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UK car production slumps for 12th month running

Nissan Qashqai car production in SunderlandOutput from British car factories fell 15.5 percent in May 2019, meaning UK automotive manufacturing has now declined for a full year without break.

Over 21,000 fewer cars left UK car factories during May, with exports down 12.6 percent and British cars for British buyers falling by over a quarter.

So far in 2019, car production in the UK is down 21 percent, to 1,370,961 cars. This is the lowest running total for six years.

UK car output rolling year totals: May 2013-2019

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the latest figures were proof of the importance of securing a Brexit deal without delay.

Exports account for over 8 in 10 UK-made cars, and most cars are sent to Europe.

“12 consecutive months of decline for UK car manufacturing is a serious concern,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“The sector is facing multiple seismic challenges simultaneously: technological, environmental and economic.

“The ongoing political instability and uncertainty over our future overseas trade relationships, most notably with Europe, is not helping… a brighter future is only possible if we secure a deal that can help us regain our reputation as an attractive location for automotive investment.

No deal is not an option.”

So far in 2019, almost 150,000 cars have been built in Britain, compared to 2018.

Genesis luxury brand launches in Australia

Hyundai’s luxury Genesis brand launches in Australia

Genesis luxury brand launches in AustraliaA flagship store in the heart of Sydney’s central marked the start of Hyundai’s luxury Genesis brand in Australia with strong intentions. 

The launch is part of plans to push the upmarket name to more locations. Genesis models are currently only sold in selected areas, and Australia becomes the first market to receive cars in right-hand drive. 

A pair of saloons are the first models on sale, but Hyundai has ambitious plans for the Genesis label, with more cars to follow.

Premium lifestyle experience

Genesis luxury brand launches in AustraliaThe roll-out of Genesis in Australia more resembles the launch of a technology brand, rather than a traditional car company. 

Somewhat ironically, the Genesis store is located on the pedestrianised Pitt Street Mall in the centre of Sydney. A giant spiral staircase is surrounded by a showpiece curved LED screen, hoping to maintain the premium experience. 

Although potential customers can meet with Genesis Experience Executives in store, the company aims to make the car buying process even easier through online sales. 

Buyers can have a car to test drive brought directly to their home, configure and order a car online, and have their new Genesis handed over at a convenient location. Servicing and maintenance is also handled by a concierge service. 

Sporty or luxurious?

Genesis luxury brand launches in AustraliaKicking off the right-hand drive Genesis range in Australia is the G70 sports saloon. Designed to compete with the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the G70 collected the prize for 2019 North American Car of the Year

Related to the popular Kia Stinger, the G70 is offered in both rear- and all-wheel drive formats. A 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is standard, with the option of  a more powerful 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 available.

Also hitting showrooms is the larger Genesis G80 saloon. Offered with a 3.8-litre V6 engine, Australian buyers are currently denied the more powerful 5.0-litre V8 version of the G80 sold in other markets. 

Intended to be a refined executive four-door, the G80 includes features like LED headlights, a 17-speaker audio system, and an Australian-market tuned adaptive suspension system.

Just the beginning

Genesis luxury brand launches in AustraliaBoth the G70 and G80 come with a five-year/unlimited mileage warranty, combined with five years of servicing and roadside assistance as standard. Drivers also get updates to sat nav maps for five years, too. 

Opening the flagship Sydney Studio, Executive Vice President, Global Head of the Genesis Brand, Manfred Fitzgerald noted that the store “ushers in a new exclusive way to buy and own a luxury car, providing customers with all-encompassing premium ownership experience”.

The company has also confirmed that an SUV model will join the Genesis range in Australia by 2020. 

Auction winner collects first 2020 Toyota Supra

Charity auction winner collects first 2020 Toyota GR Supra

Auction winner collects first 2020 Toyota SupraThe winning bidder for the very first 2020 Toyota GR Supra to leave the production line has now taken delivery of his special car. 

John Staluppi, President and CEO of the Auto Atlantic Group of dealerships, plus an avid car collector, has had to wait six long months

Staluppi’s winning bid of $2.1 million (£1.55 million) was enough to secure the car at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction back in January. 

Auction winner collects first 2020 Toyota SupraAlthough the $2.1 million figure may be enough to buy 42 regular production GR Supras, the car Staluppi now has is rather special. 

It wears a VIN which ends in ‘20201’ to denote that it was the first fifth-generation Supra to be built for the 2020 model year. 

‘Global Supra #1’ also wears special matte exterior paint, combined with red door mirror caps and a set of gloss black alloy wheels. A red interior is also part of the package.

Auction winner collects first 2020 Toyota SupraStaluppi also collected a variety of other special items along with the first GR Supra. Bob Carter, Toyota executive vice president of sales, presented Staluppi with his new car and his accompanying goodies. 

These included a custom-created Toyota race suit, a VIP track day experience, and a photo signed by Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda. The engine cover of the GR Supra was also signed by Toyoda-san. 

Most important of all in the process was the money raised for charity. Proceeds from the $2.1 million hammer price will be split between the American Heart Foundation, along with the Bob Woodruff Foundation. 

Volvo and Lotus at Bicester Heritage

Opinion: Why Volvo is so exciting for Lotus

Volvo and Lotus at Bicester HeritageJust a few years ago, Volvo was a minor player in the premium car sector. Its biggest hit, the XC90 large SUV, was ageing badly, and other models such as the S60 and V70 were off the pace.

Even its best-selling car, the XC60 mid-size SUV, was ready for replacement, while its newest model, the V40, was basically a Ford Focus in drag.

Today, Volvo is a different company.

It started with the all-new XC90, a radical reinvention that took everyone by surprise and set the template for everything since.

The XC90 was stylish, sophisticated and a quantum leap on in terms of quality and ability – suddenly a fierce rival to alternatives from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Hit after hit has followed: the S90 and V90, XC60, XC40, S60 and V60. Volvo has replaced almost its entire model range, with only the V40 waiting for reinvention.

We’re promised a surprise there, too.

The Geely magic

Volvo and Lotus at Bicester Heritage

What’s behind all this? Ford’s decision to sell Volvo for $1.6 billion in 2010, to a company then relatively unknown in the west, but a giant in China: Geely.

Geely gave Volvo serious financial backing, scrutinised its development plans, but then seemed happy to oversee things from afar. Geely didn’t interfere and Volvo has thrived.

The Geely magic has since benefited another company on its knees: the London Taxi International.

Geely rescued it, renamed it the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), and funded development of a plug-in hybrid taxi that London cabbies, a notoriously tough audience to please, are raving about.

LEVC is now planning to do the same in the commercial vehicle sector with a plug-in hybrid van

It seems, if Geely commits to a company, it’s sure to prosper. 

Lotus sunbeam

Volvo and Lotus at Bicester Heritage

And the latest company set to demonstrate the Geely magic? Lotus. Next month, it will reveal a brand new £1 million-plus electric hypercar.

Next year, it will start replacing its current dated (albeit still brilliant) sports cars. It is even likely to make an SUV (although the company has yet to confirm this).

I visited Lotus this week, to drive some of its current cars. The mood amongst the team? Buoyant. It is already seeing what Geely is bringing to the firm, and can’t wait to start talking about new products.

As I drove home in a Volvo test car – the excellent new S60, a convincing BMW 3 Series rival at last – I got it, too.

Watch Lotus with interest: it’s getting ready to do a Volvo.

Decline of diesel continues as second-hand sales fall

Diesel doldrums coming to second-hand market

For all its bad press over the past couple of years, and the rise in popularity of petrol-powered cars, diesel has stayed strong in the second-hand market. Until now, that is.

Data from Glass’s suggests that second-hand buyers are ducking out of diesel cars. Diesel and petrol were more or less equal when it came to auction sales performance, and remained so all the way up to the third quarter of 2018. Then the diesel slump began, albeit only by a few percent at first.

As petrol began to climb at the beginning of 2019, diesel’s started to trail further. By the beginning of April 2019, the gap was more than five percent.

Diesel sales down at car auctions

Diesel doldrums coming to second-hand market

Between September 2018 and May 2019, diesel went from the best performing fuel type at auctions (beating hybrid and petrol) to the worst. In September, the number of buyers converting a car viewing to a sale was between 85 and 90 percent, with petrol and hybrid closer to 80 percent.

Fast-forward to May and the entire market is down, with conversion rates languishing at less than 75 percent. The difference, though, is that diesel is down to 65 percent: a near-25 percent drop in eight months.

By comparison, hybrids remained more or less steady, before dropping to just over 70 percent. Petrol isn’t far behind.

Is diesel on the way out?

Diesel doldrums coming to second-hand market

The decline of diesel is well documented. We reported that diesel’s market share in the new car market was well below 30 percent in May. And it has been dropping for 26 consecutive months. That’s how long it would seem the second-hand market has taken to catch up, but the writing appears to be on the wall.

It must be considered, however, that new car sales from three years ago don’t necessarily reflect the demands of today’s second-hand buyers. Supply could now be outstripping demand.

Nevertheless, with diesel in the doldrums everywhere else, it’s easy to infer the same is happening now in the used car market.

Scandi thug: armoured Volvo XC90 released

Armoured Volvo XC90

Volvo has unveiled a new armoured version of its XC90 SUV, designed to meet a growing global market for armoured vehicles. It’s VPAM VR8 rated, which makes it one of the toughest armoured car-based vehicles on the road. Armoured Volvo deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2020.

VPAM VR8 – what makes the XC90 Armoured (heavy)

Armoured Volvo XC90

This rating mandates 360-degree ballistic and explosive resistance. To create the armoured XC90, a T6 AWD variant is sent to TRASCO Bremen GmbH in Germany, where high-strength 10mm steel armour is applied. 50mm glass joins it, along with upgraded suspension and brakes.

The suspension and brakes are uprated to deal with an extra 1,400kg. In total, it weighs a hefty 4,490kg.

“The XC90 Armoured (heavy) with VR8 protection rating enables us to offer a car that provides a high level of protection while retaining the car’s fundamental properties,” says Stephan Green, marketing director at Volvo Cars Special Vehicles.

Armoured Volvo XC90

“Production is carried out with extreme diligence, which is imperative in order to fulfil the exceptionally high requirements placed on this class of security product. We strive to ensure that the car retains its properties despite the extensive armouring.

“The armour is fitted discreetly to make the car barely distinguishable from a standard XC90. Every customer also has their own unique requirements, which we satisfy by means of customised production.

“Potential customers include security services who would use the car to transport high-profile individuals.”

Lighter bite: Less hardcore armoured Volvos

Armoured Volvo XC90

If your demands aren’t quite as rigorous, there is the XC90 (or XC60) Armoured (light). These cars are geared more towards protection against handguns.

They’re intended for Latin American and European markets. Overall they weigh just 250kg more than the standard cars, but feature upgraded brakes and suspension.

“We are proud to be able to offer these armoured cars. With our armoured cars, we can provide vehicles with a high level of personal security for individuals who require heightened protection.”

How to safely drive when you take hay fever medicine

Advice for drivers with hay fever

For hay fever sufferers, the forecast for hot and sunny weather is a double-edged sword, because the pollen count is likely to be very high.

At best, hayfever is a summer irritant that sufferers could do without, but it can also mean the difference between staying indoors or going outside. For drivers, the issues extend to more than just sniffing and sneezing behind the wheel.

Which is why road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist is urging motorists who take hay fever remedies to check their medicines carefully before getting driving.

GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said: “Some medicines, including those used to treat hay fever, can have an effect on your ability to drive safely. They could make you tired, dizzy or groggy, and they can compromise your vision and reaction time.

“That’s why it’s so important to check with your GP or pharmacist, and to read any warnings contained on the labels of the medicines you plan to take.

“The same road traffic laws apply to therapeutic drugs as to illicit substances, so if your driving is impaired and you cause a collision, you risk prosecution and the loss of your licence.”

Advice for hay fever sufferers

Hay fever behind the wheel

GEM has issued a safety checklist for drivers who take hay fever medicine, and the advice can be summarised as follows:

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if a medicine could affect your ability to drive. Be particularly careful if you are using a medicine for the first time.
  • If you experience potentially dangerous side effects from a medicine, don’t drive. Organise a taxi or a lift from a friend if you need to travel.
  • If you find a particular medicine is making you sleepy, consider asking if there is a non-sedating alternative available.
  • It’s not just prescription medicines that can cause drowsiness and other potentially dangerous side-effects. So, check with your pharmacist if you plan to use an over-the-counter drug.
  • If you’re unsure about the warning given on the medicine you’re using, ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any risks before you drive anywhere.

Last summer, a study by Confused.com found that 58 percent of drivers who suffer from hay fever said they had driven a car shortly after taking medication, even though many remedies can impair performance behind the wheel.

A worrying 10 percent said that had noticed adverse effects of taking prescription drugs.

It is illegal to drive if you’re unfit to do so because you’re on legal or illegal drugs, or you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood. 

Over-the-counter medication is covered by the same drug-driving laws as illegal substances such as cocaine and cannabis, so drivers are advised to consult the government website for a list of prescription medicines affected by the legislation.

‘Check the medication thoroughly’

Pollen season ahead for drivers

Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards at IAM RoadSmart, warned: “If you are stopped by the police after taking a hay fever remedy and driving whilst impaired you could find yourself falling foul of drug driving regulations.

“Be sure to check the medication thoroughly and see if it is suitable. But most importantly, concentrate on your route to recovery so you can get back onto the road sooner rather than later.”

IAM RoadSmart has the following advice for hay fever sufferers:

  • Ensure your car is clean and dust free and that you operate the air conditioning or ventilation to your advantage. lt’s important that you change your pollen filter regularly.
  • For anyone who hasn’t been diagnosed with hay fever and is feeling under the weather, avoid driving and arrange to see your GP.
  • While over-the-counter medicines will help with a runny nose and sneezing symptoms, they can also blur vision and make you feel drowsy – ask your GP for the best course of action.
  • Your GP may advise you to take anti-histamines, but make sure you take the non-drowsy ones. If you’re unsure, read the leaflet or speak to your pharmacy.
  • If you need to get somewhere but don’t feel well enough to drive, ask somebody else. Whatever you do, don’t take yourself: you may just end up sneezing and travelling up to 50ft with your eyes closed and losing control of your vehicle.

If in doubt, talk to your pharmacist and always read the label.

BPMe loyalty scheme replaces Nectar points

BPme replaces Nectar loyalty scheme

BP has ended its partnership with Nectar, meaning you’ll no longer be able to collect loyalty points when you fill up at one of its 1,200 forecourts.

Instead, BP has launched its own customer scheme called BPme Rewards. But Nectar fans need not worry, because the loyalty programme is now available at participating Esso sites. Customers will earn one Nectar point for every litre of Esso fuel, or two for every pound spent in the shop.

BP customers can no longer receive or redeem Nectar points. Having downloaded a BPMe app, customers now earn one point for every litre of fuel, two points for Ultimate fuel, and one point for every pound spent in the shop or the car wash.

The process will be familiar to Nectar customers, with 200 points equating to a £1 off fuel, although points can be exchanged for products or gift vouchers. You’ll receive 250 points just for registering a BPme card.

Points mean prizes

BP ends partnership with Nectar

Amazon and M&S gift cards are available, along with a bewildering array of products from the gift catalogue. Collect 2,300 points for a Disney Princess Cinderella, or 1,690 for a motorised construction vehicle.

Alternatively, you can add cash to the mix to reduce the number of points required for a gift. For example, a thermal mug will set you back £4.80 plus 545 points, if you’re not prepared to wait until you’ve collected 1,360 points.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, a Black & Decker drill is worth 8,170 points or 3,265 points plus £26.50.

The BPme app can also be used to pay for fuel, to manage your receipts and to find the nearest BP forecourt.

A BP spokesperson said: “We had participated with Nectar for a number of years. 

“With BPMe Rewards we took the opportunity to develop our own loyalty scheme that allows our customers to both earn and spend rewards in our stores and with selected partners.”

You can find your nearest BP forecourt here, with the app available from the App Store or Google Play. Click here for more information on the Nectar and Esso partnership.

Chevrolet could kill its Camaro muscle car in 2023

Chevrolet Camaro could die in 2023

Chevrolet could end production of its iconic Camaro muscle car in 2023.

Although the Camaro is much-loved by fans, poor sales may force the American marque to cross a seventh-generation car off the development docket.

Anonymous sources inside GM told Muscle Cars & Trucks that development of a seventh-generation car has been ‘suspended’.

Chevrolet Camaro could die in 2023

The rumours come despite the fact that an updated Alpha platform is ready (under the skin of the newly-revealed Cadillac CT4 and CT5) and could form the basis of a new Camaro.

If the Camaro name is indeed ‘likely to be shelved’ in 2023, it won’t be the first time. There was an eight-year production gap between the fourth- and fifth-generation cars.

The former, known by enthusiasts as the last ‘F body’, died in 2002. A new-generation car was teased by a retro concept that appeared in the Transformers film in 2007, with the production version following in 2009.

Chevrolet Camaro could die in 2023

GM had fallen on very hard times at that point, but the Camaro brought some welcome good news. The hype around Transformers and excitement for the return of a classic nameplate with retro looks and monster performance fuelled a sales boom.

Chevy regularly shifted more than 80,000 units a year during fifth-gen Camaro production. The sixth-generation car, which debuted in 2015, hasn’t done so well. Last year just 51,000 Camaros were sold, down on the previous year’s near-68,000 figure.

Why isn’t the Camaro selling?

Chevrolet Camaro could die in 2023

The gen-six, while a good performance machine, doesn’t have the viability of a proper pony car. It’s got the V8 and the handling, but it’s not very practical, difficult to see out of and, in SS V8 form, quite expensive.

Then there is the styling. It was a polarising thing on release, if not offensive-looking. The recent facelift, though, has to be one of the worst received in the entire history of the car.

Apart from that, perhaps people have had their fill. Retro styling is very familiar now, and the new car made a slightly odd go of further modernisation.

Chevrolet muscle car could die in 2023

Then again, the success of Dodge’s Challenger – a car as old as the hills – says otherwise. It has retained a very old-school and simple bravado, while the Camaro (and to a lesser extent, the Ford Mustang), have become a bit fussy. Plus, it’s the powerhouse poster car where 707hp is third-best.

Whatever happens, if it happens, we’ll be sad if the Camaro goes. Not that we got it officially in the UK anyway…

New ‘hide and crash’ fraud tactics on the rise

Crash for cash motor fraud

Fraudsters are employing a new tactic in their pursuit of a quick – and dangerous – buck, warns claims expert AX. 

‘Hide and crash’ involves the criminal’s car hiding in your blind-spot, then accelerating abruptly, swerving in and slamming on the brakes.

Their aim is to get you to crash into the back of them. Generally speaking, it’s always the person behind who’s considered at fault, hence the fraudsters’ focus.

Crash for cash motor fraud

“This new tactic is a dangerous progression of the existing ‘slam on’ approach,” explains Neil Thomas, director of investigative services at AX.

“Criminals can take cover in a driver’s blind-spot, wait for the ideal moment, then accelerate and move into their pathway before slamming on the brakes.”

The top five tactics to induce accidents

Motor fraud costs drivers and insurers £340 million every year. Hide and crash is, in fact, an evolution of existing tactics used by criminals to put themselves at the blameless end of a smash.

These are the top five tricks to be aware of:

1. ‘Slam on’

This is exactly how it sounds. There’s no swerving and no hiding: just a needless application of the brakes to catch you out. Some drivers do so without the intention of causing a crash, to make you give them space.

2. Flash for crash

This involves someone flashing to let you out, only for them to accelerate and hit you. Because you’re being let out, it’s the other driver’s right of way, and therefore technically not his or her fault.

3. Crash for ready cash

This involves employing any of these tactics and more and then asking for cash to fix their car

4. Hide and crash

Hiding in the driver’s blind-spot, then accelerating, swerving in front and braking hard.

5. Hire and crash

The fraudster hires a car and stages an accident with a friend.

Where is most at risk for motor fraud?

Crash for cash motor fraud

Anywhere where you might find yourself encroaching on another driver’s right of way is a risk. This includes most roundabouts, especially those without CCTV, traffic lights and side road turnings.

Motorways, particularly when they’re busy, are popular for traditional ‘slam on’ tactics. This takes advantage of the automatic presumption of fault and the high speeds on motorways. It’s also hidden in the hustle and bustle.

Protecting yourself against fraudulent crashes

crashes 30mph

Dash cams can be a huge ally in the fight against motor fraud.

Double-check every move you make, especially when being ‘let out’. If you take your time, someone who is genuinely letting you out might move on. A fraudster could well linger, frustratedly gesturing for you to go.

Watch for passengers in the car in front of you looking back, too. This can be a sign that they’re getting ready for a ‘slam on’.