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Record March for Australian market

A record March result of 106,988 sales delivered a strong 4.4 per cent first quarter growth for the Australian new vehicle market according to the motor industry’s official statistical service VFACTS.

Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

Australia’s new vehicle market grew 1.5 per cent in March, compared with the same month last year. It marked the ninth month of record industry sales in the past 11 months and brought the year-to-date total to 291,538 sales.

The March result was boosted by notable sales gains in small and medium SUVs, light and micro passenger cars.

Small SUVs climbed 32.8 per cent compared with March 2017, while medium SUVs increased sales by 10.1 per cent. The micro car market jumped 47.2 per cent, while light cars gained a healthy 6.9 per cent.

SUVs provided the market’s firm support during March with private sales up 7.6 per cent and business sales up 0.4 per cent in a segment which increased 9.7 per cent overall compared with the same month last year. SUV sales grew progressively during the first quarter to now represent 42.3 per cent of the total market.

The light commercial market dipped slightly overall (down 0.4 per cent) in March, although sales of 4WD utes and cab chassis models were still up 3.2 per cent compared with the same month last year. The LC segment grew over the March quarter however, and now represents 19.7 per cent of the total market.

Five of the states and territories recorded sales gains during March compared with the same month last year, the Northern Territory led the way with 12.8 per cent growth. 

The Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber, said that the healthy first quarter growth demonstrated that consumers were attracted by the diversity of product and the value on offer.

“To have the market at 4.4 per cent ahead of last year’s record total is a clear vote of consumer confidence in the economy’s stability and low interest rates, both key factors which encourage private buyers and businesses into new vehicles,” Weber said.

“The continued growth of SUVs in our market comes in the same week as the US Environmental Protection Agency indicated it would adopt less stringent and more realistic emissions targets into the future.”

Toyota was the market leader for March with a 17.6 per cent share, followed by Mazda with 9.1 per cent, Mitsubishi with 8.2 per cent, Hyundai (7.9 per cent) and Ford (6.3 per cent).

The Toyota Hilux, which led the market last year, maintained its top-seller position in March with 4,348 sales, followed by the Ford Ranger (4,064 sales), Toyota Corolla (3,218), Mitsubishi Triton (3,109) and the Mazda3 (2,780).


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Uber to invest heavily in Australia

Uber is investing heavily in Australia’s ride-hailing industry, according to a senior executive at the tech firm.

Ride-sharing has had good adoption in Australia and there’s competition from local rival GoCatch and other firms, like India’s Ola, who are planning to enter the market, Henry Greenacre, general manager for Australia and New Zealand at Uber, told CNBC.

Uber also said that it was expanding its presence in the country by launching its carpooling service, Uber Pool, in Sydney on April 3.

“We’re investing really heavily in Australia,” Greenacre said. “We think ride-sharing has had great adoption here but we think there’s still a huge amount of space for us to grow, and by investing in something like Uber Pool, we’re investing heavily in that. We think that product will stand on its own two feet relatively quickly.”

Currently there are more than 85,000 Uber drivers in Australia.

However, the firm’s losses surged 61 per cent in 2017 to US$4.5 billion, though its loss in the fourth quarter narrowed from the prior period.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is now focused on cleaning up the company’s battered reputation and instilling financial discipline to push toward profitability. 

When asked if he thought Uber was struggling in emerging markets, Greenacre said Uber has a “thriving business” in places like India and the Middle East. Yet, Indian media recently reported that Japan’s SoftBank, which is an investor in Uber and India’s Ola, could be pushing for a merger between the two firms in the future.

“Dara, our CEO, has come out and said we will continue to invest really heavily in those types of areas, as well as invest heavily in our more core markets and Australia is one of those markets,” Greenacre said.

“What he has also made clear is that we need to show a path to profitability and a path to IPO and this is all part of that,” he added.

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Australia’s new vehicle market continues to grow

Australia’s new vehicle market grew 6.1 per cent in the first two months of 2018 compared with the same period last year.

Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

Last month’s industry total of 95,999 was an increase of 7.8 per cent over February last year and lifted the 2018 year-to-date cumulative total to 184,550.

This pattern maintains strong industry momentum at an important time.

Comparing last month’s outcomes with those of February 2017, many key segments of the market produced positive results with light passenger cars up by 10.3 per cent, small passenger cars up by 9.4 per cent and three of the four SUV segments showing double-digit growth.

SUVs remained the dominant segment with 41.5 per cent of the February market, with passenger cars holding a 35.9 per cent share, and light commercials continuing their steady climb to a 19.5 per cent share.

Light commercials produced strong gains again in the two key light truck segments, with 4×2 pick-up and cab chassis models up by 7.1 per cent (compared with February 2017) and 4WD versions increasing by 17.9 per cent.

All the states and territories produced sales gains during February compared with the same month last year. The strongest result was for Victoria which increased 14.2 per cent, followed by Tasmania with 11.8 per cent, Western Australia with 10 per cent, then the ACT (+9.7%), Queensland (+6.0%), South Australia (+5.8%), NSW (+3.4%) and the NT (+1.3%).

The Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber, said that the strong 2018 growth provided further proof that the fiercely competitive nature of the Australian new vehicle market was providing strong value for the consumer.

“Consumers are supporting the value propositions that the brands are offering,” Mr Weber said.

“To have the market already running 6.1 per cent ahead of last year’s record total indicates that consumer confidence is still strong, and all those elements which underpin our economy remain in position.”

Toyota was the market leader for February with a 19 per cent share, followed by Mazda with 10.3 per cent, Hyundai with 8.3 per cent, Mitsubishi (7.4%) and Ford (6.3%).

The Toyota Hilux, which led the market last year, maintained its top-seller position in February with 4,426 sales, followed by the Ford Ranger (3,544 sales), Toyota Corolla (3,270), Mazda3 (2,935) and the Mazda CX-5 (2,191).

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Australia recalls 2.3 million cars

The Australian government has issued a compulsory recall of more 2 million vehicles fitted with defective air bags made by Japanese auto parts maker Takata Corp.

Speaking at a news conference in Canberra, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar said the recall of 2.3 million vehicles was the “largest and most significant recall in the nation’s history.”

“The compulsory recall will force manufacturers, dealers, importers and other suppliers to ensure that all dangerous Takata airbags are located and replaced as quickly as possible,” Sukkar said.

The assistant minister said that 4 million Australian cars in total had been affected by the defective airbags, or about two in seven cars on the road.

“Tragically there’s been one death and one case of serious injury in Australia as a result of the deployment of these airbags, and the government just doesn’t want to see anymore,” he said.

The motor industry’s peak body, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), said the industry would move “heaven and earth” to satisfy the requirements of the compulsory Takata airbag recall announced today by the Federal Government.

“The safety of our customers is our utmost priority,” FCAI Chief Executive Tony Weber said.

“That’s why the industry will do its utmost to comply with the conditions set down in the legislation.”

“We already know from the voluntary recall which has been underway for some years that there are a number of significant issues in getting the affected vehicles rectified. These include difficulties contacting the affected customers, constraints imposed by replacement airbag supply and the ability of the networks to process such a huge number of vehicles.”

“However, we know our brands are determined to do their part and have in place strategies to prioritise vehicles and have this recall addressed by 31 December 2020, as determined by the Minister.”

Around 4 million vehicles have been identified as affected by the recall. However, some 1.7 million have already been rectified by the industry under the previous voluntary agreement conducted over a number of years and in full consultation with the Federal government and the ACCC.

A further 859,000 cars were added under the compulsory recall announced today.

Cars on the compulsory recall list include various models that have already been subject to a voluntary recall — Toyota, Mazda, Honda, BMW, Chrysler, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and several others.

“We are calling on the state and territory governments to work with us on this issue, as we know that will deliver the safest outcome. Surely that is what we all want.”

No plans to initiate such a move in New Zealand

While the Australian government has announced a recall, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) says there are no plans to initiate the same here in New Zealand.

Currently, there are voluntary recalls being undertaken by several different manufacturers in New Zealand. But no reported incidents related to faulty Takata airbags.

The NZTA told Stuff: “The NZ Transport Agency is working with the vehicle industry to ensure that the current voluntary recalls are carried out to a satisfactory level, and that all of the manufacturers involved in the recall are offering the appropriate repair or replacement to vehicle owners.”

In October last year, it was revealed that around 300,000 vehicles in New Zealand were affected by the fault. A Fair Go investigation at the time showed just 60,000 of the 300,000 vehicles in New Zealand had been fixed, prompting numerous media stories about the recall.

Click here to read the NZTA’s most commonly asked questions regarding the recall.

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Australia increases inspections for BMSB

Port of Melbourne

The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has released an Industry Advice Notice advising of the additional measures to assess and manage the risk of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSB) on roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) vessels.

Due to the detection in Australia and New Zealand of BMSB on a number of vessels arriving from Asian ports, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is increasing the assessment and inspection of all ro-ro vessels from Monday 26 February 2018.

“Ro-ro vessels may receive a BMSB questionnaire, as part of the pre-arrival reporting process, for the purpose of assessing the level of biosecurity risk associated with the vessel. Vessels that report the presence of BMSB may be asked to conduct further daily inspections to determine the extent of the infestation,” says the Department

“Vessels may be inspected by the department for the purpose of assessing the level of biosecurity risk associated with that vessel, in relation to BMSB. Following assessment, the department may require treatment of the vessel at anchorage to manage an unacceptable level of biosecurity risk. Following assessment and any treatment of the vessel, any cargo unloaded may also be subject to further inspection and treatment.”

“The proactive management of this issue by vessels is essential to ensuring Australia remains free from BMSB. Early, accurate and complete reporting of the presence of BMSB is essential to improving the options to manage the pest on board. It will also assist with minimising delays to the vessel and the discharge of cargo.”

This activity is expected to conclude at the end of the BMSB risk season on 30 April 2018.

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Tesla switches on battery

Tesla Inc switched on the world’s biggest lithium ion battery on Friday meeting a promise by Elon Musk to build it in a hundred days or build it for free.

The battery will help stabilise the state grid that gets more than 40 per cent of its electricity from wind energy.

“South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy,” said State Premier Jay Weatherill at the official launch at the Hornsdale wind farm, owned by private French firm, Neoen.

Neoen’s mission is to develop, finance and manage electricity and heat generation projects operating on renewable energy.

Tesla won a bid in July to build the 129-megawatt hour battery for South Australia, who has suffered a string of blackouts over the past 18 months.

In a political debate, opponents of the state’s renewables push have argued that the battery is a “Hollywood solution” due to the country’s reliance on fossil fuels for two-thirds of its electricity.

Supporters say it will help stabilise the grid in a state that now gets more than 40 percent of its electricity from wind energy, but needs the help when the wind dies down.

“Storage can respond within a fraction of a second. It can address those stability issues very quickly without needing to resort to using large power plants,” said losing bidder, Praveen Kathpal, vice president of AES Energy Storage.

The state has yet to reveal how much it is paying Tesla.

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Australian motorists at risk due to fake car parts

A major investigation by Toyota and Hyundai, Australia’s biggest car manufacturers, have uncovered that many importers are selling counterfeit parts in genuine looking packaging.

One importer alone was found to have more than five hundred phony parts for Toyota, Lexus, Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

After many months of investigation and Federal court action by Toyota and Hyundai, the distributor agreed to an out-of-court settlement to contact customers and replace the fake parts with the genuine part.

 “Quite simply these counterfeit parts could lead to a catastrophic engine failure. Saving $20 on an oil filter could end up costing between “$5000 and $10,000” on a reconditioned or new engine.” Said Brenton Daniel, a divisional manager of the NSW Motor Traders Association.

“Motorists are unaware there is no consumer protection on bogus parts bought from overseas,” he said. “They look like the genuine article and even come in packaging that looks original to the untrained eye.”

Furthermore, experts in the automotive trade conservatively estimate there are “tens of thousands” of counterfeit parts in circulation in Australia but admit the true figure is impossible to calculate.

“Unfortunately we don’t know exactly how many of these fake filters with their dodgy materials have reached our streets. This seizure is just from one retailer, and involves over 500 filters,” said Tony Weber, from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

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Toyota on becoming import only

The demise of Australian vehicle production has meant that Toyota has transformed into an import-only brand, following in the footsteps of former manufacturers Holden and Ford Australia. (more…)

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FCAI welcomes government decision

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has welcomed the Australian government’s decision not to proceed with the personal importation of new vehicles due to consumer protection issues.

The Minister for Urban Infrastructure, Paul Fletcher has announced plans to modernise and strengthen the laws governing motor vehicles when first supplied to the Australian market – with plans to keep up with international standards.

According to a statement from the Australian government, the decision has been made “not to proceed with one element of change proposed earlier which would have allowed personal importation of new motor vehicles from the United Kingdom or Japan”.

It had weighed up the “modest benefits of personal import arrangements” and concluded that “the benefits do not justify the cost and complexity of this particular change”.

A main issue of concern raised by the government with personal imports was the lack of protection for consumers.

“The industry has long held the view that personal imports are not in the interest of consumers, nor of the 236,000 people who are either directly or indirectly employed in the Australian motor industry,” said chief executive of the FCAI, Tony Weber.

“Australia already has one of the most competitive motor vehicle markets in the world, delivering world quality vehicles and outstanding value for the consumer.

“To allow personal imports would have exposed consumers to enormous risks, which the government’s own analysis has clearly identified.”

The government also announced a significant regulatory changes to the concessional scheme under which unique, specialist and enthusiast vehicles can be imported to Australia.

The changes have introduced six categories of eligibility including performance, environmental performance, mobility, rarity, left-hand drive, and campervans and motorhomes.

The FCAI believes that on the surface while there is merit in these changes, it is keen to work through the detail with the Government on elements of the revised scheme to ensure the necessary consumer protections are in place.

“The broad picture offered by the Government in its statement is one which now provides legislative certainty and clarity and most importantly, better protection for Australian consumers,” Weber added.

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Both new and used imports increase

There were 14,492 used cars imported into the country during July which was a 28.8 per cent increase on the same month last year when 11,249 units were imported. Year to date, 103,740 used cars have entered the country, a 16 per cent increase on the first seven months of 2016’s when 89,036 units had been imported.

New cars’ boom continues with 12,591 units crossing the border last month, and gives a year-to-date tally of 67,547.

Demand for light commercial vehicles saw 618 units imported last month which was a small decrease on 640 units in June.

As usual the vast majority of used imported cars come from Japan with 13,640 units imported in July, a 29.5 per cent increase on the same month last year when 10,533 units were sourced from that market.

Importers brought 452 used cars in from Australia, a 21.5 per cent increase on July 2016’s total of 372. Year to date, 3,437 used cars have been shipped from Australia, a 21 per cent increase on 2806 units during the same time last year. Singapore again rounded out the top three with 122 units down from 187 in June

Both Britain and the United States saw a fall in the number of used cars exported with 135 and 107 units respectively compared to 151 and 112 in June.

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Aussie car sales hit fourth record month in a row

The Toyota Hilux was Australia’s top-selling vehicle

Vehicle sales in Australia hit a record month in July, the fourth in a row, according to industry body VFACTS.

A total of 92,754 new vehicles were sold in Australia last month, an increase of 1.6 per cent compared to July 2016.

Year-to-date sales hit 692,306 cars, a 0.4 per cent increase.

“This July figure demonstrates the industry’s ability to deliver products which are not only good value but cater specifically for the changing needs of Australian customers,” said the chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), Tony Weber.

While the passenger vehicle market was down 5.9 per cent last month when compared to July 2016, other market segments saw large gains. The SUV market was up 9.4 per cent year-on-year, with small and medium SUVs up 15.3 per cent and 18.6 per cent respectively, and heavy commercials increased 14.5 per cent.

“The steady rise in small and medium SUV sales are indicative of our market’s changing dynamic and manufacturers are moving quickly to meet those new needs and expectations,” Weber said.

The top-selling car make was Toyota, who sold 17,931 vehicles for a 19.3 per cent market share, followed by Mazda, with 9,528 sales, a 10.3 per cent market share, and Hyundai, with an 8.1 per cent share of the market.

Five of the 10 highest-selling vehicle models were also Toyota, with the Hilux standing at the top of the table, with 3,742 sales, a 19.3 per cent increase. This was followed by the Toyota Corolla, with 3,208 sales, down 6.4 per cent, the Ford Ranger, with 3,076 sales, up seven per cent, and the Mazda3, with 2,466 sales, a massive 64.3 per cent increase.

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