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  • PLUS confirms CIMB arbitration notice, but says its RFID doesn’t breach any agreement, won’t back down

    Yesterday, it was reported that Touch ‘n Go parent company CIMB Group Holdings had filed a notice of arbitration dated December 17 against PLUS in a bid to stop the highway concessionaire from introducing its own radio-frequency identification (RFID) toll collection system.

    According to CIMB, PLUS’ introduction of its own RFID system breaches the obligations under the Touch ‘n Go joint venture, which CIMB, its wholly-owned subsidiary CIMB SI 1 and PLUS entered into an agreement with back in May 1998.

    Now, PLUS has officially confirmed that it has been served the arbitration notice, but the concessionaire is not backing down on its decision to proceed with its own RFID system. In a press statement, PLUS said it firmly believes that the recent launch of the PLUS RFID targeted pilot will promote choices to the rakyat.

    The company said it offers options and convenience for customers to pay as you use, with credit and debit cards, in addition to the existing e-wallet and prepaid mode of payment provided by Touch ‘n Go. Citing that Touch ‘n Go’s e-wallet and prepaid payment remains one of the options in the PLUS RFID targeted pilot, PLUS said it therefore believes that it is not in breach of any agreement.

    It added that providing additional choices to highway users should be considered a virtue, in line with the spirit of the Touch ‘n Go agreement to provide users the best customer service, and said it was looking forward to making its case in the arbitration proceedings.

  • Thailand car sales to reach one million mark in 2018 for a five-year high, but slowdown is expected in 2019

    Car sales in Thailand is expected to hit a million units this year, making it the highest level in five years, but a slowdown in the sector – brought about by increasing levels of household debt and an anticipated interest rate hike very soon – is anticipated in 2019, Reuters reports.

    The performance this year will be the second straight year that car sales in the kingdom have climbed following four years of contracting sales up to 2016. In 2017, the TIV recorded 871,650 units, after a five-year ban on the sale of cars bought under a government subsidy scheme was lifted.

    Things are expected to hit the million mark in 2018. “Sales are so strong that we have revised up this year’s target twice. We should see a million cars this year,” said Surapong Paisitpattanapong of the Federation of Thai Industries’ auto division.

    It’s still well below the 1.44 million units managed in 2012, when the government car subsidy programme ended, and the general view is that 2019’s numbers won’t better that of this year. Analysts say household debt and increased interest rates may curb growth, and the research unit of Kasikornbank predicts car sales this year will rise 18% but then shrink by two to five percent in 2019.

    A switch in strategy may help – with the government providing tax incentives for eco-friendly vehicles, automakers are shifting to hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) production in a bid to increase competitiveness. Thailand’s Board of Investment (BoI) has approved electric vehicle projects by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Mazda, Nissan and Honda, and Toyota is planning to begin production of HEV batteries in mid-2019 for its C-HR model.

    The report adds that dealers are however not too optimistic about the market’s performance next year. “People who want to buy don’t have much spending power,” said Mazda Mahachai MD Sumete Patchuttorn.

  • Goodyear Assurance TripleMax 2 launched in Malaysia

    It’s been a month weirdly filled with Goodyear news, and we’ve now got one more to report as the American tyre maker has launched the Assurance TripleMax 2 in Malaysia. The successor to the original TripleMax, introduced in 2013, this new mid-range passenger model boasts improved wet braking performance as well as increased durability.

    The company says that the new compound formulation increases stickiness, while the optimised microstructure delivers better grip and braking performance in the wet. The HydroTred Technology is also claimed to optimise the tyre’s footprint and provides more effective contact pressure, with the resulting increase in tyre cornering stiffness and steering precision ensuring better handling performance.

    Meanwhile, the new tread pattern is designed to minimise pattern noise throughout the life of the tyre for a smoother, more comfortable ride. Lastly, Goodyear has introduced additional technical features, construction technologies and materials to the sidewall for increased impact resistance.

    The Goodyear Assurance TripleMax 2 is now available for purchase and fitting at nearly 200 Goodyear Autocare outlets in major towns nationwide.

  • Toyota to offer telematics-based Total-care Service for Grab’s fleet of 1,500 Toyota vehicles in Singapore

    Toyota Motor Asia Pacific (TMAP) has announced a new tie-up with Grab in Singapore in which it is set to offer its Total-care Service for 1,500 Toyota vehicles owned by Grab – through its subsidiary GrabRentals – in the republic.

    The programme is a new set of mobility services designed by the automaker specifically for ride-hailing companies. Working with the latter, Toyota says it will leverage onboard telematics data through a shared information platform to provide a complete set of services such as fleet management, automotive insurance and vehicle maintenance packages for ride-hailing vehicles.

    The system will collect driving data via Toyota’s in-vehicle data-transmission device, TransLog, and send this on to the Mobility Services Platform (MSPF), an information infrastructure developed by the automaker for vehicle connectivity.

    Grab, Toyota and its local dealers will collaboratively use the vehicle data gleaned to achieve better synergies as well as road safety. Telematic reports, already available on the Grab driver app, will now be enhanced, allowing drivers to understand how they drive and where they can improve.

    It also encourages better safety – Grab says that since the rollout of telematics began last year, there has been a 50% reduction in speeding incidents and 20% reduction in hard braking and sudden acceleration, which are potential causes of road accidents.

    In the area of vehicle maintenance, the maintenance schedule for each vehicle will be optimised based on driving and vehicle condition data – Grab says that the programme will be able to provide its driver-partners with more cost-efficient and timely maintenance services.

    The two parties added that the service will be extended to Grab-owned Toyota vehicles across Southeast Asia, in phases. In addition, both companies will work to increase the share of Toyota vehicles in Grab’s fleet in the region by 25% by 2020.

    Toyota and Grab already have a strong working association. The automaker participated in the ride-hailing firm’s financing round in 2017, and earlier this year inked an agreement to strengthen their existing partnership and expand collaboration in the region. As part of the agreement, Toyota announced it was investing an additional US$1 billion (RM4 billion) in Grab.

  • Digi Connected Cars with AXA FlexiDrive – telematics motor insurance with up to 20% safe driving discount

    Digi Telecommunications today introduced ‘Digi Connected Cars with AXA FlexiDrive’, an initiative to encourage Malaysian motorists to stay safe on the roads, while rewarding them for good driving behaviour. The product helps drivers learn and better understand their driving behaviour through the installation of a telematics security device and the AXA FlexiDrive mobile app.

    Digi’s chief digital officer Praveen Rajan said that this move is part of Digi strengthening its foray in the Internet of things (IoT) with a comprehensive ‘Connected Vehicles’ strategy. “Connected Cars with AXA FlexiDrive is part of our strategy to offer a spectrum of solutions for private vehicles and insurance providers. This is in line with our effort to connect Malaysians to what matters most – which in this case, is to keep themselves and loved ones safe on the road,” he said.

    “Our partnership with AXA Affin General Insurance, coupled with Digi’s solid network, will allow us to reach a broader audience by offering digital solutions that will provide better value for our customers,” he added.

    Launched in July 2017, AXA FlexiDrive is Malaysia’s first telematics motor insurance that offers safe driving discount, encouraging drivers to stay alert and safe on the road (speed, mileage and driving style are all taken into account) for up to 20% savings on their insurance premiums.

    With a telematics device in the car, it also promises 24/7 emergency and vehicle recovery services in the event of accident or theft. There’s no additional premium, just a refundable deposit of RM70 for the telematics device.

    “Road safety is a serious matter and we want to keep everybody safe. AXA FlexiDrive was conceptualised with Malaysians in mind, and we hope we are able to reach more Malaysians and incentivise them to make smarter decisions on the road with it,” said AXA Affin General Insurance CEO Emmanuel Nivet.

    The product’s official telematics partner is CSE (Communications & Security Electronics) Group, a local research, development and manufacturing centre which cemented its name in the sector back in 2002. The product was awarded the New Insurance Product of the Year Malaysia award at ABF Insurance Asia Awards 2018.

    Private vehicle owners can find out about more about Digi Connected Cars with AXA FlexiDrive and register their interest at any Digi Store starting today. Upon completion of registration, customers will be contacted and arrangements will be made to install the telematics device in their car. Installation is free of charge, and the customer will only be charged the above-mentioned refundable deposit.

    Customers also have the option to activate CSE Smart Track Security for RM240 per year. This optional feature offers smartphone car alarm, real-time tracking, trip review and accident compensation up to RM2,000. Find out how exactly Digi Connected Cars with AXA FlexiDrive works here.

  • Audi SQ2 – more details and pix as orders open in EU

    Audi has released more official photos and details of its hot compact crossover, the SQ2, months after it showed a single image in the lead up to the Paris Motor Show. The new model, which basically shoehorns the Volkswagen Golf R‘s powertrain in the body of the Q2, has just gone on sale in Europe.

    The 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine delivers a stout 300 hp from 5,300 to 6,500 rpm and 400 Nm between 2,000 and 5,200 rpm. Coupled to a seven-speed S tronic wet dual-clutch transmission and quattro all-wheel drive, this powerhouse enables the SQ2 to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds – to put that into perspective, that’s three tenths of a second quicker than a base Porsche 718 Cayman.

    To harness the available power, the SQ2 gets S sport suspension that drops the ride height by some 20 mm, along with retuned speed-sensitive steering and larger brakes with 340 mm discs at the front and 310 mm units at the rear. The AWD system is also capable of sending up to 100% of torque to the rear wheels if it senses a loss of grip on the front axle.

    On the outside, the SQ2 gains vertical slats on the “singleframe” grille, a new front splitter joining the air intakes, a larger roof spoiler and a diffuser-like rear bumper insert with quad tailpipes. Available options include an SQ2 exterior package that adds black highlights, quattro graphics on the doors and a more heavily contoured rear spoiler, plus alloy wheels that measure between 18 and 19 inches.

    Step inside and you’ll find sports seats and a sport multifunction steering wheel; surprisingly for such a sporty machine, paddle shifters are optional, as are a flat-bottomed steering wheel and quilted Nappa leather. Adding to the aggressive look are stainless steel pedals and brushed aluminium trim pieces, and buyers can swap the latter for illuminated or anodised red ones if they wish.

    As you’d expect, the SQ2 comes with the same range of connectivity features as the Q2, with options such as an MMI navigation plus system with MMI touch and an 8.3-inch centre display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and a 14-speaker, 705-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system.

    Safety-wise, Audi pre sense front autonomous emergency braking is standard, with driver assistance systems like adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, active lane assist, park assist and side assist blind spot monitoring with cross traffic assist available as optional extras.

  • New Audi compact electric SUV due in 2021 – most affordable model in e-tron range, priced from RM158k

    Audi is planning to introduce a new compact electric concept SUV sometime next year, with Autocar stating that the production model will go on sale at a similar time as the e-tron GT, that is by end-2020.

    The new SUV is tipped to be the most affordable EV model in the e-tron range, and in terms of size, it should slot between the Q2 and Q3. Part of the car’s affordability is the fact that it will ride on Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform – used by many EVs across the VW Group – and will benefit from economies of scale. Word is that pricing will start at around £30,000 (RM158k), and the EV is expected to become Audi’s biggest-selling electric car when it arrives in 2021.

    At launch, it will sit alongside the new e-tron SUV (pictured above) and upcoming e-tron Sportback – the latter is due to debut sometime next year. Audi design boss Marc Lichte told Autocar that the as-yet-unnamed SUV will share the same design cues as the e-tron GT (set to debut in Marvel’s Avenger 4 movie next year), such as the shoulder line, inverted grille and air intakes.

    From left: Audi e-tron GT, Audi e-tron Sportback

    The four rings is using a number of different platforms for its electric models. The e-tron SUV and e-tron Sportback are based on Audi’s modular longitudinal platform called MLB, whereas the e-tron GT will sit on the J1 architecture as the upcoming Porsche Taycan. Audi has plans to introduce a dozen electric models by 2025, and alongside that will be five additional SUVs.

    Audi is using a number of different platforms for its electric models. The E-tron and E-tron Sportback are based on Audi’s modular longitudinal platform, called MLB, while the E-tron GT is based on the same J1 architecture as the upcoming Porsche Taycan EV. Audi announced last year that it will launch 12 electric models by 2025. Alongside the aforementioned models, there will be five more SUVs.

  • SPYSHOTS: Porsche 992 Cabriolet almost undisguised

    With the 992-generation Porsche 911 launched, the arrival of its myriad of versions and variants will soon be underway – here, we can see that the Cabriolet should be not far from its debut, given its rather minimal state of disguise.

    The lines of the 992-generation Cabriolet, which is an adaptation of its fixed-roof sibling, are as expected. All bodywork south of the glasshouse appears to be identical, with the requisite changes made to pillars and roof-line in the switch to a soft-top. Bodywork at the rear half of the car swoops upwards along the rear decklid, where the vertical third brake light from the coupe is found.

    The rear end also shows the full-width light bar, though here it appears to be segmented into four parts of equal widths – it remains to be seen if this will be a distinct Cabriolet feature, or merely a quirk of the development car. Additional shut lines can be seen here too, denoting the clam-shell panel for the roof enclosure.

    Powertrain variants should just about mimic those of the 911 coupe model line, namely the 3.0 litre turbocharged flat-six in varying states of tune, which on the Carrera S and 4S produce 450 PS at 6,500 rpm and 530 Nm of torque from 2,500 to 5,000 rpm. Turbo models will eventually emerge with suitably large output figures. Elsewhere, the eight-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission should remain standard.

  • Hyundai reshuffles exec roles, Biermann to lead R&D

    Albert Biermann, the former BMW M division man in charge of the Kia Stinger and the Hyundai N high-performance sub-brand, has been reassigned within the group of companies and is now the group head of development, according to Reuters. Biermann will replace Yang Woong-chul and Kwon Moon-sik to become Hyundai’s first foreign head of research and development.

    This comes as part of a group-wide reshuffle, which sees a total of 17 top executives reassigned within the group, a move which follows the promotion of Euisun Chung to executive vice chairman of Hyundai Motor. His father, Mong-Koo Chung, remains chairman of the group. The reshuffling comes as the automotive division fights to reverse the downturn in profits due to US recalls and weak sales in US and China, the report added.

    Biermann is one of several foreign executives brought into the traditionally Korean-dominated group by executive vice-chairman Chung. In October, former BMW executive Thomas Schemera was brought in to lead product planning for autonomous cars, while former Bentley design chief Luc Donckerwolke was appointed to oversee design at Hyundai and Kia, said the Reuters report.

    The report also notes that with Chung’s promotion, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor, was reassigned away from the automaker, and is now vice-chairman of the group’s steel production affiliate, Hyundai Steel, and that could suggest that Chung senior’s grip on leadership may be weakening. The reshuffle was “part of a generational change that Chung (junior) is pushing for,” a source familiar with the matter told the news agency.

    Hyundai shares rose by as much as 9% as a result, while shares in affiliates such as Hyundai Mobis, Hyundai Wia and Hyundai Glovis also improved. Analysts said that most of the share price rise could be attributed to the leadership changes, and noted in particular that the younger Chung was making progress in his restructuring plans after an earlier effort was scrapped due to opposition from US hedge fund, Elliot.

  • Audi Immersive In-Car Entertainment to debut at CES 2019 – includes mobile movie streaming services!

    Audi is set to debut a completely new on-the-road entertainment format and an in-car special movie theatre experience at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2019) next month, and both technologies of the future can readily be experienced by the public.

    According to the automaker, all Audi models in the future will be broadly connected, and thanks to autonomous driving tech, occupants will have more “free” time in the car. Audi thinks this free time can be used to enjoy its next-gen in-car entertainment format, where the journey is the destination.

    The Audi Immersive In-Car Entertainment, on the other hand, allows occupants to enjoy Hollywood blockbusters or content provided by streaming services, although this next-gen drive-in movie theatre is said to be available only when the car is stationary. CES 2019 is set to take place from January 8 till 11, with approximately 4,000 exhibitors on site.


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Last Updated 01 Dec 2018


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