DRIVE: The year that was in motoring

WHAT a frenetic year it was for the Australian motoring industry.

A record number of cars launched, record sales, the arrival of the Nissan Leaf electric car and a plug-in hybrid in Holden’s (nee Chevrolet’s) Volt all showed that while the European, Japanese and North American car markets are stagnating, we are going gangbusters.

It was an odd year in motorsport as the V8 Supercar class came to an end on December 2 when Will Davison won the last race of the season, on Sydney’s Homebush street circuit, in a Ford Falcon.

The coming season brings a raft of change to class regulations and new players in Mercedes-Benz and Nissan.

Casey Stoner, the Australian motorcycle racer who tamed Ducati’s awesome MotoGP bike a few seasons ago, called it quits, and he’s tipped to turn up in the V8 Supercar development class with Triple Eight Race Engineering as he makes his way towards the premier category in 2014.

Here is the year that was: 

JANUARY

Almost every car brand in Australia was crowing about its 2011 sales results and a Mini Countryman driven by Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel won South America’s gruelling Dakar Rally, which included two crossings of the Andes.

At the Detroit Motor Show Ford Australia announced a $103million upgrade of its Falcon and Territory production lines, and Subaru launched its Impreza-based XV compact SUV in Australia.

Volkswagen Group Australia opened its Chullora headquarters and Chrysler produced its one-millionth Pentastar V6 engine in the US.

FEBRUARY

Volkswagen announced its new Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB platform) that will underpin all future transverse-engined, front-wheel-drive Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat models starting with the seventh-generation Golf.

Hyundai launched its cheeky Veloster coupe, with one door on the right and two on the left.

Nissan announced it would join the new-look V8 Supercar ranks in 2013, with Kelly Racing to prepare and race four American-made Altima sedans powered by 5.0litre, quad-cam engines. 

BMW opened the world’s largest showroom for BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce cars and BMW motorcycles, in Abu Dhabi. 

Holden released its LPG Commodore to combat the Ford effort, released on Falcon six months earlier.

Christopher Mies and Darryl O’Young, driving an Audi R8 LMS, won their second Bathurst 12-Hour production car race. 

Mazda launched its CX-5 SUV, the first of its full SkyActiv cars, in Australia.

MARCH

Mitsubishi announced it would run a pair of all-electric cars in this year’s Pikes Peak Hillclimb.

Volvo revealed its V40 model in Geneva, showing what is possibly the world’s safest small car.

Jamie Whincup won the first race of the 2012 V8 Supercar season in a Holden Commodore; Will Davison won the second race in a Ford Falcon.

Chrysler Australia Group announced it would take over the Australian importation and distribution of Fiat and Alfa Romeo cars.

APRIL

Will Davison (Ford) and Jamie Whincup (Holden) won races three and four of the V8 Supercar series in Tasmania.

Nissan used the New York Motor Show to unveil the Altima sedan that will form the basis of its 2013 V8 Supercar racing program. 

Audi, part of the Volkswagen Group, bought out Mercedes-AMG partner Ducati Motor Holdings to put in its stable alongside Lamborghini.

Volkswagen’s Up! was named World Small Car of the Year in New York.

Ford launched its Falcon EcoBoost with 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine. Good power and torque, great chassis balance but extremely poor sales.

Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom made it a Ford/Ford weekend in races five and six in New Zealand for the fifth and sixth V8 Supercar Championship series.

MAY

Japanese luxury brand Infiniti, preparing to launch in Australia, announces its dealer network by naming just three retailers.

Fiat and Mazda agreed on the manufacture of a rear-wheel-drive roadster that will be Mazda’s new MX-5 and Alfa Romeo’s new Spider. Dual MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner shocked the motorcycle racing world by announcing he would retire at the end of the season. 

Renault revealed its A110-50 concept car and everyone in the world with high-octane blood decided they wanted one.

JUNE

 Holden confirmed a 2013 expansion of its SUV portfolio with the launch of the Trax, a small SUV that made its debut (as a Chevrolet) at September’s Paris Motor Show.

Ford’s 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged EcoBoost engine was named International Engine of the Year.

Renault’s Zoe electric car set a new production EV distance world record at France’s Aubevoye race circuit, covering 1618kilometres in 24 hours.

Sweden’s National Electric Vehicle company bought the main assets of stricken car maker Saab and announced plans to make the range all-electric.

Audi’s R18 e-tron diesel hybrid race car took pole position and the overall race win in France’s Le Mans 24-hour endurance classic. 

JULY

Porsche finally became part of the vast Volkswagen empire, joining Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Seat, Skoda and Ducati.

Mercedes-Benz showed the first pictures of its CLS Shooting Brake, a controversially styled station wagon variant of the controversially styled CLS four-door coupe.

Subaru Australia opted to sell its BRZ sports coupe online and sold its entire 2012 allocation of 201 cars in three hours.

Hyundai celebrated one million Australian sales, after 26 years here.

AUGUST

Opel, Germany’s sixth car maker, launched into Australia with the small Corsa, mid-sized Astra and compact Insignia.

Mazda started production of its Mazda6 sedan and station wagon after the global debut in Russia.

Ford Australia sold 100 Territory SUVs to Thailand. 

Prodrive pulled out of its Ford Performance Vehicles deal with Ford Australia.

SEPTEMBER

Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand launched in Australia.

The Paris Motor Show highlighted Volkswagen’s Golf 7, Peugeot 208 GTi and 2008, Renault’s Clio, Chevrolet’s (Holden) Trax, Mazda’s Mazda6 and Skoda’s Rapid.

OCTOBER

Jeep high-performance Grand Cherokee SRT8 made its market debut.

Volkswagen’s tiny Up! scored a full five-star ANCAP crash rating.

Nissan confirmed at the Australian International Motor Show it will return the Pulsar name to its Australian model range with a new car and attractive $19,990 pricing.  Nissan unveiled its 2013 Altima V8 Supercar with Kelly Racing co-principal Todd Kelly driving the initial laps of the car at Calder Park Raceway. 

 NOVEMBER

Renault and Britain’s Caterham Group announced they will join forces to design, develop and build sports cars at the  Alpine plant at Dieppe in Normandy, France.

A South-East Asian New Car Assessment Program started in Malaysia for the ASEAN countries with assistance from the Australian crash testing program management.

The Wiggles’ Big Red Car, a VW convertible, was auctioned for almost $40,000, to go to SIDS research.

Nissan’s DeltaWing sports-racing car was named Best of What’s New by Popular Science magazine.

Sebastien Vettel sealed the 2012 Formula One World Championship at the Brazil Grand Prix.

DECEMBER

Mazda launched its Mazda6 sedan and wagon and CX-9 SUV, Mitsubishi its Outlander SUV and its Audi  Q5 SUV.

Mercedes-Benz launched the C250 coupe, B250 and SLK 250 as well as CLS Shooting Brake. Renault Australia postponed the launch of its electric  Fluence Z.E. to this year.

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