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Daily News RoundupBack

NFDA urges Government to enhance grants to go green


The National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) is urging the Government to review the funding and infrastructure plans associated with alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), to make them a viable option for mainstream motorists.

The trade body, which represents 85% of the UK franchise dealer network, has said that although the Government’s announcement of a £32million charging infrastructure investment will go some way to improving the viability of electric cars, more needs to be done to give consumers the confidence and ability to make the shift to AFVs.

There are currently three options for motorists considering an alternative to petrol or diesel vehicles: hybrid, electric, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, all of which produce significantly fewer pollutants than fossil fuelled cars.

The UK led the European alternative fuel market between January and March this year, with a 64.2% increase in AFV registrations – more than double the European average of 28.8%.

Although the trend indicates a desire from motorists to consider low emission options for everyday motoring needs, the market has not grown as quickly as many had hoped and of the 32million cars on UK roads, only 2.5million are alternative fuel.

The Government currently offers grants of up to £5,000 off the cost of a plug in car and up to £8,000 off a new, plug-in van. But the NFDA says that high prices and a limited network of recharging points mean the proposition of owning an electric car is still less attractive than a petrol or diesel for many potential buyers. There are just 3,000 charging locations across the UK compared to over 8,000 petrol stations.

Director of the NFDA Sue Robinson said: “Manufacturers are making a significant investment in enhancing the choice, range and distance electric cars can travel, but in order to encourage a genuine shift in consumer behaviour the Government needs to do more to make electric cars an attractive choice.

“Increasing the existing grant for plug-ins and introducing one for hydrogen cars, whilst also developing the recharging infrastructure, would likely see a significant increase in sales of alternative fuel cars. With extra investment from Westminster to make AFVs a more viable option, the UK has the potential to be a world leader in a greener future.”


Ten thousand mystery shoppers needed to test Nissan network

Ten thousand car enthusiasts are being sought to take part in an evaluation of Nissan dealers in the UK.

Customer experience improvement firm Bare International is looking for motorists here and in 16 other European countries to measure service levels.

“Our customised automotive services improve results for even the most savvy and demanding industry leaders,” said Guy Van Neck, of Bare International Europe.

“Customer experience is increasingly becoming the competitive advantage of car manufacturers. As customers demand more personalisation and connection with the product, manufacturers strive to deliver the ultimate service experience during the car purchase and in aftersales service.

Customized research will help Nissan to create a strong long-lasting relationship with the customer.

Mystery shoppers, or ‘evaluators’ must be between 21-65 years old and have a valid driving license.

Those interested can register here.

Once registered they can find dealers’ locations and schedule a visit.

Each visit is rewarded with a payment and it is possible to make multiple visits.

There are three scenarios to choose from:

  • Act as a potential customer who is interested in buying a Qashqai, Juke, Pulsar, Note or Micra and want to take a test drive
  • Act as a potential customer who wants to buy an electric car, and want to take a test drive with the Nissan Leaf
  • They have a Nissan and need to get it serviced.

The programme is available in the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Poland, Sweden and Norway.

A Nissan spokeswoman said: “Across Europe, we are looking to significantly increase the number of mystery shops with the aim of obtaining more detailed and better customer insight into dealer handling of Nissan customers and potential areas of improvement.

“We will use the information to work with dealer network and improve the quality of service dealers provide to Nissan customers.”


Dealerweb launches iPad part-exchange appraisal app

Dealerweb has launched a new part exchange appraisal application for iPad.

DealerwebPro has been designed to bring a thorough, professional and consistent approach to valuing customer part-exchange vehicles and to replace dealers’ paper-based part-exchange appraisal forms.

The app allows sales staff to capture numerous images of the vehicle and save them on the app, and store information relating to every aspect of the vehicle, including its appearance and condition inside and out, its specifications and added optional equipment, and its mechanical condition.

Descriptions and images are automatically synchronised with Dealerweb’s Evo 8 internet-based showroom management system and stored as part of the appropriate customer record in the cloud.

Once stored online, full details of the vehicle can be reviewed alongside up-to-date CAP valuation data.

Sales operations director at Dealerweb James Hill said: “It can be challenging for managers to ensure all their sales staff take a consistent and thorough approach to the valuation of part-exchange vehicles, and all too often this can undermine the profitability of a transaction.

“DealerwebPro is process-driven – it facilitates a thorough appraisal to ensure no issues are missed, and it gives customers valuable reassurance that the suggested part-exchange value is robust and based on sound analysis.”

As with every standard Evo 8 module, customers of DealerwebPro will benefit from free ongoing updates as part of their user licence.

Dealerweb’s Evo 8 showroom management system is used by dealers to manage new and used car sales and help drive improvements in efficiency and profitability. Evo 8 manages the full sales process, from initial customer enquiry through to placement of an order and financial reporting.


Colley Mitsubishi to unveil new £250,000 showroom

Colley Mitsubishi is set to open its new £250,000 purpose-built showroom on June 11.

The site on Maendy Way, Cwmbran is a 220 square metre building that will house up to eight cars in a spacious covered setting. The finishing touches are being made and after five months of hard work the dealership will hold a grand opening over four days, from June 11 to 14.

Proprietor John Colley (pictured, left) said: “It’s fantastic that as we celebrate the 45th anniversary of founding the business we are opening this new Mitsubishi showroom. The reason we have made this £250,000 investment in Cwmbran is because of the confidence we have in the Mitsubishi brand.

“We are very excited about the future with Mitsubishi, they have seen a dramatic increase in annual sales and we are pleased to be part of it.”

The opening of the new showroom coincides with the company’s 45th anniversary next month and Colley said the move was a sign of his confidence in the future.

Founded in June 1970 by Colley and his late brother, Colley Motor Group joined the Mitsubishi family in August 2013.

Colley said: “This is a big investment for a private firm like ours but we are delighted with the outcome. It’s great to see the new showroom and we would like to thank all our customers for their support while the building work was going on.”


Addison Lee acquires Climate Cars

Addison Lee has acquired Climate Cars, a London-based eco-friendly car service, which has a fleet of 115 hybrid cars.

The acquisition follows the launch of Addison Lee Eco in February 2015, which added 350 hybrid vehicles to the Addison Lee fleet.

Climate Cars’ petrol hybrid cars will join Addison Lee’s existing fleet of 4,800 vehicles and will sit alongside Addison Lee’s corporate, VIP and international divisions.

Climate Cars, which was formed in 2007 and has more than 650 customers throughout Greater London, is Addison Lee’s second acquisition within the last month, following the purchase of Camden-based Cyclone VIP Cars & Couriers.

Liam Griffin, chief executive officer of Addison Lee, said: “We are very pleased to announce Addison Lee’s acquisition of Climate Cars. This deal will boost our Add Lee Eco offering, providing more variety for our passengers but with the same best-in-class experience they expect. This comes in addition to the upgrades we’ve made to our App, the 4G Wi-Fi we’ve implemented into our vehicles and the new customer loyalty scheme we’ve just launched. All of which are designed to enhance the Addison Lee passenger service even further.”

Nicko Williamson, founder of Climate Cars, said:“We are delighted with the deal with Addison Lee. Their AddLee Eco service is in line with our original goal for Climate Cars, to push for mainstream adoption of hybrid and electric cars in the private hire sector.”


100-day countdown to launch of cleanest-ever Euro-6 vehicles

This weekend begins the 100-day countdown to the official launch of the strictest-ever European vehicle emissions regulation, Euro-6. From September 1, 2015 all new car models sold in the EU must meet this low emissions standard, making them the cleanest vehicles in history.

With three months still to go before the new standard becomes mandatory, the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that UK vehicle manufacturers are ahead of the game, with around half of new car buyers opting for a Euro-6 car last month.

In a show of commitment to the latest standards, car manufacturers demonstrated their latest Euro-6 cars yesterday (Thursday, May 22) at SMMT Test Day.

Consumers have already been buying these low emission vehicles in increasing numbers. In April, almost one out of every two new cars registered (45.9%) boasted next-generation Euro-6 technology, compared with fewer than one in five (18.7%) in September 2014. Meanwhile, a staggering 70.4% of the UK’s top 10 best-sellers registered last month met the standard, said SMMT.

Next-generation Euro-6 technology vehicles not only have the lowest CO2 emissions on record, but they emit virtually zero particulate matter, while nitrogen oxides emissions are more than half those of previous generation motors built in the past five years.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “With 100 days still to go until the new Euro-6 standard becomes mandatory, new car buyers are shifting to these next-generation vehicles. This is the result of huge investment from manufacturers in clean technology – and the quicker we get these Euro-6 cars onto the roads, the quicker we’ll see improvements in air quality.”


BVRLA welcomes agreement on ‘real world’ air pollution test

The European Union has come a step closer to introducing ‘real world’ air pollution tests for cars and vans after agreeing a more accurate procedure for measuring driving emissions.

The BVRLA has welcomed the agreement and looks forward to the new ‘on the road’ tests for NOx emissions being introduced in 2017 alongside a more accurate CO2 emission test cycle.

The new procedure agreed by EU regulators this week will require vehicles to be tested on the road and in traffic, rather than in laboratory-like conditions as is currently the case. This should provide more accurate, ‘real world’ NOx emission figures for diesel cars under the Euro 6 air quality standard.

The European Commission and member states still need to agree what the limits for the real world tests will be and whether they can be introduced by 2017. The Commission already has plans to bring in a new, more accurate CO2 test cycle in 2017 – the World Light Duty Test Procedure (WLTP).

“Air pollution is a major threat to public health so it is vital that we can accurately measure the part played by road transport, particularly diesel vehicles,” said BVRLA Chief Executive, Gerry Keaney.

“Over the years, the fleet sector has made excellent progress in driving down CO2 emissions. I am convinced that it can have a similar impact on NOx emissions if it is given accurate information and an appropriate tax regime.

“This agreement is an important milestone in helping Europe get to grips with the issue of road transport based air pollution.”

The BVRLA has already provided UK policymakers with a list of five measures they could take to help address road transport-based air pollution:

  • Help regional authorities to use their newly devolved transport powers by providing a national framework for ultra-low emission zones
  • Adopt the current tax regime to include NOx emissions, ensuring that any changes are well-signposted and non-retrospective
  • Re-introduce 100% first-year allowances for companies renting or leasing ultra-low emission cars
  • Provide better in-life incentives – for example freedom from tolls, congestion charges or parking fees – to encourage greater uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles
  • Do more to support car clubs, car sharing and other alternatives to car ownership, and provide more low-emission public transport


Road investment should be a priority for new Government, FTA report finds

Investment in road improvements should be a priority for the new Government according to the Logistics Report 2015 – the Freight Transport Association’s (FTA’s) analysis of the ideas, news and views that shaped the transport and logistics industry in the last 12 months.

Launched at the Microlise Transport Conference in Coventry on Wednesday by FTA chief executive David Wells, the 2015 Logistics Report outlines the significant economic, business, political, safety and environment, skills and training issues that have affected the transport and logistics sector in the past year.

The highest perceived priorities included investment in road improvements, recognising the vital role of logistics in the economy and cutting fuel duty.

Wells said: “The new Government will have to make significant decisions – and quickly – over our infrastructure and transport policies.

“FTA’s message to Government is: ignore the needs of logistics at your peril. From the factory floor to the kitchen table, it is logistics that will deliver sustainable growth.”

The Logistics Report is produced annually and explores the influences that businesses should take into account as they deliberate, plan and invest for the future.

In addition, the FTA document looks at the outlook for the global economy, and reported that at home, there is lower business confidence beyond the immediate planning horizon, as uncertainty over future economic policies and the domestic impact of the EU membership debate and worldwide political crises temper optimism.

Wells added: “At such a crossroads for our national finances and society, the FTA Logistics Report provides a timely and essential analysis of the short and long-term health of a major enabler of our economy and lifestyle – logistics.”


Pendragon opens £500k Aston Martin Service Centre

Located on Brooke Park, the Stratstone-run Aston Martin Wilmslow Service Centre took six months to construct following a £500k investment.

The site will provide the services of Aston Martin Approved Technicians and the opening sees the creation of four new local jobs.

“We’re delighted to be opening our brand new Approved Aston Martin Service Centre in Wilmslow. Thanks to our long-standing relationship with Aston Martin, we understand the specialist skills required to maintain and maximise these beautiful cars. We’re confident it will be a great success and are looking forward to meeting new enthusiasts in the local area,” said Ian Summerfield, Stratsone’s franchise director for Aston Martin.


Pre-reg activity makes Astra GTC fastest selling used car

Vauxhall’s high performance Astra GTC is the current fastest used car off the forecourt taking just 11 days to sell.

The average mileage of each Astra GTC sold is just 541, according to Glass’s monthly Hot Five survey for May.

“Having the Astra GTC as the fastest selling used car is a bit of an anomaly as this reflects the pre-reg activity that is supporting the new car market at the moment,” said Glass’s head of valuations Rupert Pontin.

The number two and three slots were taken by the Lexus RX450H and Chevrolet respectively.

“The Lexus RX450H should not really come as a surprise as these are generally in short supply. The Chevrolet Orlando represents great value and is in short supply. The withdrawal of Chevy from the UK market appears to be having little impact on its popularity.”

And in fourth place and fifth place were the Hyundai i20 and Peugeot 407 respectively. Pontin said the Hyundai placing made sense but the Peugeot 407 was a surprise.

“The Hyundai i20 represents fantastic value for money and the retail buyer seems to be beginning to realise just how good this car is. The average profile for the cars sold is 25 months old with 16,000 miles, so many could be ex-PCP cars reaching the market.”

“Finding the Peugeot 407 in fifth place is a bit of a surprise – not because they are bad cars but because that are usually found to be in oversupply. This does not seem to be the case at the moment and, at an average asking price of £3,279, they offer super value for money.”

Glass’s Hot Five is based on 300 models, which have been subject to more than 50 price observations over a four-week period. The set is then split by range, and an average is determined by the number of days that cars have been advertised on web portals.

Glass’s Hot Five for March

  1. Vauxhall Astra GTC
  2. Lexus RX450H
  3. Chevrolet Orlando
  4. Hyundai i20
  5. Peugeot 407


Kwik Fit apprenticeship scheme gets top Ofsted rating

The Kwik Fit apprenticeship scheme has been rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted, the government inspection body.

The performance is a marked improvement since the last survey when it received a “required improvement” rating.

The publication of the inspection report comes as Kwik Fit announces that it is opening applications for 100 apprentices to join the company in August.

It has already taken on 100 employees on its apprenticeship programme earlier this year. Kwik Fit has four training academies in Derby, Harlow, Reading and Broxburn. A Kwik Fit Apprenticeship lasts around two years and provides a total of 91 Learning credits.

In the Ofsted report the overall effectiveness of the Kwik Fit apprenticeship scheme received a Grade 1, an improvement on the Grade 3 score it received last time.

The inspectors reviewing Kwik Fit found that “apprentices benefit from high but realistic expectations and are well challenged by tutors and assessors to produce work to high levels of accuracy and quality, with a strong focus on customer needs and safe working practices.”

The report also highlighted the outstanding information and guidance apprentices receive about their training and career progression.

Paul Binks, head of learning and development at Kwik Fit, said: “This grading is a resounding endorsement of the huge investment we have made in our learning and development programme and our commitment to be a leader in the sector. Apprentices are vital to our business as they develop into the future leaders of the company.”


Audi A3 gets the ultra treatment with 89g/km model

Audi is adding its ‘ultra’ badge to its 2016 model year A3 after dropping emissions to 89g/km CO2 and fuel efficiency of 83mpg on the 110hp 1.6-litre diesel engine version.

The new model is available to order now on SE and SE Technik trim levels and will arrive in the UK in August priced from £20,865.

It’s the first time an A3 has carried the ultra badge which signifies the most efficient model in a particular model range.

The drop in emissions moves the A3 ultra down one benefit-in-kind band from 17% to 16%.

A3 ultra models include 16-inch alloy wheels, combined with low rolling resistance tyres, and both SE and SE Technik models feature lowered sports suspension to minimise drag.

They also share air conditioning, MMI radio, Audi Music Interface, a Driver Information System, Bluetooth connectivity and a multi-function steering wheel.

SE Technik models add SD card-based satellite navigation over and above the SE version’s standard navigation preparation, and also gain rear acoustic parking sensors, cruise control and a colour screen for the Driver Information System.

New model year additions also include an all-wheel drive version of the A3 which is available with a 150hp 2.0-litre diesel with a CO2 emissions output of 127g/km.


Audi researching new diesel fuel

Audi has started producing its own synthetic diesel as part of a research project into creating CO2-neutral fuels for the future.

The new fuel, titled e-Diesel, is created through a chemical process using CO2 and water, and has powered an A8 3.0-litre diesel test vehicle.

Audi’s lab tests have show the e-Diesel is suitable for mixing with fossil diesel or for use as a fuel in its own right.

Reiner Mangold, head of sustainable product development at Audi, sees it as an important step to complement the brand’s electric vehicle development.

He said: “In developing Audi e-Diesel, we are promoting another fuel based on CO2 that will allow long-distance mobility with virtually no impact on the climate.

“Using CO2 as a raw material represents an opportunity not just for the automotive industry in Germany, but also to transfer the principle to other sectors and countries.”

A spokesman for Audi UK told BusinessCar the pilot plant in Dresden is set to produce more than 3000 litres of Audi e-Diesel over the coming months.

He said: “Industrial-scale production is technically possible, but is currently dependent primarily on legal parameters and on cost-effectiveness.

“We will definitely continue to promote the e-Diesel as it could help us to realise CO2-free mobility for all distances.”


Ford plots new Vignales, but Focus not on the table

Ford will grow the number of cars carrying the Vignale badge to four by the end of 2017, doubling the number of models initially expected to come with the branding.

The Mondeo Vignale will be launched in September in the UK with the S-max Vignale arriving before the end of the year, but BusinessCar sources have also confirmed that a Kuga Vignale will go on sale next year and a Fiesta Vignale in 2017. The latter will be based on the all-new Fiesta.

However, while Ford refused to officially rule any cars in or out of having a top-spec Vignale model added to their range, it is thought less likely that a Focus Vignale will appear within the next couple of years.

Ford plans to sell between 2000-3000 Mondeo Vignales in 2016, its first full year, with 70% going to fleet.
Vignale is Ford’s attempt to offer a more luxurious product and buying experience, and a premium brand rival. The bodywork features more chrome and better quality paint. Inside, the cars have very high standard spec including leather.

In the new Mondeo, the Vignale trim level replaces the Titanium X Sport in the previous Mondeo. However, Vignale offers even higher specification for near identical pricing, which runs from £29,045 to £33,310.

To maintain the luxury feel, the Mondeo Vignale will only be offered with the higher-output diesel engines, as a hybrid or with a high-power petrol engine.

Ford says it will also offer customers a better experience in terms of buying the car and having it serviced. These upgrades include a dedicated Vignale area within showrooms, contact with a dedicated service manager, a collect-and-deliver servicing offer, and free car washes.

User choosers, particularly from smaller business, will be the main fleet buyers for the Mondeo Vignale, and Ford expects half of Vignale customers to be Ford fans and the other half conquests from rival brands.

The firm hopes the low targets in terms of sales will also help keep residual values higher than the rest of the Mondeo range.

However, RV expert Glass’s is not currently forecasting an uplift in RVs for the Mondeo Vignale versus the regular model, although it agrees with how Ford is positioning the car as a top trim level within the Mondeo range, rather than a separate premium brand.

Rupert Pontin, Glass’s head of valuations, told BusinessCar: “At the end of the day, it is a Ford Mondeo. The volume upper medium sector has decreased in size and there is less demand as a whole.

“An important question needs to be answered: who [will want] to buy this car as a used prospect? The majority of volume will be through fleets and there will be little exposure to retail customers. When it goes on sale to used customers, will the demand be there? As a result, we’re forecasting similar values to the rest of the Mondeo of around 35% over three years/60,000 miles.


Rising fuel prices depressing sales warns AA

The average price of fuel has continued to edge up, with a 3ppl increase in the price of petrol over the past month, according to the latest AA Fuel Price Report, and it says the increasing prices are depressing sales.

It states: “EU retail sales figures released this month indicate that trade at petrol stations across the Continent has already begun to crash, flipping from a 4.5% year-on-year increase in February to a 1.0% fall in March. In the UK, HMRC statistics show that petrol consumption in March tumbled to its lowest on record.”

The UK’s average price of petrol has risen from 113.29ppl in mid April to 116.42ppl now. This is 10ppl a litre higher than on 1 February, when the recent price collapse bottomed out at 106.39ppl.

Diesel has gone up less than petrol, increasing from an average of 118.83ppl in mid April to 120.70ppl in mid May. However the AA says: “Although rising less quickly than petrol, the price of diesel is still on average 3.5ppl more expensive than it should be. Over the past fortnight, the litre cost of diesel to the trade has been just half a penny higher than petrol’s.”

AA president Edmund King commented: “Despite negative inflation in April, warning signals coming from the EU and the United States indicate that the $20-a-barrel leap in the price of oil since the beginning of the year is once again influencing the car-use and fuel-buying behaviour of drivers.

“Compared to May 2014, when petrol averaged around 130ppl and diesel 136ppl, car-dependent families should be feeling much better off. However, as the AA has pointed out in the past, price surges at the pump and on the billboards trigger a negative response from drivers.”

He added: “A 10ppl hike since February echoes the price spikes of 2012 and 2013 and UK drivers may have responded as they have in the past by cutting back on car use. March’s slump at the petrol pump also happened last year and this may be a reaction to domestic energy winter bills arriving on the doormat, forcing consumers to squeeze other areas of family spending.

“However, if official fuel consumption and retail sales figures for April reinforce a worsening picture, it will show a more sustained driver backlash to rising forecourt prices. Once again, this will be down to commodity market speculation pushing up oil and wholesale prices artificially – particularly infuriating for drivers and business when data from OPEC and the International Energy Agency show the world has been pumping 1.5 million more barrels of oil per day than it consumes.”


Posted by Lois Hardy on 22/05/2015