A round-up of local and international motoring news, from Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson as the new boys' idol to carmakers using the Super Bowl to put the recession behind them.
The week in Motoring
Clarkson is the future
The Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is a rather divisive man: over the festive season he angered both Muslim and Christian viewers with the show's special, but one group not perturbed by the motor journalist is eight- to 14-year-old boys who voted him the second most popular role model. Is the UK about to be overrun with mini-Clarksons?
Clarkson came second to David Beckham, who seems to top any Top 10 list going, as the person the young boys would most like to grow up to be like.
The poll carried out by Disney XD, of 601 male children, saw Beckham and Clarkson joined by sportsmen Christiano Ronaldo (3), and Roger Federer (10); businessmen Alan Sugar (4), Bill Gates (6), and Simon Cowell (7); entertainers, Daniel Radcliffe (5) and Justin Bieber (9); and the US president, Barack Obama (8).
Clarkson is well known for his politically incorrect views: stereotyping foreign nationalities, smoking as much as possible on no smoking day, his disbelief of global warming, and a lack of respect for green movements.
As scary as a Clarkson future might seem, it would be much more interesting than a Bieber one.
Rising yen makes Toyota think of leaving the land of the rising sun
The strength of the Japanese Yen has forced Toyota to contemplate moving more of its production outside of the country.
Relocating factories "is not something I want to do", the president of the marque Akio Toyoda, said in a statement on the company's website last week. "If we are simply unable to make a profit, however, we may be forced to move our production elsewhere."
Toyota makes more vehicles in Japan than Honda, Nissan or Suzuki. The nation's largest manufacturer expects to earn less in operating profit this fiscal year than Honda and Nissan, whose higher ratio of overseas production offers insulation against currency swings.
The automaker is moving slowly in response to the yen's rise compared with its rivals and changes in the industry, said Yuuki Sakurai, the chief executive officer and president at Fukoku Capital Management in Tokyo.
"While we can understand Toyota's point of view, investors are not happy about this," Sakurai told Auto News.
"I have a sense of duty in not letting manufacturing disappear from Japan," Toyoda told reporters in Yokohama on December 22. "Toyota is a global company, but we are also a representative of Team Japan."
Qatar gears up for motor show
Qatar's first International Motor Show will have a Mediterranean feel to the proceedings, where eight Italian designers will exhibit creations in a "collective".
The exhibitors are showcasing their concepts in collaboration with the Gruppo Carrozzieri Autovetture (Car Coachbuilders) of ANFIA-Italian Association of the Automotive Industry, at the event running in Doha fromWednesday to next Saturday.
"Qatar has been greatly successful in making significant investments in sports and in bringing sports-related events that will leave a huge impact on the sports scene in general," said Ahmed al Nuaimi, chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority.
Qatar Holding, the main sponsor of the event, is a major investor in Volkswagen and Porsche SE, and VW, PSE and Qatar Science & Technology Park are working together in the creation of a Research and Development centre.
The Qatar International Motor Show kicks off with the first Middle East Automotive Summit on Wednesday. Martin Winterkorn, the chief executive of Volkswagen Group, will be a keynote speaker at the inaugural summit. And the summit will focus on "The Future of the Automobile".
Nissan and Renault look to break into Indian car market
Both Nissan and Renault have set their targets on the fast-growing Indian market.
Renault will start producing the Fluence in April, with the first units to be delivered the following month. The Koleos SUV is set for an Indian debut in October, and three other models to follow next year.
"We are looking at selling 70,000 to 75,000 vehicles in 2013-14 by then our slated models will be in the Indian market. Beyond that, we intend to account for five per cent of car sales in the country," Ashish Sinharoy, vice president for corporate affairs of Renault India, told Auto Evolution.
Nissan is introducing the Sunny Sedan this year, but using a different name, and more will follow.
"We will have nine products in the country by 2012. With that we intend to firmly establish ourselves among the top five brands in the country," Dinesh Jain, chief executive officer, Hover Automotive India, the company in charge of Nissan's India sales operations.
Car makers use the Super Bowl to show they are back in game
In a move to assure car buyers in the United States that the industry has returned the Super Bowl will features advertising campaigns from eight major car companies.
"Any way you cut it, it's an auto extravaganza," George Cook, a professor at University of Rochester's Simon Graduate School of Business and a former Ford Motor executive, told Reuters news agency. "It's about assuring the American car buyer that the industry has returned. It's about winning back trust."
Overall, car makers should account for roughly twice as much commercial time as they did in 2010's Super Bowl. It's a jump that reflects the improving fortunes of the US auto industry, which snapped a four-year sales decline in 2010. The recovery is gradual in the United States, yet most analysts now expect double-digit auto sales growth in 2011.
The Super Bowl, on February 6, is a chance for the industry to make its pitch to about 95 million viewers, most of who watch live.