The global econ­omy may be down, but car­mak­ers were talk­ing up the in­dus­try at the Syd­ney Mo­tor Show, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Special Report -

GREY storm clouds may be gath­er­ing over the car busi­ness, but green was the only colour in Syd­ney last week. Car­mak­ers put on a brave face to launch 40 new cars and lead­ing-edge tech­nolo­gies at the Aus­tralian In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Show, against a back­ground of a col­laps­ing Aus­tralian dol­lar and sub­dued con­sumer con­fi­dence.

The eco­nomic jit­ters were com­pounded by the with­drawal of more than 10 car com­pa­nies from the Syd­ney event be­cause of the cost of ex­hibit­ing there and in Mel­bourne each year.

The green revo­lu­tion was em­braced, with sev­eral key brands in­tro­duc­ing hy­brid tech­nolo­gies and new fuel-sav­ing tech­nolo­gies.

GM-Holden not only showed off the 2012 hy­brid-elec­tric Volt mid­sizer, but launched its ‘‘Ecoline’’ fu­el­sav­ing tech­nol­ogy that will ap­pear in many mod­els.

This some­what over­shad­owed the launch of the Cadil­lac CTS, which marks the first time Cadil­lac has been sold here for 70 years.

Holden calls the Volt an ‘‘ex­tended-range elec­tric ve­hi­cle’’ that can travel up to 64km purely on its elec­tric bat­ter­ies.

Com­pared with sim­i­lar sized petrolpow­ered ve­hi­cles, it will save own­ers up to 1892 litres of fuel a year.

Power comes solely from lithium-ion bat­ter­ies, with a con­ven­tional small petrol, diesel or ethanol en­gine as backup when the bat­ter­ies are de­pleted.

Holden says the front-wheel-drive car can be charged overnight from a house­hold elec­tric socket.

Though de­vel­op­ment work is con­tin­u­ing, Holden chief Mark Reuss says the Volt will be­come an im­por­tant part of the Holden line-up.

‘‘The Volt plat­form, from a tech­nol­ogy stand­point, is a long-term idea for Gen­eral Motors,’’ he says.

‘‘It will be a gen­uine pro­duc­tion car with gen­uine pro­duc­tion vol­umes.’’

That means that in time other mod­els will ap­pear, us­ing the Volt as a ba­sis.

‘‘We’ve been de­vel­op­ing the car for world-wide ca­pa­bil­ity,’’ Reuss says, in­clud­ing right-hand-drive mar­kets.

He says the Volt will be avail­able with a range of pow­er­trains to back up the elec­tric bat­ter­ies.

Pric­ing is yet to be con­firmed, but the Volt, sim­i­lar in size to a Toy­ota Corolla sedan, is ex­pected to cost about $35,000.

Holden also in­tro­duced its cylin­der dis­place­ment tech­nol­ogy, called ac­tive fuel man­age­ment, which will head­line its au­to­matic V8 Com­modores from Jan­uary.

AFM al­lows the V8 to shut down four cylin­ders and use the other four for high­way cruis­ing.

Holden says it can save up to a litre of petrol for ev­ery 100km trav­elled. Holden’s Ecoline strat­egy also in­cludes diesel and LPG, and will even­tu­ally broaden to in­clude ethanol­fu­elled Hold­ens.

Holden wasn’t alone in the green theme. Toy­ota, Volk­swa­gen, Volvo and Nis­san showed their own tech­nolo­gies and con­cepts that are ex­pected to soon make it into pro­duc­tion.

Even tiny Ja­panese car­maker Suzuki got into the act with its sub-$13,000 Alto hatch city car, which goes on sale next year. Pow­ered by a 50kW three- cylin­der 1.0-litre petrol en­gine, the Alto de­liv­ers fuel econ­omy of 4.5 litres/100km and CO2 emis­sions of only 103g/km.

Volvo drove home its com­mit­ment to re­duc­ing fuel con­sump­tion and low­er­ing CO2 emis­sions with the un­veil­ing of its DRIVe C30 hatch.

With con­sump­tion and CO2 emis­sions fig­ures as low as 4.4 litres for 100km and 115g/km, the new C30, S40 and V50 DRIVe mod­els are set to make a sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact when they go on sale in Europe by the end of the year. They are also be­ing eval­u­ated for the lo­cal mar­ket.

Of all the con­cepts, Toy­ota’s Hy­brid X five-door hatch proved you could be green and groovy.

The X pre­views how the new Prius hatch might look and ap­peared along­side the Camry hy­brid, which goes into pro­duc­tion here in 2010.

At Lexus, its LF-Xh hy­brid soft­roader con­cept points to the new RX range, due early next year.

As with the RX400h, the all-wheel drive LF-Xh uses a V6 petrol en­gine mated to an elec­tric mo­tor.

The car was de­signed by Lexus de­sign chief Shuhei Miyashita and car­ries on the ‘‘L-Fi­nesse’’ de­sign phi­los­o­phy.

With a shal­low glasshouse, han­dle­less doors and LED head­lights, Miyashita has tried to make the con­cept look like a beefed-up coupe.

Nis­san, like many car­mak­ers, is fast-tracking its elec­tric story, dis­play­ing the Mixim all-elec­tric con­cept car and flag­ging the ar­rival of a sim­i­lar all-elec­tric small fam­ily car by 2012.

The com­pany’s lo­cal boss, Dan Thomp­son, says it will have a small elec­tric car on sale glob­ally by 2010 and it will be sold here.

Thomp­son de­scribes the car as a ‘‘zero-emis­sion small fam­ily passenger ve­hi­cle’’. Nis­san in­sid­ers say it will look like a wagon-style Mixim.

Nis­san Aus­tralia is also looking into petrol-elec­tric hy­brid ve­hi­cles, which it al­ready sells in North Amer­ica.

Apart from the ar­rival of the Pas­sat CC coupe and the spe­cial-edi­tion Pirelli GTi Golf, VW showed its fu­el­sav­ing Blue­mo­tion tech­nol­ogy in the Polo hatch and Pas­sat.

Both cars have mod­i­fied soft­ware in their en­gines, longer gear ra­tios, aero­dy­namic aids, low­ered sus­pen­sion, light al­loy wheels and low rolling-re­sis­tance tyres.

The Pas­sat Blue­Mo­tion gets an 81kW 2.0- litre four- cylin­der com­mon-rail TDI en­gine and fivespeed man­ual trans­mis­sion.

The max­i­mum torque is 250Nm at 1500 to 2500 revs and the car re­turns 4.9 litres for 100km with CO2 emis­sions of only 128g/km.

This com­pares with the stan­dard Aus­tralian- spec 103kW/ 320Nm 2.0-litre tur­bod­iesel Pas­sat, mated to a

six-speed au­to­matic, which aver­ages 6.6 litres for 100km and has C02 emis­sions of 175g/km. De­spite the em­pha­sis on fru­gal driv­ing, one piece of Euro­pean ex­ot­ica lifted spir­its and wooed show­go­ers.

The new Fer­rari Cal­i­for­nia sportscar was a hit, even with an ex­pected price, in to­day’s dol­lars, of $450,000 when it ar­rives in show­rooms next year.

Fer­rari spokesman Ed­ward Rowe says many buy­ers are well-heeled women.

‘‘More so than any other Fer­rari in re­cent mem­ory,’’ he says.

The Cal­i­for­nia has a new mid-fron­tengined 338kW/485Nm 4.3-litre V8 that can reach 100km/h in less than four sec­onds and has a top of more than 300km/h.

Show of strength: the Pa­gani Zonda (right), the Koenigsegg CCX (left) and Nis­san’s Mixim all-elec­tic con­cept car (top).

Mon­ster mash:

Tyler, 6, is dwarfed by a mon­ster truck

at the show.

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