“WHEELS HAS YOUR BACK. IN THIS CHALLENGING TIME WE’LL BE PUBLISHING AS MUCH POSITIVE CAR-RELATED CONTENT AS WE CAN – IN PRINT, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND ON OUR WEBSITE”
WHOEVER COINED THE PHRASE “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” must have been a miserable old bastard, but boy, he’d be laughing now. Like the rest of you, my life in ‘lockdown’ means the only contact I have with the wider world is when I race into Coles to grab supplies and to dive for the last bunch of broccoli. Living in ‘iso’ has required some adjustments, though an unexpected positive is that I’m now a Jedi Master at Jenga. Less appealing has been the seemingly limitless amount of time I’ve had to pine for the things I used to take for granted.
The freedom to jump in the car and go for a drive is at the top of that list. Anyone else suddenly feel like they neglected this simple pleasure when they had the chance? Right now a Ford Fiesta ST is parked outside, and every time I catch a glimpse of it, the words of people I trust ring in my ears: “It’s one of the best performance cars I’ve ever driven…”
Not being able to drive it properly feels exceedingly cruel, so to occupy idle hands I’ve been planning where to take it once the lockdown lifts. This has been incredibly rewarding. At first I did it alone. I plotted courses, printed maps and researched hotels. I stuck the best routes to the walls and soon my kitchen resembled that scene from A Beautiful Mind where Russell Crowe, playing the brilliant mathematician John Nash, goes a little nuts and starts seeing complex algebraic equations floating through the air.
It was brilliant, but things really shifted up a notch when I opened it up to you, our readers. Wheels has been running our ‘Find Australia’s Best Driving Roads’ campaign for the past week and we’ve been asking you to nominate your favourite stretches of blacktop, and to share it to our Instagram (wheelsaustralia) with the hashtag #driveafteriso. If you haven’t contributed, head there now. We could all use a healthy dose of escapism.
The great unknown, of course, is when this will blow over. I’m no epidemiologist, but there’s a chance this whole malarkey mightn’t end until a vaccine is developed, possibly 18 months away. How the world will look after 18 months of isolation and economic turmoil is anyone’s guess. Not like it does now, that’s for sure.
The boss of the world’s largest car maker, Volkswagen, says the company is burning through 2 billion euros a week (A$3.5 billion) during the shutdown. The prediction that the US auto industry will have to cull more than 100,000 jobs is growing by the day. And the world of motorsport has been completely paralysed, leaving bigbudget events and big-budget teams utterly in the lurch.
You don’t need to be a genius to understand the situation can’t be sustained. Locally, things could get especially volatile. Much is made about how Australia is one of the most competitive markets in the world with more than 60 brands vying for our attention.
Of that 60, only 15 sell in meaningful volumes, leaving the rest to duke it out on the periphery. You only need to look at the recent struggles of Honda, which has been forced to close dealers and to cull its model range, to realise how marginal running a car business in Australia can be. And that’s a brand inside the Top 10 best-seller list. What must it be like for, say, SsangYong or Citroën?
Wheels won’t emerge unscathed, either. You’ll notice the magazine you’re holding is thinner than usual. To get through this period of uncertainty and falling advertising revenue, the tough call was made to reduce our page count. Our ability to test cars has also been hampered, but know this: Wheels has your back. In this challenging time we’ll be publishing as much positive car-related content as we can – in print, on social media, and on WhichCar.com.au/Wheels. For now, though, hunker down, look after yourselves and start planning that first drive.