Let Me Slap Your Face And Call It A ‘Luxury’

I don’t know if you’ve ever strapped yourself into a Lotus Evora, or one of McLaren’s vehicles – say, the 720S, or something even more maniacal like the Senna – and given it a bit of a push. But let me tell you, when you do you’ll be feeling the effects of it for days afterwards.

If, like me, you are not built like, well, a McLaren F1 driver, you’ll have a stiff neck (especially if you’ve worn a helmet), sore shoulders and for good measure have given your core a good workout. In other words, it’s about as luxurious as a slap in the face. But feeling like you’ve been worked over by one of Kim Kardashian’s bodyguards must be what our politicians believe passes for a cushy time, judging by the fact that the 720S, like any car valued at more than $66,000 or so, is subject to the federal government’s “luxury” car tax (LCT).

The muppets in Canberra have long conflated the concepts of “expensive” and “luxury”. Luxury and expensive are not always or even necessarily the same thing. And we can see in places other than the car market where this is true. A dilapidated three-bedroom fibro box that sells in Sydney for $1.85 million is expensive, sure, but it’s certainly not luxurious. The Oxford Dictionary (just so I’m not relying on Wikipedia here) defines luxury as “a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense”.

Let’s parse that sentence and take note of the words “comfort” and “especially”. The primary clause in the definition is that luxury is “a state of great comfort or elegance”. Let me refer you to the Evora, above. However, it is qualified by a secondary clause, “especially when involving great expense”. “Especially” is an adverb used to single out one person, thing or situation above all others – so in this sentence it means that while great expense can denote luxury, expense is not a precondition to luxury. In other words, something that is expensive is not automatically and necessarily luxurious. It’s like what I said about getting a sore neck in the McLaren – it’ll happen, especially if you’ve been wearing a helmet. It will still happen if you don’t wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet isn’t a precursor to getting a sore neck. It happens that many luxurious items or experiences are expensive, but that’s because luxury is a desirable characteristic and people who have a lot of money often have little sense. They’ll pay through the nose for something with the “luxury” tag on it. But it’s clearly possible to pay a lot of money for something that is decidedly non-luxurious. Anyone who’s stumped up what it costs for a guided ascent of Mount Everest knows what I’m talking about.

‘The LCT can’t accurately be described as an expensive car tax because $66k, frankly, buys you very little car at all these days.’

Cost is not a necessary precondition to an item or an experience being luxurious. Or, to put it another way, luxury has nothing to do with price. Which brings us back to the luxury car tax. It’s not a tax on luxury cars at all. It would be more honest to call it the “expensive car tax”, but since honesty is not a quality commonly associated with politics, that would appear unlikely to happen. The problem here is that the LCT applies to cars with a value – including Goods and Services Tax and any customs duties – exceeding about $66,000 (or $75,000 if the car is deemed to be “fuel efficient”), so it really can’t accurately be described as an expensive car tax, either, because $66k, frankly, buys you very little car at all these days. The threshold needs to be reviewed. LCT is calculated at 33 per cent of the value of the car above the LCT threshold. So a car with a GST-inclusive price tag of, say $100,000 attracts LCT of about $11,333 – that is, 33 per cent of the $34,000 by which it exceeds the threshold of roughly $66,000. Then they add that tax to the price so your $100,000 car gets inflated to $111,333 (plus other dealer-related costs). So back to the McLaren 720S. It’ll shake your fillings out and smack you around like an MMA cage fighter. And of the $670,000 drive-away cost, about $140,000 is the “luxury” car tax. That’s another kind of slap in the face.

Lotus Kicks Off Comeback With All-New Electric Super Car

A Frisson of excitement swept through Australia’s tight-knit Lotus Car community this week when the low-key but much-loved British brand confirmed development of its first all-new car in more than a decade. The Type 130 is still in concept stage but when it finally hits the road, it will be the first fully electric hyper car from Britain.

The million-dollar Type 130 was alluded to during a wide-ranging interview with Madam Wheels in Melbourne last week, during which Lotus Cars Australia CEO Lee Knappett said the company’s roll out of new models would include the inevitable SUV. The SUV and new sports cars built on fresh platforms signal a renewed push by Lotus parent company Geely to revitalize the brand (read: help it to profitability).

The privately held Chinese automotive giant, which also owns Volvo, took ownership of Lotus in 2017, introducing a new management team under ex-Jaguar Land Rover boss Phil Popham with a remit to turn the company around. The world got its first glimpse of how that would happen on Tuesday when a ghost-like rendering of the concept Type 130 was revealed during the opening day of the Shanghai International Auto Show.

Popham said the Type 130 would be “the most dynamically accomplished Lotus” in the company’s 71-year history. “It marks a turning point for our brand, and is a showcase of what we are capable of and what is to come from Lotus,” Popham said.

luxury car

Lotus followed that announcement with news of a new track-only Evora GT4 Concept (pictured above), a lightweight carbon racer powered by a 450-horsepower V6 engine and capable of a top speed of more than 270 km/h. Lotus hopes the cars will help it gain traction in key global markets.

The million-dollar Type 130 will be revealed in more detail, along with a full specification list, in London later this year. Production numbers are expected to be low, so it’s no surprise the company says it’s already received expressions of interest. The car will serve as the halo vehicle for a new generation of Lotus vehicles produced as part of Geely’s £1.5 billion ($A2.73b) revitalization strategy over the next couple of years.

“[Geely’s] going to change the brand massively,” says Knappett, who’s owned and run Lotus Cars Australia and New Zealand for 12 years. “Lotus is small, it’s been successful in engineering and racing, and has built some amazing cars and achieved some amazing things, but it’s never taken the corporate attitude. Geely will commercialize and make Lotus profitable. “

‘I really don’t believe an SUV will be detrimental to the brand. In fact, you need an SUV to keep developing the sports cars.

The new models and management team are clearly part of that, with Popham’s appointment in October a significant indicator of how serious Geely is about delivering. “Popham could have gone anywhere,” Knappett says. “He steered Jaguar Land Rover and [British super-yacht manufacturer] Sun seeker to massive growth over 10 years. So for him to choose to go to a little brand like Lotus [which last year produced 1640 cars] tells you he’s seen something that Geely’s bringing, of what the future is going to be, that attracted him.”

Design details of the Lotus SUV are likely to emerge sometime next year, with Knappett saying it will be a welcome addition to the range despite the detractors.

“I really don’t believe an SUV will be detrimental to the brand,” he says. “In fact, you need an SUV to keep developing the sports cars, you need cash in your pocket to keep doing that. Lotus has never focused on it.

“And we’ll still have the Exige and the Elise, we’ll still have those cars. Having an SUV doesn’t mean we’ll turn that production line off.”

Geely is likely to make sure of that.

“Geely has so much scope that … we don’t have to turn something off to turn something on. We just have to build it bigger and do it differently. The amount of money they’re throwing at it is substantial enough that it won’t affect the core offering.” The Lotus model lineup currently includes the Elise, Exige, Evora and 3-Eleven ranges of sports cars. In Australia, they range in price from $85,000 to $260,000 before on-road costs.


Giving blue lights the red light

LONG before I heard the sound I saw the flashing lights in my rear-view, catching me quickly on the freeway. My first reaction was to check my speed: 112km/h. That should be OK, shouldn’t it? No-one gets booked for doing 2km/h over the limit on a freeway. Even so, paranoia and a guilty conscience kicked in and I eased off slightly; my speed fell to 108.

Then the sound: an engine, and a big one at that, working hard.

The sound and the lights went past me together as if I were standing still, and I registered that the car was a Lamborghini Aventador – I recognised it because it’s the same model as my former financial adviser drives. Up-close the lights looked like an electronic insect zapper, flashing beneath the car and illuminating the road around it as it flew past.

It was visually arresting (and I imagine the driver was arrested in a different way not much further on up the road) but you have to wonder what kind of person spends upwards of $850,000 on a car and then decks it out like a kid’s Blue Light Disco.

There’s no accounting for taste, and there’s no correlation with wealth, apparently. I’ve seen this on any number of occasions when looking at various second-hand cars over the years. As a rule of thumb, I’ve found that the closer to original condition the better. When you inevitably need parts for the old banger it’s easier to get manufacturer’s bits rather than trying replace parts the previous owner found in a wrecker’s yard or (more recently) ordered from some obscure online retailer.



‘Last time I bought a car new, there was such a menu of options and alternatives that I could not fathom how one might fail to specify something more or less exactly to one’s own taste.’ 

In any case, one woman’s modification iss another woman’s idea of sheer demonic hell, as the Aventador illustrated in all its blue-light flashing fury. Last time I bought a car new, there was such a menu of options and alternatives that I could not fathom how one might fail to specify something more or less exactly to one’s own taste. But some still seem to prefer to resort to after-market parts, with modifications informed by a Christmas-tree aesthetic and implemented with the subtlety of a rugby front-rower.

And the last time I sold a car I know for a fact I received a premium for it because it was essentially in the same condition as when it rolled out of the showroom 25 years earlier.

I suppose the car-modification enthusiasts will tell you that they’re individualising their cars, that the bits they add and the weirdness they give expression to is an extension of their very own personalities. That may be the case, but if it is, some of them are clearly experience psychotic episodes on a fairly regular basis. I suspect that deep down they’re also the kind of people – let’s face it, they’re almost always men – who will marry a girl and tell her they love her, and then insist she get a boob job or have botox or liposuction to ensure she conforms to some male concept of the “ideal” female.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it; but maybe some women feel obligated to be the human equivalent of a blue flashing Aventador driven by an arrested adolescent with mother issues.

I can attest that were The Companion to express such sentiments then he’d fairly assuredly be in need of some cosmetic work himself. Dentistry, principally.