The five biggest motoring stories of 2016
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Thursday Five: 2016's biggest news stories
2016 is almost over. We have a new Prime Minister, the US has a new President, and Pokémon Go is once again irrelevant. And holy crap, Christmas is in just 10 days …
The year is one that probably won't be favoured by the record books, but it did spawn a number of big stories in the automotive world.
Today's Thursday Five examines five of the biggest.
The new Commodore
Most people would agree; the death of the Aussie-made Holden was somewhat inevitable. Though in a somewhat unpopular decision, Holden chose to press on with the beloved nameplate — a move at odds with Ford’s retirement of the Falcon nameplate.
It was a decision that came under much scrutiny from the roaring lion's biggest fans, and that flow didn't ease up when the first images of the car were released earlier this month. From a world perspective though, and remember this is being launched all over the place, the Commodore was very well received.
This was the biggest story for Australasia, one that signified the end of a chapter that many young and old have worn on their sleeve for their whole lives — pride in the Australian car.
Tesla Model 3
It was remarkable. People lining up in their hundreds of thousands to put a payment down on a car none of them had seen yet — 400,000 people and counting.
The thing that Tesla has successfully done is make cars cool again to the general populous who had lost interest in them. Talk to the average person on the street about Mercedes-Benz or Subaru and you'll lose them in seconds, but talk to them about Tesla and you stand a chance of prompting conversation. They have been an incredible marketing juggernaut, which should be commended.
But it's hard to deny that the following that they've accumulated is a dash fanatical. To the point that when they launched their new mass-market electric Model 3 back in April, almost half a million people put down a $1,000USD deposit to secure their spot in the line to order one.
This was, and remains, a car that nobody outside of Tesla has driven or tested, and nobody knows when they'll start delivering them. And the launch came at a time when the manufacturer was having issues with their already existing Model X and recalling them.
It's a car set to change the way we look at cars, though I remain confident that I will never buy one.
The rise of autonomous driving
One very real result of Tesla's success however is the huge rise in focus around autonomous driving technologies. Every manufacturer and their dog have pledged to include it in their future plans and models.
Is this good? Of course it is. Less chance of being rear-ended by some numpty texting their mates in one hand and changing the radio station with the other hand is good news.
However it's hard to deny an underlying fear that autonomous driving will overtake the need for manufacturers to produce fun-to-drive cars — addressing the needs and desires of the majority outweighing the petrol-head's need for something that can exhilarate.
Regardless of where the coin falls, an autonomous boom is coming. Whether we like it or not.
Top Gear versus The Grand Tour
2016 saw the new season of both BBC's Top Gear and Amazon's The Grand Tour launch — with season one of the latter still in action.
And both sucked. There. I said it.
New Top Gear was poorly scripted, and headlined by someone that the motoring public were never going to gel with — no matter how loud he shouted. The Grand Tour meanwhile is effectively an exact copy of what Top Gear used to be in its final Clarkson/Hammond/May seasons. The same gags, with some even more stale ones thrown in for variety.
The quiet hope was that at least one of the shows would do something to progress the concept of the car show. Instead we got Beavis and Butthead. Although with the BBC benching Mr. Evans, and magnifying the marketing around Chris Harris, it’s Top Gear that has my hope.
Hamilton versus Rosberg
It was a tumultuous year for motorsport. Technology and politics continue to rule most of the biggest categories, but against the odds (feels weird to say that) Formula 1 continued to dominate the world headlines.
Many have talked about the Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg rivalry with very negative tones; talking about how the pair don't represent good role models for sportsmanship, how they have underlined the lack of parity in the series, blah blah blah. The fact is that their fierce rivalry was one of the few saving graces for the series this year. Well, them and Max Verstappen.
And it was in Spain where that rivalry peaked — both drivers taking each other out on lap one of the Grand Prix, thus opening the door for Verstappen to take his first race win while simultaneously on debut for Red Bull Racing.
Rosberg eventually triumphed in the championship, after a series of car failures hobbled Hamilton's hopes, before then retiring from the sport in a move that shocked the racing world.
With Rosberg gone, so too does one of the sport's great rivalries.