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RMI Standards and Certification (RMISC) has received full accreditation from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to certify against BS 10125, the replacement for PAS125 which is to be withdrawn at the end of 2015.
RMISC, a subsidiary company of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), is now able to carry out audits and certify bodyshops that meet the Standard, issuing the Ri-Mark logo for them to demonstrate their compliance with BS 10125 .
Stuart James, RMISC director said, ‘We are delighted to have received accreditation from UKAS to provide BS 10125 certification to the bodyshop sector. It has always been our intention to make the standards accessible to all bodyshops, irrespective of their size and nature. RMISC was set up with the aim of providing cost-effective, high-quality services to the motor industry.’
Highways England has appointed six joint-venture companies to design and build 10 ‘smart motorways’ across England as part of a £1.5 billion investment.
Three of these projects will start in autumn this year: two in the Midlands – M1 J19 to J16 in Northamptonshire and the M5 J4a to J6 in Worcestershire, and one in the North West – M6 J16 to J19 near Stoke-on-Trent.
The smart motorway schemes, part of the £15bn Government investment Highways England is delivering between now and 2021, will see 292 extra lane miles added to motorways.
The hard shoulder will be converted to a traffic lane and signing and technology will tell drivers what speed to drive at, if lanes are blocked or closed and about incidents up ahead.
Construction contractors appointed are Balfour Beatty and Vinci joint venture, Costain and Galliford Try joint venture, and Carillion and Kier joint venture. Designers are CHM2 and Hyder joint venture, Amey and Arup joint venture, and Jacobs and Atkins joint venture.
Valued at up to £1.55bn in total, this is the second major procurement to be awarded under the company’s collaborative delivery framework (CDF). The first was the appointment of designers and contractors for the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement which was announced in June.
Andy Watson,Highways England smart motorway programme director, said: “We have awarded these contracts to the companies who demonstrated to us they will work together, across all the projects, not just the ones they have been awarded.
“They proved they are driven to get the best results on price, quality and on reducing impact on road users: keeping the motorways flowing while they construct these vital improvements.”
The Balfour Beatty and Vinci joint venture has won a construction package including delivery of the M5 J4a to J6 smart motorway in Worcestershire, starting this autumn at a value of £45.4 million.
It has also been appointed to construct two future schemes: the M6 J2 to J4 in the Midlands, expected to start work in 2017/18, and the M4 J3 to 12 in London and Berkshire due to start work in 2016/17, at an estimated combined value of up to £562 million. CHM2 and Hyder joint venture have been appointed as the designers for these two future schemes, valued between £25 to £30 million.
The Costain and Galliford Try joint venture has won a construction package including delivery of the M1 J19 to J16 smart motorway in Northamptonshire, starting this autumn at a value of £65.39 million.
It has also been appointed to construct two future schemes: the M1 J24 to J25 in the East Midlands, and the M1 J13 to 16 in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, both expected to start work in 2016/17, at an estimated combined value of up to £302.3 million. Amey and Arup joint venture have been appointed as the designers for these two future schemes, valued between £20 to £25 million.
The Carillion and Kier joint venture has won a construction package including delivery of the M6 J16 to J19 smart motorway in Staffordshire and Cheshire, starting this autumn at a value of £129.5 million.
It has also been appointed to construct three future schemes: the M6 J13 to J15 in Staffordshire, the M20 J3 to J5 in Kent, and the M23 J8 to J10 in Surrey and West Sussex, all expected to start work 2017/18, at an estimated combined value of up to £345 million. Jacobs and Atkins joint venture have appointed as the designers of these three future schemes, valued between £20 to £25 million.
The value of construction and design contracts for those projects starting after 2015/16 are indicative as the schemes are in early development phase.
Highways England will work with the contractors to agree final target costs.
Work starting on major projects is subject to continued value for money and successful completion of any statutory processes.
This year, Saturday July 25 at 11am is the mostly likely time that motorists will have a crash, according to new research.
More motor accidents occur in the summer months of July and August – 2,330 serious and fatal accidents in July and 2,148 in August.
This compares with only 1,578 in January and 1,544 in February – the safest and shortest month of the year.
Despite the fact that winter months generally bring more difficult driving conditions like icy roads and poor visibility, there are 27.5% more road accidents in the summer – 33,312 in July and August, compared with the winter 26,122 (January and February).
This increase is due to the greater number of motorists on the road, with the vast majority of families choosing to take their summer holidays at this time. Accidents rise sharply during June and July, hitting a peak at the end of July.
This year, Saturday July 25 is the predicted to be busiest day of the year on the roads.
Motorists are expected to take to their cars in droves with all schools having broken up for summer and July 25 also coincides with most workers’ end of month pay-days.
Saturdays are the worst day for accidents during the summer when car drivers are nearly twice as likely (1.7 times) to be distracted or impaired in their driving than compared with weekdays.
The busiest time on the roads will be at 11am when the ‘great escape’ begins in earnest.
The most dangerous day on the roads has been identified by dashcam maker SmartWitness using official Department of Transport data and its own insurance reports showing peak times for accidents in previous years.
SmartWitness International sales director Mark Berry said: “The summer months have the highest number of road accidents and Saturday July 25th is likely to provide the perfect storm for poor driver conditions.
“It will be first day of the summer holidays for many families and there will be extremely large numbers of motorists taking to the roads. Cars will be packed full of children and luggage, which means that drivers will be more stressed and distracted than usual, as they make their way to airports and holiday destinations.
“As a result this day is expected to have the highest number of motor accidents of the whole of the year.”
Berry added: “We are asking motorists to take extra special care when starting out on their summer holidays and realise that the most common cause of road accidents is not poor road conditions or your car, it’s down to bad driving.”
Following a successful trial, Amlin Insurance has added Nationwide Windscreen Services to their preferred supplier panel.
Amlin provide motor insurance products for commercial fleets.
Through this agreement Nationwide Windscreen Services will supply automotive glass repair and replacement services to vehicles insured through Amlin.
Matt Woraker, claims manager – motor, at Amlin said: “Nationwide Windscreen Services were chosen as they demonstrated that service delivery was at the heart of their operation. Together with the flexibility and desire to accommodate the differing needs of our customers, Nationwide enables Amlin to deliver on our promises.”
Stuart Sole, managing director at NWS, said: “Our business is at the forefront of excellent service delivery and customer care; once again this demonstrates our ability to deliver a flexible solution throughout the UK”.
Andrew Hodge, sales director at NWS, added: “Our business model has shown yet again that we have retained the customer at the core of how we operate. Securing this contract is testament to our fitting teams.”
Renault has named its top 20 dealers in a customer care survey carried out by J.D. Power. Last year, the first year of the survey, seven dealers were named.
Dealers in the network were subjected to a customer satisfaction survey and an on-site audit.
The awards were presented to dealers by Renault UK managing director, Ken Ramirez,
Improving customer satisfaction forms part of Renault Group’s larger GO5+ strategy for sustainable growth in the UK.
Renault UK head of network quality and training, Steve Whitcombe, said: “We launched the ground breaking JD Power Dealers of Excellence programme last year as part of our commitment to improving quality and standards across the board and we are still unique in the industry in running an initiative of this kind.
“The programme has really helped to focus the minds of our network on the importance of customer care and the customer experience and to drive real improvement.
“It’s great to see 20 dealers achieve the very highest standards but it’s also pleasing to see the results show that so many other dealers right across the network have really upped their game.
“We will, of course, continue striving for even better results and to deliver an ever more consistent and impressive all-round experience for our customers as we move forward.”
Mackie Motors, Brechin
Arnold Clark St Helens
Arnold Clark Wigan
Arnold Clark Elgin
Arnold Clark Dumbarton
Renault Bolton and Wirral
Renault Sutton Park
Renault Burton on Trent
Lifestyle, Tunbridge Wells
Renault has extended the range potential of its plug-in Zoe Supermini with the launch of a new electric motor which the carmaker claims has a best-in-class range of nearly 150 miles.
The new R240 motor has been developed in-house by Renault and is said to extend operating range by almost 15%. Although the New European Driving Cycle quoted range for the car is 149 miles, once driving style, ambient temperatures and the use of other electric components, such as the air conditioning, is taken into account, Renault quotes a real-world range of 71 to 106 miles.
Two of the three models available in the Zoe line-up will be fitted with the new motor, the Expression Nav and the Dynamique Nav. A third model, the Dynamique Nav Rapid Charge, retains the original power unit. This has a quoted range of 130 miles, translating to a ‘real-world’ range of around 64 miles in cold weather and 93 miles in warmer conditions.
All the Zoe variants can be bought outright or under a battery-lease programme, in which Renault retains ownership of the battery and the buyer pays a monthly fee, thus removing any fears of deteriorating battery life over time.
Expression Nav models cost £18,445 under the battery lease programme or £23,445 outright, Dynamique Nav £20,045/£25,045 and the Rapid Charge variant £20545/£25,545.
Standard equipment on the Expression Nav models includes the R-Link voice-controlled satellite navigation with a seven-inch tablet touchscreen, climate control, Renault’s Keycard entry system, Bluetooth connectivity, a 4x20W radio with four speakers, USB and AUX ports, cruise control, front electric windows and rear privacy glass.
Dynamique Nav adds a hands-free Keycard, rear parking camera linked to the touchscreen, Z.E. Interactive (which offers remote battery charging, remote charge scheduling and remote interior temperature pre-conditioning thorugh a smartphone), 3D digital sound by Arkamys, rear electric windows, bespoke upholstery, a leather-rimmed steering wheel and gearshifter, 16-inch Aerotronic alloy wheels and automatic lights and wipers.
The Dynamique Nav Rapid Charge comes with the same equipment but can also be recharged to 80 per cent of full battery capacity in 30 minutes using a 43kW charge point.
Renault is still offering all buyers of the Zoe a 7kW charging wall box, supplied and installed free of charge at their home. Charging times from flat to full capacity using this box is three to four hours.
Meanwhile, Renault has also freshened up its Twizy plug-in EV range with minor changes to colours, trims and wheels. The Expression replaces the former Urban version and Dynamique takes the place of Technic in the line-up while the Cargo model remains unchanged.
Tesla has is to launch an entry-level 70kWh version of its Model S saloon for £50,800, including the Government’s £5000 Plug-in Car Grant.
The single-motor 70 model is available to order, with deliveries beginning in late November. It has a range of 260 miles.
The previous cheapest Model S – a dual motor version fitted with the 70kWh powertrain – is still on sale, priced from £54,500 after the £5000 grant.
The American company also announced that owners of vehicles powered by the 85kWh unit can upgrade to a 90kWh motor for £2500. Tesla said the range of the car is as a result increased by around 6%.
Tesla also announced a performance upgrade for the P85D model, dropping the vehicle’s 0-62 time down from 3.1 to 2.8 seconds.
Known the Ludicrous mode, the upgrades allow the car to run at 1500 Amps instead of 1300. The upgrade costs £8300 and is independent of the 90k Wh battery pack upgrade.
Former Ford fleet boss, Kevin Griffin, has been appointed as the director of sales at the company following a senior management shake-up.
Griffin left the fleet department in early 2013 after nine years in charge to head up Ford’s commercial vehicle operation before moving up to the role of regional director of sales operations, Ford of Europe at the beginning of the year.
He is replacing Andy Barratt who was appointed as the firm’s UK managing director, who in turn replaced Mark Ovenden after his appointment as president of Ford Sollers, a joint venture between Ford and JSC Sollers in Russia.
The position change will be effective as of 1 August.
London has set out a sweeping new five-year plan to push fleets and drivers into even lower emission vehicles.
In a document titled An Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle Delivery Plan for London, the London Mayor’s office and Transport for London has listed areas it will target in future which include a tightening of the CO2 figure needed to gain 100% discount on the congestion charge, grants for plug-in taxis, expansion of the number of charging points – particularly for on-street parking, encouragement for low emission commercial vehicles and a 50% target for car clubs fleets to be made up of ULEVs.
Possibly the largest red flag for fleets is a signal that the 75g/km CO2 limit for 100% discount on the congestion charge will be lowered as the plans stated London would “review the ULED requirements as emission standards improve so only the cleanest vehicles are incentivised”.
The document is short on specifics for a new upper CO2 limit, but repeatedly mentions the influence the current limit has on buying decisions.
The only future CO2 limit raised by the report is the “zero emissions capable” figure that new taxis and private hire vehicles registered from 1 January 2018 will have to meet. This is currently under consultation, but TfL has suggested a cap of 50g/km for CO2 plus a pure electric range of at least 30 miles. However, this figure does not marry-up with any of the upcoming three-tier plug-in grant levels.
The report also added it would put pressure on the Government to introduce per-mile charging: “TfL will also work with government to look at new ways to incentivise ULEVs, for example, through road user charging and ensuring that fiscal incentives only encourage and promote the cleanest vehicles.”
As well as setting out new ways of incentivising cleaner vehicles it also suggests scrapping some existing ones: “Free parking for ULEVs has also been a successful incentive to date. However, as the ULEV market grows and becomes a more mainstream option, this will not be sustainable in the long-term and incentives will have to be reviewed.”
Commercial vehicle fleets were also targeted for promotion in the plan, however there were few specifics with the report stating: “Sales of plug-in vans in 2014 represented 0.2 per cent of the market share in 2014, illustrating that there is considerable work and policy support needed for commercial vehicles. Supporting uptake of ULEVs in commercial fleets is a principal focus for us.”
Alongside the broad measures for the wider market, the Mayor’s office said it would improve TfL’s fleet with 120 ULEVs plus switching around 1000 cars to ULEVs across various Greater London Area fleets. Alongside this the London Fire Brigade said it would spend £600,000 switching its fleet of 57 cars to ULEVs by the end of this year.
Euro Garages has agreed a new finance package with a syndicate of banks to support its deals to acquire 172 sites from Esso and Shell, which were announced in March and April.
The funding comprises senior debt facilities and is provided by a syndicate led by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. The seven bank club is made up of its incumbent banks of Handelsbanken, Barclays, Allied Irish Bank (AIB) and Pricoa Capital Group, and newcomers HSBC and RBS.
Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking’s Manchester-based Mid Markets team has supplied revolving credit facilities and term loans, along with one-third of a two-year term loan bridge facility.
The finance is being used to fund Euro Garages’ purchase of 104 Esso sites in the South East and 68 Shell sites, bringing the business’s footprint to around 360 service stations across the UK. As well as enhancing its geographical spread, the business will invest in its existing and newly acquired sites with refurbishments and improvements.
Paul Foster, relationship director at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Euro Garages is a genuine example of a local business expanding successfully, having grown from just one forecourt in 2001 to a national estate portfolio of over 360 locations. This is in part down to the growth in the number of vehicles on the road and the consolidation of the petrol forecourt sector, as well as the increased demand from consumers for retail convenience for groceries and food-to-go, which the management team has capitalised on by developed partnerships with premium brands to encourage footfall and sales.
“We have worked closely with Euro Garages for almost a decade, and leading the charge in this new funding deal reaffirms our commitment to their future success.”
Mohsin Issa, managing director of Euro Garages, said: “Our new financial arrangement marks a milestone moment for Euro Garages, as we almost double the breadth of our portfolio and extend our banking partners. Thanks to a number of key acquisitions across the UK in recent years, we have gained extensive experience in integrating new sites and are looking forward to transferring these new locations into the existing Euro Garages portfolio.
“With the support of Lloyds Bank and our other banking partners, we are set to become the second largest independent forecourt retailer in the UK, bringing our best-in-class convenience offer and brand partnerships to more customers across the UK while they fill up at the pump.”
In the most recent Forecourt Trader Top 50 Indies, which was published prior to the Esso and Shell deals, Euro Garages was ranked fourth with 182 sites.
The future survival of thousands of convenience stores will be jeopardised by the introduction of the national living wage in April 2016, according to The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).
New research by ACS shows that:
• the total cost of a £7.20 national living wage will be £166m across the convenience sector;
• over 24,000 stores and 80,000 jobs could be put at risk by this policy;
• the increased employment allowance, announced alongside the national living wage, provides comparatively small compensation for convenience stores.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We have always supported a national minimum wage, but the move to a higher compulsory national living wage will have a devastating impact on our sector.
“Our analysis only looks at the increase to a £7.20 national living wage from 2016, and as this rises to £9 by 2020 there could be far greater effect than even these figures suggest. This analysis is backed up by evidence provided by our members which shows that they will be closing stores and laying staff off as a result of this policy.
“The chancellor must face up to the impact of the national living wage on businesses, and continue to let the independent Low Pay Commission set rates through to 2020. The government also needs to look at other ways of supporting retailers hit by this new burden.”
Motofix Group, one of the UK’s leading independent regional vehicle accident repair and bodyshop groups, has added Yeovil’s Andrew Symms Car Body Repairs to its expanding accident repair network.
Following the acquisition, Motofix Group chief executive Richard Tutt said, ‘We are delighted to be back on the acquisition trail after a period of consolidation, which shows we are serious about our expansion plans. This new site is our first in the south west region, which is a key area of growth and opportunity for the group. We expect to be announcing more acquisitions in this region over the coming months.’
Andrew Symms, who will be retained to run the business along with all existing employees said, ‘I’m delighted to join the team at Motofix and see a secure future for both the business and employees. The existing business has a good reputation and the Motofix brand will take this to another level. We are all very excited about the future.’
The Motofix Group is one of the UK’s leading independent regional vehicle accident repair and bodyshop groups. With repair centres in eight counties; Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Somerset, the Group has the capacity to repair over 16,000 vehicles per annum.
Motofix Accident Repair Centres fully support the PAS 125 standard with all sites holding BSI-PAS125-2011 Structural Steel accreditation. The group also holds a growing number of prestige manufacturer approvals.
Germany’s premium car makers are close to signing a deal to buy Nokia’s HERE map business for between $2.74 billion to $3.29 billion, but a final agreement hinges on the question of who owns the patents which help self-driving cars talk to mobile networks, according to reports from Reuters.
The purchase of HERE, is expected to be finalised by the end of July, if the two sides can settle the intellectual property issues, according to inside sources.
Self-driving cars linked to mobile phone networks can perform intelligent functions such as recalculating a route if a traffic jam or details of an accident is transmitted to update the car’s clever mapping system.
So much real-time data is processed by self-driving cars to navigate successfully that mobile network infrastructure has emerged as a major component of connected cars, earlier this week we reported on how 5G is expected to be utilised for this sector.
Reports from analysts at Exane BNP Paribas say that connected car services could evolve into a $50 billion market. Aconsortium of Daimler, parent of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen’s Audi division want outright ownership of all relevant patents owned by Nokia related to mapping, auto industry sources said.
But the Finnish mobile network equipment maker is seeking to keep control of some patents for how mobile devices connect to networks, be they computers, phones or newer types of network-connected cars, industrial, corporate or agricultural equipment.
Spokesmen for Nokia, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen’s Audi declined to comment.
Nokia’s HERE has emerged as an industry leader in the field of high-definition digital maps and automotive industry players already account for more than 50 per cent of Hare’s revenue. Its main rivals include Google and smaller Dutch map maker TomTom.
Earlier this week, we also reported that TomTom have agreed to collaborate in high-definition mapping with auto supplier Bosch, to refine the technology crucial for autonomous driving.
With the advancement of vehicle glass demanding ever more technical skills, the automotive glazing repair and replacement industry has received a shot in the arm from the Government with its approval for the development of a new Trailblazer Apprenticeship.
Recognising that auto-glazing is a highly specialised area within the wider automotive arena, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has rubber-stamped a joint bid from a number of leading vehicle glazing employers to develop a new apprenticeship standard for the next generation of Automotive Glazing Technician apprentices. The Trailblazers programme aims to ensure that every apprentice in England is enrolled on schemes designed and approved by employers.
Coming under Phase 5 of the Apprenticeship Trailblazers programme, in which businesses work together to determine new training standards applicable to their market, the automotive glazing Trailblazer group will be co-ordinated by Essex Glass and Windscreens (EGW), which has been established for over 20 years. In partnership with nine other businesses, representing more than 90% of all employees in the UK vehicle glazing sector, EGW will be responsible for delivering the framework for a brand new Level 3 Apprenticeship in Automotive Glazing, which would take apprentices a minimum of 18 months to achieve.
In addition to Essex Glass and Windscreens, the Trailblazer group for Automotive Glazing currently includes the following employers: AA Auto Windshields; Autoglass; Auto Windscreens; Advanced Windscreens; CCS Windscreens; Jay and Rob’s Windscreens; The Windscreen Company and 1st Choice Windscreens.
The continual evolution of the windscreen, rear screen and door glass, has given rise to the introduction of ‘smart glass,’ whereby the glass is an integral part of the vehicle’s structural strength and electronics. A variety of sensors within the glass mean that many vehicles now require system re-calibration post repair, which is safety critical. Such sophisticated technologies demand complex fitting procedures and a high level of expertise with tools and materials specific to automotive glazing.
Maria Charlton, director of Essex Glass and Windscreens said:
‘Vehicle glazing is a technology in its own right, which is increasing in sophistication. Our industry is delighted that the Government has recognised the uniqueness of our sector and the role it plays in the economy. From our discussions with the insurance sector, it is our understanding that insurers will soon demand certification of re-calibration of windscreens post replacement, for the purpose of processing a claim. This will need to have been carried out by a fully qualified technician. The development of a brand new apprenticeship, is therefore, extremely timely and we look forward to delivering a framework with our industry partners, which collectively employ some 90% of all automotive glazing technicians in the UK.’
The Minister for Skills, Nick Boles said:
‘Businesses must have their say in training tomorrow’s workforce. Giving employers like Essex Glass and Windscreens the power to design apprenticeships means apprentices graduate with the skills they need for the job they want and businesses get the talent they need to grow. Young people on these programmes will have the opportunity to learn sought-after skills and enjoy a great start to a working life.’
A DEALER has had to pay out almost £7,000 after being found guilty of car clocking.
Londonderry Magistrates’ Court heard that Christopher Barr – who trades under the names Barr Motors, Auction Cars Direct UK and Trade Sales Direct – heard that two cars had their mileage reduced by a total of 118,000 miles.
Barr, from Eglinton, was fined £2,700 and ordered to pay compensation of £4,196.78.
The Trading Standards Service of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment brought charges taken under the Fraud Act 2006 and a further four charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
In Barr’s absence, the court recorded a finding of guilty.
The Londonderry Sentinal reports that in April 2014, the Trading Standards Service received complaints from a number of consumers who had bought cars from Barr, who found the vehicles had either been clocked or had significant mechanical problems.
The court was told the Trading Standards Service believed Barr had full knowledge of the higher mileage before to selling the cars, and that he also used a form of words in the receipts aimed at removing his responsibilities under Sale of Goods legislation.
Catherine McErlean of the Trading Standards Service said: ‘Car dealers have a responsibility to ensure all descriptions applied to vehicles are truthful and not misleading to consumers. Barr’s behaviour in the sale of these particular vehicles fell well short of the trading practices expected.’
MANCHESTER-based Carfinance247, a specialist online motor finance broker, achieved annual growth of 280 per cent in its last financial year.
Turnover at Carfinance247 rose to nearly £10m this year (£9.9m), from £2.6m last year, while the amount funded to consumers was £92.2m, an increase of 271 per cent on the previous year. The independently-owned business is based in Ancoats and employs 165 people.
Brothers Reg and Louis Rix, who founded the business in 2006, put the phenomenal growth down to their investment in technology, a fast-growing, passionate workforce and a shift in the market away from dealership finance.
Carfinance247 operates nationwide. With partnerships with some of the UK’s leading lenders including Hitachi, Paragon Bank and Motonovo, it helps customers get the best rates of finance to match their personal circumstances and credit rating.
While the business dates back to 2006, when it was set up alongside Reg and Louis’s online car classified business nectars.com that they sold to the RAC in February 2013, it’s only in the past two years, since this sale, that the brothers have focused solely on motor finance.
Managing director Reg Rix explained: ‘The launch of our new website in September 2014 was a huge turning point.
‘The site has helped us attract and convert a higher number of customers and is supported by a bespoke system developed by our 15-strong in-house development team that has sped processes up, improved our overall customer service and reduced the need to manually underwrite applications.’
Talking about Carfinance247’s future plans, Louis Rix said: ‘In addition to a suite of new services and website features that will go live in the near future, we are investing heavily in our marketing activities.
‘Our brand name undoubtedly helps us be memorable, but at the end of the day it’s our technology, passionate workforce, customer service and brand development that helps us stand out in our field.’
With little fanfare last week, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles released a software update that the automaker says “offers customers improved vehicle electronic security and communications system enhancements.”
On its face, the announcement seemed innocuous.
Two professional hackers — one of whom had worked for the National Security Agency — had shown they could wirelessly hack into hundreds of thousands of FCA vehicles and remotely take control of them.
As reported in Wired magazine on Monday, and complete with video evidence, hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek were able to take command of an unmodified 2014 Jeep Cherokee while it was being driven on a St. Louis highway by Wired journalist Andy Greenberg.
The hackers did so by exploiting a vulnerability they had discovered in some versions of FCA’s Uconnect infotainment system, which connects to the Internet via a cellular data connection through Sprint. The Uconnect system is installed in 2013-14 Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles, and the 2015 Chrysler 200, with an 8.4-inch touch screen and Wi-Fi hot spot.
Working via laptop computers from home, the hackers blasted the Cherokee’s radio, turned on the wipers and a torrent of washer fluid and eventually shut off the Cherokee’s engine while it was traveling on the highway.
Later, in a parking lot, the hackers demonstrated how they could take control of the Cherokee’s steering wheel (but only while the transmission was in reverse) and even disable the brakes, sending a helpless Greenberg into a ditch.
The hackers told Wired that they plan to release a portion of their code at a Black Hat security conference next month in Las Vegas. The code being released will not allow other hackers to immediately exploit the Uconnect vulnerability, Miller and Valasek claim, but is being done to convince automakers that their products are vulnerable.
The hackers notified FCA of the vulnerability and worked with the automaker on a solution, which was released five days before news of the hacking attack.
FCA argues that Miller and Valasek’s release of the partial code is dangerous. Right now, the company is sending consumers to a website, driveuconnect.com/software-update/ where they can download a necessary security patch themselves, or take their vehicle to a dealer for the software to be upgraded for free.
Unlike other automakers, FCA does not have the ability at this time to “push” important software upgrades over the internet to its vehicles.
“Under no circumstances does FCA condone or believe it’s appropriate to disclose “how-to information” that would potentially encourage, or help enable hackers to gain unauthorized and unlawful access to vehicle systems,” the company said in a statement.
“Similar to a smartphone or tablet, vehicle software can require updates for improved security protection to reduce the potential risk of unauthorized and unlawful access to vehicle systems. The software security update, provided at no cost to customers, also includes Uconnect improvements introduced in the 2015 model year designed to enhance customer convenience and enjoyment of their vehicle.”
Troubled off-road bike manufacturer Gas Gas have announced that proposed rescue bids and negotiations have failed to secure a firm future for the company, and that it will now be placed in liquidation.
The firm, which has been building its world-famous trials and enduro machines since 1985, issued an official statement this morning. There is a glimmer of hope that Gas Gas will be able to restart production once it’s major assets have been sold off to redress their debt issues – but the future still looks decidedly uncertain.