Blog Archives

Free trade deal announced

Japan and the European Union, EU have concluded negotiations on a giant free trade deal.

Shinzo Abe said Japan and the EU will join hands and build an economic zone based on free and fair rules.

The deal, which the EU has called its biggest ever, must be signed and ratified on both sides. The broad outlines of the deal were agreed to in July. Once completed, it will forge an economic zone of 600 million people worth 30 percent of global GDP.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said earlier that the agreement, which was four years in the making, had “strategic importance” beyond its economic value.

“It sends a clear signal to the world that the EU and Japan are committed to keeping the world economy working on the basis of free, open and fair markets with clear and transparent rules fully respecting and enhancing our values, fighting the temptation of protectionism,” the pair said in a statement released in Brussels.

Through the deal, the EU hopes to get better access to one of the world’s richest markets, while Japan hopes to jump-start an economy that has struggled to find solid growth for more than a decade.

This will include opening up the EU market to Japanese cars and auto parts.

The two sides were aiming to finalise the specifics in the hope of signing the deal next summer and putting it into effect in 2019.

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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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Porsche utilises latest technology

Porsche have announced the introduction of “Tech Live Look,” an Augmented Reality (AR) technology designed to improve technical services at Porsche dealerships in the United States.

These high-tech spectacles feature the latest in projection technology and come equipped with a high-resolution, auto focus camera that shows even fine details such as threading on screws. The glasses include a powerful LED to illuminate dark spaces in the engine compartment or under the car.

“Our main goal is to provide a better overall experience for our customers. Tech Live Look allows us to be more efficient and helps get vehicles back in the hands of our customers faster, all while still delivering exceptional service quality” explained Klaus Zellmer, President and CEO of PCNA.

How does this technology work?
When a service technician at a dealership in Los Angeles wears the spectacles and connects through the software with the Atlanta-based Porsche technical support team 2,200 miles away, it allows the support team to see exactly what he is seeing, in real time.

This “see what I see” video-conferencing capability with instant access to remote experts allows both parties to quickly identify and resolve technical issues. It can also help decrease service resolution time by up to 40 per cent, based on the findings of a pilot program undertaken in July 2017 at eight Porsche dealerships in California, Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, and Washington, along with one in Canada.

“Tech Live Look” can do much more than just provide real-time video capability. It allows the technical support team to take screen shots or send technical bulletins and instructions onto the projection surface of the glasses while the service technician is working on the vehicle. This type of information exchange is far more efficient than sending emails and photos or explaining complex technical issues over the phone.

“Tech Live Look” will officially launch in dealerships in North America in 2018.

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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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The new McLaren Senna

The McLaren Senna has been designed and built with one single goal: to be the most extreme track-concentrated car on the road.

The new supercar bears the name of legendary Formula 1 driver, Ayrton Senna, honouring its status as the ultimate McLaren track car.

Legalised for road use, but not sanitised to suit it, the new Ultimate series disrupts McLaren’s trademark breadth of supercar daily usability; instead it provides the purest connection between driver and car.

With its ultra-lightweight construction, carbon fibre chassis and body panels, the Senna’s aggressive appearance epitomises McLaren’s ‘form-follow’s-function’ design philosophy.

The McLaren Senna enjoys a power-to-weight ratio of 668PS per tonne, with its maximum power of 800PS (789bhp). This statistic immediately underlines the performance credentials of the newcomer to the McLaren Ultimate Series, a product family introduced with the McLaren P1™ that is reserved for the rarest and most extreme McLaren cars.

“The McLaren Senna is a car like no other: the personification of McLaren’s motorsport DNA, legalised for road use but designed and developed from the outset to excel on a circuit. Every element of this new Ultimate Series McLaren has an uncompromised performance focus, honed to ensure the purest possible connection between driver and machine and deliver the ultimate track driving experience in the way that only a McLaren can,” says Mike Flewitt, Chief Executive Officer, McLaren Automotive.

The carbon fibrechassis that forms the core of the McLaren Senna is a further development of the structure that underpins the McLaren 720S and the strongest monocoque ever built by McLaren for a road-legal vehicle. Every body panel is made from carbon fibre, in line with a relentless focus on the weight of every individual component that has resulted in the McLaren Senna being the lightest road-legal McLaren since the iconic F1 road car, at just 1,198kg.

The 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged M840TR V8 engine at the heart of the McLaren Senna is the most powerful road car internal combustion engine ever created by McLaren. 

Lightweight internal components reduce mass in the powertrain and combine with ultra-low inertia, twin-scroll turbochargers and electronically controlled wastegates to deliver lightning-quick throttle responsiveness.

Braking power is delivered by carbon-ceramic disc brakes which McLaren describes as the most advanced ever fitted to any of its road cars. The force delivered through these brakes is prevented from locking the wheels under braking with Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires, mounted on motorsport-derived, single-lug alloy wheels.

The third model introduced under the McLaren Track22 business plan, the McLaren Senna will be hand-assembled in England at the McLaren Production Centre. Production will be limited to 500 vehicles, each costing from over NZ$1 million.

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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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Honda to partner with AI giant

China’s leading artificial intelligence company, SenseTime, announced they have signed a five year joint development and research contract with Japanese car manufacturer, Honda.

SenseTime is highly regarded as a company that excels in image recognition technologies, which is powered by deep learning technology, one of the most advanced AI technologies.

The partnership will combine Honda’s vehicle control system with SenseTime’s algorithms to create an autonomous driving solution.

Autonomous driving solutions can be implemented even if there are no high-resolution maps. 

When a vehicle is driving without a detailed map covering its trajectory, it will still be able to use the self-driving function. This autonomous driving solution offers great advantages to a variety of passenger vehicle scenarios and will also lower transducer manufacturing costs.

SenseTime Japan CEO Lao Shihong said, “Safety is the utmost priority when it comes to driving, and it also constitutes the core of our autonomous driving solution. By combining SenseTime’s strengths in computer vision technologies with Honda’s superior vehicle control technologies, we will together enable a safe and pleasant autonomous driving experience. Moreover, the fact that SenseTime provides core technology to a global enterprise like Honda marks a milestone.”

SenseTime, with a set of core technologies and patents for autonomous driving, has also developed chips and embedded systems for smart AI cars.

The partnership between SenseTime and Honda is expected to accelerate the research and development of smart AI cars.

SenseTime is focused on computer vision and deep learning technologies, and has achieved many commercial successes.

It has powered many industries such as finance, security, smart phone, mobile internet, robotics and many more.

Following its latest US$410 million series B round of financing (which set a record for a single round of funding in the AI field), SenseTime has allocated more resources to developing autonomous driving, intelligent medical treatment, and deep learning computer chips.

The two companies have also announced they are working together to create robot technology.

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Ford and Alibaba’s new partnership

While it is unconfirmed, there are talks that Ford Motor Co. will be selling cars to consumers in China through Alibaba’s online retail arm, Tmall.

Representatives of Ford and Alibaba, including Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford and Ford CEO Jim Hackett, are expected to sign a letter of intent that outlines the scope of the partnership.

Jim Hackett, President and CEO, Ford Motor Company, outlines his plans for Ford to become the world’s most trusted mobility company earlier this week.

According to an unnamed source, the deal is intended to position Ford in the emerging Chinese marketplace where more cars will be sold online.

The partnership would be in line with the next phase of their China expansion strategy which was announced earlier this week, where Hackett shared his vision of a bigger presence in China.

Ford global chief spokesman Mark Truby said the company is expected to make an announcement on Thursday in Hangzhou, which is where Alibaba is based, but has declined to make a formal comment.

There is also talk about Ford utilising Tmall’s new retail concept called the “Automotive Vending Machine,” which entails a multi-story parking garage that partly resembles a giant vending machine, to sell directly consumers.

Those cars could come directly from Ford or from its dealers but the details are still to be worked out, the source added.

According to Alibaba, consumers can use their phones to browse through the cars stored in the vending machine and choose to either immediately buy one or test drive it. The vehicle would be delivered to them on the ground floor.

Ford believes dealers would likely agree to this direct retailing model because they still get to service cars sold through Tmall, the Ford source said.

The move could be potentially problematic for dealers, as the danger will be that they could lose out, not only on a lot of car sales, but also the lucrative auto financing aspect of their traditional business.

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