Supercar brands boost appeal for women

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Sex appeal

Supercar brands are working to boost their appeal to female buyers, with Ferrari hoping its upcoming Portofino plays the practicality card as fast as the twin-turbo V8 scorches to 100km/h.

Only 10 per cent of Ferrari buyers are female, something that has the brand working harder to attract women.

Aston Martin has taken it a step further, with boss Andy Palmer appointing an all-female advisory board soon after he became CEO late in 2014. Andy recently said it was about ensuring the high-end cars still appeal to their traditional buyer base without alienating women.

“How can we better do that?” he says. “It’s simple things like the diameter of the steering wheel and the grip to the gearchange … the idea is to make the car fit like a glove.”

Brave new world

Want to be prompted by your car to hit the gym for a workout?

Mercedes-Benz will debut a new user interface for its in-car infotainment functions in the new A-Class, due around August.

While the technology will roll out to other Mercedes models in coming years, for a short time the $40k-plus A-Class will be among the most advanced cars wearing the three-pointed-star badge.

Teaming a windscreen-colour touchscreen with buttons and a separate touch pad, the new MBUX system uses artificial intelligence to predict what users may want. If you program the navigation to get to the gym on Fridays, for example, it might pre-empt that move and ask if you want to be taken to the gym.

It will also replace the traditional analog instrument cluster with a digital display up to 10 inches in diameter.

Occupants can also use the car’s voice recognition and a navigation system that uses augmented reality – tapping into a forward-facing camera and overlaying it with things such as street names and house numbers – for clearer guidance.

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From feet to wheels

Stylish and functional seven-seat SUVs are nothing new, but the latest Peugeot 5008 comes with an innovative option for busy cities – a fold-up electric scooter*.

The e-Kick scooter sells for $1695 and incorporates a 0.5kW electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery that recharges in 15 minutes.

The scooter works by assisting the rider up to 25km/h rather than powering the scooter on its own, providing a theoretical range of up to 12 kilometres.

Peugeot describes it as “mobility for the last mile of the journey”, so a perfect way to get from the car park to the office.

It’s not the first time a car maker has offered a bike with a car; in the 1980s Honda sold its tiny City with the option of a folding motorbike.

*RACV advises that electric scooters with a maximum power output of 200 watts or more are classed as a motor vehicles and can only be used on the road if they are registered and the rider has a motorcycle licence or learner permit. You can use them on private property.

Happy half century Hilux

It was 50 years ago that the Toyota HiLux first arrived in Australia.

Back in 1968 Toyota was a tiny brand down under best known for its LandCruisers helping build the giant Snowy Mountains hydro scheme.

Since then the HiLux has evolved from a basic reliable work ute into a dual-cab off-roader that doubles as family transport.

It’s also Australia’s top-selling vehicle.

However, while Toyota is always looking for a marketing opportunity, it appears the HiLux’s birthday will go by without one of the anniversary limited-edition models that are common for such milestones.

Cars v bikes

Sales of bicycles pushed back past vehicle sales again in 2017, following a rare dip in 2016.

Since 1999, with the exception of two years ago, bikes have outsold cars according to figures supplied by Bicycle Industries Australia (BIA), the peak body for the bike industry.

The figures are compiled through customs imports, so don’t include the tiny proportion of bikes produced locally. But they are a strong indicator of overall sales for an industry that has seen demand in excess of one million since 2002.

BIA general manager Peter Bourke blames the recent soft demand partly on government policies surrounding bikes, including the years of wrangling involved in getting federal and state governments to agree on a policy for electric bikes, or e-bikes.

“As soon as we see a positive policy from government, bike riding and bike ownership does increase,” Peter says.

As for e-bike sales, BIA estimates just 2 per cent of the 1,227,197 bikes imported last year included an electric drive system.

Written by Toby Hagon
April 23, 2018