Is Holden about to change its advertising slogan to “Football, Magpies, Kangaroos and Holden cars”, a nod to its 1970s jingle? Don’t bet against it.
Holden just announced its platinum sponsorship of the AFL’s Collingwood Magpies in a three-year multimillion dollar deal.
The news came 24 hours after Holden announced the three-year sponsorship of the NRL football code, the State of Origin series and the Kangaroos national squad. Both deals are Holden’s first major football sponsorships in 15 years, and are said to be worth more than twice the sum it spends on V8 Supercars.
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Mark Twain had the bizarre pleasure of reading his own obituary. It would be a salutary experience.
The obit for Australian car manufacturing, however, has the aspect of a soap opera. It’s been running for years with the same grinding inevitability and fading stars.
Rumours that the death have of those one-time Strayan icons – Ford’s Falcon and Holden’s Commodore – have not in fact been exaggerated were confirmed today at the Detroit motor show. Once the champions in the two-horse race that was the local new car stakes, both nameplates will be sent to the knackery in 2016 (or at best be assigned to imported American models).
Enough already, with the propping up of the auto industry. If this ongoing saga were represented graphically, it’d be a roof made to last a hundred years, constructed from the most expensive and durable stainless steel, on top of a straw house with jelly foundations. Then every few months, when a bit more of the house drops off, the government just spends more on the roof.
So why is the government spending 5 billion dollars over 10 years to keeping the car industry going? One argument is that a fair chunk of that money is being used to develop greener cars. If anybody was really interested in a greener form of transport, they’d just build bikes. With 5 billion to spend, everyone in Australia could get one.
Saving the auto industry is all about jobs. As jobs get votes, and politicians like votes much more than they like be economically responsible. It’s not the government’s responsibility to give everyone a job. That’s communism.
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The sad reality is we can expect many more closures similar to the collapse this morning of Australian car manufacturing supplier Autodom.
And in an industry that thrives on having parts delivered “just in time”, the impacts of such closures are going to get worse, not better.
As the number of Australian-made cars declines, so too do the chances for local suppliers to survive. Most of the 300 or so companies that make the 5000 or so parts that make up a new car must sell to all three local makers – Holden, Ford and Toyota – just to stay in business.
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There is nothing like an election campaign to get politicians into theatrical stunt mode. State elections often become bidding wars on crime and there is hardly a state in Australia where our politicians haven’t tried to demonstrate their toughness by advocating so-called “hoon” laws under which ratbag drivers have their cars confiscated and crushed.
Having spent much of my life living in a hoon haven suburb of inner-west Sydney, where boofheads in souped-up Skylines and WRXs would habitually fang it along Norton St, Sydney’s Lygon St equivalent, I have no personal issue with the concept of crushing cars. Save for the fact that the stupider and most reckless offenders aren’t sitting behind the wheel when their cars are flattened. Hoon driving is a genuine scourge in this country, not only is it obviously dangerous, it is also deeply irritating, and habitually tops the list of number-one concerns of law-abiding folks in Australian suburbia.
Nice though the idea of crushing their cars sounds, the only problem with it is that it also appears to be illegal. The Supreme Court ruled this month that mandatory legislated car crushing denies judges their right to discretion, and as such is unconstitutional.
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Australia’s car manufacturing industry is facing a self-inflicted crisis. After a decade of sliding demand for the locally made Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon and Toyota Camry, car makers have blamed everything but themselves.
But the hard reality is Australian customers are fed up with the half-baked bullshit our car industry serves up and refuse to buy an inferior product simply because it’s Australian made.
Massive discounts to woo back disgruntled customers have been too little too late, as recent figures show Australian consumers have made up their minds and prefer superior foreign made cars.
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Confession: I’m a nanna driver. I hunch over that wheel as though it’s a Zimmer frame, bent forward with my shoulders around my ears. I actually LIKE getting stuck behind slow trucks because it means there’s no pressure to put the foot down.
Thing is, I live in the Hills. Lovely lazy winding roads with nowhere to pull over or overtake.
Upshot is I get tailgated. A lot. In a way I can’t blame people. I’m in the way. They’ve planned on getting somewhere at a certain time and I’m foiling their plans. As a punctual person, I understand their frustration.
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Reports of the big Australian-built car’s death are – as Twain quipped – an exaggeration, or at least grossly premature. But there’s no denying the patient has gone from just looking a bit poorly to possibly needing palliative care.
The little Mazda3 trounced the 5-year top seller Holden Commodore in 2011, after the big boy slid about 12 per cent in sales. And the Ford Falcon fared worse with a 36 per cent slump. Between them, they hold 81 per cent of the large car segment, with the Aussie-built Toyota Aurion owning 12 per cent – but also diving 24 per cent in sales last year.
The large car segment overall was down 21 per cent in 2011, echoing three years of slides that have seen sales move from 139,677 in 2007 to 78,077 last year.
So over that time, the pulse has dropped 44 per cent. It’s fading. And only the most evasive physician would pretend otherwise. Tell ‘em, doc – they can take it.
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Did you feel ripped off this holiday season when you parked your car in the city, at a shopping centre or at the airport when picking up or dropping off loved ones?
If paying inflated petrol prices wasn’t enough, motorists are now also being hit with inflated parking rates when they go shopping or to the airport. Then, of course, there are the CBD parking stations that cost an arm and a leg.
It’s these CBD parking stations that consistently cost motorists dearly as the fees at the CBD parking stations start climbing the moment that boom gate rises to let you in.
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Australian governments have a long history of offering taxpayers’ money to private businesses in an effort to get them to come or stay. Liberal and Country League Premier Tom Playford elevated it to an art form after 1945 when he set out to build an industrial and manufacturing base in South Australia. Tax holidays, grants, cheap land, incentives, and cheap public housing for the industrial workforces through the Housing Trust.
In fact, the use of public money to convince car-makers goes back even further. My attention was drawn to a question asked in the South Australian Legislative Council on 14 August 1935. The LCL government was asked “what steps has the government taken to encourage General Motors Holdens Limited to remain in South Australia?” The answer: “The government is much concerned about the possibility of losing that industry and is doing everything possible to retain it”.
That question and answer could describe the current decision-making process concerning both GMH and Ford. The Federal, Victorian and South Australian governments are embroiled in trying to work out just how much taxpayer money will be needed to keep both functioning in Australia.
Thanks to the high dollar, Australians have become the world’s most savvy online bargain hunters. Parcels with cheaper DVDs from the US, computer games from Hong Kong and books from Britain now arrive on our shores in the thousands every day.
Australian buyers obviously know how much they can save by shunning domestic retailers for their overseas competitors. Little wonder when, say, Steve Jobs’ biography is selling for $44 in Australia but for the equivalent of just $18 in Britain. Some British online retailers even offer free world-wide shipping.
What most Australians are probably unaware of is how much more they could save if it was possible to buy other goods internationally. Cars for example.
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Last week I was standing at a pedestrian crossing at the Adelaide Airport with my two kids, aged five and eight. There was a car coming towards us, moving fairly slowly and appearing to slow down. In one of those split-second moments which people without kids will pontificate about, but which parents understand, we started to step onto the crossing.
The driver didn’t stop. He went straight through, missing us by inches. I shouted at him, as did a bystander, but he kept meandering along the road for about another 30m. He stopped his car smack-bang in the middle of the road, right on the white line between two lanes, where a security guard approached him to inquire as to what the hell he was doing.
The driver was so old that he possibly didn’t even know he was in a car at all. He looked like he was 90 in the shade. At least.
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MY husband, a man I’ve long adored for his principles, his fine British wit, his modesty and – I’ll admit it – his good looks, has just done something completely out of character. He’s bought a flash car.
OK, it’s not that flash. It’s a few years old. But it’s a posh make favoured by the royal family and the type of car Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson calls “slightly caddish”.
Oh all right, what Jeremy actually says is, “It’s the sort of car driven by the sort of person who would go away for a weekend with his wife and spend the night flirting outrageously with the waitress.” (I’ve never liked Jeremy.)
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Cadel Evans’ heroic performance at the Tour de France is being celebrated around Australia, as it should. I’ve been watching the Tour for a long time, and it’s the best individual sporting performance I’ve ever seen.
Over the past three weeks, between the wee hours of 10pm and 2am, Evans has bought together the previously estranged cycling fans and those who have never ridden a bike to jointly applaud his guts and determination, his enormous heart and never-say-die attitude. All qualities we Aussies love and admire in our sports heroes.
The response has been wholly positive. Almost. Despite Evans’ epic win, some media commentators have still felt the need to roll out the tired “well, I guess this means we have to put up with more lycra-clad clowns on the roads” line.
“It’s been awhile since I’d been in the car with dad, but when he offered to drive to my cousin’s place last Sunday, I said yep. Hey, it was a great excuse to indulge in a extra glass of wine or two. Anyway, it wasn’t at all relaxing. From the minute we turned out of the driveway, I was gripping my seat. His driving was out of hand. Forgetting to check mirrors, not indicating and one terrible moment at the traffic lights when we skimmed through a red. He’s 75 this year and always been a pretty good driver. But I’m worried about him. What if he hurts himself? What if he hurts other people? If it was anybody else I’d be ringing the cops straight away. But can I really turn in my dad?”
Can you help this reader? Post your thoughts below.
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Last year, I resolved to buy a car.
My enthusiasm quickly evaporated, however, when I actually started poring through the classifieds and realised the whole thing was going to cost me a substantial amount of cash.
I also became terrified of getting stiffed by some crisp-collared sales-jerk or a bunch of snakes in a floral-print dress disguised as a sweet old lady.
Welcome to this week’s I Call Bullshit, where we arbitrarily pick a topic to have a crack at. Today, inspired by a Punch thread, we’re going to look at the stickers people choose to put on their cars.
Now I’ve previously expressed my hatred of stickers that pretend to be passionately patriotic when in fact they’re just racist. But this time I’ve undertaken a more in-depth scientific study of the chasm between what a sticker purveys and the actual truth.
You think a sticker will fool people into believing you are more than you are? I Call Bullshit. Here’s a few examples.
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So I’m on the train recently, and excuse me for being a busybody, but the lady in front, who can’t be a day under 75, is a reading a breathless novel about Rebbekah melting into the muscular arms of Storm. And I think to myself, “gee, I love public transport sometimes”.
The other day, I get off the train at Sydney’s Macquarie Park station. Right outside the station, two motorists are having a fist shaking match in gridlocked traffic and I think to myself, “gee I love public transport sometimes”.
November 2009. I’m in Melbourne for the golf, and I take the train to Huntingdale Station, followed by a free connecting bus to Kingston Heath Golf Club. The bus breezes through a special lane, while Tiger Woods is stuck in traffic, and I think to myself, “gee I love public transport sometimes”.
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Some people really know how to land on both feet. Such as the three blokes who host the absurdly popular TV show Top Gear, who are paid a whole shed-load of money to remain in a state of arrested mental development and live out an extended midlife crisis on television, while taking the piss out of people of other races whom they find stupid.
It’s assumed that men everywhere adore this program, hence the preponderance of Top Gear DVDs taking pride of place next to the socks and hankies every Fathers Day. It’s also said that women like the show too, that there’s something of a raffish, knockabout quality to host Jeremy Clarkson and his crew which the ladies find endearing or even irresistible. I know a few blokes who enjoy (or enjoyed) the show, but I’ve never met a woman who claims to like it, and suspect the latter assertion is made by men who simply want their wives or girlfriends to endure their seven-hour-a-week Top Gear habit.
Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond will be heading our way soon on one of their “Down Under” tours. It’s a pity that they didn’t choose instead to take their show on the road to another southern nation, namely Mexico, which was recently the subject of one of their zany gags, and whose excellent citizens would probably love the chance to see these blokes in the flesh.
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Everyone should abide by driving laws but I reckon there’s a need for a guide to driving etiquette.
Is it just me or are drivers becoming more agitated, more selfish and lacking any respect for other motorists? They aren’t necessarily breaking the law, they just make driving more annoying.
Gone are the days when driving was a pleasure. Today it’s a means of getting from one place to another with the least amount of aggro.
MANY of us look back with fondness at our first car. An old, clapped-out, bomb that only just got you from A to B is the memory that comes to mind for most.
But as the Christmas holidays approach and our kids take to the road, is giving the kids the keys to the family’s oldest car good enough?
As Australia’s key road safety advisory body, the National Road Safety Council thinks its time we give our kids the keys to our Australasian New Car Assessment Program 5 star-rated car parked in the garage.
This column is proudly brought to you by BMW. Or Mercedes Benz. Or Holden (if I’m desperate).
Advertising and editorial – traditionally uneasy bedfellows – are having uninhibited sex at the moment. Instead of protesting, we media sluts have joined the orgy, legs in the air like frozen chooks (from Steggles, of course – Steggles for quality).
How long before we see newspaper stories headlined, “Tony Abbott surges ahead in the polls” (sponsored by Nutri-Grain – Iron Man Food).
I was sitting at traffic lights the other day making my way to a gig in the Hunter Valley. It was lashing rain and the weather was terrible – you could barely see the road up ahead let alone the other traffic.
As I waited for the lights to change, a car pulled up alongside me. Glancing briefly to the left I saw the familiar P plate on the window screen. The car was a six-cylinder and the young driver at the steering wheel seemed far too eager to put each cylinder to use.
“Alright buddy”, I grumbled as I heard the intermittent and very familiar revving of his car, “hold your horses”. The lights changed and the young driver shot off like a bullet.
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A strange thing happened when I became a parent. I started to get upset when I saw stories like the one of the five young men who were killed in a motor crash at the weekend.
I’ve also found myself saying ‘in my day’ or worse, ‘when I was young’. I’ve already made decisions about a computer in my child’s room and whether she will have a mobile phone.
Sometimes when the entrepreneurial gene comes out, I wonder if I could get a mobile phone made that simply dials home and does nothing else. I would market it as not having a camera or video function, wouldn’t be able to surf the net and it wouldn’t rack up bills of many hundreds of dollars. (That’s where the entrepreneurial gene fails me.)
When it comes to the cars parked in the garages of our Federal parliamentarians, saving the planet for the kids and grandkids doesn’t get a look-in.
Our Federal MPs, apart from a few Opposition hard heads, for some time have been issuing worthy public words about the need for urgent global action to stop greenhouse catastrophe. As Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said earlier this month, referring to the need for his Emissions Trading Scheme to get through parliament: “Denying climate change is bad for our kids, it is bad for our grandkids”.
But it’s clear that big, Aussie-made, carbon fuel-gulping grunt that MPs from all major parties want to drive under a taxpayer-funded perk costing about $5 million a year. They want a big donk under the bonnet.
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Last week I was bored to death reading coal industry propaganda and needed some inspiration, so I took $50,000 worth of new green technology for a test drive.
The Prius is the worlds first and biggest selling hybrid car, meaning it has both an electric motor and a petrol engine, which work in tandem to minimize petrol consumption. It also features a HUD heads up display, like in a military jet and solar panels built into the roof. If Captain Planet had a car, this would be it.
The market for hybrid cars is driven (sorry) by both Peak Oil and climate change. Peak Oil is the term for ecological limits as they apply to crude oil, or more specifically, the point in history at which oil production reaches a peak.
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The world’s worst headline is widely agreed to be this rip-snorter from a brief which ran some years ago in The New York Times: None dead in small earthquake in Chile.
This column might be considered a belated shot at the title.
But setting aside from its decidedly unspectacular impact, it’s a story which says something about the way we live and interact in a big city like Sydney. It goes to the kind of entrenched bullying and brinksmanship which pits complete strangers against each other in all sorts of frazzled, sometimes deadly encounters as we try to get through our day.
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Nothing screams erectile dysfunction as loudly as a diamond encrusted Rolex.
In my vast experience of travelling the globe, participating in royal activities, grand soirees, and through my exposure to the well heeled, I have come to the conclusion that it takes a certain type of man to sport a watch the value of which would feed several villages in the Sudan for years. As well, one would perhaps think that in light of the Global Financial Cock-up, those with fat wallets pillaged from haemorrhaging shareholders would catch on that discretion is the better part of valour – or at least, prudent during our Bernie Madoff days.
But these men are of a sad, and certain age, needy of ego and (I suspect) with erections propped up by Viagra and carbon based stones. Some have emerged from communist China with newly found capitalist bank accounts and they want everyone to know it. Occasionally, they are Hip Hop gangsta rappers who believe that extra bling will function as a light source if ever marooned in the wilderness. Certain Queensland property developers have also been known to sport the links of time & tack, co-coordinating their ensembles with white shoes.
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Whatever you do, don’t watch the above ad before you drive home. You might turn into a maniac and start aiming at bus queues. Happily, the car advertisements of the not too distant future will feature a middle-aged dad in a beige cardigan and a mum in a twin set, and a couple of kiddies lashed into ergonomic capsules and wearing crash helmets for added protection.
They will be putt-putting along in the non-fast lane at 47kmh as the ad extols the car’s safety features and ability to get you from A to B. There will be no mention of how much fun the car is to drive, how it handles corners, how quickly it can go from nought to 100, how it’s got racy bucket seats, beautiful zippy lines, a cracker of a stereo or a monstrous donk under the bonnet.
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