The Good Oil: While you were on holiday

Volkswagen Group is spending big bucks to keep its brand's popularity and sales ahead of its rivals. Photo / AP
Volkswagen Group is spending big bucks to keep its brand's popularity and sales ahead of its rivals. Photo / AP

Welcome back to the first Driven for 2013. Although the section has been on a break, Good Oil never takes time off, or even sleeps.

So here are 10 things you missed while the Oil stood watch:
1. China is expected to build more vehicles than Europe this year. Almost 20 million, or 23.8 per cent of all light vehicle production.
2. Ho hum, America's best seller last year was the Ford F-Series pickup. Again. For the 31st year.
3. China has started ticketing drivers for running yellow as well as red lights. Do it more than once and there goes the licence.
4. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has, for the fourth time, delayed compulsory fitting of backup cameras to all passenger vehicles sold in the USA.
5. The count is now in: officially, French revellers burned 1192 cars on New Year's Eve, up from a paltry 372 in 2008.
6. Bentley sacked its staff priest, who has visited the Crewe factory weekly for a decade, just days before Christmas. The firm wants to take a more multi-faith approach, but does it use A Christmas Carol as its HR manual?
7. After 13 years, the excellent Walter P Chrysler Museum, near Detroit, has closed. It may have been crammed with classics, but it wasn't meeting overheads.
8. Renault's promising the first of its revived Alpine cars before the end of 2015.

The word is that it won't be cheap.
9. The word from Germany is that the Volkswagen Group will spend more than $20 billion over three years to push Audi out in front of those Bavarian upstarts, BMW.
10. Hyundai is working on replacing the car key with a simple swipe of a smartphone. Should be ready by 2015.

Tanks for that

Syrian rebels used some mechanical ingenuity and welding skills to build this homemade

Looking like something out of the old television series, The A-Team, it started life as a diesel truck.

The occupants, engine and tyres are protected by thick steel.

It has four cameras, including one for the gunner that can be zoomed in by what appears to be a Playstation controller, and a rear-facing camera to help the driver see where he's backing.

Petrolheads scoop awards pool

For the first time in seven years, the Ward's 10 Best Engines list is made up entirely of petrol engines with not a hybrid, electric or diesel in sight.

It seems to defy the auto industry's push into alternative fuels and propulsion systems, but WardsAuto says major innovations still happen in the development of petrol engines.

''There are still significant barriers for the average consumer to look past when considering vehicles with other types of engine,'' a WardsAuto spokesman

''The cost for most remains high and the driving range of battery electric vehicles will have to be extended to meet the needs of most people.''

Chevy gets on its trike

Chevrolet and students from America's Michigan Technological University have teamed up to build prototype hand cycles, so disabled former soldiers can compete in racing events.

Three-wheel hand cycles are often favoured by disabled athletes. The design lets them lean forward while pedalling with their hands.

This new cycle has been built to be stronger, more comfortable and more portable.

General Motors is building 10 prototypes for the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded
Veterans who will use them in marathons this year. The project cycle made its debut at a yearly army-navy football game.

We are the world

The cause of a major fire inside Red Lion Liquors (in, coincidentally, Burnsville, innesota) was a mystery until investigators figured that sunlight, magnified through vodka bottles, had ignited surrounding paper signs.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs spent more than $5 million in 2010 on training conferences to teach bureaucrats how to administer parts of its latest collective-bargaining contract.

The Washington Examiner said $34 million in payroll goes to department staff who work mainly on union-related activities.

Until recently, pigeons wearing harnesses have been used by a hospital in Normandy, France, to ferry blood samples to a testing lab, a 25-minute flight. France also boasts the world's last ''squadron'' of military homing pigeons.

Among the federally funded projects highlighted in the 2012 Waste Book, put out by US senator Tom Coburn, was a $325,000 grant to develop a ''robosquirrel'' to help study the interaction between squirrels and rattlesnakes.

It also chronicled the exotic dancer who, while earning $100,000, drew food stamps in an
amount roughly equivalent to the sum she spent on ''cosmetic enhancements''.

Gulliver's toy box found in Brazil

There's more than just an awful lot of coffee in Brazil.

Creativity, too.

Mattel's ad agency there placed a giant Hot Wheels box at the front of a parking lot as an attention getter.

Instead of a giant Hot Wheels toy, the box was empty, so people could drive their own car in and have a picture taken.

Number Crunching

450 TYRE FACTORIES in the world

1.6 BILLIONtyres made every year

380 MILLION toy tyres made by Lego in 2012

190 MILLION real tyres made by Bridgestone in 2012

- NZ Herald

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