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Car-makers applaud Victorian P-plate rule change

Out of bounds: The supercharged V6 Holden Monaro is off-limits to P-platers, even though it has less power than family cars such as the Toyota Aurion.

Victorian P-platers given green light to drive some turbos

General News logo23 Mar 2009

A TRIO of European importers has applauded a Victorian government move to overturn a blanket ban on P-platers driving turbocharged or supercharged petrol vehicles, but questions remain about the new legislation.

The Victorian move brings it into line with other states, except that Victorian P-platers will need to apply for a permit to drive forced-induction vehicles. They will also still be excluded from high-performance turbo or supercharged cars.

To qualify, forced-induction vehicles need to have a power-to-weight ratio of less than 100kW a tonne, or be a “family type” vehicle (rather than “sports type”) with a power-to-weight ratio of between 100kW and 125kW a tonne.

The Victorian government used the supercharged V6 Holden Monaro as an example of a sports type vehicle that would not be allowed to be driven by P-platers under the new rules.

That engine produces 171kW, which is less than many non-boosted six-cylinder family cars, including the 200kW Toyota Aurion. The previous rule banned seemingly modest vehicles that used forced induction with small capacity engines to improve fuel efficiency, reflecting the current downsizing trend.

Had the legislation not changed, P-platers would have been banned from driving a growing number of upcoming fuel-efficient, small-capacity cars, including Holden’s forthcoming locally-built small car in its most fuel-efficient 1.4-litre turbo guise.

Also previously banned were the 135kW Mercedes-Benz C200 Kompressor, Saab 9-3 and 9-5, and several Volkswagen models.

Turbo-diesels were, and will remain, exempt from any P-plate restrictions.

Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Saab have all applauded policy shift.

Saab and GM Premium brands spokeswoman Rebecca Clout said Saab, however, would like to find out more about the proposed policy.

“We think that fundamentally it is a great move as it will open up a far wider customer base for us,” she said.

“We are still working through the details, but having to apply for a permit… that system appears to be a bit cumbersome. We haven’t received much detail on this yet, so we would like to find out more about it.” Mercedes-Benz, which has been lobbying the government to change the policy, is more enthusiastic.

“Mercedes-Benz has made strong representations to minister Pallas that the regulations excluded some of the safest cars in the world from young drivers,” said Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific president Wolfgang Schrempp.

“In concert with the technical committee of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, we presented our case that many low-boost turbocharged and supercharged vehicles did not pose a safety threat to young drivers.

“In fact the safety, fuel economy and emissions credentials of many previously banned vehicles were amongst the best in the world,” he said.

“We congratulate and commend (Victorian roads) minister (Tim) Pallas for his progressive and logical approach to the very real issue of road trauma involving young drivers. His acknowledgement that some of the safest cars available will no longer be denied to young drivers at the most fragile time of their driving career is a significant advance of public policy.” In related news, the NSW government announced a new demerit point band system for speeding drivers which it says is fairer.

Low-level speeding offences will now be defined in 10km/h bands under the new rules to be implemented within six months. The lowest range offence of speeding 10km/h above the limit will now incur one demerit point, instead of three, plus an $81 fine.

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