Toyota bringing Giniel to VW rally

From the IOL Motoring website

Giniel de Villiers, in the driving seat, tries out his brand new S2000 Toyota Auris.

The Volkswagen Rally, one of the most demanding on the National calendar, promises yet another close contest – and an unexpected new challenge – when the cream of the country’s special-stage racers line up for the start of the two-day rally in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape on – you guessed it – Friday, 13 July.

After three rounds the championship is delicately poised, with five crews covered by just 10 points and the sixth crew only a further four points adrift. There have been only two winners thus far, but seven different stage winners, and most of the top contenders have performed consistently well.

Leading the official entry of 18 four-wheel drive Super 2000 cars, 14 two-wheel drive Super 1600s and nine S20 regional competitors, are championship leaders Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton in an S2000 Ford Fiesta.

With wins in the first two rounds and 16 stage victories out of 38 to their credit to date, they have 60 points and lead Toyota’s Johnny Gemmell and Carolyn Swan (S2000 Auris) by just three points. They’re also looking for a second consecutive successive victory in the Eastern Cape event.

Gemmell, like Cronje, is looking for his first overall championship after being runner-up three times and finishing third last year. He’s also looking for a rally victory that has eluded him since he won the VW Rally in a Toyota in 2010. He has finished second five times since then.

BREATHING DOWN THEIR NECKS

Between them, Cronje and Gemmell have dominated the stages this season, taking 25 between them.

Only four points behind Gemmell and Swan are Jon Williams and Cobus Vrey, winners of the Gauteng Rally five weeks ago in the second works Fiesta. Breathing down their necks are former champions Jan Habig and Robert Paisley, in a privateer Fiesta, who are just two points behind.

Fifth with 50 points are the Dutch/Belgian combination of Hans Weijs Jnr and Bjorn Degandt, who are impressing in their first season in South Africa in a works Volkswagen Polo – and they’re just four points ahead of Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Grant Martin in a Team Total Toyota Auris.

But the top crews will be looking over their shoulders in Uitenhage because, out for the first time this year in a brand new S2000 Auris built for them by Toyota motorsport head honcho Glyn Hall, will be Dakar legend Giniel de Villiers and vastly experienced regular navigator Ralph Pitchford.

De Villiers finished a remarkable third overall in the Dakar Rally in South America in January in the South African-designed and built Toyota Hilux’s first attempt at the world’s longest and toughest motor race.

He said: “I’ve been keen to get back into rallying after my debut year with Ralph in 2011 – we have unfinished business there and we were just getting into our stride when the season ended.

“Racing a four-wheel-drive rally car over loose gravel roads at high speeds is also a great way to sharpen my driving skills and keep me focused between Dakar Rallies!”

SERIOUS CONTENDERS

Making up the top 10 in the championship are Charl Wilken and Greg Godrich (Ford Fiesta), Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin (VW Polo), Hein Lategan and Johan van der Merwe (Peugeot 207) and Mohammed Moosa and Andre Vermeulen (Toyota Auris).

Also serious contenders for an overall win in the Eastern Cape are the works Volkswagen team’s former champions Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries, winners of the 2009 VW Rally, and Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson.

The works Volkswagens have recorded an uncharacteristic three DNF’s as their new-for-2012 Polos have suffered teething problems and they’re 12th and 15th respectively in the points standings.

Similarly, Toyota’s hot young crew of Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee, who won two rallies in 2011, in their debut S2000 season, have only finished one rally so far this year and are languishing in 20th position.

Nevertheless, write them off at your peril.

Zulu and Peskin have impressed in their first year in the premier class in an old-specification VW Polo, in which they are leading the newly created S2000 Challenge, ahead of Wilro Dippenaar and Morne du Toit (Toyota RunX), Henk Lategan and Barry White in a Polo and the RunX of Werner Koekemoer and Etienne Lourens (Glasurit Toyota RunX).

Former champion Craig Trott and Robbie Coetzee are leading the Two Wheel Drive Championship for S1600 cars with 46 points from a win in the opening round and second in the recent Gauteng Rally. Four points adrift are Nic van der Westhuizen and Henry Dearlove in a Ford Fiesta R2), class winners in Round 3, with Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Niekerk (Toyota RunX) third on 38 points.

Competitors in the 30th Volkswagen Rally will contest 12 stages – five on Friday and seven on Saturday – over about 200km in the Gamtoos Valley, the Longmore Forest, Uitenhage and at Port Elizabeth’s oval track in Greenbushes, ending with the traditional Kings Beach spectator stage on Saturday afternoon.

Source : IOL.co.za

Volkswagen unveils SA investment plans in Uitenhage and Pretoria

Europe’s biggest automaker Volkswagen said on Thursday it would expand its South African operations with investments in a plant in Uitenhage and a distribution centre near Pretoria.

VW said it would invest about €70 million ($85 million) on top of around €500 million already ploughed into South Africa over the past four years as part of its goal to become the world’s biggest carmaker.

“The Uitenhage plant plays an important role in this context,” a statement quoted VW chairman Martin Winterkorn as saying.

Production at the plant is expected to double this year as its press shop is modernised and expanded with €50 million in investment.

Another €23 million is expected to be spent on a new distribution centre in Centurion, near Pretoria, the statement said.

“Volkswagen is the market leader on South Africa’s passenger car market. Our existing investment, coupled with the new measures, lays the foundation for staying on our growth path,” Winterkorn said.

VW hopes to overtake Toyota as the world’s leading carmaker by 2018.

source: I-Net Bridge/Business Report

Crash in vehicle sales the worst in 20 years

Bob Kernohan BUSINESS EDITOR

VEHICLE sales crashed on all fronts – including all classes of commercials and exports – last month, the latest industry figures released yesterday showed.

The monthly decline was the biggest in more than two decades, while total sales were the lowest for the month of February for six years.

And with rapidly increasing prices, which rose by 9,4 per cent in January alone, there is no end in sight to the downturn.

The figures, released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers (Naamsa) and major dealer network and import group Associated Motor Holdings (AMH), showed that:

Passenger car sales decreased by 33,3% to 20406 from 30613 in February last year;

Sales in the light commercial vehicle segment dropped to 10118 – a 39,6% decline;

Medium commercial vehicle sales decreased by 28,5% to 898; and

Heavy vehicle segment sales decreased by a dramatic 41,4% to 1144.

“The total vehicle market reached sales of 32566 units during February, which represents a dramatic drop of 35,6% when compared to the February 2008 sales of 50560 units,” said AMH chief executive and industry veteran Brand Pretorius.

“Year-to-date, the new vehicle market is down 36,2% and even the traditionally more robust commercial vehicle segment has declined by almost 40%, highlighting the seriousness of the current downturn in the economy.”

Exports of 14949 domestically produced vehicles last month were also down by 5668 units, or 27,5%, compared to the 20617 shipped abroad last February.

Naamsa, which is part of a task team trying to get a reported R10-billion in rescue package funds from the government for some vehicle manufacturers and component makers, said the industry was experiencing “unprecedented deterioration”.

Voicing widespread opinion in the industry, Naamsa said sales of new vehicles “are expected to remain under pressure in the short term”, although there could be “some improvement” during the second half of this year.

But the association added: “Any improvement in international trading conditions and new vehicle export sales will only materialise once the severe current global economic and financial crisis abates. It is anticipated any recovery would only eventuate in 2010 or 2011.”

Under prevailing conditions, there were a few bright spots for Eastern Cape manufacturers.

One was that Volkswagen SA led the new car market for the fourth consecutive month, with sales of 4117, earning the Uitenhage-based company a market share of 20,2%.

Sales and marketing director Mike Glendinning said the Polo/Classic was again the country‘s “favourite car”, with sales of 1588.

But Glendinning did reflect industry-wide price increases, caused by and large by the drop in the value of the rand.

“Adding to the pressure on sales is rapid growth in new vehicle prices which escalated by 9,4% in January and which are expected to grow even more rapidly in coming months.”

General Motors SA also found a touch of silver in the lining of the gloomy clouds hanging over the industry, pointing out that the Opel Corsa Utility had continued its 46-month run as the best selling sub-one tonner with 975 sold.

Sales and marketing director Malcolm Gauld said the Bay-based company‘s “already conservative” forecast of a total market of 400000 for this year “looks to be on the high side”.

One of the reasons for this was that even interest rate cuts were “unlikely to have any effect on new vehicle sales until very late in 2009, if at all”.

Toyota were again the top manufacturer overall, with a market share of 22,9% with 7453 sales. The company sent 6802 vehicles to international markets for a 45,5% share of export sales. In the combined domestic and export market Toyota accounted for 30% of sales, with the Hilux top seller.

source: The Herald