally Carrera Porsche, and now there’s Mater the trusty tow truck, Mater (voiced by LARRY THE CABLE GUY in the movie). Mater was the last of the real metal and rubber vehicles created to match the animations, and rolled out of Eddie’s studio last week. Not a bad likeness heh?  Read More

New Entry-Level Porsche Cayman announced

May 23, 2006 Porsche has announced an entry level version of the Cayman S which recently won the 2006 World Performance Car title. Based on the Boxster, the new version of the mid-engined sports coupe is a more accessible version of the Cayman S, with a base price under US$50,000. The new Cayman is powered by a 2.7-liter six-cylinder Boxer engine producing 245 horsepower. Using the VarioCam Plus system, the Cayman provides a broad spread of usable power, with a plateau of torque peaking at 201 foot-pounds between 4,600 and 6,000 revs. In manual form, the new Cayman will go from standstill to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds (0-100 km/h, 6.1 sec) with a top speed of 160 mph (258 km/h).  Read More

The 100 most reliable cars of the last decade (in order)

In these pages we focus on design, breakthroughs, enabling technologies and concepts and it’s rare that we look at product that has been in the marketplace for some time, much less second-hand product. But when we saw what a UK automotive warranty company was up to, we know you'll agree that it’s worth a mention. As a privately owned insurance intermediary, the firm collects lots of data about warranty issues – something you’ll never find out from the only other people who have access to the information (the manufacturers). In a very clever move, it has taken this secondary data and produced a reliability index – an independent comparison of frequency of failure across the 55,000 vehicles it insures. Read on for a list of the 100 most reliable used cars over the past decade. And before you take a peek, have a guess at where the best Japanese, German, Swedish, British, Korean and French-built cars will rank. You won’t even come close!  Read More

How to force local councils to remove speed humps

May 17, 2006 If you’re one of those people who object to speed humps and believe there are more effective and less neanderthal ways to slow traffic, take heart from the victory this week of a campaign organized by local residents in the town of Yate in South Gloucestershire (UK) which will see speed humps removed from its roads. The campaign website distributed downloadable bumper stickers (pictured) and in conjunction with intensive campaigning by residents and assistance from the Association of British Drivers, the council has been forced to execute a 'U' turn and order the removal of the humps as a matter of priority. The council will instead install a pedestrian crossing and vehicle-activated speed limit warning signs.  Read More

The naked Audi A8 from mtm

May 17, 2006 If you’ve got it, why not flaunt it? The Audi A8 is one of the most beautiful motors on the planet for many reasons, amongst them its aluminium body, so German automotive technicians mtm decided to highlight this by removing the paint, polishing the entire body and then using clear varnish to minimise oxidation and other environmental impact. All the external plastic bits were treated with a special chroming process to match the aluminium colour. All manner of additional upgrades are available with the polishing, from speed dependent height adjustment for the air-spring suspension to a turbocharger tucked in between the cylinder banks of the 4.2 litre V8. Yes we think it’s magnificent BUT … given the chances of the duco being scratched in a car park if left unattended, and the cost of replicating the process to bring the car back to brand spanking, the car warrants a full-time bodyguard.  Read More

A completely new vehicle category

May 17, 2006 Each year at the North American International Auto Show (aka NAIAS or the Detroit Motor Show), the Michelin Challenge Design offers a global platform for students and designers to share their visions of design for automotive industries in the 21st Century. This year, 22 vehicles made it to the show in full-sized form and each of them represented original thought in the automotive design process and a trip to the design web site will provide hours of fascination for any mechanical engineering enthusiast. Two designs that really interested us this year were from young German designers Tilmann Schlootz and Oliver Keller who collaborated to produce the Baal and Hyanide designs pictured here and inside. They represent an entirely new vehicle concept using a bendable rubber track that offers much more traction than its closest relative, the motorcycle, as well as freely changeable directions.  Read More

Mercedes-Benz Safety Truck with Active Protection

May 15, 2006 As ironic as it seems, Mercedes Benz trucks are actually more advanced in their active safety systems than the company’s most advanced passenger vehicles, and the advent of its latest Active Brake Assist (emergency brake assistant) technology will see that brought firmly into focus in coming weeks as the company steps up its road safety initiatives at a political level in Europe. Though it will be marketing all of its electronic driver support and safety system concepts in one “Mercedes-Benz Safety Truck” package, the bright yellow safety poster child is actually available as of this week as a fully-optioned Actros. The newly added Active Brake Assist is based on the existing radar system used by the Telligent proximity control system and initiates emergency braking when there is an acute risk of a collision with a car in front. It uses the three radar beams of the proximity control system, which detect obstacles moving in the lane ahead of the truck at a distance of up to150 metres, while constantly determining the difference in speeds between the two vehicles. If an accident is unavoidable in the prevailing circumstances, the driver is first given a visual and acoustic warning, followed by partial braking (30 percent braking performance), and if the risk of a collision increases even further, the system then initiates full emergency braking. Since rear-end collisions represent a sizable proportion of the accidents that occur in heavy-duty transport on European roads, the accident researchers expect the widespread use of Active Brake Assist to lead to a noticeable reduction in the number of accidents involving fatalities and serious injuries.  Read More

Six seat luxury mobile office concept for the corporate commando team

May 14, 2006 There are many companies in the world that create luxury goods for high earners, and there are just as many who create specialist tools for the finest exponents of their trade. Becker Automotive does both, pushing the very edge of luxury vehicle design. Using SUVs and vans as the base of their designs, Becker can create mobile environments for almost any purpose, from luxury offices through stretched (height and length) mobile entertainment areas, though the exterior of the van remains remarkably incognito, giving no hint of the technology, opulence and status of the occupants. What sets Becker apart, is the level of luxury craftsmanship, which is equivalent to that you’d find in a private luxury jet or yacht, and the range of options, which covers … almost anything. Though Becker Automotive is located in California, their vehicles are regularly shipped across the world. Our favourite is Becker’s six-seat mobile office concept for the corporate commando team (pictured) with full electric seating, high-speed wireless internet and … ballistic armouring should it be required.  Read More

Citroen C-Buggy off-road concept car

May 13, 2006 Citroen will use the Madrid International Motor Show later this month to unveil an adventurously styled C-Buggy off-road concept car. A derivative of the C-Airplay concept, the C-Buggy is Citroen’s futuristic interpretation of a two-seater, go-anywhere car. Clearly designed for warmer climes, due to the absence of a roof, windscreen and windows, the C-Buggy exudes a carefree charm whilst wide wheel arches, big wheels, glass door portholes and sump guard hint at its off-road credentials.  Read More

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