THE move by Zagame Automotive to open an all-new $15 million Maserati dealership, right in the heart of Melbourne, late last year is paying off.

Surging demand for the legendary Italian car maker’s products, which saw Victorian sales increase by 166 percent in 2014, according the official VFACTS figures, are accelerating into 2015.

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ABOUT 60 years ago, the promotional slogan for a cute Italian three-wheel service vehicle translated as ‘Ape, the vehicle that helps you to make money’.

The Australian company bringing these iconic vehicles into the country for the first time and modifying them for local conditions, Apelino Pty Ltd, believes that motto will soon hold true for a great many Australian businesses. 

The manufacturer of the Ape – as it is popularly known in Europe, pronounced ah-peh and meaning ‘bee’ in Italian – Piaggio, is probably best known for its Vespa scooters. Vespa is Italian for ‘wasp’. Like the Vespa, the Ape is said to be named after the buzzing sound of its engine.

The Piaggio Ape is being adapted for some highly innovative Australian service companies by Apelino Pty Ltd, with local manufacturing and design for the vehicle’s plethora of rear service hatches and canopies, according to executive director Wolfgang Roffmann.

He said for the last 60 years, the Ape has probably been the world’s most versatile commercial vehicle.

“Its three wheels have plied the world’s roads since the end of the Second World War, carrying all sorts of cargo,” Mr Roffmann said.

“One thing is for sure, wherever the Ape is spotted it will attract attention.

“The Ape represents one of the most significant chapters in the history of urban mobility and commercial transport. A one of a kind vehicle and unmistakable silhouette it has become a transport icon. The Ape is a part of Italian history.”

Originally used for transporting goods to local businesses through the narrow streets of Italian cities, using the Piaggio Ape as a mobile retail site followed shortly after. 

Mr Roffmann said in recent decades, using the Ape as a retail unit has had a renaissance in other countries in Europe, particularly Germany and the UK.

“The Ape 50 attracts attention wherever it is spotted,” he said.

Powered by a 50cc two-stroke engine with a four-speed gear box, in its latest version, it has a top speed of about 40kmh

“The performance is suited to the job, with good torque for hills, but a low top speed,” Mr Roffmann said.

“The rear loading area is a large flat 120x120cm, which gives space for a number of possible setups, such as coffee machines, juice bar, hot dog stand or even a pizza oven.”

It has taken Apelino almost two years from the time a decision was made to bring them to Australia, to make it a reality.

Mr Roffmann conceived the plan to bring the Piaggio Ape to Australia, after being told that was near impossible to do, because of the stringent Australian Design Rules and associated compliance.

Just a few months ago, Apelino received approval by the Federal Department of Infrastructure for compliance with Australian Design Rules and the right to add identification plates, permitting the Apes to be registered for road use across Australia.

“The compliance approval has been a very long and often frustrating exercise and there was a lot to be learned,” Mr Roffmann said.

Piaggio Commercial Vehicles in Pontedera worked together with Apelino to make this happen. The conversion to retail units and all associated compliance modifications are done in Australia.

Apelino, based in Brisbane, has ordered its first shipment from Italy, with eight units expected to arrive at the end of September.

Four of the eight units were almost immediately committed, with one each going to Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland, but by the time the vehicles landed last month they had all been sold. The next shipment is expected to arrive in mid November 2014.

Public markets, food service and special events are expected to be Apelino’s main markets.

Video of the Ape driven by an Apelino Pty Ltd staffer can be viewed at:



AUSTRALIAN specialist caravan designer and manufacturer, Jayco has introduced its new,  purpose-designed JTECH Suspension across its range of recreational vehicles.

“Following an extensive two-year test (at the Australian Automotive Research Centre), JTECH Suspension has been custom-designed to complement the Jayco Endurance Chassis,” said Jayco national sales manager, Shane Holloway. 

“JTECH Suspension replaces beam axles with individual stub axles. This enables each wheel to react independently to the road surface, while also lessening the chassis’ unsprung weight,” Mr Holloway said.

“This delivers greater stability, a smoother ride and predictable handling. We’ve increased ground clearance without increasing ride height, and the result is easier and safer towing than ever before.”

The new suspension raises the bar in the sector, in tune with Jayco’s latest Euro styling approach to the range.

“It’s not just about good looks and all the creature comforts,” Mr Holloway said. “At Jayco, we are committed to providing an ever-improving standard of smoother and safer driving.

The JTECH Suspension helps promote enhanced stability under tow because the wheels react independently of each other over uneven ground. The result, Mr Holloway said, was smoother handling due to optimised coil springs and shock absorbers, increased centre ground clearance because there is no solid beam axle, and easier towing due to a more smooth, stable and predictable ride. 

“In addition, JTECH Suspension is electro-coated (E-coat),” Mr Holloway said.

“This provides high corrosion and chip-resistant protection that’s unique to Jayco’s entire range of recreational vehicles.”

Mr Holloway said he expected the new suspension would further enhance Jayco’s reputation for reliability and help maintain its lead position in the sector as an Australian manufacturer that is able to provides national support around the clock.


SEVEN Australian automotive supply chain firms will receive a total of $4.3 million to diversify their products and customer bases through the Automotive New Markets Program’s (ANMP) third round of funding.

They have nominated to use the funding to develop new markets in the cycling, aerospace, defence, packaging and petrochemical industries.

The $42 million ANMP is a joint initiative of the Federal, Victorian and South Australian Governments to help automotive component producers win work in non-automotive markets domestically and internationally.

“These ANMP funded projects display the leading edge manufacturing capabilities of our local automotive supply chain firms,” Federal Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane, said.

“These grants will help automotive firms remain viable by diversifying into non-automotive markets and ensure that vital manufacturing capabilities remain in Australia.” 

Mr Macfarlane said projects to be funded included manufacturing cycling training simulators; casting metal components for the aerospace and defence industries; transforming production lines to producing new packaging products for the food and medical/pharmaceutical industries; and producing emergency pipe repair clamps for the oil and gas industries.

Victorian Minister for Manufacturing David Hodgett said local automotive companies have valuable skills which have been developed over many years, and these capabilities can be adapted to a wide range of industries. 

“The ANMP provides the much needed support for companies to innovate and diversify their products away from the automotive industry and into new sectors,” Mr Hodgett said.

South Australian Minister for Automotive Transformation Tom Koutsantonis said, “These ANMP projects show that South Australian automotive firms are determined to adapt in changing times to ensure that SA continues to have an advanced manufacturing industry.

“Our recipients are committed to maintaining their manufacturing capabilities and the ANMP provides crucial support to allow them to diversify and develop new products for new customers.”

Automotive New Markets Program Round 3 Successful Applicants:

Grant recipient

Project title/description

Grant amount (ex GST)

Australian Precision Technologies Pty Ltd

Project Matchrider:  Global manufacturing and assembly line for “Matchrider” Pro Cyclist training simulator.



L&L Products Australia Pty

Development and manufacture of nonwoven textiles for engine compartment insulations and heating ventilation and air conditioning insulations.



AW Bell Pty Ltd

Sales of defence and aerospace grade investment cast components.



Blown Plastics Pty Ltd

Local packaging hub for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), e.g. soft drinks and toiletries.



Sneddon & Kingston Plastics

Transformation of automotive production lines to plastic food container production lines.




Precise Global

Development and manufacture of hot stamp dies for the automotive industry and emergency pipe repair clamps for the oil and gas industries.



Adelaide Tooling Pty Ltd

Design and validation of a range of electrical enclosures for the oil and gas industries.







POSTED MAY 25, 2014.

QUEENSLAND-BASED international electrical switchgear innovator, NOJA Power has warned that Australia is already falling short in meeting the impending needs of the rapidly developing electric vehicle industry.

Power grids will have to smarten up as electric vehicles and programs like GE's Better Place (pictured) become popular.


NOJA Power is highlighting the need to introduce smart grid technologies to keep ahead of the electric vehicle industry that may otherwise require expensive mitigation later.

According to the latest research by NOJA - in its report Using the smart grid to mitigate the impact of electric vehicles on future electricity demand - electric vehicle recharging will place additional load on an electricity distribution grid that is already struggling to meet peak demands. The NOJA research claims investing in smart grid technologies now will improve the flexibility of the electricity distribution network and ease the connection of diversified, renewable energy resources, helping utilities meet the future demand from electric vehicles (EVs).

In the four years since 2008, 27,000 EVs have been sold in the US, and since 2009, 29,000 in Japan and 27,800 in China. These fleets include popular cars such as the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S and Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

EV fleets will continue to grow as range increases and prices fall, NOJA Power is predicting. In 2011 US President Barack Obama announced an ambitious goal of putting one million EVs on US roads by 2015.

The UK is aiming for 1.7 million EVs by 2020 to meet its carbon emission-reduction targets, and industry experts predict one million EVs on Australian highways by 2022.

In 2010, Australian utilities generated 227 TWh of electricity, or around 622 GWh per day, according to the NOJA report. It estimates one million EVs would require about an additional 5 percent on top of this daily total to recharge batteries.

NOJA managing director Neil O'Sullivan said the Australian grid has very little spare capacity at times of peak demand, such as hot summer days, when consumers flock to air conditioning.

"I can picture a scenario where, on a hot day in Queensland, in the near future a shopping centre car park is hosting one thousand EVs all looking for a quick recharge before returning home," Mr O'Sullivan said.

"Commercial charging points are likely to offer 415 volt/32 amp three-phase power allowing each EV to receive up to 13.2 kilowatts. That's 13.2 megawatts just for that one car park. And those vehicles could be taking power for perhaps an hour or two.

"There are three million vehicles in Queensland. If, for example, in the near future, 10 percent of those are EVs and a quarter of those EVs are simultaneously being quick charged across the state, the utilities could see nearly 1000 megawatts of additional demand," Mr O'Sullivan said.

 "The peak demand seen in Queensland is around 8900 megawatts, so an additional 1000 megawatts is easily enough to tip the grid over the edge if it occurs at the wrong time. To avoid this scenario, efforts should be made to enhance the network's capability by investing in smart grid technologies."

Smart grids are a more intelligent way of supplying electricity combining computerisation, digital communications, sensing and metering of the electricity network to create a bidirectional, interactive grid that encourages greater use of renewable energy sources, Mr O'Sullivan said.

Smart grids equipped with automatic circuit reclosers (ACRs) allow the connection of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, wave and tidal. A large installed base of renewable energy sources would be needed to ensure that EVs deliver on their promise of carbon-free motoring.

"ACRs are fundamental building blocks for smart grids," Mr O'Sullivan said. "The ability of reclosers to help utilities closely match supply and demand, rapidly switch in renewable energy sources and protect the grid is essential if the future additional demand from EVs is to be met."

Mr O'Sullivan said units from NOJA Power's OSM range of medium-voltage (15, 27 and 38 kV) ACRs have been installed by utilities in over 80 countries around the world. The ACRs have been subjected to full type testing by independent test laboratories, such as KEMA in the Netherlands, to the latest standards.

NOJA Power's ACRs also use solid dielectrics, replacing the environmentally unfriendly oil or sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) gas of older products, Mr O'Sullivan said.



THE economic and wider business and social impact of the automotive industry is too important to be left to chance, the Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) has warned.  

According to VECCI chief executive Mark Stone, the significance of the automotive industry to the Australian economy and jobs is too vital to risk.

While Ford has kept to its decision to end manufacturing in Australia in 2016, Holden announced this week that it would cease manufacturing utes in Australia from 2015 and has called for support from the Federal Government in order to secure long-term manufacturing in Australia.

“The fact that the automotive industry is the largest single manufacturing segment in Australia is a compelling reason why governments at all levels must take seriously the task of working with the sector to secure sustainable improvements in competitiveness," Mr Stone said.

“At stake is the exporting of vehicles and components worth almost $4 billion per annum, over 50,000 direct and indirect jobs, many of which are in Victoria, along with significant contributions to skills development, technology and innovation.

“Automotive industry research and development expenditure alone totals almost $700 million per annum.

“Policy-makers cannot stand idly by at a time when the sector continues to struggle against the forces of a high Australian dollar, high fuel prices and strong competition from low cost producers.”

Mr Stone said leading automotive companies like Toyota are doing what they can to cut costs and boost productivity, but they need the right signals and support from policy makers, just as many of their overseas competitors receive from their governments.

“With the right industry and economic policies in place, industry prospects can be strengthened as our producers respond to international challenges by leveraging their strengths in design, engineering and the production of fuel efficient vehicles,” Mr Stone said.

”There is no silver bullet or quick fix for improving automotive industry competitiveness.

“A blend of integrated and strategic reforms have the greatest prospect of securing a more sustainable and competitive footing for the industry.

“These range from cuts to red tape and lower business taxes, to renewed support for research and development, improved access to capital, and securing reciprocal reductions in tariffs and non-tariff barriers among our major trading partners.

“Of particular importance is the need for government support to help automotive producers vary existing enterprise agreements so they can modernise their work practices, lower costs and improve productivity.”



HOLDEN's design expertise and engineering innovation has driven to new heights with the imminent VF Commodore series. Holden has even overcome the challenges of the high Australian dollar to develop a new export line to the US as the Chevrolet SS Sports Sedan.

New Holden Calais V


That's right, Holden is actually selling Chevys to Americans ... and these are Chevrolets Holden has designed and manufactured.

(Up until 1968, General Motors shipped Chevrolets and Pontiacs to Melbourne where they were partially re-assembled and sold in the local market as luxury vehicles, beside Holden's local range).

How the tide has turned - and it has reached this high water mark through General Motors Holden's international reputation for innovation and creative design excellence and in spite of current export barriers.

This is a resounding design and manufacturing triumph for Holden, which already has to its credit the re-guise of its Monaro as the Pontiac GTO sports coupe, and the foundation design, development and production of the highly popular modern incantation of the Chevrolet Camaro (which is not sold new here).

The new VF Series was unveiled at an exclusive event in Melbourne's Docklands last week, but will not emerge in showrooms until mid-year.

Holden Calais V is the most sophisticated car ever to be developed in Australia.


Holden's new VF Commodore range brings in a host of new technologies that make it not only the best Commodore ever, but also one that is safer, more user-friendly and more fuel efficient.

The message at the unveiling was that the VF Holden series also brings new levels of luxury and refinement to the large car segment, with a sumptuous new interior to match its upmarket exterior.

"The VF Commodore really is a class above," said Holden chairman and managing director, Mike Devereux. "No other car created in Australia is as technologically advanced, and we're very proud that not only was the VF designed and engineered here, but it will also be exported to the USA for GM's biggest global brand, Chevrolet."

The VF Commodore, which will be built at Holden Vehicle Operations in the Adelaide suburb of Elizabeth, South Australia, highlights Holden's advanced global design capability and promises a driving experience on a par with top-marque competitors.

It will also be more fuel efficient. That has happened, in part, due to the Federal Government's grant of $39.8 million through the Green Car Innovation Fund. As a result, the VF features lightweight aluminium panels along with other fuel saving features such as electric power steering. It is also more aerodynamic than the VE Commodore it will replace.

Among its many new technology features are some significant safety and driver friendly elements.

Key convenience features include Auto Park Assist on all models, where the driver operates the pedals but the car effectively parks itself.  Unlike many similar systems, it also allows drivers to choose between a parallel or 90 degree angle park.  It also gets the latest version of Holden's innovative MyLink infotainment system and keyless entry and start.

Safety features include Reverse Traffic Alert, which warns of vehicles passing when reversing out of spaces, Blind Spot Alert, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and a Head-Up Display, which projects vital safety information such as the car's speed directly onto the windscreen.

The new Calais V-Series sedan, on which the show car is based, will headline an extensively upgraded VF Commodore model range that goes on sale mid-year.

"Our aim with the new VF Commodore was to create a car that challenged some of the broader perceptions people have about the traditional Australian-made large car," said Mr Devereux.

"We have created a car that not only serves the loyal buyers who continue to make Commodore one of the most popular cars in Australia, but also a new breed of discerning customer who wants higher levels of luxury and technology in their car.

"When it goes on sale, it will offer levels of quality and sophistication to rival some of the best cars in the world."


The VF Commodore was designed and engineered at Holden's headquarters in Port Melbourne, Victoria.

Holden's director of design, Andrew Smith, said the VF exterior design was a precise, contemporary execution that held true to the dynamic poise of its predecessor.

"We've taken a powerful existing form and brought it up to another level, with the feeling now about projecting a real sense of quality and technological aptitude," Mr Smith said.

"The styling is characterised by sculpted forms and richer detailing. There's more gleam and polish at every point and careful attention to detail everywhere you look, from the vibrant front fascias and projector headlamp treatments through to the all-new rear end graphics.

"And the key interior elements are entirely new: instrument panel, console, cockpit, seats, steering wheel, switches, shifters, textures, you name it, no detail has escaped attention.

"Our designers set out with deliberate intent to exceed expectations by creating a cabin with premium large car ambience - a wow factor, if you like - that's characterised by a fresh sense of luxury, comfort and convenience. 

"It's a carefully cohesive design which echoes the detailed aesthetic of the exterior and places emphasis on rich, tactile materials and technical refinement. The ergonomic integration is excellent yet it retains a completely intuitive Holden feel".

"These vehicles reflect the truly international nature of our business and they can certainly hold their own anywhere in the world".

Holden's range-topping V-Series Calais spearheads a strategy aimed at extending its upmarket luxury car appeal to a broader band of buyers.

VF's polished good looks owe much to great bone structure. The brilliant silhouette and  athletic, wide track stance that made the award-winning 2006 VE Commodore an automotive style icon now reinforce a street-smart new look that's fresher, more sophisticated and aerodynamically advanced.

The Calais V's streamlined exterior is also more aerodynamically efficient than the model it replaces. Given improved fuel economy as a major VF program target, Holden designers and engineers made extensive use of virtual modelling and wind tunnel technology to create a slippery new shape. 

The cabin design was driven by the requirement to integrate a raft of advanced driver assistance and infotainment technologies and to meet demanding GM global benchmarks.

Given the opportunity to make extensive changes, the Holden interior design team went for it full-on. Their aim was to define new targets for perception of quality and interior harmony, using ‘best of the best' benchmarking data.

The result is a significant step forward in terms of craftsmanship, custom-tailored materials, fit and finish, ergonomic layout and all-round driving comfort. 


  • All-new instrument panel with integrated centre stack and cowled instrument dials combines infotainment, climate and other controls into a contemporary piece of modern electronics
  • Stylish new seat designs feature new structures and luxury comfort profiles
  • Quality, layered trim finishes in smooth soft-feel leather and suede with perforated leather inserts are accented by twin-needle stitching
  • Strokes of bright and galvano silver chrome and metallic embellishments gleam against jet black and light titanium background hues
  • Ice blue ambient lighting illuminates a re-designed centre console with versatile small item storage solutions and maxi cup holders   
  • Ergonomic improvements include a new steering wheel design and a console-mounted electric park brake button (goodbye handbrake lever).
  • Power window switches are relocated to the armrests, the boot release control to the driver's door

VF's evolutionary exterior design is a dynamic, mature execution - more sculptural and highly refined, with exceptional finishes, richer detailing, bright and jewelled accents.


  • Up front: the higher, wider front end features complex hood surfacing with a subtle central power bulge; raking spears point focus at prominent signature trapezoidal grilles
  • Jewelled halogen projector headlamps incorporate a ‘curved blade' park lamp effect
  • Lower air intakes are flanked by LED daytime running lamps and fog lamps
  • New front fenders complement the flared, aero-sculpted wheel arches
  • In profile: all potency and forward movement with an upper decklid line that kicks into a slim integrated spoiler; chrome fender vents, larger, multi-spoke, machine-faced wheels
  • At the rear: a wider, more planted stance. Streamlined, uncluttered graphics are dominated by intricately jewelled new tail lamps that extend into the decklid


Holden's automotive design facility at company HQ in Port Melbourne, Victoria, is one of nine GM global design studios and the largest of its kind in Australia.

Holden Design is an innovative and creative contributor to major General Motors vehicle programs and its expertise in advanced and production design is tapped by GM affiliates worldwide. 

It employs a multi-talented and multi-national team of more than 130 people, among them exterior and interior creative designers, colour and trim designers, advanced designers, clay modellers, fabricators, digital sculptors, visualisation and design quality specialists.

The creative team is led by executive director, GMIO design, Michael Simcoe, and GM Holden design director, Andrew Smith

Holden Design leverages leading edge technology - including Holden's multi-million dollar 3D visualisation studio - to deliver advanced automotive design solutions and drive future strategic opportunities for GM globally.



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