To Keep or Not to Keep

At the time of this writing, I have purchased my 535th car to my ever growing collection which I have amassed since I was probably about 2 years old. And if you have not seen the image, the cars I’m referring to are toy model cars. Growing up, I have my fair share of memories with Hot Wheels, Matchboxes, Tomicas, Maistos, Bburagos, and an odd Majorette. A collection which I have amassed ever since I got my first car for my collection, which was a 1/18th scale Ferrari F50 by Maisto. I still have it but it has a few missing parts. Guess giving what is probably now a collector’s item to a 2 year old is not really a viable thing to do but whatever right? It’s my car and I do whatever the heck I want with it.

But times have changed 20 years since. As a kid, one Hot Wheels car would cost me about RM3 or RM4. That was 10 years ago, prices have shot up since then what with a currency that has already drop badly last year. These cars are considered luxuries to most kids and in fact, most buyers are adults who would actually pay top dollar for rare Treasure Hunt models. Or in Malaysia’s case, they would buy whatever that isn’t a) a generic muscle car or b) one of those weird HW designs. Finding one is difficult as most shops display the same old unique (ie. weird) designed ones.

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Let’s just skip the economics here, I’m not a business major and anything that has to do with numbers just mush my brain into a fine gelatin. The fact is, there is a trend among these collectors. Some of whom would buy trolley loads of model cars and resell them at ridiculously high prices. I fucking hate these “collectors” if you can call them that. They would just grab the top HW models and sell them off online at triple or quadruple the original price. And it is not just online either. I went to this one hobby shop in a small shopping mall in Petaling Jaya, and I came across this immaculate looking Honda Civic EF hatchback Hot Wheels in metallic blue. Really freaking gorgeous. Then, I saw the price and quickly left the shop. RM50 for a piece of plastic with inconsistent paint finishes? Fuhgettaboutit!

What has the world come to? We become so materialistic and so enamored with business that we would sell something as trivial as selling model cars. Yes. Times have change and even Hot Wheels acknowledge that by releasing some collectors models that cost a little more than the standard ones. But these are not Yeezys or Hublots. They aren’t limited and they are in essence, toys that are meant to be played. I have a few friends who buy cars like these and actually leave it unopened; saying that it will increase in value. Fuck that. Open it up, play with it. It’s much nicer to hold it and admire the detail of these cars. You want to resell it off at a higher price? Fine then. Buy 2. One to play with and the other to do whatever you want with the money you earn when you sell it off at double the price.

At the end of it all, what it comes to is this. I’m not ranting about the collectors who just keep them box fresh unopened. I don’t even know if there is a gold mine with these toy cars but growing up and amassing my collection of these cars, some are battered, some are well maintained, I find it sad that this generation rather feel more profitable than nostalgic when it comes to collecting cars. For me it’s just nostalgia that keeps me to buy one and open it up. The quality may be lower but still they invoke memories. Oh, and my 535th car? It’s a HW BMW M1. And I haven’t open it.

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5 Reasons Why the Perodua Bezza will be a Proton Killer

On July 14th 2016, the whole of Malaysia woke up to see their Facebook news feed flooded with a story that shook the nation’s foundation, the launch of an all new sedan by Perodua. And it was not what many expected. You see, everyone, including yours truly expected Perodua’s very first sedan to be based off a Myvi but as it turns out, everyone was wrong. Just like the announcement that Pokemon GO will be launched within a few weeks (or tomorrow), we were lied by the corporate big-wigs. However, unlike Niantic, Perodua kept their promise, and actually revealed their car. Bookings have already started for the car. I have never driven one yet but the guys at paultan.org have! Check out their review here. I am actually impressed with Perodua’s package for their first ever sedan. From the price to the equipment, this is truly the car that will change the foundations of the Malaysian car industry. In other words, this little sedan would begin the death knell of Malaysia’s “pride and joy” or “spirit of achievement”, Proton.

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Well, that escalated quickly. Photo credit here

Before further ado, let me explain the 5 reasons the Bezza will be killing off Proton. Unless the latter did something incredible for their next-gen Saga because let’s be realistic here. Proton would try to survive with the help of the “you know who” despite being privately owned. These 5 reasons here reflect how much Proton have actually gone out of touch with the people and also why Perodua and other car companies are rising up. Since this isn’t a Top 5 chart, all of these reasons are in no particular order whatsoever.

1. All new fuel efficient engines

First, let’s start with the boring technical part (unless you’re a car geek). The Bezza will come with a choice of two engines, a 1.0 VVT-i engine that produces 67 hp and will be on the base model range and a 1.3 DVVT-i engine that makes 94 hp. The fact is these engines are all new. The 1.3 liter engine is based off the Indonesian-spec Toyota Avanza and the 1.0 liter is different from the Axia the Bezza is based on. With rising (or fluctuating) prices of petrol these days, it is obvious that whichever engine you choose, your wallet would feel happy.

2. The styling

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If it wasn’t for the Perodua badge, you may have mistaken the rear for a Toyota Vios and really, there is nothing wrong with a little imitation. Although too much of copying and pasting can result in just blatant laziness. The wheels do not look disproportionate. Maybe not from the above angle but it actually doesn’t look awkward. Not bad for Perodua considering that this is their first ever sedan. It may not look as wild as the 2010 concept but it looks reasonable. Speaking of disproportionate, here‘s Proton’s supposed replacement for its long overdue Persona, which will be based on the Iriz. This makes the new Persona to be smaller than the old Persona, which is confusing.

3. The starter button

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One of the similarities between Perodua and Proton is they have a somewhat mediocre quality for a car of that price. Of course, they were given tax incentives for being built locally but many foreign carmakers have found out that loophole and built theirs in Malaysia too (ie. Honda, Subaru, Mercedes-Benz). As a result, what you normally see in their models are just meh plastic and the feeling of cheapness. But screw that when you can get a keyless ignition system AKA a starter button. Once only seen in more expensive cars, you can get the experience of awesome technology from only RM42,800. And that price is for the manual 1.3 Premium X model. THANK YOU PERODUA for actually caring for those who wanted a manual transmission AND a starter button. Proton offered their Iriz with those combinations too for their 1.6 Premium model but at nearly RM60,000 and with a smaller boot, this is a better alternative. Oh, and the nearly 10 year old Saga doesn’t even come with this feature. Which brings us to…

4. The Price

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Those are the prices for both the Bezza and the Saga respectively. The difference? The Saga is a ten year old technology that is disguised under a “new” car. We are still waiting for an all new Saga that perhaps will be out by the end of this year or early next year. Also, Proton has been slipping in sales. That all new Perdana (which I still hate) would not help sales since it is overpriced and is for a niche market. In terms of equipment, the Bezza stands out ahead of the Saga with more modern creature comforts than the pretty spartan Saga. Like most car manufacturers out there, Proton is selling these off a cheaper price to make way for a new model that will be launching soon. Besides, you would only buy a Saga because it has a boot compared to the Myvi or the Axia and it is within your bidget. Now, with the Bezza, the Saga will be left out.

5. It will be a sale success

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Ever since the Myvi was launched, every car Perodua has produced (except the Nautica, which was a special case) has been a huge success for the company. And honestly, Peroduas are better equipped and better in quality than Protons. Unlike Proton, Perodua gives a refresh of its models every five to six years, just like most car manufacturers, not simple facelifts but upgrades to the car. Unlike Proton (Or Tata, Mahindra, Chinese Citroen) which changes its models every ten years on average and have you seen the lineup? It is so confusing for the general market and even if they reduced the models offered, has Proton actually learnt anything in the past 30 years? Yes, they are a bit quirky in some of the models they offer (Arena/Jumbuck or Juara, who would buy the latter?), but it is time for Proton to actually learn something from its younger sibling. Perodua is currently the best selling car brand whereas Proton has slipped to fourth. Times have truly change. The purveyors of cheap cars have suddenly become more mature in the market.

Photos credit: paultan.org (Engines, starter button), The Star (Featured image), Myvi (author’s own)

The Biggest Reason I Hate The All New Proton Perdana

After months of teasing and a year of looking at Honda Accords with the Proton lion slapped on the front and rear of the car, the all new Perdana is finally launched. It is based on the eighth gen Honda Accord and has the same 2.0 and 2.4 litre engine from the aforementioned Accord. But this is not just a simple rebadge unlike the government-only model that was launched in 2014. Almost the whole exterior is changed to differentiate between the Perdana and the Accord. In fact, the Perdana is actually longer than the Accord (5020 mm to 4870 mm).

All in all it’s a pretty grand car. Grander than the car it is based on. The grandiose style reminds me of China’s Hongqi. For those of you who don’t know what a Hongqi is, they are considered China’s Rolls Royce. For their sheer size and equipment not the quality mind you. Just like the Hongqi, the Perdana is expensive. Or overpriced. Prices start at RM113,888 for the 2.0 and RM138,888 for the 2.4 model. However, that is not the reason I hate the Perdana. I’m already acquainted to the price of cars in Malaysia, that being overprotective of the local carmakers; ie. Proton and Perodua. No. That’s not why I hate the car.

It actually looks pretty attractive especially the rear which reminded me of the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia. The side profile and grand style has a bit of Jaguar’s XJ in it. Equipment is fairly good even if the interior is just a copy of the Accord it is based on. The two LCD screens look really cheap and off-putting for a car with this price. As a matter of fact, the interior of the 2.0 model does look a little bit “meh”. Just look at it!

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At least the center console has fewer buttons compared to the Accord. But the meh interior isn’t the biggest problem of the Perdana. No. Of course Proton has to ruin something. For the Exora MPV, it is the slow engine. For the Proton Preve, it is also the engine, and the whole look. For the Suprima S, apart from the name, it is the engine. For the Iriz, they had to ruin it by giving a crappy automatic gearbox. So, what did Proton do to ruin the Perdana? It may be a small issue but this feature is just useless and helped to point the obvious. Or the oblivious. The feature I hated the most in the Perdana is the body coloured mufflers. I mean just look at it.

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That exposed exhaust pipe is not a quality issue. The mufflers DO NOT work. They are just for show. To deceive people that this car has TWO mufflers! However, this method isn’t rare in most cars on sale. BMW, Renault, and Mercedes-Benz sold their cars mufflers that are just for aesthetics but they made it real by chroming it or having speakers that made the exhaust “noise”. Proton however, took a step forward (or backward) by painting it the same colour as the car. The explanation for this is because apparently executives, who are the target owners of the Perdana would not like it if the diffuser looked different to the rest of the car. This was said by Proton’s deputy CEO in the interview shown below.

So, Proton, while the latest car is just a slight redesign that does look fairly attractive. That rear muffler just made Proton not just a company that is daring but weirdness doesn’t always pay off. The piece of shit Juara, the Kancil wannabe Tiara, the Myvi wannabe Savvy and of course the meaningless but still okay Inspira. History has shown that being different isn’t Proton’s suit. If Proton wants to truly move forward, guess they should just improve themselves instead of trying something new and experimental.

Photos credit: paultan.org

Is the Manual Transmission Dying?

Let me get straight to the point. As die-hard car-fan, the only future I fear apart from the so-called “flying-car” future is a future where the only transmission available for a low-spec Perodua AxiVi is an automatic. Or to put it in a more machismo perspective, a V10-powered, RWD, mid-engined supercar that can reach to 100km/h from standstill in 2 seconds, which is sold only in automatic transmission. With no paddle-shifts since the computer will help you to change gears in microseconds. Sadly, that future is coming sooner than you think. For example, the Lamborghini Huracan, the Pagani Huayra, the next-gen Audi R8 are all only available in automatic transmission. And if you think the United States of Automatica offered more cars with an automatic transmission than good old Malaysia, think again. At least in the States you can buy a Volkswagen Golf with a stick. In Malaysia? The Polo isn’t even available in manual transmission. Neither is any model from the VW range.

Nope. No manual available. The DSG is great though

Nope. No manual available. The DSG is great though

At this point, you might be thinking that this guy really hates automatic transmission. I don’t. In fact, I’m actually amazed of the improvements seen in auto transmission technology in the past decade or so. They can be as fuel-efficient as a manual and perhaps as fast as one too. Look at Volkswagen’s DSG technology for example. It is as fuel efficient and quick as a manual transmission.  I do agree that sometimes an automatic transmission is needed in a hypercar because a normal manual shift could not cope with the insane revs the engine kicks in. A nine-speed manual gearbox would take up a lot of space and will make you feel more like a truck driver. So, no. I am not fully against the idea of an all-automatic future (it does make the flying car idea seem more like a Dr, Dre album release date). However, the fact is that manuals are dying. At least in Malaysia. More and more Malaysians are driving an automatic tranny than a stick. Just take a look at the online classifieds or car-buying websites if you don’t believe me. Every single new car, except Proton and Perodua only offers an auto-transmission. Want a manual MX-5 just to hear those clicks Richard Hammond described in a recent Top Gear episode? Go to Europe. Want a manual Golf just to take a spin? At least America offers one.

Some say, that the clicks in the MX-5 gearchange is inspired by the MGB

Some say, that the clicks in the MX-5 gearchange is inspired by the MGB

But then, you might say, “Hey, isn’t the Almera and the Vios along with all the pick-up trucks offering manual transmission? And last I check they weren’t from local brands!” Yes, the Almera and Vios do offer manual transmission but how many actually buy the manual variant?  They are in fact the last of a dying breed actually. Honda no longer sells a M/T City. If only they did. When I was in India, one of my lecturers said the reason he bought a Honda was because apart from the supple ride, it has the smoothest gear change he ever felt. As a Malaysian, I sadly could not experience that since Honda does not offer a brand new manual transmission car. Except the CR-Z. Malaysians these day would rather drive a car with an automatic gear as it is easier in today’s world with all the traffic jams. Shifting gears would be tiresome they say.

Notice that thing in the middle? It is not an automatic transmission

Notice that thing in the middle? It is not an automatic transmission

Automotive distributors have to take a look at the market and sales value in order to make a profit. Which is why Mazda will not offer a manual transmission for the upcoming MX-5. Along with the high price offered for a 2.0 litre car, there will probably be a few buyers who are interested in a manual transmission. I don’t blame the distributors for not offering a manual option for their cars. It is possible to import a manual car overseas but why would you with Malaysia’s high import taxes. Anyway, most of these buyers who are interested in a small Mazda sports car would be living in cities which translates into a demand for an auto shift instead. Another setback on why the manual transmission is probably not popular among Malaysians is because the price of fuel in Malaysia is still lower than other countries. Yes, it has increased after a month or so of low fuel prices, but still, most cars sold are small cars like the Myvi, Saga, or small family cars like the Almera. Therefore, these cars are still relatively economical whether it’s an automatic or manual.

GETRAG. The only word that made me interested in driving an Iriz

GETRAG. The only word that made me interested in driving an Iriz

Which brings the conclusion. Most Malaysian drivers these days would rather drive an automatic over a manual because they are too tired of changing gears. Yes, the number of cars have increased in the past 10 or 15 years, and thus an increase in jams in city centres, but really, how hard is it for one to drive a manual? For those who say that they are scared to drive a manual because they cannot control the clutch, didn’t you learn to drive in a manual Kancil or Viva. Ininitially for me it was difficult and I only passed on my second attempt but with enough practice on the streets, I managed to do well. The only people buying manual cars nowadays are those who are big car aficionados, senior citizens who maybe have difficulty in remembering PRND, and those who wanted a cheap car within their budget. So, of course when car distributors thought no one would buy a manual transmission BMW 2-Series or a Mazda 6 Wagon, they should  rethink. There is a niche market for manuals out there. It isn’t really dying. It just needs to find the right audience. Which is why they need to sell an MX-5 with a manual transmission. Period.

The niche market. What’s the point?

The above picture shows Mercedes-Benz’s newly launched rival to the equally ugly BMW X6. It’s called the GLE and it is also available in AMG guise too. It baffles me on why Mercedes-Benz, whose tagline is “The Best or Nothing” offers a hideous vehicle like this to the market. Didn’t Mercedes learn from past mistakes like the R-Class and the Vaneo? BMW on the other hand, spurred on by the sales of the X6, decided to launch a smaller version called the X4. What is the point? Back in the day, you would choose to have either a saloon, an estate, a hatchback, a 4×4, an MPV, or if you are feeling sporty, a coupe or cabrio. Now, there are so many body styles, finding one is like differentiating the vast sub-genres in alternative music. I mean, what is the difference between alternative and indie anyway? (Feel free to explain in the comments) Niche cars like these are just like today’s pop music or the markets of some countries. It is unpredictable whether the sales will take off. Take the mini-MPV for example, it used to be a success with the Renault Modus leading the way to cars such as the Ford C-Max, the Opel Meriva and the aforementioned Vaneo. Nowadays though it’s all about crossovers, from ugly ones (Nissan Juke) to big ones (Citroen DS5) and the mini-MPV just dies away. The Renault Modus is dead, C-Max sales are decreasing, and the Meriva is now all grown up to be not so mini at all. Niche cars are risky.For every success story, there is bound to be one that is truly an epic fail. Renault led the wave of compact MPVs with the nicely styled Scenic. An idea that led to the sudden boom of crossovers today. It brought success to Renault too with sales peaking at 319,131 in 2004. However when Renault tried to reinvent the executive car game with the weird, misshapen Vel Satis, it turns out to be a huge flop. But ugliness can bring in success too. And it’s not only for rich people (I’ll elaborate soon). The Nissan Juke has a face which even a mother will have a hard time loving. The Elephant Man deserves more love and attention than this piece of crap (No offense to Joseph Merrick). However, it turns out the Juke actually sells. In fact it sold better than the Nissan Cube, which looks like this. This is like a brick phone outselling an iPhone in today’s market, which is a weird and nonfunctional metaphor. So, in conclusion, explaining the niche market is kind of like explaining the offside rule to a non-football fan. It’s just impossible and confusing.