Just 28 of Merc’s road-going racecars are coming to Australia next year | The Canberra Times

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If your lottery numbers finally drop and one of the latest AMG-Mercedes Benz performance cars takes your fantasy fancy, the answer to your request would be a firm “no”. Australia is getting only 28 of these twin-turbo V8 AMG-fettled modern hotrods early next year and all are pre-sold at a cool $796,900 each. The GT Black Series, with 537kW of power, has about four to five times the power and torque of the average A-Class Merc. It’s really just a registerable racecar meant for those who want to blow off a little steam at the track after a hard week of corporate takeovers because standard fitment is a titanium rollcage and four-point seatbelts for driver and passenger. Meanwhile, at the complete opposite end of the driving spectrum, the next series of corporate pegs are being placed in the ground by Mercedes-Benz ahead of its coming electric car roll-out. A further 15 dealers tare being added to its existing EQ electric car network, with Canberra dealer John McGrath already one of the original appointments. However, in an arrangement which has dramatically changed the usual distributor-dealer relationship, under the company’s new EQ banner all the dealers are relegated to the status of agents. This means while cars can be test-driven at the dealership and delivered there, the retailing ordering is done all online, and the national distributor manages the retailing experience through a portal. It’s a system set up from corporate HQ in Stuttgart and its success – or otherwise – here will be observed closely by other vehicle distributors as new car sales have plummeted and the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have curtailed much of the usual face-to-face, dealer-to-customer to-ing and fro-ing prior to purchase. Of course, having 24 dealers for just one model – the Mercedes EQC, which sells for $139,700 plus on roads – makes no sense at all. But there’s bigger and smaller, more affordable electric Benzes imminent. For now, Mercedes-Benz Australia is putting a corporate foot in both camps – the online agency and the traditional dealership – and there’s good volume and profit still to be had while its combustion cars are its core business. IMercedes is slowly exploring what retailing cars will look like in five to ten years as all dealer networks – which just three years ago became the industry’s newest powerbrokers – shift their role. In the fast receding past of Australian volume vehicle manufacturing – ironically an industry gone at a time when the Federal government now most desperately needs it and is spending $1.5 billion on manufacturing investment post-COVID – Ford, Holden and Toyota wielded significant political influence because they employed so many people. But when the factories closed, their political clout vanished overnight. The dealers were then the biggest employers and quickly began to exert their influence, especially in regional areas. But now that powerplay may prove short-lived, too, as web-based online ordering capability becomes easier and more sophisticated. At this point, the industry’s established brands are slowly playing catch-up with newcomer Tesla, which has no dealers at all and all its cars are sold online. Customer acceptance of online portals to buy their next new car has cimbed steadily in recent months. Volkswagen Australia has sold 433 vehicles of all types via online ordering alone this year to the value of some $26 million, with 2.4 million visits to its website. At a planned small-scale manufacturing concept in Singapore, the Koreans are going even further, exploring the idea of ordering your new Hyundai via your cell phone and watching it being built the same way, mostly by robots. It’s a concept which could only work in a small, tech-driven, wealthy country like Singapore where all cars are sold under an allocation system to keep the roads from becoming too over-crowded, and the government makes a sizeable cash grab from every transaction. The previously optional safety package on one of Australia’s best-selling cars, the Hyundai i30, will become standard when the upgraded model goes on sale next year. The “smartsense” package which included autonomous emergency braking (AEB), driver attention alert, lane-keeping, smart cruise control and forward collision warning (FCW) was previously only offered in a bundle on the base model for an extra $1750. But with fleet sales now a huge part of the Korean company’s Australian business, and fleet buyers forced through occupational health and safety requirements to have these features included or get bumped off the list, Hyundai had little choice but to absorb the extra cost and make it all standard. However, Hyundai’s cheap-but-cheerful image is steadily changing as its older cars – such as the $13,990 drive-away-no-more-to-pay Excel, once Australia’s best-seller – slowly leave the road . The new i30 due next year is expected to retail for just under $25,000. The Koreans have just opened innovations centres in Silicon Valley, partnering with Stanford University, and now in Singapore to explore new mobility concepts, and coming up with weird, stilted corporate slogans like: “Human-Centered Value Chain Innovation for a Mobility Paradigm Shift”. The Koreans are fast-emerging as major players on the world stage, particularly with its progress on (almost) affordable electric cars like the Ioniq, and its hydrogen fuel-cell production car, the Nexo, of which 20 will be driving on Canberra’s roads next year in Australia’s biggest one-off fleet order. The world is now heaving with personal transport mobility concepts from self-driving luggage to exo-skeletons for the aged but the one which those of a certain age may remember most fondly, and deserves revisiting, is Mazda’s car in a suitcase. It was an idea shown off almost 30 years ago when combustion engines were still part of the solution, not the problem. The suitcase car was designed and built in 1991 as part of a design contest held at Mazda’s engineering department. The clever chaps bought the largest Samsonite suitcase they could, a pocket bike, then set about dissembling the bike to fit inside. The 34cc two-stroke engine, handlebars and wheelbarrow tyres fitted into the suitcase. to get mobile, the rear wheels were slotted onto the outside of the case while the front wheel would pop through a removable hatch in the front. It’s a funny and wonderful idea from another age.

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