Aussies are a special bunch when it comes to cars. In fact, we have such a unique relationship with our rides that some of them need to be customised for our entire market. For the 2018 Holden Commodores, this includes the ability to cut sick on gravel. And pump AM bangers.
When designing the 2018 fleet, Holden engineers had to work closely with German car manufacturer Opel to ensure that our gravel requirements were adhered to. Seriously.
In a recent interview with Gizmodo, Lead Development Engineer at Holden, David Johnson, talked us through why the Australian market has such specific requirements. After all, we aren't the only country in the world to have gravel roads.
"We tend to drive bang on 100km an hour a lot. We do it on gravel. We do it on bitumen. In Europe, and mostly Germans, will not drive at 100 on gravel, they'll normally go a lot slower."
As unsurprising as this is, there is also a further practical reason behind the customisation.
"Our roads are different. Typically our gravel roads have a lot more crown on the top of them and the quality of the gravel is different. So we make sure we evaluate the cars pretty thoroughly in our conditions," says Johnson.
This isn't the only interesting change that is made specifically for us. As it turns out, we really like having access to AM radio.
"The Germans don't use AM radio much at all, whereas here it's really important. In fact, I was on a phone call with Germany talking about this issue and I heard a German guy say that Australians need to have AM radio because that's how we find out about where the bush fires! So obviously someone at Holden had spoken to them," he laughs.
For a car feature that many people may not even think about in the age of music streaming services, it was actually quite an involved problem to fix.
"One of the things that came up as a part of the [region of sale verification work] was that we realised that the AM reception wasn't great," Johnson explains. "It turns out there was an electrical interference between the rear view camera and the antenna. We came up with a new way of grounding the antenna and shielding the antenna signal. They then had to change the wiring harnesses in production so all the cars coming here would have that fix."
He continues, "We also discovered an issue with FM reception, especially in places like Sydney where there's a lot of multipath and the signals bounce off the buildings. We've actually specced a new tuner that's coming into the car to give us the radio reception we need."
Australians apparently also have a high tolerance when it comes to radio quality. "In Europe people tends to mute the AM and FM radio as soon as the quality drops a bit, whereas Australians are kind of used to it. Especially if people are in the fringe areas. If they want to listen to the AM radio they know they're going to get pops and crackles. If you mute it you can't get anything."