While electric vehicles get the most press whenever they go up like a match, it’s important to remember that combustion vehicles pioneered burning themselves up back when the horse was still considered a viable transportation option. Things are better now of course, with flaming cars being primarily relegated for important riots, large-scale sporting events, and decoration along the West Side Highway. We can also add high-speed chases taking place in the United Kingdom to the list because there’s reportedly a bunch of BMW police vehicles that are giving new meaning to the term “heat.”
For the last few weeks, various departments scattered across the U.K. have been issuing advisements not to use certain diesel-powered vehicles in pursuits that exceed the speed limit. It’s a rather curious request, though one that’s allegedly tied to a serious incident from 2020 that killed Police Constable Nick Dumphreys.
If there’s anything that’ll get my stomach into a twist, it’s the government talking about the merits of reducing people’s ability to own things. Fortunately, the 36-hour flu I just experienced made me nigh-invulnerable and someone had forwarded me the latest on what U.K. Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Transport Trudy Harrison had to say about personal vehicle ownership. She’s very keen on public transpiration but not so interested in the plebian masses having access to their own, individual modes of transport.
Earlier this month, she told a virtual audience at shared transport charity CoMoUK that the United Kingdom needed to move away from “20th-century thinking centered around private vehicle ownership and towards greater flexibility, with personal choice and low carbon shared transport.”
Despite manufacturers still managing to turn a profit, the automotive sector hasn’t been in the best of health these last few years. Growth appears to have plateaued in most Western nations, encouraging companies to cater this business toward other markets, supply chains have also been negatively impacted by the pandemic — with semiconductor shortages hindering production schedules on a scale we’ve not seen since the Great Recession.
It’s a bad situation and rumored to get worse if the warning cries of economists are to be believed. But there’s also mounting evidence to support their claims. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) recently reported that vehicle registrations in the United Kingdom fell by roughly 35 percent in September vs the same timeframe in 2020. This is relevant because the month typically represents the second-busiest period for the country and numbers were already low due to production stops created by coronavirus lockdowns.
Today’s study comes straight from the memoirs of Captain Obvious. Apparently, an economic recession isn’t what you want when you’re vying to sell factory fresh automobiles beyond the confines of rock-bottom prices. There might even be a correlation between being broke and lacking the ability to purchase items in general. At least, that was the takeaway from a cutting-edge assessment recently conducted by Auto Trader in the United Kingdom.
In an attempt to keep tabs on the public’s level of interest in reference to electric vehicles, the outlet has been surveying people at semi-regular intervals. Back in January, it asked 2,300 consumers ‘waddya buying,’ only to learn that 17 percent had their hearts set on a battery electric vehicle. That’s impressive considering less than 10 percent of automobiles in the UK utilize electricity for propulsion and most of those happen to be hybrid models. But the trend toward BEVs has shifted rather dramatically since the COVID pandemic took hold.
A follow-up questionnaire from August (this time with 2,700 respondents) shows demand has waned immensely. Only 4 percent of respondents said they were planning on getting themselves a battery electric vehicle.
With COVID-19 lockdowns suppressing auto sales around the globe, everyone expected April to be a rough month. However, we doubt the United Kingdom expected monthly deliveries to come in at the lowest level since the end of World War II. Registrations for April peaked at 4,321 in the UK, representing the lowest monthly figure since 1946 — when the nation was still rationing materials as it attempted to rebuild after a prolonged military conflict (and factories were just starting to transition back to manufacturing passenger vehicles).
While it’s possible some registrations are simply delayed, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says it doesn’t believe that to be a significant factor. Retailers typically register the vehicle for you and, with with precious little else to do, you’d think they’d have finished whatever paperwork they had lying around. Most of them, of course, weren’t capable of operating normally due to government mandates, allowing the few outlets offering at-home delivery to make up the lion’s share of sales.
Aston Martin was not under the illusion that 2019 would be a stellar year. After issuing a recent profit warning, the British automaker fired off another this week after realizing it ended up being a worse year than initially feared. Aston’s stock has lost 3 billion pounds in market value since the company’s initial public offering in 2018.
While retail sales were technically up last year, climbing 12 percent, total wholesales fell by 7 percent. According to the manufacturer, gains were made thanks to the redesigned Vantage (introduced in 2018). Unfortunately, that also caused some headaches. Despite being a six-figure car, at Aston Martin the model is technically an entry level, and its high take rate actually resulted in a lower average selling price across Aston’s business for Q4. Combine that with an overall increase in leased vehicles upping financing costs and you’re beginning to see part of the problem.
The UK’s Derbyshire Constabulary celebrated a major victory this week. The triumph of justice was even given its own official announcement. Did the department finally tamp down the area’s rising violent crime rate?
Nope. They caught an automotive journalist speeding — one year after he did it.
Joe Achilles was testing an Audi R8 RSW on the A57 Snake Pass last November, later posting footage on his Facebook wall. Derbyshire Constabulary’s Roads Policing Unit noticed the video while “investigating an entirely different matter,” according to its release, and set out to prove just how fast he was going.
The United Kingdom’s Department for Transport will test noise-detecting cameras across the country over the next 7 months to see if it can adequately detect and identify vehicles modified to emit obnoxious levels of noise when the driver pins the accelerator. The systems are relatively new, though the government says it will recommend further development of the system for deployment across the UK.
As things currently stand, it’s illegal for any new vehicle to exceed 74 decibels in Europe. While your personal car can exceed those sound limits within UK borders, as there’s no formal limit to vehicle noise, it is illegal to modify your car’s exhaust system to make it louder. Sort of a Catch-22, because if your car exceeds 74 dbA, it probably means you’ve modified it.
With Europe and China promoting aggressive emission mandates, including proposals to eventually prohibit the sale of internal combustion vehicles, electric cars look to be a shoe-in. The UK’s Committee on Climate Change recently recommended moving up the country’s 2040 deadline to end the sale of gasoline or diesel cars to 2035 as part of a wider target to cut the country’s net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
Unfortunately, battery electric vehicles still represent less than 1 percent of the region’s new car sales. While EV sales rose 63 percent in April vs the previous year, the adoption rate doesn’t appear to be on the same track as regulatory measures pushed by various authorities.
According to government-commissioned poll from 2016, range anxiety appears to be the primary culprit in the United Kingdom. Most respondents cited recharging their battery as their biggest hangup, with elevated EV costs playing second fiddle.
To our collective horror, Ford decided not to sell the new Fiesta ST in North America. Instead, the automaker chose to cull its passenger car lineup during a period of declining demand and profitability in order to focus on higher-margin trucks, crossovers, and SUVs. No one in this office is particularly excited about the idea, but most of us could rationalize our hurt by trying to see things from Ford’s perspective and focusing on the bottom line. However, Ford is just rubbing salt into our wound at this point.
While the 2019 Ford Fiesta ST has abandoned its turbocharged 1.6-liter four-banger for a more Euro-friendly 1.5-liter triple boasting the same 197 horsepower and more torque, the United Kingdom also receives a limited-run Performance Edition that would have made a nifty little runabout/track day hooligan. Sure, it probably wouldn’t have been a hit here. But we would at least like to have the opportunity not to buy it.
With Britain’s parliament rejecting Prime Minister Theresa May’s latest Brexit deal, European automakers stand to face some strong headwinds in the near future. As of now, no clear path lies ahead. Many believe the European Union will continue playing hardball, punishing Britain for leaving. But, even if it doesn’t, loads of regulatory and trade issues must be resolved in short order to avoid problems.
There’s also no shortage of hyperbole surrounding the issue. Just this morning I heard cable news call it “the largest crisis in Britain’s history,” as if World War II never happened. A channel away, another outlet proclaimed how splendid it would be for trade between the United Kingdom and United States.
Regardless of which side of the fence you fall, there’s more at stake here than Theresa May’s job. Automakers, who like consistency above all else, worry a no deal plan for “British independence” could be tantamount to flipping the industry table. They don’t like being caught up in the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and there appears to be an endless list of issues to contend with.
British vacuum magnate James Dyson has decided to construct his company’s planned electric vehicles in Singapore, rather than his home country. The choice prompted a mild uproar in the UK, as Dyson was a major proponent of Brexit.
However, he’s also still a businessman. China currently buys more EVs than any other nation on the planet, a fact that’s unlikely to change any time soon, and it’s typically more affordable to manufacture there than risking importation. This is especially true of automobiles. Officially, Dyson has said his business’ “center of gravity” has begun shifting toward Asia, accounting for nearly three quarters of the company’s revenue growth last year.
C’est la vie, as the British say.
If you’re wondering how many times this website has complained about people mishandling semi-autonomous driving systems, we’ve completely lost count. However, if you want further evidence that we are justified in constantly wringing our hands over the matter, you’re in luck.
On April 20th, Bhavesh Patel plead guilty to “dangerous driving” at St. Albans Crown Court in the United Kingdom. The term driving is a bit of a misnomer, though. Because Patel was actually sitting in the passenger seat of his Tesla Model S 60, while his vehicle traveled down the motorway driver free. The incident, which took place in May of last year, was caught by a fellow commuter and subsequently reported to authorities. Obviously, we had to find footage of the unbridled stupidity.
After four years of consecutive growth, the United Kingdom’s automotive market has tanked for 12 months straight. The culprit is, of course, dwindling diesel sales.
Thanks to European governments latching onto the fuel as the cleaner alternative to “petrol” throughout the 1990s (subsequently incentivizing the fuel as a way to meet aggressive CO2-reduction targets), diesel-powered autos accounted for roughly half of all new auto sales between 2009 and 2017 . But diesel is now “evil” and everyone in Europe has started avoiding it.
In March, diesel sales declined by 37.2 percent — leaving the once dominant fuel with just 32 percent of the new car market. Unsurprising, as the new trend in Europe is the widespread (future) banning of the fuel in city centers. April’s sales are expected to be even lower, as the British government’s new taxes on diesel vehicles come into effect. Those fees and a weakened pound, which practically everyone has attributed to Brexit, forced new car sales in the UK down by 16 percent.
Ford Motor Company has a lot invested in Europe. While the continent spent decades operating facilities under the lose leadership of Ford of Britain, Detroit acquired direct ownership in 1950. From there it extended its influence dramatically, buying up established European manufacturers near the close of the 20th century. But things haven’t always been good; economic hardships have been par for the course and things haven’t been easy in a long time.
Presently, Ford makes around $75,000 in profit for each of its employees in the United States. In Europe, that number is about $4,300 per worker. While we’re sure that makes domestic line workers feel entitled to a small pay increase, the point is that the profit margins across the pond are pretty slim for Ford.
However, unlike General Motors, the company doesn’t want to abandon the region. The automaker says it’s taking a renewed interesting in figuring how to keep profits up and is avoiding any speculation that it might duck out of Europe entirely. But let’s revisit its hardships over the last decade so we can establish a framework for why Ford is having a rough go of it.