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Archive for December, 2011

Saab Saga Draws To A Close

The on again/off again demise of iconic Swedish car maker Saab now seems certain to end in tears for 3,700 workers.

News from Europe overnight tells us that a District Court in Sweden has received papers from Saab filing for bankruptcy. If you remember Saab was first in trouble when its owner, General Motors wanted to close it down following the GFC. But protests were aired and a saviour found in the form of (then named) Spyker for $400 million last year. But then they ran into trouble and wanted to sell the company to the Chinese. But General Motors put their foot down and refused to sanction the deal on the grounds of giving away their intellectual property. So there it stood until yeaterday, where it now appears certain that Saab are gone.

But what does that mean for Saab owners in Australia?

In the short term it may mean very little, if you want to keep your car that is, as spare parts will still be available from main dealers. But if you want to sell it, you may have more difficulty (though the prospect of its demise has probably already been accounted for in its trade in price).

But hey- and here we’re calling on the brave speculators out there, is it worth buying a new or near new one now?

Think Edsel, or MG or a dozen or so good car makers that went down the drain. Their cars are now sought after by collectors for their rarity value. And you can’t get much rarer than a modern day Saab.

We contacted the Saab importer, (or ex-importer) who told us that the last few new Saabs were available for sale, but stock is running out.

So are you brave enough? Saab has guaranteed availability of parts and you will certainly have ‘exclusivity’, and maybe even the chance to make some money by selling a rarity sometime in the future. We think it’s a very good car and worth considering as a new vehicle purchase in its own right. But will it become a collectors’ item sometime in the future? If it does, then we’ll all be clicking our fingers and saying “If only”….

Driving Resolutions For 2012

It’s not quite New Year yet, but before the party mood takes all of us over and we all spend a bit of time away from the computer or go away on holiday and actually do some driving instead of just thinking about and reading about driving, here’s ten New Year resolutions for drivers and car owners.
1. I will keep to the speed limit, in and out of the city. This will make sure that I won’t get any speeding tickets and it will also make sure that my petrol bill is a bit lower – the faster you go, the more fuel the car burns.
2. I will keep the fluids topped up – and that means the car as well as me. Brake fluid, window wiper fluid, oil for the engine and the transmission, water in the radiator – they all need topping up to make sure that the car runs without any hitches.
3. I will clean the car out properly. Sure, my big seven-seater Mazda has plenty of room for stowing all sorts of bits and pieces when I’m not taking six other people, but all those things create excess weight, which does contribute to more fuel burn. And having a messy car’s not a good look. It’ll probably be a chance to find all those odd sweatshirts and biros that keep getting left in the car. And while I’m at it, I’ll vacuum all the dog hair off the seats and the crumbs from off the floor.
4. I will check the maintenance history for my car to make sure that the belts don’t need changing this year. If they do need changing, then I’ll get this done BEFORE I head away on holiday. If you don’t have a maintenance history for your car, it’s easy to start one. All you need is a folder (or a large pizza box – they fit quite a lot of A4 paper) of some sort to put the receipts, etc. for any work done on your vehicle.
5. I will stop idling the engine unnecessarily. OK, a bit of idling is needed when I’m waiting at an intersection, but I will turn the engine off when I’m waiting for the kids to put shoes on, etc. before we go out. Sure, it hurries them up a bit, but it does waste petrol. Honking the horn instead should do the trick.
6. I will rotate the tyres the way I’m supposed to. Even if I only get this done on January 2nd and don’t do it again for the rest of the year, it’s still better than nothing and will make sure that the tyres wear more evenly. While I’m at it, I’ll check that the spare tyre still has a legal amount of tread and what’s sitting in there isn’t hopelessly worn.
7. I will check the tyre pressure regularly – fortnightly would be good. And if I’m towing anything, I’ll make sure that I adjust the pressure appropriately.
8. I will take the vehicle out and use the 4×4 the way it’s made to. If you’ve got AWD or 4×4 capacity on your vehicle, it pays to use it now and again so the mechanism doesn’t seize up from disuse. And who says that all New Year resolutions shouldn’t be fun?
9. I will review how I use my vehicle. It’s a big, thirsty beast, so if I can walk or bike for a short trip (the experts say 2 km trips should be walked and 5 km trips should be biked), I will. The exception is the weekly trip to the supermarket, as it’s a bit hard to carry the groceries to feed a family for a week home when you’re walking (the supermarket’s less than 2 km away) without pinching a shopping trolley.
10. I will learn how to do a few more things for vehicle maintenance myself rather than just going down to the local garage and looking like a dumb blonde. I should be able to change the oil and change the air filter myself without any bother.

Happy Christmas and have a great motoring year in 2012.

One in a Tractor, One in a Car, One in a Scooter…

At this time of year, if you have children, attend church or both, you are likely to see at least one nativity play – you know the sort of thing: kids (and sometimes adults) dressed up in bathrobes, sandals and tea towels all standing around a girl with a blue sheet holding a baby doll while a rather embarrassed boy stands nearby with a fake beard and another bathrobe-and-tea towel costume. If you’re lucky, you get something done by adults that usually involves a live donkey and a real baby. And you sometimes get people trying to freshen the traditional story up by adding a modern twist to it – I’ve seen at least two “Mary and Joseph use social media/the internet” YouTube clips.

One thing that hasn’t been done – probably because it’s a bit hard to organise – is an update of the transport options. What would be the modern day equivalent of the camel, the ox and the donkey? (Not that any of these are actually mentioned in the Biblical account. The presence of the ox and the donkey (formerly known as an ass) is deduced by the presence of an animal’s feed box complete with hay to make a makeshift baby’s bed, while the magi needed something for to make the trip from the Iran/Afghanistan/Pakistan sort of area to Israel. For all we know, Mary and Joseph may have made the trip on foot or taken an ox-cart.)

So, if you were updating the forms of transport that were possible back in 10BC to 6 AD (the range of dates that the original Christmas happened in), what are your possibilities? Apart from the Three Kings of Orient who were, as every cheeky kid sings, “one in a tractor, one in a car, one in a scooter tooting his hooter, following yonder star.”

Features: Cheap to acquire, cheap to feed, small and surprisingly strong for the size. Best suited to smaller families.
Modern equivalent: A Peugeot hatchback or some other small and frugal hatchback (Suzuki Swift, Mini Cooper, VW Beetle, etc.).

Ox/Bullock Cart:
Features: Good towing power, a bit thirstier than the donkey, reliable but not much of a speedster. Can take large loads.
Modern equivalent: A trade van or ute, such as the Toyota Hilux or the Ford Transit. Could also be replaced by an MPV such as the Mitsubishi Grandis or the Honda Odyssey.

Features: Tough, big and can handle rough terrain.
Modern equivalent: A real bush-bashing 4×4. The Mistubishi Pajero, with its past performance in the Dakar Rally, would have to be a serious contender, given the desert that the Magi had to cross, with Jeeps, Nissan Patrols and Land Rovers being other possibilities.

Horse (probably in a chariot):
Features: Fast, luxurious and sporty. Probably used (in the Nativity play context) by King Herod and/or Roman soldiers.
Modern equivalent: A Porsche Boxter or 911, or a nippy Alfa Romeo speedster.
Features: Not quite as upmarket as the horse but not as working-class as the donkey. Has a reasonable turn of speed when needed.
Modern equivalent: Any good luxury executive saloon. Think BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.
Alternative features: A mule is, of course, a hybrid between a horse and a donkey.
Alternative Modern equivalent: A hybrid vehicle such as the Toyota Prius or Hybrid Camry.

Elephant (which is possible, given the Persian origins of the Magi, but not likely):
Features: exotic, large and expensive to feed, with military overtones.
Modern equivalent: Hummer.

The Holden Recall – What’s It All About?

A couple of weeks ago, the radio and other new channels rang with the news that Holden had ordered a recall. Now there are a lot of Holden enthusiasts out there, and a few of them might have got a bit worried that their new pride and joy might be part of the recall. And now another one’s just been launched. What is going on?


In a nutshell, if you haven’t got a letter from Holden, don’t panic: you’re fine. Holden took responsibility for tracking down the owners of the vehicles affected by the product recall. Two types of Holden have been affected by this recall. First of all (recall notice issued 21st November) , there’s the 2.0 L Diesel Holden Captiva Series one with the following VIN numbers:

• KL3CD26RJ8H307843 to KL3CG26RJ8H313387 (2008)
• KL3CA26RJ9B258567 to KL3CD26RJ9B557340 (2009)
• KL3CA26RJAB000715 to KL3CD26RJAB118110 (2010–2011).

The second Holden recall which was only issued yesterday (5th December) applies to the 2.0 L Diesel Holden Epica with the following VIN numbers:

• KL3LA69RJ9B137502 to KL3LA69RJ9B529009 (2009)
• KL3LA69RJAB000281 to KL3LA69RJAB099015 (2010)
• KL3LA69RJBB005838 to KL3LA69RJBB065472 (2011)


To find out more about the details of the recall, visit about the Epica recall and about the Captiva.

If you have another type of Holden, then this recall doesn’t apply to you. You can keep driving your Commodore or Calais quite happily.

Product recalls happen because of a flaw in the product – in this case, the car, and it’s the same problem in both the 2.0 L Captiva and the Epica. And because bringing your car back to an authorised Holden dealer to be given a clean bill of health or to get the problem fixed is a nuisance, especially at this time of year, we’re not talking about some fiddly little thing. Here, the problem is a potential leak in the fuel feed hose – in other words, there’s a risk of diesel getting where it shouldn’t be, which is a very dangerous situation, as the stuff’s highly flammable.

Product recalls are annoying, but they’re part of the way that manufacturers ensure that their product is safe. I, for one, am glad that Holden is checking their products and taking action now that they’ve found an alarming (but easily fixed) flaw in their vehicles. It’s much better than doing nothing – and, according to the Dog and Lemon Guide, there has been a case in history where an automotive manufacturer – which will remain unnamed because it was in the past and the cars in question are off the road, but it wasn’t Holden – decided that it would be cheaper to pay compensation to grieving relatives than to fix a design flaw that could lead to the cars catching fire. So, Holden, thanks for caring and making sure that customer satisfaction and safety are important to you.

And if you have been contacted by Holden about your Captiva or your Epica, don’t be a silly muggins and ignore it. Yes, it’s a nuisance to have to take your car back to an authorised dealer to get it checked and fixed, but if you don’t do it, you could be putting yourself at risk. We don’t want that. Holden doesn’t want it. And you don’t really want it either.

PS: If you want to know more about product recalls and consumer rights, visit the Product Recalls page of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commision’s website at