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Elvis Festival

Melbourne Motor Show Review

 

by Stephen Walker

 

7th March, 2008

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Fifteen Brands Missing

The big news of the 2008 Melbourne Motor Show is the fact that fifteen brands are not on display at Melbourne's annual automotive exposition. There are some big names missing from the list of exhibitors. Mercedes-Benz, the biggest name amongst the many missing names, needs to be attracted, at any cost, by the show organisers for the annual exhibition to retain credibility. But with so many other big names missing, the Melbourne Motor Show is about to fade off the radar for many car enthusiasts. Other big names which are missing include Bentley, Jaguar, Mini and Porsche. But there's more! Also missing are Aston Martin, Caterham, Citroen, Mahindra, Maybach, Morgan, Rolls-Royce, Smart, Ssangyong and Tata.

Amongst these 'missing' brands are many significant new models. For example, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a highly successful new model which is not on display. And the eco-friendly 2-seater city car, the all-new for 2008 Smart Fortwo is not appearing at the motor show. This new model is in vogue at present as many Australians look for ways to save our planet, yet it is missing in Melbourne. Another model not showing in Melbourne is the new Mini Clubman. And without the three ultra-prestige marques from England, each of which is enjoying a strong sales revival around the world, show-goers are being denied the opportunity of a close-up look at some of the most revered names in motoring.

Jaguar, another British brand, is in deep financial distress. Their new XF is due for local release this year. It is a car which is intended to save the Ford-owned company, yet it cannot be viewed at the Melbourne Motor Show.

Neither of the two brands that are returning to Australia in the near future have any models on display in Melbourne. So if you wanted to see one of the new Cadillac models, you'll need to wait for the Sydney Motor Show. Lancia is the other brand wanting to return to the Australian market, but the return date for the Italian brand has not yet been locked in.

Premier Brumby Opened The Show

Although the Premier did not mention anything about improving the safety of railway crossings throughout Victoria, he seemed delighted to have the opportunity to 'open' the 2008 Melbourne Motor Show. He raised the issue, in a spin-like manner, that he had spoken to Toyota executives in Japan about his desire for Toyota to build another model in Australia. Although he did not mention anything about what this may cost Victorian taxpayers. Nor did he mention any of the details of the business case he put to Toyota. Nor did he mention why he didn't ask any other car company to manufacture a car in Victoria, which gives the distinct impression that this man is, seemingly, engaged in 'spin' simply for the sake of spin. So let's ask the question of the Premier ..... why didn't you, whilst in Japan, ask any other companies about manufacturing cars in Victoria? No need to answer the question Mr. Premier, we all know the answer!

International Debuts

Peugeot's new 308 Touring was shown in Melbourne prior to the new car's revealing at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show this week. Hence, the new Peugeot 308 Touring had its international debut, in Melbourne.

Although numerous other cars made their debut in Melbourne, without a commitment for export, they could hardly be rated as an international debut.

Australian Debuts

Local debuts were plentiful. Perhaps the greatest degree of interest was reserved for the two new local sports cars, the Bolwell Nagari and the E-Vade. Whilst entirely different, it is interesting that both vehicles are arriving on the Australian motoring landscape at the same time.

Holden has announced all Commodore passenger cars will be fitted with 6 airbags from later this month.

European brands feature so prominently in the sales charts and they, too, feature with the local debut appearance of numerous new products. From Audi came the new A3 cabriolet, the sporty TTS and the high performance RS6 Avant. BMW showed their new 125i cabrio and the new 135i coupe. The new Fiat 500 makes it local debut with numerous models on display, following last year's European introduction. Ford has it's new Mondeo diesel wagon on display. Considering the interest in diesel cars, this new model (which isn't yet confirmed for Australia), would see the expansion of Ford Australia's diesel line-up. Renault has the new Laguna appearing on their stand. Volkswagen sprung a surprise and, unannounced, debuted their new Tiguan to a Melbourne audience

Other new models making a debut appearance in Australia are the Chrysler Grand Voyager, Jeep Cherokee and Nissan GT-R.

Concept Cars

Local concept cars on display included the debut of the Holden Coupe 60. This E85 fuelled car is a celebration of the sixtieth year since the 1948 commencement of production of Holden cars.

Numerous foreign concept cars made an Australian appearance for the first time. Models such as the Audi Cross Coupe Concept, the BMW X6x Concept, Land Rover LRX (another example of the LRX is on display in Geneva this week), Mazda Hakaze, Renault Koleos (which is heading for the production line) and the Skoda Yeti (another concept car that has inspired a production model).

The Top Model

If there was a prize for the top model on display it would have to go to the new Volkswagen Tiguan. This new small SUV just looks great. On the stand it passes all the tests for comfort and presentation. It has a high standard of finish and it is well equipped. Numerous engines will be available and all of them will be economical in the best Volkswagen tradition. But the real surprise is the price. Get this, the starting price for this well executed model, which is made in Germany, is just $33,990 (RRP). How do they do that? Be assured, there will be many, many folks lining up to buy this new model. Under these circumstances, I'm willing to suggest some manufacturers will have to drop their prices significantly. It is difficult to imagine anyone buying a Toyota Rav 4 now. Same for the Honda CRV, Mazda Tribute, Mazda CX-7 and Subaru Forester, as the VW Tiguan offers excellent fuel economy and a superb interior. Volkswagen's new SUV, which goes on sale in May, is an easy pick for the top model of this year's Melbourne Motor Show.

The Stands

Here, we look at what is on display on the stands. The brand names are, also, a 'link' to our news pages for that particular brand.

Alfa Romeo

Italy's Alfa Romeo sales are declining on a worldwide basis. However, Australian sales are still satisfactory.

Numerous Alfas are on display, including the 147, 159, GT, Brera and the new Q4 Spider. As predicted, the 166 has been dropped from the Alfa line-up, and, as such, is not on display.

Interestingly, diesels are selling well for Alfa Romeo. Currently, diesels are accounting for approximately 30% of sales.

Audi

The famous German brand has three vehicles making an Australian debut in Melbourne. Namely, the new A3 cabriolet, the TTS and the RS6 Avant. Additionally, Audi's over-sized display includes many of the regular models from their extensive range.

Audi, also, has taken this opportunity to show their Cross Coupe Concept to an Australian audience.

BMW

The new BMW 135i coupe ($71,400) and the new 125i cabrio ($63,400) made their Australian debut for the Munich based brand. The famous German company is having a hard time with many of their shareholders at present, as profits plummet. The company has indicated a massive cost cutting exercise is coming. This may include a trimming back of the extensive model line-up, but with sales of competitive models from Audi and Mercedes-Benz booming, the company may have to settle for a reduced market share with higher yields to placate the company's owners.

Bolwell

Although absent from the market for several decades, the company led by Malcolm Bolwell is showing their new Bolwell Nagari at the motor show. This newly designed sports car, which is still undergoing final preparations for road use, is intended for low volume production. Expect a price of well over $200,000 (plus on-road costs) for this come-back car. Although many may find a 3.5 litre Toyota V6 engine as an uninteresting way to power the Bolwell Nagari, this car is certainly going to attract a great deal of interest, given the fact that Bolwell manufactured over 800 cars during the 1960s and 1970s. The 4,100 mm long mid-engined two-seater coupe is displayed in an interesting shade of silver at the 2008 Melbourne Motor Show.

Bugatti

The highly priced Bugatti Veyron was displayed for just three days at motor show.

Chrysler

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The third member of America's Big 3 is displaying their new Chrysler Grand Voyager (see accompanying image), which will arrive on the local market in April. Priced from $56,990 (RRP), this large wagon is known as a mini-van in America (for reasons best known to Americans).

Another Chrysler on display is the new Sebring cabrio, which is priced from $43,990 (RRP). It is powered by a 2.7 litre V6 and joins the Chrysler range at a time when the company is looking to expand international sales.

Dodge

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There is just one Dodge on display at the small Chrysler Group stand. And it is the trendy Nitro (see the image opposite), the car that many consider to be so ugly that it actually looks good! This SUV is priced from $36,990 and offers a choice of a 3.7 litre V6 petrol engine or, my preference, of an optional 2.8 litre turbo diesel.

Elfin

There is an MS8 Clubman and an MS8 Streamliner on display by a Melbourne dealer for the long standing local brand which is now owned by Walkinshaw Performance Pty Ltd.

E-Vade

Australian naval officer Lieutenant Commander David Walter and his wife, Peta, are behind the new E-Vade, which is designed for on-road use and, for those interested, in on-track work. Power, in various stages of tune, is provided by a Nissan V6 engine. Low volume is the key to success for this new 'catchy' brand name.

Ferrari

The highly overrated Italian marque continues its tradition of appearing at motor shows. This year, the importer is displaying four models, the 599 GTB, the F430 Spider, the 430 Scuderia and the big 612 Scaglietti.

Fiat

The revival of the Fiat name in Australia is off to a slow start, with the Punto (previously known as Grande Punto) just plodding along in the sales charts. It has been joined by the new Ritmo (known as Bravo in many markets). Both models are on display in Melbourne.

However, the big news for the Italian brand is the local debut of the new Fiat 500. Priced between $22,990 and $29,990 (RRP without options), the highly priced tiny car is expected to sell 1,000 units in Australia this year. If people are willing to pay these prices for such a tiny car, then Fiat will have succeeded in making a return to the highly competitive Australian market.

Ford

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Without word on a new model Falcon wagon, the new Mondeo wagon makes for interesting viewing. The diesel engine in the Mondeo makes for very economical driving. For example, we recently drove a Ford Mondeo diesel sedan from Melbourne to Sydney without putting any fuel in the car. We simply picked-up a car with a full tank and dropped it off with an empty tank. Melbourne to Sydney on just one tank of fuel provides a good feeling. We're predicting success for the new Mondeo wagon, but only if Ford decide to release this new model.

Ford's big news is the motor show debut of their new FG series Falcon sedans and utilities. Numerous models are on display, including FPV versions. Early feedback suggests people are confused by the model branding. The new FG series Falcon will be in showrooms during May 2008.

Holden

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Holden's big news for the Melbourne Motor Show is the debut of yet another concept car. This time, in recognition of the 60th year since the production began of the original Holden sedan, the GM subsidiary has unveiled the Holden Coupe 60. It's a none too attractive 2-door based on the VE Commodore featuring an E85 compatible V8 engine which is yet another sign that GM is serious about finding alternative sources of fuel for the future. However, there is no announcement as to when an E85 engine is likely to appear in the nation's best selling car line, the Holden Commodore.

All Commodore passenger cars are now to be fitted with six airbags from later this month.

Holden has indicated the Daewoo manufactured Epica will be available with a diesel engine later this year.

The popular Astra range is about to receive a diesel engine for the wagon, joining the highly desirable Astra hatch in supplying an alternative fuel. A diesel-engined car is a much superior alternative to those offering a petrol-fuelled hybrids, with yesterday's technology in their lost opportunities to sell an eco-friendly motor vehicle.

Honda

Honda's news for this year's motor show is the new Thai-built Accord sedan.

Other display vehicles include many of the current Australian line-up.

Hummer

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Although not my favourite off-roader, the South African manufactured Hummer H3 (see accompanying image) met with immediate success upon its local release last year. Two units are on display in Melbourne.

Hummer is handled by GM Premium Brands, the group that looks after Saab. Later this year, GM Premium Brands will present the Cadillac brand to the Australian public.

The Hummer H3 is priced from $51,990 (RRP).

Jeep

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Jeep has just two vehicles on display at this year's Melbourne Motor Show. There's the new Cherokee and a Wrangler. The Cherokee is just coming onto the Australian market in its new 2008 guise. Jeep has a big line-up now, following last year's release of the Compass and Patriot, yet it is difficult to see how Jeep can display it's range of off-roaders without access to plentiful and affordable floor space.

Look for news on the new 2008 Cherokee here, at Next Car very soon. The new Cherokee is shown in the accompanying image.

Kia

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The go-ahead South Korean brand, Kia, is showing the successful Picanto (see image) in Melbourne again as it looks to the future and listens to show-goers feedback about a potential new model.

Also making an appearance in Melbourne is the new Kia Rondo which will be released in May. And there's an example of each of Kia's current models on the stand. An interesting display on the Kia stand is the inclusion of a caravan sitting behind a Kia Sorento. This is a timely reminder that the Sorento diesel makes a great tow unit, just as we discovered last year.

Lamborghini

With four vehicles on show, Lamborghini is sure to attract many visitors to their stand. The entry level 'Lambo' is the Gallardo coupe which is priced at $414,993 (plus on-road costs). Then there is the Gallardo Spyder at $459,543 (RRP) and the Gallardo Superleggera at $489,243 (RRP). Australia's most expensive Lamborghini is currently the Murcielago (LP640) priced at a mere $675,678 (plus on-road costs, of course). Lamborghini sales are improving dramatically and after this show, many more will be wanting one too!

Land Rover

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With worldwide sales for Land Rover booming, many folks will be heading Land Rover way to check out the range of premium off-roaders for on-road use. The one to check is the Land Rover LRX concept car, which is a potential new small model for an expanded model range which is quite possible in coming years. Remember that Land Rover was a single model company for decades. Then it became a two model company, then three. Today, the Ford-owned British brand has five distinct models in their highly desired line-up.

The Tata Group of India is likely to be named as the buyer of the 'for sale' Jaguar and Land Rover businesses very soon.

Lotus

A few current Lotus models are located in the main concourse, at a low profile stand, at the motor show. The small Malaysian-owned company just keeps on keeping on.

Maserati

Despite quality and technical problems of the past, the Italian marque continues to expand their worldwide sales. Their high-priced models offer attractive styling, but only the sedans and coupes are of any interest to this 'scribe'. Display vehicles include the GranTurismo and the Quattroporte Sport GT.

Mazda

Mazda have their new 6 line-up on display in Melbourne, together with examples of their other models. Additionally, the Hakaze concept car is on display.

Mitsubishi

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This company was looking at financial distress just a few short years ago. Now the company can do no wrong. Their Colt, Lancer, Outlander, Pajero and Triton models are all big hits on the sales charts and you can see them all at the Melbourne Motor Show.

Also on display are numerous custom models, known as Panthers, which all feature black paint work. And a Ralliart edition of the new Lancer sedan is on display.

The world's new wonder car, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X is not to be missed. It will be released locally, very soon.

Nissan

The new Nissan GT-R is the big news on this stand. But no preview of the new 2008 Nissan Murano just yet. Other vehicles on display demonstrate the diversity of the Nissan range, such as the new Micra, the new Dualis, the new X-TRAIL, the Maxima and the evergreen 350Z. Numerous 4x4s and light commercial vehicles complete the Nissan display.

Peugeot

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Having stolen the thunder from the Geneva Motor Show, Peugeot have treated Australia to the world debut of the exciting new Peugeot 308 Touring. If it is anything like the 307 Touring, people will be already lining up for this highly desirable compact-sized wagon.

Peugeot has seized the opportunity to showcase their numerous other products such as the 407, 407 Touring, 407 Coupe, 207, 207 CC, 207 Touring and the new 308 hatchback (see accompanying image).

Renault

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Renault are committed to sales growth and there are examples of numerous good reasons for their positive attitude on display at the motor show. Firstly, the Clio Renaultsport 197 (see image), which will be arriving locally in July. Then there's the Koleos concept, named after a European butterfly, which is the basis of a production model due for release later this year. Also on display is the Scenic, the Megane sedan (a new Megane will debut in Europe late this year) and the new Laguna which is coming to Australia this year (June for the hatch, October for the estate).

Saab

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The leader in E85 fuel-sourced vehicles, Saab, is displaying their full range of cars for those who see value in reducing CO2 emissions. The retail network for E85 ethanol fuel supplies is slowing expanding, thus opportunities for growth in sales of E85 fuelled cars are very likely. And Saab is ready for the rush. Not that supply is an issue. Because if you run out of E85 fuel, you simply top-up with petrol (using the one fuel tank) and run the E85 car on petrol until such time that you are able to refuel with the eco-friendly E85 again. Additionally, Saab offers the 9-3 models with petrol or diesel engines. That's correct, the 2008 Saab 9-3 (see image) is available with engines that can run on your choice of three fuel varieties.

As Saab sales are expanding worldwide and with new models lined-up for the future, this General Motors owned brand is going to be in the spotlight for a long time to come.

Skoda

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This famous old brand from the Czech Republic is owned by Volkswagen and, having returned to the Australian market some months ago, is making its presence felt by offering two neat models for Australian consumption. The trendy little Roomster wagon is making an impact with those who see it, whilst the larger Octavia (hatch/sedan and wagon) is a thoroughly pleasing vehicle to drive. The Octavia features a choice of petrol or diesel engines and in its high performance guise is an absolute delight to drive. A new all-wheel drive wagon has just hit the market. This is a brand to watch!

The stand also features the Yeti Concept, a very neat presentation of a Skoda concept for the future. And the future is not far away. The Yeti (see image) will be in production from next year in a form not too far from the concept vehicle which is on display in Melbourne. It has not yet been confirmed that the Yeti will make it to Australia, but I am certainly expecting that it will.

Subaru

Subaru are showing their new Forester and Impreza WRX STi amongst other models in Melbourne.

Suzuki

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Suzuki is amongst the top performers on the nation's sales charts, demonstrating massive growth over recent years. Their winning formula will continue as they introduce new models. In the meantime, the current success is attributed to display vehicles such as the Swift, SX4, Grand Vitara (including the new diesel variant) and the new Jimny Sierra.

A home-grown SX4 concept is on display, too.

Volkswagen

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Another of the star performers on the Australian sales charts is the famous German brand.

Here you'll see new models such as the Passat R36 (sedan and wagon) which will be released locally later this year. The VW Touareg R50 is also on display. It's coming too. The new Beetle 10th Anniversary limited edition is on display, together with variants of many of the winners from the Volkswagen range, including the Eos, Passat, Jetta, Golf GT, Golf GTI, Polo and the ever popular Golf. In addition, the new Caravelle, which has just returned to Australia, is on display in both short and long wheelbase variants.

But the biggest surprise of all is the local debut of the Volkswagen Tiguan, which will be released in Australia in May. An even bigger surprise is the starting price for this highly desirable new SUV. The model line-up for Tiguan (see image) has numerous engine/options available from just $33,990 (RRP). It's little wonder that the nation's car dealers, seemingly, all want a Volkswagen franchise.

Volvo

The unprofitable Swedish brand, owned by Ford Motor Company, is displaying a myriad of models including C30, S40 diesel, V50, S60, V70, XC70, C70, S80 V8 and XC90.

Additional displays

Aurora, the solar car is on display with an enthusiastic team of volunteers willing to discuss the details of their exploits with show goers.

Another stand is operated by Overfinch, the specialist firm who modify Range Rover products.

Melbourne firm, Brooklands, is displaying an Aston Martin replica which is for sale for a massive $388,000 (RRP).

A few other brands are on display. But nothing too exciting there though.

Conclusion

Many industry participants and observers believe the annual holding of two major motor shows (Melbourne and Sydney) each year in Australia is one show too many. Given the inability of the Melbourne Motor Show organisers to attract more exhibitors to this year's motor show, there seems little choice other than to agree with this view. Perhaps a deal where there is an alternating arrangement between Melbourne and Sydney for just one major annual motor show would be a good compromise. This arrangement works well for both Paris (France) and Frankfurt (Germany) who each host very successful alternating annual motor shows.

If just one more major brand pulled out of the Melbourne Motor Show, then the entire feasibility of the show would be in jeopardy. And if that was to occur, then the Melbourne Motor Show would be reduced to a second-rate regional motor show.

In the meantime, the Melbourne Motor Show is open until Monday 10th March, 2008. And still with plenty of cars to see, despite the fact that fifteen brands could not be enticed by the organisers to showcase their products.



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