Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ford Kuga: A Qualified Opinion

How disappointing. I received an email from Quantum Market Research:

Recently you showed some interest in buying an SUV called the Ford Kuga. Ford is very interested in asking you some questions regarding what you thought of the Ford Kuga and what you look for when purchasing an SUV.

Oh goody, someone cares about what I think! some one is "very interested" in what I think and what I look for!
Unfortunately, after 5 qualifying questions, I was booted out! Apparently that first statement in the email was a total lie, and now I, as a potential customer feel like I am not interesting and my thoughts are not important. 
Of course that's not entirely true, in that I didn't feel that way, but some potential customers may have, and of course my opinion is important. 
Way to distance the customer from the product Quantum Market Research.

Here's the 5 Qs:
Are you male or female?
How old are you?
What state are you from?
Have you bought a new car?
Do you work in the automotive industry/nooz?
Unfortunately, I didn't qualify (and it wasn't the last question because I said no. The Automotive industry is not my profession). Whether that was because I wasn't the correct configuration or Quantum Market Research are Blues fans (Go Maroons!) is irrelevant. I have an opinion on the Kuga and I'm going to share it dammit!
It's heavier than a Commodore Evoke wagon and only marginally more efficient, however the cost of the required premium fuel would certainly mean greater running costs. 
That's before even talking about servicing costs or the possibility of using the greener LPG option for the local product. 
Statistically the Kuga appears markedly under powered with the 1.6 ecoboost. I am fairly confident that fuel consumption would be pretty ordinary under load, particularly in hilly areas. Why on earth would you use a 1.6 in the Kuga but a 2.0 in the Falcon (which weighs less!)? #weird
Of course there is good news to be had though, in the frugal and grunty 2.0 Diesel coupled with the direct shift 6 speed transmission, but it's going to cost you 40k at least for the privilege (which isn't too bad really).
You get points for how it looks too. The design is reasonably good for the upper end of the segment, however, it has just stopped being contemporary. It's now out of date. If you sit a new X-Trail next to it, it's Star Trek (the one with the young hot Kirk) vs. Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek IV the Journey Home. Have a guess which is the Vulcan.
Interior wise, the Spanish built Kuga is mid pack, mainly due to the centre stack which looks like something Sony designed in the late 90's. I do have "a problem" with Sony in that I still think they're cool, but I'm partying like it's 1999. No one else is.
Now here's the rest of the good news: I don't REALLY care about any of that stuff (except the 1.6 Ecoboost). 
What I'm looking for is; how well I can fit the kids seats? 
How easy it is to get the pram/portacot/lilo/esky/8 changes of baby clothes/300 nappies/tent etc. (dependent on requirements at the time) loaded into the back...... and then access the clothes bag to retrieve the only Octonauts DVD that is required (the other 4 are the wrong ones).  
Can I easily pass a frozen coke fruit popper to the seat behind me? 
Does the cover of the centre console bin become wobbly after kids constantly use it as a thoroughfare to escape when you are trying to buckle them in? 
How easy is it to get the McDonalds fries out from next to the front seat rail?
Is there somewhere to store a spare change of clothes and emergency wipes for the juniorest burger (we're potty training)?
If, for some strange reason I actually drive on some wet grass, will my pretend 4X4 have the guts to pull itself up that seemingly innocuous knoll without awkward slipping and revving whilst the other dads at the camp ground point and laugh nervously hoping they don't have to do the same with their flimsy french poodle Peugeot?

According to your survey, you already know I'm not your target market. I mean sure I'm a mid level white collar professional under 40 (just) with three kids and a 3 year old car I bought new, but who's interested in what I think? 
Maybe next time around, we will buy an SUV because as I try out more of them, I can see their practical value, but they are still slow as shite. 
Right now, many SUVs are still badly done cars or weak sauce off road vehicles, with almost minivan practicality. They are rapidly moving toward becoming more car like, and that's a good thing (handling wise) but they need more power! 
Think about it. SUVs are supposed to be for holidays as much as the everyday. But when you are on holiday, that is when you have the least rearward visibility, the highest load and usually the longest travel time. They are all risks. The last thing you need is to find out that 240nm really isn't a lot when you are trying to overtake a caravan on unfamiliar roads.
Chances are, I'm just going to buy another Commodore wagon anyway, because  my wagons already do what I want (except for retrieving fries from next to the seat rails) and I can safely rely on the little bit of extra power to safely overtake, irrespective of if I have my whole family on board with all our camping gear or not. 
So there you go Quantum Market Research. That's what I thought of the Ford Kuga and that is what I look for when buying an SUV. Not that you care. I don't qualify. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

What is a Furphy?

[This was originally posted on one of my other blogs dated 7 December 2013]
Furphy and sons is an engineering firm still running in Shepparton, in Victoria. Their water carts were used to deliver water to regional settlers in the late 19th century and they used to bring more than just clean drinking water. They would also deliver rumours carried from one settlement to the next. Those rumours (or Furphys) would also permeate through the settlements from one little whisper or overheard conversation to the next.

I heard my own Furphy yesterday as my gas guy turned up to swap out my empty gas bottles.

“Holden’s shut it’s doors!” Mr Gas mentioned with some concern.

“That’s not actually accurate, “I replied, “nothing has been confirmed. No one has even put their name to it”.

“No I just heard it on the radio. It would be a real shame to see them go”.
“That’s just a rumour”, I told him. I then gave him too much information to possibly pass on at his next stop, so here’s what’s what as far as I’m aware. You can pass it on, but none of it is rumour.

This is not a Furphy.   

Just a few days ago, ABC News citing “Senior Government Ministers” reported that the decision to close Holden has already been made in Detroit.

Holden has denied this.

None of these senior ministers have put their name to the claim.

Minister for Industry and Liberal Member for Groom, The Honourable Ian Macfarlane MP said he has talked to Holden and the speculation has been denied.

Some of you whom may not be familiar with the current circumstances surrounding, not just Holden, but all automotive manufacturing in Australia, may need a little context, so here it is:
Losing car manufacturing and associated industry amounts to an estimated 7.3 billion dollars per year (estimated based on a study by Monash University’s Centre of Policy Studies and the Allen Consulting Group).

Currently it costs Australia per capita, $19.8/year. In return for that investment we get back an estimated $289 per capita.

The Liberal Government went to the 2013 election with a promise to cut $500 million from automotive manufacturing transformation scheme.

They also announced that they would undertake a productivity commission to understand what type of assistance would be needed for a sustainable industry.

Post election the Coalition then reiterated their position that they will not remove any monies that have already been allocated.

Since this recent Furphy from “senior government ministers” who seemingly don’t have names, Prime Minister Abbott has said the government would not be making any additional money available.

Then called on Holden to “make their position clear”.

Keep in mind, of course, that the industry is under said productivity commission review which determines the level of investment Australia is willing to make.

Holden Managing Director Mike Devereux was previously earmarked to leave Holden at the end of this year and move to the General Motors International Operations, however he will now remain until first quarter 2014 to maintain continuity for the Productivity Commission process.

So the Coalition have said they would remove $500 million dollars,
 then said they would have a productivity commission before taking any action,
 then publicly stated they would n’t add any more money.
Then told Holden to make up their mind based on one of these three possible scenarios.

The estimated number of jobs in danger if Australian Automotive manufacturing was lost, range from 55,000 to over 200,000 when considering associated parts manufacturers.
Right now the industry makes Australia money and provides thousands of jobs.

Those are the facts as I currently understand them. 

If you want further information, disagree or want to test any Furphys you may have heard, leave a comment below, tweet or email me and I'll help as best I can.


For Car Reviews and further opining and car reviews LOFLYTVIDEO

The Democratic Perspective

[shifted from one of my other blogs]
Toyota Australia doesn't build a drivers car. This is not a revelation or a new point of view. Depending on which side of the circumstance you are on, that was a wise choice. From a car enthusiasts point of view we tell ourselves that if they built something amazing and exciting, they could have saved their operation. If only they built the X130 platform and sold the Mark X instead of the Camry. If only they released a high performance version, if only, if only, ad infinitum. Nonetheless, they have decided to stop building cars in Australia. Now we can all get along.

Regular folks survive on the single premise that if you find other people whom believe the same things you believe, you must all be right. At some point, with enough weighted debate and affirmation, those other people will agree. They'll come on to your team and we can all be right together. 

Unfortunately, many enthusiasts (whether they be car enthusiasts, astronomy enthusiasts or stamp enthusiasts) still believe this premise rings true for them, despite being aware that they inhabit a niche corner of society. 

You can apply this assumption to the previous Mark X hypothesis. We assume that everyone would appreciate the option to steer with your right foot. We assume that Uncle bob will appreciate the potential to turn his family conveyance into well balanced corner crushing grand tourer with just the addition of better locally tuned suspension and some wider rubber. 

We assume wrong. 

Because although cars are our domain of knowledge, and some of us trawl through endless blogs forums press releases and reviews, just to find that little bit of information which could lead to automotive nirvana (or in some cases just bragging rights in a verbal punch up), most would not have a clue about what every day people WANT to drive. 

Maybe everyday Joe and Judy Citizen HAVE been coerced by corporate marketing to want to drive a particular segment type. This is often paranoia, but, it's nice to believe because then we can go back to that premise that if they weren't coerced, they'd be one of us. hooray!

I'm afraid the inverse is true. 

Of course people are influenced by marketing, but that doesn't change the fact that many probably WOULDN'T appreciate the act of balancing between mild over-steer and all out drifting action. 

Most would determine that feeling of still going straight ahead when turning the wheel, as a sign that they are going too fast. You're not, it's just that your car under-steers and you have n't set up for the corner properly... or you bought the cheapest replacement tyres you could find... or it's front wheel drive so you've already started handicapped by driving your car backwards.

The key point here is that understanding your operating environment is ESSENTIAL to making the right decisions in managing outcomes. 

Toyota closing their Australian manufacturing facility, is likely the death knell for an automotive focus in Australian manufacturing. If you heard a single car enthusiast bemoan the loss, it's most likely because of the loss of industry. It's highly unlikely you will hear them complain that they wont be able to buy a 2018 Camry. (you will, it just wont be built here)
Now, we are hearing all the complaints from people about another industry being lost/outsourced.

Now, we are hearing all the "industry experts" coming out telling everyone why the industry failed. 

Now we are hearing politicians all talking with authority on what should have been done.

I overheard a local market stall owner saying "you know what they did? they just priced themselves out of the market". 

I even heard a commentator talking on Q and A (which I usually avoid because it's just a big political pissing contest that most people only watch in some vague hope their snippy tweets will get posted live) talk about how [this is a paraphrase as I was only jumping back from curling in Sochi] 'the German Automotive Industry is so great and they pay their workers very high wages' and then in the next chance to blab, go on about 'if you can't compete with EU wages you can't be viable'. 

Of course Australian auto manufacturers wages are lower as are our tariffs.

P.S. Snippy Tweeter on QandA #1 "Australia's car industry is the most subsidised in the world" is the polar opposite to the truth.

All these people are influences on our society. Despite one guy being a honey vendor and the other being a law professor, the things they say effect the opinion of anyone who listens to them. If the listener is not particularly conversant in that subject, they will swallow the line whole.

Thus propagates the Democratic Perspective. Most people just want to belong, and, in pursuit of such will believe what ever they're told, even if the purveyor of the truth is just a stamp enthusiast. 

That's why democracy is so shit. To be successful in a democracy, you have to be the most popular, which means you have to be the most broadly appealing. 

To actually know what you are talking about, you need to be, at best a specialist, at worst an enthusiast.