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Women and Their New Car

According to recent Forbes research, 62% of new car buyers in America are women.  They also suggest that 85% of new car buys are influenced by women.  Australia can’t be too far behind these stats, either.  But when it comes to spending habits, men and women are still vastly different, with very different priorities for their money.  Research shows that men are more likely to splash out and buy big, whereas women focus more on lifestyle which also means being comfortable with spending money on a new car without the guilt.  These spending habits and goal orientations do also align with what sort of cars women and men generally buy.

Think about this for an example.  Just over 90% of those purchasing a Ferrari are men.  Men tend to love big, fast cars more and are image conscious, like to focus on style and are more likely to be turned on by a car’s technology.  On the other hand, generally speaking, most women tend to be more concerned with how reliable and safe their new car will be, the car’s style and colour, and whether it will fit her needs.

A few years ago Autogenie did a bit of research from a random sampling of around 6000 brand new vehicles that were purchased back in 2013, and it was consistently divided between male and female buyers.  The study noted that women bought small cars and SUVs, while men preferred to buy sedans and ute’s.  Interestingly, the most popular vehicles that were purchased by male buyers were the Ford Mondeo, the Ford Ranger ute and the Toyota Hilux ute.  Women new car buyers preferred buying the Mazda6, Toyota Kluger SUV and Holden Barina city car.

Mazda3 a Winner With Women

The study also revealed that both male and female new car buyers liked the Mazda3.  Both the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Golf made it to the best five most accepted models that men and women liked equally.  Among the male buyers, the larger Holden Commodore was well-accepted, finishing as the 4th most wanted model.  On the other hand, female customers preferred to buy smaller cars, and these were the Mazda3, Hyundai i30 and VW Golf.

But let’s, for moment, take the gender comparison out of what drives a buyer to buy a particular type of new car, and we find that everyone has different priorities for purchasing a new car.  The car’s fuel economy, purchase price, looks, interior space, and the number of luxury items and gadgets will all be factors which will tip the scales toward buying one new car from the other.

The ways people are buying new cars are also changing.  A lot more people now use online reviews and online guidelines to get an idea about vehicles they would, or might like to, buy.  Particularly women are turning to their social networks — both online and offline — for vehicle recommendations, according to Cars.com research.  Women like to turn to their friends and family for recommendations of what new car to buy because they don’t have a specific car in mind that they want to get.

Hatch, Sedan or SUV?

Women are looking for a vehicle that will fit their lifestyle, so they will need something for hauling their big dogs to the beach or something for traveling safely on back roads or something that’ll make the city traffic and tight spaces less stressful.  Women focus on safety, reliability and comfort. They’re also less brand loyal than male new car buyers.  These findings have been backed up by J.D. Power research.  Men will be more common to place performance and style on their car want list, as well as the latest technology like panoramic moonroofs and multimedia systems.

Buying a new car is always exciting.  During August, in Australia, the top-selling cars (in order from most bought to least) were:  Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30, Toyota RAV4, Mazda3, Toyota LandCruiser, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Triton and the Nissan X-Trail.  I wonder which ones were bought most by women?

5 Ways Car Makers Reduce Price Competition

It’s a murky world the Australian automotive industry. Always has been and probably always will be.  When big, emotional purchases are on the table and there’s a complicated system of sales distribution, it’s always going to be difficult for the consumer to work out what’s a good deal.

The ‘problem’ is you can only buy a new car from an official new car dealership, licensed by the manufacturer.  Unlike almost any other product there aren’t new car resellers, independent distributors or outlets.  The actual purchase must always take place at a dealership and that dealership must be bound by conditions and obligations bound by the carmaker.  This means the manufacturer is in a unique position to influence the sales process and therefore the competition.

Of late there’s been significant interest from the ACCC and the government into what this means for the consumer in terms of pricing competition and transparency and also for the long-suffering dealerships.

 

In June, the ACCC announced they were examining the competition risk from the merger of the two biggest new car dealer groups in Australia

“The ACCC’s preliminary view is that the proposed acquisition is unlikely to substantially lessen competition for the supply of new cars in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane or nationally”

 

In August, the Morrison government announced a reform entitled ‘Delivering a fair and competitive car retailing sector’

“We have heard the concerns of those within the sector and are committed to creating a level playing field. It’s about ensuring everyone gets a fair go, including our small and family car dealers,”

 

This is squarely addressing the influence that car manufacturers have on the new car marketplace in particular with respect to their franchise agreements.

Private Fleet, having relationship with over 1,000 new car dealers, is uniquely placed to have recognised and worked through many of these issues over the last 20 years.  Here are 6 ways the car makers restrict competition:

 

1) Don’t Advertise Discounted Prices

Most independent businesses are unrestricted when it comes to what price to set for their products and services.  After all, it’s their profit margin so makes sense that they can vary their pricing structure to suit their needs.  Not so with new cars.  If a dealer advertises a new car at below RRP (or current national driveaway special), they will risk the wrath of the car manufacturers and likely be instructed to take the ad down

2) Don’t Advertise In Other Territories

Car makers allocate each dealer a ‘PMA’ or Primary Marketing Area.  If dealers advertise outside of these defined boundaries then, again, they’ll get a tap on the shoulder from the manufacturer.

3) Discourage Working With Brokers or Car Buying Services

Hits close to the bone this one.  But for almost all of our 20 years OEMs have put pressure on dealers to only sell directly and not through intermediaries who aren’t contracted to the sales and pricing conditions as the dealers themselves.  Thankfully, although dealers would never dare to publicly challenge this, in practice they have a business to run and overheads to meet so this ‘advice’ is generally ignored.  Here’s an extract from one of Toyota’s many dealer communications on the subject.

“Toyota is aware that new vehicle brokers and buyers agents may be acting as intermediaries between customers and Toyota Dealers.  This practise is of concern to Toyota.  Toyota strongly believes that Toyota Dealers are best placed to fully service the needs of Toyota customers.”

4) You Can’t Sell Brand-X if You Sell Our Brand

More and more there are multi-franchised dealers across Australia.  This makes sense especially for consumers as it makes it easier to compare models & prices in one spot.  However certain manufacturers will throw their weight around and threaten to rescind a franchise agreement if a dealer looks to take on a new ‘competing brand’.

5) No Trucking of Cars on Delivery

Dressed up as being the optimal delivery process, certain manufacturers (particularly prestige brands) insist on a personal handover between dealer and car buyer at the time of delivery.  But in practise this limits the scope of where a buyer can buy from unless they are prepared to travel a huge distance to compare options.  Consider Lexus buyers in Perth – there’s one dealer in WA.  Interstate dealers are prohibited from trucking cars across the country so where’s the competition there?

6) You Must Spend $$$ to Promote our Brand

Once a dealership is ‘granted’ a franchise, along with the agreement is a heavy obligation towards supporting the manufacturer’s brand even over the actual dealerships brand.  Want to sell plenty of cars without the fancy dealership overheads?  Nope, sell our cars and you’ve got to spend X million on an ultra-fancy forecourt to help fly the flag.  No efficient volume sales channels here please.

 

Without exception all these restrictions lead to less pricing competition for the consumer.  But what about the poor old car dealer?  Yes, I’m serious!  The dealers have their pressures and obligations to meet, staff to pay and doors to keep open. If they were allowed to run like normal independent businesses, what impact would that have on prices?  What efficiencies would we see flowing through the whole current sales process?

NEXT: Import restrictions, dealer ‘holdback’, legal intimidation…

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Kia Picanto GT

This Car Review Is About: The 2019 Kia Picanto GT. It’s the pert and perky little five door hatch, with minor and tastefully styled body add-ons, an energetic powerplant, and a fun factor that’s off the scale. It’s a screaming bargain at just $17,990 driveaway.Under The Bonnet Is: A zippy and free spinning three cylinder petrol engine with a real warble when it’s spinning up. There are 74kW available at 4,500rpm, and a very useful 172Nm from 1,500rpm to 4,000rpm. Power heads to the front wheels via a five speed manual. Boost and bang for the milk-bottle sized engine comes from a turbocharger that adds plenty of sizzle. The dry weight of the Picanto GT is just 1,007kg, which means that the power and torque, plus the five speed, don’t need to work hard to provide the spark.

Tank size is just 35L for the standard unleaded fuel. Economy, says Kia, is 4.8L per 100km for the combined. In the urban cycle, its far more likely home, it’s 6.2L/100km. Get it onto the freeways and that drops to 4.0L/100km. We finished on 6.4L/100km on our mainly urban test cycle.On The Outside It’s: The same little block of Picanto that’s been available for a few years but now with extra grin. There are colour highlights from inserts outside and in, new wheels, front bar additions with driving lights and extra air intakes, whilst the rear gets the cool “neon” light look at night plus a twin exhaust and a diffuser style add-on. Nexen supplies the 195/45 N Blue Plus rubber to wrap the 16 inch eight spoke alloys. The review car came clad in Aurora Black, with the GT also having Clear White, Signal Red, and Titanium Silver.

On The Inside It’s: Comfortable and familiar, yet carries a bit more cachet. There are red leather highlights on the front seats, alloy pedals with rubber strips for extra foot grip, and red backlighting for the switchgear. There’s some brightwork on the tiller and piano black for the console stack. Seats are manually adjusted but with the not-quite-as user friendly levers rather than the dials which are MUCH more user friendly. Luggage space is 255L with the rear seats up, 1,055L with seats down. It’s JUST enough, if packed correctly, to carry a decent weekly family shop but if it’s a really decent shop, then the space behind the front seats will need to be used.Space itself is more than adequate for a couple, but go more than three then the Picanto’s 3,595mm length and 2,400mm wheelbase come into play. Thankfully the front seat room is enough for all but basketball players so pulled forward the rear leg room becomes tenable. Shoulder room is a bit cosy thanks to the 1,595mm and headroom is fine even with a 1,485mm height.Storage comes in the form of two cup holders in the centre console, bottle holders for the front doors, a coat hook and net hooks in the cargo area. Sounds are from a non-DAB equipped audio system but Bluetooth streaming is standard. Sound quality isn’t as good as it could be either, with depth and punch not on the same level as other systems found in Kias. Apple and Android apps are standard as well. That’s a good thing for those that use them as satnav is not standard.What About Safety?: Covered. Sort of…AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) with FCWS (Forward Collision Warning System) leads the party, backed up by a reverse camera and rear parking sensors. LED driving lights up front add visual safety and add to the visual presence and the headlights are Auto on. BUT, and it’s a big but, no Rear Cross Traffic Alert, no Blind Spot Alert, no Lane Keep Assist, no front sensors, hold back the Picanto GT in crucial areas.

On The Road It’s: An absolute bundle of fun. The engine is a cracker and the gearbox is well specced for cogs. The clutch is light and really could do with more feedback as to where the pedal is in travel and where the plates are in gripping. Once the driver has worked that out though, practice gets the pickup point and shifts to launch just right. However the spring loading for the gear selector is also light and a touch vague in where the lever goes. The gate is close so a slide from second to third feels like it’s in the same line, and there isn’t enough definition in the shifter’s movement to properly advise where the lever’s going.

ONCE everything is worked out, the little engine that could, does. It’s got a real warmth to the sound, yes, but the appeal is in how it pulls the Picanto GT , in how it allows tractability in gentle around town driving or getting serious on the freeway. It’s geared for easy going driving, but also some get up and go squirt as required. The turbo kicks in at just under 2,000 and on the freeway that gearing allows a push of the pedal to see the Picanto GT rocket forward. It’s accompanied by a thrum, a not unpleasant rumble from the three cylinder donk, which is muted when not being pressed.Off the line it’s easy to feel pressed back into the seat easily when driving in anger. There is some real urge in this tiny engine and it’s something a driver can exploit and enjoy. Bang the gear selector from first to second to third and the GT simply rolls on inexorably, seamless in its acceleration. Throw out the picks and the lightweight car slows quickly and confidently.And thanks to the slightly bigger footprint, and the grippier tyres, hard-arsed cornering can be exploited and enjoyed too. Under power the Picanto GT can be punted into turns that would see the speedo read 20, 30 km/h slower (depending on the corner’s radius and driving conditions) whilst taking advantage of the engine on boost.

Ride quality is good but not great. The rear end is prone to a little skipping around on the roads that have the expansion joints and the whole car will crash bang on missing road sections. It’s a suspension that is flat and taut but not supple enough to dial these out.

What About Warranty?:
There is Kia’s 7 years warranty as standard. That’s with unlimited kilometres. Roadside assist is for 12 months initially however if the Picanto GT is brought to Kia for servicing then that extends to 7 years coverage also. Servicing is capped price and for every 15,000 kilometres or annually, whichever occurs first.At The End Of The Drive. The Kia Picanto GT is an embodiment of the words “pocket rocket”. That 172Nm of torque is so useable in a small car, and somehow manages to stay engaging even when loaded with two adults, a ten year old, and shopping. It’s the gear selector and clutch that blunts the engine’s sharpness as these really could do with tightening up. Ride quality is also not quite en’ pointe as there’s a lack of the absorption needed in the upper end of the travel.

The lack of DAB isn’t crucial but FM sounded dull. If a GT designation is to indicate a top of the tree model, then add a top of the tree audio setup. Make up your own mind by going here.

 

Sales Are Down Again For The Aussie Market.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, or FCAI, has released the June 2019 vehicle sales figures for Australia’s once thriving market. What it reveals is a pointer to the rest of the economy, with sales down overall by 9.6 percent. Compared to the same time in 2018, it’s even more drastic, at 18.5 percent lower for the passenger car segment at 33,864 sales.

June 2019 saw 117,817 sales in total, with SUVs and Light Commercial vehicles down to 53,509 and 26,372 respectively. These two segments saw drops of 4.7 and 7.0 percent each. The market leader in June was Toyota with 21,200 sales, followed by Mazda on 10,806, Hyundai with 10,001, Mitsubishi at 8,891, and Kia with 7,200. However it’s good news for one particular brand, with four entries inside the top ten.

Toyota takes out the top of the ladder, with the HiLux moving 5,396 units, but still down on last year by 6.9%. Ford’s Ranger is position 2 and showed a slight increase of 1.7%, up to 4,871 units. Grid position 3 belongs to Hyundai’s i30 range with 3,340, down by 5.8%. Toyota’s evergreen Corolla went to 3137 unit’s and that’s the third biggest decrease in the top ten at 17.3%. Position five is Mazda’s CX-5, down by 7.2% to 2,911.

Kia’s new Cerato is the big mover, up by 14%, with 2,832 unit finding new homes for position 6. Position 7 was Mitsubishi’s Triton, and compared to June of 2018 it’s down by 31.2% but this is accounted for by the outgoing model being on runout some time ago. The Mazda3 goes into Position 8 with 2,533 units, but that’s down by 23.9% compared to June 2018. Toyota takes out positions 9 and 10 with the RAV4 and Landcruiser, with 2,449 and 2,360. Again, though, they’re down by 9.0 and 707% respectively.

In brand sales Toyota holds top spot ahead of Mazda and Hyundai. Mitsubishi heads Ford for 4th and 5th, whilst Kia, Volkswagen, Nissan, Honda, and Holden fill out the top ten. It’s worth noticing that some of the brands in the top ten overall don’t feature in the top ten vehicle types. Nor do some of the more supposedly popular brands such as Mercedes-Benz or BMW.

SUVs and Utes Globally Unstoppable

Toyota RAV4 SUV

This year is shaping up to be an exciting and interesting year for car sales in Australia.  Currently, the Toyota Hilux is selling well above even the second biggest seller: the Ford Ranger.  With over 4,500 sales in March, Toyota and there owners are loving life.  Ford Ranger during the same period sold 3721 units.  But take a look at this list and you’ll see that of the top ten models sold in Australia six of them are utes and SUVs.

  1. Toyota Hilux
  2. Ford Ranger
  3. Mitsubishi Triton
  4. Mazda3
  5. Toyota Corolla
  6. Mazda CX-5
  7. Hyundai i30
  8. Mitsubishi ASX
  9. Mitsubishi Outlander
  10. Kia Cerato

What about in the rest of the world?  Well, it continues to be true that more SUV and utes are being purchased than any other type of car in Australia and around the world.  In fact, the world’s most popular ute was not the Hilux but the Ford F-series (light truck).  Sorry Toyota lovers, but Ford takes you out globally!!  With well over 1 million F-series sold last year, that’s very impressive!  In New Zealand, Kiwis have a taste for the Ford Ranger more so than the Hilux, too.  But this isn’t about Ford being better than Toyota – just saying…

Ford F-Series

Now for redemption time for me, so as to get back on side with Toyota fans.  Last year the world’s most popular SUV was the Toyota RAV4.  It was also the most popular SUV in New Zealand.  Maybe all the rental car companies that love the robust and reliable nature of the RAV4 make up a big swag of those RAV4 global sales numbers.  The roads between Christchurch and Milford Sound are teeming with RAV4s!

So why do you think that the SUV and utes are growing so much in popularity here and around the world?  It could well be because a decade or so ago utes and SUVs were vehicles that had a bit of a hard nose to them, with a more practical bent to them.  Some utes were tremendously good at carrying loads but hideously uncomfortable to travel any longer distances with.  Today your SUV and ute still has huge practical merit but they are way more comfortable and sophisticated.  And who can argue with the SUVs ability to accommodate seven occupants?  It gets a bit difficult putting seven seats inside a stationwagon with room to spare; and just totally impossible trying to fit seven seats inside a sedan.

With these sort of stats rolling off car sales yards, one could easily say that SUVs and utes are very much taking over the world, and this regardless of rising fuel prices.

Car Review: 2019 Tesla Model X 100D

This Car Review Is About:
One of the two vehicles currently available from Tesla. The Model S and Model X are very closely related and come with a choice of drive combinations. A new model, a smaller car called Model 3 is scheduled for Australian release from July 2019. The vehicle tested is the non-P 100D. P for Performance, 100 for the kiloWatt hour drive, D for Dual motor (or, if you will, all wheel drive). The Model X can be specified with different seating configurations and the test vehicle was fitted out as a six seater. What About The Dollars?
Cost for the car tested started at $129,500. Metallic paint is $2,100, with the big black wheels $7,800. The seating colour scheme was $2,100 with the dash trim, a dark ash wood look, a standard no-cost fitment. It’s the electronic bits that add on, with the full self driving option and auto-pilot $7,100 and $4,300 each. With options fitted, Luxury Car Tax, and GST, plus charges such as government taxes, the car as tested came to $186,305.

Under The Bonnet Is:
Empty space. Yup, the Tesla Model X has a “frunk”, a front trunk, or in Aussie speak, a front boot. It’s big enough for a travel case of hiding the home charge cable that Tesla supplies. The engines for the 100D are located underneath at the front and rear, and engage via a single speed transmission. It’s this combination that gives the Tesla Model X startling acceleration, and in Ludicrous mode, a drive option available in the “P” designated cars, it’s quicker again. Call it three seconds to 100kph and you’d be on the money.On The Inside Is:
A choice of seating options. The test car came fitted with a white leather covered set of six seats. The three pairs all have their own form of power adjustment. Up front the driver has fore and aft movement, seat back adjustment, and lumbar support. The middle row are also adjustable for fore and aft, allowing access to the rear seats. However they do not have seat back adjustment. The third row are powered in a slightly different way, with a button locking or releasing them for raising or lowering.

Tesla fit a massive, vertically oriented, 17 inch touchscreen that houses virtually all of the functions. Audio, navigation, music access, air-conditioning, doors, car features, settings, online user manual, and some special features are all here. The map system is from Google and rendered in superb high definition on the screen. Drive orientation is in the upper right corner and can be set to swivel in direction or North as a permanent upper orientation.The overall front section presence is clean, uncluttered, traditional even. The driver’s binnacle has a full colour LCD screen that shows information such as energy usage, map, radio, and more. The steering column is perhaps the weakest part ergonomically. A left hand side indicator sits above the cruise control lever and both can be easily confused for the other as they’re very close together. The drive engage lever is on the right and is simple in operation.The centre row seats move forward and as they close towards the front seats gradually nose downwards to allow access to the rear. The rears are not adjustable for anything other than folded or not. Behind them is another storage locker with a lift away cover that otherwise provides a flat floor.The touchscreen itself houses “easter eggs”. At the top centre of the screen is a “T” symbol. Hold that for a second or two and a graphic that describes the individual car shows. A second or two later a screen appears above that and has an Atari games symbol, a Mars map symbol, a reindeer, a Christmas tree ornament and others. The Atari symbol brings up five games including Asteroids and Missile Command. The reindeer has the car’s driver display show a Father Christmas and sleigh, and rings Christmas bells on the indicator stalk. There is also an “emissions testing” icon that brings a grin to every ten year old boy when a sub-menu of different farts comes up.

On The Outside Is:
The extended roof version of the Model S. Extended as in the Model S formed the basis for the Model X. A higher roof line houses the famous folding gull wing doors, and there’s another part of the delight. When the Christmas ornament is pressed from the easter egg list, it invites the passengers to exit, and close the doors. A few seconds later if it works, as it’s sometimes hit or miss, the front windows roll down, the superb sound system pumps up, and the exterior LED lights up front flash in synchronisation. The doors themselves open and flap in unison and it is one unbelievably entrancing sight to see.The rear view sees an embedded airfoil otherwise the same looking tail lights at Model S. The nose is slightly different but unmistakeably Model S. The footprint is huge, with fan shaped alloys painted in black spanning 22 inches in diameter. Rubber is Goodyear Eagle and are 285/35.

The doors are normally hinged at the front, gull winged for the rear, and the driver’s door can be set to open on the approach of a person carrying the Tesla key fob. Unlike the Model S the door handles don’t extend out from the body, and require a firm press on the handle or via the key fob individually. A tap or two on the top can open or close all doors.

On The Road It’s:
A mix of elation and mild levels of meh. The meh is the steering feel. Although there are three drive modes that change the weight of the steering, it feels artificial and isolated. That’s not unexpected in such a technologically oriented vehicle. But that’s the worst of the on-road feels.

The time with the Model X coincided with a trip from the Blue Mountains to Bega via Canberra. Door to door it’s just on 500 kilometres. The full charge range of the Model X is knocking on 480km. An app that can be installed into your smartphone shows, once the car is linked to your account, the range expected, and when charging, the charge rate and charge distance. The AMOUNT of charge can also be adjusted, from zero through to 100%, with 80% being the default.

All Tesla cars come with a charge cable to hook the car up to a home’s electric network and Tesla themselves provide a higher output charge station to their buyers. These charge at 7 to 8 kilometres of range per hour. The first stop was at the supercharger portal in Goulburn. That’s a two hour drive with a supercharger near Canberra airport approximately another hour away. Superchargers will add in somewhere between 350km to 400km of range in an hour according to the app.Cooma is the next supercharger stop, another hour or so from Canberra, and this one is in an off the main road and not entirely welcoming location. It’s a set of six in a carpark entrance for a shopping complex, and on our visit half of the supercharger bays were taken up by non electric cars. The drives gave us a chance to properly evaluate, in a real world, family usage situation, and although the range expectations were one thing, proper usage delivers another.

Cargo was two adults, two children, a small dog, and a few overnight bags. Then there is the weight of the car and the topography to consider. Autopilot and cruise control were engaged and a small point on the autopilot. The lever needs to be pulled toward the driver twice to engage, and the cameras strategically embedded around the car will then “read” the roadsides in order to keep the Model X as centred as possible. The autopilot function itself was in “Beta” testing mode and again accessed via the touchscreen.The biggest appeal of the the Model X, and Model S, for that matter, is the sheer driveability of the chassis and drivetrain. Electric motors deliver torque constantly, as per this and acceleration across any driving condition is stupendous. The “P” designation adds in “Ludicrous” mode, which amps up the “get up and go” even further. Engage the drive, and it’s a double pull to bring the car out of hibernation mode, and plant the foot. That mountain you could see on the horizon is suddenly there before you.

The braking system can be set for two energy harvest levels and on the ten kilometres worth of downhill running at Brown Mountain, some forty kilometres west of Bega, added an effective twenty kilometres of range. It’s the uphill runs that pull the range expectations downwards, and severely at that. The ever-growing network of destination chargers alleviate range anxiety and a visit to the beautiful coastal town of Merimbula found a destination charger at a bayside motel. The navigation system can provide locations of chargers and when a destination charger shows, a tap of the screen advises the usage, as in in this case, passing through holiday makers. A big thanks to the good people at the Albacore Apartments, by the way. There are two Tesla destination chargers and these add range at 75 to 80 kilometres per hour.

The return trip was via Cooma without stopping and heading to Canberra’s Madura Parkway charge stop. Handily located next to a major fast food store and a number of other shops, an hour’s break saw the Model X arrive back at its Blue Mountains lair with perhaps 70km worth of range left.

Actual ride quality is on the high side of decent considering the size of the wheels and low profile rubber. Ride height can be ajusted via the touchscreen but a high ride setting lowers the car back to its standard height once a preset speed is reached. The Model X is stiff but not bone-shakingly so, taut, but not uncomfortably so. It’s flat, exhibits minimal body roll, and is surprisingly compliant on unsettled and rough surfaces. And although the steering lacks “humanity” it also points the Model X exactly where the wheel tells it to. Naturally, brake feel is spot on too.

The Safety Systems Are:
A solid list of 360 degree cameras, parking sensors that measure in millimetres and show on the driver’s screen, distance sensing radar cruise control, AEB, overhead and knee airbags, plus the usual electronic driver aids. The cruise control can be set to one to seven seconds of distance between the Model X and the car ahead. It’s worth noting that the braking can be on the hard side so driver involvement is still required to watch the road ahead. The same goes with the autonomous steering. Hands on the tiller are recommended at all times.

And The Warranty Is:
Four years for the body and structure. The drive systems and battery get eight years. Extra information is here.

At The End Of The Drive.
The timing of the drive came just after the leader of the Australian Opposition party put forward a proposition that by 2030 fifty percent of cars to be made available for sale be electric. Naturally this sparked the conversation about costs, range, and the time taken to recharge versus refueling a petrol or diesel car.

There’s an undeniable time factor in regards to recharging. But there is a welcome upside. The Goulburn stop provided an opportunity to visit a street mall, the Cooma break a visit to a park with historic significance. The Merimbula stop provided a chance to sample the local lifestyle and the Canberra stop a welcome half way point, lunch, and a leg stretch. The Model X itself is not a tiring car to drive meaning driver fatigue is minimised.

Therein, as the saying goes, lies the rub. The return trip from Bega took as much time as a normal petrol/diesel powered trip, even allowing for the hour or so to recharge. The upside was the break allowing a safe, straight through, return drive and the lack of fatigue from driving a comfortable vehicle. The downside was the evidence that range expectations versus the real world have some way to go before the two meet with a lesser margin in between.

And yes, the cost is significant, especially with the extra Australian government charges involved. However there are plenty of cars that start at the same price and offer an extensive option list. And there is the fluctuating cost of fuel. Depending on location it is theoretically possible to not pay a cent in recharge costs with an electric car.

Tesla will be releasing a lower cost version, effectively, of the Model S, and a new, smaller, SUV called the Model Y is in development. With battery technology improving and the uptake of solar power and batteries for home usage also on the upswing, plus the promise of further electric cars as standard from makers, they all mean that for the Australian market our driving future is in for an undeniable change.

Model X information and more on the other cars from Tesla can be found here.

The Top Five From The Last Five

Picture Australian roads in the mid 1970s. It was the era of Holden, Ford, and Chrysler. Japanese brands such as Subaru and Toyota were known of, Korean cars simply didn’t “exist”, and four wheel drive capable utes were the end product of after-market conversion companies. European cars were largely luxury types or sports cars, with Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz up against Porsche, whilst Volkswagen was best known for its “people’s car” still.

The Kingswood and Falcon duked it out with the big Chrysler Valiant, sedans and wagons, like “light” and “heavy” beer were the only choices.
But it was also heading towards the days of the so-called oil crisis. Emissions were also becoming something that would be under the microscope, and European designs would soon start to filter their way through to the Aussie marketplace.

Punk music was just starting to grow, Queen were thriving, and a small film called Star Wars has people queuing around street corners.Times and tastes have changed over the last forty years or so. Technology has made substantial differences to how we enjoy viewing, watching, listening, and driving.

2014 Top Five.
Toyota already had a reputation for building solid off road cars. They were known for cheap to run, if not exciting to drive, small cars, and in 2014 their Corolla was the number one selling car. Competitor Mazda also grew from a good yet uninspiring range, bar the exciting and thirsty EX-7, and in 2014 their Corolla fighter, the Mazda 3 (once known as the 323 and shared with Ford as the Laser) ran a VERY close second. How close?43,735 “Rollas” were sold in 2014, against 43,313 3s. Toyota claimed position number 3 in 2014. Their HiLux 4×2 and 4×4 utes, in two and four door configurations was making steady progress through the sales charts and finished ahead of Hyundai’s i30 five door hatch. The once almost unstoppable Holden Commodore would take fifth in 2014.

2015 would see a change in the rankings with not one, but two, utes in the top five. Toyota had consolidated first again, with the Corolla still of big appeal at just over 42K vehicles finding new homes. Mazda’s 3 had gone backwards considerably, with 38,644 in new driveways.

HiLux would be third yet again in 2015 but had lost close to three thousand sales. In fourth it was Hyundai’s tidy i30 but in fifth, and with sales going up by about the same HiLux went down, was Ford’s overhauled Ranger. 29,185 Rangers were sold, up from 26,619 in 2014.

2016 was a watershed year for the Australian automotive manufacturing industry. The largely home grown Falcon was no more and Ford Australia had ceased local manufacturing. The top five in 2016 was a case of the same yet different. HiLux had been given a makeover, with a more assertive and blokey styling. This was enough to propel it to the top of the charts for 2016, and how! 42,104 versions were sold, an increase of just shy of seven thousand. Corolla made it a Toyota one-two with the i30 taking bronze again. Ranger increased sales by nearly eight thousand to finish fourth on 36.934, with the Mazda3 in fifth, down by over two thousand to 36,107.

Best selling cars of 2017.
Well, it was a battle of the utes this year. The tsunami that was HiLux in 2016 continued, with an increase of nearly five thousand from 2016. 47,093 of them were purchased. Ford’s Ranger shouldered through the Corolla range and with 42,728, silver on the podium was Ford’s for the taking. It was a tussle of the small cars for third, fourth, and fifth, with Corolla, Mazda3, and the i30 taking the minor placings. i30 had collapsed, with just 28,780 being sold compared to 2016’s 37,772. 2017 would also see Holden and Toyota pull down the shutters on their local manufacturing operations.

2018’s Best Sellers.
Australia’s love affair with the Commodore, and sedans in general, was well and truly over. But that love for the HiLux was increased even further, with the chunky machine seeing 51,705 rolling out of showrooms. In December of 2018 alone, 3871 were sold.

Ford’s Ranger had undergone a facelift in 2017 and that momentum continued to have the brawny Australian designed machine shift 42,144 units. This was close to seven thousand units ahead of the Corolla, with its own 2017, edgy looking, facelift not diminishing appeal. 35,320 Toyota Corollas were bought, well over four thousand more than the Mazda3. In fifth was the bridesmaid’s bridesmaid, Hyundai’s i30. However, in 2018, more attention was on the i30N than the others, which means a climb to fourth for 2019 may well be the case.

Of note is Mitsubishi’s Triton. A facelifted version was made available in early 2019, and 2018 saw 24,896 sold. Holden’s Colorado didn’t crack the top ten in comparison.

Tell us what you think of the current state of Australian car sales, and which brand grabs your fancy by getting in touch via our blog and social media connections.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Lexus LC 500

This Car Review Is About:
The 2019 Lexus LC 500. It’s a big, luxury oriented, coupe with stand out styling, a brawny 5.0L V8, and a fair bit of heft. There’s heft to the price too: $189,629 plus on road costs as of February 2019.Under The Bonnet Is:
A V8 of five litres capacity. It’s the same one as found in the GS F, which produces 351kW and 530 Nm. Consumption on the combined cycle is rated as 11.6L/100km. There’s a ten speed auto that hooks up to the rear wheels via a Torsen limited slip diff, and if you’re a touch green around the gills, a hybrid version is available. Transmission changes are made via paddle shifts on the steering column, and the gear selector is atypical in that it’s a rocker movement towards the right, forward for reverse, back for Drive, and Park is a P button. Back to the left where M is listed gives Manual control.On The Inside Is:
A stupidly small amount of room. It’s a BIG looking car, with 4770mm overall length, a wheelbase of 2870mm, and 1630mm track. The driver sits just aft of the mid point and has plenty of leg room forward. So does the passenger. But it’s here that the good news ends. The rear seats are great for a suitcase or a bag or two of shopping. With the front seats in a suitable position up front, the gap between rear of seat and squab is minimal. Minimal. The up side is that the powered seats self adjust for fore & aft movement when the lever to flip them forward for rear seat access is pulled up.The seats themselves are low set, meaning anyone with muscle issues may struggle to lever themselves up and out. And with a low roof height, raising the seats may compromise the noggin of taller drivers.

Then there’s the passenger section. It’s quite aligned with a single seat fighter jet in concept, with a tub and grab handles on either side. Then there’s the dash. The passenger gets little to look at directly ahead apart from a sheet of faux carbon fibre style material, and Lexus have left the LC 500 with the multi-fold design. The air-con vents are squirreled away in a niche line with just a single vent in direct centre. Sometimes it felt as if the air flow isn’t happening.Up top and centre is the Lexus display screen. It’s wide, in full colour high definition, and operated via a track pad (no mouse) in the centre console. In full daylight it’s still clearly visible. Unfortunately, in a well meant effort to add extra visual splash, there is a aluminuim strip just below it and sitting on top of the centre airvent. It catches sunlight really well, and spreads it around the cabin really well. That includes straight back into the driver’s eyes.

Drive mode selectors have been relocated from here and are on dials on the left and right of the driver binnacle. The binnacle houses a full colour LCD screen that has a sliding circle that activates different looks to the screen. Yes, it might be somewhat gimmicky but it also allows a driver to choose some or all info at will. A super clear HUD is also fitted and again, it’s excellent in its instinctiveness.

The rear seat, what there is of it, is largely hampered by the exterior design. And there’s some interior fitment that is part of it. Lexus have moved the battery to under a boot floor cover to help with weight distribution. But the slope of the rear window line means head room is compromised, and the boot itself is two overnight bags in capacity.There is a very good range of interior trim colour combinations, with a total of eight coverings and shades available. They’re all a great place to sit and listen to the excellent Mark Levinson audio system which is DAB compatible, plus allows DVD playback. Speaker count? 13, sir.

The Outside Is:
Eyecatching. The low height, 1345mm from tyre bottom to carbon fibre roof top, makes the car look lithe, svelte, and a set of coke bottle hips add a measure of sensuality to the lines. A slim, broad, front houses a beautifully sculpted triangular design that has LED headlights, driving lights, and indicators in a vertical strip. Huge 21 inch polished alloys are clad in 245/45 rubber from Michelin, bookending that pinched in waist and airvents to reduce wheel well pressure.The boot really is tiny, at something like 195L of capacity. There also doesn’t appear to be an external button to open it either, with the key fob and interior tabs the seemingly only method. The bootlid also holds the wing, activated via a centre console mounted tab. Rear lights are wrapped in a chrome housing and their sharp edged look complements the nose. Exhaust pipes are buried in an elegant looking rear valance.The test car came in White Nova, a semi pearlescent shade. There are ten (yes, ten) other colours such as Zinnia Yellow and Garnet to choose from. All colours do a great job of highlighting the LC’s distinctive lines, and complement the somewhat restrained look the spindle grille has. Yes, you read that right. The grille is not the stand out part of the car’s look.

On The Road It’s:
Hobbled by its heft. Although looking like a relative lightweight, thanks to its low height and slim lines, there’s over 1900kg hiding under the skin. And with the engine producing peak torque at over 4000rpm, acceleration is quick, changes are quick, but everything feels dulled off slightly. It lacks the rawness, the sharpness, the knife edged attitude of the GS F, and in reality it’s more of a Grand Tourer in nature. It doesn’t provoke the same visceral response that the GS F provided. The Torsen differential is noticeable, too, in slow speed tight corners as found in Sydney’s north shore, and there’s a rear end skip on certain long sweepers that have road expansion joints built in, momentarily unsettling the LC’s broad rear end. Launch hard in a straight line and there’s a squirm from the rear as the meaty rubber grabs hold.Actual ride quality is tending towards the jiggly side when driving in the normal mode. Although there is an active suspension on board, it really doesn’t come into play until Sport/Sport+ is engaged. Suddenly the road feels smoother, handling sharpens up, and the engine note seems more brusque, with an added bite. And it is perhaps the engine that is, in an audible sense, the highlight of the whole package. Press the start button and there’s a quick whirr before a guttural growl comes from the pipes. It’s a higher pitch in tone compared to the more subterranean note from the GS F on idle, and there’s a real edge of anger to it when seriously under way. And thankfully there’s a real sense of the fire and brimstone being thrown around thanks to the snarl, and the crackle & pop of the engine on upshifts and backing off the throttle.The transmission is a gem however not always seamless in changes. When easing the LC around the exhaust note is comparatively subdued, but get in on the freeway and stand on the go pedal to fully appreciate the ferocity of the engine and sound. It does take some time, relatively speaking, for the urge the engine has to kick in, but when it does overtaking numbers are stellar. And so is the exhaust; it doesn’t caress the ears, it grabs them and pounds the angry notes down into them. That’s thanks to what Lexus call “sound control valves” that open and close on demand to offer the changing soundscape. That’s aided and abetted by an Active Noise Control system that cancels out extraneous noise, not unlike noise cancelling headphones.And The Safety Factor Is:
Naturally very, very high. The brakes, like the whole LC, don’t have the instantaneous response from breathing upon the pedal that the GS F has, but there’s no doubting the stopping power regardless. Six pistons up front and four at the rear haul up the LC confidently every time. Partnered with the full suite of active and passive safety systems, such as Lane Keep Assist, Radar Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, and a pedestrian safety bonnet, it’s well up there on the safety ladder.The Warranty Is:
Four years or 100,000 kilometres, with the additional benefit of Lexus Drive Care. That covers items such as a up to $150 one way taxi fares, a courier service for small parcels, even personal and clothing costs up to $250. Contact Lexus for servicing costs, though.

At The End Of The Drive.
After an engaging week with the LC 500, we came away with the strong feeling that it’s a definite GT, a Grand Tourer. It’s a relaxed and comfortable highway & freeway machine, but suffers in comparison in tight inner city and suburbia. The aural appeal is huge on start up, but the limited room inside and in the boot really count it out of being anything other than a single or couple’s car. For a more multi-purpose and/or family oriented performance car from Lexus, the GS F fits the bill far better.

Get a start on comparing your desires for grand touring inside the 2019 Lexus LC 500 here.

 

 

A.N.C.A.P.

All new vehicles sold in Australia and surrounding areas MUST undergo testing to determine, in a level of stars up to five, how safe that car is. The higher the number and, ostensibly, the safer the car. The Australasian New Car Assessment Program is what is used and it’s a substantial overview of what makes a car tick the boxes safety wise.

From January 1 of 2018, ANCAP changed the parameters in what they were looking for in categories. There are four key areas: Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, Vulnerable Road User Protection, and Safety Assist.

First up is Adult Occupant Protection. ANCAP looks at the kind of protection, the kind of safety, offered to the most likely passengers in the front and second row seats of a car. They look at offset impacts, side impacts, whiplash injuries for front and second row, Autonomous Emergency Braking in a city setting, and rate the categories appropriately. Full width and frontal offset are the highest for adults, with a score of 8 being applied along with 8 for Side Impact and Pole (oblique). That last one is not uncommon, as it’s been found that drivers looking at an object in a crash situation have a higher tendency to impact that object.To achieve a five star rating for Adult Occupant Protection, the areas must achieve a total of 80% of the possible maximum score of 38. 80% is also the minimum requirement for the Child Occupant Protection, which has a maximum score of 49. There are just four margins here, Dynamic (Front) at 16 points, Dynamic (Side) with 8, 12 points for Child Restraint Installation, and 13 for On Board Features.

On the star rating, Adult Occupant and Child Occupant both have 80% to reach five stars. 70% is four stars, 60% for three stars, 50% for two stars, and 40% for just one star. Vulnerable Road User Protection and Safety Assist have 60% and 70% respectively.Vulnerable Road User Protection takes a look at Head Impact (24 points), with 6 points apiece for Upper Leg Impact, Lower Leg Impact, pedestrian related AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) and cyclist related AEB. The specifications here are about looking at frontal designs of vehicles; will it mitigate injury to a pedestrian and/or cyclist, and will it overall mitigate or avoid impact with pedestrians and/or cyclists?

The final sector, Safety Assist, measures the amount of safety features (the presence factor) and effectiveness of those systems. The current maximum score is 13, with 2020 moving that to 16. Speed Assistance Systems are rated to 3 points, Seat Belt reminders also rate as 3, and Lane Support Systems as 4. AEB in an inter-urban environment is current 3, with that increasing to 4 in 2020. A new category, Junction Assist, with two points, comes in next year.

A.N.C.A.P. themselves says:

In the real-world…

AEB systems use camera, radar and/or lidar technology to detect the speed and distance of objects in the vehicle’s path and automatically brake if the driver does not respond in order to avoid or minimise the severity of a crash.

At our test centre…

Over 100 different AEB test scenarios form part of our assessment with a vehicle’s ability to autonomously brake at lower city speeds (AEB City); at faster highway speeds (AEB Interurban); at stationery vehicle targets; at moving targets; and at braking targets all taken into consideration. Vulnerable road users are also considered, with collision avoidance testing undertaken to encourage and determine the effectiveness of more sophisticated AEB systems, detecting and preventing or minimising collisions with pedestrians and cyclists (AEB VRU) – at daytime and at night.

Autonomous emergencybraking diagram

Scores achieved in each physical and performance test feed into the respective area of assessment. The overall star rating of a vehicle is limited by its lowest performing area of assessment.

(With thanks to A.N.C.A.P.)

 

 

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Kia Optima Si

Kia’s once large sedan contender has been overshadowed by the Stinger, itself an excellent and vastly underrated vehicle. The Optima, though, remains the hidden gem in the bigger sedan family and the updated 2019 Kia Optima Si still impresses. The test car provided comes at a cost of $33,390, paint at $595 for premium paint, making the test car $33,985 plus on-roads.Power comes courtesy of a naturally aspirated 2.4L four for the Si or a turbocharged 2.0L four for the GT. Peak power is 138kW at 6000rpm, with peak torque a reasonable 241Nm. That comes in at 4000rpm, with a steady curve to there from idle. Powering the front wheels via a six speed auto that’s been slightly recalibrated for 2019, Kia quotes a combined fuel economy figure of 8.3L/100km from the 70 litre tank inside the 1540kg (dry) Optima.Rubber is from Continental, with Kia specifying their ContiPremiumContact5 at 215/55/17. It’s a grippy choice, with the front driven Optima making good use of the tyre’s adhesion. During the week’s review period, Sydney had both summer and winter driving conditions. The Continental rubber powered through both with equal levels of confidence. They also coped with the Si’s propensity to torque steer, an unusual sensation in an age where that quirk of front-wheel-drive cars is almost non-existent.Suspension is the proven combination of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear. The suspension has been massaged for the 2019 Optima, with the dampers erring towards the sporting side, a choice that sporting drivers will enjoy. Others may find that a little too severe. Indeed, on Sydney’s mix of unsettled and undulating roads as opposed to the new and smooth tarmac found in roadworks, the Optima Si had no issue in equalising both into a comfortable and composed ride. The only time PF semi-wished for a softer setup was over the bedamned shopping centre and local residence speed restrictors.The setup provides a nimble and communicative chassis. Steering input is received and processed quickly, with rapid changes of direction. Body roll is minimal, and the overall feel of the body is one of connection, not isolation from the road and its varying conditions. The steering is also relatively free from bump-steer.

Overall drive response is perhaps also not for those that aren’t of a sporting bent. The throttle response is virtually instant, with a “light-switch” feel. Tap the accelerator pedal and the engine engages instantly; go off, and it responds by damping down the revs quickly. It does take a bit of practice to get the smooth and progressive acceleration less responsive systems have. It’s a free revving engine, too, eagerly spinning around and bringing with it a steady rate of urge. It’s a tad buzzy past 4000rpm but that’s a rarity in seeing those numbers in normal driving. The transmission is a simply gorgeous piece of engineering, with invisible, seamless, changes. There’s no real sense of transition between ratios at all, with zero forward and back bodily movement as the cogs swap quietly and efficiently.Kia’s efficiency in packaging is in abundance in the Optima Si. Inside the 4855mm overall length, (yep, just 8.4 centimetres shorter than a VF Commodore) is a 2805mm wheelbase. That’s just eleven centimetres shorter than the Commodore’s. This equates to ample leg room front and rear, a luggage space of 450L (SAE measurement, 510L VDA, and complete with full sized spare), and 1475mm shoulder room up front. Rear seat passengers have 1432mm shoulder room and 904mm leg room.The Si has manually adjusted seats up front, with the driver getting a two position lumbar support seat. Cloth is the material of choice all round in the Si and all seats are comfortable enough to have passengers egress after a long drive feeling fine. Kia’s worked hard to make sure the cabin is a good place to be, and the quality of the fit and finish is testament to this. The trim is black, with a leather look texture, and there are subdued uses of an alloy hued plastic. The Optima has the almost standard arch sweep at the upper edge of the dash., joining in one fluid line both sides of the cabin.Switch-gear is typically clinical Kia in layout and look. The touchscreen in the Si is a seven inch unit, the GT gets an eight inch setup. Audio is AM/FM only with no DAB tuner fitted to both. The Si also misses out on satnav. However there is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with voice recognition, backed by Bluetooth streaming and the usual USB/Aux inputs. There are four cup holders and four bottle holders, map pockets, and back of seat pockets. Rear seat passengers also have a pair of charging sockets and air vents.The exterior received a mild refresh in 2018. The Schreyer grille now has an almost Maserati look to it, and the lower front bumper has been reprofiled with the lower intake now more angled in towards the corners towards deep-set cornering lights. The familiar angled headlights retain their LED driving lights and commence a long, sweeping, line to join the rear non-LED lights in the Si. The GT has LEDs here. The profile is a handsome coupe style and the test car came clad in Temptation Red.Safety is naturally of a high level with a five star rating. Lane Keep Assist and Autonomous Emergency Braking are standard, with the Si not receiving Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Dusk sensing headlights are standard, as are a pair of ISOFIX seat mounts. There are six airbags and the usual mandated safety equipment levels. Parking sensors front and rear take the edge off any parking problems in those tight shopping centre carparks.The seven year warranty is standard and Kia has a seven year fixed price servicing structure, with 15,000 kilometre or one year intervals. Year one/15,000 kilometres comes in at $289, with year four the most expensive at $559.

At The End Of The Drive.
The 2019 Kia Optima Si slides unhappily, it seems, into that niche of very good cars that are largely ignored by the buying public. Sedans on the whole are a class of car that were once loved but now sit, licking their wounds from an SUV mauling, in the shadows. The Optima itself, a handsome looker, a good drive, and well equipped, suffers from a number of factors in not having the sizeable presence it once had.

Head to the Kia website for more info.