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Daily News Round upBack

IGA’s biggest member event at Car Dealer Conference & Expo 2015


Updates on technology and legislation plus news from the Trust My Garage and Car Repair Plan schemes

The Independent Garage Association (IGA), the largest and most prominent trade body for independent garages are today holding their biggest member event yet at the Car Dealer Conference & Expo 2015 at Silverstone.

Members of the Independent Garage Association (IGA) team are discussing industry issues and member enquiries on stand P108, and the IGA’s consumer code scheme for independents, Trust My Garage, are on display at its own stand, S126.

Stuart James, IGA Director said: “It’s a real honour that garages are seeing such value in attending our events, and even though we are only halfway through 2015, from the events so far we have seen as many garages as we did in the whole of 2014.

“We are delighted that this will beat all previous attendances, and whatever kind of independent garage, there will be something of benefit at this event.”

The DVSA will also be presenting up to the minute news on the MOT modernisation project, and will be demonstrating the new system live.

Tickets are free for both the Car Dealer Conference & Expo and the IGA’s member event and you do not need to be a member to attend. Call the IGA on 0845 305 4230 to book your tickets.


Cornwall police to stop investigating fuel thefts

Devon and Cornwall police has announced that it is to stop investigating cases of drivers making off from petrol stations without paying.

Police will now only investigate cases of non-payment, or ‘bilking’, where there is clear criminal intent, such as through the use of false number plates. In all other cases, petrol retailers are advised to recover the debt through civil means.

The force has blamed government cuts and shrinking budgets for the need to allocate resources to more serious offences. Devon and Cornwall constabulary believes that most instances of non-payment are due to genuine error on the part of the motorist, with most subsequently returning to pay for fuel.

In a statement the force said: “Across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in 2014 the force received around 1,600 reports where a customer had left without paying for fuel from a garage forecourt. These are not offences of fraud or theft. In many cases they are a mistake on the part of the individual who, when advised of their mistake, returns to make payment for their fuel. In fraud or theft cases, there are indications of intent such as the use of false number plates.

“The force will no longer be deploying officers to attend these reports and make contact with the member of the public on behalf of the garage, unless there is evidence of linked offending or vulnerability.”

Forecourt operators are understandably unhappy about the move, resulting in the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) raising concerns with the Home Office.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson said: “We are alarmed by the growing rate of petrol theft over the past five years. Incidents of bilking have risen due to pump prices going up steeply, and now that police are broadcasting this as a low priority, this will no doubt encourage thieves further,” Forecourt Trader reports.

“Petrol retailers are paying high business rates, part of which contributes towards spending in the police force, and so for the police to put sole responsibility of fuel theft on the garage is both unfair and irresponsible.”

Source: AOL cars


‘Paper counterpart abolition will encourage companies to refresh risk management policies’

The abolition of the paper counterpart driving licence will encourage companies to refresh their risk management policies, says Licence Bureau.

The fleet driving licence checking and compliance company says that switching to all-online licence checking should also encourage fleets to refresh related HR policies, ensuring all relevant information is managed and stored safely and securely, and allowing Duty of Care obligations to be adhered to.

If a fleet’s management chooses to perform internal licence checks from today, they’ll need to quickly adapt to the recently launched Share Driving Licence service. They can do this by using the last eight digits of the employee’s licence number and a one-time unique code generated by the employee via View Driving Licence. This will last for 72 hours and is only valid for a solitary check.

If the employee doesn’t consent, employers should not use the View Driving Licence service by using other private employee information. It’s important that everyone with an HR role is aware that doing so is a serious offence under the Data Protection Act 1998 without the explicit consent of the data subject.

Employers can obtain written consent from the employee, although in companies with over 10 drivers, the company thinks this could cause further problems.

Managing director at Licence Bureau Malcolm Maycock (pictured) said: “The abolition of the paper counterpart raises further awareness that verifying an employee’s entitlement to drive is crucial and fleets need to do everything possible to minimise unnecessary risk.

“Moving to an all-online platform should question a company’s approach for licence checking and other in-house HR duties. Using a third-party provider, such as our Compliance Managed Services portal, to securely carry out regular and efficient checks, allows fleets to reduce unnecessary administration hours. In any case, both employers and employees need to be fully aware of their responsibilities when performing licence checks.”



What can dealers learn from McDonald’s and their dentists?

The words McDonald’s and dentist don’t often come up in our workshops, but author and consultant Rob Purfield said the motor trade can learn from them.

As part of McDonald’s’ sales process, said Purfield, you get asked if you “want fries with that”, “make it a meal”, “go large”. This upsell is something we have come to expect.

Similarly, if your service adviser asks a customer how they would like to pay – credit card, cash, service plan etc. – and they answer anything but ‘service plan’, Purfield said the service adviser should say “you haven’t got a service plan? I thought everyone did – I’ll talk to you about it when you come in”. This is a pre-sell, because they’re now wondering what a service plan is.

O2, Delphi and Vodafone are already offering on-board diagnostics tools to the independent aftermarket elsewhere in Europe.

“If I went to your service adviser and asked what a typical service plan costs, they’d probably give me a monthly payment,” he said, which can imply a cost to a customer.

What they probably should be saying is: “the service plan is free, it’s just a way of spreading your yearly service cost across the months”.

Purfield said dealers should make time-sensitive special offers available on the service desk, and incentivise service staff to sell them.

Another way of retaining customers, he said, is to ‘think like a dentist’ and book amber work in, in advance.


DVLA licence checking website crashes on day of launch

The DVLA’s new online system to check driving licences following the abolition of the paper counterpart crashed on the day of its launch yesterday.

Users of the new View Driving Licence service complained that the system was not working properly yesterday morning, says the BVRLA.

Several took to Twitter to complain, while the BVRLA had feedback from a number of members that there have been delays in rental branches.

The DVLA says that these sorts of delays are to be expected on the first day of a new system during peak periods of demand.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the BVRLA, said: “Replacing paper forms with digital services is a great idea, but the Government has gone about this the wrong way by rushing the process and not giving enough warning to motorists.

“The online system being offered by the DVLA is far from ideal and the car rental industry is working with it as best it can. We are confident that our members will keep their GB licence holder customers up-to-date with any new procedures, which should minimise any disruption for travellers.”

“Customers can take extra precautions by ensuring that their rental company has access to their endorsement information – available via the DVLA’s Share Driving Licence service or its call centre.”

The AA is among the companies to say its members are encountering issues, while a car hire firm in Bristol told the BBC it had a queue of 20 people waiting as staff were unable to access their details online.

DVLA chief executive Oliver Morley yesterday told the Independent: “We are currently experiencing exceptionally high demand for this service.

“We are aware some customers are experiencing issues with the website and we are working very hard to resolve this as quickly as possible. We are sorry for any inconvenience.”


Epyx launches Tyreserve platform so dealers can serve fleets

A new e-commerce service designed to help franchise dealers compete for fleet tyre business has been launched by Epyx.

Tyreserve can be easily adopted by any garage that is registered as a supplier on Epyx’s 1link Service Network platform.

Similarly, fleets who use 1link Service Network can opt to employ Tyreserve as part of their normal, daily use of the platform to manage overall service and maintenance spending.

Currently, fleets users of the platform total more than three million vehicles, including all of the UK’s top 50 vehicle leasing companies.

A complete tyre catalogue is available through 1link Service Network that will be charged at agreed prices. Dealers can draw tyres from their own stock or order them from distributors via epyx.

David Goodyear, head of business development at Epyx, said: “At launch, we will have around 1,000 dealers signed up to offer Tyreserve from across a wide variety of franchises, which gives us a strong initial base of suppliers.

“Many, many franchise dealers do not really attempt to compete with fast-fits for tyre business at all but Tyreserve provides a mechanism for them to offer competitive pricing and a high level of customer service.”

“It is relatively common practice for a dealer to carry out a service on a company car or van, spot that tyres need replacing, and then advise the driver to take it to the nearest fast-fit.

“This is a waste of time for the driver and is not really a very good customer service offering. It makes much more sense for the vehicle to have its tyres replaced in the same workshop.”

“The success of a project like this very much depends on being able to achieve significant numbers and we should be able to announce our first signing very soon.

“We are seeing considerable fleet interest but really everything depends on franchise dealers coming on board and recognising the profit and service potential that exists.”


Chargemaster completes 156 charge points for London Fire Brigade

Chargemaster has installed one hundred and fifty six charging points at seventy one fire stations and five other Brigade sites across London.

The electric vehicle charging equipment supplier has installed the points for the London Fire Brigade’s growing fleet of electric support vehicles. Eighteen of the points in 9 locations are also available for public use.

The brigade chose Chargemaster’s twin socket fast charging units that can supply charge at a rate of up to 22kW, claim the company.

Members of the public can use the charge points at Croydon, East Ham, Edmonton, Finchley, Hainault, Harold Hill, Hornsey, Ilford and New Malden fire stations, and can register for access and unlock the charging points on the spot via their smartphone.

The charging points are part of Chargemaster’s POLAR network, which they say is the largest in the country with over four thousand publicly available charging points.

Government funding contributed seventy five % to the total cost of installing the charging points, with the remaining cost being covered by Chargemaster.

Speaking about the co-funding deal between Chargemaster and the Department for Transport, transport minister Andrew Jones, commented: “I want cleaner, greener cars across the capital and this money will make a real difference. The Department for Transport’s funding for the 156 new charge points will make it easier for people to use these increasingly popular low emission vehicles. It is an example of Britain leading the way in developing sustainable transport options that are accessible to everyone.”

Chargemaster cheif executive officer, David Martell, said: “We are pleased to have worked with London Fire Brigade and to have invested in partnership with Government to expand the charging network available to electric vehicle users in the city. All charge points were installed on schedule and are now part of the UK’s most reliable charging network. We are committed to increasing the uptake of electric motoring in the UK and to make it as convenient as possible for motorists.”

London fire commissioner Ron Dobson, said: “I am delighted the Brigade’s electric vehicle charge points have been installed across London and are now ready for use by both Brigade staff and members of the public.

“Electric cars offer big environmental benefits and play an important part in keeping London clean. The new charging network not only makes it easy and convenient to charge up a car’s battery making electric cars easier to use, but also reaffirms London Fire Brigade’s commitment to lead on sustainability in the fire service and reducing our impact on the environment.”

The Brigade currently uses five electric cars through its lease car scheme and hopes to have a further five in its fleet towards the end of year, as a result of additional government funding secured from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles.


Ford adds 99g/km diesel to Transit Connect range

Ford is adding its Euro 6-compliant 1.5-litre diesel engine to its Transit Connect as part of a tweak to the range.

The engine is also fitted to the Transit Courier van. It emits 99g/km of CO2 and returns 74.3mpg, which Ford claims is a 6% improvement over the 1.6-litre diesel engine, already used in the Connect.

The minor update to the model range will also include the firm’s traffic sign recognition tool and lane keeping aid. Ford said the Connect is the first vehicle in its segment to offer the technologies.

“The Transit Connect has proved a real hit with European businesses thanks to its smart looks, great fuel economy and capable load space,” said Phil Hollins, commercial vehicle marketing, sales and service director at Ford, “With even lower fuel costs and amazing new technologies, Transit Connect delivers an even stronger proposition to our commercial customers.”


“Car data: why closed networks could result in a closed shop.”

The European eCall Regulation will make the installation of the automatic new emergency call mandatory by 2018.

Wendy Williamson, Chief Executive of the IAAF, explains why BMW’s recent security loophole highlights further the aftermarket’s need for telematics to be tightened.

ADAC, the German motorist association, recently identified a flaw in BMW’s Connected Drive software, which uses an on-board SIM card and can operate door locks, air-conditioning and traffic updates, but no driving systems such as brakes or steering.

Researchers found that the cars would try to communicate via a spoofed phone network, leaving potential hackers able to control anything activated by the SIM and thieves able to unlock doors and track car data through a mobile phone without leaving a trace.

While BMW announced that these security loopholes were closed by the end of January 2015, the incident exemplifies the deficiencies in vehicle manufacturers’ current arguments in Brussels that only VMs’ closed proprietary systems are truly secure.

Interoperable networks

The IAAF & FIGIEFA, together with a wide alliance of consumer, automotive aftermarket, insurance and leasing company federations, has long advocated for secure, interoperable networks for vehicle connectivity. This proposal has been taken up as a principle by the new European eCall Regulation, which is particularly pertinent, as it makes the installation of the automatic new emergency call mandatory by 2018.

The platform would allow drivers to choose to whom they send their vehicle data, and under what terms and conditions, whilst maintaining the highest – constantly updated, state of the art – security standards for both communication to and from the vehicle, as well as within the vehicle. The required levels of safety and security would be further strengthened through the validation of applications by an independent authority prior to them being implemented.

Complete structure

Together, these measures would provide a complete safety and security structure whenever communicating or exchanging data with the vehicle.

Currently, independent operators, such as repairers, road-patrols or leasing companies, do not get the same wireless access to the vehicle’s technical data as VMs enjoy. This allows VMs to choose which companies eventually receive the data, under what conditions and timescales, and what services are allowed to be offered to consumers – thereby giving them an exclusive control over their vehicles’ data.

As a result, there is the threat of a monopolisation over the important ‘online’ data, crucial to ascertain the ‘health status’ of the vehicle when it is being driven and vital for the independent sector to continue to provide competitive, new and innovative services.


BP and Spar among forecourt brands to accept Apple Pay

BP, Spar, Costa, Starbucks, Subway, Waitrose and M&S Simply Food are the major brands on UK forecourts which will accept customer transactions using Apple Pay, when it is launched in the UK next month.

Apple Pay will enable consumers to use their iphones (6, 6 Plus and Apple Watch) to make purchases using contactless payment technology with inbuilt security features to make payment secure and private.

The technology was launched in the US last October with 200,000 locations and will soon exceed one million.

Yves Bortolini, cards and payment manager at BP Oil UK said: “BP started accepting contactless payment in 2013 and it has proven to be increasingly popular with customers. As we always aim to be at the forefront of innovation and to offer great service, BP will offer Apple Pay to give customers an easy, secure and private way to pay.”

Spar UK managing director Debbie Robinson said: “Apple Pay will offer huge benefits to our customers and retailers. It is perfect for high-value purchases at our forecourt garages and larger convenience stores. It will also appeal to busy shoppers doing their top-up shopping at Spar stores up and down the country. Apple Pay meets all of our customer requirements, including increased security and privacy. It also offers our Spar retailers huge benefits such as increased footfall, improved customer service and faster transactions in-store. We feel the UK is about to witness one of the most radical changes to the way in which shoppers pay for goods, led by Apple Pay, and Spar will be one of the first retail chains to support this new mobile payment revolution.”

Robinson said Spar had been working for many years on its payment solution to ensure it is ready for the contactless revolution, with the number of Spar stores accepting contactless payment having soared. She said Apple Pay was easy to set up and users would continue to receive all of the rewards and benefits offered by their credit and debit cards.


New investors at MFG as former Tesco boss joins the board

The management team at Top 50 Indies forecourt operator, Motor Fuel Group (MFG) is to partner with private investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, (CD&R) to acquire the company from its original institutional investor, Patron in a transaction valued at approximately £500 million. The transaction is expected to close in July, subject to customary regulatory approvals.

The MFG management team, whose chairman is oil industry veteran Alasdair Locke, partnered with Patron in 2011 to acquire the MFG business and today, it is the number two independent petrol and convenience retailer in the UK. Through a series of strategic acquisitions, Patron and MFG management have grown the Company from 48 stations in 2011 to a current total of 373 stations operating under the BP, Shell, Texaco and Jet brands. In addition, MFG also operates a Murco-branded dealer network of more than 200 sites.

In April 2015, MFG was ranked 9th in a league table of Britain’s one hundred private companies with the fastest-growing profits in the 16th annual Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100.

Jeremy Clarke, managing director of MFG said: “We thank Patron for helping us to become one of the largest, most dynamic and profitable independent petrol and convenience retail operators in the UK and we are excited to be partnering with CD&R. The firm’s reputation for operational excellence and deep consumer and retail experience will be especially useful as we move the business forward to the next stage of profitable growth.

“We are also delighted that Sir Terry Leahy, a senior advisor to CD&R’s Funds, former chief executive of Tesco and current chairman of B&M European Value Retail, will be joining the MFG board.”

Marco Herbst, a partner at CD&R, commented: “We look forward to building on MFG management team’s success by continuing to accelerate the company’s transformation into a best-in-class petrol and convenience retailer.”


Will September’s Euro 6 really see the demise of the small diesel?

Experts say new emissions standards leave the future of diesel uncertain but hybrid technology looks positive

From September 2015, all new cars must be compliant with Euro 6 emissions standards, which aims to reduce the levels of harmful exhaust emissions such as nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (THC and NMHS) and particulate matter (PM).

The new regulations mean that Euro 6 diesel cars must emit more than 50 per cent less NOx than their Euro 5 counterparts.

The legislation has been under constant review since it was first established in 1992 when NOx limits stood at 490mg/km for petrol and 780mg/km for diesel engines.

The latest cuts come as the industry continues to fight-back against so-called diesel demonsiation and the threat of ultra low emissions zones, which could soon see diesel drivers having to pay extra to drive in the city.

Across the Channel, Paris’s mayor has called for diesel-engined cars to be banned from the city all together by 2020 – a bold step from a country that was once an advocate to diesel technology, says Blue Print’s Senior Technical Coordinator, Rob Head.


Exhaust sensor demand to rise as emissions standards tighten

New range of Lucas Electrical exhaust sensors will ensure businesses maximize the potential benefits

Lucas has said it is anticipating a quick and significant increase in demand for exhaust gas temperature and pressure sensors as more and more technologically advanced, environmentally friendly vehicles reach an age where they fall into the target market of the independent automotive repair sector.

European emissions standards define the acceptable limits for exhaust emissions of new vehicles sold throughout Europe.

In order to meet these standards vehicle manufacturers have introduced a host of new components to their vehicles that monitor and help to control harmful emissions.

The UK aftermarket is familiar with Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valves and Lambda (Oxygen) Sensors, which now feature on a large percentage of the cars on our roads.

The aftermarket is currently less familiar, Lucas Electrical say, with newer technological advancements such as Exhaust Gas Temperature Sensors (EGTS) and Exhaust Gas Pressure Sensors (EGPS), introduced as recently as 2008 to monitor conditions in the exhaust system.

Over 30 per cent of all new vehicles, including Volkswagen Automotive Group, Ford, Fiat, BMW, Renault and Mercedes, now use EGTS and EGPS.

EGPS plays a vital role in the regeneration of the Diesel Particulate Filter and so all sensors are built to original equipment specifications to ensure maximum longevity of the DPF.


Halfords Autocentre fined £47,000 following undercover sting

The company failed to fix 11 out of 20 defects deliberately fixed by Trading Standards

The national company failed to find more than half of the faults on the car.

An illegal Vauxhall Astra with broken or missing light bulbs, irregular tyre pressures, oil leaks and faulty windscreen wipers was sent to the Halfords Autocentre in Filton, Bristol by South Gloucestershire Council for a major service at a cost of £235.

Lee Reynolds, for the council, told North Avon Magistrates’ Court: “It became obvious that not all the checks were done.

“Things were ticked as having been done that had not been and the consumer was not made aware (of the defects).

“This is a national company. A consumer puts a lot of trust and faith in a national firm to do a proper job to ensure a car service is conducted thoroughly and professionally and in these circumstances it was not.”

Halfords pleaded guilty to eight counts of breaching consumer protection laws and Alex Tovey, who carried out the service, resigned.

Reports suggest the investigation was sparked by a rising number of complaints about the car industry in Bristol.

Magistrates fined the company £32,000, ordered them to pay £14,862.04 costs and a £120 victim surcharge.


TVR roars back into production with all-new Cosworth powered car

The iconic British brand is returning to the market with an all-new British designed and built sports car

With over a year of development already completed, the new sports car been is being developed in collaboration with Gordon Murray Design and Cosworth.

Les Edgar, Chairman of TVR said: “From the outset we only wanted to work with the best partners in the business, and both Gordon Murray’s and Cosworth’s track records within motor sport and high performance car design and engineering speaks for themselves.”

Full specifications and images are to be released later this year, but a press release has indicated that the new TVR will continue the tradition of a classic British two-seat sports car with a composite ground effect aero chassis and body package.

Powered by a dry-sumped, V8 engine, developed and engineered by Cosworth, the car will be front engined with rear wheel drive and a manual transmission.

UK production will begin in 2017 and pricing is thought to be consistent with TVR’s positioning in the past.

Gordon Murray, Chairman of Gordon Murray Design said: “TVR is an iconic brand which has been an important part of British sports car manufacturing for many decades.

“Its return to manufacturing is an exciting development and the car deserves the best chassis and powertrain that can possibly be delivered.”


GSF shortlisted in UK Factor of the Year

Line up of finalists for the award also includes Autoparts UK, Andrew Page, Fast Parts Wales and Ridgeway

GSF Car Parts has been shortlisted in the Factor of the Year category, for the prestigious Motor Trader Awards which are set to take place at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on 8 July.

The category attracted entries from across the UK, having been open to national and regional parts distributors, as well as franchised dealer group operations.

GSF Car Parts won thanks to a number of new initiatives including its apprenticeship programme, which started in 2014, and innovative customer social events.

Business activities have focused on continued emphasis on tier 1 OE parts brands, supported by the development of the Vetech brand’s product portfolio, with rapid expansion of the ‘Garage Essentials’ tools and equipment programme.

Managing Director at GSF Car Parts, Jonny West said: “We are delighted to be nominated. It’s fine recognition of some of the exceptional teamwork from our loyal staff, going on right throughout the business.”



Rowan Atkinson sells McLaren F1 for £8M

The 18-year-old super car covered 41,000 miles and had been involved in two crashes

Atkinson has been reported to have made a ‘bumper profit’ following the sale of his McLaren F1, which was bought for around £540,000 in 1997.

The petrol head first damaged the three-seater by ploughing into the back of a Rover Metro in Lancashire in 1999.

Later, in 2011, he lost control of the supercar in Oxfordshire where he crashed into a tree.


The damaged super car following Atkinson’s accident in 2011.

Atkinson’s insurance company covered a £910,000 repair bill in what is likely to be the biggest ever single car insurance claim.

Despite the crashes, the 240mph McLaren continued to rise in value and Atkinson decided to put the car on the market with specialist car dealer, Taylor & Crawley, where he originally bought it.

Powered by a 6.1 litre V12 engine, the F1 produces 627bhp, will go from 0-62mph in just 3.2 seconds and continue up to 241mph.


Benfield delighted to be ranked among ‘the largest private companies in the land’

THE North East’s largest independent motor group, Benfield, is the only company based in the region which features in the latest Sunday Times Top Track 100 table.

Newcastle-headquartered Benfield is ranked at 83 and features on the table for the first time, increasing sales by 13 per cent to £700m for the year to December 31, 2014.

The league table ranks Britain’s leading private companies by sales in their latest available accounts.

The family-owned business is delighted with its leading position.

Mark Squires, Chief Executive, said: ‘As a family-owned business founded in Byker on the East side of Newcastle in the 1950s, we are immensely proud to be represented for the first time amongst the largest private companies in the land.

‘Our sure growth over many years is a testimony to our people who number over 1500 and the family values we strive every day to live by.’

Benfield features on the table alongside a number of high-profile national brands, including Clarks, Dyson, JCB and Virgin Atlantic.


Garages not checking recall information

Survey finds 92% don’t check as standard

Vehicle supply company OSV has revealed the results of a survey suggesting local garages do not check vehicles for outstanding recalls.

Following the news that Toyota and Nissan are recalling over 6.5 million vehicles due to issues with airbags, the company wanted to find out whether garages were checking for notifications while a car is in for a service. After questioning 100 local garages, the company found that only 8% would check as standard.

43% of the garages explained that they would check for recalls if asked to by the cars owner but a whopping 49% of local garages do not and would not check for vital vehicle recalls.

OSV then decided to take the report one step further and find out how many people use local garages to service their vehicle over approved dealerships. Overall, 45% of the UK would take their vehicle to be serviced in a local garage, only 22% would take it to an approved dealership and then 33% did not have vehicles so could not take part.

Interestingly, women were more likely to take their car to an approved dealership. When comparing the results OSV found the figure rises to 29% for women but shrinks to just 15% for men.

Maybe not so surprising is the fact that OSV Ltd found that 18-24’s were less likely to book at an approved dealership. Only 11% of the participants in that age range take their car to an approved dealership. This could be down to a number of factors such as monetary constraints.

OSV Ltd surveyed 100 local garages and 500 UK residents.

Source: Aftermarket online

Marchionne asks investors for help persuading GM to merge with Fiat Chrysler, report says

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is reaching out to hedge funds and activist investors to help persuade General Motors Co. to agree to a merger, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Marchionne has been emboldened by recent successes of activist investors at GM and sees them as a means to consolidate the auto industry, the newspaper cited the people as saying.

Marchionne’s contacts with activist investors, however, have not yet landed a patron, and a similar strategy could be used with at least one European carmaker, the WSJ said.

Source: Automotive News Europe

Mercedes’s new E class will offer automated driving at highway speeds

Drivers of Mercedes-Benz’s next-generation E-class sedan will have to get used to a startling feeling: the steering wheel moving in their hands as it pilots motorways and country lanes by itself.

What has so far only been shown in test situations will be available as of about March next year, when Daimler’s new model goes on sale. The technology packing the vehicle shows how quickly automated driving systems have advanced since 1998, when the Mercedes S class first featured cruise control that could adjust its speed to follow a car in front.

“Innovations in this area are coming thick and fast,” Thomas Weber, Daimler’s head of development, said in his office in Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart, Germany. “While we don’t want to feed wrong expectations such as sleeping in the car, autonomous driving is set to become a reality much more quickly than the public thinks.”

Self-driving systems are among many areas in which Mercedes is working to gain an edge on rivals Audi and BMW. Currently No. 3 in luxury-car sales, Daimler is fighting to take the lead in the segment by 2020.

It’s also testing the limits of what’s allowed under current regulations, which in most places require the driver to be in a position to control the vehicle at all times.

The E class, which competes with the BMW 5 series, Audi A6 and Lexus GS, is Mercedes’s bread-and-butter luxury sedan. Offering options more advanced than those in the flagship S class shows how much Daimler is raising the stakes in their battle to reclaim the top spot in high-end cars. Audi has already sent an unmanned RS7 around a track at racing speeds.

Source: Automotive News Europe

Posted by Lois Hardy on 09/06/2015