The Truth About Cars » Hong Kong The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Hong Kong Ford’s Transit Taxi To Connect Passengers Worldwide Tue, 22 Oct 2013 17:00:14 +0000 Ford-Transit-Connect-Hong-Kong-Main-ArtWith a few successes under Ford’s strap with the American buckle, the Blue Oval made be known its aspirations to go for the world championship belt in ferrying drunk revelers and harried air travelers with their Transit Connect Taxi in its debut in Hong Kong.

“Ford Transit Connect Taxi has proven itself in taxi fleets across the U.S.,” said Ford’s head of global product development Raj Nair in a statement. “Now, we are building on that success, offering the vehicle for sale in even more markets, including global cities like Hong Kong.” The taxi, set to go on sale in 2014 globally, will run off of Hong Kong’s liquefied petroleum gas infrastructure, an option that has been available since 2010 in the U.S. domestic market alongside compressed natural gas and gasoline.

Under the hood, a 2.5-liter engine attached to a six-speed automatic will keep things moving smoothly, or as smooth as driving (or riding in) a taxi can be, at least. The new taxi is longer than the previous domestic-only models, with seating for up to five and more room for the myriad of baggage travelers will be dragging tiredly behind them. The taxi is also shorter for more clearance for strip club adverts on the roof, with a lower floor allowing for easier access, especially if converted for wheelchair use.

In exchange for spreading the love of the Transit Connect Taxi around the world, Ford has plans to bring the Transit Connect Wagon from Europe to the United States for the 2014 model year. The people carrier holds seven, and sips down a gallon of fuel every 30 miles on the highway. Ford truck communications manager Mike Levine has high hopes for the newest addition to the family:

We believe there’s an opportunity. The Transit Connect Wagon is virtually the same size as seven-passenger minvans were when they were introduced in the 1980s. Since then, they’ve gotten too big, too expensive and consume too much fuel.

The Transit Connect Taxi currently serves markets in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, with the Blue Oval owning 60 percent of the taxi market. Ford offers the C-MAX Hybrid for taxi service, as well.

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BYD Wants to Rule The World Hong Kong’s Taxi Market Wed, 15 May 2013 16:23:41 +0000

Scaling back from its former intentions of becoming “China’s No. 1 automaker by 2015 and the world’s leading car maker by 2025,” China’s BYD now wants to become a world-class fish in Hong Kong’s taxi pond.

BYD has six electric e6 taxis running in Hong Kong, across the border from its Shenzhen, China, headquarters.  Its plans call for much more: “We expect to increase the number of e6 taxis in Hong Kong to 5,000 in three years,” Liu Xueliang, general manager of BYD Asia Pacific sales, told Reuters. Hong Kong Taxi & Public Light Bus Association said it is renting from BYD an initial fleet of 45 taxis for around US$1,000 each per month.

Back home in China, BYD sold about 1,700 e6 vehicles last year. They go for around $60,000 and are reluctantly bought by local governments and taxi companies that want to shine their green image.

Hong Kong’s taxi fleet consists mostly of often LPG-powered Toyota Crowns. Last year, BYD announced plans to export 50 e6 taxis to London.

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Infiniti To Become One Of The Big Names Of Formula One Mon, 26 Nov 2012 17:56:59 +0000

Nissan’s Infiniti is joining high-powered nameplates such as Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes and becomes title sponsor of a Formula One racing team. Under a four year contract, the highly successful Red Bull Racing team will change its name to Infiniti Red Bull Racing starting with the 2013 season.

Infiniti has been a co-sponsor of Red Bull Racing’s car RB8 since 2011, and Sebastian Vettel was a brand ambassador. However, Infiniti’s name was relegated to infinitesimally small stickers on the car. Now, Infiniti becomes one of the big names of Formula One, and it breathes the rarefied atmosphere vacated by global brands such as BMW, Toyota and Honda. The companies all bailed during carmageddon when splurging for sports was the wrong thing to do. Or, as The Paddock Magazine put it back then: “The last thing that most companies wanted to be seen doing last year was guzzling champagne at the expense of their shareholders.” Now, it slowly becomes socially acceptable again.

The champagne does not come cheap: Before Toyota left the sport, its Formula One budget stood at $445.6 million, Honda and BMW spent similar amounts before they pulled out. We don’t dare to ask the cost of becoming the title sponsor of a three times champion.

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“Forget Volume:” After Work Talk With Johan de Nysschen, CEO Of Infiniti. Part 2 Thu, 27 Sep 2012 08:15:16 +0000

In Part 1 of our talk with Infiniti CEO Johan de Nysschen at his new office at the Infiniti world headquarters in Hong Kong, we talked about his new job, about new directions for Infiniti, and for the brand. In the second part, we talk about the new cars Infiniti will bring, where they will be made, what engines will be in them, and what deNysschen thinks about the plan to sell half a million by 2016.

In April at the Beijing auto show, Nissan’s Andy Palmer said he wants to see 500,000 Infiniti sold by 2016, while conceding that this is “an aggressive target.” In the last fiscal year, Infiniti sold 141,000 units worldwide, 105,000 of those in the Americas. In carefully crafted words, de Nysschen explains what he thinks of the 500,000 unit target:

“Forget volume. Whether those 500,000 come in 2015 or 2018 is less important. We are building a brand. If you put the volume first, and every day when you go home you check whether you hit the scoreboard, that forces you into a more short term orientation.”

As strong product portfolio “is the very core of establishing a brand,” says de Nysschen, and he wants more and better product.

Already in the pipeline is a “new compact premium model that we will position below the current G as a car that will be manufactured in Europe.” De Nysschen does not want to comment on reports that this compact premium is being developed together with Daimler, and that it will be built at Magna-Steyr in Austria, but his face says that the reports are not delusional.

A second new Infiniti ”is in the consideration phase, not yet in the decision phase,” but when it is decided, then this car “potentially could, I say COULD be manufactured in Mexico.” Why not in the US? Because Mexico has a free trade agreement with Europe, the U.S. has not.

There definitely will be an Infiniti to be built in China, actually two, as a start. “We have to expand our footprint in China,” says de Nysschen. “China has got to be a new volume hub for us, and a prerequisite for a volume hub is localization.”

Despite the disclaimers, de Nysschen states that “so now already we have three other factories that would complement the production in Tochigi.” Tochigi is Nissan’s plant north of Tokyo that currently produces most Infiniti models, all for export. Straining under the high yen, this is an expensive proposition, and producing in three locations outside of Japan will make the yen more palatable..

De Nysschen is outspoken in his demand for a halo car: “I want to have a product that will be emotionally appealing, and also very premium, and which very easily will draw a great deal of attention.”

Tying de Nysschen down to something more specific becomes a bit of a fencing act with a very agile opponent. No, it won’t be what at Audi he would have called a “D-class” car or “what we call the F segment here. That is a market segment that is populated by the S-Class, the 7-Series, the A8. No, I don’t think we want to enter that segment, it is overpopulated, its customers tend to be very conservative and very brand loyal.”

Then what?

De Nysschen feints, throws out a few other segments where “Infiniti has white space,” from crossovers to “wagons for Europe.” When I suggest that a high end Infiniti sports car could surely be very appealing and would draw a lot of attention, de Nysschen stops me in mid-sentence, issues a warning look and says: “Let’s leave it at that.” Cut off, I am unable to elicit whether the aspirational auto will be one of the four aforementioned, or whether it will be a fifth one.

With the Nissan GT-R, with a possibly resurrected Renault Alpine Berlinette, and with talk about possibly another sporty luxury brand residing under Renault, there should be enough DNA around for a successful super-sport cross-fertilization. It could do Infiniti good.

While we are busy creating new rumors, de Nysschen takes the opportunity of squashing old ones. Before he does that, de Nysschen paints a hyper-realistic picture of Web 2.0 car journalism:

One reporter reads or hears something, he interprets it in a slightly different way so that he can report it uniquely and originally, and by the time the 20th reporter does that, we have something that it is very distant from the truth.”

True, true.

A prime example of those twenty degrees of separation are recent reports that Infiniti wants to deprive the world of the V8. Emphatically not true, says de Nysschen. He won’t “instruct our development engineers to design a new 6 liter V8.” But kill the current V8s? Heavens, no. Actually, he praises the wisdom of U.S. lawmakers that prevented wholesale murder of the mighty mills:

“With the way the American legislation has been formulated, with trucks in the American definition having to comply with a different set of requirements than passenger cars, there will be less urgency to phase out the big V8s.”

The V8s also could be made more efficient, as an ecologically responsible de Nysschen quickly adds.

But in the very long term, de Nysschen thinks that big bad engines definitely could be endangered species:

 “One of the inevitable phenomena that comes with wanting to reduce the carbon footprints, and reduce emissions and consumption, is that that displacement will come down and that the vehicles will become lighter without compromising on performance. In the long run, I could imagine that the high performance ICE of the future will be a smaller displacement V6 that probably uses turbocharging technology and a whole host of engine management, extracts a great deal of power and in the combination with lighter weight gives a vehicle with improved handling dynamics and lower fuel consumption without sacrificing one grain of driving enjoyment and performance.”

While the world will not be deprived of V8-powered Infinitis for the foreseeable future, de Nysschen needs smaller engines fast. When he was touring dealers and regions, one question was asked again and again: Where are the four cylinders? At that, de Nysschen gets, well, stimulated:

We need an extension of the available powertrains. We need smaller capacity 4 cylinder engines for China, Europe, and the U.S. In the U.S., where one would think big powerful engines are common, half of the BMW 5-Series sedans are bought with small engines. Same with the 3-Series. With the Audi A4, the take rate for four cylinders is 80 percent. We don’t have anything to play. We need the same for Europe where the penalties for powerful engines with the CO2 taxation is quite large, and of course, we need diesel. You can’t play in Europe without diesel.”

Working at an Infiniti that is owned by Nissan, de Nysschen is daily asked to render a confession of faith in the electric vehicle, and he is ready for it before I am done asking the question:

Every car company right now should be working on some form of electric vehicle. If they aren’t, they are going to be behind the curve. That does not mean that we want to have an Infiniti version of the Nissan Leaf. We have our own ideas of what we want. The young premium consumers are very progressive and forward thinking in terms of technology. I want to make sure that Infiniti has a compelling offering for that audience as well.”

Also, says de Nysschen, as a future big player in China, Infiniti must be ready for stringent requirements in terms of emissions and consumption.

The sun has set somewhere over China as I ask de Nysschen a last question. How does he feel that Infiniti cars don’t get sold in Japan? Does he want to change this?

“Philosophically, I would say the answer has to be yes. Ironically, we take models that are unique Infiniti platforms, developed for Infiniti, and in Japan, we put a Nissan badge on them. I want to go and speak to my colleagues who are responsible for the Japanese domestic market and explore a way in a pragmatic manner in which we can respect their needs and their expectations and their requirements for the Nissan dealer network, but also that we can give Infiniti the opportunity to establish the brand in its home market.”

After emigrating to Hong Kong, Infiniti might finally come home to Japan.

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After Work Talk With Johan de Nysschen, CEO Of Infiniti. Part One Tue, 25 Sep 2012 12:30:00 +0000

A few months ago, Nissan’s Infiniti premium division moved out of the office building in Yokohama and out from the shadow of its parent company. Infiniti set up its new world headquarters in Hong Kong. Nissan also snagged Audi’s America-chief Johan de Nysschen as Infiniti’s new boss. Last Friday, after work, we sat down with de Nysschen in his new office on the 35th floor of the Citibank Tower in Hong Kong’s downtown, to talk about his and Infiniti’s plans for the future. This is a two-part interview. The second part will appear tomorrow.

De Nysschen’s office is spacious, but subdued in comparison to the workplaces of other leaders of industry. No armed guards, no sometimes more dangerous personal assistants bar the entry. He sits at a working man’s desk: Three computers of various sizes, a printer. A glass door provides limited privacy from otherwise open floor offices with space for maybe 100 people when Infiniti’s World Headquarters are fully staffed. So how does the new CEO like the new office in the new city?

Space is more constrained in Hong Kong, but the view is better. From my old office in Auburn Hills, on a clear day, I you could see Chrysler. From here … “ de Nysschen makes as sweeping motion while the sun sets over a still unfamiliar Hong Kong skyline, and he stops. “Honestly, the two months I have been here, I haven’t had time to admire the view a lot.”

He also did not spend much time at the office. His severely battered aluminum Rimowa case in hand, de Nysschen went on a familiarization tour around the world, met with customers, dealers, importers, employees.

De Nysschen is a self-confessed workaholic:

“60 days into this job , I can tell you that it has been quite a while that I had worked that hard and around the clock. I like to  immerse myself into the business. This is immensely stimulating.”

“Stimulating” is a word we will hear more often tonight.

Impressed by the surroundings, I immediately inquire how one gets such a job. It turns out that de Nysschen and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn go a long ways back to the times when both of them had arrived in Japan in 1999.  Ghosn immediately wanted to hire de Nysschen, and add him to his stable of international executives that engineered what entered history as one of the most spectacular turn-arounds, the rescue and ascend of Nissan. Ghosn had to take a rain-check:

“I was not ready before. There was a lot of work to be done at Audi, it was a very satisfying and stimulating career I had at Audi.”

This time around, Ghosn had an offer that sounded stimulating to a man who had been in charge of Audi in increasingly important markets: South Africa, Japan, finally the U.S., where de Nysschen was CEO of Audi of America since 2004. In these jobs, he pretty much had to sell what was sent by Ingolstadt. At Infiniti, he can truly mold products and brand.

“To influence the brand from the core was a large part of the attraction. In the US, a key market for Audi, I could get involved in the last 25 percent. The only exception was the forthcoming Audi A3 sedan. That I could influence 100 percent. At Infiniti, I can influence from zero. And that of course is very stimulating. I have always been good at construction businesses, turning around underperforming businesses, molding and holding a brand. Those are my strengths because I get stimulated by it.”

De Nysschen is a native of South Africa, and when he says “good,” it sometimes sounds like it rhymes with “foot.”

De Nysschen and Ghosn share a common vision, and, says de Nysschen, “my contractual agreement with Mr Ghosn was to ultimately deliver on our vision: A tier one premium brand as part of the Nissan stable. A second major revenue and profit stream for the Nissan group.”

It will take time to get there, but de Nysschen brought the time. The 52 year old sees this as “the final chapter in my career – establishing a premium brand is a long term thing. Great brands are not born overnight.”

Most carmakers attempt to replicate the success of Audi. De Nysschen worked for Audi since 1993, right after Ferdinand Piëch took the helm coming from Audi, which he had managed since 1988. When Piëch took over, Audi had an image, sales and profitability worse than Opel, something that is easily forgotten. The brand turned around under Piech’s guidance, and only came into full bloom in the new millennium. De Nysschen knows it took time and hard work, he was there. And that’s why he is at Infiniti.

The Infiniti brand has been around since 1989, but to de Nysschen, it is still “like a toddler.” It is time for Infiniti to grow up, and de Nysschen will be coach and teacher. Like Toyota’s Lexus and Honda’s Acura, Infiniti was fathered by the Plaza Accord, when, after serious rounds of Japan-bashing, the Japanese government was intimidated into allegedly voluntary export restraints. The restraints were unit-based, Japan went upmarket, sold bigger, more expensive cars under new luxury brands, with the unintended consequence of draining the life out of Detroit’s most profitable segments.

“Premium car companies of can be quite profitable,” says de Nysschen, implying that Infiniti could grow up also in this regard. “If you look at the financial performance of BMW, Mercedes and Audi, they are immensely profitable car companies. Audi contributes approximately 40 percent of the total profits of the Volkswagen group. And it comes from a market segment which a Nissan brand cannot reach.”

Growing up to be self-sufficient and successful means that Infiniti must cut the cord from a sometimes overbearing mother Infiniti. He needs to take the same course Piëch took: “Markentrennung,” as it was called during de Nysschen’s Volkswagen times, brand separation. Says de Nysschen:

“The Infiniti brand as it existed until now has really been managed in the same way, in the same philosophy and with the same processes as Nissan. Nissan has been very successful for the mainstream brand. But in a way, ironically, those very same philosophies and processes and policies are also the ones that inhibit success in the premium market. Expectations and requirements for success are fundamentally different. I think the realization has come that that status quo for Infiniti needs to be challenged.”

Of course, this would be easier if, as at Audi, Infiniti would be its own company, with its own factories, R&D, and a boss who becomes group chief and who can put words into action. But with a strong Carlos Ghosn shuttling between Paris and Yokohama, and with Infiniti on its own in Hong Kong and out from under the Nissan coattails, with a little extra effort, it can work. It won’t be the same as at Audi, where de Nysschen, according to lore, banned the word “Volkswagen.”

We need to live out the Infiniti values, and I will work on brand separation. We need brand purity. At the same time, we need to have the protection and support from the Nissan group. We have to be proud that we are Infiniti, that we are separate, that we have our own identity, but we also have to recognize that we would not be successful without the support of Nissan. We need to respect that. There will be a far higher degree of codependence with Nissan than what might have existed in my previous life.”

Tomorrow, we talk about the new cars Infiniti will bring, where they are made, what engines will be in them, and what de Nysschen thinks of the plan to sell half a million by 2016.

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Hong Kong Electrifies Fri, 18 Jun 2010 10:37:24 +0000

Now here is the perfect place for  electric vehicles: Hong Kong. Range anxiety? Not here.  Hong Kong is a city where no trip is more than 20 miles or so one way. Driving into the hinterlands is blocked by a border and by the necessity for secondary mainland Chinese license plates. Registration taxes on cars are high, they vary from 35% to over 100%, based on the size and value of the car.  Gasoline prices are high, about half of the price is tax. Fertile grounds for EVs.

Yesterday, the Hong Kong Government opened two new charging stations, one at the Hong Kong Star Ferry Pier and the Hong Kong Queen’s Pier. To celebrate the occasion, EV drivers could charge free of charge.

According to Gasgoo, the Hong Kong government has already built 39 charging stations, and is planning to add 23 more this year. Now if they would be really serious, they would lower the tax on the cars. But as there is no HK production, this is unlikely to happen. Wait! There is a home-grown EV called MyCar, developed by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University  and EuAuto Technology Limited.

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Hong Kong Battles Strange Ghosts In A Bottle Mon, 15 Feb 2010 14:07:43 +0000

While the world is trying to come to grips with pedal-gate, tiny Hong Kong is attempting an exorcism of its own gremlins: 18,000 (mostly Toyota Crown) taxis and 2,000 minibuses are propelled by LPG, liquefied petroleum gas. The gas is lugged around in a large tank housed in the trunk of the taxis, much to the chagrin of suitcase-schlepping tourists. The real problem is: The LPG mobiles are breaking down in wholesale fashion, China Daily reports. Hundreds a month.

The Hong Kong government set up a special task force to investigate. Nobody is blaming Toyota – this time.

Enraged taxi drivers point fingers at Sinopec, the mostly state-owned Chinese energy giant, which owns seven of the 12 dedicated LPG stations in Hong Kong. The drivers say, the Chinese gas is contaminated. The drivers boycotted Sinopec. The rivaling stations promptly ran out of gas.

Sinopec did react no different than car companies that are faced with unexplained ghosts. Sinopec pointed their fingers right back at the drivers and said they don’t maintain their vehicles properly.

Sinopec did their own testing of the gas, and found no problems. In the meantime, the Hong Kong government took samples and sent them to an independent laboratory in Germany for testing. Final results will be announced next week.

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