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Daily news round upBack

BEN asks former employees of Carcraft to utilise support services


Automotive industry charity BEN has launched an action plan encouraging those affected by the recent demise of Carcraft to turn to them for support.

Employees were only made aware of the situation when they arrived at work last Thursday, and a vast number will now be experiencing shock, stress, and worry about their future. BEN is offering professional listening and advice services, short term financial assistance, and can direct them to other appropriate agencies and support organisations appropriate for their needs.

BEN’s Chief Operating Officer Nigel Rothband said: “The loss of over 500 automotive jobs is a huge blow to our tight knit industry community, and we are urging those affected to get touch with BEN as soon as possible.

“Not only do we want to help safeguard against those who find themselves without employment, but also provide practical help to get them through a very difficult and stressful time.

“When you suddenly find yourself out of work, it’s overwhelming with what to do, where to go and will I pay the bills. You don’t need to cope alone, one phone call to BEN’s helpline will provide this information and they will help you every step of the way.”


Does Suzuki have an auto diesel S-Cross in the pipeline?

It was recently reported that Suzuki Cars UK product manager Ed Norman revealed an all-new automatic transmission will be made available for the first time on the diesel-powered SX4 in the summer. This new transmission is said to carry a £1,000 premium on the current cheapest diesel in the range, which costs £16,999.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) was unable to say what proportion of the 53,295 diesel SUV C-segment vehicles sold so far in 2015 were mated to automatic transmissions, but the overall total for automatics sold in the segment was 18,880.

Reports also suggested that the model will receive a few other light revisions this year, including making its engine range cleaner, with Euro6 compliant units – which it claimed will be done without the use of AdBlue (a technology used by some German manufacturers to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides).

However, Suzuki told AM this has yet to be confirmed. Confirmed edits to the model include the discontinuation of the Bright Red paint option, and the replacement of the spare wheel with a temporary repair kit, in line with the Celerio model and the new Vitara.

For customers that prefer having a spare wheel, it is still available as an optional accessory.

Robin Luscombe, managing director of Luscombe Motors, which has the franchise, said: “The red ones didn’t sell very well, so no problem there, and the recent addition of 0% finance has outweighed the removal of the spare wheel.”

Dealers’ faith in the brand is growing, according to the National Franchised Dealer Association’s Winter 2015 satisfaction survey, which saw Suzuki jump from fifth to third.

If the reported revisions do take place, it is said to go on sale in July.


Supreme Court orders UK to draw up air pollution plan

The UK’s failure to meet EU limits on nitrogen dioxide must be tackled after the Supreme Court ruled in case brought by Client Earth.

London’s air quality has for many years fallen below the minimum standards set by the European Union.

But now the court has ruled that the Government must formulate new plans on cutting air pollution as a matter of urgency.

Nitrogen dioxide is a gas that can cause breathing difficulties in vulnerable people, such as asthma and older adults, and can stunt the proper growth of lung function in children.

It is a by-product of diesel vehicle engines, which now make up more than a third of the UK’s fleet.

Under the EU’s air quality directive, strict limits are set on the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere that are permissible.

The limits came into force five years ago, on January 1, 2010, but there was a provision that member states could stave off the imposition of the ruling until the beginning of this year, if they could show that they had an action plan in place to deal with the problem.


Monitoring technology could end disputes over car hire damage

Cambridge Consultants claims its DropTag condition monitoring technology could spell the end of disputes over liability if a hire car is damaged.

The Drop Tag Drive service uses a small tag fixed to the windscreen, which continually monitors all vehicle accelerations and impacts to give a picture of what has happened to the car during the hire period.

It uses Bluetooth smart technology and connects to any smartphone. In high volumes, the cost for a hire car company works out at £1 per tag per month with the reusable tags lasting more than a year.

The tag is ‘always on’ – sensing what is happening to the vehicle and relaying the information to the driver and the car hire company via a smartphone app.

In the case of an accident, DropTag Drive can confirm if the vehicle was stationary when it was hit – removing blame from the driver. It can detect low-speed car park collisions down to 2mph impacts.

If no incidents are detected during the hire period, the app will give the driver the all-clear as they arrive in the drop-off area – prompted by a signal from a beacon in the depot which lets the tag know it is about to be returned. The driver can then simply park the car and go on their way.


Hutchings acquires Hyundai sites from Arrow Automotive

Hutchings Motor Group has acquired Hyundai sites in Swansea and Bridgend from Arrow Automotive for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition means Hutchings, a fifth generation family-owned business, has significantly increased its representation with Hyundai in Wales, having represented the brand since 2012 in Treforest. The group also represents Vauxhall from the same site.

“We are extremely pleased to have increased our Hyundai representation across the South Wales M4 corridor. The acquisition fits very well with our long term strategy and we are looking forward to welcoming our new colleagues into the business.”

All members of the existing Arrow Hyundai teams have been retained.

Last month Arrow Automotive sold its Maserati showroom in Cardiff to Motorline for an undisclosed sum. The group now only represents Ford in Blackwood, Gwent.

The acquisition was completed over the weekend and facilitated by UHY Hacker Young, the accountancy and consultancy firm.

“This purchase by Hutchings gives them some real scale with Hyundai in that market area. The Arrow business has been established for a number of years and I have no doubt that John Hutchings and his son Stephen will continue to grow the businesses further,” said David Kendrick, a partner at UHY Hacker Young.

“We have been extremey busy in recent weeks and it was a pleasure advising the shareholders of Arrow Automotive on this transaction. I believe we will continue to see more and more transactional activity and this deal highlights the fact that some family businesses feel they should be expanding and acquring market areas to protect themselves and benefit from additional scale.”


Independents beat main dealers for servicing and MoT jobs

Car owners prefer using the independent sector to franchised dealers for servicing and MOTs, according to new research from GForces.

The results from the study, which asked 2,000 car owners their opinions on a variety of aftersales topics, found that over half of respondents (50.3%) used independent garages, compared to 34.1% who use main dealer servicing.

The survey, the first in a series to be undertaken by GForces, found regional variations in the choice of independent or franchised sites. Owners in the South East were least likely to use a main dealer for aftersales work with under 30% of respondents stating this as their preferred outlet. In the North East and Scotland, however, over 40% of car owners favoured franchised outlets.

The survey also asked car owners about their attitude towards service plans. Of those surveyed, 17.5% had a service plan, with a greater proportion of car owners between the ages of 18 and 24 having one (29%) compared the 45+ generation at just 13.5%.

Younger car owners, aged between 18 and 34, were most likely group to cut costs, the highest proportion using fast-fits or servicing their vehicles themselves at 11.9% and 6.2% respectively. Just 28.8% in this age range used a main dealer.

“Knowing that more people are turning to the independent sector is one thing; it’s much more important to know why. With pricing as the main factor, it’s more important than ever for dealers to advertise their value proposition – both online and off,” said Tim Smith, group strategy director at GForces.

“Building relationships with customers is also clearly very important when it comes to retaining them, so dealers should seek to create a community of advocates and continuously engage with them. Many businesses are doing this through social media and online review systems.”



Vauxhall supplies new Vivaros to Anglian Home Improvement

Vauxhall has supplied Anglian Home Improvements with a fleet of 29 Vivaro vans. The deal will help the company reduce its fuel consumption and whole life operating costs, it said.

The L1H1 vans are powered by the firm’s 90hp 1.6-litre diesel engine with start/stop. They are being used by the company’s engineers who drive an average of 30,000 miles a year.

The 90hp 1.6-litre unit emits 160g/km of CO2 and returns 46.3mpg.

“Initially it was the excellent fuel efficiency that attracted us to the Vauxhall Vivaro, but when we came to experience the new model, we were extremely pleased with the smart interior and the in-cab technology, which includes a modern infotainment system and DAB radio,” said Michael Shepherd, fleet manager for Anglian Home Improvements.

“We’ve already received excellent feedback from our drivers who have said that the vehicles are both comfortable and good to drive. Keeping our employees happy is extremely important to us, so we’re very pleased with the comments,” said Shepherd.


Specsavers launches free eyesight toolkit for business drivers

Specsavers Corporate Eyecare has launched a free driving eyesight toolkit aimed to provide both businesses with information regarding regulations and requirements for driver eyesight.

The optician said its kit sets out an employer’s responsibility for drivers under health and safety regulations, while explaining the higher risk of collisions for those who drive for work purposes and suggests considerations for eyecare policies.

The kit also includes a case-study showing how a risk-management firm used Specsavers to help member companies test the eyesight of employees who drive.

The toolkit also provides tips on how employees can improve driving vision, including regular eye examinations, while the DVLA regulations on eyesight requirements are set out.

“We feel extremely strongly about the issue of poor driver eyesight. It is a problem that can cause shattering results but can be so easily and cost-effectively overcome,” said Suzanne Randall, corporate account manager for Specsavers Corporate Eyecare.

“By introducing the driving eyesight toolkit, we hope to assist employers and employees alike in making sure the roads become a safer place for us all,” said Randall.



National-Arg continues growth

National-ARG has added eight new sites to its network in just a few months, further expanding its UK wide coverage.

Just Car Clinics has racked up three acquisitions since December 2014 firstly with Peterborough, and Dundee and Forfar following shortly after in March 2015; East Bilney Coachworks has expanded into Kings Lynn with their acquisition in February 2015; The Rye Street Group has added Braintree to its portfolio at the back end of 2014; The Karl Vella Group has announced its new site in Workington, Cumbria in March 2015p; Gemini Accident Repair Centres brought Bodmin, Cornwall into its business in March 2015, and AW Repair Group has opened its doors to branch number four in Chesterfield in March 2015.

The National-ARG network now stands at 180+ sites across the UK including Scotland and Northern Ireland, with an additional 50+ HGV specialist sites added into its offering.

The National-ARG network claims to be going from strength-to-strength and used its recent conference as a platform to announce some of the new contract wins it will begin deploying in the coming weeks.




Vehicle Technician Licensing awaits election result

Major party leaders have presented opposing stances on licensing automotive technicians to the IMI

This suggests that the future of the issue may rest on the results of the most closely fought election battle in a generation.

Parties were responding to a letter from IMI CEO Steve Nash, which explained that anyone can work on a car commercially without qualification or training in the UK. Steve argued that a license was necessary to help consumers make safe choices about where their car is serviced.

Responses showed that a Labour government would support licensing if elected on 7 May. Party leader Ed Miliband stated, ‘We will give the industry the tools you say you need to tackle free riding employers who do not train, such the powers to set levies and licences to practice – enabling employers to drive up standards and build stronger training routes within the sector. We hope to work with the IMI on this agenda in Government.’

However, the Conservatives would need further persuasion, with Prime Minister David Cameron commenting, ‘We will certainly consider your suggestion about licensing for automotive technicians, although I hope you will appreciate that any policies would need to support our principles of de-regulation and reducing industry costs.’

Further responses were received from UKIP’s Nigel Farage and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, with Farage open to dialogue on the issue in the future, should the party make significant gains at the election. The IMI has also been offered the support of several MPs in the run up to the election, including Transport Select Committee member and Conservative MP Karl McCartney.


Posted by Lois Hardy on 05/05/2015