Cars & Motorcycles

Wheels June 2019

Wheels is Australia’s original motoring magazine. Launched in 1953, we’ve been trusted by generations of Australians to provide entertaining and forthright opinions on the good, the bad and the ugly of new and used cars. A world-class car mag with a formidable international reputation, Wheels covers the full gamut of cars – from sports cars to four-wheel-drives, economy to family cars – but it also covers the people, personalities and the power plays behind one of the world’s most dynamic industries.

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6 Issues

in this issue

3 min.

THE STRANGEST THING happened this month: cars became a major political issue. Well, when I say cars, I really mean EVs. What other vehicle holds such political promise, such opportunity to appear forward-thinking and ‘green’, or such ammunition with which to paint your opponent as a coal-mongering Luddite? You could practically hear the speech writers rubbing their hands together with glee. As I write this, the Federal election is just over a week away, so I realise that by now, the discourse may have moved on. But honestly, can you think of another topic that has accelerated from zero to linchpin election issue faster than EVs? For a while there it was all-pervading. EVs were on TV, on the radio, in my Facebook feed and on the front page of the paper.…

2 min.
rivian – rugged reality check for tesla?

THE IDEA OF a decade-old startup seems an oxymoron but that’s an apt description of electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian. Based in the western Detroit suburb of Plymouth, Michigan, as ferrous a location in the US rust belt as you could possibly imagine, Rivian aims to disrupt the traditional Motown mass-marketing model – but whereas Tesla was the tech company outsider, Rivian has solid car industry backing. And that expertise pool in the physical manufacture of vehicles should be enough to put Elon Musk on notice. To fund his startup, Rivian founder RJ Scaringe (see below) initially raised US$450m (A$645m) from three major investors: the Saudi investment group Abdul Latif Jameel, Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation and Britain’s Standard Chartered bank. In February an Amazon-led consortium poured in US$700m and Ford subsequently took a…

1 min.
who is rj scaringe?

The 36-year-old CEO of Rivian’s love of cars began as a kid, helping build a Porsche 356 in his neighbour’s garage in Melbourne, F Florida. A doctorate in mechanical engineering from MIT’s Sloan Automotive Lab followed, the young entrepreneur harbouring a dream to build high-performance, low-emission vehicles. After funding was secured and plans to develop a coupe shelved, Scaringe assembled a dream team of talent, including Mark Vinnels, Rivian’s executive director of engineering, a man with the McLaren 720S on his resume, and Jeep design guru Jeff Hammoud. Scaringe has diverged from Tesla in tapping into the knowledge pool of car makers’ manufacturing, engineering and design experience. “He’s taken time to learn from everyone’s mistakes, and he’s going after a market that is still growing,” Tony Posawatz, an industry consultant who helped…

4 min.
jlr’s uncertain future

WHERE DID it all go wrong – again – for Jaguar Land Rover? Every year since 2011, JLR made more in annual profit than the A$2 billion it cost Ratan Tata to buy it from Ford back in 2008, saving it from its last major crisis. Profits peaked at $4.8bn in 2015, thanks to strong new product, booming sales in China and the explosion in global demand for SUVs. But in February JLR announced that it had lost a staggering $6.3bn in its third quarter alone, and is cutting 4500 jobs and $4.6bn in costs. It hasn’t announced its final loss for the full financial year, which ended in March, but annual sales are down six percent, and the decline accelerated in the final quarter. Jaguar posted a three percent rise, but that’s…

1 min.
will strife mean tata to jlr?

TATA INSISTS that JLR isn’t for sale, but with no synergies between JLR and Tata’s Indian car business, it has never made a particularly logical owner. “There’s not many people at Tata who really know why they own JLR,” says car industry analyst Max Warburton. The mounting losses might be all the incentive Tata needs to put the operation on the market – and there would be no shortage of suitors if it did, Warburton says. “It could be PSA buying it, or any of the three Germans. And an acquisitive Asian company like Geely or another Chinese OEM would definitely look at it,” he says. A new owner would likely be less sentimental about Jaguar remaining a maker of petrol-powered sedans, and would probably rationalise Land Rover’s range to suit its current,…

1 min.
getting a quick plug in

IT’S THE MOST commonly asked question by potential EV buyers: how long will it take to charge, and what will it cost? Fact is, there are significant variables at play here. Times vary depending on the vehicle and the charger. On a home charger – typically 30 amps for 7.2kW of electricity – it’s a straight division by the size of the battery. For example, the 90kWh battery in the Jaguar I-Pace would take about 12.5 hours. But for higher output chargers it’s trickier, partly because it depends on the car being able to accept the charge. If the rated input of the car is lower than the maximum output of the charger, then the rate of charge will be throttled back to accommodate the car. Also, battery damage can occur if the…