High cost, high lay-offs, hybrid
AS was the fashion at the time, in 2008PM Kevin Rudd gave $35 million to Toyota so the Japanese giant could build hybrid Camry sedans at Altona.
It was an unusual gesture because the world’s largest car firm didn’t need the money and probably would have built them here without incentives. It was like tipping Richard Branson for a domestic Virgin flight.
Anyway, this week sees Toyota sacking 350 Altona employees (in Julia Gillard’s electorate). Toyota’s exports to the Middle East are down and hybrid Camrys are as popular as the carbon tax, last month prompting Toyota to cut the entry-level price by $2000.
Ford and Holden have both recently received huge government donations, yet the grim scenes in Altona are a reminder that product is king. Build the right cars and Australians will gladly pay for them the proper way, at dealerships.
(Full disclosure: in the mid- 1980s I worked at the Altona plant casting two-valve cylinder heads for its popular and profitable pushrod Corolla four. The low-tech design could have been based on cave paintings, but those rugged little engines earned Toyota cash. Perhaps value and simplicity should make a comeback.)
CARS ARE THE STARS
CHANNEL 10’s Modern Family is possibly the most expertly cast comedy in TV history, and this doesn’t end with the brilliant human performers.
Look at how precisely the show’s characters are matched with their vehicles: real estate agent Phil drives a Cadillac (got to impress the clients), gay couple Cam and Mitchell own a Prius (natch), and alpha male Jay Pritchett rules the road in a stately Audi A8. There’s a whole car thing going on in that show, I swear. In the second series an exquisite Morgan Plus 8 even made a cameo appearance.
LAP OF A SALESMAN
FOR more than three decades, Niel Allen was a sports trivia mainstay by holding on to a 450-horsepower Chev-engined Mclaren open-wheeler as it whipped around the famous Bathurst course in just under two minutes and 10 seconds, setting a lap record that stood until 2002.
The record (which must be set in a race to be official) has been lowered since by V8 Supercar and GT Production drivers. But on April 8, Brisbane salesman Chris Gilmour— in a four-cylinder F3 Dallara— set 2:04.6187, about four seconds quicker than any V8 Supercar. See it on Youtube. Only Niel could’ve driven the thing faster.
Role models: The Modern Family cast members (inset) are perfectly matched to their cars; Ed O’neill at the wheel