Victory Ford’s Brad Wielstra with a super-efficient new car.
Victory Ford’s Brad Wielstra with a super-efficient new car. Craig Sadler

Drivers opt for greener wheels

TWEED motorists are enjoying the benefits of huge strides in technology which have significantly cut vehicle pollution and fuel consumption.

Local new car dealers say customers are chasing fuel-efficient “green” cars, and are often armed with information about the cars before they even enter the showroom.

It's little wonder, with petrol prices soaring and the NRMA yesterday releasing a study which claimed families and businesses on the North Coast, from Taree to Tweed Heads, could see their annual fuel bill skyrocket by more than $2000 for larger vehicles if unrest in the Middle East continued to force oil prices up.

Victor Lapardin, whose Tweed Heads dealership sells Australia's most-fuel-efficient car, the Ford Fiesta Econetic, which uses on average just 3.7 litres per 100 kilometres, said customers had become green and savvy.

“People's research is very high before they come into the dealership these days because of the internet,” Mr Lapardin said.

“Their knowledge is a lot higher as a consumer. We are not selling to them as much as they are selling to us.

“Our small-vehicle sales have grown considerably over the last seven months.

“People are looking for better, fuel-efficient cars.”

Mr Lapardin said his new Chinese brand, the Chery, with a small fuel-efficient vehicle called the Chery J1, was also proving extremely popular.

In Murwillumbah, Hayes Toyota sales manager Chris Estreich said the dealership had noticed an increase in the number of customers “downsizing”.

“People who were big-six buyers are now buying a smaller car,” Mr Estreich said, adding many were choosing to buy a Yaris, Corolla, hybrid Prius or hybrid Camry.

“Our sales of Camry hybrids are up this year. The performance side of those cars is enhanced by the fact they have a four-cylinder Camry engine plus a very powerful electric engine.

“The odd thing is those buyers usually have the decision made before they come into the dealership.”

Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Andrew McKellar said new cars in the Australian market were recording their lowest carbon dioxide emissions.

The National Average Carbon Emission (NACE) figure for 2010 was 212.6 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre – down 2.7% on the 2009 figure of 218.6 grams.

“This is one of the most significant yearly improvements in the NACE figure,” Mr McKellar said.

“The result is a combination of improvements in vehicle technology and a change in consumer buying preferences.

"There has been a strong uptake in new-generation diesel vehicles, hybrids as well as constant updates to the traditional petrol engine.”

The NRMA said a new study analysing fuel running costs of four of the nation's most popular fleet vehicles – the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon (also popular family cars), and Toyota Hilux and VW Transporter – found costs could rise by up to $2000 a year if the fuel price hit $2 a litre.

“Tensions in the Middle East are causing prices to increase despite the fact that production and supply has not been affected,” said NRMA director Wendy Machin.

The NRMA has called for the Australian Government to develop a strategy to reduce its dependence on imported oil.

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