Van drivers are paying £600k a year in loading bay fines

Volkswagen parking bay fines

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is highlighting the parking fine plight facing the UK’s van drivers. Over the past three years, fines administered have added up to £1.7million.

Where are they getting these fines? Loading bays…

Volkswagen parking bay fines

That adds up to around £600,000 a year. Councils have issued around 13,000 parking fines a year since 2015 and the number of fines administered has risen by around 10 percent year-on-year.

Interestingly, around 23 percent of appeals against penalty charge notices for incorrect loading bay use were successful. Volkswagen believes there is palpable confusion around the rules of loading bays.

The rules of loading bay parking

Volkswagen parking bay fines

  • Loading bays are designed to do exactly what it says on the sign. That’s to say, they’re for collecting pre-ordered goods, or dropping off goods that require a vehicle to transport them.
  • Unattended vehicles need to have hazard lights turned on, to make it clear that they’re being loaded or unloaded.
  • Crucially, a loading bay should never be used as a way station to wait in while parking frees up.
  • Time restrictions also apply to almost every loading bay. Make sure to operate in accordance with these.

Volkswagen parking bay fines

“As this research reveals, PCNs are costing businesses thousands of pounds a year,” said Sarah Cox, head of marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

“In fact, they can be avoided completely if you understand the rules correctly. Loading bays are an essential part of the red route network as they allow businesses to access central locations to make and receive important deliveries. As the rules change between councils, it is crucial that you check before you park.”

August bank holiday: the roads to avoid

August bank holiday 2019 traffic

It’s the August bank holiday weekend and that means one thing for Britain’s motorists: traffic. Both the RAC and Green Flag have supplied lists of roads likely to prove troublesome over the bank holiday period.

Here’s the what, when and where of the roads you need to avoid.

Bank holiday mayhem

August bank holiday 2019 traffic

The RAC predicts that there will be some 16.5 million leasure trips by car taken this bank holiday weekend.

Meanwhile, Green Flag, based on data from last year, is estimating that it will receive 138,000 calls for breakdowns over the period between today (Friday 23 August) and Monday (26 August). It’s also predicting that some 77,000 incidents will occur on British roads during this period.

Your best chance of avoiding an incident or indeed a breakdown is steering clear of the most congested roadways at the most congested times. To that end, the RAC has collated its predictions for where it expects the most congestion to be, and when, based on data from analytics specialists INRIX.

Bank Holiday advice

August bank holiday 2019 traffic

Avoid the M25 and the M6 if at all possible. Friday and Saturday are likely to be the busiest, with over 9 million of the expected 16.5 million of this weekend’s leisure journeys expected to take place over today and tomorrow (Saturday)

Use your own knowledge of local roads and relevant traffic reports, as well as the following advice, when planning your journeys.

August bank holiday 2019 traffic

Friday 23 August

When: 11am to 6pm

Where: M25 south east anticlockwise, J4 Bromley to J1 Dartford – 3.15pm

  M6 north J18 Chester to J24 St Helens – 2pm

Advice: avoid the above routes at the time’s they’re expected to be most congested. If possible, take your journey in the evening.

Saturday 24 August

When: 10.30am to 2pm

Where: M6 north J22 Newton to J26 Liverpool – 3.45pm

  M25 south east anticlockwise, J4 Bromley to J1 Dartford – 1.45pm

Advice: avoid the above routes at the times they’re expected to be most congested. If possible, take your journey after 4pm.

Sunday 25 August

When: 12.30pm to 2pm

Where: M25 clockwise J7 Gatwick to J16 M40 – 1.30pm

  A303 West Amesbury to A36 – 5pm

Advice: avoid the above routes at the times they’re expected to be most congested. If possible, take your journey early (before 10.30am) or later on (after 6.30pm).

Monday 26 August

When: 12pm and 2.30pm

Where: M6 south J27 Wigan to J13 Stafford – 2.15pm

  M25 anticlockwise J10 Guildford to J6 East Grinstead – 2.45pm

Advice: avoid the above routes at the times they’re expected to be most congested. If possible, take your journey early (before 11am) or later on (after 6pm).

bank holiday weekend traffic

“Bank holidays have historically been one of the busiest times for road trips, and this year drivers could even see record-level travel delays,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX.

“Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

Buying a car on PCP? Avoid ‘rip-off’ optional extras

Avoid optional extras on PCP

Car buyers are being warned to avoid ‘rip-off’ optional extras when purchasing a car on a PCP deal.

Buying a car on Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) means that you’re financing the difference between the car’s value NOW and the forecasted residual value at the END of the contract.

There’s a deposit to pay at the start, followed by a succession of fixed monthly payments, then an optional ‘balloon’ payment at the end.

Around 90 percent of privately-bought new cars are now financed, and PCP is popular because the monthly payments tend to be cheaper than traditional finance packages. Consumers also have the option to upgrade to a newer model at the end of the deal.

But analysts at BuyaCar.co.uk have calculated that adding optional extras to cars financed on PCP adds a disproportionate amount to the monthly payments.

Most new car finance schemes charge the full original cost of any options split into instalments, ignoring the fact that a car with thousands of pounds’ worth of extras would be worth more at the end of the contract – which should reduce how much those extras add to the monthly fee.

Options at a car dealer

It means that adding extras like a panoramic roof, premium sound system, winter pack or suite of safety features might cost significantly more to finance than a car with a higher trim level offering the kit as standard.

According to BuyaCar.co.uk, on a typical PCP deal for a Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre 100 Titanium, every £1 per month covers £72.94 of the list price. Meanwhile, the same £1 increment equates to £46.91 worth of options. This is based on a 48-month contract, with zero deposit and 9,000 miles per annum.

The same is true of a Volkswagen Golf TSI Match – £1 per month covers £69.56 of the value, with each additional £1 covering just £43.63 of extras. In another example, BuyaCar.co.uk showed that adding £22,465 worth of extras to a Jaguar F-Pace R-Sport would add an additional £505.55 per month to the £504.33 monthly fee for the car.

Don’t load a basic car with expensive features

Austin Collins, managing director of BuyaCar.co.uk, said: “Although PCP finance has made new cars more affordable to ordinary people than ever before, there are still aspects of personal contract purchase which do not always represent the best value buyers could get for their money and option costs are one of them.

“Buyers can protect themselves though, by choosing a car with the desired equipment already installed rather than loading a basic model with expensive features.”

Mini in a showroom

Mini, for example, recognises that certain options or option packs make the car more valuable at the end of the contract. While the Navigation Plus and Comfort packs should add £2,900 to the cost of a five-door Mini Cooper Sport, it only adds £2,148.26 to the total cost of a PCP deal.

In monthly terms, a customer pays an extra £51.75 a month rather than an additional £71.

The only true way to avoid inflated PCP payments is to buy a used car loaded with your desired options. Austin Collins said: “Used cars represent the very best value for money when it comes to getting a car with plenty of standard and optional kit fitted, because they have already lost the bulk of their original value and that is reflected in the purchase cost – and PCP finance monthly payments – for the car.”

Nearly all new private cars are bought on finance

nine in ten cars sold on finance

New figures released by the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) have revealed that between June 2018 and June 2019, new private car sales through point-of-sale consumer finance topped 91 percent. That’s over nine in every ten private car sales floated via finance.

nine in ten cars sold on finance

Last year, automotive marketplace Auto Trader said that it predicted that within ten years, all new cars would be sold via some form of finance.

“The age of traditional ownership is coming to an end,” Auto Trader CFO and COO Nathan Coe said.

If the above figure is anything to go by, that could come sooner than even Auto Trader predicted.

nine in ten cars sold on finance

The FLA is also reporting that year-to-date in June 2019, the POS consumer new car finance market fell by five percent. The used market held up a little better, with used car finance down just one percent over the same period.

Overall, the market is down by three percent, though representatives from FLA say this isn’t an unexpected result.

“The POS consumer used car finance market reported a record total for new business volumes in the first half of the year of almost 772,000 vehicles,” said Geraldine Kilkelly, head of research and chief economist at the Finance and Leasing Association.

“While the modest fall in POS consumer new car finance in the first six months of 2019 was in line with wider trends in private new car sales.”

James Hetfield Collection at Petersen Museum

More heavy metal to star at the Petersen Automotive Museum in 2020

James Hetfield Collection at Petersen MuseumTwo new exhibits will bring hard rock and epic hypercars to the Petersen Automotive Museum in 2020. 

An announcement as part of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance included details of the new collections coming next year.

Fans of heavy metal band Metallica will have a special reason to visit the Los Angeles venue, following a major automotive donation.

Quench my thirst with gasoline

James Hetfield Collection at Petersen MuseumMetallica co-founder and California native James Hetfield has donated 10 of his personal cars to be displayed at the museum. 

Hetfield is renowned for being a fan of all things automotive. The collection includes the special custom 1948 Jaguar ‘Black Pearl’, along with a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr named ‘Voodoo Priest’. 

In addition to the collection of Hetfield-owned cars, the exhibition will also feature artifacts and memorabilia from Metallica’s music career. 

The exhibition will be open to the public from February 2020, with Hetfield having already donated the cars to the Petersen earlier this year. 

Garage Inc.

James Hetfield Collection at Petersen MuseumA second new exhibition has also been unveiled for June 2020, which will bring together some of the fastest modern road cars on the planet. 

The aptly named “Hypercars’ exhibition will gather up 30 exotic machines which exemplify the cutting edge of automotive performance. 

As part of the Pebble Beach press conference, two new members were appointed to the Petersen Museum board

Dr Wolfgang Porsche, chairman of the board of Porsche Automobil Holding SE and son of Ferry Porsche, was appointed an honorary member.

Hong Kong-based car collector, and former Le Mans racer, William E. Connor also became a board member.

New 2019 SsangYong Korando: everything you need to know

New SsangYong Korando front

The all-new SsangYong Korando boasts a segment-busting £19,995 price tag and a comprehensive seven-year/150,000-mile warranty. Still want that Nissan Qashqai?

Admittedly, the range-topping Korando Ultimate edition costs £31,995, but few SUVs offer so much for such a low price.

The fourth-generation Korando is available in four trim levels: ELX, Ventura, Pioneer and Ultimate. Two- and four-wheel-drive variants are available, along with a choice of a 1.6-litre diesel engine or a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol.

New SsangYong Korando rear

A ‘spirited deluxe crossover’

In the headline-grabbing £19,995 ELX trim, the Korando is powered exclusively with the 1.5-litre petrol engine, which will be available in December 2019. It delivers 163hp and 207lb ft of torque, but SsangYong hasn’t confirmed the full performance and economy figures.

Available in two-wheel-drive only, the ELX boasts 17-inch alloy wheels, all-weather tyres, cruise control, DAB, Bluetooth, six airbags, plus automatic lights and wipers.

Moving up to the Ventura adds £3,000 to the price tag, along with faux leather with deluxe fabric seat upholstery, 18-inch diamond-cut alloys with standard tyres, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, electronic parking brake, 10.25-inch LCD instrument cluster, plus an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

New SsangYong Korando interior

Once again, the Korando Ventura is available exclusively with two-wheel-drive and a petrol engine.

The £26,495 to £28,495 Korando Pioneer is aimed at the caravan and towing market, hence the availability of four-wheel-drive and the standard 1.6-litre diesel engine. It produces 136hp and 239lb ft of torque to deliver a 0-62mph time of 12.01 seconds.

It emits 144g/km of CO2 using the old NEDC test regime and a claimed 48.7mpg using the WLTP combined cycle.

New SsangYong Korando boot

Pioneer trim offers a two-tonne towing capacity plus a similar spec to the Ventura. Changes include 17-inch alloys with all-weather tyres, a heated steering wheel and full-size spare wheel.

Ultimate prices start from £26,495, with the range-topping Korando available with a choice of transmissions, engines and drivetrains. The lavish spec includes leather seats, dual-zone climate control, advanced safety kit, premium in-car infotainment, 19-inch diamond-cut alloys, keyless start, LED headlights and an electric tailgate.

SsangYong says it “makes a spirited deluxe crossover vehicle at an affordable price”.

New SsangYong Korando instrument cluster

A six-speed automatic gearbox will be the only transmission available at launch. Manual versions will be available in the UK early 2020.

The SsangYong Korando is expected to achieve a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating thanks to a wide range of safety features. Given the specifications, it’s likely that the higher trim level or safety pack will be required to achieve the maximum five stars.

SsangYong Korando: the right choice?

Nick Laird, managing director at SsangYong Motors, expects the new Korando to punch above its weight in a crowded segment. “Our ‘badge’ may be less well known, but what SsangYong lacks in current recognition, we more than make up for with cars that offer huge value without ever feeling compromised.

“We also have so much faith in our build quality, that we offer a full 7-year/150,000-mile warranty so customers can be quietly confident that they’ve made the right choice when it comes to the things that really matter.

“We are sure that, with the new Korando, we have a vehicle that has the potential to upstage some much bigger names in the marketplace.”

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

Citroen Berlingo Van vs WRC rally star

Citroen Berlingo van WRC specialThe Citroen Berlingo van is virtually a brand in its own right. Frequently Britain’s best-selling light commercial vehicle, it has built a reputation since 1996 for toughness, flexibility and dependability.

So when Citroen World Rally Championship star Esapekka Lappi visited Britain, an idea was hatched. They could have let him do demonstration runs in a road-going version of the C3 supermini he spectacularly drives in the WRC. Fun, but maybe a bit ho-hum. 

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

Instead, brilliantly, a new Citroen Berlingo van was given a rally-spec engineering makeover. A rally training school was hired for the day, and Lappi was let loose towork his magic. Even better, I was lucky enough to hitch a ride.

The idea was to show off how robust the Berlingo is. Citroen UK dubbed it a ‘stress test’, and it’ll be interesting to know if a day’s thrashing by one of rallying’s hottest young talents now becomes an official part of the development sign-off process.

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

Citroen had an extra ace to justify the day: a Berlingo ‘Worker’ version was chosen. This has 30 mm more ground clearance than the regular van, more underbody protection, hill descent control, Grip Control (which magics up extra traction from the front wheels via electronics) plus beefier mud and snow tyres.

It’s more WRC-spec than any road-going C3, particularly with the installation of a regular ‘bar’ handbrake instead of the standard Berlingo’s electronic parking brake. Add on a WRC-style livery (“we weren’t allowed to use Red Bull branding, so we went with our centenary logo instead”) and it was all set for an unlikely afternoon of driving.

Rallying a Citroen Berlingo Van

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

It was my turn first. Cool as a cucumber, Esapekka cheerily told me to do whatever I wanted, go as fast as I liked. Racing drivers can be super-cautious when being driven by people they’ve never met: rally drivers are a different breed. As I fired up the stock HDi diesel engine, he sat back and relaxed, as if we were driving to the first job of the day.

All that was missing was a copy of The Sun on the dashboard for him to read.

I won’t bore you with what I drove like, because I was rubbish. I understand circuit racing, but I really can’t get my head around rallying. There’s no grip, the vehicle must always be dancing, usually sliding, and the way you have to use Scandinavian flicks is a bit like playing snooker. I was bamboozled.

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

The van, amazingly, felt great. Loads of suspension travel made light work of the lumpy rally-spec surface and even though I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, it was still fun to slide around. But I knew I only had a limited time with Esapekka, so I pulled up early. Time to swap, and show me how it should be done.

Citroen Berlingo Van WRC

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

I quickly got it barely 10 seconds later, as we scrabbled away in a gravelly, clattery rush, hurtled towards the first corner and, unlike me, he didn’t brake and totter round but instead pitched sideways and drifted through it at barely-abated speed with the most ludicrous cloud of dust left in our wake. This is how you rally a Berlingo van.

At least with circuit driving, you can work out braking points and likely speeds through corners. Sitting alongside a rally driver, even in a van, is the most random experience because it all seems so confidently improvised and beyond-comprehension fast. This was a sun-baked gravel course whose surface you could do skids on in your shoes. There’s no way a standard road-going diesel van should be going this quickly.

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

But Esapekka was on it, working at the wheel in a blur, making it do the most graceful things through bends probably three times faster than I’d taken them. Absolutely glorious is the only way to describe it – genuinely more fun and thrilling than many a supercar blast around a racetrack.

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

We eventually had to stop because there was so much dust, we couldn’t see where to go. I had no idea a Berlingo van could do what I’d just been shown, and certainly no clue it could seemingly take such treatment in its stride. The man who winces when he hits a pothole had just experienced a van being monstered by a WRC driver, and it was still ready for more.

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

Indeed, once the dust had settled, it was out again, so I could marvel at the 25-metre drifts and, as it disappeared back into the dust, growl of a hard-worked diesel engine and sounds of tyres battering gravel indicating Esapekka wasn’t letting up.

“It has a long heritage and is very well known in the light van sector,” Citroen’s CV boss told me later. “We had the chance to work with Esapekka so we thought we’d do something a bit different, to add to the Berlingo van brand story.”

Quite brilliant, Citroen. Even Esapekka seemed surprised. “I’m actually impressed with how much fun it is to drive – it corners well and it’s very strong.”

Rally drivers really are a different breed, and will drive anything spectacularly. That a future WRC champ has given such kudos to the Berlingo van is surely now worth a point or two on the building site or delivery yard.

Speeding drivers ‘most likely to crash’

Speeding drivers 'riskiest'Speeding is the riskiest form of aggressive driving, according to a university in Ontario, Canada.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo studied data from 28 million trips to identify possible links between bad driving and the likelihood of a crash.

The analysis revealed that speeding is a strong predictor of crashes, but links for the other kinds of aggressive driving – hard braking, hard acceleration and hard cornering – couldn’t be established.

Researchers used data from insurance companies in Ontario and Texas to identify 28 crashes based on indicators such as rapid deceleration. Each vehicle was then matched with 20 control vehicles that not been involved in a crash but had similar characteristics, such as location and driving distance.

When the crashes were compared to the control cases, speeding emerged as the key difference between them.

Used effectively, this data could be used to transform the way insurance companies calculate annual premiums. At present, the price is based on a number of factors, including age, location, use and engine size. 

Analysis of telematics data could deliver highly personalised premiums based on actual driving behaviour. If a driver spends a high proportion of their time breaking the speed limit, the following year’s premium could rise.

Slower driving could be rewarded with a reduced premium.

‘Always-on’, always watching

Of course, having an ‘always-on’ telematics device in the car raises privacy concerns. Not only will your insurance company know when a policyholder has driven too fast, they will also know where they have been, the route they take to work and even their choice of radio station.

Telematics are nothing new: the fleet industry uses devices to track drivers and vehicles, while young motorists save an average £151.25 with ‘black box car insurance’.

Research by RAC Business found that 40 percent of businesses faced staff concerns about privacy, which is why it launched a personal key fob to allow workers to turn off telematics when they’re not driving for work.

Speed causes crashes

‘We are super pumped’

From a wider perspective, Allaa Hilal, an adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering, believes the data could be used to make roads safer by giving drivers tangible evidence that speed is a primary contributor to crashes. 

“Some of the results are no surprise, but prior to this we had a whole industry based on intuition,” said Hilal. “Now it is formulated – we know aggressive driving has an impact.”

“Having this information exposed and understood allows people to wrap their minds around their true risks and improve their driving behaviours. We are super pumped about its potential.”

Stefan Steiner, a statistics professor at Waterloo University, said that the study was “limited by several unknowns” and more research is required to verify the results.

Opinion: Of course Stuart Pearce drove a Ford Capri

Stuart Pearce drove a Ford Capri

Stuart Pearce drove a Ford Capri. Of course he did. You can’t imagine ‘Psycho’ behind the wheel of anything other than a Ford Capri.

This isn’t news. Pearce hung up his boots in 2002 and hasn’t put on a managerial suit or tracksuit since 2015. But the story of Pearce and his Capri was the most interesting part of a recent press release.

Green Flag is celebrating its 25th birthday this year and has enlisted the help of the former Nottingham Forest and England left-back as a campaign spokesperson. Pearce played for England 25 years ago when Green Flag sponsored the national team.

The motoring organisation was the first brand to sponsor England in 1994, with the deal ending with the FIFA World Cup tournament in July 1998. Pearce didn’t make the squad, but he took part in the subsequent Euro 2000 qualifying campaign.

From Betsy Loo to Cruella de Ville

“Driving has always been a massive part of my life,” said Pearce. “I bought my first car in 1979, her name was Betsy Loo, it was a blue Aston [sic] Morris 1300 which cost me just £225.

“When I turned professional at the age of 21, I treated myself to a Ford Capri, named Cruella de Ville. This was my favourite ever car that I’ve owned – even though it refused to start in the cold weather.”

Let’s be honest, the Capri was made for geezer like Pearce. The only car more suited for a tough-tackling left-back from Hammersmith would be a Mk1 or Mk2 Ford Granada, but a Capri just feels right for a footballer of the 80s and early 90s.

Put it this way, you can’t imagine Pearcey in an Opel Manta, Volkswagen Scirocco or Toyota Celica. Given his penalty miss at Italia ’90, it’s probably best if we don’t mention that British Capri production ceased in 1976, meaning his Capri was almost certainly built in Germany.

This Guardian article references Pearce’s steadfast refusal to fall “for the rich man’s trappings” of a professional footballer, and how his Capri was “stubbornly parked among the Porsches” in the players’ car park.

He was almost certainly the last to leave the home ground, not because he was in the club bar or tied up signing autographs for young Coventry City or Nottingham Forest fans, but because the Capri would often fail to start.

“It used to take an eternity to start the car in the cold weather, my older brother would put his donkey jacket over the car engine in the winter so that it wasn’t as cold when he went to start it the following morning.

“I also remember having to start cars on hills in cold weather to get them going. Defrosting windscreens also took an age, as did warming up the inside of the cars – we didn’t have the luxury of heated seats!”

Please tell us that tough-as-nails Stuart Pearce doesn’t enjoy the ‘luxury’ of a heated seat. That would be like telling us that Dwayne Johnson has a knitted toilet roll cover in his downstairs cloakroom. Or Jason Statham insists on having fondant fancies served to him on a paper doily.

‘Flying cars will become the norm,’ says Stuart Pearce

Flying cars will become the norm

Still, if there’s one thing you didn’t expect to read today, it’s Stuart Pearce’s vision of what cars will look like in 25 years time.

“In the future, I have no doubt that cars will keep getting ‘greener’ which is really important considering the environmental issues we currently face. The research shows that 50 percent of Brits think that that cars will be self-driving in the future, and I count myself in that number.

“Likewise, the way that technology is developing, flying cars will become the norm in the not too distant future – although I don’t think I’ll be giving that a try any time soon”.

We’ll leave you with the news that Pearce has a “large punk collection in [his] car to help keep [him] entertained on long journeys”.

If you’re not imaging the footwells of a black Mk3 Ford Capri 2.8i loaded up to the air vents with cassettes of The Stranglers, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and The Clash, you’re not trying hard enough. 

Main image courtesy of Austin Osuide.

What is Amazon Echo Auto and how does it add Alexa to your car?

What is Amazon Echo Auto

With Amazon Echo Auto, Alexa has officially made the move from home to car. Amazon Echo Auto connects to the Alexa app on your smartphone, and plays through the car’s speakers via Bluetooth or auxiliary input. 

It means that, in theory, you can choose your music, change the radio station, stream podcasts, listen to the news, make a telephone call, or get directions – all without taking your hands off the wheel.

Right now,  exclusively by invitation only, for the discounted price of $24.99. Amazon says everyone who requests an invitation will be able to buy Echo Auto for the lower price, even after it has gone on general release for $49.99.

It’s not the first time Alexa has been available in a car, but it’s the first time you can get the personal assistant directly from Amazon.

How does Amazon Echo Auto work?

Amazon Echo Auto device

If you’re familiar with Alexa – or any voice-controlled personal assistants for that matter – Echo Auto will need no introduction.

It’s much smaller than the cylindrical speaker or hockey puck Echo or Echo Dot you might have at home. At 85 mm x 47 mm x 13.28 mm, it’s small enough to find a home in most cars. Weighing just 45 grams, it’s also light enough to take on the move.

It connects to Alexa via the Alexa phone app and plays through the car’s speakers via Bluetooth or the aux-in. Each time you start the car, make sure the phone’s volume is turned up and that the stereo is set to the correct input, then say “Alexa”.

What are its key features?

Amazon Echo Auto

Echo Auto has eight microphones, which means Alexa can hear you over road noise, claims Amazon. It’s a claim backed up by early reviews in the United States, with The Verge reporting that “Alexa can hear [you] when [you’re] going 70 on the freeway with the windows rolled down”.

The device also features an action button, light bar, 3.5 mm audio output, micro-USB power and microphone off button.

Is Echo Auto any good?

Amazon Echo Auto for cars

Sean Hollister’s engaging and interesting review of Amazon Echo Auto suggests it could be a bit hit or miss.

On the one hand, Sean rates the quality of the microphones and the Bluetooth connection, arguing that “it’s worth paying the $25 promo price for the Bluetooth adapter functionality alone”.

But he also lists a number of reasons why “Alexa is really dumb about location”, going on to say that “Amazon has put remarkably little effort into improving the things you might want Alexa to do from a car”.

Of some of the claims advertised on Amazon’s website, Sean says they are “laughably bad right now”.

Is Echo Auto an alternative to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto?

2019 Skoda Scala Apple CarPlay

Sean’s review suggests that Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or Google Assistant are superior to Amazon Echo Auto.

Amazon says Echo Auto connects to most cars that support Bluetooth to play music or that have an auxiliary input. It works best on cars that do not have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, it says.

What’s in the box?

Amazon Echo Auto comes with an in-car power adapter, micro-USB cable, 3.5 mm auxiliary cable and quick-start guide.

Amazon Echo Auto: specifications

  • Price: $49.99 ($24.99 via invitation)
  • Size: 85 mm x 47 mm x 13.28 mm
  • Weight: 45 grams
  • Supports: Android 6.0 and iOS 12 or greater
  • Plan usage: uses existing smartphone plan (carrier charges may apply)
  • Warranty: one-year limited warranty included