Major manufacturers give Frankfurt a miss, but some concepts take off…Aussie judge forces VW to explain cheat software…Bates stakes ARC title on new Toyota Yaris

If major motor shows are a useful barometer of the industry’s future, then the fact that 11 major manufacturers were conspicuous by their absence could be an indication of some stormy weather ahead.

It’s not the first time that individual companies such as Volvo, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Jeep and Aston Martin have decided to miss out on a major motor show, but it’s probably the first time that all 11 manufacturers have done so at the same time.

So, is it an indication that the industry is losing confidence about the market, or simply that there are just to many events, especially in Europe? Gareth Evans of asked a few of the magnificent 11 why they were missing in action.

Volvo was one of the first to pull the plug on investing in the Frankfurt IAA back in 2014. A company spokesperson said: “In 2014, Volvo Cars took the decision to reduce its motor show activities and as such now has a presence at one motor show in Europe, Geneva, each year. Instead of following the traditional motor show calendar, Volvo is targeting a stronger, more individual approach to both the media and its customers.”
Infiniti is also committing to Geneva alone, citing business reasons: “Following an in-depth review of events and motor show strategy, Infiniti has decided that it will only participate in one, tier-one automotive show in Europe per year.

“Infiniti remains committed to participating in major European automotive shows. However, we will continually monitor which shows provide the best opportunity to engage with our consumers and advance our business goals.”

Infiniti’s sister company Nissan predictably had a similar outlook, refocusing resource towards ‘influencers’ and bespoke Nissan events in lieu of traditional methods of product communication: “We are continually evaluating how and where we reach our customers and tell our story. The decision to not attend the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2017 follows a full review at global level of our event and show strategy to facilitate maximum brand visibility and impact for the Nissan and Infiniti brands.”

A spokesperson from DS told us that its decision not to show anything was attributed to its product cycle: “We displayed so much at Geneva that we’ve fallen into a bit of a product valley. Previously there was an assumed obligation to attend, but not now. It’s a tactical decision.”

DS’s sister company Peugeot wasn’t at the show either, but Citroen had a trio of new models on its stand.

Mitsubishi’s statement from HQ in Japan also shows a commitment to the ‘big three’ international car shows: “In today’s global environment of new media, interactive marketing tools and ever-changing customers’ behaviour, Mitsubishi Motors has decided to gradually shift its focus from traditional forms of engagement to a more effective approach.

“As a starting point, MMC’s attendance of global motor shows (except for Tokyo, Geneva and Beijing/Shanghai) is now being reconsidered, leading to the decision not to attend the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.”

Peugeot, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Aston Martin failed to respond to Gareth’s approaches. So there we have it. You could read whatever you like into the responses. But as budgets shrink and economies feel the pinch, spend has to be more tactical, and marketing is easy meat for the bean counters if it’s not doing the job, or, sometimes, even if it is.

Gareth reckons that motor shows need to be smarter if they want to compete and which is why Goodwood’s Moving Motor Show is such an interesting proposition. What better way to encourage new cars sales than getting potential buyers behind the wheel and driving your new metal?
The idea has been tried in Sydney and was not that much of a success, but that could be down to the fact that although it was billed as an ‘action’ motor show it still felt like a down-market version of the real thing.

Chris Weiss from NewAtlas was also at the show and as usual he had his eyes firmly planted on the ‘concepts’. I’ve looked at a number of major Frankfurt concept debuts, including the fully autonomous Audi Aicon and the retro-futuristic Honda Urban EV. Here’s a few other highlights that caught my attention as I scurried around the show:

Borgward Isabella

The revived Borgward is not yet a name that pops immediately to mind when we start thinking of must-visit auto show booths. However, its Isabella Concept was one of two or three debutants that put a sharp, unplanned turn in my step, immediately drawing me in for a closer look.

The car brings back a classic Borgward nameplate and gives it a curvaceous, futuristic look. Borgward say the Isabella was designed under the principle ‘impressions of flow’ and will influence the brand’s design DNA. It will also influence our future lists of automaker names that pop to mind when visiting auto shows.

Renault Symbioz

Like a number of automakers, Renault focused on electric power and autonomy in designing its Frankfurt concept. It went a couple of steps beyond the norm, however, in closely matching car and home. Renault imagines the Symbioz car working closely with the house, its autonomous interior layout providing a comfortable extra room at home and its battery sharing energy with the home grid.

Renault gets extra points for going beyond the basic electric visions being put out by every other automaker, but it loses points for putting a structural barrier with limited occupancy between the audience and its concept car. I still don’t know what the rear and other side look like up close.

Volocopter, the electric self-flying taxi

OK, the Volocopter 2X on display in front of Daimler’s large hall isn’t exactly a concept car, but it was one of the most impressive eye catchers. Daimler recently became one of a number of investors in the autonomous VTOL air taxi startup, and the Volocopter 2X helped to pull the crowds in.

The impressive 2X features an all-electric powertrain with 18 rotors, lightweight composite construction and an array of nine lithium-ion batteries. Hopping aboard a helicopter and soaring over bumper-to-bumper traffic from one end of the city to the other seems as ideal as future mobility can get, short of teleportation.

These three are just a small tip of a very large iceberg. Jump to the photo gallery to see all the other concept car highlights from Frankfurt.

Aussie judge forces VW to explain cheat software

In what is believed to be a world-first since the global ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal began, the Federal Court of Australia has ordered that vehicle giant Volkswagen and its subsidiaries Audi and Skoda give sworn testimony answering why dual-mode software was installed in their diesel vehicles.

After treating the Australian jurisdiction as a ‘backwater’, the vehicle manufacturers have now been ordered to explain under oath what difference, if any, exists between the Australian and US vehicle software and why the dual-mode software was installed in the first place.

The Federal Court’s justice Lindsay Foster made the orders this week, in the consumer class actions brought on behalf of around 100,000 affected Australian motorists.

Justice Foster wrote in his judgment: “The interrogatory (interrogatory one) calls for a succinct and plain answer to a question which goes to the heart of the present proceedings.

“It seems to me that it would be a relevant matter for the court to know why it was that the software was developed and installed in the EA189 diesel engine found in vehicles sold in Australia.”

In line with the court order, the interrogatories were issued to the manufacturers on 15 September, with a response to be filed with the court by 16 October, ahead of a first stage trial of the class actions and the ACCC’s claims, scheduled for 30 October.

Jason Geisker, class action lawyer leading the Maurice Blackburn claims, believes this is the first time these vehicle manufacturers have been directed to answer questions under oath that are central to the ongoing diesel emissions scandal.

“I think these are precisely the sorts of questions that our clients want answers to and that may be why they are precisely the types of questions that Volkswagen would not want to answer.

“Fortunately, affected Australian motorists have access to a very effective class action legal system in Australia. Our system provides victims of mass wrongs, such as the 100,000 locally affected diesel motorists, with a potent way of holding wrongdoing manufacturers to account.

“It is astonishing that these companies which pride themselves on truth in engineering could work so extensively, over such a long period, to develop and implement deceptive software so as to bolster sales of overly polluting diesel vehicles rather developing real ways of genuinely reducing dangerous diesel emissions. Now affected motorists are about to find out the real story,” he said.

Bates stakes ARC title on new Toyota Yaris

To lead the Australian Rally Championship you have to be a risk taker. But, with just a couple of rounds left, is current leader Harry Bates taking it all a bit too far by staking his 2017 title aspirations on a new vehicle?

Well, apparently not, with Harry claiming that the new all-wheel 224kW Toyota Yaris promises to be quicker, lighter and more nimble with a lower centre of gravity and substantially higher power and torque outputs.

Son of four-time ARC title-holder Neal, he’s confident of steering the new car to victory while acknowledging the challenge of getting up to speed immediately with an all-new machine.

“The new Yaris lived up to expectations by performing flawlessly in our first fully-fledged shakedown just a week before its competition debut in Rally SA. It was quick and strong, just as you’d expect from the latest in a long line of rally cars built by dad and his team at Neal Bates Motorsport.” he said.

Toyota this year returned to world rallying with the Toyota GAZOO World Rally Team, featuring Yaris WRC cars prepared at a new team base in Finland. Harry’s new car has been built to local AP4 rally regulations, resulting in less powertrain freedom and fewer aerodynamic features.

Both AP4 and WRC Yaris cars have 1.6-litre turbocharged engines, with local innovations including the de-stroking a 1.8-litre Twin Cam Multi-valve Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine to achieve the desired 1.6-litre capacity. The 2ZZ-GE engine was sold in Australia in naturally aspirated form in Celica and Corolla Sportivo.

Other key features include a specialist rally Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox with Sadev differentials front and rear, ventilated, slotted discs with AP Racing callipers and a Sadev hydraulic hand brake.

Bates has impressed in his short rally career, becoming the youngest winning driver in ARC history by taking out Victoria’s Eureka Rally in March.

Out and about…Narva lights up National 4×4 Show

THE THREE-DAY National 4×4 Show in Melbourne has proved to be a very profitable event for Narva that claims to have sold a record number of its new Ultima 215 LED driving lamps. According to the company’s Jake Smith, ‘outstanding media reviews’ had contributed to almost all display stock being sold off the exhibition stand.

“Throughout the lamps development and in-house testing we were extremely excited about the lights’ performance and the potential impact they would have on the market, but demand at this event really took us by surprise. The product quality and features coupled with a reasonable price point has definitely struck an accord with our many customers.”

Among the features are a hybrid beam pattern that combines volume for off-road use and long range performance on the highway, 33x5W (165W) XP-G2 Cree LEDs that develop a pure white output (5700°K) and a penetrating light of 10,500 raw lumens and as pair, provide an impressive 1-lux brightness at 900 metres.

Also included in each kit are four interchangeable coloured trim pieces (blue, black, yellow and red) that allows buyers to customise their light appearance. A stainless steel bezel comes standard with the lamps, but for those wanting to further develop an individual look, Narva is offering two other bezel options (gloss black or chrome-plated) for a modest additional cost.

If you missed out on the 4×4 exhibition, then Narva Ultima 215 LED driving lamps are available from all leading automotive and transport outlets.


AFTER BECOMING the first premium manufacturer to enter Formula E in 2016, Jaguar has created the world’s first production battery electric vehicle race series.

The Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy will be the support series for the FIA Formula E championship, taking place on the same weekends at the same city circuits, starting in late 2018. The new, all-electric series, gives racers of the future a chance to showcase their talent, competing on the world stage in zero-emissions motorsport.

Up to 20 electric racecars will be on the grid in 10 races in global cities such as Hong Kong, Paris, Sao Paolo and New York. The championship will support the 2018 launch of the Jaguar I-Pace five-seat battery electric sports car.


HONDA HAS confirmed that electrified technology will now feature in every new car model launched in Europe. The manufacturer says that its Urban EV Concept is built on a completely new platform that showcases advanced technology within a simple and sophisticated design.

The company aims to have electrified technology in two thirds of its European new car sales by 2025 and globally by 2030. The new CR-V Hybrid that goes on sale next year, will be the first company’s first hybrid SUV sold in Europe.

The vehicle will use a i-MMD (Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive) two-motor system that does not need a conventional transmission, using a more compact multi-mode unit with a single fixed-gear ratio to deliver torque to the wheels.

There will also be a fully integrated energy transfer system that can distribute electricity to and from the main grid, direct power flow from renewable sources and managing the interaction of an electric vehicle battery connected to the home.

According to Philip Ross, Honda Motor Europe, Power Manager can draw on energy from the EV battery to power the home, and minimise the demand from the main grid: “It even allows energy stored in the EV to be sold back to the grid to generate an income for the owner.”

Honda is participating in a trial in western France, where Power Manager units will be installed in a pilot scheme, as part of the development of a regional ‘smart grid’ to be completed by 2020.

GEORGE DAVIES has moved into the big chair at Brown and Watson International following the departure of former CEO Bob Pattison. George is what you would call a company man having joined the sales and marketing department of Projecta some 15 years ago and was most recently executive general manager of Brown and Watson.


MIA’S PRODUCTS REALLY STACK UP: Stacking tyre rack specialists Martins Industries Australia has come up with a whole new range of products to help make life that bit easier for tyre retailers. For instance, the 60”x60” deck is designed to hold five stacks of 16” and under tyres and four stacks of 17” and over.

According to the company’s Norm Randazzo, this is one of the most economical tyre storage systems on the market, particularly in terms of initial outlay and being a modular system can be used to meet a variety of other stack rack warehousing requirements.

The unit has a tyre capacity of 24-32 units, a load capacity of 1100kg, weighs 34kgs and costs just $248+gst.

There’s also a range of versatile storage rack solutions for passenger, SUV and truck tyres including the MPSTR tyre rack that has a capacity to store between 36 and 50 units and costs $559.00+gst with Norm currently offering some great discounts on bulk orders.

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