• In this report: Big difference between what you might be told when buying a new car, and what goes on the contract. Pro tip: What you're told is likely to be A) persuasive in nature, or B) flat-out coercive, and as a result C) it's highly likely to be bullshit.

    It's what's in the contract that counts. 

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  • The world’s most high profile bullshitting billionaire genius, Electric Jesus, sent Tesla shares into a six per cent tailspin when he recently unveiled a stainless steel joke without a punchline, at the Plug-in Scientology cult facility in Freemont, California.

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    The world’s most high profile bullshitting billionaire genius, Electric Jesus, sent Tesla shares into a six per cent tailspin when he recently unveiled a stainless steel joke without a punchline, at the Plug-in Scientology cult facility in Freemont, California.

    The so-called Tesla Cybertruck is essentially a Homer Simpson-designed stainless steel Humvee minus of course all connection to satire. It also has an element of mentally retarded stealth fighter about it also, I think you’d agree. It’s the perfect prank reveal, that wasn’t.

    The ‘Stevie Wonder’ launch edition Cybertruck is expected to retail for $39,990 Retardistani Pesos for the poverty pack with just one electric motor, and rear drive. It’ll stretch up to just under 70 Retardistani big ones for the three-motor all-wheel drive version.

    There’s a dual-motor AWD version as well, somewhere in the middle on price. Apparently the poverty version is good for 400 kilometres. The dual motor variant offers 480 kays of range and the tri-motor jobbie will take you 800 kilometres. But they’re all just just claims from the summit of Electric Bullshit Mountain at this stage, of course.

    Like the much hyped Tesla Semi which, EJ assured us would be clogging the roads by now, the Cybertruck does not actually exist. So there’s still hope. It’s just a threat at this stage.

    Speaking of which, Bullshit Six says the tri-motor Cybertruck will do 0-100 in 2.9 seconds. Which is rather fast. It’ll carry a payload of up to 1.6 tonnes and tow more than 3.4 tonnes. If you want the self-driving one that doesn’t really drive itself and isn’t actually autonomous, that’ll be a $7000 option. 

    It’s a six-seater, the body is made of (quote) “ultra-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel” which kinda explains the ridiculous shape. And of course it’s glazed with (quote) “armour glass”. 

    The English language: so friggin’ complex. However, at the reveal, when wannabe Tony Stark’s conscripted some - I dunno - some millennial piss boy from the cult to demonstrate the toughness of the vehicle’s illiterate glass by throwing a metal ball at it (which is not one of bulletproof glass’s toughest tests, I note) the window shattered. Twice. Yesssssss!

    Which is just impossibly excellent as public spectacles go, I think you’d agree. 

    If you suspend all disbelief, you will ‘learn’ (if that’s the right word) that the new Tesla ‘Stealth Cockroach’ Stupidtruck will be offered with an electric ATV, the so-called Cyberquad, which Electric Jesus says will be available only as a genuine Cybertruck option. (Note to self - might need an extra charging point in the Fat Cave. Or not.)

    So, if you’re a rich, environmentally evangelical dick with a dysfunctional relationship with aesthetics, who failed physics and seeks to save the planet by overconsuming absurd products that really won’t help, the new Tesla tri-motor Stevie Wonder Cybertruck and Cyberquad boxed set could be just right for you.

    No plans have been announced for right-hand drive or ‘Strayan homologtion for the mighty Tesla Stupidtruck, and I think we can all thank the Lord, Electric Jesus, sincerely, for that.

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  • If your car has a problem and you're not getting it resolved at the dealership, here are the essential steps you must take.

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  • If you’re about to spit out a child and deliver just what humanity needs - a higher population count - yessssss! - buying an SUV is seen (by many) as the price of admission to Club Breeder. Keep watching, though, because this report will save you $5-$10k.

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    This is all one question, but I get a hundred different flavours of this every month, so split it up into chunks, the better to slice and dice it once and for all. 

    "I need some help! We're about to have a baby and it's time to upgrade the wife's car (currently a VW Golf GTi) and get her something bigger and safer. I've been watching a lot of John's videos to narrow down the options. We want something new-ish (dealer demo or very low Ks). The wife is a tech-savvy car enthusiast who likes her cars to have a sporty feel/performance. She's also big into design and branding so looks (interior and exterior) play a big part. She's big on sunroofs (panoramic a bonus). She wants boot space (pram/shopping/suitcase). The upper limit of my budget is around $35K. I'm not really much of a car/brand man, so I just want bang for buck around a time where we're going down to one income and we can better use the money elsewhere."

    How unlike a woman to want it all, despite racing up to a cliff of impending financial constraint…

    So let’s weigh this up in the domain of objective facts: $35k is insufficient for a new/demo sporty, hi-tech, fully loaded, panoramic sunroofed SUV that’s objectively larger than a Golf (which is really a conventional ’small car’ segment entry like a Kia Cerato, Hyundai i30 or Corolla/Mazda3, etc). It’s a complete industry misnomer because the so-designated ‘small’ cars really are not that small.

    Back to the demands of the sunroof-infatuated car-nut brand snob wife: Medium to large SUVs under $100k are not going to be as sporty as a Golf GTI. Obvious conclusion: It’s time to compromise.

    Fact: The Golf and all other cars in this segment are large enough for a baby capsule, a pram, a suitcase and shopping. Especially as the rear seat split-folds. Cars in this segment are also quite safe. 

    My advice is: Get a pram and some shopping bags, and a suitcase, and experiment with the Golf. Leave the kerbside rear seat up (because you want to be taking your kid out of the car on the kerbside, for safety) and fold the other part of the rear seat down. Guess what? All that baby-related crap fits - without leaving the baby compromised.

    So I’m really not seeing an objective reason to upgrade, beyond just a personal preference to join the ‘I spat out a baby and bought an SUV’ club. 

    Do remember: a nice, sporty SUV with all the toys - like a Tucson Highlander or a CX-5 Akera - is going to be around $50k. And that’s $15,000 more than you want to spend, on the cusp of sucking it up financially and going down to one income, at the same time as bringing a money-sucking diminutive human home from hospital.

  • Dealer delivery fee: Just look up at the clock on the wall in the dealership: It’s bullshit o’clock, again.

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    Let us bust some entrenched car dealer and car industry bullshit:

    My Local mini dealership in Brisbane is asking $3990 dealer delivery. MINI Australia suggests $2500. The Local dealer claims the dealer delivery fee comprises the sea freight/land transport form UK factory, to Brisbane, Australia. I’m highly doubtful of their claim. Please advise. - Allyn

    Dealer delivery is a substantially bullshit charge - an entrenched industry rip-off. $4k ‘delivery’ on a $30k car - you’ve got to be kidding. The industry generally charges about $2000 foe so-called ‘delivery’ on mainstream cars, and heaps more than that if you’re too stupid to resist the proposed $15 grand on a Porsche, or $7000 on a Range Rover.

    Just for disambiguation: The price here does not include international shipping. That’s just classic car dealer bullshit. Get them to show you an invoice where they pay the shipping. (Pro tip: such an invoice does not exist.)

    The dealer does not ship the car to Australia. The importer does. 

    The dealer pays the importer a wholesale price for the car. This includes the car, the shipping cost, taxes, GST - whatever - when they buy the car to put it in stock, to sell to you. There is no separate shipping charge that is magically passed on separately. If it were, cars would be the only consumer item on earth with this quaint pricing structure.

    Can you imagine buying a refrigerator for $1000, only to be told across the counter that you’ll need to spring for another $150 to cover the cost of shipping to Australia? 

    Can you imagine paying such a charge on a refrigerator, without question? Without evidence? Neither can I.

    Dealer delivery is a fee for registering the car, screwing on the number plates, filling the tank, detailing the car and making sure it starts and runs. (If you’re lucky.) 

    Dealers will say it includes shipping from overseas, because otherwise the cost looks unjustifiably extortionate, which it is (especially at $4k for a friggin’ MINI). $500-$1000 is probably reasonable. Anything more is extortion in a velvet glove.

    They don’t even deliver the car. You come in and collect it. So - classic falsehood right there.

    This is one of those situations where you and the salesman are not equals. You have all the power in a new car negotiation, which is why they so like to take charge. But should you choose to take the upper hand you can - because you have the money, and there are dozens of other cars you could buy. 

    Make sure they know this. Offer - very generously - to pay them no more than $1000 for delivery. Make sure they know you’re walking out the door if they don’t agree, and don’t negotiate. Definitely don’t split the difference on this.

  • Hybrid technology follow-up - some of you disagree with me on their underlying energy management voodoo. And that’s totally OK

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    While I agree that a small diesel is best on the highway, I'd still say hybrids are better than standard petrol cars because they use Atkinson cycle engines. These engines are quite a lot more efficient than a standard petrol, but are low powered for their size, this doesn't matter as they have an electric motor to help out when you need to get up to speed quickly. - aussieguy69

    I kind of agree with that - if you want fuel efficiency and not performance. Hybrids (and some other cars like the new Kia Seltos with 2.0-litre CVT powertrain) use the Atkinson cycle.

    Atkinson is a thermodynamics hack - they leave the inlet valve open a bit longer and this ejects, by contra-flow, a little of the inlet air, from the cylinder. (It contra-flows back up the inlet port.) And that hacks the ratio of the compression ratio to the expansion ratio. 

    Atkinson cycle engines have less compression relative to their expansion, and that derives greater thermal efficiency - at the expense of peak power performance. So you typically don’t see Atkinson cycle engines on exciting cars.

    My point about hybrids is that the regenerative braking is how they do their energy management voodoo. This - and not the Atkinson cycle - is what sets hybrids apart. Capturing kinetic energy under brakes, converting it to electricity and using it to get going again. That is hybrid’s big trick.

    On the highway, where regenerative braking opportunities are minimised, it would be better if you could simply wave Harry Potter’s wand and magic away the whole electric side of the hybrid system - because in those conditions it really is just excess baggage. 

    If you want confirmation of this, look up the fuel figures and compare ordinary cars to hybrids. Hybrids are generally better on fuel around town than they are on the highway, even though urban driving is very energy inefficient driving (with lots of stop-start). The latest Corolla Hybrid, for example, uses 10 per cent more fuel out on the highway, compared with the ‘urban’ test.

    It’s regenerative braking doing that, not the Atkinson cycle.

    Aussieguy69 went on, representatively.

    "Just one other thing, hybrids not only charge their batteries from regenerative braking, but they also charge from the engine if it's ever running but not under enough load to be most efficient.....then it turns the engine off and uses electricity until the battery is drained a bit, then re-starts the engine and repeats the process". - aussieguy69

    Some hybrids will charge the battery with the internal combustion engine. Absolutely. Typically the ones with big batteries that rely on them heavily for conventional levels of motive power. This is also a nice idea, potentially, but unfortunately that’s not an example of energy management voodoo. It’s a compromise in hybrid vehicles where the electric side of the powertrain is designed to do a lot of the heavy lifting.

    You really don’t get a thermodynamics or efficiency benefit from that - if you did, it would be a violation of the second law of thermodynamics. And that’s really just a happy fantasy.

  • Nissan has done the absolute minimum to refresh the 2020 Patrol. (But they have managed to go all-out botching the English language and applied science. So that’s nice.) And yet, the new Patrol might still be actually worth buying - full details next.

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    Patrol is like kinda Joan Rivers - ongoing exterior upgrades, but same old bones. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They’ve been quite durable. And so also with the Patrol. It’s pretty tough too.

    This time around, all you get is: new lights, new bumpers and some bolt-on safety tech. Ugliness has gone up at least one order of magnitude - almost to elite LX 570 visual abomination levels. Especially the Ti-L. It’s bean beaten with the ugly stick, and left for dead. 

    Well done there.

    No fundamental changes, however - same powertrain, same body. Significant price-hike.

    Nissan Shitsville is simply milking Patrol for all it’s worth before phasing the old girl out, basically. 

    They’ve also changed the wheels - but they’re still 18s; just a different design - and added all the borderline-annoying safety features that the car industry is yet to think through properly. Like auto emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.

    About the only worthwhile inclusion there is adaptive cruise control on the low-spec Patrol Ti. (Previous Ti-L already had that.) But brace for impact on the price, because it has ramped up again, for the third time in two years.

    Let’s look at the economics, though, because that’s actually still pretty strong.

    Top-spec Toyota Landcruiser Sahara diesel is a more or less direct competitor that costs $133,000, drive-away, and the latest Patrol Ti-L is $103,000. 

    Diesel Landcruisers offer more range on a full tank, and diesel is safer for refuelling at the roadside from portable containers, if you’re a proper outback adventurer beating the desert into submission, or something. 

    The diesel is also better for towing, obviously, with more peak torque, but the Patrol has more peak power, so it’s better for highway overtaking. And this ‘dusting’ issue does hang, like a cloud, over the Landcruiser.

    Based on the official fuel tests, Landcruiser drinks 9.5 L/100km combined cycle, while the Patrol is 14.4. The $30,000 price difference and the consumption difference are interesting: Out there, in the future, there’s a point on the odometer where the Patrol buyer and the Landcruiser buyer reach fuel and capital cost equivalence.

    The Patrol starts out cheaper and then the higher cost of fuel kicks in, while the Cruiser starts out expensive, but, kay-for-kay, you pay less for fuel. Have a guess how far you have to drive for those costs to become coincident?

    It’s about 400,000 kays. So, ballpark estimate, for the first 10 laps of the planet, the Patrol buyer remains in front on price. This is a powerful incentive to prefer the Patrol, I must say. When you run the numbers.

  • Should you buy a hybrid? This obviously depends on you - what you want and how you drive - and this report is inspired by common questions from people like you. Full details next.

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    Toyota and to a lesser degree Hyundai have really inspired many mainstream new car buyers right now to consider a hybrid for the first time. Toyota with the hype surrounding the new RAV4 Hybrid (pity about the production botch there) but also with the company’s affordable Corolla Hybrid and the Prius, which has become the Coca-Cola of hybrids, owing to smart positioning and long-term market presence.

    Hyundai also lobbing relatively recently with the Ioniq - which was just upgraded. As well as a straight EV version, Ioniq is available in two flavours of hybrid - the self-charging one that recharges the battery with regenerative braking, and the PHEV Ioniq, which also recharges by plugging into the grid (optionally). 

    So, more people than ever are considering hybrids for the first time. Tim Bosher is one of them:

    We live in regional Vic. My wife drives about 100k per week locally and has a weekly 250k return trip to the city at freeway speeds - so her annual k's are a bit over the average. I have asked a couple of dealers about the pros & cons of hybrid cars for the above type of driving mix and their responses seem to be largely bullshit. What is your take - and when does the price premium for hybrids make them a realistic proposition. - Tim Bosher

    Here’s the answer that lines up with reality: hybrids do their energy management voodoo by regeneratively braking. When you brake or even just coast to slow down, they convert some kinetic energy to electricity and store it in a battery to help you get going again, presumably when the lights go green.

    It is proper energy management voodoo - if you use Arthur C Clarke’s epic definition for magic. And if you don’t: look it up. It’s awesome.

    Hybrids are therefore far more effective at saving fuel driving around town. Because that’s where you do all the voodoo-invoking coasting and braking. On the freeway, all the hybrid equipment - the battery and the motor, and the control and management architecture - it all tends just to become excess baggage. It’s just not very effective ‘out there’.

    In Tim’s case, 70 per cent of his wife’s driving is on the freeway, so she’d probably get a better result on fuel economy and emissions in a small diesel car, like an i30 diesel. Because diesels really stretch their fuel economy legs on the freeway - and that kind of driving is just ‘Goldilocks’ for keeping the DPF (the diesel particle filter) happy and healthy.

    PHEV is a hybrid with a bigger than usual battery that you can plug in overnight and recharge. So it’s kinda BEV + ICE as a range extender, as the good doc says, but I’d categorise it more as a Hybrid with a big battery that gives it additional, but still extremely short-distance, low demand battery-only operating capability. That’s generally how they roll.

    You might get 30 or 40 kays of battery-only operation at low loads - but if you pull out to overtake, the internal combustion engine will kick in. Because the electric side of the plug-in hybrid is only good for low to moderate performance.

    On the battery - in a PHEV it’s a big battery in the context of hybrids but still small for an EV. Batteries are so expensive, which is why, for example the PHEV Hyundai Ioniq is so much cheaper than the full-on Ioniq EV.

  • Supercar-shaped Corvette headed to Shitsville in 2020. Yesssssss! It'll cost about $170,000. 


    Same car in Retardistan: $60 grand US (which is about $90k ‘Strayan). 

    So: Who’s gouging who?

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    This report is inspired by a dude named Chris Papa, by e-mail.

    "Could you detail Luxury Car Tax and other hidden fees? The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is set to arrive in Australia in RHD. Its estimated retail price here will be about $170,000. This is preposterous considering that in the US the 2020 Corvettes will retail for around USD $60,000 and converted to AUD that equates to approximately $87,000. 

    "Why is there such an outrageous markup (of about 100 per cent)? How much of that is LCT? What would the rest of the cost be made up of? Why are carmakers (desperate to make more sales and some with very deep pockets) not lobbying the Australian Federal Government to abolish LCT?" - Chris Papa

    Just to get the finances out of the way here: Australia has a free-trade agreement with Retardistan. That’s been in place for nearly 15 years, so to the best of my knowledge there’s no protective import duty on US cars. Nor is there import duty on cars from Japan, Thailand or South Korea - for the same reason. 

    So the vast majority of cars on sale in Australia currently are import duty-free. 

    Luxury car tax is indexed so the threshhold increases every year with the CPI. It’s currently imposed on conventional cars over $67,525, or allegedly green cars over $75,526. In both cases it’s an additional 33 per cent on the amount of that car’s value over the threshhold.

    So if you run the numbers on that, ballpark, if the 2020 Shitsville Corvette is $170,000 - that equates to about $25,000 in luxury car tax. Meaning the cost of the Corvette minus LCT is about $145,000.

    So, ballpark again: if the same car in Retardistan is $90k, there’s a $55k disparity between the Retardistan Corvette and ours. Part of that is going to be amortising the cost of gearing up for right-hand drive production over the number of right-drive units they think they’ll produce.

    There’s not too many right-drive markets - there’s us, Japan, the UK, Macau. But essentially the bulk of Corvettes are going to be left-hookers. So that’s part of it. The rest is just GM’s internal pricing structure and what they think they can get away with here.

    You can look at it like a gouge if you want, but the Corvette is going to be faster - a lot faster, at least in a straight line - than a car like a BMW M4, which is about the same price. And it’s a lot cheaper than a proper mid-engined supercar.

    Still got that legendary GM build quality, however. Which could be entertaining.

    Just for perspective, the ‘poverty’ 911 Porsche (not strictly speaking mid-engined) is about $230k here in Shitsville. Exactly the same car with the wheel on the same side, in Brexitpotamia is $155k (including 20 per cent VAT). The povvo 911 is $60k more than the Corvette, as well as being more than a second slower to 100. So there’s that.

    If you want that level of performance, it’s cheap at $170,000.

  • Nissan and Mazda - dead from the neck up, sadly. Kinda like a cockroach minus its head.

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    Five or six weeks ago, I fired a broadside into Nissan when the company - through its local dealer - sought to dodge what I viewed as its consumer law obligations. It attempted to stitch up a shitbox leaf owner, Philip Carlson, to the tune of $33,000 for a replacement Nissan Leaf battery, which in my view should have been replaced for free under Australian Consumer Law.

    Happily enough, 170,000 people just like you watched those two Nissan reports, to date. For a total of 1.4 million minutes. Which is, to me, a brain bender. It’s a total eyeballs-on-screen engagement of 2.6 years worth of cumulative watch time, distributed among 170,000 people. Potential car buyers.

    Exactly one month later I covered the case of Mazda being dragged to the ankle-grabbing room - I mean: Federal Court - by the ACCC for alleged deception and unconscionable conduct. Also quite serious, if proven.

    Two videos there. 130,000 viewers - eyeballs glued to the screen for a total of just over one million minutes. (That’s almost two years.)

    In these reports, I urged you to write to Nissan’s and Mazda’s chief spin doctors, Karla Leach and Mark Flintoft, respectively, politely but firmly to deliver unequivocally what you thought about each company’s conduct.

    And I know hundreds of you e-mailed these two PR types - because dozens and dozens of you CC’d me on those e-mails. And I was extremely gratified by the polite tone and well thought out, reasoned, rational arguments I saw.

    You know what didn’t happen - to the absolute best of my knowledge? No response from Mazda or Nissan to you.

    So, let’s say you are a PR type, and one day, without warning, your inbox fills up with critical feedback from the public. This is in your wheelhouse.

    What do you do? Do you pretend it’s just not happening and concentrate instead on keeping your sinister clutch of tame journalists and influencers happy, and maintain your platinum frequent flier status, which, let’s face it, is quite important?

    I really don’t think ‘deafening silence’ is an option. Here’s why: if somebody out there, in the public, takes the time to write what they think, to you, politely and respectfully, as the CC’d e-mails I received were, and they send it to you … then I’d suggest there’s a level of quite strong commitment behind that stated position embodied in those actions.

    For the recipient - the spin doctor - it’s a binary proposition: You can choose to respond, or not. And hey - if you respond it doesn’t have to be bespoke. It can be canned, cut and paste, and the intern can filter your e-mails and send back the canned responses, but at least it’s a friggin’ response.

    I’d suggest that every critical e-mail is the chance to turn someone around, and this is the business you spin doctors are in. ‘We understand your concerns, we hear what you’ve said, and here’s what we’re doing to address the issue.’ How f-ken hard is it?

    Electing not to respond is a gold-plated guarantee of the sender inferring you are a worthless mother-lover who does not give a fuck what they think. And that’s exactly what has occurred here, I suspect. Because not one of the 300,000 people who viewed those reports sent me an e-mail with Nissan’s nor Mazda’s responses in it, nor posted the same in the comments feed. Conclusion: It didn’t happen.

  • BMW says: Stop driving our cars. Right now. Literally: Put down the keys and walk to the nearest taxi, and we’ll pick up the tab. Full details next.

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    Here’s some confronting news for you, if you own an ageing 3 Series BMW: In an unprecedented move, BMW Shitsville is urging the owners of 12,663 E46 3 Series BMWs - built between 21 November 1997 and June 30, 2000 to stop driving those vehicles immediately. As in, today. Now.

    According to Rod Sims’s henchman - henchperson - at the ACCC, Delia Rickard:

    “Because of the critical level of risk, the ACCC urges people to stop driving their vehicle immediately and to contact BMW to arrange to have their vehicle inspected as soon as possible.”

    I’d suggest that conservative corporations and regulators in this sphere, such as BMW and the ACCC respectively, do not use terms like ‘immediately’ and ‘critical level of risk’ frivolously. Safe to assume this message is not clickbait.

    A new type of defective Takata airbag has been linked to what the ACCC is calling (quote) “an abnormal pattern of airbag deployments in Australia, Japan and the US”. 

    Bottom line: the Takata airbag recall just got slightly bigger, and somewhat more serious. It’s being reported that these specific airbags have been linked to one death and one serious injury here - authorities are being a little cagey about the details surrounding that, however, because the death remains a matter before the coroner.

    The ACCC and BMW are collaborating and co-operating on this. There’s no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of BMW. 

    You can check the VIN code online to see if your ageing 3 Series is affected at recall.bmw.com.au (repeat). Or call 1800 243 675 (repeat) - that’s a dedicated BMW airbag recall hotline - or drop into (or call) your local dealer. In a taxi. Keep the receipt. Or, better still:

    “BMW will arrange to tow your vehicle to repair facilities for inspection, or send a mobile technician out to your premises or vehicle’s location to inspect the vehicle.” - ACCC

    And here’s my favourite part of this story:

    “If your vehicle has been fitted with one of these dangerous airbags, BMW will arrange a loan or hire car or reimbursement for alternative transportation costs until airbag replacement parts are available or until other arrangements are made. You may also wish to discuss the vehicle being purchased back by BMW.” - ACCC

    This is an example of rock solid corporate conduct - a rarity in the car industry here, I think you’d agree. 

    These affected vehicles are two decades old, but nobody’s being left out in the cold, and BMW is picking up the tab. You want to see robust commitment to the customer? This is it. Even if that customer is the second, third or fourth owner.

    I’m really not sure we’d see the same level of ethical conduct from the Monkey-gassers at the Volkswagen Group, or the three-pronged Swastika specialists at Daimler. So - complete respect for doing the right thing on this occasion. 

    It could take the BMW as long as 18 months to replace any defective airbags - and that’s simply gotta be a supply issue. Hence the offer for loan and hire cars, taxi reimbursement, and/or buybacks.

  • In this episode I took my new YouTube live-streaming setup out of the blocks for the first time - properly out of the blocks, and decided to do a whole half-hour segment entirely ad-lib, answering your questions.

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  • This episode was an opportunity to test-drive my new live-streaming 3-camera video studio and also get inside the head of the kinds of issues that do new-car buyers' heads in...

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  • Vlog-style report today - it's not every day you have to pick up a $350k luxury saloon, and deal with people who seem hell-bent on shooting themselves in the foot in the service department.

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    "Regrettably, my 2015 Captiva has a (potentially) blown turbo. I am taking it to Holden next week for it to be assessed. Luckily my car is still under warranty. Will my turbo be replaced under warranty?"

    So I’m not going to use the guy’s name here, because I don’t want to embarrass him or affect the drama playing out at the dealership. And in response to him, I explained that warranty covers manufacturing defects and premature failures.

    So, if you have your car serviced on time and you don’t abuse it, these kinds of defects are almost certain to be covered under warranty. If you don’t get it serviced properly then they’re standing on a pretty strong foundation when they tell you the repair bill is going to be your problem. 

    So I asked our hero about the service history - and the response I got made me feel a little like Neo, taking the red pill.

    "I got the car regularly serviced at the kms but not in line with the months. For example, when it was due for the 75,000km/45-month service, it was serviced at 76,500km/50 months. Would that be a risk to a warranty claim? The car had never been abused just driven as a family car."

    It’s the time or the distance - whichever comes first. That’s absolutely clear in all the documentation. ‘I didn’t know’ is not a defence. Most modern cars have a service indicator - a message pops up and says ‘service due now’.

    There’s absolutely no ambiguity about what that means.

    A massive five months late on the time. Jesus. Five months… (That’s owner abuse, even if you drive like Liz Regina’s in the back, every day.)

    So this is the bit where I explain to the punter that bracing for significant financial impact seems prudent. If you’re ever in this position I wouldn’t mention the service history - but it’s gunna take a miracle of Biblical proportion for them to overlook that. 

    You simply must get services done on time - meaning time or distance - whichever occurs first - otherwise it does constitute owner abuse. The average car in Australia drives just under 15,000 kilometres a year, and that means about half of all cars subject to 12-month/15,000-kilometre service intervals are going to have the time come up before the distance.

    The other thing to realise is that the time component is not a rip-off. If you don’t drive that much, this is hell on earth for engine oil. Lots of impurities get into your oil, thanks to not very much full-temperature operation between each cold start. This is very bad for your engine. It’s why they engineer in a time component in the first place.

    And you can’t negotiate this away, no matter how clever an orator you are. It’s not a debate. Servicing is a black and white obligation.

    If you fail to meet these obligations and you’re looking at a massive bill, about all you can do is think about getting a decent independent mechanic to do the repairs, because that’s gunna be thousands of dollars cheaper than a dealership, and you could also think about fitting a quality, aftermarket turbo for the same reason.

  • Should you still buy a new Mazda in light of the ACCC’s unconscionable conduct consumer law court case?

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    Lot of response to Friday’s report on the ACCC’s festive Mazda-reaming legal preparations. 

    "Weren’t you recommending Mazda over other brands? Or is it a case of do you want to be shot once with a 22 or six times with a 357 magnum?" - Anon Amos

    To those of you who are confused or uncertain about where I stand on this, and whether or not to buy a new Mazda, now, or in 2020: I’d say decide for yourself, but to me it plays out like this:

    The engineering from Mazda is typically first-rate. Mazda today is what Honda was in the 1990s - the BMW of the east, essentially. BMW would probably disagree there. Whatever. 21st Century Mazda is a real driver of mainstream automotive innovation.

    The ACCC’s allegations point to a culture of poor customer service within the organisation, here in Arse-trailer, and if true, that is a serious problem. This is yet to be determined by a court. You might infer a line between smoke and fire here, but sometimes smoke is just smoke. We’ll have to see.

    Mazda is reacting to the ACCC’s court case now. It’s inconceivable that, in addition to making defensive bullshit public statements in respect of the pending court case, that a series of far more serious commercial meetings and confidential communications is not also taking place at Mazda right now.

    One of those meetings would be about making sure the ACCC does not get any more cannon fodder from customers who get stiffed this week, next week, and into the future. Like, let’s not give the regulator any more ammunition.

    If you were Big Bhindi - boss of Mazda Shitsville - do you think you might send an urgent communique to all your dealers directing them to be model citizens of customer compliance and complaint resolution, henceforth? I think you probably would. I certainly would.

    So, in short, because of the excellence of the engineering, the high-level regulatory scrutiny, and the perfect storm of depressed sales generally compounded by what I’m sure will be a stampede of customers away from Mazda following the ACCC’s high profile press conference last week, I actually think it’s a pretty solid time to buy a Mazda. 

    The product has always been pretty good, and recent events suggest to me that consumer law compliance is likely to improve dramatically from today. 

    I know that’s counterintuitive - or at least that’s how it might seem to you - but I don’t want to punish Mazda. Mazda’s commercial success or failure is a matter for them. 

    I think compliance will improve from today, and the product remains excellent.

    The icing on the cake here is: If you give it a couple of weeks, and there is a profound drop in enquiry across Mazda dealerships, the end of this month will be a real opportunity for you to secure an excellent deal on a new Mazda.

  • Triton's a quiet achiever with decent performance and a proven track record of good reliability and support - unlike most other utes in the market

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    Full review on my blog: https://autoexpert.com.au/posts/mitsubishi-triton-review-buyers-guideThe current model Mitsubishi 'L200' Triton is one of two 4x4 utes I routinely recommend and this one is even better than before thanks to a mid-life makeover.

    The Triton is number three 4x4 ute in the country behind the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, but is ahead of the Holden Colorado.

    Since the Triton began production 40 years ago they’ve managed to sell 4.7 million units. It’s a profound automotive success any way you carve that figure.

    The first thing about Triton is its nice, tractable 2.4-lite turbo diesel engine

    Pricing and features make the Triton worth a good look, as does the long warranty and extended service interval. I get complaints about plenty of utes, from owners getting hung out to dry - typically Rangers and Colorados. Triton is the exact opposite. The few complaints I've had over Triton in the past few years were mainly dealers behaving badly - once they were made aware, Mitsubishi Motors resolved them pretty quickly.

  • In breaking news: the ACCC just woke up. Amazing. Plus, they’ve invited Mazda to a public ankle-grabbing contest. Act now, because front row seats to this one are certain to sell out fast.

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    The ACCC has decided to sue Mazda Australia Dickheads Proprietry Limited for alleged breaches of consumer law and behaving like unprincipled cocks generally in relation to customer support.

    Apparently the ACCC has assembled a conga line of disgruntled customers - I think they call them ‘witnesses’ now - stretching over the horizon, back to 2013, and the watchdog says Mazda Dickheads could not fix the problems, fobbed them off to case managers who were completely ineffective, lied about the severity of faults, and told the affected owners they were not entitled to refunds - which is such bullshit, but pretty typical for the Shitsvillian car industry.

    “We allege that Mazda repeatedly refused to provide a refund or a replacement at no cost to the consumers and pressured them to accept lesser offers which were made by Mazda only after multiple failures of the vehicles and repeated attempted repairs.” - Rod Sims

    This is the one that does my head in: The ACCC says in cases of protracted problems, instead of offering a refund or a free replacement vehicle, which is what the law demands, Mazda customers were offered less money than their cars were actually worth as a buyback - and then, Mazda arseholes put owners under extreme pressure to accept their bullshit offers, by claiming the offers were short-term and final. 

    The mafia does business this way.

  • If you’re thinking about buying a Kia Seltos - here’s everything you need to know.

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    As usual, Kia conscripted its on-call dynamics wizard to do his mad, Jedi voodoo and turn the conventional vomit-spec South Korean suspension into what is actually an outstanding platform to drive on our preposterously crap ‘Strayan roads.

    The drive program on the launch was on mainly these B and C roads around Noosa, and I’d have to say the body control and steering feedback is excellent. So, big tick there.

    There was probably 90 minutes of freeway driving as well - it’s quiet and composes at 110.

    Interestingly enough - this vehicle has a next-generation motor driven power steering assistance system. That means an electrical servo motor provides the steering assistance. It detects input from you, and a computer tells it how much to help. That’s when you’re turning in.

    But when you’re on the way out of a bend, MDPS typically defaults to ‘off’ and the self-centring steering effect you feel (If any) is just mechanical control feedback.

    But in this system, the motor also provides self-centring feedback assistance. It’s really excellent.

    Here’s the range. You get S, Sport, Sport+ and GT-Line in order of increasing appeal and price. 2.0-litre CVT only on S and Sport. 1.6 Turbo only on GT-Line. But you can have either engine in Sport+.

    So the fuel economy powertrain is available in the first three variants. The performance powertrain on the top two. They overlap at Sport+.

    Here’s how you tell the four variants apart like an automotive ninja. (This is gunna help at the dealership when they jam one under your snout for a test drive - if you know this, you cannot be bullshat to about which one you’re driving. And before you say it in the comments: ‘bullshat’ is the past participle of the verb ‘to bullshit’.)

    The poverty S model rolls on steel wheels. That’s dead easy to spot. If you’re looking at a Seltos with alloy wheels and a folding key, it’s a Sport.

    If it’s got 17-inch alloys and a pushbutton start it’s Sport+ and if it’s got 18-inch alloys (with a bright red highlight around the hub) and a head-up display, it’s a GT-Line.

    There’s more safety gear on Sport+ and GT-Line, but you can get that on S and Sport for $1000 as an option.

    So, I’m not going to bore you with the spec sheet - but the salient observations arising from the spec sheet are:

    S is a real poverty pack. Anything that can be removed to cut costs basically has been, and this is done primarily to appease the great cheapskates of the automotive universe: Fleet managers.

    It’s a big step - $3500 - to go from S to Sport, but it’s well worth it for a private owner. You get alloys, a full-sized spare, the big centre infotainment screen, SUNA live traffic and 10 years of free mapcare updates (and, I’m assured, there are no strings attached to that - you just get the updates when they’re available).

    Sport+ is the pick of the range - because you get adaptive cruise and the better safety gear standard. Plus front parking sensors, nicer interior, proximity key. And it’s $5500 cheaper than GT-Line, which is loaded with all the nice toys, certainly, but do you really need all that stuff? Probably not.

    I’d strongly suggest you buy the 1.6 turbo if sporty engaging driving matters to you. The CVT that goes with the 2.0-litre is a little bit frustrating for enthusiastic driving. It displays this noticeable re-engagement lag, getting on the gas when you clip an apex and want to start feeding the power on smoothly.

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    Today's question:

    "New cars have a build date and a compliance plate. If a car has an August 2019 build date and the same year for compliance, how can it be a 2020 Model? My daughter is buying a car and it is supposed to be a 2020 model but both plates are showing 2019. Your help please." - Daryl

    There are four dates: the build date (which is self-explanatory - that’s when your car rolls off the production line) plus the compliance date (when the compliance plate goes on) the Model Year (or MY) and the first registration date.

    Build date - easy. Compliance date - that really just tells you which version of the regulations the car complies with. There’s all these compliance standards for everything from emissions to the placement of headlamps and tail lights. We call them ADRs (Australian Design Rules).

    These days, ADRs are really just cut-and-paste Retardistani or Eurotrash regulations (called FMVSSs or UN ECE regulations, respectively). There might be the odd exception, but the regulations are essentially globally homogenised to reduce compliance cost in particular markets.

    Compliance regulations evolve over time, so the compliance plate basically draws a line in the sand and says ‘here’s the time stamp for regulatory compliance for this vehicle’. Compliance date really doesn’t matter much to owners.

    Then there’s Model Year - which does a lot of people’s heads in. This concept of Model Year was invented by the Retardistanis, which explains a lot. So, in general, a MY20 (2020 model year) cars start getting built in the fourth quarter of 2019.

    It’s completely arbitrary. MY19 cars can be identical to MY20, or there might be a refresh, or a minor spec upgrade with 2020, or MY20 could herald the introduction of an all-new vehicle. Often, there’s no change.

    Historically, the fourth quarter adoption of the following model year was to give sufficient lead time to things like TV advertising. This was in, like, the 1950s, when things took time - before the world got hooked on crack and because the delight we experience daily.

    And then there’s first registration date - which is when you buy the car. Pretty simple.

    So, right now, in October 2019 you can be looking at an MY20 car built in August 2019. 

    So - four different dates. And here’s where you need to look out, and protect yourself. At trade-in time, the dealer is likely to use the build date to talk you down on price. If he gets this bullshit proposition across the line, and you buy it, he adds another year’s worth of depreciation to the trade-in equation and guts you just a little bit harder.

    Then he details the car and sells it as a 2020 model. Because … hey, there’s a body of evidence in support of the thesis that car dealers are just immoral cocks.

    Just be firm.

    Right at the moment there’s a potential minefield out there. Holden, for example, has thousands of cars on ice, essentially rotting away in paddocks because nobody wants them. I’m sure you can buy an allegedly brand new 2017 model if you look hard enough.

    Volkswagen is defecating in its trousers right now, too, because they have a surplus of unsold 2018 Touaregs on hand - so you’ll get a discount there if you achieve ‘polite arsehole’ negotiator status.

    But on these old ‘brand new’ shitheaps, the problem is: trade-in. What’s the benefit of saving five grand up front if the trade-in costs you an additional $5k in depreciation? You would have been better off in a brand new, brand new car.

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    The 2.0 biturbo engine has to work a lot harder per unit capacity, and when you look at its power delivery, it’s fair to say that it’s delivering only slightly more power than the 3.2 up to 3000rpm (where the 3.2 peaks, at 147kW). 

    The 2.0 revs 25 per cent higher and delivers another 10kW when it gets there (157kW at 3750rpm), which is a significant increase, but not earth-shattering. It’s seven per cent more power.

    So, when the 3.2 is making its peak power, it’s delivering about 45.9 kilowatts per litre. At full noise the 2.0 is delivering 78.5 kilowatts per litre. So, per litre, the little engine is working 70 per cent harder. They’re revving it higher and pumping more air in as well. Because that’s how you do it. Power is proportional to revs, if you can maintain the torque production, and more air equals more fuel, equals more torque.

    There’s no evidence that this heavier workload is going to lead to premature wear or failure - because you can hedge against that in R&D. But it’s working hard, and if you go that way, keep the services up to it - and maybe change the oil more frequently than you need to if you drive it in harsh conditions - because turbos are very hard on oil.

    Also, the 10-speed auto is likely to make for smoother delivery of tractive effort in most conditions. In a sense it’ll amplify the additional torque at the crank in the 2.0 at just about all the common driving speeds. The extra ratios really just allow the engine to be at the ‘Goldilocks’ revs for each permutation of load, demand and road speed. When I say ‘load’ I mean ‘driving uphill’ or overtaking against inertial resistance, and when I say ‘demand’ I really just mean how hard you’re pressing on the accelerator.

    This greater availability of ratios will also be better for fuel economy when you’re not driving hard. That’s evident in the official fuel tests, which involve laboratory standardised very conservative driving: 7.4 for the 2.0 and 8.9 for the 3.2. If you drive them like you stole them, or sling something really heavy behind, and expect fuel economy to plummet, and the 2.0 will be line ball with the 3.2.

    The 2.0 is slightly lighter overall, too - about 33 kilos. Not enough to make a real difference, but a bit less mass over the front axle.

    The engines themselves are pretty closely matched up to about 3000rpm - but the 2.0TT does have a slight edge. You can tell that just by looking at the peak torque figures for each engine.

    On the downside the 2.0-litre, 10-speed powertrain is relatively unproven because it has not been deployed in market long enough to draw long-term reliability conclusions. The 2.0 was released in July 2018. So at this point - 15 months in, on the 2.0 biturbo Ranger experiment - we don’t really have any data about the long-term viability of that powertrain. It hasn’t been a disaster yet, however.

    The 3.2 five-cylinder/six-speed is, on the other hand, a low-stressed engine and it’s been a fairly problem-free package.

    If it were my cash, I’d but the 3.2 right now - and the difference in price would go a long way to funding the hard cover and bullbar. But you should take them both for a drive and see if you think the 2.0TT is significantly better for you.

    If you’re a ‘go with the flow’ kind of driver, the 2.0 is probably going to be overkill - in the sense that you won’t be exploiting the engine’s maximum performance very often, if at all. Certainly the towing assignment here is reasonably conservative in the context of the vehicle’s maximum tow capacity (but 2.7 tonnes is still a very heavy thing…).