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Drop in consumer demand hits UK car manufacturing
Car manufacturing in the UK fell last year for the first time since 2009. According to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 1.67 million cars left UK factories in 2017, a decline of 3% compared with the year before. The SMMT says lower demand from UK consumers was the main reason for the fall, although exports also dipped. New investment in the UK motor industry shrank as well, falling to £1.1bn last year, compared with £1.66bn in 2016. Despite the decline last year, manufacturing in the UK remains high by historical standards, having risen steadily in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The number of cars that rolled off the production lines in 2017 was still the second highest since the turn of the century.
Can cars be used as mini power stations?
The feasibility of using electric vehicles as mini power stations will be tested using government funding of almost £10m. During the trial involving 1,000 car charging points, electric vehicles will feed power back into the national grid. It is seen as a key step towards an economy powered increasingly by renewable energy. The idea capitalises on many drivers’ predictable patterns – to work in the morning and back home at night.
M&S plans to close up to 14 stores
Marks and Spencer is planning to close 14 stores with hundreds of jobs affected. Six stores will close by April, including Birkenhead, Bournemouth and Durham. Staff have been offered jobs in nearby stores. The closure of another eight stores has been proposed, which will affect 468 staff. It follows a disappointing Christmas period for M&S, when sales of clothing and food fell.
Thousands of cash machines may be closed
Thousands of free-to-use cash machines could be closed because of a cut in the fee operators receive from banks each time an ATM is used, the industry has warned. However, the fee will be unchanged for free-to-use ATMs which are 1km or more from the next nearest cash machine. The move is an attempt by Link, which oversees ATMs, to encourage operators to place machines in more remote areas. But the ATM industry body said the move would see up to 30,000 ATMs disappear.
Labour seeks to force publication of leaked Brexit study
Labour will try to force the government to release its latest assessment of the impact of Brexit on the economy through a binding Commons vote. The leaked study suggests that in three different scenarios the UK economy would grow more slowly than it would if it stayed in the European Union. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said MPs needed the details to make informed decisions. The government said the document could damage UK negotiations with the EU.
I’m not a quitter, says Theresa May amid leadership questions
Theresa May has responded to questions about her future as prime minister, saying “I’m not a quitter.” Speaking before arriving in China on a trade mission, she referred to Brexit and the “domestic agenda”, adding “there is a long-term job to be done”. Mrs May did not address criticism of her from some backbench MPs but added: “First and foremost, I’m serving my country and my party.” She also pledged to build on a “golden era” of UK-China relations.
Silicon Valley start-ups race to win in driverless delivery market
While autonomous cars have dominated tech headlines in recent months, a growing group of engineers in Silicon Valley is betting that a different type of self-driving vehicle will be the first to market — unmanned delivery vans. On Tuesday, two new start-ups each claimed to be the first to reveal such technology, underscoring the intense competition amid rising investment in autonomous vehicles. Nuro announced it had raised $92m from investors including Banyan Capital and Greylock Partners, the venture capital firms, and said it would run pilot tests with customers by the end of the year.
Police chief: Punish drivers 1mph over limit
Britain’s road policing chief has called for a crackdown on speeding motorists, insisting that they be punished for breaking the limit by even 1mph. Declaring “enough is enough”, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, chief constable of West Mercia police, said leniency towards traffic offenders needed to end. Speaking at the Police Federation roads policing conference yesterday, he argued that the 10 per cent “buffer” over signposted limits should be scrapped. Mr Bangham, the National Police Chiefs’ Council authority on road policy, said that speed awareness courses should be reserved for those only marginally over the limit.
Project tests electric vehicles recharging grid
A consortium led by Nissan has been awarded £10 million of government funding to test the potential of electric cars to feed power back into the grid. The project aims to install 1,000 vehicle-to-grid chargers, which offer a two-way connection between the car battery and the power network, over the next two years. Nissan, which makes the Leaf, the world’s bestselling electric car, said last year that it was joining Ovo Energy to offer the technology to households. The chargers will be controlled remotely by Nuvve, a software company. The companies said that they believed the ability to control charging was so valuable that they would be able to offer drivers free power in return.
Change retail prices index of inflation, says Mark Carney
Mark Carney has called for the government to scrap the retail prices index of inflation used to set the interest rate on student loans, rail fares and on £400 billion of government debt because it has “known errors”. The Bank of England governor is the most senior figure to suggest abolishing RPI since the Office for National Statistics revealed five years ago that there was an error in the equation used to produce the monthly figure. A change could save taxpayers £5 billion in lower interest on the national debt every year, equivalent to about a penny off income tax. Commuters and students would also be spared higher rail fares and loan costs.
Volkswagen executive steps down from duties after scandal over diesel exhaust trials on monkeys
Automaker Volkswagen’s head of external relations and sustainability has stepped aside from his duties after the controversy over experiments in which monkeys were exposed to diesel exhaust. The company said in a statement Tuesday that Thomas Steg was stepping away from his duties at his own request. The statement from the automaker said that the company was “drawing the first consequences” as it investigates the activities of EUGT, the entity backed by Volkswagen and other carmakers that commissioned the monkey experiment.
German car-makers have ‘blood on their hands’ in diesel scandal
German car-makers have “blood on their hands” due to rigging diesel exhaust tests which led to the deaths of thousands of Britons, the Government’s former chief scientist has said. Professor Sir David King said it was “simply astonishing” that Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler had performed rigged experiments on monkeys and that such duplicity had caused the deaths of large numbers of people in the UK. The Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser until 2007, Sir David described being duped into believing diesel capture technology was safe during a trip to a British testing lab in 2004, prompting a policy shift in favour of diesel cars.
One of London’s busiest roads hits annual pollution limit with 335 days left of 2018
London has reached its annual air pollution limit just one month into the year, for the eighth year in a row. Under EU rules, any single location in the UK can only break the hourly air pollution limit 18 times in a year, and Brixton Road in Lambeth reached that mark on Tuesday morning. It is expected to breach the limit either later on Tuesday or on Wednesday morning. Levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide pollution in the UK have broken legal limits every year since 2010.