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The weird on wheels in 2014

Motoring in 2014: The highs and lows

In the rear-view mirror: the highs and lows of motoring in 2014.

The 2014 motoring year will be remembered as the first time new-car sales hit the brakes since the Global Financial Crisis — despite record low interest rates and the highest number of new models on sale.

Aside from the shiny new metal there were plenty of other highlights and lowlights. Here are the 14 big things in motoring you may have missed in 2014.

The most car recalls ever

The year 2014 will go down in history as having the most vehicle recalls ever. Australia issued more than 114 recall bulletins for approximately 1.1 million vehicles, about as many as the number of new cars sold. The previous record — and the last time more cars were recalled than sold in a year — was 855,000 vehicles in 2001.

Holden and Jeep posted a record 14 recalls each (in Holden’s case more than half were for Australian-made cars) while market leader Toyota issued nine recall notices.

Next on the list was Mitsubishi with eight recalls, ahead of Nissan (six). Volkswagen (five), and Ford (four) while Mazda, Hyundai and Land Rover each reported three recalls. You can view the rest here.

Globally, more than 55 million cars were recalled, including 30.4 million General Motors vehicles for various ignition faults, the most serious of which has so far been linked to 42 deaths.

Meanwhile 24 million cars globally were recalled for a faulty airbag that could spray shrapnel when deployed and has so far been linked to five deaths. Takata makes 20 per cent of the world’s airbags and supplies Honda, Toyota, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. More than 110,000 cars were recalled in Australia for this fault but no incidents have so far been reported.

Are cars getting worse or are companies getting better at detecting faults and taking action so they don’t get sued? Both are true. Car makers are increasingly outsourcing parts supply, and then crunching suppliers on cost. The supplier then cuts a corner here or there, or parts change slightly after they’ve been approved by the manufacturer (hoping the factory won’t notice or care) and then problems occur. As for getting sued, in the US, GM has established a $400 million fund to compensate families of those involved in fatal accidents linked to ignition faults.

The offending HiLux ad as it appeared in the Kalgoorlie Miner. The offending HiLux ad as it appeared in the Kalgoorlie Miner.

Worst car advertisement of the year

Winner of this dubious honour goes to a Toyota HiLux advertisement in Western Australia. Under the photo of a second-hand HiLux for sale the description read: “There’s more hope of Rolf Harris getting a babysitting gig than us finding a better example,” a reference to the 84-year-old Australian entertainer who was jailed for child sex offences.

The advertisement then matter-of-factly went on to list details about the vehicle, including the $28,990 asking price.

The advertisement was for Goldfields Toyota in Kalgoorlie, and was published by the local newspaper, the Kalgoorlie Miner.

Goldfields Toyota general sales manager, Darryl “Shack” Evans, told News Corp Australia at the time: “It wasn’t meant to offend. We try to make our ads a little bit interesting and a little bit lighthearted but we blurred the lines of good taste and bad on this occasion. It was only printed once, but it’s somehow got on social media after someone took a photo of it, even though we’d taken it off the website.”

Best car advertisement of the year

Any TV ad that makes you stop what you doing — or stops you from channel surfing — is a winner in our books. We can’t get enough of the Kia Sportage TV ad with the real Salt-N-Pepa performing their hit single Push It. So we’re glad it’s on YouTube. It’s the 2014 sequel to the Kia Sportage TV ad from 2010 featuring two members of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, performing the hit single The Message.

The Salt-N-Pepa ad for the Series II Sportage (note the different radio display) was filmed with the same “mum and dad” actors in the same location (Parklea in Sydney’s west) by ad agency Innocean. The daughter in the Salt-N-Pepa ad is the real daughter of the actor playing the mum.

ISOFIX car safety system for children is coming to Australia. ISOFIX car safety system for children is coming to Australia.

World’s safest child seats finally went on sale in Australia

The world’s safest child car seats were formally approved for sale in Australia in September — 17 years after they were introduced in Europe, 12 years after the USA and after several years of bureaucratic bungling.

The seats use an ISOFIX latch system — which click into position — and have a 99 per cent success rate of being correctly fitted, according to overseas studies.

But there is a catch. Changes to the seats — to meet stricter local standards — mean Australians cannot buy ISOFIX child seats more cheaply from overseas. Local versions cost between $300 and $600.

Australian authorities amended the rules for ISOFIX child seats, requiring them to also be fitted with a top “tether” strap that attaches to a bolt behind the car’s back seat.

Motorists who use overseas ISOFIX seats in Australia risk fines of more than $300 and three demerit points in most states.

Older style child seats fitted using seatbelts and a top tether are still legal, but studies routinely show at least two out of three of those are installed incorrectly.

Most car makers welcomed the arrival of ISOFIX child seats as the majority of imported cars have been equipped with them for the past 10 years.

However, the locally made Toyota Camry, Toyota Aurion, Ford Falcon and Ford Territory do not have ISOFIX attachment points. Only the latest version of the locally-made Holden Commodore is equipped with ISOFIX attachment points.

Rear-view cameras became standard on $14,990 cars — why not all SUVs?

Safety authorities renewed calls to make rear view cameras standard on family cars after the price of a brand-new vehicle with a rear view camera limboed to a new low in June with the arrival of the $14,990 Honda Jazz hatchback.

The price undercut the previous low set by the Toyota Corolla sedan, introduced in January 2014 for $20,700, which comes with a rear view camera and parking sensors.

The updated Toyota Yaris closely followed the Honda Jazz by making a rear view camera standard on all models in July.

Despite being available on some of the cheapest cars on the market, several expensive SUVs still lack rear view cameras.

Rear view cameras are not available on the most affordable version of the Holden Captiva 7 or Ford Kuga — they’re standard only on the most expensive versions, typically priced in excess of $40,000 — even though every Toyota Kluger has had a rear view camera since 2007.

The Ford Territory only got a rear view camera as standard in November.

Figures from Federal safety authorities show that almost 100 children aged up to 4 years were killed in driveways or car parks between 2001 and 2010 — about 10 per year — and more than 500 kids were seriously injured by cars over the same period.

Australia’s crash test authority announced a backwards step in safety standards

Australia’s crash test authority announced in October its safety standards will take a backwards step from January 2015, even though the press release tried to pitch it as an improvement.

Next year it will be easier for less safe cars to earn a five-star safety rating.

The peak body that proudly closed a number of loopholes for crash rating requirements two years ago is about to reopen them so they are more closely aligned with European results, which are less stringent than Australia in two key areas.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) currently requires five-star cars to provide airbag protection for back seat passengers, and to score a minimum 12.5 points out of 16 in a head-on crash test, which measures a car’s ability to protect front seat passengers in a 64km/h crash.

However, from 2015, Australia will accept EuroNCAP results even though they do not require five-star cars to provide airbag protection for back seat passengers.

The European crash test body is also happy to elevate a car to five stars even if it scores less than 12.5 out of 16 in the critical frontal crash test.

The relaxing of the requirements — and the adoption of European results — prompted some safety experts to question why ANCAP continues to receive about $1 million in Federal Government funds each year.

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Australia unveiled the world’s fastest ute

The Australian car manufacturing industry may be about to die but at least it will go out with a bang. Holden Special Vehicles unveiled the world’s fastest ute in September and the first 150 sold out in one day despite a $90,000 price tag. The company then scrambled to build a total of 250 versions of the HSV GTS Maloo (including 10 for New Zealand) because some longstanding customers missed out. The HSV GTS Maloo is powered by a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 with 430kW of power and 740Nm of torque and can do the 0 to 100km/h dash in 4.5 seconds, as fast as a Porsche. It also has the biggest brakes ever fitted to a ute anywhere in the world.

BMW dealer confirms we ARE paying too much for luxury cars

As the Federal Government conducts an inquiry into the pricing of luxury cars — and how Australia compares to overseas markets — a BMW dealer in Queensland spilt the beans to industry journal GoAuto and confirmed what we’ve suspected for some time. That Australians do pay too much for cars above the $100,000 mark, and not just because of Luxury Car Tax (33 per cent of the price above $61,884). In the affordable mainstream end of the new-car market Australian prices are the same as or cheaper than most other countries once all taxes, delivery fees and registration charges are taken into account. But the top end of town definitely pays too much.

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  •  FPV Falcon GT-F FPV Falcon GT-F
  •  FPV Falcon GT-F FPV Falcon GT-F
  •  FPV Falcon GT-F FPV Falcon GT-F
  •  FPV Falcon GT-F FPV Falcon GT-F
  •  FPV Falcon GT-F FPV Falcon GT-F
  •  FPV Falcon GT-F FPV Falcon GT-F
  •  FPV Falcon GT-F FPV Falcon GT-F

Last Ford Falcon GT rolled off the line, raised $393,700 for charity

Ford raised a remarkable $393,700 for charity for the first and last examples of the final edition Falcon GT. Build number 001 sold for $157,600 while car 500 (of 500) went under the hammer for $236,100, more than three times the regular purchase price of $77,900. All proceeds went to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The final Ford Falcon GT edition had a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 with 351kW of power, a tribute to the engine capacity in cubic inches of the famous Bathurst winning Falcon GT 351 sedans from the 1970s. In November, Ford released the last ever Falcon XR8 with the previous Falcon GT’s 335kW supercharged V8. Ford underestimated demand on the XR8 — which is sold out until March 2015 — and is now trying to double production.

In December, the same week as the last Falcon GT was built, Ford confirmed it is pulling out of V8 Supercars at the end of 2015, ending half a century of Holden versus Ford racing rivalry. The last time Ford withdrew support from Australia’s premier motor racing category was in 1978, the year after the famous one-two finish by Allan Moffatt and Colin Bond. The Daily Telegraph’s James Phelps had the exclusive story about Ford’s decision to exit V8 Supercars in the lead-up to this year’s Bathurst 1000, in which Ford scored hard-fought back-to-back wins on the mountain.

Holden began searching for its sixth boss in six years as sales hit 20-year low

Holden managed to hang on to the Number Two spot behind Toyota in the 2014 new-car sales race — but it will revive the age-old Holden-versus-Ford battle in 2015: for fourth or fifth place.

Mazda and Hyundai will overtake Holden next year after Holden reports its lowest sales in at least 20 years in 2014.

The latest boss, Gerry Dorizas, left after barely six months in the job and Holden is now searching for its sixth boss in six years, although that could stretch to seven years as the company is taking its time on finding a replacement.

After the initial sales surge driven by the new Commodore, Holden sales started to tank in the second half of 2014 as dealers struggled to move a range of imported cars that are overdue for replacement or outdated.

The company even admitted to journalists “we failed” on the Colorado.

General Motors hit the pause button during the Global Financial Crisis and Holden is now paying the price for its parent company stopping development of new vehicles. Holden won’t start to come good again until about 2018. In the meantime, its 233-strong dealer network is in for a tough time.

  • Mercedes-Benz S500 Intelligent Drive autonomous prototype Mercedes-Benz S500 Intelligent Drive autonomous prototype
  • Mercedes-Benz S500 Intelligent Drive autonomous prototype Mercedes-Benz S500 Intelligent Drive autonomous prototype
  • Mercedes-Benz S500 Intelligent Drive autonomous prototype Mercedes-Benz S500 Intelligent Drive autonomous prototype
  • Mercedes-Benz S500 Intelligent Drive autonomous prototype Mercedes-Benz S500 Intelligent Drive autonomous prototype

Mercedes-Benz hosted joy rides in a driverless car

The driverless car is coming ready or not. The inventor of the motor car, Mercedes-Benz, took the unusual step of allowing media to be taken for a ride in an automated car in the US in October.

We weren’t allowed behind the wheel but it was an amazing insight into the technology that’s being developed now (radar cruise control, automatic braking, automatic speed sign and red light recognition) and what is around the corner (press a button on your phone and the car will come and fetch you from its parking spot). But anyone hoping this means the driver can get behind the wheel drunk will be disappointed. Police and insurance companies have already stated that drivers of automated cars still have to be in control of the vehicle — and under the alcohol limit — in case of an emergency, in the same way captains still need to be in control of aircraft while it’s on autopilot.

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Hyundai began installing Australia’s first hydrogen refueller dedicated to cars

Just weeks after Toyota and Honda unveiled their production ready hydrogen cars at the LA Motor Show in October, an ocean away Hyundai installed the first hydrogen refuelling point for cars in Australia.

It is Australia’s first hydrogen refuelling point for vehicles since a there-year trial of hydrogen powered buses in Perth ended in 2007.

Rather than the spaceship looks of the latest Toyota and Honda sedans, Hyundai’s hydrogen car is based on a family-friendly SUV, the ix35.

However, hydrogen cars are a long way from showroom reality in Australia as there are currently no other refill stations.

Hyundai hopes to link Australia’s two largest cities via the nation’s capital. The company says it would require four refuelling stations — in Sydney, Canberra, Albury and Melbourne — and could see hydrogen vehicles — including buses — running in and between these cities emitting nothing but water vapour.

Experts believe electric and hybrid cars are a stepping stone to hydrogen-powered vehicles.

They can be refuelled in five minutes and can travel about 450km on each tank — both about the same as a petrol car.

At least it will offset Hyundai’s new Genesis luxury sedan, which has a V6 that is so low-tech it is thirstier than a Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG and a Bentley V8.

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  • Former Ford Australia chief engineer, now head of Ford vehicle development in Asia Pacific, Trevor Worthington, unveils the Australian designed and engineered Ford Everest in Beijing, China. Former Ford Australia chief engineer, now head of Ford vehicle development in Asia Pacific, Trevor Worthington, unveils the Australian designed and engineered Ford Everest in Beijing, China.
  • The Australian designed and engineered Ford Everest being unveiled in Beijing, China. The Australian designed and engineered Ford Everest being unveiled in Beijing, China.
  • The Australian designed and engineered Ford Everest being unveiled in Beijing, China. The Australian designed and engineered Ford Everest being unveiled in Beijing, China.

Ford unveiled first ever Australian-designed and engineered car made in China

Australia’s car manufacturing industry may be closed by the end of 2017 but there is a bold new export hope: design and engineering talent.

The first ever Australian-designed car to be made in China was unveiled in Beijing n November.

The new Ford Everest family-sized four-wheel-drive was designed and engineered from the ground up in Broadmeadows, on the northern outskirts of Melbourne, in a small building behind the Falcon factory that will fall silent in October 2016.

The top secret project is a sign of things to come as car manufacturing comes to an end and Australia becomes an exporter of talent — helping create cars that will be made overseas.

Ford Australia already employs more designers and engineers than it does blue-collar factory workers — about 1100 versus 850 — and will become the biggest automotive employer of people with such skills once Holden and Toyota also close their factories in 2017.

The Everest is due on sale in Australia next year priced from about $45,000. Although the vehicle will be made in China, ours will come from a factory in Thailand.

Brakes slammed on the Bathurst 1000

Officials put the brakes on the Bathurst 1000 for more than an hour with 100 laps remaining after a section of the track crumbled and workers made urgent repairs. In an unusual move the teams were allowed to work on the cars while stopped on the main straight. It was the first time such an incident had occurred in the history of the race and, at eight hours, it was the longest Bathurst 1000 in V8 Supercars ever recorded. It was also the first time the race bumped the Channel Seven news, which was due to start at 6pm but was pushed back 40 minutes. As ever, Australians took to social media to lampoon the bitumen bungle.