• Andrew Chilcott

Flying cars are on the way...

Carzaam Automotive News #17 | Flying Cars - Mercedes Online - March VFacts

Hello everyone, it’s Chilli here with another episode of Carzaam news where we talk about the latest in Autonomous Connected and Electric vehicles.

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Before we get into the news I wanted to say a few words about the current reality of a locked down life and the potential implications for the Automotive industry.

After a steady start to the year, many regions around the world are expecting March Auto sales to be down anywhere between 35-50%. Australia scraped through with an 18% decline in March, but April is expected to be much worse as the benefits of advance orders wear off and May, who knows?

Many public transport authorities are also reporting patronage declines of 60-90% as we all work from home and many micro mobility platforms like Bird and Lime have pulled all of their bikes and scooters off the street.

The big winners are delivery companies like Uber Eats and Grab with bookings up as much as 50% in some regions but the lasting impact of this situation really is unknown.

In light of this uncertainty I don’t have all the answers but I do pose a few questions about the future of the automotive industry for the community to comment on:

- First, will the WFH phenomenon persist, for how many of us and for how long. And what impact will this have on commuting and the traffic on our roads? Will we get to work more flexible hours in the future, zooming in online rather than through the toll roads? - Second, with social distancing now part of our psyche, will the cramming of commuters into public transport still be acceptable or will there be strict limits on how many passengers a tram, train or bus is allowed to take? Will this lead to more services and a better Customer experience or just less people using public transport in the future? - Third, what will the impact be on shared mobility? Will Uber pool, Car sharing and micro mobility still be viable options in an environment where a highly contagious virus may be spread through shared resources?

The notion that we will all go back to our business as usual, before COVID lives seems the least likely of all possibilities in the future but I guess only time will tell. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

For now though, lets get into the news, today we have a great episode including the imminent launch of a flying car Formula 1, another Manufacturer going direct to consumer and all the fallout from the March Vfacts figures in Australia … Enjoy! Australian New Vehicles Sales March 2020

Australian new vehicle sales took a hit in March as expected, but it wasn’t the disaster many may had feared. At least not in the numbers. VFACTS data showed that new car sales fell by 18% compared to March last year, at 81,690 sales.

This was the lowest March total since the height of the GFC where 75,650 new cars were sold and is a really bad sign for the year given March is historically one of the strongest months and particularly given momentum really seemed to fizzle out towards the back end of the month. Toyota amazingly grew sales by 1.6%, presumable buoyed by forward orders but it is worth noting that Toyota has invested heavily in its ecommerce platform with the ability to sell and finance cars through its website.

Mazda remained in second spot but its sales fell 29% and Mitsubishi finished third down an even heavier 41%.

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For the first time, Korean company Kia eclipsed Hyundai, growing it’s sales by 6.6%. Holden's run out ahead of franchise closures was lower than expected but still up 30% on year while most premium brands were down between 30-50%.

SUVs were the best performing segment with a fall of 14% taking it’s share of the market to 48%. Passenger cars were down 25% and light commercial down 15%.

The top-selling vehicle in March was again the Toyota HiLux, followed by the Ford Ranger, Toyota RAV4 (Hybrid sales doing particularly well), the Toyota Corolla and the runout Holden Colorado.

Sales of petrol-electric hybrid cars was up 300% thanks to the wildly successful while sales of other EVs and Hybrids were down nearly 40%.

A couple of caveats here, obviously tesla does not report sales through Vfacts and it seems like there was a large order of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs delivered to fleet partners last year.

In my favourite segment, Private sales were down 12.5% to account for 51% of the market while Fleet sales were down 22%.

So that was March Vfacts, Toyota saved the day but I feel the full effects of the pandemic are yet to be felt as we look ahead to April results which are usually impacted by the Easter holidays.

Airspeeder Flying Electric Car Grand Prix

In something like a mashup of the Red Bull Air Race, Formula E and Podracing at Mos Espa, a new electric flying car race series is about to be launched.

The series is a step closer as Alauda, the Australian manufacturer of the Airspeeded electric flying car announced the successful completion of a seed investment round.

The Airspeeder electric flying racer will compete against others in a bid to help advance eVTOL technology for future sustainable transport. The idea is akin to Enzo Ferrari’s belief that racing motor cars, the white heat of competition, accelerates the technical development of the road car.

The Ferrari founder famously said: “By competing with each other, we wound up beating our rivals.”

Alauda founder Matt Pearson said “Electric flying cars are a coming reality that will liberate our cities and answer the long-term mobility challenges we face and nothing drives technology as fast as competition.

Currently two of Australia’s leading technology venture capital firms, Saltwater Capital and Jelix Ventures, have agreed to the first round of funding with the first manned test-flights to take place in 2020 and the first GP season details coming soon… https://www.forbes.com/sites/nargessbanks/2020/04/06/airspeeder-flying-electric-race-car/#34857c556704


Mercedes-Benz launches direct-to-consumer sales model for the EQC Electric Vehicle

Mercedes-Benz is going to sell the EQC electric car direct to consumer in Australia reducing the role of dealerships in a bid to address buyer concerns.

For those of you who follow me, you know I am always tuned into any news about manufacturers selling direct to consumer online, I think this will be the sales model of the future including Subscription, especially as we see fewer models released into the future.

The model is to be exclusive to the EQC and the six other ‘EQ’ electric Mercedes models due in Australia by the end of 2023 and for now only nine Mercedes-Benz dealers are signed up.

So how does it work?

In essence you’ll buy your EQC direct from Mercedes-Benz, not the franchise dealer who actually delivers it. The dealers will instead focus on pre delivery work and servicing rather than actually selling their own paid-for floor stock. In my opinion we will see more of this in the future!

Mercedes has previously trialled this model in Sweden, but Australia is still among the earliest adopters of the global template, which makes sense given our open regulatory framework which is more flexible than say the US, where direct to consumer is mostly outlawed.

This model also means the price will be fixed irrespective of which dealer you select as your pickup point, so no more haggling, and the service will also allow you to buy the EQC online at home on the couch, in lockdown, at whatever time you choose, before or after a test drive if you wish.

This initiative follows comments from the global head of Mercedes-Benz, Ola Källenius, who recently projected that up to 25% of sales could be completed online to some degree by 2025 – that is outside the conventional dealer model.

It’s also worth pointing out Mercedes was one of the first brands in Australia to experiment with online retail alongside Subaru’s importer Inchcape.

It offered its Smart city cars online in 2013and other recent examples also include Toyota's Supra sales model and Toyota’s entire NZ franchise network.


Mercedes’ new sales loophole to prevent dealer ‘rip-offs’

Another article on the new Mercedes approach says, the German brand is planning the new approach to selling the EQC in response to buyers who are complaining of being “ripped off” by dealerships.

It says, Mercedes is facing a revolt from its dealers over plans to sell directly to customers at a fixed price siting ACCC price fixing laws that prohibit car makers from setting prices for their dealer networks.

Mercedes says that by billing clients directly it is not breaking those rules.

It is also reported that Mercedes was trying to roll out the new sales model to all cars but met with strong resistance from dealers.

It feels like the dealers have dodged a bullet this time, but I think we all know where this is heading…

Local chief executive Horst von Sanden says it is not his intention to freeze dealer staff out of the business but to “cater to people who don’t need to, or don’t want to, or are sick and tired of going to a dealership,” von Sanden says.

Errr, that would be like everyone right? I mean hands up if the thought of going to a dealership to haggle over pricing and features fills you with enthusiasm? Anyone? No, that’s what I thought.

But dealers argue that some customers love the sport of haggling – Reaaaallllllllly???!!!

The chief executive of the AADA, James Voortman, said Mercedes’s attitude was disappointing and the comments would be “a kick in the guts” to the Benz dealer network. (Meanwhile customers rejoice!)

This is one to watch, especially in this climate, if brands can find a way to reduce costs and lock in profitability by leveraging online channels and sidestepping dealers they will do it!


Now that’s all the time we have for Cazaam automotive news today, please leave a comment below, subscribe to us on Youtube and Spotify and make sure you connect with me on Social, bye for now.

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