by Dr. Iain Corness
A downer for Australia
is an upper for Thailand
News came through this month that Toyota would be pulling out of Australian
manufacturing in 2017, following the advance notice by Ford (2016), followed by
General Motors Holden (2017).
This spells the end of the Australian motor industry and will produce closure of
many of the parts manufacturers. All very sad, but honestly, the Australian
motor manufacturers have been living on government hand-outs for years.
With a population of around 22 million, this is not enough to keep the industry
viable, and everyone knew the axe would fall one day.
“Building cars in this country (Australia) is just not sustainable,” said GM’s
Australia chairman Mike Devereux. His colleague, GM’s previous chief executive
Dan Akerson, blamed the sustained strength of the Australian dollar, high costs
of production, and Australia’s small population for the problem.
Total car production in Australia in 2012 was 178,000. Compare that to
Thailand’s 1.5 million plus. In the first half of 2013 Australia built 80,370
passenger cars, while Thailand in the same time frame built 592,101.
The demise of Australian manufacturing has opened new doors for Thai
manufacturers, with Toyota Thailand set to export the Camry to Australia, which
has been building its own.
It is very obvious that the Australian industry is angry. Parts manufacturers in
particular. The Director of OzPress Mark Dwyer said that developing countries
experiencing a manufacturing boom, including China, Vietnam and Thailand have
long-term strategies to boost their economies and he hit out at successive
Australian federal governments for their lack of vision.
“Other countries have developed plans and strategies and have a vision for how
their economies will grow, especially developing nations like China. We have got
no plans, we’ve got no vision for the future. We have just got these
rationalistic economic egg heads in treasury that believe in this open
free-market selling us down the drain as far as employment goes.”
Some free-trade agreements have also hurt the industry, with Mark Dwyer
highlighting the agreement with Thailand.
“When we signed a free-trade agreement with Thailand, we in the component
industry thought this was great, we can sell components. Holden started talking
about selling Statesmens and various cars into Thailand and as soon as Thailand
realized that was an opportunity, they just turned around and whacked an excise
of 40 percent on any component or any vehicle coming from Australia. Where is
the free trade?” he said. This complaint is nothing new.
The sheer scale of manufacturing in developing countries makes it even more
difficult for Australia to compete globally, with Mark Dwyer highlighting Ford’s
plant in Chongqing China that can produce up to 350,000 annually and the Rayong,
Thailand factory that builds up to 150,000 a year.
So despite the manufacturers folding up their tents and disappearing, car sales
will obviously continue in Australia after 2017, and much of that can be sourced
from Thailand, and probably will be giving a greater profit margin to the Thai
For interest, other manufacturers that have already left include British
Leyland, Chrysler and Mitsubishi.
What do you buy the man who has everything?
Well, you could always look for a diamond encrusted titanium
nasal hair trimmer, or if you can’t get one of those, go for a Koenigsegg Agera
S, the supercar built by Christian Von Koenigsegg. However, the factory is
making quite a few of them, so perhaps the Koenigsegg hypercar, based on the
Agera S, and called the One:1 is the answer. Koenigsegg say they are only
building six, so that makes it even a little more special.
Koenigsegg says that the name refers in fact to the car’s power to weight ratio
which is one kilogram per horsepower. This is taking a little poetic license as
they have happily mixed metrics and imperial, but I am sure the owners will be
happy to overlook that and call it an oversight!
In an interview last year, company founder and owner Christian Von Koenigsegg
was quoted as saying that the One:1 will weigh 1400 kg and will be powered by a
1400 hp (1030 kW) engine. In comparison, the Agera S has a relatively
underpowered 965 hp.
However, the company in releasing an official teaser image late last week of the
car on its Facebook page, has revealed the car will now weigh in at 1340 kg with
The Koenigsegg car’s quoted weight includes all the fuel, fluids and lubricants
as well as the driver.
With the trimmed weight and the prodigious power, this car will be quicker than
anything on the planet that is registered for road use. Koenigsegg’s computer
simulations have it that the One:1 will be capable of 450 km/h or more.
Not only top speed, but acceleration figures will be in the F1 range with zero
to 400 km/h in less than 20 seconds. In comparison, the Bugatti Veyron takes 45
seconds to reach the same speed.
Apparently all six units have already been presold and the new owners, along
with a select group of invitees will get a sneak preview of the car on February
26 before its official unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show on March 4.
The price has not yet been disclosed though if you need to ask, you can’t afford
it. (I can’t afford it, even with an advance on next month’s salary!)
And for the best sob story of the week, Christian Von Koenigsegg says he expects
to lose money on the project.
The Gibraltar Grand Prix
Interested spectator in Gibraltar.
It was satirist Peter Ustinov who parodied Grand Prix motor
racing with his recording of the “Gibraltar Grand Prix” several decades ago.
What Ustinov did not know, was that there really was a Gibraltar Grand Prix.
Yes, I can assure you that there really was, because I was there, and I won it.
Now those of you who have visited the Rock of Gibraltar, famous for its Barbary
apes, will know that it is not the kind of place that could host a full blown
Eff Wun style GP. The narrow roads along the bottom of the rock would make
passing even more difficult in a Formula 1 car than it obviously is at present,
where they can only pass each other in the pits, while stationary!
It was 1967, in the days of hardship before ball point pens and the universal
use of cling-film, and your Automania reporter had accepted a position in
Gibraltar as a Junior Houseman at St. Bernard’s Hospital.
So what has all this got to do with the Gibraltar GP, I hear you ask? Plenty,
really. Gib was proudly British, and local legend had it that it would remain
British unless the apes all packed their bananas and disappeared. Not much
chance of that, so there was a British governor of sorts, complete with 18th
century military outfit and ostrich-plumed hat, just to let the Spaniards know
who was really in charge. Along with all this adulation of Mother England, there
was a small core of UK style motor racing enthusiasts too. The concept of a
Gibraltar GP was taking shape.
The main street from the airstrip was a two way smooth tarred surface, with a
roundabout at the town end. So there were two straights and a corner. These were
then linked to a circuit with chicanes and tyre markers on the airstrip, and
they had a course. They also had competition vehicles - go-karts! The die was
cast and the Gibraltar GP of 1967 was scheduled for November.
Now I did not have a go-kart, but one of my colleagues at the hospital had a
spare old chassis and a Parilla engine if I wanted to put them together. I did.
It finally fired up on the morning of the race and I took it down for
qualifying. The chassis I found had been relegated to “spares” because it was
twisted and only three wheels touched the ground at any one time while
travelling in a straight line; however, it seemed to be reasonable in the engine
department, so the fact that it was a tripod was glossed over.
As the hour for the race grew closer, the clouds grew closer too, and we were
flagged off with the Union Jack in approaching darkness. By the second lap it
was bucketing down, and I felt sorry for the governor, whose ostrich plumes lost
all their jauntiness as he stood there in the official box watching spray mixed
with go-karts and drivers.
Tripod and I struggled on, braking being impossible in the three wheeled
situation but we kept on going, watching the others spinning off or stopping
with damp electrics. Tripod hit the front!
After enough laps to see that there was little chance of the rain easing off, a
sodden chequered flag was waved and I acknowledged my win by waving back,
applying the brakes and immediately performing a donut on the main street
(Sebastian Vettel eat your heart out). The glory was mine! The Gibraltar Grand
Prix had been run and won.
The following year there was no enthusiasm to run the event again. The
governor’s ostrich refused to donate more feathers, and with Spain and the UK
almost at blows over the ownership of the rock, the GP was consigned to history.
But it was run - once!