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Consensus for this year suggests recovery secure and set to stay – Britain’s recovery is secure and will continue at a good pace in 2015 even if growth is likely to be a bit weaker than last year, economists have said in one of their most optimistic assessments since the financial crisis. Of the 90 economists surveyed, 77 thought that decent growth rates would endure another year with only 10 expecting a slowdown to a “disappointing pace of growth”. The responses to the 10th annual Financial Times survey of economists’ forecasts for the coming year are the most upbeat since before 2008.
CA takes tougher stance over company practices – The UK’s financial watchdog more than doubled the number of times it stepped in to alter company practices last year, making good on its pledge to be a more interventionist regulator by forcing businesses to change products and marketing. The Financial Conduct Authority made 31 early interventions – which are conducted without a long official investigation – in 2014.
New BMW chief in race to meet tech challenges – Harald Kruger, who is to take over as CEO of BMW in May, may find it challenging to ‘surprise on the upside’ because of the ‘rude health’ the company is already in. Intensifying competition, an ageing model range and a slowing of Chinese growth are all factors which may limit his ability to create growth in the company.
Chipmakers in the driving seat – There is a growing convergence of technology companies and carmakers in a bid to integrate smartphones and similar technology into the driving experience. One of the biggest problems faced by carmakers is retaining their individual brand identity, whilst utilising prevalent platforms such as iOS and Android.
Car that parks itself – and picks you up – When James Bond needed to leave a car park in a hurry in Tomorrow Never Dies, he summoned his BMW using a remote control, steering it through a fail of machinegun fire and leaping in through a window… at this week’s Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, BMW will demonstrate a car that can manoeuvre out of a car park without guidance at all.
Boost for families as petrol heads to £1 a litre – Petrol prices are heading to below £1 a litre for the first time since 2009 in a big pre-election boost for consumers. Plunging world oil prices coupled with a new supermarket price war is driving down pump prices, lowering inflation and leaving consumers with a cash windfall that is boosting economic growth. The average cost of a litre of petrol has dropped from 131.6p in July, when oil was $105 a barrel, to 112.6p a litre now, with oil at $57 a barrel. Competition between the leading supermarket chains is driving down costs further for some customers.
American makers record strong sales – American carmakers have reported strong sales for last month, boosted by falling petrol prices and a shift in the market to light trucks. General Motors reported an increase of 19 per cent on last year to sales of 274,483 vehicles, while Fiat Chrysler US sales rose 20 per cent to 193, 261. Ford missed expectations, increasing sales by just one per cent to 193,261. The industry as a whole enjoyed its best results since 2006.
Rolls-Royce considering move into SUV sector – Rolls-Royce sold more than 4,000 cars in a year for the first time, in what is a fifth year of record sales. Whilst announcing the sales milestone, chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos said by the end of the year the carmaker will reveal its decision on whether or not to begin production work on an SUV.
Key Government strategy in decline as apprenticeships fall – The number of people starting Government-backed apprenticeship schemes fell by almost 70,000 last year to the lowest number since the initiative was launched. Figures slipped out by the Department of Business shows that in the year April 440,000 people began apprenticeships – down from 510, 000 the year before. In particular the number of 19-24-year-olds starting an apprenticeship fell by more than 6,000 – despite generous incentives to employers to take part. The fall will embarrass ministers as the initiative has been a key part of Government strategy to reduce youth unemployment and promote on-the-job sills.
Driverless cars on the fast track to acceptance – The future of motoring will accelerate into view this year in Bristol, Coventry, Milton Keynes and the London borough of Greenwich. Driverless cars are to be tested in all those locations in trials that will put the UK at the forefront of automated vehicle technology. Government funding of £19m will allow three trials to take place; one in Bristol, one in Greenwich and one split between Coventry and Milton Keynes. The trials, lasting from 18 to 36 months, will test different aspects of self-driving technology. All will take place away from public roads, though each is aimed at making automated vehicles on Britain’s roads a reality.
BMW offers rebate to Chinese distributors – BMW has agreed to pay £538m to its Chinese distributors to offset a slowdown in the country’s car market. To meet sales targets, dealers have been forced to offer steep discounts, which BMW is now reimbursing to keep dealers onside.