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Archive for September, 2017

Auto Industry News – Q3 2017

We review all the major news events in the automotive industry from the third quarter of 2017.

 

Safety and Environment

In what became the first ever compulsory recall for vehicles in Australia, the ACCC intervened to shine the spotlight on cars affected by defective Takata airbags. The recall eventuated amid a rising number of fatalities worldwide attributed to the faulty components, including a local fatality in Sydney.

Emissions scandals continue to plague manufacturers, with Peugeot and Citroen being looked into for their alleged use of ‘cheating’ devices similar to those used by Volkswagen. The companies join Renault and Fiat Chrysler to be looked into, however, they have strongly denied the accusations. Also being accused of unconscionable conduct, Daimler is facing concerns it sold over one million cars with excess emissions.

In a boost for environmentalists, Queensland’s government announced plans to develop the world’s longest electric highway that will promote the use of electric vehicles.

 

Technology

Fuel technology continues to be a major focal point. Volvo has drawn a line in the sand, as the auto maker plans to begin phasing out petrol and diesel in the coming years. This aligns with legislation in France and the UK that will ban said vehicles from 2040, and China planning to soon ban the production of these vehicles, although Australia isn’t expected to follow suit any time soon.

Locally, the nation could be at the forefront of hydrogen fuel technology, with a world first trial set for hydrogen powered vehicles next year. South Australia even became the first Australian state to endorse hydrogen as the next fuel technology.

On a related note, Sydney will play host to integral trials surrounding the future of autonomous vehicles in Australia, while first round results from testing in Victoria suggest infrastructure and technology are currently ill equipped for self-driving vehicles. Abroad however, and vacuum cleaner maker Dyson is eyeing the electric vehicle market, set to take on dedicated manufacturers as soon as 2020.

Other technology developments include:

 

Legal and Regulatory Issues

The government was caught up in a vehicle ‘carbon tax’ controversy, with auto bodies and car makers slamming a rumoured proposal, although the government went on the front foot to deny its prospects.

Elsewhere, the ACCC commenced proceedings against Ford Australia over its ‘faulty’ auto transmissions, however the car maker announced it will contend the accusations. Also facing scrutiny from the ACCC, Holden settled an investigation by announcing the industry’s first vehicle refund and replacement scheme for the first 60 days of vehicle ownership

However, the ACCC saved its biggest salvo for the broader new car industry, detailing a wide range of concerns regarding the way customers’ complaints are dealt with, the sharing of manufacturer data with independent repairers, and real world fuel/emissions tests. The developments could give rise to lemon laws. Naturally, this provoked concern and consternation from the automotive bodies.
Finally, the Federal Court has requested Volkswagen publish changes to vehicle performance on its website and social media arising from the Dieselgate saga.

Indicate, Mate. That’d Be Great.

In surveys of the things that annoy drivers, it’s always in the order of over eighty percent that respondents say people nott indicating that rates as an annoyance. Yet, in any city or town, in any Australian state or territory, you’ll find people that either use their indicators or use them correctly as being of the minority.

In NSW a very common transgression is not indicating when crossing a merge lane, along with non indicating when pulling away from the roadside. Here’s the legislation in NSW:

(2)  The driver must give the change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  If the driver is about to change direction by moving from a stationary position at the side of the road or in a median strip parking area, the driver must give the change of direction signal for at least 5 seconds before the driver changes direction.

In fact, the legislation even specifies what needs to be done: “How to give a left change of direction signal. The driver of a vehicle must give a left change of direction signal by operating the vehicle’s left direction indicator lights.” Naturally this applies for the right hand side of the car too. Note also the time requirement: at LEAST five seconds. Even more confusing is when to use an indicator if a road curves and also has an exit at the apex. Far too many DON’T indicate at the apex or actually indicate as they follow the road….and don’t need to indicate.

Complicated stuff, right? So why are there so many drivers that don’t indicate? Don’t indicate for more than one or two blinks? This also coincides with drivers wrestling their cars from lane to lane almost as if they’re being blown around like a leaf in the wind. Is there something wrong with a gentle, easy, merge along with enough indication?

Roundabouts are another bugbear and these, too, are easy to deal with.

  Giving a left change of direction signal when entering a roundabout

(1)  This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if:

(a)  the driver is to leave the roundabout at the first exit after entering the roundabout, and

(b)  the exit is less than halfway around the roundabout.

(2)  Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a left change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal until the driver has left the roundabout.

And:

Giving a right change of direction signal when entering a roundabout;

(1)  This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if the driver is to leave the roundabout more than halfway around it.

(2)  Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a right change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal while the driver is driving in the roundabout, unless:

(a)  the driver is changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, or

(b)  the driver’s vehicle is not fitted with direction indicator lights, or

(c)  the driver is about to leave the roundabout.

Note 2.

Rule 117 deals with giving change of direction signals before changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, in a roundabout.

Note 3. Rule 118 requires a driver, if practicable, to give a left change of direction signal when leaving a roundabout.
What’s important here is the last comment: indicate left when leaving a roundabout. I could count on one finger the amount of times this is seen on our our roads. What’s more troubling about the lack of indication Aussie drivers do is just how SIMPLE it is to indicate. Cars are designed, engineered, and built with many factors of safety, including how easy it is to access the indicator stalk. They’re literally at your finger tips. So what causes drivers to not uses them? Pride? Arrogance? Stupidity? Laziness? Distracted whilst wearing earbuds (a stupidly non-illegal rule!)?
Non indicating means no involvement in your driving, and having no involvement in driving heightens the risk factor, increases the danger factor. This is also exacerbated by the somewhat myopic focus our police and governments have on speeding as being the allegedly sole cause of crashing. Perhaps if more effort was expended on policing non indicators, not only would the revenue come but the message about being involved as a driver (as ANY worthwhile driver trainer and educator will insist upon) as a high point for safety may start seeing better examples of driving.
Be a safe driver. Indicate, mate. That’d be great.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Great Wall Steed Diesel 4×4 Ute.

Great Wall first landed in Australia in 2009. It was a range full of petrol engines and manual transmissions and sharp pricing. However, quality was questionable and it wasn’t long before the brand was withdrawn. Fast forward a few years and the Great Wall brand features three variants in a four door crew cab design, a petrol or diesel 4×2 and a diesel 4×4, priced from $29990, driveaway. Private Fleet trials the 2017 Great Wall Steed 4×4 diesel to see if things have improved.Engines wise it’s a choice of a 2.4L petrol or 2.0L diesel, as tested. Both come with a manual, being a five cogger for the petrol and six for the oiler. The transmission itself in the Steed is typical manual; a reasonably light throw, a tad notchy, a sensible gate so you’re not hunting for the slot and there’s a simple push button based high/low range system. It is, however, mated to a living definition of time travel, backwards time travel. Great Wall quotes 110 kilowatts of power and a lowish 310 Nm of torque between 1800 to 2800 revs from the two litre engine… that’s substantially less than a good portion of its competitors.In order to get the Steed underway, a little slip of the clutch and a judicious prod of the go pedal are required, needing around 2000 revs to move it along with something approaching acceleration. It genuinely feels like an old school diesel, with nothing below 2000 and a cliff fall once you see 4000 rpm. It’s breathless, ragged, lacks urge and is defintely old school with the rattle. It also means that some uphill runs require constant downchanging, providing some good exercise for the left arm. However, on the freeway, the gearing means that it will happily pootle along right in the torque band.
It’s frighteningly thirsty though, with a final consumption figure of 9.7 litres of dinosaur juice being ingested for every 100 kilometres driven. That’s not great even allowing for the 1740 kilogram weight.The steering is also…unusual. What’s called lock to lock describes the process of winding the steering wheel from one side through to straight ahead to the other side. The Great Wall Steed is something close to five turns. What this means is a turning circle a battleship would be embarrassed to show and some serious arm work to engender directional changes. A half turn sees minimal left or right movement and you need, as a result, to wind on more lock to really see anything happen.Ride quality from the double wishbone front and leaf spring rear is also iffish. The Steed is too hard when it needs to be softer, and too soft when a firm and taut ride is needed. It’ll skip sideways too easily, thumps over the small metal speed bumps in shopping centres, crashes on the front when going over the bigger speed bumps, and just doesn’t seem to track straight and true on the freeway. In all, it’s a somewhat frustrating drive and ride experience.Outside it is handsome enough, with a number of positive comments from passers-by and colleagues. In profile it’s clear the car has been sourced from an Isuzu desgn, with the nose cone being given a thorough massage to ensure a clear GW identification. There’s a solid grille with five horizontal bars, a pair of LED driving lights inserted in each far corner of the bumper assembly, headlights not unlike that found in Holden’s Colorado, indicators in the wing mirrors and sitting in the middle of the 3200 mm wheelbase a pair of sidesteps. The rear bumper stands proud of the rear bodywork and adds a bit of extra length to the overall 5345 mm. There’s an approach angle for the alloy section in the front bumper of 25 degrees and a handy 21 degrees departure angle. Towing? 2000 kilos, braked.Tyres are 235/70/16 from Giti and are of a semi off-road capable tread design. They may also contribute to the skittishness of the Steed’s handling. What may also contribute is the one tonne cargo carrying capacity tray was unladen throughout the review period. It’s an almost square tray at 1545 mm long and 1460 mm wide and there’s 480 mm of depth. The test car came fitted with an alloy roll bar as well plus the tray was lined with a polyurethane liner and fitted with tie down points.Inside is where the Steed picks up some points. The slightly flat and slabby leather seats are heated, with the driver gaining simple electrical controls to adjust their pew. The overall presence is pleasant enough, with a basic but legible monochrome info screen between the uncomplicated dials; a touchscreen that is ssslllloooowwww to load the navigation system and looks peculiarly Asian in layout and colour scheme. Audio is standard AM/FM with Bluetooth and auxiliary inputs but you can watch DVDs….actual audio quality was ok, with a slightly boomy bass at levels that would normally sound tight and punchy. The rest of the dash and console is uncomplicated, ergonomically friendly, and of a pleasing enough quality throughout the cabin to appeal to most in the market.Safetywise the Steed features a reverse camera, which didn’t always engage, six ‘bags, pretensioning seat belts, stability control, hill start assist (which holds the brakes momentarily) and, surprisingly, tyre pressure monitoring. Blind spot monitoring, lane keeping alerts and the like aren’t available. However it still rates not terribly well for the ANCAP scoring, with a two from a possible five ponts when lasted tested. Warranty is a standard three years or one hundred thousand kilometres, and servicing starts at six months or five thousand kilometres. It’ll then move to 12 months or fifteen thousand after the first service.

At The End Of the Drive.
The 2017 Great Wall Steed, on its own, would be an ok vehicle for a private buyer or even a fleet buyer. However it needs more to really be a consideration, more as in refinement of the steering ratio, more in the torque, more in the fettling of the ride. It’s inside that the Great Wall Steed scores ponts, along with a not unattractive exterior. However, if price is a consideration, as it was in 2009 when I worked at a dealership that sold Great Wall, then 30K driveaway will dull the headache.
Here’s where you can find out more: 2017 Great Wall Steed diesel crew cab 4×4

Private Fleet Book Review: How To Drive. The Ultimate Guide From The Man Who Was The Stig by Ben Collins

As we’re less than 100 days away from Christmas, it might be time to start dropping some hints as to what you’d like your nearest and dearest to get you. For most of us, a new car is out of the question in the Christmas stocking, but a new book is probably much more feasible as a present for the typical Australian.

How To Drive by Ben Collins is a book that satisfies a number of appetites whetted by the BBC TV show Top Gear – and I’m talking about the old version with the Unholy Trinity of Jezza, Richard and James. Firstly, you finally get to find out who The Stig really is: the author of this book, former racing driver and movie stunt driver Ben Collins.  Secondly, this is the closest you’re likely to get to being taught how to drive by The Stig like those Stars In Reasonably Priced Cars.

To say that this rather chunky book (269 pages, not counting the index) is comprehensive is something of an understatement. It is packed with tips and facts to make you a better driver, starting with some historical bits and pieces, such as the development of the tyre, and goes from the basics through to advanced stunt driving as you work your way through the book. And when I say “the basics”, I really do mean the basics: starting with the importance of good seating position and holding the wheel correctly. In the final section, you get all the really fun stuff you don’t want to do anywhere apart from a proper track or else a deserted field (with permission of the farmer, of course): doughnuts, burnouts, drifting and the J-turn… and the “don’t try this at home” 180-degree and 90-degree stunt turns into a parking space.

As most of us want to know more about The Stig and who he really is, the book is peppered with anecdotes, not just about Stiggy’s time with Top Gear but also the movie driving and race driving he’s done.  For the record, Ben Collins has been a stunt driver in Fast and Furious, Spiderman 2 and Quantum of Solace… at the very least. Those are the movies cited in the index, anyway.  And yes, he’s body-doubled James Bond for these stunts.  There are photos to prove it.  You also get glimpses of behind the scenes at Le Mans and NASCAR, etc.  The stories aren’t all “look at how good I am” showing off: there are a few “how I got it wrong” tales in there as well.

It’s also not just a how-to book, although there are tons and tons of step-by-step instructions and handy diagrams.  The physics of what’s going on is explained, as well as the psychology, and plenty of it.  Again and again, the importance of having being in the right headspace is emphasised, and it’s not all testosterone-fuelled drive and competition, which will come as something of a relief for those of us whom Nature didn’t give loads of testosterone, aka 50% of the population.  Collins provides tips not just from the motor racing world but also from Samurai warriors and jet pilots.  There’s even a diet to help you stay alert when expecting a long day’s driving.  The physics and the psychology – and the instructions – are all presented in a very readable way with a sense of humour.  It’s hard to forget the mnemonic for correcting oversteer, for example: Steer, Hold It, Turn (the initial letters are probably what you’re saying…).  The ebook version would certainly be great when you’re waiting in the doctor’s surgery and would pass the time very pleasantly (the hardcover is a bit hard to cart about in your pocket).

It’s a British book, so some of the explanations and complaints about roundabouts, give way rules, motorways and the licensing system may not (and in many cases do not) apply to Australia. However, the majority of what’s in there does apply (including, hooray, hooray, the keep-left rule).

This is a book that will keep plenty of drivers happy, as there’s something for everyone in there, whether the reader’s on their L-Plates or whether he/she has been driving for decades.  It’s a goldmine of motoring trivia that will make you chuckle as well as being a great practical tome that ought to be standard issue along with a copy of the Road Code to learner drivers.

How To Drive. The Ultimate Guide – From The Man Who Was The Stig
Ben Collins
Published 2014 by Pan Macmillan, ISBN 978-1-4472-7283-0 (hardback), 978-1-4472-7285-4 (paperback). 272 pages. Ebook available.

Car Review: 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige.

Suzuki continues to cement its position as a leader in the small car market by giving us an updated 2017 Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross. Although a sort of SUV look, it’s not. It’s front wheel drive only, powered by a ripper petrol fuelled turbo four. Like it so far? Private Fleet does.There’s three trim levels, simply named GL, Turbo, and Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige. The test car, the Prestige, gets the same 1.4 litre turbo engine as the Turbo, however the GL is the outgoing model. Just need to clarify that…

Anyways, there’s a simple question the S-Cross Turbo poses. Is it any good? Most of the time a simple question has a simple answer and so it is with this car. Yes.First up, there’s that belter of an engine. 1.4L. 16 valves. Turbocharged. 103 kilowatts. Torque: 220 of them between 1500 to 4000. Transmission: six pseed auto. Potency level? High. This combination is superb. It reacts to a breath on the go pedal, the gearbox is crisp, shifts quickly and without fuss, and even with traction control on, will happily and merrily chirp the front driven 215/55/17 Continental tyres. It’s a corker. Consumption in a mainly urban environment finshed on 6.7L per 100 km from the 1170 kilogram plus fuel (47 litre) and passenger vehicle.It’s a ripper handler too, with beautifully weighted steering connecting the driver to the road and providing plenty of feedback. The ride quality also is near nigh perfect with a supple mix of sporting and absorption offering an ideal combination of tautness and comfort from the McPherson strut/torsion beam suspension.Tip it into a tightening radius corner and the body will lean but ever so slightly, whilst the tiller requires minimal input to adjust to the curver coming in on itself. Pound it across the sunken and raised sections of various tarmac roads and you’ll feel a small bump before it passes and the chassis settles rapidly. Brake wise it’s spot on, with feedback straight away and a progressive travel allowing a driver to judge just….when…more or less pressure was needed.Suzuki have also performed a stunning piece of engineering upon the S-Cross, managing to squeeze apartment sized room inside a shoebox. The S-Cross is a mere 4300 mm in length, stands tallish at 1585 mm and spans 1785 mm horizontally. Inside that overall length is a 2600 mm wheelbase, ensuring ample leg, shoulder, and head room for four people, although three up in the rear seat is a touch squeezy. Luggage space is also huge at 430L to 1269L, including a double tray storage plus there’s the usual assortment of bottle and cup holders.The interior design is now familiar and standard Suzuki; there’s the four quarter touchscreen with Navigation, Apps, radio and Phone plus voice activation, traditional and eminently usable dials for the aircon, blue backlit driver’s binnacle dials and a simple to read and use monochrome screen between them. The dash and console design is a curvy design, flowing around into the doors in a clear swoop and with airvents/gear selector surround/door trim highlighted in alloy look plastic. The manually adjusted seats seats are heated (not cooled) and are a comfortable mix of leather and cloth. Of course the rear seats are 60/40 in split and foldable to allow access to that capacious and well trimmed boot. If there’s a negative it’s a small but persistent one. The setbelt straps in the height adjustable locaters were double strapped, as in both front and rear were reachable to pull over and it was the rear strap, not front, that kept getting grabbed.Outside it’s unrecognisable from the original SX4 of 2007 and noticeably different from the superceded model The tail lights have been subtly but obviously refreshed however it’s the bluffer, more “no nonsense” front end that has the 2017 S-Cross standing out. Although the headlight cluster (LED projector on the Prestige) looks almost the same, they’re a touch more angular and feature dusk sensing in the Prestige. It’s the stand out proud reprofiled nose, with an assertive chrome grille, polyurethane black running from the centre to the rear along the flanks and with a splash of metal chrome around the globe lit DRLs. There’s a crease line and stance not unlike Ford’s Escape, a 180 mm ride height, and hi-vis polished alloys to finish the visual appeal.Safety is high, as usual, with reverse camara, sensors front and rear, Hill Hold Control, 2 ISOFIX points, seven airbags including knee, electronic driver aids, even an auto dimming rear vision mirror. Servicing is capped for up to 5 Years / 100,000km and you’ll get a 100,000 km or three year warranty.

At The End Of The Drive.
Suzuki have pretty much stamped themselves leaders of the small car builders. There’s a new Jimny on the way as well to further fuel the fire of desire for this slightly quirky but nonetheless enjoyable brand from Japan. The 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Prestige Turbo builds upon their revamped range and is a genuine contender for best in class. Find out more about this pearler, here: 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige

Holden: The Day For Closing Is Coming.

Holden, along with Toyota, will cease to manufacture cars in Australia. But how has the process leading up to that day been handled, what about the people involved? Private Fleet‘s Dave Conole had a one on one interview with the head of PR for Holden, Sean Poppit. This is part one of a two part story.

With Holden stopping manufacturing in Australia, what has been the process to wind down making cars up to the final day?
October 20 is the final day of production and we’ll continue building cars up until the final day and it will be full speed up until that point. Let’s say we’re doing 170 cars per day, we’ll stay at that figure right until the final day. Obviously that day won’t be a full production day and we’ll hold a private employee only ceremony at the plant to mark and honour our heritage and our people.
What is being done to support the workers across the factories?
At the plant in Adelaide we’ve got just under a thousand workers there. One of the things that has been ABSOLUTELY non-negotiable from us, right from the outset, have been what we call the transition services and the transition centres. Our HR and manufacturing teams have won several national, and in fact, global awards for the quality of that work.
We’ve got a full time transition centre set up at the Holden Vehicle Operations which is at our plant in Adelaide. We’ve fully decked out the bottom floor of one wing and that’s a dedicated, permanent , centre to assist people in getting new jobs or be retrained. We have independent people from many industries, government support including the military, people from the private sector like engineering groups…it’s been a benchmark piece of work and it’s something we’re justifiably and extremely proud of in the way it’s helped and continues to help people transition.
Up until this chat we’ve had an eighty percent success rate, meaning eighty percent of those that have left Holden since 2013 have found or gone onto new work, while that other twenty percent have either gone into full time study or chosen to retire. So it’s been an amazing success rate which I think is a testament to what we have in place to helping our people transition AND how eminently employable our people are.
That’s some really good news for the people involved, yes?
Absolutely. Not just in the north of Adelaide but in Adelaide itself Holden was seen as a job for life. It’s a great place to work, really fair pay, you get to work with a brand you are passionate about and get opportunities to move around the plant and do different roles. There’s lots of long term employees and we know it (the change) can be daunting to re-skill and re-train which really is the reason for being, these transition centres.
However there will still be roles for current employees, right, in places and roles such as Lang Lang or in research and development?
True. We’ll become a vehicle importer, engineering, and design centre and we’ll still have the second largest dealer network in the country. Our corporate HQ will remain here at Port Melbourne and there’ll still be our team of 150 designers as part of the international design studios and yes we’ll retain the Lang Lang proving ground (south east of Melbourne) and the 150 engineers on site there. What that means is there will be somewhere between 350 to 400 designers and engineers working on local and international products as well as the hundreds of people in the corporate side, sales, marketing etc.
With the new Commodore on the way, how does Holden see the vehicle being received?
We ran a drive day at the proving grounds earlier this year, with the next gen Commodore. We had the V6 and four cylinder version. We had a dozen Commodore customers there. I’ll be up front, we had a couple of them come up and question why they were there, saying yes they were keen to see the proving ground but didn’t have a lot of interest in a front drive Commodore.
(It’s here that Sean shared some quotes from those that attended.)
“I wouldn’t have considered this car, now I’d even consider the two litre, never mind the V6.”
“ I’m really surprised at how well it gets the power down, it feels quicker through the corners than expected.”
“The new Commodore is really impressive, I particularly like the V6 model with the all wheel drive, even the two wheel drive model is not bad and very quick with the turbo.”
It’s going to be on us to present the car in the right way, we don’t imagine for one second it’s going to have the same emotional and nostalgic appeal. Our sales numbers, we don’t expect it’ll sell in the same numbers the locally built car did. But what’s critical, and what was reinforced to us in a pilot program we ran recently…. what we want is for people to drive the car and understand that Holden magic, what made the Commodore so great, there’s a very, very big streak of it in this new car. Rob Tribbiani (Holden’s legendary chassis engineer and the driver of the Holden ute that set a record at the famed Nurburgring) is super excited about the all wheel drive V6 with the adaptive dampers and tricky real differential system, is a real belter. We just want the car to be driven and judged on its own merits.

Will Manufacturers be able to Eliminate Car Crashes?

In recent years, car developments have largely oriented around safety improvements. Manufacturers have honed in on this area, hoping to address the issue of fatalities on our roads. And for the large part, auto makers have played a notable role in reducing the road toll. Further innovations and developments are now being spoken of to maintain this momentum, and possibly, eliminate car crashes all together. But is this really possible?

There are no shortage of measures being designed as a direct response to car accidents. To name a few:

  • Forward collision systems that detect an impending crash;
  • Adaptive headlights which provide visibility around corners;
  • Magnetic roads that ‘guide’ vehicles;
  • Communicative vehicles that ‘speak’ with one another;
  • And the most prominent innovation, fully autonomous vehicles

While each of these innovative measures could help reduce road casualties even further, there’s still a very obvious facet missing from the discussion here. That is, we seem to be doing everything to modify technology, but we’re not actually addressing driver behaviour. In fact, we’re looking to bypass the driver to achieve desired results. Hardly an encouraging fact.

Although making technological changes is all well and good, they introduce a disparity between road users. Those who are driving the latest cars equipped with such technology, and those who do not. Even though many innovations eventually become mainstream across all levels of new vehicles, the time for this roll out is often such that new technology features come along. That is, by the time one feature becomes standard across all vehicles, the next ‘must have’ technology is being fitted into top of the line vehicles. Then the cycle continues.

We’re also not at a level where we can begin to depend on technology at all costs. That is, drivers should not be taught to become ‘dummies’ in their cars, oblivious to their surroundings. The fact is, things can, and sometimes do go wrong when technology is involved, and this is unlikely to be any different when installed in a car where external factors can cause a hazard.

This is where an emphasis needs to return to the person behind the wheel, who ultimately, can still cause an accident on our roads by way of being distracted, poor driving habits, a mistake, or through reckless actions. Today’s licencing requirements are indeed far too lenient. Sure, the burden has increased for new drivers who are on their P plates, but the focus is still misdirected.

It is important new drivers are tested on their ability to drive cautiously and courteously on our roads. This is not a matter for dispute. However, reactive mechanisms have largely been overlooked. That is, if one finds themselves losing control of a vehicle, or in danger of causing an accident, drivers need to be equipped with the necessary motoring skills to avoid or at least mitigate the impact of a crash.

Therefore, as we proceed down the rabbit hole where we increasingly rely on technology doing all the driving for us, we need to be considerate about the impact this will have on driver behaviour. Technological developments will save countless lives but until we also address the skills and mindset of the person behind the wheel, we’re still some time away from getting anywhere near zero road fatalities.

Chalk and Cheese: New Releases From Suzuki, Toyota, and Hyundai.

As Australia heads into spring and cocks an eye towards summer, the northern hemisphere says hello to the autumn car show season. The Frankfurt Auto Show saw Suzuki confirm the additon of the Sport to its revamped Swift range, Toyota unveil a revamped Prado and in Korea Hyundao shows off the Genesis G70 sedan.

2018 Suzuki Swift Sport.
The latest generation of the Swift Sport brings with it a raft of changes which include a lower, wider stance, more aggressive styling, and a torque-to-weight ratio that catapults the Sport into true hot hatch territory.We say goodbye to the 1.6L naturally-aspirated motor and hello to the 1.4L Boosterjet turbo engine (it’s the same as found in the brilliant Vitara). It’ll be a welcome addition to an increasingly grunty line-up with a turbo now available in five models across the range. Coupled with compact dimensions and a kerb weight that’s sub one-tonne should be music to the ears of sports-minded drivers.

Swift Sport chief engineer Mr Masao Kobori said, “We know that our customers value a dynamic driving experience above everything else, so for the third-generation Swift Sport our development concept was Ultimate Driving Excitement. It’s lighter, sharper, and quicker. It’s more aggressive and emotive, but we’ve also refined the elements that make it practical to use every day—the clutch feel, the manual transmission shift throw, the seats and steering wheel. Everything that puts the driver at the heart of the experience.”

Whilst power and appearance were obvious key considerations, so too were safety and technology with the Sport featuring a Bluetooth®-compatible Smartphone Linkage Display Audio Display unit with a multimedia 7-inch touchscreen and sat nav together with advanced safety including lane departure warning, weaving alert, adaptive cruise and high beam assist.Pricing is yet to be confirmed for the Australian market; we hope it’ll be keen and competitive.

2018 Toyota Prado.
When you’re a good thing already, things tend not to get changed all that often and so it is with the Prado, copping it’s first real update in close to a decade. Of note is the ditching of the thirsty and high rev requirement 4.0L petrol V6. The good news is their 2.8L diesel stays and will be offered with either a six speed manual or six speed auto. The reason the petrol is going is simple: 98.6% of Prado sales are with the diesel. It develops an impressive 450 Nm of torque between 1,600 and 2,400 rpm when mated to the auto or 420 Nm from 1,400 to 2,600 rpm with the manual. Maximum power is 130 kW.Exterior changes focus on the grille which displays broad vertical bars with slit-shaped cooling openings finished in chrome. It’s flanked by restyled headlamps with main beams positioned inboard to avoid damage from obstacles during off-road driving. Each of the lower corners on the new front and rear bumpers kick upwards to enhance off-road manoeuvrability whilst the redesigned rear includes new lamp clusters and a smaller rear garnish plate incorporated within the number-plate surround. Inside also has the makeover wand waved: there’s a redesigned dash binnacle, dash, and switchgear; the centre console incorporates a flush-surface air-conditioning control panel with a lower profile at the top for a sleeker appearance and improved forward visibility.

There’s an increase in the presence of safety features: autonomous features – previously fitted to the premium VX and Kakadu variants – have been added to the automatic variants of the volume-selling GX and GXL grades.

Designed to help prevent accidents or mitigate their consequences, the technologies include a Pre-Collision Safety system that can now detect impact risks with pedestrians as well as vehicles.Relying on a camera mounted behind the rear-view mirror and a radar in the grille, these devices enable the Prado to operate its brakes autonomously to reduce the vehicle’s speed and even bring the car to a halt. A smart active cruise control system can also slow the car to a standstill if necessary.

Every Prado is now equipped with a Lane Departure Alert system that monitors lane markings and helps prevent accidents and head-on collisions caused by a vehicle leaving its lane. If the vehicle starts to deviate from its lane without the indicators being used, the system alerts the driver with visual and audible warnings.The range is also fitted with automatic high beam, a system that can detect the headlights or taillights of vehicles ahead and automatically switch between high and low beams to avoid dazzling other drivers. The VX grade, in addition, now features Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert -systems from the Kakadu that support safer motoring by giving the driver better real-time information about the area immediately around the car.
Pricing and confirmation of spec levels per model will be confirmed closer to launch.

Genesis G70.
The Genesis brand officially launched the G70 at the Hyundai Genesis Design Centre within the Namyang R&D Centre. Of course, strickly speaking, Genesis is a separate sub-brand of Hyundai. The G70 is set to go on sale on 20th September in the Korean market.

The Genesis G70 is an athletic and elegant luxury sedan offering a graceful and dynamic exterior, function-oriented interior with three different powertrains – the 3.3 litre V6 twin- turbo petrol, 2.0 litre turbo petrol and 2.2 litre diesel. The 3.3 litre V6 twin-turbo engine boasts an impressive 0-100 kph acceleration time of 4.7 seconds.We’ll also see some tech as the G70 also features high levels of advanced driver assist systems such as Highway Driving Assist (HDA), best-in-class safety with nine standard airbags and active hood function, and a high level of connectivity with server-based voice recognition technology.

Design wise, the G70 stamps its authority with a large crest-type grille, character lines beginning from the emblem of the voluminous hood, air intake functions, and LED daytime running lights (DRLs) express the muscularity/solidity of the car. Two distinctive linear LED DRLs on each side of the large crest grille foreshadow the future Genesis signature quad lamps. The rear also gets an update; the LED rear combination lamps, which continue the quad lamp theme, along with a raised trunk lid and compact bumper designs give the G70 a poised character. The rear lamps, evolved from the preceding G80 (known simply as Genesis here in Australia), have been stretched to the end of the rear to convey a wide and dynamic stance.

The G70 offers three powertrains – 3.3 litre V6 twin-turbo petrol, 2.0 litre turbo petrol and 2.2 litre diesel. The 3.3 litre V6 twin-turbo is at the heart of the enthusiast-focused “3.3 Turbo Sport models,” with 272 kW and 510 Nm.
G70 3.3T Sport’s dynamic and powerful performance includes 0-100 kph acceleration of 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 270 kph. Variable ratio steering and electronically controlled suspension are standard, providing agile steering response and an optimal ride and handling experience.

The G70 turbo petrol model is equipped with the Theta-II turbo 2.0 litre GDI engine, with 185 kW and maximum torque of 353 Nm (Sports package: 188 kW). The G70 2.2 litre diesel model features the R-FR 2.2 VGT engine with 149 kW and 441 Nm. It’s not yet confirmed what the Australian market will receive.

Dynamic performance features include Launch Control, there’s a rack-mounted, motor-driven power steering (R-MDPS) and multi-link rear suspension which provides precise handling and ride comfort. A proven system to improve vehicle cornering, dynamic torque vectoring system, is also on board as is mechanical limited slip differential (M-LSD) that helps safe driving capabilities in low friction road conditions such as rain, snow and ice.

Naturally the G70 brings a suite of safety programs. Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Highway Driving Assist (HDA), Blind spot Collision Warning (BCW) and Driver Awareness Warning (DAW) have been added as part of the ‘Genesis Active Safety Control’ to offer the highest level of safety and convenience in its class.Details on which specifications and the appropriate pricing will be confirmed when details become available.

(With thanks to Autonews and Newspress).

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Peugeot 3008 GT.

There have been times when a car maker undertakes a wholesale change to a vehicle and receives deafening silence. This is certainly not the case with Peugeot’s revamped 3008 range. How’s winning the European Car of the Year Award for 2017 sound? To find out if it is worth the fuss, Private Fleet goes one on one with the range topping Peugeot 3008 GT diesel.Clad in a pearl paint called Ultimate Red (a $1050 option), the 3008 GT comes with a 2.0L diesel and EAT6 (Efficient Automatic Transmission six speed) gearbox. The test vehicle starts at $49490 and was fitted with a strongly patterned leather seat trim ($2700), Electronic Tailgate (with foot operation) plus Panoramic Sunroof ($2500) for a RRP of $55740.

Sizewise it fits nicely into the mid sized SUV family. It’s a compact 4447 mm long, rides on a 2675 mm wheelbase, and has an overall width of just under 1900 mm. What this buys you is over 1450 mm of hip and shoulder room for the front seat passengers, and just a few mm less for the rear seats. There’s also plenty of leg room as well; what this all means for a buyer is an astonishing amount of comfort and freedom whilst being cosseted by the superbly padded and supportive seats. The pattern is, as one wag mentioned, the same as what you’d find being worn by a Game of Thrones character…not that that’s a bad thing.The front seats are heated and warm up quickly, but not quickly enough on a cold Sydney day. However, like so many leather seats, they’re not ventilated for cooling, and get somewhat sticky and uncomfortable on a warm day. That’s about the only negative on the seats as they look absolutely sensational with the thick quilted weave pattern and stitching. The front seats are, as you’d expect for a top of the tree model, electrically operated and have thigh extensions, and the second row seats are 60/40 split fold for the 591L/1670L rear cargo section.The office space is a wonderful place to be when it comes to driving the 3008 GT. The diesel pumps out a handy peak of 133 kilowatts at 3750 and an immensely useable 400 Nm of peak torque at 2000 rpm. Peugeot quotes a 0-100 kph time of 8.9 seconds, but the pucker-metre says quicker. Economy is quoted as 7.0L/100 km combined, with PF seeing closer to 8.0L/100 km in an urban oriented drive. The dry weight of the 3008 GT helps, being 1371 kilos. Compare that to a couple of direct competitors such as the CX-5 2.5L at 1565 kg or Hyundai’s Tucson 1.6L turbo, with 1683 kilos…There’s enough on tap to have, in spite of the electronic nanny systems cars have nowadays, a chirp from the front driven Continental ContiSportContact 235/50/19 rubber. Rolling acceleration is truly an experience and that 400 Nm really shows its mettle plus you’ll find yourself quickly on the high side of the legal limit if you’re not watching the numbers. The transmission, once it hooks up, is superb. It’ll grab the torque and power and shove that through the ratios to the driven wheels without a hiccup.

Note the caveat there: “once it hooks up”. The EAT6 gearbox exhibits the worst characteristics of a DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) when cold and at idling speeds. There’s gaps between selecting Drive and Reverse when barely rolling, and a gap in actually engaging Drive from Reverse whilst in Reverse. It’s possibly the only part of the 3008, however, that doesn’t work that well. The gear selection lever itself is fighter jet inspired as there’s an electronic tab on the top to select Park and a separate tab for Reverse/Neutral/Drive via the right hand side of the lever.

Also noteworthy is that there was no AWD option available for the GT. The reason for this is surprisingly simple: market research indicated that the higher echelon models such as the GT would rarely, if ever, see anything other than tarmac, in opposition to the entry level models, which research indicated would be more likely for some soft-roading.It’s appropriate that Peugeot have used a jet style like gear selector, as the cabin itself for the front seat duo is deliberate in having a cockpit like feel (and it’s literally called the i-Cockpit) for the driver and a clear delineation between that and the passenger seat. The centre console rises nicely on the passenger side and sweeps upwards and around to the right towards the steering column. Along the way it houses a number of switches in two horizontal rows, marking one line out for the heated seats and front & rear window defrosting and the other specifically for the audio, navigation, Blutooth, apps and such.

The trim itself is a beautiful mix of alloy look plastic, subtly textured matt black plastic, and alcantara splitting the dash horizontally. The upper section has a leather like material and houses both the touchscreen and the driver’s display, a wonderfully engineered full colour LCD screen. There’s a roller dial on the steering wheel, (itself a work of art) which is set BELOW the screen and works well ergonomically by the way, that allows you to choose different preprogrammed looks to the screen. It’s elegant, classy, and simply gorgeous to look at. As is, by the way, the LED mood lighting and the wing mirror puddle lamp.There is a slight downside to all of this and unfortunately it’s front and centre visually. Where the touchscreen sits in the dash it looks rather like a super sharp knife has been used to cut out a slot and the screen’s been dropped in. No it doesn’t look all that good and detracts somewhat from the otherwise gentleman’s club atmosphere the cabin has. The touchscreen has a hidden attraction though. Poke it (gently) with three fingers and the embedded programming reads that as a “page back”. Another delight was the inclusion of digital radio, and it is a punchy, clear, well setup sound system.However, there’s plenty of other tech to play with such as the wireless charging plate in its own little nook directly underneath the tabs. You’ll also have lane departure warning, a 360 degree camera setup on board as well, providing an extra peace of mind and safety element, plus Active Safety Brake and Distance Alert System when using cruise control (and it flashes up on the driver’s screen when nosing up towards traffic ahead of you). The foot operrated tailgate is simple in concept. The idea is to wave your foot (either one, it’s not fussy) underneath the rear bumper where a sensor reads the movement and pops the door upwards. In practice it was finicky and not always successful.Transmission hiccups aside, the 3008 GT is, perhaps, the best riding mid sized SUV you can get. Imagine, if you will, those nineteen inch wheels and 50 series rubber being able to follow every bump and lump, every ripple and corrugation, every undulation, and transmit those through to you in the cabin BUT not make that ride unduly harsh or painful but rather a fluid, almost liquid, experience. The light weight helps in the agility stakes too, meaning there’s less mass to move in directional changes (and haul up under brakes). There’s little to no road noise transmitted to the passengers, but the feeling of control, of comfort, of being swept along on a magic carpet. The steering ratio is spot on, meaning there’s no wasted movement in the way the wheel turns and relates to the front wheels. It’s beautifully weighted and is neither over or under assisted.

Outside the 3008 has been given a complete makeover from the 3007. It’s still rounded and ovoid but now with a more angular, edgy appearance, especially at the front and in profile around the C pillar. There’s even subtle differences between the GT and the others in the range. Here you get a more prominent “claw” motif in the tail lights, which themselves stand proud of the sheetmetal. The rear quarter is now a slightly busy looking mix of lines and angles, with the D pillar or tail gate blacked out between the chrome hip line and alloy look roof like (part of the paint option pack).There’s a solid line of black polyurethane from the rear to front, wrapping the wheel arches but doesn’t cover the seam line of the body underneath the doors. The front is assertive, bluff and upright, with the “chin” an alloy look and the lower right extremity open to cool the radiators fitted behind. Even the LED headlights are angular with a strongly defined “shark fin” design element to broaden the visual appeal.Warranty wise Peugeot offers three years or 100000 kilometres which does lag behind competitors now offering five or even seven years. However the included roadside assist is ahead of the game by offering that as three years, not one. There’s even a specialised capped price servicing program in place here:Peugeot Capped Price Service Program

At The End Of The Drive.
There are those, unfortunately, that will swear on the grave of their grandmother’s budgie’s second cousin that SUVs still have no right to be on our roads and we should go back to station wagons if we want to move people around. The 3008 GT and its brethren stand up for those that say the SUV has a worthy place in the automotive market. Winning a COTY award and being the first ever SUV to do speaks volumes for what really is a sensational car. It’s a cracker drive, a great handler, and a bucketload of fun. Check it out for yourself here: 2018 Peugeot 3008

Clearing Up The Myths About Biodiesel

Biofuels are widely touted as being a solution to the dual problems of (1) limited fossil fuel supplies and (2) too many carbon emissions. In a nutshell, biodiesel is produced by taking crude oil from a source that isn’t a fossil fuel (i.e. not rock oil or petroleum oil) and doing all the chemical this and that to refine it so it can be used in our cars… or at least our diesel-fuelled cars.

However, there are a few rumours out there about biodiesel that are putting off a few people from giving it a go or adopting it.

Myth #1: Biodiesel will drive up food prices.

Facts: The thinking is like this: if we use, say, corn or sunflower oil to make biodiesel, this means that land that is currently used for growing food will be used to grow biodiesel feedstocks, which means there will be less food around, which means that food prices will go up. Even if crops aren’t competing for land, they may have to compete for fertiliser and water. This is a valid concern but we don’t have to choose between growing corn for our cornflakes and growing corn for oil. This is because biodiesel comes from a variety of sources. The good oil can be produced by algae that grow in septic tanks using grotty water that you’d never use on food crops. It can be harvested from the nuts of jatropha trees that grow on land that is no good for food crops. Waste oil and grease from fast food outlets (yep – all the oil from frying Kentucky Fried Chicken is good for making biodiesel) can be turned into biodiesel. They also use tallow sourced from animals – all the fatty bits that the butchers and slaughterhouse folk chop off a carcass because we don’t want to eat them can go for biodiesel as well as soap. I dare say that they could use the oils from the “fatbergs” found in sewers if they wanted to. It’s a case of being clever and using a range of sources to source the feedstocks for biodiesel, not just a few.

Just to throw a new twist into the food versus fuel debate, a lot of the corn grown in the US ends up as the ghastly corn syrup used to sweeten soft drinks and add to the obesity problem (corn syrup is also used to make the fake blood used in movies). Speaking for myself, perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we used less corn for making us fat and more for powering our cars!

Myth #2: Biofuel is still just an experimental fuel and hasn’t been tested properly.

Facts: There are whole scientific journals dedicated to biodiesel and biofuel research, covering everything from test cases looking at how well putting a fleet of buses onto biodiesel cuts emissions through to finding great new strains of algae that produce more biodiesel-suitable oil. So it’s certainly been tested and isn’t experimental. Of course research is ongoing – the same applies to methods of agriculture and medicine. Regarding whether it’s still a bit dodgy and uncertain whether you can put it in your vehicle, biodiesel had been tried out and it works just fine.

As a matter of fact, when Herr Diesel first invented the type of internal combustion engine that bears his name, he ran it on what we’d call biodiesel sourced from peanut oil. The engines had to be modified a little to take fossil fuel-sources diesel instead. So biodiesel is actually the older option and isn’t as new as you think.

Myth #3: You can only put biodiesel in a specially designed diesel engine.

Facts: While some car manufacturers – notably Mercedes-Benz about 10 years ago – trumpeted the fact that some of their models could run on biodiesel, the fact is that any diesel engine can run on biodiesel. However, it is true that because biodiesel is more of a solvent, it will loosen old deposits from the tank and pipes inside your engine, which means that you’ll have to check and change the filters more often at first if you make the switch to biodiesel. Apart from this initial clogging issue, any diesel engine can run on biodiesel. You can use biodiesel straight (known as B100) or a blend, depending on what’s available and what takes your fancy.

Cars that were made before 1993 can have problems with biodiesel, as the rubber pipes can’t handle this. If you like the idea of biodiesel and have an older model vehicle (and don’t want to take the opportunity to upgrade to a new car), then replacing the rubber hoses will do the job.

Obviously, you can’t run a petrol engine on biodiesel.  Owners of petrol-powered cars should look at ethanol and ethanol blends if they want a biofuel alternative to fossil fuels.

Myth # 4: Using biodiesel puts out just as much exhaust and pollution as regular diesel, so you’re not actually cutting down on emissions by using biodiesel.

Facts: For a start off, when it comes to cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, remember that producing the oils for biodiesel tend to come from plants and algae (and some animal fats in the case of waste oil from food outlets). While the algae or the corn plants or the jatropha trees are growing the oil-bearing seeds, they are quietly using the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so across the whole lifecycle of the biodiesel, this does mean fewer emissions and a smaller carbon footprint than fossil fuel-based biodiesel.

Secondly, a few tests run in the USA found that biodiesel exhaust doesn’t contain as many nasties so it burns cleaner. As far as I can make out, it’s kind of like the difference between wood smoke and coal smoke. Biodiesel exhaust doesn’t have as many sulphates, hydrocarbons or carbon monoxide, or as much particulate matter. This means that biodiesel reduces the amount of black smoke coming out of your diesel engine.

Some people claim that the exhaust fuel from cars running on biodiesel smells like hot chips and makes them feel hungry, especially if the biodiesel in question has been recycled from the stuff from fast food deep frying vats.

 

Myth #5: Biodiesel lowers your car’s performance.

Fact: OK, this one does have some basis in truth. If you put in 100% biodiesel into your engine, it won’t perform quite as well as if you used 100% petrodiesel or a petro-bio diesel blend. However, we’re only talking a 5–10% reduction in performance.  This means that you will notice a difference out on the race track or if you’re pushing your car to the limit – or possibly towing a very heavy load. However, for the average run about town picking up the groceries, dropping off the kids and going to work, you won’t really notice the difference.

My suggestion for a compromise here would be to use a petro-bio blend when towing but straight biodiesel for everyday driving.