Commercial vehicles drive April sales

LIGHT commercial vehicles and 4×4 utes have propped up an otherwise declining car market in April, according to VFACTS figures released today.

A total of 83,135 overall sales were made in April, down 5.1 per cent on last year’s figure of 87,571. However, 4×4 utilities saw an 11.1 per cent spike and a 1-2 ranking courtesy of the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, while light commercial sales rose by 3.1 per cent.

Both sectors are also on the up year-to-date, with 1.8 per cent growth for light commercials and 1.7 for SUVs – led by the medium SUV market.

According to CEO of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber, public holidays played a role in the April downturn.

“There were two less selling days overall in April this year compared with last, but added to this was the dampening effect that the holiday period had on dealership traffic as many families headed off to enjoy a final break before winter,” said Weber.

The Toyota Corolla was third in sales for April ahead of its rival, the Mazda 3, despite dips in sales on last year.

In the manufacturer battle, Toyota continues to lead Mazda, with Hyundai third, then Holden, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, VW, Kia and Subaru rounding out the top ten.


Mercedes-AMG boss to take the reigns at Aston Martin

Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers set to join Aston Martin Lagonda
Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers will join Aston Martin Lagonda

MERCEDES-AMG CEO Tobias Moers is headed for Aston Martin. The 54-year-old will take the reigns of the performance car company in August after current President and Group Chief Executive Dr Andy Palmer agreed to step down from his role.

In the interim, current Vice President and Chief Manufacturing Operations Officer Keith Stanton will step into the role of interim Chief Operating Officer to support the Executive Chairman, Lawrence Stroll.

Tobias is a highly successful and experienced automotive professional having spent more than 25 years in senior roles at Daimler AG, before his current position as Chairman of the Management Board and CEO at Mercedes-AMG GmbH.

He is also acting Chief Technical Officer at AMG and has established a successful track record of implementing business transformation in a competitive environment.

Under Tobias’ leadership, Mercedes-AMG has more than doubled its product portfolio and quadrupled the number of AMG units sold, with a clear pipeline of further expansion opportunities, including electrification of power trains in the performance segment.

Tobias’ focus on operating and manufacturing efficiency has delivered significant margin expansion. This strong financial performance was supported by the introduction of a clear brand strategy, which delivered a measurable increase in brand value and awareness.

“The Board has determined that now is the time for new leadership to deliver our plans. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Andy for his hard work, personal commitment and dedication to Aston Martin Lagonda since 2014,” Lawrence Stroll, Aston Martin Lagonda Executive Chairman said.

“In that time the Company has successfully renewed its core sports car range, with the DB11, Vantage and DBS Superleggera, and has brought the brand’s first SUV, DBX to a point of readiness for deliveries to start in the summer,” he added.

“Furthermore, the development of the era-defining Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar has paved the way for the mid-engined range to come. I would also like to recognise his leadership through the current challenges and uncertainties presented by COVID-19.”

Stroll describes Moers as an exceptionally talented automotive professional and a proven business leader with a strong track record during his many years at Daimler AG, with whom Aston Martin has a long and successful technical and commercial partnership.

“Throughout his career he has delivered product expansion, strengthened brand positioning and improved profitability. He is the right leader for Aston Martin Lagonda as we implement our strategy for the business to achieve its full potential.”

Ahead of taking up his new role, Tobias Moers said he’s truly excited to be joining Aston Martin Lagonda at this point of its development, and is relishing the chance to work for the iconic brand.

“I believe that there is a significant opportunity to harness the strengths of the business to successfully deliver the planned product expansion and brand elevation,” he said.

“I am looking forward to working with Lawrence and the whole Aston Martin team to build a stronger business for our customers, our employees, our partners and our shareholders.”

Andy Palmer leaves his role at Aston Martin Lagonda after almost six years in the post. He oversaw the launch of the new DBX.


Stelvio is king of the ‘Ring

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

AHEAD of its 2018 Australian launch, the all-new Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio has claimed the title of world’s fastest production SUV, setting a new benchmark lap time at Germany’s legendary Nürburgring; lapping the 12.9-mile Nordschleife (north loop) in a record 7 minutes 51.7 seconds.

The new benchmark time is a full eight seconds faster than the previous production SUV record and was set at the hands of Fabio Francia, the same driver who also set the track record for the fastest four-door sedan in the world on the Nürburgring with the Giulia Quadrifoglio, in a time of just 7 minutes and 32 seconds.

The first SUV Alfa Romeo has ever built follows in the brand’s spirit: distinctive Italian style, state-of-the-art and innovative engines, perfect weight distribution, unique technical solutions and excellent weight-to- power ratio.

“We specifically engineered and designed the Stelvio Quadrifoglio to set world-class benchmarks and it did not disappoint with a world-record Nürburgring lap time of 7 minutes and 51.7 seconds,” said Reid Bigland, head of Alfa Romeo.

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio extensively integrates lightweight, state-of-the-art materials that enable and deliver perfect 50/50 weight distribution, segment-leading torsional rigidity, class-exclusive carbon fibre driveshaft and the most direct steering available.

The heart and soul of this ultra-high performance SUV is an all-aluminium, direct-injection 2.9-litre 24- valve Twin-Turbo inter-cooled V6 engine, delivering 375kW, to which the standard Q4 all-wheel-drive system is paired for the first time. The engine is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission with specific settings for shifting in just 150 milliseconds in Race mode.

Designed to enhance the all-new lightweight Alfa Romeo architecture, the all-aluminium 2.9-litre V-6 Twin-Turbo engine features a compact 90-degree layout and was holistically designed for a low centre of gravity within the chassis.

Advanced technology features unique to the Stelvio Quadrifoglio include a four-mode Alfa DNA Pro selector with Race mode, torque vectoring differential, Quadrifoglio-tuned adaptive suspension and cylinder deactivation system to maximise fuel efficiency.



MX-5 lands in Oz

All new Mazda MX5 Roadster GT

IT is now more than 25 years since Japanese car maker Mazda lifted the covers of the original MX-5, and today, its 2015 officially goes on sale in Australia.

With almost 17,000 Australian sales since its launch in 1989, the all-new fourth generation ND model hits the market from $31,990 (plus on-roads), a mere $2,000 more than the 1989 introductory price, but with considerably more standard features.

Available in two grades – the Roadster and the high-spec Roadster GT, the Mazda MX-5 will also offer two powertrains and two transmission types.

Launching with a 1.5 litre SKYACTIV-G petrol engine which outputs 96kW of power and 150Nm of torque, the MX-5 comes with either a 6-speed SKYACTIV-MT manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission.

With fuel economy figures that have improved by almost 25 per cent compared to its predecessor, the 1.5 litre with 6-speed SKYACTIV-MT manual transmission sips from as little as 6.1L/100km while the automatic records a lean 6.4L/100km.

Weighing in from 1,009kg, the ND is more than 90kg lighter compared to the previous NC model and a new suspension system improves turn-in ability, stability when braking and control when cornering.

A newly designed soft top makes it easy to open and close the roof in seconds, while Mazda-first double pinion electronic power steering is introduced in the new model.

MZD Connect, Mazda’s advanced infotainment system, with a seven-inch touch screen operated by a centrally located commander control makes its debut on MX-5. It’s available as an option on the 1.5 litre Roadster and as standard equipment on the 1.5 litre Roadster GT and the 2.0 litre range.

Available in six striking colours, including the popular Soul Red and the recently introduced Ceramic Metallic, the range comes with three interior trims, including black cloth for the Roadster and a choice of black or tan leather in Roadster GT.

The 1.5 litre range is available from today, while the 2.0 litre SKYACTIV-G petrol version, with 118kW of power and 200Nm of torque, will go on sale later this year.


Bolder, tougher HiLux as Toyota upgrades ute range

2020 Toyota HiLux
2020 Toyota HiLux

A bolder, tougher looking HiLux range has made its global debut, featuring an expanded line-up, and significant improvements to performance, fuel economy, ride comfort, towing and equipment levels.

The updated HiLux, arriving in Australian showrooms from late August, offers beefier output from its biggest selling 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine due to multiple new components and enhanced cooling.

Maximum power has increased to 150kW, while peak torque on automatic models has been ramped up to 500Nm. Fuel consumption also improves by up to 11.1 per cent while tuned accelerator response delivers greater driver control.

The upgraded HiLux range retains a 2.8 litre turbo diesel and a 2.7-litre four cylinder petrol engine, along with three transmissions, 4×2 and 4×4 drive, three body styles (single, extra and double cabs), and two configurations (pick-up or cab-chassis).

There’s five equipment levels (in ascending order Workmate, SR, SR5, Rogue and Rugged X). Suspension upgrades including revised shock absorber tuning, new bushings and improved leaf spring design provide a more comfortable ride.

The new system works particularly well over rough roads and with low loads while maintaining HiLux’s legendary off-road capabilities. 4×4 models gain downhill assist control, an additional traction control feature when using 2WD mode.

Towing capacity for automatic 4×4 HiLux variants, including new double cab chassis Workmate and SR5 derivatives, has been upgraded to a maximum of 3500kg to match the manual versions.

On 4×2 variants, all diesel automatics are now rated at 2800kg, an increase of up to 300kg. Revised exterior styling delivers a tough, robust on-road presence for HiLux that is more in keeping with the global Toyota ute/truck family.

A stronger on-road presence is achieved by a large trapezoidal grille that dominates the front design and incorporates more pronounced horizontal elements that deliver a wider, more planted look.

Grille surrounds differ by grade while newly designed headlights are smaller, for a ‘meaner’ look, and light clusters include LEDs on high grades.

Inside, all models have been upgraded to an 8-inch display screen with enhanced voice recognition and the latest smartphone integration functions, including the adoption of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

SR and higher grades are also equipped with satellite navigation and digital (DAB+) radio. A 4.2 inch multi-information display in the instrument binnacle incorporates a digital speed readout, among other new functions.

Personalisation remains a hallmark of HiLux with a wide range of accessories enabling customers to tailor their vehicles to their own work or leisure requirements. Further information, including pricing, will be announced closer to launch.

2020 Toyota HiLux2020 Toyota HiLux
Inside the next generation Toyota HiLux


Flagship Alpina B7 lands in Australia

2017 BMW Alpina B7

GERMAN car maker BMW has landed its flagship model in Australia, with the exceptional Alpina B7 set to bring a thrilling driving experience, luxury and precision dynamics to the hotly contested V8 performance car space.

Are you salivating yet? No. Well you should be.

Powerd by a bi-turbo 4.4-litre V8, the Alpina B7 is capable of zero-100km/h in 4.2 seconds, thanks to its 447kW direct injection petrol engine (did we mention the 800Nm of torque), with a top speed of 330km/h.

It has a rear wheel steering system and utilises the extremely rigid BMW 7 Series body, with touch of a button Sports+ mode – which adjusts all vehicle, drivetrain and suspension settings to maximum dynamic performance, and lowers the ride height by 20mm for more agility and high speed stability.

The Alpina’s stainless steel sports exhaust system with two twin-tailpipes features active exhaust valves and delivers a sporty, sonorous soundtrack, with the entire beastly package sitting on classic 21-inch 20-spoke forged wheels.

Inside, there is a luxurious ambience, with refined materials of the highest quality and a modern, clear interior design with discreet Alpina details. The hand-finished sports steering wheel finished in lavalina leather with blue/green stitching adds to the bespoke nature of the vehicle.

A digital, full-colour LED instrument panel also offers customisation, with classic blue instruments with red needles in Comfort mode, blue/green dials and drag indicators in Sport mode and an Eco Pro display.

Set to be exclusive (limited numbers will be available in Australia), the 2017 BMW Alpina B7 Bi-Turbo sedan will hit the road at $369,720 (plus on-roads), and comes with a three year/200,000km warranty. A Drexler Motorsport limited-slip differential option is also available.


Aston Martin, Bentley and Lamborghini return to production

Aston Martin, Bentley and Lamborghini returning to production
Bentley Motors are set to restart vehicle manufacturing

CAR makers across the globe, including supercar manufacturers like Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Bentley, have returned to vehicle production in recent days, albeit under extreme restrictions.

For Aston Martin Lagonda this week begins a carefully planned phased return to work for a number of its manufacturing staff as the business looks to prudently restart car making while adjusting to the new normal, and overcoming the threat of COVID-19.

Working closely with the trade unions, Aston Martin has developed detailed return-to-work protocols to be followed by employees returning to their jobs at the brand’s manufacturing facility in St Athan, Wales.

Production workers at the company’s global headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire will follow at a later date, as will office and support staff at Aston Martin Lagonda’s various other UK sites.

The meticulously planned procedures are aimed at protecting individual staff members, their colleagues, their families and the wider community. The social distancing, health and hygiene instructions cover every aspect of a staff member’s interaction.

Dozens of individual actions and instructions have been drawn up to support  staff, with carefully calculated limits on employee numbers on site and working at any given time. Appropriate PPE is being provided to all returning staff too, including mandatory masks.

Temperature checks on arrival at work are also being introduced. Scott Ward, the director of manufacturing at the company’s St Athan site said the health of staff was absolutely paramount in the slow and careful return to car building.

“The arrangements we have put in place here for our phased return to work as we continue to build the brand’s first SUV – the highly anticipated DBX – are designed to support the health and safety of staff,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bentley Motors will introduce a set of around 250 comprehensive and wide-ranging new hygiene and social distancing measures under an employee program called ‘Come Back Stronger’.

The strategy allows the company to implement a safe, phased return to production at the company’s headquarters in Crewe, England, from 11 May. The plan also marks the biggest change to daily working life in the company’s 100 year history.

“The time is now right for Bentley to begin a gradual and controlled return to production, while ensuring our sites are the safest place any of us can be,” Bentley Motors CEO Adrian Hallmark said.

“Everybody will be able to play their part to ensure we can continue Bentley’s extraordinary journey into the future of luxury, sustainable mobility.”

Automobili Lamborghini also restarted production at its Sant-Agata Bolognese factory on Monday, under strict guidelines, negotiated between trade unions, the car maker and the Italian government.

“We are ready to restart with great energy, but also with strict protocols for safeguarding what is most precious to us: the safety of our people,” CEO Stefano Domenicali said.

“This priority is why we were the first Italian automotive company to close and continues to be our guiding principle for a well-reasoned and safe recovery, because we still have not won the battle against COVID-19.”


Peugeot writes sequel to 308 story

FRENCH car maker Peugeot has written the sequel to its best selling 308 hatch, face lifting the car that has sold more than 760,000 since inception, and packing it with new technology in a bid to push the model up market.

Six model variants will make up the new range, down from 11, including the entry-level Access, Active, Allure, GT Line, GT, and super hot GTi, with a range of new engine options, including two new diesels giving customers improved choice. There’s a new 8-speed auto transmission too, and a sports wagon.

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink all feature in a next level infotainment system that includes 3D mapping and complete voice control, while a significantly more stylised interior offers improved passenger comfort.

Safety features like emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning are all standard, while an optional parking assist feature that will drive the car in and out of spaces for you is also available.

Featured in the video included in this story is the legendary 308 GTi, which features a lowered chassis, a completely new front and rear end, special bucket seats and an exclusive GTi steering wheel, as well as a new ‘Coupe Franche’ colour scheme – combining magnetic blue and perla nera black.

Powered by the ultimate THP S&S 270 engine, the 308 GTi offers up 6-second 0-100km/h times and 6.0L/100km fuel economy. It rides in true hot hatch style on 19-inch Carbone wheels and Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber. It’s fitted with a Torsen limited-slip diff, and pulls up hard thanks to massive 380mm front disc brakes, with branded Peugeot Sport red calipers.

The new 308, which will carry the brand into 2018, goes on sale in Europe in September, with an Australian release date yet to be confirmed.


Orange is the new black

2017 Toyota 86 special edition

IT’S known for its pure driving pleasure. An affordable sports coupe with a solid pedigree. We’ve even reviewed them multiple times, including the TRD Blackline edition, and more recently the brand new GT and GTS editions.

But just when you thought it was safe to choose the 86 you want, Toyota has created a super limited edition version, that not only adds a range of impressive dynamic improvements, but also gains a custom paint colour.

Just 60 of these exclusive cars are available in Australia, enhancing the appeal of the 86 for driving enthusiasts by fitting larger Brembo performance brakes for supreme stopping power and specially tuned Sachs performance dampers for enhanced stability.

The impressive dynamic enhancements are complemented by the high visual impact of unmissable Solar Orange paint – a blazing colour that achieves extra depth of tone.

The dramatic effect is heightened by a metallic black finish applied to the rear spoiler and door-mirror housings, while the exclusive exterior look is completed with a set of 10-spoke 17-inch anthracite-coloured alloy wheels.

In the cabin, the leather-accented front sports seats with perforated Alcantara trim feature contrast orange stitching, as do the steering wheel, gear shift, park brake and door trim. The suede-like Grandlux dashboard features an 86 logo embossed with orange stitch work.

The limited-edition 86 is powered by a 2.0-litre aluminium horizontally opposed direct-injection four-cylinder engine. Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, its maximum output is 152kW, with 212Nm of torque.

Other features include key-less entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, a 4.2-inch multi-information display, rear spoiler, privacy glass, satellite navigation and an upgraded multimedia system with a 6.1-inch display screen and Toyota Link2 connected mobility.

Based on the top-grade GTS manual, the 86 limited-edition performance package is priced at $41,490.


Mello Yello Subaru

A very yellow XV

YOU know that kind of sexy XV crossover that Subaru created, well the 2015 incarnation of it has a secret – a very bright shiny yellow secret – with the launch of a special edition sunshine yellow version.

The 2.0i CVT Special Edition, of which there will be just 200, features a black interior, with heated leather trim front seats and leather trim shift and steering wheel, along with the addition of embroidered carpet mats with orange stitching to match the unique seat, steering wheel and armrest stitching. There’s also an exclusive carbon fibre look interior trim panel.

Hitting the road at $30,740 (plus on-roads), the unique colour launch is part of an ongoing campaign to hit the road with a new colour (which has in the past included orange and vibrant green), each time a new model is unveiled in the XV range.