News: First Chinese car from Great Wall Motors to be imported to NZ and Australia

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China’s first car brand to make its Australian and New Zealand debut will arrive in October of this year, more than six months earlier than previously predicted, when Sydney and Auckland-based importer, Ateco Automotive launches Great Wall Motor.

Ateco has been negotiating with GWM for almost three years. Strict confidentiality agreements have precluded Ateco from confirming that it has not only concluded negotiations but it also has been working on homologating the first GWM vehicle to be sold in Australia. GWM will debut with a double can Ute that will retail for well under $20,000 in both Australia and New Zealand.

“The GWM double cab Ute will be just the start,” says Ric Hull, Managing Director, Ateco Automotive Pty Ltd. “The Ute will be followed soon after with a single cab Ute, a compact SUV and an entry level light car.  Pricing will be comparable to similar Korean models with a significantly higher specification.”

GWM is one of China’s leading car makers and it has been consistently at the top of its domestic car market with its Ute and SUV models.

“From day one we have been thoroughly impressed with GWM,” says Mr Hull. “World class production facilities are becoming commonplace in China and there is no doubt that GWM has set the production benchmark.  But what sets GWM apart is the corporate culture that permeates through the organisation.  The company motto is ‘Improving little by little every day’ and from what we have seen the staff really do live and breathe this philosophy. Every time we go to GWM’s head office in Baoding, we are impressed by the progress that has been made since our last visit.”

“We targeted GWM for our Chinese plans because they are highly disciplined, organised and well led,” says Mr Hull.

To prepare for the launch of its Chinese brands, Ateco has made some key management changes. David Stone, who was instrumental in setting up the Hyundai, Daewoo and Kia networks, will over see the appointment of dealers to distribute Ateco’s new Chinese brands, with a target of 50 dealers across Australia for the launch of GWM in October. In New Zealand the GWM distribution business will be run from Ateco’s Mount Wellington headquarters in Auckland via dealer network five to six dealers at launch. The New Zealand product range will be common with Australia.

In addition to its Sydney headquarters, Ateco will also appoint regional managers for the key state operations, working to Peter McGeown who is newly appointed to the role of National Sales Manager. McGeown has worked with Ateco as Queensland Regional Manager when Ateco represented Kia and he was involved with Daewoo and Toyota. He will be responsible for setting up an entire sales and marketing infrastructure for GWM, which will include national as well as regional activities.

Full details, prices and specifications of the new GWM range will be announced when they go on sale in October.

News: New boss for Holden New Zealand

Holden New Zealand today announced that Simon Carr would succeed Peter Keley as Managing Director, effective from the 1 August, 2008. Simon joined GM Holden in 2001 following 20 years experience in the automotive industry with prior roles with the Nissan Motor Company in the United Kingdom.

News: Jaguar and Land Rover create 600 new jobs

Jaguar Land Rover is launching a major recruitment drive to attract up to 600 new employees. The focus of the campaign will be to recruit engineers to work on exciting new technology and product development programmes. There are also a significant number of key vacancies in purchasing, finance and human resources.

Jaguar Land Rover is investing £700m in sustainable technologies to improve the environmental performance of its vehicles and is looking for experienced, degree educated engineers to work within the product development function on a variety of ground-breaking projects.

In addition, Jaguar Land Rover is launching a brand new graduate programme for over 80 graduates who will join the business in September. Graduates will participate in a number of activities and events over their two year development period while at the same time integrating themselves into their chosen department.

The recruitment drive comes as the business transitions to new ownership. Jaguar is experiencing a surge in worldwide sales thanks in part to the award winning XF saloon and Land Rover, which has achieved three successive years of record sales, has recently revealed the forward looking and critically acclaimed LRX Concept.

Announcing the scheme, newly appointed Jaguar Land Rover CEO David Smith said: “This recruitment drive demonstrates Jaguar Land Rover’s confidence in our future. With our new owners, we have entered an exciting era with stunning new models and ambitious technologies. I can’t remember a better time to be part of the British car industry, and certainly it is a brilliant time for Jaguar Land Rover.”

Sustainability is a business imperative and we need both experienced and newly qualified graduate engineers to progress the technology projects of the future.”

Des Thurlby, Jaguar Land Rover’s HR Director, said, “The campaign is up and running and Jaguar Land Rover will be targeting a number of different employment sectors to attract top quality candidates. We shall also be working through a variety of channels from press advertisements to the graduate milkround, and a new dedicated recruitment website. The work on offer is cutting-edge and the rewards impressive. This business has a bright future and we think it will be a very attractive place to work for the best in our industry here in the UK.”

The latest recruitment announcement follows previous employment initiatives. In March, Jaguar Land Rover launched a campaign to recruit over 60 apprentices to join our Advanced Modern Apprenticeship Scheme. The company has also had a tremendous response to the campaign to recruit 25 undergraduates for the
Product Development Industrial and Vacation Placements programme.

News: Mitsubishi provides 10 i-MiEV’s for G8 summit

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G8 leaders will travel in Mitsubishi Motors electric vehicles at the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit in July.

Ten i-MiEV’s (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicles) will be used to transport visiting world leaders and will also be available for test drives, providing the heads of government with an insight into the practicality and environmental benefits of the i-MiEV.

“The i-MiEV is an ideal solution to carbon dioxide vehicle emissions, particularly when paired with renewable energy generation. Providing world leaders with the opportunity to experience the drive quality will reinforce Mitsubishi Motors’ commitment to environmentally friendly technology,” said MMNZ’s general manager of sales and marketing Peter Wilkins.

Due to be released on the Japanese market in 2009, the i-MiEV is the flagship of Mitsubishi’s ‘green’ vision and is undergoing fleet testing in Japan. US testing will follow later this year.

The i-MiEV’s motor outputs 47kW and 180Nm. It’s powered by a 16kWh lithium-ion battery pack providing 330V. It currently has a 160km range, 122km* more than the average daily journey.

Blogs: Why do we need insurance? We should just stop wanting to have an accident

The debate rages about whether third-party insurance should be compulsory. On one side you have the people who can’t afford it and the civil libertarians saying that it shouldn’t be mandatory. On the other side you have the victims, the concerned, and the people outraged that we don’t follow suit with most western nations and make it compulsory.

Much of the debate seems fueled by emotion, but the issue is full of other considerations, for example:

  • Do drivers who are pressured into getting insurance then drive less carefully because they have a false sense of security?
  • If everyone has insurance, would it significantly reduce the premium we all pay through economies of scale?

And we’ve heard all the ‘mainstream’ reasons in the mainstream media, so how about something a little more esoteric. There’s a school of thought that can be neatly paraphrased (usually by motivational speakers) as ‘your thoughts create your reality.’ Which means that even if you are in an accident where it’s not your fault, your thoughts created that reality, even subconsciously. That means that deep down, something in your psyche decided that you should be involved in that accident for some as-yet-unknown reason.

Bear with me. On the other side of the equation, the person who caused the accident also consciously or subconsciously wanted that accident for some reason. You could look at this in a number of ways – I mean, no one overtly wants an accident, but could an accident be beneficial?

  1. People have had a car accident and ended up marrying the person they hit, though that’s not necessarily a blessing
  2. The minor prang you have now could mean you drive more carefully meaning you avoid the major prang you would have had in the probably future
  3. Panel beaters have to earn a living somehow – are you feeling particularly generous and looking for somewhere to spend some money?
  4. You’re guilty about something and want to punish yourself financially (you’ll find that hard to swallow)
  5. The sight of your minor collision could mean many other motorists take more care
  6. And the most contentious of all, a really bad one that results in death now just looks like suicide on the part of the dead driver, and murder on the part of the living one…well, apart from the fact that it must have been a joint ‘gestalt’ decision.

If all this is just too much for you to take in and you think I’ve gone all weird you’ll be heartened to know that I have fully comprehensive insurance. I’m too paranoid to let my thoughts control whether I’m in an accident with an uninsured driver!

Holden: Holden Astra TwinTop 2008 Review

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Being famous must be a very difficult thing to cope with. Some people are just not cut out for it – look at Britney. Celebrities have to live with the knowledge that no matter where they go someone will recognise them.

The Holden Astra TwinTop is the solution for those, like Britney, who need to moderate their monthly doses of limelight with anonymity available at the push of a button.

Auckland on a cold, cloudy June day is not the best place or time to try out the new Holden Astra TwinTop convertible, but  a cloudy day is a much more sensible proposition for top-down motoring, what with the ozone layer and all that.

After five minutes of pressing every button in the cabin trying to get the top down, I realised the cargo cover in the boot needs to be rolled out to let the roof do its thing. Once this is done, hold the button down and watch the transformation take place.

The two-piece metal folding top starts to move up and back in an elaborate Transformer-ish dance where assorted pieces of backseat trim pop-up and move about to make the ingress of the roof into the boot easier. With so many small operations happening while the roof is moving to the boot, I open and close the top a few more times to take it all in.

Such precision is magnificent to behold but the caveat of my father’s generation regarding car electrics echoes in my head: ‘That’ll be expensive to fix’.

The elegant folding metal roof looks so good and works so well that it makes a traditional fabric tops look like an option for those on the cheap, and 1960’s MG owners.

So with the heater warming the cabin I set off down the road with the top down, safe in the knowledge that if the paparazzi catches me (or my V8 mates see me) I can blend back into the traffic by flipping the top back up and disappearing back into the river of commuters.

Driving the Astra is not as exciting as seeing Britney in full meltdown but the ride is firm enough with the roof on. Topless driving (not Miss Spears fortunately) reveals that body rigidity is helped by having the roof up, as with the top down some scuttle shake is evident over bridge expansion strips and on local roads.

Handling is decent around town and there seems to be good front end grip available but the automatic transmission-equipped Astra is more a main road cruiser than a twisty back-road blaster.

The Astra is a smallish car but it feels very heavy on the road; not old Mercedes-Benz heavy, but noticeably heavier than you’d expect. This heaviness (the Astra TwinTop has to lug around almost 300kg more weight than its slimmer Astra sisters) doesn’t affect the steering or the brakes which are both good but it is something that you can feel when driving.

Because of this weight acceleration is not spectacular but pressing the ‘sport’ button sharpens the throttle response a little dropping the cogs earlier and changing up later. Traction control can also be de-activated by holding the ‘sport’ button down for a few seconds.

The Twin Top interior is decently appointed with a good driving position and comfortable front seats but the back seats are only good for occasional use or when you feel like being cruel to someone. The integrated stereo/trip computer controls were difficult to understand and even our resident ‘tech-geek’ had difficulty figuring it all out.

The Astra TwinTop only has a couple of direct rivals. The Peugeot 307 CC currently on sale in New Zealand has been around for a while and will soon be superseded when Peugeot releases the 308 CC. Renault has the Megane Coupe-Cabriolet and Mazda the MX-5 Coupe.

All of these are priced similarly to the TwinTop which comes in at RRP $49,995.

The standout of this bunch must be the two-seat MX-5 as it is the only real ‘sports car’, but from there it is a straight fight between the Astra, the 307CC (and perhaps the 207CC) and the Megane in which it comes down to looks. Suave Euro masculinity or chic feminine style? Make your choice.

Price: from $49,995

What we liked

  • More gender-neutral styling than Peugeot’s offering
  • Good sized boot with cubby holes when the roof is up

What we didn’t like

  • Heavy boot lid
  • Tricky internal computer
  • Feels heavy

Powertrain

2.2 Litre Direct ECOTEC Engine 4-cylinder

4-speed automatic electronic control transmission. Economy, sport and winter mode

Four cylinders. Double overhead camshafts driven by chain operate four valves per cylinder. Variable high-pressure direct fuel injection.

Mass air flow meter (MAF) controlled combustion chamber. Multipoint fuel injection with electronic spark timing (EST), knock control, 2 oxygen sensors. Electronic cooling fan. Cylinder inlet port flaps vary airflow according to engine load. Electronic Ignition map with coil-at-plug ignition. Electronic throttle control. All aluminium engine with two balance shafts and dual-mass flywheel

Power: 110kW @ 5600rpm

Torque: 210Nm @ 4000rpm

Mechanical

Electro-hydraulic rack and pinion power steering

4-wheel disc brakes, front ventilated

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). Four sensor/four channel

Brake Assist (BA)

Double-isolated front suspension, using subframe

Compound torsion beam and trailing arm rear suspension

Sports Chassis Pack

Traction Control (TC)

Electronic Stability Program

Wheels

17″ x 7″ alloy wheels (five-spoke).

225/45R17 tyres

Tyre valve cap tool located behind fuel filler flap

Exterior

Body coloured, heated mirrors

Body coloured door handles

Body coloured bumpers, front and rear

Body coloured side protection mouldings

Chromed tailgate handle with electronic touch pad

Rear fog lamp

Front fog lamps

Anti-corrosion: Galvanised body panels. Bodyshell dip-primed electrostatically

Driver

Steering wheel, height and reach adjust

Alloy-look sports pedals

Electric remote control mirrors. Heated glass with auto off

Intermittent wipers front and rear (front only on TwinTop)

Rear window demister

Cruise control

Variable instrument dimming

Tachometer

Graphic information display: Time. Date. Outside temperature. Warning messages.

Audio settings. Trip computer functions. Trip computer includes: Instant economy. Average economy.

Fuel used on trip. Average speed. Trip distance. Distance to empty. Stop watch

Check control: Remote control key batteries. Brake light bulb and circuit. Brake pads.

Washer fluid level. Coolant level

Headlight level adjust

Headlamps left on warning buzzer

Door ajar warning lamp

Seatbelt warning lamp

Foldable keys

Service reminder

Sound system

AM/FM stereo electronic tune radio. Seek. Preset station scan

6-disc in-dash CD player

Multi function or graphic display includes: Radio band. Preset station number. Frequency. CD/radio functions

Seven premium speakers. Total 130 watts

Sound system remote controls on steering wheel

Speed dependent volume control

Seating

Seat trim in black leather (leather-faced seats)

Heatable front seats

Padded front seat head restraints. Height adjust

8-way adjustment of driver’s sport seats. Recline. Slide. Height. Cushion tilt

6-way adjustment of driver’s sport seats. Recline. Slide. Height.

Adjustable lumbar support — driver

Driver and front passenger front airbags

Driver and front passenger side impact airbags

Pyrotechnic front seatbelt pretensioners. Lower belt mounts on seat frame for consistent fit when seat moved forward or back

Front seatbelt force limiters, controls maximum force on chest

Active rollover protection system

Brake pedal (and clutch pedal on manual vehicles) release in serious frontal collision

Anti-submarining ramps in all seats reduce the risk of sliding under seatbelt in collision

All seatbelts retracting lap/sash

Rear seat child restraint anchor points located on back of rear seats

Cabin comfort

Semi-automatic air conditioning

Heating/ventilation system includes pollen filter

Power windows, front/rear. Express down/up

Power windows auto reverse safety function (when power windows fitted)

Windbreak

Interior lighting auto off when ignition switched on. Auto off timer if engine remains off

Tinted windows

Cup holders, one in each front door and glove box lid

Split level glovebox for smaller items. Removable middle shelf. Pen holder. Lamp

Centre console storage tray

Compartment in centre console

Storage bins in all doors

Easy load luggage function

Lamp in boot or cargo area

Security

Radio frequency remote control key operates: Interior lighting. Central locking for keyless entry.

Door deadlocks. Boot or tailgate. Fuel filler door

Key has rolling security code

Engine immobilised automatically when key removed from ignition.

Ignition lock cylinder ‘freewheels’ if anything other than correct key is inserted

Door lock in driver’s door only. Lock cylinder ‘freewheels’ if anything other than correct key is inserted

Audio display in multi function display separate from sound system unit to deter theft. Security PIN coding

Specification

Fuel tank (litres) 52

4 wheel disc brakes, Front ventilated,

4-channel ABS with brake assist

Suspension: Independent. MacPherson strut. Decoupled strut mounts. Continuously Controlled Dampers. Coil springs. Stabiliser bar

Rear: compound torsion beam and twin trailing arms. Progress rate miniblock double conical coil springs. Gas pressure dampers.

Steering: Electro-hydraulic power rack and pinion

Front track (mm):  1488

Rear track (mm): 1481

Turning circle (m): 10.75

Dimensions and weights

Length: 4476

Width (inc mirrors): 2021

Width (exc mirrors): 1831

Height: 1411

Cargo volume (litres): roof open 205, roof closed 440

Kerb weight: 1590 (manual)/ 1620kg (auto)

Towing capacity: not recommended

Warranty/service

3,000km (at no cost) inspection, then every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. Holden Dealer ‘Tech 2’ latest computerized analysis system available for engine management system. Spark plug replacement every 60,000km. Cartridgeless paper oil filter. Audible disc pad replacement warning.

Engine timing belt replacement every 120,000km.

Words Ben Dillon, photos Darren Cottingham

Blogs: Hands-free isn’t concentration-free

I’m firmly of the opinion that we should ban children in cars. It would solve a multitude of problems:

  1. The majority of people could get away with a car that only has two seats, thus allowing them to go through their mid-life crisis at a much earlier age
  2. There would be an instant increase in the patrons for public transport – the kids would have to travel ‘bus stylz’, or better still, on the bike to help them burn off some of their Xbox-enhanced chubbiness.
  3. The school run traffic jams would be a thing of the past
  4. It would be one less distraction for drivers to deal with.

At the moment the government is mulling over banning cellphone use in cars. It’s a distraction, they say. Yes, but so is putting on mascara, drinking coffee, changing the radio and doing the fingers at a driver with kids in the back who just cut you off. I know some women who can do all those four at once – talk about multitasking!

So, if women are the great multitaskers maybe they should be exempt from the cellphone ban and us guys will have to do with ‘waiting until we get to the office.’

Well, there’s a better solution. Many new cars are coming with Bluetooth so that you can hook your phone up hands-free straight to the car. The car will even read your text messages out to you. The FPV F6 I had last week did it; the Fiat Bravo does it; Audis do it (for a price); it’s becoming de rigeur, just like having antilock brakes did back in the late ’90s. It’s no longer the preserve of those who can afford an expensive European model (and I’m not talking Heidi Klum!). No, the government will Seal [pun intended] the cellphone’s fate and we’ll be forced to use some form of hands-free kit. Now if only they made hands-free mascara applicators the throngs of women facing rush hour would jam the roads driving to buy one!

The point I’m trying to make is that anything we do in cars other than driving is a distraction, whether it’s mentally planning your friend’s surprise birthday party (yes, that’s a hint), singing along to George Michael on Jurassic Hits (97.4FM), or scratching your elbow. Cellphones are just another type of distraction, no better or worse.

Blogs: Oil price is all hype

Basic economics has taken a back seat to the oil debacle. Inflation-adjusted oil is about 140% more expensive than it was 12 months ago. But, are we just seeing another example of what’s happening in real estate right now. A year ago, wait, 4 months ago, everyone was saying that real estate would just carry on going up. No, said I. Markets don’t rise indefinitely. Now we’re having a crash. Which is good, because in a year I’ll buy some houses.

Oil is a market like any other, and basic economics says that the price of oil should be no more than the cost of producing the most expensive barrel of oil – that means supply/demand is working efficiently. Except it’s not working efficiently. The most expensive barrel of oil at the moment is from the tar sands in Canada – it costs somewhere around US$70/barrel. But the price of crude hit US$140 overnight. Someone is making a lot of profit. And where there’s a lot of profit to be had, other players jump in and reduce the margins until the price comes down to something more normal.

What is driving the price at the moment is that Chavez has cocked up Venezuela’s oil production since he nationalised it; Iran can’t attract and foreign investment; Nigeria is totally rooted and corrupt; and China and India seem set to continue their inexorable growth. So, supply looks shaky, yet demand continues to rise. The other factor to consider is that there are processes that will convert coal to oil. America has 300 years’ supply of coal, which would make it self-sufficient for ages. Suddenly the demand for oil will drop. It’s already dropped over 400,000 barrels per day in developed countries since last year – a result of plummeting US demand.

Even ignoring spectre of coal, the oil market is long overdue for a nasty and severe correction. I said six months ago when oil reach US$100 a barrel that it should drop to US$45. But I was early; the same way I was early getting out of property in 2005. But, better to be early and take a profit than late and lose a lot.