NZ Motoring News Weekly: France, ‘Howl of a Protest’, and a Successful Kiwi Car Test

Jul 23, 2021
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By Staff writer

Lots of interesting stories out on the road today. From a significant pushback against combustion engine phase out in the EU, to a ‘Howl of Protest’ here at home, the week has been rather eventful for the auto industry as a whole. Catch the freshest stories and the latest developments in the writeup down below:


France pushes back against combustion engines mandate

France is resisting the European Union’s (EU) mandate about phasing out combustion-engine car sales by 2035, pushing for a more lenient target for the end of the decade while holding out for a longer life for plug-in hybrid models. 

An official from President Emmanuel Macron’s office reported that the French government set a target to reduce car emissions by 55% by 2030, while allowing hybrid vehicles to remain in the market for much longer. This is a bit different from the European Commission’s plan to reduce emissions by 65% from 2030 down to 0% by 2035, according to a report by Bloomberg News.

The move was prompted after Macron met with top executives from auto companies such as Stellantis and Renault, alongside other representatives in order to discuss how France will handle the transition to electric vehicles going forward. According to the official who asked not to be named, the country will also be providing fresh support for the industry in order to help them adapt to the new technology in order to keep up with the emissions targets.

Top executives from carmakers as well as suppliers like Valeo, Faurecia, and Cie Plastic Omnium attended the meeting with Macron on Monday.

France’s position is echoed within other segments within the EU as talks develop regarding the new climate targets and its impact on the auto industry as a whole. Tighter emissions standards means that the target is to ban combustion engines as part of aligning the current economy with the new deadlines. However, this does also mean that many manufacturers will have to phase out their hybrids faster than what their executives and labour officials expected.

“We know there will be no choice but to switch to electric cars,” said Jean-Marie Robert, a representative of the CFDT labour union, who was present at the meeting. “What’s important is that we prepare in advance.”

The meeting with Macron and the auto industry is part of an effort to garner support for a much slower phase out of traditional combustion vehicles despite carmakers preparing themselves for the tougher rules and regulations. According to La Plateforme Automobile, France’s main lobby group for the industry, around 17.5 billion Euros in investment will be needed by the country in the middle of the decade in order to develop batteries, charging stations, hydrogen, and other related infrastructure and related services.

Phasing out combustion engines could also eliminate roughly 100,000 auto-related jobs in France in 2035, due to the shutdown of manufacturing plants and sites, according to a PFA presentation; a huge decline from the current 190,000 workforce operating in the industry. France does lag behind other countries like Germany, US, and Japan in terms of using robots in their auto industry which makes French workers more expensive to hire compared to other territories. As the production of electric and fuel cells are less expensive, automakers wouldn’t necessarily need a lot of skilled workers to manage their operations.

As for carmakers, Stellantis, an auto giant formed via the merger between Fiat Chrysler and PSA Group, is planning on spending 30 billion Euros in order to deliver more full-electric vehicles based on where demand, state support, and regulatory pressure is currently highest. On the other hand, their rival carmaker Renault unveiled its plans for an EV and battery hub in northern France alongside its commitment to phase out combustion engines.

Kiwi-made car debut on UK track

New Zealand-based track car maker Rodin Cars has just unveiled its FZED single-seater in the UK via a series of demonstration laps at Donington Park. The car was driven by young Kiwi racer and former Toyota Racing Series champion Liam Lawson.

According to Rodin Cars CEO and founder David Dicker, “Having Liam Lawson demonstrate the Rodin FZED at Donington Park is an important milestone for the car and for Rodin Cars.”

“Our main manufacturing headquarters is established in New Zealand, but we have always intended to establish a presence in the UK and Europe, and these first laps have completed that goal with a great outcome.”

A selection of UK’s top automotive and motorsports journalists were invited to witness the car’s first laps in both the Northern Hemisphere. Hitech GP, which the racing team Lawson drives for in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, was recently on hand to support the FZED’s run at Donington Park.

“After years of development and thousands of kilometres of testing on Rodin’s own circuits in New Zealand, we’ve established the FZED as one of the fastest open-wheel race cars in the world,” said Dicker.

“More than that, we’ve also ensured that it’s easy to run, giving amateur drivers a true taste of top-level open wheel motorsport.”

Dicker also goes on to explain that their team took great lengths to ensure drivers will find the Rodin FZED an enjoyable ride, giving drivers more leeway at more moderate speeds to help them “build confidence and remove the fear factor in driving the ultimate track car.” 

Racing champion Liam Lawson also seems to echo this sentiment after testing the vehicle for himself.

“I loved opening up the FZED around a bigger track”, said Lawso. “I’d tested it at Rodin Cars’ test track in New Zealand, but I’d forgotten how fast it is. I felt comfortable straight away and could push immediately.”

“You could see the journalists hanging their phones over the pit wall. I think they were enjoying the car nearly as much as I was.”

Rodin Cars will be backing Lawson who is currently competing in the Formula 2 series and as part of the Red Bull Junior team. The deal was announced at the start of the year.

“Liam is an extraordinary young talent and I am delighted to partner with him as he continues to rise through the ranks of global motorsports,” Dicker says upon announcing the deal.

“Liam is a perfect partner as he is a driver with focus and a strategic mind, he has excelled at every step of his motorsport career and is committed to achieving the desired outcome, so for us, it was a no brainer - he is the epitome of what we stand for.”

The company says that further news regarding a partnership between Rodin Cars and Hitech GP will be announced after the 2021 British Grand Prix.

The FZED weights just around 609kg while being powered by a 3.8-litre Cosworth V8 engine, producing 503kW of power at 9600rpm and 490Nm of torque at 7600rpm. Its 826kW-per-tonne power-to-weight ratio is supposedly better than the Bugatti Chiron’s 553kW/tonne ratio or even a sports bike like a Yamaha R1 at 735kW/tonne. The company confidently claims that one would need to look at LMP1 racers or Formula 1 cars in order to find a more impressive power-to-weight ratio.

Tractors and utes take to NZ roads as protest

Farmers driving their tractors and utes have taken to the roads in a “Howl of a Protest” across 55 cities in NZ, showing their disapproval of the numerous government policies they deem intrusive to the way farmers operate and ones that increase the cost of their operations. The nationwide rally was organised by Groundswell NZ, a farming advocacy group that recently gained prominence due to speaking out against the Clean Car Discount and Clean Car Standard schemes, which places a big target on ute buyers and owners.

Thousands of farmers have taken part in the Auckland protest, with a huge park-up of utes and tractors on the Southern Motorway shoulder and a run up to Queen Street in the central business district (CBD).

This has caused a gridlock at Drury and Ramarama at 9:30 AM, with the Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency warning motorists plying the Southern Motorway to consider alternative routes to get to their destination.

Groundswell NZ’s position statement details seven points of contention, including the recent announcement of a levy on the price of high-emission vehicles starting in 2022. This levy will have the highest impact on utes thanks to their local popularity which includes favorite models like the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. Some of the most popular models are set to incur levies between $2,000 and $3,000.

“There is no electric alternative to the ute - a vehicle which is essential to New Zealand’s economic heavy-lifters: farmers, horticulturalists, industry support people and tradesmen. If there is no alternative, the policy is clearly unworkable and merely another financial burden,” Groundswell’s position statement says.

The group is also lobbying for the National Policy Statement on Freshwater, the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Bill to be scrapped. On top of this, they have also been seeking changes to the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme, the way ‘Significant Natural Areas’ are governed, and also quarantine regulations for seasonal rural workers coming from abroad.

The protesters were allowed provided they protested peacefully. Groundswell NZ has issued a memo telling their members to follow the road rules, be respectful of private property, keep dogs on leashes, and for ute drivers to display how they use their utes if possible.

“We want to be the sensible persuaders not a bunch of rednecks,” the memo adds. “Let’s be in the media for the right reasons not the wrong reasons.”


Ford's plug-In Escape and price drops

Ford introduces the plug-in hybrid Escape SUV while simultaneously dropping the price of its already on-sale Transit Custom PHEV, bringing it under the $80,000 mark in a bid to have at least 40% of its fleet to be electrified by 2030. This is all part of its plan to reduce their overall emissions and qualify for the rebate part of the discount by bringing in more plug-in and full electric models.

While Ford hasn’t exactly clarified how low the plug-in Transit will fall, it will most likely fall to less than $80K including the on-road costs and GST which Ford wants the Transit to qualify for since this is the price where the rebate applies.

It’s also possible to see the all-electric transit arrive in Q2 next year in NZ, which will comfortably sit in the ‘zero band’, no longer qualifying for the rebate due to weighing more than 3.5 tonnes, even if it’s electric and its price below the $80K mark.

Ford NZ boss, Simon Rutherford, says that there’s a chance that regulations will be changed even before the e-Transit lands and qualifies for a rebate but couldn’t say that it’s for certain. In the meantime, the range has at least been expanded by one thanks to the new Escape PHEV.

For now, the plug-in SUV’s specification levels are quite impressive. The Escape offers things like wireless charging, FordPass remote vehicle start/vehicle location, an 8-inch infotainment screen, and a full-driver assistance suite for all standard models. For ST-Line X models, the vehicles get an additional 12-inch digital driver display, a head-up display, hands-free boot operation, ten-speaker Bang and Olufsen speaker system and a 180-degree reversing camera.

According to Ford, the Escape PHEV will run up to 59km on electric power alone thanks to its 14.4kWh battery while only emitting 33g/km of C02 while consuming 1.5L/100km of fuel on average. The powertrain comprises a 2.5-litre petrol engine and a single electric motor, adding to a combined 167kW of power though Ford hasn’t quoted any torque figures in this instance.

According to Ford, drivers can also recharge the battery using thei engine if they need to or they can also let the system figure out on its own when to let the engine chime in. Likewise, you can also plug in the car to a wall outlet at home in order to charge. The Escape takes around six hours in order to fully charge.

All this is to help with Ford’s efforts to take advantage of the Clean Car Discount. After all, the brand does know that once the fees kick in for polluting vehicles, a few of its current vehicles will be hurt. Adding more vehicles to qualify for the discount will also help with the brand’s efforts in the long run.

Take care on your next weekend drive!

The obstacles do highlight the importance of community when it comes to innovation. Perhaps it pays to think about how technology and sustainable innovation can go forward without leaving the backbone of the community behind. Nonetheless, this is why things are a perpetual work in progress as governments and manufacturers continue to revise and refine their policies in order to eventually arrive at a solution that will work for everyone.

At the very least, it’s also good to take any early wins regardless of how small they are. Having a more open and positive mindset towards EV adoption and development can only be good going forward. So if you wish to try out an EV for your next car purchase, it can only help to have the best financing options available. So compare all your car loan options over at glimp’s FREE car loans comparison tool in order to find the best value for your budget.

Have a great weekend! Stay safe and happy driving!

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