Speed camera operators in the UK are looking to hike costs for “educational courses” and redeploy cameras to more lucrative locations to address a growing budget deficit. The options for the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership were discussed in an August 11 strategy meeting, the minutes for which were obtained from a freedom of information request. The partnership consists of local police agencies, local council members, the courts and the staff who run the speed cameras themselves.
Surf on over to dodge.co.uk, and you’ll find that the only vehicle being offered for sale is the Journey crossover. Look a little closer and you’ll find that Dodge has announced new electric vehicles, an online reminder of the embarrassing bailout-era ENVI project which has since been expunged from Chrysler’s corporate history. Given this sorry state of affairs, is it any wonder that Dodge is getting the heck out of Dodge, er, Old Blighty?
Kevin Wale, head of GM China, confirmed what we had intimated a month ago: GM wants to give their Chinese joint venture partner SAIC access to GM’s sales network in the UK. “We have agreed in an MOU that we would discuss the potential for MG to be distributed in the UK,” said Wale to Reuters.
If the deal is signed, it would be unprecedented.
The worldwide auto industry is officially on the mend. Carmageddon is behind us. The future is bright and shiny. How do I know this? If Rolls Royce can have higher annual sales than in any of the 30 years before, life must be good again. And there still are 2 months to go, with some possible Rollers under some possible Christmas trees.
Dealerships are a pain in the neck. The salesman tries to convince you that they’re your friend (when you know damn well they want as much money as they can squeeze out of you), getting warranty work out of them is sometimes a nightmare and, if you’re buying used, you don’t know what the car has been through. You can write a letter of complaint, but will that really help*? You may get a discounted service as compensation, but will anything REALLY change? Well, BMW wants to shake the dealership experience up a bit. In the customers’ favor.
The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) held its first Future Car Challenge. This was a race from Brighton to London (about 57 miles). The Auto Channel says it was to see who could consume the least during the trip. To keep things fair, the trip consisted of different driving conditions from country roads to traffic jams. Well, the race was done and the results are in. I can now reveal that the winner of the first RAC Future Car Challenge is, (soft) drum roll, please…
A few days ago, I wrote about car sales all over Europe falling faster than a…..erm……really fast thing. I also wrote how this didn’t bode well for the UK car market. Well, the figures are in and, unfortunately, I wasn’t wrong – this time. It’s pretty bad. New car registrations fell 22.2 percent in October. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) also said that further declines are likely for the rest for the year. Oh goody(!) Looks like I’m going to have to find more words for “dropped”.
Shall we take a look at the carnage? It’s not for the faint of heart.
I’m going drifting. I’m going drifting dressed in the finest English brown velour ever to roll out of Dagenham, England. I’m going drifting in what this week’s Curbside Classic should have been, a 1983 Ford Sierra. And with that, I rejoin TTAC after a long hiatus due to our wonderful country sending me to various deserts to hunt for Osama bin Laden.
I have survived, although my Hilux did not after one ill-placed Taliban rocket sent shrapnel through the radiator. I also relish returning to write for one of the finest audiences I know, the Best and Brightest.
Next year, the UK will get back a long lost son, who has found adoptive parents in China: The MG. Gasgoo reports that the MG6 Saloon will enter the British market in 2011. That was announced by Chen Zhixin, Executive Vice President of SAIC Motor and General Manager of SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle Co., at the UK Pavilion of Shanghai Expo, while Ms. Carma Elliot, Consul General of the United Kingdom (UK) in Shanghai, was watching. Just Auto thinks the Chinese car with a British name will be shown to the UK public at the Top Gear Live MPH motor show at London’s Earls Court, on 4 November.
We are being reminded that one of the few things that still are common to the U.S. and the UK are their legal system, conveniently called the “common law.” British barristers are looking to American attorneys for new ideas. And here is one of them: If an obese driver dies in a car accident, it’s not her fault. It’s the fault of the manufacturer, who didn’t crash test with overweight crash test dummies.
A few months ago I reported how Renault was planning on pulling out of IBC Vehicles (a joint venture between Nissan, General Motors and Renault) so they could take production of their Renault Trafic van to their underutilized plant in Sandouville, France. This would have left IBC Vehicles in trouble as valuable volume would have left the plant in a precarious position. Well, it seems IBC Vehicles can now afford to say “Au Revoir” to Renault.
It’s that time again. The time that I report on the market that no-one cares about. The UK. The SMMT has released the car registration figures today and as predicted, they fell, but not as much as other markets. The UK saw new car sales fall by only 8.9 percent, compared to, say, Italy. Overall, the UK market still remains 7.8 percent higher than last year (to date). The Ford Fiesta remains the best selling model in the UK, which will do our balance of trade with Spain and Germany no favors. Diesel cars and alternatively fuelled cars all posted growth in September. What was also telling about this “growth” was this little nugget of information: Private demand fell, while fleet demand increased. That’s right, while private customers are fleeing, car makers are trying to sustain volume by following the fleets. Shall we take a look the breakdown?
A friend of mine once tried to break the world record for the longest time standing on one foot. The record (at the time) was held by Arulanantham Suresh Joachim of Sri Lanka for standing on one foot for 76 hours and 40 minutes. My friend lasted 2 minutes, then collapsed in heap and wondered if he’d maybe broken a bone in his leg. Silly boy. If he wanted to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, all he had to do was buy a Volkswagen Passat.
The ad shown above seems to cement a sad reality for automotive enthusiasts: the objects of our passion are no longer considered the cutting edge of material culture. And this reality is reflected is reflected in more than just ads for mobile phones, the object that appears to have replaced cars as the touchstone of youthful cool. For a broad array of reasons, young people (the traditional arbiters of cool) are less obsessed with cars and car ownership than they once were. Even automakers themselves are rushing the automobile to the scrapheap of history by seeking to load ever more phone-like capabilities to cars, a trend that both fuels phone mania and disinterest in driving as an intrinsically rewarding experience. But, it seems, that cars can still be cool after all…
I may have mentioned before (or you may have read about it) that the UK is undergoing a huge austerity program. In order to balance the UK’s books, massive spending cuts are being implemented. But in order to secure votes, the Conservative government (along with the Liberal Democrats) pledged that the NHS would not suffer these cuts in budgets. Wow! A right wing government actually PROTECTING nationalized healthcare? Those crazy Europeans! So this means that other facets of government spending are going to be hit hard. Very hard. In particular, the police. Greater Manchester Police won’t be hiring any new recruits for 2 years in order to save money. That’s how hard we’re talking. So any opportunity to save money will be welcome. Enter a bunch of South Koreans…
I can’t speak for the US market, but in the UK car market there is one segment which I can never see dying. The small, luxury car segment (A.K.A The luxury entry level). This is the area reserved for your Audi A3’s, BMW 1 series’ and, to lesser extents, Volvo S40’s and Mercedes-Benz A-Classes. The reason I believe this segment is more robust than other is because it revolves around one factor which has been around for a very long time. Vanity. In the UK, you have many (and I mean “many”) mid-20’s to early 30 men, who’ve got a half-decent paying job and want to lash out on a car with a luxury make. Very few will go with cars like the Audi A4, BMW 3 series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, because they either scream “rep-mobile” or “old man”. They won’t go any higher up the ladder because that’ll be too costly. So the small, luxury car segment is perfect for them. The least amount of money for the most amount of badge-snobbery. This is why the BMW 1-series is so successful in the UK, despite being quite a poor car. “I can get a BMW for the price of a Golf? Sign me up!” Well, it seems a new boy is coming to the market. Only this one has a trick up his sleeve…
Remember that old saying, “What’s good for GM is good for America”? Well it seems that the UK is developing a similar ethos. “What’s good for Ford is good for the UK”. Now, this isn’t some arrogant Ford executive trying to brainwash the UK public that buying their cars is their public duty. There really is a good reason behind this. Honestly.
When you buy a car new, depreciation is a risk you have to take. So like with any risk, one tries to minimize it. That’s why Toyota and Honda are such perennial favourites. low depreciation. But what cars should you avoid if you don’t want to suffer depreciation that could make you depressed?
As I wrote a few days ago, European car sale figures aren’t looking too great. In fact, for want of a better phrase, they’re bloody awful. (Detailed numbers to follow at around Sept 15.) The reason behind this drop is the detox from the high of “Cash For Clunkers”. Now that the artificial boost has gone (or is slowly dissipating) the market is coming back down to where it should be. And where it should be isn’t good news for auto manufacturers. In the UK, it’s just as bad. The SMMT reported a drop of 17.5 percent in new car registrations compared to August of last year. This is in line with the SMMT’s prediction that the second half of the year would be tough, to put it mildly. “New car registrations were down 17.5 percent in August and conditions will remain challenging through the rest for the year,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, “The industry enjoyed a better than expected first half of the year and despite the difficulties, SMMT is forecasting that new cars registrations will close just ahead of 2009 figures.” Shall we take at look at the winners and losers in the UK market for August 2010?
Once a new car has reached 3 years of age in the UK, it has to undergo a yearly test to make sure the key components of a car are working, and that the car is safe. It’s called an MOT. This is not the drive-it-down-to-your-friendly-gas-station-and-get-a-sticker routine. It’s pretty rigorous. It is anticipated with apprehension. Anyway, the MOT is reaching its 50th birthday after the test became mandatory in 1960. So to celebrate the MOT’s 50th anniversary, Nationwide Autocentres, a garage group that performs many MOT’s around the UK, conducted a survey (how about taking the MOT out and drinking lager until your head spins? THAT’S a good way of celebrating your birthday!). The survey consisted of the top 10 best selling cars in the UK. Then they looked at their failure rates after 3 years (some people have far too much time on their hands). Shall we have a look at the results (via the Daily Mail)? Firstly, here are the contenders:
Ford Mondeo, Ford Ka, Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Renault Megane, Vauxhall Corsa, VW Golf, Renault Clio and the BMW 3-series.
All of these cars were surveyed at their first MOT (i.e. three year old). What the surveys doesn’t take into account is how hard they’ve been driven (that pretty much equals out) and it doesen’t say what exactly has failed (it’s not a loose knob of the radio that fails the MOT, it’s usually something expensive …. T’s PASS or FAIL.)
So, who “won” this survey of the highest rate of failure at their first MOT? I’ll give you a clue. Nissan didn’t bring reliability to their alliance.
No, it’s not a Mel Gibson joke… Scientists at Edinburgh Napier University have developed a formula for making butanol biofuel out of byproducts of the Scottish whiskey industry, reports Sky News. Apparently researchers
combined so-called pot ale – the liquid from the copper stills distillery equipment – and the spent grains used to make whisky, also known as draff
to create Butanol, an ethanol-like biofuel. Unlike the corn juice, however, Butanol can run in any gas-powered engine and does not degrade components over time.
A bit more than a week ago, we reported that Geely might want to raise its stake in the London black cab builder Manganese Bronze from currently 20 percent to more than 51 percent. Ok, story, sit over there under the sign that says “Chinese stories, not happening.”
According to a poll released last week by the Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company, UK motorists drive more erratically in the presence of speed cameras. The firm, which insures 3.8 million in England and Wales, commissioned ICM Research to survey how the driving public responds when automated ticketing machines are present. The firm concluded that, since 2001, photo enforcement may have contributed to thousands of accidents that would not have otherwise occurred.
I’ve mentioned before that the UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) can be quite rabid when pursuing adverts with bold claims. Remember Renault’s run-in (nice alliteration) with the ASA about their claims for “zero emissions”? Or BMW, who tried to give the impression that their 3 litre, 6 cylinder hoonmobile, the Z4, was doing its bit for the environment (presumably by draining it of all that troublesome oil)? Well, the ASA is at it again.
Last month, I asked whether the UK car market had taken a blue pill. The reason I’d asked is because sales were rising despite the local “bangers for cash” scheme had ended months ago. Well, it appears that the effects are finally wearing off (I was going to say “flopping” but we’ve used that metaphor enough). The SMMT reports that UK new car registrations fell 13.2 percent in July 2010. This marks the first month in this year where sales dropped. This is expected to continue through 2010 as the market slows down. This is not surprising as the government cutbacks will start to take effect this year.
“A drop in private registrations compared to the scrappage-fuelled months of 2009 was expected and has brought the first market decline for 12 months,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive. “Subdued consumer confidence and a still fragile economic recovery make the outlook for the remainder of 2010 challenging, but a stronger than expected first half means full year volumes are still forecast to exceed 2009’s total.”. Another curious finding of the report was how diesel vehicles are now the dominant powertrain of choice, with market share up to 50.6 percent. Anyway, shall we take a closer look at the figures?
When you hear “McLaren” mentioned during Formula One races, do you sometimes want one? Now you can. Street legal. And a steal for only $280,000 MSRP. To make that dream possible, McLaren group has taken on £40 million ($63m) worth of loans from HSBC to finance the construction of a new factory in Woking, Surrey. The new factory will be the home of McLaren’s new super car, the MP4-12C (catchy name!). McLaren is forecasting to build 1,000 units in the first year of production, but within five years, McLaren is hoping to be building 4,000 units per year. One of the main selling points of the MP4-12C is the fact it’ll be able to get to 124mph in 10 seconds. It even has air brakes, implements usually used to bring jet fighters to a stop.
When I was a young copywriter, I wrote about a catalytic converter that was just newly introduced to Volkswagen. I proudly wrote that it “removes all harmful substances.” The copy came back. I was told to say that it “largely reduces the amount of “ a list of strangely named substances. I said I would never subject the poor Volkswagen customers to such nonsense. I then was called to Wolfsburg and had a meeting with a gruff engineer. He said: “Look, that thing lowers the amount of some bad stuff. But it lets stuff through, it may even create stuff that is much worse. It’s just that nobody is looking for it!”
The TaxPayers’ Alliance and Drivers’ Alliance last week calculated that UK speed cameras issued £87,368,227 (US $131,256,380) worth of tickets in fiscal 2009 without any demonstrable safety benefit. Since speed cameras were first installed on British roads in 1991, the roads became more dangerous than they would have been without photo enforcement, according to the report.
The BBC reports that new car registrations in the UK have inexplicably risen 10.8 percent in June 2010 compared with this time, last year. What makes this “inexplicable” is the fact that sales have risen, despite the fact that the “cash for clunkers” scheme had ended on March the 31st, 2010. “The new car market continued to perform above expectations in June,” said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) chief executive Paul Everitt said, “The results indicate improved business confidence and a strengthening economic recovery.” However, a quick look at the SMMT report reveals a potential answer. The article shows that fleet sales grew 25.3 percent. Those pesky fleet sales! Let’s take a quick look at some of the brands and their performance, shall we…?
Auto Express reports that GM is going to sell the Chevy Chevrolet Camaro in the United Kingdom by May 2011, with a convertible version later that year. It will only be available in the top level Gestapo SS trim, and will have the 6.2 litre, 426bhp V8 engine. Unfortunately, GM couldn’t be bothered to respect local driving customs and will sell the car in left-hand drive only. That’s right. Pricing is yet to be confirmed as exchange rates are sensitive at the moment, but GM is aiming to keep the pricing in line (I thought it was a V8?) with the Nissan 370Z, which starts at £28,345. Now while there are many American-philes (probably located in the North of England) who are doing a “dosey-doe” around their living rooms at this news, there are a few of problems (and here comes the pessimistic part).
Our aim is to raise the Lotus brand equity back to its rightful place as it existed in the 1970s when it competed with the likes of Ferrari, Porsche or Aston Martin. Maintaining the unique Lotus DNA is crucial, but with more relevance, greater efficiency and even more sustainability than we have had in the past.Lotus’s owner, the Malaysian automaker Proton, is getting tired of steady losses, and is giving the legendary British marque five years to become competitive with the top-rung of European sportscar houses. That means more volume (from 2,500 to 8k annual units in five years), more marketing and (almost certainly) less of the stripped-down enthusiast utilitarianism that keeps the brand so beloved by hardcore handling fans. Oh yes, and Lotus is reportedly getting one more thing that every brand overhaul needs: a little Maximum Bob Lutz.
I don’t know whether you know, but the UK government has a deficit of £155b which needs to be slashed. On June the 22nd, Chancellor George Osbourne laid out his plans on how to eliminate that ugly budget gap. VAT would be increased to 20 percent from 17.5 percent, civil servants would have their wages frozen and benefits would be slashed. Yep, life is going to be pretty grim in the UK for the next five years. Unless you’re a multi-national company with an electric car up your sleeve.
After one year of ownership we would expect EV residual values to be above the segment average expressed in terms of pound values. But, if the battery is owned rather than leased, and lacks the appropriate extended warranty, the value of the typical EV will then fall dramatically until the vehicle is five years old, at which point the car will have a trade value little more than 10 per cent of the list price
So says Andy Carroll, managing director of the British car-buying bible, Glass’s Guide. He tells BusinessCar that Nissan and other firms launching EVs in Britain should take out the battery cost and lease it to customers with minimum monthly performance clauses. This, he says, would dispel concerns, drive sales, and transform the resale picture. It’s also what Project Better Place is doing, albeit in a complete regional package with battery-swap stations and charging infrastructure.
If there’s one reason we dedicate as many pixels as we do to the rise of speed cameras in the US, it’s the UK. We’ve seen how speed cameras have taken over Old Blighty, jamming the newswires with reports of mis-ticketing, unwarranted surveillance and popular backlashes against the dread cameras. But apparently the UK has decided that, with more speed cameras than any other nation on earth, it’s time to stop building more. Totallymotor reports that road safety minister Mike Penning has announced that his new conservative government will stop financing the construction of speed cameras by local authorities, bringing an end to a decade’s worth of camera build-up. Penning tells local authorities that they are free to purchase cameras with their own money, but that the government will encourage the use of alternative safety measures.
Undeterred by crashing European sales numbers, Nissan is forging ahead and adds – are we reading this right? – “a third shift at its British production line for sport utility vehicles, raising output 30 percent to nearly 24,000 units a month,” says The Nikkei [sub].
Many people (especially on this site) worry that Toyota might become the new old GM. I beg to differ. Toyota is a well run company, it turns a profit and builds good cars (not great, but good ones). When GM was swirling around the porcelain throne, people were desperately seeking ideas to recall lost customers back to GM. One thought was the “5 year, bumper-to-bumper warranty.”
The logic was watertight. Stop saying that your cars are as good as the competition (I’m looking at you, Mr Lutz) and put your money where your mouth is. Why should a customer commit tens of thousands to a car, if you can’t commit to a measly 5 years? But GM never did it. We had a powertrain warranty, but not a bumper-to-bumper one. Now compare this to Hyundai, who where, and let’s not mince words here, a joke in the car world. A commitment to quality and a 5 year bumper-to-bumper warranty (in the UK) later and Hyundai is up there with the best of them. So, if it’s good enough for Hyundai….
I was asked once (by a landlord who was skeptical of my job description, if I remember correctly) what country I thought built the coolest cars. It’s not the kind of question I think about too often, so the answer took me a moment’s reflection. Avoiding the only answer based a dogmatic interpretation of the term “cool” (Italy), I went with the UK. From Rolls-Royce to MINI, Old Blighty’s given us some of the world’s coolest cars, and most compelling automotive brands. And despite having lost its mainstream auto industry to industrial malaise, Britain’s classic brands and cottage car industry have remained surprisingly resilient. Food for thought, that. Anyway, here are a few examples of what I’m on about…
Over the next few years, life in the UK is going to be pretty – austere. The Centre-Right government has been in power barely a month, and already they’ve slashed the budget by £6.2 billion. That was just the scalpel, wait till the axe comes. So, with a possible second recession in the offing, it’s time for some good news. And here it is…
A year ago I reported how Renault was using French Government money in exchange for keeping jobs in France. Then Renault landed themselves in trouble when Renault wanted to transfer production of the Clio to Turkey and the French Government made their feelings quite clear. Then they started slagging other low cost countries off. Now it appears Renault are at it again, only this time they may succeed.
The Euro and the UK Pound go into a tailspin. Greece requires a bailout. Spain & Portugal could be next on the default list. The economy is in tatters. The car market is shrinking. The government announces spending cuts, on top of people’s reluctance to spend. On this dire backdrop, does it surprise you that workers at the Vauxhall plants (they’re actually Opel plants re-badged “Vauxhall”) have chosen to accept a pay freeze in return for job security? The Times of the UK reports that the 3200+ workers located in the UK are close to agreeing to a 2 year pay freeze. Union officials in the UK believe that the pay freeze is an acceptable hit to take in return for job security. They also believe that when it comes to the union vote, it will be passed through with little complaints. There is of course one slight flaw in the plan….
TVR has never been a well-known brand in the United States, where its closest brush with fame was a cameo by a TVR Tuscan in the excrescent JohnTravolta vehicle Swordfish. In the UK, however, the TVR name is as rich in legend as Lotus or Morgan, speaking to a proud history of wild, hairy, fiberglass muscle cars with bizarre styling and even more bizarre handling characteristics. And like most blue-collar, British, backyard shed-based sportscar makers, TVR has not had an easy time of it lately. Having spent ruinous amounts developing an in-house V8 and a derivative straight-six engine under Peter Wheeler’s leadership in the 90s, the company fell on hard times and was bought in 2004 by 24 year-old Russian oligarchlet Alexander Smolensky. Despite promising to keep TVR British, Smolensky broke up the firm, kept the IP and brand rights, and reportedly moved production to Turin. Now, suddenly, Smolensky says he’s bringing TVR back, promising an appearance by an all-new Chevy LS-powered TVR at this summer’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. And yet TVR fans aren’t exactly falling all over themselves with glee… now why would that be?
What happens when the man behind the McLaren F1 decides to chuck in the go-fast nonsense and devote his considerable energies towards developing a “revolutionary” city car? You’re looking at it. Autocar caught this first image of Gordon Murray‘s three-seat T.25 testing in the UK, and from the looks of it, all the talk of this car creating a new segment wasn’t just talk. We knew it was going to be small, but my god is it ever small. And, as Autocar reports, this first image of the T.25’s near-production look shows off one of its most distinctive features:
Our exclusive photograph shows the car’s compact dimensions and reveals the revolutionary single door for the first time. It swings upwards and forwards to allow cabin access for all three occupants.
How cruelly ironic is it that the UK, home of the world’s most vibrant sportscar cottage industry and some of the most notorious “petrolheads” in Europe, is also the world’s leader in automated ticketing and surveillance? Oh, and before you try to answer, understand that Old Blighty’s Orwellian tendencies have just hit a new high/low. The Telegraph [via Jalopnik] reports that Britain’s Home Office is testing new average speed cameras which combine license number-reading technology with a GPS receiver. In contrast to previous generations of speed cameras, the new system, named SpeedSpike, can calculate average speed between any two points in a network, rather than just in a straight line.
A few days ago, we reported that a limited edition of 500 hopped-up Ford Focus RS was sold out within 12 hours of its announcement. Ford just had to utter “Ford Focus with 345BHP, a torque of 339lb/ft, 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds” and they were all spoken for. Judging from the stats coming off the TTAC server (the story was the most accessed that day,) interest in the hot hatch far outstrips the measly supply of 500. Help is on the way. You don’t even have to buy a new car.