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  • MCO extended or lifted? Malaysia to know on April 10

    Malaysia’s daily dose of movement control order (MCO) news this morning kicked off with the mainstream news outlets carrying a Bernama piece saying that Malaysians will know if the MCO will be extended or not on April 10. That’s around 72 hours from now, now that we’re in Wednesday. Are you still keeping track of the days or have you lost it?

    Anyway, there are no quotes in the piece from the national news agency, and it’s not based on something the authorities just said. However, on April 4, which was last Saturday, health ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah mentioned “April 10” in his daily press conference.

    “The data will tell us if we need to extend (the MCO). Now, I can’t predict but the reality is that we have to base it on science and facts. We hope that by April 10, the data is available for us to make a decision on whether we need to extend it or not,” our tireless health DG said then. The government has also consistently said that the MCO decision will be based on recommendations by the health ministry.

    Even though thankfully, Malaysian’s Covid-19 trendline hasn’t seen an exponential increase such as those seen in Italy, Spain and now the US – meaning we’re doing a decent job at flattening the curve – the cases keep on coming as known clusters grow in generation and sporadic ones emerge. Sporadic cases are where the source of infection cannot be traced.

    As of yesterday, official figures put Malaysia’s total Covid-19 cases at 3,963, with a total of 63 deaths. Yesterday’s addition was 170 new cases and one death. So, we’re not out of the woods yet, far from it. Based on (virtual) office pantry chatter and the many “insider info” WhatsApp messages, I think most won’t be surprised should there be an extension.

    Yesterday, senior minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri hinted at what’s to come regarding the movement of people in the days of Covid-19, for both the remainder of the MCO as well as post-MCO, when the blanket nationwide order eventually lifts. The current restriction order ends on April 14.

    It will be based on zones denoting how many Covid-19 positive cases in the area, and the standard operating procedure (SOP) will be tabled by the National Security Council (NSC) together with the home ministry at a special cabinet committee meeting tomorrow.

    Ismail Sabri, who is also defence minister, said the SOP will address people movement as well as business operations without jeopardising the measures in place to stop the coronavirus from spreading. “The SOP is also for post MCO to prepare us for the days ahead after April 14,” he said.

    Now, not all realise this, but the MCO, while necessary to halt the coronavirus spread, has been very damaging to businesses, and the economy in general. And for the work-from-home average employee, and their kids, cabin fever has set in for most. The government knows this, and the minister acknowledged this.

    “All this will have to be studied. We know that the people are restless after being confined to their homes for a month. But we don’t want to allow people to move freely and later have to reverse the decision and impose a longer MCO,” Ismail Sabri said.

    On the other hand, the government will continue to ensure that the good work of the MCO will not go to waste, so to speak. It will be a balancing act, and the SOP is needed so that Malaysia doesn’t go the way of certain countries that have seen Covid-19 cases taper off, before a second wave of infections surfaced. Hong Kong and Singapore were mentioned as examples.

    What will likely happen when the MCO lifts, as hinted at by the minister, is that the government will retain some sort of movement control based on zones – green, amber and red.

    The Bera MP gave some examples. For instance, the NSC’s SOP will determine if it’s wise to allow residents in green zones (areas with no Covid-19 positive cases) to go out of their area, as this might introduce risk to the green zone. How about those who live in a green zone but work in a red one? There might be some loosening based on zones, he said, without elaborating. Green aside, the other zones are amber and red, the latter being those with over 40 Covid-19 cases.

    Will this make much of a difference for most of us? Well, most of the Klang Valley is red, so perhaps we shouldn’t be raring to go out, which in any case would be dangerous for ourselves and the community.

    This unprecedented “quarantine” has introduced many challenges to Malaysians – singles watching their lives disappear, some struggling to balance work and family duties (while all the kids are at home), business owners sweating over finances and job uncertainties, among other issues. Many would be hoping for it to end ASAP, for life to go back to what it was before Covid-19. But how, when the virus is still around?

    Let’s brace ourselves for more movement control, for greater good.

     
  • Proton launches WhatsApp chatbot for 2020 X70 SUV

    If you’re among the few who were thinking of purchasing the 2020 Proton X70, but find yourself putting those plans on hold due to the movement control order (MCO) advisory, then why not put in the time to learn more about the SUV?

    To help you get better acquainted with the X70, Proton has launched a new interactive chatbot on WhatsApp, which it says will help educate people on the details, promotions, and features of the SUV. Think of it as a digital sales advisor, a place where you can also obtain more information on the four locally-assembled variants that are on sale.

    All you have to do is click here, then press “Send” when prompted. You’ll be automatically redirected to the chatbot, where you can learn about the car, price and specifications, sales promo, trade-in offers, as well as Proton Financing.

    Now, before you get all chatty, the WhatsApp chatbot doesn’t respond to random questions, and it certainly won’t engage in a full-fledged conversation about your life. Instead, its replies are automated, which means all you have to do is just send your queries or replies in the form of numbers.

    Meanwhile, you can learn all about the 2020 Proton X70 in our detailed spec-by-spec breakdown, and read/watch our review to find out if the CKD SUV is better than before. In fact, feel free to visit any of the following links, because now’s the best time to be doing some extra reading, don’t you agree?

    2020 Proton X70 CKD Infohub

    GALLERY: 2020 Proton X70 CKD Premium X in Jet Grey

    GALLERY: 2020 Proton X70 CKD driving exercise
    GALLERY: 2020 Proton X70 CKD colour options

     
  • G02 BMW X4 CKD price increased to RM375,800 – Driving Assistant with AEB added to equipment list

    BMW Malaysia has revised the pricing of the G02 X4 in Malaysia, with the sole xDrive30i M Sport variant now retailing at RM375,800 on-the-road without insurance. This represents an increase of RM11,000 from what was announced for the locally-assembled (CKD) model back in June 2019. The X4’s closest rival, the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe (also a CKD model), is priced at RM419,888 for the GLC 300 AMG Line, by comparison.

    The price hike does come with some changes to our local X4’s specifications, largely in the list of available safety and driver assistance systems. New here is the addition of the Driving Assistant suite, which includes Lane Departure Warning, Lane Change Warning, front collision warning with brake intervention, crossing traffic warning rear and rear collision prevention.

    These join existing items like six airbags, DSC, ABS, traction control, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, two Isofix mounts for the outer rear seats, cruise control with brake function, Parking Assistant, and a rearview camera. A selection of BMW ConnectedDrive services, which bundles Intelligent Emergency Call and Teleservices, also remain in place.

    Beyond that, everything else remains unchanged, as there’s still a B48 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet developing 252 PS (248 hp) from 5,200 to 6,500 rpm and 350 Nm of torque from 1,450 to 4,800 rpm.

    Power is sent to all four wheels via an xDrive all-wheel drive system and eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission, allowing for a top speed of 240 km/h and zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 6.3 seconds. Also the same is the rated fuel consumption of 7.8 l/100 km and CO2 emission of 178 g/km.

    Equipment-wise, the X4 comes with adaptive LED headlamps with BMW Selective Beam (anti-dazzle high beam), 20-inch M double-spoke style 699 M light alloy wheels, a panoramic glass roof and BMW Individual high-gloss Shadow Line. As part of the M Sport package, the coupe-style SUV also gets an M Aerodynamics package with bolder front and rear bumpers, along with adaptive suspension.

    Moving inside, the Vernasca leather upholstery is paired with Galvanic embellishers for controls plus Aluminium Rhombicle and Pearl Chrome trim, while an anthracite headliner is applied overhead. Sports seats are standard too, along with M-branded door sill trim pieces and an M leather steering wheel.

    The kit list also includes three-zone climate control, a head-up display, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster display, a 10.25-inch BMW Navigation system Professional (touchscreen head unit with Apple CarPlay support) with built-in hard drive for storing audio files, as well as a 600 watt 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system.

    GALLERY: G02 BMW X4 xDrive30i M Sport

     
  • Mahindra halts funding for SsangYong amid virus crisis; ‘one-time’ RM142m infusion possible: report

    Indian conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra has said it would no longer invest in SsangYong Motor, Automotive News Europe reported, as automakers worldwide are aiming to save cash in order to survive the coronavirus crisis.

    In a regulatory filing, the Indian brand also asked SsangYong to look elsewhere for other means of funding as restrictions that have been put in place due to the coronavirus outbreak has strangled demand, with Mahindra charting an 88% drop in sales for March, the report said. Mahindra holds a 74.65% stake in SsangYong.

    The announcement arrives less than two months after Mahindra said it would invest $423 million (RM1.8 billion) to make SsangYong profitable by 2022. the Korean brand sold 14,627 vehicles in Europe last year, down 10% from 16,082 units sold in 2018 according to data from JATO Dynamics, Automotive News Europe reported.

    An electric version of the SsangYong Korando was due to debut at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show, which was cancelled due to the coronavirus in Europe

    Mahindra said it would consider a special, one-time infusion of up to 40 billion won (RM142 million) over the next three months to help SsangYong continue running its business while the Korean brand continues to seek other sources of funding, the report added, while the Mahindra board has commenced several measures to bolster its balance sheet in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, it said.

    Earlier this year, SsangYong had planned to begin selling a fully electric version of its Korando SUV in Europe. The electric model was due to be displayed at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, which ended up being cancelled due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

    SsangYong was saved from insolvency in 2010 by Mahindra, though several subsequent attempts failed to improve the Korean brand’s fortunes, said the Automotive News Europe report. An entry into the United States market was considered, however the manufacturer decided to focus its attention on China instead, it noted.

     
  • 2021 Fiat Strada debuts in Brazil – compact pick-up

    The all-new Fiat Strada has made its official debut in Brazil, with the compact pick-up truck slotting in below the larger Toro in the carmaker’s line-up. At launch, the model will be offered with a four-body body, but this will be joined by a two-door variant later on.

    Contrary to earlier expectations, the Strada looks considerably different (and more conservative) when compared to its larger sibling. At the front, the fascia sports large Fiat lettering on a hexagonal-shaped grille, which is flanked by sleek headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lights.

    Along the sides, black plastic cladding can be found on the wheel arches leading into the bumpers, with some variants fitted with additional mouldings on the doors. As for the rear, the Strada gets a traditional fold-down tailgate instead of the barn door setup of the Toro, although the shape of the taillights appears rather identical.

    In terms of practicality, the two-door version has a cargo bed with 1,354 litres of space and a payload of up to 720 kg. Meanwhile, the four-door Strada offers less storage space in the back (844 litres) and has a maximum weight load of up to 650 kg. According to Motor1, the Strada measures 4,480 mm long, making it smaller than the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux that are well beyond five metres.

    Moving inside, there’s a revamped dashboard with a seven-inch touchscreen head unit placed between two vertical air vents and below quick access buttons for certain truck functions. There’s also a new steering wheel and instrument cluster, the latter being a large speedometer joined by additional dials and a multi-info display.

    The Strada is powered by a 1.4 litre engine with 88 hp and 123 Nm of torque, but buyers can upgrade to a smaller (but curiously more powerful) 1.3 litre mill that develops 109 hp and 139 Nm. Both engines come with a five-speed manual as standard.

     
  • Polestar Precept concept – more photos and details

    One of the expected stars of the now-cancelled Geneva Motor Show was the Polestar Precept concept, a sedan that bucked the trend of introducing more and more crossovers. Now, Volvo’s electric performance vehicle brand has released some new details of the show car, backed by gorgeous photos.

    Most of the new information centres around the interior, with a distinct emphasis on sustainable materials. Polestar is working with Bcomp to reduce the amount of conventional plastics used in its cars, using the latter’s flax-based composites as a substitute.

    In the Precept, parts of the doors, floor, dashboard and backs of the seats use ampliTex composites, strengthened with proprietary powerRibs technology that is inspired by leaf veins, offering high rigidity with low weight. Polestar says that together, they offer up to a 50% reduction in weight and an 80% reduction in plastic waste compared to traditional materials.

    The seats themselves have covers 3D-knitted from thread made out of 100% recycled PET bottles, as well as seat bolsters and head rests that use vinyl made from waste and recycled cork from the wine industry. Elsewhere, the Econyl carpets are woven from reused Nylon 6 from reclaimed fishing nets.

    But the interior isn’t just about recycled materials – it’s also about the technology on board. The Precept has a massive 15-inch portrait touchscreen linked to an evolved version of the Polestar 2‘s Android-powered infotainment system. The larger display allows for a customisable split-screen view of two running apps, and features proximity sensors to show controls and information according to where the user’s hand is placed.

    The Google Assistant voice control also gets advanced speech technology in more languages, better local dialect interpretation and more personalised experiences, while video streaming services will be made available when the vehicle is parked or being charged. The system also stores the settings and personal content of each user, which it recognises using the Polestar Digital Key.

    Meanwhile, the car’s driving assistance systems now utilise Google Maps data for safer manoeuvres and more accurate predictions based on traffic conditions. All this is shown in a single graphic through a nine-inch horizontal instrument display, which uses eye tracking to adjust the way information is presented based on where the driver is looking.

    As we reported previously, the Precept is the first Polestar product not based on an earlier Volvo concept (the 1 is essentially the production version of 2013’s Concept Coupé, while the 2 references the 40.2 from 2016) and it previews the new design direction for future models like the Polestar 3 SUV.

    It maintains a number of cues from its parent company, such as the Thor’s Hammer T-shaped LED headlights – but here they’re interpreted in a different manner, being split into upper and lower branches to give the car a more “robotic” look. Being electric, the Precept also dispenses with a grille in favour of a SmartZone, a strip that carries the car’s twin radar sensors and high definition camera for its driver assistance systems.

    Another new feature is an integrated front wing above the SmartZone – similar to the one on the Ferrari 488 Pista – to accelerate airflow over the bonnet, reducing turbulence and improving the flow over the rest of the car. More aerodynamic aids can be found further back, with vents that duct air out of the wheel arches and improve the laminar flow along the sides of the car.

    The wheel arches also hide massive 22-inch forged and machined rollers with aerodynamic inserts. Moving to the top of the car, the low-slung glass roof features a prominent LIDAR pod perched on top, further evidence of Polestar’s insistence on highlighting the car’s sensors as key design elements. The front splitter, side skirts and rear diffuser are made from the same composites as on the inside.

    At the rear, you’ll find inverted U-shaped full-width tail lights with vertical fins that clean the flow of air off the car. There’s also a distinct lack of a rear windscreen, with rearward visibility instead being afforded by a rear-view camera (side-view cameras also replace the usual door mirrors).

    Ditching the rear windscreen allows the glass roof to reach all the way past the rear passengers, and also provides a larger tailgate opening and higher hinge mounts to improve boot access. Peer through that glass roof and you’ll find a sculpted crystal cube bearing the Polestar logo, as well as an inscription of the precise location of the polar star.

    Like we said before, as this is a flight-of-fancy show car, no technical details have been revealed, apart from the fact that this is a fully-electric vehicle. What do you think – do you like the direction Polestar is headed with the Precept? Sound off in the comments after the jump.

     
  • Tesla blanket cuts salary, factory workers furloughed

    The automotive industry continues to be pummelled by the novel coronavirus outbreak, with Tesla being the latest to announce a company-wide salary cut. In an email to its employees, Tesla said non-essential workers would be furloughed, but they still get to keep their healthcare benefits until production resumes.

    Salaried Tesla employees would receive a 10% pay cut, while directors and vice presidents would have to settle for a 20% and 30% reduction respectively. Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California employs over 10,000 workers, with an annualised production of just over 415,000 units by the end of December 2019.

    Production at its factories (San Francisco Bay Area vehicle and New York solar roof tile factories) has been temporarily suspended and would likely reopen on May 4, barring any significant changes, Reuters reports.

    Tesla is among several auto car brands that have announced plans to furlough employees, with Nissan and Honda also furloughing over 10,000 employees.

     
  • Sepang circuit CEO Razlan steps down, goes racing

    After 11 and a half years at the helm, Sepang International Circuit (SIC) chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali has stepped down. Razlan leaves his position effective April 7 and will be going to Sepang Racing Team (SRT) as team principal and his place will be taken by Azhan Shafriman Hanif.

    Azhan comes to SIC from his former position as Head of Strategic Alliance in Petronas Brand Department. A mechanical engineer by training – majoring in manufacturing and material science, he has been part of the Petronas team for more than 13 years.

    Speaking to paultan.org in an exclusive interview, Razlan is looking forward to managing SRT full-time, after being involved for the previous two years. SRT currently competes in all three levels of top rung two-wheel motorcycle racing – MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 in a team comprising of 22 different nationalities.

    New SIC CEO Azhan Shafriman Hanif (right)

    Razlan counts seeing Malaysian riders standing on the podium as one of the highlights of his career with SIC especially at their home track at SIC. This includes Banting boy Zulfahmi Khairuddin who currently rides for SRT with two Moto3 podium finishes in 2012 and Hafizh Syahrin who mounted the podium twice in 2017 while racing in Moto2.

    “Seeing a Malaysian rider on the podium in the world championship at their home Grand Prix is something special,” says Razlan. “You know they’re going to win somewhere, but to do it at home is special.” Another special moment for Razlan is seeing Hafizh racing in the MotoGP category.

    One thing Razlan regrets are the fatal racing incidents at SIC, including the death of death of Marco Simoncelli in 2011 and others. “Motor racing is dangerous and we had a squeaky clean record for many years, this is something I regret,” said Razlan.

    On plans for SIC after his departure Razlan says this is something close to his heart, with some words for his successor. “He needs to rally all the SIC team members for what needs to be done. Changes need to be done gradually. Getting everyone’s buy-in is key,” says Razlan.

     
  • G20 BMW 330i M Sport and 320i Sport prices increased to RM294k and RM249k – 330i now comes with AEB

    BMW Malaysia has updated the price of its G20 330i M Sport and 320i Sport variants, and this has seen the price being increased for both CKD models. The 330i M Sport is now listed at RM293,800, up by RM5k from the RM288,800 when it the locally-assembled version was introduced last September.

    The price of the 320i Sport has also been increased by RM5k, to RM248,800 (previously RM243,800). This is a rather quick price revision, given that the car was launched here in locally-assembled form only in January this year.

    In the case of the 330i, the price increase brings along additional kit – the local 3er now finally comes with a Driving Assistant package, which adds on Lane Departure Warning, Lane Change Warning (with speedometer visual), rear cross traffic warning and rear collision prevention as well as AEB, in this case front collision warning with brake intervention. Also on, a speed limit info feature, which comes with manual speed limit assist.

    There is strangely no mention of the Driving Assistant package on the 320i Sport official price list, its Driver Assistance category still listing the same kit as available at point of introduction, and that’s Attentiveness Assistant, passive cruise control with braking function, parking assistant with reversing assist, and rear view camera.

    Documents sighted by this publication show that the 320i Sport is also supposed to get the Driving Assistant package as seen on the 330i, which means LDW, Lane Change Warning, front collision warning with brake intervention and rear cross traffic warning/rear collision prevention goes on, along with the speed limit info function.

    Whether or not this is the case remains to be officially confirmed, but there should be something added given the RM5k increase for the variant, as in the case of the 330i M Sport. We’ll check with BMW Malaysia on the driving assistance pack availability for the 320i Sport and update when we get further details.

    GALLERY: 2019 G20 BMW 330i M Sport, CKD

    GALLERY: 2020 G20 BMW 320i Sport, CKD

     
  • BMW: 60% sales from SUVs, but sedans still important

    Crossovers and SUVs are now firmly in the mainstream and BMW is no exception, with the equivalent bodystyles accounting for nearly 60% of its total sales in 2019. The German automaker is not about to neglect the design direction for its sedans, however, BMW head of design Domagoj Dukec told Autoblog.

    BMW market research identified two main aesthetic trends, ‘casual’ and ‘elegant’, noted Dukec, drawing a parallel between car design and a building’s interior design. The ‘casual’ design in reference to a living space corresponds to a loft-like layout where there is less of a clear separation between areas such as the kitchen and living room.

    The loft-style design is also where items such as the owner’s bicycle, for example, can be seen within the hallway rather than parked with other vehicles in a garage or parking space. Conversely, the ‘elegant’ design trend refers to houses where the kitchen, bedrooms and living areas are more clearly demarcated, and those who prefer this aesthetic in a house are more likely to prefer sedans, said Dukec.

    Though SUVs like the X3 make up the majority of sales, BMW will continue to evolve the sedan bodystyle, possibly with a 2.5-box shape in the vein of the Gran Coupé.

    Though the buyer trend towards SUVs has largely been attributed to North America, the parallels drawn to preferences in residences are more extreme examples as not all Americans live in lofts, and SUVs already comprise a significant proportion of vehicles sold in China, despite Dukec pointing out that the open concept, American-style kitchen remains unpopular in China, to use the house-vehicle design parallel again.

    This observation could explain how BMW, among other makes, justify producing specific models for China, aside from the sheer size of the Chinese market that makes economic sense for it to happen. This also means that BMW’s sedans will continue to make up a significant proportion of the brand’s line-up for the foreseeable future, with a twist.

    “The 40:60 or 50:50 sedan-to-SUV split will remain, so yes, sedans will stay relevant. There also has to be a certain modernisation or evolution of the bodystyle,” said Dukec. “It can’t just be the classic three-box design. We see that in China, they’re asking for more elegance, maybe something like a two-and-a-half-box (shape). This is something we are looking at,” he said. More Gran Coupé shapes from BMW in the future?

    GALLERY: BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupé

     
 

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Last Updated 04 Apr 2020



 

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