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Government borrowing falls in February
Government borrowing fell last month to its lowest amount for February in 10 years, according to official figures.
Borrowing, excluding state-owned banks, was £1.8bn, down from £4.6bn a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said. In the financial year-to-date, borrowing has fallen by £19.9bn from last year to £47.8bn.
England road schemes ‘could be scrapped’ over value for money
Upgrades to some of England’s busiest roads, including a controversial tunnel past Stonehenge, could be scrapped because they are not value for money. The National Audit Office (NAO), which scrutinises government spending, said plans for 16 routes were on hold. The schemes being “reconsidered” to make sure they are “deliverable and affordable” are part of an £11.4bn investment announced in 2014. Neither the NAO or Department for Transport have said which are at risk.
Fiat Chrysler diesel emissions investigated in France
French prosecutors have opened an investigation into claims Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) broke diesel emissions tests. Industry regulators in the country have been looking into whether some FCA cars exceeded emissions limits.
FCA, already facing probes in the UK and US, said it noted the prosecutor’s decision to look into “certain alleged consumer protection violations”. But FCA added that its diesel cars fully complied with emissions rules.
London Taxi Company’s new Ansty Park plant opens in Coventry
A £300m taxi manufacturing plant which created 1,000 new jobs is to be officially opened later. The London Taxi Company’s (LTC) Ansty Park site in Coventry is the home of its new electric taxi, the TX5. LTC – which now employs up to 1,500 people – has invested more than £300m in the TX5 after manufacturing the black cab in the UK for 69 years. Administrators were called into LTC in 2012 before Chinese carmaker Geely bought the business the following year.
BMW challenges Mercedes with new model offensive
BMW aims to wrestle back the European crown from Mercedes-Benz, vowing to become the “number one” luxury car brand in Europe by the end of the year. Chief executive Harald Krüger promised the “biggest model offensive ever” from the German premium marque, after the group slipped behind its Daimler-owned arch-rival during 2016. The launch of 40 new or refreshed vehicles before the end of 2018 comes as BMW Group, which also owns the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, said it aims to increase profits, sales and number of cars sold this year.
Optimism in UK manufacturing hits highest level since 1995
Optimism among British manufacturers has reached its highest level since John Major was prime minister, according to the latest industrial trends survey from the CBI lobbying group. Manufacturers are expecting output to grow at the fastest rate since February 1995, the survey said, as the fall in the value of the pound has helped to make the UK manufacturing sector more internationally competitive. The data support economists who have argued that sterling depreciation will help rebalance the economy away from a service and consumer-focused model to a more export and manufacturing-based system.
Porsche plays down impact of Piëch’s VW share sale
Volkswagen’s controlling shareholder, Porsche SE, has played down the potential impact of the carmaker’s former chairman Ferdinand Piëch selling most of his shares in the group. Mr Piech, the grandson of VW Beetle designer Ferdinand Porsche who was VW’s chairman until April 2015, is in talks to sell most of his stake in Porsche SE, the holding company that controls 52 per cent of VW’s voting rights. The holding group, which sold the Porsche brand to VW in 2012, is controlled by the Porsche and Piech families, who own half the shares between them, but 100 per cent of the voting rights.
Electric cars pose little threat to oil demand
The popular claim that a surge in electric cars will hasten the arrival of peak oil demand is undermined by the data. The majority of the world’s cars will remain powered by petrol, also commonly known as gasoline, for at least the next two decades and this will drive oil demand, according to data from Facts Global Energy. With the number of passenger vehicles expected to grow to 1.8bn by 2040, the energy consultancy estimates only 10 per cent will be accounted for by electric cars and a further 20 per cent by hybrids. This might sound contentious given the hype around Tesla, the flag-bearer of electric vehicle producers, and many analysts forecasting a structural decline in oil consumption.
Arm’s new chip steers it towards driverless cars
Arm Holdings, best known for its hold on the phone chip market, has unveiled a new microprocessor targeted at emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and driverless cars. Britain’s biggest tech company claims that the new “DynamIQ” chip design represents an evolutionary step forward and will perform up to 50 times better on artificial intelligence than existing chips within five years. The Cambridge business, which was bought last year by Softbank of Japan for £24 billion, is shifting gear from phones, where Arm-based chips are used in about 85 per cent of high-spec models such as the iPhone, to try to capitalise on the internet of things.
Renault diesels ‘are worst polluters’
Renault diesel cars emit the highest levels of toxic nitrogen oxides of all the big manufacturers and the French company’s recent models produce nine times the legal limit, tests have found. Volkswagen, which has paid £15 billion to settle cases in the US over cheating emissions tests, now produces the least-polluting cars, according to Which?, the consumer group. Jeep, Nissan, Hyundai and Ford scored badly in the Which? tests, producing at least five times the limit.
UK millionaires think Brexit will make them even richer, survey finds
Most of Britain’s millionaires reckon Brexit will make them even richer, according to a survey by wealth managers at Swiss bank UBS. A poll of more than 400 Britons with at least $1m (£800,000) in liquid assets in addition to their homes found that 78% thought Britain’s decision to leave the EU would have a “positive effect” on their financial plans.
Drivers ‘switch off part of their brain’ when using satnavs, research shows
It is the insult aimed at minicab drivers seen pulling unexpected manoeuvres as they rely on a satnav: you don’t know where you’re going. Now London researchers have found that motorists who rely on computer navigation devices do in fact “switch off” part of their brain in the process. A University College London team took 24 volunteers on a two-hour walking tour of Soho, then asked them to “drive” a computer-simulated car through the area’s narrow streets the following day. They detected spikes of activity in two key areas of the brain, the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, when the volunteers were forced to navigate for themselves. But where they relied on instructions from a satnav, no activity above normal levels was detected.
Quarter of motorists think driving while using a mobile phone is less serious than speeding
A quarter of British motorists think it is better to drive while using a mobile phone than speeding, according to new research. The findings emerged from a survey of 2000 motorists after tough new legislation came in to introduce an increase in fines for those caught driving while using a handset, and penalty points for those caught first time. Researchers also found two thirds of drivers knowingly drive over the speed limit, but only one in 10 had been caught during the last 24 months. And despite clear signage indicating the acceptable limits on all roads, 45 per cent of people think it is acceptable to drive faster than they’re meant to. While seven in 10 drivers admit to intentionally slowing down to pass a speed camera, immediately speeding back up once past.