The Legend (Schumi) is Back in Action

In what has turned out to be the biggest news in motor sport of the year, Michael Schumacher has confirmed that he is returning to what he did best over the years - Formula 1 Racing, in 2010. Mercedes-Benz has managed to pull a casting coup of sorts in it's line-up for 2010 - at one end, the very young and supremely talented Nico Rosberg and at the other end, the legendary, iconic Michael Schumacher. Add to it the Team Principal Ross Brawn and the line-up is incredible. Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn share a very special relationship and it was this duo which brought the Ferrari team back to winning ways in F1. Also, Michael won all his seven F1 Championships under Ross Brawn.

Being a die-hard fan of Schumi like millions of others across the world, I was overwhelmed when the news of Michael replacing the injured Felipe Massa at Ferrari this year came out. But Schumi's neck injury ensured that the moment for which hordes of fans were waiting with bated breath did not happen. After all no one will ever forget the popular Schumi trademark - pumping his fists and jumping in air while standing in the podium even after making winning a habit over the years. I am sure it was Michael who made many people in India watch F1 and thus turned them into fans of the sport. Now that the legend is going to be back in action next year, competing with people almost half his age, he has made a world of good for the sport making sure that people across the globe will be glued to television sets during the 2010 F1 season. I wish Michael gets a good car and start the season directly challenging for the race victory and ultimately for the championship. Soon cometh March-2010!


Boeing's Dream takes Flight

After many agonizing hiccups and delays, Boeing's 787 Dreamliner took to the skies for the first time on Dec-15-2009 and successfully completed it's test flight which lasted for 3 hours. Ushering a new era in long, fuel-efficient air travel, the first commercial airplane from Boeing since 1994 took off before an estimated gathering of 12,000 employees and guests from Paine Field in Everett, Washington. The flight marks the beginning of a test program that will see six 787 Dreamliners flying nearly round the clock and around the globe, with the airplane's first delivery scheduled for 4th quarter of 2010.

"Today is truly a proud and historic day for the global team which has worked tirelessly to design and build the 787 Dreamliner - the first all-new jet airplane of the 21st century", said Scott Fancher, Vice President and General Manager of the 787 program. "We look forward to the upcoming flight test program and soon bringing groundbreaking levels of efficiency, technology and passenger comfort to airlines and the flying public". Powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, the first Boeing 787 will be joined in the flight test program in the coming weeks and months by five other 787s, including two that will be powered by General Electric GEnx engines.

According to Boeing, the 787 Dreamliner will offer passengers a better flying experience and provide airline operators greater efficiency to better serve the point-to-point routes and additional frequencies passengers prefer. The technologically-advanced 787 will use 20 percent less fuel than today's airplanes of comparable size, provide airlines with up to 45 percent more cargo revenue capacity and present passengers with innovations that include a new interior environment with cleaner air, larger windows, more stowage space, improved lighting and other passenger-preferred conveniences.

The 787 program has been a much-delayed nevertheless truly remarkable journey for Boeing. The company claims that with 55 customers around the world having ordered 840 airplanes already, the 787 Dreamliner is the fastest-selling new commercial jetliner in history.

Milestones of 787 Dreamliner Program:
  • Jul-08-2007: Unveiling of 787 Dreamliner
  • Jun-23-2008: Power On
  • Aug-11-2008: Gear Up
  • Nov-17-2008: Wing Break Test
  • May-05-2009: Move to Field
  • Jun-09-2009: Gauntlet Test
  • Nov-20-2009: Charleston Groundbreaking
  • Dec-12-2009: High Speed Taxi Test
  • Dec-15-2009: First Flight

2010 North American Car & Truck of the Year Finalists Announced

The final contenders for the prestigious 2010 North American Car and Truck Of The Year awards has just been announced. The models which have made the final cut are the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Fusion Hybrid and Volkswagen Golf/GTi in cars and the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Transit Connect and Subaru Outback in trucks. The winners will be announced on Jan-11-2010 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. One of the above models will be crowned as successors to the 2009 title winners, the Hyundai Genesis and Ford F150 in Cars and Trucks respectively.

The awards, which are in their 17th year, are very special and unique in North America because, instead of being given by a single media outlet, they are given by automotive journalists from USA and Canada representing all sections of the media like websites, television, magazines, etc. The awards are designed to recognize the most outstanding vehicles of the year based on factors that include innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar. To be eligible, vehicles must be “all-new” or “substantially changed” from the previous model. This year the jury considered more than 50 vehicles and finally focused on 16 cars and 10 trucks.

My bet is on the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Chevrolet Equinox to walk away with the honors for 2010 making it a clean sweep by the domestic automakers. But the jury may pull out a surprise at the Detroit Auto Show. So it's a long wait till Jan-11 to check whether my predictions and guesses are true.


2010 European Car of the Year is VW Polo

VW Polo has been crowned as the "European Car of the Year 2010". The supermini from Volkswagen, Europe's largest and most successful carmaker, narrowly beat the Toyota iQ in the final round of voting.

The result was determined from a group of 33 new cars launched in Europe in 2009 which were tested and voted on by European automotive journalists. The list of contenders included cars such as Suzuki Alto, Hyundai i20 and Kia Soul at one end to Porsche Panamera and Nissan 370Z at the other. A final shortlist of 7 cars was then determined before picking up the decisive winner. The jury for "Car of the Year 2010" consisted of 59 members, representing 23 European countries. The seven organizers of European Car of the Year are prominent automotive publications such as Auto(Italy), Autocar(UK), Autopista(Spain), Autovisie(Holland), L'Automobile Magazine(France), Stern(Germany) and Vi Bilagare(Sweden).

2010 ECOTY Results:
  1. Volkswagen Polo (347)
  2. Toyota iQ (337)
  3. Opel/Vauxhall Astra (221)
  4. Skoda Yeti (158)
  5. Mercedes-Benz E-Class (155)
  6. Peugeot 3008 (144)
  7. Citroen C3 Picasso (113)
Previous ECOTY Winners:
  • 2009 Opel/Vauxhall Insignia
  • 2008 Fiat 500
  • 2007 Ford S-Max
  • 2006 Renault Clio
  • 2005 Toyota Prius
By the way, VW Polo is one of the most awaited cars in India and is expected to be launched in the first quarter of 2010. As if the marketing blitzkrieg of 13-page adverts in Times of India is not enough, here is yet another thing which could be used as a tool to be unleashed in the Indian media. VW. Das Auto.


2010 Ward's 10 Best Engines Announced

It's that time of the year when almost every automotive publication across the globe has an award to announce. Unlike other auto publications which crowns Cars, Trucks and Automobiles of the Year, Ward's 10 Best Engines is the only award in North America which honors "Engine Excellence". The list of 10 Best Engines for the year 2010 has been announced and all the winners will be crowned at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.

The Volkswagen Group is the clear winner taking home 3 awards including 2 for it's premium brand Audi. Ford also chips in with 2 awards including one for it's famed 2.5L Hybrid engine in the hot-selling Fusion model. While Subaru and Hyundai are getting this honor for the second time, the biggest loser this year seems to be Honda with no representation in the Top 10. Each engines were scored based on horsepower, torque, refinement, technical relevance and comparative data. The engines evaluated should be either all-new and should offer significant technological upgrades or was a returning winner from last year.

The following are the list of winners for the year 2010 along with the models in which the engines were tested.
  • 2.0L TFSI Turbocharged DOHC I-4 (Audi A4) 
  • 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V-6 (Audi S4)
  • 3.0L DOHC I-6 Turbodiesel (BMW 335d)
  • 2.5L DOHC I-4 Hybrid (Ford Fusion Hybrid)
  • 3.5L EcoBoost Turbocharged DOHC V-6 (Ford Taurus SHO)
  • 2.4L Ecotec DOHC I-4 (Chevrolet Equinox)
  • 4.6L Tau DOHC V-8 (Hyundai Genesis)
  • 2.5L Turbocharged DOHC H-4 (Subaru Legacy 2.5GT)
  • 1.8L DOHC I-4 Hybrid (Toyota Prius) 
  • 2.0L SOHC I-4 Turbodiesel (Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI)


Hyundai crosses 25 Lakh Car Production in India

Let me settle things first. This blog is not a Hyundai PR Website. Now that things are clear, let me also state that I wish that there are some other automobile companies to rival Hyundai in constantly attracting media attention and being in spotlight. Seriously, this Korean company is not only growing globally in terms of sales, models, profits and brand image but is also setting milestones across the globe. Following my previous post of Hyundai's milestone in Alabama (USA), it is now the turn of it's Indian subsidiary Hyundai Motor India (HMI) to achieve a significant milestone.

The cumulative production of cars in it's plant at Sriperumbudur, 35 kms from the auto hub of Chennai, crossed 25 Lakh units today (08-Dec-2009). Hyundai started operations in India in the year 1998 after completing the construction of the greenfield facility in a record time of 17 months. The first car "Santro" was launched in September 1998 and it went off to become one of the most popular cars to be made in India with a total cumulative sales of 15 Lakh units till date. Cars like the Accent, Sonata, Getz, Elantra, i10 & the recent i20 have followed the Santro and continued the legacy of Hyundai in India. Of the total 25 Lakh units produced, approximately 16 Lakh units were sold in India and 9 Lakh units were exported.

Hyundai Motor India has always been a trendsetter of sorts in our country and this event is no exception. Hyundai has achieved this milestone in just a little over 10 years - the fastest in India and only the second auto manufacturer after Maruti to achieve this milestone.


One Millionth Vehicle rolls off Hyundai's Alabama Plant

November-30-2009 will go in books as a red-letter day for South Korean auto-major Hyundai's American subsidiary - Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA). The day marked the "Roll-Out of 1 Millionth Vehicle" from the plant which started operations in 2005 with the mid-size Sonata sedan and henceforth added the crossover Santa Fe to it's lineup. In a short span of a little over four and a half years, a total of 655,496 Sonatas and 344,504 Santa Fes were built to achieve this landmark.

Speaking on the occasion, HMMA President & CEO, Mr.H.I.Kim said, "Our guests of honor today are without a doubt the team members wearing the Hyundai logo on their chest. We've overcome many challenges since production began in 2005 and through it all our Team Members never turned away from those challenges. It is because of them that we were able to accomplish this tremendous milestone."

It seems that Hyundai is on a spree of achieving milestones across the globe. On November-03-2009, Hyundai reported that the worldwide cumulative sales of it's Santa Fe SUV has touched 2 Million units. This included 500,000 unit sales in the Korean domestic market. This multiple award-winning and successful model was launched by Hyundai in June 2000 and it has steadily gained in popularity in most of the markets it was launched in. The Santa Fe is in it's second generation now and it was given a mid-cycle facelift very recently.