This week’s news for company executives March 08, 2012
This Week’s Briefing The Editor’s View
WANDER around the Geneva Motor Show,
Geneva Motor Show new which opened on Tuesday (March 6), and with
model blitz well over 100 new models and concepts on
display you would be forgiven for thinking that
Stop penalising low emission the global motor industry was in rude health and
company car drivers defying the global economic crisis. And, in some
Cost savings and stability cases you would be right. For example, those two
drive salary sacrifice demand most British of brands, Jaguar and Land Rover,
can’t make models fast enough for global
March new car sales ‘key consumption and both plan significant range
indicator’ as to health of market expansion. Meanwhile, Nissan used the Show to
announce that it would build a new model at its
UK fuel prices hit record high, Sunderland factory creating 2,000 new jobs in the
reports Government data UK automotive industry in the process. But, a tie-
Online profiling statistics reveal up between General Motors and Peugeot is a
the cause of rising fleet costs result of two struggling manufacturers, with the
former continuing to consider the viability of its
Restricted used car supply Vauxhall/Opel European operations including the
keep values firm at auction long-term future of its Ellesmere Port plant - the
‘home of the Astra’. Beneath the glitz and the
Vauxhall Ampera and Chevrolet glamour of ‘show time’ tough motor
Volt win Car of the Year title manufacturing decisions still have to be made.
Small fleets targeted with HMRC’s £120 million drive on tax records
THE taxman will check the mileage records of thousands of small fleets as part of a drive to
boost revenue collection by £120 million over the next three years.
The plan was outlined in an HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) review document and
underlines the pressing need for businesses to keep detailed and accurate logs of business
journeys, according to Paul Jackson, managing director of fuel and mileage specialist, TMC.
HMRC plans to carry out Business Record Checks (BRCs) at 60,000 SMEs between now and
BRCs are designed to identify companies where statutory record keeping is unsatisfactory.
The idea is that the firms can put their house in order instead of submitting inaccurate tax
A pilot study run by HMRC last year found that 40% of firms’ records weren’t up to scratch.
However, 11% of companies’ records were bad enough to warrant further investigation by
the tax authorities. In many cases, such probes lead to large bills for unpaid tax, plus fines
and interest penalties.
Jackson said that mileage was often one of the weakest areas of a business’s statutory
‘You need to be able to show that your business collects sufficient detail on business
journeys. That means recording the date and purpose of trip, the start and finish points and
accurate mileage,’ he said.
‘The Revenue will also check whether you audit your drivers’ expense claims regularly and
correct them if necessary to prevent overpayments. Overpaying is tantamount to providing
private fuel and carries a big liability for tax and National Insurance.’
To help smaller companies to comply with their statutory expenses reporting obligations,
TMC has developed a small-fleet solution called TMC2. A version of TMC’s mileage capture
and audit solution it is designed for the needs of businesses with 1-100 vehicles.
HMRC forecasts that the BRC programme will increase revenue collection from SMEs by
£13 million in 2012/13, £49 million in 2013/14 and £62 million in 2014/15.
The new BRC regime is due to start early in the 2012/13 financial year, following final
consultations with representative bodies about the recommendations in the review.
HMRC will initially contact businesses considered to be at higher risk of keeping inadequate
records when the BRC programme restarts to ask about their business records.
From this contact, HMRC will consider whether the customer is using appropriate record-
keeping systems, and identify those businesses that require a BRC visit.
If an initial visit finds a business’s statutory records to be seriously inadequate, a follow-up
visit will be arranged, giving them a reasonable time to get their records in order.
If the records have still not improved and still demonstrate serious inadequacies, the visiting
officer may refer the business for a full tax return check. If that check uncovers an incorrect
return, and the inaccuracies are linked back to poor records, a record-keeping penalty would
Every person or business filling in a tax return must keep all the records and documents
needed to enter the correct figures. All businesses must keep records of motoring expenses
and mileage and employers must keep records of their employees’ benefits and expenses.
The law allows for a maximum penalty for improper record-keeping of £3,000 although no
penalties have been imposed specifically for bad record-keeping to date. However, the BRC
review recommends that record-keeping penalties should be applied in future alongside
penalties for late and/or inaccurate returns.
Stop penalising low emission company car drivers, Chancellor told
CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer George Osborne should review company car benefit-in-
kind tax levels for employees who choose to drive low emission models in the March 21
That’s the view of ACFO, the leading fleet decision-makers’ organisation, which says drivers
of low emission company cars are being penalised by tightening tax thresholds while drivers
of high emissions cars are increasingly finding their tax bills unchanged.
Since the introduction of a carbon dioxide emissions based company car tax system was
introduced in April 2002 drivers have paid benefit-in-kind tax on a scale charge ranging from
15% to 35% of the list price of their vehicle, although reduced payments have applied for
lower emissions models.
On April 6 the lower end of the scale charge system is being revised, which will see the scale
charges ranging from 10% to 35%.
That means drivers at the wheel of company cars emitting 115-119 g/km will see their
benefit-in-kind tax bills rise almost 50% in the new financial year as vehicles are catapulted
into the 14% tax bracket from the 10% threshold. Meanwhile, drivers of 120 g/km emissions
models will have to fund a 50% rise as vehicles move into the 15% bracket.
Employees driving a company car with carbon dioxide emissions up to 99 g/km will continue
to see their tax bill unchanged (10%) with those at the wheel of vehicles with emissions of
100 g/km to 114 g/km moving into the 11-13% tax thresholds.
Ironically, drivers of cars with emissions of 121-124 g/km will see no increase in their tax
bills as vehicles will remain in the 15% tax bracket, while those driving cars with emissions
of 125 g/km or higher will see bills rise as emission thresholds tighten 1%.
Linking the company car benefit-in-kind tax system to vehicle emissions has naturally driven
employee demand for low emission cars. However, there remains a ‘hardcore’ of employees
who continue to drive high emissions cars.
Despite the Government’s well-publicised environmental objectives, the upper scale charge
has been left unchanged at 35% since the system was introduced a decade ago. In 2002/3 the
maximum 35% tax charge applied to cars with emissions of 265 g/km or more (250 g/km for
diesel cars), while in 2012/13 the threshold is at 220 g/km (205 g/km for diesel cars).
It means, for example that the tax bill for the driver of an Audi Q7 6.0 V12 TDI (298 g/km),
BMW 750i (266 g/km) or Range Rover 4.4 TDV8 (253 g/km) has theoretically not changed
in a decade.
The 2012/13 tightening of company car benefit-in-kind tax thresholds means that employees
at the wheel of cars with a CO2 figure of 225 g/km and above (210 g/km and above for
diesel) will see no change in their tax bills. That includes models such as the Audi A6 3.0 V6
TFSI (225 g/km), BMW 740i (232 g/km) and Mercedes ML300 CDI BlueEfficiency (230
Latest figures linking new car emission figures to company car benefit-in-kind tax bands
were not available from either HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) or the Society of Motor
Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
However, SMMT new car sales figures reveal that in 2010 more than 50,000 cars were
registered with CO2 emissions at 226 g/km and above and a further 45,371 with emissions of
between 201 g/km and 225 g/km. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that the majority of
those almost 100,000 vehicles would be classed as company cars.
ACFO chairman Julie Jenner said: ‘Drivers of low emission company cars are following the
Government’s environmental edict, but it seems their bills are rising annually with many
seeing significant increases in 2012/13. We believe this is unfair and perhaps it is time for the
Government to consider other tax threshold adjustments rather than simply tightening the
screw at the lower end on a seemingly annual basis.’
Cost savings and stability drive salary sacrifice demand
COST efficiencies and stable pricing are the key factors attracting employees to salary
sacrifice for cars, according to a survey carried out by independent leasing, fleet management
and vehicle outsourcing company Zenith.
As cost savings and an all inclusive package with fixed pricing are amongst the main benefits
of salary sacrifice, this is helping to drive popularity of the schemes throughout ongoing
Zenith says the popularity of salary sacrifice car schemes continues to grow amongst its
existing customer base and the company says that there are several more new schemes due to
go live in the next few months. The scheme is helping employers to reward, motivate, retain
and recruit employees, during challenging economic times, says Zenith.
When asked what they particularly like about a salary sacrifice car arrangement versus an
alternative arrangement, cost savings is the main influencer in the decision making process,
with 41% of drivers being primarily attracted by the potential savings.
A total of 32% said they were attracted by the hassle-free motoring and stability of costs that
the all-inclusive schemes offer, with all costs fixed for the duration.
The benefit to the environment of the scheme is important to 11% of drivers, whilst 9% like
the choice and flexibility. Five percent like the way the scheme is accessible to more than just
existing company car drivers and 2% are attracted by the ability to use the scheme to fund a
second family car.
The cost efficiencies delivered through tax savings, the enhanced corporate discounts and the
all inclusive package with fixed costs, are helping to increase demand for salary sacrifice
during a period when disposable income remains tight, says Zenith.
Employees benefit from knowing how much the car will cost from the outset and they are
protected from market fluctuations, including insurance and maintenance, says the company.
Road tax, accident management, windscreen and tyre replacements are also included in the
price and the figure employees are quoted at the point of order factors in benefit-in-kind tax
payments. The only cost not included is fuel.
Although helping the environment has not been given as one of the two most popular factors,
employees can maximise their savings by choosing a low emission car.
In fact analysis of Zenith orders shows that employees will, on average, choose a car with
emissions well below the emission cap for a scheme, which increases their savings.
Employees who select a lower emitting car will also benefit from lower fuel costs, and there
is now an increasingly wider choice of fuel efficient vehicles available.
Drivers were asked to state the most important factors when selecting their new car through a
salary sacrifice car scheme.
Again cost was the key factor in car choice given by 33%, next was brand which influenced
22%, followed by vehicle specification (21%). Fifteen percent said environmental impact of
the vehicle was important and 9% said the status of the vehicle.
Employees were also asked what type of body style they would prefer. A hatch or saloon is
the most popular body style (preferred by 48%), followed by three-door coupe (18%) and
Online profiling statistics reveal the cause of rising fleet costs
ONE in three company car drivers fail to recognise half the potential hazards they face while
motoring in Britain, according to an online risk assessment organisation.
Analysis of tests taken by drivers using the E-Training World risk assessment programme
found that 35% of fleet drivers were unable to recognise 50% of the clues to potential hazards
in typical road scenes.
Among the most common missed danger points were areas such as: signs saying ‘car boot
sale ahead’ which would indicate likely traffic queues, road markings, such as hazard
warning lines indicating fixed hazards including junctions, changes in road surfaces and
buildings set away from the road, indicating hidden junctions ahead.
In addition 20% of drivers didn’t know how to adjust their head restraint properly to avoid
whiplash, and 12% of drivers were unaware that a road scene containing a system of street
lights and no visible speed signs denoted a 30 mph speed limit.
The findings, taken from E-Training World’s online system, which assesses 15,000 drivers
per annum, reveal some startling shortfalls in many drivers’ road and vehicle knowledge, as
well as their hazard perception skills, says the company.
’When you talk to companies operating vehicle fleets, they frequently bemoan the number of
accidents their drivers have, the number of speeding fines incurred and there is also a serious
epidemic in the UK regarding whiplash claims,’ said Graham Hurdle, managing director of
’However, it is unsurprising that accidents are happening when such a large proportion of
drivers are unable to spot many clues to potential hazards, which effectively means they are
blind to the dangers around them. And if they also do not know what the speed limit is in
urban areas, again it should come as no shock that they are getting caught.’
Hazard perception is about spotting clues to the potential dangers ahead, and according to
Hurdle is a key skill in reducing the number of accidents.
’Accidents happen when drivers ignore these clues and drive on at speed to then hit the back
of a traffic queue, meet another vehicle pulling out of a junction or misjudge a corner,’ he
‘As for recognising speed limits and how to set head restraints, this is a five minute job to
educate drivers and can be done online using our e-driver training systems. But many
companies soldier on processing the fines and defending the claims rather than dealing with
the root cause.’
Driver satisfaction survey extended to fleet sector service companies
TOUCHPOINT, Experteye’s driver satisfaction survey, is being extended to fleet sector
service companies such as fast-fit specialists, windscreen providers, accident management
companies and any other corporate supplier.
Previously aimed at contract hire and fleet management companies, the service has been
broadened due to growing demand from other fleet sector businesses who wish to monitor
driver satisfaction, as well as their own performance.
Drivers are contacted via email, telephone or text to provide a driver satisfaction rating and
essential feedback immediately after key events such as vehicle delivery, servicing,
breakdown, a fast-fit item, windscreen replacement or repair, the provision of a day hire
vehicle, after an accident or any other service relevant to each service provider.
‘Now that a number of the major contract hire and leasing companies are using Touchpoint to
measure driver satisfaction, which is then utilised in supplier review meetings, we are seeing
demand widening,’ said Rick Yarrow, managing director of Experteye.
‘The benefit of Touchpoint is that it draws current, meaningful data from drivers into web-
based systems making it easy to interrogate, interpret and use for service improvements,
monitor KPIs and SLAs and provide essential account management information for the
higher level relationship with the clients.
‘For the contract hire and leasing companies, this provides large volumes of invaluable driver
feedback which can be used for supplier management and service improvements. But for
many companies that either supply the contract hire sector, or work with fleet operators
directly, it is also being seen as a vital tool for assessing performance and pinpointing with
precision where improvements can be made.
‘It also helps service companies manage their relationships with contract hire and fleet
management companies, because it gives them tangible evidence of their own service
performance across multiple clients and large volumes of drivers. This helps benchmark
whether each specific client relationship sits above or below the norm.’
Now also with its new QMS application, Touchpoint has the capability to integrate fully
automated processes for the effective resolution of any issues or complaints. This includes the
facility for drivers, fleet managers, fleet sector suppliers or the contract hire or fleet
management provider to log issues.
These are then processed and resolved in line with their own best practice, and the QMS
application is also fully aligned to proven quality management standards such as ISO.
Vauxhall Ampera and Chevrolet Volt win Car of the Year title
THE Innovative Vauxhall Ampera and its stablemate the Chevrolet Volt have won the 2012
‘Car of the Year’ award.
Featuring E-REV technology (Extended Range Electric Vehicle), the models were the
undisputed winners with 330 points beating the Volkswagen Up (281 points) and Ford Focus
The Car of the Year jury is composed of 59 leading automotive journalists from 23 European
Opel/Vauxhall CEO, Karl-Friedrich Stracke, and Chevrolet’s president and managing
director for Europe, Susan Docherty, were both handed the Car of the Year 2012 award at the
Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday (March 6).
The selection criteria applied by the judges were based on attributes such as design, comfort,
performance and especially innovative technologies as well as efficiency - areas where the
Ampera and the Volt excelled, said the judges.
The judges concluded: ‘The Opel Ampera and its counterpart, the Chevrolet Volt, won in a
field of strong competitors, particularly on account of the outstanding technical progress they
Stracke said: ‘We are extremely pleased that our revolutionary electric vehicle has emerged
as the winner in such a tough field of competitors. This encourages us further to continue our
leadership role in the area of e-mobility.’
The Ampera and the Volt are the first electric vehicles in the market that can go anywhere
anytime. A 16 kWh lithium ion battery powers the 150 bhp electric motor.
Depending on the style of driving and road conditions, distance of between 40 and 80
kilometres can be covered in the purely battery-operated mode, completely free of emissions.
The wheels of the car are always powered electrically.
In extended-range mode, which activates whenever the battery has reached its minimum state
of charge, the petrol engine drives a generator that supplies the electric drive unit. The range
extender enables an operating radius of 500 kilometres.
JLR promises more models and an increased leasing focus
BOOMING British motor manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, revelling in a £1 billion profit in
2010/11 and a £559 million surplus in the final quarter of last year, has drawn up a four-point
action plan to keep the ball rolling.
Additionally, the company has promised that both brands will become significantly more
active in the contract hire and leasing sector.
Jaguar Land Rover CEO Dr Ralf Speth told a Geneva Motor Show audience, including
company owner Ratan Tata, that the two British brands would strengthen their premium
position and product ranges and increase their footprint in other markets while maintaining
their ‘authentic British characters’.
‘We will be premium in everything we do and invest over-proportionately in research and
development on new models,’ he said.
‘We will strengthen our footprint in sales operations and discuss the possibility of more
production in India, China and Brazil while ensuring we stay British and continue to produce
‘And there could be opportunities to increase production, which would mean hundreds of
Adrian Hallmark, head of the Jaguar Brand, told Headlineauto that there would be six new
models in 2012 to add to the five in 2011. They include the XF Sportbrake (estate) plus
special edition additions to the XK sports car range, all revealed at the show.
And John Edwards, his counterpart at Land Rover, said there would be greater customisation
options for the hugely successful Range Rover Evoque, possibly including a production
version of the Convertible model revealed at Geneva to gauge reaction.
Meanwhile, Jaguar Land Rover managing director and former boss of Audi in the UK,
Adrian Hicks, wants to see expansion with a range of sporty R performance models and
SUVs - mirroring the model expansion he oversaw at Audi.
XF Sportbrake is a rival for the likes of the BMW 5 Series touring and Audi A6 Avant. It will
go into production later this year, but an addition to the highly successful Evoque range is
dependent on reaction, although the Convertible concept must rekindle memories of Hicks’s
time at Audi - the Q5 was initially shown as a drop-top design study before becoming an
estate for production.
‘The Sportbrake opens up 20% more of the market in its segment for us,’ said Hicks. ‘The
Evoque Convertible is at this stage purely to gauge reaction, but the UK has a very strong
convertible market, so it does open up possibilities for us.’
More progress will also be possible when, rather than if, Jaguar Land Rover opts to go into
the compact premium segment, however.
Hicks said: ‘If we are going to grow we can’t rely on the existing segments. That size of car
(Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class) gives is a great opportunity, and we are
actively looking at it. It can open big doors for us.
‘If you look at the four-cylinder diesel engines we have in the XF, they have doubled our
market opportunities and made us much stronger in the corporate sales segment. Now we
know we need to be much more active in contract hire and leasing.’
The Evoque Convertible concept vehicle explores the potential for the world’s first premium
convertible SUV. Whilst there are no current plans to put the Evoque convertible into
production, Land Rover will be gauging reaction to the concept and listening carefully to
On unveiling the model, Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern said: ‘We believe that
the Evoque lends itself beautifully to the idea of a convertible. From a pure design
perspective, we have used Evoque’s dramatic shape to create a distinctive and highly
New Volvo V40 promises luxury in a compact model
VOLVO’s all-new premium five-door, five-seat hatchback, the V40, is claimed to have a
luxury look and feel that emphasises the aura of a compact car with large-car content and
‘The all-new V40 sibling to the Volvo C30 is the first new model that is fully developed
according to our human-centric, Designed Around You strategy. Fully charged with a class-
leading set of high-tech features it is ready to give our toughest competitors a real headache,’
claimed Stefan Jacoby, president and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation at the Geneva Motor
Show where the model made its world debut.
‘Thanks to input from customers all over the world, our most compact V-range model
features an outstanding blend of design, safety and versatility. The car is loaded with features
that buyers of modern luxury cars want.’
Prices and specification will be announced at the end of March with customers able to place
orders by the end of April. Production starts in May, with deliveries due in September.
The all-new Volvo V40 is available with a fixed panorama glass roof that stretches from the
front windscreen to the backrest of the rear seats.
The engine range spans everything from Volvo’s first diesel with emissions of 94 g/km to the
turbocharged T5 petrol engine with 254 bhp and acceleration from 0 to 62 mph in 6.7
All engine versions have start-stop and braking energy regeneration, no matter whether they
are fitted with a manual or automatic gearbox.
The five-cylinder 2.5 litre turbocharged T5 engine has a power output of 254 bhp and 400
Nm of torque, including 40 Nm overboost delivered during acceleration. To achieve low fuel
consumption and emissions, internal friction has been reduced. The T5 comes with automatic
transmission and acceleration from 0-62 mph takes 6.7 seconds. Fuel consumption is 35.8
mpg on the combined cycle.
The mid-range offer includes two versions of a 1.6 litre GTDi engine: T4 with 180 bhp and
T3 with 150 bhp.
The 180 bhp engine offers maximum torque of 270 Nm, including 30 Nm overboost. The 150
bhp T3 engine offers 240 Nm of torque with fuel economy of 48.7 mpg and emissions of 134
The five-cylinder 2.0 litre D4 turbodiesel delivers 177 bhp and has torque of 400 Nm.
Acceleration from 0-62 mph takes 8.3 seconds with the automatic gearbox (8.6 seconds with
manual). Fuel consumption and emissions is 62.8 mpg (119 g/km) with a manual gearbox and
53.3 mpg (139 g/km) with the automatic.
In addition there is the 2.0 litre D3 producing 150 bhp and 350 Nm of torque. Both
turbodiesels are available with a six-speed automatic transmission or six-speed manual
The D2 version of the V40 comes with emissions of 94 g/km - corresponding to fuel
consumption of 78.8 mpg. The 1.6 litre diesel engine has 115 bhp and 285 Nm of torque,
including 15 Nm overboost. The D2 engine is combined with a six-speed manual gearbox
and start/stop function. The 1.6-litre diesel engine can also be mated to the six-speed
Adding several new high-tech features to a full deck of safety and support systems from
larger models makes the all-new V40 the most ‘IntelliSafe’ Volvo so far, says the
The new features include world-first Pedestrian Airbag Technology, Lane Keeping Aid with
haptic auto steering, Park Assist Pilot, automatic Road Sign Information, Active High Beam
and a Cross Traffic Alert radar system at the rear.
The all-new V40 also features the groundbreaking Pedestrian Detection with full auto brake -
as well as the further developed City Safety low-speed collision avoidance system which now
operates at speeds up to 31 mph.
Order books open shortly for all-new Audi A3 three-door
THE all-new three-door Audi A3 model opens for order in spring priced from approximately
£19,000 on-the-road with first UK deliveries due in September.
The model debuted at the Geneva Motor Show, which opened on Tuesday (March 6) and
features major advances in quality, infotainment and driver assistance technology, efficiency
and driver appeal
Three reworked engines, which will be available at launch, deliver efficiency gains averaging
12% - 1.4 TFSI (122 PS) and 1.8 TFSI (180 PS) petrol and 2.0 litre TDI (143 PS)
The 1.8 litre TFSI engine is linked as standard to a seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch
transmission; the 1.4 litre TFSI and 2.0 litre TDI are paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.
All engines in this first phase drive the front wheels; quattro permanent all-wheel drive - and
further engines, including a 1.4 litre TFSI with innovative cylinder on demand technology -
will follow later in 2012.
Emission levels for the new car start from 99 g/km (1.6 TDI) with MPG of 74.3 due to the
adoption of ‘Audi ultra’ lightweight technology, which has enabled it to tip the scales 80 kg
lighter than its predecessor.
The aluminium front wings and bonnet help in this regard, and contribute to a class-beating
kerb weight of 1,175kg for the 1.4 TFSI model.
In terms of dimensions, the new A3 is virtually identical to its predecessor in length and
height at 4,237mm and 1,421mm respectively, but it features a longer 2,601mm wheelbase in
the interest of dynamic composure and interior packaging. It is also slightly wider at
Jeep to expand with new small and large SUVs
JEEP is to expand its model range with new small and large SUVs with the first models
destined for launch in 2013.
A new small, B-segment model will take to the road in 2013 or 2014, while the premium
segment will see the return of the Grand Wagoneer name.
Mike Manley, Jeep’s British global brand chief, told Headlineauto at the Geneva Motor
Show that both newcomers presented big opportunities for the iconic brand.
He said: ‘The B SUV segment is going to continue to grow over the next few years
particularly in Europe and Asia and a product in this segment will also help us meet our
targets to reduce weight and emissions.’
The small Jeep, for which the company has yet to confirm a name - although Jeepster is a
favourite among some pundits - will be based on a platform jointly develop with partner Fiat.
Manley said: ‘The vehicles we develop of this platform will have their own distinct identity.
It is important that we maintain the Jeep DNA."
At the top end, the Grand Wagoneer will arrive around 2014 or 2015 with the United States
and the Middle East as its number one market.
Manley added: ‘The premium market for SUVs is still extremely important in the US and we
need to take Jeep back into that segment. We will be working hard to make sure this can
compete with the best in terms of engines, ride and handling as well as interiors. We will sell
it in Europe although we have not decided on right hand drive production as yet.’
Infiniti to roll out new models
INFINITI, Nissan’s luxury brand, will launch its first electric vehicle next year and the new
model, based on Nissan’s Leaf technology, will debut at next month's New York Motor
Although it uses the Leaf as a base, Infiniti insiders said at this week’s Geneva Motor Show
that it will have a different body and interior while the battery technology will also be
tweaked for the brand.
Engineers are looking at how an Infiniti electric vehicle will be used in the United States and
Europe and this is likely to be different to the way Leaf drivers use their cars. This could
mean larger batteries for a longer range.
Also coming from Infiniti is a new C-segment car for the important luxury market dominated
by the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A3. The model is due in 2015 and Nissan-
Infiniti design chief Shiro Nakamura said it would be based on the Etherea concept seen at
last year's Geneva show.
It will be the first model developed under the company’s alliance with Daimler and will be
based on the platform of the new Mercedes B-Class.
The alliance is also providing Infiniti with four cylinder petrol and diesel engines for its new
Nakamura told Headlineauto at the Geneva show: ‘We have gradually rolled out Infiniti
models in Europe with large V6 and V8 engines which have been popular in the US. This has
helped establish a brand position, now we need the smaller engines and a volume model in
the C-segment. We also need a ‘halo’ model which is why we are developing concepts such
as the Emerg-E.’
Currently all Infiniti cars for the US and Europe are built in Japan, but could the alliance with
Daimler see assembly brought to its factories in Europe?
Nakamura said: ‘It is certainly a possibility because with the strength of the yen it no longer
makes sense to build the cars in Japan. We are looking at a number of possibilities including
the US and China as well as Europe.’
Renault reveals pricing for electric Zoe
THE electric Renault Zoe will cost from £13,650 on-the-road after the Government’s Plug-in
Car Grant deduction the marque revealed at this week’s Geneva Motor Show where the car
made its world debut.
At the show Renault also announced a new three cylinder turbo 0.9 litre TCe 90 petrol and
1.5 dCi 90 diesel engines
The unveiling of the technology-packed Zoe comes in the wake of the Fluence Z.E. saloon,
Kangoo Van Z.E. (both launched in 2011) and the innovative urban runabout Twizy.
On sale this autumn, Renault says its launch marks the beginning of a new era of electric
vehicles for all.
With a range of more than 130 miles, Zoe is the first vehicle to be equipped as standard with
‘Range OptimiZEr’, a system designed to improve real-world range under all driving
conditions. For example, in suburban use the owner will achieve between 62 and 93 miles.
In the UK, monthly battery hire costs from £70 (9,000 miles/36 month contract), inclusive of
comprehensive breakdown assistance (which covers flat batteries).
Meanwhile the new Energy TCe 90 0.9 litre three-cylinder turbo petrol powerplant and an
Energy 1.5 dCi 90 diesel engine derived from the Energy dCi 110 which was unveiled at the
2011 Frankfurt Motor Show bring the total number of engines in the Energy range to eight.
The product of a brand-new Renault design, the three-cylinder, 899cc turbo petrol engine is
The Energy TCe 90 will be launched in the future Clio and will gradually replace the current
1.2 TCe 100.
The new engine develops 90 bhp at 5,000 rpm and torque of 135 Nm available across a broad
The Energy dCi 90 engine will initially power Kangoo and Kangoo Van. Kangoo boasts
record low fuel consumption of 64.2 mpg on the combined cycle and emissions of 115 g/km,
down 16%. To further reduce running costs, oil change intervals have been increased to
40,000 km or every two years (whichever threshold is reached first).
The 90 bhp version will be launched in May, followed in June by an Energy dCi 75 variant
delivering 75 bhp and 180 Nm.
From mid-2012, Renault will launch a Euro6-ready Energy dCi 130 version on markets that
offer tax incentives.
Mercedes goes on the ‘attack’ with all-new A-Class
MERCEDES-Benz gave a world debut to its all-new A-Class at the Geneva Motor Show this
Promising to go on the ‘attack’ with the new A-Class, Mercedes said it was ‘opening up a
whole new chapter in the compact segment’.
The new model will come with a range of engines offering 109 bhp to 211 bhp and emission
levels from 99 g/km.
The bandwidth of the new generation of petrol engines with a displacement of 1.6 and 2.0
litres ranges from 115 bhp in the A 180 and 156 bhp in the A 200 through to 211 bhp in the A
Meanwhile, the A 180 CDI offers an output of 109 bhp and a maximum torque of up to 250
Nm, while the A 200 CDI has a maximum output of 136 bhp and torque that rises to 300 Nm.
The A 220 CDI has a displacement of 2.2 litres, an output of 170 bhp and torque of 350 Nm.
All engines in the new A-Class feature the ECO start/stop function as standard. The engines
can be combined either with the new six-speed manual transmission or, as an option, with the
7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Additionally, the availability of the radar-based Collision Prevention Assist system on the
model underlined, said Mercedes-Benz, that safety was not simply a question of price.
As well as the basic specification, exact UK details have yet to be released, which can be
individualised with a wide range of options, there is a choice of design and equipment lines
that have been put together with the requirements of customers in mind: Urban, Style and
Mercedes says that the A-Class is the only vehicle in its class to feature as standard a radar-
based collision warning system with adaptive Brake Assist, which lowers the risk of rear-end
The Collision Prevention Assist system gives a visual and acoustic warning to alert a possibly
distracted driver to identified obstacles, and prepares Brake Assist for the most precise
braking response possible. This is initiated as soon as the driver steps firmly on the brake
Mercedes’ established Pre-Safe preventive occupant protection system is also now available
for the first time in the A-Class.
Vauxhall launches most powerful diesel engine ever in Insignia
VAUXHALL’S most powerful diesel engine ever is now available in the Insignia range,
producing 195 PS and 400 Nm of torque, but with emissions of 129 g/km.
Known as the Insignia BiTurbo, and on sale now, it’s available with a choice of five-door
Hatch and Sports Tourer bodies in SRi, SRi Vx-line and Elite trims, priced from £27,120 on
The twin-sequential turbocharged diesel is based on the existing 1956cc unit which powers
key models in the Insignia, Astra and new Zafira Tourer range.
However, in BiTurbo form the engine produces up to 35 PS more power and a significant 50
Nm of extra torque, reducing the 0-60 mph time by nearly one second to 8.2 seconds
(Insignia front wheel drive Hatch).
But due to a package of eco features - including standard Start/Stop across the range - the
front wheel drive Hatch achieves a combined 57.6mpg, 2.2 mpg better than the single-turbo
2.0 CDTi 160 PS model.
What makes the Insignia BiTurbo unique in its class is its use of sequential turbocharging,
with the smaller turbo accelerating quickly at lower engine speeds to eliminate ‘lag’,
providing 350 Nm of torque from1,500 rpm. In the mid-range, both turbochargers work
together, with a bypass valve allowing gases to flow from the small to large unit; during this
phase, maximum torque of 400 Nm is produced between 1,750-2,500 rpm. From 3,000 rpm,
all gases flow directly to the larger turbo, ensuring performance is maintained at higher
Complementing the power gain, Vauxhall’s FlexRide adaptive damping is standard on all
Insignia BiTurbos (normally a £790 option on front-wheel drive Insignias).
The system reacts within milliseconds to driver inputs and can ‘learn’ how the car is being
driven and adapt damper settings accordingly. Drivers can also select Tour and Sport buttons,
and configure the throttle, steering and damper settings in Sport mode separately.
On four-wheel drive models, FlexRide is integrated with the car’s Torque Transfer Device
(TTD) and the rear axle’s electronically controlled Limited Slip Differential (e-LSD). These
features allow torque to be automatically transferred between front and rear wheels, and
between left and right wheels on the rear axle, offering exceptional levels of traction, grip and
New Vauxhall Astra VXR out to beat class rivals
VAUXHALL’S new Astra VXR will produce more power and torque than any car in its class
and will achieve a sub six-second 0-60mph time - quicker than any main rival - when it
arrives in UK showrooms this summer.
Costing £26,995 on-the-road, it will undercut that of the less powerful Volkswagen Scirocco
R, and will include a mechanical limited slip differential and 19-inch rims in its kit-list,
neither of which is standard on either the Volkswagen or the Renault Megane Sport, the
VXR’s other main competitor.
Based on the GTC’s platform and powered by a 2.0 litre turbocharged direct injection engine,
the VXR produces 280 PS and 400 Nm of torque - 40-50 Nm more than key rivals - enough
for it to achieve a top speed of 155 mph and accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds.
But while the Astra VXR is based on the new GTC, it has benefited from a raft of bespoke
chassis modifications, transforming it into a focused, high-performance coupe.
Visual identifiers for the Astra VXR comprise a set of specially sculpted front and rear
bumpers, side skirts, an aerodynamic roof spoiler and two exhaust tail pipes in a trapeze
Inside, the VXR’s cabin gets bespoke light-weight performance seats with embossed logos in
the backs, a flat-bottomed VXR steering wheel and upgraded instruments.
New Mitsubishi Outlander to feature plug-in hybrid option
THE all-new Mitsubishi Outlander, which will go on sale later this year, will include an
electric plug-in hybrid model.
Mitsubishi’s first plug-in hybrid (P-HEV) vehicle will be an electric vehicle-based car,
relying on the manufacturer’s extensive electric vehicle and electronic know-how gained with
its i-MiEV city car, supplemented by a petrol engine when needed.
Making the best use of Mitsubishi’s extensive four-wheel drive expertise, it will also be the
first permanent 4WD electric car in series production.
The unique drive-train combination of front electric motor with rear electric motor plus front
traction/generator petrol engine will translate into a choice of three driving modes:
Pure (Twin Motor 4WD EV) and;
Series (Twin Motor 4WD EV supported by internal combustion engine (ICE)
Parallel (Twin Motor 4WD EV supplemented by ICE powered FWD)
Taking advantage of the possibilities of Outlander’s versatile architecture, it will be the first
built-in P-HEV, designed and built alongside the more conventional ICE versions of the same
vehicle - a first in the market.
The electric vehicle-based plug-in hybrid system uses high-capacity traction batteries that
allow the vehicle to cover over 50 km in 4WD electric mode. The model is claimed to have
acceleration comparable to that of a 3.0 litre V6 engine.
When the driver applies the brakes, the front and rear motors act as a generator recovering
kinetic energy and using it to charge the traction battery.
When fitted to the all-new Outlander, the Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle system
(fitted with a petrol engine) will allow for a range and very low emissions similar to that of
the Concept PX-MiEV II show car. That’s a driving distance of over 800 km and an
emissions target below 50 g/km.
Similar in size to the current car, the new Outlander will also be available with a choice of a
2.0 litre 150 PS petrol engine and a 2.2 litre 150 PS diesel engine.
Honda reveals ultra-low emission engine to power Civic
HONDA is to introduce a new 1.6 litre i-DTEC engine in the new Civic that will deliver
emissions of 95 g/km.
The new engine is the first drive train from Honda’s new Earth Dreams Technology engine
series to be introduced into Europe.
It will be manufactured at Honda’s UK manufacturing facility in Swindon from the end of
The application of new high-strength material in the cylinder head has enabled Honda to
deliver the world’s lightest aluminium open deck 1.6 litre diesel engine.
Such lightweight characteristics, along with the compact high-efficiency turbocharger
enhance responsiveness and ensure, says Honda, that the car will offer a class-leading
balance of fuel economy and performance.
New Kia C’eed set for UK summer arrival
THE second-generation of Kia’s best-selling model in Europe, the C’eed, was revealed at the
Geneva Motor Show in five-door hatchback and SW bodystyles.
The model will go on UK sale in the summer and UK powertrains, trim levels and pricing
will be revealed in May.
New Cee’d is both longer and lower than its predecessor, giving the five-door hatchback a
more sporty profile. Overall length is increased by 50 mm (to 4,310 mm) and overall height
has been reduced by 10 mm (to 1,470 mm) by lowering the ride height. Despite being based
on a completely new platform, new Cee’d carries over the 2,650 mm wheelbase, one of the
longest in the C-segment, from its predecessor.
Depending on individual market preferences, the new Cee’d will be available with a wide
choice of engines offering power outputs from 90 to 135 PS.
Across most of Western Europe there will be two petrol engines - a 1.4 MPI and a 1.6 GDI
producing 100 and 135 PS respectively - plus two diesels - a 1.4 WGT with an output of 90
PS and 1.6 VGT diesel offered in two outputs (110 and 128 PS). Certain markets in Europe
will also offer a 1.6 MPI petrol unit producing 130 PS.
Kia anticipates that its top of the range diesel - the 1.6 litre variable geometry turbo unit - will
be the most popular choice in most markets. Generating 128 PS and 260 Nm, the engine will
be offered with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Emission levels
start at 97 g/km.
Cargo capacity in the new model is boosted by 12% to 380 litres (up 40 litres) with the rear
seats upright and the split-folding rear seats can be made fully flat.
Chevrolet opens Volt order books
ORDER banks are now open for the Chevrolet Volt - the car that takes the range anxiety out
of electric motoring.
Thanks to its E-REV technology (Extended Range Electric Vehicle) the Volt will never leave
its driver stranded, unlike some other electric cars that will only travel a finite distance
This is thanks to an onboard petrol generator, which sustains battery power when the range is
depleted so that the car can still be driven, with the wheels powered by its electric motor until
it can be recharged.
Furthermore, Chevrolet has announced the first two dealerships that will sell the Volt, as well
as the final enhanced UK specification and pricing.
Initially, the car will be available through two dedicated Volt centres - Cambridge Chevrolet
in Cambridgeshire and Phoenix Chevrolet in Wimbledon, SW London.
‘We chose these two dealerships to appeal to the broadest reach of Volt buyers,’ said
Chevrolet UK managing director, Mark Terry.
‘Cambridge is a city geared toward the environment and new technology, as well as being
home to the Faraday Institute, named after the inventor of electricity, while London is clearly
where many existing users of electric vehicles reside, as well as where the industry sees the
potential for the biggest initial growth in sales of electric vehicles and their derivatives, such
The final UK specification of the Volt has also been announced, to include such features as
heated leather seats, Bluetooth with voice recognition and embedded phone, electronic
keyless ignition with touch button start, 17-inch alloy wheels, ambient LED-based interior
lighting, solar absorbing glass, DAB Digital Radio and an energy-efficient six-speaker stereo
system that uses minimal electricity to operate.
Other specification highlights include fully programmable door locking, cruise control, air
con, a 7-inch LCD screen with Driver Information Centre, touch-sensitive controls on the
centre console, a pedestrian alert system, rear camera and front and rear park assist and a
leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Only one trim level will be available, priced at £29,995 after the UK Government’s Low
Carbon Vehicle grant (£34,995 pre-grant).
Ford kick-activated tailgate to debut on new Kuga
AN innovative hands-free tailgate for the all-new Ford Kuga, offering customers a first-in-
class, kick-activated means of accessing the boot has been unveiled.
The system enables Kuga customers to gently kick a foot beneath the rear bumper to open
and close the tailgate without putting down packages or other loads.
The automatic hands-free tailgate will be launched as an option with keyless entry on the all-
new Kuga on sale in the UK in early 2013.
Dominik Nical, security electronics expert, Ford of Europe, said: ‘[This] is a practical and
unique solution to a common problem - opening the tailgate when your arms are full. It’s a
solution that will really work for customers in their everyday lives.’
Two sensors in the rear bumper detect a person’s shin and kicking motion. The system
safeguards against accidental opening, such as when an animal runs under the car or when the
vehicle hits a bump on the road. The system still works if a tow bar is fitted.
All-new Kuga is more spacious, dynamic and capable than the current model, says Ford,
which will introduce a range of other technologies to the model including the manufacturer’s
advanced voice control, device integration and in-car connectivity system SYNC.
It will include Emergency Assistance, which upon detecting airbag deployment or activation
of the emergency fuel shut-off within the car, uses the on board GPS locator and Bluetooth-
paired device to set up an emergency call and provide GPS co-ordinates, in the local
language, for the emergency response.
A range of driver assistance technologies including the parallel parking aid Active Park
Assist, and sensor-based Blind Spot Information System, which indicates with a warning
light in the door mirror that a potential hazard is in the driver’s blind spot, will also be
The model offers 442 litres of boot space (82 litres more than the current model), while the
rear seats fold flat at the touch of a button.
Engines available from launch in the UK include 140 PS and 163 PS versions of Ford’s 2.0
litre TDCi diesel powerplant, with Ford Powershift automatic gearbox an option. Kuga will
also offer the 1.6 litre EcoBoost petrol engine, already available in Ford Focus and C-Max.
New Hyundai i20 delivers ultra low emissions
HYUNDAI gave a world premiere at this week’s Geneva Motor Show to the all-new i20,
which will be powered by a range of four engine options, including a new 1.1 litre three
cylinder diesel engine emitting 84 g/km - claimed to be the lowest carbon dioxide emissions
from any conventional powertrain.
The ground-breaking new engine will be offered alongside another sub-100 g/km
diesel. When combined with Hyundai’s Blue Drive technologies, the upgraded 1.4 litre 90 PS
engine emits 96 g/km.
The debut of the new i20 sees the introduction of fluidic sculpture form language to
Hyundai’s supermini. The revised exterior design carries the hallmarks of Hyundai styling,
including the company’s signature hexagonal grille and new headlamp units.
The model also features a more contemporary profile for the front and rear bumpers, a new
sculpted bonnet and new wheel designs.
In terms of dimensions, the width (1,710 mm), height (1,490 mm) and wheelbase (2,525 mm)
remain the same, while the length has increased by 55 mm (front 30 mm, rear 25 mm) over
its predecessor to 3,995 mm.
Also at the Show, Hyundai revealed a new turbocharged version of its 1+2 door Veloster
The Veloster Turbo is the first Hyundai to feature the company’s 1.6 litre GDI engine with a
high-compression, twin-scroll turbocharger. In European specification, the new T-GDI unit
generates 186 PS and 270 Nm of torque. In non-turbocharged form, the Veloster offers 140
PS and 167 Nm.
Tony Whitehorn, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor UK, said: ‘UK drivers tend to prefer
more torque from a lower engine speed, so our European engineers have specified a set-up
that still provides a substantial increase in power - up from 140 PS to 186 PS - while also
delivering the desired low-end torque. The resulting package is very competitive against the
performance of competitors such as the Volkswagen Scirocco and Vauxhall Astra.’
Accelerating from 0-60 mph, Veloster Turbo takes 8.4 seconds (manual) compared to the 9.7
seconds (manual) of the regular Veloster. Exact emissions and fuel economy figures for the
new Veloster Turbo will be announced nearer to launch in the UK.
New Porsche Boxster set for UK spring arrival
THE new generation of the Porsche Boxster made its global debut at the Geneva Motor Show
this week ahead of its late spring arrival in the UK.
The Show also saw the European debuts of Porsche the Panamera GTS and 911 Carrera
The new Boxster has an all-new lightweight body, new flat-six engines with direct petrol
injection, a completely revised chassis and evolutionary styling.
Meanwhile, considerably lower weight, a longer wheelbase, widened track and larger wheels
significantly enhance the driving dynamics of the mid-engined sports car, says Porsche.
The range of technical enhancements help deliver a 15% improvement in fuel efficiency.
The new power unit fitted in the Boxster delivers 265 bhp from a 2.7 litre displacement - 10
bhp more than its larger capacity predecessor. Technically, it is now based on the 3.4 litre
engine of the Boxster S. The 3.4 litre now delivers 315 bhp, 5 bhp more than before.
Both models feature a manual six-speed gearbox as standard, with the seven-speed dual-
clutch Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) available as an option.
On sale in the UK from May 5, the Boxster is priced from £37,589 and from £45,384 for the
The new 911 Cabriolet shares its new, high tech aluminium-steel body with the Coupe, and
the convertible extends this innovation to its all-new, unique hood. When raised, the design
of the hood ensures the iconic 911 roof line is retained in its entirety. Intelligent lightweight
design, including the use of magnesium in the hood frame, ensures reduced weight for
increased responsiveness, lower fuel consumption and greater comfort.
As is the case with the Coupe model, the new 911 Cabriolet is significantly lighter overall
than its predecessor.
The new 911 models are on sale now; the Carrera Cabriolet is priced from £79,947, the
Carrera S Cabriolet from £89,740.
At the heart of the new Panamera GTS is its uprated 4.8 litre naturally-aspirated V8 engine
benefiting from numerous modifications to give it even better performance. The 30 bhp
higher engine output and 20 Nm greater torque (compared with the power units in the
Panamera S/4S), results in the GTS producing 430 bhp at 6,700 rpm and 520 Nm at 3,500
The V8 drives all four wheels via a seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK)
The four seater GTS has a kerb weight of 1,920kg and can accelerate from 0-62 mph in 4.5
seconds, and on to a top speed of 179 mph. The Panamera GTS is on sale now, priced from
All-new Mazda CX-5 leads fleet rivals in RV forecasts
EXCELLENT residual values are being predicted for Mazda’s all-new CX-5 compact
crossover SUV featuring breakthrough technology that will deliver major fuel savings and
emission reductions for fleets.
New data from a study by EurotaxGlass’s reveals that CX-5 models, including the forecasted
best-selling 2.2 SKYACTIV- D diesel 150 PS powered model, will retain 44-46% of their list
price at the crucial three years/60,000-mile benchmark.
The CX-5 marks the debut of Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology which promises major total
cost of ownership savings for fleet operators and significant financial benefits for company
car drivers over rival models.
For example, the 2.2 litre SKYACTIV-D diesel 2WD SE-L 150 PS is forecasted by
EurotaxGlass’s to have a residual value of £10,666 (46%) at three years/60,000 miles,
comfortably ahead of rivals Nissan Qashqai, Toyota RAV4, and the Ford Kuga, and a full 10
percentage points better than the Hyundai ix35 Style 2.0-litre CRDi 2WD model, which
retains a value of £6,908 (36%) over the same period and mileage.
In addition depreciation is more than £700 less than on the more expensive equivalent
Volkswagen Tiguan meaning the CX-5 is class-leading for this model in depreciation terms
Move up the CX-5 range to the 2.2 litre SKYACTIV-D diesel AWD Sport 175 PS and it’s
forecasted to retain 44% at three years/60,000 miles which again beats rivals Nissan Qashqai,
Toyota RAV4, Hyundai ix35 and the Ford Kuga, by up to eight percentage points.
Diesel models are expected to account for up to 75% of corporate sales, particularly due to
class-leading emissions (from 119 g/km) and fuel economy up to 61.4mpg (combined cycle).
Meanwhile petrol engine models, powered by a 2.0 litre SKYACTIV-G 165 PS engine
deliver up to 47.1 mpg and emissions of 139 g/km, also deliver first-class residual values.
EurotaxGlass’s forecasts that the entry model 2WD SE-L will have a three-year/60,000-mile
residual value of 45% putting it comfortably ahead of some key rivals. Once again,
depreciation on the CX-5 is lower than the more expensive Tiguan by more than £300.
Andrew Wright, of EurotaxGlass’s, said: ‘Mazda practices a sustainable residual value policy
which is vital as depreciation accounts for almost half a car’s total cost of ownership figures -
something which is being focused on more and more strongly in the buying decision process
by fleet customers.
‘The Mazda CX-5 is a convincing product through its benchmark consumption figures,
emotive design and very good price/performance ratio and it has all the prerequisites to be a
successful crossover SUV.’
Ford debuts all new Fiesta ST
THE new production-ready Ford Fiesta ST debuted at this week’s Geneva Motor Show in
advance of the performance hatchback going on sale in the UK in the first half of 2013.
The all-new model - there has not been a Fiesta ST since 2008 - will take Fiesta ST
performance to a new level: 180 PS 1.6 litre EcoBoost, 240 Nm of torque, 0-62 mph in under
seven seconds, and a top speed of more than 136 mph. At the same time, the EcoBoost
technology delivers a 20% reduction in emissions compared with the previous Fiesta ST.
Developed by Ford’s Team RS, the new Fiesta ST delivers significant ride-and-handling
improvements through the introduction of a specially tuned chassis that sits 15mm lower than
the standard Fiesta; Ford’s enhanced Torque Vectoring Control system; and three Electronic
Stability Control modes.
Ford says the model features unprecedented levels of equipment and specification to suit the
sporting driver, with standard Recaro sports seats appearing in a Fiesta ST for
the first time.
The model is also equipped with MyKey, which allows owners to limit performance and
ensure activation of safety features for when less-experienced drivers use the vehicle; and
SYNC, Ford’s voice-activated in-car connectivity system.
Chevrolet adds Cruze station wagon to range
CHEVROLET unveiled an all-new addition to its line up at the Geneva Motor Show this
The Station Wagon model represents the latest body style of Chevrolet’s most popular global
model, the Cruze, and complements the saloon and hatchback versions.
‘The Cruze Station Wagon caters to an important market segment. It ticks all the boxes for
European drivers in terms of distinctive design, dynamic driving, space and economy,’ said
Chevrolet Europe president and managing director Susan Docherty.
It features generous storage space and a choice of engines, including a new 130 bhp 1.7 litre
VCDi diesel engine, with start-stop technology as standard and CO2 emissions of 119 g/km.
At 4,678mm, the Station Wagon is slightly longer than the hatchback (4,510 mm) and saloon
(4,597 mm) models. Load space ranges from 500 litres up to the window line in the rear to
nearly 1,500 litres up to the roof top with the rear seats folded down.
Prices and full UK specification will be announced closer to the car’s on sale date, in autumn
SEAT reveals the future of Toledo
SEAT revealed the next phase of its product offensive in the form of a close-to-production
study at this week’s Geneva Motor Show.
The Toledo Concept combines the proportions of a classic saloon car with a sporty, almost
The next generation of the SEAT Toledo is described as ‘an exceptional combination of
emotion, outstanding design quality and rational usability’.
The Geneva study delivered a distinct view of the future - the series-production version on
which it is based will begin to reach dealers in Spain later in 2012.
Measuring 4.48 metres in length, the new Toledo will offer a generously proportioned
interior for five people, a luggage compartment of more than 500 litres and the convenience
of a large rear hatch and folding rear bench.
James Muir, president of SEAT, S.A. said: ‘The SEAT Toledo Concept illustrates our idea of
the perfect mid-range car. It is an excellent combination of emotional design, top-level
usability and dynamic driving characteristics.
‘The subsequent production model, our new Toledo, will write a whole new success story
with its clear SEAT identity, its excellent quality standard and exceptional value-for-money.
‘Following the Mii family and the new Ibiza, the new Toledo marks the next wave in our
model offensive and growth strategy.’
Geneva showing for Lexus RX450h
THE new Lexus RX 450h made its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show alongside the first
F Sport interpretation of the full hybrid luxury SUV.
Due to go on sale this summer, the new RX will continue to play an important role in the
Lexus model range.
Other highlights of the Lexus presentation at Geneva included the first European appearance
of the LF-LC hybrid sports coupe concept, and the new GS 450h and GS 450h F Sport.
Ford Focus electric to go on UK sale in 2013
THE Ford Focus Electric will go on sale in the UK in 2013 with a target range of 100 miles
and a full charge in three to four hours.
At the Geneva Motor Show, which opened on Tuesday (March 6), visitors had an early
opportunity to try the manufacturer’s first-ever all-electric passenger car.
Much of the Focus Electric’s steering, handling and braking feel is shared with the fuel-
powered five-door hatchback Focus model upon which it is based.
From launch, the Focus Electric will also employ Ford’s advanced voice control, device
integration and connectivity interface, SYNC, with specially developed features to enhance
the enjoyment of driving an electric vehicle in the most efficient way.
Stephen Odell, Ford of Europe’s CEO and chairman, said: ‘The suite of smart driver
information technologies will transform the way customers think about energy usage and
their transportation needs.’
The Focus Electric will be the flagship of Ford’s new family of electrified vehicles and joins
its growing line-up of energy efficient ECOnetic Technology-badged vehicles that are leaders
or among the very best in their segment in terms of fuel efficiency.
SsangYong gives European debut to new pick-up
KOREAN manufacturer SsangYong is to enter the British pick-up sector with the Actyon
Sports, which will be known as the Korando Sports in the UK.
The model made its European debut at the Geneva Motor Show, which opened on Tuesday
(March 6). UK specification and launch date have still to be confirmed.
SsangYong says the arrival of the new Actyon Sports reflects the growing demand from
drivers with an interest in outdoor activities and extreme sports.
After two years development and an investment of over €60 million, the new Actyon Sports
is a third generation model, inheriting the brand values of the first generation Musso Sports
and second generation Actyon Sports.
Actyon Sports is powered by the latest e-XDi active diesel engine. Peak torque is delivered
from 1,500rpm. The e-XDi active engine provides maximum power of 155 PS and peak
torque of 360 Nm, which is a 16% improvement over its predecessor.
A large, flat rear deck provides a 2.04m2 load area, accessed via a tailgate.
THE Show also saw the introduction of the revised SsangYong Korando
crossover featuring new powertrains, enhanced styling and improved quality.
Both convenience and safety specifications have been improved, while new
petrol and diesel technology help reduce emissions. The newly added 2.0 litre
149 PS eco diesel engine brings emissions down to 147 g/km (2WD, manual)
and 157 g/km (AWD, manual), and is expected to go on sale in Europe from
mid-year. The new 2.0 litre petrol engine produces emissions of 175 g/km
(2WD, manual) and 192 g/km (AWD, manual). There is also a 175 PS 2.0 litre
Nissan’s Sunderland plant to build all-new compact car
NISSAN is to invest £125 million at its UK factory in Sunderland to build a new compact
car, which was unveiled in concept form at this week’s Geneva Motor Show.
The new B-segment contender, called the Invitation, will be launched in 2013 with the
decision to produce the model in Sunderland resulting in the creation of 2.000 new jobs
across the UK automotive sector. This includes 400 new Nissan hires at the Sunderland plant
increasing its overall workforce to around 6,000 - its highest ever.
The model will be built alongside the Juke crossover, Qashqai, Qashqai +2 and Note.
In addition to vehicle assembly - Sunderland will carry out axle production, cylinder head
casting, camshaft machining and engine assembly.
The project is also supported by a £9.3m investment grant offer from the UK Government’s
Regional Growth Fund.
It is anticipated the new model will have an initial annual volume of around 100,000 units
depending on market demand.
The decision to build the car in the North East will help to cement Sunderland as the largest
car plant in the UK - a position it has held for the last 14 years.
In 2011, the plant’s 25th anniversary year, Sunderland set a new production record with more
than 480,000 units rolling off the lines.
Trevor Mann, Nissan senior vice president for manufacturing in Europe, said: ‘This plant has
a 20-year heritage in producing successful compact cars stretching back to the first Micra
rolling off the line in 1992.
‘I’m delighted that Sunderland has secured what will be another very important model for
Nissan in Europe. It is a testament to the workforce, the ongoing support from the UK
Government and all of our regional partners and suppliers.’
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: ‘It is fantastic news that Nissan will be building the
new model in Sunderland. The investment is a boost for jobs at Nissan’s plant as well as the
wider supply chain.
‘This latest announcement highlights the UK’s track record of attracting inward investment.
Global vehicle manufacturers are beating a path to the UK’s door. They recognise that the
Government values the automotive sector.’
Lexus works hard to deliver alternative to German marques
LEXUS is working hard on its personality to present itself as an alternative to the German
premium car manufacturers rather than trying to be a direct rival.
The head of the brand’s European operations, Paul Van Der Burgh, told Headlineauto at the
Geneva Motor Show: ‘We are also working on giving our cars better driving dynamics
through chassis and engine tuning.
‘You will also see our vehicles taking on more of the visual cues we see in the CT200 which
has been a very important car for us in Europe giving us a presence we have not had before in
the smaller premium segment.
‘This car has allowed us to boost sales despite the supply problems we have had over the past
12 months following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the floods in Thailand.
‘We have got through those problems and we are now in a good place with growth in Europe
faster than anywhere else.
Lexus sold 44,000 cars in Europe last year, more than 13,000 of those in Russia. Also key to
growing the brand has been a decision by Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda to become the
luxury brand’s figurehead.
Van Der Burgh added: ‘Until about a year ago there were a number of Toyota executives
with responsibilities for Lexus with no single figurehead. That has now changed giving us
much shorter reporting lines direct to Mr Toyoda.’
With more new models on the way, Van Der Burgh is also confident of a further boost in
sales. He said: ‘In Europe this year we will get the new RX450h, new GS and the LXC for
the markets in Russia and Ukraine. There will also be two more models which we are not
ready to talk about yet.’
Volkswagen Group to cut vehicle emissions by 30% by 2016
THE Volkswagen Group has revealed major new sustainability targets that include a 30%
reduction in carbon dioxide emissions across its new vehicle fleet.
More than two thirds of a €62.4 billion investment programme for the period to 2016
is earmarked for ever more efficient vehicles, powertrains and technologies as well as
environmentally compatible production.
Making the announcement to coincide with the opening of the Geneva Motor Show on
Tuesday (March 6), Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the Volkswagen Group board
of management, said: ‘Geneva 2012 marks the start of a fundamental ecological restructuring
of the Volkswagen Group. Our declared goal is to make Volkswagen the leading automaker
in ecological terms.’
He said that emissions across the Volkswagen Group fleet in 2015 would be below the
important threshold of 120 g/km for the first time. He went on to say that every new model
generation would on average be 10-15% more efficient than its predecessor.
He also declared 2013 to be the ‘year of e-mobility’ for Volkswagen, starting with the e-Up!,
which would then be followed by further all-electric or partially-electric vehicles from many
GM and PSA forge new alliance to boost competitiveness
GENERAL Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroën have announced the creation of a long-term
and broad-scale global strategic alliance that will leverage the combined strengths and
capabilities of the two companies, contribute to the profitability of both partners and strongly
improves their competitiveness in Europe.
The alliance is structured around two main pillars: the sharing of vehicle platforms,
components and modules; and the creation of a global purchasing joint venture for the
sourcing of commodities, components and other goods and services from suppliers, with
combined annual purchasing volumes of approximately $125 billion.
Each company will continue to market and sell its vehicles independently and on a
Beyond these pillars, the alliance creates a flexible foundation that allows the companies to
pursue other areas of cooperation.
In connection with the alliance, PSA Peugeot Citroën is expected to raise approximately €1
billion through a capital increase with preferential subscription rights for shareholders of PSA
Peugeot Citroën, underwritten by a syndicate of banks and including an investment from the
Peugeot Family Group, as a sign of their confidence in the success of the alliance.
As part of the agreement, which includes no specific provision regarding the governance of
PSA Peugeot Citroën, General; Motors plans to acquire a 7% equity stake in PSA Peugeot
Citroën, making it the second largest shareholder behind the Peugeot Family Group.
‘This partnership brings tremendous opportunity for our two companies,’ said Dan Akerson,
chairman and CEO of General Motors. ‘The alliance synergies in addition to our independent
plans, position General Motors for long-term sustainable profitability in Europe.’
Philippe Varin, chairman of the managing board of PSA Peugeot Citroën, added: ‘This
alliance is a tremendously exciting moment for both groups and this partnership is rich in its
development potential. With the strong support of our historical shareholder and the arrival of
a new and prestigious shareholder, the whole group is mobilized to reap the full benefit of
Under the terms of the agreement, which has been the subject of speculation in recent weeks,
General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroën will share selected platforms, modules and
components on a worldwide basis, in order to achieve cost savings, gain efficiencies, leverage
volumes and advanced technologies, and reduce emissions.
Sharing of platforms not only enables global applications, it also permits both companies to
execute Europe-specific programs with scale and in a cost effective manner.
Initially, General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroën intend to focus on small and midsize
passenger cars, MPVs and crossovers. The companies will also consider developing a new
common platform for low emission vehicles. The first vehicle on a common platform is
expected to launch by 2016.
This alliance enhances but does not replace either company’s ongoing independent efforts to
return their European operations to sustainable profitability.
The purchasing co-operation defined in the agreement allows the companies to act as one
global purchasing organisation when it comes to sourcing commodities, components and
services from suppliers, taking full advantage of the joint expertise, volume, platforms and
Combining GM’s robust global processes and organisational structure with best practices
from PSA Peugeot Citroën, will bring significant value and efficiencies to the purchasing
operations at both companies, said a joint statement.
Additionally, the alliance is exploring areas for further cooperation, such as integrated
logistics and transportation.
To this end, General Motors intends to establish a strategic, commercial cooperation with
Gefco, an integrated logistics services company and subsidiary of PSA Peugeot Citroën,
whereby Gefco would provide logistics services to General Motors in Europe and Russia.
The total synergies expected from the alliance are estimated at approximately $2 billion
annually within about five years. The synergies will largely coincide with new vehicle
programmes, with limited benefit expected in the first two years. It is expected the synergies
will be shared about evenly between the two companies.
The alliance will be supervised by a global steering committee that includes an equal number
of senior leader representatives from both companies.
Its implementation is subject to requisite regulatory approvals in certain jurisdictions as well
as notification to the appropriate workers councils.
Kia opens UK academy training centre
KIA Motors UK has opened a dedicated Training Academy in Ruddington, South
With four workshops, six technical training rooms, a non-technical training room and a
replica Kia showroom, the 17,500 sq ft facility marks the first Kia dedicated centre in the UK
to provide both technical and non-technical training courses.
The multi-million pound investment will deliver up to 2,500 apprentice delegate days, 3,600
technical delegate days and 1,400 non-technical delegate days this year alone.
To support the apprentice training programme, Kia has teamed up with the East Midlands
Centre for Automotive Training (EMCAT) to provide the learning environment for
apprentices. The centre is accredited by ATA (Automotive Technician Accreditation) for
Light Vehicle Service Maintenance Technician, Diagnostic Technician and Master
Dealer development director Simon Hetherington said: ‘Through the new Kia Training
Academy, we hope to have around 100 apprentices by the end of this year - that’s an increase
of almost 200% compared with today. Longer term our aim is to have at least one apprentice
in each Kia dealership.’
The opening of the Training Academy also marks a pivotal stage for Kia technicians at the
Kia Killingholme import centre in Grimsby. Thanks to courses offered at the Training
Academy, they are now all able to train to become qualified as Master Technicians, with half
having received the qualifications already.
Light commercial vehicles______________________________________
Business confidence is key to trigger LCV sales rise
BUSINESS confidence is crucial to boost the subdued light commercial vehicle market,
according to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ chief executive Paul Everitt.
He was speaking as latest figures showed that van registrations were down 26.4% to 8,183
units in February (February 2011: 11,113) and 20.3% down in the first two months of 2012 at
22,521 units (2011: 28,267).
Everitt said: ‘Van registrations were down in what is a relatively low-key month after a
strong recovery in 2011. It is extremely important that the Chancellor uses this month’s
Budget [on March 21] to strengthen consumer and business confidence by encouraging
private sector investment and avoiding any further squeeze on living standards.’
February is historically a low point in the registration calendar with March volumes typically
more than 3.5 times those of February.
At 8,183 units van sales were down on the SMMT’s forecast of around 12,000 for the month
Sales of 4x4 utility-type vans were the exception to year-on-year declines across all light
sectors with sales up 53.8% last month to 283 units to leave year-to-date demand up 10.3% at
Elsewhere, sales of sub-two tonne vans fell 45% last month to 1,331 units to leave 2012
volumes down 34.3% at 3,804 units; registrations of 2.0-2.5 tonne vans dropped 25.4% last
month to 1,014 units to leave year-to-date volumes down 11.3% at 2,997 units; sales of 2.5-
3.5 tonne vans fell 18.6% to 4,947 units to leave 2012 demand 17.5% down at 12,741; and
pick-up volume dropped 43.2% last month to 608 units to leave sector sales 24.8% down in
2012 at 2,241 registrations.
Ford Tourneo Custom Concept showcases new CV direction
THE new eight-seat Ford Tourneo Custom Concept made its global debut at the 2012 Geneva
Motor Show this week with the manufacturer promising that the model brings a new level of
energy and style to the European personal use vehicle segment.
Previewing the introduction of a completely new range of people movers, with commercial
vehicles to follow, the Tourneo Custom Concept showcased a new look.
Stephen Odell, chairman and CEO, Ford of Europe, said: ‘Our forthcoming new range gives
us the opportunity to appeal to new customers with a fresh new direction, and we have seized
that opportunity with both hands.
‘The Tourneo Custom’s car-like qualities will be appreciated by a broad range of business
and leisure customers.’
New features, which give the vehicle strong car-like appeal, include an all-new interior
design with driver-focused cockpit, and a luxurious, fully trimmed cabin which has the
ambience and high-quality materials of a modern multi-seat saloon car.
The Concept also showcased a number of smart innovations including multi-adjustable and
removable rear seating, advanced SYNC voice-activated, in-car connectivity system and the
latest Ford low-emission ECOnetic Technologies.
The Tourneo Custom Concept previews a new design direction for Ford’s commercial
vehicle range, which will be introduced later in 2012.
The concept is powered by a further improved 155 PS version of Ford’s 2.2 litre Duratorq
TDCi diesel engine family.
The Tourneo Custom Concept highlights a new family of Ford people movers and one-tonne
vans which will be launched in Europe and other global markets, but will not be sold in North
The new range will be powered by enhanced versions of the 2.2 litre Duratorq TDCi diesel
engine, which was initially introduced in 2011; with Auto-Stop-Start technology fitted as
standard, Ford is targeting best-in-class fuel economy.
Three power ratings will be available: 100 PS, 125 PS and 155 PS. All versions are paired
with a six-speed manual transmission and feature front-wheel drive.
The model range will include a wide choice of body styles and two wheelbases (SWB and
LWB) allowing for extra luggage or goods capability where required.
Ford delivers special ‘Pharmavan’ for major fleet
FORD has developed a modified Transit known as the ‘Pharmavan’, in association with AAH
AAH, the UK’s leading distributor of pharmaceuticals and healthcare products, has taken
delivery of 270 Ford models to add to its 800-strong van fleet.
The ‘Pharmavan’ was developed to keep sensitive pharmaceuticals at the correct, ambient
temperature during delivery around Britain. Ford provided AAH with a special air-
conditioned load area in a long-wheelbase Ford Transit 300.
Geoff Wright, head of corporate services for AAH, said: ‘Most pharmaceutical products have
to be kept at a steady ambient temperature. Using a fully refrigerated vehicle with dual
compartments for this role comes at a high price, including increased fuel consumption,
running costs and emissions.
‘When the temperature in the ‘Pharmavan’s’ load bay dips below 10 degrees centigrade, the
heat kicks in independently of the driver. When it nears 25 degrees, the air-conditioning
brings the temperature down. The system is only in use when required making it extremely
cost-efficient and easy to operate.’
Alphonso Cain, Ford fleet business manager, said: ‘AAH has been a Ford customer since the
Transit van arrived 46 years ago, so it’s pleasing to help the company in this way. The
‘Pharmavan’ is the perfect bespoke solution for AAH, which will provide the company great
cost savings in the coming years.’
Citroën Berlingos fit Fitness First’s fleet needs
FITNESS First has completed its move to an expanded, all-Citroën LCV fleet with the
delivery of 23 new Euro5 Berlingo HDi 90 manual L1 850 X vans.
Fitness First - the world’s largest health and fitness group, with over 435 fitness clubs in 15
countries - is now operating 36 Citroën Berlingo and Dispatch vans.
Glyn Allen, Fitness First’s head of contracts, said: ‘Our move to an all-Citroën LCV fleet
reflects our continuing satisfaction with long-term suppliers Citroën and Fleethire.
‘As a Carbon Trust Standard award-winning company, Fitness First is actively engaged in
reducing its energy consumption and carbon emissions. With improved combined cycle fuel
economy of 52.3 mpg and lower emissions of 140 g/km, our new Euro5 Berlingo vans meet
the company’s demanding environmental, operational and financial requirements.’
Fitness First’s new Berlingo vans will be used by its maintenance technicians, who maintain
the company’s swimming pools, buildings and gym equipment at the 150 Fitness First and
Klick Fitness Gyms in the UK.
To suit this role the new Berlingo vans are custom-racked and lined. Equipped by Fleethire,
each van now has a vice that slides out of the rear on a beam and locks to provide a stable
work station for cutting and drilling metal or masonry.
Supplied by Citroën Business Centre WR Davies, Stafford, Fitness First’s new Citroën LCVs
are being operated on 48 month/80,000 mile Fleethire with-maintenance contract hire
Residual value update_________________________________________
Restricted used car supply keep values firm
SUPPLY constraints have helped keep use car values firm, according to the latest BCA
The report shows that average used car values increased in February, climbing from £6,040 to
£6,244. The £204 rise was equivalent to a 3.7% improvement, month-on-month.
While values remain adrift of December 2011’s record levels, February 2012 is the third
highest figure since BCA began its monthly reports and, year-on-year, is ahead by £259
Used cars averaged just over 98% of CAP ‘clean’ in February, at 61 months and 59,000
miles. Sold volumes declined by around 6% compared to January, which is typical for this
time of the year, said BCA.
Looking at the product sectors, fleet/lease values improved to the highest point since January
2011, nearly-new values increased significantly by over 11% and part-exchange values
declined from last month’s record figures but remain ahead year-on-year.
BCA’s communications director Tony Gannon said: ‘With good quality stock still in short
supply and relatively consistent demand, the wholesale market recorded an improved
performance over the month in terms of average price.
‘Values were also up again year-on-year, no doubt helped by some minor improvements in
the wider economic indicators in recent weeks and some encouraging news on inflation. But
with news that mortgage rates will rise for some householders in the coming weeks, any
improvement in consumer confidence may be short lived.’
Gannon continued: ‘Additionally, we are approaching a time when volumes can rise with the
new registration plate prefix generating additional part-exchange numbers and corporate de-
fleets, a period which is often accompanied by a softening in demand as Easter approaches.
Sellers must continue to be in tune with market conditions and make sure stock is sensibly
valued in line with market expectations.’
Fleet and lease values increased by £279 (3.7%) to £7,714, the highest point in over a year
and one of the highest average values on record.
CAP performance again improved by just over one point to 98.78%, with the average age of
cars at 41 months and mileage of just over 50,000 remaining virtually static compared to
previous months. Performance against original MRP (Manufacturers Retail Price) was
39.38%. Year-on-year values were ahead by £161 or 2.1%.
Number of franchised dealers attending open auctions doubles
THE number of franchised dealers attending Manheim’s open auctions has doubled in the
past 12 months as they try to get to grips with a decline in the quality of stock being sold.
As the supply of three and four-year-old vehicles reduces following a decline in new car
registrations since 2008, franchised dealers are facing an increasing challenge in sourcing
good quality used stock to meet increased demand.
At the recent annual Vehicle Remarketing Conference, attended by 180 delegates, franchised
dealers’ inability to source good quality stock was seen as the biggest problem the sector
faces over the coming year. Nearly a third of delegates polled stated the inability to source
stock was the biggest problem they faced in 2012.
Mike Pilkington, managing director, Manheim Remarketing, said: ‘The increase in the
numbers of franchised dealers attending Manheim’s open auctions has been evident since the
beginning of 2010 but last year saw a significant jump in attendees.
‘It seems that franchised dealers may have realigned their age/mileage policies to justify
attending open auctions in such numbers in an attempt to source stock to meet increased
demand for used cars. If the numbers of franchised dealers attending open auctions continues
to grow at this rate then independent dealers will find they are facing more competition in the
auction hall and online.’
Politics and regulation_________________________________________
Drivers risk pile-ups by tailgating
MORE than half of drivers (53%) are risking deadly pile-ups on motorways by driving too
close to the vehicle in front, according to research by Brake and Direct Line.
More drivers are taking this deadly risk compared to seven years ago (49%), and men are far
more likely to do it than women, with a horrifying three in 10 male drivers (30%) doing so at
Brake warns that most drivers’ failure to always keep a safe distance adds to the case against
raising the motorway speed limit, which is currently being considered by the Government.
At 80 mph, stopping distances are 27% greater than at 70 mph (122 metres on average
compared to 96 metres at 70 mph), meaning drivers are less able to stop in time in an
emergency and avoid devastating crashes.
Brake is calling on the Government to scrap plans for 80 mph limits, predicted to lead to 25
more deaths and 100 serious injuries every year, increase carbon emissions and costs to
Brake and Direct Line’s survey of 942 drivers found that:
More than half (53%) admit breaking the two-second rule on motorways,
compared to 49% in a similar Brake survey in 2004.
Men are far more likely to risk lives by driving too close than women: 61% of
male drivers admit breaking the two second rule on motorways, compared to
46% of women drivers. Twice as many men (30%) admit doing this weekly or
more compared to women (15%).
Young drivers are slightly more likely to break the two second rule (56%
compared to 53%), and are more likely to do this frequently. 30% of young
drivers admitted to tailgating on motorways weekly or more, compared to 21%
of older drivers.
In Great Britain in 2010, 263 people were killed and 1,445 seriously injured in road crashes
on motorways and 70 mph roads.
Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: ‘Drivers who don’t keep their distance
increase the risk of pile-ups, which can and do result in multiple and violent deaths and
injuries, and devastation for the families involved.
‘We urge all drivers to realise the vital importance of the two second rule and make a
personal commitment to always stick to it. We are also appealing to the Government to ditch
proposals to raise the motorway limit - the fact most drivers aren’t keeping their distance only
adds to the case against this inhumane policy. Various researchers have predicted an 80 mph
limit will mean more lives cut short and more horrific injuries, while arguments in favour
simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.’
Andy Goldby, director of motor underwriting and pricing for Direct Line Car Insurance, said:
‘Driving too close to the car in front of you is asking for trouble. Doing it at speed and you’re
risking not only your own life but other road users’ lives too. While the UK’s motorways
have proportionately less crashes than other roads, crashes on these roads are more likely to
be deadly because of the high speeds involved. We believe it is better to save lives than to
save a few minutes of journey time.’
Fleet sales boost help Lookers to increase profits
A 25% SURGE in fleet sales in a market sector up 4.2% last year helped leading UK motor
retail and aftersales service group Lookers to report a slight increase in profits for the 12
months to December 31, 2011.
The company reported adjusted pre-tax profits of £33.8 million (2010: £33.6m), which is the
highest trading result to date for the company, and pre-tax profits of £31.4m (2010: £31.1m)
on revenue of £1.9bn (2010: £1.88bn).
Lookers said the results reflected a strong trading performance from both its motor division
and the group’s market leading independent parts division, as well as a further reduction in
the cost base:
During the year Lookers said that its share of the UK new car retail market increased to 4.1%
with new car sales volumes up 1.1% overall and fleet volumes up 25%, despite the new car
market reducing by 4.4%, while used car sales volumes increased 2.5% against a flat UK
Lookers said that profit per unit for new retail cars was maintained at similar levels to the
previous year, with fleet margins improving by 13.5%.
The business added that whilst conditions in the new car market continued to be difficult, it
had made a strong start to 2012 with an order take for the important registration plate change
month of March tracking ahead of plan.
Lookers said that its parts division saw strong growth in turnover and gross profit and
forecasted future growth supported by new product lines, improved facilities and investment
Chief executive Peter Jones said: ‘We have had three successive years of increased profits,
which have been delivered in difficult market circumstances. Operating cash flow continues
to be strong and this has further strengthened our balance sheet.
‘These results give us confidence that we can continue to grow the business in 2012, despite
short term market conditions remaining challenging. As economic conditions improve over
the medium term, the business is well placed to take advantage from future growth in the new
and used car markets and increased demand for aftersales and parts.’
Lookers’ motor division consists of 111 franchise dealerships representing 31 marques from
Dealers see declining profits and margins due to economic instability
VEHICLE dealers are still seeing profits and margins fall as manufacturer control and the
unstable economy continue to have an adverse effect on their businesses, according to the
NFDA Dealer Attitude Survey Winter 2011/2012 results.
The latest survey saw a record number of respondents with a 31% return rate across all
networks and it shows that the trend towards lower profits and profitability, highlighted in the
Summer 2011 Dealer Attitude Survey, continues:
When questioned about how satisfied they were with the profit return by
representing their franchise, 65% of networks reduced their rating since the
When asked about the future profitability of their business, 62% of networks
reduced their rating.
When asked about manufacturers’ standards in comparison to return on
investment, 52% of dealers dropped their rating.
However, dealers are still expressing concern about the relationship they have with their
manufacturer, although a few networks showed some improvement in this respect:
When rating the partnership they have with their manufacturer, 45% of
networks improved their score.
However a 52% majority still scored below the average mark.
A decline in the overall value of the franchise was also recorded:
When asked about the overall value of the franchise the all-dealer average fell
from 6.7 to 6.5
BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes, Lexus and Mini were recorded as the top five
The least valued franchises by respondents were Chevrolet, Mitsubishi,
Mazda, Subaru and Renault.
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, said: ‘2011 saw a
very challenging environment for franchised dealers. It is of no surprise that dealers have
indicated that their profit returns were not satisfactory at a time when vehicle sales were
depressed and margins under pressure as they chased targets.
‘2012 appears to have begun reasonably well with some signs that the market may make a
small recovery. The March market will be key for dealers as this is largest market of the
Japanese firm acquired Colt Car Retail Group
JAPANESE company, VT Holdings, has bought the Colt Car Retail (CCR) Group from the
Colt Car Company Ltd, the sole distributor of Mitsubishi Motors in the UK.
CCR comprises 11 dealerships spanning from Weston-super-Mare along the M4 to Putney.
Colt Car Company Ltd managing director Lance Bradley said: ‘VT Holdings approached us
last summer, explaining that they were looking to establish themselves in the UK and that
they would be interested in buying CCR.
‘At the time we were not actively seeking to sell CCR. When we did our research, however,
we became aware of the very good reputation VT Holdings have in other parts of the world
and recognised the benefits they could bring us.’
VT Holdings’ acquisition of the CCR Group is its first step in a plan to establish themselves
Bradley continued: ‘I am delighted that VT Holdings has chosen Mitsubishi as their entry
into the European market. It is a real endorsement of the product we already have and future
products arriving later this year.’
VT Holdings is a Japanese business specialising in car retailing and after sales. The company
is listed on the stock exchange in Japan. VT Holdings has 125 dealerships in Japan
representing brands including Honda, Nissan, Ford and Jaguar. VT Holdings also has Suzuki,
Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Peugeot dealerships in South Africa.
General motor industry news___________________________________
March new car sales ‘key indicator’ as to health of market
NEW car registrations in the plate change month of March will prove to be a key barometer
as to the health of the market place with the sector broadly flat in the first two months of the
February is a historically ‘slow’ month for new car sales and 2012 proved to be no different
with new car volumes down 2.5% on 12 months ago at 61,868 units (February 2011: 61,868).
February typically accounts for little over 3% of annual registrations, ahead of the registration
plate change in March. Some 350,000 new ‘12-plate’ cars are expected to be registered in
March, 2% below the 2011 market, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and
Private new car sales last month increased fractionally (0.6%) to 22,728 (February 2011:
22,585), but fleet and business sector sales both fell. Fleet demand dropped 3.7% last month
to 37,143 (February 2011: 38,565) and business sales fell 12.2% to 1,997 (February 2011:
Registrations for the first two months of 2012 are broadly static - down just 0.8% at 190,721
(2011: 192,235) - with private sales up year-on-year by 2.1% to 75,688 (2011: 74,159), while
fleet sales are down 1.1% at 107,792 (2011: 109,012) and business sector sales are 20.1%
lower at 9,064 (2011: 7,241).
Diesel car sales accounted for almost 54% of new cars sold last month and a similar
percentage for the year to date with 2,778 alternatively fuelled vehicles registered so far this
year – up 14% on the first two months of 2011.
SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said: ‘The February new car market was broadly in line
with industry expectations with a welcome increase in private retail activity.
‘The March market will provide a much better indicator of industry health than the relatively
low volumes traditionally seen in February. It is extremely important that the Chancellor uses
this month’s Budget [on March 21] to strengthen consumer and business confidence by
encouraging private sector investment and avoiding any further squeeze on living standards.’
The Ford Focus was the best selling model in February, ending an 11-month run at the top for
the Ford Fiesta. Ford was the best-selling manufacturer in February with sales totalling 8,957
units, but Volkswagen overtook Vauxhall with registrations totalling 7,528 compared with
the latter’s 7,102.
The SMMT is forecasting the full year market to be 1.92 million units, just below last year’s
However, the organisation warned that stability in the market place was heavily dependent, as
ever, on the state on the economy at large.
Everitt said that the industry was looking to the Chancellor in his Budget to find ways to
stimulate the economy, maintain stability in all motoring taxes and duty regimes, sustain
support for low-carbon transport markets and to boost the availability of affordable credit.
UK fuel prices hit record high
THE average price of unleaded petrol has hit a record high, according to Government figures.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change said the average price of unleaded petrol in
the UK was 137.3p per litre on Monday (March 5), which was 1.1p higher than the week
before. The previous record of 137.05p was set on May 9, 2011.
Last week, industry analysts Experian Catalist said petrol had hit a record high of 137.44p a
The average diesel price is also at a record high. Government figures reveal it to be 144.7p a
litre, up 0.8p from the previous record, which was set last week.
Petrol has been pushed up by oil prices, which have risen in recent months due to tensions
over Iran’s nuclear plans and unrest in the region, according to the BBC.
The weak pound has also been making oil, which is bought in US dollars, more expensive for
The FairFuel lobby took its campaign for fuel price cuts to Westminster yesterday
(Wednesday, March 8) as it published a new report compiled by the Centre for Economics
and Business Research.
The FairFuelUK campaign asked the Centre to investigate whether an economic case could
be made to support its view that a cut in fuel duty could generate more tax revenues from
across the wider economy as a result of increased economic growth and business and
To do so, the Centre undertook an independent assessment of the wider economic impact of a
reduction in fuel duty and, then, whether the loss of tax revenues from such a reduction could
expect to be compensated through the greater taxation from other sources and the reduced
social welfare commitments that would result from the fiscal stimulus that such fuel duty
reductions would provide to the UK economy.
The findings suggest that a 2.5p reduction in fuel duty would result in the creation of 175,000
jobs within a year and 180,000 jobs within five years of such a reduction. Such a reduction, it
estimated, would not result in any fiscal loss to the Government, while GDP would receive a
boost of 0.32% within a year and 0.34% within five years.
The report found that a more significant 5p reduction could generate an additional 200,000
jobs at a net annual cost to the Exchequer of around £1.2 billion within a year, which would
fall to £1bn per annum within five years. The boost to GDP would be smaller in this scenario;
0.28% after a year and 0.3% after five years.
The FairFuel Campaign said: ‘These are not insignificant impacts in the current climate of
less than 1% annual growth. But this is not to mention the intangible benefits that could flow
from the morale boost provided to consumers by helping to alleviate the current squeeze on
their disposable incomes.’
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is expected to make an announcement on fuel
duty in his Budget statement on March 21.
The FairFuelUK campaign is backed by The Fuelcard Company, Road Haulage Association,
RAC and Freight Transport Association, together with over 200,000 members of the public
and over 150 Parliamentarians.
Jakes de Kock, sales and marketing director at The Fuelcard Company, said: ‘The price of
fuel affects UK competitiveness and raises the price of everything we buy in the shops. The
UK transport sector is crumbling as our drivers pay more in tax on their fuel than those in any
other European country. Taxes and fuel duty currently account for 60% of unleaded petrol
and 58% of diesel. The plea for a fairer tax system for UK companies reliant on fuel to keep
their businesses moving, is a worthy and necessary cause and impacts every consumer in the
New car prices fall for fourth time in 12 months
THE average price of new cars fell in February by 0.346% or £100 (from £28,923 to
£28,823), according to price index DrivenData.
The index is calculated from the retail prices of every car model currently sold in the UK.
It is the fourth time prices have dipped during the past 12 months (0.092% in April; 0.23% in
July and 0.106% in August).
The Index reveals that the average annual price of a new car since February 2011 has
increased by 2.372%, or £668 (from £28,155.00 to £28,823.00).
However, the underlying pace of inflation in car prices has slowed down over the past 12
months to 2.372%. It rose by 3.82% between February 2010 and February 2011.
John Blauth, editor-in-chief of DrivenData, said: ‘The grim predictions of economic and
financial soothsayers have not come to pass and, actually, are less and less likely to
do so. Increases in car prices across the board are slowing to glacial levels and I predict a
softening of the market as 2012 continues.
‘If the global economy perks up next year to a significant measure though, we can assume
that the true costs of better fuel economy and lower emissions will be reflected in new car
prices. Being green isn’t cheap - it’s profoundly expensive in fact - and it is only the financial
climate that prevents car makers from proving this to be true.’
Electric vehicle charge points pass 2,000
THERE are now more than 2,000 electric vehicle charge points across the UK, according to
Next Green Car’s Zap-Map.
Claimed to be the UK’s most comprehensive map of electric vehicle charging points, it has
recorded over 2,000 charging points across 888 locations, and recorded a sharp increase in
‘fast’ chargers since its inception in May last year.
In the past ten months, the number of UK charging points mapped on Zap-Map has increased
from around 700 to over 2,000 points today. In that time the composition of the charging
point network has changed substantially, according to Next Green Car.
Whereas initially nearly all the points were ‘slow’ chargers using a standard 13 amp supply
(six-eight hours for a full charge), the majority of the new points being installed are ‘fast’
chargers using a 32 amp supply (three-four hours for a full charge).
In addition to the 1,600 slow charging pints, over 400 ‘fast’ chargers have now been installed.
35 ‘rapid’ chargers are also in place - these provide a direct current and typically provide an
80% charge in 30 minutes.
Technology drives Auto Windscreens forward
AUTO Windscreens is driving forward its strategy to increase market share and expand its
business by embracing the latest technology to enhance customer experience.
The company, which marked the first anniversary of its acquisition by Markerstudy Group at
the end of February, claims to have won a number of fleet and insurance contracts in the past
Responding to the rising demand for its services it has introduced a regional sales team to
support its national force, recruited additional technicians across the country, and boosted
employee numbers in the call centre at Chesterfield headquarters.
Managing director Nigel Davies said: ‘We’re operating in a competitive industry but we’ve
delivered on every level. I’m extremely proud of the position we occupy in the marketplace.’
Auto Windscreens is also planning to unveil its new-look vans this spring, to feature a new
livery and QR codes, enabling ‘scan and book’ for glass repair or replacement.
Davies added: ‘We’re a forward-thinking company, from capturing essential customer
feedback on every job completed, through to the development of QR codes and
improvements in smart phone capabilities. We welcome technological advancements and will
continue to move with the times to make life easier for our clients.’
The past year has also seen new fitting centres opening in the South East, the East
Midlands, Bedfordshire and Wales.
Motorists 'switch off' after eleven minutes behind the wheel
BRITISH drivers’ love affair with technology could be attributing to more accidents on the
road according to new research which found that a lack of mental stimulation has led to a
worrying one in eight motorists (13%) having an accident or near miss while driving.
The research, commissioned by esure car insurance, found that British motorists will drive
for just 11 minutes before ‘switching off’ behind the wheel on a long journey. A quarter of
motorists (25%) admit they get bored easily while driving, with over a fifth (22%) revealing
they regularly slip into autopilot.
Over a third of motorists polled (34%) have made a journey somewhere and had no memory
of the trip upon arrival. 14% of those questioned even admitted that they had driven to the
office by mistake instead of their desired destination because they were driving in autopilot.
According to the study, more than one in ten (11%) admitted they suffered from technology
withdrawal symptoms while behind the wheel and a third (32%) even admitted to changing
the radio station or quickly checking their phone to keep their mind stimulated.
Behavioural psychologist Donna Dawson said: ‘Driving is an activity that can feel repetitive
and overly-familiar, and so it is easy to slip into ‘mental auto pilot’ when doing it. This
means repeating actions in a mechanical way without thinking too closely about what we’re
‘Normally, this ‘glazing over’ is the way that the brain attempts to save mental space and
energy for any new, fresh challenges that might arise. This response may happen more
frequently in people who are avid technology users because without the high level of mental
stimulation that they are used to, they may find driving to be more monotonous and boring
than the non-technology user.’
The most popular ‘tech action’ motorists crave while driving is surfing the internet (21%),
closely followed by making a phone call (20%) and sending a text message (18%).
Other reasons found to influence autopilot mode were sleepiness (24%) and work related
thoughts (25%). 30% of motorists surveyed admitted they have frightened themselves
through realising they have ‘switched off’ while behind the wheel.
Mike Pickard, head of risk and underwriting at esure car insurance, said: ‘Advances in
technology have revolutionised the way we keep our brains stimulated. We all love playing
with our gadgets but as this study shows this can become problematic when we get behind the
‘Even on a short journey it is important for all motorists to focus on the road ahead and not
let technology withdrawal systems get the better of them whilst driving.’
Using smartphones behind wheel more dangerous than drink-driving
USING smartphones for social networking while driving is more dangerous than drink-
driving or being high on cannabis behind the wheel, according to research published by the
IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists).
Despite this, 8% of drivers admit to using smartphones for email and social networking while
driving - equivalent to 3.5 million licence holders.
Twenty-four per cent of 17-24 year old drivers - a group already at higher risk of being in a
crash - admit to using smartphones for email and social networking while driving.
For their research, the IAM and TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) used DigiCar - TRL’s
car driving simulator - to examine the effects of young drivers using smartphones to access
Facebook. In every test of driving performance, young people who were using Facebook
while driving were badly affected.
When sending and receiving Facebook messages:
Reaction times slowed by around 38% and participants often missed key
Participants were unable to maintain a central lane position resulting in an
increased number of unintentional lane departures and were unable to respond
as quickly to the car in front gradually changing speed.
When comparing these new results to previous studies the level of impairment on driving is
greater than the effects of drinking, cannabis and texting:
Using a smartphone for social networking slows reaction times by 37.6%
Texting slows reaction times by 37.4%
Hands-free mobile phone conversation slows reaction times by 26.5%
Cannabis slows reaction times by 21%
Alcohol (above UK driving limit but below 100mg per 100ml of blood) slows
reaction time by between six and 15%; and
Alcohol at the legal limit slows reaction times by 12.5%.
The IAM is calling for Government action to highlight the dangers of using smartphones
behind the wheel.
Phone manufacturers and social network providers also have a key role to play in spreading
the message. Attitudes to seatbelts and drink-driving have changed dramatically over the last
30 years and, with the right information, halting smartphone use could become a similar
IAM chief executive Simon Best said: ‘This research shows how incredibly dangerous using
smartphones while driving is, yet unbelievably it is a relatively common practice.
‘If you’re taking your hand off the wheel to use the phone, reading the phone display and
thinking about your messages, then you’re simply not concentrating on driving. It’s antisocial
networking and it’s more dangerous than drink-driving and it must become just as socially
‘Young people have grown up with smartphones and using them is part of everyday life. But
more work needs to be done by the Government and social network providers to show young
people that they are risking their lives and the lives of others if they use their smartphones
TRL senior researcher Nick Reed said: ‘Our research clearly demonstrates that driver
behaviour was significantly and dramatically impaired when a smartphone was being used for
social networking. Drivers spent more time looking at their phone than the road ahead when
trying to send messages, rendering the driver blind to emerging hazards and the developing
‘Even when hazards were detected, the driver’s ability to respond was slowed. The
combination of observed impairments to driving will cause a substantial increase in the risk
of a collision that may affect not only the driver but also their passengers and other road.’
Vauxhall MasterFit launches £99 interim service initiative
VAUXHALL MasterFit has introduced a £99 fixed price on any Vauxhall vehicles aged three
years and older.
The national interim service, introduced this month, includes labour and VAT charges and
sits alongside the Vauxhall Masterfit fixed price repairs programme.
All parts used for a fixed price service are Vauxhall parts and carry a 12-month warranty.
Vauxhall’s Aftersales network encompasses more than 400 outlets nationwide.
People on the move____________________________________________
Chevrolet appoints new network chief
CHEVROLET UK has appointed Brian Hawkins to the role of retail network development
manager, responsible for developing the Chevrolet brand across the UK as it grows.
Hawkins has worked for the past two years as a freelance automotive consultant, with clients
including Infiniti Europe, CAT, Husqvarna and BMW. Prior to that he worked in dealer
development roles with Fiat, Chrysler Jeep and DaimlerChrysler UK.
‘Joining Chevrolet right now is a very exciting move,’ he said. ‘It comes at a time when the
company is on a real turnaround - great products that get dealers enthused, a real sense that
we can grow volume and deliver the results that our dealers and our customers want, and a
load of new cars waiting in the wings to bring yet more customers and dealers on board.
‘My focus is to get the Chevrolet dealer network in great shape, and to deliver a great brand
experience to new and potential dealers. My aim is also to develop the existing network and
help them drive great results.’
Honda appoints new head of customer and aftersales operation
HONDA (UK) has appointed Leon Brannan as head of its customer and aftersales operation.
Brannon will be moving from his role in Honda (UK) marketing where he currently leads the
business planning team, on Monday (March 12).
Since joining the Honda (UK) parts business 10 years ago, Brannon moved into regional car
sales, leading a field team through Honda’s peak volume years and more latterly returned to
Honda (UK) following a period in Honda’s European Operation.
After almost 30 years working for Honda (UK), Matt Gibson, the previous head of customer
and aftersales, has opted to leave the business to pursue a new career opportunity.
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