Saturday, October 26, 2019


Okay, I couldn't resist the beautiful French translation of "The Car Women of France."
Linda Jackson and Anouk Poelmann are same-same, but different. 

Both, clearly, are women. And they are both also the CEOs of car companies.
But Jackson is global boss of Citroen, whilst Poelmann is the new Australian head of Renault.

Linda Jackson and Anouk Poelmann
Each has a message about their company’s future, both are bullish about the future, but they diverge on the implementation of their survival plans.

And, ironically, Poelmann has only just arrived at Renault Australia, from a previous post as local boss of Peugeot Citroen.

For her, it’s time for Renault to have a product-led rival in Australia and to champion a move away from the price-driven approach that has clearly done nothing for the French carmaker, either in sales, reputation or ROI, Down Under.

Ironically, in historic terms it's amazing to look back to the 50s and 60s and remember that Renault and Peugeot brands, at one time, were all marketed in Australia under one importation agreement and single distributor.

Citroen has always stood alone, supported for decades by keen brand enthusiasts like Brisbane's Jim Reddiex.

“We will not try to be the cheapest out there. It doesn’t fit the brand,” Poelmann says, quietly but bluntly, over lunch in a Renault showroom in Sydney. “Start-stop marketing doesn’t work. People need to see the product and the brand a few times.”

And her message is even stronger about the situation in Australia.

“The race to the bottom in Australia has to stop. It’s just crazy. It’s not sustainable.”

Renault is lucky because every model in the range, from the compact little Clio to the muscular Master van, will be renewed over the next 18 months. 

That’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and not just in Australia.

“It comes from France.

It's revitalisation.

It’s not about words, it’s about actions,” she says.

“With so much fantastic Renault product coming we have to do a good job.

We need to talk about value, and the brand, and what the product brings, and not just talk about prices.

It just doesn’t work."

"Also, Renault, like our French competition has been in Australia a long time."

Her words could just as easily apply to Citroen, as Linda Jackson talks through her plans during a flying visit from Paris to Melbourne for the Motorclassica car show, plus dealer visits, and meetings with local management.

“I was given this job to rejuvenate Citroen. 

I think it went through a stage where it had lost its go, its mojo. 

My challenge from 2014 was to create a completely new position,” she tells me.

“We had to rebuild a completely new product plan. We had to rebuild completely in terms of brand position.

We had to build the marketing, the tone of voice. Whatever touch-point you talk about, we have rebuilt.

Even though my background is finance, I find I can talk easily to designers, engineers and brand managers about what we need."

Citroen is on the comeback path in Europe, and is aiming to avoid its past mistakes to drive forward with a fresh model line-up under a new importer, Inchcape Motors, in Australia.

Jackson rejects any hint of a withdrawal from Australia and says a bundle of small markets can quickly have a significant effect.

“To be honest, I didn’t think about shutting down Australia. But we need to modernise ourselves.

“When you’ve been here for 97 years you have to say we must have a legacy here and we must be able to rebuild something. We need to have something that’s relevant.”

Although Australian sales are unlikely to even reach 500 cars in 2019 she says it is still a worthwhile market.

“It’s an opportunity. I don't turn down any opportunity. You only need 10 markets like that and it starts to add up.

“Each country is important. Some are smaller volumes, some are bigger. Our aspirations in Australia are obviously conservative, because they need to build gradually. It takes patience, and persistence. However, IF you’re serious, then you MUST stay the course.

“First you have to have the product. Now we have to make the Citroen position relevant for Australians. That’s the piece of work we need to do.”

So both women are bullish, but also brutal.

And it’s up to Jackson to deliver a punchline that applies equally to both of the French contenders as they hit the re-start button in Australia.

“Anyone who says it will change overnight, to be honest, is spinning a yarn,” Jackson says.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019


When Hyundai rolled the original Veloster onto the road in 2011 there were plenty of questions from automobile journalists and enthusiasts alike:



Who wants one?

Well, the answers are in, and there is now a second-generation Veloster as proof that the original concept worked as planned.

That plan was to create a car that was both a hatchback and a coupe, appealing to people who want their pastries and a meal, with a most unusual idea.

The idea was one door for the driver and two for the passengers. On opposite sides of the car.

The three-door concept has survived, and thrived, and is the basis for what now amounts to an i30 hatchback for people who have around $30,000 to splash on something a bit different, or more like $40,000 with some turbo urgency.

Me? I’m still not convinced.

Redlined at 6500; slick six-speed manual; stylish coupe profile, and Speed Pilot high performance tyres, but this ain’t no sportscar.
The new Veloster doesn’t go particularly well, it is woolly in the steering and a bit bumpy in the suspension, and it’s definitely not as good as the i30 N performance car.

But I’m not the target buyer? Who is?

Apparently it’s yummy mummies, and inner-city escapees who want something that can do double duty as a practical hatch while also flashing its coupe side.

With that in mind, and my 10-year-old Eli along for the ride, I took another look.

The addition of a youngster or two is all it takes to transform the Veloster, as the passenger-side access to the rear seat is brilliant - ending the horrible contortions and seat folding needed with almost every coupe - and there is still plenty of boot space.

The cabin also looks like it suggests 'sportiness', but like the exterior styling, it's all just for looks.

It’s never going to be a car for the masses, nor the true sports car aficionado, and I hope that one day there will be a Veloster N to give the car some proper sports car credentials, but it looks good and it’s priced well and it makes more sense for families with youngsters than a Toyota 86, or my selfish favourite, the two-seat-only Mazda MX-5.

Of course the REALLY VITAL information you are seeking is “Where does the name come from?”

As there is no official explanation coming from Hyundai we turned to, wait for it, the Australian Veloster Owners’ Forum for some thoughts on the subject. I think they have pretty much arrived at the same conclusion I did:

(1) I think it's Korean for “all show not much go”

(2) Hyundai designers used a motocycle for styling cues. A motorcycle is a "bike". A VELOcipede is a 3-wheeled bike. A VELOdrome is a venue for bike racing. They also wanted the essence of a roadSTER...

(3)The truth is that while they were secretly trying out the prototype on a German autobahn, the car was going sooooo fast that the German Polizei decided to give chase. When they finally lost sight, one Polizist apparently said to the other... “Franz,... I lost 'er”.

(4) I have read and heard the same thing numerous times.
Not that it makes any sense... It's short on velocity, and is not a roadster.

(5) I still haven't figured out what a Camry is, let alone a Veloster

(6) name or secret Japanese plot for world domination?

(7) velo= latin for "swift, speedy, rapid"
ster= Korean for "not, no way, in your dreams".


Monday, October 21, 2019


My good friend Arthur is in trouble.

Alzheimer’s disease has him and, like a python with a mouse, is slowly squeezing the life out of him.

It’s a sad story because my Arthur is your Allan. Allan Moffat.

If you want to know the accomplishments of Allan George Moffat OBE you only have to turn to Google, which will tell you he is 79 years old and counts four Australian Touring Car Championships, four victories at Bathurst and six in the Sandown 500 as his career highlights.

But let me tell you another story, which tells you far more about the man inside the helmet.

First, a bit of background.

Moffat was the first truly professional race-car driver in Australia and he was a ferocious competitor. Never the most naturally-talented driver, he was ruthless about getting the best from himself, his team and his cars.

Moffat's Mustang 1969
He would turn lap after lap after lap to fine-tune his cars, from the famous Coca-Cola Mustang that landed in Australia just on 50 years ago, through to his mighty little Mazda RX-7, and even in the HDT Commodore he shared with Peter Brock at the very end of his career.

Moffat's most famous Bathurst victory - finishing 1 & 2 with Colin Bond in 1977

Now, to be honest, Allan could be a cantankerous cuss of a man. He never suffered fools, he was tough on his crews and even tougher on the media, and there are plenty of stories about him firing up during press meetings.

Once, when Wayne Webster of Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper arrived at a Moffat interview session at Bathurst wearing a Marlboro Holden Dealer Team tee-shirt he was greeted this way.
“Webster, I’m going to burn that shirt,” Moffat barked.
“Can I take it off first?” was the whip-crack reply from Webster.

Which brings me to the story of Allan and Arthur.

It was on December 1, 1984, the weekend that the World Endurance Championship first came to Sandown Park in Melbourne.

Moffat was not racing and had invited his three favourite journalists, his great mate David Roberston (from the Sydney Morning Herald), Webster and me, to a gathering at his home in Monaro Crescent in Toorak with a bunch of people including his British friend John Fitzpatrick, one of the world’s most successful long-distance racers. And, yes, he was well aware of the irony of the street name for a Ford hero.

Moffat was still married to Pauline at the time, and neither of his sons - race driver James and teacher Andrew - were close to joining him.

The evening began slowly, and I recall seeing his Ford Cologne Capri racer - soon to be sold to Fitzpatrick to fund more Moffat racing - in the garage.

Things accelerated rapidly from there and, at one point, Allan collided heavily with the glass sliding door to the back yard and his glasses exploded.

By around 2am, Robertson tried to nap on a couch, but was constantly interrupted by Moffat singing “I’ll be calling you, you-you-you”, Webster got down on his knees and started tapping on the floor.
“What are you doing?,” Moffat asked.
“I’m looking for the secret trapdoor,” Webster replied.
“What trap door?” Moffat asked.
“The one leading to the secret room.”
“What secret room?”
“The one where you have Allan Moffat tied up. You’re not Allan, you’re his evil twin brother, Arthur.”

Later that day, Allan arrived at Sandown as a VIP guest and he was not well. Pauline told us he had slumped in the shower for nearly an hour, cascading hot water over himself, to prepare for his official duties at the track.

Much later, I remember Arthur and Wayne and Wee Davie (who sadly passed away following a jet-ski accident), sitting in bed watching television as Pauline made them Vegemite toast.

Allan Moffat Ford Falcon GTHO, 1972
Over the years, the Allan-and-Arthur story continued and it got better when the late Gregg Hansford, his young protege and team mate in Moffat's Mazda RX-7 team, would join in the joke at racetracks across the country.
“Don’t go in there. It’s Allan,” Hansford would say.
“It’s OK, it’s Arthur,” was the alternative.

I’ve only written about Arthur once before, when I was working at the Herald Sun newspaper and the occasion was Allan’s 60th birthday. The morning that my column was published, the telephone rang.

“Is that Paul Gover?” said the man with the faint Canadian twang to his voice.
“Yes, it is Allan,” I replied. “It’s ok. It’s Arthur,” he laughed.

And he has been Arthur to me ever since.

L-R: Fred Gibson, Jack Perkins, Allan Moffat
In more recent times I’ve seen a fair bit of Arthur, who often travels with his long-term friend and former Ford team mate Fred Gibson, his ‘minder’ Phil Grant and his son Andrew. They are taking him out as much as they can, allowing him to say goodbye and for his countless fans to spend some time with their hero.

There are many twists to the recent tale of Allan Moffat, but this is not the time or the place. It is an opportunity for a thank-you to a great man who gave me, and so many others, great memories and inspiration.

It was Allan Moffat who taught me the value of perseverance and the need for total commitment, but Arthur who showed me it’s just as important to be genuine and honest - even soft and gentle - when the helmet comes off.

As Alzheimer’s takes Allan away, there are new memories. Like seeing Arthur racing to an ice cream van at Sandown, then morphing back to Allan for a couple of fans, then Arthur again as he led Freddie towards the pit lane with the enthusiasm of a child.

Allan and I have already said our farewells, about five years ago at the Muscle Car Masters historic race meeting in Sydney, even though I didn’t know it at the time.

As we laughed about our shared passion for the Omega Railmaster watch, which we were both wearing on the day, he leaned in close. I think he was aware, even then, that Alzheimer’s was coming.

“I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me,” he said, with an intensity that surprised me.

Now I want to say thank you back. To Allan and Arthur. He was my hero from the first day I saw him in action with the Coca-Cola Mustang and nothing has changed.

Allan (Arthur) Moffat and Paul Gover