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Archive for July, 2012

Making a Big Splash

What about a car that can travel across water?  An amphibious vehicle is the sort of machine that really captures my imagination and sends it spinning from one daydream to another.  But will it really be a dream for so many, or will it become a vehicle that everyone will want and everyone will be able to afford?

Across the ditch in September 2009, a few young entrepreneurs (whose daytime jobs were aeronautic engineers) managed to cross the Cook Strait in a van which they bought for $2500.  After a few essential modifications, Adam Turnbull and Dan Melling took it across the sea from Picton to Wellington.  On the open road, the van could easily travel at 100 km/h.  But on the water, its top speed was around 9 km/h.  So it’s possible.  Now where’s that arc welder?  Maybe I could do that to my Nissan Navara ute.

Now to something a little more upmarket; not a van this time, but a vehicle made in Australia and one that looks more 4×4 in its shape.  With a top speed of 100 km/h on the road, the Australian built Platypus has serious 4×4 ability and is capable of seven knots on the water.  What this machine has going for it is that it can withstand heavy seas.  The Platypus would have to be the amphibious vehicle I would prefer to be in if I was to head out to sea off the coast at Freemantle.  Boyd Wyatt, the Australian designer/builder of the Platypus amphibious 4×4, said, “I love what others have done with their amphibious concepts, but I decided to make a vehicle that was affordable to the people who would really use them.  I figure there’s a vast market of people who live in coastal regions who want a genuine, working amphibious 4×4, not a high speed US$200,000 sportscar.  So I set out to build such a vehicle under US$50,000, and I’ve done that with room to spare”.  This is a real cool vehicle, so Boyd can be contacted at boyd@ecn.net.au should this machine tickle your fancy.

So what’s left?  The Aquada and Rinspeed.  Let’s take a look at the Saleen Aquada amphibious vehicle first.  The Saleen Aquada is a land and water vehicle that is capable of reaching 64 km/h on the water.  The Saleen Aquada drives like a sports car on the road, and then once you hit the water, the vehicle will become like a speedboat on water.  Only a very calm Sydney Harbour sea will do, however.  A lake, calm sea, meandering river or estuary is more like the place you’ll take the Saleen Aquada.  Very cool is the simple press of a button and drive into the water fun factor.  The wheels automatically rise.  Entry to the water is via beach, boat ramp, slipway or directly from the water’s edge.

The Rinspeed “Splash” is another very ingenious amphibious vehicle.  Again at the push of a button, a cleverly thought-out hydraulic mechanism transforms the sports car into an amphibious vehicle.  Frank M. Rinderknecht designed the machine, and clever it is.  A highly complex integrated hydrofoil system enables the “Splash” to ‘fly’ at an altitude of about 60 cm above the water.  On smooth water, the “Splash” is capable of reaching a top speed of about 80 km/h.

Surely we are going to see more of these types of vehicle on the road.  Maybe the Chinese will catch on, and we’ll see a mass production of cheap amphibious vehicles suddenly burst onto the market.  People are going to love driving these vehicles to work if it is going to cut their commute by 30 mins or more by venturing, via the direct route, across the water to the office.

All Records Broken!

June 2012 was the best ever month for vehicle sales – 112,566 vehicles sold. Whilst June is usually a pretty good sales month this is exceptional, and shows a massive increase of  17.1 percent over last June. Whilst we can expect some improvements over a year ago (after effects of supply difficultues) the strength of these improvements come as a big surprise.

The big winners were hybrid vehicles (petrol/ electric cars such as the Toyota Prius), up 84 percent on a year ago, and SUV’s, up 33 per cent.

For the third month in a row the biggest selling individual vehicle was the Toyota Hi Lux, followed by the ever-popular Mazda3.

The Toyota HiLux commands the top spot due to very strong sales into the mining industry in Queensland and Western Australia.

The biggest selling brand was (as usual) Toyota, followed by Mazda.

The most notable loser was probably the iconic Holden Commodore that has gradually lost favour over the past few years and now languishes in eighth place (the lowliest ever) in the popularity stakes.

Specialised Automotive Designs

Almost as soon as men put engines on wheeled vehicles designers began to create highly specialized vehicles. Some of these designs made a lot of sense, like the Willys Jeep used by the United States military for many decades beginning before World War II, a design that is still in evidence today and is favored by off-road enthusiasts.

Other modifications evolved into ambulances, trucks, buses, delivery lorries and utes, all of which had a specific design intent, but often multiple uses. Some vehicles that were built had very limited uses beyond their basis design purposes. A number of entrepreneurs have attempted to merge aircraft with cars and came up with vehicles that could neither fly nor drive very well. The amphicar was a car chassis with a boat body. Again, this neither drove nor sailed with much agility.

Sports cars could be considered a specialized design, one that accommodates a limited number of people (two) without much comfort and few amenities. But, they were fun to drive and they developed a core of enthusiasts, people to whom the trip was the reason to travel, not the destination. Sports cars are still in evidence today, but without the leaky tops, ill-fitting side curtains and rough ride. A few hold true to the design like the Mazda Miata and the new Subaru/Scion two-seater coupe, but most have morphed into luxury two or four-seat convertibles with power everything and air conditioning.

Many specialized designs evolved over their design-life into more functional vehicles. After the Jeep developed a following amongst the Allied military, civilian versions came on the market. These grew in size, comfort and amenities and spawned several more models. Other manufacturers jumped on the band wagon. In the USA Ford produced the Bronco, Chevrolet the Blazer, International the Scout and Dodge the Ramcharger. European and Asian manufacturers followed suit and today there are many versions of the SUV, from compacts and mid-sized to huge people-movers.

The original design intent of a four passenger, four-wheel-drive utility vehicle has vanished, except in a few models that are really used in rough country and off-road.

Ford Achieves 2012 Top Engine Honours

In a packed assortment of very fine engines sat Ford’s little Ecoboost 1.0-litre engine.  With just three cylinders, it was this tiny engine that was classed as being the best car engine in the world for 2012.  It is the first time that Ford has won the ‘International Engine of the Year’ award; an award that has been running for 13 consecutive years.

Ford’s Ecoboost 1.0-litre engine was designed in Britain and also received awards for being the Best New Engine and the Best Engine under 1000cc.  There were a number of factors that helped this engine achieve so well, however the engine’s ability to power the Ford Focus car se easily is impressive.  The engine’s power, response and very good real-world fuel consumption figures were considered to be outstanding.

Joe Bakaj, vice president of Ford Global Powertrain said, “We set the bar incredibly high when we started to design this engine.  We wanted to deliver eye-popping fuel economy, surprising performance, quietness and refinement – and all from a very small, three-cylinder engine.”

Christopher Congrega from ‘LAutomobile Magazine’ also stated, “With good torque at the very low end, this high-tech three-cylinder turbo gives the driving performance of a small turbo diesel, but without noise and vibrations.”

BMW had featured many times as a winner of the ‘Best New Engine’ and the ‘International Engine of the year’.  This is, perhaps, not really a surprise here, as the performance of the smooth BMW M5 and 3.0-litre Twin Turbo engines are phenomenal.  However, very small engines with much less horses under the bonnet have won this coveted award before.  Fiat has featured twice.  In fact, last year the best new engine was the Fiat 875cc Twinair.  This tiny engine also took out the award for the 2011 Green Engine of the Year.  Volkswagen, Toyota, Mazda and Honda have also shared the takings for ‘International Engine of the Year’.

For those one-eyed readers who only see to the redline, the Ferrari 458 boasted a 4.5-litre ,V8 engine that won the award for the 2012 ‘Best Performance Engine’.

BMW took out four of the twelve awards but, obviously, in other classes.  I wonder when we’ll see an HSV or Ford Falcon’s Turbo six engine in the awards?

Small Business $5,000 Tax Write-Off on New Cars

The 2011/2012 budget announced a new tax deductions for small businesses buying new motor vehicles from 1st July 2012.

In simple terms any new vehicles purchased will get an immediate $5,000 tax write-off above and beyond the usual depreciation schedule in the first year (1st July 2012 through to 30 June 2013).

For example:

A small business purchases a new vehicle for $40,000 in the tax year 2012-2013.

Normally the business could depreciate/write-off 15% in the first year – $6,000 – however with this new legislation, the business will be able to claim an immediate $5,000 plus 15% of the remaining portionof $35,000 (being the purchase price less the up front write off).  So in this case the business owner will be able to write off $5,250+$5,000=$10,250 in the first year.

This equates to an extra write off of $4,250 (normally $6,000 would be the total deduction, being 15% of $40,000) which equates to a net tax benefit of $1,275 in 2013-2014.

This incentive is estimated to cost around $350 million over two years.

For any queries or information on how it works, please contact a Private Fleet consultant on 1300 303 181

tax write-off $5000