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Top-selling light cars get Victorian ESC exemption

In and out: The Holden Barina, Toyota Yaris YR and Kio Rio have all been granted exemptions to Victoria's new ESC rules, but Mitsubishi's Colt will be withdrawn from sale in that state.

Car-makers seek ESC law exemptions in Victoria, but three models hit the skids

General News logo30 Nov 2010

By RON HAMMERTON

AT LEAST three of Australia’s top-selling light cars will be granted exemption from Victoria’s controversial fast-tracked rules making electronic stability control (ESC) compulsory on all passenger cars and SUVs with compliance plates dated from January 1, 2011.

The Toyota Yaris YR, Holden Barina and Kia Rio will be among up to 10 vehicles without ESC to remain on sale in the southern state on the proviso that they get the life-saving technology on new models to be introduced before similar federal rules come into force in November 2011.

GoAuto has learned that at least three other vehicles without ESC – the Mitsubishi Colt, Suzuki Jimny Sierra and Proton Satria Neo – will be withdrawn from the Victorian market because they do not qualify for either compliance or exemption, while Hyundai will stop production of its top-selling Hyundai Getz light car before the December 31 deadline.

However, run-out Getz hatchbacks with 2010 compliance plates will remain on sale in Victoria for some time as the South Korean importer prepares to launch the Accent-based i25 light sedan in the third quarter.

The withdrawal of the Mitsubishi Colt from Victoria will leave the Japanese importer without its entry-level car in that state for about a year.

The Colt was not eligible for exemption because the next-generation car equipped with ESC was deemed too far away – it is likely to arrive in early 2012 – while the current model’s sales volumes were considered too small to justify an expensive re-engineering to make it comply in the meantime.

80 center imageFrom top: Suzuki Jimny Sierra, Proton Satria Neo and Hyundai Getz.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia head of corporate communications Lenore Fletcher told GoAuto that Mitsubishi would not sell the Colt in Victoria next year due to the issue.

“It was just something we had to do. We don’t have huge (Colt) volume there anyway,” she said, adding that Victorian Colt sales amounted to only about 20 sales a month.

Potential Colt buyers from Victoria will not be able to skip across the border to buy a new Colt and take it home to register it as the Victorian law also forbids the registration of non-compliant cars unless they have been registered for a minimum of 12 months interstate.

A change of government this week in Victoria after a seven per cent swing against the ruling Brumby Labor Government to Ted Baillieu’s Liberal-National coalition is unlikely to mean a last-minute reprieve for cars such as the Colt, as it is deemed too late for any change to the regulation.

The state Labor government angered the motor industry in 2009 by announcing that it was going it alone on the mandatory ESC law to apply from January 2011 – 10 months ahead of the national rollout of the federal Australian Design Rules governing ESC.

The rule put Victoria out of sync with other states, threw some manufacturers’ engineering schedules into chaos and added another cost burden of compliance for manufacturers.

However, under pressure from the industry and the federal government, the Brumby government created a loophole by setting up a system of exemptions for vehicles that are set to get ESC by November when the federal rule comes into force.

Under the federal system announced in June 2009, all new passenger cars introduced after November 1, 2011, will have to be equipped with ESC. The rules will be further tightened by November 2013, when all passenger cars sold in Australia will have to be equipped with the car-control technology.

Toyota, Holden, Kia, Nissan, Proton and Great Wall are among the companies known to have applied for exemptions from VicRoads for non-ESC cars ahead of the introduction of new models equipped with ESC some time in 2011.

VicRoads spokesperson Bree Taylor said compliance officials were working their way through the list of applications from car-makers for both compliance and exemption.

The latest list was expected to be made public later this week, she said.

So far, only three vehicles – the 1.3-litre Toyota Yaris (1.5-litre models already have ESC) and Nissan’s Tiida small car and Patrol large SUV – have been listed on the VicRoads website as having been granted an exemption.

But GoAuto estimates that the list could grow to about 10 by the time all applications have been processed.

Holden has confirmed to GoAuto that it has applied for exemption for its Barina, which is set to be replaced about October – about a month after the redesigned Yaris makes its debut in Australia.

The new Korean-built Barina will be based on GM’s Chevrolet Aveo, which surfaced in production form at the recent Paris motor show. It will go on sale alongside the smaller, just-launched Barina Spark, which already has ESC.

Kia Motors Australia’s national public relations manager Kevin Hepworth said the company had received confirmation that its Rio light car would be granted exemption on the grounds that a replacement with ESC would arrive in Australia in about July or August.

Proton also joined the queue for exemption for its Persona, Gen.2 and S16 models that will receive an extensive makeover from October, but the Satria Neo will be withdrawn from sale in Victoria ahead of its discontinuation nationally in 2011.

Proton Cars Australia managing director John Startari said Proton had been granted an exemption on Persona, Gen.2 and S16.

“The replacement models will be in the market before November and will be fitted with that technology,” he said.

Mr Startari said the Satria Neo was always scheduled to end life in Australia next year, but its withdrawal had been brought forward in Victoria.

Suzuki spokesman Andrew Ellis confirmed that the Jinmy Sierra compact SUV would be withdraw from the Victorian market, but the move would cost the company only about five sales a month.

Suzuki has just added ESC to its entry-level Alto, while Swift will get the technology across the range when the all-new, bigger model arrives in February. Until then, the old, non-ESC models will remain in run-out on 2010 compliance plates.

Honda has moved to upgrade its non-compliant light cars to make the deadline.

Honda’s Jazz hatch and City sedan will both get ESC on their lower models in the nick of time for the Victorian rules, with Jazz getting a facelift in January and an upgrade also due for City.

Chinese brand Great Wall’s only passenger car on sale in Australia, the X240 SUV, is also expected to be on the list of exemptions, with a new version destined for Australia by the November deadline.

The exempt Nissan Tiida small car is set to be replaced by a new bigger car – expected to revive the Pulsar name – but not until 2012. This means Nissan may have a revamp for Tiida – including ESC – coming before the November deadline.

Nissan’s current Patrol also received an exemption, indicating a similar upgrade scenario as it is expected to continue on for several years yet, alongside the all-new premium Y62 Patrol that makes its debut in 2012.

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