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Auto Industry News – Q4 2017

We review some of the major news events in the automotive industry from the fourth quarter of 2017.

 

Sales and Manufacturing

The war of words in the autonomous vehicle sector began to heat up, with General Motors singling out Tesla. A director for the long established auto manufacturer suggested that Tesla’s claim it has already developed ‘Level Five’ self-driving technology is “full of crap” and “irresponsible”.

Locally, Holden drew the curtains on its local manufacturing operations, with doors closing at the Elizabeth plant in South Australia.

Drive announced their ‘Car of the Year’ for 2017, with the Hyundai i30 SR taking out the top spot.

 

Safety and Environment

As the Takata airbag saga continues to drag on, and with a recall in effect following a local death, industry stakeholders have raised the possibility of cancelling vehicle registrations of motorists who have ignored recall notices. The ACCC will provide the Federal Government with a recommendation, although the consumer watchdog is still engaging with manufacturers to work on the issue.

Elsewhere, counterfeit oil filters have been discovered by Toyota and Hyundai after months of investigating. The incident continues a persistent and worrying trend, as unscrupulous rackets take advantage of independent workshops and motorists.

In Europe, the EU has sought to tackle emissions, unveiling proposals which would cut the 95g/km fleet average in 2021, to 66g/km by 2030. At the same time, governments in Holland and France (Paris) are looking at different measures to ban petrol and diesel sales by 2030 and 2040 respectively.

 

Technology

The NRMA and Electric Vehicle Council have been calling on the government to push the adoption of electric vehicles. Together, the bodies have prepared an action plan, highlighting the fact there are currently no incentives on electric vehicles.

Uniform standards for EV charging are also in focus within Australia, which could pave the way for a national approach. The measures have been proposed by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

At a global level, Toyota has wider plans to transform its vehicle lineup to an all-electric offering by 2025. The company will partner with Mazda and Denso to work on structural technology for electric cars. The move comes as competing auto makers in China receive the hurry up from their government to boost EV production in 2019 – and as China also plans to invest heavily into autonomous driving infrastructure.

While several companies shift away from diesel engines, Mazda reaffirmed its support for the fuel technology despite governments around the world setting plans to phase out diesel powered vehicles.

Looking at the issue of emerging fuels, and Toyota is tipped to release a hydrogen fuel cell car in Australia during 2019. The news comes as tech developments leave the door open to the possibility that hydrogen powered vehicles may one day source energy from the sea.

In separate news, Mercedes has been testing autonomous tech within Australia between Sydney and Melbourne. Overseas, and the UK is aiming to have driverless cars on the road by 2021.

 

Legal and Regulatory Issues

The Australian National Transport Commission opened a can of worms, suggesting occupants of fully autonomous vehicles shouldn’t be subject to existing alcohol and drug laws. Any mooted amendments would require a change in current legislation to account for the arrival of self-driving cars within 2 years.

Following the Takata airbag saga referenced earlier, Toyota and Lexus have been nominated in a local class action among other potential defendants alleging the companies breached their consumer law obligations.

The ACCC’s final report into the new car industry has called for better protection of buyers, nominating multiple reforms and taking aim at dealers.

Finally, legislative changes led by the government include a suite of draft amendments which would see an impact on ‘grey’ and low volume import cars.

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