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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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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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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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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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Best month on record for used imported cars

As 2017 draws to a close, imported used car sales have already eclipsed last year’s total by 2,026 units.

Even a poor sales month in December will see a new record year of used imported car registrations – beating 2003’s total of 156,972.

Year to date, there’s been 151,552 used car registrations which is an 11.2 per cent increase on the same period last year when 136,345 units had been sold and 2,026 units ahead of 2016’s 12-month total of 149,526.

November’s sales total of 14,924 was the best month ever for registrations of used imported cars – beating March 2004’s record of 14,877 registrations.

Last month was also up 16.9 per cent compared to November last year.

Nineteen of the country’s 22 regions saw a healthy lift in sales compared to the same month last year. Wanganui had an awesome month – up 73.3 per cent, from 75 sales in November 2016 to 130 last month. Thames also performed well compared to the same month last year – up 53.4 per cent with 158 sales.

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PoA appoints ‘Future Director’

Ports of Auckland has appointed Siobhan McKenna as a ‘Future Director,’ as part of the Institute of Directors (IoD) Future Directors programme.
The programme started in 2013 and is about developing the next generation of directors and delivering new talent and fresh perspectives at board level.

McKenna has a background in media, digital and utility sectors and was founder and CEO of MediaWorks Interactive.

She is partner in a global management consulting company headquartered in Melbourne, Australia and is currently leading transformation in part of the education sector in New Zealand.

Ports of Auckland Board Chair and IoD President, Liz Coutts says that the Ports of Auckland Board is pleased to be working with the Institute of Directors.
“Good governance is a vital part of the success of New Zealand companies and to get good governance we need a strong and diverse talent pool of young directors. By hosting a Future Director we are playing our part in growing that talent pool and contributing to New Zealand’s future success.”
“We are delighted to welcome Siobhan and look forward to her involvement with our board over the next 12 months. As much as Siobhan will be learning from us, we see this as a great opportunity to benefit from her background and expertise,” says Coutts.
Future Directors are not formally appointed to a board and as such hold no voting rights and do not contribute to the quorum. They are not part of the formal-decision making process, but are there to observe and participate in discussions.
Click here for more information on the IoD’s Future Directors programme. 

Ports of Auckland.

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Quality Service Awards 2017

Copyright © Reader’s Digest New Zealand 2018

Several businesses in the auto industry were recognised at this year’s Quality Service Awards.

 The Quality Service Award recognises and rewards companies that deliver outstanding customer service in New Zealand.

According to Reader’s Digest Managing Editor Louise Waterson, the survey gives consumers the chance to share their views about companies that consistently deliver the very best customer service.

“It provides our readers with a list of companies that they can turn to for excellence in service,” she said.

“To the benefit of all, the 2018 Quality Service Awards recognise the businesses with the happiest, most satisfied customers in their respective fields – at the same time encouraging the return of genuine customer service to our lives and our culture.”

By using both market research and consumer voting, the highest rated companies were judged with either a Gold Standard Winner, with the next closest being awarded the Silver Standard.

 Bridgestone Select and Firestone claimed its third straight Gold in the Tyre Retailer category.

 “Bridgestone is committed to providing superior quality across all aspects of tyre buying experience, and we place an emphasis on customer service,” Bridgestone Australia and New Zealand Managing Director Andrew Moffatt said.

“Winning Gold in the Reader’s Digest Quality Service Award recognises the tireless effort our Bridgestone retailers put in everyday to ensure we deliver the best possible experience for our customers.”

AA Insurance took out Gold for the Car Insurance category, while Avis won gold for the Car Rental Company category. AA also won in the Roadside Assistance category.

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LVVTA’s 25th anniversary

The Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association (LVVTA) celebrated its 25th Anniversary on Friday night. Only five months after the LVVTA processed its 150,000th modified vehicle certification.

The LVVTA certifies modified vehicles where construction may hinder their compliance with vehicle standards. It has a formal relationship with the NZTA, whereby the partnership governs and maintains the low-volume vehicle (LVV) code.

However, the LVV code was put under dispute last week after a former LVVTA certifier, John Brett, was taken to court by the LVVTA as he used his personal website to unfairly criticise the LVVTA and chief executive, Tony Johnson. 

The High Court of New Zealand ordered the former vehicle certifier to pay $100,000 in damages due to the defamation. 

The anniversary was a chance to accurately demonstrate the achievements of the LVV certification system and the long-standing members of the LVVTA’s Technical Advisory Committee in light of the above.

The honoured members are the backbone of the system and are responsible for providing the technical content for the NZ Car Construction Manual and assessing potential design proposals.

Bespoke long-service plaques were presented to member who have volunteered their expertise and vast experience. The twenty year award recipients were Graham Walls, John Hinton, Terry Bowden, Chris Litherland and Tony Johnson. Ten-year recipients were John Reid, Alan Smail, Walter Wing, John Ward, Paul Sattler, Geoff Cottle, Kerry Buchanan, Mark Stokes, Justin Hansen and Peter Vahry, some of whom are not far off reaching the 20-year milestone.

LVVTA also recognised people who have made a significant contribution to the LVVTA and the LVV certification system. The Honourees for 2017 were Jim McDonald from the New Zealand Transport Agency and Graeme Banks from the Sports Car Club of New Zealand.

LVVTA CEO Tony Johnson paid special tribute to the LVVTA staff members for their passion, commitment, and resilience, and amongst the long-serving staff members, Linda Washington was recognised for her 20 years of service to LVVTA by LVVTA President Steve Keys.

Brian Sara from the New Zealand Transport Agency wrapped up the evening with an interesting perspective on the special and unique relationship that exists between LVVTA and the Agency, and spoke positively about the future of the LVVTA and the LVV certification system in New Zealand.

For more information on LVVTA or the Technical Advisory Committee visit

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Getting Kiwis ready for the EV wave

Drive Electric, a non-profit group, has outlined five key priorities the new government should support due to the electric vehicle wave moving towards New Zealand.

Drive Electric has a board of many industry leaders including electricity, financial services and transport. Its goal is to mainstream EVs and educate the public and corporate sector about the benefits of EVs.

Drive Electric chairman, Mark Gilbert says the priorities help identify many of the changes that come with switching to EVs.

“Transitioning New Zealand’s fleet to electric vehicles won’t happen overnight, but the change is already underway with more than 5000 EVs on the road today,” Gilbert says.

“The country needs to be prepared for these changes, which involves investigating how to deal with issues that will disrupt the status quo.”

Some of the changes that need to take place include making sure both office buildings and people’s homes are safe for EV charging and ensuring there is sufficient public charging infrastructure to complement home charging.

Gilbert says New Zealand also needs to look at the bigger global picture.

The incoming transition to electric vehicles means planning for bigger and better infrastructure.

“It’s also important to note that electric vehicles aren’t just about cars, with many heavy vehicles going electric too. This requires infrastructure planning.”

Gilbert says Drive Electric looks forward to the government providing more information on how it plans to push EV technology in the future. This should mesh with autonomous vehicles (AVs) as well, as AVs aren’t that far away.

“As a country that’s a technology taker, we should be prepared. Our legislation on vehicles doesn’t prevent AVs from using our roads, so they will be here as soon as right-hand drive vehicles are available.”

“The UK government is investing heavily in this mode, so it stands to reason that right-hand drive vehicles will start their life in UK, or Japan, and very quickly find their way to New Zealand.”

 Drive Electric’s priorities are:
1. Project ‘Switch’, which encourages the government to offer companies Fringe Benefit Tax relief on new EVs for a period to accelerate EV uptake in corporate fleets.

2. Home charging infrastructure – consider regulation or requirements around safety ratings for car chargers being installed in homes (eg. worksafe approval programme); checking the charging capability (Home WoF) to ensure future proofing of home charging options for customers.

3. Encourage local government bodies to invest in and install public charging infrastructure – especially in areas where housing density means no garaging like inner-city Wellington and Ponsonby.

4. Encourage all forms of public transport to be electrified by 2040 at the latest. This could be linked to cleaner air targets and possible emissions incentives, and where necessary, penalties for high emitters, including the public fleet.

 5. Communicate that NZ will follow the strategy of major right-hand drive automobile markets, for example Japan and the UK, in reducing/stopping the sale of fossil fuel vehicles from 2030.

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MTF prepares for disruption

Motor Trade Finance’s underlying annual earnings dropped 7.6 per cent, meanwhile both of its sales and market share increased.

Overall net profit rose to $7.5 million in the year ended September 30, compared to the previous year where MTF landed on $7.2 million.

However after removing tax the underlying profit actually fell to $7.3 million compared to $7.9 million in 2016.

After introducing various initiatives, MTF has had “a very buoyant year” where sales have jumped 36 per cent to $567.4 million.

Last November MTF introduced the non-recourse lending partnership with Turners Automotive Group which allows franchisees and dealers to sell vehicles to people with higher credit risks.

The company said its market share rose to 13.6 percent in the year from 11.6 percent in the prior period, and non-recourse lending contributed $58.6 million in sales in the year.

Usually non-recourse receivables are not included on the company’s balance sheet as they are funded by Turners; however the company included as they are generated through its business channel.

The advent of car-sharing, autonomous vehicles and new technologies means the vehicle industry is in for a big disruption. In order “to reflect and encourage broader asset lending,” MTF will drop references to vehicles in its branding.

“The worldwide speculation surrounding disruption in the areas where we operate, being the automotive and financial markets has intensified over the past year,” the company said.

“What we do know is that our markets are set for change, and while the extent and pace of this change remains unclear, we know we must position ourselves to adapt early and not wait to react.”

The board declared a 7.37 cent dividend, payable on Nov. 30. That brings the annual payout to 13.37 cents per share, down from 13.96 cents per share in 2016.

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Kiwi data stolen in Uber hack

New Zealand information was stolen in the cyberattack on Uber that compromised data from 57 million riders and drivers. This information included names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers.

It has been reported that Uber paid hackers $100,000 to keep that information behind closed doors.

 In a company blog post, Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s new CEO, said the incident should never have happened or been covered up, and that two employees have been fired as a result.

Uber spokeswoman Nicky Preston confirmed that “no critical info was downloaded” or had been released, like drivers’ licences or credit cards. However, the names, phone numbers and email addresses of New Zealand users had been accessed by the hackers.”

“We’re not releasing numbers and to be completely honest I don’t know the scale,” said Preston.

“While we have not seen evidence of fraud or misuse tied to the incident, we are monitoring the affected accounts and have flagged them for additional fraud protection”

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said: “We are disappointed that although this breach occurred in October 2016, we are only now hearing the details.

“This kind of incident underscores the importance and urgency of mandatory breach reporting laws, which the Government has been considering since 2011.”

At present, criminal fines for privacy breaches are $2000 for an individual and $10,000 for a corporation, and the bulk of enforcement happens through the Human Rights Review Tribunal. 

Edwards also recommended raising damages to $100,000 for an individual and up to $1 million for a corporation.


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