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Chinese Car, Italian Design, Global Market
Jamais Cascio, 26 Jan 06

mycar.jpgInnovech may sound more like a manufacturer of computer parts than automobiles, but its new MyCar design may presage a radical shift in both the European microcar market and how we think about global economic cooperation. The MyCar is a direct competitor to the Smart -- a microcar that trades power, room and speed for extraordinary mileage, low cost and ease-of-use. Built and distributed by Hong Kong-based Innovech, the MyCar was designed by highly-regarded Italian automotive design firm Italdesign-Giugiaro. The initial test market will be Italy, but the longer-term plan is for the MyCar to be available across Europe, and perhaps eventually globally.

In many respects, the MyCar is just another microcar, albeit a particularly low-priced one. What makes it interesting, though, is the combination of Chinese manufacturing and distribution with Italian design. The European microcar market has largely been dominated by local designs (like Smart) and global brands. MyCar appears to be an attempt to build a local design via global manufacturing and ownership. But China isn't simply the source of cheap labor here; in essence, instead of an Italian company outsourcing its manufacturing to China, it's a Chinese company outsourcing its design to Italy.

The MyCar will come in both a gasoline or diesel version (the fuel used is unclear -- the MyCar website refers to it as an "explosion-engine version") and an electric version, and will sell for €6,500, or about US$7,000. The low costs come from Chinese manufacture and the use of light-weight plastics in its production:

“This is not a very sophisticated car,” [Innovech general manager Sin Ling Chung] acknowledged. “It has 20 injection molded plastic panels for the interior and exterior, and metal stampings for the engine.” She said Innovech currently is using ABS resins for all the plastic parts and has not specified a materials supplier.
Chung noted that since the maximum speed of microcars in Europe is kept under 45 km per hour, regulations there also require the maximum weight of such a car to be less than 350 kilograms. So, “choosing ABS is a very logical choice,” she said, noting that the top two microcar manufacturers — Axiam and MicroCar from France — also use ABS for their internal and external car panels.
“The only challenge we face,” she added, “is that the traditional car industry in China uses metal as the body panel and not many of them use plastic. However, many motorcycle manufacturers are very experienced with plastic bodies.”

This is a tiny car by any definition, measuring about 4' wide and less than 8' long. For the "explosion-engine" version, the engine options range from 50cc to 250cc, and even the most powerful model can't go faster than 85 km/hour, or around 50 mph; there are no details on fuel consumption (at least none that I could find), but given the light weight and low power engine, mileage is likely to be quite high, in the 60-90 miles per gallon range. The electric models range from 4 kilowatts to 15 kilowatts in power, but there are even fewer details available about performance and range than for the gas/diesel model. Like other microcars, the MyCar is meant only as a short-range city street vehicle. And, yes, for reasons of size, power and safety features, the MyCar will almost certainly never reach the North American market -- so, please, try to limit the "my big American butt won't fit in that thing" comments.

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Comments

"Chung noted that since the maximum speed of microcars in Europe is kept under 45 km per hour."

Even if it looks nice, MyCar won't be the direct competitor of the Smart cars. Its maximum speeds averages a motor scooter: 45 to 85 km/h. Nothing to do with the Smart ForTwo, which runs up to 135 km/h.

And the micro car makers regularly develop their models in 2 versions: the classic fuel power and the electric one. Innovech isn't innovating.


Posted by: Thuan on 27 Jan 06

An amusing side comment on language:

"Mai kaa" (obviously based on the English) is the Japanese word for "personal car." Car ownership is still relatively rare there. So you can say a sentence that sounds like "Is that your 'my car'?" meaning "Is that your personal car?".

The MyCar would fit right in with this speech convention in Japan!


Posted by: Kim on 27 Jan 06

Perferct price point. speed is enough for city life. Imight have to join in and ehl the Chinese economy.


Posted by: Tony on 30 Jan 06

It looks like the larval form of the Mini...


Posted by: Beaugrand on 4 Feb 06

In 2003 a team drove an 800 pound 3 wheel British Reliant Robin 3888 miles from Maine to California in 8 days, 100 years after tourism began with the first transcontinental motor car voyage, this time all the way on about 60 US gallons of gasoline. The Robin, no longer made, has four seats and can carry its own weight in passengers. Safety depends on who is in the driver's seat, and size really isn't the key. Its more likely having watched 16 years, 20 times a day, of foolish, lunatic car commercials, before the first day of "Driver's Ed". Our kids are being brainwashed to death.


Posted by: Charles Mac Arthur on 5 Feb 06

This is one really cool looking micro car. There was mention of it at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cabinscooters and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/microcar-minicar .

http://www.micrcar.org is a site for such small cars.


Posted by: BigWarpGuy on 5 Feb 06



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