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The ACT has continued to be the only state or territory in the country bucking the national plunge in new car sales. August sales data shows the ACT is the only jurisdiction staying in the black, while elsewhere around the country it’s a sea of red. National car sales are running 20 per cent down on the same eight-monthly year-to-date period last year, and Victoria, with much of metro Melbourne still in heavy stage four COVID lockdown, is suffering a 66 per cent fall in sales year to date. The dealers in Victoria are screaming for help although to date, there’s been little government response. The federal industry body wants the industry to reopen “under appropriate COVID-safe protocols”, but offers no workable example of what that might look like. Dealers in Canberra are reporting modest but encouraging levels of showroom traffic and there’s still a trickle of stock back-orders coming through from the late January hailstorm, which damaged thousands of cars and provided an artificial stimulus to the local automotive economy. During August, the Toyota RAV4 was the highest selling car in Australia for the second month in a row, with the impressive hybrid version outselling every other car on the market. Customer waiting times on hybrid RAV4 deliveries are now stretching into six months or more which shows that even in a depressed market, good products always sell well. Toyota’s entry-level passenger car is now Euro-priced, with the most expensive Yaris range sold in Australia now starting to arrive here. Prices for the all-new Yaris start at $22,130 for the Ascent Sport manual, but the coveted new hybrid version starts at a Corolla-sized $29,020. All prices are plus on-road costs. This car shares nothing with its predecessor, and uses an all-new, highly rigid platform, plus new engines and drivetrains. Toyota has fully loaded it with safety features and claims it as the world’s safest compact car. Standard safety kit includes front-centre airbags, sensors that can detect vehicles or pedestrians at intersections when making turns, and a secondary collision brake. The base model, which has a new 1.5-litre direct injection engine, has standard Apple Carplay and Android Auto, LED daytime running lamps, tail and stop lamps and auto-retractable door mirrors with LED turn signal lamps. The specification levels ramp very, very generously through the model range, but the higher prices are going to be a deep-breath moment for all but the most Toyota-wedded compact car buyers. But you are buying very high-quality engineering and strong resale value. The company says there’s no corporate plans for a smaller car to slide in under the Yaris, so it will be interesting to see how the buying public responds. We all desperately need some good laughs in these pandemic times and one we’ve stumbled across online recently is Roadkill Garage, available via the Motor trend app. Basically it’s about two spanner-handy US blokes who seek out the worst cars they can find and drop big horsepower engines in them. As you’d expect, it’s very US-focused content but the quality of some of the start-up projects is mind-bogglingly poor. How they would ever pass a rego check is beyond imagining. But it’s all in good fun, and delivered in a breezy, hands-on manner which makes for entertaining viewing. Rarely does finishing in fourth place deliver a heightened pulse rate, but Australia’s own Daniel Ricciardo had a brilliant weekend for Renault in the Belgian Formula One race at the stunning Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Ricciardo has done everything but carry the Renault RS20 around on his back all season prior to his switch to McLaren in 2021, and Belgium was no exception. To cap it all off, he recorded the fastest lap of any driver in the race on his final lap, on tyres which were 32 laps, or 224 kilometres, old. He says he thinks the team has now found a “sweet spot” with the set-up of the Renault, and thinks there’s even better results to come. Mercedes dominated yet again in Belgium, and even reigning champion Lewis Hamilton appears to be getting slightly bored by having no one to race. He blames the tyres, and says everyone is “backing off so that tyres don’t deflate, blow up, whatever. We have no idea what they’re going to do”. “We’re just all managing [the tyres] – which is not racing,” Hamilton said. A 1955 “oval window” VW Beetle sold for a whopping $46,500 at last month’s Shannon’s online winter auction. The powder blue model with beige interior and a slide-back vinyl sunroof was immaculately presented, which appears to be the key to getting top dollar for these classics. This one had a fresh 1600 engine, which is of course a far cry from the asthmatic 1.2 litre which featured in it originally. Other standouts from the auction were a 1991 Honda NSX which fetched $145,000, a 1972 Porsche 911E 2.4 coupe which sold for an astonishing $308,500, and a beautiful E-type roadster V12 which went under the hammer for $240,000. One of the stars of the auction, a yellow 1977 Holden LX Torana A9X sedan, was passed in when it didn’t reach reserve.