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Global passenger vehicle sales were up sharply once again at the end of the year (up 5.1%), lifting the growth rate for the year to 4.6%.
A majority of the worldwide growth (5.1%) last month was generated in the US and in China, although two Western European markets, Spain and Germany, did finish the year strong. Even the Russian market, which has been in freefall in recent months, was able to manage a gain in December. In all, global new registrations came to almost 79 million units in 2014 (up 4.6%).
Sales in the Asia/Pacific region were up significantly once again in December (up 9.4%). That region posted the strongest growth last year (7.9%). Growth was driven primarily by the growth of the Chinese market (2014: up 12.8%).
Low-cost financing and end-of-year sales campaigns, as well as the low price of oil, boosted demand sharply in December in the NAFTA region as well. New registrations in this region were up a total of 5.8% from the year before in 2014.
Sales in Latin America were down by double digits once again (down 12.8% in December and 9.4% YTD). Sales in the region’s two largest markets, Argentina and especially Brazil were down sharply from the year before once again.
Sales in Western Europe were up by 3.0% in December, and by around 4.9% in 2014 as strong demand in Spain (incentives) and Germany more than made up for losses in France and the Netherlands. Russian sales were up in December (up 2.4%) thanks to a sales incentives program, as well as fears that prices will continue to rise. This gain mitigated the slump in Eastern Europe (down 0.6% in December, down 7.7% in 2014).
Global new registrations in 2015 will be up about 2.2% from 2014. This will mark yet another record high, although the rate of growth will go down.
The forecast for the NAFTA region has been raised, while the outlook for Russia has been cut by a significant amount.
New registrations in the NAFTA region are expected to climb once again, to around 19.7 million units (up 2.6%). Sales in the Latin American markets, on the other hand, will decrease to a total of about 5.3 million units (down 1.4%).
In Eastern Europe, sales will actually be down by double digits (down 12.9%), as the region’s key market, Russia, will continue to suffer from the effects of the Crimean crisis (flight of capital out of the country, sanctions), a weak currency and the low price of oil.
According to industry experts, MPs must get up to speed on driverless cars and help the motor industry prepare for them.
Major companies including tech giants Google, motoring stalwarts Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, and even space agency NASA are all driving research to make autonomous cars a reality.
But research suggests Members of Parliament are less on-the-ball when it comes to providing the right environment for such vehicles to prosper.
Some 42% of MPs admit they are unsure how driverless cars would impact upon road safety, while 51% don’t know the likely effect for insurers and premiums, the Dods survey found.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said, ‘It’s not surprising to see that there remains widespread uncertainty over the introduction of driverless cars in the UK. Developing the right road infrastructure to allow driverless cars to operate safely and effectively is an important step, but this needs to go hand-in-hand with explaining to motorists how driverless cars can really be integrated into the UK’s road network.
‘In addition, despite the many headlines around the UK heralding something of a ‘driverless future’, there remains significant technological and regulatory barriers that need to be overcome.
‘Make no mistake – the opportunity is enormous, especially to further enhance safety on our roads, but there’s much work to be done over many years before driverless cars are a common feature on our roads.’
Many MPs consider the motor industry to be a low-skill, low-pay sector, research from last year revealed.
Institute of the Motor Industry CEO Steve Nash said MPs need to ensure the country is ready for the arrival of driverless technology.
The motor industry will face a skills gap when mechanics are confronted with the sea-change in technology being created by driver-free cars, Mr Nash said.
He said there are already issues emerging with current technological advances, such as driver assist systems, with no safeguards in place to ensure only repairers with specialist knowledge and training are allowed to work on them.
The Government last year paved the way for legislation allowing infrastructure to be created to allow testing of driverless vehicles on UK roads this year.
The Highways Agency has announced its chief executive, Graham Dalton, is to leave his post in the summer.
Dalton has been in the post for the last seven years, and the agency credited him for leading the office during the international credit crunch, and for “establishing a strong reputation for efficiency” throughout his tenure.
Before joining the HA, Dalton worked at the Department for Transport as its director of projects for three years.
A Highways Agency spokesman told BusinessCar the recruitment process for his replacement has started. “The successor will be announced at some point during the summer and Graham will be on hand to help with the handover process,” the spokesman said.
“I am leaving the business in good shape with a great team of people and an unprecedented five year fixed investment plan,” said Dalton.
“Graham has led the Highways Agency to the point where we can confidently confront the fresh opportunities and challenges in the government’s Road Investment Strategy. I thank him warmly for all he has achieved during his successful tenure as CEO,” said HA chairman Colin Matthews.
An Infrastructure Bill is currently going through parliament, which will see the Highways Agency become a Government-owned company, Highways England, from April.
The UK’s largest dealer group Pendragon is set for a £14m windfall following the disposal of a property company in which it had a stake.
King Arthur Holdings SarL, a company in which the group had a 5% investment, has sold its only subsidiary, King Arthur Properties SarL to WP Carey Inc fo £230.5m.
Pendragon said it expected to receive £24m in respect of its original £10m investment, resulting in an estimated non-underlying profit of £14m.
The money raised from the deal will be used to reduce group debt.
King Arthur Properties SarL was the landlord for 73 dealerships operated by Pendragon together with its head office.
Trevor Finn, chief executive, said: “I am delighted to announce this successful property transaction for the benefit of our shareholders.
“It is reassuring to have, in W P Carey, a long-term investor for a portfolio of our dealerships in the UK and we look forward to working together with them.”
Transport for London (TfL) has successfully prosecuted National Grid Gas in connection with roadwork offences committed in central London last year.
The work, which took place between 26 and 29 July 2014, was carried out by the utility company on Grosvenor Road, a core part of the TfL Road Network through central London and part of Barclays Cycle Superhighway 8. During the work TfL’s Road Works Enforcement Inspectors noticed that the contractors carrying out the repairs had failed to set up the worksite in accordance with the relevant Safety Code of Practice.
This led to pedestrians being forced onto the carriageway, including some in wheelchairs, placing their safety at risk. The work was deemed unsafe by both TfL and the Metropolitan Police and, despite repeated requests, the company failed to make amends for several hours.
Westminster Magistrates Court therefore fined National Grid Gas £3,000 for each offence (the maximum possible fine after statutory discount for early plea), a victim surcharge of £120 and ordered them to pay TfL’s full prosecution costs of £3,946. This brought the total fine up to more than £10,000, the majority of which will now be reinvested directly into improving the transport network. In passing sentence, the Judge said “These are quite serious offences involving safety breaches with significant risk to the public.”
Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, said: “Because of their actions, drivers, local residents and I were left fuming at the sheer incompetence of National Grid Gas during this work. Ensuring that any roadworks are carried out in a safe manner is vital, especially in a major city such as London. We will continue to prosecute those who try their luck carrying out unsafe working practices on our roads and work to ensure that all Londoners can travel through the capital safely and without delay or hindrance.”