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Michael's Speed Zone

16th April 2001

By Michael Knowling

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Jeez some people are stupid. What am I talking about, you ask? Those loud mouthed do-gooders that are currently kicking up a fuss over car adverts on (Australian) television.

I could barely believe my eyes and ears on a news report, which - somehow - linked the increasing number of road fatalities to claimed "unsafe driving practices" displayed in new car ads. Pretty vague association, wouldn't you say?! Don't bother focussing on stuff like vehicle road worthiness, road quality or driver skill/training... Blame the TV - it's the cause of all evil y'know!

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After showing some grab-your-attention car accident scenes, this typically shallow news item jumped straight in to a few comments from some advertising standards 'guru'. According to this bloke, it seems the current batch of car ads draws a large amount of criticism from the public. "Gee, is that right", I thought to myself as he merrily prattled on, "obviously those people have too much time on their hands to dream up illogical parallels. Maybe they should spend less time in front of the TV and occasionally delve into the real world!"

After the verbal pitter-patter ended, it turns out there were no hard facts to tie the road toll to car advertising. Of course.

To 'support' these claims, however, a couple of these 'irresponsible' ad snippets were put up on-screen.

First came a current Ford ad where the driver's face is - very animatedly - distorted due to the immense speed of the machine he's driving; if you're familiar with this ad, you'll know it's meant as nothing more than a light laugh. I can't imagine too many bozos hitting the road to discover how fast they have to go before that 'really' happens - can you?!

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Second came a Mitsubishi ad. This ad is centred around the company's support of a particular Olympic Games, and - to illustrate that - you see various cars from the line-up performing 'athletic' moves. Again, I don't think anyone's going to try any of it too literally.

At the absolute most, the road fatality-to-TV advertising tie is e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y loose. Nonexistent in my view.

Furthermore, I noted that both of these 'example' ads were filmed away from public roads; the Ford ad was set in a high-speed loop, while the Mitsubishi ad had a purely animated background.

Am I to believe that all fast driving we see on television - whether in an entirely controlled or fake environment - can be held accountable for the road toll? I hope not, because that means motorsport coverage will surely get the flick and, heck, all of those classic car chase movies will need some heavy editing. I reckon there'd be a few cartoons getting thoroughly carved up too.

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How on earth do these misguided do-gooders come up with the trash that they pedal? Who are these people?

My view is this: if you really want reduce the road toll, focus on the core issues - vehicle roadworthiness, road quality, driver education and skill training. Yes, even speed cameras go toward helping the cause - when used in the correct manner.

Perhaps these ideas can be pencilled in on the agenda for the next do-gooders lounge meeting...

Ahh - now that my pulse has returned to normal - have you ever stopped to consider the number of new cars currently being sold in Australia? Take a look around - the Aussie market has never seen such a veritable automotive smorgasbord...

In addition to the expanding ranges of long-time players - such as Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Mercedes, etc - there's been an absolute tidal wave of newcomers. Manufacturers like Hyundai, Kia, Proton and Daewoo have ploughed a variety of cars into the marketplace - even faithful ol' Jeep, Chrysler and Rover have returned to the scene.

The choice of new cars today is bewildering.

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Let's say you're entering the market for a new 2 or 4-door hatchback - where do you start? There's an amazing 27 cars to chose from! (Alfa 147, Audi A3, Xsara, Matiz, Lanos, Cuore, Sirion, Ka, Laser, Barina, Astra, Civic, Accent, Rio, 121, 323, Mirage, Pulsar, 206, 307, Satria, Clio, Ignis, Echo, Corolla, Polo and Golf. Phew!)

Of course, the price range of those 27 cars varies from $11,250 (for the Daihatsu Cuore) to $66,950 (for the Audi S3), but you get the point; there's heap of choice.

In contrast - 10 years ago - there was the Charade, Mira, Festiva, Laser, Barina, Nova, Civic, Excel, Lancer, Pulsar, 205, Renault 19, Fiori, Swift, Corolla, Golf and - yes - Lada. That adds up to a total of 'only' 17 cars - there's 37 percent more choice today.

Of course, high-performance machines are what AutoSpeeders hanker after, and - yes - I'm pleased to see things have improved in this sector too. To qualify as hi-po, I reckon you're really talking cars capable of 0-100 km/h in 8 seconds or less, with decent suspension tune - a package deal.

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At the lower end of today's hi-po market - say, up to around $55,000 - you can scoop a Subaru WRX, STi or B4, Audi A3 turbo, Ford XR6/VCT or XR8, Holden Commodore S supercharged, SS or Monaro CV6 supercharged, HSV XU6 or Maloo (including R8 model), Honda Integra Type R or Prelude VTi-R, Mazda MX-5 SP, MGF VVC, Mitsubishi Magna Sports/VRX or Ralliart, Nissan 200SX, Renault Clio Sport, Toyota Celica, VW Golf GTi, Beetle turbo or Bora 4Motion V6.

That's 26 cars.

Step up in budget - up to $80,000 - and you've got the Mitsubishi Evo 6 Tommi Makinen, Alfa GTV V6, Audi S3 and TT coupe, BMW 325 series, Tickford TE/TS50, Monaro CV8 and GTO, Honda S2000, HSV Clubsport (including R8 model), Lexus IS300, Saab 9.3 Aero or S40 T4.

There's yet another 15 cars.

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Again - rewinding 10 years - you'll find the choice is nowhere near as abundant. Never mind our under $55k performance bracket; you'll find there's only 16 cars to chose from under our $80,000 ceiling (in 1992 money).

There's the Alfa 164 Q, 325i coupe, TX3 4WD, Capri turbo, XR6 and XR8, Commodore SS, Clubsport, Senator, GTS, RX7 turbo, VR4, 300ZX, Saab 900 turbo, Liberty RS and Celica GT4. Relatively slim pickings, eh?

We'd much rather have 41 hi-po cars to select from rather than 16... Now you now what to say when someone grumbles "there's nothing decent on the market"!

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