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Audi AG’s profitability slipped in 2014 as the luxury-car division of Volkswagen AG invested in adding manufacturing capacity and developing new models like the revamped Q7 sport-utility vehicle. Operating profit narrowed to 9.6 percent of sales last year from 10.1 percent in 2013, Audi said Tuesday in a statement. The margin this year will be within the manufacturer’s 8 percent to 10 percent target corridor. “In 2014, we delivered more than promised,” Chief Executive Officer Rupert Stadler said at a press conference at Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany. “After a very positive start into the current business year, we’re targeting a new sales record.”
The number of new cars sold on dealer finance fell by 3% in January 2015 compared with the same month in 2014. But in the 12 months to January, volumes were up 11%, according to figures from the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA).
The percentage of private new car sales financed through dealerships by FLA members reached a new high of 76.2% in the twelve months to January 2015. Consumer used car finance volumes grew by 3% in January and by 12% in the twelve months to January 2015.
Geraldine Kilkelly, head of research and chief economist at the FLA, said: “Consumer new car finance volumes over the last twelve months grew at a faster rate than private new car sales, and so we saw a new record high for the market share of dealer car finance. “Despite the quiet start to 2015, we expect the consumer car finance market to grow in 2015 as a whole.”
Source: Motor Trader
A surge in demand for new cars means that the days of handing out big discounts are numbered, according to What Car?.
Car manufacturers have been known to offer discounts of up to 20% or more, but new car sales hitting a 10-year high in 2014 has resulted in car makers and dealers slashing the savings on offer to customers.
What Car?’s data shows that the average discount achievable at the end of February was 9.4%, compared with 10.3% six months ago.
What Car? editor Jim Holder said: “We have always encouraged buyers to haggle to get a good deal, but buyers should be aware that it’s going to become much harder to come away with a substantial discount in the coming months.
“There are still some sectors, such as executive and luxury cars, where a good deal can be negotiated, but the signs from some of the most popular segments of the market show that manufacturers are starting to stand firmer on their prices.
“We’ll undoubtedly see customers weaned off generous buyer incentives as dealers become emboldened by continued strong demand.”
The largest reductions are negotiable on executive, luxury and open top models, which have actually seen month-on-month average discounts increase by 0.7%.
Volvo is the UK’s biggest discounter, offering an average of 14.7% off its models, followed by Renault (13.6%) and BMW (13.2%).
62% of respondents to a survey from Venson said they be happy to sit-back and let their company car do the driving.
The UK has begun with trials in Bristol, Greenwich, Coventry and Milton Keynes, which will look at different aspects of driverless cars, from insurance implications, to public perception.
According to Venson’s survey, respondents see convenience, freedom to work during journeys, better safety and shift of responsibility for accidents, as the main benefits of driverless cars for work. Surprisingly, only 55% of respondents think driverless cars will actually reduce road traffic accidents.
“Far from the preserve of science fiction, driverless technology is here and the industry is expected to grow considerably over the next 10 years,” said Samantha Roff, managing director for Venson Automotive Services.
“Our survey shows that company car drivers would be open to the idea of a driverless car. However, it’s interesting to note that our respondents don’t think driverless technology will reduce road traffic accidents significantly.
“With trials set to go ahead in the UK, vehicles driven by computers could soon be a reality and many people are keen to embrace this technology and its benefits.”
Andeva Underwriting Agency has launched Fuel Protect, a £20 a year insurance product which aims to address the risk of mis-fuelling incidents.
The company says this substantially minimises both costs and consequences.
It is estimated that around 150,000 people every year put the wrong kind of fuel in their cars.
“This new product is designed to address the reality of thousands of breakdowns on UK roads for £20 a year, per vehicle,” said Rachel Harris, managing director of Andeva Underwriting Agency.
She said Fuel Protect-insured motorists enjoy peace of mind as Andeva Underwriting Agency has chosen Auto Fuel Fix’s specialists to attend the scene, drain the contaminated fuel and ensure that the vehicle can be restarted to continue its journey with minimum inconvenience, waiting time, costs and further damage.
If the vehicle cannot be restarted, it is recovered to a repair garage at no charge (if within a 30-mile radius).
“The alternative, of course, is to pay for a costly recovery service, garage repair fees, having one’s vehicle off the road for a few days, and a final bill for anything between £3,000 and £5,000,” added Harris.
A new internet-based MOT testing system is to replace existing MOT computers and Vehicle Testing Station (VTS) devices this year, with the first garages switching over to the new system as early as next month.
The switchover, which will take place between April and September, will require Test Stations to have IT equipment that meets the minimum requirements set out in the government’s MOT Modernisation guidance.
Garages will be contacted by the DVSA with a date of transition and the system is likely to go live overnight.
The new MOT test system will enable examiners to enter test results using a desktop in the office or, rather more conveniently, in the test bay using a laptop or tablet.
It’s been reported to be an easy to use system that will bring the MOT test into the digital age with greater flexibility and functionality, making information readily available for the Authorised Examiner (AE).
Chris Price, DVSA Testing Product Owner, said: “There shouldn’t be any need to look at a manual or a user guide. The system leads you by the hand, right from the start to the finish.”
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has today launched a nationwide campaign to challenge what it calls the “increasing demonisation of diesel” as a fuel for cars.
The organisation has joined forces with major car makers includingBMW, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen to “set the record straight on diesel cars” in light of “widespread confusion” over pollutants emitted by diesel engines.
Diesel was once championed by policy makers for being the most efficient fuel type, but there has been a dramatic about-turn in recent months, with nitrogen oxides and other particulates produced by older diesel engines being blamed for respiratory-related health problems.
“Today’s diesel engines are the cleanest ever, and the culmination of billions of pounds of investment by manufacturers to improve air quality,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “Bans and parking taxes on diesel vehicles therefore make no sense from an environmental point of view.
“We need to avoid penalising one vehicle technology over another and instead encourage the uptake of the latest low-emission vehicles by consumers. The allegations against diesel cars made in recent months threaten to misguide policy making and undermine public confidence.”
A poll by YouGov indicated a startling lack of knowledge over the efforts made by the motor industry to improve the cleanliness of diesel engines. Just under one in five of those surveyed correctly indentified that power stations, and not diesel cars, are the biggest contributor of nitrogen oxides.
Almost three quarters of motorists surveyed were against penalties for the UK’s cleanest diesel engines, while 87% of respondents were unaware of the latest Euro 6 regulation-compliant vehicle emission technology.
More information about the SMMT’s new ‘Diesel Facts’ campaign can be found at dieselfacts.co.uk or via a leaflet distributed at car dealers.
Hyundai Motor Co. plans to expand its U.S. factory, three people familiar with the matter said, hoping to ramp up production of SUVs as lower oil prices boost demand for trucks. Sales of the South Korean automaker’s sedans such as the Elantra and Sonata are slowing in the U.S. as consumers take advantage of lower fuel prices to switch to bigger, less fuel-efficient SUVs and crossovers. “It’s a new assembly line right next to the current Alabama line. State of Alabama is negotiating final terms,” one of the sources said, referring to the company’s planned new production facility. A Hyundai spokesman said there were “no plans at this stage” to increase capacity in the United States.
Fleetmatics has launched a new free e-book which breaks down the process of introducing GPS fleet tracking into five steps.
The e-book explains how sharing the company’s plans with its employees can be key to successfully introducing the new system. Initial resistance by the workforce towards the new system can be driven by misconceptions as some employees can be unfamiliar with the technology and its purpose.
As suggested in the guide How to Manage Change by the UK’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), careful communication can facilitate the introduction process.
Once staff understands how the implemented change can help support a successful and sustainable future for the company and for them, they can be more likely to support it, according to ACAS.
The GPS tracking system enables organisations to gain a more accurate insight into the movements of their fleet and this information can be used to improve workforce management, gain greater efficiency, reduce environmental impact, increase productivity and use resources more effectively. Some of these benefits are directly transferable to staff.
For example, after the installation of the monitoring system, many Fleetmatics customers report that their employees benefit from a reduced amount of paperwork, more evenly shared workload and fewer delays with less unwanted overtime.
Almost a third of motorists do not know what to do when they see a ‘red X’ sign displayed, a survey suggests.
The Highways Agency asked 4,156 people in its National Road User Survey about the red X sign; 68% understood that a red X means the lane beneath the sign is closed, but only around one in twelve said they would stop if they saw a red X.
The survey also showed that a significant number of drivers do not understand the legal implications of driving through a red X. More than one-third (39%) said they did not know it was against the law.
The design of smart motorways includes controlled lanes, – sections of motorway where the hard shoulder is open to traffic at peak times, during congestion, or where it is fully converted to a permanent running lane. The first smart motorway came into operation on the M42 between junctions 4 and 7 in 2006.
Jamie Hassall, Highways Agency national enforcement coordinator, said: “It is pretty simple: if you see a red X, don’t drive in that lane.
MG is looking for 30 new dealers to fill key open points created by the brand’s growing popularity.
Last year MG was the fastest growing brand in Britain with a sales increase of 361% – more than 38 times greater than the industry average.
Now demand for MGs across the country is out-stripping the number of dealers in the network. So the firm’s franchise development team has created a ‘hot spot’ list of key cities and towns where MG dealers are urgently needed.
The ‘hot spots’ include:
MG’s head of sales Sam Burton said: “We urgently need good quality dealers to represent MG in a number of key open points where we know demand for our cars is amazingly high, and growing on a daily basis.
“We’ve established a dealer task force and its job is to find the right people to become MG dealers in these key towns and cities. It’s a high priority job for us now and will offer a great opportunity for the dealers we appoint.”
The Department for Transport has announced that 140 plug-in vehicles will be joining the Government fleet across 15 departments.
The DfT said the additions are part of a £5 million investment to reduce emissions. The fleets include cars and vans used by the Government when transporting staff and equipment.
The Government Car Service which provides cars for ministers will also adopt four ULEVs.
A DfT spokesman said: “The most common cars include a number of Priuses, Nissan Leafs and Mitshubishi Outlanders. The rollout also includes a few Kia Soul and Volvo V60 hybrid and others.”
The announcement is the first phase of a project designed to illustrate the effectiveness of the vehicles and to encourage fleets to take up ULEV vehicles.
Part of the investment will be used to fund take-up by the wider public sector – including the NHS, police forces and local councils – and pay for charging points so the vehicles can be charged while at work.
“This is an important step. These cars will save taxpayers money on running costs and will bring low emissions benefits to our fleet,” said transport minister, Baroness Kramer.
“Today’s announcement proves that Britain is leading the electric charge while supporting the growth of this important industry,” said Kramer.
Competition in the burgeoning vehicle remapping market is set to intensify after the co-founder of leading provider Viezu Technologies won several contracts after launching a rival business.
Jason Heitmann, who built his career in engine retuning, after spending eight years working for the Porsche racing GT team, spent more than five years as co-founder and technical director of Viezu Technologies.
In 2012, Viezu became the world’s leading provider to fleets, with more than 30,000 tunings in that year alone. It hit the headlines in the UK in 2013, when it won a major contract with BT Fleet, which involved remapping the ECU in engines powering 24,000 of BT’s commercial vehicles.
As a result, BT is saving £4 million a year on its fuel bill with a carbon footprint reduction of up to 25,000 tonnes.
However, Heitmann left Viezu to launch his own tuning company in December 2013 and has recently won a major contract in America to remap a fleet of more than 35,000 vehicles. He is optimistic of winning a further deal to work on the company’s UK fleet of 8,000 commercial vehicles.
It is the largest contract that Warwickshire-based Heitmann Technologies has won to date.
The company is also undertaking a pilot project on 61 vehicles for a construction company, which is experiencing fuel savings averaging 9.3% with CO2 reductions of 15-20%.
Tadea is offering a free half day driver training package to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) based in the North East.
In partnership with Teesside University, the simulator-based training will cover three EAL accredited units in hazard perception, fuel efficiency and tired driving.
Drivers will learn techniques to minimise fuel consumption, and the risks of potential and developing hazards on the road.
Gordon Pattie, manager at Effective Transport Solutions, said: “This is a great opportunity for SMEs across the region. Effective fuel efficiency training has been shown to cut fleet fuel costs by up to 10 per cent. And these packages are being offered for free.
Not only that, but the data which will be generated as a result of this programme will help to further our understanding of fuel efficient motoring and the part effective training can play in driver education.
That will help to protect not just the region’s businesses, but also the environment too.”
Erica Royle, from Fires and Fireplaces, said: “On the way to Tadea’s Effective Transport Solutions I managed an average of 41 mpg. Using the techniques I’d been shown in my training, this went up to 53 mpg on my journey home.
When you look at my 12,000 mile a year average, and if I achieve the same average savings, my fuel costs will be reduced by £328 per year, the equivalent of 22.6%.”
Car dealers are being urged not to sacrifice tends of thousands pounds in rating refunds and savings.
The warning comes from Robert Brown, partner and head of rating services at national property consultancy and chartered surveyor Sanderson Weatherall.
Brown said: “The rates that businesses pay on their premises are linked to valuations which have previously changed every five years. The last
such review took effect in April 2010, but the Government announced a couple of years ago that the revaluation expected to happen this year would be postponed until 2017.
“Then last December, the Government said if businesses lodged appeals against rateable values on or after April 1 this year, a successful reduction in valuation would mean payment reductions only applying for the two years between that date and the end of March 2017. In other words, refunds and savings would no longer be backdated for the full period since the last revaluation took effect, which has been the practice until now.”
Brown said the Government was therefore hitting businesses with a “double-whammy”.
Firstly, it had postponed reviewing rateable values which, in many cases, were punitively high, compared to current rental values. Now, it was preventing businesses from reclaiming five years’ worth of over-payments which their successful appeals would have officially confirmed were excessive.
Starting in September, the new recruits will spend the first year full-time at Gateshead College, spending increasing amounts of time in the plant over the following four years. Once apprentices have completed their training, they’ll be responsible for keeping Nissan’s production line running smoothly 24 hours a day.
As well as in-house training, apprentices will receive a number of nationally recognised qualifications, including an extended certificate in Engineering, a HNC, as well as engineering NVQs.
Nissan currently has 187 apprentices on its books covering all areas of the business from the shop floor to the offices.
Managing director Kevin Fitzpatrick started his career through an apprenticeship, he said: “We will recruit at least 25 new maintenance technician apprentices. By the time our latest recruits serve their time they’ll have the practical skills and academic qualifications they need to succeed in the automotive industry and they will understand exactly what’s needed to keep Britain’s biggest car plant running smoothly.
“Apprenticeships have been critical to Nissan’s success in the UK, and I’d encourage firms of all shapes and sizes to look at them as a way of growing their business.”
Apprentice of the year last year, Stephen Bambrough (pictured), said: “I studied engineering at school and was considering going to University when the opportunity came up to become an apprentice at Nissan. I really enjoyed the practical side and was attracted to maintenance because it is much more hands than engineering.
“I’d definitely recommend an apprenticeship, I got paid while I was learning and now I’ve got the confidence that comes with four years’ experience with Nissan as well as my qualifications. It has been a great way to start my career.”
MyCarCheck, a consumer vehicle data provider, has reported that 32% of the finance checks it conducted in February 2015 flagged up potentially major issues.
To underline the increasing importance of finance checks, MyCarCheck has compiled a list of current used car scams, the most common scams including asset fraud, sub-hiring, deposit fraud, hire car scam, escrow fraud and swap scam.
Roger Powell, head of CDL vehicle information services, which owns MyCarCheck, said, ‘This is a busy time of year in the used car market as the new number plate launch on 1 March boosts sales activity. When buying a secondhand car it is important to be aware of the risks. Many vehicles offered for sale will have a far from perfect history. Others will be outright crooked.
‘As well as confirming if a car has been written-off or stolen, a major part of our business these days is checking whether a vehicle is clear of debt. Thirty two per cent of all finance checks conducted by our Glasgow call centre during February flagged up potentially major issues, usually outstanding finance secured against the vehicle. Of the 30 million cars on our roads, around a quarter are on finance, so this apparently shocking figure is no great surprise.’
The number of fleets using short-term rental vehicles has risen, and is expected to increase again in 2015, according to top 10 leasing company GE Capital.
Research from the firm’s quarterly Company Car Trends report, showed that 38% of fleet decision makers said they spent more on rental in 2014 than in previous years, while 41% said they are expecting that trend to continue this year.
More than three quarters (76%) of van fleet managers said their rental spend has risen in 2014, while 48% believe they will spend more in 2015.
“What we believe we are seeing here is a hangover from the recession. Fleets are facing increasing demand as the economy starts to show signs of improvement,” said Gary Killeen, managing director of GE Capital UK. “Fleets want to be able to retain the flexibility to hand back a vehicle at any point in time in the eventuality that we see another downturn. It is an understandable attitude.”
“Unfortunately it makes little sense from a financial point of view. Daily rental is very much a top-up to your standard fleet needs rather than a long term solution and using it as an ongoing method of fleet provision is very expensive. That flexibility comes at a high price.”