The Truth About Cars » Australia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 02 Aug 2015 16:00:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Australia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/australia/ Campbell Points Fingers At Kett, Manley, Marchionne in Defense http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/campbell-points-fingers-at-kett-manley-marchionne-in-defense/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/campbell-points-fingers-at-kett-manley-marchionne-in-defense/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 16:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131633 The court case against former FCA Australia executive Clyde Campbell is turning into a venerable who’s-who of decision makers at the company, reports The Age. Campbell, who is charged with misappropriation of $30 million AUD of company funds, claims he had verbal permission from recently departed FCA executive John Kett, current company hotshot Mike Manley, […]

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The court case against former FCA Australia executive Clyde Campbell is turning into a venerable who’s-who of decision makers at the company, reports The Age.

Campbell, who is charged with misappropriation of $30 million AUD of company funds, claims he had verbal permission from recently departed FCA executive John Kett, current company hotshot Mike Manley, and head of FCA Sergio Marchionne.

Campbell’s statement of defense comprises of many claims about instructions received by him from executives further up the chain of command.

One item of contention has to do with dealerships owned by formerly disgraced Mercedes executive Ernst Lieb and business partner David Piva. Campbell authorized payments from FCA to the pair to buy dealerships in Australia in order to increase FCA sales in Australia to 20,000 units per year by any means necessary.

From The Age:

Mr Campbell claims he authorised that expenditure on the instructions of Mr Manley, who “implied by a direction to increase FCA’s dealerships to 100 by June 2012″ that such deals were needed.

According to Mr Campbell, at a management meeting in Shanghai in 2012, Mr Manley told him FCA needed to match the sales volume of Kia and Volkswagen in Australia.

Mr Campbell claims he replied that Kia and Volkswagen had more dealerships and FCA was trying to expand its dealership network. 

According to the court documents, Mr Manley replied with words to the effect: “I’m sick of this excuse. Get 100 dealerships by June next year or you’re out of a job. I don’t care how you do it, I don’t care how much it costs, just get it done. All your marketing is being wasted if you do not have a dealer network to deliver on it”.

Campbell also claims he received “implicit instructions” from Sergio Marchionne and former executive John Kett.

It should be mentioned many of the claims made by Campbell lack supporting evidence.

Other deals as part of the case include the purchase of a plane painted in Alfa Romeo livery (pictured) and a $400,000 Chris Craft yacht.

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Fiat Chrysler Chief in Asia Quickly Quits http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fiat-chrysler-chief-asia-quickly-quits/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fiat-chrysler-chief-asia-quickly-quits/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 16:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1124609 The head of the Asia Pacific region for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles abruptly left his position Thursday, only a few days before the former head of FCA in Australia is expected to file a defense against allegations that he misused money, Drive in Australia is reporting. FCA Asian-Pacific chief John Kett left the company “to pursue other […]

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John KettThe head of the Asia Pacific region for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles abruptly left his position Thursday, only a few days before the former head of FCA in Australia is expected to file a defense against allegations that he misused money, Drive in Australia is reporting.

FCA Asian-Pacific chief John Kett left the company “to pursue other business interests,” according to the automaker. His resignation is effective immediately.

Former managing director of FCA in Australia Clyde Campbell is accused by the automaker of swindling more than $30 million from the company to pay for extravagant parties and gifts. 

It’s unclear if Kett’s departure has any connection with Campbell’s expected defense that he misused money.

Jeep CEO and Asian Pacific chief operating officer Mike Manley will assume Kett’s duties on an interim basis, the company said.

Campbell is accused of providing cars to celebrities such as Elizabeth Hurley and Shane Warne, in addition to hosting lavish parties and buying a $400,000 yacht with company money.

Kett has a long automotive career stretching back to the 1980s when he was CFO for Holden in Australia. After assuming various roles with GM in China and Australia, Kett was hired by Chrysler in 2008 and promoted to his role in 2009.

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2016 F1 Calendar Brings Back Germany, Adds Azerbaijan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2016-f1-calendar-brings-back-germany-adds-azerbaijan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2016-f1-calendar-brings-back-germany-adds-azerbaijan/#comments Sat, 11 Jul 2015 16:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1113417 Next year’s Formula 1 season may have 21 races, including the first in Azerbaijan and a race in Germany after this year’s planned event was cancelled. The provisional calendar for F1 was released Friday with 21 races scheduled, the same number of races on last year’s provisional calendar. The race on the streets in Baku, Azerbaijan this year […]

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Next year’s Formula 1 season may have 21 races, including the first in Azerbaijan and a race in Germany after this year’s planned event was cancelled.

The provisional calendar for F1 was released Friday with 21 races scheduled, the same number of races on last year’s provisional calendar. The race on the streets in Baku, Azerbaijan this year would be dubbed the European Grand Prix and could be held in July.

The 2016 season would begin in Australia in April and end in Abu Dhabi in November.

The German Grand Prix, which was slated for the Nurburgring this year before it was cancelled due to financial issues, may be held at Hockenheim next year, according to SkySports.

Other changes on the 2016 F1 calendar include moving the Russian Grand Prix from October to May, and moving the Malaysian Grand Prix from April to September.

Last year, the provisional calendar included 21 races, including a Korean Grand Prix that was eventually dropped from the calendar. Mexico was added to be the 20th race this year before the German GP was dropped. F1 has only held a 20-race season once, which was in 2012.

The provisional 2016 calendar effectively eliminates the summer break for F1 teams. The largest gap between two races next year is only two weeks, with three back-to-back races in Asia, North America and Indonesia-Malaysia.

The provisional calendar was part of a larger set of changes F1’s governing body made to the sport this week. The FIA released a new set of rules simplifying how teams serve penalties, according to the BBC. Teams will move to the back of the grid for power-unit penalties, rather than a complicated system of grid penalties and time penalties based on position.

McLaren-Honda will also be allowed to use an additional complete power unit this year after the FIA relaxed rules for first-year engine suppliers. The rule will retroactively apply to McLaren-Honda this season.

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New V8 Supercars Rules: Smaller Engines (Maybe), More Cars (Maybe) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/new-australian-supercars-rules-smaller-engines-maybe-cars-maybe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/new-australian-supercars-rules-smaller-engines-maybe-cars-maybe/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 17:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1112857 Guidelines for the new Australian V8 Supercar series outline specifications for its new cars, including an option to use smaller engines for the manufacturers who compete. According to the racing series, the new platform “allows more flexibility in terms of body style and engine configuration, provided they comply with the regulations. The V8 engine, which has been mandated […]

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Guidelines for the new Australian V8 Supercar series outline specifications for its new cars, including an option to use smaller engines for the manufacturers who compete.

According to the racing series, the new platform “allows more flexibility in terms of body style and engine configuration, provided they comply with the regulations. The V8 engine, which has been mandated for more than 20 years, is also expected to continue as the dominant power plant of the sport.”

The guidelines allow for 4-, 6- or 8-cylinder engines, as long as they meet power specifications. The plans also call for a minimum noise limit of 85 to 95 dB. Take that, Bernie.

Currently, five manufacturers compete in the series: Ford, Holden, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Volvo. Two of the five manufacturers — Nissan and Volvo — don’t offer their production cars used in the race series with V8 engines.

The new regulations also allow for a wider range of body styles — presumably to entice more manufacturers to compete such as BMW — provided that the cars are right-hand drive, four-seat, front-engined, rear-wheel drive and “accurately reflect” the look of a production model. GT cars with four seats would be allowed under the new rules.

Currently, cars race with different engines on a uniform chassis. Both Mercedes-Benz and Nissan use fundamentally different engines than Ford and Holden. 

The new generation supercar program was started last November and will be implemented at the beginning of 2017. The V8 Supercar season runs from February to December.

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FCA Australia Can’t Locate $8M Worth of Loaned Jeeps http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-australia-cant-locate-8m-worth-of-loaned-jeeps/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-australia-cant-locate-8m-worth-of-loaned-jeeps/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 16:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1099097 Under the leadership of stellar executives Clyde Campbell and Veronica Johns, FCA Australia loaned out “hundreds” of vehicles, all of which the company would like returned. That’s too bad as FCA doesn’t know exactly where they all are. Australia’s Daily Telegraph (via Automotive News) is reporting that FCA is still trying to find the vehicles […]

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Under the leadership of stellar executives Clyde Campbell and Veronica Johns, FCA Australia loaned out “hundreds” of vehicles, all of which the company would like returned.

That’s too bad as FCA doesn’t know exactly where they all are.

Australia’s Daily Telegraph (via Automotive News) is reporting that FCA is still trying to find the vehicles that were part of the company’s ambassador program, meant to put popular individuals in the seats of their products, valued at $10M AUD ($7.75M USD).

As reported earlier, records on the vehicles are shaky, with many of them given away without anyone at the company tracking their whereabouts.

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Aus. FCA Misappropriation Case Includes Former MB, Current Crown Resorts Execs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/aus-fca-misappropriation-case-includes-former-mb-exec-crown-resorts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/aus-fca-misappropriation-case-includes-former-mb-exec-crown-resorts/#comments Sat, 06 Jun 2015 18:58:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1085937 As we reported earlier, Clyde Campbell and a number of his associates, including his successor Veronica Johns and former boss Ernst Lieb by way of his Motorworld dealerships, are being named in a misappropriation case claiming $30 million AUD was funnelled out of company coffers. This weekend, more details have come to light, including how […]

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Chrysler 300 (Aus)

As we reported earlier, Clyde Campbell and a number of his associates, including his successor Veronica Johns and former boss Ernst Lieb by way of his Motorworld dealerships, are being named in a misappropriation case claiming $30 million AUD was funnelled out of company coffers.

This weekend, more details have come to light, including how Campbell was able to pilfer FCA funds without raising red flags in Detroit.

The story verges on conspiracy and includes the wife of Campbell, his successor, a formerly disgraced Daimler executive, a casino, a boat and extravagant homes paid for by FCA without its knowing. Even Campbell’s wife’s hairdresser received a free Jeep as part of the brand’s “ambassador” program.

Mark Hawthorne of The Sydney Morning Herald remarked, “It has all the makings of a Hollywood script. In Elizabeth Hurley, it even has the presence of a Hollywood star.”

According to the article published today, $20 million (all figures in Australian dollars) was spent on overpriced dealer website services, $550,000 on a “mobile outdoor floating billboard” that is allegedly a 40-foot Chris Craft boat owned by Campbell, $1 million Christmas parties that included Louis Vuitton bags as employee gifts, over $500,000 – and possible nearly $2 million – in travel expenses, and a private suite for Campbell and his friends – including former fired Mercedes-Benz USA CEO and president Ernst Lieb – to enjoy the Monaco Grand Prix.

Campbell served under Lieb
Ernst Lieb did an eighteen year stint in multiple roles at Mercedes-Benz Canada Ltd. between 1985 and 2003. It’s where he rode out the “merger of equals” between Daimler and Chrysler as he served in his final position, CEO and president, of the Canadian subsidiary.

In 2003, Ernst moved to Australia and took the same titles at the Australian arm of the newly-merged DaimlerChrysler. That’s where he became the boss of Clyde Campbell. Ernst would leave Australia in 2006 to become CEO and president of Mercedes-Benz USA, but not before Campbell signed a contract for dealer website services with Motortrak, a British digital retail marketing agency owned by Gary Pask.

By May 2007, Daimler would divest itself from Chrysler, with Cerberus Capital Management taking a 80.1 percent stake in the American business.

Starting January 2008, Campbell served as managing director of Motortrak in its Australian office. His wife, Simone, was director and company secretary starting in May 2009. During his time at Motortrak, Campbell sold a website services deal to Lieb for all Mercedes-Benz dealers in the United States.

“That was the making of Motortrak and the making of Gary Pask as one of the richest businessmen in the UK,” a former Motortrak staff member told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“The whole deal was done by Clyde.”

During this time, Chrysler received $12.5 billion (USD) from the U.S Treasury and $1 billion (CAD) from the Canadian and Ontario governments. The bailout cash was provided under the condition of a Fiat takeover.

Clyde left Motortrak in September 2010, with his wife following one month later. Two days after she left the retail marketing company, Clyde Campbell was appointed managing director of the now-Fiat-controlled Chrysler Australia.

In October 2011, Lieb was fired from Mercedes-Benz USA for using corporate funds to pay golf club fees, granting rentals for vehicles in exchange for flight upgrades, and using $100,000 in corporate money to perform upgrades in his private home – including a home theatre, gym, washer and dryer, and built-in barbecue. A later wrongful dismissal suit launched by Lieb against Mercedes in Germany was dismissed, with the court stating the claims were “so serious that any further employment [at Daimler] would be unacceptable.”

An unnamed Daimler executive at that time told German paper Handelsblatt, “Ernst was warned, but he has done it again.”

Another Motortrak contract, Lieb’s Motorworld and Campbell’s high life
Almost as soon as Campbell returned to FCA in 2010, he signed another contract with former employer Motortrak. The initial amount of $690 a month for website services per dealer would balloon to $4,100. This was charged to the network’s 184 dealers.

More than $20 million was paid to Motortrak from 2011, claims FCA, “substantially greater than the cost for similar web services provided by Motortrak itself and by competitors.”

Shortly after, disgraced Lieb would return to Australia to become co-owner of the Motorworld dealership group along with David Piva.

“After working all my life in the wholesale sector, I am now in the ‘real’ business of the Automotive Industry – the retail business!” Lieb said in a press release announcing his arrival at Motorworld.

FCA alleges it incurred some $4 million in damages in deals between the Campbell-led subsidiary and Lieb-owned Motorworld, including “marketing support and to help it buy property, specifically the Brighton dealership,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

Campbell was well known as one of the biggest-spending marketers in Australia. The company would end up sponsoring horse racing, soccer players in multiple leagues, events, Crown Resorts, professional sports teams, and provide vehicles to celebrities the world over.

While there were only 45 official “ambassador” program vehicles documented in 2013, staff said the number was closer to 100. The program was so pervasive, even Simone Campbell’s hairdresser, Karlose, received a Jeep for free.

Travel expenses skyrocketed. Campbell incurred $537,849 in travel expenses in his own name. However, it is believed he also incurred – in whole or in part – an additional $452,138 in 2012 and $445,556 in 2013 in travel expenses submitted under the names of employees who had no business traveling.

Part of this travel was a trip to Monaco. Campbell, along with Lieb and Pask, enjoyed multiple stays at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Lavish parties were also the norm for Christmas. Approximately $1 million each year was spent on the annual employee Christmas party held at Crown Palladium, with an estimated 100 suites booked at Crown Towers and Crown Promenade hotels for staff, guests, brand ambassadors and media. This started under Campbell’s leadership and continued under his successor, Veronica Johns.

$550,000 “mobile outdoor floating billboard”
Allegedly, in March 2013, Campbell contacted FCA’s advertising agency Maxus to direct payment on four invoices of $137,500 each, for a total of $550,000, provided by My Alfa Romeo. The invoices were for a “mobile outdoor floating billboard”.

My Alfa Romeo, partly owned by Crown Resorts’ Ishan Ratnam (a.k.a. Ishan Kunaratnam) and Campbell’s wife Simone, is said not to have delivered said billboard. Instead, FCA alleges the money was used to purchase a 40-foot Chris Craft boat valued at $400,000 owned by Campbell.

Ratnam’s lawyer, John Price, stated, “There is a contract between My Alfa Romeo and FCA and the billboard was provided. My client denies that assertion, as certainly Fiat Chrysler did receive it.”

From Campbell to Johns, the spending continued
In April 2013, Veronica Johns took over the role vacated by Campbell when he moved to New Zealand-based distributorship Fiat Chrysler NZ Limited of which he took a 50 percent stake. The other half of the NZ company is owned by Ateco Automotive executive chairman Neville Crichton.

However, the change in leadership didn’t mean the money would stop flowing from FCA.

At the time, FCA touted their new leader Johns as “the first Australian woman to head the local division of a major car company.”

After a $3.1 million renovation of the company’s Melbourne headquarters done by Madok, a construction company controlled by Mitchell Knight, the same company was contracted to perform upgrades to John’s private residence with the work invoiced back to FCA.

Three cars were purchased as prizes for two charities and a soccer club. Two of those vehicles would end up registered to Mitchell Knight and one to Gregory Hede, John’s husband. Knight sold at least one of those vehicles back to the City Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership at a $20,000 premium. FCA claims the vehicles were funnelled through the Lieb-owned Motorworld group.

A Fiat Abarth race team was funded by the FCA Australian subsidiary under Johns. It was budgeted at $500,000 but cost $800,00 in all. Clyde Campbell and Gregory Hede competed as drivers in those cars, their racing licences paid for by FCA.

Other expenses mentioned in the case include an $11,000 bill rung up by Johns at Crown Towers.

In September 2014, FCA alleges Campbell, his wife Simone, Lieb, his wife Petra and other guests took a three-day trip to a luxury golf and spa resort in New Zealand on FCA’s dime under the leadership of Veronica Johns without proper authorization.

One month later, Johns left FCA for “personal reasons” after less than two years at the post and a total of 16 years with the company.

How did it all happen?

“The spending was out of control,” told former staff member to The Sydney Morning Herald. “And anyone who questioned it was shown the door.”

When Johns left the top post, FCA appointed Chrysler parts business head Pat Dougherty as the new president and CEO of the Australian subsidiary. When he arrived, employees lined up at his door to tell the story, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, which Dougherty then reported back to Detroit.

Auditors arrived in Melbourne in late January.

How it all happened in the first place, Dougherty is keeping mum.

“FCA Australia will not engage in a running commentary on matters currently before the courts”, he told BusinessDay.

However, many think a lack of control and oversight is due to the DaimlerChrysler fiasco and Chrysler’s recent merger with Fiat. With Italian and American managers preoccupied with larger corporate matters, executives in Australia were able to operate virtually autonomously, especially as sales grew.

Campbell is stating he’s innocent through his lawyer.

“We are confident that, in due course, the allegations will be shown to be wrong and will be embarrassing for FCA,” Campbell’s lawyer Sam Bond told The Sydney Morning Herald.

[Sources: 12, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]

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FCA Takes Former Australia Exec. to Court for Misappropriation of $30M http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fca-takes-former-australia-exec-to-court-for-misappropriation-of-30m/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fca-takes-former-australia-exec-to-court-for-misappropriation-of-30m/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 14:15:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1075882 The Chrysler 300, thought by many to be a modern day “gangster” car, has tons of power. But, as they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and for former FCA Australia CEO Clyde Campbell, it still may not be enough to escape accusations of misappropriation of funds. Tomorrow, FCA will take Campbell to federal court in Australia claiming he […]

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Chrysler 300 (Aus)

The Chrysler 300, thought by many to be a modern day “gangster” car, has tons of power. But, as they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and for former FCA Australia CEO Clyde Campbell, it still may not be enough to escape accusations of misappropriation of funds.

Tomorrow, FCA will take Campbell to federal court in Australia claiming he funneled money to other companies owned by himself, his wife, co-workers, and his successor – Victoria Johns.

FCA has accused Campbell of misappropriating and misusing more than $30 million “in company money to fund an extravagant lifestyle for his family and business associates,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald. The claim also states Campbell provided free vehicles to celebrities Shane Wayne and Elizabeth Hurley in the UK, a region in which FCA Australia does not have business.

Campbell is said to have used corporate funds to purchase a $400,000 yacht, a plane, trips, and private club memberships through a convoluted process involving multiple companies.

The accused, prior to working for FCA, was employed by Motortrak. After Campbell moved to his position at FCA, Motortrak was contracted to provide web services to dealers at inflated prices, costing FCA $9.16 million per year between December 2010 and May 2015.

Campbell is also said to have funneled money to a company called My Alfa Romeo that was contracted to provide a “mobile floating billboard” at the cost of $500,000. Simone, Clyde’s wife, was a director and shareholder of My Alfa Romeo. The billboard was never delivered or provided.

Another company, Vukosav Photography, was paid $191,192 for services never contracted. Company owner Andrew Vukosav is said to be a friend of Campbell. The two allegedly went on a three-day golf trip together in New Zealand. Neither FCA or Maxus, FCA Australia’s marketing agency, contracted photography services from Vukosav Photography.

A conflict of interest is also mentioned in a $6.6 million contract with a company called Digital Dialogue. Sam Tabart, then FCA’s marketing director, is said to have a stake in parent company Digital Dialogue Media Holdings.

Finally, it is alleged Campbell’s successor, Victoria Johns, used company funds to pay for renovations at her private home. Johns was the first female CEO in the automotive industry in Australia and left FCA without warning in October 2014 for “personal reasons.” There have been no claims made against Johns.

FCA is looking to reclaim funds misspent under Campbell’s tenure as managing director from 2010 to 2013 and to freeze the assets of Campbell and his wife Simone, including their family home, “bank accounts, shareholdings and other properties and assets in Europe and New Zealand.”

“During a routine audit, we discovered what at best appears to be incomplete documentation pertaining to certain transactions and vendor relationships initiated or approved by Mr Campbell during his tenure as CEO of FCA Australia,” explained a representative for FCA in a statement.

The case begins in federal court tomorrow.

[Sources: mUmBRELLA, Sydney Morning Herald 1, 2, GoAuto]

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Suzuki Recalls 2M Amid Reports Of Smoking Ignitions http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/suzuki-recalls-2m-amid-reports-smoking-ignitions/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/suzuki-recalls-2m-amid-reports-smoking-ignitions/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 22:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1051009 Suzuki is recalling a record 2 million vehicles to replace ignition switches amid reports of smoke and fumes being emitted from the part. The recall adds 1,873,000 vehicles to the 168,000 previously recalled late last month, Reuters reports. Both figures apply to nine models made in Japan, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda AZ-Wagon, Mazda Carol, […]

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2003 Suzuki Wagon R

Suzuki is recalling a record 2 million vehicles to replace ignition switches amid reports of smoke and fumes being emitted from the part.

The recall adds 1,873,000 vehicles to the 168,000 previously recalled late last month, Reuters reports. Both figures apply to nine models made in Japan, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda AZ-Wagon, Mazda Carol, and Suzuki’s own Alto, Wagon R and Swift. The recall for the latter three covers vehicles built between 1998 and 2009.

Another 133,700 models in the new recall were sold overseas in Australia and Europe, including the aforementioned Swift, Alto and Cruze.

Thus far, 67 reports of smoking switches have been reported, including 18 in police cars. The reports have all come from Japan.

[Photo credit: Kuha455405/Wikipedia]

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Smart Follows Opel Out Of Australia Amid Weak Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/smart-follows-opel-australia-amid-weak-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/smart-follows-opel-australia-amid-weak-sales/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 15:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016730 In 2013, Opel left Australia amid poor sales in the land down under. This year, it’s Smart that is bowing out of the market. Just-Auto reports the Smart ForTwo would soon return to Europe after finding little success in Australia, due mainly to consumers not wanting to pay a premium on a city car; the […]

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In 2013, Opel left Australia amid poor sales in the land down under. This year, it’s Smart that is bowing out of the market.

Just-Auto reports the Smart ForTwo would soon return to Europe after finding little success in Australia, due mainly to consumers not wanting to pay a premium on a city car; the ForTwo’s $18,990 AUD ($14,727 USD) price is nearly on par with the much bigger, more roomier Toyota Corolla.

Since arriving in 2003, Smart has sold over 4,400 of its models, 3,517 being the aforementioned ForTwo. However, demand began to fall in 2005, and reached a point that by 2013, the brand only took orders online. Additionally, only 22 ForTwos have been sold in 2015 so far as the Australian market recovers.

Mercedes-Benz said it would continue to offer parts and service for the vehicles, and would do its best to move the remaining 60 days’ worth of inventory before Smart’s days in Australia came to a close.

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New South Wales Drivers ‘Block’ Traffic Cameras In Social Media-Backed Protest http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/new-south-wales-drivers-block-traffic-cameras-social-media-backed-protest/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/new-south-wales-drivers-block-traffic-cameras-social-media-backed-protest/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 12:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=972050 Speed cameras are the bane of motorists, a needed safety measure for road safety advocates, and a boon to government coffers (just ask Waldo, Fla.). Motorists in New South Wales, Australia, however, have decided to fly the two-fingered salute the only way they know how: By popping the hood. According to Autoblog, the social media […]

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Speed cameras are the bane of motorists, a needed safety measure for road safety advocates, and a boon to government coffers (just ask Waldo, Fla.). Motorists in New South Wales, Australia, however, have decided to fly the two-fingered salute the only way they know how: By popping the hood.

According to Autoblog, the social media campaign Block Their Shot is encouraging drivers in NSW to “breakdown” in front of the state’s 45 traffic cameras, which are mounted in trucks like the one above.

As for the cause of the protest, use of said cameras increased in the last half of 2014, with a total of 7,000 hours of footage gathered over the period, compared to the 5,580 hours gathered during the last six months of 2013. In turn, the fines collected charged upward into the stratosphere, from $310,000 AUD ($250,000 USD) in 2013, to $1.35 million ($1.08 million) between January and October 2014.

Though the campaign is popular with motorists — over 40,000 Facebook likes as of this writing — both safety advocates and government officials would like to have a word or two with those behind it. NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay hopes the “idiots” grow out of this, lest he puts “draconian fines in place,” while University of New South Wales professor of road safety Raphael Grzebieta believes the campaign is putting lives in danger by encouraging speeding.

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2015 Chevrolet SS Now Available With Six-Speed Manual http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-chevrolet-ss-now-available-six-speed-manual/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-chevrolet-ss-now-available-six-speed-manual/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 12:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951913 Wanted a Chevrolet SS, but wanted to row your own? Your ship has arrived. AutoGuide reports the 2015 SS can be had with either a six-speed auto or, new for this year, a six-speed manual. Either option won’t add onto the $46,740 base price, with the only costly options being the $900 sunroof and the […]

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Wanted a Chevrolet SS, but wanted to row your own? Your ship has arrived.

AutoGuide reports the 2015 SS can be had with either a six-speed auto or, new for this year, a six-speed manual. Either option won’t add onto the $46,740 base price, with the only costly options being the $900 sunroof and the $500 full-size spare. Leather seating and Chevrolet’s MyLink system are standard.

Out back, the manual comes with a 3.70 gear ratio, more aggressive than the 3.27 paired with the auto. Power to the back comes from a 6.2-liter V8 delivering the same figure for horsepower and torque: 415.

Annual production of the SS is limited to 2,500, a run that will likely cease when Holden closes its last Australian factory in 2017.

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Dorizas Leaves Holden, General Motors To Pursue New Ventures http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dorizas-leaves-holden-general-motors-pursue-new-ventures/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dorizas-leaves-holden-general-motors-pursue-new-ventures/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938145 Another bell tolls as Holden draws closer to the end of local production in 2017, this time for brand boss Gerry Dorizas, who resigned after serving just eight months in the position. Motoring.com.au reports Dorizas was the fifth Holden head in four years, taking up where Mike Devereaux — who helmed the General Motors subsidiary […]

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Another bell tolls as Holden draws closer to the end of local production in 2017, this time for brand boss Gerry Dorizas, who resigned after serving just eight months in the position.

Motoring.com.au reports Dorizas was the fifth Holden head in four years, taking up where Mike Devereaux — who helmed the General Motors subsidiary from 2010 to 2013 — left off. Current COO Jeff Rolfs will fill the void until a new chief is found.

Dorizas, who proclaimed Holden would retake the top of the podium by 2020, has also left GM altogether “to pursue other opportunities.” Brand communications manager Sean Poppitt did not offer an explanation for the departure, but affirmed it would not change the brand’s goals and strategy.

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2015 HSV GTS Maloo Ute Officially Unveiled http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-hsv-gts-maloo-ute-officially-unveiled/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-hsv-gts-maloo-ute-officially-unveiled/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 11:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913090 Last month, Holden Special Vehicles announced plans for the most brutal ute to ever be assembled as a send-off to the Holden Commodore Ute before all local production draws to a close in 2017. This is that ute: The 2015 HSV GTS Maloo. The limited edition ute pulls from the same parts bin used to […]

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Last month, Holden Special Vehicles announced plans for the most brutal ute to ever be assembled as a send-off to the Holden Commodore Ute before all local production draws to a close in 2017.

This is that ute: The 2015 HSV GTS Maloo.

The limited edition ute pulls from the same parts bin used to create the equally limited and powerful GTS Sedan, based upon the Commodore sedan. This includes the 6.2-liter supercharged LSA V8 — capable of dropping 577 horsepower and a near-equal 546 lb-ft of tree-removing torque out behind the bed — lightweight six-piston calipers mounted to 15- and 14-inch two-piece rotors, and torque vectoring. Power will be directed to the rear 20-inch wheels through a TR6060 (MG9 spec) six-speed twin-clutch manual or optional 6L90E six-speed auto.

At the ready inside, the owner can adjust the GTS Maloo’s electronic stability, torque vectoring, launch control and more through the HSV Driver Preference Dial, while HUD, lane-departure and performance systems provide the driver with the data and safety they might need.

Two colors — a bronze/red and an iridescent olive green — and two leather trims — dubbed Onyx and Red Hot, respectively — round out the looks in addition to the GTS’s aggressive face.

Only 250 will be built — 10 of which are heading over to nearby New Zealand — with production and availability due by November of this year. Price of admission will likely be around $79,000 USD.

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Ford’s Final Ute http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/fords-final-ute/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/fords-final-ute/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 14:52:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=911170 The Ford Falcon Ute will bow out for 2015, alongside its Falcon sedan sibling, and Ford is preparing a final edition to commemorate the end of an era. The last Falcon Ute will come with a 4.0L I6 making 260 horsepower. A turbocharged version of this mill is also available, and bumps power up to […]

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The Ford Falcon Ute will bow out for 2015, alongside its Falcon sedan sibling, and Ford is preparing a final edition to commemorate the end of an era.

The last Falcon Ute will come with a 4.0L I6 making 260 horsepower. A turbocharged version of this mill is also available, and bumps power up to 362 horsepower. Both manual and automatic transmissions will be offered. The Ute’s final redesign follows an update for the Falcon sedan.

Ford’s Australian manufacturing arm will shut down in 2016, with arch-rival Holden ending its own operations a year after that. The Ute is considered an icon of the Australian motoring industry, which has now largely collapsed in a short time frame due to a strong Australian dollar and shifting market conditions.

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HSV Unveils Its Last, Fastest-Ever Ute http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/hsv-unveils-last-fastest-ever-v8-interceptor-ute/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/hsv-unveils-last-fastest-ever-v8-interceptor-ute/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 12:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=889305 As a parting gift to the world, Holden is set to built what should be the fastest Ute ever produced, borrowing the LSA V8 from the HSV GTS sedan. Carsguide.com.au reports the ute will receive its power from the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 powering the HSV GTS Sedan, capable of delivering 577 horsepower and 546 ft-lb […]

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As a parting gift to the world, Holden is set to built what should be the fastest Ute ever produced, borrowing the LSA V8 from the HSV GTS sedan.

Carsguide.com.au reports the ute will receive its power from the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 powering the HSV GTS Sedan, capable of delivering 577 horsepower and 546 ft-lb of torque to the back through either a manual or automatic with flappy paddles. Other pieces from the sedan, including a stronger differential and additional engine/transmission cooling systems, will likely make it to the ute.

Suspension and handling, meanwhile, will be retuned pieces from the HSV Maloo over the magnetic-controlled setup found in the GTS Sedan, just in case the lucky owner wanted to haul between 473 kg and 487 kg (1,043 lbs – 1,074 lbs) of hay, depending on transmission chosen.

And we do mean lucky: Only 150 HSV GTS Utes will be assembled, with potential owners paying $85,000 ($79,000 USD) for the honor of driving the fastest ute in the world when it arrives in showrooms at the end of 2014. Though speed is limited to 250 kph (155 mph), the sedan was able to hit 280 kph (174 mph) once the speed limiter was removed.

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Ford Territory Gets A Final Send Off http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-territory-gets-a-final-send-off/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-territory-gets-a-final-send-off/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:03:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874465 Just like its sedan sibling, the Ford Territory is getting one last refresh for its final year of sales in the Antipodes. The Aussie-only SUV gets the same mild refresh as its Falcon platform-mate. No V8 was ever available, but Ford Australia’s mega-powerful turbo I6s (putting down nearly 330 horsepower in top trim) will hopefully remain an […]

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Just like its sedan sibling, the Ford Territory is getting one last refresh for its final year of sales in the Antipodes.

The Aussie-only SUV gets the same mild refresh as its Falcon platform-mate. No V8 was ever available, but Ford Australia’s mega-powerful turbo I6s (putting down nearly 330 horsepower in top trim) will hopefully remain an option.

Sadly, CAFE, market demand and a host of other factors likely kept us from enjoying the Territory in North America. As cool as it is, the business case for a rear-drive SUV packing sports car power levels was probably not there in 2004, and likely isn’t there today – unless you’re SRT, and have all the components sitting around, and you need to spread development costs around a bunch of model lines.

Beyond that, the Territory is even cooler because it was a unique, locally-designed and built solution to local tastes. In an era of One Ford, economies of scale and global product lines, that is something we’re likely never going to see again.

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Ford Falcon Receives New Face http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-falcon-receives-new-face-in-its-twilight-age/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-falcon-receives-new-face-in-its-twilight-age/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873042 This will be the face of the last of the V8 interceptors for Ford’s Falcon, and that’s only the beginning. Autoblog reports the Falcon’s new face is in line with the upcoming Mustang, as well as the Fusion and Mondeo. Unlike the front-drivers, however, the Falcon’s new look — beginning with the XR8 — will […]

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This will be the face of the last of the V8 interceptors for Ford’s Falcon, and that’s only the beginning.

Autoblog reports the Falcon’s new face is in line with the upcoming Mustang, as well as the Fusion and Mondeo. Unlike the front-drivers, however, the Falcon’s new look — beginning with the XR8 — will come with firepower in the form of a 5-liter supercharged V8, as well as a trio of six-cylinder engines and the EcoBoost four-pot.

Other touches include LED tail lamps meant to show off the Falcon’s backside to the Commodores trailing behind it, and headlamps with that are specific to the Australian sedan. Beyond this, the Falcon’s facelift is but a mid-cycle refresh for the record books.

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Tata To Enter Global Passenger Market With Help Of Jaguar Land Rover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/tata-to-enter-global-passenger-market-with-help-of-jaguar-land-rover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/tata-to-enter-global-passenger-market-with-help-of-jaguar-land-rover/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871890 Having done well with Jaguar Land Rover in its portfolio, Tata Motors is now turning to its premium subsidiary for its own foray into passenger cars and SUVs. Drive.com.au reports the parent company is using the technical and design know-how JLR to begin growing its passenger vehicle line in Australia and beyond, though Darren Bowler, […]

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Having done well with Jaguar Land Rover in its portfolio, Tata Motors is now turning to its premium subsidiary for its own foray into passenger cars and SUVs.

Drive.com.au reports the parent company is using the technical and design know-how JLR to begin growing its passenger vehicle line in Australia and beyond, though Darren Bowler, managing director of importer Fusion Automotive, assures that no badge engineering would occur between the two brands.

What would be shared, according to Bowler, would be platforms and engines, such as the global platform underpinning the upcoming Nexon SUV that could “be used as an Evoque… a Tata, [or] a Jaguar,” as well as the Ingenium family of four-cylinder engines that will soon turn up under the bonnet of many a JLR product.

In the meantime, Tata Australia plans to tackle the medium- and heavy-duty markets with the Ultra and Prima, both joining the light-duty Xenon.

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2015 Chevrolet SS Order Guide Confirms Manual Transmission, Magnetic Ride http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-chevrolet-ss-order-guide-confirms-manual-transmission-magnetic-ride/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-chevrolet-ss-order-guide-confirms-manual-transmission-magnetic-ride/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870026 Those who were waiting for the Chevrolet SS to have a manual transmission to go with its Australian power, they can now breathe: The order guide confirms the 2015 model will that, as well as the Magnetic Ride suspension. Jalopnik reports one of their commentariat had looked through General Motors’ online Fleet Order guide when […]

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Those who were waiting for the Chevrolet SS to have a manual transmission to go with its Australian power, they can now breathe: The order guide confirms the 2015 model will that, as well as the Magnetic Ride suspension.

Jalopnik reports one of their commentariat had looked through General Motors’ online Fleet Order guide when they came upon the revelations. In addition, more of the commentariat pointed out a number of new colors 2015 SS owners could drool over, including Regal Peacock Green and Alchemy Purple; Dodge and SRT may have to dust off a few oldies to keep up.

2015 Chevy SS Form A 2015 Chevy SS Form B

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Ford Australia’s FPV Builds Its Final V8 Interceptor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-australias-fpv-builds-its-final-v8-interceptor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-australias-fpv-builds-its-final-v8-interceptor/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 10:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=844825 Though Ford Australia has yet to build its last vehicle, the subsidiary’s Ford Performance Vehicles unit has come to the end of the road with its final V8 interceptor. Autoblog reports FPV’s swan song is the Falcon GT F 351, a limited edition of 500 for Australia and 50 for New Zealand augmented by a […]

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Though Ford Australia has yet to build its last vehicle, the subsidiary’s Ford Performance Vehicles unit has come to the end of the road with its final V8 interceptor.

Autoblog reports FPV’s swan song is the Falcon GT F 351, a limited edition of 500 for Australia and 50 for New Zealand augmented by a supercharged 5-liter V8 pushing 471 horsepower — or 351 kW, in honor of the 5.8-liter/351 cubic-inch V8 that powered the Falcon GTs of history — and 420 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. The GT F comes with the handling package from the Falcon R-Spec, while Brembo brakes help bring the last FPV model to a stop.

On the outside, the limited-sedan Falcon features black racing stripes that run from the bonnet to the boot, along with black accents under the headlamps and throughout the rest of the sedan. Meanwhile, orange is the new black on the inside, finding its way onto seat stitching, instrument faces and the GT F logo.

In addition to the GT F, the unit — which is taking its final bow before the Mustang takes to the stage — is also building 120 Pursuit Utes with the same 5-liter V8, though it delivers 422 horses pulling 402 lb-ft of torque to the bed in the back instead of the sedan’s “fuel-injected suicide machine”-stopping firepower. No prices have been given for either limited-edition model.

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GM Moves EV Pack Production In-House, Almost Had A Commodore EV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/gm-moves-ev-pack-production-in-house-almost-had-a-commodore-ev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/gm-moves-ev-pack-production-in-house-almost-had-a-commodore-ev/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=820874 Automotive News reports General Motors will bring production of the Chevrolet Spark EV’s battery pack in-house to its Brownstown Township plant in the Detroit metro area, having already moved the subcompact’s 85-kilowatt electric motors to White Marsh, Md. in 2013. The pack was originally assembled by A123 Systems before Wanxiang Group picked up the torch. […]

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Automotive News reports General Motors will bring production of the Chevrolet Spark EV’s battery pack in-house to its Brownstown Township plant in the Detroit metro area, having already moved the subcompact’s 85-kilowatt electric motors to White Marsh, Md. in 2013. The pack was originally assembled by A123 Systems before Wanxiang Group picked up the torch. No new jobs will be created as a result of the move, spokesman Dave Darovitz stating GM would add jobs “if consumer demand requires it.” The packs for the 2015 Spark EV — whose market will expand to include California and Oregon later this year — will be 86 pounds lighter than the outgoing units, and will have a storage capacity of 19 kilowatts held within 192 lithium ion cells.

Speaking of GM EVs, GoAuto reports the Holden Commodore almost had an EV variant that would have been priced for $10,000 AUD ($9,400 USD) less than the Volt. Only seven pre-production units made it out of the joint venture between Axiflux, EV Engineering, Bosch Australia, Better Place, GE Finance and Air International before Holden announced it would end all local production by 2017. The announcement, along with the collapse and withdrawals among a majority of the project’s partners, led to Axiflux acquiring EV Engineering’s assets. The company plans to focus on industrial applications for the developed technology until the right partner comes along to pick up where the project left off for an automotive joint venture.

The Detroit Press says GM’s board of directors has retained New York-based Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to give an “independent assessment” of the automaker’s inner workings. An unnamed source familiar with the announcement says the decision “was a good governance practice” aimed to deliver sound advice to GM’s senior management. The firm is the latest third-party to join GM’s cadre of attorneys, including Anton Valukas and Ken Feinberg, as the automaker navigates the legal waters in the wake of the February 2014 ignition switch recall.

Finally, Just-Auto reports GM is planning to expand its Indian operations into a global base of operations for small-car exports to Latin America and beyond. The exports will begin with 2,000 to 2,500 Beats to Chile in October from the automaker’s factory in Talegon, with some 30,000 to 33,000 units to leave annually for Latin America within two years. GM expects Mexico to receive the biggest imports from India, with over 12,000 units shipped annually.

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GM Issues ECM Recall, Bids Farewell To Federico http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/gm-issues-ecm-recall-bids-farewell-to-federico/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/gm-issues-ecm-recall-bids-farewell-to-federico/#comments Tue, 06 May 2014 10:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=815930 Autoblog reports another recall has been issued by General Motors, this time concerning 51,640 2014 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia crossovers screwed together between March 26 and August 15 of last year. The affected vehicles possess an engine control module whose software may provide an inaccurate fuel gauge reading, forcing the driver to […]

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2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Autoblog reports another recall has been issued by General Motors, this time concerning 51,640 2014 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia crossovers screwed together between March 26 and August 15 of last year. The affected vehicles possess an engine control module whose software may provide an inaccurate fuel gauge reading, forcing the driver to pull to the side of the road should the tank prove empty instead of a quarter to empty. Owners have been asked to bring their affected crossover for a reflashing of the ECM to correct the issue.

As for the original recall, Automotive News reports GM engineering executive Jim Federico has retired from the company. Federico led a team of engineers in a 2012 investigation of the out-of-spec switch at the heart of the recall, specifically on whether an increase in the switch’s torque would prevent it from slipping out of the “on” position, as well as why the switch prevented sensors in affected vehicles from deploying during a crash. The engineer, who reported directly to current CEO Mary Barra in 2011 when she was global product development chief, had a hand in the development of a handful of vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt, Opel Adam and Buick Regal. A GM spokesman said Federico’s immediate retirement is not related to the ongoing recall crisis.

Meanwhile, the publication put forth a timeline involving engineer Ray DeGiorgio’s original decision to make no changes to the switch, and his subsequent about-face months later that ultimately led to the introduction of the redesigned switch in late April 2006. In short, the atmosphere tied to the company’s “cost culture,” when paired with the financial downward spiral that led to both GM and supplier Delphi seeking emergency funding from the federal government in 2008, gave rise to DeGiorgio — responsible for the switch’s design since 1999 — originally seeing the upgrade as impossible due to the design’s fragility possibly leading to more problems in a redesign. Other proposed solutions were deemed as an unacceptable business case by Chevrolet Cobalt engineering manager Gary Altman, who discovered the problem by accidentally bumping his knee against the switch in testing. Later on, DeGiorgio sought more data into the problem despite his original verdict, working with Delphi to create the upgraded part.

The Detroit News reports the law firms of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles P.C. in Montgomery, Ala. and the Cooper Firm in Marietta, Ga. are joining forces to handle 200 product liability lawsuits against GM in addition to the lawsuits already filed by the firms separately. Founding shareholder of Beasley Allen et al, Jere Beasley, proclaimed the unification necessary in order to “help GM’s victims take on the powerful automaker.” Cooper’s namesake Lance Cooper added that not only will the joint venture benefit their clients, but it will also “allow us to continue in our efforts to get at the truth of what GM knew and when they knew it, so that the American public gets answers to their questions.”

Over in Korea, Automotive News reports GM Korea is devising strategies in the wake of Chevrolet’s 2016 European and Holden’s 2017 manufacturing exits. Aside from its newly expanded design studio, the subsidiary has reduced total daily work hours from 20 to 16, which would cut annual production by 100,000 units while offsetting 150,000 lost annual sales from Europe. Other cuts include early retirement for salaried employees — 200 of 6,000 eligible having accepted thus far — and 60,000 units at GM Korea’s Gunsan plant, where the Cruze and Orlando are assembled. In return, more vehicles could be sent to Australia and other markets from Korea in place of those once manufactured in Australia come 2017 and beyond.

Finally, GM has opted to simplify its customer satisfaction survey in order to gain knowledge from its base faster. The new survey, currently in the pilot phase, is comprised of less than 10 questions, and will ask consumers to rate their dealership experience on a scale of one to five stars, as well as write an online review. If successful, the original 22-question survey would be replaced by the shorter version, both of which are used to award quarterly payouts for dealers under the GM Standards for Excellence program.

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Subaru: No WRX Hatch For U.S. Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/subaru-no-wrx-hatch-for-u-s-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/subaru-no-wrx-hatch-for-u-s-market/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=808482 For those who want a Subaru WRX or WRX STi, but prefer the utility of the previous hatchback over the current sedan offerings, they should start breathing again, as Subaru will not be bringing such a beast to the United States after all. Motor Trend reports that last month, WRX project manager Masuo Takatsu informed […]

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Subaru Impreza WRX STi Hatchback

For those who want a Subaru WRX or WRX STi, but prefer the utility of the previous hatchback over the current sedan offerings, they should start breathing again, as Subaru will not be bringing such a beast to the United States after all.

Motor Trend reports that last month, WRX project manager Masuo Takatsu informed Motoring.com.au that Subaru “received strong interest from the US” for a hatchback variant, citing the 50 percent uptake by the U.S. market for the previous hatch. The statement came as a surprise to Subaru of America, who weren’t expecting anything more than the sedans:

We do not know about, nor do we have, any plans for a WRX hatch. Takatsu San is the product general manager of the WRX, but this is not something he has discussed with us.

One exchange between Subaru of America and Subaru of Japan later gave the final word: No WRX hatch will be forthcoming to the U.S. market, citing cost issues against producing both sedan and hatchback models.

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Analysis: Australia’s Free Trade Deals Are The Final Nail In The Coffin Of Its Auto Industry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/analysis-australias-free-trade-deals-are-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-of-its-auto-industry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/analysis-australias-free-trade-deals-are-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-of-its-auto-industry/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:35:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=790321 In the span of 24 hours, Australia inked two free trade agreements with both Japan and South Korea. Even though Holden, Ford and Toyota had already committed to ending auto manufacturing in Australia, it’s hard not to see the agreements as the last nail in the coffin of Australia’s once strong auto industry. Although North […]

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holden-plant

In the span of 24 hours, Australia inked two free trade agreements with both Japan and South Korea. Even though Holden, Ford and Toyota had already committed to ending auto manufacturing in Australia, it’s hard not to see the agreements as the last nail in the coffin of Australia’s once strong auto industry.

Although North American perception of Australia’s car market is one composed of big, rear-drive V8 sedans and Utes, that image is largely a construct in the minds of enthusiasts. The real picture is a lot less sexy.

Australia’s market is both unique and remarkably mundane. At around 1 million units annually, Australia’s new car market is a mere fraction of the United States – but it’s also far more competitive, with roughly 60 brands competing for a very small pie.

In past decades, the local auto manufacturing industry was heavily protected by tariffs, which encouraged a thriving domestic auto manufacturing industry. Holden and Ford ruled the roost, while Chrysler enjoyed a brief run of localized cars. Later on, companies like Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota joined the fray, establishing themselves as the favored Japanese brands.

But in 1983, the Button Plan radically changed the automotive landscape in Australia. The chief goal of the Button Plan was to consolidate the domestic auto industry by halving the number of model produced, while also looking to reduce tariffs and import quotas. The overall goal was to foster a more competitive, export-focused Australian car industry through increased competition.

In the immediate term, a number of badge engineered domestic models appeared in the showrooms of Japanese brands, but none sold particularly well. For a long time, traditional Australia vehicles like large sedans and Utes reigned supreme. But the past decade has seen a major shift in the automotive market, with rapidly changing tastes.

Much like their cousins in the United States, Australia’s traditional vehicles – large sedans and Utes – are facing a two-fronted war, and the outcome has all but been decided.

A report by Ward’s Auto shows that in 2003, large sedans (which ostensibly includes not just the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon, but also front-drive entrants from Toyota and Mitsubishi) were the most popular cars in Australia, with 26 percent market share. A decade later, that number has fallen to just 7.6 percent.

Small cars and SUVs have overtaken the large car as the most popular segments in Australia. Rising fuel prices, shifting market tastes and a greater selection of small cars have helped propel vehicles like the Holden Cruze, Mazda3, Hyundai i30 to the top of the sales charts – to say nothing of the Toyota Corolla, which was Australia’s best-selling car in 2013.

At the other end of the spectrum, SUVs, crossovers and mid-size pickup trucks have eroded the large sedan’s domain as the family car of choice, with Ward’s reporting that one fifth of buyers are opting for mid-size or large SUVs. The Toyota HiLux was Australia’s best-selling truck in 2013, as sales of mid-size trucks (including Holden’s popular Colorado) helped dampen enthusiasm for Utes.

Beyond the lack of enthusiasm for traditional vehicles, the importance of Australian pedigree is on the wave. As Ward’s reports, the preference for Australian-made vehicles has declined substantially from over a quarter of new buyers in 2003, to roughly one eighth in 2013. Last year marked the first time that the three most popular brands in monthly sales rankings (Toyota, Mazda, Nissan) were all imports.

With a changing climate regarding imported vehicles, the FTAs with both Japan and South Korea will only reduce the cost of vehicles that Australian consumers are already gravitating to. While the FTA with Thailand arguably served as the catalyst for Australia’s major market shift towards Thai-built trucks and certain passenger cars, other factors, like a strong Australian dollar, high manufacturing costs and limited export demand for Australian cars (despite the protestations of enthusiasts across the internet) did their part in bringing about the inevitable end to Australia’s auto industry. The Japanese and South Korean FTAs won’t do any more harm to an industry on death row. But it’s impossible to ignore their symbolism in the wake of the Australian car industry’s annus horribilis.

 

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Ellinghaus: Cadillac Could “Easily Flourish” In Australian Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ellinghaus-cadillac-could-easily-flourish-in-australian-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ellinghaus-cadillac-could-easily-flourish-in-australian-market/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 10:05:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=771210 Sometime in the future, Cadillac global marketing boss Uwe Ellinghaus believes Cadillac could enter the Australian market, being able to “easily flourish” under the proper conditions established on top of the goodwill the brand already has in the country. Auto Advice reports however the main goal for Cadillac is to go after what Ellinghaus calls […]

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2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

Sometime in the future, Cadillac global marketing boss Uwe Ellinghaus believes Cadillac could enter the Australian market, being able to “easily flourish” under the proper conditions established on top of the goodwill the brand already has in the country.

Auto Advice reports however the main goal for Cadillac is to go after what Ellinghaus calls “low-hanging fruit” markets:

We see the opportunity [in Australia] and we want to expand into as many markets as we can afford, but it’s also fair to say we have so much growth potential unexploited in China, even in the US, Canada, Russia, Dubai, Mexico… This is the lower-hanging fruit.

We have limited resources and great opportunities elsewhere that we need to make a very careful plan when to enter which market.

Regarding where Cadillac could enter the Australian market, he says the space soon to be vacated by the Holden Commodore would be the perfect point of entry. Offering the brand for Commodore prices, though, would be easier said than done as far as a business case is concerned, pointing toward both the BMW M Series and Mercedes AMG as to where pricing would occur for Cadillac’s high-performance lineup. He also had high hopes for the CTS, and the SRX and Escalade, with the latter two finding huge success in Australian burgeoning SUV marketplace.

As for when Cadillac would enter the scene, Ellinghaus says an introduction would occur near the end of the 2010s at the earliest, and would be headed by one or two models converted to right-hand drive. This follows an near-entry into the market back in 2008 before turning back at the last moment, though not before exporting a few vehicles and appointing dealers to sell them.

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