High cost, high lay-offs, hy­brid

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - blairt@dai­lytele­graph.com.au

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

TIMBLAIR

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