You know the old car industry saying: ‘What do you do when the customers feel betrayed? Betray them again.”
I’ve been looking at the car business for you for nearly 20 years. I started when I was six. But even I can’t believe the own goals the industry is kicking. Clearly there are a lot of people at the top and bottom end of town who, like Don Trump supporters, don’t believe there is a new federal government. And unfortunately for them, the new folks in Pleasantville like electric cars.
I actually hate electric cars but again, unfortunately, Australian buyers should be able to choose, particularly because we have the world’s dirtiest petrol and the world’s worst emitting cars.
But to read Ben Cubby’s (from Nine Entertainment or what use to be known as Fairfax) report that: “The car industry has launched a wide-ranging secret campaign that would delay Australia’s transition to electric vehicles and hamper a key part of the nation’s climate change plan” makes you think the industry believes it’s King Canute and can hold back the tide of noiseless plug-ins.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) developed the industry’s lobbying/PR/government relations messages on matchbox covers campaign.
The FCAI is “the peak representative organisation for companies who distribute new passenger vehicles, light commercial vehicles and motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles in Australia”. It aims to “drive a collaborative environment where innovative technologies improve Australian lives through mobility”.
No conflict then with the secret campaign that is modelled on Toyota’s Team Japan. Formed in Japan in November last year to fight EVs and promote proper cars, the team includes Subaru, Mazda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha. The week before setting up TJ, Toyota refused to sign the climate pledge to stop making fossil-fuel vehicles by 2040. Other non-signers were Stellantis, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Renault. Ford, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. Chinese electric vehicle specialist BYD and Uber did sign.
So, no surprise to see the chairman of the FCAI is Matthew Callachor, president and CEO of Toyota Australia. Of course, Matt’s deputy is our old friend Vinesh Bhindi, CEO of Mazda Australia. The two are backed up on the board by reps of Honda, Nissan, VW, Volvo (which signed the climate pledge overseas) and Inchcape, which imports Subaru and distribute brands like Peugeot, Citroen and VW.
Asked by Cubby about the strategy, FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said the industry group wanted to see significant emissions cuts in the sector but there were constraints around the number and cost of low-emissions cars available.
Then there’s our mates at Mazda.
This week the ACCC is appealing last year’s Federal Court’s decision that Mazda had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to nine consumers about their consumer guarantee rights. But the court also dismissed the ACCC’s allegations that Mazda engaged in unconscionable conduct in its dealings with the consumers.
“The case involved seven vehicles with serious and recurring faults. Six of them had engine replacements, including one vehicle which had three engine replacements. The consumers requested a refund or replacement vehicle from Mazda on multiple occasions, but these requests were denied,” ACCC commissioner Liza Carver said.
The faults affected the ability of the consumers to use their vehicles and, in some cases, included the vehicles unexpectedly losing power and decelerating while being driven.
Then there’s the Merc dealers taking on Mercedes (the only car company that talks to me) because Merc is introducing a dealer-as-agent sales model. This week, the legal team for the dealers appeared to suggest that Justice Jonathan Beach was receiving “communications” from Mercedes Benz. While he is the owner of a 14-year-old Merc, given Justice Beach was “one of the most sought after and highly regarded silks of the Victorian Bar, if not in Australia” before he took on judgeship, this was probably not a smart move in the $650m case. He asked the dealer’s lawyer, Tim Castle SC, if it was still OK if he received his annual service renewal notice.
How many more sleeps?
Right. It’s still 14 sleeps to the Belgian GP (What do you call little kids in Belgium? Brusselsprouts. I made a Belgium waffle this morning; this afternoon I’m going to make a Frenchman talk nonsense) but look for Mad Max, Chuck Leclerc and the Hamster to take their usual spots on the podium.
While the classic market is settling back to more realistic levels, great cars will still see great prices at Monterey car week. Expect $45m for the 1955 Ferrari 410 Sport Spider at RM Sotheby’s, $14m for the Dave Gooding 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante, and the same for RM’s 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster.
My pick will save you at least $10m. It’s one of only 31 Porsche’s legendary group 4 RSR Turbos. For around $1.7m Gooding will sell you a low mileage, no warranty, red missile with a seven-season racing history of class wins at Le Mans, Monza, Dijon and Silverstone. Not only was this car among the first 934s to race, it was also one of the very last to retire, still competitive after seven seasons.
This week’s Shannon’s auctions show that while there is softening in the market from the record prices of the last few year, auction boss Christophe Boribon believes that “very good examples of most models with good history and provenance will hold their own and maintain strong prices”.
“From our end, we were still very satisfied with $11.2m in sales, and a 78 per cent clearance rate overall. The number plates in Victoria, NSW and Queensland maintained strong demand and kept achieving very strong prices. Some segment of cars and motorcycles performed strongly, and some others were on the softer side. Highlights were a record price for NSW number plate 28, at $2m, nearly double estimate for a Mini Moke Californian at $48k, $87k for a Jaguar Mk2 4.2 Enhanced Saloon and $295k for a one family owned Ford XY GT Falcon.”
Don’t forget the greatest event of the international motoring calendar, next weekend’s Leyburn Sprints. Two cars that raced each other for the inaugural Australian land speed record will appear together on track for the first time in almost 106 years. A 1912 Willys Overland and 1916 Studebaker, will be taking on the Sultan and me in the 1990 BMW 3 series.