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Australia: The Pricey World of Right-Hand Drive Conversions

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Car buyers in Australia and other RHD countries have long got the short end of the stick in terms of American muscle cars. The reason is quite simple: they drive on the "wrong" side of the road.

Most manufacturers are unwilling to do right-hand-drive conversions on what are essentially specialist models: cars like the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Viper, Ford Mustang and the like. There just aren't enough buyers to rationalize the cost.

Fortunately, a cottage industry (or rather a man-in-a-shed industry) has popped up offering RHD conversions of American muscle cars for eager buyers in countries like Australia, the UK and Japan.

In Australia, for instance, you can get just about anything from a AU$359,990 Corvette ZR-1 (or around three times as much as it does in the U.S.) to a AU$139,000 Chevrolet Camaro (or the same as an Audi S5 Cabrio in Australia).

Want a 2011 Mustang GT convertible? Be prepared to pony up AU$142,500 (the same as brand new Porsche Boxster Spyder) for that Pony. And it becomes even more laughable when you look at the U.S. prices for these same cars:

We do not claim to know the full details involved with importing a car and converting it to RHD, but it can't be so difficult as to demand the of a new entry-level Porsche 911...

So the next time you harrumph at some foreign nobody, whining about, "How good you bleedin' Yanks have got it" – spare a thought for the poor, cash-strapped Aussie... selling his 911 to buy a RHD Corvette ZR-1.

By Tristan Hankins


Here's where we found pricing information for the RHD conversions:

Corvette Clinic - makers of the RHD ZR-1
Mustang Australia - builders of RHD Mustangs
Performax - makers of the RHD Camaro and other cars

And Top Gear Australia magazine's August 2010 issue.



33 Comments:

Anonymous said... »September 17, 2010

we do not drive on the "wrong" side of the road! you crazy people do!

Anonymous said... »September 17, 2010

Yeah, having driven in Europe, UK, US, OZ, NZ, etc. - I gotta say; Left is Right.

The steering wheel is the most important control in a car and most people are right handed, therefore Left is Right.

The problem with driving in the UK is the bloody indicator's on the wrong side! (It happens in OZ/NZ with European cars too.)

I'm not sure of the reason why they don't convert them, cost probably, but the window side of the column is the correct side. All left hand drive cars have them there.

The sad thing is, the Poms totally believe it's the correct side. It's such an issue for them that Japanese manufacturers convert them!

MyTwoCents

EricDWG said... »September 18, 2010

Since i'm right-handed i would prefer to drive with my right hand on the steering wheel and my left on the arm rest with my fingers slightly touching the gear knob.

LHD are more suited for lefties IMHO.

Right is Right! No 2 ways about it...

Anonymous said... »September 18, 2010

Actually cars in the UK generally used to have the indicators on the window side which was great - easy to change gear, steer and signal at the same time.

For some reason foreign manufacturers starting changing them and all it did was annoy most of the people I know.

And since most people are right handed and the steering wheel is the most important control, I think it's safe to say 'right is right'.

I reckon you must be a yank - bad luck old chap.

Anonymous said... »September 18, 2010

Umm, it costs so much because they have to design and make all the RHD parts, install them into the existing car plus make sure the new parts meet Australian design rules.

They then need to amortise that cost into was is a super small niche of vehicles.

Anonymous said... »September 18, 2010

Hang on My TwoCents,

If you are calling the British 'Poms' then you must be Australian and therefore drive on the left yourself! (as only the Aussies call us that)
Not only that, the Japanese natively drive on the left so they don't have to convert anything for us 'Poms', 'Brits', 'Limeys' or 'Pioneers of the modern industrialised world' (take your pick)
Mightywhelk

Anonymous said... »September 18, 2010

Haha, poor Australian. Just stuck with your crappy Holden :)

Philthy82 said... »September 18, 2010

Our crappy Holden, which your crappy Camaro is based on :)

Anonymous said... »September 18, 2010

One might ask why when the Japanese, Koreans and Europeans all find it worthwhile to engineer their vehicles in the first place to be available in both left and right hand drive forms, so few American vehicles are so engineered.

Perhaps the answer is that many of the American vehicles aren't actually that competitive in markets outside the USA, so it's not worth the manufacturers investing in RHD capability.

Dan said... »September 18, 2010

Japanese manufactures don't do any conversions to RHD because there domestic cars are right hand drive! The have to produce LHD for the American market.

Anonymous said... »September 18, 2010

Good stuff. Thought the comments might provoke some discussion. However, I have been slightly misunderstood –

I thought it was clear, sorry guys - the "Left is Right" statement = Driving on the Left is Correct. Ie: Steering wheel in your right hand and indicator at your left hand.

US cars are a different kettle of fish. My question related to Euros coming to the UK with indicators still in the LHD configuration (ie: indicator on the left of the steering wheel) and wonder why they don’t do a full conversion by putting the indicator in the correct spot. Must be a penny pinching exercise.

I’ve taken my pick and I’ll stick with Poms. I mean it as a term of affection. Otherwise I would have put “whinging” at the beginning of it ; )

Yes, the Japanese drive on the left and yes, normally when exporting to other left driving countries there is no conversion necessary except for the UK market where they switch the indicator position to the left side of the steering wheel. That’s the conversion I’m referring to.

Perhaps it’s a byproduct of the European influence. It’s become the norm and despite the fact it is the wrong side, people complain if it isn’t in that spot. That’s probably why reviewers moan about the Vauxhall VXR8, early Kia and Hyundai models, etc being set up correctly but not to the UK bias.

MyTwoCents

Anonymous said... »September 18, 2010

'Right is right' my fat ass! The argument for RHD over LHD with reguards to it being favourable ofor right-handed people loses all of it's value when we impliment padle shifters.

Problem solved, now hurry up and convert to LHD like the rest of the world.

Anonymous said... »September 18, 2010

Firstly, who cares which side of the road anyone drives on? Second, the current Camaro was designed in Australia by Holden and is build in a Commodore platform. Thirdly, TAX is a massive impost on the cost of importing and converting a car in Australia. I think its 100% of the purchase price. However this is significantly reduced for Primary Producers who import commercial vehicles. Consequently there are lots more Silverados and Rams running around OZ than Corvettes and Challengers. Anyhow, the car is never the same after its been chopped to bits and put back together backwards. Rich boys toys mainly.

Anonymous said... »September 19, 2010

buy a mclaren F1.

Anonymous said... »September 19, 2010

People complaining about driving "right is right" or "left is right" has to just think because THE BEST IS BUILD LIKE THE MCLAREN F1 where EVERYTHING IS IN THE MIDDLE IT FITS EVERYWHERE.

Anonymous said... »September 20, 2010

MyTwoCents, You should see the reaction on some peoples faces in the UK, when they first buy/drive an (non-manufacturer) imported vehicle from Japan. All looks normal until they set off the wipers while turning!

The LHD parts in RHD vehicle penny pinching phenomenon has gone as far as foot-wells, centre stacks (especially hand brake positioning), ignition key barrel column positioning, 3rd column stalk (i.e. cruise) positioning, squashed pedals, rear wiper positioning, aerial positioning, etc. All of which go largely unnoticed by UK consumers, unless they've used the LHD or JDM spec version!

Anonymous said... »October 08, 2010

Any Chance of converting a left hand vehicle in the US. Then having having shipped out here for compliance . Wouldnt that be a cheaper option ??

Anonymous said... »October 25, 2010

Looking at purchasing a vehilce in the US . Need to convert from left to right hand drive and want to then import and have complied as a right hand vehicle.
Any ideas , any contacts ??

Anonymous said... »November 01, 2010

^ re: the import question.
Short answer, no you cant have it converted elsewhere and brought in to Australia for ADR compliance.
A car must be in "manufacturers configuration" prior to compliance (in this case LHD), and the compliance process must be carried out by an authorised Australian Compliance agent, which are all located in Australia.

Remember that conversion of a car to RHD provides them with a great deal of revenue too.

There are probably grey ways around this, but all would be reliant on you being good friends with someone qualified to compliance the particular model you are importing. Certain manufacturers are only eligible for compliance of certain vehicles too.

The vehicle must also be on the SEVS list, otherwise as far as I know it cant be imported.

Basically the local manufacturers have made it so hard to import new vehicles that obtaining a Mustang (probably a good equivalent in price/performance of a AU falcon) actually becomes an exercise for the wealthy, with the total value being inflated to around 4 times the cost.

Vehicles over 30 years do not have to be converted to RHD, which presents and interesting question: How is it that vehicles under 30 years are OK to be driven in LHD, but modern ones aren't, remembering that the newer ones would have safety features and driver safety recrods much better than the +30 vehicles?

Basically, the Australian vehicle market is a very heavily regulated (bordering on closed) market which breeds overpricing (check the Euro brands like Audi/BMW etc) and subsidising of the local manufacturers, to ensure that you "buy Aussie". Where you dont buy Aussie, the remaining manufacturers who do import their vehicles chareg through the nose, and won't change as long as people are paying - which they currently are.

In true "she'll be right" mentality, the Aussies just roll over and take it.

Its a real shame because some of the US vehicles would fare really well in Australia, what with the similar (albeit smaller) infrastructure, roads, love of V8's and the cheap petrol prices.

Chris

Anonymous said... »November 03, 2010

CONVERTION you idiots!!!! my australian friend said a xbox is 700 dollars there so face it!!!

Anonymous said... »November 11, 2010

^ LOL, I just bought an xbox old style in Sydney for AUD 138. The new 'Slim' ones are retailing for 350ish. You're friend is incorrect.

With the AUD now worth MORE than the USD, currency conversion is the least most plausible explanation. (if that is indeed what your post was about).

Archaic price settting from an era where the AUD was worth much less, would *partially* explain it, but thats just the tip of the iceberg.

The Aussie car market is messed up. To much emphasis (with government subsidies to back up) to buy local, when in fact local is very boring.

Chris

Anonymous said... »December 28, 2010

holdens and fords are gay.... i want a chevy!!! 35000 for a rhd conversion how can you justify that... f our government f the rip offs doing the conversions.. f the whole world!

steeko said... »December 30, 2010

I personally feel that the local market would be much cheaper if we were just LHD. For example look at the price of second hand cars! pretty crazy when you look at UK and USA.

If we were LHD then the Holden & Ford parent companies in USA could easily sell their cars here.

As for the indicator stalk being on the LHS on RHD steering columns should have never been allowed. The 30+ year rule for LHD vehicles is also completely stupid.

Can anyone from UK please clarify for me, what if you purchase a LHD vehicle in say France, but take it back to drive in the UK? can you legally do that? I would think there's rules involved so you dont get a cheaper car in Europe than the UK (pricing out local dealers) and so they discourage you from driving new LHD cars.

Remember Australia is:
- taxed alot on income tax
- cost $$$s to import a car from anywhere
- Average level on income
- hugely inflated house prices
- hugely inflated new vehicle prices
- nanny state
- rewards the rich (eg govt spending on private vs public schools).
- inflated car registration costs.
- very strict rules on foreign imported vehicles (eg the independant orange indicator dilemma, where indicators must be orange due to 'site' issues however VW passat can have an integrated stop/turn light because it's sold new in Australia, i bet if you try to personal import one they would fail it on that, LOL @ the irony).

Given that Australia wont change any time soon, your choice is to move o/s or just drive a cheap sh!tbox and not contribute to the money grab.

Anonymous said... »July 15, 2011

^ LOL, I just bought an xbox old style in Sydney for AUD 138. The new 'Slim' ones are retailing for 350ish. You're friend is incorrect.

With the AUD now worth MORE than the USD, currency conversion is the least most plausible explanation. (if that is indeed what your post was about).

Archaic price settting from an era where the AUD was worth much less, would *partially* explain it, but thats just the tip of the iceberg.

The Aussie car market is messed up. To much emphasis (with government subsidies to back up) to buy local, when in fact local is very boring.

Chris

Anonymous said... »July 15, 2011

Hang on My TwoCents,

If you are calling the British 'Poms' then you must be Australian and therefore drive on the left yourself! (as only the Aussies call us that)
Not only that, the Japanese natively drive on the left so they don't have to convert anything for us 'Poms', 'Brits', 'Limeys' or 'Pioneers of the modern industrialised world' (take your pick)
Mightywhelk

EricDWG said... »July 15, 2011

Since i'm right-handed i would prefer to drive with my right hand on the steering wheel and my left on the arm rest with my fingers slightly touching the gear knob.

LHD are more suited for lefties IMHO.

Right is Right! No 2 ways about it...

steeko said... »July 15, 2011

I personally feel that the local market would be much cheaper if we were just LHD. For example look at the price of second hand cars! pretty crazy when you look at UK and USA.

If we were LHD then the Holden & Ford parent companies in USA could easily sell their cars here.

As for the indicator stalk being on the LHS on RHD steering columns should have never been allowed. The 30+ year rule for LHD vehicles is also completely stupid.

Can anyone from UK please clarify for me, what if you purchase a LHD vehicle in say France, but take it back to drive in the UK? can you legally do that? I would think there's rules involved so you dont get a cheaper car in Europe than the UK (pricing out local dealers) and so they discourage you from driving new LHD cars.

Remember Australia is:
- taxed alot on income tax
- cost $$$s to import a car from anywhere
- Average level on income
- hugely inflated house prices
- hugely inflated new vehicle prices
- nanny state
- rewards the rich (eg govt spending on private vs public schools).
- inflated car registration costs.
- very strict rules on foreign imported vehicles (eg the independant orange indicator dilemma, where indicators must be orange due to 'site' issues however VW passat can have an integrated stop/turn light because it's sold new in Australia, i bet if you try to personal import one they would fail it on that, LOL @ the irony).

Given that Australia wont change any time soon, your choice is to move o/s or just drive a cheap sh!tbox and not contribute to the money grab.

Anon said... »September 15, 2011

You only have to design it once for each different car.

GIOVANNI said... »February 17, 2012

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DLWTHIT said... »April 14, 2012

is it just australia that costs so dam much to convert? could we not just find someone in america to convert it before these "opportunists" get their hands on them and jack up the price unreasonably.  50k more, you could understand it, but not nearly 100k.

.... said... »May 24, 2012

how much would it cost to covert my mustang 2011 model to a right hand drive?

Anonymous said... »November 17, 2012

Steeko you are dead right. The option to me is move or not buy a new car in Oz. Im on holiday in the US and hired a Dodge Charger for a week. Loved the look and driving it that much that I had a brief look into bringing one home. WAY TOO HARD AND COSTLY. I brought a new car in Oz 12 montbs ago and never again after being here. We get screwed something cruel in Australia. I mean I can buy a brand new SRT Charger for 42 grand here. Can you imagine the price in Oz. 140 at least. Like the comments above say 100 grand difference! A joke.

Anonymous said... »February 24, 2013

If people love to drive a left hand drive cars & your in Australia...go for it...buy yourself a plane ticket & go to the right country to do it,Left in Oz is dangerous unless with a front passenger.We get hit to hard for conversion costs here.

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