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Volvo’s car service network is the most satisfying in the UK, according to the latest JD Power 2015 UK Customer Service Index Study.
The Swedish premium brand topped the overall table in the study of more than 9,000 new car buyers, scoring 779 points out of a maximum of 1,000.
Honda, in second place with 768 points, was the highest scoring mainstream brand. In third place was Land Rover with 767 points, then Audi with 762, Suzuki and Toyota with 759 each and Kia and Skoda with 758 each.
Mercedes-Benz scored 756 points, BMW 754 points and Mini 747 points.
The poorest scoring car service networks for satisfaction were Fiat with 704 points, Renault with 715, and Seat and Peugeot both with 723 points.
The inaugural study measures UK customer satisfaction with their service experience at a franchised dealer facility for maintenance and repair work.
The study explores customer satisfaction with their service dealer by examining five measures (listed in order of importance): service quality (26%); service initiation (23%); service advisor (19%); vehicle pick-up (17%); and service facility (16%).
“The common perception is that the luxury brands are able to deliver a more satisfying customer experience, but the study shows this is not the case,” said Dr Axel Sprenger, senior director of European automotive operations at JD Power.
“Any brand and any dealership can provide a consistently positive customer experience if they make it a priority and have the people and processes in place. When they do, they likely will see an increase in revenue and will be able to build customer loyalty.”
The 2015 UK CSI Study finds that satisfaction with dealer service leads to customer loyalty and advocacy. Among the 20% of customers who are highly satisfied with their dealer service (overall satisfaction scores of 900 and above), 78% say they “definitely will” purchase their next vehicle from that dealer and 85% “definitely will” recommend the dealer to friends and family.
In contrast, among customers less satisfied (scores of 700-899), only 36% indicate an intention to purchase their next vehicle from that dealer, and only 42% say they “definitely will” recommend the dealer to others.
Car dealer Lookers, number four in the AM100, has reported its seventh successive year of profit improvement in the six months to June 30, 2015.
Revenue was up 9% on 2014 to £1.75 billion and profit before tax increased to £39.9 million, up 6%.
Andy Bruce (pictured left), chief executive, said: “We have delivered a strong trading performance in the first half of the year which is another record result and the seventh successive year of improved profitability.
“Both the motor and parts divisions have produced excellent results with improved cash flow for the period, further strengthening our balance sheet.
“We are well placed to take advantage of growth prospects across all areas of the business as well as consolidation opportunities in the sector. This gives us confidence that we can continue to grow and deliver improved results for the full year.”
Revenue increased to £1.75 billion (2014: £1.6 billion) – up 9%
Adjusted profit before tax increased to £43.1million (2014: £40.2 million) – up 7%
Profit before tax increased to £39.9 million (2014: £37.7 million) – up 6%
Earnings per share increased to 8.08p (2014: 7.59p) – up 6%
Net debt reduced to £38.2 million from £51.9 million at 1 January 2015
Increase in interim dividend of 10% to 1.07p per share (2014: 0.97p)
Of its full year, Nigel McMinn (pictured right), managing director, expects market confidence to continue leading the new car market to well past 2.0 – 2.5 million units. “And we will continue to take our share – or make share gains – and as such have allowed for a modest upgrade in the full year on the back of half-year results a little stronger than the City anticipated.”
Levels of PCP business at Lookers he said was at 78% (2014: 77%) and would not get much beyond this: “There will always be some products, such as Land Rover, that will not need to be sold with a tactical subsidy, with cash the preferred option.”
Lookers is also confident of its ability to retain PCP customers, approaching them with offers to move to a new car typically eight to nine months ahead of the end of a 36-month contract.
On the aftersales side, McMinn said service plan penetration was at 43% (2014: 40%, 2013: 33%), supported by 40 months of new car registration growth, fuelling work on the up to three year old parc. He wants the statistic to grow as the company becomes “more proficient at locking in customers”.
On the challenge of winning conquest sales in a market led by PCP ‘lock-ins’, McMinn stressed the importance of the web to Lookers: “Customers search online for their next car and they’ll start with the manufacturer before choosing the dealer. Our focus is on making sure we maximise the SEO and Google paid search opportunities, so we’re easy to find and making sure we have very aggressive offers, mostly based on PCPs.”
As a result of its performance Lookers said it would improve its interim dividend by 10% on the news, up to 1.07 pence per share from 0.97p a year earlier.
Aston Martin has opened a new warehouse and logistics hub to support the future expansion of the business.
The new facility is located at Wellesbourne, close to the company’s headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire.
Representing a multi-million pound investment, the new development is the largest storage and distribution base in the company’s 102-year history
Aston Martin manufacturing operations director Keith Stanton said: “The opening of this superb new facility at Wellesbourne is a vital part of our Second Century Plan.
“Ensuring we have the right materials in the right place at the right time is, of course, fundamental to our manufacturing process. As the volume and complexity of our operations increases in the months and years ahead, we will be relying on the team at Wellesbourne to help us deliver our exciting new generation of Aston Martin sports cars.”
Running to almost a quarter of a million square feet of storage, operations and office space, the Wellesbourne facility functions as a centralised warehouse for supplier deliveries and provides a steady stream of production-critical materials for use in Aston Martin’s global manufacturing base at nearby Gaydon.
Almost a year in the planning and construction, the development has created around 40 new jobs, and employs 90 staff in total. The site has been laid out and constructed to demanding environmental standards.
It has secured a ‘very good’ environmental rating according to the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.
Toyota’s first hydrogen fuel cell production cars destined for UK sales have arrived at Portbury.
The cars, landed on Saturday, are part of the first consignment to reach Europe, ahead of the Mirai’s official launch in September.
As part of Toyota’s global introduction of the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell saloon, the four-door Mirai is being offered in selected European markets – the UK, Germany and Denmark – where a hydrogen fuel supply and retail infrastructure is being developed.
The limited number available in Britain this year have already been snapped up, principally by business and corporate customers keen to be among the first to explore the potential of Toyota’s advanced fuel cell technology and its promise of zero harmful exhaust emissions.
Karl Schlicht, executive vice-president Toyota Motor Europe, said: “This marks the debut of a new age for clean mobility, a turning point in the history of the automobile. With Mirai and its fuel cell technology, Toyota is working on delivering clean, safe and enjoyable mobility for the next 100 years. We are looking forward to the start of deliveries of the first Mirai to customers from September and to see the future taking shape on European roads.
“As with [the] Prius 15 years ago, we are proud to bring yet another ground-breaking innovation to the marketplace.”
Mirai – which means “future” in Japanese – is designed to be as convenient to drive as a conventional petrol-powered car. Hydrogen fuel is stored on board in high pressure tanks and used to generate electricity in a chemical reaction with oxygen in a Toyota-designed fuel cell stack.
The energy produced is used to drive the car, with the only exhaust emissions being water vapour. Refuelling from empty takes between three and five minutes at the pumps and Mirai has a driving range similar to petrol-fuelled vehicles.
The knowledge and expertise Toyota has gained with its development of hybrid power directly contributes to the advanced engineering skills used to create the Toyota fuel cell system, according to the company.
It says that by bringing Mirai to world markets, initially in Japan, the USA and Europe, Toyota aims to build awareness, understanding and acceptance of fuel cell technology and promote the development of the hydrogen fuel production and retail infrastructure this new generation of vehicles requires. The experiences of the first customers to drive Mirai will also help Toyota further refine and develop the technology.
Through the ChargePlace Scotland project, 100% grant funding is available to Scottish based businesses for the installation of EV charge points for workplaces.
The aim of this funding is to complement the national network of charge points being installed across Scotland to promote electric vehicle use.
Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen recently installed a dual outlet charge point to double the number of charge points on its Garthdee Campus. The University already has one electric van, currently used as the mail van, and will shortly be adding a second electric van to their fleet. The charge points can also be used by staff, students and the general public.
RGU transport manager, Judith Logan, said: “The University selected Siemens from the approved list of suppliers, as they provided the most appropriate technology and locally based services. Siemens has successfully delivered a complete turn-key project that includes three years of maintenance. The AC dual outlet charger is not only used by our own students and staff but will be useful for EV drivers visiting the university.”
Given the increasing demand for electric vehicles, we wanted to encourage people to consider changing to a more sustainable form of driving. The electric vehicle charge point is also in keeping with the University’s sustainability targets and Green Travel Plan.”
Edinburgh College has also been a pioneer in electric mobility, offering staff a fully-electric pool car fleet for the last three years, while adding to the infrastructure of the city for the benefit of all EV users. More recently, to further bolster nationwide infrastructure, Transport Scotland selected the College to become a partner in the new ‘Switched on @ Work’ scheme.
“Edinburgh College decided to approach Siemens thanks to their prior support of our electric vehicle project and because we believed their equipment was the best on offer in the marketplace,“ said Robert Murphy.
Locally based Siemens engineers facilitated a quick and professional installation with the rapid charger being made operational in a very short period of time. The charger has proved simple to use, extremely reliable, and popular with our staff as well as local and visiting EV drivers. It has increased the flexibility of our electric pool car fleet by allowing staff a shorter charge time when needed and reducing the time vehicles are off road, thus allowing increased bookings and usage“.
All Scottish-based businesses meeting the appropriate criteria can apply to the scheme, managed by the Energy Saving Trust.
“Siemens is very proud to have been selected as one of the framework suppliers for this scheme,” said head of electromobility, Mark Bonnor-Moris.
“Workplace EV charging is key to continuing the increase uptake of Electric Vehicles across Scotland. We offer host sites a very high level of service through Siemens locally employed engineers and service depots across Scotland – this ensures EV drivers can be confident that our equipment will always be available for charging.”
The company’s new and comprehensive range of Transport Scotland compliant charging points includes AC chargers that provide both single and three phase charging via single or dual outlets, and can be floor standing, pole or wall mounted.
Also included in the range is a triple outlet, multi-standard, rapid charging station – supporting all CHAdeMO, CCS COMBO 2 and AC output standards in a single unit. All Siemens chargers are fully tested and certified to work with the Transport Scotland approved Charge Your Car (CYC) nationwide Pay As You Go and back-office system.
Compared with a petrol or diesel car, the drivetrain of a fully-electric vehicle (EV) is simple: dozens of moving parts are replaced with just three main components. However, buying and operating an EV does not share this simplicity.
For starters, fleets have to consider range issues, whether EVs are a good fit for their company and also potential recharging issues.
Then there are considerations over procuring them, including higher P11D prices than equivalent petrol and diesel models and the Government’s plug-in grant.
Fleets also have to take into account recent changes to the benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax regime (see panel, page 53) and the confusing issue of mileage reimbursement rates.
Then there is uncertainty over residual values, which are currently weaker than for equivalent petrol or diesel models.
Despite these issues, EVs are soaring in popularity.
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that, in the first four months of this year, 3,148 pure EVs were registered, 103.5% more than in the same time period last year.
It is a trend Chris Chandler, principal consultant, fleet consultancy, at Lex Autolease has witnessed among fleets.
“The number of electric vehicles on our fleet has increased tenfold (to around 1,500) since April 2014 and now make up around 1% of our total fleet.
“This is a result of growing awareness among businesses and confidence in EVs and their benefits.
“There is also a wider range of models and technology now available to customers, giving them far more choice when choosing a vehicle to suit them.”
Historically, the high list price of EVs when compared with petrol and diesel models has often been highlighted as a barrier to fleet entry, even after the Government’s plug-in grant scheme has applied
Under this initiative, companies or individuals acquiring an electric car are entitled to a grant of up to 35% of the cost of the vehicle, up to a maximum of £5,000.
The grant scheme also covers electric vans. In these cases, it is for a maximum of 20% of the price of the new vehicle, up to £8,000.
In April 2013, the Government committed to retain the £5,000 car grant, which also covers plug-in hybrids with CO2 emissions of 75g/km and below, until 50,000 claims had been made.
So far, more than 31,000 grants have been paid, and the Government has made £200 million available to continue the scheme to 2020.
It has now split qualifying ultra-low emission cars into three categories – CO2 of less than 50g/km and with a zero emission range of at least 70 miles, CO2 of less than 50g/km and a zero emission range between 10 and 69 miles, and CO2 of 50-75g/km and a zero emission range of at least 20 miles – and last month commenced a review of grant levels.
This will take place over the next few months, and the Government says this will allow it to set the grants at a level that will support the market as effectively as possible without exhausting its budget too quickly.
However, organisations need to look beyond the high purchase price, says the Energy Saving Trust.
“While there can be an additional upfront cost (compared with petrol or diesel), this should be weighed against the many financial incentives in place to consider going electric,” says a spokesman.
Chandler also urges fleets to look at the ‘bigger picture’. “It is important to consider the wholelife cost of electric vehicles,” he says.
Webuyanyvan.com has launched a checklist designed to help owners and drivers of vans with their walk around checklist.
Every year, more than 10,000 vans are checked at random by the DVSA: at least 9 out of 10 vehicles stopped are dangerously overloaded, and over 6 in 10 have serious mechanical problems, said Webuyanyvan.com.
Van owner/drivers could face unlimited fines, loss of their licence and up to 14 years in prison if their vehicle is not being operated correctly.
Rich Evans, head of technical services at webuyanyvan.com said, “Our new van website is there so van, pickup and truck owners can get a valuation for their vehicle within 30 seconds.
“We decided that in order to help owners, we’d include a number of helpful guides on buying and selling a van, pickup or truck. The webuyanyvan.com walkaround check list is simple and easy to use, and we felt owners would appreciate the extra help in keeping to the right side of the regulations.”
The DVSA states that best practice is for van drivers and owners to do a thorough check every day.
According to the Department for Transport there were 3.47 million light commercial vehicles on the road at the end of 2014. Van sales are at an all-time high, with new vans sold recently making up for the severe drop in numbers following the financial crisis in 2008 (when there were 3.2 million registered in total).
The webuyanyvan.com check list can be found here . Each of the sections covered by the DVSA are detailed in the guide
The rapid rise of taxi app firm Uber in the UK is fueling demand for MPVs at auction and causing values to rise.
The average value of MPVs coming to market at Manheim is now 18.3% higher than it was a year ago.
Values continue to rise in 2015. The values of MPVs rose 5.1% in July compared to the previous month.
“Although the MPV may be less popular with families than it once was, due to the rise in the compact SUV market, there are other markets where demand remains high, such as private hire fuelled in a large part by Uber,” said Manheim.
Drivers can join Uber in a number of categories . The XL category calls for “professional drivers driving an MPV that comfortably seats six passengers.”
Travis Kalanick, founder and CEO of Uber estimates there will be 42,000 Uber drivers in London by 2016.
The average value of dealer part-exchange stock sold through Manheim’s auctions in July increased very slightly by 0.4% (£15) compared to June, but was up by 9% (£281) year-on-year.
Much of the growth in the used market came from smaller cars, with average values for small hatchbacks, which accounted for 26% of sold volumes, increasing by 2.3%. Compared to July 2014, supermini values were up by 13.6%.
Daren Wiseman, valuation services manager at Manheim, commented: “The demand for good quality part-exchange is keeping values strong. As we look ahead to the plate change month of September, we expect to see great stock available both in-lane and online, coming from dealer part-exchange as well as Manheim’s car buying companies, that will leave buyers with plenty of choice.”
ACFO has warned that the increasing prevalence of telematics will pave the way for national road charging. Speaking to BusinessCar, the organisation’s chairman, John Pryor, predicted standard fit systems in new vehicles would allow easy facilitation of an accurate, usage-based taxation or charging system across the nation.
“As more technology like this is built into cars, it does make road pricing easier – that’s the hidden one at the end of the line.
“Look at the furore with the Congestion Charge and the Dartford Crossing. Once you can centralise that – work out who’s doing what, on what road and when – you then get the big data side of things coming into it, which gives you the ability to track and pinpoint a car wherever it is.
That way, you don’t have the situation where someone doing huge mileage every year is paying the same rate as someone else who drives to the shops twice a week.”
He added there would likely be a backlash to such measures, with surreptitious technology developed to counteract the application of road pricing. “You’ll get people who can get you out of it, who’ll say ‘buy this piece of kit and you’ll dodge the costs,’ so you’ll end up with people ducking under the radar. It does open up all sorts of issues of what will happen.”
Pryor claimed the adoption of factory-fit telematics systems in place of aftermarket set-ups would cement the technology: “We see [the cost of aftermarket systems] coming down all the time but when it becomes adopted and becomes built into cars, that’s when it’ll take off.
“For example, five years ago you didn’t have Bluetooth built into cars – people used to drill holes for phone holders and you were paying £1000 for Bluetooth to be fitted to vehicles. Now it’s standard.”
He praised the choice of current aftermarket systems but said the quality varied dramatically and fleets should have a clear idea of their objectives before committing to a package.
“Fleets will adopt where they feel there’s a benefit and the beauty is they’ve got such a wide choice that there’s something for everybody. “How good they are is another moot point. It’s not like you see on films where you’ve got instant communications and you can pinpoint things to the nth degree – life doesn’t happen like that. Half the things aren’t working or they’re wrong, so again there’s not an easy answer or right answer [as to whether to invest in telematics]. Every fleet needs to look at what they want to get out of it.”
The Government has confirmed that from 1 October it will become to smoke in vehicles with anyone under 18 years old.
The Department for Health said the change in the law is being brought in to protect children and young people from the dangers of secondary smoke.
Both the driver and the smoker will liable for a £50 fine, with the law applying to every driver in England and Wales, including those aged 17 and those with a provisional driving licence.
The law does not apply if the driver is 17 years old and is on their own in the car.
The law applies to any private vehicle that is enclosed wholly or partly by a roof.
It still applies with the windows or sunroof open, have the air conditioning on, or if occupants sit in the open doorway of the vehicle.
The law won’t apply to a convertible car with the roof completely down.
Officers from Staffordshire Police’s Tamworth Local Policing Team (LPT) have issued CCTV images of a man they want to speak to in connection with multiple thefts from a Tamworth petrol station.
Between April and August there have been 11 incidents where a man has pulled onto the forecourt of Sainsbury’s petrol station, Bitterscote Drive, dispensed fuel and driven off without offering payment.
The man is described as being white, aged in his 40s, 5ft 10in tall, average build, with dark brown hair.
If you have any information, or recognise the man captured on CCTV, you can contact Staffordshire Police on 101 quoting incident number 335 of August 1.
George Osborne introduced the National Living Wage in his summer Budget
ACS is calling on retailers to respond its National Living Wage survey 2016 to inform the convenience sector’s response to the Low Pay Commission’s call for evidence on minimum wage and the new living rates.
The chancellor, George Osborne, announced that from April next year, a new living wage of £7.20 will be introduced. The Low Pay Commission has asked for evidence on the impact that the national living wage will have on businesses and what the future National Minimum Wage should be for 2016.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We need retailers’ support to communicate the real business impact that increases to the National Living Wage and Minimum Wage will have. I urge all retailers to respond to our survey.
“We need to make the Low Pay Commission and the chancellor understand that huge hikes in wage rates have damaging implications for job creation and investment decisions for local shops across the country.”
The results will feature in the ACS submission to the Low Pay Commission (LPC) later this year. The deadline for responses is 25th September 2015.
Jaguar Land Rover has signed a Letter of Intent with the Government of the Slovak Republic for the potential development of a new manufacturing plant in the city of Nitra in western Slovakia. With its established premium automotive industry, Slovakia is an attractive possible development opportunity.
The move marks the next step in the Company’s strategy to become a more competitive global business by expanding its manufacturing operations into new international locations in the future.
The UK is the cornerstone of Jaguar Land Rover’s business. It remains at the centre of Jaguar Land Rover’s design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities. Over the past five years, Jaguar Land Rover has employed more than 20,000 people taking its workforce to more than 36,000 and invested more than £11 billion in new product creation and capital expenditure.
During this time, the Company has invested heavily in its UK vehicle manufacturing facilities at Castle Bromwich, Halewood and Solihull to support the introduction all-new vehicles such as the Jaguar XE, Jaguar F-PACE, Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport. Jaguar Land Rover has also invested more than £500 million in a new Engine Manufacturing Centre in the UK, creating 1,400 new jobs in the Midlands. In addition, it plans to expand its advanced engineering and design centre at Whitley, Coventry and invest in the National Automotive Innovation Centre at the University of Warwick. Jaguar Land Rover’s sustained investment supports the delivery of the UK’s wider industrial strategy.
Dr Ralf Speth, chief executive officer, Jaguar Land Rover said, ‘The expansion of our business globally is essential to support its long-term, resilient growth. As well as creating additional capacity, it allows us to invest in the development of more new vehicles and technologies, which supports jobs in the UK.’
‘With its established premium automotive industry, Slovakia is an attractive potential development opportunity for us. The new factory will complement our existing facilities in the UK, China, India and the one under construction in Brazil.’
The feasibility study underway with the Slovakian Government will explore plans for a factory with an installed capacity of up to 300,000 vehicles over the next decade. As part of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to deliver more lightweight vehicles, the plant would manufacture a range of aluminium Jaguar Land Rover vehicles. It is anticipated that the first cars will come off the production line in 2018.
Following robust analysis of a number of locations including Europe, the United States and Mexico, Jaguar Land Rover has selected Slovakia as its preferred location. It is close to a strong supply chain and good logistics infrastructure. Subject to the outcome of the feasibility study, a final decision is expected later this year.
Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia said, ‘The Slovakian Government is delighted to be selected as Jaguar Land Rover’s preferred location for this feasibility study.
We are committed to developing Slovakia’s premium automotive industry and, should we be successful, this investment would represent a significant step forward in achieving this. It would provide a boost to our country’s wider industrial strategy as well as benefitting the European Union as a whole.
We look forward to working closely with Jaguar Land Rover over the coming months to progress the negotiations.’
Jaguar Land Rover has made significant progress in building its international manufacturing presence over the last year. It opened a new joint venture in China and commenced construction of its local manufacturing plant in Brazil at the end of 2014. The creation of new international plants allows Jaguar Land Rover to increase its presence in regions that have been identified as having growth potential, protect against currency fluctuations and achieve a more efficient, globally competitive business.
Brake, the road safety charity, is encouraging drivers – especially the young – to put safety first when it comes to buying a new vehicle. The call comes on the back of survey results, released today (11 August 2015), showing safety features are less of a priority for young drivers when choosing a vehicle than its brand.
The survey, carried out on behalf of Brake and Direct Line, put safety technologies third on a list of decision-making factors for all drivers, behind reliability and fuel economy. However, less than half of drivers (48%) named safety as one of their three most important considerations. Among young drivers (17-24) it was even fewer – less than two in five (37%) – fewer than chose brand (39%).
‘Infotainment’ systems, which allow access to social media and other functions unrelated to driving, are also becoming an increasing factor in young drivers decision making and are fitted in many new vehicles. More than one in five (21%) young drivers (17-24) said they wanted such a system, and one in six (17%) said it is one of their most important features in choosing a vehicle. However, these systems could pose a distraction risk similar to that of using a mobile phone. Any attempt to multi-task at the wheel is known to make you at least two or three times more likely to crash .
The survey also showed a lack of engagement among drivers with important industry safety standards such as Euro NCAP. A five star Euro NCAP rating is the easiest way to be sure your vehicle is protecting both you and the people around you on the road, and yet less than a quarter (23%) of drivers said it was something they looked for in a new vehicle.
Brake is urging all drivers to put safety features that protect both themselves and others top of the list when choosing a new vehicle, opting for a five start Euro NCAP rating wherever possible.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake said, ‘Vehicle safety technology has come on leaps and bounds, and a large part of the casualty reductions we have seen in recent decades are likely to be attributable to this. It is important that all drivers take advantage of these advances as much as possible, to protect both themselves and the people around them on foot and bike. When choosing a vehicle to drive on public roads, safety should always be the number one consideration. However, any vehicle is ultimately only ever as safe as the person driving it, and choosing the safest possible vehicle still needs to be combined with legal, considerate driving.’
Gus Park, director of motor at Direct Line added, ‘Our research shows that younger drivers are most at risk of a crash; however less than half this group chose safety in the top three considerations when buying a car. New cars are now more likely to be fitted with ‘infotainment’ systems, so we’d urge drivers to be sensible. As with mobile phones, a moment of distraction could potentially costs lives.’
Mercedes-Benz dealers across the UK can now benefit from faster wheel alignment measurements following Mercedes-Benz factory approval of the Hunter HTA-MB-TD wheel alignment system which acts as a direct replacement for the older HTA-MB-HD.
The new TD targets for the HTA-MB are made from a tough durable composite material which are lightweight and more compact than their predecessor, making alignments not only quicker, but much easier for technicians delivering superior, high-precision alignment on Mercedes-Benz cars and light commercial vehicles. The targets being free from any electronic circuitry and batteries means they are virtually maintenance free. Furthermore, the targets are designed to be used with existing Mercedes-Benz’s specialised wheel clamp adaptors.
‘Hunter has a proud reputation for engineering innovation and we’re delighted that Mercedes-Benz workshops are now able to utilise the very latest TD alignment targets,’ comments Paul Beaurain, managing director, Pro-Align. ‘As franchise dealers look to continually improve their customer service levels and aftersales revenues, wheel alignment has become an increasingly important service. The new targets will allow dealers to make alignment checks even quicker than before, helping to further improve their workshop efficiency and return on investment.’
While new to the Mercedes-Benz network, Hunter’s TD targets have already been widely proven in many other OEM franchise networks, independent workshops, bodyshops and tyre shops as an integral element of the Hunter HawkEye Elite TD system. This award winning equipment enables workshops to deliver a full 14 point four wheel alignment check in just 90 seconds, including an important rim runout compensation calculation, with a full results printout in just 90 seconds.
Drivers are expected to face a 15 per cent rise in car insurance costs this year due to the recent rise in fraudulent whiplash claims.
Insurance executives believe unscrupulous claims management firms, lawyers and doctors have discovered loopholes in new laws that were designed to end the scandal.
Industry insiders are claiming that criminal outfits had returned to cold-calling susceptible members of the public and convincing them to fake injuries in front of doctors.
New data obtained by The Telegraph suggest 7,500 more whiplash claims than last year are being submitted each month – yet the number of road accidents has remained almost unchanged.
Yesterday, we also reported how one of Britain’s biggest car insurers, Esure, said its profits had fallen by a fifth as a result of the surge in false PI claims.
David Williams, managing director of Axa said, ‘We are seeing bigger and more fraudulent claims as companies find ways round the rules.’ He continued, ‘It’s as bad, if not worse, than before.’
Annual car insurance premiums are now rising for the first time in three years as insurers struggle to cope with the return of whiplash fraudsters, according to the AA.
The ‘10 to 15 per cent’ increase it predicts for the year would add around £80 to the cost of a new annual car insurance policy, which now averages around £550.
Premiums had hit £715 a year before they began to fall steadily when the Government introduced measures to tackle the Britain’s ‘compensation culture’ in 2013. Since then there has been a ban on ‘referral fees’ paid between lawyers, insurers, claims firms for potential clients; medical professionals have been blocked from charging more than £180 for preparing whiplash injury reports; lawyers have had charges capped at £500 for preparing a basic claim; and all claims must now be verified by a randomly-selected medical expert before they are looked at by the insurance company.
Following the reforms the annual cost to insurers of processing personal injury claims and issuing payouts fell by a third.
But the experts now believe disreputable claims firms were merely pausing to work out how to circumvent the restrictions.
Data collected by the Ministry of Justice showed that the total personal injury claims dropped below 60,000 per month, in June 2013 after the new rules were introduced.
However that number currently sits at 73,500 a month on average, an increase of 66,000 last year.
Claims firms and lawyers are believed to be bypassing the ban on referral fees by asking clients to call carefully-selected partner firms, rather than passing names and telephone numbers between themselves. Payment for this indirect referral is then made through an alternative, seemingly legal, route.
Some companies are thought to be submitting multiple claims for each whiplash case to increase the chances of their client being allocated a doctor with which the company has a relationship.