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New driving test as examiners prepare to strike
A new driving test starts today but aspiring drivers may have to wait a few days before they can sit it. The test comes in as driving test examiners plan a 48-hour strike from Monday in a dispute over pay and work hours. Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union say examiners are being told to work longer, harder and for no extra pay to bring in the new testing regime. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “PCS members in the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) have tried to negotiate around their concerns but the door has been slammed shut in their face. They now feel they have no alternative but to take industrial action to bring home to the public how damaging the DVSA proposals are.”
Brexit deal 90% there, says senior EU official
A senior Brussels official said last night that Britain and the European Union were “90 per cent” of the way to a deal that would open the door for transition and trade talks on Brexit this month. Theresa May will fly to Brussels this morning for meetings that have been described as the “absolute deadline” for finding agreement. The EU official said that Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, and Mrs May “will have some open points to solve” but predicted that both sides were on the verge of clinching agreement on the terms of withdrawal. “It is solvable,” he said. “We are 85-90 per cent there.”
Green car sales set to overtake diesels in 2019
More new hybrid and electric vehicles will be sold than diesel cars in 18 months’ time, research predicts. Concerns about pollution and “toxic taxes” are cited in an analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. The research was undertaken after figures showed that sales of diesels plummeted in the UK this year. Industry statistics indicated that diesel sales dropped by almost a third in October compared with the same month last year. It was the seventh decline in a row and the largest monthly drop in nine years. At the same time sales of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles rose by 37 per cent, although from a much lower base. The increase came after a series of measures imposed on diesels, which generally emit higher levels of toxic nitrogen oxides.
Clarity on Brexit is needed to protect investment, CBI warns
The CBI has called for clarity on Brexit transition arrangements as it forecasts two years of tepid economic growth. In its latest economic forecast, published today, the employers’ lobby group warns that uncertainty over Brexit will hit business investment, while consumers will continue to suffer from a squeeze in real wages. “After a timid 2017, UK economic growth is set to remain steady but sluggish, with less pep than we’ve seen over the past few years,” Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said. The CBI expects GDP growth of 1.5 per cent for this year and next and a mere 1.3 per cent in 2019 — only marginally ahead of the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts at last month’s budget.
Electric-car push drives premiums for greener metals
From “feng shui copper” to low-carbon aluminium, the green energy revolution is jolting global commodity markets and spurring demand for higher-quality raw materials. As the world’s largest car companies focus on producing more electric vehicles, they are facing greater scrutiny about the ethical and environmental effects of their supply chains. From battery metals such as cobalt to the industrial commodities of aluminium and copper, the market is starting to pay a premium for sustainable and traceable metals.
Such a development may well prompt a permanent price divergence across commodity markets, with higher prices for low-carbon products as well as highly processed forms of metal for electric-car batteries.
Carmakers get creative to target China’s $15bn online auto market
Yingzhi Yang and Charles Clover in Beijing 1 comments Global car groups are experimenting with flash sales, endorsements by celebrity fashion bloggers and car vending machines in China, to maximise online sales in this growing market. China’s online automobile transactions in 2016 hit 1m units, worth Rmb100.7bn ($15bn), according to Frost & Sullivan, a consultancy. To put that in perspective, vendors almost sold more cars online in China last year than they sold in Spain all together. “China is definitely the world’s largest online car market, including luxury cars,” said Paul Gao, senior partner at consultants McKinsey. The value of China’s online automobile transactions have grown at a compound annual rate of 65.5 per cent in the 2012-16 period, according to Frost & Sullivan, versus 13.7 per cent growth for China’s wider vehicle market.
Pendragon plans £100m sale of US business after profit warning
Pendragon is planning a £100m sale of its US business as it bids to turn things around following a profit warning in October. The car seller, which owns the Evans Halshaw and Stratstone brands, said: “Given the strong performance of this division, we have concluded it is economically right to sell the business at this time to realise its value.” It will narrow its focus on selling used cars in the UK, hiring a new executive to run that division in the hope of doubling revenues by 2021. Chief executive Trevor Finn said the strategy “would provide more reliable and sustainable returns”. In October, Pendragon warned that declining demand for used cars was pushing down prices, meaning it expects pre-tax profits this year to be 20pc lower than previously expected at £60m.
Brexit timetable in jeopardy as Theresa May fails to reach deal on Irish border ahead of EU deadline
Theresa May will go into a crunch meeting with EU leaders on Monday admitting she has yet to find a solution to the Irish border problem, as a Cabinet minister suggested for the first time that Brexit might not happen. Mrs May has until Monday night to meet an EU deadline for Britain to make “satisfactory progress” on the issues of money, citizens’ rights and the border in order to trigger trade talks this month. She had hoped the meetings in Brussels with Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk would be the moment when trade talks would be unlocked, but Government sources were highly pessimistic about the prospect of a breakthrough, leaving the entire Brexit timetable in jeopardy.
Unemployment levels will fall to 44-year low next year, says CBI
Unemployment will fall to a fresh 44-year low in 2018 as companies hire enthusiastically, taking the jobless rate from 4.3pc now to 3.9pc next year – a level last seen in 1974. Pay growth should also start to edge up while inflation slips back, easing the strain on the cost of living. The forecasts from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) predict that economic growth will remain flat overall, however, at 1.5pc in 2017, 1.5pc in 2018 and 1.3pc in 2019. “Jobs are still being created, so the strong levels of employment will support consumption growth,” said Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI’s chief economist, adding that households are saving less to pay for some of that extra spending. Business investment growth is expected to slow over the coming year from 2.4pc in 2017 to 1.2pc in 2018 before recovering partially to 1.6pc in 2019. “Business investment growth has been disappointing – given how strongly the economy has been growing, you would expect it to be stronger,” she said.
Manufacturers to outperform wider UK economy as exports drive demand
Britain’s manufacturing sector will outperform the wider economy this year and next as surging export orders outweigh Brexit uncertainty at home. The prediction comes from manufacturing trade body EEF, after its quarterly survey found the sector in good health. The weak pound has contributed to a surge of interest from foreign customers as UK products are relatively cheaper, driving up orders and output. In the final quarter, EEF’s research found that output was stable at reading of +34pc, meaning more companies are reporting rises in production than declines. Total orders were at a reading of +30pc, seven percentage points lower than in the last quarter, but still at a level described by EEF as “very healthy” and coming off close to historic highs.
UK government warned over sharp rise in child and pensioner poverty
Hundreds of thousands of children and older people have been plunged into poverty in the past four years, according to a stark analysis laying bare the challenge to families trying to keep up with the cost of living in Britain. The research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found almost 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners in the UK were living in poverty last year compared with 2012-13, the first sustained increases in child and pensioner poverty for 20 years. The foundation warned that decades of progress were at risk of being unravelled amid weak wage growth and rising inflation.
Electric cars already cheaper to own and run than petrol or diesel – study
Electric cars are already cheaper to own and run than petrol or diesel cars in the UK, US and Japan, new research shows.
The lower cost is a key factor driving the rapid rise in electric car sales now underway, say the researchers. At the moment the cost is partly because of government support, but electric cars are expected to become the cheapest option without subsidies in a few years. The researchers analysed the total cost of ownership of cars over four years, including the purchase price and depreciation, fuel, insurance, taxation and maintenance. They were surprised to find that pure electric cars came out cheapest in all the markets they examined: UK, Japan, Texas and California. Pure electric cars have much lower fuel costs – electricity is cheaper than petrol or diesel – and maintenance costs, as the engines are simpler and help brake the car, saving on brake pads. In the UK, the annual cost was about 10% lower than for petrol or diesel cars in 2015, the latest year analysed.