Canberra car czar John McGrath's long-odds punt on installing luxury Italian franchise Maserati in the ACT may yet have a genuine payday, with the announcement this week of the brand's new compact-sized SUV next year.
Mr Grath took on the franchise in late 2018 and refurbished a showroom in the city's "car mile" in Phillip for this brand but the build-up has been slow.
The Maserati Grecale is based on the underpinnings of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio of the same size, and will be built at the Alfa factory in Cassino, Italy.
Grecale is named after the "fierce north-east wind of the Mediterranean Sea".
Both Maserati and Alfa Romeo are part of the same Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group.
The Grecale won't take the Alfa engine but its own, bespoke Maserati V6 and will be the smallest car the Italian luxury brand has produced. Hybrid and electric versions are coming, too, but not for a few years yet.
Ironically, the Grecale will compete with the Mercedes GLC which is also sold by the McGrath franchise network and which has been a good selling model in the ACT. It will also square off against Australia's best-selling Porsche, the Macan, as well as high-end versions of the BMW X3 and the Jaguar F-Pace.
Maserati has also just announced it will sell - and race - a twin-turbo V6 mid-engined sports car called the MC20 to rival Ferrari and Porsche. A detuned version of that dry-sumped engine is also likely for the Grecale.
Mr Grath has confided that the Grecale is the size of Maserati which he believes would best suit the Canberra luxury SUV market.
Aussie contribution to Nissan's electric growth
Nissan clicked over the production of 500,000 Leaf electric vehicles worldwide last week and Australia has made a small but important contribution. Every Leaf built has alloy castings from the company's little-known Dandenong South plant.
It produces niche alloy parts including inverter covers for the Leaf EV, transmission cases for the Navara and water jackets for the hybrid Note hatch not sold here.
It also produces 16,000 towbars a year.
Export value to Australia from the plant is around $82 million a year.
Nissan is cutting its global models to 55, shutting a large factory in Spain where it produces the Navara for Europe, and undergoing a radical internal rationalisation but says the future of the Australian plant, which is small but very cost-effective, remains positive.
Liberty lost under COVID
The much-loved Liberty range, which helped put the brand on the map in Australia, will be dropped by Subaru Australia next year.
Over six generations of the car have been sold here and it was the global model which was first campaigned by the company in international rallying, giving Subaru a profile which far outstripped its modest size as a Japanese manufacturer.
The late Possum Bourne, one of the Kiwi stars of Australian rally scene who tragically died in 2003 while preparing for a New Zealand hillclimb event, campaigned the all-wheel drive Liberty RS with here and across the Tasman before switching to a WRX, and was a long-running rival to Canberra's Neal Bates.
The reason for the Liberty's demise here has been the rapid contraction of the medium size sedan and wagon market.
Buyers in that market have rushed across to SUVs. The Forester is now by far the best-selling car in the brand's Australian line-up. A new Outback wagon is due out early next year but won't be available in turbo-diesel.
VW chummies up to Musk
The always watchable Tesla founder Elon Musk has a new gigafactory under construction in Berlin and flew across the Atlantic in his private jet to press the flesh with construction workers last week.
Afterwards, he reportedly took off from Berlin and unexpectedly made a very short hop across the country to visit one of his new pals, VW boss Herbert Diess.
The curious part is that Diess then invited Musk to drive VW's all-new electric car, the ID.3.
This is the car that will spearhead VW's global push into the electric car market.
Unusually for a man who loves to speak his mind on social media and any other platform, Musk made no public comments about what he thought of the ID.3, only saying on twitter that he had a "great trip".
Diess is one of the few global auto industry leaders who has dished out compliments to Musk over the years, calling him a "visionary" who has been "pushing us".
Tesla watchers have been carefully noting some interesting engineering developments at the company of late, including the installation of the world's largest commercially available alloy casting units at its US plant in the Nevada desert.
The company has filed a new patent application for a process which, if successful, will dramatically reduce weight, manufacturing costs and complexity.
Like the diecast Dinky toys of yesteryear, Tesla's house-sized so-called giga-press casts a massive single piece of structural high-pressure die-cast aluminum for the rear underbody of the recently launched Model Y. No other car manufacturer has ever used a single casting of this size.
Musk claimed the new single-piece casting design, and the goliath machine that will produce it, will deliver a 30 per cent reduction in the size of the factory's body shop.
But as engineers and panel beaters well know, large castings are a great idea but are awful to repair. A single tiny crack - as would likely be experienced in even a modest prang - compromises the structural integrity and potentially makes the whole casting a throw-away item.
Car insurers will no doubt be watching this latest development with interest.
GM's electric long game
General Motors has had some awful press here of late after its decision to abruptly withdraw from the Australian market but the resources and capability of the US company should never be underestimated.
GM, it seems, is quietly playing the long game.
It has just released details of completely wireless battery management system which will push its new Ultium electric vehicle platform to market faster.
Importantly, the concept is completely scaleable, from compact cars through to light trucks and can incorporate new technologies as they become available.
Another quiet breakthrough recently was its $US2 billion strategic partnership with an electric truck start-up Nikola.