NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By NEIL DOWL­ING

MIL­I­TARY spend­ing is be­ing reined in as part of on­go­ing US bud­get cuts, but lu­cra­tive con­tracts are still be­ing signed with truck­mak­ers. US gi­ant Nav­is­tar has been awarded a $A900 mil­lion con­tract to over­haul a 2717-strong fleet of Mine Re­sis­tant Am­bush Ve­hi­cles (MRAPS) serv­ing in Afghanistan. The trucks had been fit­ted out for de­ploy­ment in Iraq and the em­pha­sis was placed on pro­tec­tion from road­side bombs. They will now be fit­ted with new ar­mour and sus­pen­sion com­po­nents that aim to of­fer sim­i­lar pro­tec­tion, but also al­low the ve­hi­cles to bet­ter tackle Afghanistan’s moun­tain ter­rain. NA­TURE doused the global car in­dus­try’s op­ti­mism for 2011 and vi­o­lently shook the list of best sell­ers.

Toy­ota, driver­less at the hands of a tsunami in March and Thai floods in Oc­to­ber, has sunk from the world’s big­gest ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer to third.

With a 2011 pro­duc­tion of 7.9 mil­lion ve­hi­cles, it lags be­hind a re­lent­less Volk­swa­gen — with 8.2 mil­lion units for the year — well down on Gen­eral Mo­tors, ex­pected to re­port sales of nine mil­lion ve­hi­cles.

GM will re­lease its 2011 fig­ures at the end of this month. Over­all, there were a few high­lights and records for the 2011 year.

Rolls-royce, owned by BMW, cel­e­brated its 107th year with its best sales. It sold 3538 cars, up 31 per cent on the 2711 in 2010, thanks mainly to re­newed buyer in­ter­est in its Ghost and Phan­tom mod­els.

Par­ent BMW ported a record.

It earned the ti­tle of the world’s big­gest lux­ury car maker, with 1.67 mil­lion sales, up 14 per cent on 2010, thanks to ac­cel­er­ated in­ter­est from China and the US.

Sales of the Mini rose by


re- 21.7 per cent, fol­lowed by a 12.8 per cent rise for the Bmw-brand prod­ucts, which ac­count for more than eight out of 10 cars sold by the com­pany.

BMW sales ex­ec­u­tive Ian Robert­son pre­dicts it will re­main the world’s largest premium car maker in 2012 and ex­pects the global mar­ket for lux­ury ve­hi­cles to grow by more than 8 per cent this year.

Europe’s big­gest car maker, Volk­swa­gen, breached the eight mil­lion sales mark for the first time in the com­pany’s his­tory.

Sales in­cluded ve­hi­cles un­der the Volk­swa­gen um- brella, in­clud­ing Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bent­ley and Bu­gatti, and Lam­borgh­ini.

VW’S 14 per cent sales in­crease over 2010 al­lowed it to frog-leap Toy­ota, which had held the crown for the pre­vi­ous three years.

Gen­eral Mo­tors’ fore­cast sales of more than nine mil­lion ve­hi­cles is based on pro­jec­tions from the first three quar­ters. Bent­ley re­ported a 37 per cent in­crease in sales on de­mand from China and the US. UK man­u­fac­tur­ers are far­ing bet­ter away from their home mar­ket.

Over­com­ing UK sales, which slipped 4.4 per cent in 2011 over 2010, are boom­ing sales in emerg­ing mar­kets and a strong re­vival in in­ter­est from US buy­ers.

Eight out of 10 cars made in the UK are sold abroad and the big­gest mar­ket for Bri­tish-made cars at Nis­san, the coun­try’s big­gest car maker, is Rus­sia.

A Rolls-royce Phan­tom is un­veiled last year, above, while GM sales rose sharply in the US

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