GLOVES OFF IN PRICE WAR
ED Whitacre, former head of telephone giant AT&T in the USA, is now the permanent chief executive of General Motors. Whitacre was sent to lead GM by US president Barack Obama through the company’s bankruptcy but has now been confirmed as the longterm leader after a boardroom move ousting former boss Fritz Henderson. EVERY Honda Accord sold in Australia now comes with side-curtain airbags. Prices for the 2010 Accord range start at $32,490 and there are also small revisions to the dash and aircon controls, with a key-operated system to open and close the windows and sunroof — ideal for hot days — on the VTi-L and V6L models. THE Carsguide Car of the Year has completed a clean sweep of Australia’s major motoring awards. The Volkswagen Golf did the job when it was named by Wheels magazine as its best car of 2009, edging out the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Skoda Superb and Toyota Prius. PARENTS of the world can look forward to more kidfriendly car cabins after the development of a new leather system that is said to be soil and stain resistant. Ansole is from Eagle Ottawa, the world’s largest supplier of automotive leather, and should be in production cars within 18 months. PEUGEOT cars for Australia could eventually be produced in Malaysia, which has been chosen as the French company’s Asian manufacturing hub. Peugeot has linked with local company Naza, and will built right-hand drive vehicles at its Gurun factory.
THE starting price for a new car in Australia is about to drop to less than $11,000.
The price fight is being sparked by Proton, which has taken the lead from Suzuki as both brands — and a bunch of others — brace for the first Chinese passenger car imports later this year.
Suzuki dived first into the sub$12,000 range with an $11,790 showroom sticker for its baby Alto, as well as a driveaway deal that runs through January at $12,490.
On-road costs are generally set around $1500.
But Proton is now ready to go with a $10,990 price fighter.
It is a 1.3-litre version of its S16 sedan and, even though it will only have a single airbag for the driver, the Malaysian make is expecting a solid response.
‘‘We’ll have the car in showrooms on June 1,’’ managing director of Proton Cars Australian John Startari said.
‘‘We’re finalising the plan at the moment.
‘‘We’re still working on the specification and assessing the market situation. We need to determine which strategy we use going forward.’’
But he confirmed the $10,990 starting price — before on-road costs — and said it was a follow-up to the present 1.6-litre S16 at $11,990.
‘‘The S16 is already a winner,’’ Startari said. ‘‘We only got the car into showrooms in December and, of the 334 cars we sold last month, 228 were S16s.
‘‘It’s certainly had the impact we were after.’’
Proton has taken over from Korean cars — Hyundai led the way — as Australia’s price fighter and Startari makes no excuses for trying to drive the brand forward.
Proton came to Australia in 1995 and, despite some successes with a GTi and its Jumbuck ute, has never made a real breakthrough onto shopping lists.
‘‘The price thing is more about establishing the brand,’’ Startari said.
‘‘It’s about time we established Proton as a contender and built the sort of carpark we need to allow us to expand. We need a minimum of 25,000 cars in the carpark and at the moment we’re around 15,000.
‘‘We have a five-year plan in place to grow that.’’