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Daily News Round upBack

PRA welcomes vapour recovery consultation


The PRA has welcomed the decision by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), reported by Forecourt Trader last week, to consult on changes to its current practice regarding duty on petrol derived from vapour recovery.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson said: “It is positive to see that following continued persistence from the PRA, HMRC has published a consultation document regarding the reimbursement of duty on petrol subject to vapour recovery.”

He said the PRA had been trying to resolve the issue for many years, because it was clear that the scheme had no legal basis and caused substantive loss to independent retailers.

He added: “The lack of any legal basis for the vapour recovery reimbursement scheme and the damage caused to petrol retailers has been brought to the attention of successive Treasury ministers and to the chief executive of HMRC by the PRA.

“With this consultation, HMRC has finally acknowledged the problems inherent in the scheme from its inception over 20 years ago. It is now consulting with interested industry groups as to whether and/or how to implement a legal mechanism to deal with duty on petrol subject to vapour recovery.

“It also highlights the deficiencies of the present delivery system, where retailers are always likely to be short delivered in their petrol loads, because heavily saturated vapour is captured as part of the process. The supplier always has the benefit of the captured product to sell again and at Duty Point Terminals, it gets the duty back from HMRC too.

“The PRA will evaluate the consultation document and consider what should be done to correct the current situation, so that retailers are no longer disadvantaged.”


How technology will change the face of car dealerships

Technology can be a driver of change for car dealers, according to research which found 60% think advancements such as augmented reality will boost business.

The motor finance provider’s inaugural ‘Industry MOT’ survey, which polls more than 100 car dealers on issues affecting the automotive industry, revealed that 60% believed that advancements such as augmented reality will boost business at dealerships. However, almost 45% conceded that the increase in online customer reviews and comparison websites have had an adverse effect on footfall.

With click and collect services and driverless vehicles already being developed, car dealerships have suggested that showrooms will be forced to adopt new technology to enhance the consumer experience.

As well as the online order service, increased test-driving facilities and augmented reality were highlighted as potential options for dealers looking to enhance their offering.

Meanwhile, an increase in the amount of information available online means that car dealerships have seen consumers continue to expect more from their services and products.

John Simpson, managing director at Moneyway motor finance, a trading name of Secure Trust Bank, said: “Technology is set to continue to have a significant impact on the automotive sector, with self-driving vehicles and car-to-car communication already being trialled by a number of companies.

“This will inevitably alter the way that cars are sold in the UK, and we arranged this survey to get the opinion of the people directly affected by this.

“It is encouraging to see that dealerships remain confident and open to the idea of embracing new forms of technology. While they remain wary of potential changes, the future looks bright and demonstrates that car dealers can be optimistic for future growth.”

Mike Bell, managing director at Imperial Car Supermarkets, said: “At Imperial, we are more than aware of how technology is influencing the way that consumers purchase vehicles, and we are embracing the change.

“In future, dealers will need to adapt showroom technology to support the requirements of the consumer journey, which will become increasingly interactive. This applies to all stages of the process: from viewing the vehicle, to a live chat with a sales person, to finance applications and product marketing.

“If their desired vehicle is in stock, consumers can now transact with dealers irrespective of their distance from the dealership. As a result, technology is crucial to ensuring that a dealer’s virtual showroom is as well-managed as the bona fide showroom, or they will risk losing sales.”


Alfa Romeo reveals Giulia as first car in brand’s revival

Alfa Romeo has set out plans for its biggest product offensive since it was acquired by Fiat in 1986.

Under a project named Giorgio, Alfa Romeo plans to launch eight vehicles in three years, starting with an executive saloon in 2016, badged Giulia, which it hopes will rival the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It will have rear-wheel drive and the range will include a powerful V6 engine in its flagship and a turbocharged four-cylinder unit.

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, has already set out an ambition for Alfa Romeo to sell 400,000 cars per year from 2018, six times the volume it achieved in 2014. The FCA group has pledged £3.5 billion of backing for Alfa’s revival.

Analysts at IHS Automotive believe 216,000 units in the same timescale is more likely.

However Marchionne has used the growth of the Jeep brand to reinforce his ambitions. Jeep had 200,000 global sales in 2009, but is forecast for 1.2m units in 2015.

The new model plan also includes two SUVs, an estate car and a larger executive saloon.

Alfa plans to sell the new models on their driving purity, character, charm, emotion and style under a new strapline ‘’la meccanica delle emozioni’, translating as ‘the mechanics of emotion’.

Each will be built to meet a five-point criteria: innovative engines, 50/50 weight distribution, advanced technical solutions, best-in-class power-to-weight ratios, and distinctive Italian design.


Honda signs up Kaiser Chiefs’ Ricky Wilson as brand ambassador

Ricky Wilson, frontman of the Kaiser Chiefs and judge on BBC1’s The Voice, has become a brand ambassador for Honda Cars UK as it launches the Honda Civic Type-R.

Wilson is set to kick off his role as ambassador by piloting the new Civic Type R up the famous hill climb at Goodwood Festival of Speed on Saturday June 27, the day after Kaiser Chiefs play to 65,000 people in Hyde Park with The Who.

As preparation for his drive at the world’s biggest motorsport garden party, Wilson secured his National B race licence at Knockhill last week, under the guidance of Honda BTCC star driver, Gordon “Flash” Shedden. Honda currently lead the 2015 British Touring Car Championship.

Wilson will take ownership of a blue Civic Type R, complete with the all-new +R mode, which increases the response of chassis and engine for enhanced driving thrills.

After owning a series of old and dodgy cars, he said of the Type R: “For the first time, I feel like I can trust something at high speed. For a car that’s a small road car, it gives you a taste of the race.

“For something you can walk in and buy in a dealership, I think it’s brilliant.”

Leon Brannan, head of car at Honda UK, said: “We are chuffed to bits that Ricky is our ambassador for Type R. It’s a car with great racing pedigree that has a huge fanbase on the roads. I’m sure Ricky will thrive on the adrenalin that 306bhp through the front wheels brings. I’ve promised him it’ll provide the same rush as playing Glastonbury.”


Radical change needed to reverse road death rise

Road safety campaigners are calling for Government action after there were 1,775 reported road deaths in 2014, an increase of 4% compared with 2013.

Pedestrians accounted for three quarters of the increase in fatalities between 2013 and 2014. Pedestrian fatalities increased by 12% from 398 in 2013 to 446 in 2014.

The number of people seriously injured in reported road traffic accidents increased by 5% to 22,807 in 2014, compared with 2013, and there was a total of 194,477 casualties of all severities in reported road traffic accidents during 2014, the first increase in overall casualties since 1997.

Meanwhile, a total of 146,322 personal-injury road traffic accidents were reported to the police in 2014. Of these accidents, 1,658 resulted in at least one fatality.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is urging the Government to take radical steps to reverse this increase before it becomes a trend and address the decline in the numbers of police traffic officers.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “These figures are greatly concerning and show the time for action is now.

“We are clear on what needs to happen. We call again for road safety targets to be reintroduced – they are the only clear way of ensuring reductions are measured and achieved.

“There also must be a greater focus on driver and rider quality and incentives for companies and individuals to continuously develop their skills.”

The increase was set against the backdrop of vehicle traffic levels increasing by 2.4% between 2013 and 2014.

With the exception of 2010 to 2011, which was affected by severe weather, 2014 is the first rise in fatalities over the calendar year since 2003. It is also the first rise in seriously injured casualties since 1994.

Further analysis of the figures reveals that the number of car occupants killed rose by 1.5% compared with 2013, reaching 797 deaths in 2014.

The Department for Transport (DfT) says it is unlikely that this change of 12 deaths is statistically significant and the increase is likely to have come about by chance.

A total of 8,035 car occupants were seriously injured in reported road accidents. This represents an increase of 5.2% from the 2013 level.

An increase of this magnitude is likely to be statistical significant, suggesting that the change is as a result of genuine differences in safety and risk between 2013 and 2014.

Nevertheless, 2014 still represents the second lowest year on record, at 2.4% below the 2012 figure.

Overall car occupant casualties also increased by 5.2% to 115,530 in 2014. As with seriously injured casualties, this is the second lowest year on record, and the change is large enough to probably be statistically significant.

Cyclists also still account for a disproportionately high number of casualties, with 113 killed in 2014. Worryingly, there was a huge rise in the number of cyclists being seriously injured, from 3,143 to a total of 3,401. This number has been increasing almost every year since 2004.

Motorcyclist deaths rose by 2% from 331 in 2013 to 339 in 2014, and there was an increase of more than 400 who were seriously injured, taking the number to 5,628 in 2014, a rise of 9%. Overall motorcyclist casualties increased from 18,752 to 20,366, an increase of 9%.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says more needs to be done to protect vulnerable road users after new figures revealed a rise in the number of deaths on Britain’s roads.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, said: “The reductions in road death and injury in recent years will not automatically be sustained, without a continued focus on road safety.

“We must remain focussed on making our roads safer for everyone, and especially for people travelling on foot and by two wheels.”

Last week, reported road casualties in Scotland for 2014 showed a total of 11,240 road casualties and 200 fatalities – 6% more than 2013

RAC chief engineer David Bizley concluded: “It does appear that the days of annual reductions in road casualties are well and truly over.

“National efforts to tackle road safety appear to be stalling, after decades of progress in the reducing the numbers killed or injured on the roads.

“A new national strategy on road safety cannot come soon enough. These figures serve to highlight just how pressing the need is for road safety to be given the political focus it clearly so desperately needs.”


High demand fuels UK dealer property prices

Growing demand and limited supply is fuelling prices of UK dealership property.

Alisdair James, a partner at Rapleys, believes that in key locations dealer values have at least reached 2008 levels, driven by limited supplies and growing demand.

“£1m per acre is not unheard of for a good quality automotive site in a strong south east location, and inside the M25 could be double that for the right location.

“More typically, in provincial towns we would expect land values to sit in the range of £500,000 per acre to £750,000 per acre, very similar to pre-recession levels,” he said.

“There is undoubtedly greater activity in the automotive dealer sector. Manufacturers are pushing dealers to provide larger facilities and are rolling out new corporate identities, which in some instances will require substantial refurbishments and often relocation to a greenfield site,” he said.

Tom Poynton, a partner with Knight Frank also believes that the market is higher than it was prior to the downturn.

“I believe we have not only returned to the peak of the market levels seen in 2007, but surpassed that point. The market is now on a firm footing and this has translated into a pronounced upturn in property values. This is across the board.

Paul Taylor, senior director with Bilfinger GVA, said: “The market is bullish for prime opportunities. Smaller, or more secondary facilities, are increasingly finding favour with manufacturers of emerging brands, particularly now that land values are increasing across most of the country due to increased activity for alternative uses, meaning that new builds are increasingly expensive to undertake.

“As the economy has improved carmakers are looking for dealers to expand their dealerships, which in many cases involve relocating the business to bigger premises.”


Trading standards smash insurance write off scam

An investigation by West Sussex Trading Standards has revealed how two individuals scammed car buyers out of £100,000 in an insurance write scheme.

The two sold “hundreds” of cars on Auto Trader and Gumtree without telling the buyers they were written off.

A jury on Monday found Linda Atrell, 48, of Railway Approach, East Grinstead, guilty of charges under the Fraud Act, Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 and Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, following a trial at Brighton Crown Court.

Lucien Munn, 52, of Beechey Way, Copthorne, had previously pleaded guilty to similar offences.

The pair sold the cars on Autotrader and Gumtree under a range of different trading names in a scam thought to be worth £100,000.

The couple also falsified service histories in order to make the vehicles appear more attractive to buyers and give customers the impression that they were dealing with a private seller.

The trading standards team spent months investigating the pair following a complaint from a customer and collected more than 64 statements from buyers and previous vehicle owners.

David Barling of West Sussex County Council, said: “This is a great result, not just for West Sussex Trading Standards but for our consumers whose lives were being put in danger by these rogue car dealers.

A Proceeds of Crime Act application was made to confiscate money made from the criminal activity. The pair will be sentenced at Brighton Crown Court on Friday, July 31. They have been warned that they could face a jail sentence.


HMRC swoops on retailers in Bolton

Retailers were targeted in an operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco and alcohol in Bolton, which uncovered more than 53,000 illegal cigarettes and over 223 litres of spirits.

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and support agencies, including four tobacco dogs and their handlers, visited 11 retail premises and storage units on Wednesday 24 June.

The visits, as part of HMRC’s multi-agency activity, led to non-UK duty paid tobacco and alcohol products being seized from ten premises. This included:

• 53,340 cigarettes, with £16,375 duty and VAT evaded;

• 63.1kgs of hand-rolling tobacco and 1.5kgs of Shisha, with £15,200 duty and VAT evaded; and

• 223.7 litres of spirits, with £2,930 duty and VAT evaded.

During the exercise a Vauxhall Vivaro van, being used to store excise goods, was also seized.

Sandra Smith, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“The sale of illegal tobacco and alcohol will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies. Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2.1bn a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1bn per year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.

“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 595000.”

HMRC are supported by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Home Office Immigration Enforcement in their work to tackle illicit tobacco and alcohol.

Detective inspector Chris Mossop, of GMP’s Bolton division, said: “In Bolton we have been disrupting organised crime groups at all levels and have achieved some excellent results by working closely with a host of partner agencies.

“These warrants are a joint response by GMP and HMRC to target the organised crime groups that are illegally selling tobacco to fund their lives of crime.

“We want to satisfy ourselves, and the communities of Bolton, that illegal products are not being sold in our communities.”


Trade criticises Scottish alcohol Bill

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) and the Association of Convenience (ACS) have submitted a joint response to the Scottish Parliament Health Committee’s call for evidence on the new Alcohol and Public Health Bill.

The response opposes the provisions contained in the Bill to impose further restrictions on the advertising and promotion of alcohol and to encourage Licensing Boards to make greater use of bottle marking schemes.

If passed the Bill would become the sixth primary piece of alcohol legislation to have been enacted by the Scottish Parliament since 2009. Additionally there have been 35 secondary pieces of legislation put into effect. Taken together, they said, this means it is now extremely difficult for retailers to fully understand and comply with licensing law in Scotland.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “This Bill looks to add another layer of complexity to the Scottish licensing system and we are concerned that this will prevent retailers from investing and growing their businesses.”

SGF chief executive Pete Cheema said: “We need licensing law to be simplified not made more complex. Initiatives such as bottle marking schemes provide no evidence of wrongdoing by retailers and are of no use in trying to deal with the problem of proxy purchase. The Scottish Parliament needs to get it right on licensing law – the burden of compliance always falls on retailers.”


European automakers call for CO2 emissions delay

European automakers are seeking a five-year delay on tougher CO2 emissions targets for new cars sold in the EU.

The automakers’ lobby group, ACEA, has asked the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to postpone a 2025 target that is currently being worked on by officials.

ACEA is arguing that the car industry needs until 2030 – or about two full model cycles – to meet a new target.

Automakers selling cars in Europe already have a target to reduce average CO2 emissions to 95 grams per km by 2021 from about 130g/km now. The Commission has committed itself to “assessing” a new, tougher target of 68g/km to 78g/km in 2025.

ACEA says it “may not be possible” for automakers to meet the EU’s goal of cutting CO2 emissions a further 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, according to position paper drawn up by the lobby group seen by Automotive News Europe.

Any progress beyond the current 2021 target of 95 grams per kilometer “is achievable only with a considerable level of diesel engine penetration, alongside growing electrification or hybridization levels,” ACEA wrote. “This may not be possible considering current anti diesel campaigns and lack of sufficient support at EU and national level for electrification.”

ACEA did not confirm or deny it supports a delay until later than 2030. A spokesperson declined to comment on the paper because its contents are confidential.


Posted by Lois Hardy on 26/06/2015