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Car of the year awards on thin ice

A disagreement between the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild and the Automobile Association (AA), could jeopardise the future of the New Zealand Car of the Year awards.

The NZ Motoring Writers’ Guild wanted the Subaru Impreza hatch and SUV to be considered as one vehicle for this year’s voting, however the AA said the vehicles were not the same and had to be considered separately.

Media representatives argue that voting on the Impreza and XV as one vehicle is unfair as the Holden Astra is also offered as a hatch and sedan for instance. The Hyundai Ioniq is also offered as an electric vehicle (EV), a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid.

AA motoring services general manager, Stella Stocks says the guild made the decision of which vehicles were to be selected in the top 10.

“The agreement has always been to select a list of top 10 finalists, however, the guild has pressed for two cars to be considered as one – the Subaru Impreza and the XV.

“Our position, which is supported by the Motor Industry Association and Subaru itself, is that they can’t be considered the same vehicle. One reason is because one is in the compact car category and the other is an SUV.”

Stocks says the AA was relaxed about which of the two cars was selected, or even both as separate contenders, but there could still only be a top 10, so another vehicle on the list would have to be removed.

Votes for the award are taking place currently and results will be announced in Auckland on December 12.

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Tesla job cuts could reach 700

Job cuts have been made by Tesla company-wide, according to a statement on Saturday by the electric vehicle manufacturer.

The Palo Alto-based company confirmed the cuts but did not disclose how many of its 33,000 workers would be affected.

According to reports, it is estimated by former employees that as many as 400 to 700 employees may have been fired from a range of roles including administration, sales and manufacturing.

Meanwhile, an unspecified number of workers received bonuses and promotions following their reviews, according to the company.

The company said earlier in the month that “production bottlenecks” had left Tesla behind its planned ramp-up for the new Model 3 mass-market sedan.

The company delivered 220 Model 3 sedans and produced 260 during the third quarter. In July, it began production of the Model 3, which begins at (US)$35,000.

However, targets were missed for producing vehicles to a waiting list of more than 450,000 customers.

According to a statement from the company, the decision was made in order to boost morale, as high-performing employees have been rewarded.

Despite the mass firings, Tesla plans to hire hundreds more workers in the near future.

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McLaren develops unique vehicle

Forget buying the same car as everyone else, one McLaren customer has ordered two unique McLaren vehicles to his own individual specifications.

McLaren Special Operations (MSO) is developing the MSO R Coupé and MSO R Spider, which are the latest in a lineage of McLarens produced as personal commissions.

“A typical MSO personal commission extends beyond paint colours and materials and finishes to encompass changes to body and interior design and also dynamic and powertrain enhancements as required. The result is a McLaren personalised by MSO to become a car that is literally one of a kind.” says executive director – global sales and marketing, Jolyon Nash. 

 

One of the first McLarens commissioned at this level was the McLaren X-1. Unveiled during the weekend of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2012, the X-1 was produced for an anonymous buyer.

The two MSO R cars, which have the same external, internal and mechanical specifications, are finished in a striking yet understated Liquid Silver – the Coupé in satin and the Spider in gloss finish – with a carbon fibre central stripe.

Immediately identifiable as a matched pair, both have the same design of twin-element rear wing, with front dive planes to further enhance aerodynamic performance.

 

 

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Subaru driver on points table

Subaru driver Ben Hunt. PHOTO: GEOFF RIDDER

Subaru driver Ben Hunt is placed third on the points table into Saturday’s six-stage Handy Rentals Hamilton Rally of Waitomo.

He is keen to advance in this  penultimate round of the 2017 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship.

The 2015 NZRC champion, Hunt has been consistently bagging points with two podium finishes to date and is enjoying extracting the full performance out of his Subaru WRX STi.

He and co-driver Tony Rawstorn are seeded fourth in the 81-car entry list and the long-term rally partners are looking forward to the level playing field the 207km rally represents. The event marks the NZRC’s return to the roads of the King Country and Waitomo districts for the first time in over a decade, providing a fresh challenge for the teams.

Centered around the Ohura, Piopio and Waitomo areas, five of the special stages will be over 30 kilometres in length and the shortest stage at 16 kilometres in length, speed and endurance will both be factors.

“Everyone is starting from scratch with their notes. It is awesome to be rallying on some new stages,” Hunt says.

He is confident in Rawstorn’s ability to fine-tune the supplied pace notes, after the recce, to the way he likes to drive. The pair are now in their seventh season together and the longevity of their partnership in the car means Hunt can commit with full trust to Rawstorn’s note reading.

The Hunt Motorsports team made several set-up changes after August’s Rally of Coromandel – where the Subaru WRX STi finished third overall and second in the points category – and Hunt was able to test them last weekend.

Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn are looking forward to tackling some new roads in Saturday’s Handy Rentals Hamilton Rally of Waitomo, in the Subaru WRX STi. PHOTO: GEOFF RIDDER.

Subaru is currently leading the Manufacturer’s Championship standings, five points ahead of its closest rival Mazda. With Matt Summerfield sitting in second place in the NZRC in a Subaru Impreza and Hunt third, the Subaru brand is in with a solid chance of manufacturer victory if all goes well for them both at Waitomo.

Along with a number of prime spectator viewing areas through the event, the public can see the cars and drivers at the Newstead Lodge ceremonial start, running from 4.30pm on Friday at Hamilton’s Rototuna Shopping Centre.

The competition starts the following morning from Piopio at 8am, with teams tackling six special stages via service stops at Ohura, Piopio and Mairoa. The first car will finish at the Hamilton Car Club on Valie Road at 5.25pm on Saturday evening where the finish ramp and victory podium celebrations will take place.

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Japanese market set to shrink

With a shrinking domestic market, the powers that be at Toyota Motor Corp have decided to halve the number of car models sold in Japan by 2025. 

The decision has been made in response to a declining trend as the Japanese population ages and the younger generation chooses alternative measures to car ownership. 

Meanwhile, automakers worldwide are increasingly focusing their research and development efforts on electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous driving technology. 

Toyota will gradually cut the models down from 60 to 30 by 2025, according to an unauthorised spokesperson who was interviewed by worldwide news provider, Reuters.

The news comes close behind an announcement by Honda Motor Co Ltd, to end production at a domestic factory by 2022.

 

“As Toyota begins to develop EVs for markets including China, Europe and the United States, they will likely focus on making models which can be sold both at home and abroad,” says Yoshiaki Kawano, manager of Japan/Korea vehicle sales forecasts at IHS Automotive.

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Record number of used-car dealers

A record number of dealers sold used cars last month, with 3,500 registered dealers – the highest number for the eighth month running.

Meanwhile, used-car transaction numbers grew moderately throughout the country –
up 1.6 per cent on the previous year to date.

New car sales were also higher than September 2016 by about 1.5 per cent. This was mainly caused by a large increase in the number of new vehicles sold into the rental vehicle market (23 per cent higher than last year).

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Subaru helps out Ironman

Braden Currie wins the Santa Cruz 70.3 in September. Photo: Santa Cruz 70.3

Subaru of New Zealand brand ambassador Braden Currie is just a few days out from competing in the biggest race of his successful endurance career.

Early on Sunday morning NZ time, the Wanaka-based athlete will make his debut in the gruelling Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.

It consists of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run, which he has been training more than eight months for.

Currie qualified through the world champs after winning Ironman NZ and the Taupo 70.3.

Braden Currie and his son Tarn load their Subaru Outback up with their mountain bikes after a family ride. Photo: Graeme Murray, Filtered Vision

He then bagged the final points necessary by coming third at the Ironman Asia Pacific Championship, in Cairns, in June.

As part of his preparations, he experienced Australia’s warmer climate in Noosa where he had access to a Subaru Outback from a dealership in Brisbane.

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Supercar top for price

A limited-edition supercar is for sale in Auckland for $4 million – and it’s believed to be New Zealand’s most expensive car currently being marketed.
A spokesman for the Giltrap Group says the Aston Martin One-77 is the most
expensive at the business while no other vehicle comes close to the price-tag.

The rare black car was new six years ago to the late Neil Graham of Christchurch, who co-founded global logistics business Mainfreight. The vehicle is now at Giltrap’s new showroom in its recently opened $40m 119 GNR premises in Auckland The spokesman says the car is $4m because it’s one of only 77 units made and is likely to continue to appreciate in value.

Marketed at the time as the fastest Aston Martin ever, it has a 7.3-litre V12 engine, does the 0-100kph dash in 3.7 seconds, has a top speed of 354kph and weighs 1630kg.

The 77 cars were made between 2010 and 2012. The vehicle in Auckland has 9,860km on the clock, boasts a petrol motor and was manufactured in 2011. The
cash price includes GST.

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Steel scandal hits marques

Some of the world’s biggest car companies – including Toyota and Honda – have been rocked by an industrial scandal in Japan over falsified data relating to the strength and durability of aluminium used in the production of their vehicles.

Kobe Steel, one of Japan’s key metal producers, says its staff has falsified the strength and durability of metal products delivered to more than 200 companies. These include automotive manufacturers, aerospace companies and the space industry.

The company works with several other marques, such as Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Ford, General Motors and Mitsubishi.

Kobe Steel says data had been falsified to make the metals look as if they reached quality standards. The false information has been linked back to four aluminium factories in Japan, and, for some items, the practice goes back about a decade, says Naoto Umehara, executive vice-president.

The company is now investigating the practice, but says so far there have been no safety concerns. Toyota has confirmed its use of aluminium with falsified strength and durability ratings in doors and other outer areas.

A spokesman says: “We are working to identify which models might be subject to this situation and what components were used. We recognise this breach of compliance principles on the part of a supplier is a grave issue.”

Honda has also stated it has used materials with false ratings in its doors and hoods, while Mazda and Mitsubishi are investigating if their vehicles are affected.

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Kia has record sales

The Kia Sportage

Kia Motors Corporation has announced its September 2017 global sales figures for passenger cars, recreational vehicles and commercial vehicles – and has notched a record total of 252,254 registrations.

Last month, its domestic market sales totalled 48,019 units. This represented an increase of 25.4 per cent compared with the same month last year. It was largely due to the timing difference of the Chuseok holiday, which was in September 2016 compared to October this year. Overseas sales also increased by 3.6 per cent compared to the previous year. This total came in at 204,235 units.
Kia’s best-selling model in overseas markets during September 2017 was the
Sportage compact SUV with 37,746 registrations. The Cerato compact sedan – also known as the Forte or K3 in some markets – was the second best seller with 28,793 units sold.

It was followed by the sub-compact Rio – known as the Pride in Korea –
with 24,760 registrations.

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Mazda helps kiwis fly

Mazda has announced a partnership with Kiwis for kiwi, a national conservation charity.

Kiwis for kiwi will launch a unique initiative as part of its ongoing work to save New Zealand’s national icon and flightless bird from extinction.

The Mazda Foundation has provided the charity with two Mazda CX-5 vehicles as well as funding for the project.

Kiwis for kiwi executive director, Michelle Impey, said the support of the Mazda Foundation has provided the opportunity to launch a transformational new initiative that will contribute to the task of turning around the decline in kiwi populations.

“We are thrilled to have the Mazda Foundation’s support which will see us working together on an exciting new project which we look forward to announcing next year.  They’ve very generously given us two new ‘kiwimobiles’ to help us transport our people and kiwi, safely and in style.”

David Hodge, chairman of the Mazda Foundation, said getting behind such a great initiative was an easy decision for the Foundation. 

“The Kiwi is such an important part of our national identity and if our support can help in some way to ensure its survival then that is a great outcome for everyone.”

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