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Daily news round upBack

Lotus Piccadilly brand centre puts British sports cars in the heart of London


The Lotus brand centre in London’s Piccadilly has been refitted to include a fully interactive sports car configurator.

The system allows consumers to choose the specifications of their new Lotus, before being referred to their nearest dealer for a test drive.

Lotus said the aim is to help consumers learn more about Lotus and get closer to the company’s pure and lightweight sports cars in central London.

Two of the company’s best-selling models are currently central to the showroom presence. The Elise 220 Cup and the Exige S take centre-stage. The new Lotus Evora 400, the fastest production Lotus ever, will be displayed later in the summer.

Jean-Marc Gales, chief executive of Group Lotus, said: “Our Piccadilly Brand Centre will be regarded as a must visit location in the West End. With this new Brand Centre concept, we will further introduce our exciting cars and illustrious brand to more fans and potential customers of Lotus.

“There is no better place, outside of our headquarters in Norfolk, to learn about Lotus and our stunning cars with the legendary Lotus benchmark handling. Now customers can get even closer to the cars and perhaps translate the dream of owning a Lotus into a reality.”


Nissan takes electric vehicles on the road to drum up sales

In conjunction with alliance partner Renault, Nissan’s commitment to electric vehicles (EVs) is second to none. During 2014, sales of the Leaf grew rapidly, up from 1,800 units in 2013 to more than 4,000 last year. The flip side of this success is that market share is down because there are more competitors. The plan for this year is to find even more new customers for the British-built car, and sell 400 of the more recently introduced e-NV van.

Key to making that happen is a planned expansion of the Workplace Presentation Programme (WPP). It’s a partnership initiative between Nissan GB and the local dealer, where they join forces to visit a company or council to talk about EVs. Karl Anders, Nissan’s national EV manager, explained it wasn’t a dialogue with the fleet boss, but about talking to the individuals who work there.

“People ring up Nissan and say ‘can you send us a brochure about EVs?’. We say ‘we can do better than that, we can spend an hour or two with you’. EVs are about a different type of motoring, so we need to spend a lot of time with people. WPP is about bringing people and cars together, talking about EVs and the issues around them.”

Event guests can take a test drive, but Anders was keen to emphasise the goal wasn’t sales and there are no set targets. The programme brings dual benefits – WPP is helping to raise the profile of Nissan and while some people do subsequently visit the local showroom and buy an EV, others are buying non-EVs instead.

The initiative started early last year and will ramp up during 2015, with extra staff allocation from Nissan. While it is centrally funded, the local retailer has to contribute cars and staff. Nissan also has more field-based EV specialists, helping to drive sales and support dealers.

However, Anders, who has previously worked in the retail network with Hartwell, Dutton Forshaw and Inchcape, said dealers also have to help themselves. As every Nissan dealership has a Leaf demonstrator with charging facilities, an in-house vehicle specialist and can sell the car to customers, dealers have a role to play in continuing EV sales growth.

One example is targeting drivers who already understand the benefits of EVs. He said: “While we don’t have any specific examples of dealers who allow customers with other EVs to use their chargers, our sites are on the Zap Map and we wouldn’t expect dealers to turn customers away if they needed to charge and the charger wasn’t in use. Where that happens, dealers should absolutely use it as a sales opportunity and offer a test drive in a Leaf.”


UKLPG calls on new air quality minister to support increased LPG take-up

UKLPG is calling on the incoming air quality minister to support new research indicating that automotive LPG could play a bigger role for UK transport to 2050.

A report commissioned by The UK’s Liquefied Petroleum Gas trade association (UKLPG) from Millbrook Proving Ground calls for greater recognition of the air quality benefits of automotive LPG.

The body says that, compared with diesel, LPG contains fewer pollutants that are harmful to human health, while in comparison with petrol and diesel, LPG emits lower levels of CO2. Widely available for use in vehicles in the UK since 2000, around 150,000 drivers benefit from using LPG.

Vehicles powered by automotive LPG are also much less harmful to the environment, emitting significantly fewer harmful pollutants such as CO2, NOx and particulate matter than petrol or diesel models. The report also highlights the potential for automotive LPG to take an ongoing role within the UK’s current transport mix both as a mono and dual fuel.

Following the Supreme Court’s pre-election ruling that the government must produce a new air quality plan by the end of 2015, the incoming minister will need to set out a number of policies to ensure the UK reaches compliance with EU nitrogen dioxide limits. UKLPG is urging the minister, who David Cameron is set to name this week, to adopt a series of measures to improve air quality in the UK and meet its EU targets.

“As an incredibly versatile, plentiful and clean fuel, automotive LPG deserves far greater recognition for its air quality, low-carbon and cost effective benefits which we urge the new minister to recognise,” said Rob Shuttleworth, chief executive of UKLPG.

“The research, backed by supporting evidence, clearly identifies the potential for a strong future for automotive LPG to 2050. We’re keen to work together with the automotive industry and policy makers to develop the future of low-carbon road transport in which automotive LPG plays a key role.”

Phillip Taylor, principal engineer, (powertrain integration, alternative propulsion, energy and CO2) at Millbrook Proving Ground, added: “Based on our comprehensive, independent review of the available evidence, it is clear that there is a role for automotive LPG through to 2050. The international emissions data is favourable to LPG, showing strong performance under well-to-wheel testing conditions.”


eCall: Can I trust my car to call an ambulance?

Dr. Martyn Jeffries, head of automotive solutions at SQS looks at eCall.

It has been announced by the European Commission that from April 2018 all new cars and small vans must include eCall, a device which has the ability to call the emergency services in the event of a serious accident. The new device will inform the emergency teams dispatched of details relating to the accident including not only the location, time and direction of travel, but also the speed of impact and whether or not an airbag was deployed. The announcement of this new legislation has led to worries about personal privacy and the cost of implementation however, people may be missing the true challenges this new legislation brings to the automotive industry, governments and consumers.

The technology used to deliver eCall is using features already available in cars with satellite navigation and a phone connection. With a greater proportion of new cars including these technologies as standard, and the basis of eCall being the linking of crash sensors to the phone system, this equipment is not a technological leap; it’s existing technology used in a new way. Those that oppose eCall have stated that the cost of implementation outweighs the benefits, but when the benefit is lifesaving, who is to say what is a fair cost? In the past, automotive manufacturers have been criticised for making that same value judgement when developing safety features, so it’s surprising that the same argument is now being used against them.

The concern that cars will be gathering all this data without the owner’s knowledge is obsolete; it’s already happening. Both your car and phone already contain enough information to track your movements exactly; it’s just there is no coherent mechanism to extract that data on an ongoing basis. However, your eCall device calling 112 in an emergency is not an effective route for tracking data as it is not a continuous connection. The broader adoption of an always connected car is much more likely to leak this sort of information than the eCall function specifically.

So the future of the car is not really an issue of new technology or specific privacy concerns over ’big brother’ tracking our movements, but that technology is converging to provide coherent capability from once disparate systems. Therefore, concerns have to be directed on the advancement of all the future car systems, not just eCall. If insurance companies could get access to your post-crash data and were able to apportion blame based on it, consumers could face problems for example, what if they refused to pay for your recuperation costs because you appeared to be 10mph over the speed limit, yet your car had incorrectly recorded the speed due to a software bug?

It will be essential that, when this technology becomes customary, the correct checks are in place on all systems to ensure that they perform as required when needed (e.g. calling 112). Given the potential complexity of such systems, the role of software quality assurance will not only be essential but will possibly be necessary to legislate certain requirements which can be specifically tested and verified. Nevertheless, delivered responsibly, these technologies could be valuable differentiators for the forward thinking vehicle manufacturer and a significant benefit for the end consumer.


Used van market struggles to shift large volumes of poor stock

The used van market is struggling to shift large volumes of used vans with poor specifications.

That’s the view of Glass’s commercial vehicle guide editor George Alexander who said the market is now made up of two streams of vehicles.

“We are really seeing a tale of two used markets. Late plate, well-specced models of newer designs are in high demand and their lack of availability is frustrating to trade and retails buyers, leading to many paying over the odds to secure the vehicle they want.

“However, less popular LCVs with poor specifications or those that are well-used and have questionable service histories are struggling. There are many more of them about than in recent years and the market is reflecting this with a distinct lack of enthusiasm,” he said.

Values continue to decline in 2015. The latest Pulse report from BCA released this week saw values in April fall 1.9% to £5,508 compared to a month earlier.

On average van values have fallen by 6.2% since they hit their high in December 2014.

BCA’s head of commercial vehicles, Duncan Ward, said: “Although we are reporting some price pressure as a result of rising supply and the typical seasonal issues we experience post-Easter, there is still plenty of demand from professional buyers and end-users. Average values for light commercial vehicles have risen significantly over time.”


Dealers take steps to integrate finance online

The statistics have changed rapidly from just two years ago, when the company first started compiling them. At that time, less than 25% of access came through smartphones and tablets.

The figures come from analysis of users of iVendi’s Car Finance Checker, an online tool that allows customers to prequalify themselves for motor finance online.

The latest trends in finance online are in the May issue of Motor Trader. It found that dealers are increasingly using financial calculators to engage with customers and offer them choice.

James Tew, CEO at iVendi, said: “This unequivocally shows the way in which consumer attitudes towards mobile online access of all services have changed in a very short period of time.

Lauren Cooke, marketing manager with Bluesky Interactive, believes that dealers are doing more with finance online and this is being driven by consumer demand.

“Search by monthly finance now accounts for half of all vehicle searches on a dealer website.

“That’s why dealers have been taking steps to integrate finance functionality that allows customers to search within a monthly budget rather than just for cash price.


ATS Euromaster warns of tyre ticking time bombs

Nearly 90% of tyres replaced by ATS Euromaster were below the legal tyre depth limit.

According to the firm’s Manchester branch manager, the tyres pose a safety risk when the tread falls below 1.6mm.

The manager of the branch in Manchester, Paul Duff, said that tyre safety has got worse over the last five years thanks to more vehicles having low-profile tyres, pushing up replacement costs.

Duff also said that customers are not checking tread depths on a regular basis, or at all.

The tyre-fitting company warned that if a tyre’s steel cord is visible, the tyre risks losing its structure with every rotation as it is the only part of the vehicle that it is in contact with the road surface.

“It’s a ticking time bomb waiting to go off,” Duff said.

“A lot of people don’t realise, but if you’re involved in an accident and are found to have an illegal tyre on your car then you risk your insurance policy being declared void, because your vehicle is illegal for road use,” he added.

Department for Transport statistics from 2013 show that illegal, defective or underinflated tyres were the most common vehicle defect contributing to accidents in Great Britain where a police officer attended the scene.


Government confirms more DfT positions

The Government has confirmed that Claire Perry and Robert Goodwill have been reappointed in their roles as Parliamentary Under Sectary of State after the reshuffle.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Andrew Jones have also been appointed Parliamentary Under Secretaries of State for Transport.

The announcement follows on from the confirmation earlier this week that Patrick McLoughlin will continue as the Sectary of State for Transport.

Robert Halfton has also been appointed as the deputy chairman of the Conservative party. He campaigned against the increasing cost of fuel in the past, while Greg Clarke has been appointed as Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Clarke previously worked as the Minster for Cities and it is expected his experience will aid the government’s plans to devolve regional transport decisions to local councils.

John Hayes, who previously had a national roads, Infrastructure Bill and maritime portfolio, has moved to the Home Office as Minister of State with responsibility for security.

“We welcome the reappointments of Patrick McLoughlin, Robert Goodwill and Claire Perry to their Department for Transport posts,” said BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney. “This rare consistency in the department should improve stability for the fleet industry and means the progress we have made with the government in the past five years will not be lost.

“McLoughlin and Goodwill are road transport experts and we very much look forward to working with them as the government implements its Road Improvement Strategy.”

The BVRLA also welcomed the appointments of Lord Ahmad and Jones, saying it will “bring new thinking to the department”, while it said David Gauke (who was reappointed as Financial Secretary to the Treasury) and Damian Hinds, who was appointed as the new Treasury Minister, would “continue to have a big impact on the Government’s approach to business and vehicle taxation” within their roles at the Treasury.

In its manifesto, the Tories promised they would invest more than £6 billion in the northern road network, and add 1300 extra lane miles to the road network by 2021, while fixing around 18 million potholes as part of a wider £13bn investment in transport in the north.


Women ‘are the better drivers’

Driving’s battle of the sexes appears to have been won by women, according to a survey.

Driving’s battle of the sexes appears to have been won by women, according to a survey.

Female drivers outscored males not only in in-car tests but also when observed anonymously using one of the UK’s busiest junctions – Hyde Park Corner.

But another part of the survey – from Privilege Insurance – found only 28% of women reckoned they were better drivers than men, with only 13% of men thinking women were superior behind the wheel.

A sample of 50 drivers faced in-car assessment while 200 were watched at Hyde Park Corner. Marked on 14 different aspects of driving, women scored 23.6 points out of a possible 30, while men managed to chalk up only 19.8 points.

On one of the categories – tailgating – just four per cent of women but 27% of men drove too close to the vehicle in front.

People’s views on their driving skills differed dramatically from their actual skills. When asked if they thought they drove at the appropriate speed for the situation, 84% of men claimed they regularly did, which was in contrast to the 64% that actually did.

Nearly half of men approached hazards too fast, compared with only a quarter of women, while more than half of men drove through an amber light when it was turning to red, compared to just 14% of women.

Just one per cent of women, but 14% of men, cut into traffic dangerously, while 24% of men, but only 16% of women, admitted to using hand-held mobiles while at the wheel.

More men than women also admitted not indicating if they thought there was no one driving behind them.

On courtesy on the roads, women had the edge too, with 39% always polite to other drivers, compared to just 28% of men.

The non-driving part of the survey involved 1,383 drivers.



Admiral chief exec to step down

After 25 years, Admiral’s Henry Engelhardt who was key in making the company one of Britain’s most valuable companies, is to step down.

The American chief executive is expected to hand over the role in 2016.

Started in 1991, the company now employs 7,000 people, most of them in south Wales.

Admiral gained a firm footing in the market by targeting motorists who found it difficult to get cheaper insurance, including younger drivers, those with higher performance cars and those living in cities.

The company made its decision to set up its headquarters in Cardiff, after a £1m set-up grant was awarded by the then Welsh Development Agency.

The insurance firm has seen record profits every year since it became a public company except for last year, however it still made £357m profit in 2014.


Posted by Lois Hardy on 15/05/2015