Toyota Motor is the largest carmaker in the world. Founded in 1937, it makes some of the world’s most popular vehicles, including the Corolla and Camry. It also has a luxury brand, Lexus, and majority stakes in truckmaker Hino, compact carmaker Daihatsu, and 16.66 per cent of Fuji Heavy Industries, which makes the popular all-wheel drive Subarus.
Liqui Moly's Spirit of Westphalia racing car (below), the Hong Kong Drift Club's butch Nissan (under) and Honda were the main attractions of last Saturday's dour Hong Kong International Auto Parts Fair at the AsiaWorld Expo site at Chek Lap Kok.
The silver 726-brake-horsepowered Westphalia racer can hit 200km/h in 4.29 seconds and seems a fine testimonial for the German accessory supplier's lubricants, but the Drifters kept mum about their cars. Still, Shanghai Tongji University professor Yu Zhuoping updated visitors on the mainland's fuel- cell car developments. The professor says 190,000 vehicles use LPG on the mainland and there's a commercial fuel-cell bus scheme in Wuhan.
Maybe Hong Kong's bus firms could invest in a few, beginning with Lantau and the Peak. Beijing has promised to have 1,000 such vehicles at the Olympics, he says. We also learnt that the nation's boffins have already made fuel-cell cars that can top at 112km/h, drink 4.3 litres of petrol per 100km, and emit 1.12kg of CO2 per 100km. And mainland producers are also looking at magnesium alloy, which is lighter than aluminium, the professor says.
Toyota dealer Crown Motors has introduced the third-generation Previa, which has been tarted up with 'expressive body surfaces' and 'flowing character lines' to look less awful.
The Previa's second-row ottoman seat looks comfy and there's loads of space at the back, but you might ask whether you will fill this thing beyond weekends. We see too many empty seven-seaters running around Hong Kong at 14.28 per cent occupancy (with just the driver) midweek, just to accommodate say five people (or 71 per cent occupancy) at weekends.
So, we doubt that you'll get full value out of the Previa (right), or any seven-seater in Hong Kong, unless you have a large family, lots of helpers, have a thing about buying Ikea furniture, are in the catering or wedding-planning business, or love school runs. Otherwise, you could spend weekdays backing an empty hearse-like vehicle into tight parking spots.
We can't fault Toyota's 2.4- litre VVT-i engine, steering and suspension, or the Previa's 11 airbags or Mid-Levels block-friendly sliding doors, but small families could get about Hong Kong just as well in a Yaris or the excellent Corolla. And you'll turn more heads, feel better in traffic, and waste less space in a five-seater Prius hybrid.
We hear Smart is launching a silver 'finale edition' of the 80bhp Roadster in Britain, this month, for #13,990 (just under $190,000). The coupe version is #14,690. 'With front and rear grille in the same body colour, the car [above] looks strikingly different from standard models,' the marque says. Inquiries: www.smart.com/uk.
What do you think of the Smart Roadster? Did Smart axe the wrong car? Tell us, on email@example.com
Finally, the MG Car Club of Hong Kong is helping to plan a right royal event on June 18.
'To celebrate the 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II this year, we are getting together with other British car clubs and car owners in Hong Kong to organise a grand parade and drive of British vehicles,' the club says. Details will come later.
Right on. We've a soft spot for Elizabeth II, not just because she was the queen of Hong Kong for 45 years, but because she loves cars. The queen, who turns 80 on Friday, learnt to drive in April 1945 when, as a teenaged princess, she joined the Auxiliary Transport Service, became a mechanic and - uppity Hong Kong socialites, take note - got her hands dirty, tuning up trucks at the Camberley Mechanical Transport Training Centre. The queen, who rode in a fine open-top Rolls-Royce in Kai Tak (below) on May 7, 1975, also helped design her Jubilee Bentley, whose big doors enable the 1.62-metre tall monarch to exit in a big hat, without bowing her head. The queen also has a 1987 Phantom VI and two 1960s Phantom Vs.