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New decade dawns for Aussie motor industry

Top-shelf: Bentley's new Mulsanne will be one of two new super-sedans to hits Australian roads in 2010.

It will be new-model overload next year. Here's part one of our 2010 launch preview

31 Dec 2009

WITH a few exceptions, most industry experts agree Australia’s new-car market will remain flat in 2010, but as you’ll see from the preview of car launches that follows, it won’t be due to a lack of fresh metal rolling into showrooms Down Under next year.

While Ford expects the 2010 market to exceed the 930,000 mark widely tipped for 2009 – before returning to the million-plus figures recorded for the first time in 2007 and 2008 – Toyota believes sales will fail to match this year’s levels.

Both brands forecast a sales slump in early 2010 due to the pull-forward effect of the federal government’s 50 per cent tax break, which expires today and has significantly increased the number of small business owners buying cars this month.

So it will be interesting to see whether car companies continue to reduce spending on new car launch campaigns in 2010, when the number of new cars tipped to join Australian roads will again be down by up to 100,000 on 2008 levels.

Another fascinating battle will be the one between Toyota and Hyundai, both of which will benefit from price cuts on imported models as a result of the five per cent duty reduction for passenger cars in 2010.

While Australia’s most popular auto brand will attempt to reverse an 18 per cent sales plunge so far in 2009 – but has few new models to offer apart from the homegrown Camry Hybrid in February – Hyundai is up more than 40 per cent and will release three new volume-sellers in the first half.

In between, Holden and Ford (which are both down about 10 per cent this year) will launch Australian-made Cruze sedan and hatch models plus an E85 Commodore in the third quarter, and an upgraded Falcon mid-year respectively, while Mazda will be relatively quiet but is only 4.5 per cent down in 2009.

Then there is the usual array of redesigned luxury models from the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Audi, which remains 21 per cent up in 2009 and will produce yet more niche models like the A5 Sportback that kicks off the automotive launch season in January.

Top-end highlights will include new super-coupes from Ferrari (458 Italia) and Mercedes-Benz (SLS AMG), and super-limos in Rolls-Royce’s brand-new ‘baby’, the Ghost, and a new Bentley king, the Mulsanne. And at the other end of the market there’s new compact SUVs from Hyundai and Kia, and Volkswagen’s first ute.

Throw in the launches of Australia’s first $10,990 car for two decades and the first passenger cars from at least one Chinese brand and, whatever happens in 2010, Australian consumers will have access to another bumper crop of new models at some of the most affordable prices in years.

Alfa Romeo THE red-blooded Italian brand will celebrate its centenary in 2010 by launching an all-new five-door hatchback that the company believes could be its best-selling model ever.

While the relatively new MiTo three-door will remain Alfa’s entry-level model after it effectively replaced the 147 three-door, the 130mm-longer new Giulietta – which is based on an all-new platform that will be shared with Chrysler and Fiat’s next Bravo/Ritmo - will in turn replace the 147 five-door with a starting price of around $40,000.

Originally named the 148 and then the Milano, before being given its final nameplate after Alfa workers objected to the Milano name following the firm’s relocation to Turin, the Giulietta was revealed earlier this month and makes its public debut at the Geneva motor show in March.

Two 1.4-litre MultiAir variants should be available, one offering 88kW and a sportier model with 125kW, while two turbo-diesels will also be on hand in Europe - a 77kW 1.6 and 125kW 2.0-litre - and the 173kW Quadrofoglio Verde (Italian for Cloverleaf) flagship should round out the range as the 147 GTA’s successor.

Before the Giuilietta arrives here in the fourth quarter of next year, however, Alfa will release updated versions of the Brera coupe and Spider convertible in early 2010, while the MiTo will also spawn a Cloverleaf model-leader, headlined by a 125kW 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo engine and a new six-speed manual transmission.

Also due in the third quarter are dual-clutch automated manual transmission versions of the MiTo.

Aston Martin INDEPENDENT British sportscar brand Aston Martin will bring its sensational four-door Rapide to Australia in April, with first customer deliveries expected by June.

Priced from $366,000, the Rapide grand tourer is powered by a 355kW 6.0-litre V12 mated to a six-speed automatic and will be a direct rival for Porsche’s Panamera and the first of the new wave of four-door ‘coupes’, Mercedes-Benz’s CLS.

While upgraded iterations of the rest of Aston’s range – including the two-door Vantage, DB9 and DBS – should go on sale here in September, the top-shelf One-77 supercar will be launched globally in mid-2010.

One Australian has already laid down a $200,000 deposit for Aston’s $4 million carbon-fibre flagship, which has topped 350km/h in testing and is motivated by a 7.3-litre 522kW V12. At least 50 of the planned production run of 77 are sold.

It’s not clear whether that well-heeled individual will also take delivery of Aston’s new Cygnet, which is based on Toyota’s iQ micro-car but gains revised interior and exterior styling, and will be offered to One-77 customers in Europe from September.

Audi RAPIDLY growing German luxury brand Audi will launch Australia’s first new model in mid-January, when the all-new A4-based five-door A5 Sportback goes on sale.

The A5 Sportback will be priced below its equivalent A5 Coupe siblings, which open at $70,000. Variants will likely include 132kW and 155kW 2.0-litre TFSI-engined front-drive versions, plus a 176kW 3.0 TDI turbo-diesel with all-wheel drive.

They are likely to be joined in the second half of 2010 by the S5 Sportback, which like the S5 Coupe and Cabriolet will come with a 4.2-litre V8 and AWD.

Also in the second half of the year will be the R8 Spyder and redesigned A8 limousine, which launches in Europe in February. Both models have been revealed globally and the soft-topped R8 will command a premium over its coupe donor car, making it the most expensive Audi ever at close to $400,000 for the V10.

The new A8, meantime, will be longer, wider, lower and packed with more cutting-edge features, yet about 30kg lighter when Audi’s alloy-chassis sedan flagship arrives here in late 2010. It will be highlighted by a new turbo V8 mated to an eight-speed auto and Quattro all-wheel drive.

Finally, though it will debut at the Geneva show in March before hitting European streets in October, Audi’s all-new A1 will now arrive Down Under until 2011, when the Q3 compact SUV, A7 coupe-sedan and RS versions of the A4 and, possibly, A5 should also surface. Expect a facelift for the two-seater TT Coupe and Roadster next year too.

Bentley FRESH from launching the Continental Supersports Coupe, Bentley will add a new flagship sedan to its Australian line-up in the third-quarter, priced around $750,000.

On sale in the UK from May, the Mulsanne owes little to its Arnage predecessor and comes powered by an all-new twin-turbo 6.75-litre V8 delivering 371kW and a mammoth 1020Nm of torque, matched with an eight-speed auto.

The first Bentley flagship engineered under Volkswagen control, the Mulsanne measures more than 5.5 metres long and almost two metres wide, and rides on 20-inch wheels.

BMW THE Bavarian brand has another big year planned in 2010, kicked off in January with the X5 M, which like this month’s X6 M is powered by a 408kW/680Nm high-performance version of the twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 that motivates the 300kW/600Nm X6 xDrive50i.

While the latter was previously the priciest BMW SUV at $145,000, the 2035kg X5 M will cost just $7000 less than the $179,900 X6 M at $172,900. Both uber-SUVs blast to 100km/h in a staggering 4.7 seconds.

Due here in April is the X1 compact SUV, which initially will be available in two all-wheel-drive diesel specifications, with the xDrive20d priced about $10,000 lower than the ($62,200-plus) X3 from under $55,000 and the higher-performance xDrive23d topping the launch range at more than $60,000.

BMW Australia’s X1 range will be bolstered early next year by the release of the entry-level sDrive20d, which will be priced well under $50,000 and powered by the same 130kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine as the xDrive20d but drives only the rear wheels.

At the other end of the X1 scale, the flagship xDrive28i will arrive in a similar timeframe, powered by a petrol 3.0-litre straight-six engine packing 190kW/310Nm.

34 center imageLeft: Aston Martin Rapide, Audi A8 and BMW X1. Leading a trio of new 5 Series models is the all-new part SUV/part sedan GT, which arrives here in March, while the redesigned sedan launches in Europe in February and arrives here mid-year. A new 5 Series Touring will round out the range in late 2010, when a facelifted for the closely related X5 could also reach local shores.

On sale here in May is the Z4 sDrive35is, which packs a 250kW/450Nm (500Nm during overboost) version of the standard Z4 35i’s twin-turbo straight six, and adds an M bodykit and M suspension tune for about $130,000.

A redesigned X3 based on the next-generation 3 Series platform (the X1 is based on current 3 Series Touring underpinnings) is earmarked for Europe by late 2010 but is unlikely to reach Aussie BMW showrooms next year.

Chery ATECO Automotive brought us Great Wall, but remains committed to also launching the Chery passenger car brand, despite delays in design rule documentation.

A range of vehicles including the light-sized A1 hatch and A5 sedan and small Tiggo SUV was to have begun arriving earlier this year, but now it appears only the 1.3-litre A1 remains on the agenda for 2010.

Chrysler APART from mildly tweaked 2010 versions, few changes are expected for the US brand’s four-model line-up in Australia next year, but it’s possible Chrysler’s redesigned 300C large sedan – due on sale globally in 2010 – could make it Down Under by year’s end.

Citroen AN upgraded C5 mid-sizer, new C3 light-hatch and all-new DS3 premium hatch will all hit local Citroen forecourts in 2010.

The former takes a new 177kW/450Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 from Jaguar Land Rover to replace its current 150kW/440Nm 2.7-litre engine in the first half, while the redesigned C3 gets a new ‘high-forehead’ exterior design in the third quarter.

Citroen’s all-new C3-based Mini-fighter will arrive around the same time, with the DS3 likely to launch with 82kW turbo-diesel and 110kW turbo-petrol 1.6-litre engines priced from about $33,000. There are no current plans for an Australian launch for Citroen’s version of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV-based C-Zero EV, which hits Europe mid-year.

Dodge CHRYSLER’S muscle-car brand continues to work on right-hand drive business cases for the Challenger coupe and, possibly, Charger sedan. Otherwise, expect minnow 2010 updates for the Caliber small-car, Avenger medium sedan, Journey people-mover and Nitro compact SUV.

Ferrari THE Prancing Horse supercar brand’s big launch for 2010 will be the 458 Italia in June, but only for a few well-heeled buyers.

A replacement for Ferrari’s entry-level F430 coupe, the 458 packs a 4.5-litre V8 and dual-clutch automated manual transmission that delivers 0-100km/h sprints in a claimed 3.4 seconds and fuel economy of as little as 13.3L/100km.

With handling honed by Michael Schumacher before he signed up with Mercedes-Benz for the 2010 Formula One season, the 458 already commands a two-year waiting list in Australia – despite a circa-$500,000 pricetag.

Fiat THE sardine-tin-roofed 500C convertible goes on sale here in January, priced from $28,990, while the Abarth version of Fiat’s modern 500 will arrive later in 2010, powered by a 99kW 1.4-litre turbo engine that offers up to 204Nm in sports mode. Expect a pricetag in the low $30,000s.

Fiat’s other volume-seller, the Punto, will be facelifted in mid-2010, when it gains fresh front and rear styling, a new interior and new 1.3 turbo-diesel and 1.4 turbo-petrol engines – though the latter may not be sold here.

The Punto range will also be graced by a top-shelf Abarth SuperSport version in the third quarter, powered by a 111kW 1.4 turbo-petrol four. Driving through a six-speed manual, the Punto Abarth ‘essesse’ is good for 8.2-second 0-100km/h times.

Ford WITH Ford’s new Kuga compact SUV conspicuous by its absence in Australia, the Blue Oval will mark 2010 with an all-new 5.0-litre V8 for Ford Performance Vehicles and, unless it is discontinued, the XR8, plus an upgraded Euro 4 emissions-compliant inline six for its locally-built Falcon and Territory models mid-year.

A new direct liquid injection LPG system should also grace the Falcon in 2010, although the Territory’s first diesel engine has been delayed until 2011 – when the first (turbo) four-cylinder Falcon is due - perhaps in the second generation of Ford Australia’s medium SUV.

While Ford Oz continues to mull over the second-generation Ka micro, its light-sized Fiesta hatch – and all-new sedan - will be sourced from Thailand from the third quarter of 2010, spelling keener pricing and specifications.

Finally, look out for the latest generation of Ford’s global small car, the Focus, which will make its global debut at Detroit within two weeks and could land here by year’s end, eventually bringing with it up to 10 different model derivatives.

Geely THE Chinese brand that should soon own Volvo is now likely to be responsible for importing Australia’s first passenger car from China – following delays with models from compatriots Chery and Great Wall.

Geely’s Corolla-sized 1.5-litre MK sedan and hatch should become available, initially only in West Australia, in the first quarter, followed late in 2010 by the 1.0-litre four-seater city-car, the Panda, which will likely go by a different name here and could rival Chinese competitors and Proton’s new S16 as Australia’s cheapest car.

Great Wall HAVING launched its first commercials here mid-year (SA220 and V240 utes) and in October (the X240 compact SUV), Australia’s first Chinese brand still plans to stage a belated launch for Great Wall’s first (as yet unnamed) passenger car here – around mid-year.

Before then Great Wall will release a facelifted version of the V240 twin-cab, which will also become available in the second quarter with single-cab and one-tonne cab-chassis body styles, plus a diesel engine in the second half – when there will also be an automatic transmission for the Toyota 4Runner-based X240 wagon.

Holden FRESH from launching its upgraded MY10 Commodore, Statesman and Ute range, Holden is unlikely to mess with its volume-selling large-car range next year, except to deliver the E85 ethanol-compatible versions it has committed to launching in 2010.

Holden’s answer to Toyota’s Australian-built Camry Hybrid will arrive around September, shortly before Cruze sedan production shifts from Korean to Adelaide. The launch of Holden's vital new locally-developed hatch derivative of the popular Cruze small-car is likely to be pushed back to 2011.

Sadly but not surprisingly, The General has ruled out a local release for Opel’s new Astra, although Chevrolet’s sub-light-sized Spark remains on Holden’s radar as a potential rival for Suzuki’s pioneering Alto and similar pint-sized possibilities in Ford’s Ka, the Toyota iQ and Hyundai’s i10.

Chevrolet’s production Orlando, a belated replacement for the Zafira people-mover- is expected to emerge at Geneva in March but, given Holden’s Korean sourcing policy, it – like Opel’s lauded new Insignia – appears a long-shot for Aussie roads.

Honda A long-overdue midlife facelift for Honda’s third-generation CR-V has been delayed until the first half of 2010 for Australia, but with a new 110kW/350Nm 2.2-litre diesel version ruled out for our market, expect largely cosmetic changes.

While Honda has just announced the fitment of curtain airbags on all 2010 Civic sedans, which also receive new colours and wheels, the Japanese small car is also expected to benefit from a more major mid-model update in the first half of the year.

Hyundai KOREA’S burgeoning Hyundai brand hopes to build on its stellar sales growth with three new models in the first half, headlined by the additional i20 light-hatch to be positioned above the price-leading Getz from around $17,000.

Also coming early will be the ix35 compact SUV, which replaces the less-upmarket Tucson – currently Australia’s top-selling small crossover – while a replacement for Hyundai’s unpopular Sonata medium sedan will arrive with an as-yet-unknown new nameplate around mid-year.

Codenamed the YF and to be followed by a VF-series five-door diesel sibling dubbed the i40 within 12 months, the latter will be a front-drive petrol only affair like the Sonata – unlike the ix35, which should come with front-drive, AWD, petrol and diesel options from around $30,000.

While the i10 sub-light hatch, which like the i20 is built in India, is still under consideration for Australia, speculation of a right-hand drive version of Hyundai’s classy Genesis sedan and coupe continues, making both models outside chances of a late-2010 local launch.

Jaguar BRITAIN’S premium brand will open its 2010 account with an upgraded XK coupe and convertible range here in January.

Both sleek 10MY models will be headlined by more powerful yet more efficient new direct-injection 5.0-litre V8 engines from the XF and Land Rover models, but they will also come with price rises of around $15,000 - including the supercharged XKRs.

Jaguar Australia has also announced pricing for its redesigned flagship limousine, the new XJ, which goes on sale from May priced between $193,800 for the entry-level short-wheelbase XJ 3.0 V6D and $362,800 for the top-shelf supercharged XJ 5.0 Supersport LWB, which delivers 375kW and 625Nm.

Jeep LIKE its fellow brands in the Chrysler stable, the iconic US off-road marque will be relatively quiet next year, when only mildly changed 2010 versions of the Compass, Patriot, Wrangler, Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and Commander are due.

If Jeep’s redesigned flagship, the 2011 Grand Cherokee revealed at the New York show in April, does make it here next year, it will be late. As we’ve reported, the new Mercedes M-class-based Grand should bring turbo-diesel, new 3.6-litre flex-fuel V6 and 5.7-litre petrol V8 power.

Kia THE ‘other’ Korean brand will launch no fewer than three new models next year, including the all-new TD Cerato five-door hatch in mid-2010 and, in late 2010, the MkII Magentis medium sedan and MkIII Sportage compact SUV, which like Hyundai’s ix35 promises to be vastly superior to the model it succeeds.

Kia’s smallest model, the light-sized Rio, will gain a minor refresh in early 2010, ahead of its replacement in 2011, while the new XM Sorento medium SUV will score a 3.5-litre petrol V6 in late 2010.

Land Rover THOUGH it is on sale now at $44,990, first deliveries of the long-lost short-wheelbase Defender 90 won’t take place until the first quarter. The four-seater two-door will score the LWB Defender’s 2.4-litre 90kW/360Nm turbo-diesel four and manual transmission.

Having just launched comprehensively overhauled 10MY versions of its Discovery, Range Rover Sport and Rangie Vogue SUVs, the famed British off-road brand’s next major product launch won’t take place until 2011, when the first ever compact Rangie emerges, based on the LRX concept.

Lamborghini THE house of the raging bull presents three limited-edition models in 2010, starting in January with the Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni, which offers a slightly detuned 410kW (550hp, hence the name) of power from its 5.2-litre V10 but rear-wheel drive, making it the first non-AWD Gallardo. Just eight examples will come to Oz, from a global production run of 250 units.

Next up in February is the Murcielago LP670-4 Super Veloce, which winds its 6.5-litre V12 up to 500kW (670hp) while cutting weight by 100kg. Expect the AWD Lambo flagship to command a circa-$850,000 pricetag, with up to just four headed Down Under from 350 globally.

There is also the possibility of a lightweight 425kW (570hp) Gallardo, dubbed the LP570-4 Superleggera, arriving here around mid-year.

Lexus WITH 2010 versions of its LS limousine, GS large sedan and IS medium sedan launched here over the past three months, new metal will be scarce in Lexus showrooms during 2010.

The Japanese luxury brand’s biggest drawcards will not arrive here until 2011, when just five examples of the LF-A super-coupe and a dedicated Prius-based hatchback based on the LF-Ch Frankfurt concept will be released locally.

Only 500 examples of the LF-A, which is powered by a 412kW 4.8-litre V10 that revs to 8700rpm, will be made available worldwide – and all Australian examples could end up in dealer hands at least initially.

Lotus WE’VE driven the new Lotus Evora but can’t say how it performs on local roads until the embargo lifts on January 15, when full local release details will be revealed.

Available in two and four-seat configurations from $149,900, the first all-new Lotus in more than a decade is powered by a 208kW/350Nm 3.5-litre Toyota V6 that returns as little as 8.7L/100km.

On sale in March is the facelifted Exige S, which brings a larger rear wing and revised front-end.

Mahindra AUSTRALIA’S first and only Indian vehicle brand launched a facelifted version of its pioneering Pik-Up this year and plans to launch its first SUV, the Scorpio, in early 2010.

Based on the Pik-Up but employing an 87kW/290Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, the rugged mid-size off-roader is available in India in 2WD and 4WD guise and with seating for up to eight, plus an advanced fuel-saving idle-stop system.

Mahindra’s newer Toyota-based Xylo people-mover remains further afield for Australia.

Mazda THE Mazda3 Diesel hit showrooms this month and the number two Japanese brand will stage two further major model launches in March.

Mazda will then begin imports of its popular Mazda2 hatch from Thailand around mid-year, when the sedan version is offered here for the first time. The Mazda2 sedan shares the hatch’s 2490mm wheelbase and will be powered by the same 1.5-litre 76kW engine, but boot capacity is 450 litres - up 200 litres over the hatch. Expect better pricing and specification for both models, including standard stability control and curtain airbags.

No further releases from Mazda have been confirmed for 2010, but reports continue to surface from Japan about a born-again RX-7 to replace the RX-8, based on the MX-5 and powered by Mazda’s next-generation 1600cc twin-rotor Wankel engine, the 16X.

Though it’s unlikely to emerge in 2010, reports suggest that unlike the previous RX-7, the new model could be priced as low as $30,000 to undercut rivals like Hyundai’s Genesis and the production version of Toyota’s FT-86 ‘Toyobaru’ coupe.

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