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Sydney show: Monaro leads local stars

Monaro comeback: Holden expects to shift at least 4000 Monaros in its first full year of sales.

Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi and Toyota have plenty on offer at Darling Harbour

15 Oct 2001

By BRUCE NEWTON and MARTON PETTENDY in SYDNEY

AUSTRALIA's big four domestic manufacturers always take pride of place at our big motor shows, and Sydney is no exception. Holden had the Monaro, Tickford the T-Series, Toyota the Corolla and Mitsubishi a group of concepts that are now ready for production.

Holden: Monaro at price to please

AS EXPECTED, Holden tried its level best to turn the Sydney motor show into the Monaro motor show. An entourage of top Fishermens Bend brass plus a constant throng of activity surrounding the display of no fewer than seven different coloured Monaros rallied to the cause.

The public debut of Monaro in its final production form brought with it the announcement of unexpectedly competitive pricing, the auto-only supercharged Monaro CV6 opening the two-door Commodore range at $47,990 - just $620 more than Holden's V8 Commodore SS sedan. The 5.7-litre Monaro CV8 will be sold at $56,990 in either six-speed manual or four-speed auto form.

Holden expects to shift at least 4000 Monaros in its first full year of sales but production could be pushed as high as 7000 if demand requires.

Holden has admitted that, like all coupes, Monaro will be a tough sell beyond its first year on sale, but when asked about future Monaros and their variants, Holden chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger was optimistic.

"Monaro can go anywhere," he said.

"There is no convertible at this stage - we a need a silent break for a while, but of course you have to keep it inspirational and so Monaro will receive regular updates.

"Because of its low-cost tooling, Monaro could be the beginning of something new and distinctive every three years." Monaro's successful business case was based on domestic sales only but Mr Hanenberger said possible exports to the Middle East, South Africa, Japan and the UK would make it even more profitable.

Mr Hanenberger also said Holden's four-wheel drive program - which is hoped to generate about 20,000 sales, many of them exports - was going well and that a future all-wheel drive Monaro should not be discounted.

Though the stylish, Bertone-designed Astra Convertible was overshadowed by Monaro, its remote-controlled electric soft-top, heated leather sports seats and high level of luxury and safety features did attract attention. Pricing will not be set until its January launch.

Other Holdens on stage in Sydney included the value-added VXII Commodore Lumina, an upgraded 2001 Frontera, the limited edition Vectra International Series, of which just 300 will be built, and the appearance in a Rodeo Sport LT Crew Cab 4x4 of 3.0-litre intercooled turbo diesel power.

Ford: Tickford focus

WHILE the new AUIII range of Falcons was on the stand, it was the revised Tickford range that was the primary focus at Ford.

Dubbed T3 as this is the third go at a high-performance range to compete with HSV, it takes a giant performance leap with the installation of a 250kW, 500Nm, 5.6-litre version of the Windsor V8.

The new engine is matched with a new bodykit that includes front and rear spoilers based on the Falcon V8 Supercar and 18-inch alloy wheels.

And Ford has not stopped there.

While the TE50, TS50 and long wheelbase TL50 sedans remain, it has also dropped the engine into its popular ute to create the 250kW XR8 Pursuit ute. Ford stresses this is an XR not a T-Series.

The 250kW T-Series sedans go on sale in November, the Pursuit ute next February.

Ford Australia president Geoff Polites revealed the development cost for the stroked V8 was actually stumped up by Ford headquarters in Detroit, after visiting executives sampled the engine.

"We had a Saturday morning drive at the You Yangs, threw that in just for the fun of it and they said 'why don't you just build it, we'll pay for it'. That's the level of support we get," Mr Polites said.

"I think T3 is pretty good. I think this is where customers want us to be. We probably made a mistake up front when we underscored it because the customers who buy these things don't want to be all that subtle.

"They've got the bang and they want people to know it, so this is a response to that." Also pursuing a power theme were two Laser turbos, the Xplod and the RSR.

The Xplod was developed by Ford with Sony donating a 145-decibel sound system. The RSR was developed with Hot 4s magazine and the Specialist Equipment Marketing Association.

The turbo Lasers send the strong message that Ford sees yet more opportunities to develop "hot hatches" in the wake of the success experienced with SR and SR2 this year.

A locally developed Escape four-wheel drive concept with an open rear quarter section also made its debut. Named M-One-11 after a Globe International brand of Streetwear, Ford says the car is designed to appeal to Generation Y (currently 10 to 24-years-old).

The connection to youth brands did not stop there, with the unveiling of the Herrod Motorsport Independent XR8 ute.

Independent is the inventor of the skateboard truck and a leader in the skateboard field.

The dressed-up ute will be given away via a competition being run at Indepen-dent outlets.

Ford also showed the Streetka concept two-seater which has since been confirmed for production, but not for Australia as yet, and two new value packs - the Summer Escape and Ka2 Collection.

Mitsubishi: Drop-top rocks

MONARO was never in danger of being up-staged in Sydney, but Mitsubishi was one local manufacturer that did manage to steal some of the limelight from Holden's new Astra Convertible with a wild yellow production version of its locally developed Lancer Cabriolet.

The work of Melbourne conversion house Advanced Vehicle Engineering International, the show-stopping Lancer convertible is the final iteration of the bright red Lancer MR coupe concept car shown in Darling Harbour last year.

The Lancer Cabriolet, as shown, will retail from $32,990 in manual transmission form and carries a full three-year/100,000km Mitsubishi warranty.

While Astra Convertible pricing will not be announced until its January launch, dealers are taking orders now for what will be an ongoing Mitsubishi model, with the first Lancer Cabriolets available within a month - just in time for the summer drop-top rush.

Sharing centre stage on the Mitsubishi stand was another car shown last year in concept form - the Magna Sports Wagon.

Employing a VRX-spec 163kW V6, the hot local estate will be sold in relatively small numbers when it hits showrooms by the end of October.

Pricing starts at $37,990 for the five-speed manual while the Tiptronic-style Sports Mode auto version will cost $39,990.

The Ralliart Magna is creeping closer to production reality and, as a precursor to its early 2002 launch, Mitsubishi showed a pre-production version in the same Flame Red paint as last year's show car.

Ralliart's Magna will feature 180kW and a number of drivetrain refinements, and will be a preview to an all-wheel drive version later next year. Final specification and pricing of around $50,000 will be confirmed at launch.

Another Mitsubishi highlight in Sydney was the local public debut of the Eclipse coupe, which is currently built only in left-hand drive guise but featured in the brand's corporate advertising campaign.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia will begin local evaluation of the top-spec GT version following the show, with a view to possible right-hand drive conversions if feasible.

The Eclipse GT has a high level of passive safety features and is powered by a 147kW, 3.0-litre V6.

A spokesperson for Mitsubishi Aus-tralia boss Tom Phillips, who was not present in Sydney, said that although private sales had slowed in comparison to government and fleet sales, retail sales had not slumped enough to revise down its already conservative 2001 sales projections.

Toyota: The Seca featured

THE vital new Corolla made its first Southern Hemisphere appearance, Toyota debuting both the five-door Seca and the wagon, while a sedan will also go on sale in December.

The Avensis Verso mini people-mover, also on sale in December, was revealed along with upgraded versions of the Avalon passenger car and HiLux workhorse.

Toyota Australia executive senior vice-president John Conomos jets to Japan next week to finalise the pricing for the new generation car, which he is confident will not increase much over the current generation.

"We expect if we get the price right it will become the best-selling car in the range," he said.

That means 35,000 or more sales per annum, if supply can be secured.

Toyota also showed the 3.0-litre V6 Kluger mid-size four-wheel drive to test public reaction. It could either be imported from Japan or eventually built locally.

"That niche market is emerging and we intend to exploit it with that type of vehicle if we can get it," Mr Conomos said.

"And of course that vehicle in luxury form becomes the Lexus RX330 in 12 months' time." Mr Conomos said the Kluger had many Australian Design Rules issues to overcome before it could be sold in Australia.

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