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When ADAS Features Fail

I don’t quite know why I’ve become more attentive to learning about a car’s ability to protect its occupants in the event of a collision, along with its ability to avoid the collision altogether in the first place.  I expect it has a lot to do with having close family members who occasionally need to drive themselves places.  Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) are growing in popularity.  ADAS systems can help prevent accidents not only at speed, but also when parked as a stationary car.  ADAS features are designed with one purpose in mind and that is to increase driver and occupant safety.

ADAS features include things like automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, collision warning systems, cross-traffic alert, forward and rear collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, park assist, pedestrian detection and avoidance systems, cyclist detection and avoidance systems, road sign recognition, active radar cruise control… and the list goes on.  ADAS employs cameras and sensors to detect a potential collision or event and then proceed to activate systems of avoidance if necessary.  These are important safety features which help prevent accidents.

Research on insurance claims that was carried out by LexisNexis Risk Solutions showed that vehicles involved in incidents that had ADAS on-board exhibited a 27% reduction in the frequency of claims made for bodily injury.  The results also showed that vehicles that had ADAS on-board exhibited a 19% reduction in the frequency of claims made for property damage.  Obviously, this would suggest that the systems must be doing some good.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) revealed that the crash involvement rate for vehicles with blind-spot monitoring was 14% lower than for the same vehicle without the equipment.  Researchers also stated that the study also suggested that if every vehicle sold in the US in 2015 was equipped with blind-spot monitoring, 50,000 crashes and 16,000 crash injuries might have been prevented.

At present, one of the big downsides of the ADAS features is that they are darn expensive.  Not only do they put the price of a new car up, they also make the car costlier to insure because if any of the systems gets damaged the insurance and repair bills are usually eye-watering.  Hopefully, ADAS features will come way down in price and become similar to standard computer software and technology which is, on the whole, a dime-a-dozen now.

The other thing is that I hope ADAS will function 100% of the time correctly as intended, because vehicles designed to be able to automatically brake for objects such as other cars, pedestrians, and cyclists, and to drive themselves inside highway lanes without driver input, is not an exact science.  A slightly frightening example of my concern here is when Volvo was demonstrating its pedestrian AEB technology to journalists in 2016.  Volvo used their V60 model in the demonstration, where it was travelling toward a dummy named Bob.  The V60 didn’t detect Bob being in the way, and so Bob was hit in what was a controlled environment.  An alert driver in the V60 may well have returned a better outcome.

Then shortly after, another Volvo V60 was demonstrating its collision detection and avoidance system where it was to avoid hitting a stationary truck.  The failure to detect and avoid the collision can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNi17YLnZpg

Again, an alert and competent driver could well have resulted in a better outcome, should this have happened in the real world.

In 2018, the IIHS took five new vehicles and tested them.  The Tesla Model 3, the Tesla Model S, the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes E-Class and the Volvo S90 were the test vehicles.  Each vehicle’s AEB, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist systems were tested.  Some of the problems IIHS encountered was that the AEB didn’t actually work in some vehicles in some circumstances.

In other tests, the IIHS observed: “The BMW 5-series steered toward or across the lane line regularly, requiring drivers to override the steering support to get it back on track.  Sometimes the car disengaged steering assistance on its own.  The car failed to stay in the lane on all 14 valid trials.  The Model S was also errant in the hill tests.”

Sadly, just a couple of years ago an autonomous Uber fitted with even more sensors than any standard ADAS-equipped road car killed a pedestrian at night in the US.  This happened while researchers and designers were conducting public testing.  What this suggests is that the ADAS technology is amazing and good enough to be placed into new cars.  However, it doesn’t mean ADAS will always work as intended, and it does point to the fact that drivers must still always be fully alert at the wheel.  If the driver is not fully alert, the outcome from these system fails can sometimes be way worse than if the driver was fractionally slower to manually override the systems detection time and action times.

I’ve heard of numerous occasions when vehicles have falsely detected situations.  A more common fail is when accident emergency braking (AEB) engaged on-board a car when it shouldn’t have, which meant that the AEB stopped the vehicle abruptly and unexpectedly on a clear road.  At the time, traffic is still coming up behind the vehicle.  Lane keep assist isn’t always that great either, and the results of a high-speed mishap on a main highway is tragic.

ANCAP is Australian’s big car-safety tester, and a recent representative suggested that AEB and lane-keeping assist technology, which is where the car will steer itself, was beginning to be put under the microscope.  This would test for how accurate the system actually is, and if it would actually do the opposite and steer the vehicles into a dangerous situation.  Testing ADAS features should take priority over just saying that the technology is available in the car at the time of crash testing, whereby the appropriate ADAS feature box is ticked and the job done.

ADAS mostly works for the better.  It does raise obvious safety problems, particularly when manufacturers have all the pressure to pack in as many ADAS features into their vehicles as possible for as little cost as possible to remain competitive on the sales front.  This pressure would suggest that these systems could be prone to potentially become unsafe.

With cars loaded with ADAS features, you could also say that drivers of these new vehicles might be tempted to hop on the mobile phone to check messages once they have activated the adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist systems.  Essentially, it becomes easier to break the law; which takes us back to the point that we shouldn’t rely heavily on ADAS technology because it can fail to work.  We don’t often hear this preached at the car sales yard or on new-car adverts.

In Australia, features such as antilock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) are mandatory in new vehicles that are sold to the public.  These mandatory requirements are set to be pushed to the next level, where automatic emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist would have to be on-board any new vehicle being sold to the public.  Even alcohol detection devices may well be part of these standard requirements.  Europe is set to introduce some of these requirements over the next few years, and Australia is likely to follow the lead.  Newly imported European cars would end up with these features anyways, a win-win for us new-car buyers.

ADAS is good, but we still need to drive our cars.

Small Overlap Crash Test

The influx of all the amazing new electronic safety aids and crash avoidance systems found on-board new cars has been exceptional.  There is no doubt that these systems are helping save lives and minimising injury.  There has been one part of the latest car crash testing regime that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has brought in as part of their testing in order to help make cars safer.

The IIHS is an independent, non-profit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing deaths, injuries and property damage from motor vehicle crashes through their ongoing research and evaluation, and through the education of consumers, policymakers and safety professionals.  The IIHS is funded by auto insurance companies and was established back in 1959.  Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia, USA.  A lot of what the IIHS does is crash test cars in a variety of ways to gather data, analyse the data, and observe the vehicles during and after the crash tests to quantify how safe each car is.  The results and findings are published on their website at IIHS.org.  Car manufacturers have been forced to take these tests seriously because, at the end of the day, these results matter and will affect car sales as the public become informed about how safe their cars will likely be in the event of an accident.

Since 2012, the IIHS has introduced a couple of new tests that they put the vehicles through to see how safe they are in an event of small overlap collision.  The driver-side small overlap frontal test was brought about to help encourage further improvements in vehicle frontal crash protection.  Keeping in mind that these IIHS tests are carried out using cars with left-hand-drive, the test is designed to replicate what happens when the front left corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.  This crash test is a challenge for some safety belt and airbag designs because occupants move both forward and toward the side of the vehicle from the time of impact.  In the driver-side small overlap frontal test, a vehicle travels at 40 mph (64 km/h) toward a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier.  A Hybrid III dummy representing an average-size man is positioned in the driver seat.  25% percent of the total width of the vehicle strikes the barrier on the driver side.

Most modern cars have safety cages encapsulating the occupant compartment and are built to withstand head-on collisions and moderate overlap frontal crashes with little deformation.  At the same time, crush zones help manage crash energy to reduce forces on the occupant compartment.  The main crush-zone structures are concentrated in the middle 50% of the front end.  When a crash involves these structures, the occupant compartment is protected from intrusion, and front airbags and safety belts can effectively restrain and protect occupants.

However, the small overlap frontal crashes primarily affect a vehicle’s outer edges, which aren’t well protected by the crush-zone structures.  Crash forces go directly into the front wheel, the suspension system and the firewall.  It is not uncommon for the wheel to be forced rearward into the footwell, contributing to even more intrusion into the occupant compartment, which often results in serious leg and foot injuries.  To provide effective protection in these small overlap crashes, the safety cage needs to resist crash forces that haven’t been amplified, concentrated on one area or aren’t tempered by crush-zone structures.  Widening these front-end crash protection structures does help.

The IIHS also performs the passenger-side small overlap frontal test.  The passenger-side test is the same as the driver-side test, except the vehicle overlaps the barrier on the right side.  In addition, instead of just one Hybrid III dummy, there are two — one in the driver seat and one in the passenger seat.

Automotive manufacturers initially responded to these driver-side small overlap test results by improving vehicle structures and airbags, and most vehicles now earn good ratings.  However, IIHS research tests demonstrated that those improvements didn’t always carry over to the passenger side.  Discrepancies between the left and right sides of vehicles spurred the IIHS to develop a passenger-side small overlap test and begin issuing passenger-side ratings in 2017.

It is good that vehicle safety always seems to be on the improve and, with each new model, the new-car buyer can expect a safer vehicle.  Thanks to crash testers like the IIHS, ANCAP and Euro NCAP, we are experiencing safer cars on our roads.

A Moment of Silence

Holden HSV

Over the last decade there have been a few car manufacturers who have pulled out of selling cars in Australia.  But, as those leave, there have also been numerous new marques who have arrived on the scene, which is great to see.  Let’s not forget the old faithful marques, who are the manufacturers like Toyota, Honda, BMW and Porsche who have been selling cars in Australia for three decades or more.  So what’s changed over the last ten years?

Over this last decade we have had to say goodbye to Holden – perhaps the saddest exit.  The company was founded in 1856 as a saddlery manufacturer in South Australia, only to be wound up over the last year or so.  The Holden roots in Australia have run very deep.

Chery made its arrival in 2011 and stuck around for a few beers and was off again in 2016.  Chery once sold Australia’s cheapest new car for under $10k.

During the last decade, Dodge wrapped things up as well, though we still see the RAM logo in the form of the RAM Trucks that are sold new in Australia.  A RAM Truck is the king of the Ute/light truck world.

Equally as sad, for some, as the vanishing of Holden has been the cessation of the awesome line of HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) and FPV (Ford Performance Vehicles) muscle cars.  Oh how things change when people get a whiff of the climate change spin and big money opportunities with such amazing “clean” vehicles like EVs.

One luxury marque that made a brief appearance was Infiniti.  Only recently, we’ve waved goodbye to this very classy and elegant line of cars that for some reason struggled to make their way into a buyer population who were stayed in their buying habits.  Some of the Infiniti cars were seriously quick, had unique style and were reliable and comfortable.

2012 saw Opel opening many showrooms across Australia.  The new Opel Astra and Opel Insignia cars were quite stylish cars, though they only managed a few sales.  They too had a few beers and then folded up a year or two later.

Proton cars also came onto the scene in 2012 and sold a few hundred cars, however the aging models did not sell well in 2017 at all, so they were axed.  There are rumours of them making a comeback with a new range of cars under Geely’s ownership.

1991 Saab 900 Turbo 16 S

Another very sad day in the last decade of the Australian and global motoring industry was when Saab were forced to wrap up.  I miss their individuality and the range of powerful four-cylinder, turbocharged engines.  Australia has also said goodbye to Smart cars, a range of tiny city cars that were made by Mercedes.  They never sold well.

The new popular car marques that have entered the Australian car market over the last few years has been: Genesis, Great Wall, Haaval, LDV, Mahindra, MG, RAM Trucks and Tesla.  Most of these are of Asian origin.

Tesla

Cars For “When you get to my age!”

“When you get to my age…” is a statement commonly made by those of us who may well be getting on in years.  Older drivers will likely have more to consider when they come to buying themselves a new car.  The need for lots of power may not be such a deciding factor either, and comfort and safety might be the attributes you’d be needing instead.  It can also be a fun time buying the new car because you haven’t got all the family commitments to keep in the back of your mind, which would otherwise have swayed your choice of car in the past.

The list of new cars below has been put together with the ‘oldies’ in mind but it by no means is definitive.  It is nice to have a practical car which will take the grandkids out to the park or off to the zoo, but these cars also have comfort, reliability, decent space, good safety features, easy infotainment technology and good climate controls.  You’ll also find that the following cars are pretty economical and reasonably easy to get in and out of.

The Peugeot non-commercial range of cars are fine cars with style, comfort and practicality.  They offer five-star safety and good pricing.  Who says motoring has to be boring!

Peugeot 508 Wagon

Toyota’s Camry, Corolla, or RAV4 models are well-priced, safe, efficient and reliable.  Lexus models are premium Toyota cars with lavish comfort, excellent reliability, economy and safety.

The Subaru Impreza or Forester are a good go to car for practicality.  Maybe you have a dog or need comfort and AWD traction.  Their efficiency, safety and reliability have always been good.

Volvo’s new S60, XC60 or XC40 are sensationally comfortable, safe and lovely to drive.

Volvo XC40

Mercedes Benz B-Class range are a great package for comfort and practicality.  The style is hard to beat, and they also have the amazing big infotainment screens that wowed the world.

Honda Civic or Accord cars are hugely efficient, reliable and comfortable cars.

Citroen C3, C3 Aircross or C5 Aircross are remarkably comfortable, practical and look cool.

Hyundai Kona has electric power and comfort leading the way, with practicality to boot.

Jaguar’s XE is a lovely car with everything an ‘oldie’ could wish for.

Jaguar XE

Renault has the Captur model range that provides classy SUV looks, outstanding comfort and safety, practicality and nice solid driving dynamics.

Skoda’s entire range of cars are comfortable, well-priced and spacious.  Superb models are very stylish and they come in sedan and wagon.  There is a model for everyone.

Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail variants are very comfortable, safe and practical; they also offer one of the better SUVs in AWD form with decent go anywhere ability.

Nissan X-Trail

Kleva Kluger Is A Hefty Hybrid.

Toyota’s near twenty year old Kluger nameplate is joining the Toyota family of Hybrids. The big petrol powered machine, which has never had a diesel option, weighs in at a hefty two thousand kilos (dry) in its forthcoming Hybrid form. It will become the eighth Hybrid for the Japanese company.

The Kluger will come in 2WD or AWD petrol, or AWD Hybrid, and the Hybrid has the Toyota 2.5L petrol, whilst the Kluger stays with the familiar 3.5L V6 capacity in a new engine block. There willbe three trims levels, with the GX 2WD petrol starting from $47,650, the GXL 2WD petrol from $56,850, and Grande 2WD petrol from $68,900. Move to AWD and pricing runs at: GX AWD petrol from $51,650,
GXL AWD petrol from $60,850, and Grande AWD petrol from $72,900. The Hybrid range starts from $54,150 for the GX AWD hybrid, $63,350 for the GXL AWD hybrid, and $75,400 for the Grande AWD hybrid. Premium paint is a $675 option, with the Grande offering a rear seat entertainment system at $1,500.Sean Hanley, the Toyota Australia Vice President Sales and Marketing, said the addition of a hybrid option to one of Australia’s favourite family SUVs demonstrated Toyota’s commitment to driving sustainability forward. “The popularity of SUVs continues to grow and the new Kluger hybrid models mean that families can have all the space, comfort, refinement and versatility of a large SUV with a low environmental impact. In addition to that, the stylish new look, improved safety and high level of advanced technology makes the Kluger the perfect SUV for the modern family.Power comes from the 2.5L four and a pair of electric motors up front, backed by a single rear mounted engine. Toyota says the Hybrid’s combined power is 184kW, with the petrol engine contributing 142kW itself. Torque isn’t quoted for the Hybrid, however 242Nm is the 2.5L petrol engine’s figure and emissions of 128g/km. Jump to the 3.5L and 218kW is backed by 350Nm with drive being passed through a new eight speed auto.

The Hybrid has an electronic continuously variable transmission (e-CVT). The e-Four AWD system allows up to 100 per cent of drive to be sent through the front wheels or up to 80 per cent through the rear, depending on the conditions being driven in. This Dynamic Torque Control AWD system, which effectively disconnects the rear diff when AWD isn’t required, will be available in the GX and GXL. The Grande also receives a torque vectoring system, splitting torque to left or right as required. There will be three driving modes too, with Eco, Normal, and Sport offering a breadth of choice. Also included in the AWD models is a terrain adjustable program for Rock and Dirt, Mud and Sand soft-roading.Underneath the wheelhouse, the new Kluger is built on an updated chassis, called Toyota New Global Architecture or TNGA platform. The wheelbase is increased by 60mm longer wheelbase as is the overall length. It’s also somewhat broader than the current 2021 model for more interior room and stability on road. The suspension has been redesigned with multilink front and rear setups, with better overall ride quality, better handling, and better behaviour under braking conditions. Bigger discs at 340mm front and 338mm add their presence.

An exterior revamp sees a lessening of the heavily squared-jaw look, with slim LED headlights and taillights, with the front fenders rolling inwards slightly at the top for a visual weight reduction. There is a new line for the rear wheel arches, with a sinuous curve rolling up from the doors that reminds of the current IndyCar rear structure. Wheels themselves will be 18 inch alloys on the GX and GXL, and bespoke Chromtec 20 inch alloys for the Grande.The increase in space means increased comfort and Toyota adds in sliding and 60/40 split centre row seats, with the seven seater having 60/40 split fold also. Trim material finish has gone up a grade with soft touch dash materials, a higher quality cloth trim in the GX, and faux leather for the GXL. That grade also has gained heated front pews. GX and GXL have an 8.0 inch touchscreen, Android and Apple compatibility with DAB and Bluetooth, plus satnav for the GXL along with tri-zone climate control. Grande adds in a sunroof, HUD, and an 11 speaker audio system from JBL.

GX has dual zone, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers as standard. Five USB ports make for family friendly smart usage. The increased wheelbase adds up to increase the cargo and third row space as well. Also upped is safety, with Toyota’s Safety Sense gaining traffic sign recognition, intersection turn assist, and emergency steering assist across the three, backing up the already substantial safety package.

The current expected release date for Australia is June.

Overseas model shown, courtesy of Toyota

Australian Car Sales Continue The Upwards Swing.

VFACTS and the FCAI have released the sales figures for March of 2021 and it’s good news. March 2021 saw 100,005 units moved, an increase of 18,315 over March of 2020. In a year to date sales sense it’s 263,648, up from 233,361 for the same time last year.

SUV sales were up 32 per cent and Light Commercial vehicles were up by 28 per cent. Eight of the top ten selling vehicles for the month were SUVs or Light Commercials, driven by increasing demand from the Private buyers.

Category wise, the passenger segment went down from 21,783 to 21,360. The SUV figures were 51,705 compared to 39,162 in March 2020. LCVs were 23,255, up from 18,165 in March 2020.

In the Passenger car segment Hybrids saw a slight increase, with 2,658, up from 2,441 in March 2020. Hybrid SUVs also saw an increase, with 2,190 in March 2020 up to 3,890 this year. PHEV SUVs doubled from 119 to 258.

For the Light Cars (under $25K), MG’s MG3 took the crown, with 1,238, an increase of over 30%. Third place was a real battle with Suzuki Swift (471), Kia Rio (452), and Suzuki Baleno (432) making a good sales fight, whilst in between was the Toyota Yaris on 636.

Small Cars (under $40K) and Toyota’s Corolla was under pressure from Hyundai’s i30. The Corolla moved 2,892 against 2,514. Third was tight with the Mazda3 just pipping the Kia Cerato, with 1,577 to 1,453. In the plus $40K range it was a battle between the German duo of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The A-Class stole first on 358, just nudging the 1 Series on 340. The 2 Series Gran Coupe took third on 222.

For the Medium segment it was the Toyota Camry out in front in both the under and over $60K bracket. 852 units moved, ahead of the BMW 3 Series on 567, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class on 364. Camry, though, was down substantially from 2020, with 1,332 last year.

Kia’s Stinger continued to win the Large Sedan, with 173, down by just two from last year. Porsche’s new Taycan, a fully Electric Vehicle, entered with 161, six ahead of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Kia also outclassed the competition in the People Mover segment, with the Carnival reaching 616, up from 475 in March 2020. Honda’s Odyssey consolidates second with 162, up from 130.

Volkswagen snared third with its new Multivan for 121. In the over $60K segment it was Mercedes, Mercedes, and Toyota, with the V-Class (42), Valente (24) and Granvia (22), duking it out.

There’s been a change in the Sports car segment though. Ford’s Mustang still sold the most with 130 in the under $80K segment, however was outsold by the Mercedes-Benz in the over $80K by the C-Class Coupe and Convertible on 139. The 4 Series from BMW snared 110 for third in both segments.

Moving into the SUV segment and in the Light SUV category Mazda’s CX3 pummeled the opposition in the sub-$40K bracket with 1,744. Toyota’s Yaris Cross slid quickly into second on 846. For third it was another tight battle with Volkswagen’s T-Cross (655) edging out the Hyundai venue and Kia’s new Stonic on 636 and 624.

For the under $40K Small SUVs the Chinese made MG ZS stole the show on 1,510. Hyundai’s recently revamped Kona saw 1,462, just ahead of the Mazda CX-30 on 1,225. Nissan’s Qashqai was the only other entrant into the 1,000 club, squeaking in on 1,003.

Above $40K and Audi’s Q3 found 852 homes, ahead of the Volvo CX40 with 416. 279 and 249 went to Germany, with the X1 from BMW and GLA-Class from Mercedes. Mazda’s CX-5 gave the RAV4 a shake in the Medium sub-$60K, with Toyota selling 3,522 over the Mazda’s 3,022. Nissan’s X-Trail performed solidly for 1,932, just ahead of Subaru’s Forester with 1,439. Mitsubishi’s Outlander 1,085, just ahead of Honda’s CR-V on 972.

In the plus $60K bracket, only Mercedes cracked the 600 mark on 607 for the GLB. The GLC-Class wagon was a distant second with 374, with Audi Q5 on 336. The Lexus NX and BMW X5 went nose to nose on 295 and 291.

In the Large SUVs and under $70K it was Subaru’s outgoing and incoming Outback with 1,341, ahead of the 1,211 for Toyota’s Prado. 1,179 is the number for the Isuzu M-UX. Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport sold 886, whilst their ancient Pajero, due to be cancelled at the end of the year, sold 292.

Over $70K and it was the X5 on 309. Behind it was some close infighting with the Lexus RX (185), Range Rover Sport (181), and GLE-Class wagon (176) providing stiff competition for each other. Above that it’s a two horse race in the Upper large under $100K, with the LandCruiser and Patrol on 2,244 and 305, selling nearly eight times as many than the full field in the over $100K bracket.

In the ute segment, the 4×4 pickup and cab-chassis bracket had HiLux on 4,068 ahead of Ford Ranger with 3,710, continuing the Japanese brand’s number one position. Mitsubishi’s 4×4 Triton moved 2,223 for third. Isuzu’s D-Max was fourth on 1,338, ahead of the Mazda BT-50 and sibling under the skin, on 1,177.

Notable in those figures is the rise of the sharply priced Chinese built MG range, and the continued growth of non-PHEV Hybrids. Overall for March 2021, Toyota sold 21,319, with Mazda on 10,785. They were the only two brands to see double-digits for the month. Hyundai continues to outpace its Korean sibling, with 6,852 over 5,802. Mitsubishi moved 6,430 whilst Nissan sold 4,559, under the 5,977 of Ford. MG? 3,303 and ahead of Honda.

2021 Convertibles with Reasonable Prices

Abarth 595 Convertible

Very cute and not too expensive, the Abarth 595 Convertible has stacks of style and plenty of road presence even though it happens to come in rather small packaging.  The Competizione is the more expensive (around $36k) of the two models available but offers more features and more grunt.  You have FWD and the weight of the car is only a little over 1000 kg, so the driving experience is dynamic and loads of fun.  The 1.4-litre Turbo unleaded petrol engine offers 132 kW and 250 Nm in the Competizione (0-100 km/h in less than 7 seconds, top speed 220k m/h) and 107 kW and 206 Nm in the standard version.  Fuel economy sits on average at around 6-to-6.5 litres/100 km.  With a 3-year 150,000 km warranty and 3 years roadside assist you are well covered.  Expect to pay from around $35k for the base model and $41 k for the Competizione.

Audi A5 40 TFSI S line

It costs around $96k new, but Audi’s A5 Convertible is top quality and superb to drive.  Gorgeous interiors, excellent comfort and technology make this AWD Audi Convertible a very nice ownership prospect.  There are two 2.0-litre petrol engines: A very economical mild-hybrid (6.5 litres/100 km) 140 kW/320 Nm version for those who like FWD (0-100 km/h in around 7 seconds), and a smooth and powerful 183 kW/370 Nm version with AWD (0-100 km/h in around 6.5 seconds).  Both engines are linked to Audi’s efficient seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox.  To be honest, the AWD version is only a few grand more at a bit over $100k, so I’d be looking to get into this one.  Both versions should return between 6 and 7 litres/100km.  A 3 year unlimited km warranty is good, as too the 3 year roadside assist package.

Audi S5 Convertible

Like the Audi A5 convertibles above, the S5 has all the goodies, gorgeous lines and comfortable interiors with all the modern gadgets.  The S5 has the awesome 3.0-litre turbo V6 Petrol delivering a potent 260 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque to the AWD system, and it uses an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission.  You can scamper from a standstill to 100 km/h in around 5 seconds, while the top speed is limited to 250 km/h.  A 3 year unlimited km warranty is good, as too the 3 year roadside assist package.  Expect to pay around $135k for a new one of these.

BMW 2 Series Convertible

The BMW 220i Luxury Line and 220i M Sport convertibles use the same 2.0-litre Turbo powerplant with 135 kW of power and 270 Nm of torque.  The eight speed sport automatic does a great job of providing quick gear changes while linking the smooth operative action to the optimum power levels.  This engine should offer a combined fuel consumption of around 6.5 litres/100 km.  The car rides nicely.  Those wanting the best in comfort and equipment will go for the Luxury Line, while the M Sport concentrates the suspension more towards sport and the flavour a bit racier.  BMW The 220i M Sport uses the performance 3.0-litre Turbo engine with 250 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque.  This is a quick car and you can expect a run through the 0-100 dash to take less than 6 seconds.  The car’s top speed is limited to 250 km/h, while average fuel consumption will be around 8 litres/100 km.  All BMW 2 Series convertibles are RWD and offer premium quality interiors and technology.  Prices start at around $65k for the Luxury Line, $68k for the M Sport 2.0-litre and $92k for the 3.0-litre M Sport.

BMW 4 Series Convertible

This is one of the prettiest convertibles available for 2021.  The new BMW 4 Series Convertible is offered with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder producing either 135 kW/300 Nm (420i, around $90k) or 190 kW/400 Nm (430i, around $108k); while the flagship M440i xDrive AWD (around $136k) variant uses a mild-hybrid 3.0-litre inline turbo-six that unleashes 285 kW/500 Nm and is capable of reaching 100km/h in 4.5 seconds. A 3 year unlimited km warranty along with 3 year roadside assist makes life easy.  All are well equipped, comfortable and stylish cars.

BMW Z4 Convertible

Another gorgeous looking convertible is the latest Z4 two-seater Convertible Roadster, which has a lower centre of gravity than before and is further helped dynamically by a 50-50 weight distribution. Three engines are available: The BMW Z4 sDrive 20i M Sport has the 145 kW/320 Nm 2.0-litre; the BMW Z4 sDrive 30i M Sport uses the 190 kW/400 Nm upgraded 2.0-litre version; the BMW Z4 40i offers 250 kW and 500 Nm with its 3.0-litre turbo in-line six petrol.  Prices are around $98k, $122k and $144k, respectively.  Even the 145 kW engine sings sweetly and packs a punch.  All handle beautifully, making this the best Z4, yet.  This has to be one of the best looking Roadsters on the road, and they are delightful to drive.  The Z4 40i can dispatch the 0-100 km/h dash in just 4 seconds.  A 3 year unlimited km warranty along with 3 year roadside assist is available to new car buyers.

Fiat 500C

For somewhere between $25k and 28k, you could get yourself into a brand new Fiat 500 Convertible.  They boast a 5-star ANCAP safety rating for what is a very cute, small car.  In case you weren’t aware, the Abarth models, mentioned above, are the performance based versions of the Fiat 500C.  You should average even less than 5 litres/100 km at times, and the 1.2-litre ULP motors are free revving, fun and relatively refined.  Weighing in at just 935 kg these have a bit of zip about town and will happily hold their own at the legal open road limit.  Both the 500C Club and 500C Lounge are well kitted out with modern technology and practicality, so life with a small 500C brings plenty of smiles. A 3 year 150,000 km warranty and 3 year roadside assist is good piece of mind motoring.

Mustang Convertible

Here would be the coolest convertible on the market.  The Mustang’s muscle, sound and power delivery is nothing short of amazing.  The GT version (0-100 km/h in around 4.5 seconds) costs around $75k new and boasts a 339 kW/556 Nm 5.0-litre V8.  It can be had with either the standard six-speed manual, or the optional 10-speed auto gearbox.  For around $61k, the Mustang High Performance 2.3-litre four-cylinder still delivers on performance (0-100 km/h in around 5.5 seconds) and has 236 kW of power and 448 Nm of torque to play with.  Manual and auto versions are also available for the 2.3 High Performance.  Both versions are RWD and are immensely rewarding to drive with the top up or down.  These are hard to beat for value, performance and road presence.  You can’t argue with the 5 year/unlimited km warranty, either.

Lotus Elise

Here is another very cool convertible.  The strikingly stylish Lotus Elise Convertible offers two models for 2021.  The Sport 220 offers a 1.8 litre, 162 kW, 250 Nm ULP engine with RWD and a six-speed manual gearbox. A 0-100 km/h sprint for this version takes around 4.9 seconds.  The Lotus Elise Cup 250 offers a 1.8 litre, 183 kW, 250 Nm ULP engine with RWD and a six-speed manual gearbox. A 0-100 km/h sprint for this version takes around 4.7 seconds.  Few other convertibles cars can keep up with a Lotus Elise around a tight track as they are so light, agile and fast.  A 3 year unlimited km warranty links with a 3 year roadside assist package when you buy a new one of these, which will be a little north of $100k.

Mazda MX-5

There are two engines available: The 97 kW/152 Nm 1.5-litre and the 135 kW/205 Nm 2.0-litre, both offering the choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission and RWD.  A limited-slip differential and a finely-tuned suspension ensure a superbly balanced and grippy chassis with plenty of fun in the sun a certainty.  Expect to pay between $40 and $52k depending on the model and trim.  Enjoy!  This has become a roadster icon over the years, and the latest model looks sharp and is kitted with all the latest safety gear.

Mini Convertible

You’re paying anywhere around $50k-and-$75k for a new Mini Convertible – it all depends on the model.  They can be had with various engines and styles.  Three-door models include the base 100 kW/220 Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder Cooper, the 141 kW/280 Nm four-cylinder Cooper S, and the mighty 225 kW/450 Nm JCW.  Always cool and always impressively well-built, Mini’s are a classic.  JCW versions are insanely fast and capable, and all come with 3 year/unlimited km warranty and a 3 year roadside assist package.

You could also look at some other marques like Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes Benz or Lexus when it comes to buying a new convertible but you’ll be paying well north of $100, $200k or even $300k for some of these.  Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Rolls Royce also offer convertible options in Australia, however their prices are for those loaded with money.

Honda’s Fixed Prices Set to Cause a Stir

After a long time coming, Honda is almost ready to pull the trigger on its plans to move towards an agency model in the Australian new car market from July. For a long time, the brand’s future was subject to speculation as some wondered whether it might follow in the footsteps of Holden and exit the local car market.

Nonetheless, despite its commitment to Australian motorists, not everyone is particularly pleased about how things are about to unfold. Let’s take a look at some of the changes that motorists can expect when the new model comes into effect from mid-year.

 

 

What can new car buyers expect?

As of July 1st, 2021, Honda is slashing dealership numbers and adopting an agency model. To many, this may not mean anything, however, for the dealers involved, the first thing is an expected hit to jobs, particularly given the lower number of showrooms and staffing requirements that ensue.

When you enter a showroom from July 1, you will be dealing with an agent of the Honda company’s head office. So whereas showrooms and dealerships were often operated by separate groups, now you’ll effectively be liaising directly with the parent company, although stock will be held by Honda Australia. Dealer agents will no longer be commission-based, rather, they will earn a fee from the parent company.

Because of these changes, however, prices are set to be fixed. That’s right, you heard it correctly. The days of haggling in a Honda showroom are set to be over, with the brand’s representatives recently even going so far as to say that negotiating the price of a Honda vehicle would no longer be a thing under any circumstances whatsoever.

If that wasn’t enough, new car buyers are also staring at reduced choice when it comes to the number of models available from Honda. The brand has cut its entry-level numbers and is prioritising SUVs, which is in line with the trend favouring SUVs of late.

What is the impact of this move?

Aside from the obvious, higher prices and less choice, the story isn’t over for new car buyers. There is also going to be more restricted levels of accessibility when it comes to servicing your Honda, which comes from the fact that a large number of Honda dealerships are set to fall by the wayside.

For Honda, naturally, its margins are expected to increase – and we’re tipping, quite handsomely. However, the brand has also gone on record to say that it not only expects but is ultimately pleased about the prospect that it will sell fewer vehicles across the Australian new car market.

A long-time favourite down under, and with many great names behind it over the years, it’s a shame that motorists now face an outcome where their choice, negotiating power and after-market support are set to be constrained.

FCAI Sees Tunnel’s Light As Sales Increase

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the FCAI, has released the new vehicle sales figures for February 2021. 83,977 vehicles were sold in February 2021, which is up 5.1 per cent on February 2020. Sales for that month saw 79,940 vehicles sold.

This positive result was reflected in the increases seen for N.S.W., W.A., S.A., QLD, and the N.T. Victoria was down by 8.7%, Tasmania by 3.9%, and the ACT by 38.3% compared to February 2020. Year to date sales of 163,643 vehicles is up 7.9 per cent on the same period in 2020.

SUV sales continued to dominate the market with sales of 42,651 vehicles and representing 50.8 per cent of the total market for February 2021. Light commercial vehicle sales represented 23 per cent (19,326) and passenger vehicles 22.9% (19,194).

On a marque basis, Toyota had a 21.9% market share, Mazda 9.9%, Hyundai 7.4%, equal with Mitsubishi and just ahead of Kia, and Ford on 7.0%, and 5.6%. Nissan clocked 4.6% with fellow Japanese maker Subaru on 3.1%. VW had 3.6 whilst Chinese owned and built MG also saw 3.6%.February sales saw a continued shift in preference by buyers to move away from passenger vehicles. Sales fell 15.3% in February 2021 compared to sales in February 2020. Sales of SUVs were up 8.6 per cent and sales of light commercials were up 24.3 per cent. Hybrid SUVs continue their inexorable climb, with 2,713 sold in February 2021, against 2,546 for the same period last year, and 5,456 from January 1st compared to 4,018 last year. PHEV sales were also up, with 149 and 275 against 92 and 149 on a month and year to date basis.

Toyota’s RAV4 lead the way in the category, with 2,750 against the Mazda CX-5’s 2,048. It was a scrap for third place with Mitsubishi’s Outlander (1,178), Nissan’s X-Trail (1,151), Hyundai’s Tucson (1,062) and Subaru’s Forester (1,009) duking it out. In the large SUV category and at sub-$70K, Toyota’s Prado won comprehensively with 1,407. Isuzu’s MU-X saw 745 sales for 2nd place, edging the outgoing Subaru Outback on 608.FCAI chief executive, Tony Weber, said the result showed that confidence was continuing to grow in the market. “During the past four months we have seen an increase of 10.6% in new vehicles and this has been reflected with strong growth in NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory in February 2021. The sales reduction in Victoria can be attributed to the COVID 19 restrictions that were put in place during the month.“We remain confident that this trend of growth will continue in an environment where business operating conditions continue to normalise.”

Toyota was the leading brand in February with sales of 18,375 vehicles (21.9 per cent of the market), followed by Mazda with 8,322 (9.9 per cent), Hyundai with 6,252 (7.4 per cent), Mitsubishi with 6,202 (7.4 per cent) and Kia with 5,871 (7 per cent).

The Toyota Hilux was the best-selling vehicle in February 2021 with sales of 4,808 vehicles, followed by the Ford Ranger (2,900), the Toyota RAV4 (2,750), the Toyota Landcruiser (2,521) and the Toyota Corolla (2,427).

Kia’s revamped Carnival continued to dominate the People Mover sub-$60K segment, with 606 sales for a massive 62.5% market share, with Honda’s Odyssey on just 127. Mercedes-Benz listed 28 in the plus-$60K market for the V-Class.Purely electric passenger vehicles have seen a mild increase, with 119 for February 2021 against 86 for the same time in 2020. It’s the same on a YTD basis with 197 to 165 for 2020. For the electric SUV segment, it was a better result, with 139 to 60 for a month comparison, and 352 to 97 on a YTD basis.Key Points:
• The February 2021 market of 83,977 new vehicle sales is an increase of 4,037 vehicle sales or 5.1% on February 2020 (79,940) vehicle sales. February 2020 and February 2021 each had 24 selling days and this resulted in an increase of 168.2 vehicle sales per day.
• The Passenger Vehicle Market is down by 3,466 vehicle sales (-15.3%) over the same month last year; the Sports Utility Market is up by 3,378 vehicle sales
(8.6%); the Light Commercial Market is up by 3,784 vehicle sales (24.3%); and the Heavy Commercial Vehicle Market is up by 341 vehicle sales (13.8%) versus
February 2020.
• Toyota was market leader in February, followed by Mazda and Hyundai. Toyota led Mazda with a margin of 10,053 vehicle sales and 12.0 market share points.

(Information courtesy of FCAI)

January 2021 Sales Figures Show Upwards Swing

Australia’s Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has released the sales figures for January of 2021. A total of 79,666 vehicles were sold in January 2021 which is up by 11.1 per cent on January 2020. 71,731 vehicles were sold in that month. Every state and territory saw an increase, and following on from December 2020, with the Northern Territory seeing the highest increase of 38.7% to just 1.9% in Victoria. Private buyers contributed by having an increase of 25.4%. Business buyers decreased, but by only 1.3% whilst government and rental sales dropped by 11.2% and 12.4%.

Of note was that Holden as a brand registered zero sales.

The private sales had the passenger vehicle category down by 9.3% compared to January 2020, with SUVs rising by 17.4%. Light Commercial Vehicles jumped by 24.6%. Toyota lead the way in January 2021 with 16,819 vehicles (21.1%) with HiLux 3,913 of those. Mazda was 2nd overall on 8,508 with 10.7% market share. Hyundai saw 5,951 new vehicles sold for a 7.5% share and Kia on 5,500 units for 6.9%. Mitsubishi backed up with 5,179 units and took a market share of 6.5%.Ford’s Ranger was the 2nd highest seller behind the HiLux, moving 3,120 units, just ahead of the RAV4 with 3,066 whilst the LandCruiser sold 2,388 units. Mazda’s CX-5 had 2,081 units find new homes.

The FCAI chief executive, Tony Weber, said: “During the past three months sales had increased by 12.4 per cent compared to the corresponding period twelve months earlier. The January sales numbers are indicative of positive consumer confidence in the domestic economy. With attractive interest rates and a range of other economic indicators encouraging consumption, we hope to see this trend in new vehicle purchasing continue through 2021.”

Toyota was the leading brand in January with sales of 16,819 vehicles (21.1 per cent of the market), followed by Mazda with 8,508 (10.7 per cent), Hyundai with 5,951 (7.5 per cent), Kia with 5,500 (6.9 per cent) and Mitsubishi with 5,179 (6.5 per cent).

The Toyota Hilux was the best-selling vehicle in January 2021 with sales of 3,913 vehicles, followed by the Ford Ranger (3,120), the Toyota RAV4 (3,066), the Toyota Landcruiser (2,388) and the Mazda CX5 (2,081).

In the Micro Car segment, the Kia Picanto continued to dominate in a three car field. The Fiat Abarth and Mitsubishi Mirage are the other two, and sold 49 and 56 respectively, way off the 573 of the Picanto.In the light car category, Chinese owned MG scored gold with 859, outclassing the Suzuki Swift (562), Volkswagen Polo (526) and the Toyota Yaris (486). Moving to the Small Cars, and Toyota’s Corolla moved 2,062, Just clearing the revamped Hyundai i30 on 1,952. 3rd was a tight tussle, with the Kia Cerato emerging as the winner over the Mazda3, on 1,545 to 1,501.

Medium cars and sub-$60K, and Toyota’s big Camry blew the opposition away on 815. Subaru’s Liberty was 2nd on 183. Skoda and there Octavia took bronze on 153, ahead comfortably of the Mazda6 with 114.

Large cars and there’s really only one contender now, Kia’s Stinger on 147, 99 units ahead of the Skoda Superb.

People movers and Kia’s Carnival moved 442, thumping the Hyundai iMax and Honda Odyysey, both on 67. Moving into Sports Cars and the Mustang said hello to 361 new homes, well ahead of Mazda’s MX5 and Hyundai’s soon to be discontinued Veloster, on 53 and 45.

For the Light SUVs sector, Mazda’s CX-3 absolutely dominated with 1,344. Toyota’s new SUV based on the Yaris, the Yaris Cross, moved an impressive 541, just edging out the slightly older VW T-Cros on 494.

In the Small SUV sector, another close battle here and it was 25 units separating the Mitsubishi ASX (1,278) to the MG ZS (1,253). Hyundai’s run-out Kona was the only other to crack the 1,000 with 1,091. It’s been updated and available for sale from February.

RAV4 and Mazda CX-5 duked it out for the Medium SUV segment, with 3,066 to 2,081. 4rd was Nissan’s X-Trail on 1,593, clear of Hyundai’s Tucson on 1,206. Go large and it was Toyota’s Prado on 1,259, ahead of Kia’s recently updated Sorento on 745. Mazda’s in-betweener, the CX-8, saw 571, tying with Hyundai’s Santa Fe. In the upper large, Toyota’s LandCruiser outclassed its opponent, Nissan’s Patrol, with 1,499 to 241.

Inside the ute/pick-up segment, the HiLux in both 4×2 and 4×4 continued its dominance. In two wheel drive guise it more than doubled the Isuzu D-Max, with 823 to 406. Ford’s Ranger was 3rd on 318. In the 4WD sector it was 3,090 to Ranger’s 2,802. In 3rd was Mitsubishi’s Triton, edging the D-Max on 1,416.

Petrol is still the clear winner in preferred fuels, with just 32 PHEVs, 78 EVs, and 1,915 Hybrids moving in the Passenger segment. In the SUVs, 30,062 petrols moved in comparison to diesel with 7,811, PHEV on 126, EV on 213, and Hybrids at 3,332.

On a country of manufacturing basis, Japan was the leader at 29,275, with Korea on 11,516. Thailand and their ute/pickup manufacturing shone at 16,903, and Chinese made vehicles rose to 4,198. This puts the brands sold from Chinese manufacturing into 4th overall.