Blog Archives

May issue is out now

Autofile: May issue out now

Vehicle importers and dealers need to be wary of bringing in or trading cars with alpha-type Takata airbag inflators that have yet to be replaced. We talk to industry organisations for advice on how best to avoid potential pitfalls.

 The government is reviewing biosecurity options in Japan in the wake of the stink-bug crisis. We investigate what those options may be.

Toyota NZ’s boss, Alistair Davis, talks about what drives his passion for business and what was involved in changing the dealership model in the Drive Happy project. 

With the government’s focus on fuel-economy standards, we look at what mechanisms may be used to implement any new changes. 

We check out a Kiwi trade delegation’s visit to Taiwan and also look at who has changed jobs in our movers section.

Two unusual dispute cases are examined, we analyse registration and import numbers to see what affect disruption to the supply chain ex-Japan is having, and Morrie Chandler reminisces about his long involvement with motorsport. 

Plus: Autofile’s new website is launched to coincide with May’s magazine

Read the May issue of Autofile

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Two new factories for Tesla

Tesla’s Fremont factory

Tesla will be announcing locations for two new Tesla factories in a couple of months.

Currently, Tesla has one factory which was previously utilised by General Motors and Toyota. Located in Fremont, California, the automaker makes use of this factory to build its Model S, Model X, and Model 3 electric vehicles (EVs). According to CEO Elon Musk, the factory is “jammed to the gills.” 

Tesla is now searching for a new manufacturing location to begin operations within the next two years. This plant will be responsible for the production of Tesla’s upcoming vehicle, the Model Y. Depending on the size of the plant, it may also be used to either broaden current production numbers.

Musk also brought to light a second Gigafactory that the company plans to build in China. The existing Gigafactory located in Reno, Nevada has a primary focus of manufacturing batteries and the motors shared between the Model 3 and Tesla Semi. 

It was also mentioned that all future Tesla plants would be manufacturing both vehicles and batteries in the same facility. This is unlike the currently established model, where Tesla must transport its batteries over 320 kilometres from the Gigafactory to its Fremont facility.

Tesla’s production numbers of the Model 3 have been under scrutiny over the last several months, as the automaker struggled to meet production goals. An increase in space will allow Tesla to build a more robust platform for the production of their fleet of electric vehicles. 

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Uber looks to the skies

Uber has launched a ‘flying car’ project called Uber Elevate, which it hopes will be ready to take off in the US by 2020.

In a white paper published in 2016, Uber had said it would create a network of on-demand, fully electric aircraft that take off and land vertically.

“Essentially what we want to create (through Uber Elevate) is not only an Uber on the ground but also an Uber in the sky,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told a press event in New Delhi last month.

“They will be safe, they will be quieter, we are talking to manufacturers right now, and we are talking to cities about how you have to build this technology to be safe, what kind of air route can you create, from city centres to airports etc. Ultimately it is very much in the interest of a number of cities to solve congestion problems and create high-speed quarters for travel within their cities,” says Khosrowshahi.

This week the technology giant plans to host officials including Donald Trump’s transport chief, and the head of America’s airspace watchdog, at a summit in Los Angeles, at which it hopes to establish itself as a leader in urban flight. Uber has already hired senior Nasa and aerospace employees to deliver chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi’s plans.

The projected time frame for delivering the flying vehicles and for building physical and technological networks to support them is a mere five years. They would initially be human-piloted vehicles–but per Uber’s sales pitch, would evolve into fully autonomous ride-sharing flyers. 

Uber is not alone in the race. At least 19 companies are also developing flying-car plans, according to The Verge. These include manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus, and small startups like Kitty Hawk, who were testing their flying vehicles in Christchurch, New Zealand earlier this year. Meanwhile, Uber has made significant strides in partnering with a handful of aircraft manufacturers, real estate firms, and regulators to better its chances of developing a fully functional, on-demand flying taxi service. 



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GM using 3D-printed parts

GM is using new generative design software technology from Autodesk.

General Motors (GM) has announced that it will be using 3D-printed parts to achieve its goals in a bid to add alternative-fuel vehicles to its global product offerings, according to Reuters.

“This disruptive technology provides tremendous advancements in how we can design and develop components for our future vehicles to make them lighter and more efficient, said GM Vice President Ken Kelzer, Global Vehicle Components and Subsystems. “When we pair the design technology with manufacturing advancements such as 3D printing, our approach to vehicle development is completely transformed and is fundamentally different to co-create with the computer in ways we simply couldn’t have imagined before.”

GM is currently working closely with leading design software company, Autodesk Inc., who demonstrated a 3D-printed seat bracket made of stainless steel and developed with the technology last week. 

 Using regular manufacturing methods, the seat bracket would need around eight different components and several suppliers. When designed with the help of the new technology, it consisted of a single part. It also turned out to be 20 percent stronger and 40 percent lighter. It looked like “a mix between abstract art and science fiction movie.” Along with reducing tooling cost and material waste, it will also help reduce the number of suppliers required by GM.

The 3D-printing based manufacturing industry is working toward mass production and trying to address issues with “repeatability and robustness,” said Bob Yancey, Autodesk’s director of manufacturing. Autodesk has expertise in exploring different variations of a part design using the cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI)-based algorithms.

GM has used 3D printers for prototyping for years, but Kevin Quinn, the automaker’s director of additive design and manufacturing, said within a year or so GM expects these new 3D-printed parts to appear in high-end, motorsports applications. 

The leading automaker announced last year it plans to launch 20 new electric and fuel cell models globally by the year 2023. 

The ability to print lightweight parts is also a gamechanger for the electric vehicle (EV) industry. With consumer concerns over the limited range of electric vehicles a major obstacle to their mass adoption, making them lighter improves fuel efficiency and could help extend that range.

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Ex VW CEO charged

Martin Winterkorn, VW’s CEO.

The indictment of the former chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, who resigned promptly after the emissions scandal erupted in September 2015, significantly raises the stakes for Volkswagen.

The charge contradicts Volkswagen’s unwavering insistence that no management members were involved. It also weakens the company’s defence in related proceedings by shareholders — potentially adding billions of dollars to the scandal’s already monumental cost.

The New York Times reports that the US President, Donald Trump has been attempting to water down auto emissions standards, however, the indictment indicates that the Justice Department continues to pursue an investigation of the German carmaker that began during the Obama administration. 

The accusations against Winterkorn also raises further questions about the thoroughness of Volkswagen’s internal investigation of the wrongdoing. 

“Volkswagen continues to cooperate with investigations by the Department of Justice into the conduct of individuals,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “It would not be appropriate to comment on individual cases.”

”The indictment of Winterkorn alleges that he was informed of VW’s diesel emissions cheating in May 2014 and again in July 2015,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “The indictment further alleges that Winterkorn, after having been clearly informed of the emissions cheating, agreed with other senior VW executives to continue to perpetrate the fraud and deceive U.S. regulators.

The scandal has continued to plague the automaker. Last month, CEO Matthias Müller stepped down from the CEO role three years after replacing Winterkorn.

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VIA releases recall update

Following the announcement of the mandatory recall on Takata alpha-type airbags, VIA, (the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association), are aware that some traders will be holding stock affected by this issue.

From 31 May, any vehicle fitted a Takata alpha-type airbag inflator may not be sold in trade without having been reworked, including trade-ins.

Key points:

  • VIA is working closely with the MIA and manufacturers’ agencies here in New Zealand, to establish the correct pathways for repair and recertification.
  • We will also meet with officials from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) next week so that we can clarify with dealers their legal responsibilities and the timeframes that will apply.
  • We aim to be able to advise dealers and offer a range of options by the end of next week (Friday 11 May 2018).
  • In the meantime, recall information on individual vehicles, by chassis number, can be found using the JASPA online search tool.

Note: To view this page in English, open the above link in the Google Chrome browser, then right-click anywhere on the page and select ‘Translate to English’.

VIA will continue to communicate all developments to our members as they arise.

For any questions, please contact VIA Technical Manager Malcolm Yorston on 0800 VIA VIA (842 842) or email

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Germany overtakes Norway

Germany overtakes Norway as Europe’s top market for electric vehicles (EVs).

Sales of EVs increased by 70 per cent in Germany to 17,574 cars in the first quarter, nudging ahead of Norway for the first time, according to data from European industry association ACEA. The figure includes full-electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

VW, Daimler and BMW are retooling their assembly lines in response to stricter European regulations on combustion engines and the fallout from the 2015 VW emissions-cheating scandal.

While consumers have turned away from diesel — especially in Germany — automakers are depending on customers to embrace electrified powertrains if they are to recover the massive investments they are making.

Across Europe, sales of EVs advanced 41 per cent, with full-electric cars up 35 per cent and plug-in hybrids up 47 per cent, while diesel in the EU dropped 17 per cent.

Once rare in Germany, Teslas have become increasingly common on the streets of cities such as Munich, alongside other fully-electric models like BMW’s i3 and the Nissan Leaf, according to Automotive News.

While the Germans have an advantage in Europe, their next challenge as the market for EVs expands will be to prove to consumers in the U.S. and China that their products are superior. Elon Musk’s recent troubles with Model 3 production issues and quality reviews, may have opened a door.

“Tesla’s golden age is nearing its end and it will become a product among many,” said Juergen Pieper, a Frankfurt-based analyst with Bankhaus Metzler to Automotive News. “As the consumer pool for electric cars grows, tolerance over quality issues may be lower too as it’s less about the early adopters who went for Teslas based on novelty.”

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Used car sales three-year low

Used car imports at Ports of Auckland

April was the worst month since February 2015 for registrations of used imported cars in New Zealand.

There were 10,893 units sold last month to bring the year-to-date total to 48,501. This was down by seven per cent compared to the same time last year. There were 12,507 registrations in last April to take 2017’s total to 52,174.

Sales across many of the country’s regions dropped in April when compared to the same month of last year. These were led by Whangarei with a 30.9 per cent decrease to 226 units. New Plymouth was down by 24.2 per cent to 150 while Auckland dropped by 16.1 per cent to 5,148.

On the flipside, registrations in Thames climbed by 30.1 per cent to 108 last month. They rose by 10.8 per cent in Wanganui to 72 and nine per cent in Gisborne to 73 units.

The top five marques in April for registrations of used imported passenger vehicles were Toyota on 2,644, Nissan with 1,970, Mazda on 1,760, Honda with 1,053 and Subaru on 623.

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Commercials drop in sales

Toyota retained the top spot in the used commercial vehicle sector

There were 828 used imported commercial vehicles sold last month, an 8.8 per cent decrease compared to April 2017, when 908 vehicles were registered.

Year to date the total has dropped by 7.5 per cent or 308 registrations, compared to the first four months of 2017.

 Toyota retained the top spot in the used commercial vehicle sector with a market share of 47 per cent with 389 registrations. This was followed by Nissan and Isuzu, who had a market share of 21.1 per cent – 174 registrations, and 6.5 per cent and 54 registrations respectively.

Most main regions recorded losses during April compared with the same month last year. Auckland led the way with a 13.5 per cent or 59 units decrease, followed by Christchurch and Wellington who showed falls of 12.8 per cent and 9.5 per cent.

Dunedin was one of the exceptions, with sales increasing by 20.7 per cent compared to April 2017. 

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SUVs provide momentum

The sales of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) continued to provide strong momentum to Australia’s new car market last month, with total April sales down slightly on last year but year-to-date sales running 3.3 per cent ahead of 2017.

Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

Total industry sales for April were 82,930, which is 0.2 per cent down on the same month last year, according to data released today by the industry’s official statistical service VFACTS.

However, the year-to-date total across the industry of 374,468 sales is viewed as a strong return, bolstered by the continued build in the SUV and light commercial (LC) vehicle categories.

SUVs accounted for 43.6 per cent of the April market, passenger cars for 33.2 per cent and light commercial vehicles 19.4 per cent.

Among the segments, SUVs were the stand out performers. Comparing last month with April 2017, the sale of small SUVs rose 33.3 per cent, medium SUVs climbed 12.8 per cent, large SUVs lifted 3.7 per cent and upper large SUVs surged 20.6 per cent.

SUV sales to private and business customers showed strong April gains, up 15.3 per cent and 17.5 per cent respectively. Private light commercial sales dipped by 13.6 per cent, while light commercial business sales fell 3.6 per cent during April

Among the passenger car segments, micro-cars had another good month with a sales gain of 8.6 per cent.

The steady performance of the national April market came despite NSW, historically Australia’s largest state for sales, showing a fall in monthly volume of 5.5 per cent. However, four states and territories produced gains with Western Australia climbing 7.3 per cent, South Australia up by 3.5 per cent, Victoria by 2.1 per cent and Queensland by 1.9 per cent.

The Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber, said that although April was the first month of 2018 in which the industry had not bettered its results of last year, the industry was tracking strongly.

“There’s good reason to be confident about how sales nationally are tracking given we are a third of the way through the calendar year,” Mr Weber said.

“The market dynamic has changed with the growth of SUVs but brands have adapted quickly to that change and the new products coming into those growth segments clearly have strong consumer appeal.”

The Toyota Hilux light commercial was the top-seller during April with 3,596 sales, followed by the Toyota Corolla with 2,979, then the Ford Ranger (2,796), Mazda3 (2,261) and the Toyota LandCruiser (2,018).

Toyota was the April market leader with a 20.1 per cent share, followed by Mazda (9.3 per cent), Hyundai (8.6%), Mitsubishi (6.6%) and Ford (5.8%).

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Latest update on recall

VIA, (the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association), has released the latest update on the mandatory Takata alpha-type airbag recall that will come into effect on 31 May 2018.

From this date, no vehicle fitted a Takata alpha-type airbag inflator may be sold in trade without having been reworked, including trade-ins.

Also from 31 May, newly imported vehicles with alpha-type airbag inflators that have not been reworked will be “prohibited imports” and subject to seizure by New Zealand Customs. 

Key updates:

  • Discussions are ongoing between VIA, representing NZ’s used vehicle industry, and the MIA and NZ’s new vehicle distributors, on how recalls of vehicles already in the fleet will be completed.
  • Our shared objective is a smooth and efficient experience for all affected New Zealand consumers.
  • Recall information on individual vehicles, by chassis number, can be found using the JASPA online search tool

 NZTA is currently working to provide access to this JASPA information via their RightCar website. NZTA’s current most up-to-date lists of vehicles subject to the recall are available here:  

Vehicles under mandatory recall (Takata alpha-type inflator)
Vehicles still under wider (voluntary) recall (other types of Takata inflator)
VIA will continue to communicate all developments to our members as they arise.

For any questions, please contact VIA Technical Manager Malcolm Yorston on 0800 VIA VIA (842 842) or email

*Note: To view this page in English, open the above link in the Google Chrome browser, then right-click anywhere on the page and select ‘Translate to English’.

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