The giants finally stir

Posted on May 21st, 2008 in diesel,Driving Emotion,Economy,Ford,Holden,Mitsubishi,Opinion,Toyota by Julian Edgar

In August last year I wrote:

Read it again.

Less than a year later:

–  Mitsubishi manufacturing in Australia has gone broke

– Holden has said that within 2 years it will release diesel, hybrid and possibly four cylinder turbo versions of the Commodore. The company may also build smaller cars in Australia.

– Ford has released a ‘going on as the same’ FG Falcon, and then – oops, gosh, the world has changed! – announced a diesel engine version within 2 years.

– Toyota has said that they’re eager to build a Camry hybrid in Australia.

I wrote then :

The local manufacturers – especially Holden and Ford – need to show with locally developed product in the showroom that they can produce cars that appeal to more than Ford/Holden performance car enthusiasts, that they not only understand but also actively embrace the significant social change that is now occurring. Otherwise the Australian car will continue down the road to anachronistic irrelevance – it’s already on that path and accelerating as fast as its powerful and thirsty engine can take it….

At last, at last, Holden and Ford are stirring. Hopefully it won’t be too late.

19 Responses to 'The giants finally stir'

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  1. Joe Public said,

    on May 22nd, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    As petrol, diesel & LPG prices heads north, Australian car manufacturers are in deep trouble – the so-called “Australian car” – big engined, spacious & large – is headed for mass extinction. What is needed is a paradigm shift – more urban planning with extensive public transportation, high density living & less dependence on cars will be the future for Australia.
    Despite our love of cars, it’s time is almost up! Global warming, escalating resource prices, traffic gridlock and environmental concerns are signs that the car is no longer relevant to our transportation needs in the next century. Our way of life as we see it today is in danger of undergoing drastic change. Just like the horse carriage industry (carriage building, horse breeding & blacksmiths) collapse in the last century to give way to horseless carriages eg. cars. In the same manner, car manufacturing will eventually collapse giving way to a new future concept. Even if the car giants stir, it is too late for them. The feedstock [oil] that drives cars is depleting. We need a new alternative now, not 2 years down the road. The chances that petrol prices will hit AUD$2.00/litre, diesel AUD$2.50/litre & LPG AUD$1.00/litre is high – therefore diesel, hybrid or even LPG would not be a affordable option to driving cars.

  2. Ben said,

    on May 22nd, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    That or cars would become available which were very small very quickly. For a couple of days I have been thinking about a Velomobile sized vehicle with, maybe, 20hp, a single seat, and the capacity for about 40kg of luggage.

    If you think of something like one of Julian’s recumbant trikes with a small engine behind the seat and some form of reasonably aerodynamic body, that’s what I mean. Something that small with 20hp would have reasonable acelleration and great economy. Albeit almost zero resistance to soccer mum’s in their mobile high-rises.

    I doubt that would happen in the near future though, but if anyone knows of one, point me at it.

    Incedentally the advert on the right of my screen at the moment says “Life starts at 258kw”, advertising a VW Touareg

  3. Julian Edgar said,

    on May 23rd, 2008 at 6:29 am

    Of all the Australian cities, Sydney will be most affected by rising petrol prices.

    Some interesting points:

    And surely, the timing of the FG Falcon is getting worse every day…

  4. Andrew said,

    on May 23rd, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    I don’t think that cars (as a concept) are dead yet, nor will we see their death in our lifetimes; they do too many things too well. Changes in their use, yes. Changes in what they are (multi-purpose and therefore wasteful), yes.

    Any changes to our cities will take a long time. Maybe the developing nations, where they can build to suit the new situation, and European countries, where cities grew prior to the advent of cars, will have an easier time than will countries like the US, Australia and New Zealand.

    Ben, if we can find someone to build them, I would love to buy one too. Such vehicles might work with government support in creating a new set of design standards and perhaps special lanes. (They could be narrow enough that narrower than standard lanes would be possible.)

    Active safety would be more important than passive so it might require some compromise on fuel economy v performance.

    Of the Australian large cars, while I think the Falcon is probably dying, the Commodore will live on because it is exported to areas of the world where oil will remain inexpensive and it looks like it will share a platform with other models. It also has access to US driveline technology and therefore their economies of scale.

  5. Ben said,

    on May 23rd, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Do you mean something like an integrated rollcage? That would add a significant amount of weight once you include suspension strong enough to carry it. But even then the vehicle would still be light enough to have a significant economy advantage over almost everything else…

  6. Barry dal HERBERT said,

    on May 23rd, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    Maybe the Aussie magazines have started to wake up too – the May/June copy of the NRMA’s Open Road member’s magazine says that the new FG Falcon is the best ever, and completely irrelevant! Copyright rules would probably preclude me including the article to be published here (Julian?), so non-NRMA members will find it at their local public library.

  7. Julian Edgar said,

    on May 24th, 2008 at 6:46 am

    This test? It doesn’t seem to say what you (and some other web posters) suggest it says. Is the magazine test different?

  8. Barry dal HERBERT said,

    on May 24th, 2008 at 11:30 am

    No, not that article! But that is interesting… The wording at the very end of that URL (The writer of this report does not necessarily represent the views of the NRMA and this report is provided for you as an alternative to our own NRMA car reviews) suggests that the NRMA are having an each-way bet (with themselves?).
    I can email you the Open Road article Julian.

  9. Gordon Drennan said,

    on May 24th, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Its pretty hard to meet the current new vehicle crash safety rules with anything that weights less than a tonne. The electric car advocates complained when the Reva couldn’t be registered here because it wasn’t built to meet those crash safety rules. When petrol gets to $2 a litre will someone decide the time has come to let cars that contribute something else valuable, like emitting way less CO2 by whatever means, be exempted from meeting the crash safety rules, as happened in Europe?

  10. Richard said,

    on May 24th, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    ….When petrol gets to $2 a litre will someone decide the time has come to let cars that contribute something else valuable, like emitting way less CO2 by whatever means….

    So saving a few C02s is more important that peoples’ lives? This scaremongering is really getting out of hand. Drive less, catch public transport.. change your lifestyle. Don’t think the manufacturers can solve all the problems for you (another observation of modern society!)

  11. Bob jay said,

    on May 25th, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Hello!!!!!!!!Rember the diesel Holden Gemini? The 4 cly Commodore and the Diesel Pug 504 and various Merc diesels of the seventies?
    Diesels just dont really excell in cars even today but I would have nothing else in a boat with an inboard motor for safety and efficiency reasons.
    Turbo charging is great in aircraft engines to overcome the effects of altitude induced power loss in piston engined planes but hey, gas turbines are now replacing piston engines (eg the Flying Doctor’s Pilatus) and my car never leaves ground level anyway.
    However neither yet works as well as a modern petrol engine in cars because cars need high torque at off idle revs for drivability, even with multi ratio automaic (read expensive) transmissions.
    Systemic changes ie to cities and also lifestyle changes of course are happening and one day car propulsion systems will evolve but today, tomorrow, next week, next year? No, we just ain’t there yet.
    So stop banging on about how Ford Australia and GMH should be solving the world’s problems – when real cost effective alternative propulsion systems are in place no doubt they will hit this tiny corner of the world too.
    Meanwhile think more and drive less. Use a light foot when you drive and remember car pooling (a quaint idea from the eighties I think). Also ban big dumb truck like SUV’s and tax the hell out of mega performance yobbo mobiles, be they HSV for the cashed up bogans or AMG mega Mercs for rich white collar thieves.
    Finally, fuel should be taxed MORE, say to parity with EU prices (about 1.6 Euros a litre or $A2.50) today) ie use economics to change behavoir and hasten social change. Bob Jay

  12. Julian Edgar said,

    on May 25th, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Bob, perhaps you should read and especially look at the second pic, a graph. As that graph shows, specific torque outputs of diesel passenger car engines have TRIPLED since the mid Seventies, so those old diesel engines are a completely irrelevant comparison.

    Your understanding of turbocharging and the thermal efficiency boost it gives engines might be enhanced by reading In short, a turbocharged diesel engine is the most efficient conventional passenger car engine in existence. And most typically have max torque by something like 1500-2000 rpm!

    I would certainly disagree with the statement that current diesels don’t excel: they certainly do.

    I have never said that Holden and Ford should be solving the world’s problems. What I have said is that they should not be trailing the world by years. They are currently doing just that, and as I have written in the blog above, are only now stirring.

    Re increasing the price of fuel and taxing mega-CONSUMING (not ‘performance’ cars as you have written), sure, bring it on.

  13. doctorpat said,

    on May 26th, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    For everyone speculating about what a light, efficient vehicle might look like:

    That’s a tiny fraction of the fuel consumption of a Prius. And apparently ready for mass production.

  14. Julian Edgar said,

    on May 26th, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Doctorpat – should have looked in AutoSpeed! –

  15. doctorpat said,

    on May 27th, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Oops, I’d forgotten that. Because Autospeed was so far ahead of the times (6 years).

    The difference now is that it is being released to the public.

  16. Mitchell said,

    on May 29th, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    What ballpark economy and CO2 figures will Ford and Holden have to acheive with these new models to get back in favour with the public (bearing in mind they are late to the party), Julian? Realistically that is.

  17. Julian Edgar said,

    on May 29th, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Who knows? I’d guess about 20 per cent better than current.

  18. Mitchell said,

    on May 30th, 2008 at 2:42 am

    That seems realistically attainable.

  19. doctorpat said,

    on May 30th, 2008 at 9:57 am

    What about the Chrysler 300C diesel? Anyone know how that goes for economy, and how well is it selling versus its petrol siblings?