Monday, March 12, 2018

Motoring Malaysia Update and Some Thoughts on the Upcoming Toyota Supra

I've been a little busy with some other projects outside of the automotive world folks. I have to actually earn a living, be a father and also entertain myself via other non-automotive means sometime. So last weekend was one of those 'I stayed home and became a couch potato kinda weekend'. Of course, I wished it could continue and I also wished I was in Down Under for another vacation like what I did at the end of last year. But alas, it's already March of 2018! Suddenly the first quarter of 2018 is almost over! How fast time flies when you're having fun.

I have a video review or two coming up for you guys (one of it is about revisiting the Volkswagen SUV above). It will be up as soon as I can find some time to edit it properly. I prefer my video reviews to be a little bit polished than just me sitting in the car talking without any B-roll or other shots whilst I do some talking. 

You know, when I talk about the air vents, the camera cuts to the scene where it shows my fat fingers prodding the said vent or when I talk about how the car handles I show a tracking shot of the car in question. I prefer a little bit more documentary style to Motoring Malaysia's vids rather than just some shot of me inside the reviewed car. Because of that I like to take a little bit more time to get things done. And no, I am not a perfectionist. A one man show cannot be a perfectionist as if I were, nothing would be done. Well, most of the time as I do get some assistance from my friends occasionally to bring you a slightly different angle to things in and around the Malaysian automotive world. 

It isn't just about the vehicles you know. There are lotsa people involved in various aspects. While some things are indeed repetitive, like every year we get the same press releases from the same bunch of people telling us how they've done but with this bits of news, we can actually gather what the state of the Malaysian economy is. 

Lets take for example the current situation right now. We have actually started off 2018 decently well with Perodua selling a whole lot of cars. In January of 2018, 4 out of every 10 passenger cars is a Perodua. 1.2 out of every 10 is a Proton or a Toyota and somewhere in the middle is a Honda. It's not as if they are selling small numbers... Malaysians bought over 44,000 buses, cars and trucks in January 2018. And January is usually a slow month as many would have bought cars during the year end sales promos. 

Another unique indicator is the sales of buses and trucks which I keep track off. Recently Hino managed to sell 300 units of their trucks to GD Express, one of the larger courier service providers here. Sometime earlier, FUSO also sold 80 units of trucks to another transporter. Both have decided to expand their fleet to cater for the rising demand of e-commerce and direct to the home retail. 

This is actually the reason why you see a lot more empty lots in neighbourhood shopping malls. Everyone is actually buying their stuff online. I also know of people who actually even order their toilet paper online and have them delivered to their office. Some of their receptionists are actually complaining because of this - Not really as the receptionists also buy stuff online. 

Now cars are still relatively flying out of showrooms and lots of stuff are being ordered online. The transport industry is actually gearing up for this increase in demand. Things are slowing down in traditional industries like oil and gas as well as property. 

As the price of crude oil stays relatively low, the usual people who used to make the economy turn are seeing their incomes drop. Add with the fact that when it comes to the property market, the shoplots or retail lots are actually in oversupply due to traditional business models being wiped out by e-commerce where you do not need a shop to sell anything anymore. This causes demand for commercial lots to drop unless they are in prime, touristy areas like Bukit Bintang and other hot spots within the Klang valley. And since many jokers have been over speculating on houses, coupled with the fact that the central bank wishes to curb credit, lots more people are unable to buy houses leading to a slowdown of this traditional form of economy or industry. 

So folks, the times are a changin'. But the money is still being made actually, it is just now within the regular industries that we know. These days the money is with the online retailers and with the logistics companies that bring you the products direct to your home. Even hot food can be delivered to your doorstep without the need of an actual shop for the chef to have - think Food Panda or even Uber Eats. This is all super disruptive technology at work here folks. But there are still industries which are on the upswing if you look at things closely.

In another example of change let's take things closer to home. By that I mean the motoring industry. I started playing with cars waaay back in the early 1990s. Back then we were all into Japanese tuner cars. I wanted a Honda Civic EF SiR badly. I loved the Toyota Supra of the 1990s as well as the original R32 and R33 Nissan Skyline GT-Rs when they were new. Back then was the start of why most of the car enthusiasts here in Malaysia adored Japanese tuner cars and how they performed. I still do in some aspects. That little bit of JDM is still in my heart.

JDM meant small capacity engines with a lot of horsepower. It also meant VTEC and also it also meant rally specials with 2.0liter turbos. Another was the drift and GT cars with their GT-R, Sylvias and Supras. We got larger 2.6liter or 3.0liter straight 6 engines which Japanese tuners tweaked the heck out of them. You got 600hp Skylines flying in the 1990s and also people with 2JZ Toyota engines plonked into every drift car you can find.  Which brings us to the Toyota 2JZ engine. It could have been the most tractable, tunable, bulletproof engine the Japanese ever made.

The 2JZ Toyota straight 6 engine from the Supra (mostly) in the end was also stuffed in many Nissan and you can see that people loved its bulletproof-ness. I remember seeing Nissan Cefiro drift cars using this Toyota engine inside it making over 600hp. The Toyota twin turbocharged engine was THE Japanese engine to shove in everything that needed power. It was a legend. 

It was a legend. But things do come to pass and now, in 2018, we get to hear from Toyota that the upcoming Toyota Supra, shown at the recent Geneva auto show in GR Supra Racing Concept concept car form (which is another concept car like the one from 2017 - when will they ever launch it???) will be BMW powered. So who has the best straight-6 twin turbocharged engine these days? It surely isn't one from Toyota. 

The times are definitely a changin'. A flagship Japanese sports car will have a German heart. I imagine a 3.0liter straight-six twin turbo monster making 450-500bhp with handling like a larger GT 86 and with a price to suit its flagship stature... Now wouldn't it be easier to go out and just buy a BMW M4 or a M6 since those coupes already have such an engine? 

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