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  • ECRL project cancelled – prime minister Tun Mahathir

    The proposed East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project has been shelved due to Malaysia’s need to manage its finances, according to prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

    In reports by The Edge and The Star, the premiere said the Chinese government has been made aware of the decision, and that it understands the financial woes currently facing the current administration. “I believe China itself does not want to see Malaysia become a bankrupt country,” Mahathir said.

    Even so, he stated that the government would have to provide compensation on the cancellation of these projects, which will be negotiated at a later date. “This is due to the stupidity of the previous government,” commented Mahathir.

    Initially, the railway was to consist of two phases; Phase 1 with 21 stations along a 600.3 km line, connecting Kota Bharu in Kelantan to the Integrated Transport Terminal Gombak (ITT Gombak) in Selangor – a future interchange for the Kelana Jaya LRT line – and Phase 2, which comprises 88 km of combined track from Gombak North to Port Klang, and an extension link between Kota Bharu and Pengkalan Kubor.

    Previously, the project was under review by the government to ascertain not just the construction costs (said to be RM80.92 billion) but also the viability of maintain the rail network. The latter, as explained by finance minister Lim Guan Eng, was estimated to be RM600 million to RM1 billion annually.

     
  • New Lexus ES 300h launched in Thailand – fr RM448k

    The new Lexus ES is now in Thailand, after being launched in Indonesia at the 2018 Gaikindo Indonesia International Auto Show, which we reported from. As with our southern neighbour, the seventh-generation ES is also available in Thailand solely as a hybrid.

    The ES 300h is the choice in the Land of Smiles for tax reasons, the Bangkok Post points out. With an improved hybrid system, fuel economy is up from 20 km/l to a claimed 22 km/l, but it’s the below 100 g/km C02 emissions that has cut excise tax from 16% to 8%, enabling Lexus to maintain entry prices at 3.59 million baht (RM448,545) for the Luxury trim. The Grand Luxury is priced at 3.76 million baht (RM469,827) while the Premium comes in at 4.19 million baht (RM523,622).

    The English language daily says that the ES is aimed at well heeled Thais wanting a fuel-efficient alternative to diesel-powered European executive saloons, but don’t want the additional task of plug-in charging. As in Malaysia, Lexus faces the same CBU vs CKD issues in Thailand, where premium German brands have the local assembly price advantage.

    The seventh-generation XV70 is new from the ground up, and rides on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) GA-K platform, which also underpins the latest Camry. Lexus says it rivals the GA-L RWD platform used for the LC grand tourer and LS limo in terms of rigidity.

    Looking very much like a smaller LS, the new ES is 66 mm longer and 46 mm wider than before, but sits 5 mm lower. The wheelbase has also grown by 51 mm, and all these figures contribute to the sleeker appearance – “provocative elegance” is what the design seeks to achieve. The dramatic spindle grille comes with vertical slats here and the 18-inch wheels are in a “Resonator” design.

    The ES 300h combines a 2.5 litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor that’s lighter, more compact and more power dense. The total system output is 215 hp. Power goes to the front wheels via a CVT automatic.

    In Indonesia, the car we detailed had a largest in class colour head-up display, 12.3-inch central screen, 17-speaker Mark Levinson Pure Play sound system, rear seat controls in the centre armrest (for seats, temp and audio), sunroof, kick-to-open powered boot, panoramic view parking monitor, three-zone auto AC with carbon filtration and nano-e, heated/ventilated seats and full LED exterior lighting.

    An “Ultra Luxury” variant adds on power reclining rear seats, semi-aniline leather seats and acoustic glass rear windows to go with the standard front ones. The outgoing ES was a decent seller for Lexus Malaysia, so this new one should be heading to our market in the near future.

    GALLERY: Lexus ES 300h in Indonesia


    GALLERY: Lexus ES 300h official images

     
  • Proton Ace the Space contest winners set new Malaysian record for most people inside an MPV

    A 17-year-old record in the Malaysia Book of Records was broken during the finale of Proton’s Ace the Space contest, when 55 people crammed themselves into a Proton Exora to set a new record for ‘most people in an MPV’.

    The record-setting team was Team Girls Power from Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UNIMAP), and they were among the 25 groups (total of 669 participants) that took part in the contest.

    Team Girls Power’s path to the finals saw the team secure a victory in the state qualification round, which saw 39 members squeezing themselves into a Proton Ertiga.

    This feat was enough to get them to the finals at Proton Centre of Excellence, where they would face off against KVT Girl from Kolej Vokasional Temerloh in Pahang, Senawang Triggers from Politeknik Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan and GKL from UiTM Shah Alam in Selangor (the only all male team).

    The contest was a tight one, with KVT Girl and Senawang Triggers managing to insert 53 people each into an Exora. Meanwhile, team GKL mustered 45 people into the MPV. A special award for ‘Best War Cry’ was given to Team Last Minute, also from UNIMAP.

    As champions, Team Girls Power received a cash prize of RM10,000 as well as individual prizes for each member. These include Proton sales vouchers worth RM1,000, smartphones, two TGV movie tickets and an exclusive invitation to the launch of Proton’s first SUV model.

    The Ace the Space contest was organised as a way to showcase the spaciousness of Proton’s MPV line-up as well as to show appreciation and reward loyal Proton fans. This is together with the chance to set a new record in the Malaysia Book of Records.

     
  • Suzuki Ciaz facelift gets new 1.5L petrol Smart Hybrid

    Three years after the Suzuki Ciaz was introduced in India, the handsome sedan has been given a facelift, bringing with it a thoroughly revised look and a new mild petrol-electric hybrid powertrain option.

    The 1.5 litre Smart Hybrid replaces the 1.4 litre petrol model, and utilises a new K15 four-cylinder engine making 103 hp at 6,000 rpm and 138 Nm of torque at 4,400 rpm. Those figures are up by 13% and 6% respectively over the old K14 mill. Paired to the new engine is Suzuki’s next-generation Smart Hybrid system, now equipped with a compact lithium-ion battery.

    The system provides automatic engine start/stop, brake energy recuperation and a torque boost under acceleration, and helps deliver a fuel consumption figure 21.56 km per litre with a five-speed manual gearbox; a four-speed automatic is also offered. The existing 88 hp/200 Nm 1.3 litre DDiS Smart Hybrid diesel remains, making the Ciaz lineup a hybrid-only affair.

    On the outside, the front fascia has been redesigned with new LED projector headlights and daytime running lights joined together by a wider grille, while the chrome-trimmed air intakes have become more assertive and are fitted with LED fog lights. At the rear, there are LED tail lights and some more chrome trim, and the whole thing is finished off with new 16-inch two-tone alloy wheels.

    Inside, you’ll find new matte blonde birch wood effect trim set off with satin chrome accents, plus a 4.2 inch colour multi-info LCD display and eco illumination in the instrument cluster which dynamically changes colour depending on the driving pattern, likely similar to what you’d find on a Honda City and Jazz.

    The facelift also introduces a number of new features, including cruise control and automatic headlights with self levelling. In terms of safety, dual airbags and ABS with EBD have now been made standard, while stability control and hill start assist are offered on models with an automatic transmission.

     
  • Tesla could build cheaper US$25,000 car in three years

    Elon Musk has revealed that Tesla could be making more affordable cars that cost under US$25,000 (RM100k) in three years’ time, but the company has to work really hard to do that. In an interview with tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee, the Tesla CEO said there’s definitely room for less expensive, quality cars.

    “Yeah, absolutely. A US$25,000 car is something we could do. And if we work really hard we could do that in three years. The key to make it affordable is design, tech improvements and scale,” said Musk. Affordability also comes after having multiple versions and large volume, he added. “It’s a natural progression.”

    Meanwhile, Musk also said his team has way more product ideas than resources to execute. The company recently sought refunds from suppliers (money it had spent with them in the past) in order to increase its profitability and improve liquidity. It was even looking to go private with the backing of a Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund.

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    Currently, Tesla’s most affordable vehicle is the Model 3 (pictured above). When it was revealed to cost around US$35,000 (RM140k), the pre-orders skyrocketed, with 115,000 bookings collected within the first 24 hours. The cheaper US$25,000 model, should it ever become a reality, could potentially create an ever bigger hype.

    The Model 3 was originally said to cost around US$35,000 (RM140k), but several reports show that it’s hard to buy one for under US$50,000 (RM200k). Besides production delays and order cancellations, a group of German engineers suggested that it costs approximately US$28,000 to build the Model 3, and about US$10,000 of which is for labour and production costs. The rest are material costs.

    For Tesla to sell an electric car at US$25,000, those costs will have to be much lower. Just as a comparison, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric is one of the most affordable EVs in the United States, with a starting price of US$29,500 (RM118k). So, what do you think? Could Tesla, a small-scale automaker, have the economies of scale to sell a car at US$25,000?

     
  • Lucid Motors could gain funding from Saudi Arabia

    According to a Reuters report, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) is in talks to invest in Lucid Motors. This comes following an earlier report that Tesla is looking to go private with the backing of the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund.

    Sources say the PIF and Lucid Motors have drawn up a term sheet whereby the former would invest more than US$1 billion in the latter in exchange for a majority ownership. The funds would come in stages, with the first investment being US$500 million followed by subsequent cash injections depending on company performance.

    The PIF’s decision to invest in tech companies comes as a need to diversify its investment portfolio away from oil-dependent industries. The fund is said to have cash reserve of around US$250 billion, with a good chunk (US$45 billion) already sunk into Japan’s SoftBank Group.

    Should the deal be confirmed, Lucid Motors would gain the necessary funding to follow though on production of its first model. In 2016, the company introduced the Air, a luxury sedan EV with a claimed range of 640 km and output of 1,000 hp. The vehicle would be built at a new US$700 million facility in Casa Grande, Arizona but that goal has been pushed back to 2020 due to a lack of funds.

    GALLERY: Lucid Motors Air

     
  • Toyota USA launches first multi-model campaign starring its whole range, and one Chuck Norris

    Toyota has launched a latest its first multi-model campaign in the US, and the new TV and digital spots started airing this week. They include “Tough as Chuck” starring the one and only Chuck Norris, “Tag”, “So Beautiful” and “The Untameables.”

    “This multi-model campaign approach allows Toyota to reach targeted audiences with a variety of products rolled under one over-arching campaign. By showcasing multiple models in a single spot, we can reach the right customer without a lull between individual vehicle campaigns,” said Ed Laukes, group VP of marketing at Toyota Motor North America.

    In the new campaign, created by Saatchi & Saatchi, the Toyota vehicles are portrayed in a heroic and amusing way. The campaign aims to increase purchase consideration by demonstrating vehicle performance, capability and style while specifically targeting the relevant audience, such as families, outdoor enthusiasts, and youth.

    You’d want to start off with the legendary Chuck Norris, who lends his action hero superpowers to the trusty Tacoma pick-up truck to pull through some tough situations – like only Chuck Norris would. Checking out the “Tag” video made me realise how youthful Toyota’s current range is – your eyes will surely be drawn to the new Corolla Hatchback. Wonder if our region stands a chance at getting the hatch…




    GALLERY: Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

     
  • Mercedes-Benz EQC completes final round of hot weather testing, interior partially shown in spyshots

    Mercedes-Benz’s first electric EQ model, the EQC, has completed its final round of hot weather testing in the Tabernas desert, and the German automaker has released a new video showing a few highlights from the excursion.

    The car seen here is wearing the same psychedelic wrap as before, so cues like the distinctive headlamps and GLC-esque body shape remain apparent. Thankfully, our spies have provided us photos of another pre-production unit that is wearing less camouflage of a different design.

    The spied unit appears to follow in the footsteps of the Generation EQ concept that previewed it, albeit with a few changes. For instance, the front grille is more conventional rather than being a large display like on the concept. The same can be said of the door handles and side mirrors.

    Elsewhere, the slim taillights continue to be covered with camo, while the wheels are in a design that is likely influenced by the concept as well. Even better, a shot of the interior gives us some idea what the electric-only SUV will look like from the inside.

    As you can see, it is a familiar affair for those who have seen recent Mercedes-Benz models, with a large, widscreen digital display cockpit, the latest steering wheel design (with Touch Control) as well as a redesigned touchpad on the centre console.

    According to EQC chief engineer Michael Kelz, the company has been testing numerous prototypes and pre-production models, with about a million kilometres racked up by his team. Testing has been conducted on four different continents, including in hot and cold weather conditions.

    Kelz calls the EQC a game changer, but it will have to compete against the Audi e-tron, which is making its debut in the middle of September. For now, official specifications of the SUV are scarce, with some claiming a close relation to the Generation EQ that has a 500 km range.

     
  • Malaysian vehicle sales data for July 2018 by brand

    Vehicle sales in the country climbed for a second month running as a result of the goods and services tax (GST) rate being set at 0% for three months until SST returns on September 1.

    Consumers continued to shop for cars like it was going out of fashion, resulting in 68,465 units being sold in July, an increase of 6% or 3,963 units from the 64,502 units managed in June. The Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) reported that July recorded the second highest monthly TIV ever achieved in the history of the local automotive industry, just a shade short of the 69,371 unit record set in December 2015.

    Here’s a quick breakdown of how most brands peformed in July. Unlike June, in which just about everything had a green arrow, it was a case of more downs than ups on an individual brand basis, despite the increase in overall numbers.

    Perodua was one of the rare brands in which sales dipped in June, but it snapped back in July with a 21.5% increase. Second-placed Honda’s numbers also went up by 12.2%, while Nissan also managed a 9.8% improvement. Of the top players, the highest gain made in July was by Proton, with a 31.2% increase from June.

    The rest of the passenger car field saw sales dip in July – for many companies, the movement of ready stock would have surged in June, and with demand rapidly exceeding supply, inventory would have been severely curbed and nowhere close enough to allow the pace to be maintained. Mazda looked like one of these – despite managing 1,200 vehicles in July, sales dipped by 20.7% compared to June. Similarly, Toyota was down by 20.5%.

    Sales of premium vehicles also reflected this pattern, and following the spike in June Mercedes (-10.7%), BMW (-14.4%), Volvo (-14.8%), Lexus (-46.4%) saw a dip in monthly numbers. Audi’s sales figures, meanwhile, were not available.

    Click on the chart below to view a larger version.

     
  • July 2018 Malaysian vehicle sales hits 68,465 units

    The Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) has released sales and production figures for the month of July 2018, and the spike in sales that started in June as a result of the government’s move to zero-rate the goods and services tax (GST) continued, improving on last month’s sterling results.

    In July, sales totaled 68,465 units, an increase of 3,963 units or 6% over the 64,502 units shifted in June.
    The sales volume last month is the second highest monthly TIV achieved in the history of the local automotive industry, just a shade short of the 69,371 unit record set in December 2015.

    The total achieved last month was also 41%, or 19,912 units more than that managed in July 2017. As for year-to-date figures, the total for the first seven months of the year amounted to 358,179 units, an increase of 7.56% – or 25,173 units – from the 333,006 units for the same period last year.

    For the month of August, the association expects sales to be maintained at or close to July 2018 levels, with customers striving to secure a deal before the three-month tax-break period winds to a close, although depleted stocks as a result of the unexpected surge since June and supply disruptions might have a final say in what’s achieved.

     
 

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