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VR app for learner drivers

The NZ Transport Agency, together with ACC, have created a virtual reality app, Drive VR to help young New Zealanders gain the necessary experience and confidence at critical driving tasks such as observational skills.

They will be challenged to spot hazards, check blind spots and mirrors, and look out of windows.

The NZTA believes that the app gives learner drivers a taste of using their observation skills as they are required to do in practical driving tests, but in virtual reality. It can be used anywhere with their personal device – including at home or in the classroom.

They will be challenged to spot hazards, check blind spots and mirrors, and look out of windows—all from a virtual driver’s seat. Observation skills are tracked, so learners can keep improving on their high score.

Drive VR is made by Government agencies ACC and the NZ Transport Agency. It is part of the Drive programme that helps young people learn what they need to for every step of the licence process – from the learner licence theory test all the way through to getting their full licence.

“From speaking to hundreds of young Kiwis, we know that many of them feel daunted by driving practical tests and freeze up when it comes to doing them in real life,” says ACC Road Injury Prevention Manager, Dr. Simon Gianotti.

“We also know drivers who are more aware of others on the road and who are better at spotting hazards are safer drivers,” he says.

“We wanted to help them feel more comfortable behind the wheel by giving them the opportunity to practise their observation skills from the comfort of their own home. Nothing replaces real life practice but this new VR experience is an incredible tool in helping prepare safe, skilled young drivers.”

People can download the free app onto their mobile device. It’s best used with Google Cardboard virtual reality headsets for a more immersive experience– thousands of these are being given away on the Drive website.

For a chance to win Drive VR goggles or to find out more information Click Here

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Electronic card spending up 1.4%

Retail spending using electronic cards was $5.2 billion in November 2017, with swipe happy consumers spending 3.6 per cent more than they did in November 2016.

The motor-vehicle industry contributed to this month’s growth by 1.0 per cent or $2 million.

Electronic card transactions series covers all debit, credit and charge car transactions involving New Zealand merchants.

These statistics are a great indication as to what changes are happening in consumer spending and economic activity. 

When adjusted for seasonal effects, total retail card spending rose 1.4 per cent in November 2017 after a 0.7 per cent rise in October 2017, Statistics New Zealand said today.

The motor-vehicle industry contributed to this month’s growth by 1.0 per cent or $2 million, which is a healthy increase compared to November 2016 when the industry was down 2.5 per cent.

However, the boost came largely off the back of increased spending on fuel which was up $28 million, 5.0 per cent.

“Fuel prices reached a three-year high in November, contributing to the overall increase in retail card spending,” retail manager Sue Chapman said.

It was also the first time since January 2017, all six retail industries had increases from last month.

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AA Car of the Year Awards

Tomorrow night AA Motoring and the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild will announce the winners of the 2017 New Zealand Car of the Year awards tonight.

Autofile will be reporting live from the event. Keep up to date on all the action as it happens by following us on Facebook and Twitter as the night unfolds.

The annual awards will take place this year at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre, recognising top-performing motors across a range of categories that have excelled in their field.

The New Zealand Car of the Year finalists.

Electric vehicles have their own category for the first time to reflect the increasing numbers available and growing market interest. However, electric vehicles aren’t new to the New Zealand Car of the Year line up, with the BMW i3 taking top honours in 2015.

Robert Barry, New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild President says the inclusion of an EV category is timely.  “It reflects not only the growing market but also that this technology is becoming a more affordable and reliable mobility solution for the New Zealand motorist.”

The New Zealand Car of the Year is in two parts. The Car of the Year award which is selected from a top 10 list of finalists chosen by a panel in October. To be eligible, the car must have been released in the New Zealand market between 1 October 2016 and 30 September 2017. 

This year’s finalists are:

  • BMW 5 series
  • Holden Astra
  • Honda Civic hatch
  • Hyundai Ioniq
  • Land Rover Discovery
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Skoda Kodiaq
  • Subaru XV
  • Suzuki Ignis
  • Suzuki Swift

“This year the top 10 line up represents a great cross section of new cars available to the market today from lower cost small cars loaded with technology to very practical and more expensive luxury vehicles,” Stocks says.

Its cutting-edge technology and world-class styling helped Mercedes-Benz E Class become the clear winner at last year’s AA Car of the Year awards.

Left to right – Ben Griffin (Mercedes-Benz) David O’Kane (MITO) at last year’s awards.

The Best in Class awards are selected from any new car on sale now in each category. This means a make and model released in previous years could beat out a newer car in its class. For example, the Ford Ranger was selected winner of the Best Utility class for the last five years.

The safest car for 2017 will also be announced at the December 12 event based on Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) crash test results.

The New Zealand Car of the Year People’s Choice award will also be announced on December 12. From November 1, the public will have a chance to vote for one of the top 10 finalists on the AA’s website and earn a chance to win a 9-day Pacific islands cruise for two.

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POAL reveal plans for port

It was another year of strong performance and growth for the Ports of Auckland, (POAL).

Over the past year POAL have started and finished several infrastructure projects that have enabled them to deliver improvements through technology and innovation and handle future growth.

The latest financial year saw a significant lift in cargo volumes across the POAL. The highest growth was in general cargo, which includes vehicles, which grew to 6.5m tonnes, an increase of 12.1 per cent year on year.

Over the past year POAL have started and finished several infrastructure projects that have enabled them to deliver improvements through technology and innovation and handle future growth. 

According to the December report, POAL expects infrastructure developments in the region to continue to fuel growth and demand for the ports services including the import of vehicles which increased again this year to 297,383 units – up nearly 20 per cent from last year.

The report also goes into detail about how moving the import car business out of Auckland into an alternative wouldn’t be sustainable and would result in excessive cost. POAL claim that recent studies show that Auckland is indeed the cheapest and the most environmentally friendly option for the import car trade in New Zealand. Not foregoing the fact that Auckland is also the main market for import vehicles into New Zealand.

The growth in non-containerised cargo has also put more pressure on POAL’s multi-cargo wharves which are operating above capacity. 

POAL Chief Executive Tony Gibson announced in the report that without changes to Bledisloe, Jellicoe, Marsden and Captain Cook multi-cargo wharves, the port will experience worsening congestion in this area.

To deal with this the POAL Draft 30-year Master Plan proposes a number of projects: faster clearance of cars from the wharf and the public preference to move the cars from view, the plan also includes a plan to develop a multi-storey car handling and storage facility with a green park rooftop.

This development would house vehicles currently parked on Captain Cook Wharf and in the Toyota Building at the Bledisloe Terminal and provide additional capacity to cater for forecast import vehicle volume increases.

Next to the car handling building and adjacent to Quay Street, POAL has earmarked space for a new hotel which would have connecting access to the adjoining rooftop park. “This would be a very different and exciting way of achieving a port/city interface” observes Alistair Kirk, POAL General Manager Infrastructure and Property.

The draft plan proposes building a new wharf on the end of Bledisloe multi-purpose terminal. It will be a piled structure, which is in line with POALs commitment to do no further retrieval in the harbour.

To increase their useable area for general cargo, Marsden Wharf will be removed which would allow the unlocking of the two wharves on either side, Bledisloe South and Captain Cook East. This would mean that part of the Bledisloe wharf would finally accommodate two 200m car carriers thereby increasing capacity and enabling the port to meet the challenge of the growing freight task.

Read more on the port development here.




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Safety rating comes with warning

ANCAP safety ratings for three new market entrants demonstrate the role in ANCAP’s independent safety testing.The Hyundai Kona and Holden Equinox both achieved the maximum 5 star safety rating. The MG ZS scored 4 stars.

Frontal offset of the Holden Equinox.

“SUVs are now the top-selling vehicle segment in Australia and New Zealand and these ratings speak clearly that some are safer than others,” said ANCAP Chief Executive, Mr James Goodwin.

“We were impressed earlier this year with the safety performance of MG’s larger GS model – the very first Chinese vehicle to achieve the top safety rating – however its smaller stablemate, the ZS, does not perform as well. Its rating is held back to 4 stars due to sub-par performance in our head-on crash test.”

The MG ZS scored 10.46 points out of 16.00 points in the frontal offset crash test. Insufficient inflation of the passenger airbag caused ‘bottoming-out’ of the dummy head through the airbag and onto the dash, and a penalty was applied.

Protection for the driver’s knee area was also insufficient. The ZS does not offer any form of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) or lane support functions.

Frontal offset of the MGZS.

In contrast one of its segment competitors, the Hyundai Kona, saw higher levels of protection offered to vehicle occupants.

“The Kona offers good all-round safety,” Mr Goodwin said.

Hyundai Kona

“Its crash test performance was well within 5 star range, and AEB is offered for all variants though it must be optioned on the base variant in Australia. AEB is, however, a standard inclusion on all New Zealand variants.”

“The Equinox is also a good structural performer in all physical crash tests, but consumers will need to opt for higher-specced variants to receive the added safety benefits of AEB and lane keep assist,” he said.

A 5 star ANCAP safety rating applies to all Hyundai Kona and Holden Equinox variants. A 4 star rating applies to all MG ZS variants.

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McLaren creates new colour

McLaren Special Operations, MSO, has created a unique colour with a family story attached.

570S Spider At Muriwai

‘Muriwai’ is the New Zealand coastal community where Bruce McLaren first won his motor race at the age of fifteen and the name chosen for his family house in Surrey, England.

Muriwai is now the name of a new special paint colour in the MSO catalogue for the recently launched 570S Spider.

The colour itself, inspired by the whitewashed walls and deep-blue accents of his homestead, is white with blue flecks.

Amanda McLaren, Bruce’s only child, the MSO and AkzoNobel, McLaren paint partner, to develop the new paint colour.

Amanda McLaren at Muriwai House.

“My mother Patty had been at a dinner party with a palm reader, who told her she’d live in a big white house with blue doors and shutters,” revealed Amanda. 

“Whether by destiny or design, that is what transpired and Muriwai was a place of pride for Bruce and comfort to Patty years after my father’s premature death in 1970 at the age of 32. Muriwai was always special to my father; the exotic name as much as the house. Forty-two kilometres’ northwest of Auckland, it’s where he grew up and won his first hill climb, aged 15, at the wheel of an Ulster Austin which remains in McLaren’s heritage collection in Woking.”

Bruce McLaren and his daughter, Amanda.


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Minister briefing – change is coming

The NZTA have just published their Ministry of Transport and Transport Sector briefing documents designed for the incoming Ministers.

If there is a change of government or an appointment of a new Minister, a briefing document is written to help the incoming Ministers understand the key issues faced by their respective portfolios.

The Transport briefing underpins initial discussions between the Minister and the MoT’s management and Board.

It also provides fantastic insight as to what issues the motor industry may face in the upcoming years.

As Peter Mersi, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Transport, makes apparent in the document, new technologies are transforming the world around us. The number of electric vehicles, EVs, are on the rise. New business models are being developed by the motor industry as vehicles become smarter, safer and increasingly automated.

“The combination of new technologies, increasing movements of people and freight, road safety concerns, and environmental pressures will drive many changes,” says Peter Mersi. “While the transport sector as a whole is changing, the basic needs for transport won’t change any time soon.”

The briefing has identified key strategic challenges and opportunities for transport over both the next few years and the decades ahead.

Transport sector is undergoing rapid technological change

Our transport system will become increasingly connected, automated, shared and electric.

“The transport sector is going through an unprecedented period of innovation in vehicles, infrastructure, and services. Transport could be at the forefront of a ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – a fusion of the physical and digital worlds that is transforming how people live and work,” says the document.

In terms of the motor-industry, the document states that most car makers will be developing new business models to sell ‘mobility as a service’ instead of just selling vehicles.

“Fully autonomous vehicles, when they become widely available, are more likely to be operated as shared fleets instead of all individually-owned, making travel cheaper and more convenient, while requiring less infrastructure.”

Even though fully-autonomous vehicles are expected to be much safer there’s a while to wait until this technology is completely developed.

“The greatest technological safety benefits are likely to come from advanced driver-assistance systems such as automated emergency braking and collision avoidance systems. Connected vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies could also assist people to drive more safely, providing drivers with real-time information about road risks, speed limits, and current road conditions.”

The document also notes that New Zealanders’ will have to be willing to jump onto the technological bandwagon.

“Attitudes towards new transport technologies and services will also affect the speed of any transitions. New Zealanders are often quick to embrace new technologies, but also tend to prefer buying used vehicles. The average age of motorised vehicles in New Zealand is 14 years old. The widespread availability of shared vehicle fleets could accelerate the modernisation of vehicles, but only if attitudes towards vehicle ownership also change.”

Transport will be key to reaching climate change goals

New Zealand is committed under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Transport emissions have increased by 78 per cent since 1990 according to the latest national report from the Ministry of The Environment and Statistics New Zealand

The increasing vehicle movements are associated with growth in our population, tourism, and exports. It also reflects changing consumer preferences towards purchasing vehicles with larger engines.

“Widespread adoption of electric cars and other light vehicles would make the largest impact on transport emissions to 2030.”

“The slow turnover of New Zealand’s vehicle fleet may temper the speed of the transition to electric vehicles. We have one of the oldest vehicle fleets among developed nations. They are likely to wait until cheaper second-hand electric vehicles are available.”

The main barrier to the New Zealander’s buying EVs is the lack of confidence in the infrastructure, battery range and the upfront cost of new vehicles.

High private car use

“New Zealanders travel in many different ways, but the most common method is by private car. Almost 80 percent of household trips are made by car.”

“Over the last twenty years car use has grown, while the share of trips made by walking, cycling, and public transport has fallen. Even for short trips of two kilometres or less, which represent a third of vehicle trips, people use cars over 75 percent of the time.”

“New Zealand’s vehicle fleet has grown significantly since 2000, increasing almost 50 percent. New car sales hit a record in 2016, and we are on track to exceed this in 2017. We now have one of the highest car ownership rates in the world. Approximately 60 percent of cars added to the fleet each year are imported used vehicles.”

To encourage a shift in travel modes, the document states that New Zealand needs to invest in making alternatives to private car use more compelling.

“Vehicle-sharing and ride-sharing could become more popular, with people using smartphones and Mobility as a Service platforms to organise and pay for trips. However, it is unclear how readily New Zealanders will embrace these forms of shared transport,” said Mersi. 

To read the full briefing document click here.

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ESC for Toyota Land Cruiser

‘VSC OFF’ on the 200 Series Toyota Land Cruiser’s dashboard’s display.

The VIA, (the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association), has been contacted by several members as to whether the 200 Series Toyota Land Cruiser has electronic stability control, (ESC).

The VIA has found that to identify vehicle stability control, (VSC), which is recognised by the NZTA as ESC, the vehicle needs to be put into low ratio 4WD and moved before the warning “VSC OFF” will come up on the dashboard’s display.

If this display comes up, the vehicle is ESC-equipped and compliant.

For any questions on this or any other ESC-related issue, please contact Technical Manager Malcolm Yorston on 0800 VIA VIA (842 842) or email

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Mitsubishi Motors tests their best

MMNZ’s top service technician Javan Huxtable from Houston Mitsubishi Nelson at last year’s competition.

The twelve finalists competed across three categories at Mitsubishi’s state-of-the-art training workshop in Porirua, battling it out to be named top in their field within the company’s network.

That it was such a close call between the finalists to name a winner demonstrates the strength in depth enjoyed across the country, said aftersales general manager, Noel Comerford.

“It was highly satisfying that all of our finalists performed at an exceptionally high level. Javan, John and Sean just shaded it with an all-round performance that showcased their outstanding skills, efficiency and professionalism in a workshop environment,” he said.

“We want every customer to know that, if they need to take their vehicle in for service, our teams can quickly and correctly diagnose and remedy any issue there may be.”

Best Service Technician: Javan Huxtable, Houston Mitsubishi (Nelson)

Best Service Advisor: Sean Freeman, McVerry Crawford (Feilding)

Best Parts Advisor: John Baker, Mexted Mitsubishi (Tawa)

The Parts Advisor category was added to this year’s competition, as the company continues to expand its focus on aftersales service standards.

“We’re the only company in the global Mitsubishi Motors network to include a Parts Advisor category in our skills competition,” said Mr Comerford. “We believe we’re also the first automotive brand in New Zealand to do so.

“We wanted to recognise the important role our parts advisors play in aftersales service. By challenging our people to test themselves and better themselves in competition against their colleagues, we aim to drive motivation and performance across the board. Ultimately it’s a win-win for our team and our customers.”

Technical Service Skills Competition puts the spotlight on technical know-how and service savvy.

Each of the finalists was required to complete a theory examination in the morning, before demonstrating their skills in a practical challenge. Parts Advisor winner John Baker says that it was fantastic to be involved in the competition.

He credits his success to the high standards set at Mexted Mitsubishi, which also produced last year’s Service Advisor winner.

“We’re expected to always go the extra mile to ensure the customer is satisfied. When you get to a competition like this, it’s just about doing what you do in your normal day. I’ve also been working with Mitsubishi parts for more than 13 years, so I know them really well.”

Service Technician winner Javan Huxtable says that he was happy to successfully defend the title he won last year, as the level of competition was even higher.

“I was the only finalist to make it back from last year’s competition and I thought the quality of the contestants was even better than before. Competitions like this give people an incentive to improve their skills and I think that’s why it was a lot harder,” he says.

Sean Freeman, who won the Service Advisor category, said “it was a really enjoyable competition. I’ve been involved with other manufacturer’s competitions and they weren’t as hands-on, so I really enjoyed that aspect,” he says. “It was also great to get the chance to talk with other Service Advisors and find out how they do things. I was able to pick up a couple of tricks to take back to our workshop!”

All three winners will enjoy a trip to Japan in February, where they will witness the country’s own Technical Skills Competition and take a tour of its state-of-the-art manufacturing plant.

2017 MMNZ Technical Service Skills Competition finalists

Service Advisors

  • Michael Strudwick, Mexted Motors (Tawa)
  • Rachel Delaney, Delaney Mitsubishi (Paraparaumu)
  • Matt Gay, Wayne Kirk Hastings (Hastings)

Service Technicians

  • Ben Lambert, Malcolm Lovett (Ashburton)
  • Robert Greig, Wayne Kirk Napier (Napier)
  • Andy Young, Wellington Mitsubishi (Wellington)

Parts Advisors

  • Richard Schraven, Wayne Kirk Napier (Napier)
  • Jolene Evans, Archibald Motors (Wellington)
  • Mark Wright, McVerry Crawford (Palmerston North)
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Record result for UDC Finance

UDC CEO Wayne Percival

UDC Finance has posted a record net profit after tax of $61.6 million for the year to 30 September 2017, a 5 per cent increase on the previous financial year.

Total lending increased 13 per cent to $2.91 billion. Motor vehicle lending increased by 28 per cent, up $261 million, commercial lending and equipment dealer lending both increased by 4 and 7 per cent, respectively.

“UDC has delivered another very good result, reflecting growth in our loan portfolio across a range of industries, continued improvement in credit quality and careful management of costs,” said UDC CEO Wayne Percival.

“Continued strength of the economy has seen record new car sales, healthy investment in new equipment in agriculture, forestry, construction and business services. Our focus remains on our core business of financing these requirements and understanding the needs of our customers.

“This momentum has continued, with UDC’s loan book passing $3 billion at the start of November.”

Revenue increased by $3.6 million, a growth of 3 per cent compared to the full 2016 year. Underlying revenue growth from lending has been even stronger, but this was offset by the cost of funds, lower prepayment revenue and lower fee income.

Costs remained under control, increasing only 3% during the year. Increased efficiencies have resulted in cost-to-income reducing to 26.1%.

Provisioned expenses of $5.9 million is a decrease of $1.5 million (-20%) on FY16. The overall quality of the lending book remains strong and there have been no individually significant write-offs in the period.

At $1.039 billion, debenture funding remains an important part of the funding mix but has declined by 35% from the prior year.

ANZ has increased the level of funding support with the limit on the facility increased to $2.7 billion effective from 13 November 2017.

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New Electric Charging Partnership

ChargeNet New Zealand and Aurora Energy are partnering together to extend a charging network for electric vehicles in Dunedin, Central Otago and Queenstown lakes.

Aurora Energy is New Zealand’s seventh largest electricity network by customer connections, supplying electricity to more than 88,000 homes, farms and businesses in Dunedin, Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes.

ChargeNet NZ is the only organisation installing a nationwide network of rapid charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. It is also the largest privately owned and operated DC fast charger network in the Southern Hemisphere. The partnership will mean faster growth in the Southern region.

“The Otago region is one of the most active regions in the country in terms of embracing electric vehicles, and we are keen to support electric vehicle owners through this partnership with Aurora Energy,” said Nick Smith, Chief Operating Officer of ChargeNet NZ.

The agreement between the two organisations means an upgrade to the existing charger in Filleul St, Dunedin, to a Tritium charger supplied by ChargeNet. Other sites around the Dunedin CBD are also being considered for new installations.

“Extending the Dunedin and surrounding offerings is an important step in bolstering our ever-growing nationwide network of fast chargers and will be a game changer for both local and visiting electric vehicle owners.”

“The sites will complement the existing infrastructure in the Aurora Energy network, including Wanaka and Alexandra, and other installations underway in Queenstown and Roxburgh.”

“With most electric vehicles taking between six to eight hours to charge via a domestic power point, one of the challenges has been the ability to charge them when away from home, but the fast charge network which we are putting in place will allow electric vehicle owners to charge a vehicle in less than 25 minutes,” he says.

Aurora Energy is also delighted in the partnership as it will allow vehicle owners in Dunedin and wider Otago region greater confidence to make the move to driving electric said Grady Cameron, Chief Executive of Aurora Energy.

“We expect the new partnership will support further electric vehicle uptake across our network area and encourage even more people to make the switch to electric vehicles.

“Since Aurora Energy installed the South Island’s first public fast charging station in February 2016, the number of electric vehicles in Otago has increased from 50 to 225. Nationwide, the growth in electric vehicles has been exponential with 5,400 now registered in New Zealand, up from just 500 three years ago.

“Electric vehicles are an increasingly attractive option for New Zealand drivers and are cheaper, cleaner and quieter to run than traditional petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles,” added Mr Cameron.

There are 57 chargers connected to ChargeNet’s network nationwide, at 30 November 2017 and they aim to have over 105 stations by the end of 2018.

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